Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Vampires, Vermouth, and the Dirty South

I'm a vampire buff.  I have a thing for zombies too, but I'll get into that in a week or so... today is all about those sexy, sleazy, bloodsuckers and the hoomans (me) who love them.

True Blood is one of my favorite shows: honestly, I could live without Sookie and her incessant whining, but then every show needs a bad guy... Mostly, I love the snarky writing, colorful chararcters (Lafayette and the mercilessly smart-mouthed vamper, Pam) and the endless parade of man-candy: nary an episode passes without one of the many attractive male leads parading around shirtless. Life is hard, get a helmet!

Recently, the show returned for it's fifth season and it couldn't come fast enough! Personally, I think it promises to be the most exciting season yet... Anyway, it put me in the mood to finally try a cocktail I've been dancing around since stumbling across it on CocktailDB (if you haven't checked out the site, you should: Martin Doudoroff and Ted  "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh have done an amazing job collecting thousands of recipes both old and new in one place.)  It at first reminded me of my beloved Mahattan, but on closer inspection it's more like a negroni...  The name comes from the French word for 'jewel,' and perhaps comes from the use of the bright green color of the chartreuse? With a name like the Bijou, and the herbaceous notes of the chartreuse there to enhance the vermouth, it put me immediately in mind of the wild woods around Bon Temps...

Bijou Cocktail

1-1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz green chartreuse
1/2 Sweet Vermouth
1 dash orange bitters

Stir in a mixing glass or tin with ice and strain into a cocktial glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.
(photo from

I didn't immediately fall in love with it; I thought it was a little too strong on the 'musty' flavor- to be fair, though, I admit that I've have my sweet vermouth around and open for awhile- okay, 3 or 4 months- so that may very well have something to do with it.  I really ought to get one of those vacuum pump stopper kits precisely to keep my vermouth stash fresher for far longer.  That said, I'll probably give the drink another try before long.

While it may not have been an instant favorite, though, I will say that the Bijou definitely had bite ;) Now if I could just find my own 1,000 year old undead viking, life would be good...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lemonade, Derbyville Style

One of the toughest things to tackle when it comes to the ghost hunting trade is, surprisingly, not the hunt itself: it's the exponential hours you spend afterwards reviewing all of the footage from every camera, every camcorder, every digital recorder you had running in the place for the duration of the trip.  One needs to adequately power up.

I convened with my friend Ben last night to begin sifting through some of the data we accumulated on this past week's visit to Waverly Hills, and as such we decided to load up on brain food (i.e. pub grub and cocktails) at Dunlay's On The Square, an excellent, family-friendly pub in the Logan Square neighborhood.  Incedentially, it's around the corner from Lula Cafe which I covered in the Brandy Milk Punch post...

In addition to offering a great burger ($5 on a Monday night, if your a bargain hunter) and a hot skillet chocolate chip cookie that is just too decadent to be legal, they offer a pretty impressive selection of cocktails in addition to to a great beer and modest wine list.

Considering our recent visit to Louisville, Ben and I both latched nearly instantly on a libation intriguingly named Kentucky Lemonade.  It sounded like the perfect drink to cool off with in this brutal heat, and to tip our hats to a helluva roadtrip- It didn't disappoint!  Slightly fizzy, a little sweet, and little tart, and a whole lot of bite, it hit the spot even more than I expected.  While I didn't get the recipe specifically used by our bartender, based on the ingredients listed on the cocktail menu (Maker's Mark was mentioned by name,) a little time spent on a google search led me to this excellent recipe over at Bullz-Eye Blog:

Kentucky Lemonade

1-1/2 oz Maker's Mark or your favorite bourbon
1/2 oz triple sec
4 oz lemonade
2 oz lemon & lime soda

Combine bourbon, triple sec, and lemonade in shaker tin. Shake and pour over crushed ice, and top with lemon & lime soda.  Garnish with a nice, fresh wedge of lemon or twist.

Please be kind to yourself and your friends and use fresh lemonade, mmmkay? It just isn't the same with anything from concentrate or with tons of high fructose corn syrup... Also, I find it's worth it to use a quality soda sweetened with natural cane sugar, like Hansen's for real crispness. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On The Road

I was very excited this week to make my first trip to Louisville, Kentucky- I roadtripped down thataways with my friends from the Chicago Ghost Hunters Group to pay a visit to the Waverly Hills Sanitorium. Perhaps you've heard of it? It's an AMAZING place, and absolutely worth the trip if you ever find yourself with the opportunity to go inside.  Absolutely heavy with history, and the ghosts of the past, but that's a story for another day...

As as much as I wish we'd had some time to visit a few of Kentucky's many fine bourbon houses (Evan Williams, Jim Beam, and Maker's Mark are all within 100 miles of one another,) there just wasn't room in our two-and-a-half day agenda.  We arrived late Monday night, hoping to at least find a place to stop and pick up a bottle of something to sample and unwind with after the long drive. Strangely, we were unable to find an open shop to buy anything with a higher ABV than a six-pack of beer, but we were tickled to discover that good ol' Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy could be had rather easily- go figure...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Penny Pincher's Paradise

I work in hospitality. At a four diamond hotel in downtown Chicago, as a matter of fact.  That said, since we're smack in the middle of our fallow season, I've got next to no hours, and I'm pretty broke. Well, more so than usual...

Today though, I feel like a million bucks!  I had to run some errands today, and kept Caroline company on her way to work since I had not one- but two- 50% off coupons for Joann Fabrics burning a hole in my pocket. Well, on my smart phone anyway, but you get the idea.  I used them both to buy a pair of Wilton 3-tier cooling racks which are normally about $11 a piece.  Sweet deal!

After that, I headed back toward my favorite Logan Square thrift store in the hopes of finding some kitchen items we'll be needing for our burgeoning soap and toiletry making habit.  Stainless steel pots, spoons, pitchers for lye, that sort of stuff.  While I didn't find any of these items (sadface) I was very excited to come home with some AMAZING steals- and I do feel like I ripped these nice folks off- on a few things I'd been hoping to stumble across eventually, just not so soon!

In addition to a basic, unexciting, but needed Chefmate cookie sheet ($1) I also found this cute, well-loved wall clock ($6). I haven't decided yet whether to spruce it up or leave it as is, but I figure either way a new wall clock would have set me back at least $15-$20.

Then, my eyes about bugged out of my skull when I found this old thing sitting, deconstructed and cast off like Frankenstein's monster, in a pile of it's own parts in a cardboard box....

the f*@#k is that? Tony Stark has created Iron Squid...

Can you tell what it is? It's a five arm chandelier, and the answer to my prayers!  Now, assembled and installed in it's- ahem- full glory, it's a pretty awful, bog standard late 80s/early 90s atrocity exactly like the picture below:


Now, I have absolutely no intention of hanging that Regan-Era Mrs. Havisham in my house as is, no siree!  I have a vision, people!  My dream is to fill my home with tons of ridiculously fabulous, old-world-vintage, Tim-Burton-film-set amazingness. Basically, lots of black painted furniture and finishes. Just this side of crusty distressing. Fun and outlandish, but maybe slightly weird and creepy whimsy. As such, a black and sparkly chandelier is not a want, but a need. A must even. Where most folks looked into that box and probably just saw a mess of spare parts, I saw the potential to make this a part of my reality:

maybe the little rosettes are a bit much... but Hallelujah, black & white & bedazzled!

Or These:


Okay, okay, I'm focusing! So, what could be better than a chandelier-in-a-box for $4? Well I will tell you: A chandelier-in-a-box for $2!  That fixture won't break most people's bank at an average retail price of about $40, but I am my mother's daughter, so I'm thrilled to keep the difference in my pocket for the makeover project and those soapmaking supplies ;)

Now for the pièce de ré·sis·tance, my find of finds today:  

Caroline and I have been utterly frustrated to discover that, during our move at the beginning of December, the carafe for our coffee maker had disappeared. Poof. Into thin air. Whatever- as avid coffee addicts, the beginning of each day has been a bit, shall we say, challenging?  Nevermind the Dunkin' Donuts around the corner: we both appreciate a proper pot of coffee brewing as we rise like the living dead from our respective crypts.  Sadly, replacement pots for our model are no longer available.  My hope today was that maybe I'd find another cheapie machine to replace ours, or at least find a carafe that might be compatible until we could scrounge up the moolah for a new coffee maker.  You can imagine the squeals of glee that had fellow shoppers craning their necks to see what the crazy lady with the box of lamp parts was making a fuss about. Well, I was celebrating my discovery of this:


That fine, stainless steel bedecked thing of beauty is none other than the Grind & Brew Thermal™ 10-Cup Automatic Coffeemaker.  The one of my dreams, the one I thought would stay in my dreams because it's friggin' $130 brand new.  And there it was, just sitting on the shelf, waiting patiently for me like my soulmate of Java.  Nevermind that it's missing the permanent gold mesh filter; I can replace that for less than an order of Pad Thai. Nevermind that it's missing it's official carafe; that too can be had for a small price, and the machine DID come with a glass Black & Decker carafe that will serve us well for the time being.  What matters is that this beautiful, wonderful, miracle of coffee technology is that grinds whole beans, right into the filter basket, and then brews them to perfection, all on a programmable timer. What matters is that this coffee nerd's best friend can be outfitted with charcoal water filters, to make the most perfect, wonderful coffee possible from a home brewer.  What matters is that I purchased this coffee maker of celestial origin for a measly $4. Yes, that's right.  When I said I felt like I'd ripped off these lovely people, I meant it (though dammit, I'm not sorry!) It was marked for $8, which sounded like a pretty damn good deal to me, so after plugging it in to make sure it would power up, I ran with my cart of good fortunes to the checkout line, failing to notice that today as luck would have it, yellow sticker-ed items were 50% off.  Over. The. Freakin'. Moon.

All told, my purchases today could have set me back a whopping $212 plus sales tax and whatnot, if I'd payed full price, but instead I only paid $24.  Mother would be so proud!

Stay tuned for that icky chandelier's second chance at life in a grownup Goth girl's urban dollhouse....