Oh June, you beautiful month. The farmers' markets are in full swing. The weather is lovely. Vaccinations are happening. This summer is already looking better than last year's, and I'm ready for my hot hungry girl summer.

My birthday is in June, so I thought it might be fun to share five foods and drinks that I'd like to receive for my birthday. Friends, if you need a gift idea, here's five. If you want to surprise me with something delicious, pick anything from this list. If you think I'm mad at you, go ahead and bring me some food, and I'll immediately forgive the offense.


On a wooden bar at Art Mart, five bottles of red stand in front of the wine selection behind which is blurred. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Wine | Art Mart

I like all wines, but I'm partial to reds and bubbly. Right now, I'm on a screwcap kick because I literally don't have time to uncork bottles and fight metallic wrappers anymore. When I want wine, I head straight to the wine section of Art Mart and ask Todd to help me out. If you give him a price and some other preference, he'll hook you up with a selection of wines that fit your needs. I wanted reds with screwcaps that were under $15 — plus two nicer reds for my bithday weekend. The malbec was only $9.99, and I have already been back for more. The malbec had a big taste, full bodied, with notes of cherries. The Gulp Hablo Garnacha and the cabernet were both $11.99. The two on the left were pricier at $19.99 and $29.99, but I wanted a little nicer bottles to celebrate my birthday. I know there are lots of places to get wine in town, but if I want a curated wine fitted to my tastes (and budget), I go to Art Mart.

Art Mart
1705 S Prospect Ave
Champaign
M-Sa 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Su 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In a tin foil lined takeout container, there are two al pastor tacos, one lime wedge, a small cup of red salsa, and a small cup of green salsa. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Al Pastor Tacos | Los Hidalguense Taco Truck

These tacos ($2.50 each) are my favorite food when I'm near North Prospect. Parked in the Hunter's Haven lot on Bloomington Road just past Popeye's and Thara Thai, Los Hidalguense's taco truck serves up burritos, tacos, nachos, tortas, chalupas, quesadillas, and corn. Ever since I reviewed them last July, I literally cannot get enough of the tacos. My usual order is al pastor tacos, Meixcan style with cilantro and onions. You can also get your taco made American style with lettuce, onions, tomato, and cheese. The al pastor pork was diced and had a perfect blend of savory and sweet with chunks of grilled pineapple mixed in the marinated meat. Getting a bite of pineapple with the pork is a salty-sweet flavor explosion with which I am obsessed. The double corn tortillas held it all together without ripping. The al pastor taco just hits all the right flavors, and you can always bring me a taco or two from Los Hidalguense. 

Los Hidalguense
1040 W Bloomington Rd
Champaign
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Two margaritas from Maize sit on the black metal outdoor patio table. The one on the left is light green, and the one on the right is orange. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Margaritas | Maize

In the summer, a margarita is always a good idea. These margaritas ($8 each) from Maize are standout 'rita stars in town. Also available to go, the cucumber lime margarita and mango habanero margarita were fantastic. Both rims had a tasty salty and spicy dusting. The cucumber lime margarita was so refreshing with strong cucumber notes; it tasted like a spiked spa drink. The lime tasted fresh alongside the tequila and cucumber. It was a satisfying drink for my thirst — and so easy to drink. The mango habanero margarita was deliciously spicy and fruity. Mango was the leading flavor with a slight tequila taste and spicy finish. If you're nervous about habanero, don't be; it's a mildly spicy margarita which is great because you can probably have more of it that way. I'll take either of these (or both) any day this summer, and I'd try the lime or pineapple margaritas, too. If you haven't yet had a margarita from Maize, try one this month.

Maize at the Station
100 N Chestnut Ave
Champaign
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

On a black table, there is a large white cake with sliced strawberries as garnish. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Tres Leches Cake | Rick's Bakery

If I could only eat one cake for the rest of my life, it would be this cake. This tres leches cake ($24) from Rick's Bakery was unbelievably good. Decorated simply, the cake was a beautiful dish to see on my table. The cake was a vanilla angel food cake that so moist. The two layers of white cake were straight soaked in a sugary, milky goodness. In between the layers was a sweet frosting with diced bits of strawberry. Each bite was rich and creamy with a little berry bang. The whipped cream frosting paired with the fresh strawberries and really added to the angel food cake vibes. This cake was so decadent, but I ate it for breakfast for a few days with no shame because it's my birthday. You don't need a reason to get cake, so if you're thinking you need a pretty cake in your life, this is your validation.

Rick's Bakery
124 W Main St
Urbana
T-Sa 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In a white styrofoam container, there are tempura scallops and tempura veggies plus a small cup of dipping sauce. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Scallops with Vegetable Tempura | Sushi Kame

I love scallops, but I'd never had tempura scallops before. I saw them on the menu at Sushi Kame, and knowing that the veggie tempura from Sushi Kame was pretty great, I had to try them. Boy, am I glad I did. The scallop tempura ($7) was phenomenal. There were eight scallops sliced into discs. Even fried, the scallop was delicate and melt-in-my-mouth tender. They were lightly fried, not too golden, and lightly battered. There wasn't a big crunch, just a light crispiness outside the creamy, amazing scallop. The veggies were great as well, and the app had an even ratio of veggies to scallops. I could eat this all by myself (and I did), so if you're bringing this to share, go ahead and order two.

Sushi Kame
39 E Green St
Champaign
T-Th noon to 3 p.m. + 5 to 9:30 p.m.
F+Sa noon to 3 p.m. + 5 to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m. + 5 to 9 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.