Photo: Tim Parkinson
By Wendy Aeschlimann
Thanksgiving is maybe not the best time to go against tradition. Changing out your great aunt’s green-bean casserole or your mother’s sweet-potato-marshmallow dish could get you fired from the family. Still, Thanksgiving can be predictable and boring, comprised of discordant sweet, tart and savory flavors that are not easy to match with one type of wine. You just know the meal will be heavy with fat, butter and cream. Turkey, the star protein, is frequently bland and dry. And, alas, the dinner lasts for hours; if you drink too heavily, you’ll be snoozing on the couch by four.
Beaujolais nouveau arrives in stores about a week before Thanksgiving. (Funny how that works, right?) Bottles of this popular red usually find their way to the table. Instead of going with that lightweight red, we suggest serving an oddball white wine. Or two.
White wines have a pronounced acidity and citrusy, mineral notes that cut through fatty foods and accent a variety of flavors. White wine is also lighter on the palate so you can drink plenty without blowing out your taste buds. In addition, whites are usually more reasonably priced than reds. You don’t have to default to routine California Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Chardonnay tends to be over-oaked and so can make turkey taste like wood. Sauvignon Blanc is too often horrifyingly tart. Both varietals—especially in less expensive price ranges—can be dull and one-dimensional.
By branching out to oddball whites, you’re likely to get lucky in even the under-$15-a-bottle range. Shebnem Ince of Perman Wine Selections (802 West Washington) is a sommelier who knows a lot about unusual wines. I asked her to pick a weirdo white wine in three price categories. After we get her suggestions in each category, I’ll suggest a few of my own. Read the rest of this entry »
Chuck Cowdery/Photo: F Minnick
By David Hammond
Chuck Cowdery is a world-renowned, Chicago-based whiskey writer and the author of several books, including his recent: “Bourbon, Strange: Surprising Stories of American Whiskey.” He is a Kentucky Colonel and a member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame.
We met up with Cowdery last spring in Louisville, where we both attended a series of events related to the Bourbon Classic, a celebration of America’s native spirit. As the snow starts to fly in Chicago, we sought Cowdery’s advice as to what bourbon we should be considering as we nestle into winter.
Let’s say I’m a bourbon beginner. What three bourbons do I really need to have—and why do I need to have them?
Maker’s Mark is a good place to start. The mild, wheated bourbon recipe, which contains no rye, makes this bourbon easy to drink. If you find Maker’s Mark too harsh, you’ll probably never like bourbon. Buffalo Trace is a more traditional rye-recipe bourbon but very well-balanced. If you like both of those, try Bulleit Bourbon. It contains twice as much rye as most rye-recipe bourbons. If you like all three, then you’re ready to try everything else. Read the rest of this entry »
By David Hammond
Charcuterie is our favorite part of the meal. That’s because we’re always hungriest at the start, but also because charcuterie offers such a wide spectrum of flavors. Though these flavors perk the palate, it’s challenging to find one wine that pairs well with, for instance, fresh and ripe cheeses, cured meat and condiments.
Joe Fiely is corporate wine ambassador for Francesca’s Restaurant Group. We ran into him at Davanti Enoteca with some questions about how to pair wines with charcuterie.
Generally, what pairs best with charcuterie—white or red wine?
I love white wines with cheese, in part because they work with a much wider range of cheeses. My favorites are crisp, young whites paired with goat cheese; slightly sweet, off-dry whites with blue cheese; aged and oxidized whites with aged cheeses. With white wines, it’s hard to go wrong. Read the rest of this entry »
Pauly Graves of Gemini Bistro, courtesy Neil Burger
By Dennis Lee
Gemini Bistro in Lincoln Park recently celebrated its fifth year in business. I stopped by just after their anniversary to chat with head bartender Pauly Graves, who’s been with Gemini Bistro since opening day. Pauly has an easygoing demeanor, but one that also speaks to his seventeen-year experience behind the bar. He greets his customers like family, but also maintains his professional posture, making sure their experience is as comforting as the food and drinks he serves. I watched him serve drinks with a deft hand and a generous pour as he reflected on his five years at Gemini Bistro.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in terms of what you do now?
Reading people and giving them what they need, other than booze in a glass. The guy who wants to sit here, read his book, and not be bothered? I’m great at that. He doesn’t even know I’m there. The woman who just lost her husband and wants to talk; I got that in my wheelhouse too, no problem. I like to give more of a… bedside manner. I’m used to the Chicago drinker now. I know what they want. Everyone’s first words when they look at this menu, “Is it sweet, is it sweet, is it sweet?” Read the rest of this entry »
Usually, white wine is for warmer weather and red wine for cooler. Beer, on the other hand, is year-round. Still, there are somewhat heavier-weight beers that are brewed for autumn-winter. With fierce weather predicted for Chicago in the coming months, you might want to lay in a few cases of these three local ales to see you through the colder season (you don’t want to get snowed in without liquid bread on hand).
The following brews—good for Halloween and beyond—are listed in order of increasing heaviness.
