We know this can be a struggle.
In fact, we recently shared a coaching tip inspired by an Eat REAL America couple who had relocated to Florida for the winter, and were encountering some challenges while visiting family and landing back in the land of white fluffy pancakes.
Because traveling and "keeping it REAL" definitely comes with obstacles, we want to give you a glimpse into how we do it...sharing our recent trip to Northwest Arkansas.
Since we receive numerous requests for good REAL food restaurants in different locations, we will also start a Travel series next week, reviewing the restaurants we visited during our trip.
Our trip to Arkansas was actually a long weekend combined with a University of Arkansas college visit for our son. Our trip was a 3-night getaway, leaving late Saturday morning for the 5-hour drive and returning home on Tuesday evening.
For this trip, since we weren't staying with family and friends, the first thing to tackle was where to stay. We love staying at bed and breakfasts. Surprisingly, there were very few B&Bs in the Fayetteville area and, let's just say, the reviews were not great. So, that led us to Airbnb.
We found what appeared to be a great condominium in a perfect location. It looked clean (very important, right now especially!), had a full kitchen, two bedrooms and a full bathroom. The reviews were really good and the price was right...even better! (With Airbnb, you have to be careful because the nightly rate doesn't reflect the true cost once you add in cleaning fees, service fees and other taxes and fees. In this case, the condo was $60 / night, but the cost was actually $100 / night including all the taxes and fees.) For the price, we always prefer Airbnb over a regular hotel room because it gives us more room and, most importantly, we have a full kitchen to prepare meals!
One of the best things about staying at an Airbnb...it let's us balance eating out for some meals while preparing other meals in the condo / house. And, we still do eat out...this is a fun getaway after all!
For eating out, we always research (Yelp! is a great resource), and at least get together a "short list" of the best local options (more about this next week)!
For the home-cooked meals in the condo, we discussed what we might want to make BEFORE WE LEFT! We decided we would do egg and veggie-based meals for breakfast each morning and would make burgers one evening for dinner.
Why have this conversation before?
This helps us get some staples and spices together that might not exist at the condo. So, we packed a bag with things like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, "GO-TO" seasoning (garlic powder, dried oregano, dried thyme, and onion powder), dried cranberries, walnuts, and Cranberry Walnut Rustic Bread. We also packed a few drinks (water, ground coffee, tea bags, wine and beer...you know, the necessities!) and of course snacks (because remember, we are traveling with a teenager!) such as fruit, popcorn, granola and, of course, dark chocolate!). This turned out to be super helpful, because the condo was stocked with all the cooking pans and utensils we needed, but their staples only included cooking spray, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning!
For the rest of our ingredients (eggs, meat and produce), we would wait and grab those from a local store once we got there. (We really love to visit local farmers' markets to get ingredients when the timing works; however, there aren't any farmers' markets open in Northwest Arkansas in January.)
One other thing to think about...
we would be on the road driving to Arkansas at lunchtime.
As you can imagine, we hate getting stuck with only limited fast food options or, worse, no food options! So, we planned ahead and packed salads and sandwiches and threw them in the cooler -- we never regret doing this, and this time it turned out to be a lifesaver! So, with our cooler stocked and bags packed, we hit the road!
Arriving late afternoon on Saturday, we wanted to relax and unwind at dinner, so we enjoyed one of the local restaurants on our list (Mockingbird Kitchen) for some "chef-inspired modern Ozark cuisine." (Teaser here...more to come next week, but so very good, they had a salad we are still thinking about!). After dinner, we swung into a local store to pick up our ingredients for breakfasts and other meals for the next few days.
We sautéed some spinach and mushrooms, cooked some eggs and sausage, and our son made himself an omelet. We headed to Sunday morning church, and then visited the Farmers' Table Café for lunch, excited to enjoy a meal using ingredients from local family farms and food artisans (another great meal!).
For dinner that evening, we headed back to the condo for some burgers with caramelized onions and mushrooms. We also roasted some sweet potatoes, bell peppers and sugar snap peas. Plus, our staple gigantic salad...this one had greens, walnuts, apple, dried cranberries, blue cheese and our "2-1-1" balsamic vinaigrette.
Now, our friends and family would tell you...
life with the Sanderson's is typically not boring. This trip was no exception.
Picture this...we are preparing dinner in this comfortable but quaint kitchen, and our son is sitting at the kitchen table working on Pre-calculus. Scott and I were multi-tasking...toasting hamburger buns, cooking the burgers, caramelizing the onions and mushrooms, and roasting the veggies.
All of a sudden, smoke began pouring out of the toaster.
Combined with the smoke from the stove and the oven, I am sure you can guess what happened next...the smoke alarm starts going off! Yep, we are in a condo/townhouse building with neighbors all around us. We frantically opened the door and windows to let the smoke escape and thankfully the alarm stopped. Among the chaos, our son is shaking his head saying "only our family!" and he sat back down to keep studying (I guess he's used to this by now?!).
On Monday, we again enjoyed a delicious breakfast in the condo before heading out. For lunch, we stopped into the Green Submarine, a super cool local sandwich restaurant (let's just say, this was way beyond Subway!).
After checking out some of the rustic beauty of Northwest Arkansas (hiking included), our flexibility kicked in for dinner.
Our son was craving pizza and had two tests to study for. Unfortunately, the pizza place on our short list was closed on Monday (glitch in our planning!). Instead of bursting his bubble and saying, "sorry, we can't have pizza," we quickly researched the next best option and ended up with a completely satisfying meal at Mojo's Pints & Pies, which just happened to be a short walk from the condo, which was perfect because our son could get back with plenty of time to study.
The next morning, we finished off the eggs, veggies and salad for breakfast, and then headed down the street for a tour of the University of Arkansas. After the tour, time was limited because we had to get back to Wichita to pick up our dog from the boarding kennel.
So, we grabbed a quick lunch from Kosmos Greekafe, a locally-owned fast-casual Greek & Mediterranean restaurant. We find that Mediterranean restaurants are usually great options on the road, because you can typically find flavorful options that include quality meats and seafood, veggies, hummus, whole grains, and abundant spices.
After a quick bite to eat, we were headed back to Wichita. When we got home, the first thing we did was set the oven to 400 degrees. You guessed it...roasted veggies with whatever was left in the refrigerator! The sweet potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers were just enough -- we were exhausted and relieved we didn't have to run to the store! We toasted English muffins, poached some eggs and enjoyed a simple, yet delicious, meal to end the day.
We hope this helps you pick up a few ideas for your next trip and realize as we always say, planning is key!
Please share your stories!
What are your secrets to keeping it REAL on the road?