Labor Day. The unofficial end of summer. Fall begins, the leaves turn brown, it’s getting colder, then comes. ... I can’t even put that word in this column.
Summer went by too fast. I feel very cheated this year. I spent most of it recovering from surgery wearing a very bulky boot on my foot.
Lucky for all of us, there’s plenty of beautiful weather to enjoy. I’m a fall person. I love leaves changing color and the cooler days and nights where we still can sit outside on the deck and enjoy dinner serving all those wonderful harvests of fruits and vegetables.
With cooler weather comes warm comfort food — soups, casseroles, warm bread and, of course, rich Italian foods.
I can’t hide my feelings about Uptown Grille. I love its food, especially Chef Alessandro’s meat sauce.
Begin with Chef’s polenta pasticciata, a beautiful blend of polenta and Chef’s special black Angus Bolognese meat sauce, topped with melted mozzarella cheese that is broiled until golden brown.
For a beautiful classic Italian salad try the caprese — lettuce topped with fresh wedges of mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, black olives and fresh basil leaves.
There are several dishes I love including the spaghetti alla Bolognese with black Angus ragout, tomato sauce, and fresh herbs. The asparagi and amberi risotto is absolutely fantastic — made with shrimp, Spanish saffron and mint — delizioso.
They also have unique nightly specials featuring both authentic Italian and American favorites with a little “twist,” especially Chef’s made-from-scratch artisan pizzas.
Of course, you must try one of Chef Alessandro’s famous desserts, such as his tiramisu, with layers of airy biscuits lightly dipped in espresso with layers of sweet homemade cream and topped with a sprinkle of cocoa powder. This family recipe is straight from Italy.
They are closed on Monday and Tuesdays. I recommend making reservations in advance, especially on the weekends.
Uptown Grille is at 141 S. Chestnut St., Chebanse. Call 815-697-9710 for reservations.
Have you tried Pattycakes Cupcakery in Bourbonnais? Owner Tammy Perry specializes in beautiful gourmet cupcakes and cheesecakes. Perry said not only does she make cupcakes but cake pops and cakes for weddings, birthdays and corporate events.
So far, she has made 85 different varieties of cupcakes and still counting, designing a new flavor each week. There are 17 varieties of cheesecakes, too. Perry said she is offering eight to 10 different varieties in the store daily.
“Each day is a new adventure,” she said.
For instance, last week she was featuring strawberry lemonade, honey nut, banana nut, chocolate peanut butter pretzel, monster, turtle, cookies and cream and chocolate vanilla.
Perry said there are 15 varieties of gluten-free cupcakes, such as Reese’s peanut butter, raspberry lemonade, strawberry shortcake and toffee. These are featured only on Friday and Saturday. Sugar-free cupcakes are available by special order.
There is seating for guests to come in and enjoy a cup of coffee (bean to cup) and specialty teas.
Perry is looking forward to serving guests her fantastic cupcakes. With the increase in business, she said they will be hiring four new employees.
Pattycakes Cupcakery is at 588 William Latham Drive, Bourbonnais. They are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. They’re closed Sunday and Monday.
Hank Vinson, better known as Cousin Hank, of Momence, said he finally made it to The Longbranch Restaurant in L’Erable. He said after reading about the restaurant in Best Bites, he and a friend drove down.
Vinson said he “loved the chicken special, a chicken breast in a butter, garlic sauce with sweet marinated red peppers and broccoli.”
His friend ordered the 8-ounce prime rib and said it was “big enough for two.”
He also ordered the baked soup and salad.
“We both had salads,” Vinson said. “There was my mom’s pea salad on the bar. Wow, it brought back childhood memories.”
Vinson also ordered the hummingbird cake, of which he saved a small piece and had it with fresh peaches when he got home.
“I’m going again in the fall,” he said.
No surprise, Cousin Hank, it’s one the best.
The Longbranch is at 2713 N. 1500E Road, Clifton. Phone 815-694-9748.
Another Hank in the news — Hank from Hank’s Farmstand — called me this week to let me know the address that was put in the paper was incorrect. The address is 1133 N. 4000E Road, Kankakee, right off Illinois Route 17 on Skyline Road. Make sure you check them out. Beautiful vegetables straight from the garden.