Jan 2—The first time La Bahia Grill took part in the annual Champaign County Area Restaurant Week last year, this Mexican restaurant in downtown Champaign was just about brand new.
Wait till you see what the owners, Magely Azila and Leonel Carmona, have in store for their second venture into Restaurant Week — which is coming up Jan. 27 to Feb. 4.
They’re still finalizing the menu, Azila said, but the plan is to serve two appetizers, two entrees (one of them a new dish) and two desserts.
This will be the seventh annual Restaurant Week, a nine-day celebration of what restaurants throughout Champaign County have to offer — featuring Filipino, Indian, Cambodian, Thai, Laos, Mexican, Caribbean, Italian, Zambian, vegetarian, vegan, soul food, farm-to-table, and standard American fare, according to Visit Champaign County.
Every year, more restaurants participate, so expect the tentative list of participating restaurants that the agency has posted to grow next month, according to Terri Reifsteck, Visit Champaign County’s vice president of marketing and community engagement.
Azila said La Bahia Grill at 132 W. Church St., C, is tentatively planning to serve nachos supreme and papas locas for the appetizers, a dish featuring a mix of seafood in a homemade sauce, and a brand new dish still lacking a name (but it’s probably going to be Volcan, Spanish for volcano, Azila said) for the two entrees and churros and fried cheesecake (chimichanga style) for the desserts.
LaBahia Grill recently added breakfast to its menu. The restaurant is now open from 7 am to 3 pm for breakfast, 11 am to 3 pm for lunch and 3 pm until closing for dinner.
Restaurant customers who want to participate in Restaurant Week can check out the list of participating restaurants at visitchampaigncounty.org/events/restaurant-week, then make reservations or check out carry-out options.
And for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the Champaign County restaurant of your choice, share your dining experience with pictures with #CCRestaurantWeek.
Holiday grants from Ameren
Ameren Illinois announced that it awarded $120,000 to 12 nonprofit organizations in its service area through its Ameren Cares program.
Two of the recipients of the $10,000 grants in the local area included the Well Experience, Urbana, and Survivor Resource Center, Danville.
Game day special
Where will you watch the Illinois vs. Mississippi State game Monday morning?
The folks at Aspen Tap House in Champaign are hoping you’ll head their way.
Manager Rachel Rosenbaum said the restaurant/bar will open an hour early Monday morning, at 10 am, in advance of the 11 am game.
“We want to give Champaign-Urbana the best opportunity to see all the game,” she said.
During the game, she said, burgers will be buy one, get one free.
How big a crowd to expect, Rosenbaum said she doesn’t know. It’s going to be a Monday morning when a lot of people will be working. Then again, she said, a lot of people are still on winter break.
“But we are planning on a big crowd,” she said.
Craft chocolate made locally
Introducing Chikondi Craft Chocolate, a new Savoy-based venture of Miranda Church and Shawnae Cook.
The chocolate is described as “bean to bar” using single-origin cacao beans, with “fine quality cacao” as the star ingredient.
Chikondi sources its fair trade cacao beans from tropical countries, and uses a process involving hand-sorting and careful roasting of each batch “to bring out the origin’s distinct flavor profile,” according to the business website.
“The beans get winnowed to remove their outer husks, and then stone-ground with organic cane sugar and cocoa butter for at least 24 hours before being tempered into bark and other Chikondi confections,” it goes on to say.
The cacao roasters are the two owners’ husbands, Dan Church and Phillip Cook.
The chocolate is made in a commercial kitchen in Savoy, and is sold online in three-ounce packs of chocolate bark, according to Dan and Miranda Church.
The business is also offering pop-up markets and classes.
One event coming up: A craft chocolate and whiskey pairing event at The Venue CU at 51 E. Main St., C set for Jan. 27.
It will include a brief history on the chocolate-making and artisan process used by Chikondi and an overview of various whiskeys, followed by a sampling of various pairings of chocolate and whiskey.
Miranda Church said Chikondi’s sipping chocolate, a dessert drink, is currently available at Maize Mexican Grill’s Maize at the Station, 100 N. Chestnut St, C.