Bourbon and Sunshine

Shoryl and I have instituted another fun new “tour” for ourselves: twice a month, we’re heading to the streets of downtown, rating happy hours and generally having a ball.

For the full review, check out my local site, In the Heart of Minneapolis.

But I want to talk to you about bourbon. Specifically, my first ever bourbon flight.

Three Styles of Bourbon Flight, Butcher and the Boar.


Bourbon flight from Butcher and the Boar

Left to right: Maker’s Mark, Redemption, Knob Creek

  • Maker’s Mark (Wheated)
  • Redemption (High Rye)
  • Exclusive Butcher & the Boar Single Barreled Knob Creek (Low Rye)

Before the tasting

I didn’t know much about bourbon, actually, for all that I love to drink it. I’m mostly familiar with the big ones you can find anywhere.  I couldn’t have told you yesterday that there were three dominant styles of bourbon,  but I could tell you that I like my drinks sweet, and bourbon is no exception.

Presented in the order I tried them:

Maker’s Mark Notes

Color: Not as richly amber as many bourbons I’ve tried, but still reasonably dark.  Very much the color of an actual amber stone, actually.

Aroma: The aroma is smoky, warm, and strong. I didn’t notice much sweet in the aroma, but then, I’m kind of new at this.

First impressions: Not a lot of bit to it, though it does burn just a touch on the tongue and palate.  It’s very full, and holding it in my mouth was an enveloping experience.

Taste trail: Upon swallowing and sitting, I exclaimed that I was never going to be cold again.  This one builds a fire as it goes down, and I could nearly feel the heat radiating from it.

Aftertaste: Surprisingly clean. The burn dissipates nearly immediately.

Verdict: I can see why this is a household name.  It’s kind of quintessentially bourbon.  Definitely made for sipping, but I would put it on the rocks to calm down some of the fire of the first few sips.

Redemption Notes

Color: Surprisingly pale, almost honey colored.  I was a little worried, but hey, it’s bourbon.

Aroma: An equally light aroma.  Mostly fruit and floral. It wasn’t as dusky as I was used to, though the aroma went well with the pale color.

First impressions: Very, very soft in the mouth. Even though I like bourbon, the first few sips still burn. Redemption has very little heat in the mouth.  It’s also very sweet, predominantly vanilla and caramel. (Not SoCo sweet, but what is?)

Taste trail: Again, very little heat from this one.  Consider the difference between a roaring campfire and a friendly, gentle candle. This warmed, but more like a hug.

Aftertaste: The sweetness lingers, much like soda. Very pleasant.

Verdict: This one was by far my favorite. It such a pleasant, mild-mannered bourbon. Though I usually don’t drink neat, this one doesn’t need any ice, and indeed, ice might mellow this one too much.

Knob Creek Notes

Color: The more traditional and familiar deep amber.  Clear and it even looked warm.

Aroma: The aroma of the alcohol hits before the dusky scent of the bourbon itself. Once the alcohol scent dies down, it smells just like a campfire: smoky and woodsy.

First impressions: “Goodness, this one has teeth!”  I wasn’t expecting a burn on my third bourbon, but this one curled my tongue.  That campfire smell? It was now burning in my mouth.

Taste trail: For as strong as it was on the tongue, the trail was not as warm as I would have expected.  It’s pretty smooth once you swallow.

Aftertaste: A definite tinge of alcohol to this one, closer to an Irish Whiskey or Scotch.

Verdict: This one had a little too much alcohol in it for me, and I passed it over to Shoryl.  I liked the flavor, but that bite of alcohol didn’t do it for me.

Final Impressions

The sweetness of the Redemption made it a clear favorite for me. I also appreciated that it had the lightest warmth. However, I’m not ready to count out Low Rye or Wheated bourbons just yet. I do quite like Jim Beam, which is low rye, and the Maker’s Mark was quite good, just not suited for sipping in the sun. I may, however, limit myself to 100 pf or below, due to my reaction to the strong taste of the alcohol in the Knob Creek.

Other things you might find interesting:


Easy Healthy Chili

Green, yellow and red bell peppers from the ca...

