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A lot of people thought we’d never make it to the Omaha Home & Garden Expo this past weekend due to Winter Storm Nemo, but those people apparently didn’t catch a little show called The Amazing Race. We used all our best Race training to get on the last plane out of Albany (following the plows down the runway for takeoff) and wound up having a wonderful time meeting new friends in Nebraska.

We get to travel to a ton of places in America for different events, and while it’s always fun to pretend to be “all Hollywood” when we visit LA, or “corporate executives” in NYC, we usually have the most fun in places like Omaha. Neither one of us had ever been before, and so had no expectations. Sure, we always have the stereotypes of different regions in our heads before we go, but we always wind up surprised at what we find. Sometimes we discover that smaller American cities try to compare themselves to large coastal metropolises, showing off their “New York-style” restaurants, and luxury brand retail shopping centers. Those are usually our least favorite places. We love cities like Omaha, who are proud of who they are, and see no sense in copying anything from anywhere.  We have a soft spot for hard-working, plain-spoken communities. We always learn something from them that we can take home and use in Sharon Springs.

Omaha, population 415,068, is a great example about how those ethics can pay off. There’s a healthy boon of construction and growth, fueled by the fact that Omaha is home to 5 Fortune 500 companies, including Berkshire Hathaway. (Yes, we drove by Warren Buffet’s home, and yes, it’s a simple home in a regular neighborhood.) Equally important, there’s been a lot of growth in civic and public arts projects. We also learned that Omaha has one of the highest concentrations of call centers in the U.S. Why? Because Nebraskans have one the most neutral-sounding American accents in the country. And also, we can’t help but think, because they’re super-polite. Omaha might be a city you don’t hear about much, but that’s probably because they aren’t doing much wrong. As we’ve learned from Beekman 1802 and Sharon Springs…it’s hard to get press about good things that happen to good people.

Unfortunately, the one thing we didn’t have time for is a “Runza,” a traditional pocket sandwich of Nebraska and elsewhere in the Midwest. If anyone has a good recipe for a homemade one, post it in the comment section and we’ll make one here at home.

We want to thank the Mancusos for bringing us to the EXPO, and for everyone who came and greeted us. The most common greeting we heard from people was “Thank you for visiting Omaha.” And to that, we can only reply: “Who in their right mind wouldn’t?”

by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

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Richard Steinick

Runzas at home:
1 loaf frozen bread dough
½ pound ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
1 cup grated cabbage
2 Tablespoons softened butter
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic salt

Thaw dough and let rise. Brown and drain beef, add cabbage, onion salt and pepper. Cook until tender, set aside.
Roll dough into a 16” x 8” rectangle and cut into 8” x 4” squares. Place 2 Tablespoons mixture on each square and bring corners to the center and pinch shut. Place seam side down, on ungreased baking sheet. Brush with softened butter.
Let rest for 10 minutes.
Bake at 375ºF for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Smaller than the commercial ones, but tasty.

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Lynn

I’m glad you liked Omaha and have positive things to say about it. But I think it’s funny that some commenters are calling it a “small town.” Almost half a million people is not a small town! Especially in the midwest. I live in a town of 60,000 in Indiana, and even that doesn’t count as a “small town” here. “Small town” would be something like 1500-10,000 people. Omaha is in the top 50 largest cities in the U.S.! Also: the Old Market is amazing–most other similarly-sized cities, and some even larger, don’t have a nice downtown are like this that isn’t totally touristy. Henry Doorly Zoo, yes. And, Runza also has the best fries!

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Megan at OmahaHa!

So glad you were able to visit. We moved to Omaha a little more than a year ago and couldn’t agree more with your sentiments. Hopefully your travels will bring you back to see us again soon. (And sorry you missed Runza’s. In the winter they have “Temperature Tuesdays” — the 6 am temp is the price of a Runza sandwich. Yeah. Omaha winters? That makes for a really great deal.)

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Margot

Brent, for your birthday. Take a page from Josh’s tactics in The Bucolic Plague as he did with the goats! Josh will love the dog once you have it. I loved your book and found myself ROFL (and I’m 74 this year).

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Kate's Daughter

So pleased you were able to visit Omaha. I once attended a conference there and visited the Jocelyn Art Museum. BEAUTIFUL! I hope you had a chance, or if you didn’t you’ll be able to return. Omaha is a lovely city. Thank you for the photos and great article.

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CJ

vavavoom Dr. Brent! (Josh must have been more madly inlove with you nowadays). :+)
you and Josh looked great.

