It’s hard to believe that it’s already November; it felt like October was gone in the blink of an eye. As we move into the whirlwind that is the end of the year, important questions arise: Do I really need to cook that Thanksgiving turkey, or can I outsource the work? How many drinks can I give Annoying Family Member to make them tolerable? Will the kids be ruined for life if I don’t feed them vegetables today?
In this month’s list, I offer a few suggestions for tackling Thanksgiving dinner — that is, a few suggestions for purchasing premade dinner components that are well worth the price tag. Oven space is prime real estate if you’re hosting, and there’s no reason you can’t find high quality, premade versions from some local vendors, which lessens your load. (Plus it’s an opportunity to send your least favorite or most annoying family members out of the house for a few minutes.) There are also a couple of items that you can use to placate the masses and/or treat yourself.
As always, suggest your favorite things in the comments.
Baked Goods | Hopscotch and/or Cake Artist’s Studio
One of the easiest things to acquire for the Thanksgiving meal is dessert. A lot of people are terrible or uninterested bakers, and that’s okay. In fact, that’s how and why bakeries exist.
Hopscotch Bakery and Market is offering pies for your feast; this is the only time of year you can order an entire pie. Choose from pumpkin, black bottom oat, and apple-rosemary; they’re all bound to be delicious ($24 and $28). If you need something else, or something more, consider a sheet pan of gooey butter cake, salted caramel brownies, sweet potato bread pudding, or cranberry port crumb bars ($13). Of course, cakes are also available (6” cake, $40). All orders are due by November 19th, so get your act together and get your order in. Place your order here, or call the store at (217) 607-5436.
The Cake Artist’s Studio makes really delicious cakes (7”, $39), and for Thanksgiving you can also order cake rolls (8” log, $21), pies (pumpkin, key lime, coconut cream, chocolate cream, $18-$21), and other assorted treats. If you’re looking for a gluten free option, The Cake Artist’s Studio offers a chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream (6”, $45). More information is available here, and you need to place your order by November 18th. Call (217) 403-0900 to do so.
Turkey | Black Dog
The star of the Thanksgiving table is turkey, right? It’s the thing that takes up the most space and time in the oven, and if you’re uncomfortable roasting a big, heavy bird, it can be a daunting task. If my husband and I are hosting more than two people, we go for Black Dog’s smoked turkey. It’s a little pricey ($75, plus tax), but for a fully cooked, totally delicious 14 to 16 pound bird, it’s well worth the investment. We’ve done this several times, and it’s always a big hit among guests. If you’re lucky, there are some leftovers, but if you have a larger crowd, you’ll probably clean the carcass. You pick up the fully cooked bird from the Champaign location on Thanksgiving (see note above about sending people out of the house), and then you have the distinct pleasure/torture of smelling that tasty bird until you sit down for dinner.
Call Black Dog at (217) 954-0465 to place your ASAP — there’s often a limited supply. If you’re really feeling frisky, you can place an order for sides, too, including turkey gravy.
Booze | Art Mart, Common Ground, Triptych, Riggs
Bless your heart if your family does not use booze to mitigate the awkwardness of the forced social situation that is the holiday meal. If that’s the case, go on and skip ahead to the next entry. For the rest of you, here’s a quick list of places to get the delicious goods:
Art Mart has quite the selection of wine and an informed staff ready to make recommendations. Common Ground Food Co-op also has a decent selection of beer and wine, with a good handful of local-ish features.
Triptych sells growlers and cans, and you can find the stuff on tap all over town.
Riggs Beer has quickly become a much-loved addition to the local drinking scene. These German style beers are easy to drink, and you can take home growlers and kegs (though a keg seems a bit excessive, but I try not to judge). I’m a fan of the Hefeweizen.
Empanadas (and pizza) | Manolo’s
As we get closer to December, and the craziness that ensues with holiday gatherings, end of the year thingies, end of the semester thingies, darkness creeping into the afternoon hours, and the looming realization that the end of the year is nigh and you have not achieved your 2017 resolutions, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and disorganized. Though
Order Up and Grub Hub has made more food more accessible via delivery, there’s nothing quite like the comfort and nostalgia of delivery pizza. Manolo’s has some of, or perhaps the best pizza in town (discuss below, please), and while that’s all good and great, I’m interested in featuring the empanadas. There’s something uniquely pleasurable in eating a hand pie, which is basically what an empanada is. The oozy, gooey filling inside these dough packets is delicious, regardless of flavor, and what’s even more exciting is that you can order savory and sweet iterations. If you were a tween/teen in the 90s, surely you will know the pain and pleasure of the Totino’s pizza roll — Manolo’s empanadas are sort of like a grown up, way more delicious version of those. Children and adults alike will enjoy the empanada, so do yourself a favor and have some delivered on a night when you need someone else to do the cooking. (I should also mention that you can also buy frozen empanadas, which is a brilliant idea.)
Manolo’s is located at 1115 West Oregon, Urbana, and open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 2:30 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
Coffee + Breakfast | Avionics/Page Roasting Company
Newly opened Flying Machine Coffee Avionics and Page Roasting Company is a roasting company, coffee shop, and restaurant. It’s truly delightful. Located in Champaign’s Midtown area (I know, I know, but it’s a thing), parking seems somewhat limited, but since it’s a low-traffic area, it’s actually not much of a problem.
I recently stopped in for breakfast, and was impressed. I had a cappuccino ($3.50), which was really delicious, and the avocado smash ($6.50), a take on the ubiquitous avocado toast. The avocado smash was really great, and complex in flavor and texture. My soft boiled egg was cooked perfectly. The breakfast menu is available all day, and lunch starts at 11 a.m. The menu is limited, but everything looks and sounds delicious. The former Cracked Glass space is beautifully remodeled, and the seating hasn't yet been overrun with sad grad students sucking down caffeine and pecking at their computer screens (or staring into space). It’s a nice spot to grab a cup of coffee, or have a meal with a friend, or sit alone and enjoy some peace and quiet.
Avionics/Page Roasting Company is located at 202 South First Street, Champaign, and open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.