Image via Wikipedia

Tooth woes have kept me from eating the same food as Shoryl.  The upside was that I was able to eat chili all week. We’re still watching our diet here at Chez Common Ground, so I present a recipe that’s very mild, and low in calories and fat. It’s also ridiculously easy, and you can substitute a lot of shortcut ingredients. It stores well and reheats beautifully.

For those watching their sodium intake, use low sodium products where possible, and rinse the beans thoroughly.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 med green pepper, seeded and diced (alternately, 1/2 cup of frozen diced green pepper)
  • 1 small onion, diced (or 1/2 cup frozen diced onion)
  • 2 garlic cloves (or 2t minced garlic)
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (approx 15 oz) can of low-sodium Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (approx 15 oz) can of low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 1/2 t garlic powder

Here’s what you do:

  1. Brown the turkey, green pepper, and onion in a skillet with a dash of salt and pepper.
  2. Put the meat in a stock pot along with everything else.  Set the stockpot to low, and leave it alone for about 4-5 hours. (You can stir it occasionally if you really want.)

A quick nutrition check suggests this is about 275 calories, 35g carbohydrates, 6g fat, and 27g protein. These are rough numbers, so use caution before scribing them in stone.

Tried it? Loved it? Let us know in the comments.

Restaurant Review: Seven Mpls

No, I’m not reviewing seven different restaurants. There’s a steakhouse in Minneapolis called Seven.  Um, yes, I did say steakhouse. They also have a sushi bar upstairs. But anyway…

A couple of months ago, Ari and I went to a Twin Cities Gay Mens’ Chorus Prelude event, which was being held at Seven. We were impressed enough by the spread and the space that we decided we needed to go back for dinner sometime.  Well, sometime finally arrived.

Now, in case you haven’t been reading the blog (or I haven’t mentioned it), I’m allergic to Bovine Growth Hormone, or BGH. As you might guess, that means I can rarely eat steak. And unfortunately, Seven’s staff couldn’t gurantee that their locally raised cows weren’t given any BGH. I suspect if they single-source their beef, they’ll know next time someone asks.

I’m going to take a moment to talk about the space, because it’s wonderful. We were seated in a tall-backed booth, and could see, across the dining area, 7th street and the side of Block E.  While it’s not the most exciting street to look at , it still adds a metropolitan feel to the otherwise relatively austere space.  The austerity, however, wasn’t that uncomfortable better-than-you kind of thing. It was borne of simplicity, and actually made a perfect backdrop to the meal. Also, the booths were comfortable.  You could sit up with your back against the back of the booth and still easily reach the table, and your dinner.

From the moment our waiter stopped by the first time (before we’d had a chance to decide on anything), to the instant we stepped out of our booth, Luke was magnificent. He made suggestions. He explained things about the steaks I didn’t know (which makes it ever so slightly more sad that I couldn’t have one). He helped with considerations for my allergies. And he was both personable and proficient throughout.

As I mentioned, we were a little slow to decide on what we wanted. I was apparently in a fickle mood, as I couldn’t find wine I liked, then I couldn’t decide whether I wanted sushi or not (this should say something to those of you who know me!). While I was hemming and hawing about what I wanted to drink. Luke suggested a wine for Ari.  I did end up with a Manhattan, sweet, with Maker’s Mark. It was perfectly executed.

After deciding I didn’t want sushi after all, we opted for Calamari as our appetizer. It was tender, and flavorful. The breading nearly melted in our mouths. We even got exceptionally tiny octopi deep-fried and even more tender. It came with a sauce that I was allergic to, but it didn’t need anything at all.

I had their Caesar salad, which was a half-head of romaine, grilled just enough to warm and lightly wilt it, topped with a lovely creamy italian dressing. Simple, and perfect.   My main course was lobster ravioli. I considered the mushroom ravioli instead, but the squash pasta won out over the spinach choice.  It, too, was exactly as advertised, with a lovely lobster-cheese fill in squash raviolis, topped with a pink sauce that had additional, good-sized chunks of lobster in it.

Finally, for dessert, we had creme brule.  Now, there were many choices, but if there’s creme brule on the menu, Ari and I will try it. And so, that was our choice. Once again, it was a superb example of exactly what was advertised.

The evening ended with an Outloud! concert, making it a perfect evening all around.  Seven is definitely a wonderful place to go for a fine dining experience, and while the price tag can be on the steep side, it’s worth every penny in my book.

Seven can be found on the web at