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kirk redding

Josh and Brent, hello from the sleepy little town called Omaha. So glad you guys came and I was so glad we got to see you. There was so much I wanted to say but so little time.
If only it was warmer and if only you had more time, there is so much to see and so much history here. Know that you have many friends here all with a welcome smile and hug .
You are always welcome here in our small city we call home. Take care guys and Happy Valentine’s day and also congrats I hear your getting married this year>?
Kirk and Scott

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jeda (jpdf)

What an awesome trip and AMAZING experience! Thank you very much for sharing, Josh & Brent 🙂 I also have a fondness for small towns with simple & beautiful-hearted people/neighbors. Their craft and produce are awesome! Somehow, the song “Omaha, somewhere in middle America…” by the Counting Crows is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear/read about Omaha. Looking forward to visiting! 🙂 <3

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CJ

both of you guys looked great! i am really happy that you are now living together (again) full time at the Beekman mansion. Take care.

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Karen C.

You summed up Omaha nicely! I am so glad that you both enjoyed your visit. Omaha is my old stomping ground and I miss it so much. I see someone has pulled through on a recipe for you for the Runza. That’s the first restaurant we hit up when we pull into town, gotta have a Runza, it’s a must.

I do hope that you will return to a future Garden Expo as I would LOVE LOVE to meet you both. You have become my crack in the past couple of months. I can’t get enough of your show and am reading Josh’s book, The Bucolic Plague. I hope there is a sequel. 🙂

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Jen J

Josh, thank you for such an amazing review of Omaha! I’m so glad you guys had a good time here & hope you’ll visit us again! My favorite pic is the one of Brent & the dogs, but only because I’m in it too. Thanks for plugging the Nebraska Humane Society too 🙂

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Suzanne Koba

Looks like you certainly had a great time. Loved the wooden trays made from recycled barn siding, already checked out their site. Chris’ parents sound wonderful. Thanks for posting.

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Suzanne Koba

Sounds and looks like a great place. Really liked the wooden trays made from recycled barn siding. Already checked out their site.

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suzanne spina

I got a rescue dog last year for my birthday. Go Brent! But just one thing? He should pick it out himself if it is to be his dog…just a little hint from someone who has three of them…> Sounds like your trip was great. Love the photos.

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Erin C.

So glad that you loved Nebraska! I’m bummed that you weren’t able to try a Runza – that’s the first thing I get each time I go back home to visit (from Chicago). If you ever get back and go to Lincoln, let me know. My dad is a state senator and I can get you a great back stage tour of the capitol building! Here is an easy recipe for Runzas:
2 lbs. ground beef
2 med. onions, finely chopped
1 med. head cabbage chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 recipe for yeast rolls (equal to 6 cups of flour)
Brown meat and onions. Add cabbage, salt and pepper. Simmer until cabbage is soft. Roll out dough, cut into 6 inch squares. Put 1 heaping tablespoon of meat mixture in center, bring up ends and seal. Let rise on greased sheet. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Serve plain or with mushroom sauce gravy. You can also add cheese on top of the meat before closing the squares. If you make a big batch, they freeze really well.
Warning: Although they are delicious, Runza’s have the same effect on the body as White Castle sliders, so it’s best to enjoy them with really good friends 🙂

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Jane

Another nice article. I love all the pictures. You should have taken a ” Polka Spotted” picture of the Polka Spot balloon. I am having fun with my app. I took a picture of my little nephew with the app. I showed him the picture and he whipped around quickly looking for the llama in the picture! It was priceless! I got a very puzzled…..How did you do that?!

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Michele

Love the serving trays. A dog would be a wonderful addition to the Beekman farm, look foward to finding out who the new member of your family will be and what you will choose.

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Tim

Here I was picturing you shoveling heaps of snow off the roof of Beekman mansion!! Instead the intrepid travelers were mixing with their public in the heartland. Your descriptive writing is so concise and I enjoy it very much. Your sweet boy next door surfaces in your writing blended with your bold adventurous spirit. I am happy to have discovered at last the “Fabulous Beekman Boys” in some of your guises.

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Deb Costa

Very brave to travel to Omaha when you easily could have opted out for warmer places. Great story; there are so many wonderful towns with history, interesting people and delicious food adventures. Here in Belmont, VT we have that story with our country roads, talented residents, gifted artists and chefs. So glad I live here. Thanks again for a very entertaining article in the middle of our bleak winter.

