Oct 252014

Drink up! It’s time for hockey!

During the 2013-14 hockey season, I tried 101 different craft beers — one for each game the Chicago Blackhawks played. It was such a great experience that I decided to do it again for the 2014-15 season.

The rules are simple: a new-to-me brew must be quaffed on game day, and though it must be a craft brew, it doesn’t have to be from Chicago. Have a recommendation? Please share!

Sour Bikini | Evil Twin Brewing Game 1: Stars vs. Blackhawks (2-3 W/SO)

At some point over the summer, the BF and I took a roadtrip to Michigan and came back with a growler of Funk in the Trunk from Odd Side Ales. We didn’t know it at the time, but it would start a quest for beer that had the same balance of sour & oaky elements that made this brew so drinkable.

I am pleased with how Sour Bikini from Evil Twin Brewing stacked up in comparison. It has a lighter bodied feel, but the combination of zesty lemon flavors and hops made me wish I’d discovered it earlier in the summer. This is a refreshing warm weather beer that almost makes me want to turn back the clock to muggy weather.

Shipwrecked IPA Game 2: Blackhawks vs. Sabres (6-2 W)

Our roadtrips did not end in Michigan — we also made it to Door County to view the autumn scenery and, of course, to bring back as much brew from Wisconsin as possible. I felt strongly that we should try beers made from the area, so we loaded up choices from Shipwrecked Brewing out of Egg Harbor.

Because I’m still a fiend for the style, their eponymous India Pale Ale was the first selection we tried. While there were some nice, herbal notes to the beer along with a nutty backbone, but I found the finish too bitter. Fortunately, mix and match was the name of the game when we selected samples from this micro-brew so we get to try again.

Extended Play | Lakefront Brewing Game 3: Blackhawks vs. Flames (1-2 L/OT)

Ah, Lakefront Brewery, how I love thee. Though I’ve had many of the year-round brews, for some reason Extended Play escaped my notice.

I’m happy to report that oversight has been corrected. This is a great session IPA — light bodied with decent carbonation, nice citrus notes balanced by bitter hops, and clean finish. This is the beer I’d reach for if my first choice sucked. I plan to stay stocked because with approximately 100 beers to try, you never know when you’ll need back-up.

Indiana Amber Game 4: Blackhawks vs. Predators (2-1 W/OT)

The next two brews were from business trips the BF took to Indiana. I’m okay with blind picks from the Hoosier state — there are no shortage of good breweries over the border. The first choice was Indiana Amber from Oaken Barrel Brewing Company.

Biscuit notes were present in this malty beer, though brown sugar flavors were represented throughout. There was nothing objectionable about this beer, but it didn’t particularly stand-out either. Easy to drink, nicely carbonated, but not worth seeking out on its own.

Rooftop IPA Blackhawks vs. Flyers (4-0 W)

Rooftop IPA from Bloomington Brewing Company is apparently named for a rock quarry feature in the Bloomington area. Having gone to college in an area surrounded by rock quarries, I can’t say that any would have inspired an homage in beer form.

Perhaps I should visit this one because I really, really liked this beer. A solid IPA with a hoppy kick underpinned by a nice, malty structure defines the experience succinctly. More hop-phobic friends probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much, but then again, most of them wouldn’t jump from a 65 foot overhang either. More for me.

Naked Selfie | Baderbrau Predators vs. Blackhawks (3-2 L)

The Baderbräu folks set me up with a six-pack of Naked Selfie to share with friends during the game.

I’ve tried the rest of Baderbräu’s catalog, and this by far the most interesting beer they’ve produced. This Black India Pale Lager is carried by roasted malts and finished with light hops. There’s little sweetness to the brew which finishes remarkably clean. They recommend pairing it with strong cheese, but I think it would be remarkable as a beer bread. I’m going to try that and then share my Naked Selfie loaf with the world. Be on the look-out.

Round 1 Beer Rankings
1) Extended Play, Lakefront Brewing
2) Rooftop IPA, Bloomington Brewing Company
3) Sour Bikini, Evil Twin Brewing
4) Naked Selfie, Baderbräu
5) India Pale Ale, Shipwrecked
6) Indiana Amber, Oaken Barrel Brewing Company

Want to follow my beer & hockey choices in real time? I keep the action live on both Instagram & Twitter. See you next puck drop!

Oct 242014
Goosefoot Food & Wine

The sign that teased me for months.

Usually I’m a patient person. I can wait out the rush of new, exciting, must-try spots to enjoy the latest dining experience at my own pace.

Often this is made easier by a daily commute that features a dull, familiar routine up and down Western. The one exception was the tease of brown paper and bold lettering for the new Goosefoot Food & Wine shop.

I twitter-stalked the Goosefoot account and craned my neck every time the bus passed the storefront. I. Could. Not. Wait!

Goosefoot Food & Wine

Stock up on high-flatutin’ goods.

Though I managed to miss opening day, I popped in over the weekend to see if my (im)patience would be rewarded.

It was, to be quite honest, a mixed bag.

Lincoln Square already has an abundance of fine food & wine opportunities including Provenance Food & Wine, Gene’s Sausage Shop, and Fine Wine Brokers, not to mention bakeries and restaurants galore. If you want to compare super-close options, then Harvest Time Foods up the street is also a worthy stop.

Goosefoot Food & Wine

Can’t get a reservation at the restaurant? Buy the chestnut soup next door.

What does Goosefoot Food & Wine offer?

