In the Great Smoky Mountains, my ancestral home, it is considered gauche to age the liquor. So in at least one respect, my forebears would have admired the whiskey that will soon be released by Death's Door Spirits, the Madison-based artisanal distiller. Made from wheat, the whiskey is unaged. White whiskey, they call it.
"We're producing 900 bottles," says Death's Door president Brian Miller. "If they sell quick, great. If not, it's an experiment we won't do again."
Understand, this is no hill country moonshine - which, anyway, is made from corn. The white whiskey is a very drinkable 80 proof.
Why white whiskey? It is the byproduct of another spirit the distiller has in the works, an aged wheat whiskey. On a visit to Death's Door, the company's Chicago distributor got a whiff of the new whiskey as it was being poured into barrels for aging. "He said, 'This is beautiful, you have to bring it out,'" recalls Miller. "We're small and agile, so we can make quick decisions like that."
Death's Door Spirits, which also makes gin and vodka, is named for the narrow water passage between mainland Door County and Washington Island. The company is part of Washington Island Brands, a group that promotes sustainably grown Washington Island wheat. All of the Death's Door liquors are made from the wheat, at distilleries in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and on the southwest side of Madison. Washington Island wheat also is in Capital Brewery's Island Wheat Ale and baked goods sold at the Washington Hotel Coffee Room, 402 W. Lakeside St.
The white whiskey will be shipped to Washington Island in time for St. Patrick's Day, and the following week to the rest of the state, and Illinois. The aged whiskey, meanwhile, should be available late next year.
Campus late-night mainstay Ian's Pizza is expanding to a third location, this one on Clark Street in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood. The new outlet is slated to open June 1.
Now, Chicagoans take their pizza pretty seriously. "We actually thought about that a lot," says Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau, 22, who will manage the new restaurant with Jaime Gamez. "In the end, we decided that it's actually a good market for us. Despite Chicago having a surplus of pizza, there's not much pizza like ours, the very best New York pizza. In Chicago, they always talk about deep dish, but it's not available as quickly as we get it to our customers."
Why that location? "We chose Wrigleyville because close by there's a UW alumni bar, Redmond's," says Syrkin-Nikolau. "Obviously, Cub game days are going to be huge, too."
What is the secret of Ian's Pizza? "We create that culinary seriousness," says Syrkin-Nikolau. "It's an added bonus that drunk people like it as well."
Know your farmer
Ever want to shake the hand that picks your kohlrabi? Now's your chance at the community-supported-agriculture open house, to be held March 29 at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. The event lets consumers get acquainted with the 34 farms that make up the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition, or MACSAC.
If they like, visitors can join CSAs right at the open house, so that throughout the bountiful season, they'll regularly receive boxes full of whatever the farms are growing. Or they can just collect information and choose a CSA later. "It's a chance to celebrate the beginning of the season," says MACSAC's Erin Schneider of the open house.
The event will feature cooking demonstrations, live entertainment and remarks from Mayor Cieslewicz. There also will be a workshop on the basics of the CSA movement, which has its roots in 1960s Germany, Switzerland and Japan.
The first MACSAC event was an open house for eight farms back in 1993. Back then the group was called the Madison Eaters Revolutionary Front, which is so Madison.
"There is such growing interest and momentum in local food," says Schneider. "We're happy to help spread the word."
Local chocolatier David Bacco will open a storefront in Hilldale Mall. He lost an outlet for his wares when the King Street restaurant Cocoliquot closed.... Coming soon to the site of the old JT's Friendly tavern on East Washington Avenue: the bar and grill Pug Mahone's, brought to you by the team that brought you the west side's Old Town Pub.... What's the newest menu item at Sunprint Cafe on Capitol Square? Free wireless Internet. Now you can Twitter about the quiche of the day.