Magpie

Aaaaaand we’re back!  We missed all of you last week, but we are back at it and I’m excited to tell you about one of my new favorite breakfast/lunch spots, Magpie.  I have been able to dine there a couple of times now, and feel like I could eat there several times a month and never tire of it.  With daily breakfast and lunch specials, an incredible standard menu, house-made jams, coffee cake, biscuits, etc., delicious coffee, and all meals that are made to order, Magpie is an exceptional addition to dining downtown.

Located at 307 South Main Street in downtown Rockford, Magpie has become a storefront that is hard to miss with chalkboards that provide a personal touch!

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Among myself, my family, and friends we have tried the following breakfast items: bacon pancakes, stuffed french toast (2 slices stuffed with sweet cream cheese and house-made jam!), the Magpie omelet (freshly roasted turkey, bacon, & smoked cheddar), blueberry pancakes (amazing!), and the coffee cake of the day (yes, Stephanie, the owner, makes a new flavor nearly everyday!).  Our food was so good, that I honestly forgot to take photos prior to diving in.  So, I took the liberty of pulling some photos from Magpie’s Facebook page to give you and idea of how great these meals look.

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Hungry yet?  I thought so.  Here is the best part…the specials change every. single. day.  So, be sure to check Magpie’s website or FB page to get the latest on the specials.  OR, better yet, just head downtown and let Stephanie surprise you!  The food is excellent, the service (thanks, Felicia!) is on point and the overall experience just makes me happy.  Rockford is lucky to have a new go-to spot in town.  See you all over some coffee cake and biscuits soon!

EmilySignature-Pink

 

Farewell and Thank You – Altamore’s

Six years ago I moved to the near west side of Rockford, close to the North End neighborhood, and was introduced to Altamore Ristorante. Despite growing up in Rockford, somehow this gem had escaped my childhood, but it made a significant impact on my adulthood dining experience.

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News broke last week that after 40 years in business, Altamore’s will be closing its doors on September 4th, and I immediately felt I needed to share my love for this west side community pillar with all of you.

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If you’re not familiar with Altamore’s, the dining room is open one evening per week (Thursdays), and offers a traditional long, joyful and delicious Italian dinner.  Alberto Altamore stops by the tables to share his specials with patrons, and there is never any rush to turn tables, just a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy with good wine, tasty food and nice company. Six days per week Altamore’s runs a bustling carry-out and delivery business. I can almost guarantee that the delivery guy noticed when I moved out of my apartment due to the decrease in pasta and pizza deliveries to that address.

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From birthday dinners and pizza parties to Valentine’s Day meals and retirement celebrations, Altamore’s will be sorely missed by many, but I am very grateful for the time they have shared with our community. Be sure to make those final Thursday reservations at Altamore’s, and place your carry-out orders prior to September 4th!

LizSignature-Pink

Rockford Day 8.15

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Hello Rockfordians!  Who doesn’t love an excuse to celebrate living where they live?  The fine people at Rockford Community Partners have helped found Rockford Day on August 15 (8.15), to help celebrate the people and places that make up our fair city.  Because it will be my last day before I go back to work for the school year (I know, tear, tear.), I plan to take full advantage of the fun deals local businesses are having to celebrate Rockford Day.  While you can find the entire list here, this is a possible itinerary (one I plan to do), that will take you through the sweet 815 deals.  Let’s get our day started!

Wired Cafe

If you are one that likes to start your day with a little coffee or tea, plan to stop at Wired Cafe and enjoy live music by Mossy Vaughn and Derek Luttrell from “Name the Moon” and Gavin Epperson from “Taboo Blah Blah.” 15% off all coffee drinks from 8 – 9am.

N’Spired Yoga 

After gaining some energy at Wired, check out an N’Spired Yoga class at either N’Spired Yoga or Anderson Gardens for just $8.15. The offer is valid all week!

Village Green Home & Garden

Because one can never have enough plants (is that true?), take advantage of  the BOGO sale at Village Green Home and Garden and buy 1, get 1 FREE on all plant material at both locations   (6101 E. Riverside and 2640 N. Main).

