Pickled Things
DRINKING: To Cure a Hangover

Logic will tell you that the only real cure for a hangover is not to drink so much that you are hungover in the first place.  But, sometimes you are over served, and when you are hungover, you are willing to try anything.  So, as a public service, I’ve gathered a list of cures for the common hangover.

  • I have a friend who swears that soaking in a warm bath with a cold Guinness will cure any hangover
  • Upon waking up, drink twice as much water as you drank the night before
  • Two ibuprofen and 4 extra hours of sleep
  • A plate full of Huevos Rancheros
  • Two Bloody Marys 
  • Vitamin Water and a plate full of french fries
  • A multivitamin and milk thistle
  • A grilled cheese, 2 glasses of milk, and a banana
  • Before going to bed, eat pinto beans and drink 2 or 3 glasses of water 
  • Drink pickle juice the next morning
  • Drink aloe vera juice and a multi-vitamin
  • Take a b-12 vitamin and eat a slice of bread before going to bed
  • Call off work, and watch The Price is Right
  • Sauté an entire bag of spinach with olive oil, and eat it for breakfast
  • A glass of Alka Seltzer before bed
  • Roast 4 cloves of garlic and follow it with 2 glasses of  salt water
  • Hit the sauna the next morning for 20 minutes, while drinking gatorade
  • Mild exercise
  • Large black coffee
  • Large orange juice with pulp
  • Take a shower and alternate hot and cold water

PICKLING: Pearled Onions and the Drinks that Love them

With all these drinking’s posts as of late, it occurred to me that I ought to pickle something that can serve as a garnish.  I figured those little cocktail onions would be as good as any, so I went with that.

First, I did a bit of research on pickled onions.  It turns out that pickled onions are traditionally served in Gibsons.  Now, a Gibson is pretty much the same thing as a gin martini, except it is garnished with a pickled onion not an olive.  There’s actually a conflicting, yet interesting story behind how this drink was developed.

Anyhow, let’s make the pickled onions, then we’ll make the drink.

Pearled Onions

  • 8 cups peeled white pearl onions
  • 5½ cups white distilled vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons canning salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 8 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 4 teaspoons celery seed

Peeling the onions are kind of a pain in the ass until you get on the internet and discover an easy way to do it. 

Heat the vinegar, water, mustard seed, and celery seed on the stove. 

While you are doing that, pour the sugar and salt on the onions and coat evenly.

When the brine has come to a boil, pour over the onions to soak them.


Then pack in jars and process them in a water bath.  

Let cool on the counter overnight. Check in the morning that the seals have sealed properly. If properly sealed, these onions will keep on a shelf up to a year.  Once you open them, however, they should be refrigerated, and will last about 3 to 4 weeks.

Okay, let’s jump ahead to the drinking part!


  • 2.5 oz. gin
  • ½ oz. vermouth
  • 1 cocktail onion

Use a shaker with ice to mix the gin and vermouth. Strain and pour into a martini glass.  Garnish with your homemade onion, which is clearly the star of the show!

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m not much of a gin fan, but I did sample this drink, and I must say it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated it would be!  This drink may have just cured me of my fear of gin! But you could, of course, replace the gin with vodka if you wanted to.

Another fun fact about the Gibson…It’s considered one of the manliest drinks ever.

DRINKING: Real Drinks

I don’t know if anyone else is sick of bars pushing these new fangled concoctions that they are trying to pass off as drinks.  You know the ones I’m talking about — The ones mixed with Red Bull that have the word “Bomb” as a suffix.


Correct me if I’m wrong, but drinks should taste like drinks, not Kool-Aid.  Real drinks should make you wince and close one eye a little bit.  My Grandpa sure knew how to make a drink!


I worry sometimes that mixing and drinking classic cocktails is becoming a lost art.  In my opinion, every drinker should know how to mix (and enjoy) at least a few of these classic cocktails. 





  • 1.5 oz. bourbon
  • Scotch or rye whiskey

  • 1 sugar cube

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • 1 splash soda water

Muddle the sugar cube with the water and bitters in the bottom of a glass until the sugar dissolves. Add the whiskey, then add two to three ice cubes and stir.




