On the weekends, when the bankers flee to the ’burbs, filching swigs of liquor on the Metra, the LaSalle Street canyon goes dark. The corridor between Jackson Boulevard and Madison Street becomes a lonely hearts club, inhabited by scant hotel dwellers and a few stragglers purged from revelry at The Berghoff or Miller’s Pub. It’s precisely the kind of noir landscape you’d expect Batman might perch above on a skyscraper cornice, contemplating his existential doom. Advertisements
Like George Clooney, cocktails get better with age.
HORCHATA If your jaw is wired shut, Nuevo Léon’s horchata, the popular milky rice drink sweetened with sugar and dusted with cinnamon, is the perfect straw-friendly fix. 1515 W. 18th St.; 312-421-1517 $1.75 AGUA FRESCA Typically, agua fresca, a mix of water and fruit available at almost every taquería, tastes like diluted Kool-Aid. The one at La Lagartija Taquería is a juicy elixir rife with sweet watermelon cubes and plump strawberry hunks. 132 S. Ashland Ave.; 312-733-7772 $2.25 MARGARITA A good margarita starts with 100 percent blue agave tequila and real lime juice. By that standard, the margarita at Salud Tequila Lounge, made with peppery pear-noted Herradura Silver, agave syrup, and fresh-squeezed lime is great. 1471 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-235-5577 $8 CHAMPURRADO Mexican hot chocolate often means thin reconstituted powder mix. Rick Bayless’s sandwich emporium, Xoco, serves a thick brew of champurrado (bean-to-cup chocolate) made with fresh-roasted ground cacao beans that display bright acidity and nuanced coffeelike flavors. 449 N. Clark St.; 312-334-3688 $2.50 to $4.25 MICHELADA Start with beer and mix in any number of items, such as salt, hot sauce, or honey, and you’ve got yourself a hot cocktail. Maiz’s tart rum, lime, and Mexican beer mix, a.k.a.…
Last week Oprah discovered ethical eating and the whole Michael Pollan anthology.
Artisanal spirits are the new micro-brew. It seems as if small-scale liquor dudes are rivaling celebrity deaths in number these days. Unfortunately, I’ve found that most of these booze-artisans are pretty much snake-oil salesman capitalizing on the human penchant for the little guy while passing off bad-to-mediocre vodka.
There may be no better time in our history to hit the bottle. Certainly we are not lacking for motivation, what with all the layoffs, pay reductions, bankruptcies and mortgage adjustments. But, more importantly, even with thinner wallets, because of the over-production of wine, the growth in negociants (folks who often capitalize on that over-production by buying great wines for a song and selling them for a comparably low price at retail), and increases in manufacturing efficiencies, we’ve never had greater opportunity to buy relatively low-priced wine.
It’s hard to resist the allure of Champagne that’s been poured all over some hip hop groupie’s booty. But, if you find yourself in a wine store contemplating a bottle of Cristal this weekend, I got a better bottle that’ll save you some Benjamins.
Some of you may remember I interviewed Cameron Hughes about a year and a half ago. Hughes owns no vineyards, makes no wine, but he has an inside connection to some of the best wineries that do. The way the model works is many top wineries produce wine that either doesn’t fit in to their profile or they make too much of a wine. That’s where Hughes steps in. He buys up the excess lots and then markets them under his own label and sells them direct on his website or through Costco. Because Hughes bypasses traditional middle men and marketing fees, he’s able to offer incredible wines for a value.
This last week I’ve been drinking more than Charles Bukowski and Orson Welles at an Arizona State Keg Party. Speaking of which, I found some pretty funny (actually sad) drunken outtakes of the eminent Shakespearian actor and celebrated director slinging Paul Masson plonk. But I digress. I’ve been drinking a lot of wine and I came across a couple of bottles this week worth mentioning… 2005 Muller Catoir Haardter Burgergarten Riesling Spatlese (Pfalz) Forget Bogey/Bacall, Brad and Angelina, Jay and Silent Bob, the front end citrusy sweetness and backend acidity on this bottle along with my Thai chili and limey crispy onion topped banana blossom salad from Thalia on Monday was the perfect match. One of the best German rieslings I’ve had in a while. You’ll find it at Sam’s. 2007 Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) One sniff of this crisp number is like getting a swirly in a toilet filled with ruby red grapefruit juice. The fruity splash here is atypical of your normally arid Savvy Blanc. At only like $16 bucks a bottle at Binny’s, if your palate agrees with me or not, it ain’t no big thang….nice sipper to wash down some Harold’s fried chicken.
Terry Theise, the Lon Chaney of wine Terry Theise is a man of a thousand faces. Well, at last five or six. In the introduction to his 2007 German wine catalog, the legendary importer’s Fu Manchu-ed visage and hands are engaged in a range of poses including rapture, self-strangulation, a Humbert Humbert-style leer, mock-contemplation and a potential gang sign (Austrian Riesling represent.) Theise’s pictorial is accompanied by a “War and Peace”-length manifesto punctuated with quotes from poets and philosophers. Some of his personal tenets: “Harmony is more important than intensity”; “The whole of any wine must always be more than the sum of its parts”; “Soul is more important than anything, and soul is expressed as a trinity of family, soil and artisanality.”