Irish Rose

Tacos anyone? Head to Irish Rose for lunch (or dinner) for some handmade fresh fish street tacos for $8.15. All fresh fish menu items $3.00 off.

Bella Luna Bakery

If you are like me, you could always go for a sweet treat.  So, $8.15 for a dozen Mrs. Fisher’s Potato Chip Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Peanut Butter Cookies, or Sugar Cookies all day at Bella Luna sounds incredible.

Rockford Art Deli

Don’t have an 815 tee yet? Head on over to RAD for a special, limited edition of the 815 tee.  Bring in a tee, get the print for $8.15. Don’t have a tee? Buy one in the shop for $18.15. Design will be released a few days before the event and will never be printed again. Available from 3-8 p.m.

Olympic Tavern

For dinner (or lunch), The Olympic Tavern is offering great specials.  Burger & Bourbon: Half pound burger, french fries, and a shot of Benchmark Bourbon for $8.15; The Bartenders Dinner: 8oz Ribeye steak, french fries, a pint of Ballast Point Grunion Pale Ale and a shot of Benchmark Bourbon for $18.50. 11am – 12am.

We hope to see you out an about enjoying our city on 8.15!  Check out all of the Rockford Day deals here.

EmilySignature-Pink

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Share

Fresh, local, hand-picked, delicious produce. Where can you find that you ask? I pick mine up every other week at the North End City Market when I pick up my CSA share from Hildreth Organics. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an awesome way to get fresh, seasonal produce directly from the farmers. It’s also a great way to be introduced to new vegetables (kohlrabi anyone?) and learn new recipes while getting your daily dose of fruits and veggies. In addition to produce, many farmers offer eggs, milk, meat and micro-green options, too.

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I was first introduced to CSA shares when I was in college in Madison. One semester, while living in the dorms, I subscribed to a CSA bag. It was a bit of a challenge to consume all of it as a college student without a kitchen, but I loved being able to collect fresh produce snacks every week.

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Fast forward to adulthood, and I finally remembered to seek out and sign up for a CSA share this year. There are quite a few local farmers who offer weekly and bi-weekly shares. I chose Hildreth because I LOVE their eggs. Last summer I bought their farm fresh eggs either at North End City Market or Rockford City Market, every week. I started following their Facebook page and saw an announcement for CSA shares this year, and I signed up!

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The fruits and vegetables they provide have been awesome, and Erin sends recipe recommendations out based on what is supplied in our CSA box that week. My biggest fear in registering for the CSA was that I might not use everything in the box, which is why I opted for the every other week option. I have found, though, that washing and prepping all of the veggies the morning I get them makes it much easier to consume the share, even on the busiest of weeks.

I would highly recommend checking out Hildreth Organics or other local farmers for the rest of the summer. Try their fruits, veggies, eggs and meats, and then join their mailing lists or Facebook pages to watch for next year’s CSA shares.
Have you tried a CSA share? What were your greatest finds?
LizSignature-Pink

Eight in the Eight-August 2016

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Swedish American State Street Mile                                                                                                                 When: Saturday, August 6, 2016, Times start between 5:00PM-6:20PM

Known as “The Fastest Mile in the Midwest,” the State Street Mile is one of my favorite races of the year.  This downhill course is great for all ages and they even offer a free 1/4 mile race for young children.  Be sure to register in advance here and bring those downhill sprints!

Bark in the Park-Rockford Rivets Game                                                                                                             When: Monday, August 8, 2016, 6:35PM

If I know one thing about dog owners (myself included), it’s that we love to take our dogs with us whenever we can.  So, if you love baseball, dogs, and a night out, be sure to join The Puppy Mill Project at the Rockford Rivets game.  Visit here and enter promo code TPMP16 to get your ticket for this special game. $5 from each ticket sold with this promotion code will benefit The Puppy Mill Project.

Rockford Day-All over the 815                                                                                                                               When: Monday, August 15, 2016, All Day

Check out this new celebration, Rockford Day (8.15), brought to the area by Rockford Community Partners. Over 35 local businesses throughout the city will offer specials for the day. For many, it’s the last day off before school activities start back up, so what better way to spend it than getting some great deals and supporting local businesses?  Check back next week for our guide on how we plan to spend the day!

