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Tag: drinks

The case for beer: Local breweries finding success with popular summer beers (Sun-Times Media)

According to the Washington-based Beer Institute, annual beer consumption in Illinois dropped from 53 to 50 six packs per person between 2007 and 2011.

While that may be the case, my colleague Mike Danahey noted, there remains a growing number of places that are offering smaller batches of quality product — and are taking a larger portion of the market share. I contributed to his article this weekend about local breweries finding success with popular summer beers, interviewing Village Vintner Winery & Brewery in Algonquin.


The appeal of a beer in the summer is obvious to Steve and Bob Boyer, the brothers behind Village Vintner Winery & Brewery in Algonquin (thevillagevintner.com). It’s cold and refreshing.

Village Vintner added craft brews to its repertoire in late May when it expanded from a winery in Carpentersville to a winery, brewery and restaurant just up Randall Road at 2380 Esplanade Drive, near Algonquin Commons. That makes it just the third combination winery/ brewery in Illinois and the only one in the Chicago area, Steve Boyer said.

The brewmaster went from brewing 10 gallons of beer at a time, just for fun, to two 100-gallon batches a day, filling the brewery’s three 200-gallon fermenters, so “there will be some adjusting.” But, he said, “So far, so good.”

First up at Village Vintner were No Doubt Stout, English Red Ale and Vanilla Cream Ale. Recently joining them were IPA-, Hefeweizen- and Belgian Wit-style beers.

Steve Boyer recommended the Hefeweizen or Belgian Wit, both light, wheat beers, as perfect summer brews. The Hefeweizen in particular is “light and citrusy and lower in alcohol,” he said. Compared to other Hefeweizens, Village Vintner’s is “a little bit more of the clove than the banana, but a nice balance.”

But Boyers, who oversee restaurant operations at Village Vintner, have noticed one thing already this summer: “It’s not always the light beer,” Steve Boyer said. “People don’t care anymore.”

One guest beer that’s been popular at Village Vintner is Robert the Bruce, a Scottish ale by 3 Floyds’s Brewing Company in Munster, Ind., the brothers said. That’s a dark, malty beer, hard to find on draft in the area.

And, they said, customers have raved about the brewery’s own Vanilla Cream Ale, light and sweet and not unlike the brew at the former Prairie Rock Brewery in downtown Elgin.

“Everybody from Elgin remembers Prairie Rock. It’s been getting rave reviews,” Bob Boyer said.

For the rest of the story read The Case for Beer: Local breweries finding success with popular summer beers (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Andrew Nelles for Sun-Times Media.


I have tasted the future…

…And it is delicious!

Joel and I were part three of a past-present-future-themed progressive dinner party for our fellow River City ESL volunteers this weekend. Which meant we were tasked with creating futuristic desserts and serving them in our very vintage first apartment, furnished almost entirely with pieces we’ve found in thrift stores, alleyways and parents’ basements.

We looked to Adriano Zumbo’s futuristic creations at The Star in Sydney, the amuse-bouches at The Aviary in Chicago and 1960’s sci-fi (about as modern as we were going to get our apartment to look) for inspiration. The desserts of the future, we decided, will be neon-colored, geometrically-shaped and individually-sized.

Here’s the menu we came up with from that:

  1. Joel and I go overboard with food — not so much the decorations. He wrapped the TV and some cardboard “serving platters” in tin foil, and I played muted episodes of “Star Trek: The Original Series” to the soundtrack of this futuristic Spotify playlist I built around Sufjan Stevens’ album “The Age of Adz.” We also filled vases and Mason jars with the weirdest flowers we could find, sitting in water we’d squeezed neon-colored highlighter ink into, which does not actually glow in the dark, as I was led to believe. It still looks really cool.
  2. Soju-soaked watermelon with custard and cilantro filling, inspired by The AviaryThai-style creme caramel desserts (recipe, via About.com).
  3. Creamy lime squares (recipe, via Eat, Live, Run).
  4. Cake eggs, inspired by The Cupcake Project.
  5. This is what I mean by “cake eggs.”
  6. The Future Fashioned. Really, just an Old Fashioned with a chunk of dry ice thrown in for futuristic effect.
  7. The Buzz Aldrin (recipe, via Brooks Bilson).
  8. Not pictured: Fruit tart, adapted from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Molten lava cakes, adapted from “Lunch in Paris,” with some red Pop Rocks thrown on top for popping lava action.

