Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We're Still Tweeting!

We've finally pulled the plug on The 100 Bar Project. We've attempted to re-boot our little cocktail of a blog numerous times since the heydays of 2010 and 2011 but without success. Too many other distractions (namely those damn day jobs) and a lack of creative juices have led to the blog's demise.

We had a great time writing and even more so meeting a lot of great Chicagoans in the process. But fear not fellow drinkers and urban explorers, we're still out visiting bars, restaurants and coming across those characters that make this town the greatest city on earth. So continue to follow T and L, and all our exploits on Twitter. Or drop us a note to say hello or let us know of an especially good bar, restaurant or local activity that we can enjoy and promote with some tweet-time.

So one last time for T & L trivia. What's  L's favorite drink? Answer: Tanqueray martini, very dry with three blue cheese olives. Stirred, never shaken.  What's T's favorite drink? Answer: Whatever you put in front of hm.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Austria Uncorked Comes to Chicago

The Austria Uncorked 2012 tour comes to Chicago tomorrow. Events include trade and media tasting in the afternoon followed by activities for passionate wine consumers in the evening. The day's fun will be at Venue One on Randolph St., in the West Loop. 

Sample hundreds of wines from Austria’s top producers, many of whom will be present. The trade event, running 12-4pm on Thursday, April 19th, will feature a selection of some of Austria’s finest cheeses to nibble on as you sip on the 2011 vintage and  other newly released wines whilst talking with visiting winemakers.

Our forecast is for possible rain, so why not stay inside and  warm up with  great Austrian wines such as Blaufraenkisch, Zweigelt, and St Laurent – or a blend of them! The Chicago show is being billed as the largest presentation of Austrian wine to ever take place in the Midwest.

Wine lovers will be welcomed in the evening and will have the chance to try food from several of Chicago’s top restaurants and taste Austria’s great wines as they bop along to the stylings of a local DJ.   A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Common Threads charity, so you will also be drinking for a good cause. You know T & L, they like drinking, they like good causes, but they LOVE drinking for a good cause!

Visit Austria Uncorked on their Facebook and Twitter accounts for live updates from the event. And if you're going, don't forget to join in on the fun! Use hashtag #AUncorked when you’re tweeting! We're looking forward to seeing you there!
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Monday, March 19, 2012

They Took Away Our Stools!

Deutsch: Mehrere hölzerne Barhocker an einer B...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The NCAA tournament means watching basketball. For the Project, tournament basketball means staking out territory at one of the Sparty bars in town so we can root on our Michigan State Spartans. There are a number of establishments in the city that bill themselves as "official or unofficial" MSU bars. Our favorite is O'Malley's West, but in the name of adding numbers to our quest we checked out Mad River Bar & Grille Friday night.

Things started out okay. We got there in plenty of time before the game to snag a seat at the bar. We ordered pub grub, it was good. The waitstaff behind the bar is very cute, personable and the service was fine. Well as the night wore on and our Spartans were locked in battle with some school I'd never heard of (SSINHO), the crowds started getting larger but we suspect the throngs weren't there to cheer on our Spartans.  Mad River was also selling $15 wristbands that entitled you to three hours of unlimited Bud Light, Coors Light and well-drinks made from alcohol that's not good enough to be on the bargain rack at your local booze store. We never opt for the wristband. No thanks, but we can afford gin that wasn't made in Ecuador.

Note to self: Avoid Wristband Night
So let's add this up. Young crowd, Friday before St. Patrick's Day, $15 wristbands, all the beer and  liquor you can drink in 3 hours. Oh this just isn't going to turn out well for T & L. Not our scene.

Well about mid-way through the first half of the MSU vs. SSINHO game, the bouncers started taking the stools away from the bar. What the F@%k?  The Bouncer muttered something about "fire code." How about the 1300 or so people you have in here, shoulder to shoulder getting progressively drunker? Is that a "fire code" concern?  Okay, we're older but not dumb, moving the dozen or so bar-stools allows another 10 people in at $15 per wristband. Ah, so its really a decision based on simple economics rather than comfort or game watchability.

"But Mr. Bouncer, we're here to watch the game, you know, the Spartans...on the banks of the Red Cedar, you know those Spartans...there's a school that's known to've got their damn flag hanging from the rafters." Oh we get it, this is not about watching the game, this is about squeezing another $150 into the coffers. Because watching the game while sitting on a bar stool makes too much sense, Mad River would rather have you watch the game while standing up shoulder to shoulder with people who are taking full advantage of those wristbands.