  • 2 oz. whiskey
  • ½ oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1 dash bitters
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 1 maraschino cherry for garnish


Place ice in a mixing glass. Pour in vermouth, then whiskey, and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass. Add a dash of bitters, and garnish with a cherry.





  • 3/4 oz. bourbon whiskey
  • 3/4  oz. triple sec,
  • 1/2 oz. sweetened lime juice
  • Lime wedge for garnish


Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Strain over a glass with ice.  Garnish with the lime wedge.



Tom Collins


  • 4 oz. Gin
  • 1 tbsp. sugar syrup
  • Juice of 1 medium lemon

Stir all of the above together in the Tom Collins glass and add 4 ice-cubes. Fill with soda water, stir again, and serve immediately.




Rob Roy

  • 2 oz. Scotch
  • 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • Maraschino Cherry for Garnish

Place liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker.  Shake for ten to fifteen seconds.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with the maraschino cherry.  

PICKLING: A Castle Made of Cheese

For anyone who has ever traveled between Chicago and Milwaukee has most certainly driven through Kenosha, WI and past Mars’ Cheese Castle. My first visit to the cheese castle was in 2001, just a few months after I moved to Chicago.  Some friends and I were road-tripping up to Milwaukee, and we stumbled across the giant sign and an old dilapidated building.  Once inside, we found virtually every type of cheese known to mankind. We purchased some string cheese and were on our way.

Fast-forward to this past weekend, where I, again, found myself road-tripping with some friends between Milwaukee and Chicago.  We decided to stop at Mars’ because a couple people in the car had never had experienced the Cheese Castle before.  Plus, I was interested in picking up some Moon Man Pale Ale, from New Glarus Brewery that is only available in Wisconsin.

We pulled in the parking lot and I was completely surprised.  The once dilapidated wood building with the hand-painted sign had been completely renovated into a brick building designed to look like an actual castle.  The parking lot that was once nothing more than a gravel area, was now paved and had a dog walking area?! The Mars Cheese Castle that I remembered as a weird, quaint, little cheese shop appeared to have turned into a full-fledged tourist destination.

I was wandering the aisles mourning the loss of the Cheese Castle that I remembered, when I came across an entire aisle of pickled things. Pickled asparagus, pickled beets, pickled Brussels sprouts, pickled meats, pickled everything! After seeing the pickle selection, I quickly embraced the new Mars Cheese Castle, and cursed myself for waiting over a decade between visits. I grabbed a jar of pickled asparagus, a six-pack of Moon Man, and was on my way!

DRINKING: Sunday Dread

You may know it as The Sunday Blues, but I call it the Sunday Dread. It’s that sinking, defeated feeling that overcomes you every Sunday evening around 6pm.  It’s knowing that all the fun of the weekend is behind you, and all you have to look forward to is tomorrow’s long commute and perhaps a Monday morning meeting.  The Sunday Dread can’t be avoided, unfortunately, but there are ways you can distract yourself.  My Sunday Dread distraction activities used to include doing laundry and cleaning the bathroom, but this just made The Dread even worse.

Then I discovered the uplifting effects of Martinis! One strong drink that will help ward off The Dread, but won’t leave you feeling under the weather for Monday morning.

This may be upsetting to some people, but I like to use Vodka in my martinis. Ever since the “Gincident” I haven’t been able to come to terms with Gin.  But that’s another story for another day.


3 oz. Vodka

1.5 oz. Vermouth

1 Cocktail onion

1 Bleu-cheese stuffed olive

Shake the Vodka and Vermouth with ice in a cocktail shaker.  Strain the drink into a martini glass and add a splash of olive juice.  Stab the onion and olive with a toothpick and enjoy!

DRINKING: How to Drink Alone and in Public

Always sit at the bar.


Be friendly with the bartender, but don’t talk to them too much.


Stop looking at your phone, just enjoy the ambience.


Bring a book or magazine, if you don’t feel like chatting with anyone.


Don’t get sloppy.


Drinking alone in the afternoon is better than drinking alone at night.


Treat yourself to a cocktail, save the beer for when you are with friends.


Save some ones for the jukebox, I recommend Bruce Springsteen or Creedance Clearwater Revival.


Pay attention to the conversations around you, you’ll more than likely hear something interesting/hilarious.


Don’t accept a drink from anyone if you don’t want to get roped into a long conversation.