40th Annual Rockford ProAm at Rockford Country Club                                                                           When: Monday, August 15, 2016

Any golfers out there?  If you are, I am sure that you know Rockford has some of the most incredible golf courses.  In fact, it is nicknamed the “holiest” city in Illinois.  If you are a fan of watching golf (I know you are out there!) the 40th Annual Rockford ProAm will be held  at Rockford Country Club. The primary goal of the ProAm is to bring an entertaining day of high level, professional golf to Rockford and raise dollars for various Northern Illinois health and human service organizations.  While you are out and about supporting Rockford Day, swing (see what I did there?) by RCC to check out the ProAm.

Boone County Fair & Winnebago County Fair                                                                                                 When: Boone-August 9-14, 2016, Winnebago-August 16-21, 2016

It’s hard to grow up in the Midwest without going to the county fair every year.  I mean, who doesn’t love checking out all of the animals, enjoying the fair fare such as elephant ears, corn dogs, and lemonade shake-ups, and riding some rides?  Now that I have a toddler, I will say the county fair is even more fun when she realizes she actually gets to touch some of the animals.  We are fortunate to have two great county fairs this month and if you can’t make one, check out the other.  The Boone County Fair is up first, followed by the Winnebago County Fair.  You will see me there with a funnel cake and one hand and a lemonade in the other.

Paranormal Tour at Tinker Swiss Cottage                                                                                                       When: Thursday, August 19, 2016, 7:00PM-10:00PM

Don’t want to wait ’til Halloween to get your scare on?  Visit Tinker Swiss Cottage for tales from paranormal experts, listen to audio clips found in the Tinker Cottage, and enjoy a tour of the cottage.  Who knows, maybe you will have your own paranormal encounter.  For more information, visit here.

Anything that Floats Race-Downtown on the Rock River                                                                         When: Saturday, August 21, 2016, 9:00AM-3:00PM

Large rafts and individual kayaks and canoes take to the Rock River to benefit the Rockford Fourth of July and Holiday Lighting Efforts, as well as the Rock River Trail Initiative and Ski Broncs.  Entry fees for rafts are $100 and $15 for kayak and canoes.  The course is 1.65 miles starting at the Coast Guard Station and ends at the Prairie Street Brewhouse.  If you think you have something would float, enter it!  Not participating in the race?  Don’t worry.  You can bring a picnic or purchase food and beverage to cheer on the floaters! For more information or to register, visit here.

Ski Broncs Waterski Shows at Shorewood Park                                                                                            When: Recurring Wednesdays & Fridays throughout August, 7:00PM-8:30PM

I am SO ashamed to admit that I have never been to a Ski Broncs show.  However, that changes this month.  I have no doubt the stunts, routines, and full production show will be incredible.  Shorewood park has plenty of room for all to enjoy, bleacher seating, free parking, and concessions.  With shows twice a week, it will be hard to miss.

Hope to see you out and about this month, soaking up the last days of summer!

EmilySignature-Pink

 

 

Guide to Tour de North End 2016

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As I mentioned in the Eight in the Eight post this month, Tour de North End is one of my favorite events of the summer. I have participated in the local bike festival for the past five years, since its inaugural ride. Despite the major construction happening around the festival’s headquarters at the Olympic Tavern, the event will go on this weekend!

Last year the ride drew more than 1,000 participants, an incredible showing in support of North End businesses and in promotion of a bike-friendly Rockford.

Registration is required to support the city permits required to host such an awesome, large event. And $2 from every ticket sale also support a local bike charity. You can pre-register online at www.tourdenorthend.com, or signup in person 11am-1pm on Saturday. The ride itself will take place from 1-5pm. Riders collect passport stamps at the local businesses, and then return to The Olympic Tavern by 5pm to turn in your passports for raffle tickets and a chance to win awesome prizes.

