Who is excited for Camp Wandawega now?
One was easy. Though I might share innumerable photos of the insides of diners and dive bars, colorful images of gravy slathered breakfasts and late night burgers, I actually try to eat relatively well. I love to make colorful salads. I am a big believer in finding balance. The grosser the meal the night before, the better I try to eat the next day. I haven’t done the best job this year, what with my job taking me in and out of many of the best bars and restaurants in the country on a frequent basis, but on my days off I’ve learned to simplify: cut out salts and sugars, cut back on coffee and drinks, load up on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lots and lots of water.
I was excited to see how my guests might take to my plant-based cocktails.
The first person I thought to invite was Michael Ciapciak, whose Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood has become something of a community center for me and my friends. Michael and I are both from St. Louis, and yet he and I have only a passing familiarity with one another. I loved having the opportunity to work with Michael on a gathering such as this one, and he definitely brought his A game: housemade pickles, a zucchini crudo (served on a roast board), a crudité of romesco with an assortment of tri-color carrots (served in a cast iron skillet). This red pepper sauce had a delicious, nutty quality. It was so filling. He also made a special Rhubarb Syrup just for me (!), which I put in a cocktail with Basil Hayden’s, basil leaves, mint leaves, amber agave and soda water.
The next two guys have long been heroes of mine. The co-founder of Goose Island Beer and the founder and current owner of Virtue Cider, Greg Hall is — to say the least — a major factor in the United States’ impressive growth of both microbreweries and the emerging boom in cideries.
Upon moving to Chicago, one of the first things I signed up to do was volunteer at the Green City Market, the city’s biggest farmer’s market, and one of the best in the country. At the end of my shift, Peter Klein of Seedling has always provided me with my traditional treat: a fruit smoothie made entirely using ingredients from his Michigan farm and orchard.
I’d only met these guys on a handful of occasions, and we’d never actually spent any time talking at length. To have the opportunity to learn about their businesses was a true treat. Greg brought two of the driest ciders I’ve ever tried, one of which a single orchard variety, The Ledbury, made its way into a cocktail he told me about, the Stone Fence, one of the very first “cocktails,” which is simply equal parts whiskey and cider. Pete brought the spiciest brandied cherries I’ve ever tasted and some special cherry bitters he made in collaboration with the guys at Bittercube in Milwaukee.
Mike Ader of Midnorth Mercantile recently moved to Chicago from Minneapolis / St. Paul, where he was famous for his haircuts, his vintage clothing bazaar, and, well, his mustache. “My fiancée says I can’t call myself ‘Mustache Mike’ any longer.” Probably a good thing, Mike. I am always enamored with Mike’s finds. He has a treasure trove of vintage sporting goods, canvas sneakers, leather deck jackets, army fatigues, and recently, according to Instagram, a bevy of truly antique men’s and women’s swimwear.
Grant Legan the photographer and brand strategist whose travels inspire lush, interesting compositions which he graciously shares via Instagram. I’ve been a Grant Legan fan for a couple years, and though we live in the same city, our paths never crossed. I was determined to make it so, and he graciously accepted my invitation, regaling us with stories from his time driving a luxury car around the streets of New Orleans. Rough life.
And last, but certainly not least, there’s Mr. Super Danger, Alex Maier, the musician and and filmmaker whose photos you’re currently enjoying. Alex and I have been in the mutual appreciation club for some time, and I’m happy to report since hanging out at Bang Bang, we’ve had occasion to share bourbon and burgers on a windier-than-expected day in Chicago’s West Loop.
The relationships we make as men are hard fought, owing mostly to the realities of growing up, settling down, over-committing at work and at home. It goes without saying, I really appreciate these guys. And of course, none of this would’ve been possible without one really special woman. So thanks to Jessica Murnane and all these dudes for taking time out of your weeks to spend it with the likes of me. It was a true pleasure to share this simple story of a plant-based fellowship.
Faced with a “change your diet or else” verdict from her doctor, Murnane went whole plant and her symptoms improved. Since then, she’s completed training with the T. Colin Campbell Foundation in Plant-Based Nutrition.
As she explains on the site, “for some, it’s digestive problems or low energy. For others, cramps from hell or simply feeling ‘off.’” And now, in addition to the terrific content on her blog, she offers her services in real time. “From inspiring corporate group sessions and shopping trips to one-on-one lifestyle coaching,” she’s making herself available for “wellness coaching sessions.”
I can tell you firsthand, Jess is kind and approachable, harnessed with a diligent work ethic and downright funny. I’ve never met someone who is as quick to quote Dr. Alejandro Junger as she would Jay-Z. With an approach that is kind and judgment-free, she works hard to ensure that you’re armed with the best information possible – so you can maintain your new plan in a way that feels most comfortable to you.
If you’d like more information on her programs or would like to hear successful testimonials, please contact Jessica Murnane at .
“When you get off the airplane, I have a little surprise for you.”
Union Square Donut’s Heather Schmidt
That’s how the text message read. What it didn’t say was that it was the best thing one road-weary traveller and his girlfriend could’ve possibly encountered. With a bottle of Basil Hayden’s bourbon whiskey in hand, Mr. James Fox of the blog 10 Engines met us in Sommerville, Massachusetts’ Union Square. He then lead us into Heather Schmidt’s Union Square Donuts grand opening.
Among her first batch of donuts were a Dulce de Leche Cinnamon Bun, a Honey Almond, an Orange Ginger Cream, a Chocolate Chipotle, and my personal favorite a Maple Bacon Donut.
For more on Heather’s delicious morsels (and her recipe for Basil Hayden’s caramel sauce), please visit Basil Hayden’s Whiskey… Among Other Things.
On a recent trip to my hometown of Saint Louis, Missouri, I swung into Brasserie by Niche for Basil Hayden’s Whiskey… Among Other Things. It was there I met Layla Linehan who devised a special cocktail she’s calling “My Old Missouri Mistress.” A cross between a Manhattan and an Old Pal, you can read all about it here.
When I was a little kid, a family friend of ours, a general contractor named Greg Elder, was hired to give a facelift to the Kentucky Fried Chicken in our small Kansas town. From time-to-time, Greg and his wife Sue would babysit me and my brother, and one night, they took us to the KFC.
Looking up at this giant bucket-shaped piece of tin, he said, “You know, Max, The Colonel himself taught me how to get that bucket to spin.” Now, I’m not sure if Colonel Sanders was even alive when Greg went to work on the world famous fried chicken joint that bears Colonel Sanders’ visage to this day, but every time I pass an old storefront that still bears the words “Kentucky Fried Chicken” and not the shortened, uber-corporate “KFC,” I look for that twirling bucket of chicken and think of Greg Elder.
And while it might not (yet) have a giant tin chicken basket spinning out front, what’s inside is a clean, modern take on the ol’ chicken shack. A few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of dining at Parson’s Chicken and Fish, the latest venture from Land & Sea, comprised of some of the braintrust behind the Michelin-star rated restaurant, bar, and inn Longman & Eagle.
Before living on the East Coast, I’d never tried a lobster roll. Since moving to Chicago, I’ve learned that Giuseppe Tentori‘s rolls do the trick, but at quite a price. For a little more than the cost of a Big Mac, Boston’s Belle Isle Seafood will overwhelm your plate with Hulk Hogan-sized hunks of lobster. It’s definitely worth a stop on your way to-and-from Boston’s Logan Airport.
For more, visit basilhaydens.com.