Friday, March 28, 2008

Foul mood Friday

It all began with me sleeping until the angry, loud alarm function went off on the clock. The one that's the last ditch effort to wake me up. Which it did, right from a deep sleep that made me feel like I was swimming to the surface, slowly, through water that weighed about as much as lead.
Must have been the restless night the night before that did me in. In any case, I've been in a pretty bad mood all day.
I'm looking out the window at the perfect blue sky, and can still feel the frown creasing my forehead.

In a lame attempt to cheer myself this morning, full after a nice omelet prepared by hubby for breakfast, I had a sugar cookie from the Cookie Shack in Peoria, which said husband was kind enough to get me when he found himself in the neighborhood earlier this week. Very tasty. Yesterday I had a peanut butter one for my morning snack, and a snickerdoodle for my afternoon snack. I've waxed poetic about the Cookie Shack before.

I thought maybe some lunch out would cheer me up, but where to go? I didn't want to drive too far, since I'll soon need to fill the gas tank again, so I headed down town and ended up at Rizzi's on State Street.
The decor was soothing as I walked in and waited to be seated; kind of a bistro meets Italian feel, with the green patio umbrellas suspended from the ceiling, the murals on the walls, the dark wood paneling and the red and white checkered tablecloths. The Italian music playing was subtle, but nice.
The lady who seated me was also my waitress, and told me that the special was shrimp ravioli with mushrooms and peas, served with soup or salad; the soup being potato leek.
Normally, I wouldn't dream of ordering that special. I'm not a huge shrimp fan, or really even a big pasta fan. But I felt an impulse to go for it. For some reason, a line from Seinfeld just now popped into my head: "No, no, no, wait a minute, I always have tuna on toast. Nothing's ever worked out for me with tuna on toast. I want the complete opposite of tuna on toast. Chicken salad, on rye, untoasted ... and a cup of tea."
I didn't go quite that far. Order the special I did, along with a salad topped with the tomato basil dressing, which I love, but I went with my typical iced tea. Even though a nice bottle of red wine was strategically placed on my table.
Soon, my salad arrived, accompanied by a basket filled with about four large pieces of bread. I used the olive oil on the table and some Parmesan, and enjoyed a piece with my salad. Very good.
Next came my shallow dish of ravioli. There were four large, round pasta pillows of shrimp and cheese, topped with a thick and creamy tomato-based sauce, sprinkled with peas and mushrooms, and topped with a dash of herbs. It tasted wonderful.
The lunch, before tip, set me back $12.60, but the food, service and atmosphere were a worthwhile respite. I've been in before, and will certainly be back.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


You know spring has hit Peoria when the Ice Cream Shack on NE Adams opens for the season.
My favorites are the shakes, tamales and BBQ sandwiches, all even better on a day when it's nice enough to sit out on one of their concrete benches.

This week I had lunch at Café 401 in Peoria. I tried the chicken salad sandwich again, and this time the salad had dill in it (last time it seemed sweeter, and I don't remember the dill), but again was one of the best chicken salad sandwiches I've ever had. The wheat bread was some of the softest bread I've ever laid my hands on.

On a sad note, the Penguin Tap has closed, which I first heard about here. I was just there March 14 for lunch. One of the great things about lunch at the Penguin was that you could count on some home style lunch specials, and I was also a big fan of their pizzas.
Over the last six months or so, it seems like the local restaurants being shuttered in Peoria are far outnumbering the local restaurants opening up, and I hope this trend doesn't continue.
We have a blast visiting local restaurants when we travel, and we have also met many great people at the local restaurants we frequent in central Illinois.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Baurer Furniture

I've been on a quest to find a nice floor length, wood framed mirror for our living room.
I had one picked out at IKEA, and hoped I could work it out to pick it up this weekend, but there was no room at the inn once we picked up a mini fridge and stashed it the Jeep.
We decided to see what offerings there were closer to home, and stopped by Baurer Furniture, 1503 Washington Road in Washington.
Shortly after stepping in, we were greeted by a woman who asked if we needed any help. StfRon told her we were looking for a full length mirror, and she said she thought they had one. She wound us through the store into a room near the back where there was a HUGE contemporary mirror standing in the middle of a display. Not quite what I had in mind. Our house is pretty cozy (read: small) and I swear that mirror would have taken up the whole landing wall, and perhaps more.
While weaving through the store, I saw lots of interesting accessories, art and even some great dining room chairs, so I made a point to walk back through another time to have a look. There were a lot of neat metal bikes and cars that would look nice on an end table, great serving trays, and some nice bird accessories, too.
We also checked out a couple of sofas, as we'll probably be looking for a new one in a year or two.
I loved their lodge room display, complete with wood shingled roof, log walls and log railing.
One thing I was glad to see is that Baurer Furniture has U.S. flags printed on the price tags of items made in the USA, so with a quick glance, you can see if your selection is made here.
Next time we're in the market for furniture or some cool accessories, we'll be back.

