Sunday, March 16, 2008

Destination: Maple Syrup Open House

We set off today in search of the Maple Syrup Open House at the Forest Glen Preserve in Westville, Illinois.
Last year we went to the maple syrup fest in Colchester, Illinois and had a fun time, but this year their fest conflicted with another event, so we decided to check this one out.

On our way there, we saw a sign on I-74 for the historic Mansfield General Store, and decided to detour and check it out.
Of course it turns out the general store is closed on Sundays, but we got out to peer in the windows of the neat building.
Nearing 100 years of operation, this store looks to be a little bit of everything to this town, with video rentals, groceries, cigarettes and some ice cream shop chairs and tables in the front window, with a sign boasting 24 flavors of soft serve.

Our next destination was the nature preserve, established in 1968. The roads leading in to where the pancake and sausage meal were held were winding and lined with trees, many of them sugar maples with bags or buckets of sap attacked to their trunks.
Coming into the parking lot, we were a little shocked at the crowd and amount of cars in the parking lot. This event was much larger than the Colchester fest.
We arrived at the building at about 2 p.m., and found a line of people still waiting to sample the pancakes and maple syrup, with serving ending at 4 p.m. Peering in the windows, StfRon could see that the line wound around a few more times before meeting up with the ticket table, so we went to look at the sugar bush, where the sap was being boiled off for maple syrup.
After that, we headed to a cabin on the property, where costumed volunteers were sitting in rockers tending to a fire and visiting with the guests. They offered us cookies and sassafras tea, and we sampled both, then stopped off in the maple syrup sales area. I was hoping for maple candy or maple fudge, but there was none to be found.

We decided to go look for some food in the Danville area.
We saw Schroeder's Drive-In, which was a possibility, but we decided to see what else was around.

As we crested a small hill, we spotted a retro looking donut shop sign, so we decided to check it out. When we saw how cool the Royal Donut building looked, too, we couldn't just drive on by.
Royal Donut has been serving up deliciousness since 1973.
Walking in, the first treat to tempt StfRon was something called an angel bite, a square donut filled with cream icing, iced in chocolate and topped with another dollop of the cream icing. He sampled it right away, was sold on them, and ordered two more to go.
I went with a Bavarian cream, and we also tossed in a glazed one for good measure.
There were also danishes and muffins available, and one case filled with some great looking pies.
Royal Donut also claims to be the first donut shop to use Nextra, the "heart healthy shortening." Hmm, maybe I should have some more donuts...they're healthy, right?

Back in search of more of a meal, we ended up at Schroeder's Drive-In, a former Burger Chef restaurant.
The restaurant, opened in 1960, is graced with a really cool retro sign. The inside looks like a fast food burger restaurant, where you order at the counter and sit at booths to enjoy your meal.
The dining room is decorated with a lot of war plane photos, propellers, other historical photos and there is also a section of Burger Chef memorabilia near the bathroom hall.
We each ordered a burger, and shared an order of onion rings. The food was hot and hit the spot for a quick meal.

On the way back home, I decided to sample one of the angel bites from Royal Donut. Oh, my! It was heavenly, and I'm not really a big donut fan. The entire pastry tasted fresh and different than any I've had before.
I also sampled my Bavarian cream donut and again found it to be extraordinarily good. It also seemed very fresh, and the powdered sugar had a nice sugary grittiness, not too powdery.
If we're ever within a half hour of the place again, I'm sure we'll be stocking up!

Mansfield General Store
107 Jefferson
Mansfield, IL 61854

Forest Glen Preserve
20301 E 900 North Rd
Westville, IL 61883

Royal Donut
911 N Vermilion St,
Danville, IL 61832

Schroeder's Drive-In
432 N Gilbert St
Danville, IL 61832

1 comment:

Jim said...

Gotta love the retro bag that the donuts from Royal Donut came in. Looks like it's straight out of the 1950's.