Hi, I'm Lu!

A PhD Student at University of Chicago who loves discovering the world and trying new eats! Hope you enjoy!

Camping Luau

Camping Luau

Pig roast
Pig roast

I'm not someone who goes camping for vacation, but when I heard there was going to be a pig roast at the Lena KOA (Kampgrounds of America), I was all up for it! This particular campground in northwestern Illinois has themed weekends, and the one with the pig roast is the annual Hawaiian Luau weekend!  But unlike a traditional Hawaiian luau where the kalua pig is roasted in an underground oven, this pig, provided by AJ's Lena Maid Meats, was slow-smoked in a smoker.  And in order for the meat to be consistent all the way through, the butchers had cut it in half before smoking.

This local butcher shop is actually just a 3 minute drive away from the campground.  They've been around for over 50 years and is your ideal mom and pop butcher shop.  The people who work here care about the place and strive to provide the local community (and out of towners like us) with premium quality local meats and cheeses.

AJ's Lena Maid Meats
AJ's Lena Maid Meats

As with many stores, the more you buy, the cheaper it is.  But since we weren't about to purchase 8 T-bones, we chose a sample of various meats to purchase.  As Andrew and his coworker Andy were picking what they wanted to feast on for the next two weeks, I sampled the beef jerky.  After one piece, I had to try another, and another... And maybe a couple more.  It was some of the best beef jerky I've ever had!

Meat and cheese
Meat and cheese

Oh, and be sure not to miss out on their cheese selection!  They have blocks of muenster, swiss, cheddar, etc., but what you should really go for are the fresh cheese curds.  Perfectly seasoned and chewy, the cheddar cheese curds are a must buy!

Roast pork, potato salad, baked beans
Roast pork, potato salad, baked beans

Back at the campground, the pork was ready to be served.  They rang a bell, and people started flocking over slowly.  My mouth was watering as I waited in line, watching people leave with plates piled with pork and other yummies.  When I got to the food, I first served myself a small helping of potato salad.  As I kept moving in the line, I started eating it, and let me tell you - that potato salad was just superb.  It had the perfect proportion of every ingredient!  So after I piled my plate with baked beans, two slices of soft Texas toast and a mountain of pulled pork topped with a sweet BBQ sauce, I got another large helping of AJ's potato salad.

Left: Rainbow sherbet punch Right: Strawberry rhubarb wine
Left: Rainbow sherbet punch Right: Strawberry rhubarb wine

To wash down all that food, Lena KOA served a rainbow sherbet punch.  Believe it or not, it wasn't overly sweet, and it's definitely something I would try making for parties in the future (and maybe even spike it a bit...)!  And at the KOA shop, the bottle of strawberry rhubarb wine caught our eye.  Honestly, this tasted like a sweet strawberry rhubarb juice.  What alcohol?

Andrew and I both finished up that tender pulled pork in record time and wanted to go for seconds, but we had to save room for the ice cream social!

Left: Pineapple upside down cake Right: Root beer float
Left: Pineapple upside down cake Right: Root beer float

Lena KOA certainly did not skimp on desserts.  They provided a deliciously fluffy pineapple upside down cake with the pulled pork meal, and on top of that, there was an ice cream social!  The ice cream was so creamy and rich (exactly what we needed after that meal, right?) and came either in the form of a root beer float or an ice cream sundae.

Ice cream sundae
Ice cream sundae

We had a very yummy weekend getaway, but after that, this week is diet week (aside from the goodies we got from AJ's Lena Maid Meats of course)...

Tips:

  1. This luau weekend is very popular amongst campers so book early!  We booked about 5 months beforehand to stay in a cabin, and when we were there, the campground was filled!
  2. Bring cash for the pig roast ($7 per adult) and ice cream social ($1.50 per sundae or root beer float).
  3. If you can, go with someone who has a portable freezer/fridge so that you can stop by AJ's Lena Maid Meats for some freshly butchered meat!  Also, don't forget to purchase some cheese curds and potato salad!
Sailing Lake Michigan

Sailing Lake Michigan

Maker's Mark Distillery

Maker's Mark Distillery