Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Happy spring from Minnesota & DQ March 20, 2017

 

The Dairy Queen along old U.S. Highway 14 in Janesville, Minnesota, in 2012. The sign is vintage late 1940s or early 1950s. Click here to read my story about the Janesville DQ. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

HAPPY FIRST DAY of spring, dear readers!

If you live in a cold weather state like me, you welcome March 20, even if the weather and landscape feel and appear more winter than spring. It’s a mental thing for us Minnesotans, a reminder that the “real spring” is only months away. Spring, in my Minnesota mind, arrives in May.

Over at Dairy Queen, they’re going by the calendar, celebrating spring’s official arrival today with “Free Cone Day.” You can get one free small vanilla ice cream cone at any non-mall participating DQ in the U.S.

And, if you’re so inclined, you can donate to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, DQ’s March 20 fundraiser focus. Because, you know, you’re getting that freebie and you’re generous.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Ice cream season, or not March 8, 2017

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peanut-buster-parfait

 

SPRING HAS UNOFFICIALLY arrived in Faribault. The walk-up/drive-through Dairy Queen along Lyndale Avenue is open.

Sunday afternoon I clipped a $1.99 Peanut Buster Parfait coupon from the Faribault Daily News to celebrate. DQ is a rare treat for Randy and me, afforded only when money-saving coupons are available. Opening weekend at the DQ always brings deals. Perfect.

I envisioned sitting on the DQ patio under sunny blue skies in predicted 60-degree temps. Perfect.

But forecasts do not always equal reality. I suggested Plan B—going to a park. In hindsight, I wonder what I was thinking. After an attempt to eat our parfaits on a park bench, I caved and headed back to the warmth of the van. There we sat, savoring ice cream, peanuts and fudge while grey skies hung and the temp locked at 48 degrees in a still slightly snowy landscape.

Monday brought much warmer temps, like those promised on Sunday, along with intense wind followed by storms. Remaining snow melted.  And two tornadoes touched down, causing damage near Zimmerman and Clarks Grove. These are the earliest tornadoes of the season ever in Minnesota, breaking a record set in 1968. Here in Faribault, we experienced heavy rain and even small hail for a brief time Monday evening. A light dusting of snow fell overnight. The Dairy Queen may be hinting at spring. But winter seems determined to cling to March in Minnesota.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Owatonna: I scream for ice cream April 21, 2016

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The S'Cream and an insurance agency office are connected.

The S’Cream and an insurance agency office are connected to one another.

I LOVE HOMEGROWN walk-up ice cream shops. They have character. And ice cream treats that are scrumptious and often uniquely named.

This sign explains The Betty and lists other available treats.

This sign explains The Betty and lists other available treats.

Take The S’Cream, a seasonal ice cream shop advertised as “Home of The Betty,” and located along Owatonna’s busy South Oak Avenue.

The Betty, presumably named after someone.

The Betty, presumably named after Betty.

What is The Betty? It is, I discovered, Cool Mint Flavor Burst ice cream, crème de mint and Oreos flurried together, then topped with whipped cream. And let’s not forget the sprinkles. I can attest to The Betty’s sweet deliciousness.

My husband ordered this blue raspberry ice cream treat.

My husband ordered this blue raspberry ice cream treat.

Equally as delectable is the blue raspberry Flavor Burst ice cream treat my husband enjoyed at The S’Cream. It’s actually the owner’s favorite. He tells me the staff is often dreaming up new ice cream offerings. How fun is that?

If you were to create a treat for an ice cream shop, what would you concoct?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Delighting in ice cream shops, yes, even in winter January 21, 2016

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Dairy Delite in Lakeville, photographed on a frigid Saturday afternoon.

Dairy Delite in Lakeville, photographed on a frigid Saturday afternoon in January.

IF I WAS TO CONDUCT a survey on Minnesotans’ consumption of ice cream, I expect the numbers would plummet in months like January and soar during the hot days of July. Makes sense considering the temperature.

My desire for ice cream drops considerably in winter. I’m cold enough without feeding more cold into my body. But not always.

Just the other night I craved not ice cream, but fro yo. I remember when my eldest daughter first mentioned fro yo probably five-plus years ago. The frozen treat was just trending in southern Minnesota. I had no idea what she was talking about. Eventually fro yo reached Faribault with the opening of Berry Blast in 2013. The business recently closed. I never got there.

