Friday, July 24, 2009

Free ride

The Journal Star publishes a coupon for something free each day, dubbed the 3B freebie.
The coupon, believe it or not, is always located on page B3.
I noticed a good one in Thursday's paper for a free 12 ounce coffee from Cracked Pepper Catering & Bakery, Inc., valid through July 31.
Tuesday's issue featured an offer for a free Wonder Dog from Velvet Freeze, also expiring July 31.
So dig those papers out of the recycle bin, and watch for new great offers every day!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Round up

I spent a lunch hour recently in front of the court house near the Zen garden eating some chicken lo mein from the Thanh Linh cart, and noticed that Ponte Vecchio has a cart open downtown now. Next time I plan to order something from them.

I had a fun lunch this week at Ming Shee in Peoria with my friend and her daughter.

Tuesday night we checked out the Taste of Washington on the square. I had a spinach dip from Denhart Baking Co. and we shared a pig wing with honey bourbon sauce from Gracie's Chicago Style Grille. It was pretty crazy with everyone packed in the middle of the square. Hopefully next year they can expand out a bit.

We've been keeping our eyes on the activity at the former Gracie's location in Cherry Tree Shopping Center in Washington, and there is now a sign displayed in the window for Cherry Garden, serving Chinese and Japanese food. We're excited to give it a try!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Time article: Tough Times Lead to Local Currencies

I ran across this article in Time magazine this week:

By Judith D. Schwartz

With local economies flailing, communities across the U.S. are trying to drum up more action on Main Street. "Buy Local" campaigns are one way to go. But many towns--from Ojai, Calif., to Greensboro, N.C.--are considering going a step further and printing money that can only be spent locally.

Issuing an alternative currency is perfectly legal, as long as it is treated as taxable income and consists of paper bills rather than coins. In the U.S., where local currencies were popular during the Depression, the biggest alterna-cash system is in Massachusetts' Berkshire County. Go to one of several banks there, hand a teller $95 and get back $100 worth of BerkShares, a nice little discount designed to reel in users. BerkShares are printed on special paper (by a local business, naturally--a subsidiary of Crane Paper Co., which has been printing U.S. greenbacks since 1879). And since the program's inception in 2006, more than $2.5 million in BerkShares have circulated through bakeries, vets' offices and some 400 other businesses that choose to accept the colorful bills, which feature famous former Berkshire residents, including W.E.B. Du Bois and Norman Rockwell.

What's the point of all this pretty, community-printed currency? Money spent at locally owned companies tends to create more business for local suppliers, accountants, etc. The New Economics Foundation (NEF), a London think tank, compared the effects of purchasing produce at a supermarket and at a farmer's market and found that twice the money stayed in a community when folks bought locally. A study of Grand Rapids, Mich., released last fall by consulting firm Civic Economics, concluded that a 10% shift in market share from chain stores to independents would yield 1,600 new jobs and pump $137 million into the area. "Money is like blood," says NEF researcher David Boyle. Local purchases recirculate it, but patronize mega-chains or online retailers, he says, and "it flows out like a wound."

Read the whole story...,9171,1908421,00.html

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cracklin' Jakes

I've been meaning to make it to Cracklin' Jakes for well over a year now.A couple of weeks ago we were actually on our way to another restaurant near Canton, but due to hunger and boredom with the drive, we decided to hit Cracklin' Jakes instead.
Located at 111 E. Valley View Drive in Banner, the restaurant had a cozy log cabin style that I love.
After being greeted warmly and taken to a booth, we took inventory of the menu and decor.
The floors were a neutral tile, which did cause conversation and laughter from a group near the fireplace to echo throughout the dining room off and on through the evening.
There were various animals mounted on the walls and dried flowers here and there, and I really liked the shade of green they chose for their wainscoting.
I ordered a glass of Gnarly Head Zinfandel, which, at $6 a glass, was a nice find. My husband had an iced tea.
For my entrée, I chose the stroganoff, accompanied by the lobster bisque, which was a stretch for me. I've never been a big fan of lobster, even vacationing in Maine, but for some reason the soup sounded good.
I did notice that the stroganoff did not say it was made with bison, which was one of the things I had noted when I wanted to visit the restaurant.
StfRon selected the prime rib, accompanied by salad.
Our first course arrived with bread, and trying the bisque I found it to be excellent. Slightly sweet, creamy and flavorful with tiny flakes of seafood.
StfRon's salad was pretty much standard.
The stroganoff was not the sour cream and sauteed onion and mushroom fare like my mom used to make, but the meat was tender and falling apart and reminded me of a home made pot roast, piled on a bed of boiled noodles.
When we arrived, I was happy to see they had a bread pudding selection on the menu, but we decided to skip dessert and head home.
The waitstaff we encountered, although they appeared young (late teens to early 20s), were very attentive and professional, and made our visit more enjoyable.
If you find yourself near Banner and are looking for a nice sit down dinner, keep Cracklin' Jakes in mind.

