Few people in Chicago know their Belgian beers as well as Michael Roper. As the owner of The Hopleaf, he has given these complex, nuanced beers a grand stage, and he is always more than happy to talk to patrons about them. But this week, he’s sticking to an old favorite: Orval. They only make one beer, in the same size bottle, destined for one specific glass. Hoppier than most Trappist beers, Roper says you can’t go wrong with this Belgian classic. Cheers.
Oh the humble tamale. Bastardized via one too many big city food cart; compromised in quality, the result of sitting too long in a steam bath as inebriated customers wait to fill their stomachs with little regard for its construction or contents.
But behold the precious namesake at Tamales Garibay, a three-table storefront hugging the corner of Byron & Kedzie Streets, on Chicago’s far north side. Alicia Romero used to peddle her cylindrical snacks late at night, outside the clubs. She and her family saved their money, bought a former pizza joint, and now make tamales by the dozens everyday. Read More
I realize most craft brew fans look to places like Portland and Colorado (even Chicago) for new flavors and cutting-edge brewers. But don’t forget about sleepy, minuscule Delaware, home of Dogfish Head Brewery. This week, The Hopleaf’s Michael Roper is bullish on a seasonal brew that combines apricots and hops. It’s clever name? Aprihop. Cheers.
Based on the number of volunteers, sponsors and dudes with walkie talkies roaming around the UIC Forum on Saturday, you’d think Baconfest was something well into its 2nd decade. The celebration of all things porcine (especially cured, smoked and belly-related) was a huge hit, attracting more than 3,000 people and well over 100 chefs. I couldn’t stay the entire day, but from what I saw, they were knee-deep in cured belly and lovin’ it. Seriously, Lipitor should be the premier sponsor next year.
The Two Brothers Brewery in west suburban Warrenville (we’re talking pretty far west of Chicago) has been producing award-winning beers for many years now. One of their latest has caught Michael Roper’s eye this week, as it’s something he sells frequently at The Hopleaf in Andersonville. It’s their Domaine DuPage, a French style country ale that, as Michael describes it, has the essence of caramel malt. Beer for dessert, perhaps? Cheers.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love a grilled sandwich, and the Cubans certainly know what they’re doing when it comes to applying heat to bread. A couple of years ago, you could barely find a properly made Cuban sandwich in Chicago, but today, you’ve got at least half a dozen excellent options. As much as I like the ones at 90 Miles and Señor Pan, I’ve got to hand it to the folks at Cafecito, in the Loop, where the Cubano is as good as anything I’ve had in Miami. Crusty, griddled bread; a tangy, slightly bitter orange and garlicky mojo; thick slices of roasted pork and tart pickles…if you’re craving a taste of Havana, throw some Buena Vista Social Club on the speakers and take home one of these beauties. Fidel would be proud.