Enjoy the moment, clear your head, and try not to think about all the stuff you have to do.


Drinking alone doesn’t mean you have a problem, it just means you like your own company.


Don’t forget to tip your bartender.


DRINKING: A Style Guide

It took me a long time to wrap my head around the different categories of beer, so I thought I would try to explain things, in case anyone else needs a quick crash course.

Every beer can fall into one of two categories:

1. Lagers

2. Ales

The differences between these two styles are in the yeast and the temperature in which they are fermented.

The yeast in lagers will ferment at the bottom of the tank at colder temperatures.  The yeast in ale ferments at the top of the tank at warmer temperatures.  The result is that a lager will have a clean, crisp taste, while an ale will have a stronger taste, and be more flavorful.  Lagers should be served cold (around 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit) and ales should be served warmer (around 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit)

Then each type of beer has a bunch of different sub-categories, here are a few examples:


1.  Pale Lager

            ex. Budweiser, Miller High Life

2.  Bock

            ex. Shiner Bock, Amber Bock

3.  Pilsner

            ex. Heineken, Stella Artois

4.  Oktoberfest

            ex. Spaten, Bell’s Oktoberfest

5.  Dunkel

            ex. Warsteiner, Löwenbräu


1.  IPA (India Pale Ale)

            ex. Two Hearted Ale, Lagunitas IPA

2.  Porter

            ex. Sierra Nevada Porter, London Porter

3.  Stout

            ex. Guinness, Murphey’s Irish Stout

4.  Wheat beer

            ex. Bells Oberon Ale, Samuel Adams Hefeweizen

DRINKING: And The Cost of It

In the introduction to The Rum Diary, Hunter S. Thompson is describing the place where he and all his colleagues from the newspaper went to drink.  The place was called Al’s Backyard. There’s a passage that goes:

"They bitched and groaned when—in what some of them called "a fit of greed"—Al jacked the price of beer up to a quarter; and they kept on bitching until he tacked up a sign listing beer and drink prices at the Caribé Hilton. It was scrawled in black crayon and hung in plain sight behind the bar."

This passage hit home a few nights ago, when some friends and I were complaining how we continually and routinely spend up to $4 or $5 for a single beer.  After complaining for what seemed like a good solid hour, the topic of conversation drifted to what we thought the cost of beer was in other countries. We all rattled off the countries we had been to, and the more we thought about it, the more we remembered that drinking in bars isn’t a particularly inexpensive endeavor. We were convinced, however, that there had to be some magical place on the planet where beer was cheap.

 When I got home later that night, I decided to do some research to see where you could sit at a bar, have a beer, and not shell out a ton of money. I found this great site called Pint Price. It is basically a database that collects and averages the prices of beer around the World.

I thought this site is pretty interesting, but thought the data would be more meaningful if it was put into a graph.  So, I took some of the prices and created a bar graph.  It made me realize maybe drinking beer in America ain’t so expensive after all.  But there is, in fact, a magical beer place, and that place is called Panama where the average price of a pint is $0.52.

DRINKING: Yuengling

Chicago is home to several excellent breweries. Goose Island, Half Acre, Metropolitan, Revolution Brewing Co., just to name a few.  In fact, just in the past couple of years it seems more and more microbreweries have popped up all over town. Plus, the fact that Chicago is a large city, it pretty much guarantees that its citizens will have plenty of beer to choose from. 


Having said that, however, there is one beer that is impossible to purchase in Chicago.  And it happens to be from the country’s oldest brewery: Yuengling!


Yuengling is brewed in Pottsville, PA, and they only distribute their product to a handful of Eastern and Southern states.


Yuengling is a traditional lager that is on the lighter side.  It’s very drinkable, and very affordable.  It might not be the greatest tasting beer in the world, but it takes first place in the “cheap beer” category.  And it has an eagle on the label.  The brewery makes seven different types of beer: Lager, Light Lager, Black & Tan, Porter, Chesterfield Ale, Premium, and Light.


I tasted Yuengling for the first time only about two years ago on a trip to Florida.  When I got back to Chicago I was shocked and appalled that it couldn’t be purchased in Illinois. A few months later, I read somewhere that they were starting distribution to my home state of Ohio. In fact, a friend forwarded me a newspaper article about the distribution company having to hire extra people to keep up with the Yuengling demand.