August, 2009 — Baurer Furniture has closed.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Weekend update

In some pre-weekend activity, we went out with some friends for a birthday dinner celebration at Basil's in Washington on Thursday.
We have eaten lunch there before, but this was our first dinner.
The food was fine; I especially enjoyed the garlic house dressing and my garden salad, and the breadsticks, which were not your typical Italian restaurant breadsticks. They seemed hand made, and were sprinkled with butter, herbs and Parmesan cheese.

Friday we hit Bernardi's in Washington, again with some friends, where I enjoyed the stuffed ruby trout.

Saturday we did some traveling and later tried to go to Christie's in Washington to hear Dave Chastain, but the crowd was in full force by the time we got there, so we took our old asses home.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Driving me bananas...

This week I stopped in at the Spotted Cow in Peoria for some lunch.
The service is pretty quick there, and I can usually pop in for some carryout or even sit down and be done within 30 minutes or less, which leaves me a little time for shopping nearby.
I ended up ordering one of the specials before I had much time to peruse the offerings; a taco wrap filled with seasoned ground beef and other taco fixings, served with a side of tortilla chips and homemade salsa.
I also ordered a chocolate Coke, and took that back to my table to wait for my wrap.
From my seat, I could see the menu and the rest of the specials, and also had a good view of the pastry case. The fish taco sounded interesting, and I have never had nor wanted a fish taco in my life. I think it was the lime, and the breaded fish that made me think I might give it a try some time.
My wrap arrived, and it was huge, stuffed to the gills with taco tastiness. I ate half of it, and almost all of my chips and salsa.
While I was chomping on the last of my chips, one of the owners and another employee, or perhaps a wife, started taking stock of the ice cream flavors in the case. I really had paid the ice cream no mind, since lunch was my objective.
All of the sudden, a couple of words spoken by the woman stopped me dead in my tracks: bananas foster. What??? I whipped my head around to look at the little wooden cows Velcroed to the ice cream case. It was true!! There, in the last spot, was a cow marked bananas foster!
Bananas foster is my new favorite dessert, and has been for many years now.
From what I could gather, she was saying something about them being able to use up the rest of it in sundaes or something like that.
As I watched, transfixed, the man ripped the Velcro bananas foster cow right off his perch on the glass. The internal dialog started..."No! They're planning to get rid of it and replace it with something else. I should go up and order some right NOW! But wait, I'm so full from my taco wrap. And I already had a chocolate Coke!"
While I still sat, pondering whether bananas foster ice cream could measure up to the real deal, the man placed the cow back on the case. Whew! So there's a chance I could have some another day.
I probably should have broken down and ordered it then, but I was truly so full that I think it wouldn't have tasted that good, and would have made me miserable. If I'd seen it when I walked it, the ice cream would have been my lunch. Heck, I've had worse lunches than ice cream before!
I must say, I've thought of that ice cream at least five times a day since then. It's calling me back...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Breakfast before hitting the road

This weekend we headed out for a quick trip.
Before we hit the road Sunday, we had planned to have breakfast at the new Maria's in Washington, in the former Katie's Café.
Driving up, we noticed that the parking lot was packed, for which I'm glad, but we didn't really want to deal with the crowd since we needed to be on our way.
Instead, we headed over to Denhart's on the square in Washington.
I went with Tom and Judy's health place, and the namesakes of this dish were right across the dining room from us.
The plate is a large serving of cut fruit (pineapple, strawberries, melons and grapes) topped with yogurt, then sprinkled with some toasted granola. I didn't even finish all of it.
StfRon had some biscuits and gravy and a side of corned beef hash. We had cooked hash at home last week, but it just didn't have the flavor that Denhart's hash does.
Add in a couple of cups of coffee, and we were on our way.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Spa-Tastic Tearoom

