When he wasn’t piloting a plane, Toby Beall spent time with his bare feet in the Caribbean sand and a cocktail mellowing in his hand. Looking to share that laid-back lifestyle, Beall, his wife Jillian and brother Jamey founded Tailwinds Distilling Company. Today, the Plainfield-based specialists blend premium ingredients such as organic molasses and 100% blue agave, and carefully age them in french-oak barrels to create their tropically-inspired amber rum. After the signature, small-batch distilling process—which avoids the use of carbon filters so as to leave the flavors intact—each bottle is individually signed. That attention to detail hasn’t gone unnoticed: their Taildragger white rum earned a silver medal at the 2012 Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition, and their 100% blue agave spirit was featured in Chicago Magazine's Holiday 2012 Gift Guide: For Imbibers.
Visitors can take a jetlag-free trip to the tropics during tours of the facility, learning about distillation and sampling sips in a tiki-bar-themed tasting room. Merchandise such as T-shirts, snifters, and flasks provide more lasting souvenirs than the imaginary tan the island vibe might inspire.
Naturally, the chefs at Cooper’s Hawk have a sharp eye when it comes to wine pairings. Each of the restaurant’s contemporary dishes is crafted with a particular wine in mind, which makes plenty of sense given the fact that there’s a winery located just next door. Surrounded by oaken barrels and racks lined with glistening bottles, diners may be forgiven for thinking that they made a wrong turn and ended up in the winery itself. After your meal, see the real thing in the Napa–style tasting room, where you can sample up to eight different wines. The selection includes something for everyone, including graceful blush wines and cabernets whose flavors unfold like a novel scribbled on the wings of an origami crane.
WineStyles’ inspiration for its wine-tasting parties began, of all places, at a backyard barbecue. Some friends at the barbecue found themselves with too many bottles of wine. As an experiment, they decided to taste the wines blindly, so as not to be influenced by price or packaging. This impromptu tasting became the template for WineStyles, a boutique designed to help you choose a wine simply by taste. That is, wines here aren’t categorized by varietal or region, but instead by one of eight taste profiles: crisp, silky, rich, and bubbly for whites; fruity, mellow, bold, and nectar for reds. However, patrons interested in knowing more about their selected bottle can still do so—each bottle comes with a description of its characteristics and suggested food pairings.
Those looking to learn even more about wines can attend one of WineStyles’ weekly tastings or discovery classes. During these events, certified specialists explore everything from the history of different varietals to current trends in wine drinking, such as which wine goes best with texting. Different levels of wine-club membership give participants two to three bottles a month (each selected by a Masters Wine Panel, invitations to private tastings, and discounts toward additional purchases.
Voted "Best Pumpkin Fest" by viewers of Fox News Chicago, Bengtson's Pumpkin Farm captivates visitors with the autumn-themed fun of four new attractions, pig races, a 3-acre corn maze fit for all ages, and the Kids Village complete with a jail and a fire station. Swine speed toward the finish line 10 times daily, spurred on by the cheers of bleacher-seated audiences, and human competitors race playmates or sentient scarecrows through the giant Crazy Corn Maizey's swaying stalks. The Pumpkin Chucker launches gourds skyward, and pint-size patrons mirror mid-air trajectories on kiddy rides such as the new 90-foot Mega Fun Slide and Flying Frogs (free through October 30, excluding pony rides). Ghoulish chefs and mad scientists cook up screams in the Haunted Barn before sending the spooked off to enjoy the soothing effects and bleated lullabies of goats, zebras, kangaroos, and other critters at the petting zoo.
Unsurprisingly, beer plays a big role at Nevin's Brewing Company. Their brewmeisters craft a panoply of suds that range from an IPA to a rich, hearty stout. When they finish a batch of ale, they could easily throw their spent grains away–unceremoniously in the garbage or ceremoniously on their 3,000th customer. Instead, they take their used barley and hops to local farmers, who use the nutrient-rich grains as compost for their fields and feed for their livestock. Later on, Nevin's chefs return to the very farms they nourished to buy beef and vegetables to make sustainably-crafted burgers, ribs, and salads that can be washed down with cool, refreshing beer.
At Orange 13, swaths of burnt-orange organza and crystal chandeliers transform tables into secluded enclaves. At two granite-topped bars, bartenders pour 50 handpicked wines and mix martinis with top-shelf liquors. The chefs strive to match the sleek, sultry environs with a menu of creative fusion fare: they adorn a trio of buffalo, elk, and Kobe burgers with brie and bleu cheese and add zest to tender lamb chops with lemon-thyme glaze. To encourage an experience as fun as the cuisine is exquisite, live entertainment and DJs spin beats until 3 a.m., and high ceilings make it plausible that dancing giraffes appear, too. Live bands hit the stage at 8 p.m. on Fridays and DJs begin to spin sets at 11 p.m. on Saturdays.