FEW Spirits’ Cold-Cut Bourbon

I had somehow missed the release of FEW‘s cold-cut bourbon in 2019. Fortunately, somebody notified me about it last month.

I don’t usually go for FEW’s whiskeys — or those from the other Chicago distilleries — for one simple reason: Chicago & Evanston only re-started granting distillery licenses in 2008 and 2011, respectively. They’re new distilleries, so they haven’t had time to age the whiskey.

They have used cold-brew coffee to cut the cask-strength hootch down to bottling proof. That’s damn clever, so I figured I could make an exception to my “no local whiskey” rule in this case.

The bourbon-y and cold brew flavours are balanced really well. It’s impressive that they managed to get this right — cold-brew coffee can vary so much. But you can clearly taste the whiskey and the coffee, so major props to FEW. There’s a nice long aftertaste of coffee and bourbon.

I did not love this on its own, though. There was a flatness to the whole thing. It really felt like it needs some sweetening to reach its full potential. And that’s fine with me: I bought it mostly for cocktails!

So far, I’ve only done a riff on an old fashioned, with chocolate bitters. As I had suspected, the syrup took care of the flat note. It was very pleasant, and I highly recommend it. The recipe is below!

FEW cold-cut bourbon, chocolate bitters from Scrappy's Bitters, a jar of Luxardo maraschino cherries, and a jar of sugar cubes.
I don’t actually use sugar cubes for cocktails, but they sure look nice in pictures!
  • 2 oz FEW Cold-Cut Bourbon
  • 0.25 oz 2:1 Simple Syrup
  • 3 dashes Chocolate Bitters

Put everything into a stirring glass. Add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice.

Garnish with a maraschino cherry or an orange twist.

I’ve got some other ideas for cocktails to use it in. Next up, I’m going to try pairing it off with china-china liqueur, which is orange and vaguely bitter. I’m trying to dig out from under all the wine Bright Cellars (disclaimer: that’s a referral link!) has been sending me, so I haven’t been mixing up as many drinks as I normally do.

As an aside: once the coronavirus is slain, I need to go re-take the FEW distillery tour. I used to have a pair of their branded glencairn glasses, but one ended up in an unfortunate collision with a water bottle, and its twin is chipped. The FEW tasting room is the only place I’ve seen them.

Geek Grind Coffee’s Goblin Gulp

In one of my DnD campaigns, our mascot is a goblin we adopted early on. He’s a big fan of coffee, so on a lark, I google image searched “goblin coffee” for something funny to put in a scheduling email.

I was surprised to find officially-licensed Pathfinder coffee offered by Geek Grind Coffee. I immediately ordered a pound of their Goblin Gulp blend. It turned up two days later.

I’ve already got coffee beans out, so I moved it into a vacuum bag and froze all but one cup’s worth of beans. The bag it arrived in is a nice collector’s item!

I brewed this with my go-to method: inverted aeropress with a little bit of salt added to the grounds. I used my metal filter instead of a paper filter so I’d get The Full Experience, oils and all.

Empty bag of Goblin Gulp & mug of brewed black coffee
Brewed Goblin Gulp coffee

It turned out really well! The mouthfeel was velvety and smooth, just like they claim in the description. I’m not sure if I’ve had another coffee with that kind of body, so it’s unique in that respect. Flavour-wise, I got lots of dark chocolate.

This was an awesome coffee and I look forward to finishing what I’ve got out now so I can have this as my morning cup. I’ll probably restock with the the 5lb bag once I’ve run out. 😁

I didn’t read much about their company — I assumed they were just a board game cafe or something — when I bought it (hash tag impulse purchase), but when I was writing this up I clicked through to their about page. They are actually a fantasy-themed coffee company that operates their own farms in Columbia:

We do not “source” our coffee as most companies do – rather we actually grow it. We harvest by hand from our own farms and the nearby farms of our friends and neighbors. We then immediately dry the coffee beans in the sun right at the mountain farms. Just hours after drying we roast the coffee in small batches then finally package the roasted in special protective packaging that assures freshness before shipping directly to your door.

story | Geek Grind Coffee

So that’s kind of cool.

Quarantine Omakase at Kyōten

Chicago omakase restaurant Kyōten is doing private dining right now, so you get the whole place to yourself. Having considerable events to catch up on celebrating, we decided to go for it, being the safest dining-out option you can find.

When you do omakase, you can usually talk to the chef. I’ve always felt bad distracting them during service, since there’s a bunch of other folks there waiting to. This offered a unique opportunity to chat without any guilt!

Chef Otto Phan told us about how he got started with a sushi truck (!) in Texas, before deciding he wanted to move to the big city and ended up in Chicago. Sous chef Jose made occasional appearances from the kitchen, much to our delight — he had picked the playlist and we were into it.

We arrived something like half an hour early. Maître d’ Emily hooked us up with some highballs in the lobby while we waited for them to finish getting ready inside.

I didn’t take notes as I went unfortunately, so I don’t have my tasting notes for every item. I neglected to take a picture of the dish between the beef & tamato: some delicious eel.

The uni used was unusual. It’s usually arrayed in a big wooden box; Kyōten’s came in small containers packed in salt water. It seemed richer than the stuff I’m used to, but that may have been because it was topped in a sauce made from uni.