So the next time someone is traveling through Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, or Alabama please bring me back a case of the Lager.  (I’ll pay you back, I promise!)

DRINKING: Across Iowa

It’s nearing the end of July, which means it’s almost time for RAGBRAI.  For those that are unaware, RAGBRAI is a week-long cycling event in which you and 25,000 other people ride across the state of Iowa, while camping out at various overnight towns.

When I first heard about this event I had absolutely no interest in riding it.  Who in their right mind would want to ride 450+ miles over the course of 6 days?   Then, I heard someone describe RAGBRAI as a “rolling, traveling beer tent.”

I immediately changed my mind, put together a team of cycling professionals, and registered for it.

I even made team uniforms, and designated a mandatory uniform day.  Die Traummanschaft = The Dream Team 

The idea behind RABRAI is real simple.  You wake up, pack up your tent, get on your bike and ride to the overnight town.  The overnight towns are usually somewhere between 50 – 90 miles apart.  Seems easy enough, right?  Well, on your way to the overnight town, however, there are tons of little towns with all sorts of distractions trying to prevent you from making it to the overnight town.



If/when you get into your overnight town, you set up your tent, find some dinner, and relax with your teammates. Keeping it classy!

I’ve ridden RAGBRAI 3 times so far, and if there’s anything I’ve learned it is this:  It will rain.  And it will be cold.  And you will have to ride a lot of miles in the cold and the rain. Everything in your tent will get wet. And all the clothes you packed will be wet for the rest of the trip.  Oh, and two people on your team may even get struck by lightning.  You’ll also experience constant soreness in your knees, butt, hands, and neck. And you will have to get used to the taste of well water.

And here’s where I say, RAGBRAI isn’t for everyone. Sometimes there are tornadoes. This photo was taken right as a storm was approaching, where the tornado sirens were warning us to seek shelter in the nearest building:


Luckily, the nearest building was a 4-H building made of super safe and durable sheet metal.  It’s 3:00am and everyone in this photo is experiencing a moderate to severe hangover:


Once it is safe to leave the shelter, you walk back to your tent, and realize the sun is starting to come up, and it’s time to pack up the tent, and get on your bikes and start riding for the day.  Super stoked to be riding in a garbage bag, in the rain, after getting zero sleep:


But then the sun comes out, the temperature rises, you gather some strength, and come across a sign from the heavens: Free shots. No Shit! Free shots.


Then everything is right in the world, again.


Here are some pickle/pickling resources that might be of interest to my reader(s).


Pickle Products:

The Puckled Pickle

This is a local pickle company that specializes in dills, spears, and relish. Order off the site or find their products at Fox & Obel, Paulina Market, Potash Bros., Whole Foods, or Strack & Van Til



Stu’s Sour Pickle Co.

This is also a local company who sells sour pickles and bloody mary mix.  Buy at Pastoral or Olivia’s Market.  Check out their website for the just about the coolest packaging ever.



That Pickle Guy

This company based out of Lisle, IL sells its products at Whole Foods, Costco, Treasure Island and Farmer’s Markets across Illinois.  They specialize not only in pickles, but also sport peppers, giardiniera, olive salad, and olive muffalata.


Pickling/Canning Classes:


The Glass Rooster

Check this site for canning and pickling classes in Chicago throughout the summer.  They offer a Pickling 101 class that will teach you the various ways of pickling.



The Chopping Block

The Chopping Block also offers a Summer canning & preserving class, where you’ll learn how to preserve the summer harvest for months to come.


Slow Food Chicago

This organization offers a hands-on quarterly canning workshop.  Check the website for the schedule.



Food Preservation Blogs:



Food in Jars

This blog written by Marisa McClellan focuses on canning and preserving.  She also recently published a cookbook based on preserving small batches of food year-round.



Canning Across America

This is a comprehensive resource for all things canning.  It features recipes, live twitter chats, photo contests and a host of events throughout the country.


Canning Granny

This blog shows step-by-step instructions and photos on how to pickle, can, dehydrate, and store foods.





The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving

This is the most comprehensive guide to preserving food on the market.  It shows the water-bath canning method as well as the pressure canner method.  It is a must-read for beginners and experts alike.

