Sunday Brunch

One of the things my mom likes to do when she visits us is eat out.  A couple of years ago she had a memorable experience at Silvercreek Sunday Brunch, so it was on her list of things to do on her recent visit. Sundays are not calm, quiet days in our household. The older Tartlets and The Husband get up by 6 AM to deliver papers (Tartlet 1 takes hers in a wagon and prefers to be up by 5:30, The Husband carries for Tartlet 2 and prefers to not wake before 6! 😉 ) Following that, The Husband, and anyone who wants to help him, leave the house at 7:25 AM to go do the set up for our church (which meets in a gym so there is a lot of work to do) and the reward for the Tartlets is anyone who helps gets to go to Dunkin’ Donuts afterward. You would think he was passing out gold coins! They usually get home by 8:45 AM and then it’s time for showers and dressing and trying to get out the door by 9:15, which rarely happens, and we generally get home around noon. The Husband and Tartlet 1 are participating in a Lego Robotics team so each Sunday they need to be at their meeting place from about 1:30 PM until 5:30 or 6:00 PM. So we were a little concerned about squeezing in the brunch. But it worked out perfectly, despite the fact that I didn’t realize they take reservations for the brunch. The time before this visit it was quite busy and we waited about 30-45 minutes for a table, so I would definitely recommend a reservation if you are on a tight schedule.

Silvercreek is in a lovely building (you can read about its history on the website) and I love all the exposed, unpainted woodwork. On a dreary day it can be a bit dark, but it’s still a lovely place. Two of the specialties of the brunch are the made-to-order omelets and the Belgian waffles, which my breakfast lovers assure me are wonderful. I’m not so much of a breakfast person so I have skipped those stations in my visits. As in past visits, the spread included some breads – baked fresh on the premises, several salads, fresh fruit, biscuits and gravy, sausage, some form of potatoes (roasted, mashed, etc), various vegetables, pasta, and lots and lots of meat options including chicken, beef, pork, fish, and shrimp. Something for every taste!

One of the things I appreciated about this visit was that you could select a reasonably healthy meal from the options, not just comfort foods. In fact, I loaded up my plate with green salad, fresh fruit, roasted vegetables, and the tastiest talapia I’ve had in years. The talapia was so good I went back for seconds and when I was looking over the pan someone came from the kitchen with a fresh baked batch and suggested that I have some of the fresh while he removed the stuff that had been sitting. I hate going to a buffet and seeing food that has been sitting in the warming pans for hours, so I was especially thrilled to see them refreshing the pans in a timely manner.

They also have quite a selection of desserts. On my latest visit there was a blueberry cake (it was ok but not fantastic), a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, chocolate cheesecake, pumpkin pie, Black Forest trifle (again, ok, nothing to rave about), and they had a selection of cookies, brownies and bars. One of the things I enjoy most about dining out is having something I can’t/won’t/don’t make at home, so in that way the desserts didn’t wow me, but they were certainly good.

The wait staff were friendly, unobtrusive, and were quick to take away used plates and refill drinks. We were efficiently done with time to spare for The Husband and Tartlet 1 to make their meeting. On weekends with home football games, parents weekends, and other high traffic weekends for the University, I would certainly want to allow extra time.

Because The Husband paid the tab and I didn’t see any prices listed I don’t know the cost per person. However, for 3 adults and 4 children, the total for the buffet, 5 drinks, and tip came to $103.

402 N Race St.
Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: 217-328-3402

Mon – Thurs 11 AM – 3 PM; 5 PM – 10 PM
Fri – Sat 11 AM – 3 PM; 5 PM – 11 PM
Sunday Brunch 10 AM – 2:30 PM; Dinner 5 PM – 10 PM

Less Than Stellar Moment

Last night we went to Radio Maria to celebrate our anniversary. Radio Maria has been my favorite local restaurant for several years, but last night was not their brightest moment. Earlier this year we enjoyed our first visit to the new tapas bar, but the restaurant side does seem to have suffered. Hopefully it was just an off night, we all have them, but from the comments of other recent visitors I’m afraid it isn’t.

Rather than following the typical seating style of staggering new arrivals throughout the dining area so diners don’t feel packed in, our greeter seemed to be filling the dining room from the front to rear. Although the dining room was somewhat loud, our server spoke so rapidly neither of us could clearly understand him. One of my favorite things about Radio Maria is the variety and the frequently updated menu, but we decided not to order a starter, in part because nothing sounded amazing and our favorite quinoa filled avocados off the menu. Still, we had to wait a very long time for our meal to arrive.

With no crab on the menu this time, I chose the “Grilled Atlantic salmon with a Jamaican jerk rub topped with spicy mango, pineapple, and papaya chutney with plantain tostones” (17.75). My small salmon portion had only the edges fully cooked, the middle remained raw and cool. The Husband wasn’t bothered by that and finished my fish. The plantain had a lot of cracked pepper on top, but lacked the flavorful depth and complement to the main entree I’ve come to expect from a Radio Maria side. The Husband ordered the “Pato Tacos! Seared duck breast served with a fresh gingered plum sauce, julienned vegetables, black beans, jasmine rice, and corn tortillas” ($22). He was quite pleased with his entree.

We decided to have dessert and I chose the Peach, Apricot, and Pistachio Tres Leches Cake, served with a caramel sauce. It was an excellent cake, dense and flavorful. The Husband ordered the pumpkin cheesecake, which was about half the thickness and half the width of a typical cheesecake slice, a scrawny serving for the $6 dessert. I didn’t taste it, but he said it was good.

Overall our visit to Radio Maria was mediocre this time and doesn’t leave me wanting to rush back soon.

