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More extra's from today's cover story on bartenders' homemade holiday treats:

post and photo by guest blogger Seanan Forbes

Timothy Lacey, master bartender of the Drawing Room and his wife, Lisa, make plenty of holiday foods and gifts: jams, extracts, ice creams, pies and more.

"We cook way too much food," Lacey admits. "My mother, when I was a kid, would start making Christmas cookies in September, and freeze them. We'd be eating them until March. Going overboard is in our blood."

So is adapting to the needs of guests and friends. One of Lacey's desserts was apple cider ice cream. "My mother-in-law has lactose issues, so we had to do something without dairy," he says.

Thus was born a tradition. "I wanted to do this apple cider granita," Lacey recalls. "I was trying to figure out how to keep it from freezing solid."

Taking advantage of having tight connections with a few of Chicago's best pastry chefs, he sent out an e-mail: "Here's what I'm trying to do. How do I do it?"

Toni Roberts, pastry chef of C-House emailed back. "She suggested adding some vodka to it, to keep it from freezing." Lacey's bartending instincts kicked in. "I decided that applejack would complement the flavors better."

For the main ingredient, he looked to Seedling Fruit. "They've got some great varietal ciders." (You can find Seedling and their ciders at Green City Market.) Lacey was still thinking about cider ice cream. Then he tasted the granita, "and it was actually way better." Does he feel deprived? "No!" Lacey smiles. "In that one instance, no."

Recipe after the jump.


The bartenders interviewed for today's cover story on their homemade holiday treats gave us way more material than we could use. Here's are some delicious extras:

Post and photo by guest blogger Seanan Forbes

Forget the jokes about hand-me-down fruitcakes. When it comes to making Christmas presents, Sepia's Joshua Pearson tweaks his father's cookie recipes. Pearson's dad, Stephen Pearson, is a professional pastry chef turned bakery manager, which promises something better than a mythical fruitcake doorstop.

A bite of revised heritage: Joshua Pearson's Grand Marnier sugar cookies. "He used to make something very similar," Pearson remembers, "without the glaze." Pearson the Elder's recipe was easy to make. Pearson the Younger's twist is, too. Unsurprisingly, it's also boozy, with liqueur in both dough and glaze.

"A couple of years ago, I was looking for a holiday cookie to make. I had some Grand Marnier, and I love cooking with Grand Marnier," he says. Chuckling, he confesses, "I boozed up his cookies a little bit."

This winter, Pearson's father is up from Australia, enjoying a chilly white Christmas in Chicago. The father's out and about, seeing the town. As to Pearson, he says, "My wife and I are staying in." He's in the kitchen, cooking and baking and keeping things warm.

Has his dad tasted the Grand Marnier version of his cookies? "He hasn't yet. I'm making them for Christmas." They'll appear after dinner. "I always cook a goose. I usually do a bourbon-glazed ham." Pearson's voice drifts off to meals past and dinners yet to come. Sugar cookies, too: spirited ones.

In Australia, the big holiday meal - lunch, there as in Britain - showcases shellfish. The orange cookies would be just as welcome after a hot-season feast.

In whatever weather they're made, the next batch of cookies may have just a little finely shaved dark chocolate in the batter, grated orange in the glaze or (who knows, with Joshua Pearson?) a different spirit altogether. Only three things are certain: The cookies will taste good; they'll pass any top-shelf bar exam, and they'll be shared with friends, family and an abundance of cheer.

Recipe after the jump.

Some things you should know about the Speakeasy Throwback on Thursday at the Palmer House Hilton:

The centerpiece (physically speaking) of the gathering of local distilleries and some of Chicago's top chefs will be a bathtub filled with booze.

The base of the concoction -- the only word suitable here -- will be tea from Rodrick Markus of Rare Tea Cellars. Spirits from Death's Door, Koval, North Shore, Hum and Templeton Rye will fill out the mixture, says Lockwood's Phillip Foss, one of the chief organizers of the event. Forner Sepia cocktail slinger Peter Vestinos will preside over the bathtub. There may or may not be a slushie version of the bathtub beverage; Foss is experimenting.