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Here are some tips for a successful and safe Tour de North End:

  1. Pre-register – It saves you time, and allows you to get started almost immediately.
  2. Bring your helmet and bike lock – The TDNE promotes bike safety when traveling to the local businesses, which includes helmet wearing. Trust me – it’s cool to wear your helmet. I would also recommend bringing a bike lock so that there is no confusion as to whom each bike belongs when hundreds of bikes are outside of each location.
  3. Drink Water – Most stops will have water readily available, but you may have to wait in line for it. You will work up a thirst, and if the weather is warm, you will gain so much energy from staying hydrated.
  4. Pack your sunglasses and sunscreen – Sunglasses are much easier to wear with a helmet than a cap, and you will thank me on Sunday if you remember to wear sunscreen.
  5. Drink with a buddy – If you plan on getting beers or cocktails at various stops along the way, I recommend the buddy system. Share drinks with a friend so that you can get a taste of what each watering hole offers, while maintaining the goal of bicycle safety.
  6. Check In – Check in at the local businesses and tag the photos with the hashtag #TDNE16. If you don’t follow State & Eight yet on Instagram, follow us for our TDNE route.
  7. Bring a backpack – TDNE and local establishments give out free swag. Packing a drawstring bag or a backpack is a helpful way to transport your goods while cycling.

Any other important tips we missed for TDNE? Share them with us!

LizSignature-Pink

Social Urban Bar & Restaurant

If you have followed State & Eight for awhile now, whether that be here on the blog, Facebook, or Instagram (THANK YOU!), you have most certainly noticed our love for local food and drink.  That’s why I can’t believe it has taken us this long to right about one of our absolute favorite places, Social.  If you have been lucky enough to dine or drink at Social, then you know why we love it.  If you haven’t been just yet, let me tell you why we love it.

While we most often go to this INCREDIBLE farm-to-table restaurant for birthdays, anniversaries, or other special occasions, it is the perfect place to meet for a cocktail (or more!) and some small plates with friends, or a delicious, filling entree. Because I could go on and on about the amazing cocktail list and food, let me just direct you to the drink menu here and the food menu here. It would be irresponsible of me to not mention that because Social uses local, in-season, ingredients, the menu is always changing.   It would also be irresponsible of me to not to say you must try their cheese curds, brussels sprouts, beef tenderloin of any kind, charcuterie, pork chop of any kind, and ANYTHING they create.

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It would also be REALLY irresponsible of me to not tell you about their “Sandwich Night” coming up tomorrow, Thursday, July 28. Liz and I were had the opportunity to chat with Social chef, Chase Williams, about the sandwiches that will be featured on the menu tomorrow night.  First of all, Chase was kind enough to meet with us IN the kitchen so we could get a look at the incredible pieces of local meat (brisket, ham, pork shoulder, etc.) that have been soaking in a wet brine anywhere between two days and 28 days!  While the sides for these sandwiches are being created (did I mention this was all fresh?!), the sandwiches are set and they sound amazing.

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Check out this Sandwich Night menu:

Cuban-Belly ham, roast pork, homemade beer mustard, & local swiss.

BLT-I am going to saw this one is self-explanatory, but I can only imagine the bacon and tomatoes will be out of this world.

Reuben-Brisket, soured local cabbage (sauerkraut), homemade thousand island, & gherkins

Croque Monsieur-Ham, white sauce, & Edleweiss swiss cheese (the best of the best!)

Philly Cheese Steak-Local steak, green bell peppers, & I can only assume, cheese

PB & J-This is a twist on the traditional PB & J, turned dessert.  Pistachio Butter, Blueberry Jam, and ice cream.  YES.

So, if this menu for a random Thursday night doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will!  We are so fortunate to have such an amazing, creative, inviting restaurant downtown that offers some of the best food I have ever tasted.  I hope to share a table with you at Social soon!

EmilySignature-Pink

 

Valley Orchard

I have to admit that I am a little apprehensive to write this post.  Not because I don’t like Valley Orchard in Cherry Valley, but on the contrary, I LOVE it.  I am slightly afraid to get the word out about one of my favorite local places to date.  When I was introduced to Valley Orchard by a friend last year, I was sad that I hadn’t been in the past.  What have I been doing?!  This quaint, 35-acre, family-owned orchard offers an easily accessible, family-friendly, reasonably priced place to pick apples, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, currents, rhubarb, and the list goes on.  If you follow our instagram account, you know I have been a few times, just in the past couple of months, to get our berry fix.  If you like the idea of picking your own, this is the place to check out. Be sure to check their website or facebook page for what’s available at that time.

