This past weekend I accompanied my wife on one of her business trips, and finally, I have an opportunity to reflect on some of the nice times that we had. Our journey took us to St. Charles, Illinois, one of a string of cute historical cities just northwest of Chicago, resting along the banks of the Fox River. Although rich in the history of the American Indians and early white settlers, St. Charles is perhaps most recently known for the Hotel Baker, the place where Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg stayed on their wedding night in 2014. That’s also the place that we called home-base for a couple of nights.
My wife asked me to join her on this trip so that she could show me some of the cool restaurants, bars and such. So of course, I always have a passion for that type of adventure. After taking a quick trip down the road, we stopped in the beautiful town of Geneva for dinner and drinks. Before dinner on our first night, we just couldn’t resist a stop at All Chocolate Kitchen where their speciality was, of course, Chocolate. The passion of the famed chef Alain Roby, who has catered many star-studded events including Jenny and Donnie’s reception (I feel so close to them now), his cafe is anchored by a 23′ tall, 1200 pound, tree constructed from a variety of chocolates and decorated with blown sugar wildlife ornaments. Although the display cases were full of amazing chocolates, candies and sorbets, which we just had to sample; it was almost impossible to take your eyes off of the numerous life-sized statues. The Guinness world record Truffle ($3000), the 51′ tape measure representing the length of the Guinness World Record candy cane, and many other passion-filled confections. In my book, All Chocolate Kitchen is a must see if you ever find yourself in or near Geneva.
After a little truffle appetizer, it was time for dinner at a quaint restaurant called The Patton House. Built inside a restored home, the ambiance of the restaurant was warm and inviting. The bar was moderately stocked, and the bartenders were quite welcoming. My pre-dinner drink was a Knob Creek Rye (neat). Knob is a warmer, spicier rye and not one I typically gravitate to, but I was looking for something with a little punch to help me through the 2-degree weather outside.
The food was awesome with a wide variety of American dishes. Surprisingly, they had a very nice Jambalaya and the Siracha Brussel Sprouts were “to die for”. Lots of other goodies too, another highly recommended stop.
On day two, our primary focus was to check out a bar called barrel&rye. If you guessed that from the name, this is a whiskey bar, you’re right! We started off the afternoon with a Cedar-Smoked Manhattan, which was a pretty typical rye Manhattan poured into a glass that had been freshly smoked with a charred cedar plank. The little smokey flair totally changed the mood of the drink into something quite stimulating to the senses. Pair that with a plate of cheese curds and my bride and I were “Singing Dixie in the Land of Lincoln”. So we ate, drank, and I tried sips of whiskies that were new to us. Most intriguing, perhaps, was Zeppelin Bend, an American Straight Malt Whiskey distilled by the New Holland Brewing Co. Being and old Led Zeppelin fan I couldn’t resist trying it and now I can say that I did. In short, it was OK but at $70 per bottle, I don’t have a passion for it.
My final drink of the afternoon was Chicago’s own, FEW Rye Whiskey, another brand that was new to my pallet. FEW was a nice looking pour and very leggy in nature. Admittedly a little young, it held it’s own pretty well for a 4yr aged product. The nose was crisp and clean, definitely exhibiting its rye mash bill with an underlying hint of straw and other grains. It reminded me of a young Crown Royal Harvest Rye (2016 World Whisky of the Year – Jim Murray’s annual whisky bible) which may say a lot. For me, give it a few more years of aging and I might visit this passion often, but at its current age, I’ll be using it primarily as a mixer.
My Take: The St. Charles/Geneva has a lot to offer the foodies and Spirits enthusiasts, so I’ll be back. As far as FEW, it’s another of the many good craft whiskeys originating in the midwest. At $55/bottle, it seems a little pricey when I can get a bottle of the award winning Crown Royal Harvest Rye for >$40. For me, it doesn’t stand on its own, but I wouldn’t hesitate to mix with it. For those reasons, I would put a bottle of Few Rye on my shelf as a novelty mixer. It would also be fun to take to a party since it would be a new experience more most people.
Until next time, Drink Passionately!