The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Readings between meetings

On my list today:

Back to meetings...

Short distance office move

My team have moved to a new space we've leased on a different floor of Chicago's Aon Center. This morning, this was my view:

And now, one floor lower and facing the opposite direction, this is my view:

I actually prefer the south view, but only marginally. In fact, I'll probably keep taking photos of the south view. But neither view sucks.

The Art of the Possible, Illinois marijuana edition

Yet another Chicago-based medical marijuana company has merged with an out-of-state company ahead of an expected legalization of recreational pot this summer:

Chicago’s Cresco Labs on Monday unveiled a $120 million merger that allows it to expand into Florida, where analysts predict demand for medical marijuana will significantly grow in the coming years. By 2022, the market for medical pot could reach a whopping $1.7 billion, according to analysts’  projections.

Under the agreement, Cresco will acquire Florida marijuana grower and retailer VidaCann, a move that will allow Cresco to operate 30 medical dispensaries in the nation’s third most populous state. The company aims to significantly expand its operations by the end of the year, in part by doubling the size of its medical marijuana cultivation center. It also plans to have 20 dispensaries open by year’s end.

Last week, a Phoenix company announced one of the largest pot deals in U.S. corporate history by taking over Chicago-based Verano Holdings for $850 million.

If Cresco’s ownership of VidaCann is approved, Cresco could surpass another major marijuana player based in Chicago — Green Thumb Industries, which currently has 11 cultivation centers.

A vote on legalizing recreational cannabis could come as early as July, and is expected to pass.

Spring, finally

I moved into my current place back in October. For the first time since then, just now, I opened one of the windows in my office. (I'll have to close it again pretty soon because of the squall line coming this way.)

That's because, for the first time since October 31st—when I wasn't home during the day to open it—it's 16°C at O'Hare.

It's about time.

Weekend reading list

Just a few things I'm reading that you also might want to read:

And finally, it's getting close to April and the Blogging A-to-Z Challenge. Stay tuned.

Last blast of winter

It's March, meaning it's meteorologically spring, but this morning it doesn't feel that way. The overnight low at O'Hare bottomed out at -19.4°C, with a forecast high today around -9°C. We may even hit a record for the coldest March 4th in recorded history. Real spring-like weather won't come until Saturday, at the earliest, when it'll stay above freezing all day while it rains on us.

At least we have a pleasant side-effect to this Arctic high-pressure system squatting over Chicago right now:

Same space, different restaurant

I live only a short walk from the space formerly occupied by 42 Grams, one of the best restaurants I've ever experienced. The food at 42 Grams was so good that they earned two Michelin stars just a few months after opening. But when the owners' marriage fell apart, so did the restaurant, closing suddenly one weekend in May 2017.

A new restaurant opened in the space at the end of September, and...well, it might be worth trying, but maybe not yet.

Brass Heart opened last summer. Chicago Eater was optimistic:

Last year, there was worry about a lack of fine dining options in Chicago after a rash of closings including Tru and 42 Grams. Brass Heart swings the pendulum the other way.

The Robb Report interviewed chef Matt Kerney on his ambitions for the space:

“It’s a chef’s dream to have a little tasting menu-only restaurant, and when given the opportunity, I wanted to do my high-end, hyper-refined restaurant,” he says.

“Everything that we cook I want to taste like the purest form of itself. I want the lobster to be the most lobster-y lobster you’ve had and the tomato to be the most tomato-y,” he says. “For our tomato dish we make a tomato oil, and then a tomato vinegar on top of that. Everything is about amplifying exact flavors.” And where at Longman he worked magic with a lot of off cuts, he gets the luxury of creating with high-end ingredients at Brass Heart, using A5 wagyu and lobster in his menu.

