Oh, how I love September. Crisp mornings and routines of the fall semester settle in, but there’ll be some hot days left. September is a beautiful month with a wide range in temperatures, and you deserve a variety of food to enjoy this month. There are lots of places already serving fall drinks and desserts (i.e. Watson’s Curtis Orchard seasonal slush is available and so are Art Mart’s pumpkin cookies), so I was sure to include a pumpkin treat in this list as well.
This month, my recommendations will give you something cold for a hot day, something from a new restaurant, a cheese almost too pretty to eat, something pumpkin, and a coffee cocktail.
These Are The Frozen Boozy Dragons | Collective Pour
Collective Pour serves boozy soft serve daily for $6. This cold treat was refreshing on a hot day, but the flavors would make it a good dessert even on a fall night. Collective Pour rotates flavors almost daily, and they don’t usually repeat the same one again. This one was made from Triptych’s These Aren’t The Dragons You’re Looking For, a tart ale made with dragonfruit and passionfruit purée, and it was fantastic. The fruity tart flavor came through well, and the beer flavor was subtle. All of the ones I’ve tried have been great, and the flavors have ranged from Moscow mule to peanut butter cup to blueberry banana seltzer. The amazing texture of the soft serve is what keeps bringing me back for whatever flavor CP whips up next.
Enjoy these inside the Downtown Champaign bar or out on CP’s patio.
340 N Neil St
M 3 to 9 p.m.
T-Th 3 to 10 p.m.
F 3 p.m. to midnight
Sa 1 p.m. to midnight
Su 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Sushi | ISHI
This new restaurant in Champaign is currently only serving lunch on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I went this past weekend to check it out. I ordered a little of almost everything Chef Ken Ishibashi was preparing. Starting on the bottom left, I tried okonomiyaki ($7), seared toro nigiri with jalapeño ($15), salmon poke ($5), chef’s choice nigiri (14), and a choice roll ($12). ISHI’s okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake dish, had two cakes topped with bacon and two drizzles of sauce. The delicious smoky bacon was a phenominal touch.
The salmon poke was my favorite: just the most amazing, marinated raw salmon. It practically melted in my mouth. The light marinade with diced red onions and the incredible, fresh flavor of the salmon blew me away. The five piece nigiri was a wonderful sampler of raw fish: tuna, salmon, uni (sea urchin), shima aji (Japanese horse mackerel), and toro-ikura (tuna and roe), and the torched tuna dish had pieces of seared fatty tuna each on a small mound of rice with jalapeño. Lastly, for the choice roll, you can ask the chef to make you a roll, and he’ll say if he can and what the price would be. I ordered tuna and jalapeño, and it was so good: jalapeño with beautiful pink-red tuna expertly rolled.
The quality of the fish was exceptional, and the preparation was exquisite. The wait was a bit long as the restaurant is clearly new, and the staff was moving fast to get the orders out. There are only three pairs of chairs at the sushi bar and an open dining room with chairs for waiting. Everyone was very nice and patient, and if you go, be prepared to wait patiently; it’s worth it. We took our meal to go, and everthing carried out very well, so whether you can snag a table or not, definitely go give this new sushi spot a try for lunch this month.
305 Cedar St
F+Sa noon to 4 p.m.
Su noon to 2 p.m.
Fleur de la Prairie | Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery
This gorgeous cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery won a national Good Foods award this year. This Fleur de la Prairie is a goat-milk bloomy rind cheese topped with dried herbs and edible flowers. It is $20 as part of a duo cheese pack which includes the other award winning cheese. This cheese clearly deserved an award. It was not that similar to Brie like I thought it would be; it was a thicker, denser cheese very similar to the chevre I’ve had before from PFF. It was a soft, mild cheese that was very smooth. The rind was tasty, too. The flowers were a lovely addition to the cheese. I really, really enjoyed this cheese, and I think it would be a great gift or wonderful added to a charcuterie board. This cheese was special and unique, and I would encourage you to give this award winning local cheese a try this month.
You can purchase at the Urbana Market in the Square on Saturday mornings or have it shipped. Don’t forget that PFF has the most peaceful brunch on the weekends.
Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery
4410 N Lincoln Ave
F 4 to 8 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Urbana Market in the Square
Sa 7 a.m. to noon
Pumpkin Tart | Tasty Tart
Is it September if you don’t eat something pumpkin flavored? This pumpkin tart ($3.49) is a seasonal release tart from the cute tart shop on Neil Street. Filled with the quintessential pumpkin pie filling, this tart delivered the taste of autumn. The crust of the tart holds the pumpkin filling in as if it were a miniature pumpkin pie. The crust was not rustic, but a perfect, smooth crust that was crunchy and sweet like a cookie. The filling had a nice nutmeg spice to it and a very good pumpkin flavor. There was whipped cream on top, and it made it me think of my Aunt Peggy’s Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. If you’re craving pumpkin pie, perhaps treat yourself to a little pumpkin tart to satisfy that craving.
If you order online, there is a minimum of three tarts required for an order. Twist my arm, why don’t you? I also ordered chocolate (my favorite one) and mocha (my husband’s favorite), but all of the tarts from Tasty Tart are good. Check out Matt’s review of Tasty Tart’s regular tart flavors to see if any tarts sound like something you’d like to add to your pumpkin tart order. Order online here.
405 S Neil St
10 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily
Cafe Diablo | Watson’s
This brunch cocktail ($8) was made with Cimarron tequila, Borghetti coffee liqueur, Grand Marnier, simple syrup, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and coffee. Topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with cinnamon, this drink was incredible. I could taste both the tequila and the coffee, and this is a combination that — despite my thirsty self — I’ve never combined before. It slaps, honestly. Boozy and caffeinated, Cafe Diablo is the drink you want at brunch if you can step away from Watson’s amazing slushies. The whipped cream was generous, and I loved this cocktail all the way to the last sip.
Watson’s Shack & Rail
211 N Neil St
T-Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Su 10 to 2 p.m. + 4 to 9 p.m.