Scylla’s Grasp (Urban Legend)
Pulling through the scary theme of the season, Scylla’s Grasp from Urban Legend is a crisp pale ale made with a “mosaic” (i.e., collection) of hops that make for a lot of dimension in each sip. There’s pronounced hoppiness, but also some light citrus, a pleasing combination that would be welcome on an autumn evening. The first sip tickles the buds with light astringency, and the backend pays off with layers of taste, some bitter, others floral. The different angles of light flavor in this brew make this a good food beer: it’s likely that any dish set before you will contain flavors that will complement the many, though uncluttered, tastes in Scylla’s Grasp. If you like hops but recoil from the current trend toward over-hopped beers, this is a good one for you. Read the rest of this entry »
Quintin Cole/Photo: Lilly Carey
By Ben Kramer
When the snowmageddon of 2011 hit Chicago, it shut down schools, businesses and even Lake Shore Drive. The storm also managed to form a friendship that would eventually lead to the birth of Vice District Brewing. “We met as neighbors,” co-owner Quintin Cole recalls on meeting fellow co-owner Curtis Tarver II. “He helped dig me out during the snowmageddon, and that’s how we met.”
Three-some years after that historic winter, Vice District Brewing and its taproom are set to debut August 22, with their Black IPA, Extra Special Bitter, Blonde, IPA and Molasses Porter. Opening with unique styles was a conscious decision. “We decided to come out with something that’s a little different,” explains Cole. “Most people are unfamiliar with some of the styles we’re coming out with. Black IPA is not something a lot of people are familiar with…we just felt like we wanted to have a nice mix of beers that represent what we like, but also complementary to people coming in who if they want an IPA we have one.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Stefan Castellanos
A young man journeys to a faraway land, its culture sparking a passion deep within, one that would go on to shape the man’s life in ways unimaginable. This familiar story could involve all manner of discoveries—language, the arts, sport, siesta. But as it did many Americans in the early nineties, it was a fascination with beer that took hold of a young Paul Leamon during his travels through Europe. Aged for more than two decades now, during which craft brews have gradually achieved omnipresence in our taverns and liquor marts, Paul’s relationship with beer has deepened in complexity, spilling into new and unforeseen walks of his life. An avid home-brewer, a connoisseur of food-beer pairings, and now an entrepreneur, he seeks to further startup ventures and a greater appreciation for craft beer via his newest project, Beermiscuous. Read the rest of this entry »
By Stefan Castellanos
On the evening before opening day of the 2014 World Cup, something strange occurred. I was sitting at North Center’s The Globe Pub enjoying my customary Guinness. They were playing highlights from past tournaments all night long—a perfect primer for the match in Sao Paulo the following day—and I wanted all of it in me in time for kickoff. The story of 2002 Korea-Japan was coming to a close, Brazil and Germany lining up for the final in Yokohama, and memories turned visceral.
This was the first World Cup match I’d ever tuned into live, and I recalled thirteen-year-old me creeping down the stairs before sunrise to watch alone. Lord knows why. Even as the Americans dos a cero’d Mexico on their way to the last eight, I was apathetic. But for whatever reason, I risked being given a proper chiding for dozing off in church later that morning and I watched from start to finish. God’s wrath was temporary, I figured, but the wrath of Kahn (legendary German keeper and most outstanding player of 2002 Oliver Kahn, that is) would haunt me forever. He and Ronaldo (Brazil’s superstar striker and top scorer of the tournament) were the only players I’d heard of, and I still knew virtually nothing of them. I watched in puzzled silence as the bucktoothed Brazilian notched the only two goals of the match, and I tried to make sense of this story’s impossibly foreign plot, its faraway setting, and its characters, unlike me in every way. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ben Kramer
Beer brings bliss. Summer is bliss. Pair them and you’ll have a wonderful time. Since we are blessed with such a beer-conscious city, Chicago breweries produce hundreds of ales and lagers, all easily accessible to our taste buds and many now use the hot season to release some cool limited releases. For each beer we’ve highlighted one of, in most cases many, places to taste it.
Rosa Hibiscus Ale (Revolution Brewing)
Available at Revolution’s brewpub, 2323 North Milwaukee, until September
Named after Civil Rights hero Rosa Parks, this beer was a tag-team effort by Revolution owner Josh Deth and head brewer Jim Cibak. Deth suggested brewing with hibiscus flowers (along with coining the beer’s name), and Cibak crafted the recipe. Carrying a floral aroma, with hints of cherry and cranberry, the hibiscus provides a natural tartness, which is subtle in the mix. A crisp, refreshing beverage, Rosa bears a pinkish hue (achieved by steeping the flowers in the wort before fermentation), which gives it an appearance that’s well, Rosie. Read the rest of this entry »
By Stefan Castellanos
A winter bar must have two doors. They can’t be French doors, which swing open to reveal the splendor of summering in the countryside, les enfants Jean-Pierre and Gaston playing petanque in the yard as Papa scans the hills before the partridge hunt. They must instead be one in front of the other—two single doorways several feet apart, forming an enclosed vestibule. This pocket of space deadens the incoming cold. Once inside, the view looking out through the plate-glass doors is bleak by comparison. In the frosty, refracted frame there is a young man playing a futile game of “Can I eat these cheese fries with gloves on?” as he waits a frozen eternity for the Clark bus. And there are no partridges; it’s so damn cold there aren’t even pigeons. No splendor in sight, only tempered struggle.
These doors allow us to keep the elements chained up outside. We’re always aware of their existence, but for the moment we’re unencumbered, even liberate, by it. They allow us to say, “Yes, Winter, I hear/see you knocking, and no, I won’t be out until I damn well please.” And although many places have them, there is no more deliberate set of “Chicago doors” than those protecting the Duke of Perth. Read the rest of this entry »