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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bongs, Caffeine and Physical Fitness: Part II

Bongs, Caffeine and Physical Fitness: Part II

Dominick M. Maino

At the end of Part 1 of Bongs, Caffeine and Physical Fitness, your intrepid walker, while seeking the magical 10,000 steps to fitness FitBit Nirvanna, was just leaving the Déjà Vu Smoke & Vape Shop, a new store on Milwaukee Ave….. 

Portage Park Nature Trail
…walking now from Milwaukee Ave onto Laramie and then going west on Irving Park Road, I soon arrived at Portage Park (where, in 1972, Gold Medalist Mark Spitz set new world's records during the U.S. Olympic swimming trials). Portage Park has a great deal to offer including a nature trail that features spunky squirrels, flowering plants and trees….and the pleasant chirping of birds (a real middle of the city, country oasis). At the southeast corner of Central Ave and Irving Park Road, sits a lot with 
Starbucks Drive-thru?
several cars parked upon it that may be turned into a strip mall with a Starbucks. ([Ugh!) I am not a fan of either strip malls or drive thru Starbucks stores. I am a fan of walkable city streetscapes, people places and bike friendly, art-filled spaces.

All morning I’ve been checking my FitBit and now notice that I am not quite at my 10,000 steps goal….so onward to the Perkolator coffee shop…for caffeinated experience #2, a delightful macchiato.

Selfie in front of Thrift & Thrive
The Perkolator is owned by Joe and Melissa Basilone, both of whom not only own The Perkolator, but also the Sputnik Records and Thrift & Thrive stores as well. This dynamic duo supports the community and are leaders in the Irving-Austin Business District Association. While at Thrift & Thrive, I had an opportunity to talk to Melissa and learned about the new and exciting activities occurring on the west side of my Portage Park neighborhood.

Tea'se Shoppe
I’m now over my 10,000 steps…feeling a bit weary but ready for the last part of my walk-about neighborhood adventure. On the way home, I stop in to Tea’se Tea Shoppe remembering how much my wife likes their Lemony Lemon blend of tea. David Ratulowski, the owner was not there today, but I had a most pleasant and informative discussion about tea with Lilla who was 
staffing the store when I came in. I spotted some Bourbon Praline tea and had to try some on the spot. The aroma was incredible.

Cappuccino. Macchiato. Bourbon Praline Tea. 

Steps and caffeine levels achieved.

I did not check my FitBit heart rate.

So you see, Bongs, Caffeine and Physical Fitness was the perfect title for this blog post. 

I walked 17,223 steps today…. Drank 3 wonderfully caffeinated drinks…. 
And have embarked on my personal adventure to becoming physically fit.

It was a good day.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Bongs, Caffeine and Physical Fitness: Part I

Bongs, Caffeine and Physical Fitness: Part I
Dominick M. Maino

Sure, I know what you’re thinking. When was the last time you heard the words Bongs, Caffeine and Physical Fitness used in the same sentence (besides just now, that is)?

The first of 10,000 steps begins with the first step.

My FitBit Blaze
I’m a new convert to the FitBit craze. I have the Blaze which cannot only tell time, but also count the steps you take each day, wakes you up in the AM, checks your heart rate, tells you how many miles you’ve walked and a great deal more.  Today, I wanted to get in my 10,000 steps early.

Retro-Fitness on Irving Pk Rd
Starting at Laramie and Grace St., I walked over to Irving Park Road. The old Bank of America Building is being gutted and rehabbed to be the new home for a Retro-Fitness Gym and a Binny’s (after these are completed, a 300-seat auditorium in the building is to be brought back to life as well).

Just west of this, construction guys were working on getting a new Elly’s Pancake Restaurant ready for our dining pleasure.  According to the “construction men on the scene” Elly’s should open mid-summer. The folks at Retro-Fitness tell me that their equipment is to be moved in by the end of April and then they will be open for business mid-May. As I peeked into what will soon be Binny’s, I noted shelving ready to be assembled, but did not hear any information about an opening date.

I continued my trek east on Irving Park Road pass our new Thunderbolt Axe Throwing facility to
Thunderbolt Axe Throwing
Milwaukee Ave, stopping in at the Retro-Fitness pop-up store to say hello to one of their managers and fitness trainers (who will have me in her clutches as soon as they open so I can become the new and improved….not to mention “buff”, chronologically enhanced AKA “old guy”).

My next stop was to check in with the fine folks of the Six Corners Association to chat with Kelli Weffenstte (6CA’s  Executive Director) to see how our plans for the Six Corners BBQ Fest were coming along (It’s is going to be awesome!). [Zydeco Voodoo at BBQ Fest images and more BBQ Fest images here]. Visit the SCA website often to see what’s going on in our growing community.

Dominick and Joe
What can you say about a place that has 5-6,000 magazines, books, great coffee, homemade chocolate truffles, incredible live music and more?

3 words: City News Café!

This was where I was first caffeinated by a cappuccino made with the skilled barista hands of Hattie Portage. I stopped to rest my not yet weary feet while talking to City News owner, Joe Angelastri. Joe has been active in the community for decades and always has a welcome smile for all.

Then came the bong!

As I continued my adventures while walking down Milwaukee Ave., I noticed interesting artifacts [frequently used by classmates (not me of course)] during my college days in a store’s window display. This store has only been open for about a month. As I went into the Deja Vu Smoke & Vape store a very friendly gentleman by the name of Affir showed me his hookahs, bongs, pipes, vapes and other products. There were several signs that said, “To be used with tobacco products only”. Well, with Illinois considering passing a marijuana law (no doubt to reap the tax benefits noted by those states that allow recreational use of MJ), perhaps he will be able to remove these signs soon!

