As we slip into winter darkness, I find myself less interested in venturing outside of my own home. Perhaps that’s why I’ve put together a list that includes two events; if there is a legitimate reason to leave (I’ve paid for something), perhaps I’ll be less inclined to cancel. There are two “spicy” items on the list — an obvious cry for help with warmth. It also helps to eat hot spicy food, because in addition to warming up with the flavor, you’re warming with the temperature. Finally, don’t forget to eat a few veggies this month; apparently they help with digestion.

If you have any suggestions, or would like to share your favorite food and drink items, please leave a comment, or send us a nice email

Omakase Dinner | Miga 

Miga has done a nice job with specialty dinners, and this Omakase dinner sounds wonderful. The seven courses will each be paired with premium sake; you’re bound to experience something new. The dinner is very limited, so reserve your tickets by emailing the restaurant. At $90 per person, it’s not cheap, but it’ll be an incredible experience. Consider it a Hanukkah or early Christmas gift.

Wednesday, December 5th
6 p.m.
$90/person
Reservations required

Miga
301 N Neil St
Champaign

Photo by Julie McClure

Pho | Thara Thai

I am embarrassed to admit that I was off the Thara Thai train for a bit. I seem to always want to go there on Mondays, when the restaurant is closed, and I think I just removed it from my comfort-go-to restaurant list. I recently shook off this funk and have been reincorporating Thara Thai into my life, and I’m a better person for it. The food is just so good! And spicy! Unless, of course, you don’t want it spicy, and then it can be order un-spicy. A few nights ago the spouse and I were returning from a long day outside of C-U and we were tired, hungry, cold, and a little cranky. I called in my order about 30 minutes ahead of time, and instead of my usual noodle dishes, I ordered the chicken pho (medium spice, $11).

I brought it home and assembled the components (noodles, sprouts, cilantro, broth and chicken). It was the perfect dish for that night: It was hot, it was spicy, it was flavorful, it had noodles. There was even enough left over for lunch the next day. It’s my favorite soup in C-U right now, so I strongly suggest you get some on these cold, miserable days.

Note: Thara Thai is closed 11/26 through 12/13, and will reopen on Friday, December 14th

Thara Thai 
912 Bloomington Rd
Champaign
T-Sa 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Su noon to 9 p.m.
217-378-1986

Sweet heat latte | Avionics

I know I’ve written about this beverage before, but hear me out. My favorite Flying Machine/Avionics drink used to be the rosemary mocha (which is still amazing), but that has been replaced with the sweet heat latte. I just love that it’s a little spicy, and earthy, and still a little sweet without being cloying. It’s frothy and yummy, and the perfect way to get a jolt of caffeine in the morning (or in the afternoon). It pairs quite well with something sweet, obviously, but you don’t even need an additional treat.

Avionics
202 S First St
Champaign
M-F 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sa + Su 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Pizza | Timpone’s

Timpone’s is a wonderful place that is simultaneously perfect for a casual dinner or for a celebratory one. I had dinner there recently, before a performance at KCPA. It was the perfect sort of night out evening that made me pause and think, “Hey! Look at me doing culture! Look at me taking advantage of stuff!” I ordered the verdure pizza (Spinach, Artichoke Hearts, Bell Peppers, Black Olives, Goat Cheese, Sun-Dried Tomato, $15), but I went rogue and added sausage to it, because, protein. It was great, and I felt great about eating the entire thing because the crust is very thin and there were vegetables on it.

I should add that you should also consider Timpone’s desserts because they are rather wonderful.

Timpone’s
710 S Goodwin Ave
Urbana
M-F 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
M-Th 5 to 9:30 p.m.
F + Sa 5 to 10 p.m.

Cheese + wine | Prairie Fruits Farm

Prairie Fruits Farm is one of the best places in C-U, even if you don’t visit with the goats.  The cheese is delicious, and taking a class with the folks over there will be enlightening and interesting. I did a cheese tasting class a while back, and it was great. This class will feature cheese pairings — that is, how to pair cheese with booze. It’s definitely a skill that will impress anyone this holiday season, even your dumb-dumb cousin who doesn’t seem to have a literal or cultural sense of taste. 

Grab a friend and sign up for this class, because it’s something fun to do with someone you like, and you’ll learn something, and you’ll get to eat and drink some tasty stuff. It's $35 per person, which might be about how much you'd spend eating and drinking the equivalent if you went to a restaurant. 

Cheese, Wine, and Distilled Beverages for the Holidays 
Wednesday, December 12th
6-8 p.m.
Prairie Fruits Farm
4410 N Lincoln Ave
Champaign
Tickets available here

Photos by Jessica Hammie except where noted