Sunday, March 07, 2010

Killing the Legendary Pump Room - Tribune Shilling for the New Owners?

Note to the Tribune reporter - witness the dearth of Tom Collins glasses? No glass black panthers adorn the tables either. Martinis seem to be the drink to order.

I just left a crowded Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church here on the south side of Chicago. Father Gallagher gave a beautiful and simple homily about the need to accept God's will - the parable of the Chaff and Wheat.

Weeds grow up with the grain and louses, creeps, thugs and low-lifes thrive among simple, hard working, generous and wonderful people. What we want is not important, but what we do with what we are given and how we treat others is all that matters.

The Mass was thick with Catholics - Croatians, Irish, Italian, Mexican, African American worshippers - and as if to add a poignancy to Father Gallagher's homily a wildly obnoxious loud and disruptive crack-pipe aficionado who snorted, farted, fidgeted and interjected occasional commands of "Hey, Boss! Boss! Over here! I'm worshipping. God Bless You." At the hand shake of peace following the Pater Noster, the pipe smoker was greeted with "Peace be with You." and pressings of the flesh.

Not expected and yet ironically welcomed, the gent stumbled out of the pew as Holy Communion was administered bounced down Sacred Heart's narrow and rickety stairs. After Mass, Our Sunday Visitor, the crack-piper, was still bouncing his way from car-to car in the crowded parking lot on 117th & Church Street.

The presence of the crack head only made Father Gallagher's homily more beautiful.

We are all in this Vale of Tears and Garden of God together.

Chicago's Pump Room in the Ambassador East Hotel is a secular temple and house of comfort to travelers and revelers.

The Pump Room has hosted celebrities and helots for decades. Last week, the Chicago Tribune trashed the Pump Room with this sophomoric and whiny narrative by a disappointed reporter. With one visit to the legendary Pump Room, reporter Lauren Viera swept the decades of service, welcome and grace long attributed to the Pump Room into the gutter:

In my recent hunt for the perfect Chicago hotel bar, I was after a particular mood. I wanted to find a classy lounge of yore: dark colors and textures typical of a private club; perhaps a hint of a bygone golden age, with history hanging heavy in the air, and long nights of lounging worn deep into leather booths. And most of all, I wanted well-executed classic cocktails, worthy of predictably inflated price tags.

Check out how we rate Chicago's hotel bars on a scale of one through five.

My first stop was at the Drake Hotel's Coq d'Or, which opened Dec. 6, 1933 — the day after Prohibition was repealed in the United States. Fortunately, the lounge's classy ambiance has changed little in the 76 years since. The burgundy-colored leather booths, the gilded finishes, the tuxedoed bartender — all accounted for. But ask for a Tom Collins, the classic gin-based sour long drink that has been ordered with multiple variations since the 1870s, and you're lucky if it's served in the appropriate tall-glass tumbler (which, incidentally, is named for the drink). At Coq d'Or, my watered-down Collins-mix cocktail was served in a hurricane glass drowning in ice.The Ambassador East Hotel's famous Pump Room was by far the most disappointing, considering its storied history. Opened in 1938, it was at one time the go-to hotel lounge in Chicago, frequented by Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman and the like.

On my visit, I was one of just three patrons sitting in the bar and still had to wait five minutes before the bartender on duty, concentrating intently on his handheld device, finally took notice. In reply to my Tom Collins request, he produced a watery vodka-soda, splashed with Rose's lime juice, served in a pint glass.

Only after I asked him how he made the drink did he pause, brows furrowed, and ask, "What's in a Tom Collins, anyway?" After hearing out the recipe and trying his hand at a fresh drink, he set it down in front of me apologetically and said, "You should always get what you want. Especially when you're out."

What I want, I'm afraid, doesn't exist anymore.
( click my post title for the full nonsense)

Heavens! A Tom Collins? Why not an Arrack Swedish Punsch, Black Velvet(Guinness & Champagne)The Doctor, or a Diki-Diki? All cocktails.

The Tom Collins is ordered with all the frequency of Keeley's Half & Half, Drewrys, Meister Brau, Andecker, and Grain Belt beers.

AS an old bartender ( Mike Doorhy's Mayfair West at 63rd & Mozart, Connelly's Tap at 63rd & Hamlin and Pete's Guiding Light at 63rd & Pulaski/Reilly's Daughter Pub on 111th, OB Joes at 111th & Sacramento and Leo's Riverside Tap on the Kankakee River), I knew my Mr. Boston Cocktail Bible.

Tom Collins - Voila!

2 ounces gin;1 ounce lemon juice, (freshly squeezed, if possible);1 teaspoon confectioner's sugar;Club soda -Add the first three ingredients for your Tom Collins drink to a cocktail shaker half filled with ice cubes. Shake vigorously long enough to chill, about 30 seconds.

Pour the strained cocktail ingredients into a Tom Collins glass or similar tall glass filled almost to the top with ice cubes. Top off with the club soda. Stir and serve with a straw.
Possible garnishes for your Tom Collins drink are an orange or lemon slice. Some people add a maraschino cherry.

I tried to imagine how this reporter would have reviewed Father Gallagher's Mass. The crack head sat directly behind me at Mass and next to Mrs. Scanlon. Mrs. Scanlon ( an eighty something widow) did not slide away from our Sunday Visitor, but accepted him as her pew mate.

Lauren Viera, it seems to me would have recoiled in utter and loud horror, demanded that the smelly drug addled gent be tossed from the house of worship and then pen a pithy missive of condemnation to the Cardinal.

Sometimes you a get a bum drink. Order something else - something less obscure.

The Pump Room continues to be a great and gracious place for an elegant time with wonderfully talented and fun people ( Max, Steve, Jesse, Bob, Angel, Gloria, James, Yancey and handsomely mixed cocktails. The staff of bartenders ( Angel is # 1.) are exacting in the ministrations of the mixologist's arts and more so attentive to the point being family members.

When the Chicago Tribune wants something killed it dances the Joe Medill jig all over it. Might the Chicago Tribune being doing the new owner a service? Provide bum reviews and scare off potential visitors?

An honest reporter would have asked for some other cocktail, if the bartender seemed flustered by such a dated order - something else, or at least had the grace to come back again.

The crack head might be back next Sunday, but so will Mrs. Scanlon and all the other worshipers. Likewise, people who know better than some of the Dinny The Dimwits at the Chicago Tribune - a huge demographic that - will crowd the Pump Room.

God separates the chaff from the wheat.

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