Category Archives: Drink

Cheap, No. Cheerful, Yes! Sunny and Warm in the ‘Ville.

It was the day I checked things off my to do list, and wrote checks in order to check them off. The taxes got mailed yesterday, and I think we’ll get a pittance back — reason for cheer! But today’s the day of the month when all those pills I take to keep my body and mind from splatting all over the patio needed to be refilled. Ouch. Being jobless and without health insurance, those Maggies’s Little Helpers don’t come cheap. Then there was the payment to our fine mechanic Jim: it was about a third what we figured it would be — thank you Jim! The Cheerful outcome here is that my car’s running for the first time  in six months, and not a moment too soon, because I don’t want my eagerly-awaited house guest to be marooned with me in the “Ville , rather than cruising to the local commuter station and rumbling in to Chicago.

Then there’s the business I waded through to keep that cheery vibe goin’ on: an hour and a half — I swear — on the phone with invariably polite Customer Service people changing the expiration date on my debit card so that those automatic payments will keep the lamps lit, the phone and internet alive and the roof over our heads. Done! Excellent!

I mailed a couple of gifts to a pair of wonderful women and sent a check to Medecins sans Frontieres. Those docs and nurses without borders are heroes of mine, and sending them money when I don’t have a whole lot is kinda karmic insurance for me — I can’t imagine the lives they lead in the most dangerous waste places of the earth.

I mean: here I am with a car that runs, medication, clean water , my street teeming with adorable kids on their three wheelers and a huge bouquet of heavenly fragrant daffodils picked from my own garden.

I’m going to cut up a plump fryer (69 cents a pound!) and let it sit in buttermilk. I’ll start some stock from the carcass. I’ll pour a glass of wine before I fire up the old cast iron skillet and fry that chicken up. Biscuits, maybe? Asparagus, definitely.  Here’s looking at you, Kids! Cheers!



Filed under Drink, Food, Free, Growing things, Into the Mystic, Worth it anyway

Hot Day, Cold Beer

This is wishful thinking, of course. Here in Chicago we get grim, hot humid summers, but they start around July 4th. (Memorial Day mostly requires a sweatshirt, windbreaker or wool turtleneck — or some kind of layering combo.) It’s the middle of February so I’m going to have to stick with decent ales and legwarmers for the foreseeable future..

I wait until the sun’s over the yardarm religiously, making exceptions for the few and far between elegant restaurant lunches. When my friend Liz took us  out to lunch with her sister Meghan at Blackbird last fall a bottle of prosecco and three of Henriot champagne disappeared like kegs at a frat party. (Have I thanked you enough for that fab lunch, Liz?)

But drinking during the day isn’t my thing, with one fizzy exception: a cold, cheap beer on a hot day. It’s an occasion of joy, medicinal and hedonistic at the same time. The set up has to be perfect.

My hair and my clothing must be plastered, sweat-stuck, to my skin. If I’ve been clever enough to wear a sunscreen, rivers of perspiration have washed it away, and the pale Hibernian skin on my nose will peel tomorrow. An afternoon in the bleachers , a county fair — they’re obvious opportunities. But for the full appreciation of the experience, that brewski must be earned. Here are a few times situations where you might want to have a six pack of PBR handy.

In a moment of insanity, on a 97 degree day with no air conditioning, you decide to wallpaper the smallest stillist room in the house, the downstairs powder room. You watch your marriage begin to crumble during those four hours. The smarter half of the couple suggests leaving the border for another day.

Thunderstorms are approaching, and you want to lay that brick patio now.

You’ve almost dislocated your back pushing a half-ton rototiller the length of both sides of your house, to create a daffodil border and a n herb garden. The mercury is 98 in the shade. If your fingernails are dirty and your cheek is topsoil smudged, you’re golden.

I’m sure you can come up with a few ideas of your own. But there’s a ritual here, and it should be followed as closely as the bells and smells of a High Anglican church during Easter week.

The beer must be canned, not bottled. It must be cheap Lite beer. You don’t want to be tempted to sip, and that thin near-hopless slips down easy. Go for Pabst Blue Ribbon, Bud Light, or that dreadful-looking Michelob Ultra that Lance Armstrong is pushing in Olympics ads.

Don’t stop for a shower. Grab a can from the fridge, rub it across your forehead, along your neck, and into the neck of your Tshirt. Go back outside and pop the cap. Throw your head back and chug — you shouldn’t come up for air more than three times. Let that thin-flavored, fizzy lifesaving fluid wet your lips, dribble down your chin and give you a cold beer brain-freeze. I find a second can an anti-climax myself, but if you’ve been pouring asphalt in Death Valley, be my guest.

Well, anticipation makes everything sweeter. Just four more months!


Filed under Drink, Five bucks or fewer, The Great Outdoors

Cheap, Cheerful and Almost Campari

San Pellegrino Sanbitter is Campari for the broke bartender. It looks like Campari. smells like Campari,and tastes like an (only slightly sweeter Campari. Unlike Campari, it’s slightly fizzy. Sadly, unlike Campari it contains zero alcohol. It’s a bitter, herbal soda pop and I can’t imagine drinking it straight, but diluted with tonic water or even better, Schweppe’s Bitter Lemon (is it even produced today?) I think it would be just the biglietto sipped in a cafe under the Tuscan sun.

I can testify that a splash of this scarlet elixir brightens the taste of a plain ole g and t. The flavor isn’t the only thing it enlivens — the color is molto bella. And I shamefacedly admit that my husband, the rat, slipped it into a faux Negroni and it took me a couple of sips and a good look at his smirky double-dealing face to realize that I’d been had.

BONUS: I think I’d buy Sanbitter for the bottles alone. Oh my gosh, they are cute! I will soon be the proud possessor of ten matching five inch tall bud vases. I’ll have to wait a couple of months for the buds.

A pack of ten 10cl bottles cost five bucks at Angelo Caputo’s in Hanover Park, Illinois. That’s a bargain:if you find it elsewhere it will ring up for a few bucks more.


Filed under Drink, Five bucks or fewer, Uncategorized