Thursday, May 31, 2007

Illinois Wine Festival

This weekend, June 2 and 3, the Central Illinois Wine Festival will be held at Mackinaw Valley Vineyard, on Route 9 in Mackinaw.
I would love to go, but we might not make it due to a benefit for Michelle from the Hofbrau, who was injured in a car accident.
The wine festival will feature live music (Sunday a blues challenge), food, wine tasting from several Central Illinois wineries, and even a car show. Tickets are $12 which scores you five tasting tickets and a souvenir glass.
Saturday the festival runs from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. (gotta love drinking wine at 10 a.m.) and Sunday from noon-7 p.m.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


It's been far too long since I've had food from Haylumoon in Chillicothe. In fact, it's been so long, they have moved from the original location at Plaza Drive to one at 142 N. Fourth St.
Haylumoon has been serving up Chinese food in Chillicothe for over 15 years.
This was my favorite place to pick up food when I was going to ICC and living in Chillicothe. On the way home, I would pick up a tub of sizzling rice soup and an order of crab rangoon. Mmm, good eats!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Gas packaged meat?

I ran across a story in Mother Earth News magazine that was surprising and disturbing to me.
Meat is increasingly being sold in stores gas packaged, or injected with salt water and broth. "Manufacturers save millions of dollars in lost meat turnover with these technologies, which make meat appear fresh longer and pump 'flavor' into factory-farmed meat, in the form of salt water and broth. Companies also save on labor costs, since these 'case-ready' meats can go straight from the cold truck to the retail shelf."
The article goes on to say: "This trend has everything to do with the larger transformation of meat production over the past 30 to 40 years. Meat without character or taste comes from livestock developed for rapid growth rather than flavor, fed grain instead of grass, given growth hormones, cooped up indoors, harvested young, and sold without traditional aging."
And, perhaps worst of all: "Finally, critics point out that saltwater pumping and gas packaging make it more likely that consumers will buy and eat spoiled meat, and almost certain that they’ll be eating old meat without realizing it. Traditionally packaged ground beef has a shelf life of about five days, while modified atmospheric packaging can give ground beef a shelf life of 14 or even 28 days, says Tony Corbo of the Washington D.C.-based Food and Water Watch. In fact, Consumer Reports found in 2006 that three out of 10 gas-packed ground beef samples had spoiled by their use- or freeze-by date. But all of it still looked nice and red."
At home, we've been increasingly leaning towards organic produce and meats produced without the use of hormones.
My other problem with this report is also that StfRon recently found he has high blood pressure, and should be watching his sodium intake. I would have thought that the meats we bought would only be a sodium concern if we chose to season them with salt-laden products.
If you want to try to avoid this, be sure to check the label for sodium or other additives, and look for the puffed up package, usually a heavier foam package with the plastic wrap being puffed out by the extra gas. No butcher paper or white foam packages with Saran-type wrap around these babies.
Guess this is yet another reason we'll buy our meats at Lindy's, Naturally Yours, Pottstown Deli, Alwan's, or some other local joint.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Farmer's Markets

We're coming into that great time of year where farmer's markets are having their heyday. There are many, many local farmers offering locally grown produce, even some grown without the use of pesticides.
The farmer's market at Peoria's Metro Centre is celebrating 30 years in operation. With about 15 farmers participating here, there is a wide selection of fresh produce and flowers. They operate Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m. until sold out. The kick-off this year is June 1, and, as reporter by the Journal Star, if you're one of the first 1,000 people, you could receive a tote bag to use to cart your goodies around.
Want something closer to Kickapoo or Dunlap, or not a morning person? The Shoppes at Grand Prairie is starting a farmer's market June 6, which will run Wednesdays from 4-8 p.m. They plan to have about 18 farmers and local music as well as cooking demonstrations.
Galesburg has a farmer's market near Main St., operating from 8 a.m.-noon on Saturdays.
Pekin's farmer's market operates downtown on Capital St. Thursdays from 4:30-6:30 p.m. with about 20 vendors. This market starts mid-July.
The popular Peoria Riverfront Market is back in gear starting June 2. In addition to all of the locally grown produce and flowers, there are several artists with booths here, and live music. I also love to pick up some bread from Peoria Bread Company. The market runs Saturdays from 8 a.m.-noon.
With all of this great fresh produce available, why would you want to pick up your produce at the local chain grocery or big box store? Who knows how long and how far that turnip traveled on a truck before it found you?
Now, if we could just get Washington to start a farmer's market!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Euro Jack's Café

