Farm & Garden

The Front Lawn vs. The Front Vegetable Garden

July 30 2011 - 10:49 AM

The front lawn is a waste of water and requires tons of pesticide… and do you really use it? Really? Glimpse our future…

India Pale Ale Festival at Quenchers

July 28 2011 - 5:02 PM

If you are a hophead, that is, a fan of hopped up beers (I am), you will appreciate that Quenchers Saloon is having an IPA festival on August 3rd and 17th, 2011, featuring 12 IPA's on tap each night representing all major U.S. geographical regions.  The first week will feature the incredible West Coast lineup versus the upstart Upper Midwest.   The sturdy East Coast will take on the rugged Mountains and Plains division during the second week.  I'm not sure but I think Vegas has the West Coast as a 4-1 favorite. 

Standouts featured will be Port Wipeout IPA, Dogfish Head 90 Minute, Stone IPA, Dark Horse Crooked Tree, Victory Hop Devil, Bell's Two Hearted, and Alpha King.  Note that the website linked below lists Dark Horse "Double Crooked Tree" as being on the list; but the listed ABV and the fact that few double IPA's are on this list would suggest that it's actually the Crooked Tree.  The full lineup is listed here

This is a very cool idea to pit IPA's against each other based on region.  Good luck trying them all.  As the craft beer insurgency explodes in our collective Chicago faces, more and more bars are hosting these types of tap takeovers to draw in craft brew lovers.  Bless them for that. 

2401 North Western


Spoon Thai – A Poor Man's Next Restaurant Tour of Thailand?

July 26 2011 - 12:12 PM

LettucesaladNot sure if this is the "Poor Man's Next Thai Menu" or the "Luckless Man's Next Thai Menu" but either way it's way cheaper and waaaay easier to get a table! That being said, while the rigamarole is apples and oranges, the food is far more similar. It's a testament to Next that they are able to shift to a Thai menu that provides a combination of authentic flavors while adding wonderful proteins and preparations that go a long way to create something more unique.

Spoon Thai has always been notorious for their Thai-language menu, which has changed a bit over the last 10 years. The last 2 pages look like an appendix but you can, and should, order off of that menu for unique and tasty fare that they, in the past, deemed too unusual for western palates. The lettuce leaf salad here is in that part of the menu.
I wasn't planning on writing this as a comparison but when I saw the catfish curry in banana leaf, it made me think of my dinner at Next. Those flavors were there but not in the same dish in the same way. In any event I ordered the Hor Mok which is steamed catfish in curry that is pressed into a banana leaf. Think of it as a curry-catfish-cake.


Port Brewing Older Viscosity

July 26 2011 - 10:18 AM

Why is a raven like a writing desk?  Only Lewis Carroll can answer that one.  I suggest that a great beer is like a great movie: you begin by observing it, start enjoying it, it takes over your senses to a degree, and it's gone before you know it.  That was my arc of impressions from "The Social Network" which I thought was the best movie of 2010.  It was one of those rare movies that passed the clock test:  I never once checked my cell phone for the time.  It was brilliantly paced, the dialogue was at a breakneck speed, and it never dragged for a moment.  Think about it.  They managed to make a movie about a Harvard student coding software as told in flashbacks occurring during a legal depositon – about the most boring place to be on Earth – and made it edgy, stylish, and above all, interesting, as it sent your mind racing with anticipation. 

A beer, Port Brewing's Older Viscosity Ale would seem to have almost nothing in common with this or any movie.  But it does.  This bourbon barreled American strong ale, as it's described, is also incredibly seamless, edgy, and disappears before you know it's gone.  It's very dark and looks like it's going to be a stout or porter, but has a distinct translucence like somewhat spent motor oil, hence the name.  It smells and tastes of bourbon, vanilla, raisins, dark chocolate, and I've even heard molasses.  It's faintly sweet, or, rather, bittersweet.  At 12.5% ABV, it can easily be aged for a while, and should be, to tame the flavors and allow them to blend delectably. 

This is a great sipper from the snifter glass for quiet evenings in perhaps cooler weather.  But OV (aren't those initials kind of cognac like?) is not exceedingly heavy like a cream stout, and on a warm evening is still very enjoyable.   You can find a lengthier review of it here where I gush about Port Brewing and their great people and beer.

