By Ernest Barteldes
A decade or so ago, the açaí berry was starting to get a lot of attention in Brazil, where many began consuming its pulp in a bowl mixed with granola or other ingredients to benefit from its antioxidant and energetic properties.
Word spread quickly, and soon the fruit—which is taken from palm trees that grow natively in the Amazon region—made its way to the United States market. The first company to exploit it stateside was Sambazon, an American company that specializes in exotic tropical fruit. Açaí has come to be regarded as a “super fruit” that is now featured in dozens of products, going from fruit smoothies to dietary supplements, conditioners and açaí-infused vodkas by Absolut and VeeV—the latter of which is used to make the “Veev a Loca” martini at the Signature Room on Michigan Avenue. Continue reading
Fueled by the phenomenon of Groupon, deal-of-the-day marketing is changing the way people live. Every morning tens of thousands of Chicagoans wake up to an email offering an outrageous bargain for anything from a boot-camp exercise class to parachuting out of a plane. Even the lazy acrophobic is persuaded to purchase these deals because of the enormous price reductions. While the discounts are remarkable, those who prefer to maintain a steady lifestyle of drinking with friends are more interested in saving money on things they already do regularly. Poggled.com is a nightlife destination site that focuses on drink, food and event specials in Chicago bars and restaurants. Unlike web-based deal-of-the-day competitors, Poggled offers “real deals in real time” with its new iPhone application, explains the company’s co-founder Joe Matthews. Because “people don’t like to make decisions until they are walking out the door,” says Matthews, a deal can be discovered, purchased and instantly redeemed while already sitting comfortably in your local neighborhood tavern. For the more adventurous social drinker, registered users can search for deals by day of the week as well as GPS location using the Poggled iPhone app to scout out a new bar scene adding a splash of spontaneity and savings to their recreational routine. Continue reading
Photo: Renata Baluk
By Ernest Barteldes
The New York Bar and Wine Show, an annual two-day convention that takes place at Midtown Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Convention Center, showcases what’s new in the beverage industry, from special registers wirelessly attached to bottles (to better control the drinks sold) to novelties like a Russian roulette-style game wherein a plastic revolver has a chamber that releases a shot of liquor to the lucky ‘winner’—if the ‘loaded’ chamber ends up in his or her hand (think bachelor parties and dorm rooms, if you’re wondering who would do this).
But the greatest attraction is, of course, the booze, and this year’s event had plenty, ranging from new liquor brands, international beers and wines to the latest ideas in mixology presented by different bartenders from all over the world. Continue reading
Logan Square is host to a food co-op, plenty of dive bars, at least one moderately classy tavern and, now, a brand new brewery. Revolution Brewing Company, a new restaurant and brewery ten years in the making, has opened its doors on Milwaukee Avenue just west of California. Josh Deth, managing partner, has a history with Chicago and beer. He’s logged hours at Goose Island and the now-defunct Golden Prairie Brewing Company (not to mention he had a large hand in starting Handlebar). Brew man Jim Cibak is no novice either. He’s worked alongside Deth at Goose Island as well as other breweries such as Three Floyds. Obviously, beer is the big draw with such homebrews as the Workingman Mild and Eugene, however, Revolution has a full food menu ranging from bacon-fat popcorn to Hampshire-Duroc Pork Chop. “It’s a very warm and comforting place,” Deth, assures. “You’ll immediately feel that when you come in.” Revolution Brewing works on a first come, first serve basis. So regardless of when you get there, you’re bound to see some familiar faces. As Deth points out, the place has been packed with “lots of neighborhood folks” since its opening. (Peter Cavanaugh)
By Ernest Barteldes
While I was living in Brazil as an adult in the 1990s, the liquor known as cachaça was regarded as a poor man’s drink found only in corner botecos (dive bars) where a shot could be purchased for as little as fifty cents. Broke youngsters and college students would buy a cheap bottle in order to make homemade caipirinhas in spite of the horrible hangovers that would follow.
I remember that quite well—as a perennially broke student in my college years, I often found myself with an empty pocket. But only a few bucks were enough for the cheapest of poisons.
Today, however, cachaça is reaching a more refined audience thanks to the efforts of a handful of dedicated companies that have done a lot to bring the spirit to a higher level. “Cachaça is today in the same position that vodka, chianti and tequila were about fifteen years ago,” explains Steve Luttman, producer of Leblon, one of the more recent brands specially created for the international market. Continue reading