My mom and I tried for about a week and a half to meet up for lunch during the week to go to a new tearoom in East Peoria. We finally decided that Saturday was going to work best, and took StfRon along for the ride.
We had a little trouble finding the place, operated by a friend of my mom's. The Spa-Tastic Tearoom is in a spa called Leaf Brook Spa, 2007 Meadows Avenue.
As soon as we walked in, I noticed the soothing decor with the venetian plaster treatment to the walls, black tables and chairs and plum curtains.
We had a seat, and ordered some drinks, hot vanilla tea for Mom and I, and iced tea for my husband.
We were told the menu of the day by the proprietor, and made our selections.
Two of us tried the sweet and sour cabbage soup, and the third ordered the broccoli cheese. All of the soups are homemade.
The sweet and sour cabbage soup was wonderful, filled with sausage, cabbage, and a tart yet spicy red broth.
The broccoli cheese soup was thick and rich.
For our main selection, I had the chicken Caesar wrap, which arrived ensconced in a very soft, spinach tortilla wrap, accompanied by a crystal dish of Caesar dressing.
StfRon had chicken salad on a croissant, and my mom had chicken salad on sourdough.
All of the sandwiches came with chips, either dilled chips or regular.
The presentation of the plates was very nice.
There was no server, and our proprietor was taking care of us on her own, which led to a few delays, but nothing took too terribly long.
The tearoom is booked by reservation, and has seating for about 36 people. They also appear to cater to the spa, as a couple of ladies came in for salads, with freshly painted fingernails and toenails, then tiptoed off for more lavish treatments.
It looks like a fun place to hit with the girls for a day of pampering and good food.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Friday recap

I met my friend M for lunch at Maria's in Peoria Heights on Friday.
I've never had a bad meal there, so I wasn't expecting to be disappointed, nor was I expecting to be bowled over. But I was.
I must have said "This is really good" about five times throughout my meal. I finally stopped for fear of sounding like a broken record.
I ordered the small quiche platter which included a slice of spinach, bacon and feta quiche, a muffin and a side for $7.99.
The quiche was hot and savory, filled with smoky flavor, my side of almond apple salad was wonderful with a creamy vanilla sauce, toasted almond slices, celery and apple chunks and my muffin looked to be an apple zucchini carrot muffin, soft and warm, topped with a bit of oats for garnish.
M had a half turkey sandwich and a side salad with balsamic vinaigrette.
It took a while for our server to stop by after M arrived, and the food also took a bit of time to arrive, but in my case, it was well worth it. Our server also thanked us for our patience, so she was aware of the delay.

For our evening enjoyment, we went back to Denhart's in Washington so StfRon could have the prime rib this time. We also went earlier, hoping they wouldn't be out, and it worked.
His sister and nephew joined us, and all three of them had prime rib.
My sister-in-law and nephew also ordered some breaded mushrooms to start with, which was my first time trying them. I thought they were better than the standard served a lot of places.
I saw that they had an additional dinner special for the night: corned beef and cabbage, so I went with that.
My corn beef and cabbage came with new potatoes, carrots and a side salad. The large serving of corned beef was good, not quite as tender as Mom's, and the cabbage had a nice flavor to it.
The prime rib was good, and our nephew packed up about half of his to take home, but had been eying the chocolate pie in the case. Our waitress packed up a large slice to go for him, and only half of the slice made it back to our house 10 minutes later, so I think it was a hit.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Another work week is coming to an end.

Wednesday I had lunch with an old friend at Jim's Bistro in Peoria Heights. I've visited here several times. The place was doing a decent lunch business at noon, and it was fairly noisy in there.
I decided to go the healthier route and forgo my normal selection of the beefeater sandwich in favor of a grilled veggie wrap for $7. This baby was huge, filled with roasted red peppers, breaded eggplant, tomatoes, onions and lots of lettuce. The lettuce was not my favorite since it was warm, but the eggplant added a nice touch.
I had the cole slaw as my side, and it was great: crunchy chunks of fresh cabbage with a creamy coating of dressing.
Service was good, and our drinks were kept filled until we were about ready to head out.

Maria's in Washington is now open. We will try to have breakfast there on Sunday to check the place out. The restaurant is operated by the owners of Maria's in Peoria Heights.

Reading about the Little Chef in the Journal Star this week left me bummed out.
Little Chefs first appeared in the early 1950s.
StfRon and I have gone by and ogled at the coolness of the vacant Peoria location in the past. I hope someone has it moved before the lot is developed. If we had the money, and thought we could get away with it, we'd buy it and park it in our backyard until we found a nice lot to open it on closer to home.
I'd hate to see more Peoria history disappear forever.

On a good note, though, I am glad to hear the news that the use of an existing building, such as K's Merchandise, is being considered for the new library. Kudos to that movement!

Looks like we'll be able to get in a bit of traveling this weekend. I'm looking forward to it, and hope to come back with a nice juicy slice of Americana for my other blog.

