Category Archives: boozeworthy

El Xampanyet cava and tapas…

El Xampanyet sign

All I had to know about this little cava bar in the middle of the Born neighborhood was that it’s been owned by the same family since the 1930s, and that the house bite was a plate of Cantabrian anchovies. We also hadn’t delved into nearly enough cava, so we paid a visit to the small restaurant stocked with royal blue and white tiles, barrels, photos, bottles and antiques.

The scene 10 minutes after opening

Like most tapas bars, people stood and grazed at the bar, but an expertly timed arrival of 5:30PM (right when they raised the garage door) got us a seat at small cafe table..not that the bar didn’t look happening as hell..and by happening I mean stacked with delicious goodies..

The hungry crowd awaits

We ordered up some cava in awesome glasses that reminded me of a New Year’s Eve toast glass, except the bubbly was delicious (although low-grade, says the guide book), and the stem didn’t break off from the bottom mid-clink. Oh, and two salty, meaty, deliciously olive oil-soaked anchovies rested nearby..

Achovies and cava

From there we had paprika sprinkled artichokes.


Jamon (of course) stacked on crispy bread.

We be jamon..

I don’t remember exactly what this was, a croquette of sorts with cheese, I think, but it was amazing.. If you ever go, you’ll see them skewered on a plate..point and nod.

Lone, but amazing bite

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Recession special at Fatty Cue

Pabst Tall Boy, shot of whiskey, shot of pickle back

I never really order whiskey shots or PBR Tall boys, but when paired with a shot of spicy, salty, frothy pickle back (juice), the trifecta was brilliant and awesome. The “Recession Special” at Fatty Cue in Brooklyn is comprised of all three for $6, and there’s a sipping order (bourbon first, then pickle back, followed by a sip of beer). I actually could’ve chugged an entire glass of the pickle back (which reminded of my parents’ homemade pickles), and our server was kind enough to bring us an extra shot. It was the perfect pre-spicy-dinner “cocktail,” and as the recession continues to lift, this libation trio definitely needs to stay (along with the coriander bacon, pork spare ribs, and crab laksa). Fatty Cue, 91 S. 6th Street, Brooklyn, N.Y.

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Pegu Club

Not a mystery post, the window grates at Pegu Club

Continuing on, the journey continued to Pegu Club, a Indochine-inspired speakeasy I have heard about and had been strangely captivated by ever since I interviewed mixologist extraordinaire-owner Audrey Saunders. The place is the epitome of hidden, tucked away on Houston street, it’s dark, narrow and full of surprises, the first being how totally amazing the smoked trout deviled eggs were..

Smoked trout deviled eggs

Deviled eggs. I mean, really, can they be passed up? But wait, we are sitting at a dark temple of mixology where bitters and tinctures linger behind the bar, Kold-Draft ice cubes clink in glasses, and rye, gin and whiskey meld with fresh fruit juices, fruit liqueurs and more in elegant glasses!! The drinks are fantastic, but the smoked trout deviled eggs snack more than deserve a shout-out. Hickory-smoked rainbow trout is whipped into the yolk along with curry mayonnaise, and thin crunchy slices of almond and tiny chopped chives are sprinkled on top. I could’ve eaten an entire tray for dinner, but we had drinks to try …

The Plum Lady and the Scofflaw

I ordered the Plum Lady; gin, plum wine, lemon juice, Peychaud’s bitters, plum brandy and cherry liqueur with a skewered dried plum as a garnish. It was a stronger than I thought it would be, but not too sweet or overly fruity, and perfectly balanced so that one spirit didn’t dominate, rather they comingled perfectly in the glass, with the help of a bit of sugar and touch of lemon juice. My companion went for the Scofflaw; rye, vermouth, Grenadine and lemon juice garnished with an edible flower. A mix of tart and sweet, it was similar to a Sidecar, but softer, and in his words, “like whiskey in slippers.” It, too, went devilishly well with the eggs. Pegu Club, 77 W. Houston, NYC

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Mojito in motion

Raspberry mojito captured in motion at Cafe 28. Forgot how rockin’ this place is…from the jalapeño-honey-soy-sauce marinated pork chops to the sangria..and of course, fresh muddled mojitos! So I was fumbling to get my camera out and missed the best mint muddling shots (damn!), but I did capture the pre- and post purée action. Cafe 28, 1800 W. Irving Park, 773.528.2883

Mojito line-up...(no Bacardi love intended)

With fresh raspberry purée, summer in a glass

Muddle, mix sip..repeat

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Saraveza Bottle Shop and Pasty Tavern

We were lucky enough to get a table one night at the popular Saraveza Bottle Shop and Pasty Tavern in Portland, a popular beer and pasty bar with the best collection of beer-centric kitsch I have ever seen in one place (second to Von Trier’s in Milwaukee). Awesome American craft brews and Belgian ales (200 bottles and 10 rotating tap selections), beer sign eye candy galore, weird toys, plastic magnetic letters affixed to the old-school coolers and bottle cap-infused table tops. What is not to love? 1004 N. Killingsworth St., Portland

I love the lodgey-ness of this sign

I mean, Billy the Bass, more deer head paraphernalia, awesome lighting...

Beer tasting

Sun drop may be a poor man's Squirt, but I liked it. And of course, the Wisco shout-out in bottle cap form

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Ginger cider at Cooking Fools

I believe there’s a science behind good sandwich board design. When these foldable chalk boards are propped outside bars and restaurants, it’s prime real estate, but too many of them fail to entice. Walk up and down Milwaukee, North and Damen and you’ll see them lined up, some touting $7 Bloody Marys in handwriting that looks like they scribbler has downed one too many. Or even less appealing, at least to me, are the games being shown that day. But when a sandwich board advertises fresh hot ginger apple cider on a bitter cold day, the handwriting doesn’t matter much, I make a beeline inside. The hot drink was being promoted outside of Cooking Fools a few weekends ago, and I stepped right in to try some of the steaming concoction. While I wished there was more ginger to cancel out the sweet of the apples, I loved the texture and it did warm us up as promised. Interested in other ways of warming your soul with libations this week? The store is also hosting a Cocktail Mixology class on Feb. 19 from 6:30-9. With vodka, gin and genever as your weapons, learn to whip up the Aviation, Moscow Mule, and my personal favorite, the Tom Collins. 1916 W. North Ave., 773.276.9377

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Non-mystery post

The view from the Signature Lounge on the 96th at the Hancock

I was really tempted to run this as a mystery post, but figured I’d go ahead and just admit that I was hanging at the Signature Lounge for a post-Andrew Bird show cocktail this week. We were in the neighborhood (Fourth Presbyterian Church) and decided to take the ear-popping elevator up to the 96th Floor of the Hancock for a drink. It was also freeze-ass cold outside, and didn’t want to go too far. Anyway, after living in Chicago for more than 10 years, I’m sorry, I still love this place. It was absolutely hopping on a Tuesday night, and we got the last two seats pulled up to the window. Of course it’s all about the view here (even an unexpectedly awesome one from the ladies’ restroom), and the over-priced cocktails. I did appreciate the idea of hot cocoa/coffee/tea drinks spiked with booze, and went for the Clementine Tea (description: Svedka Clementine vodka, cranberry juice, fresh brewed tea)…(reality: weak bag of Lipton black with a hardly a hint of vodka and maybe half a splash of cran, a random straw and overwhelming orange slices). I will pretty much only pay more than $10 for a cocktail if I’m the Violet Hour, but we made an exception only for the view I don’t think I could get tired of (see said awesome non-mystery post pic above). The Signature Lounge at the 96th, 875 N. Michigan Ave., 312.787.9796.

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