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Few liquors possess the mystique of absinthe. The legendary "Green Fairy," which was believed to produce hallucinogenic effects, was required drinking in 19th-century France. Vincent van Gogh is said to have sliced off a portion of his ear during an absinthe-induced buzz. Of course, it is stories such as these that add to the booze's lasting allure. "The folklore is part of the charm with absinthe," explains Maribeth DeVito, bar manager at Pier W (12700 Lake Ave., 216.228.2250). Now legal in the States, bottles of the stuff are beginning to pop up around town. DeVito stocks four brands, with prices ranging from $9 to $12.50. Much of the fun comes from the ritual of la Louche, where ice-cold water is poured over a sugar cube into a glass of absinthe, diluting the drink's bitterness and strength. "It's a fun, memorable experience," DeVito admits. How does she describe the taste? "Like ouzo; very licoricey." As for the booze's storied effects, DeVito simply says, "Drink too much of anything, and you're bound to do some crazy stuff." Pier W will host an absinthe tasting in the coming weeks. Check their website (www.selectrestaurants.com/pier) soon for details.

The Market Café & Wine Bar (1801 E. 9th St., AmTrust Bldg., 216.394.0124) is not changing its name, says GM Giovanna Daverio, despite ceasing its wine-bar operations in early August. The upscale cafeteria had been running a nice after-work wine bar on weekdays from 4 to 8 p.m. While beer and wine will still be available at lunch (and breakfast, for that matter), Market Café now closes at 3 p.m. "We just didn't get enough traffic for it to be successful," Daverio notes. "Maybe people wanted hard liquor, or maybe four hours wasn't enough time for people to settle in." Breakfast and lunch are still going strong, adds Daverio, and the space is beginning to get after-hours business after all. "We are using the restaurant as a venue for our in-house catering," she says. "We have our first wedding reception in October."

Visible Voice Books (1023 Kenilworth Ave., 216.961.0084), everybody's favorite indie bookstore in Tremont, has just gotten a little better. Last month, the bookstore added a wine bar with courtyard seating. Settle in for an alfresco refreshment while listening to some acoustic music. The wine bar is open until 10 p.m. every day but Monday. Ly's Thai Gourmet, which opened in Beachwood a year and a half ago, has closed.



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