Short Notes: Chicago, Orlando and Cocktails

This is one of those weeks where I’m in three cities in three days, not counting airport connector cities.  That’s okay– it’s fun to see colleagues and meet customers.  In Chicago…

  • Stefani’s 437 Rush is a lot of fun with surprisingly good food.  It looks old school, the waiters have Italian accents straight out of central casting, and the maitre d’ sings, but the wine list is fantastic and the food is darn good too. The zuppa di pesce was a particular hit at my table, and I had a to-die-for monkfish dish.  It’s supposedly an old Chicago Tribune hangout, and you could totally envision newspaper types with stogies talking to contacts– or negotiating deals .

In Orlando…

  • The Gaylord Palms has darn good conference food.  I’ve had it at the Gaylord National Harbor, too– high quality stuff.
  • Todd English’s BlueZoo is interesting.  Lots of blue (obviously), a dead fish on a spit that they call “Flying Fish”, which looked to be a good preparation once it was at the table, and the first time I’ve seen a Ramos Gin Fizz on a cocktail menu at a restaurant.  I had some excellent (if slightly on the overcooked side) “Dirty South Swordfish”.


  • How did you end up with a $20 mai tai? Top quality rhum, orgeat syrup shrubb instead of Bacardi, almond syrup and curacao.  This is why craft cocktails are expensive in restaurants.  Good ingredients are much pricier than the cheap stuff! (Though I’m not impressed with the syrup. It mostly tastes like brown syrup– Orgeat is almond, in case you’re wondering).

Phil Stefani's 437 Rush on Urbanspoon
BlueZoo on Urbanspoon

8 thoughts on “Short Notes: Chicago, Orlando and Cocktails”

  • rom had a ramos gin fizz on on the menu at the rookwood for a while, don’t know if it’s still on… nice for summer!

    i made orgeat (orzata) syrup last summer- it WAS a lot of work and took a LOT of almonds ($$$..) but it was soooo delish! and worth every bit of time/work/money.

    i am looking forward to meeting you, SOON! i love the way you eat, drink and write!

  • Looks like youmade your flight Julie!

    I’ve never had good luck making my own orgeat syrup, it always turns out nasty. And your right about Trader Tiki’s orgeat, it gets lost in a cocktail. His other syrups are first rate, but for now I’m back to using Torani orgeat. Many experienced tiki-o-philes on swear by a French brand, Tessiere orgeat, but I’m yet to try it:

  • Well, some like it, some don’t, I’m not here to convince you. I did want to make sure you know that I put a whole helluva lot of real almonds in it, but doing it right and doing it artificial aren’t one in the same.

    Watermelons are much less watermelony than the artificial flavors you get in a candy stick, but you take what nature gives you.

    Anyway, I do appreciate the feedback, and may be adding a bit more natural oomph to the next batch.

    • Wow! Thanks so much for responding. It’s not so much that I’m into a fake almond flavor, but I just tasted mostly brown sugar and not quite as much almond as I’d have liked.

      Your cinnamon, however… wow. You just think it’s going to be too hot, and it softens. Great stuff.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Trader,

    I LOVE your cinnamon, vanilla & Donn’s Spices syrups, they are the very best syrups that I’ve ever tried. The Orgeat, to my taste, lacked some almond flavour and seemed to have rather a brown sugar taste to it. It gets rather lost in my Mai Tai. Having said that, I have gone through a lot of orgeats and I’m yet to find one that I really like. I’m currently using a blend of 60% Torani (which has a great almond flavour but a bit of a chemically aftertaste) and 40% Routin 1883 Orgeat (which has a pure, clean flavour, great viscosity but not enough almond). The two used in tandem seem to round each other out and make a decent cocktail.

    Please keep on tinkering, I know that you will get there, and I would always rather support your products over mass produced syrups such as Torani, etc.



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