March 15, 2008 — We drove by the Little Chef to snap some photos. Looks like someone ripped the character out of the place and covered it in cheap wood siding. Too bad, because this place had some great retro style.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mi Rancho Grande

Wednesday StfRon and I met up for lunch and headed to Mi Rancho Grande, 1112 W. Pioneer Parkway in Peoria.
The location is the former El Sombrerito, a restaurant I remember fondly, and has had some other tenants since then.
Mi Rancho Grande is owned by the same family who runs Tequila's in Chillicothe.
Almost the instant we walked in, we were cheerfully greeted by the woman manning the hostess station. She escorted us to a booth in the simply decorated back area.
Walking through, we passed by the lunch buffet, and were able to give it a once over. I saw some enchiladas covered with green salsa, which sold me on the buffet. StfRon decided to try it, too.
I ended up with two of the enchiladas, which were chicken, and a tostada shell topped with shredded chicken, cheese and more green salsa, which had a nice tang to it. I also took advantage of the cantaloupe and fresh pineapple on the buffet.
StfRon had the beef enchiladas, topped with a red sauce and some soft tacos.
The chips delivered to our table were thick and crispy, and didn't seem to be salted, which was fine by me because they had great flavor. The salsa was pureed and fresh tasting, and not spicy.
Our waitress was also very cheerful, and checked on us several times during our meal.
The buffet selection was not huge, but there are a lot of combinations you can come up with from the ingredients provided, and it makes for a quick lunch, which is good when one person dining only has 45 minutes to eat and be back at work.
Although it's a bit early in the year, I did take note of a nice looking patio/beer garden on one side of the restaurant, which I'm sure would make for some nice al fresco dining come spring and summer.

December 2008 — Mi Rancho Grande has closed

Monday, March 10, 2008

Weekend round up

We had a nice, busy weekend.
Friday, we stopped at the Hofbrau in Peoria for a cocktail, then headed to Denhart's in Washington for the Friday night prime rib, as we heard our favorite chef was back. I think he had taken off for the night, and we were told the prime rib was sold out.
However, due to the thoughtfulness of one of the owners, we were able to get the end piece of the roast, so I had that, and StfRon had the marinated sirloin.
He loved the prime rib, and I was kind enough to share. Being the last piece, it wasn't quite as rare as I would have liked, but was good. The marinated sirloin was flavorful and he enjoyed it very much.
We had eyed the dessert case while waiting for our meals, so we decided to split a chocolate chip bread pudding, made from day old cinnamon rolls. The slice was huge, topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream.

Saturday we went to the Hofbrau again to see an old friend who hasn't been able to make it in in quite some time. It was good to see him, and we enjoyed lunch while we were there.
I had the braunschweiger sandwich and a side of German potato salad. The sandwich was more than I could finish, and the potato salad was great.
StfRon had the chili dogs, which I sampled, and really enjoyed the chili they used.

Then it was off to Moser's Shoes in downtown Peoria to replace StfRon's worn out pair.
Despite us arriving about 10 minutes before closing, the place was bustling, with several customers walking around in new shoes to test them out, and none of the staff seemed upset that we came in at such a late time.
In fact, our service was great, as usual. The man who waited on us was knowledgeable and friendly, and I believe he is the grandson or great-grandson of the original owner. He took plenty of time to help us and explain different products to us, and we walked out happy with our selection.

We had some time to kill before our evening festivities, so we ended up stopping at Maid Rite in Willow Knolls shopping center in Peoria and having some pie. I had coconut cream, and StfRon and his mom both had Oreo cream. The slices were huge, and cheap, and all were great.

Then, it was off to Po-Boy's in Peoria to hear some tunes.
While there, we ordered some food. Our friends ordered the fried okra, and offered me a sample. I could barely hold myself back from scarfing down the whole basket! The okra was breaded with a cornmeal topping, and was savory and delicious.
For my meal, I had a cup of chicken gumbo, which was filled with rice, okra and plenty of cajun flavor, and I also had a side of the mini corn muffins, which I could not finish.
Our only complaints about this outing was that after this long day, I think we were ready for some rockin' music to kick us into gear, and the band started out with their lighter fare. By the time we headed out, they were getting into some nice blues and some more rollicking tunes. The other complaint? Our server. He was either really having an off night, or just wasn't concerned about his tables' needs because everyone we saw seated in his section had to get up several times to flag him down or go get their own drinks.