And speaking of sauces: the nodogoro. Who would have thought shrimp brains could be so delicious? It sounded like a pain in the ass to harvest; chef played it off like it was as easy as sucking a crawfish head (which I don’t usually do, but…maybe I will from now on?).

I don’t remember what type of caviar we had, but that wasn’t the most interesting part of that course — the fish it was served atop was. I think it was tilefish. When the sous chef brought it out of the kitchen, I thought it had a panko topping or something. Turns out, tilefish scales behave like popcorn when heated. So that was cool.

The toki shirazu was cool. It translates as a fish that “knows not time”. This is an individual salmon that doesn’t care about the changing of the seasons, so it never heads up a river to spawn. The result is visible in the flesh: that piece of salmon lacks the typical thick white bands of fat.

The rice requires mention. They use a type of rice I’ve never encountered before. From their website:

Shari (sushi rice) plays a central role in our sushi philosophy.  Kyōten uses a very special and exclusive varietal of rice from Japan called Inochi no Ichi, the first (and currently only) restaurant in the US to use this paricular grain.  Our shari is boldly seasoned with the intense taste of aged red vinegar.  Different rice recipes are used so that they pair fittingly with different kinds of fish. 

Kyōten Website About Page, Retrieved 2020-08-13

I did a drink pairing. Chef had chosen eight sakes & wines to go with the meal. Once again, I regret not taking notes as I went, but I do remember a couple notable things!

The lambrusco, a lightly sparkling red, was something new to me. The Ancient Treasure served with dessert was like a dark chocolate. I’m not all that well-versed in sake, but that’s not something I’d seen in a sake before.

The Tokaji was a real treat, mostly because I didn’t know this was a real thing. If you are familiar with The Golden Compass: the Master of Jordan College poisoned the tokay (another spelling of tokaji) intended for Lord Asriel in the opening scene. This was very much a dessert wine, but it wasn’t as overpowering and heavy as one of my other favorites with a similar taste.

The omakase & drink pairing menus

As with many high-end restaurants, Kyōten gave us a box to take home and enjoy for breakfast the next morning. It was a mystery box. When I took the ribbon off and opened it on Monday morning, it was revealed to be a yachae kimbap — a Korean vegetarian sushi roll, made with their inochi no ichi rice, some pickled vegetables, and tamago. A splendid breakfast!

Yachae Kimbap

Colectivo’s Java Ciparay

Colectivo is hands-down my favorite coffee shop. Even before they opened a location in town, we were buying their beans at the grocery store.

I picked up a bag of their seasonal Java Ciparay for the weekend. I had not tried this blend yet. The beans were roasted and packaged the day before I bought them.

Coffee time

Unfortunately, this is just not working for me. I’ve made this in my aeropress and french press, with the same results. The bag describes the flavour profile:

Fans of Sumatran coffees will enjoy our Java Ciparay for its herbal and earthy flavors with notes of pine, cedar, and orange peel.

Colectivo

I’m getting an overwhelming amount of cedar, to the point where it’s just flat. To me, it tastes like a cardboard box smells. A bit of salt can help, but it didn’t have much impact here.

There’s still plenty of beans left, so I am going to try brewing and serving this a few other ways to see if it’ll wake the flavour up.

In other Colectivo news: they’re supposed to have in-app ordering starting this week!

I would normally hit Starbucks in the morning since I didn’t have to talk to anyone. Starbucks’ actual coffee isn’t very good, limiting me to either an americano or something with way more calories than I should be drinking…

Starquake Recipe

Way back in 2017, I was playing Starfinder and actively listening to Cosmic Crit. They ran a fan challenge: submit a Starfinder-themed cocktail recipe. Naturally, I entered.

The cocktail is themed to the solarian: warrior-monks who channel stellar power to lay the smackdown on baddies. All solarians are accompanied by a stellar mote. The mote transforms into a powerful stellar weapon when it’s needed.

A solarian attuned to black hole energy would presumably have a tiny black-hole moat floating around them. I imagine it would look something like a Luxardo maraschino cherry!

Motes attuned to graviton energy are about to lay the smackdown on your liver.

Here is my prize-winning Starquake recipe:

  • 0.25 oz Simple Syrup
  • 0.25 oz Crème de Violette
  • 0.25 oz Blue Curaçao
  • 0.25 oz Maraschino Liquor
  • 2 oz Gin

Put everything into a stirring glass. Add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a coupe glass.

Garnish with two graviton motes.

Passerotto

We visited Passerotto last week. This is the second time we’ve been. It’s a unique restaurant: Korean meets Italian. The Korean aspects are the most prominent, but you get amazing dishes like their lamb ragu with shaved parm & basil over rice cakes.

The menu had changed a little since our first visit. They offer smaller plates, so just like before, we ordered about 2/3rds of the menu.

The cocktail was a whiskey sour with a ton of flourishes. It came out egg-yolk yellow and looked like it would be thick like an eggnog — but no, very light and refreshing! The colour came from a saffron liqueur, and it was sweetened further with a pine nut orgeat.

One item not pictured were the manicotti egg rolls. I was expecting something crispy, but they were pillowy. I don’t think they were even pasta — you could scoop sections up with a spoon. It tasted pleasant but nondescript.

The pork was OK. It had a nice char, but it wasn’t anything special.