Here we are, firmly planted in spring, despite the snow of last weekend (and the one prior). Spring things will start to bloom this month (we hope), including some things you can eat. For some springtime produce, consider checking out Urbana’s Market in the Square, as well as your favorite grocery store (morels and fresh fava beans were recently available at Harvest Market). As we ease super slowly into better weather, food and drink events become regular occurrences. There are several events with a heavy food and drink focus worth checking out, among them Smile Politely’s 10th Anniversary Party at Maize, and the Forest-to-Mansion dinner at Allerton Park.
This month’s list includes three events, plus some tastes-better-than-it-looks food. Brown food doesn’t photograph well, but damn, does it taste good.
Hot Chocolate | Brunch + Babies at Prairie Fruits Farm
This hot chocolate ($3.50) always makes an appearance on this list this time of year, and for good reason: It’s insanely delicious. Don’t scoff at drinking goat milk — if you already drink cow milk, you won’t be able to tell the difference. The rest of the menu looks incredible, too, with sweet, savory, and vegetarian options.
Babies + Brunch at PFF is seriously the best time of year at the farm not only because of the breakfast foods, but obviously because of the seriously adorable and quirky baby goats. There’s nothing quite like sipping some rich and delicious hot chocolate as you watch the awkward, leggy baby mammals jump and kick and stick their little furry faces against the fence. It’s much-anticipated event, and the best way to welcome warmer weather.
Babies + Brunch is every 9:30 a.m. to noon every Saturday and Sunday through May 12th.
Babies + Brunch
Prairie Fruits Farm
4410 N Lincoln Ave
Sa + Su, April 7-May 12
9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Dumplings | Mid Summer Lounge
Did you read our recent review of Mid Summer Lounge? It’s a small Chinese dumpling and noodle shop on campus, and it’s wonderful. It’s hard to go wrong with dough-wrapped packages of food — there’s a reason you find some iteration of the dumpling or hand pie across cuisines. Mid Summer Lounge does dumplings right: the filling is flavorful and plentiful, the dough is toothsome, the servings are generous.
There has been plenty of buzz surrounding Mid Summer Lounge, and Jessica Wolff’s review, coupled with spring break, finally gave me the solid kick in the rear to get to campus and get some dumplings ($9). The pork and scallion dumplings did not disappoint; I’m already planning my next dumpling outing. The noodles are also delicious, so get some of those for sharing, too ($11 and up).
Mid Summer Lounge
625 E Green St
11:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily
5 to 8 p.m. daily
Apple butter bacon pizza | Manolo’s Pizza and Empanadas
Two weeks ago I took advantage of fewer people on the U of I campus and made a point of grabbing a couple of slices at Manolo’s. It’s a real disgrace that there are so few places to get really good pizza, and so few places that sell slices. Manolo’s is one of the few places where you can get both. I am generally a pizza traditionalist, but I was drawn to the apple butter bacon pizza: honey pistachio crusted bacon, apple butter, mozzarella, and gorgonzola. This sweet and savory combo slice had the right amount of sweet from the apple butter and honey. The gorgonzola, a cheese that reminds me of athlete’s foot, worked in this situation because it was used sparingly and it’s moldy pungency cut through the sweet and unctuous toppings.
At a whopping $4.21 per slice, the specialty slices at Manolo’s aren’t cheap eats, but they are good, and one slice should hold you over for a few hours.
Manolo’s Pizza & Empanadas
115 W Oregon St
M-F 9 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
Tacos and Triptych | Smile Politely’s 10th Anniversary party at Maize
Smile Politely just turned 10, and we’re celebrating with a party at Maize. Tickets are $10 at the door, and there will be tacos and churros, as well as Triptych’s Fiesta Forever, available for purchase. Timbalú will perform — if you haven’t experienced this ensemble salsa band, you’re missing out. It’s bound to be a good time. Maize’s tacos are always delicious, and Triptych’s Fiesta Forever is the perfect mate for a bunch of tacos.
The party is Friday, April 27th from 8 p.m. to midnight. More details are available on the Facebook event page.
SP’s 10th Anniversary
Maize at the Station
110 N Chestnut
Forest-to-Mansion Dinner | Allerton Park
The fourth annual Forest-to-Mansion Dinner at Allerton Park is a real treat, and well worth the ticket price ($95/person) and short drive to Monticello. The five course dinner features ingredients specially foraged from the Allerton forest (special being the operative word here; people are not permitted to forage). Each course is prepared by a different local chef. You can see the entire menu and read chef bios here.
I attended last year’s dinner and it was great — one the dishes even made my Best of 2017 round up. There will be local produce, including plenty of morel mushrooms and ramps, as well as fish and meat dishes. This event isn’t ideal for vegetarians, so grab a fellow omnivore and get your tickets ahead of time.
Dinner is on Sunday, April 29th, from 3:30 to 7 p.m.
Get your tickets here
Photos by Jessica Hammie