Friday, September 29, 2006

Mackinaw Valley Vineyard

A great place we have discovered, thanks to some friends, is the Mackinaw Valley Vineyard on Rt. 9, four miles east of Mackinaw. On a nice Sunday afternoon, StfRon and I went so he could check out the place. I had been before with friends and knew that the grounds are very well landscaped and relaxing.
StfRon and I started in the tasting room and ended up buying a bottle of wine and some cheese and crackers and sharing it down by the lake, where the area was still set up from a wedding the night before. This also gave us the idea to consider the winery for our upcoming reception.
The winery normally has about six or seven different wines available for free sampling, or you can buy a glass to enjoy indoors or on the grounds, or you can buy a bottle to share (or several to take home). They have cheese and crackers available for purchase. If you want something more substantial, you can bring along a picnic.
The grounds are very nice. You can walk along the grape vines, sit on the deck in a rocker or walk around the lake nearby. The owner told us about an historic cemetery out at the end of the lake, which was neat to see.
For more information, see the website at

Friday, September 22, 2006

Luthy Botanical Garden

Nested in on Prospect in Peoria are the beautifully landscaped paths of Luthy Botanical Gardens. This park is a very relaxing place to visit, and they also host some neat events out there like jazz music and the candlelight walks during the holidays. The gift shop often has many unique items to offer as well.
The paths are accented with some great statuary made by local artists, and many of the items are for sale.
My brother will be getting married in Luthy Botanical Gardens next summer, which sounds like a beautiful setting for a wedding.
I don't know much about George Luthy himself, but StfRon and I were sick to watch his house in East Peoria, atop Fondulac Drive across from Kohl's, next to Bob Evans, be torn down last year to make way for a modern high-rise office building. The house and site were beautiful, and we often visited while it was vacant, wishing we could buy the house and restore it to it's once apparent splendor. The site had been bought by a developer, though, and was priced for commercial development, which put it out of our range, especially considering the work the house would have needed.
It seems to me that East Peoria is a city without a lot of historical buildings, and it would have been worth it to preserve this property and educate the community on it's history, especially considering all the growth the town has been experiencing. It's a shame that the house is lost forever.
At least we can enjoy the botanical gardens.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


One place that's a must visit if you like hearty German-style fare is the Kaiserhof in Bradford. They serve up heaping plates of sauerbraten and schnitzel, seafood and pork medallions, and you can wash it down with some great German beer or wine. You won't leave here hungry!
If you're up for more of a festival atmosphere, there is going to be an Oktoberfest in Bradford Sept. 29-Oct. 1 on Main Street with live German music, food, beer and wine, 50/50 drawings and more. Hours are 6 p.m.-midnight Friday, noon-midnight Saturday and 1-6 p.m. on Sunday with church service at 9 a.m.
But, you still need to make a point to visit the restaurant at another time. I've taken people from Cape Cod and Florida out there, and they still rave about it.

November, 2008 — The Kaiserhof in Bradford has closed. A new location has opened at the Shoppes at Grand Prairie in Peoria.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Jalapenos Mexican restaurant took over the space that Dominic's had for many years in the Metro Centre in Peoria. The menu is very similar to what you will find at one of the many Fiesta Ranchera locations in the Central Illinois area.
My favorite dish here is the enchiladas suisa.
And of course I can't forget to mention the margaritas!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Ice Cream Shack

A gem I discovered due to my last job is the Ice Cream Shack in Peoria. It's right where Jefferson and Adams split, near the Hofbrau.

The shack has food items such as hot dogs, chili cheese fries, tamales and BBQ sandwiches along with a plethora of ice cream treats. They have their own version of the ice cream chain's Blizzard. The Ice Cream Shack's version is packed with goodies. My favorite is the peanut butter cup. Plus, they have TONS of shake flavors to choose from. You won't find this kind of variety at the ice cream chain!

They also have lots of outdoor seating, so it's great to go down on a nice, or even slightly hot day. You can usually snag a table in the shade.

The shack will be closing this year September 29, check it out, or you'll have to wait for next season!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Hanssen's Le Bakery & Café

If you're looking for a different breakfast or lunch option in Peoria, you need to check out Hanssen's Le Café, located in Peoria's Metro Centre. They have an impressive selection of fresh salads, soups, quiches and omelettes, just to name a few.
You just pick up a tray on your way in and walk past the glass cases to peer in at all the great options.
I enjoyed a half chicken pesto sandwich with a cup of grilled cheese tomato soup. The soup was rich and savory.
I also love a chicken salad they make, which has huge grapes in it.
And when you're done with your meal, you might just mosey over to Le Bakery side and grab some treats for later. The thing I usually can't resist is the baklava, a favorite my mom makes.

November, 2008 — Le Café has reopened as Café Evergreen. Le Bakery is still operating next door.