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Birthday Club

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My husband and I, along with another dear couple (Brock and Liz, you know who you are), accidentally started a Birthday Club. It all began when we we were celebrating my birthday this year. My birthday is at the end of April, when Illinois has awoken from its Rip Van Winter and we can finally stroll outside without the winterware we started wearing the October before. And my birthday happens to coincide with a grand art exhibit and Ebert’s film festival, so we wander like cultural hipsters from event to eatery to event. For a night, it’s delicious. That night (Anne’s Birthday, 2010), we started talking about our long-abandoned plans to make a day trip of tubing a lazy river we know. The more we asked “Why don’t we do it?!” the more excited we got. So, like a second grader’s pinky-swear: we toasted to it.

Just as we planned, we celebrated Brock’s birthday in June with a day trip to Indiana to lazily tube down a river. We stocked a floating cooler with beer, wine and gargantuan sandwiches and had an impromptu picnic on a sand bar. As we floated, wondering why we don’t do this more ofter, the guys started talking about sailing and how their happiness hung on the freedom of yachting someday. The idea started to grow until it was decided: for Eric’s birthday, we would sail on Lake Michigan.

We did indeed sail out of Chicago’s harbor for Eric’s birthday, lovingly admiring the world’s best skyline set boldly against a golden sunset. But, being a land person, I got more excited about the afternoon spent in Chicago’s Near North Side.

We tripped around all afternoon, directed only by “Yeah, that looks good!” Of all the cool places we hit (hookah lounge? ha-yeah!), I must recommend the Goose Island Brewery to one and all. With its charming atmosphere and excellent pub fare, this place easily takes lunch to the 5 o’clock whistle. And the beer was great.

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Having four beer drinkers in our party, we were able to justify lots of different pints (to share!). Brock and Liz and I each loved different flavorful brews from their IPA (India Pale Ale) and Hoppy lists. (I’m pretty sure that I’m a hops fan. I haven’t had a beer yet that was “too hoppy.”) Their “Sophie” brew was bright and nicely spiced. And their “Green Line” got lots of “Boy, that is good!” (and another sip) from three of us. But the more sticks-and-berry-licious that the beers got, the more my husband said grumpy things like, “I like their “‘312′” * (But that’s why I married him: two of me is one too many.) It was a delightful afternoon spent with good friends and great beer.

Because this was technically our lunch stop, we did order food. And the food was good. It really would have been a shame to serve marginal food with such inventive beer. But the menu nicely complemented the beer selection with quality, innovative food that completed this brewery-pub experience. I had a Stilton cheeseburger which was awesome. But this is what rocked my world: the hand-cut french fries came with Curry Ketchup, and it was incredible. (I’m sure there are foodies swooning over the fact that I’ve never experienced this before, but I haven’t, I’m sorry: in my lame existance, ketchup has been a don’t-mess-good-ol-boy condiment. Mustard, I knew, got cool, but ketchup? This was new.)

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So I scampered home and concocted a curry ketchup of my own. I may experiment with the ketchup base in the future, but this Curry Ketchup will do wonderfully when you’re grilling for the one-millionth time next summer. I serve it with a kettle-cooked potato chip like Krunchers. (I like Krunchers because the bag says that it has “30 % less fat than regular potato chips,” and you know what that means: you can eat 30% more.)

Curry Ketchup

1 c. ketchup

1 T. curry**

1 t. apple cider vinegar

Stir together.

** season to taste. I’m sure a more potent Indian curry would go further than the curry I used.

* “312” is Goose Islands’ standard grocery store beer. Nice, but not mind-blowing. Mild.