On hospitality…

Joel and I both love offering hospitality. We both love having people over and talking to them and cooking for them and showing them weird movies and making them feel at home in our home. After the past and present parties this weekend, though, I was starting to feel a little insecure. Both were in clean, newly-rehabbed apartment buildings. Our apartment building dates back to the 1880’s and hasn’t been very well maintained. The linoleum is peeling up in the bathroom, and there always seems to be a thin layer of dirt over everything, no matter how often I clean.

But then, our guests arrived. And when one of them settled into the rocking chair in our living room Saturday night, a third-generation hand-me-down from a friend, he said, “It just feels really good in here.”

That’s the point of hospitality. And that’s where it differs from “entertaining.” That’s what I’ve learned so far in the first chapter of “A Life that Says Welcome” by Karen Ehman.

Ehman is in the third and final week of an online hospitality study based on her book. Naturally, I stumbled across this late last week and just am joining now, although it appears, thanks to a hold-up on the book being available in stores, I am not the only one. Ehman has promised “lots of grace.”

Today’s video blog in the online hospitality study from guest Renee Swope reinforced that lesson about hospitality I learned this weekend. Maybe it’s something you need to read today, too:

“God often used that to challenge me to look beyond what I had to offer physically or materially to really just what I had to offer from my heart, and He really stretched me and just showed me it’s not about how big your house is or how much food you serve. It’s about making a welcome place, a warm place where people feel comfortable.”

Click photos to embiggen.

RECIPE: Hot Toddy… FOR HEALTH! (Lean Girls Club)

Battling an end-of-winter cold or flu after the snow this weekend in Chicago? I shared my husband’s hot toddy recipe for your health today on Lean Girls Club.

For the rest of the story, click the photo above.


My husband and I are kind of like your weird grandparents who always are trying to get you to eat things like beets and sugar-free candies and prescribing homemade tonics and tinctures for what’s ailing you. (Except for the sugar-free candies part. That’s just what my Polish great-grandma always tried to force-feed me.)

When I branded my arm with a hot baking sheet the week before our wedding, Joel read online to smear honey over the burn and wrap it in plastic wrap. (It left a barely-visible scar on my arm and a sticky spot on our seating chart.) When, after catching every cold and flu I came in contact with this winter, my tonsils became infected, he mixed me salty lime water and hot, spicy milk. (My throat did indeed feel better after three nights boiling milk with turmeric, but that more likely had to do with…

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RECIPE: A Fig Old-Fashioned for every season

Tyler Huckabee is the finder of awesome things. Even when somebody else finds the things and posts them on his Facebook page, they are awesome.

Like this recipe for a Fall Fig Cocktail from theKitchn.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Kristin loves figs. Also, that figs aren’t in season all that long; certainly, not in February. And so this recipe, posted on Tyler’s Facebook page, launched a citywide fig hunt to MAKE. THIS. COCKTAIL. That included stops at a Middle Eastern market, Trader Joe’s and (gulp) Whole Foods. The latter is where we found the next best thing to fresh figs… fig juice.

And so was born the poor man’s (or Old Man Winter’s) Fig Old-Fashioned, made with fig and orange juices for those snowbound in wintry Chicago, like Kristin. And maybe you. (You’re welcome.)

It’s a murky drink, not particularly attractive. But as Kristin described it, “The figgy cocktail was like a dense foggy evening that broke into crisp view of Orion.”

In other words, syrupy, tangy, well-balanced and DELICIOUS.

Fig Old-Fashioned
Adapted from theKitchn

1 ounce fig juice
1-1/2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce orange juice
1/4 ounce grade B maple syrup
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Pour ingredients over ice into a cocktail shaker. Shake, then strain into an Old-Fashioned glass.

Makes one drink, but you’ll end up making a couple more than that.

Photo taken with Retro Camera. Antlers blog divider via IROCKSOWHAT.