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Redeye May 27 2004

In with the nu: It's actually a month off, but it certainly felt like summer had officially descended on the weekend of May 20-23. I spent it sweatin' like I was taking a schwitz, probably because I was bouncing around like the goodies under a velour tracksuit.

It started "innocently" enough Thursday: Bar Jöel was celebrating the official opening of patio season with complementary signature martinis (the LIK — a crisp, raspberry sugar-rimmed libation). My sweet tooth was taking a well-deserved night off, however. The bar had one bottle of orange Charbay vodka, so I went with that and tonic. Talk about bracing.

Charbay is a boutique vodka from Napa Valley. Using premium Midwest grain and fresh fruit, it's intended for the same shelf as Hanger One, but at the price of Grey Goose (i.e. upper $20's for a 750-milliliter bottle). Beginning in June, Charbay will be made available locally exclusively by Ultimate Distributors and will debut in restaurant settings. Word is Watershed, MidCity Cuisine, Floataway Cafe, Bacchanalia, Twist and Goldfish will be the starter team. As Charbay is infused with fresh fruit, not just fruit extract or essence, it is truly intended as a foundation for complex cocktails. The words "blood orange espresso martini" excite me.

On Friday, I ended up behind the decks, DJing a Sorted Group-sponsored art viewing in a makeshift space on Peters Street. It was humid up in that bitch, and not just from my steamy sounds. Those catching a breather next door at Slice could also grab some pizza and a nice cocktail in what is becoming a homey hangout. Slice is providing Castleberry with a good destination where the increasingly burgeoning neighborhood residents can nestle, with hearty flavors and unobtrusive DJ presence in the later hours.

Speaking of nestling, on Saturday, some friends and I went to check out Bazzaar, the former Mediterranean tapas restaurant next to the Fox Theatre that's being fully converted into a New York-style corner lounge. The project of always fashionable Bill Kaelin, former behind-the-scenes man at eleven50, Bazzaar is coming along nicely. It felt so natural to melt into a corner against/amid the opulent harem furnishings and in the soft bask of beehive lamp clusters. I hope Bill won't hate me for premiering/butchering his signature catchphrase, but to be able to indulge in a haven for attentive, unhurried service and local DJ talent with no cost for parking and no cover was truly bizarre, and will help make the experience so ... Bazzaar.

Keep one RedEye open. And send all comments, questions, observations and invitations to redeye@creativeloafing.com.