/Radio Maria
119 N. Walnut St.
Champaign, IL

Carry Out Lunch

After picking up Tartlet 4 from her art preschool, I thought about what was available for lunch at home and decided I was in the mood for something different.  Niro’s Gyros is a place I used to go once or twice a month (after 4 PM buy 2 gyros, get 1 free), but The Husband found the meat far too greasy for his taste and I haven’t been back for a few years, except the couple of times I’ve purchased plain pitas to go with homemade dips for gatherings at home.  Since it was just the kids and I in the car, I steered us toward Niro’s Gyros on Springfield Ave.

One of the things I frequently do when eating lunch out with the kids (not that I frequently do that), is I don’t order drinks and whenever possible I order something large that we can share.  So I ordered the ‘Triple Plate’ (~$11)– a huge pile of meat that is in excess of what is needed for 3 gyros, three pitas, a small pile of sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, two containers of sauce, and it comes with french fries — as well as additional fries and onion rings, and two extra pitas.  The total bill was ~$17.  Because Tartlets 3 & 4 really only needed 1/2 pita each and we didn’t really need the second container of fries, I could have gotten away with less.  As it is, we have enough left in the frig for another gyro.  The kids variously rated lunch as ‘awesome’, ‘superb’, ‘good’ and ‘the best lunch ever’.  It was a nice break from the home routine and a great change from the typical drive-thru options.

Niro’s Gyros
2001 W. Springfield Avenue
Champaign, IL

Back From The Beach

Tartlet 4 walking along Navarre Beach where we picked up great shells

We had a good time in Florida, resting or swimming most of the time. We thought we would make like Boy Scouts this time and be prepared. So, rather than purchase the traditional souvenir bottle of aloe after we were burnt to a crisp, we took several half-empty bottles of sunscreen from last year *and* a bottle of aloe with us. Our first full day we lathered up with sunscreen and went for a bike ride (not long, about 5 miles). When we came back to the condo we basted ourselves in a cocoa butter scented sauce again before setting out for the beach — we were so proud of ourselves for being so smart. When we got back to the condo for lunch it seemed several of us had reddish splotches that looked amazingly like sunburn. What? but we had used sunscreen! That night I decided that maybe our old sunscreen had gone bad and ran out to the store for a new bottle. The next day we could all tell the difference when we put on the new stuff and it worked great. All the old bottles went in the trash, but we were glad we brought our aloe along! 😉

Lemonade Mix Blueberry Muffins

We bracketed our stay in Destin with dinners at The Crab Trap, a beach-side open air restaurant with super cool ceiling fans, great crab, grouper, shrimp and anything else we’ve eaten there. It’s our favorite place to eat. And they serve a decent mango daiquiri. One of the things the kids love best about it is they serve kids meals in a plastic pail with a little beach shovel. They get a lot of use, actually.

The condo had the basics for the kitchen and I bought groceries that I planned for us to use entirely before we left and packed very little, about as close to camping as I like to get (especially with the nice bed and warm shower, toilet, and washer/dryer) . I made blueberry muffins one day but didn’t have lemons or lemon extract on hand and was using the last of my 2 lb bag of sugar, so I added a couple of tablespoons of lemonade mix to the batter and reserved a little sugar for the tops of the muffins. They turned out decently enough. It’s not what I would do all the time, but it worked in a pinch.


We had a great dinner of grilled chicken, saffron rice from a package mixed with frozen peas, salad, and a mixture of strawberries and mangoes one night. I didn’t take a picture. That was also the night I cut my little finger with the crappy knife in the condo when the mango slipped out of my hand. The Husband did a great job finishing up dinner for us that night while I sat on the sofa flipping between HGTV and the Food Network, holding my finger in a paper towel. Maybe I didn’t watch at the right times during this trip, but I was really unimpressed with the Food Network this time. I don’t have cable at home so these trips are my only exposure and last year we didn’t have cable so it’s been two years, but I wasn’t as inspired as I was in the past.

Another day I tossed together a brownie/cake-ish dessert — I mixed flour, baking powder, sugar, melted butter, half a bag of melted chocolate chips, vanilla, a little yogurt, and a couple eggs and then stirred in more chocolate chips and baked it for 20 min or so. I made a frosting by heating a little butter, milk, and sugar in a pan and after it came to a boil I stirred in the remaining chocolate chips until they were well melted. It was pretty tasty. Now that I’m back to my fully equipped kitchen, we’ll have to see what I can whip up . . .

An Evening Out

Unlike many of my favorite foodies, I don’t tend to carry my digital camera with me to dinner out.  So, I don’t have pictures of the lovely foods we had last night. The Husband hired a sitter and took me to my favorite restaurant in town, Radio Maria, which now has a website, complete with menu!

For an appetizer we had the Aguacate Relleno, something we’ve had before and both love. I’m going to have to learn to make something like it b/c avocados are one of The Husband’s favorite things. It and my entree went well with the glass of Kung Fu Girl riesling I had.

The Husband had the Peppercorn Tuna and I had the grilled portabella mushroom stuffed with pistachio-spinach pesto. Mmmm. I didn’t taste The Husband’s tuna, but my mushroom was just perfect. Sooooo good!

For dessert we shared a sampler (just 3-4 bites of each kind) of three of their chocolate desserts: a chocolate cream pie drowning in chocolate sauce, a milk chocolate brownie equally drowning in a dark chocolate sauce so the ‘milk chocolate’ flavor was lost, and a wonderfully smooth chocolate plantain ice cream (obviously my favorite of the three).

It was a lovely way to celebrate the first 15 years together.