On March 7th, 2010, my L'il Brudder Emil sent an email to our family listserve inviting us all to purchase a Groupon for a meat, cheese, and beer tasting at a bar in Chicago. Yes, we have a family listserve. And yes we will most likely engage in any group activity having to do with food and drink. And I know you didn't ask this question, but yes, when we attend an event at your establishment, we will descend upon you like a swarm of hungry vultures surrounding a wounded animal, and we will attack your food-related products like a lion taking down a gazelle. Okay, so I just compared my family to wild animals and Animal Planet specials. We sort of are like wild animals. But with cute shoes and well-manicured eyebrows. And usually, a lot of charm and wit.
Anyhow, 55 emails and 115 days later, several of us had bought the Groupon and found a time to meet up. Also, "several" means "12 - 14." With this in mind, Emil smartly called Villain's (the bar that was hosting this Groupon event) ahead of time to let them know that we had 7 people who had purchased the Groupon and 5 or more others that would be coming along to either participate in the meat and cheese tasting, or to have something else to eat and drink. Very thoughtful, Emil, especially since we'd planned it for the Friday night before July 4th, which is the same weekend as the Taste of Chicago and about a zillion other events. You see, we plan ahead.
Unfortunately, when we arrived at Villain's, we were informed that the Groupon deal was not available on this particular weekend because of the potential busyness spilling over from the Taste of Chicago. We were told this news as we looked around the bar and counted about 8 other patrons. Um...yeah. Emil got pissed, and rightfully so, since he'd talked to the guy the day before to let him know we were coming in. While he argued with the manager, I took the opportunity to go out front and sweet-talk Nick the Bouncer who we'd chatted with on our way in. And this bouncer subsequently became the star of the night. Within about 6 seconds of me mentioning (nicely) that they weren't going to honor the Groupon, Nick had run inside to "take care of it." See now, that's what I like to hear. "I'll take care of it." "Forget about it, it's done." "I'll make sure one falls off the back of a truck." I love this way of doing things!
Anyhow, long story slightly shorter, Nick saved the day and somehow convinced the manager and the chef to do the Groupon deal, and everybody was happy again. See, sometimes you have to ignore the manager and go straight to the bouncer. Bouncers get things done. My favorite part of it was when Mladenka, Emil's girlfriend, turned to my brother and exclaimed, "See! Reem was very nice and sweet and she got what she wanted! You have to be sweet!" Thanks, Mladenka. Sometimes, my charm works. And sometimes it results in the family getting to taste meat, cheese, and beer. (DISCLAIMER: Emil is plenty sweet. I was just sweeter in this particular situation. Mostly because the bouncer was totally fine and I was feelin' flirtatious).
Here are the brave 7 of us (Layla is hiding in the back) who participated in the tasting. You can see the 5 servings of beer placed in front of each person. Doesn't it look nice and organized?
Here's a close up. Guess what! I have no idea what any of them are. But you can pick out a random five from Villain's beer list and pretend those are they.
And here is the meat and cheese! I have to believe that there would usually be a bit more to it all. Because, to be honest, this platter seemed a bit half-assed. Especially for what would usually cost $47 (we paid $20 each with the Groupon). I mean, I know it's only supposed to be a tasting, but...it was definitely lacking a bit. The extra touch of almonds or macademia nuts or whatever they were tossed sloppily on top seemed last-minute and a bit desperate. The portions were little. But maybe it's just different because I'm used to Wisconsin and to put it bluntly, people know how to eat here. EAT. In capital letters. See family, you'd love it here.
Another view of the platters. It was pretty hilarious to see seven of these spread across the table, along with 35 small beers. Oh, by the way, the beer was totally worth it. Especially since nobody liked the darkest beer in the middle and I got two "bonuses" of that one. Totally worth it!
One of my favorite parts of tastings is the tiny utensils that come with. Tiny things! Look at this little wiener spreader/knife!
There was this one thing on the platter that wasn't meat or cheese. Consensus decided it was a sort of apricot jam, but it wasn't of the regular jam consistency. It was more like a thick, really soft and almost melting fruit roll up. Appetizing, eh? It confused me.
After the first three or so beers, we started getting creative. This here is some meat with some cheese on it (oh lord, I don't remember what any of these are) and a green olive, sliced up and placed on top.
And this, thanks to Shadi, is my favorite combination of the night: some kind of prosciutto paired with a soft white cheese and a tater tot on top! Can you tell that we were several beers in by this point?
Absolutely delicious, and by far, one of the classier moments of the evening.
After finishing our tasting, we executed the successful tactic of leaving the establishment before they start to hate us. This only happens some of the time; the opposite has definitely occurred plenty of times, and I like to think that some of us try and avoid it now. Emil and I gave hugs and huge props to Nick, the lovely bouncer, who saved the entire night for us!
And, to top off one classy night, Shadi wore a helmet in the front seat of Layla's car for the entire ride to the next bar.
There he is, the classy gentleman.
And, to bring it all together:
Hell yes. A classy night had by all, thanks to food and drink, a lovely bouncer, a charming attitude, cousins, and a helmet. Good job, family.
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