Want to know how Bongs, Caffeine and Physical Fitness ends? Watch for Part II soon….

Friday, April 7, 2017

The NEW Single Malt Whiskey

The NEW Single Malt Whiskey

Books at City News Café

Featuring: The NEW Single Malt Whiskey

Dominick M Maino, Book Review Editor

City News Cafe is well known for its more than 5,000 magazines, awesome coffee, music performances and Hattie Portage’s home crafted chocolate truffles. Now the Six Corners community will also have access to a “right in our neighborhood”, small business, unique book store as well.

Please feel free to let us know what topics and titles you’d like to see on our shelves.

The NEW Single Malt Whiskey: Edited by Carlo DeVito with a Foreward by Chip Tate and an Introduction by Clay Risen; Cider Mill Press Book Publishers, Kennebunkport, ME.  Hardcover, 624 pages with a glossary, additional resources, index and numerous photographs. ISBN-13:9781604336474   $21.00 or less

Do you like whiskey/whisky? Are you only familiar with the old standbys you find in a typical liquor store or grocery? Perhaps it is time for you to spread your whiskey wings and try one or more of the 325 drams from 197 different distilleries in 25 countries around the world that have been reviewed in this text. If that is the case, then this book must sit upon your shelf today!

How do you become interested in single malt "uisge beatha" or "usquebaugh" which when translated from the Scottish and Irish tongues means the “water of life”? Well,
for me it all started when my friend, Charles Grant, introduced me to The Macallan 12-year-old Scotch. Macallan has numerous other expressions featuring its  whole range of whiskies. (I’ve sampled many of the Macallan line, even a wee bit from their 25 y/o bottle.) Once you learn how to enjoy a single malt, you will seldom ever go back to whatever you were drinking before this experience….and that is why you need this book as a guide.

Where should you start? I would initially begin with a good single malt from Scotland. Although by dear friend Chuck only drinks Macallan, I would urge you to try the Glenfiddich 12 y/o first (any of the Speyside whiskies would work well upon your palette as an introduction. Since Six Corners will soon have its own Binny’s Beverage Depot, you will be able to find these whiskies here.) Those whiskies with a smoky/peated flavor, however I would suggest you wait until you’ve developed a sense of several different drams from around Scotland. For many, the smoky or peated varieties are an acquired taste.

OK. You’ve had your first excellent whisky and now you want more! It’s time to explore many of the possibilities and that is where this book comes into the story.

The beginning of this text starts out with information that includes but is not limited to “what’s the difference between whisky and whiskey”, how is whisky made, and why are Bourbon barrels often used to age the spirits? You will also come to understand the wonderful relationship between wood, water and grain that is required to make whiskey such a great drink. Finally, you can learn tasting techniques and how to make incredible cocktails.

Where in the world shall we start? This book begins in Australia and ends its tale in Wales.
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Whiskies I’ve sampled that are mentioned in this text include those from the Lark Distillery in Tasmania, Amrut from India, numerous spirits from Ireland (Knappogue Castle 12, Bushmills 10, Connemara 12, Tyrconell 10, and Tullamore DEW 10) and several from Japan (Yamazaki 12, Hakushu 18). The folks from Taiwan’s first distillery, Kavalan have several whiskies of note as well.

When it comes to whisky, those originating from Scotland hold a special place upon my palette. I have enjoyed drams from Aberlour, Auchentoshan, Balblair, and Balvenie, as well as Benriach, Glenfiddich, Glenoronach, and Glenglassaugh 26. Some of my favorites also include Glenlivet, Glenmorangie, Highland Park, Laphroaig, Maccallan 15, Tamdhu 10, and Tomatin.

If it wasn’t for the United States and our skill at making whiskey however, there may have never been “Scotch” as we know it (read the chapter about Bourbon barrels for more information on this topic). The USA single malts I’ve placed upon my palette include: Balcones (Texas), Few Spirits (I love their Rye and Bourbon and did you know that they are right here in Evanston, Il?), St. George (California), and Hudson (New York).

And finally, on a recent visit to the UK, I had an opportunity to sample Penderyn Single Malt Welsh Whiskey made in Wales.

Since this book reviews some 325 different bottles of the amber fluid, you may have noticed that even I have just sampled the very tip of the single malt whisky iceberg. Also you should know that these fine spirits were not all sampled over a single, lost weekend; but rather over a 10-15 year period. If you are going to do something right, it takes time and patience.

This book about a very special spirit has been called “The most definitive guide to the new revolution in single malt whiskey across the globe, …” and I would not argue with that in any way….so….If you want to learn about single malt whiskey and if you want to “do it right”; there is no better place to begin than by reading this book…now available at the City News Café!

BTW: City News Café’s very own, Hattie Portage has made whiskey flavored chocolate truffles. They Are Awesome!

For more of my Whiskey Tasting Notes go to MainosMusings and look on the right-hand side of the page.

Chicago-area distilleries include:

Few Distillery 918 Chicago Ave, Evanston, IL 60202; Rhine Hall Distillery 2010 W. Fulton St., Chicago; CH Distillery        564 W. Randolph St., Chicago; KOVAL Distillery   5121 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago

Contact Dominick Maino (dmaino, the CNC Book Review Editor, if you’d like to write a review of any of the books you’ve read and want to see it published here.