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updated: 5/2/2012 7:56 AM

Quirky cocktail concoctions and lively libations

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  • Van Gogh PB&J

    Van Gogh PB&J

  • Chef Paul Lindemuth at Marcel's Culinary Experience in Glen Ellyn.

    Chef Paul Lindemuth at Marcel's Culinary Experience in Glen Ellyn.

  • Reed Alexander

    Reed Alexander


Working on the margarita story got me thinking about other fun and funky spirits that recently have crossed my desk so I thought I'd share a few with you.

We here in the Chicago area must be known for our adventurous palates because this is the place Naked Jay Vodka chose as its second market to unveil its Big Dill vodka. That's right ... dill pickle flavored vodka. The first market, by the way, was Reston, Va., where the brainchild (if you can use that term to describe someone who comes up with wacky flavors of vodka) comes from.

Naked Jay Vodka Big Dill is 60 proof and comes in 1 liter, 750 mL and 50 mL bottles; the 750 mL bottle costs about $15.

Try Big Dill in your next Bloody Mary, chilled as a straight-up shooter or in a Dirty Pickle. What's a Dirty Pickle you ask? A mixed-up martini made with 2 ounces Naked Jay Big Dill Vodka, ounce dry vermouth and ounce olive juice. Serve on the rocks and garnish with a speared mini pickle.

If that doesn't have your stomach churning, maybe this will: pb&j-flavored vodka. Let me get this straight: food manufacturers can't use cute characters to advertise cereal, but Van Gogh can sell vodka based on a favorite kids sandwich. Granted, it's not advertised during "Sponge Bob SquarePants."

I like Van Gogh's Dutch Chocolate Vodka well enough that I gave this new flavor a try. It actually tasted better than I anticipated. Peanut butter aroma dominated the smell but the peanut taste rested in the background and allowed the raspberry jelly to play out front. A 750-mL bottle costs $27 and it should be on shelves this spring.

I think this might be good mixed with cream soda, but the Van Gogh folks suggest it with cola. Mix 2 ounces Van Gogh PB&J with 4 ounces cola or Dr Pepper and serve on the rocks.

Will grilled cheese vodka be next?

Dinner and demo: Join Chicago Gourmets for a demonstration class and dinner May 19 at Marcel's Culinary Experience in Glen Ellyn featuring some of chef Paul Lindemuth's most requested dishes.

Lindemuth, a culinary instructor and personal chef who has spent time in the kitchen with Jacques Pepin, will prepare Mongolian Barbecue Rack of Lamb, Seared Scallops with Leeks and Lime/Ginger Cream, Wild Mushroom and Parmesan Strudel and Mini Tres Leches Cakes with Mexican Chocolate Sauce. Savory courses will be served with paired wines.

The dinner runs 6:30 to 9 p.m. and costs $79 (inclusive; attendees receive 10 percent off any merchandise purchased at the gourmet kitchen store that evening). Marcel's is at 490 N. Main St. in downtown Glen Ellyn. For details, visit or call (708) 383-7543.

Show your pride: Vegan, vegetarians and those who support vegans and vegetarians can help raise awareness of the benefits of a plant-based diet at Chicago's first Veggie Pride Parade.

Organizers are looking for anyone who wants to walk, march in costume, dance, socialize and otherwise celebrate veggie lifestyles to join the June 2 event. Such parades have been a tradition in Paris since 2001. Chicago's parade will kick off at noon from Grant Park.

According to the group's website,, the mission of the parade is to "unify the voices of everyone who sees an advantage to a plant-based diet and wishes to share and promote it (for the sake of the animals, environment, or our personal health/health of our loved ones). This unified voice will help to make a stronger impact on promoting a plant-based diet and will bring public attention to the global importance of our food choices."

Head online to see how you can help.

Kewl beans: Nickelodeon star Reed Alexander (aka Nevel Papperman on "iCarly") will be in Chicago Saturday demonstrating healthy recipes during the Green Festival on the Navy Pier.

When he's not trying to sabbotage "iCarly" webisodes on camera, Alexander's in his kitchen coming up with ideas for healthier school lunches, creating recipes for his website,, and working with The Alliance for a Healthier Generation to educate kids about making healthy lifestyle choices.

The Green Festival, which aims to inspire people to build green, eat organic and help the planet, runs noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 5, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, May 6. Alexander's demo and talk starts at 2 p.m. Saturday on the main stage.

Daily admission costs $10 ($15 at the door). Details at

• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at or (848) 427-4524. Be her friend at or follow her on Twitter @PankeysPlate.

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