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Marcia

RE: Runzas: We call them “cabbage burgers” here in Wyoming. In the small town where I grew up there were lots of German farmers. Cabbage burgers were even on the school lunch menu. Everyone had their favorite or secret way of making them but they are really very simple. Use a basic bread or roll yeast dough (some even used frozen…yikes), roll out about 1/4″ thick and cut circles out – I use a coffee can. Put a big spoonful of stuffing, which consists of ground meat, beef, pork, venison or elk, browned with chopped cabbage and onion, salt and LOTS of pepper in the center and fold up and pinch to close. Place seam side down on a greased cookie sheet and bake until golden brown at 350 degrees – about 15 – 20 minutes. While they’re still hot you can brush the tops with melted butter. The high school band used to sell them as a fundraiser and you had to be really early to get any. OMG!!! Just writing this makes me want to bake up a batch. Oh, they also freeze well and are great as a take-along lunch anywhere! LOVED your show which I watched on the internet – we live off-grid in WY and don’t have TV. Marcia in WY 🙂

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Janet Martin

Come to Kansas City – we have lots of fun here and that midwest hospitality Omaha is famous is alive and well and shakin’ the rafters in KC!

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Rob

Thanks for coming to Omaha! Our family really enjoyed meeting the both of you. As far as Runzas go, the guy in the front row, almost center in the group photo, makes the best homemade Runzas we have tasted. Maybe he’ll post a recipe for you to try.

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Kayley

Omaha’s best attraction. .. the Henry Dorley zoo. Its the most amazing zoo I’ve ever been to!

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Mark Volenec

Runza Recipe
From your Omaha Stalkers, Mark & Peter

This Runza Recipe was given to me (Mark) by my former bf’s mom. Like most early 20-somethings, we could not WAIT to get out of NE, I missed Omaha & moved back. One thing we missed desperately was our beloved Runza Sandwich. Keep in mind this is from a woman living in a VERY small rural NE town & this was her version. It is a very distant second to the actual Runza Sandwich, which can be ordered frozen & shipped at Runza.com. (send me some cheese & I’ll ship you frozen Runza’s ANYTIME!!)

2 cans crescent roll mix
1 onion chopped
2 T butter
1/4 t pepper
1/2 lb ground beef
2 cups cabbage
6 shakes tabasco

Brown ground beef and onion-drain. Add cabbage & butter and heat till just soft. Salt & pepper to taste.

Roll dough very & cut in 6-7 squares. Place about 3 T beef & cabbage mixture in center of each. Pinch edges & place smooth side up in a greased baking sheet. Let rise about 10-20 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

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Felicia

I have lived in Omaha for 3 years and STILL haven’t been to Runza! But it’s a great city and very appreciative of those who come visit (well, unless it’s a football Saturday, then you’ve got the venue to yourself!). Still mad I missed the show and you two but luckily I was in Florida during warm weather so that almost made up for it!

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Cary Bradley

Thank you for sharing the wonderful products folks in Omaha are working on. I was especially excited to see the serving trays made out of old barn wood, with barn origin story given on the back of the piece. Very clever and beautiful use of repurposed wood. I’m looking for old wooden veg/fruit packing boxes to grow salad plants in for Spring (seen on Johnny’s cover couple years ago) and this gives me more ideas for sources. Thanks alot!

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Bill

Well done! Hope you took “time out” to visit Omaha’s Joslyn Museum. There’s a permanent collection of Bodmer, Catlin, Bierstadt and Moran … a nice collection for a small museum. Bodmer and Catlin documented the native american west (prairie) in the early-mid nineteenth century.

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Anne

Thank you so much for your kind words! I am so sorry I wasn’t able to attend the Expo. I’m very glad that you enjoyed your time in Omaha and hope you will return often! Sharon Springs is still on my “bucket list” of places to visit!

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Becky Leach

Clear Creek Organic cheese is, indeed, wonderful! And always such a steal–$6 or so for a pound of aged, organic, raw milk cheese. Love it.

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Sara

You answered one of my un-asked questions (I had a few dozen swirling around during your presentation), which was, when are you going to get a dog? I look forward to hearing all about your new dog on Josh’s birthday. 😉

Your visit to Omaha was much anticipated and appreciated. Thank you for your kind words about our often overlooked city.

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Anna

Great photos and stories! Let Brent get a dog! Love the PolkaSpot balloon! Crazy about your “twinnies”!

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Marie Chilcote

Now, that was really interesting!! Thanks for taking us to Omaha with you. I’m so glad you were able to fly out. We’ve been worried about you NewEnglandners and your 3 feet of snow.

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