All dressed up with no place to go. Day 16

All dressed up with no place to go. Day 16

It’s a bright and sunny day here in the Windy City. Finally a chance for Jess and I to see the city sights. We track out along the seriously busy streets and walk the famous magnificent mile. Home to many designer shops like Zara, Gucci and Prada. Now, Jess booked all the hotels and I am beginning to see a recurring theme, high fashion, inner city, high prices. Hmmm…

Putting that aside we have reached Millennium Park. Chicago loves its fountains, there seems to be one on nearly every block and the fountains we see today really take the art of shooting torrents of water in the air to new heights. The parks here are fastidiously maintained; there’s even a sculpture exhibition on within the pathways.

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The Cloud Gate or as it is affectionately known by Chicagoans “the bean.” A massive metallic looking sculpture that is shaped like, you guessed it, a bean. There are dozens of people taking photos and walking underneath this monolithic structure. It is quite a cool piece of art with perceptions being distorted the closer one gets to the reflective surface. Very strange and conceptual. I like it. We snap some tripped out shots before making our way down to the waterfront for a nice stroll.

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After walking right around the riverfront Jess and I realise that we should probably make some plans for dinner. “Why not” I say. So we thought we would try and get reservations at one of the hardest places to get reservations at in all of Chicago. Grant Achatz’ latest restaurant, Next. After exhausting emails, phone calls and dropping every hospitality line we could think of. We still couldn’t get a table. Well why don’t we just try and show up? We don our snazziest clothes we can find and grab a cab.

Adjacent to Next is Achatz’ bar known as The Aviary, a willy wonka esque place where cocktails are treated as meals. So we thought if we didn’t get into Next we could always drown our sorrows at The Aviary.

We drive into very industrial Chicago to 955 West Fulton Market, Next. His is not your usual restaurant, the menu explores various themes and concepts. The previous menu was called The Hunt and championed birds and game of various types. This menu is Vegan. Yes I can’t believe I am actually trying to get in to a Vegan restaurant. No meat, no cheese, basically no fun. But in this aspect it is the concept, the challenge of creating possibly one of the most challenging dietary requirements into something that the general public finds exciting.

So here we are, we decide why not have a drink at The Aviary first in the hopes of scoring a late table. I also think hard liquor might aid the confidence levels to a certain extent. So we head into the queue for The Aviary and are seated in their outdoor patio area, the bartenders work frenzied over a flurry of drinks and masterful cocktails, or that’s at least what we can assume because Jess and I can’t even see through the door. Regardless, we are here, one of he most exciting cocktail bars in the world. And there’s food. We are quickly greeted and provided with an amuse bouche, a drink consisting of raspberry, a spiced beer and rum. A delicious little aperitif for what was hoping to be some fairly heady drinks to follow. I order an “in the rocks” a drink made of Benedictine, vermouth, cognac and rye, topped with bitters and served completely inside a frozen ball of ice. Hence in the rocks. For Jess a “luau” which was made from pineapple, matcha tea, chartreuse and gin.

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Now I did say these cocktails were out of the ordinary, there’s a prix fixe menu which contains a choice of three cocktails. A kind of entree, main, dessert for the drinker. Then there’s an ala carte menu which Jess and I ordered from. Then there’s food! Our hopes of getting in to Next are slipping away but at least there’s food here.

The menu looks incredible, a snickers bar contains slices of molten foie gras, duck legs are eaten viking style, oysters arrive in a pillow of smoked sunscreen and all of it is paired to what you’re drinking. Jess and I order salt cod with pickle, mayo and flora. A delicious little nod to the fish stick. And wow what a flavour. The fish is brandade coated in a crisp little breadcrumb with tonnes of edible flowers, cucumber pickle and just all round heavenly things. We demolish that plate and move on to the duck served Peking, egg, medieval. Yes medievally. For that is the style in which you will eat the dish. Pick it up with your hands and have a gnaw!