In Faribault, Dairy Queen reigns with two shops within a short distance of one another. I like Dairy Queen. But if I get a treat there once a year, that’s about it. And then it’s only if I have a coupon to discount the high prices.

I’ve never been a chain restaurant fan. I much prefer locally-grown businesses with character, uniqueness and charm. Like the Dairy Delite, recently photographed in Lakeville. It’s closed for the season, has been since October, and will reopen in April.

I wish we had a quaint stand-alone nostalgic ice cream place like Dairy Delite in Faribault. Visitors look for such signature sites to purchase treats in the heat of a humid summer day. Locals appreciate these mom-and-pop ice cream shops, too. Here’s a thought—combine an ice cream place with promotion of the Tilt-A-Whirl, an Americana amusement ride which originated in Faribault. Just dreamin’ here in the midst of winter…

Tell me about your favorite original ice cream shop.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Exploring La Crosse Part III: Eats & treats October 22, 2015

HOW DO YOU DECIDE where to eat in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin? You don’t. You allow your daughter to choose the restaurant.

A coaster at The Old Crow. I love the simplistic design and minimalist decor.

A coaster at The Old Crow. I love the simplistic design and minimalist decor.

Last Saturday, searching for a place to eat lunch, Miranda’s eyes landed on The Old Crow, an American Gastropub. I was expecting the usual limited fare of burgers and other sandwiches. Instead, we found those and plenty of creative menu choices. Like a burger served between glazed doughnuts. I ordered the smoked bacon, chicken and cheddar flatbread. The daughter and husband both ordered sandwiches. We all liked our food, although getting our meals took awhile. Granted, it was the busy lunch hour and we’d waited 15 minutes to be seated.

My smoked bacon and chicken flatbread cheddar. I wouldn't expect anything less in Wisconsin.

My smoked bacon and chicken flatbread with lots of cheddar. I wouldn’t expect anything less in Wisconsin.

I’m not a fan of sports bars. Typically, I’ve found the food isn’t that great. Nor is the atmosphere. But lots of natural light pours in through large street-side windows at The Old Crow. It features minimalist décor. And, as you might expect, an excessive number of televisions. A Badgers’ football game distracted my husband from conversation. That’s the primary reason I dislike sports bars. I’m out to eat and engage in conversation, not watch football, basketball or hockey. But that’s me. Sports bars fit a need. At the table next to us, a contingent of Badgers fans wore red team attire.

For a sports-focused bar and grill, The Old Crow wins with me in both food and decor.

Antique Center of La Crosse, Ltd., 110 South Third Street

Antique Center of La Crosse, Ltd., 110 South Third Street, with 18,000 square feet of merchandising space.

Details, like this tiled exterior entry, added to the charm of Antique Center.

Details, like this tiled exterior entry, add to the charm of Antique Center. This building once housed Ganterts Furniture Company.

I spotted lots of Oktoberfest buttons. La Crosse recently celebrated its annual Oktoberfest.

I spotted lots of Oktoberfest buttons. La Crosse recently celebrated its annual Oktoberfest.

A small section of the first floor merchandise in this sprawling building.

A small section of the first floor merchandise in this sprawling building.

The store offers an extraordinary amount of merchandise.

The store offers an extraordinary amount of merchandise.

I spotted two vintage dollhouses, wishing I still had mine from my youth.

I spotted two vintage dollhouses, wishing I still had mine from my youth.

I was tempted by this poster because I love vintage graphics.

I was tempted by this poster because I love vintage graphics.

It's fun to look at the clothing and wish I was about 30 years younger than I am.

It’s fun to look at the clothing and wish I was about 30 years younger.

After lunch, we checked out the neighboring Antique Center of La Crosse, Ltd., doing our share to support this business housed in an old furniture store and spanning three floors. We didn’t even hit the basement. You could spend hours in this shop teeming with customers.

With this signage, you can't miss The Pearl.

With this signage, you can’t miss The Pearl.

The Pearl offers m

The Pearl offers many ice cream flavors and types of ice cream treats. The ice cream is homemade by The Pearl.