One night after work last week, I met StfRon at Euro Jack's Café. I had not been in this building at 500 Main Street for years, since back in the days of SOP's being there some time during the late 90s.
They've done some redecorating since the SOP era. The floors are done in a charcoal slate tile and the walls have been redecorated; a stone look here, a mural there. I also noticed they appear to be planning to put a nice brick patio/beer garden area out on the sidewalk. Maybe in anticipation of the smoking ban?
StfRon was kind enough to order me a glass of wine before I arrived, the Rodney Strong Cabernet. This is one of my favorites to find on an establishment's menu.
We were a bit hungry, so we decided to try the bruschetta. Euro Jack's version is thick, crispy slices of crusty bread topped with tomatoes, feta, fresh basil and olives, both green and kalamata. It was quite tasty.

May, 2008 — Euro Jack's has closed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Why I blog

Yikes! I was lurking watching the "Why I blog" comments go 'round and thinking "what the heck would I say?" Now I've been tagged by Angie, so here goes:

1. We really like to support local businesses, and wish more people did, so I thought maybe blogging about it would be a good way to get the word out about more cool local joints.

2. I like to write, probably more than I like to talk in most cases. I actually went to school to be a reporter, and got hired as one, but didn't enjoy butting into people's business.

3. Now that the blog's been around a while, it's cool to see where visitors to the site come from. That keeps me somewhat motivated.

4. I like to be mysterious.

5. I secretly hope blogging will make me rich??

OK, now, StfRon, Polly (one of the first blogs I ever read regularly), Mapgirl and Matt, you're it. Sorry if you've been tagged before!
"Why do you blog?"

Detweiller Park

Detweiller Park, on Detweiller Drive off Route 29 in Peoria, features over 740 acres of walking/cross country skiing trails, woods, soccer fields, BMX tracks, playground equipment and one of the best public sledding hills I've seen in this area.
The park also has several covered shelters available for rental from about $50-$75 for your family reunions or other events. Some of the shelters are also handicap accessible.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Big O's BBQ Rib Station

Big O's BBQ Rib Station knows good barbecue. I had the pleasure of dining at Big O's, 3901 SW Adams Street in Peoria, last Friday for lunch.
One thing I love is a good skin on BBQ chicken doused with sauce. Since Famous Daves moved out, I've been craving a good BBQ chicken. Big O's did not let me down. This 1/2 chicken dinner had a good smoky flavor, and was covered in Big O's special sauce. Accompanied with hearty fries, cole slaw, and some white bread, this was quite a feast.
Big O's also has ribs, rib tips, BBQ pork or beef sandwiches, and much more.
You place your order at the counter, and the service is friendly and quick. Stop in for some carry out, dine in, or even get some of this great sauce to take home with you.

Big O's closed in 2010

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Alwan & Sons Meat Co.

Thanks to Numero, my absolute favorite Peoria magazine, StfRon and I got a gift certificate for $25 to the newly-expanded Alwan & Sons Meat Co., 703 E. War Memorial Drive in Peoria.
The Alwans have been in the meat business in Peoria for almost 50 years. The new look is great, with 11,000 square feet of meaty magnificence!
Alwan's also fires up a grill during lunch, so you can enjoy a freshly-made sandwich in the great outdoors.
We ended up going with a package deal, since we just bought a new chest freezer and wanted to fill it up right. We got four pounds of bacon, some pork chops, ribs, minute steaks and chuck roast.
While waiting for our box o'meat, a couple different employees asked if we needed any help. The service is very good.
The place was hoppin' on a beautiful Saturday night. I'm sure lots of people were planning to go home and grill out.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Walt's Dos

Walt's Tavern, opened in 1936 at 2301 W. Garden St. in Peoria, is now Walt's Dos, the second incarnation.
I had the pleasure of checking out this rustic neighborhood tavern/restaurant recently for lunch. This place is true old school, and it's neat to look at the old memorabilia. Enjoy a Dos Equis on tap while you're here.
Many of the original recipes from Walt's Tavern are still on the menu, including fried chicken, and are now accompanied by several Mexican entrées. I also noticed they have the Mexican egg dishes on their menu. I LOVE this stuff, and it reminds me of my trip to Puerto Rico.
To start, our server brought us a basket of chips and some salsa. The salsa did not appear to have any tomatoes in it, just a variety of chopped peppers, but it was good. The chips were very good, warm and coated with some seasoned salt.
I chose the chicken enchiladas and had them topped with green sauce (you can choose from several sauces). My meal was served with refried beans and Spanish rice. The food was not spicy, nor was it overly salty. This food would be good for StfRon, who right now is supposed to be watching his sodium intake!
My friend Jim had the tamales, which he said were very good, and finished off with some fried ice cream. The ice cream looked like fried ice cream, unlike some fried ice cream my brother's wife ordered at a Mexican joint in Macomb that, I swear, came out coated in corn flakes.