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Now in the rush for us to eat we have nearly forgotten about our insane drinks. My cocktail comes with a tiny little slingshot for me to crack through the ice ball and spill my cocktail into the glass. This is insane. The entire drink is inside an ice cube. For Jess her matcha tea is in the form of a fluffy granita in which the rest of the spirits are poured out of a hand bottled soda bottle. This is a drinking playground. After the drinks kick in we try for a late table at Next to no avail but Jess and I aren’t upset. We’ve each had one of the most amazing drinks and seen some wondrous creations right before our eyes.

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So with our thirsts quenched we head off along the street to find the restaurant owned by Masterchefs Graham Elliot Bowles. Well let’s eat.  I try a buckwheat pasta dish with lobster mushrooms and chorizo. For Jess a roasted chicken breast with pomme purée and heirloom carrots. Than who should walk through the door. None other than Chef Elliot himself. Exciting!

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The food is really tasty and served with a friendly smile. Even if we were the most overdressed lot in the place.

So we head home, our fancy clothes still pressed and ready, with the sparkle of fresh liquor in our eyes.

Remind me not to drink and write again.

Josh and Jess

The Lui Bar

Lets have a drink @ The Lui Bar, Vue De Monde

Well all this Melbourne madness has got me seriously in need of alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. So Jess and I find ourselves at The Lui Bar on level 55 of the Rialto Towers. So this put me in the mood to talk mixology. We want to know all of your favourite drinks that tip you over the edge, which is likely the way that Jess and I are knocking these drinks back.

Lui Bar is a gorgeous setting with modern French decor, a sophisticated space but comfortable and in no way too stiff. We pick a spot by the window and set to chill. An old fashioned for me and a mojito for Jess. While we sit and discuss the serious full stomachs that we have after our fantastic fall down the rabbit hole at Hare and Grace, I think that it’s time for us to share some recipes for our favourite tipple of choice.

Josh’s Not So Old Fashioned
The old fashioned is a classic drink traditionally made by muddling sugar and bitters before pouring over whiskey and garnishing with an orange wedge. For mine I like to use orange bitters and Appleton estate rum. Appleton estate reserve rum has delicious notes of ginger and vanilla so it picks up the orange whilst adding a hint of spice warmth.

For my drink. I like to chill the glass right down in the fridge first and set a large cube of ice in the freezer. Big enough to almost fill the glass. You’re going to want to sit on this one for a while!

1 sugar cube
5 dashes of angostura orange bitters, more if you like it really bitter.
A tiny splash of water, this gives you a little bit of moisture just to get everything moving.
And last but not least, 60mls of appleton estate rum.

Put your sugar cube into a chilled old fashioned glass, line the edges with the bitters then add the water. Use a spoon or a muddler to crush the sugar cube. Add your large ice cube then pour the rum over the top. Stir to dissolve the sugar and serve with an orange zest garnish. This is sophistication and classic. Don your tux, grab your machine gun and enjoy.

Jess’s Mild Mannered Mojito
The mojito can turn even the rainiest of days into summer in the Caribbean. Jess’s take on this classic is to freshen it up with lots of mint and a serious amount of lime.
Use a Collins glass to serve this or make a pitcher and have yourself a kicking party.

2 tablespoons of caster sugar
A dozen or so ice cubes
45 mls of white rum
150 mls of soda water
A bunch of mint
2 limes

Okay so there is a serious amount of mint and lime, you don’t have to make it quite so zingy but the fresh punchiness of the lime combined with the sweetness of the rum and sugar is just a little piece of Cuban heaven.

First take about half of your mint, half of your limes cut into wedges and jam them into the bottom of a jug or a cocktail mixer. Crush the mint with the lime to release all the essential oils. Add the sugar and muddle again to dissolve. At this point you should have a lovely green mess. This is the base of heaven. Strain the liquid into your glass and add the ice. Pour over your rum and garnish with the remaining lime wedges and mint. Fresh, zesty and delicious. Put on your sunglasses, some chilled out tunes and enjoy.

Lui Bar is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Melbourne. Not simply for the fact that it’s directly next door to the amazing Vue De Monde. It is a space that is elegant and modern with great drinks and wonderful service.

So now we have shared our drinks we want to know all of yours, drop us a comment and give us your recipes. Although if we get too many to try Jess and I may need new livers! Cheers!

Drank in April 2013

Level 55 Rialto Towers
525 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC