For the second year in a row, Naoto and I went to CH Distillery in the West Loop for their Christmas pop-up, A Cocktail Story. I love a good theme party, so it’s right up my alley–all of the food and cocktails are based on the holiday classic, A Christmas Story. I wish I’d taken pictures of the menu, because I can’t remember the witty names of our cocktails, but we started with bourbon (Naoto’s was a version of an Old Fashioned and mine was similar to a Manhattan) and moved onto tasty rosemary gin cocktails. We ate classic snacks like deviled eggs, cheese balls, and fried rice (keeping with the movie’s Chinese Christmas dinner theme.) For me, the best part of the whole experience was Eddie’s Frozen Eggnog. (Eddie = Clark’s cousin in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.) It is so deliciously decadent. I’ve been thinking about it since I tried it last year. Cheers to the holidays once again!
We don’t have any ripe tomatoes in Plot 6 yet but our herbs are flourishing like crazy. So far, I’ve made Greek orzo salad with our parsley, a round of pesto with our basil, and a cocktail with the rosemary.
I haven’t made a classic gimlet in a long time, and I thought rosemary would be a nice addition and what do you know? Someone‘s already done it! I love the balance of herbal and tart with a hint sweetness (though mostly herbal.) Rosemary used to remind me of fall, Thanksgiving turkey, roasted potatoes…but in a cocktail, it’s very fresh and summery.
Rosemary Simple Syrup
Make this ahead of time so you have time to chill it before making the cocktails.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
~2 Tablespoons of rosemary, roughly chopped (Or for a lighter rosemary flavor, just add 2-3 stalks of whole rosemary into the sugar/water mixture.)
Add ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Turn off heat and let sit until cool. Strain into a jar and refrigerate. This makes enough for 4+ cocktails.
The Rosemary Gimlet
2 oz gin
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 oz rosemary simple syrup
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until very chilled and pour into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary. Enjoy on the lanai on a hot summer night!
Last month Naoto surprised me with a trip to Los Angeles for the Letter Writers Alliance 10th anniversary party hosted by Margaret from Paper Pastries. Margaret and I have been pen pals for a few years now but we’d only met briefly at Ex Postal Facto. So I was really looking forward to seeing her again and meeting her sweet family. The trip exceeded my expectations. There wasn’t a ton of time for sight seeing (especially since my Friday was cut short thanks to flight delays, womp womp) but I loved the time I spent with Margaret and celebrating ten years of writing with the LWA.
On Friday afternoon, Margaret took me to the top of City Hall for a view of LA. Then we shopped around Little Tokyo. Chicago doesn’t have a Japanese neighborhood so it was such a treat to go to these little shops and restaurants. We haven’t planned our 2017 trip to Japan yet, so I’m feeling a little Japan withdrawal so it was great to immerse myself in the cuteness of Little Tokyo. I bought some stickers and a fuurin, which is a Japanese wind chime. (I’ve been wanting one for Tanabata next month. I’ll show you soon!)
We also had Honeymee which was amazing and is making me rethink my summer treats. It’s a special soft serve that comes topped with a real honeycomb. Seriously, what a combination! It was so good and worth the sticky hands that followed.
I also got to go to Poketo which has been on my list for some time. I only bought some greeting cards but I just love their style.
On Saturday morning I went to brunch with Margaret, her husband Tony, and their adorable daughter Ellis. (Sadly no pictures of this…)
Then I killed time at the Museum of Neon Arts in Glendale. It was the smallest museum ever, but it was packed with neon signs and modern art. I liked the old neon signs the best but I was smitten with the Japanese katakana in the last piece above. (It says “neon” and was made for an art installation in Japan in 1998.)
Letter Writers Alliance anniversary party and letter writing social. I shopped, I wrote a few postcards, I chatted, I drank champagne punch, and I ate the most delicious cake ever–white cake with white frosting and COVERED in festive sprinkles. It was perfect. It was so amazing to see people come from far and wide to celebrate letter writing! The letter writing community is so diverse and friendly!On Saturday afternoon, a few dozen people showed up at Paper Pastries for the official
This may be my favorite Christmas adventure of the year! I love a good theme party, so when I read about CH Distillery’s A Christmas Story themed pop up, I jumped at the chance to take Naoto on a little Christmas date. He’s never seen the movie, but he enjoyed the cocktails anyway. Here are a few pictures from our night out…from appetizers to the best eggnog I’ve ever had.
We really enjoyed the cocktail at Jackie’s tea. It was fresh, and ginger-y, and bubbly and the perfect color for a plaid celebration that happened to occur on Valentine’s weekend.
We found the recipe on Driscoll’s website and god only knows how they got theirs so perfectly red…but, our pale version was delicious enough that we hardly noticed. We used a bottle of Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Rosé ($12 at your friendly Trader Joes) and it was really delicious, but if rosé isn’t your thing, I think the ginger and raspberry are powerful enough that you’ll get the same idea with any sparkling wine.
It’s so much easier to make the liqueur mix in batches, so I’ve adjusted the original recipe to serve 4.
Ginger Raspberry Bellini
(makes 4 cocktails)
4 oz ginger liqueur
2 oz lemon juice (freshly squeezed!)
2 oz simple syrup
16 fresh raspberries
bottle of sparkling rosé or sparkling wine of your choice
4 raspberries and 4 pieces of candied ginger for garnish
Add ginger liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, and raspberries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle the raspberries into the liquid. Add ice and shake until fully chilled. Strain mixture into each cocktail glass, about 2 oz per glass. (It’s ok to eyeball.) Top each glass with about 3 oz of sparkling rosé and garnish with a raspberry and candied ginger on a cocktail pick. Toast your friend going on an amazing adventure.
Naoto and I loved experiencing Japanese coffee culture during our last trip to Japan and now, we can enjoy a bit of it here in Chicago! Sawada Coffee opened in the West Loop and we went to try it out a few weekends ago.Hiroshi Sawada is an award-winning Japanese barista and latte artist who owns a shop, Steamer Coffee Co, in Tokyo. This is Sawada’s first coffee shop outside of Japan. (You can read a little bit about it here. The relationship between Sawada and the Chicago hospitality group who opened the shop in Chicago started with letter writing!) The place feels very “hipster,” but there are some very Japanese aspects, too. The coffee presentation is lovely, the service is impeccable, and the atmosphere is very industrial and modern. The coffee shop is connected to Green Street Meats, so there’s a lot of restaurant and bar action just steps below the coffee shop in this big open space. Sawada serves the typical range of coffee drinks, but also has some one-of-a-kind offerings, including alcoholic coffee and tea drinks. Naoto ordered the Sawada Style Cold Brew, an iced coffee mixed with Japanese shochu. It came in a pot and was poured into a glass sitting in a box, similar to the way sake is sometimes served in Japan. (I was stifling a tiny laugh as our server earnestly explained the sake overflow tradition to Naoto.)I had a Benedictine Chai Steamer, a chai latte with Benedictine liqueur added. Both were amazing. We found a seat at the windows, in spite of the place being crazy busy. Naoto stood and texted while I wrote out a few Sawada postcards. (I love places that have free postcards!) I couldn’t resist trying a matcha latte, too…it was the perfect mix of strong matcha with a tiny bit of sweetness. We can’t wait to go back again soon…for the coffee and the postcards.