DRINKING: Free Drinks

I have found that there are four reliable ways to get free drinks in bars.


  1. Befriend the bartender
  2. Buy someone else a drink first
  3. Have the last name of “Beer” or “Whiskey”
  4. Start a band


This post will focus on #4…how to start a band, get some gigs, and eventually get free drinks.


First, if you don’t already know how to play an instrument, pick out an instrument that you want to learn, and encourage your friends to do the same.


Second, pick out a name for your band.  If you are an all-girl band, try to work that in to your band name.  (It will only help you later on down the road.)


Next, find a basement to practice in, or secure a practice space.


Third, learn enough songs that can fill about 30 minutes.  It helps to have half originals and half covers.


Then, call your friends who play at The Mutiny regularly, and tell them you’ll open for them, and can bring in tons of fans. 

At your first show, you’ll probably get two free drinks from the bar because you’re playing.  But, a way to get another free one is while you are setting up, shout to one of your friends in the crowd, “Hey, go grab me a beer, willya?”  And your friend will because you’re on stage.


Once you’ve played at the Mutiny, you can start playing real venues.  Some of these real venues will actually pay you to play. The trick is (and this is a classic rookie mistake) to have your bar tab, less than what you get paid.



Recently, I tasted Kimchi for the first time.  For those unfamiliar Kimchi (or kimchee) is a spicy condiment made from fermented napa cabbage, radish, onion, spices, and vinegar.  It is a popular Korean staple, and some deem it the world’s healthiest food.

I’m not positive why it took me so long to discover kimchi, but it is delicious.  I’m not quite sure how to describe it, other than it’s spicy, a bit chunky, and almost relish-like. When I had it, I simply spread it on some bread that I had laying around.  I think it would be equally as delicious served with rice, or in soup, or any bread-like dish.

I had just bought the commercially-produced kimchi from a jar, but at some point, I think it is something that I’d like to attempt to make myself, and it really doesn’t look that difficult to make.  You can also adjust the level of spiciness to your liking.

But in the meantime, I would suggest reading through this post, and seeing if you can find any of these brands at your local Korean supermarket.  

DRINKING: Closing the Gate

After graduating, but before I had any real adult responsibilities I took a trip to Amsterdam.  I was there about a week, and spent the time riding around on a rented bicycle and sampling as much Belgium beer as I could.  

It was late at night when I found myself in a quiet little bar just across the canal from where I was staying.  I don’t speak a lick of dutch, so I was mostly just people-watching and letting the hour grow late.

There was an older gentleman sitting to the right of me, who was speaking to the bartender in Dutch.  I couldn’t help but notice the bartender giving the older gentleman a confused look.

Then the old man repeated the phrase in English, “One more to close the gate.”  The bartender still looked confused.  The old man went on to explain, “You know when you’re at the point in the night where you know you’ve drank enough, and should go home.”  The bartender nodded.  ”Well,” the old man said, “my rule is you get to that point, then you have one more to close the gate.”

The old man turned to me, looking for reassurance.  I nodded, knowing exactly what he meant.  Then he bought me a Westmalle Dubbel and we closed the gate.

PICKLING: Branston Pickle & Cheese Sandwich

The first time I tasted Branston Pickle was the Grafton as part of a Ploughman’s Lunch, but I don’t think I fully realized its potential.

It took a trip to the UK for me to really understand what this Branston Pickle business is all about.  If you’re in the UK, it’s traditionally the star ingredient in a pickle and cheese sandwich.  But think of it more as a relish, than a traditional pickle.  And it is much tastier than it sounds.

There are plenty of internet recipes detailing how to make a Branston pickle at home, but if it isn’t worth the bother, I recommend making a trip to Treasure Island, Whole Foods, or the Jewel on Lincoln Ave (just North of Irving Park) where they sell this pickle in a jar.


Branston Pickle


Aged Cheddar Cheese

There’s a few different varieties of Branston Pickle.  One variety features anchovies, so be sure to read the ingredients label, and avoid that one if possible.

A french bread or baguette should do the trick.

Cheddar cheese.

Assembly Instructions:

1. Cut the bread lengthwise.

2. Spoon some Branston Pickle onto the bread

3. Place the cheese

4. So easy to make you don’t even need instructions