Ropp Cheese, DESTIHL Restaurant Bring McLean County Foods From Farm to Table

October 28, 2011 at 7:51 pm EST
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PHOTO CREDIT: Antony Boshier

When you start your meal at DESTIHL Restaurant & Brew Works with the Ropp Jersey Cheese Curds, hand-breaded and fried and served with roasted garlic and tomato sauce, you’re taking part in McLean County’s version of the farm-to-table movement that is sweeping the nation. The same goes for an appetizer of Ropp cheese curds with spicy marinara at Swingers Grille, the restaurant located at All Seasons, a Normal golf center.

The Ropps, a fifth-generation farming family, started making cheese on their 450-acre Normal farm in October 2006, and the Ropp Jersey Cheese retail store opened a month later. The Ropps make more than 70 types of cheese in their self-contained, USDA-certified cheese-processing facility.

The timing couldn’t have been better for DESTIHL, which opened in The Shoppes at College Hills in the fall of 2007. The restaurant's concept is grounded upon handcrafted New American cuisine and handcrafted beers, DESTIHL’s executive chef creates a number of tantalizing dishes from Ropp cheeses, such as the chicken and bleu cheddar salad and the grilled stuffed pasta – filled with artichokes, kalamata olives, onion and herb cheese curds, sun-dried tomatoes, and basil. Other ingredients also come from local suppliers, such as ramps (wild leeks) from Spence Farms, sunflower and pea shoots from Stewards of the Land farmers’ co-op, and bacon from Twin Oaks Farm – all located in Fairbury, which borders McLean County.

The bounty of Illinois farms – including several from McLean County – also can be found at The Garlic Press, a kitchen and food store and café located in Uptown Normal, and The Common Ground Natural Foods retailer in downtown Bloomington. On their shelves and menus, customers will find locally grown fruits and vegetables; eggs from local chickens; raw, local honey; locally grown and ground whole-wheat flour; and locally produced soaps.

Other local eateries include: the Fireside Inn in Lexington, which serves seafood, burgers, chicken, steak, pizza, pasta, soups and salads, and also offers catering; and Sisters Victorian Tea Room & Gifts on East College Avenue in Normal. Sisters' menu features classic treats such as homemade chicken noodle soup‚ corn chowder‚ quiche Lorraine‚ broccoli mushroom cheddar quiche‚ sandwiches and salads. Its savory sweets include cream puffs with butter rum sauce‚ nut tartlets covered with honey glaze and gingerbread cake topped with a pumpkin mousse. More than 100 gourmet teas are available – among them‚ chocolate orange truffle and the most popular variety‚ mango pineapple banana.

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