It’s the middle of America, where reaching a Starbucks without a car means daring to cross a four-lane highway. But if you get off the beaten path, there is an enchanting garden and a historic brewery that embraces its natural resources to serve seasonal dishes, both worth the trip to Rockford.
I started my three-day stay in Rockford on the banks of the Rock River, at Prairie Street Brewing Company, the oldest brewery in the state of Illinois. A beautiful red brick National Historic Landmark building, that is not just serving beer. Thanks to Chef Josh Tourville, their core menu offers at least a handful of seasonal specials that highlight local products from local farmers. Depending on availability and popularity, items could change bi-weekly.
“In the winter I like to use fermented, pickled, and processed products from last season’s farmer crops,” Tourville said. They also get five Berkshire pigs a month from Joe McKenna, an “amazing” pig farmer in Capron, Il.
Notable dishes on the winter menu include:
Berkshire Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
Baby Back Ribs
Faroe Island Salmon Poke
Iowa Premium Certified Angus Beef Flat Iron Steak Frites
House-Made Kimchi Fried Rice
Grilled Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos
After a meal at Prairie Street, walk through the most impressive Anderson Japanese Gardens. Stroll through the 12-acre landscape of babbling streams, rushing waterfalls and winding pathways, to discover koi-filled ponds and carefully manicured paths. The attention to detail with every rock and alignment of trees, allows visitors to leave the outside world behind and be inspired by the tranquility of nature.
Ranked one of North America’s highest quality Japanese gardens for more than a decade, construction began on the space in 1978 when Rockford businessman John Anderson after a visit to Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon. With the ongoing assistance of renowned Master Craftsman and designer Hoichi Kurisu, the Andersons’ swampy backyard along Rockford’s Spring Creek was transformed into a Japanese-style landscape. In 1998 John and Linda Anderson donated to Gardens as a supported organization to the Rockford Rotary Charitable Association and serves as a not-for-profit and for all to enjoy, year round.