Smile Politely

Five things to eat or drink in C-U this month: November 2022

Put the haunts and ghosts away. It’s November now, and we’re moving on. For me, November is a month to practice gratitude. This year, I’m thankful for a lot: health, friends, family, and, of course, food. Specifically, I am thankful for Champaign-Urbana’s food and drink scene. Let’s give thanks to our local chefs, bartenders, baristas, servers, dishwashers, bakers, and grocers. Without them, we’d be stuck eating squirrels or something.

This month, I am sharing four foods and a harvest drink that will inspire a Thanksgiving mood.

On a white plate, there is a cooked turkey. Photo by Common Ground Food Co-op Facebook page.

Photo from Common Ground Food Co-op’s Facebook page.

Whole Turkey | Common Ground Food Co-op

What’s more Thanksgiving than a whole turkey? Common Ground Food Co-op has pasture-raised turkeys from Triple S Farms in Stewardson, Illinois available for pre-order in a variety of sizes: extra small (under 12 pounds), small, medium, and large (18+ pounds). The process is easy: pre-order your poultry and pick up your bird at the store on the day and at the time you select. If you pre-order a turkey today, November 1st, you will get 50 cents off per pound, receive holiday coupons, and be entered in a raffle to win a free turkey.

If the full bird isn’t enough, the week prior to Thanksgiving (Friday, November 19th through Wednesday, November 23rd), Common Ground will have a Thanksgiving Grab ‘n Go case with entrees, sides, sauces, and pies with vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. The Grab ‘n Go menu includes housemade cranberry sauce, butternut squash macaroni and cheese, herbed focaccia stuffing, dinner rolls, pumpkin pie, and more.

Common Ground Food Co-op
300 S Broadway Ave
M-Su 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On a butcher block counter, there are two small bottles of oil and vinegar with a glass jar of spices from Grovestone in Champaign. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Oil, Balsamic, and Spices | Grovestone

Thanksgiving dinner will require some seasoning, and Grovestone is a pretty store to buy olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and spice blends. I always have a bottle of Grovestone’s roasted onion olive oil and the ultra premium balsamic in my kitchen because they are fantastic with everything. I wanted something new, so I bought rosemary olive oil ($6.95), fig balsamic ($6.95), and Lou’s all-purpose seasoning ($6.45).

The all-purpose seasoning had oregano, basil, garlic, onion, thyme, fennel seed, red bell pepper, crushed red pepper, parsley, and marjoram — and it was perfection. The blend had a little spiciness but mostly just great flavors, and the jar’s wide mouth made scooping tablespoons easy. The olive oil had an unmistakable rosemary taste and a beautiful olive finish. A little of this went a long way; the strong rosemary could stand in lieu of fistfuls of fresh herbs. The balsamic was absolutely divine: drippy sweet with a nice figgy flavor. The flavor-infused oil and vinegar at Grovestone come in three sizes (60 ml, 250 ml, and 500 ml), and I would recommend buying the fig balsamic in the largest size because it was so delicious. The oils and vinegars can work as a bread dip especially with a sprinkle of seasoning, but I prefer using the oil and vinegar as a marinade, salad dressing, or adding to a sauté.

1707 W Kirby Ave
M-F 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On a white plate, a Thanksgiving sandwich is sliced in half. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwich | Hopscotch Brunchette at The Literary

At Hopscotch Brunchette inside The Literary, I ordered the Thanksgiving turkey sandwich ($14), which came with roasted turkey, cranberry mustard chutney, brown butter sage aioli, cheddar, and greens layered between slices of grilled rosemary sourdough bread and a choice of side; I picked tots for my side and added bacon to my sandwich for an additional $2.

One bite served all of Thanksgiving’s flavors: turkey, cranberry, sage, and rosemary dominated. The sandwich’s poultry was legit Thanksgiving turkey, thick cut and juicy, not dry at all. Sage aioli added a creaminess to the turkey and toasted rosemary bread. The herby sourdough went well with the peppery arugula, and the bright tart sweetness of the cranberry jam tasted just like Thanksgiving. The cheddar melted into the bacon slices, but I couldn’t really taste the cheese. This sandwich took 20 minutes for the kitchen to make, so be sure to plan to browse the shelves of books at the wine bar + bookstore The Literary while you wait. Check out the full food menu here. Enjoy this sandwich at the Downtown Champaign bookstore, or order online.

Hopscotch Brunchette at The Literary
122 N Neil St
W-Su 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
W-Sa 3 to 9 p.m. drinks only
Su 3 to 9 p.m. drinks only

On a white plate, there is a mini chocolate pecan pie. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Chocolate Pecan Pie | Lucky Moon Pies & More

This pecan pie was next level pecan pie. I’ve had many a pecan pie, but this chocolate pecan pie is the tops. I had the mini version ($4.25), but Lucky Moon Pies & More is currently taking orders for full size Thanksgiving pies. This pie had a classic buttery crust and halved pecans topping, but the middle was a soft, rich chocolate filling. The pecans had a buttery nuttiness that was sinfully delicious with the fudgy center. Pecan pies can be cloyingly sweet, but the richness of the cocoa in the pie added luxurious complexity.

Lucky Moon Pie’s chocolate pecan pie was an elevated version of pecan pie and a must try. The bakery also offers a regular pecan pie, pumpkin pie, apple pie, cherry pie, French silk pie, and sweet potato pie in addition to take-and-bake dinner rolls and cranberry butter for Thanksgiving. Order a pie by calling 217-402-2319 or send a message to the bakery on Facebook.

Lucky Moon Pies & More
401 E Oak St
W-F 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sa 8 a.m. to noon

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Harvest Moon | Punch! Bar & Lounge

Punch! Bar’s Harvest Moon cocktail ($12) tasted like November without any pumpkin spice. The drink was made with mezcal, corn liqueur, ginger liqueur, lime, and dotted with cilantro oil in the shape of a waning crescent moon. The cocktail began with a buttery corn flavor and finished with cilantro. It was savory but well balanced. The corny sweetness and the twinkle of ginger tasted delicious.

The expert bartenders at Punch! can make this fall cocktail (or an amazing mocktail) to sip at the bar or to go. This Harvest Moon cocktail is only available seasonally; next month, Punch! Bar’s specialty cocktail menu will completely change — and you won’t find it on the menu anymore. This month, order a Harvest Moon and cheers to a grateful November.

Punch! Bar & Lounge
217 N Neil St
Su-Th 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
F+Sa 4 p.m. to midnight

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

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