Even though a tad chilly, we ate our ice cream outdoors. We ordered white chocolate raspberry, maple nut and Cappuccino Oreo.

Even though a tad chilly, we ate our ice cream outdoors. We ordered white chocolate raspberry, maple nut and Cappuccino Oreo.

The old-fashioned look of The Pearl is its charm.

The old-fashioned soda fountain look of The Pearl is its charm.

This clutch of birds dipped their beaks into spilled ice cream outside The Pearl.

We watched this clutch of birds dip their beaks into spilled ice cream outside The Pearl.

The ice cream and candy shop is housed in the complex known as Pearl Street West.

The Pearl Street West complex houses the ice cream and candy shop.

But we had a schedule to keep and ice cream to eat. Not that we were hungry after the filling lunch at The Old Crow. Still, we could not leave downtown La Crosse without eating homemade ice cream at The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor. It’s a must stop, for the old-fashioned soda fountain atmosphere and the creamy ice cream. After that treat, I was ready for the 2 1/2 hour drive back home to Faribault.

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CHECK BACK tomorrow for more from La Crosse. Click here to read my first post from La Crosse and click here to read my second post in this Exploring La Crosse series.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The Dari (not dairy) King (not queen) August 29, 2014

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GROWING UP IN A POOR farm family with five siblings, it wasn’t all that often we got ice cream treats in town. Maybe Schwans ice cream in a dish or cone from the basement/porch freezer. But not soft-serve at a walk-up/drive-up.

Dari King in Redwood Falls

Occasionally, though, Dad would treat us to a cone at the Dari King in Redwood Falls. This was back in the day when a small cone cost a dime. But even then a dime was a dime was a dime.

Forty years after I left the farm, the independent (non-chain) Dari King still stands, serving ice cream and more to the next generations. How sweet is that?

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

It’s ice cream season in Minnesota April 7, 2014

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Long lines formed to the two serving windows at Blast Softserve, 206 West Rose St., Owatonna.

Long lines form to the two serving windows at Blast Softserve, 206 West Rose St., Owatonna.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON AND THE LINES at Blast Softserve in Owatonna stretch sometimes 15 deep.

Lots of dogs waiting in line with their owners.

Lots of dogs waiting with their owners. Some of the canines got ice cream, too.

Families and couples and teens and dogs (yes, canines, too), all waiting for ice cream treats. No one complaining. No one seemingly in a hurry. Not even me, Ms. Impatience.

A peach pie flurry.

A peach pie flurry.

But after this Winter of Our Discontent—the winter that has blasted us with too much cold and too much snow—I am delighting in the 64-degree weather. No snow, although I order a peach pie flurry. Winter still on the brain, apparently.

Taking an order at the outdoor service window.

Taking an order at the outdoor service window.

I am still dressed in warm threads, too, a flannel shirt, while some here are baring their winter white arms and legs.

So many choices...including grasshopper treats.

So many choices…including grasshopper treats.

The mood is jovial. My husband jokes with a boy, about nine, that getting grasshoppers for a grasshopper treat may be difficult given they are out of season.

His father, quick with the wit, shoots back: “Maybe they bring them (the grasshoppers) in from South America.”

And they all laugh.

The building that houses the ice cream shop and a pizza place. Lots of loitering going on down the sidewalk and to the right at the walk-up ice cream window order area and  patio.

The building that houses the ice cream shop and Rose Street Pizzeria. Lots of loitering going on down the sidewalk to the right at the walk-up ice cream window order area and patio.

You can’t help but feel happy here at this hometown ice cream shop.

Lots of kids lining up for ice cream treats.

Lots of kids lining up for ice cream treats.

Sun and clouds. Kids and dogs. Shirt sleeves and shorts.

Kitschy ice cream art.

Kitschy signage.

Bikes parked in the bike rack. Stenciled letters. Kitschy art.

Just in case...

Just in case…

A bell to ring.

A blueberry sundae.

A blueberry sundae.

Dripping ice cream cones. A mother wiping chocolate ice cream from her son’s face. Temporary brain freeze.

Stenciled on the roof overhang above the serving windows.

Stenciled on the roof overhang above the serving windows.

Life is good on a Sunday afternoon in April in southern Minnesota.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling