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Punch House: A Real Knockout

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At the punch-bowl’s brink,
Let the thirsty think,
What they say in Japan:
First the man takes a drink,
Then the drink takes a drink,
Then the drink takes the man!
– Edward Rowland Sill 
Truer words were never spoken by Mr. Sill, a mostly forgotten American poet, especially in regard to today’s post on Mastication Monologues where I entered the exciting world of punch making.
My friend Janice had mentioned that she had extra tickets to a punch making class at an establishment called “Punch House“, so I agreed to partake in this mysterious endeavor.  I didn’t really know much about it aside from it being located in the vibrant center of Mexican culture in Chicago, a.k.a. Pilsen.  However, I was shocked to find that it was located in Thalia Hall, a concert hall from 1890 that was modeled after Prague’s opera house.Exterior-1024x682  It is a relic of the original Czech inhabitants of Pilsen who eventually left once Latino immigrants began to enter the neighborhood.  Thalia Hall’s doors were closed in 1960, but in 2013, the hall has been reopened to the public as a music and dining venue.  Upon walking into Dusek’s, the restaurant on the first floor bearing the last name of Thalia Hall’s founder, we checked in and were quickly hustled downstairs to Punch House.  From Dusek’s to Punch House, I was taken aback with how elegantly it was decorated like a retro lounge that gave off a vibe of yesteryear with a touch of class.IMG_3069  We were greeted by the hosts and found an open booth complete with all of the tools we needed to make Dusek Punch, the house’s signature drink. IMG_3068 The class started with a brief history of punch and punch making.  Fun fact:  the word “punch” is actually a loan word from Hindi.  The drink and word came to England from India in the early 1600s due to early colonial trading routes.  “Punch” in Hindi means “five” which is a reference to the original five punch ingredients (tea/water, spices, alcohol, sugar, and lemon) or the balance of the following five elements of flavor.IMG_3071  It became a favorite drink for English traders and sailors as a refreshing alcoholic beverage that almost always contained rum but enough water to keep them semi-hydrated.  Ok, enough with the history lesson, let’s get down to the punch making.  First, we had to peel the lemons in order to make oleo-saccharum or literally “oily sugar” in Latin.  It would provide the citrus zest for our punch later.  Once the ladies peeled the lemons (I was deemed a threat to myself due to my spastic lemon peeling), we then poured some sugar on the peels to introduce the sweet element to our work in progress.  Soon thereafter, I was in charge of muddling the ingredients until the peels began to excrete their natural oils. IMG_3072 While I was going to town doing the ground and pound to the bowl’s contents, the waitress came over and patronizingly/humorously showed me proper muddling technique.  It became a reoccurring punch line (pun intended) throughout the class much to the amusement of my female companions.  However, it was my time to shine when I had to juice the lemons for the sour portion of the punch.  I should have had my jersey retired with how much juice I got out of the fruit since I even got a couple nods and “good jobs” from the staff when they walked by our table. 10260012_10101616963868411_1608183499052232420_n In the middle of my award-winning performance, they allowed us to order other pre-made punches or beverages to sample.  I originally went with a milk punch recipe from 1711, but since they didn’t have any made, I settled for the Philidelphia Fish House Punch ($8) which was originally invented in 1732.  Needless to say, for a 282 year old recipe, it tasted barely over 100 years old it was so refreshing.IMG_3075  It consisted of Gosling’s black seal rum, Landy cognac, Mathilde Peche liquor, lemon, and angostura bitters.  I could liken it to a sweet, peach-infused Hawaiian Punch that had a moderate kick to let you know you were drinking alcohol but didn’t rip your face off.  Eventually, it came time to combine all of the flavors in the large bowl since the oleo-saccharum was ready.  We started with pouring in a hot cup of water and followed it up with the lemon juice and dark ale. IMG_3076IMG_3073 Finally, we had to add the Templeton Rye whiskey.  Josah was flipping out about since it’s from her motherland, Iowa, and it’s also special since the recipe was born out of the crooked times of American prohibition.Rye  Nothing better than enjoying a spirit with a colorful past.  Now, we could have simply slopped it into the bowl like regular squares, but they taught us how to do the fancy “tornado pour”.  I got to do the honors because I was the only one with hands big enough to grip the bottom of the bottle.  Check me out putting the finishing touches on the punch with the tornado pour here.  After we let it sit for a bit, the staff strained it all into a large glass container, but it proved to be a bit too difficult for Joe the waiter since a quarter of it went on our table.10313748_10101613763422131_1817890989632858173_n  So, they made it up to us by hooking us up with their secret tequila infused punch and experimental pop-top bottle for punch on- the-go.  Believe me, it definitely made up for it as the tequila punch made this tequila hater into a fan.
Overall, we left very satisfied with our experience, and it was a fun and informative activity for those of you looking for something different to do in Chicago.  Not only can you enjoy a piece of Chicago history in the form of Thalia Hall, but you can learn a new skill while making new memories with friends.  I highly recommend Punch House’s punch making classes.

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Sitting in Sand and Sippin’ Something Sweet in Seoul

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Hey there!  So this post is just going to be a quick review of a unique watering hole that I recently tried in Itaewon.  It’s called the Bungalow, and it’s located at 112-3 Itaewon-dong Yongsan-gu Seoul South Korea.  You have to go to the Itaewon metro stop and go out exit 2.  Walk past the Hamilton Hotel, and make a left on the first street on your left.  You’ll walk past the Flying Pan on your right hand side, and you’ll make a right on the next road you encounter.  Walk straight past Tomatillo, and it’ll be on your left hand side.IMG_1177

I originally was supposed to go here with my friend a month ago, but I was in severe pain from a soccer injury.  Sadly, I had to pass since I couldn’t even climb the steps it had gotten that bad.  This time around, I was fully able, and walked up the stairs to see what I had been missing all this time.  It was softly lit, but there were Halloween decorations everywhere including plenty of flickering candles, skeletons, and bats.  We went upstairs, and it definitely had more of a tropical theme going on with the surf shack room that stood opposite our unique seating arrangement.  My friend had originally told me that you could sit in swinging beach chairs and put your feet in sand and a pool.  Our seats sadly were not big beach chairs, but we got lucky enough to sink our feet in some cool, clean white sand.

Just hanging with random Koreans in the beach room

Just hanging with random Koreans in the beach room.  Note how all their legs are crossed underneath them.

It was hilarious watching the Koreans react to the beach room.   They would refuse to sit in the sand room if there were other seats available.  If they did end up sitting in the beach room, they act out their own version of the kid’s game “The Floor is Lava” as they walked on the furniture to avoid contact with the sand.   This show was worth the price of admission, but I also wanted a drink to go along with the spectacle.  So, I browsed through their menu which had cocktails, beer, non-alcoholic drinks, and food.  Initially, I wanted to get a drink in a coconut, but they were all sold out.  So, I went for a Hawaiian Punch (10,000) which consisted of rum and vodka and various fruit juices.IMG_1179  A point of interest was the fact that my friend’s non-alcoholic drink was more expensive than mine.  I like the cut of your jib, Bungalow.  The presentation was pretty good as it was served out of a cup that was designed to look like a bamboo shoot shorn in half, and there was a skewer of pineapple and cherries sticking out of it.  Tastewise, it was everything I was expecting from a tropical drink:  fruity, sweet, and with a slight kick at the end that reminded me I was drinking alcohol.  Overall, the Bungalow wasn’t anything close to lounging out on a beach in Bora Bora with a drink in my hand, but it was a fun experience to have my own sandy piece of paradise within a bar.

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