But the post-open reviews do not encourage. Chicago magazine gave it 1½ out of 4 stars:

Alas, the procession of zillion-megawatt meteorites is interspersed with miscalculations and filler. The course before that magical halibut involved cappelletti chewier than bubblegum, stuffed with oversalty pheasant, and served in a broth so aggressively earthy it almost tasted like dirt. After the halibut came a shockingly bland seared lamb loin sitting atop ground hazelnuts and surrounded by beets and 25 dots of flavorless persimmon purée. Next came the Kobe beef masterpiece and, with it, hope. But the following course? A nutty Grayson cheese that had been transformed into a slice of cheesecake and paired, for some nefarious reason, with Dijon mustard foam: a marriage that makes no sense. The 15 courses began to feel like a Ping-Pong game between James Beard and an art school freshman. The three-and-a-half-hour meal’s rhythm, which was relaxed bordering on somnolent, only accentuated the problem.

It does have 4½ stars on Yelp, but so do Wildberry Pancakes and Dog Haus Biergarten.

So I may not plunk down the $125 for the entry-level omnivore menu just yet. We'll see what the Michelin folks say.

Stuff I'm reading this weekend

From the usual sources:

Time to walk the dog.

This sort of thing has cropped up before

...and it has always been due to human error.

Today, I don't mean the HAL-9000. Amtrak:

Amtrak said “human error” is to blame for the disrupted service yesterday at Union Station.

A worker fell on a circuit board, which turned off computers and led to the service interruption, according to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.

The delay lasted more than 12 hours and caused significant overcrowding at Union Station.

The error affected more than 60,000 Amtrak and Metra passengers taking trains from Union to the suburbs, according to reports. Some riders resorted to taking the CTA or using ride-sharing services to get home, Chicago Tribune reported.

An analysis of the signal system failures and determined they were caused by “human error in the process of deploying a server upgrade in our technology facility that supports our dispatch control system” at Union Station, Amtrak said in a statement. Amtrak apologized in the statement for failing to provide the service that’s expected of it.

Which led my co-workers to wonder, why the hell were they doing a critical server upgrade in the middle of the day?

Chicago's very own wormwood liqueur

Chicago produces a...technically non-toxic liquid called Jeppson's Malört. If you don't know what this is, The Ringer explains:

The first thing you should know about Malört is that, well, it’s bad. A Google search for it will direct you to the term “Malört face,” a query that will lead to a close-up montage of poor souls reacting to their first taste of the amber liquor: eyes closed, noses scrunched, jaws clenched, veins swelling out of foreheads, perhaps a tear trickling down a cheek in horror or disgust. This is pretty much the point.

For 85 years, Jeppson’s Malört has been a Chicago institution, one that has remained basically unchanged since Prohibition. It’s compared to absinthe, which shares its wormwood core, and to aquavit, which shares its Scandinavian lineage, but Malört isn’t like anything. Describing its flavor profile is a favorite parlor game among those who’ve sampled it. It tastes like earwax or a hornet’s nest or paint thinner or anger; in the words of the back label on the bottle, it is “bitter,” “unusual,” “full-bodied,” and “savored by two-fisted drinkers.” Its following in Chicago has all a cult’s hallmarks: an initiation ritual (see: the Malört face, frequently snarled by visitors who’ve trusted a Chicagoan to order for them), a secret handshake (the so-called Chicago handshake: a shot of Malört and an Old Style), and more than a few tattoos inked across diehards’ flesh. Malört is many things: a Midwestern tradition, a temperance loophole, and a passion project that became a life’s work that could become, maybe, a national phenomenon.

Malört came to the company by way of a Swedish immigrant named Carl Jeppson, who’d arrived in Chicago in the late 1800s from Ystad, a city in the country’s south. He’d fashioned Malört after the bitter spirits of Sweden and started selling the stuff as something of a cure-all—the word “malört” is Swedish for wormwood, sometimes used in digestifs out of a belief that the herb settles the stomach. This may have helped Jeppson skirt Prohibition: Legend holds that he was fond of offering suspicious, bootlegger-hunting Feds a taste of his wares, after which they could only conclude that no one would dare drink it recreationally. The exact details are murky, but sometime in the mid-1930s, shortly after Prohibition ended, Jeppson sold the recipe to Bielzoff, which carried on making it.

As a native Chicagoan, I have, of course, had some. And I can't recommend trying some too much.