November 2009 — Cracklin' Jakes has closed.
May 2010 — Cracklin' Jakes has reopened.
October 2011 — Cracklin' Jakes now houses Boss Hogs

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Zim's Diner in Peoria's Campustown has closed, but according to signs in the area, will reopen as Monroe Restaurant & Bar August 1.
I also heard through the grapevine that the Gorman's location, also at Campustown, will reopen soon with a new, fitting name for the area.
I also saw the news that Eamon Patrick's in Peoria has closed. Just a while back I found out that they apparently served a great Sunday brunch, but just about as soon as I heard it, it was no more. Sad, because we are often looking for a good Sunday breakfast and the downtown area is a bit lacking.

Vintages Tasting Room & Wine Garden

A couple of weeks ago we visited Galesburg's Seminary Street, and wandered into Vintages Tasting Room & Wine Garden.
There were a couple of people at the tasting bar sampling wines, and as I looked past them, I remembered the quaint back room complete with bistro tables and chairs from the last time I had been in.
The tasters soon moved aside, so my friend C and I stepped up to sample the wares.
She is more of a sweet wine drinker, and even told our hostess she wanted something "syrupy sweet", which made the lady chuckle. I went straight for the reds.
First I sampled the 2005 Castillo De Fuendejalon Crianza. It was not the oaky wine I normally prefer, but it was nice.
The wine samples were poured through an aerator, which we had never seen used before, and there were crispy cracker bites on the counter to cleanse the palate between samples.
The hostess suggested I try the 2008 Dornfelder sweet red wine. I hesitated, not being a huge fan of German reds, but went for it, and was pleasantly surprised. I figured I needed to grab a bottle of that to put away for our annual fall German party. Plus, I need to get in the German mode for our upcoming trip.
C decided to try it too and liked it.
I gave my husband a ring, who was down the street at the pub with C's man and told him about the samplings. They popped over and he agreed about the Dornfelder, but also wanted a bottle of the Castillo, so I took both to the counter. Taking notice of the sign that asked for payment via check or cash if possible vs. credit cards, I broke out the rusty checkbook to help a local biz.
The wines were both in the $12.99-$14.99 price range.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Round up

Over Father's Day weekend, I finally had a chance to check out the brunch at Wildlife Prairie State Park. With the crowds, the dessert table seemed to have been hit pretty hard by the time we meandered over there, but no matter because I filled up on prime rib and other goodies, including chocolate covered strawberries and pound cake from the chocolate fountain.
I think it was the most humid day on record (sure felt that way), and the rain had just finished as we were getting ready to leave the restaurant, so we did get a chance to visit the park with our niece and my brother and his wife.
It was a good day at the park, too, because we saw the wolves and bears up close, and got to see the otter take a swim.

Last week we made plans to visit The Butcher Block in Junction City in Peoria to check out their new (to us, since we hadn't made it out yet) breakfast offerings.
The shop has changed a lot since my last visit, and it is good to see them adapting, hopefully to fill a great niche in the neighborhood.
The gourmet market selections are gone, replaced with much more seating in the middle of the room, surrounded by glass cases of meat and deli items. The open feel surrounded by the cases and the high ceilings with exposed ductwork reminded me of the Milwaukee Public Market, a place we love to visit.
We were greeted by a waitress when we walked in and were told to choose a table. The menus were waiting on the table, so we took a look.
As soon as I saw this: Hash Benedict — 2 soft poached eggs, corned beef hash, English muffin and Hollandaise sauce ($7.50), I knew I could look no more. Even the Independence Day special of French toast topped with red and blue berries and ice cream could not deter me from my selection.
StfRon chose a half order of biscuits and gravy ($3.25) and a side of hash.
I sipped a cup of coffee while I waited, and was pleased to find it to be a quality brew.
Our food soon arrived and the portions were huge!
My English muffins were topped with tons of hash, nicely prepared eggs and a thick bright yellow/orange Hollandaise. The whole meal was very good.
The sausage gravy was made with a nice quality sausage with some seasoning to it, maybe caraway, and the biscuits were soft. StfRon said if he had known it would be that good, he just would have gotten a full order and skipped the hash, although the hash was cooked to a crisp perfection.
Our waitress kept the refills coming whenever needed, and soon we were on our way, our bellies full.
The Butcher Block is currently serving breakfast from 5:30 a.m.-2 p.m., so whether you are a morning person or not, the hours should work out well.
They also offer Hagen Dazs ice cream, one thing I've missed at Junction City for years.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Jim Kightlinger Antiques

The first time we stopped at Jim Kightlinger Antiques, 8320 N. Jackson Street in Edwards, was a couple of years ago.
We had a fun time poking around looking at antiques and collectibles, and we made our first purchase together for our soon-to-be-a-reality home bar: a bear's head bottle opener.

Recently we stopped in again, going through the side building first, where we saw lots of neat signs and trinkets.
We then made our way inside the house and checked out the couple of rooms there, where I found another fun item to add to my collection.
The shop is right across from Ludy's and the old Edwards bar next door, so the next time you're out that way, pop on over.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Last night on my way home from work, I noticed that Velvet Freeze has taken over the kiosk on War Memorial in Peoria at Central Avenue. I think the location will be a hit for them, although I will miss the quick $2 slices of Geo's pizza.