The Longbranch entree - Best Bites

Two bacon-wrapped grilled pork chops topped with bacon gorgonzola butter. Served with the housemade cheesy ranch hashbrown croquette.

In last week’s column, I quoted from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.” For some reason, the book stayed in my head. This week I’m using Carroll’s quote, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get,” says the White Rabbit.

Christmas. It wasn’t that long ago when I’d put up seven themed Christmas trees, bake cookies, shop and wrap gifts. Well, it ain’t happen’ this year.

We were once the Griswold family — plenty of lights, decorations both inside and out, cookies were baked and ready to distribute, every present was bought and wrapped. Christmas cards ready to mail the first part of December.

This year? Christmas cards? Ugh. I bought them before Halloween and can’t remember where I stored them. No worries, I’ll send out cards after the first of the year. The twelve days of Christmas don’t end until January 6; still plenty of time!

We’ve failed this year — less Griswold, more Cousin Eddie! The pumpkins on our porch are getting Santa hats, which will be festive enough! As far as our decorations from July 4, we call that patriotic. If you come here expecting freshly baked goodies, don’t. I’ll be glad to open a new roll of cookie dough, and we can share that.

My focus this year is simplistic. Cherish what I do have and not what I don’t have. I am blessed with family, friends and faith.

I’m really looking forward to the New Year, where hopefully things might turn a bit more normal, whatever that is anymore. We’re going out on New Year’s Eve for a wonderful dinner, then a few old movies that will keep playing while we sleep.

Here are a few restaurants that will be open and serving dinner.

The Longbranch

The Longbranch in L’Erable will be open on New Year’s Eve with chefs Nick and Lindsay Bohn’s exceptional menu.

Celebrate the evening by choosing one of their outstanding entrées, which are served with a choice of side and choice of cheesy chicken and wild rice soup or a salad.

Who doesn’t love a fire-grilled 8-ounce filet mignon — tender, juicy and perfectly cooked by Chef Bohn. There’s also a fire-grilled 14-ounce ribeye and another customer favorite, two bacon-wrapped pork chops with a savory bacon gorgonzola butter topping.

Add other toppings to your entrée like sauteed onions, mushroom, garlic Parmesan crust or garlic butter jumbo shrimp. The garlic butter shrimp is terrific and perfectly pairs with the filet or ribeye.

Seafood lovers will appreciate the baked garlic butter cod or the drunken jumbo shrimp served hot with drawn butter.

There is also lobster ravioli with fresh asparagus tossed in lobster cream sauce or a romano and parmesan-crusted chicken with linguine tossed in roasted red pepper cream sauce.

It’s tough making decisions about what to have for dinner.

With your entrée, choose from mashed potatoes, mashed cauliflower, baked potato or cheddar ranch hashbrown croquette. Dave had these last year, and they were fabulous. I can’t decide between the bacon-onion Brussels sprouts or potato.

Save room for dessert, or as Chef Lindsay says, take it home and eat it next year!

Chef Lindsay has planned two beautiful desserts for guests — decadent white chocolate and peppermint cheesecake or Dave’s favorite chocolate ganache cake with caramel drizzle. We actually get one of each and share on New Year’s Day, watching football and staying in our jammies all day.

While there, you must have an ice cream drink — Brandy Alexander is my favorite, but you can also try the butterscotch butterfly or golden Cadillac, all so creamy and tasty.

The Longbranch is one of my favorite restaurants that offers the luxury of elegant entrées without traveling north to the city. Chefs Nick and Lindsay Bohn never disappoint their guests.

The Longbranch is located at 2713 North 1500 East Road, Clifton. Call 815-694-9748 for more information. Reservations are highly recommended.

The Bennett-Curtis House

For a more romantic New Year’s Eve, you might consider going to The Bennett-Curtis House in Grant Park.

The Bennett-Curtis House New Year’s Eve celebration won’t disappoint. This year they will be offering a special five-course Prix Fixe Dinner.

The five-course menu includes a starter, homemade soup, salad, entrée and dessert. This is a reservation-only event.

The menu is impressive and includes an appetizer of a personal charcuterie board with cured meats, cheese, fruits and crackers.

Next up is a delicious creamy lobster bisque, a smooth blend of cream and lobster.

A fresh Caesar salad will be presented with parmesan cheese, buttery herb croutons and Caesar dressing.

One of the entrées is a beautiful combination of succulent shrimp scampi and a tender New York strip.

Chicken Wellington is another excellent choice — tender chicken breast wrapped in a French pastry crust, mushroom sauce with twice-baked potato and glazed carrots.

Seafood lovers will enjoy the Mahi Mahi, grilled and topped with a mango chutney sauce served with rice pilaf and glazed carrots.

Nothing tastes better than a pork filet wrapped in bacon, grilled to perfection with a jack barbeque glaze and served with twice-baked potato and glazed carrots.

A little Italian entrée is another choice that will please. Pasta Primavera is made with fresh garden vegetables tossed with pasta in a light herb, garlic, wine and oil sauce.

Save room for dessert and coffee or liquor. Nothing is more romantic than fruit that is flambeed right at your table. Like the Bananas Foster, where the bananas are flambeed in dark brown sugar, butter, rum and cinnamon and served over ice cream.

A complimentary champagne toast is also included with your dinner.

The price is reasonable, $64.95 per person, tax and gratuity not included. The mansion is gorgeous this time of year with all its beautiful decorations. This is the perfect setting for that romantic start to a New Year.

An optional specialty drink tasting paired with each course is available at $35 per person.

Seatings are available from 4:30 until 8:30 p.m., and the dinner also is available for carry-out.

The Bennett-Curtis House is located at 302 W. Taylor Street, Grant Park. Call 815-465-2288 for reservations and more information.

Happy New Year

Take a deep breath and enjoy a glass of wine for all those with Christmas panic. That’s what I’m going to do right now. As I was rushing to my office to meet my deadline, I stepped in a coughed-up fur ball and dealt with my elderly cat screaming for a treat. Now I’m on my way to handle whatever madness is going on downstairs. Hissing, running and a big crash are never good. Yes, that is my mafia.

As I finish this last column, I wish all a Happy New Year filled with peace and … good grief, now I hear glass breaking!

Tinker Parker is an adjunct communication professor at Kankakee Community College and Governors State University. She can be contacted through The Daily Journal at or directly at;; or Best Bites Hotline 815-802-5101.