Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Here’s a fun thing to do on a Friday evening after work: Stop by the Old Sugar Distillery for a snort. We have a few brew pubs in town where you can pull up a chair and ask them to draw a frosty glass of beer brewed right on the premises, but up until the week before last I didn’t know we had a distillery right here in Madison where you could do that.

We made our first visit three weeks ago when the owner was handing out samples at Star Liquor, our favorite place to stop on a Friday after work because that’s when they’re almost always hosting a free beer tasting. They’ll get a brewmeister from one of the local breweries, or a rep from a distributor to bring in samples of the latest seasonal ales and other goodies. If you stop in, they’ll pour you an ounce or so of each and tell you about them. It’s a great way to meet the local brewers, and not incidentally to also taste some really great beer.

The week before last they played host to a couple different distillers, and that’s when we met the guy who owns the Old Sugar Distillery. He told us a little bit about the place and the products, and when we heard it was just a couple blocks down the road we couldn’t think of a thing we’d rather do than stop by to taste what they had to offer.

Right in the middle of the old factory building where they make their magic there’s a room where heavy steel racks hold stacks of oak barrels up the walls. A great big copper still sits in the front of the room by the window, and in the middle of the room there’s a bar that appears to be made out of wood salvaged from a dairy barn. There are only a half-dozen or so stools at the bar, but there are several tables around it so there’s plenty of room for lots of people to sit and enjoy their drinks, and a good thing, too, because the place is hugely popular. Each time we visited, almost all the seats were taken.

They’ll give you a tour of the place if you ask, but we haven’t asked yet. After a long week of office work, it’s way too relaxing to just hang out on a bar stool, nursing a tasty cocktail. The first one I tried was the Cuba Libre, a rum and coke. I have no idea what makes a really good rum, I only know I like the rum they make there. Very tasty. The bartender was good enough to make me a baby one and leave me the Coke bottle so I could nurse it.

The last time we went, I tried B’s favorite cocktail, the Good and Plenty. Made with ouzo, it tastes like licorice. I drank a little less than half of it before I started to feel as though I shouldn’t finish, so I asked B to help. She was only to happy to pitch in.

snort | 6:05 pm CST
Category: booze, daily drivel, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play | Tags:
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Friday, December 31st, 2010

Today’s New Year’s Eve so we get the day off because we’re state workers. It’s one of the benefits that are showered on us like confetti at a hero’s ticker-tape parade. I can’t wait to see how that’s going to change. Watch this space.

But for now, we’re enjoying the day off: Sleeping in a bit, then sitting on the sofa for as long as we damn well want to while we drink our coffee and try to wake up. When we felt we could finally communicate in something more complex than grunts, we threw on some clothes, piled into the car and went into town for breakfast at Lazy Jane’s. My Darling B ordered something called a Chipotle Chili Omelet, which she mistakenly thought was a regular omelet with chipotle chiles, but no. It’s an egg folded over a mountainous helping of chili, more than she could eat in a day under any circumstances. She hardly made a dent in it.

I had a waffle garnished with bananas and walnuts and smothered in syrup. If there’s a better way to start the day, I can’t think of it right now.

We made a quick detour to Mad Cat before swinging back. Boo’s favorite cat toy, a wand with a little poof of feathers on the end, was pretty much worn out. All that was left of the feathers was a little furry stump and one very thin, tired-looking pin feather, so I got her a new one. There are so many feathers I thought it might scare her, but she was very excited to chase the new one even though I woke her out of a sound sleep with it, which is not something I would normally ever do if I could help it. Think of someone you know who’s “not a morning person” and then imagine waking that person up suddenly and rudely, say by throwing the contents of a well-chilled chamber pot in her face, and you’re getting an idea of the kind of “morning person” the Boo can be.

While My Darling B was gathering up the fixings for a shellfish chowder dinner and our New Year’s Eve noshies, I strolled up the street to Star Liquor to ask Adam to recommend a bottle of bubbly that would go with the chowder. He fixed me up right quick and I grabbed a six-pack of Moon Man from New Glarus to go with the popcorn and movies we were planning on watching as we passed the hours until midnight, should we somehow be able to stay up that late.

Then it was on to Batch Bakehouse. They’re closing up for almost two weeks to go on vacation, so we wanted to see what we could pick up from their showcase. Not much, as it turned out. They were being mobbed by a steady stream of people who had the same idea we had, and the showcase was almost cleaned out by the time we made our way to the front of the line. We scored some cookies, a wedge of apple cake and a small loaf of wheat bread, then tried to make our way through the crowd out the door before the ones in the back realized they weren’t going to get any goodies.

Just two more stops after that, at Bongo Video! and the Monona Public Library to pick up a selection DVDs, so many that we’ll almost certainly never get to watch them all, but at least enough that we’ll all be able to agree on something. Movies, noshies, booze and food – I think we’re ready to make it to the New Year!

New Year’s Eve | 2:14 pm CST
Category: beer, Boo, booze, daily drivel, entertainment, food & drink, movies, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants, television, vacation, work | Tags: ,
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Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

The ides of each month are special here in the Madison area, particularly on Willy Street at the north end of the isthmus. On that glorious day, the fifteenth of each month, Star Liquor offers a fifteen percent discount on every bottle of wine in the store. Well, almost every bottle.

I was helping My Darling B search the shelves for our favorite labels when Dave, one of the employees, came by to offer her help. (That’s not a typo. I know her as Dave because one day she was wearing a t-shirt with “Dave” printed in block letters across the front. Introducing myself with the line, “Hi, Dave, I’m Dave!” was irresistible, but I couldn’t help it, even though she gave me a look like she thought I was putting her on.)

“Need help? Looking for anything in particular?” she asked us. “Did you want to see anything in the wine cellar?”

In the wine cellar? Wait, what?

Before the chance could pass us by I nodded and answered “Yes, please!” and we were off, threading our way through the knots of people searching for their favorite wines. Dave led us down the stairs to a chilled room in the basement where our eyes beheld one of the marvels of Star Liquor: Wines that we might possibly be able to afford once, like on our fiftieth wedding anniversary, say. I walked very slowly from rack to rack, being careful not to accidentally brush up against anything. One wrong move in there could max out my line of credit.

And it wasn’t just wine. Did you know you can cellar beer if it’s got the right amount of alcohol in it? I didn’t, until we tasted a bottle of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale that had been lagering in the basement since 1999. That’s something I’m going to try my darned self.

A big “Thanks!” to Dave for the special treat. We didn’t bring anything home from the cellar this month, but maybe (by the time we retire?) we’ll have saved enough from our lunch money to get a bottle of something special for our anniversary.

Star’s cellar | 3:11 pm CST
Category: beer, booze, daily drivel, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play | Tags:
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