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Five things to eat or drink in C-U this month: November 2021

November has arrived, and she is cold. I have already begun wearing my winter coat, and it won’t be long before my mittens are a daily accessory. Gone are the warm days of cocktails al fresco. No, we are in cool days of fall, and as someone who has lived here for a long time, I know the freezing cold winter is coming — and with it, my desire to cosy up at home. Before we hibernate, we should go out and partake in some foods.

I’m sharing five things you need try this November: foods and a drink that should be on your radar right now. In this month’s list, I recommend Thanksgiving foods, kombucha, a warm soup, hot fries, and pecan pie.

On a black grill, there is a crispy, dark colored full turkey smoked at Project 47 Steakhouse Pub & Patio. Photo from Project 47 Steakhouse Pub & Patio's Facebook page.

Thanksgiving Foods

We are only three weeks and two days away from Thanksgiving. A holiday where you eat and drink and wear stretchy pants? Yes, please. Are you hosting this year? If you are planning to order a local turkey, you should order soon. Common Ground has pasture-raised turkeys from Triple S Farms, and if you pre-order before November 9th, you receive a discount. Cheese & Crackers is taking orders for free range turkeys from a farm in Fairbury, Illinois just 55 miles away.

If you’re looking for a Thanksgiving turkey that is already cooked, Black Dog Thanksgiving turkeys are sold out this year already, but Project 47 Smokehouse in Mahomet is accepting orders for smoked turkeys, cranberry barbeque sauce, and other sides. Baldarotta’s is selling Thanksgiving dinner by the person for $29.99 which includes a choice of porketta or turkey, a side, salad, and pumpkin pie. Piato Catering has Thanksgiving dinner options for $25 a person which includes turkey, a side, a vegetable, and dessert plus gravy, pumpkin rolls, cranberry sauce, and a salad. Options for a catered Thanksgiving are slimmer this year than last year, so place your order soon if you want some of these limited quantities.

On a brown counter, there is a glass filled with amber colored kombucha with a circle logo reading

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Magic Pumpkin Ride Kombucha | Cloud Mountain Kombucha

There’s a new kombucha bar open in the Lincoln Square Mall, and I tried it last week. I walked up to the bar that used to be Spark Museum + Play Cafe and ordered a half pint of the Magic Pumpkin Ride kombucha. Pints are $5, and half pints are $2.50.

The drink sipped like a sweet apple-pumpkin cider. There was a light carbonation and a fresh tasting fall flavor. The crisp taste of the apple was a great complement to the faint tang of the kombucha. The kombuchas I’ve had before have been a lot more sour and puckering, but this flavor (and the others I tried) were all smooth. This pumpkin ride kombucha had a nice restrained pumpkin flavor that was not unlike an alcoholic fall cider. This new kombucha place is a fun spot to have a non-alcoholic drink because they have lots of seating. The flavors available rotate, and on the board above the bar, you can see what flavors are upcoming. Bottles of kombucha are available for purchase as well for $5 each with a $2 bottle deposit.

Cloud Mountain Kombucha
300 Broadway Ave
T+W 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sa 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On a floral tablecloth, there is an oval plate with a large white bowl filled with red pozole soup. Beside the bowl on the oval plate, there are mini cups of dried seasoning, fried tostatas on lettuce, and lime wedges. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Pozole | Huaraches Moroleon

On a chilly day, nothing is more satisfying than a huge bowl of pozole. Huaraches Moroleon is a favorite spot of mine to grab lunch solo as the tables are plentiful, service is fast, the food is so good — and they serve lunch at 10 a.m. which is great for early birds like me.

This pozole ($10.50) came with a choice of tortillas or tostados (I chose tostados), a side of cilantro and diced white onion, lime wedges, lettuce, and a side of oregano and chili pepper. The hominy soup had tender, fall apart chunks of pork. The big pieces of meat were delicious and the obvious star of the dish. I chose to top mine with onions and cilantro. I loved the crunch of the onion and the little burst of raw onion flavor. The fresh cilantro added a great herby flavor to the soup, and the corn kernels in this soup were cooked and each had swollen to the size and texture of a chickpea.

As instructed by my server, I took some of the pork and corn from the soup plus lettuce from the plate to put on a tostado. It was like a personal nacho: a crunchy corn vehicle with flavorful pork, shredded lettuce, and soft corn salsa. So crispy and so messy, this tostado was phenomenal. The pozole was so very good on a cold day, and I left with warm, full belly.

Huaraches Moroleon
805 Philo Rd
T-Th 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
F+Sa 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Su 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

An overhead photo shows freshly fried fries in a metal basket lined with parchment paper. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Fries | Neil St Blues

There is something magical about these fries ($4) from Neil St. Blues. Throughout the pandemic, I ordered a lot of takeout from Neil St. Blues, and these fries became a must because they always survived the drive to my house. When I got home, they were always still hot and crispy — which is no small feat. These fries deseve a spot in this month’s list because I finally was able to eat them in person, and fresh from the kitchen at Neil St. Blues, these fries were unbelieavably good. I know, you’re probably thinking, a side of fries? Honestly, I can’t even believe I’m writing about a side of fries, but trust me, they are that good.

What makes these fries so good? They are lightly battered fries: no naked potato sticks here. These fries have an amazing texture from the batter and were expertly seasoned. They are so fantastic that I wouldn’t plan on sharing them with anyone; whether you get them to go or at the restaurant, you definitely want to order a side of these fries just for yourself.

Neil St Blues
301 N Neil St
T-Th 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
F 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

On a shiny gray bar, there is a long rectangular plate with a slice of pecan pie and a scoop of vanilla ice cream with chocolate drizzle. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Drunken Pecan Pie | Seven Saints

In November, I am always craving pecan pie. My late mother-in-law made the very best pecan pie, and I can never seem to find a pie as good as her pies were. Though none will reach Joann’s pecan pie status, I like to eat pecan pie as much as I can during November, but I am a critic of each one. Pecan pie can be found year-round on Seven Saints’ dessert menu. For $7.49 a slice, this pecan pie can also be served a la mode which is how I enjoyed mine.

The pie was not a very big slice, so I consider this a personal-sized pie piece — unless you’re pretty full from entrees. The pie and ice cream were drizzled with chocolate syrup and caramel sauce. Chock full of pecans, the slice was deliciously warm and buttery as if it had just come from the oven. I appreciate a warm dessert in the month of November, and I really like that Seven Saints took the time to heat the pie. The crust was thick, flaky, and so yummy. There was a great toasted crunch and roasted flavor to the pecan filling. The salty, buttery crust was not overly sweet, and it gave a great balance to the nutty caramelized sweetness of the rest of the pie. Is it as good as my mother-in-law’s pecan pie? No, but it is amazingly good. Do yourself a favor and get this pecan pie the next time you’re in Downtown Champaign. 

Seven Saints
32 Chester St
Su-Th 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to midnight

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

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