The 4th of July brings thoughts of parades, fireworks, sunshine, and food, but if you’re tired of the standard hamburgers and hotdogs, Art Mart in Urbana has everything you need to bring your cookout from traditional to an Epicurean experience.
Walking through the main entrance of Art Mart, I’m met with a serene view of chocolates, pastries, and cheeses in cases and pasta sauces on the shelves. The air holds the tantalizing aroma of coffee and even after having two cups already, I’m tempted for more.
Brian McKay, who owns Art Mart with his wife Courtney, talked with me about all the opportunities Art Mart can create for a barbecue, beginning with the main course. Art Mart carries Raisin River sausages that use a variety of animals (including wild boar, buffalo, and rabbit) in addition to chicken (they have andouille too). One of the most popular, are the Thai chicken sausages that McKay recommends using on kabobs ($7.99/12oz).
Another recommendation McKay had was the French-Moroccan sausage made with lamb and sweet paprika. Art Mart also carries Steigl-Meier garlic sausage, Knackwurst, and bratwursts made from both chicken and pork. All of these have natural casings that crisp nicely on the grill and are very flavorful. I took home a package of the Thai chicken sausages to grill. The Thai sausages were delectable — a balance of spice and savory without any rubbery or gristly interior.
What about sauces for the barbecue? While Art Mart carries a wonderful array of mustards, BBQ sauce and heirloom ketchups, the standout sauce in McKay’s opinion is made by Lillie’s Q (Chicago). Lillie’s Q offers six types of sauce, including Carolina, Carolina Gold, Smoky, Hot Smoky, Ivory, and E.N.C. (16oz for $8.97). Try adding the Carolina Gold to your pulled pork or the mayonnaise based Ivory sauce as a twist to chicken.
Upon the topic of beverages, McKay began talking about Rosé wine, discussing how Rosé gets its color from leaving the skins of the grape in the vat overnight and then removing them the next day. He defends Rosé’s bad reputation due to its association with white zinfandel, when in fact, Rosé is a wonderful compliment to grilling out. “No one wants to drink a Barolo on a hot day,” he says, explaining that Rosé “drinks like a red, but is refreshing like a white.” Art Mart has a variety of Rosé available around $14.99 a bottle and up. I tried the La Flor Rosé ($14.99) and was delighted! To me, the flavors played between a Cab and a Sauvignon Blanc.
If you’re still looking for a white or red to compliment your holiday, McKay recommends the Schwarzböck Grüner Veltliner (white $15.99/liter) or the Chapillon Harmonie (red, on sale for $9.99). Also, Prosecco has also been building in popularity; the Italian sparkling wine has gained notoriety with its delicious quality and low price tag, for example: Nobili at Art Mart is only $11.99. Prosecco is the main component to a Bellini and, whether alone or mixed, it is a great way to begin your holiday!
More of a beer drinker? McKay suggests the Southern Tier Brewing Company stout or IPA. If you are going to start a little earlier in the day, Founders Brewery (Grand Rapids, MI) has an All-Day IPA with a low 4.7% ABV (alcohol by volume). To put this into perspective, most IPAs run between 6–7% ABV. The lowered alcohol content is more conducive for an all day event.
What about the morning after? Art Mart carries a wide array of olives and some fabulous Bloody Mary Mixes. McClure’s from Grand Rapids, MI is recommended as the freshest tasting mix you’ll ever consume, and for $11.97/32oz jar — how can you go wrong?
Are you attending a potluck and need something to bring? Art Mart will tailor make your cheese or antipasto tray. They can make recommendations based off the food, the wine, or the style of gathering, just ask! They carry a broad variety of cheeses. Some great ideas for a barbecue: cheddar cheese with caramelized onions, a four-year-old cheddar, New York White Cheddar by Herkimer County, and a Cotswold cheese (with green onion and chive) double Gloucester. In addition, Art Mart makes fresh mozzarella once a week ($10.49/lb) that would be perfect for your caprese salad.
Other fun items you can find at Art Mart are bamboo skewers, rubs and seasonings from Dean & Deluca, and festive aprons. Art Mart also has homemade sugar cookies in the shapes of flags and stars for the holiday. They are available at the counter $1.49/ea., but if you are wanting more than a dozen, please call ahead!
A final tip from McKay: For kabobs, soak your bamboo skewers in water before using — it will delay them from burning over the grill.
Art Mart is the premier shopping experience for the gourmet, but appeases the tastes of everyone with their large variety and supreme quality.
Art Mart is located in Lincoln Square Mall, Urbana
Hours: Mon–Fri 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m., Sat 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Sun noon–5:00 p.m.
Ph: (217) 344-7979
*CLOSED JULY 4th!*