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The Dish


Roasters distilling 2 drinks

Old Crown Coffee Roasters is a coffee shop with a full bar. It sells bulk coffee beans, and on Friday nights, it turns into a sit-down restaurant. Now, the restaurant (or would that be a café? A bar? A wholesaler?) has a new hat to don: that of distiller.

The next time you enter Old Crown (3417 N. Anthony Blvd.), check out the tall display case on the left-hand side immediately after you enter. See those two little Barbie-sized barrels? Owner Michael Woodruff is distilling his own booze in strangely adorable half-gallon barrels he ordered from the Washington-based Woodinville Whiskey Co.

OK, so I guess two barrels does not a distillery make, but it’s still pretty unusual. Even more unusual is what he’s distilling. In one, he poured two bottles of the cruddiest whiskey he could find. Buffalo Trace isn’t barrel-aged at all and, he says, you can tell. In the other barrel? Old Crown’s signature cocktail, the Spicy Hoosier, which is made with Indiana bourbon, rye whiskey, cherry heering (a Danish cherry brandy) and bitters, which he will add after the distillation process.

Though Woodruff plans to distill his drinks for only six months – he barreled them last week – he says that will be the equivalent of a three- or four-year distillation because of the size of the barrels, which provide a much higher wood surface area-to-liquor ratio than a traditionally sized barrel.

He figures each barrel will produce about 32 drinks, and when these are appropriately aged, he does plan to reuse the barrels, possibly for another cocktail – distilling a mixed drink is highly unusual, Woodruff says, so there’s no way for him to know if it’s going to turn out any good.

“I would love nothing more than to fill the (display) case now with barrels,” he says.

Club Soda buys bakery

Richard’s Bakery (1130 Wells St.) is under new ownership. In an effort to expand on its catering services, Club Soda has taken over the reins at the longtime Fort Wayne spot.

Club Soda co-owner and general manager Noelle Reith says the move gives the restaurant the opportunity to offer cakes for guests who come in to celebrate a birthday or anniversary, and it also gives Club Soda more space.

She declined to go into some of the changes the restaurant hopes to make with the bakery, but Reith says she does plan on a remodel to spruce up the bakery and give it a Club Soda feel, in addition to adding new items to the menu while maintaining some of the Richard’s favorites.

Plans are in the works for a grand reopening celebration at the bakery within the next few months.

New management

A reader called last week, inquiring about El Conquistador (1535 Coliseum Blvd. N.), which he said appeared closed.

Indeed, the parking lot was empty as of yesterday afternoon. A sign on the front door of the Mexican restaurant read “Grand Reopening Coming Soon. Under New Management.”

This location seems to have a high turnover of owners, with at least five restaurants in the past 12 years. The most recent owner opened El Conquistador at the end of December. Before that, it was Las Lomas Mexican Grill, which opened in December 2005, according to Journal Gazette archives. Before that, the building housed Lake Café in April 2005, Rich’s Café in January 2005 and Memories of China in February 2004, dating back to at least July 2000.

Meet the ‘losers’

Christine and Roy Pickler, Hoosiers and contestants from NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” will be at the annual Calf Day Celebration from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Cook’s Bison Ranch (5645 E. 600 S., Wolcottville).

The couple, who recently celebrated their one-year anniversary, decided it was time to slim down after they got married. They worried that if they did not drop some weight, they would not have much time together – Roy is 20 years older than Christine – “and we want to have as much time together as possible,” Christine told the Elkhart Truth in January.

The Calf Day Celebration will also include lessons on how to spin buffalo hair, free wagon rides, bison jerky demonstrations, music and food. Admission is free.


Panda Express at Glenbrook Square (4201 Coldwater Road, in the food court) is holding a fundraiser for Easter Seals Arc on Friday. If you present a flier between 4 and 8 p.m., 20 percent of what you pay will be donated to the organization to help people with disabilities.

Print out the flier from

Free tasting

Lebamoff’s Cap n’ Cork (1031 Broadway) is hosting a free wine, liquor and beer tasting from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday. The event will feature:

Twenty wines, including a variety of the Molly Dooker wines from California

•Four liquors, including two bourbons, a whiskey and a tequila

•Eight beers, including four Samuel Adams beers and three Angry Orchard hard ciders

The Dish features restaurant news and food events and appears Wednesdays. Fax news items to 461-8893, email or call 461-8462. For more restaurant news, go to The Dish blog at