Well, for those of us who have been unable to score a reservation or to repeat an experience at Goosefoot, the store has select to-go offerings from the menu. I speak, of course, about the to-die for Chestnut Soup. It’s been two years since I last tried it, and I still remember every bite.

Want to savor the memory? A little carton can be yours for $9.

Or if your fond meal-time recollections include the hand-painted chocolates, a box of four can be had for $12. Even though the candies are on display under glass, the selection of available chocolate for sale is random.

Goosefoot Food & Wine

These hand-painted chocolates are for display only.

Other items for sale include an almost expected range of fancy packaged goods like pastas, crackers, syrups, and granola. For those with fortunate reservations for dinner but the inability to recollect that Goosefoot is a BYOB, the shop is open late enough to pop-in for a compatible bottle or two or three with dinner.

I spied a beer-making kit on the shelves, but found the craft beer selection limiting. I understand that it takes a while to build relationships with breweries, but a hyper-local choice shouldn’t have been too hard to procure — hello, Half-Acre, Begyle, Finch? I hope to see the choices move beyond Goose Island.

Goosefoot Food & Wine

The interior is spacious and a bit sterile.

I quizzed the staff a bit about the selections, chocolates, and saved my most important question for last: How do I get a reservation at Goosefoot?

I would tell you, but I need to try it first. Hopefully patience will be rewarded again!

Gala Apple

Candied apples? Yes, please!

Goosefoot Food & Wine is located next to the restaurant at 2656 W Lawrence Avenue. The store is open 1 to 10 p.m. daily.

Jun 082014

Local coffee subscription service Modest Coffee recently started roasting for the Chicago and internet market. I spoke with co-owner Marcus Contaldo about his obsession with fresh roasted coffee and other coffee-related topics during a #VirtualCoffee Twitter conversation* on Saturday.

Modest Coffee

Starting the morning, and the conversation, with a cup of The Collector.

Chicago Bites: Good morning! What are you drinking for our #VirtualCoffee chat?

Marcus Contaldo: The Enthusiast this morning. I am sampling a roast from last night. What about you?

CB: I’m drinking The Collector — black. Speaking of which, how do you normally take your coffee?

MC: Black and super fresh! How about you? This is the quintessential question for all coffee drinkers.

CB: I tend to drink it black if it’s good. Otherwise lots of cream, lots of sugar. You don’t always get a choice.

MC: I know what you mean, I know a place that starts out with fantastic beans from intelligentsia and ruins them. BTW, I recently asked our drinkers the same question and found that a large number added Baileys.

CB: Baileys in coffee is indeed a joy, though that may cause problems during the 10am budget meeting. I know you sell awesome beans. Any advice on the best way to grind and brew them?

MC: We recommend grinding them right before you brew them. Believe it or not, our goal was to get better coffee out of a Mr. Coffee drip pot. I have some tricks that will vastly improve any coffee coming out of a drip pot.

CB: And did you do that? Have you made a perfect cup using a Mr. Coffee?

MC: Yes. The first tip is with a newer drip pot with the adjustable spout — twist it so it recycles and reheats the water. Once the water is good and HOT (you will see steam) add your favorite fresh beans to the hopper. The next step is important: twist the spout back to the beans, but DO NOT put the coffee pot under the hopper. Let the beans steep and stir them with a spoon. After they are saturated, put your pot down and let the goodness flow.

Modest Coffee

Freshly ground beans awaiting their turn at coffee greatness.

CB: One and half cups is usually the most I can drink before I get jittery. What’s your coffee limit per day?

MC: I usually do 3 cups in the morning and another cup or two around 2pm. Coffee after 4pm is my limit.

CB: Changing gears a bit…why is your coffee roaster named Precious?

MC: The previous owner named it Precious because of its sleek gold paint job and he was a fan of Lord of the Rings. I’m a fan of LOTR, too so it stuck.

CB: Do you talk to your roaster in a golem voice?

MC: I actually do a ridiculously accurate impression of Golem.

Modest Coffee

The bags are lined with a wax that is compostable.

CB: I’m lobbying hard for a video of that. Please tell us, what’s your selection process for coffee beans?

MC: It is really extensive, I sample 10-20 beans and select the best 3 that meet our requirements. We look for beans that make a great cup of coffee. You may have noticed that all of our beans were distinctly non-bitter.

CB: I did. I find that I prefer that in a cup of coffee.

MC: To make sure it’s ethically sourced, we only source coffee that’s traceable back to the producers. That traceability allows us to pay the premium for beans produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

CB: How do you deal with coffee breath?

MC: Great question, I carry minty gum in my man purse just for coffee breath.

CB: And finally, have you ever made a perfect cup of coffee? Do tell.

MC: That first perfect cup is what got me hooked on roasting. The flavor, the aroma, the vibrancy in the cup. There is really nothing better than fresh roasted coffee. That’s why we started Modest Coffee.

Modest Coffee

Your next favorite cup of coffee is here.

Thanks to Marcus from Modest Coffee for sharing a cup and his thoughts on coffee!

Want to try Modest Coffee yourself? Use promo code CBBAG for $2 off any selection, good through June 30. If you’re ready to commit to the cup, use promo code CBSUB for 10% off for lifetime orders; limit first 100 customers through July 31st.

I was not financially compensated for this post. Modest Coffee samples were provided to me as a member of the media. The opinions are completely my own, based on my experience.


*some light editing was done for readability.