Our Bookshelf of previously published materials. 


What's New in 2005

Good Publicity for Good Food

The dinners at Simone’s farm, now in their seventh year, got out-of-state attention through a lengthy article in the May 2005 issue of the “Minnesota Monthly” magazine. During the summer and fall, five people from the Twin Cities came to mix with the Iowans; a few more have called to make plans for 2006. Publicity on the national front was also gained via an on-farm interview with Simone by the famous chef Lynne Rossetto Kasper. The interview aired in October on “The Splendid Table,” spreading the news on National Public Radio all over the country.

Dinners, Pizza, and Kids  

Simone reports that the 2005 weekend dinners were attended by great crowds. Just a few table d’hôtes materialized but were well attended. A special event in July was “Pizza for Kids,” a fundraiser for the extension of educational programs at ZJ Farms.  It was an afternoon of fun with about 40 kids and 35 parents attending. Kids learned about many facets of Simone’s farm, looked at a world map to see how far some food travels, and painted their favorite farm item on quilt squares. The kids had a great time making their own individual pizzas with fresh vegetables from the gardens, and learned how to bake the pizzas in the brick oven. Soon parents were in line to do the same. Three families pitched tents at the top of the prairie and stayed for the night. It was quickly decided that it was a great start for more structured educational programs at ZJ Farms and that Pizza for Kids should be an annual event.




News from the Farm:
It was a challenging year in the gardens; a long drought meant working harder to keep everything watered and growing. Despite the lack of rain, there was just one crop failure, celeriac. Otherwise the season resulted in more variety and a greater quantity of vegetables for dinner guests.




Sad news in the fall of 2005 for all who knew Simone’s dear dog companion of many years: her little Blanchette died tragically in September. Grisou, a smart cat who is a good rabbit hunter, is now the favorite of all visitors. The other cat, the cute white and fluffy Poupée, is the  charmer and always around.  As for travels, Simone visited New Mexico and France in the winter of 2005-2006.


Table d'Hote

What's New in 2006

A New Dinner Is Served

Simone has added a new choice for small group weekend dinners: a Cajun/Creole theme, which joins the French, Moroccan, and pizza dinners. See dinner page for details about this new dinner.

With the new year comes some new prices for the dinners. French, Moroccan, and Cajun/Creole dinners are now $35 per guest. Pizza dinners are $28 per guest; however, for groups of 12 adults or more, the cost of a pizza dinner is $25 per guest.


A Great Gift Idea

Gift certificates are now available for dinners and any other products sold by Simone’s Plain and Simple. This includes a set of 16 flower bouquets (one bouquet provided each week during the growing season). Simone will also introduce a line of homemade gourmet food products by the fall of 2006. Call or e-mail Simone about gift certificates. They are designed in an elegant calligraphic style that will please anyone who receives them.


Growing a Fruitful Garden

Simone is planning to enlarge the “small fruits” section of her gardens and orchards with more currants, strawberries, and raspberries. She also plans to extend the gardening season, both with early and late vegetables and more efficient use of her greenhouse. So with last year’s work and the plans for this year, the kitchen gardens are definitely growing, a great benefit to all who come to eat at Simone’s.  

Flourishing Flowers

Also new this year: Garden plots with cutting flowers will be made accessible to guests, who will be able to purchase bouquets when they come for dinner.

The Prairie versus Parsnip

The five-acre prairie Simone is restoring is now in its third year. It needs a lot of attention at this time due to invasive weeds, including Wild Parsnip that has infiltrated about a third of the prairie. The beautiful flowers and grasses planted two years ago have taken root, but some extra work and more patience are needed before they can really be enjoyed.

Simone’s Travels

Over the winter holidays, Simone traveled to Sanibel Island, Florida. She took hundreds of pictures of the fishing birds and tried to capture on film some unique scenes of Nature at her best. Simone spent most of February in France, visiting her family in Divonne-les-Bains in the French Jura, near the Swiss border. After some great fresh food cooked by her daughter and a lot of exercise in her snowshoes, Simone returned relaxed and in shape for the beginning of the 2006 season at her farm. 

Our first Table d’Hôte in 2010

A French Country Buffet

Monday May 10th at 6:30pm

A table full of savory dishes, cheeses, salads and desserts.  Showcased will be some Pates and Terrines both 'Charcuterie' and vegetarian varieties.  Naturally all will be served with homemade Breads some right out of the brick oven that will be fired up just for the occasion.  Trust Simone's artisan skills for the utmost quality and choices.  No menu finalized at this time.  Remember to bring your own preferred beverage.

