For three Thursdays spanning late September into October, 150 of Champaign-Urbana’s food lovers visited a restaurant in town for a dinner curbside pick-up style. While this wasn’t how we envisioned our annual Artisan Cup & Fork taking place, it’s what the year of COVID brought to us. Reflecting on the experience and reading the many words of encouragement and enthusiasm from guests, I think we can happily say it was well worth the change of scenery. Today, I write to share some of what this experience was like for our community.
Before I get too far into describing the delicious dinners and community support, I want to give a shout out to the local food and farm businesses that helped make this event a success.
Autumn Berry Inspired ● Bee Fresh Farm ● Berries and Flour Farm ● Blue Moon Farm ● Brian Severson Farms ● Crum & Haveland ● Delight Flower Farm ● Diamond’s Homestead ● Flyway Family Farm ● Funks Grove Heritage Fruits and Grains ● Kilgus Farmstead ● Marcoot Jersey Creamery ● Marcus Miller Family Farm ● PrairiErth Farm ● Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery ● Red Crib Acres ● Slagel Family Farm ● Sola Gratia Farm ● Triple S Farms
Without their time and expertise, these dinners would have been full of boring, tasteless food. Make sure you visit their sites and find a way to buy their products!
The Artisan Cup & Fork’s first night took us to Neil St. Blues where Chefs Gavyn and Gayle whipped up a delicious dinner including vegetable gumbo and cornbread, black eyed pea salad, and chicken and sausage Savannah red rice with microgreens and French bread. For dessert, Hopscotch Bakery + Market prepared a sweet potato gooey butter cake with a creamy meringue and edible flowers.
Our second night was at Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant and a whole crew of chefs prepared this feast. Thanks to Holly, Lo, Caleb, Eric, Natan, and Jenny for creating a mixed greens salad with toasted almonds, candied walnuts, apple chips, edible flowers, and Autumn Berry vinaigrette, a pesto pasta with mushrooms and olives, and an eggplant parmesan sandwich with cashew “chevre,” tomato sauce, and onions. They also baked a vegan tiramisu cupcake.
The final night of the event was at Wood n’ Hog BBQ, with pick-up at their new Champaign location. Chef Michael cooked a cucumber, tomato, red onion, and feta salad, charred cabbage, sweet southern cornbread, and sticky BBQ chicken. Heidi Leuszler was brought in for dessert and she baked a midwest-inspired baklava with paw paw, plantain, pears, and hickory nuts.
We wish we could provide you with tons of beautiful food pictures, but sadly we were all too busy making sure the food got to the people. If you would like to see what each of the dinners looked like, head on over to Smile Politely’s post about the event.
Thanks to support from our community, we were able to provide these restaurants with nearly $600 in tips to their kitchen staff and almost $6,500 into their businesses. What an excellent surge of support for our fragile local economy!
And now for the part you all were waiting for… The winners of the event were:
PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD
The winner of the People’s Choice Award was chosen by the people!
Restaurant : Neil St. Blues
Baker : Hopscotch Bakery + Market
GRAND PRIZE AWARD
The winner of the Grand Prize Award was chosen by our judging panel! Thanks to Samuel Vandergrift, Adam Volk, and Brenda Welch.
Restaurant : Wood n’ Hog BBQ
Baker : Hopscotch Bakery + Market
While we don’t know what 2021 will hold for the Artisan Cup & Fork, we have already started thinking about how we can continue supporting our local food economy. We heard from many families and individuals that this event helped them out of food ruts and connected them with some of the best food they have ever tasted in C-U. Knowing that impact, along with the excitement participating restaurants and bakeries had, we may just have something up our sleeves for more of this style of event. Sign-up for our newsletter to keep up-to-date on our next plans!