Oh, hello, summer. It’s been quite warm lately, and I keep finding things to eat and drink that are cool and refreshing. This weekend is the fourth annual Midwest Beer Fest, a celebration of local and regional beer. This month’s list is strictly vegetarian, more or less by happenstance. I’ve been really pleased with the variety of options at our farmers’ markets, and have included a couple items here. I’ve thrown in a comfort food veggie option — it’s fried, so I suppose that mitigates the virtuous healthy eating aspect of things. Finally, I’ve included my new favorite drink at one of my old favorite restaurants.

What are you craving this month?

Beer | Midwest Beer Fest at Barrelhouse 34

The fourth annual Midwest Beer Fest is Saturday, July 13th from 4 p.m. to midnight. The celebration of craft beer is family friendly and will feature non-beer specials, food trucks, and swag. It’s happening concurrently with the Champaign Park District’s StreetFest, and you’ll be able to carry your drinks between both events seamlessly. Basically, it’s a big block party with food trucks, music, great beer, and (hopefully) good company. Because both events are family friendly, this is an easy way to entertain the whole family, too.

Local(ish) beer from Triptych, Big Thorn, White Oak, JT Walker’s, Destihl, and Riggs will be available, and you’ll also find regional favorites like Half Acre, Revolution, and Hopewell Brewing, among others. The full line up is available here.

Midwest Beer Fest
Barrelhouse 34
34 E Main St
Champaign
4 p.m to midnight
Free entry; $1 tickets for beer

Micro greens | Diamond’s Homestead at The Land Connection’s Tuesday Market

The Land Connection’s Tuesday market continues to recruit new vendors, and this year there is one selling micro greens. Honestly, I could live without micro greens; they’re fine and all, but do they really add anything to a dish? Turns out, if you have good ones, they actually do! Diamond’s Homestead offers a few different varieties of greens. On my last visit to the market I sampled the leek micro greens, and they had a nice chive-y, oniony flavor. They weren’t too crunchy or too stringy. I bought an ounce ($4.50), and mixed them into a salad I made a couple of days later. They really did add robustness to the salad, and I really appreciated the gentle onion flavor without the harshness of raw onion.

Though a little pricey, these micro greens are a nice little treat for your salads and sandwiches. (Though there are different prices for different greens.) I will most certainly be adding them into my rotation this summer.

The Land Connection Tuesday Market
Neil & Main St
Champaign
T 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Tomatoes | The Land Connection’s Tuesday Market + Urbana’s Market at the Square

Since we’re all friends here, I feel like it’s safe to tell you that it’s only within the last decade that I’ve enjoyed eating raw tomatoes and only when they are of the fresh, locally grown variety. Grocery store tomatoes, especially out of season, are completely disgusting and inedible. Tomatoes are now available at our markets, and now is the time to enjoy them. They are delicious additions to green salads, and I very much enjoy them with some fresh mozzarella, a drizzle olive oil, and a pinch of salt.

The Land Connection Tuesday Market
Neil & Main St
Champaign
T 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Urbana’s Market at the Square
Illinois & Vine
Urbana
Sa 7 a.m. to noon

Veggie Combo Platter | Kohinoor

Kohinoor has become one of my comfort food restaurants. If I’m in need of a food delivery or a little cheering up, I choose the Champaign Indian restaurant. The one thing I order each and every time is the veggie combo platter ($4.99), an appetizer with a little bit of everything: aloo tikki, samosa, mixed vegetable pakoras. This grouping is super satisfying, and easily shareable. I get it regardless of how many people are dining (though a second order might be necessary for larger parties), or if I’m dining in, taking out, or getting it delivered. 

Kohinoor
6 E Columbia Ave
Champaign
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Jamaica | Maize

I recently shared my love for this fruity, hibiscus tea. It’s sweet and refreshing, and the perfect antidote for a spicy meal. It has become my go-to non-alcoholic drink at Maize, moving the delicious and refreshing watermelon water into second place. Consider it next time you dine at Maize at the Station, or just get one to go on a hot day.

Maize at the Station
100 N Chester St
Champaign
Su-Th 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Photos by Jessica Hammie