–Mark Sheppard


2008 Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir

July 24 2011 - 3:48 PM

To me wine from Michigan sounds as exotic as something from a place such as Moldova or Georgia.  Hard to find, yet so close to Chicago, and moreover, it’s a challenge to pick a good Michigan wine.   When I was up in Lansing over a year ago, I decided to scope out a good wine shop and buy a bunch of bottles.  One of the recommendations was a Gamay Noir, best known as the grape used in Beaujolais.

Chateau Grand Traverse is in the Old Mission Peninsula, which as I discovered in learning about wine, is the peninsula east of Leelanau in the vicinity of, as the name implies, Traverse City. The winery produces a variety of Rieslings, as well as Pinot Noir and even cherry wines.

I served this wine lightly chilled with grilled pork sausages.  It had a cherry nose, but an interesting red-brownish color that was rather dark for a Gamay, a grape for which I normally see more purplish hues.

–Brian Ziegler

Northdown Cafe and Taproom – Recently Opened

July 21 2011 - 1:48 PM

North siders who like good beer and pub food have new reason to get excited as the Northdown Cafe and Taproom is now open on Lincoln Avenue in West Lakeview.  Northdown just opened three months ago in the space formerly occupied by Bourbon Restaurant.  This area of West Lakeview is dominated by more sports-oriented bars such as The Pony and Beckett's and was begging for a quality beer bar. The Three Floyds neon sign in the window which replicates the Alpha King logo is, as I'm informed by the cafe's owner, a special design by the mad geniuses at Three Floyds themselves, and is said to be the only one of its kind.  More importantly, like a barber's pole, it signifies that there is some serious action going on in there; it's beer, that is, not blood, although some serious beer lovers equate the two.


Restaurant Specials: July 19 - July 25

July 20 2011 - 3:34 PM

This week most of the events are happening on Thursday! Pick an event and enjoy the different activities and tastes the city has to offer.

Wednesday, July 20:


Celebrate Belgian Independence Day at Leopold, 1450 W. Chicago Ave. From 7-9:30 the restaurant is offering a four-course meal with beer pairings for $50.


Top 10 Beers of Summer – 2011

July 19 2011 - 1:11 PM

We are mired in the dog days, and, boy, are they ever more rugged this year than in the recent past.  Transformers are blowing all over town as everyone’s constant air conditioning usage overtaxes the power grid.   Yes, summer has fully announced its arrival at full volume and we all know what that means.  It is outdoor drinking season.  Time has arrived to enjoy some brews at street festivals, bags tournaments, the beach, backyard barbecues, and, of course, beer gardens. 

For the second year in a row, I present to you the nominations for the Top 10 Beers of Summer.  Mind you, these are not necessarily the best crafted beers, the most acclaimed beers, or the ten beers you might wish to drink the most.  This is a list of the best beers for enjoying during these brutal summer days, representing a cross-section of refreshing yet interesting brewing styles:


Farm & Garden

Garlic Scapes – Scape Pasta Sauce Recipe

July 17 2011 - 2:26 PM

I was at the Edgewater Farmer’s Market on Broadway and Norwood Saturday morning and saw garlic scapes. I’ve seen them on menus but never really think to cook with them. They come in beautiful long stems and smell, not surprisingly, like garlic. I tasted them raw and they have a very peppery flavor. The stalks are also very course. They would make one hell of a stir in a bloody mary! In any case I figured that I’d cook them up to mellow the flavor and then strain out the fiberous parts. I decided on a quick sauce, one that’s fresh and not carmelized down into anything super dense. It’s a pretty hot weekend after all.


Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold: Learn To Love The Lagers

July 16 2011 - 12:55 PM

Let me come out and say that I am a huge fan of lagers.  I know their reputation has been pummeled by the industrial beer manufacturer.  Our televisions tell us that the only kinds of beer that exist in America, or Mexico for that matter, are either watery lagers or Guinness, and the dozens of other craft brewing styles are veritable apparitions.  Lagers have been trashed the way that Chianti was sullied in Italy prior to vintner-led efforts to resuscitate its reputation. This rep is understandable based on the millions of gallons of chemical-laden, corn infused, watery, bland, sundry product routinely shipped from beer factories here in the U.S. and abroad.