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One of the things I love most about Valley Orchard is that it is truly accessible for all ages.  As you can see, my two year old even gets in on the action, though I must say that the berries rarely make it home if she is involved.  In fact, they rarely make it into the container.  Don’t worry, I pay double…

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We have picked buckets of blueberries over the past couple of weeks and have been snacking on them constantly.  If you head there soon, there will be plenty to pick!  When we arrived last Sunday, the owners said they were pretty picked over, but more would be available the follwoing week.  However, they took the tractor out, went on a hunt for us, and found some great berries.  That’s another thing I love about the orchard, the family feel.  The owners are so personable and truly take great pride in what they grow and how they grow it.

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While I love the berry picking, the apple picking at Valley Orchard is my favorite.  While I don’t want to wish summer away, there is something about pulling our daughter in the wagon, walking up to the tree, putting whichever variety apple(s) you would like (no minimums and you can mix and match), and enjoying apples straight from the tree.  Check out these cuties enjoying their apples last fall!

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If you are looking for a wonderful, wholesome activity, pull out those berry recipes and get to Valley Orchard to do some berry picking.  But, you will have to stop once it gets too crowded because I will want my peaceful, picking experience back.  Just kidding.  Sort of…

EmilySignature-Pink

 

 

 

Ice Cream Spot #4 – Sugarcones

Earlier this year, we featured one of our favorite local cupcake shops, Sugarjones. When the bakery relocated in 2015, it’s original location offered a twist on treats in the form of Sugarcones, an awesome gourmet ice cream shop.

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As a continuation of our ice cream tour, I walked to the dangerously close Sugarcones. Families were moving in and out the shop with a rainbow of ice cream flavors, and kids and adults alike had huge grins as they snacked on the generous portions of tasty ice cream flavors.

We decided to try two of their Sugarcones famous treats. First was the conewich – two Sugarjones cookies and your choice of ice cream filling. Oreo flavored cookies and mint chocolate chip ice cream? Amazing.

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And who can turn down a homemade chocolate waffle cone with peanut butter cup ice cream?

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Sugarcones, in an effort to provide the best ice cream available, serves Homer’s Ice Cream, which is homemade by the award winning ice cream family located in Wilmette, Illinois. Some of my favorites include their Prairie Berry and Mint Chocolate Chip! All cones and cookies are made by the Sugarjones bakery.

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Grab the family and follow our tour! Be sure to check out this new shop. You won’t be disappointed! If you don’t have time to enjoy your treat while you are there, you can purchase quarts and pints to go!

LizSignature-Pink

 

De Juan Mexican Restaurant

I am a self-proclaimed Mexican Food connoisseur. And a self-proclaimed margarita connoisseur. And there is a wonderful little place in Belvidere that offers the best of both. De Juan Mexican Restaurant has been a family favorite of my family for many years.

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Located on North State Street, the restaurant was started by Juan Martinez and his wife Leti. Their enthusiasm, hard work and wonderful relationships with their customers make De Juan’s an extremely  welcoming restaurant. Juan passed away last year, but his legacy lives on through Leti and their son, Hector, and the wonderful restaurant they continue to run.

The quaint restaurant is usually packed to the brim on the weekends, and is a popular spot for birthdays and happy hours. If you love margs, you MUST try these margs. Caution – it’s hard to stop at one, so we just go for the whole pitcher.

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Some of our favorite dishes include the Juanito Burrito, Steak en Chipotle (HOT!) and Chicken Fajitas. Amazing and mouth-watering.

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And if you can find room after their generous dishes, their fried ice cream is a delicious butter pecan ice cream with the fried corn flake coating.

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Next time you get that craving for Mexican cuisine, make the trip over to De Juan’s for dinner and margs. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

LizSignature-Pink