Not real bar crowd, just seemed like this many
And do you know what happens when too many youngsters squeeze into a small space with unlimited alcohol? They drop said alcohol like an infielder playing without a mitt drops ground balls.

Actual interchange:
L: Someone just dropped a glass of beer on my feet.
Drunk Dude: Hey, I just dropped my beer!
T: Told you not to wear open toes.
Chick with Drunk Dude: Oh that sucks.
Drunk Dude: No problem they're free, I'll get another one.
L: Dammit, my feet are gonna be sticky.
T: Let's go someplace that has stools.

For many Mad River appears to be a great place to hang on a Friday night and although we don't say this very often, "we're too old for that place."  We see they're pitching drink deals again through the local MSU Alumni chapter, so get your wristband, prepare to stand while watching the game, and don't wear open toes. Number 3 in the books (we told you not to worry, we'll make it)

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

L Eats a Scorpion

The hat
A friend of ours, who owns a Mexican restaurant in Chicago,  recently turned us onto mezcal, which is an alcoholic beverage (is there any other kind?) native to Mexico. Made from the maguey plant (agave), mezcal has a smokier flavor than tequila and tends to be more potent. (This is strong stuff!) While researching this article, we came across stories of Mexican tribal women drinking mezcal during childbirth to ease the pain. Other stories suggested laborers would drink mezcal believing the spirit gave them extra-strength for the task at hand. After drinking mezcal, both stories seem plausible to us.

The scorpion

While Mexican law requires tequila to be made only from the blue agave plant and in one region of the country, mezcal doesn't share those rigid requirements. Many mezcal brands have a worm inside their bottles. It's believed that the worm grants certain sexual powers. But heck,  worms are for wimps. Our good friends at the "In Fine Spirits Lounge" turned us onto Scorpion Mezcal which has a scorpion in the bottle. If eating a worm gives you sexual powers, we could only imagine what eating a scorpion will do.

For their part, the "In Fine Spirits" folks were offering up free hats to anyone who ate the scorpion. They normally have t-shirts that read "I Ate The Scorpion" but ran out. So the offer on the table was: eat the scorpion; get a hat. Well, not one to to pass up anything free, L signed up for the scorpion. Besides, increased sexual powers awaited the scorpion eater so L was all over that offer.

Luckily the Project camera crew captured L eating the scorpion:

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

In Fine Spirits? You Bet!

Image via Wikipedia
Here at the Project, we love lists, especially lists that other people have created. You see lists take work, and they take effort to assemble. These days, we're not too ambitious. Compiling a list just isn't on our list of things to do. So, any time we can, we take advantage of someone else's list. Whether it be the 7 bars with the cleanest glasses, the 8 grossest restrooms in the city, or whatever, we'll steal it, make it our own, and then write about it. When our good friends at Chicago Magazine recently (well, a month or so ago) came out with its top cocktails of 2011, we thought, what the hell.  Let's co-opt this list and go drinking. What if the list is for last year? They're still good drinks in 2012, and it gives us some subtext in our reviews of 100 different bars.

Cocktail Menu
So with that in mind, we met L's niece J and her husband P (which usually means fun and/or trouble) in Andersonville last weekend at the "In Fine Spirits" Lounge. Among the best cocktails in the city is the Dead Meadow, a concoction made primarily from bourbon and apple whiskey. As luck would have it, the drink's inventor and head bartender, Cody was working the afternoon shift. Cody is an affable guy, as was everyone at "In Fine Spirits." We all opted for the Dead Meadow. Chicago Magazine was right. This was one good drink. Who doesn't love bourbon? And the orange oil  gave it a pleasant and subtle citrus flavor. The apple whiskey worked well with the Buffalo Trace bourbon.

But the first thing you notice is the large solid ice cube in the short glass. Apparently this is good thing. J, a Purdue educated engineer, tried her best to help us understand the significance of the large cube.
Dead Meadow
"Bigger ice cubes last longer than small ice cubes because of the simple fact of surface to volume ratio. Let's say we start with a square ice cube that is one centimeter in width, length, and height. All six sides of the ice cube have a surface area of one square centimeter. So, the total surface area of the ice cube is six square centimeters. The volume of the ice cube is one cubic centimeter. The weight of the ice cube is about one gram. (All right 0.9167 grams at the melting point of ice.) So to melt the cube of ice, you have to transfer enough heat through 6 square centimeters of surface area to melt 0.9167 grams, or 6.55 square centimeters of surface area per gram of ice."  WTF? Remember, T is a lawyer and L, is a Liberal Arts type with an MBA. Physics and surface areas were never our specialty. But drinking is, and we know a great drink we we come across one. And the Dead Meadow at "In Fine Spirits" is a winner. We highly recommend a trip to Andersonville and a visit to this fine establishment. That gives us 2 bars (don't worry, we'll catch up) for the year.

