Friday Feast: Hibiscus flowers and rum = 'hum'

February 19, 2010

You can give up your meat for Lent on Fridays, but I would strongly recommend you jump on some hum. No, it's not a compact version of the 90s gas-guzzler, but rather, the latest spirit to hit the shelves, compliments of local boy Adam Seger. At night, Seger is GM at Nacional 27, and doubles as the restaurant's Mixologist/Bar Chef (he's also working on a new book about cocktails). But during the day, he's an alchemist; a guy who spends almost every waking hour thinking about how he can put more joy into your glass. He's done it, frankly, with something called hum.

If five years ago you were trying to explain what an iPhone was it would be extremely difficult," Seger told me. "And hum is a little bit like that because you can have it on the rocks, you can have it over ice cream you can cook with it, you can use it in classic cocktails."

With rum as its base, Seger employs the freshest, organic ginger root, providing the most subtle spice, but keeps piling on aromatics in the form of cardamom, dried hibiscus flowers (the root of the best jamaica drinks) as well as a secret weapon: fresh kaffir lime leaves and rinds. The result is a beguiling concoction, a spirit like no other that mixes effortlessly with a Matlida beer (HUMbrew) or subs in‚ just fine for vermouth in a Negroni (make that a humgroni)‚ combined with‚ North Shore gin, campari and ice, garnished with an orange peel. His "lovebird" contains passion pomegranate puree and blood oranges; the addition of sparkling wine gives it some effervessence. I'll be mixing up some of those cocktails at 11 a.m. today on ABC 7.

Tonight, in honor of Lent - and those of you looking for more seafood options until Easter - I'm headed to two suburban Italian seafood restaurants. The interesting thing about them is that they're both from the same family. While nearly all of the cooks in the family worked their way up through their oldest brother's place in Franklin Park, many of them have spun off their own places, including one in Lincolnwood. I don't want to give it away just yet, but you can certainly tune in at 10 p.m. or just check out the ABC 7 Hungry Hound site. Can you take a guess and tell me which two restaurants I'm featuring tonight? I've provided some clues below... Ciao!


zuppa di pesce (photo by Steve Dolinsky)


seafood salad (photo by Steve Dolinsky)