December, 2008 — Walt's Dos has closed

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tower Park

One of the most noticeable landmarks in Peoria is the red tower in Peoria Heights.
Located at 4901 N. Prospect Rd., Tower Park has recently been updated with nicer seating and landscaping plus a new fountain. Of course, as a kid, I called it the woodpecker tower due to the large fiberglass woodpecker which adorned the tower.
If you aren't afraid of heights, a trip in the glass elevator, 170 feet up to the top, is a fun time.
This tower is actually the second one, the first having been torn down during WWII and used for scrap metal. Our tower is the only one of its kind in the U.S.
There are three observation decks at the top, and telescopes for viewing as well.
The park itself also has a hidden geocache, if you're into that sort of thing.
Each year for Independence Day, the tower sells tickets in advance, allowing visitors to view various fireworks displays from the top of the tower. On a clear day, you can see displays from several towns within 20 miles from this vantage point, plus avoid all the crowds at the displays.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Second Chances

There's a new shop in Washington, just off the square on North Main St., that sells goods made from items that had a previous life. The shop is called Second Chances, and it's neat to see a place like this in our throwaway society.
Second Chances carries lots of recycled glass items, like earrings; coasters made from beer bottles; trivets made from melted down wine bottles; items made from old computer circuit boards; beautiful bowls made from telephone wires; stemmed glasses made from wine bottles; and some awesome chairs made from old wine barrels. Sit it them while you're there; they're very comfortable!
They also have these little animals made from stiff brush bristles. For some reason, I LOVE these. They make me laugh!
There are a lot of great things to check out here. And no, I don't work there and am not related to the owner, I just think it's a neat concept and hope the shop does well.

June 2009 — Second Chances has moved to the Metro Centre in Peoria and is now called Re-.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

River Beach Pub & Eatery

Our friendly Hofbrau bartender recently bought the River Beach Pub & Eatery, 13637 N. River Beach Drive in South Rome, with her new hubby. They will be taking over the place around the beginning of June.
And, rumor has it, our old "Cheers" bartender Chris will be filling in at the Hofbrau a couple nights a week. My dad calls him Woody, after the Cheers character.
Anyway, back to the River Beach Pub. It's a short drive from Peoria or Chillicothe, right along the river.
Things should stay the same, so expect to find a nice selection of imports. For eats, you can try some bar fare, like fried veggies, wings, chicken tenders, and the river crisps are good. They also serve wraps, catfish, fried chicken and grilled chicken, plus fish and chips, shrimp and various sandwiches. Inside, the bar is cozy with knotty wood paneling on the walls and ceiling.
Outside, enjoy a deck filled with umbrella-topped tables overlooking the Illinois River.
The area is a prime spot for eagles, so while you're on the deck enjoying the day (and your drinks), you might get lucky enough to see them.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Lately StfRon and I have been into hearing some good live music.
Po-Boys, 3207 N. University St. in Peoria, in the bingo building near Wal-Mart, features live music every Friday and Saturday night, no cover charge.
The menu does feature some cajun items, like crawfish tails, gumbo, jambalaya, and, of course, po-boys, accompanied by drinks like hurricanes. They also have a really thin crust pizza and kids' food.
And if you like crab cakes, the crab cakes here are really crabby.
Right now, they have lunch specials for $5. All the food I have tried has been decent. The drinks are decent. The decor is great. And some of the bands we've caught have been excellent. All in all, a good time.
Have a look at

December, 2008 — Po-Boys has closed.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Milo's, The Daily Grind

I don't make it to Lacon very often, but recently I had occasion to visit a new restaurant on Washington St. in Lacon (near the IGA), Milo's, The Daily Grind, for a private party.
The atmosphere inside is warm, rustic-cozy. The main room is almost like a tearoom, and off to the right is a nice room with a bar.
For our event, we were presented with trays of sandwiches, cheese, veggies with an awesome thick ranch dip with real bacon mixed in, 'lil smokies and delicious homemade lemon bars.
Checking out the menu, you will find wraps, burgers and other sandwiches, soups, salads, and more homemade desserts.
During the time we were there for the private party, several assorted groups of people wanted to come in for a bite. It looks like Milo's has already made a name for themselves.