Tuesday, April 17, 2007

WhiskyFest Chicago: Getting Ready for the Fest

Friday the 13th was Fest Day in Chicago. Cathy and I did a walk in the morning (teased by a tantalizing smell of chocolate being made that I never did track down), then had a healthy oatmeal at a Corner Bakery (a chain, yes, but of Chicago origin, so...) and went back to the Hyatt to get set for the evening. We set up over 2,200 tasting/nosing glasses, the programs and free copies of Malt Advocate, checked the seminar room set-up, prepped the ballroom as much as possible, and then went out to lunch.

We went to the downtown Rock Bottom brewpub at the corner of State and Grand Sts. (had some pix, but they got garbled, sorry), and stepped up to the bar, back by the pool tables. Cathy started with a glass of dry stout (pretty unremarkable stuff, unfortunately), I got the hefeweizen (a Bavarian-type classic, tilted towards the banana side and deliciously fresh and zesty). Our bartender, Autumn, also got us two barrel-aged samples: an impie stout (good, bourbony, but could have been more robust for an impie) and a winter warmer (excellent: big and malty, with rich bourbon-infused depth).

We ordered lunch and sipped and chatted. The place looked a lot like the Denver RB: dark honey-colored wood, broken up into a series of medium-sized rooms (we were actually in a kind of alcove, an ell of the bar), an older look rather than the more modern look of RB King of Prussia. I finished my wheat and ordered a Brown Bear Brown Ale (good -- a chocolate edge, drinkable, with a nice touch of mineral dryness).

Lunch came: I had a smoked chicken enchilada with rice & beans and some kind of potato corn hot salad...thing, all quite good; Cathy had a portabella melt on a small focaccia-type roll (juicy without being wet, nice) and barbecue beans (great flavor, but the onion straws on top quickly got soggy and yucky). We split on two sides: brown ale-braised mushrooms (delicious, done just right, and enriched by the ale) and roasted asparagus (not so: underdone -- I like it crisp but not crunchy -- and not so flavorful). I'd love to see more restaurants do this steakhouse-style vegetable side thing.

We walked back to the Hyatt, Cathy read and took a nap while I drank coffee and wrote the entry on Thursday. We showered and got dressed, and went downstairs about 3:00. Time to get to work.

4 comments:

Stonch said...

Lew, I like the way you feel need the need to justify patronising a chain establishment! I feel just the same way. However, I don't think you behaved unethically - there's nothing wrong with supporting a chain in its own hometown. It's when the tentacles creep into other markets, forcing out local businesses, elsewhere, that one has to discriminate. I'd drink in Starbucks in Seattle, because that's where they belong. I won't touch them in London, though.

Steven said...

Probably Blommer Chocolates - it's on the west side of the river on Kinzie, but the aroma permiates the Loop!

Lew Bryson said...

Yeah, I feel okay about patronizing a chain in the home market, but...what about when the chain gets bought by a chain of chains? It's kind of deracinated. I'm still feeling okay because we've been going to the Corner Bakery for seven years, since before the purchase (it's since been sold again), and it still feels the same, but it does make me uneasy. What a geeky thing. Still, other folks give a damn about other weird things.

Lew Bryson said...

Blommer? Next year, we're going.