The person for whom this event has been organized, bartender Shawn Koch, however, doesn't much care for booze right now, only red wine, and only a half a glass at most -- though that won't stop him from at least sampling all the night will have to offer. shapeimage_4.png

This time last year, Koch was working the bar at the Paramount Room, 415 N. Milwaukee. Around the holidays, he started losing dexterity in one arm and became increasingly forgetful -- though he kept on tending bar with the good arm. In late January, when one of his legs quit working on him, his wife, Katie, took him to the doctor. They found three brain tumors in his brain, the largest the size of a golf ball, and diagnosed him with a rare form of brain cancer.

"There are only 58 people in the world with this cancer," Katie Koch says.

Since then, Koch, 33, has had brain surgery, seven weeks of chemo and radiation therapy -- and a blissful four-week vacation in Arizona and Iowa with his wife and 20-month-old daughter Charlie. He's now in the early stages of a six-round cycle of chemo.

This week, while momentum has been building about the Speakeasy and its amazing lineup, Koch and his family were en route to Detroit to bury his grandmother. And this latest round of chemo has left him feeling pretty crappy on top of that.

"You never know when you have treatment, when it's really gonna hit you. And it hit me this week," Koch says.

And yet.

Koch will be at the Palmer House tomorrow. He may not stay the entire evening, like the rest of us, but he'll be there.

"I'm a bartender and I was really serious about it, so I definitely want to go around and taste everybody's cocktails paired with the food," he says.

All proceeds from the evening will go toward the Shawn Koch Foundation. Tickets -- $95 -- can be bought at the door. See you there.

By guest blogger Seanan Forbes

Does it matter whether you call cachaça rum? It does to Brazil.

There, cachaça has a lineage that can be traced back four centuries. In 2001, Brazilian president Fernando Enrique Cardoso signed a degree stamping the country's cane alcohol with one name: cachaça.

That's all well and good in Brazil, but it doesn't have much of an effect in other countries.
Is there a difference between rum and cachaça? Rum's usually made from a sugarcane byproduct, molasses. Cachaça is made from fresh sugarcane juice. chili-mama.jpg

One of the greatest cachaça activists is Steve Luttmann, founder of Leblon cachaça. How did an American man get involved with cachaça? "I fell in love with a Brazilian," Luttman said. Leblon's a family-owned business. Arguably, then, Luttman has more than one reason to defend the liquor's honor. (If you want to support cachaça's right to claim its name, then you can sign a petition online.)

Aged cachaças, like aged whiskies, command a high price (say, $400 a bottle). Barrel-aged cachaças, which have spicy, woody notes, can be enjoyed simply, on the rocks or neat.

Most people associate cachaças with caipirinhas, Brazil's traditional drink made with cachaça, sugar and lime. Cachaça's an adaptable spirit. It plays well with many flavors. Take advantage of summer, and mix it with watermelon and lime, spice it up with fresh chili, and add a savory touch with cilantro.

The Chili Mamma (at right) complements salads as readily as it does steaks and sandwiches. The Basiado, which has cucumber and lemongrass, is a breeze in a glass, and light enough to enjoy with dessert.

Don't think cachaça pairs only with Brazilian food. Dan Tucker, chef de cuisine of Sushishamba rio, 504 N. Wells, says that caiparinhas favor sushi and sashimi - especially the spicy rolls.

And don't be afraid to try using cachaça in food, instead of with it. Chef and cooking teacher Leticia Moreino Schwartz, author of The Brazilian Kitchen, encourages people "to use this Brazilian spirit in cooking, not only to make caipirinhas."

In Schwartz's hands, caipirinhas become a sorbet. While it's elegant as a dessert, garnished with a spiral of lime rind, Schwartz says it makes a gorgeous inter-mezzo between dishes in a meal. This recipe isn't in the cookbook, but Schwartz sent it from Brazil to Chicago. That's a present any drinker can enjoy.

Recipes after the jump.

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.



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