While sitting at the bar, L devised a little plan to get the Project some notoriety, and it doesn't involve us shedding any clothes. It seems the Guinness Book of World Records' record for the most bars visited in 24 hours was recently nabbed away from a Chicago group by some folks in New York City. L isn't going to stand for this. She's planning on bringing the glory home. But more on this story as it develops.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

And We're Off, Albeit a Month or So Late

Bar #1 for 2012 is the Local, aka, Blue Frog 22, aka, Blue Frog’s Local 22,  located on Hubbard. We’d been there a few years back, when it was Blue Frog 22, with no aka. But we caught an episode of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” featuring the Blue Frog and that prompted a re-visit.

If you haven’t seen this show, check it out. The basic plot is  that this guy John Taffer, a bad-ass mutha,  fixes failing bars. We don’t know what his background is, but he seems to know his business. He’s a “take no prisoner” kind of guy, and to be honest, isn’t very likable.

The premise of the Blue Frog episode was that the bar’s decor (children’s games and toys) was not working in this River North tavern. Taffer was right on. But the show, like any reality programming, is a bit over the top. There has to be a good guy, a villian and a conflict. You see, in a previous life, L taught High School English, so she knows a bit about story telling.

The mother Mimi, who is a co-owner with son John, is the villian. Mimi comes off as a bull-headed drunk unwilling to accept Taffer’s suggestions. John on the other hand, is the good guy. The conflict is the between mother and son, although the conflict between mother and Taffer was much more entertaining.

We popped in before our dinner reservations at Roka Akor (just down the street) and as luck would have it, everyone was there. John, mother Mimi, John’s wife, and the bartender who’s name we can’t remember. For the price of a couple beers we sat back and heard the “behind the scenes” version of this episode of “Bar Rescue.” This is a friendly group of people, and yes Mimi was drinking a beer.

So watch the episode, then get over to the Blue Frog’s Local 22 and hope Mimi and John are in the house. They have a great selection of local (hence the new name) beer so enjoy!
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Leaders & Legends

If you're a Big Ten alumni, fan or friend, come out Saturday for the Chicago Ten Alumni Challenge. The second annual event will take place at bars located in the River North area and the proceeds go to a good cause. You know, us, we like to drink, but we especially like to drink for a good cause. 

The goal this year is to raise $50,000 for the Alumni for Public Schools (APS),  a not-for-profit organization that promotes and supports volunteer partnerships between Chicago chapters of university alumni associations and individual Chicago public schools. Since 2001 APS has enhanced student learning and increased student awareness of and readiness for post-secondary options. You can learn more about this organization at .

Here's how it works: Each Big Ten school will call a River North bar home for the day and fans will square off in rivalry contests, compete for prizes from national brands, and enjoy drink deals at River North leaders and legends - including Rockit, Theory, Public House, Bull & Bear, English, LaSalle Power Co, Moe's Cantina, Howl at the Moon, Fado, Blue Frog's Local 22 and District. 

We had a blast last year and once again, T & L will be representing Michigan State (although L might don a Northwestern T-shirt when we're at the Wildcats' home bar). According to the Chicago Big Ten facebook page,  Spartan Nation came through with the most tickets purchased. Go Green!

As somewhat older alumni, well at least relative to the typical pub crawler anyway, we fully expect to hear things like "Hey, who brought mom and dad...When you went to college, was it the Big Six...It's 4, do you need to take a nap?"  Well, we're prepared with some snappy comebacks, like "dudes, our livers haven't functioned properly since before you were born," and if that doesn't get'em, how about "hey, do you even know what a road map is, let alone know how to fold one?" Yeah, we're ready! 

Advance tickets sales are just about over, but "day of" can be had from the participating bars from 11 to noon. Advance tickets are $15 while waiting until Saturday will cost you another $5. 

Home Bars

Illinois - Moe's Cantina
Indiana - LaSalle Power Co
Ohio State - Public House
Penn State - Fado
Purdue - Bull & Bear
Wisconsin - Blue Frog Local 22
Iowa - Theory
Michigan - Rockit
Michigan State - English
Minnesota - Fado
Nebraska - Howl at the Moon
Northwestern - District

So come on out Saturday and join alumni, fans and friends of the Big Ten schools for a fun event and a great cause. Look for us via foursquare or Twitter and say hello.

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