We’ve arrived into November and autumn is fully underway! Champaign and Urbana are bursting with color as the trees change, and the temperatures have begun dropping almost as quickly as the leaves, conjuring up all the cozy images the season brings. Apples, squash, blackberries, cauliflower, and shallots are just a handful of produce items that are in season as we delve into a busy time of year when many are cooking and baking as the holidays loom. Here are some things to try around town as we ease into the month.
Autumn Harvest Cookies | Great Harvest
We all know Great Harvest makes a fantastic loaf of bread. Their selection is dizzying. But they also boast an excellent variety of cookies. If you have yet to try one, do yourself a favor and stop by. Their takeaway cookies are huge and under $2 each, making them one of the best deals around for a sweet tooth fix. They have their usual rotation of frosted sugar cookies, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, oatmeal chocolate chip (sometimes with walnuts), and turtle cookies. As a seasonal treat, they’ve added an Autumn Harvest cookie to the mix. They take what I consider to be a gold standard of an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie and add pumpkin and sunflower seeds to it. These cookies are the perfect blend of chewy with crisp edges. They’re loaded with chocolate, but you also get the heartiness and texture from the oats and added seeds. They only make these cookies one or two days out of the week and they go fast! Stop by to try one this month, plus anything they offer from their sampling board. You will not go hungry.
2149 S Neil St
M-F 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sa 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Samosa chat | Kohinoor
I was skeptical that anyplace could fill the void on Columbia Avenue when Escobar’s closed. I’m pleased to say Kohinoor has more than adequately done the job. Their dishes burst with flavor, color, and spiciness, which makes them even more enticing as the weather turns colder. If you’re feeling a “treat yourself” mood and want to dine in chez toi, look no further than ordering Kohinoor for delivery. (My experience has been through GrubHub and I have yet to be disappointed, as it usually arrives in 30-40 minutes.) One dish I highly recommend is their Samosa chat — you receive a bevy of samosas (crispy fried potatoes) garnished with onion, yogurt, tamarind, and chat masala. I’ll be honest, I don’t know what all the spices and flavors are, but Guy Fieri can’t come up with anything close to the actual flavortown that is this dish. It does have a kick, heat wise, but that’s where the creamy yogurt sauce comes in to balance it out. This dish is technically an appetizer, but is large enough for two or saving some for leftovers. This dish is vegetarian and is nice and filling.
6 E Columbia Ave
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Burnt Ends Nachos | Black Dog
One of the best things about autumn is after temperatures have dropped and you start smelling woodsmoke in the air as people begin using their fireplaces. Or in the case of places like Black Dog, the barbecue smoke is sharper and acts like a beacon, calling out to us. One of their daily offerings that is served in limited supply are their burnt ends. From their menu: “We smoke the whole brisket in our wood fired pit for 12 hours, then we cut off the point, put dry rub on it again and smoke it again.” Then they went ahead and offered these up on their BBQ nachos. Yes, please. The nachos are their tortilla chips topped with pit beans & pickled jalapeños, topped with your choice of Ghostpepperjack or cheddar cheese, choice of meat, and BBQ ranch on the side. You really can’t go wrong. They will also do half Ghostpepperjack, half cheddar, which is what I had recently and is pictured. If somehow your table doesn’t destroy your plate of nachos while you’re there, they’re great as leftovers.
320 N Chestnut
Su-Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Baklava | Strawberry Fields/World Harvest Market
Champaign and Urbana boast a healthy variety of cuisines from around the world. One of the rarer gourmet finds in the community is baklava, which has roots in the Middle East and Mediterranean. Deceptively challenging to make, this dessert is made up of layers of phyllo dough, walnuts, butter, sugar, and honey. Fortunately, World Harvest market offers its own version, in both walnut and pistachio flavors. You can find these delicately layered, nutty treats atop the cheese counter in World Harvest. At $1.50 for a decently sized piece, you can treat yourself to both the walnut and pistachio flavors for three dollars and change. In addition to being flat out tasty, baklava is a welcome alternative to many chilly weather desserts that can be overly heavy and sweet. For those rare birds who don’t enjoy chocolate, give a piece of baklava a try at World Harvest. You’ll probably also find, as I do, how difficult it is to walk out of this store without buying other goodies.
306 W Springfield
M 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
T-Sa 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sun 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Basil Bulleit | Destihl
Our twin cities provide more than enough places to try any type of specialty drink or well-crafted beer or wine. I don’t have a foot in either the beer or wine camps, myself, but I do enjoy a nicely made signature cocktail. One that is consistently made well and I have yet to see anywhere else is at Destihl. My go-to pick that I get every single time is the Basil Bulleit. Made with bourbon, simple syrup, lemon juice, basil, and topped with a splash of cabernet sauvignon, this cocktail is bittersweet, sharp, and tangy, with a smooth finish from the cab. This drink is the perfect accompaniment to brunch, a meal during the holidays, sitting outdoors when it’s warm, or meeting a friend for drinks during a chilly November. Unless you have a strong aversion to bourbon or the flavor of basil, give this cocktail a try at your next meetup at Destihl.
301 N Neil St
M-Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Photos by Zoe Valentine