Archived Table d'Hôte:

An International Mezze -

A Buffet of Tastes and Stories

from Around the World

No specific menu for this buffet but all hot and cold dishes on the table will be labeled.  Simone is going to prepare food from France, Morocco and Iceland. Andy will present Asian food treasures.  Both will tell stories about the food related to their travel in those countries. 

Monday June 14th at 6:30pm

Cooking and Hosting shared by Simone and Andy Stoll.

Please email Simone to make sure there is still room at the table.

Be aware a Table d’Hôte will be cancelled if less then eight guests have registered three days before scheduled.

Confirm your reservation with payment of the full price of this dinner now via the secured shopping basket or mail a check directly to Simone with the information found on the Contact page.

Andy Stoll recently completed a three and half year solo, independent trip around-the-world through 37 countries on 5 continents where he, among other things, studied real world cooking, not from 5-star chefs, but from moms, grandmas, nannies, street cart vendors and cafe cooks in some of the dustiest, most forgotten corners of the world.  

From the wet markets of East Asia through the bazaars of the former Soviet Union to a remote mud hut village in Zambia, Andy sampled some of the world's most amazing foods, made without electronic gadgets, microwaves or big box supermarkets.

Andy Stoll eating a Malaysian Steamboat in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Andy is a filmmaker, social entrepreneur and an occasional chef originally from Iowa City, Iowa.  Andy has taught cooking classes at The New Pioneer Coop and The Prairie Table; worked in a gourmet cup cake factory in Hong Kong; served as executive chef at a luxury cattle ranch in the Australian Outback, cooked apple pie on Armenian national television and spent four months as the morning cook and night-time bartender for the overland truck drivers in Balladonia, Western Australia with a population of ten thanks to his presence in that little remote town.

Andy will be joining Simone for this International Mezze and will share some of the best stories, recipes and foods he discovered on the open road.

You can read more about Andy's travels at


What's New in 2004


Spring 2004 Many new things are underway at 'Plain and Simple.  Simone will be updating this section regularly to let you know about some of the activities and events happening throughout the year.

A Prairie Takes Root Last November, Simone planted five acres of her land with prairie seed. She included only grasses and forbes (flowers) that are native to the Iowa tall grass prairie. Since prairie plants take a long time to become established, there probably won't be many showy blooms or grasses this year. However, Simone invites you to stroll down the hill to view the progress and let your imagination be stirred by the
evolving landscape.


From Yellowstone Wolves to Alpine Snow

Simone reports that she had a great winter break. In January, she spent a week in Yellowstone National Park, where she enjoyed the pristine landscape and developed a good understanding of the park's ecosystem. One of the highlights was the sight and sound of wolves in the park. Simone spent most of February in France with her family, with visits to Normandy, Paris, and the French Alps. She was thrilled to be back in the mountains, one of her favorite places. There was plenty of snow, snowshoeing, beautiful views, and great weather. She enjoyed spending time with her three grandchildren, and can't wait to see them again when they visit Iowa this summer. Simone returned to the U.S. in early March with, she says, "the good feeling of knowing where my home is." Her return coincided with the arrival of spring, perfect timing to confirm her sense of place.

Spring Fever

Spring marks the beginning of Simone's busy gardening and cooking season. She starts her own transplants of vegetables, flowers, and some annual herbs to ensure the greatest choice of varieties. For two months, her upstairs guest room is home to seedlings grown under lamps. The greenhouse (hoop house) outdoors is used to get a jump-start on the growing season, especially for lettuces and other salad greens. Simone says that her calendar is already filling up for weekend dinners, and that she always comes back from France with a refreshed palate and culinary inspirations to test in her own kitchen.

Pull Up a Chair at the Table d’Hôte

This year Simone is again offering another type of dinner, the table d’Hôte (literally, the guest's table), in which several guests are seated at a communal table to enjoy a dinner with a set menu and price. This style of dining has a long tradition in France, and allows guests to meet new people and come away with new connections. Read more about the table d’Hôte by clicking here.

Fine Food Sets the Scene for Fine Art

Simone is pleased to have the opportunity to display several paintings by local artist Stan Fellows. The paintings, currently hanging in the dining room, depict several landscapes and views captured by Stan while visiting Plain and Simple. Other examples of his work can be viewed at his website:

The paintings now hanging at Plain and Simple will later be shipped to galleries in other states. At those galleries the commission is the usual breathtaking 50%. The paintings can be purchased for half the listed price by contacting Simone (whose commission is more neighborly).