You might think that was the end of our Saturday night. But wait, there's more! Yes, it was a red letter day. We stayed up until midnight!
On the way home, we, along with our friends, stopped at Plaza Lanes in Washington for some bowling.
I guess typically on Saturdays, you need a reservation for the disco bowling, or whatever it is they call it with the music and spirograph-esque lighting. When we arrived, which was after 10 p.m., there were only two lanes open, and I believe both were reserved, but the parties had not shown up.
We lucked out by getting a lane, and had some fun times. I think I was just getting into the groove when 11:58 hit and the house lights blinded us. "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here."
Oh, well. Good times, indeed.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


I just saw that next weekend is Rescue 33 Donut Days in Chillicothe.
I remember this event fondly from my childhood. Mom would always bring home a box or two of the cake donuts, which would always include one covered with rainbow sprinkles. Really, it was about the only time of year I ate donuts.
When I got my first job in Chillicothe, one of my co-workers was on the volunteer squad at Rescue 33, and would ask for time off each year to go make the donuts.
2008's Event will run March 14th, 15th and 16th.
The donuts are $4 a dozen and come with either vanilla icing, chocolate icing, cinnamon & sugar, powdered sugar, plain or sprinkles.
During the three day event Rescue 33 members, families and friends make the donuts at the Rescue 33 garage. Donuts are available at local grocery stores and gas stations and the ambulance garage at 1217 Santa Fe Ave. in Chillicothe. Deliveries are also available to the immediate area.
Donut Days is one of main ways Rescue 33 raises funds for their volunteer ambulance service.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Tuesday check in

Gee, it's not even Wednesday yet???
My mom called Monday and asked if I wanted to meet her at Yen Ching in Peoria for lunch, and how could I say no to that?
I ordered my new lunch favorite, the lo mein with chicken, an egg roll and the beef vegetable soup, which set me back $5.15 plus tip.
The only thing I'm not crazy about is the soup, and I found out you can order sizzling rice soup for one for an upcharge (the three soups on the lunch special menu are the beef vegetable, egg drop, or hot and sour, none of which I really enjoy), so I might do that from now on. Sizzling rice soup for one at lunch is not served sizzling, but it's still a good soup.
Yen Ching was a popular choice on Monday, as I saw two different groups of people I know enjoying lunch.

Today I yet again felt the urge to get out of the office for lunch. I thought about going to Café 401 for their great chicken salad sandwich, but changed my mind and headed to the Rhythm Kitchen, also in downtown Peoria, as I had not been there in a while.
There were no specials listed on the chalkboard, but my friendly server came by and rattled them all off without missing a beat. I decided to go with the grilled cheese sandwich and tomato basil soup.
Waiting for my lunch, I enjoyed some blues tunes and caught up on some reading.
I also noticed that next Tuesday, March 11, they will be donating 30% of their dinner food proceeds for the 5th annual Share a Meal with Community Shares.
My grilled cheese sandwich was made with a mild white cheese melted between two buttered and grilled slices of a multigrain bread. The grains gave the sandwich a nice kick.
The tomato basil soup was hands down the freshest tasting tomato soup I have ever had. The soup had a pureed, salsa-like texture and was tangy and juicy, with bits of basil leaf mixed throughout. There were onions pureed in the soup as well, and they also stood out in their fresh crispness.
My lunch, including an iced tea, rang in at $9.30 before tip.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Water Street Wines, Café and Coffees

Noticing that Water Street Wines, Café and Coffees had opened recently at 100 S. State Street in Peoria, occupying the former Big Easy Café location, we stopped in on Friday night.
We found a group of people we know enjoying some wine and beer in the restaurant, so we pulled up a table and joined them.
Water Street Wines is open from 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, Friday 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m.-11 p.m., so we figured we could grab some dinner down there.
The walls now sport a bright shade of red paint, and some nice wine art.
Perusing the menu, we found it to be lighter fare such as sandwiches, wraps and salads.
I went for the first thing that caught my eye, the black bean burger, topped with provolone, served on a pretzel roll for $7.95.
I also decided to try a flight of red wines, 2 ounces of a selection of three red wines: Eric's Red from Mackinaw Valley Vineyard, a Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel and a Chilean red blend. The flight was priced at $6.95.
StfRon chose the toasted Italian sandwich, ham and salami topped with mozzarella, artichoke hearts and basil on ciabatta bread, minus the roasted red peppers and black olives.
He also went with a flight of red wines.
The sandwiches came accompanied by a delicate serving of blue corn tortilla chips and hummus.
My black bean burger was good and filling, and the pretzel roll was a nice touch. The amount of chips and hummus was fine for me, since the burger was so large.
The Bogle zin got my vote for best wine with my meal.
StfRon said the Italian sandwich was tasty, and he enjoyed the crunchy bun.
The café will make a good hangout for people living and working downtown, and I will be back to try the oatmeal and some coffee, and will probably be craving the black bean burger and pretzel roll in a couple of weeks for lunch.

October, 2010 — Water Street Wines has closed.