Thursday, January 22, 2015

2 Nice, Moderately-Priced Locally Available Wines w/ Merienda-Cena.

This past Monday, the 19th January 2015, was the last of the long holiday of the Pope's Philippine visit. Catha & I decided to have merienda-cena at The Black Pig and have a bit of wine as well (n.b., both wines may be purchased on retail at the Bacchus Épicerie). Anton joined us a little after we had settled in on the outside couch seating so I could have an early evening cigar*.

The owners of The Black Pig are friends of ours, we almost always hang out with them there when they are around, and we are there quite regularly.  At all times, I pay for whatever I order, save on the odd occasion when Carlos happens to be experimenting on a new dish or two and wants my opinion on the same - so I get to taste some prototypes once in a while.

With a platter of Jamón Ibérico de Bellota de Jabugo, we started on a bottle of 2009 Domaine Laroche Chablis 1er Cru Les Fourchaumes Vieilles Vignes which Catha wanted to try out. My notes then were as follows:

[B]road, deeply veined ripe fruit, notably round, lemon curd, baked apple and pear infused with rich minerality, mild cold stoniness, and discreet leesiness. It's one of the richest, ripest and most indulgent Chablis I've ever had. Undeniably pleasing, but not really Chablis as I know it.
I add that it is around medium-bodied, with a more than decent persistence. As stated, it was quite nice, and we three certainly enjoyed it. That said, most likely because of the vintage, I doubt I could have identified it as a Chablis if I had it blind - which goes into typicity, which I particularly look for in any wine.

Would I buy it again? Oh, yes, definitely. Would I pair it like I would usually a 1er cru Chablis as I know it? No, I wouldn't, but that's just me. I'd probably treat it more like a good white from the Côte de Beaune. With the two below depicted dishes (both usual orders of ours), we eventually finished off the night's white.

Seared Scallops w/ Grapefruit, Chorizo & Chicken Jus
Veal Sweetbreads w/ Charred Onions
Thereafter, 4 cheeses from the house's Cheese Selection...

...which we enjoyed with a bottle of 1999 Alfredo Prunotto Barbaresco Bric Turot. I wrote about this very recently, as follows:

My bottle. Nice rose, vanilla, violets, cedar, and sweet berries in the bouquet. Several notches over medium-bodied, sleek and silky, a bit of tar, leather and dried herbs in its dark fruit. Neat and moderately polished. Good length. Its acid balance gives good balance, with enough cut for the steaks. Alex liked this more than the succeeding wine. This is actually one of my go-to locally available Barbarescos - one that I usually bring to Mamou Too! for their rich, dry-aged porterhouse and rib-eye steaks, as well as to L'Opera for their large T-Bones.
As stated, I've been opening and enjoying many bottles of this over the past year. I add now that, with a bit of slow-ox and breathing in glass, it is warm and comforting, nicely ripe, and possesses pleasing breadth. If I had to nit-pick, I'd probably say it could use a bit more focus, but, that said, I'm not complaining at all. This was a particularly nice bottle - well, either that, or it was the relaxed, unhurried ambiance and/or the company. By then, Berna & Carlos had joined us at table (Steve & Tricia had left earlier).

That was it for wine that night, since both Catha and I would be at the office the next day.

I did, however, have a bottle of complex, refreshingly hoppy Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Wild Ale to finish off the evening. The Black Pig, by the way, carries a nice selection of both local and imported craft beers which one can enjoy with a good selection of pica-picas.

Lovely evening, guys! Until the next!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Some Wines w/ Dinner at Home.

Due to the long weekend of the Pope's Philippine visit, I have some time to update my blog. This, as well as the past few posts are not in chronological order, but, hey, that's all I can do.

After over a year of owing Berna a home-cooked dinner, on Wednesday the 3rd December 2014, I finally made good my promise. We were 7 in all: Berna, Cutie, Catha, Alex, Sanju, Gani, & myself. Unfortunately, I totally forgot that Berna is allergic to seafood, so it was slim pickings for her that night. Sorry, Berna! Next time, all meat dishes!

Cutie & Berna in the sala for cocktails.
With the first bottle of white while waiting for the others to arrive, we had canapés of Smoked Salmon with Crème Fraîche & Caviar on Blini, some Parma Ham which Berna could eat, and...

...the Caviar Pie that Berna brought.

Once we were complete, we moved to the dining room, and they started on the salad course (Mixed Greens with Tarragon Leaves, Parma Ham, Shaved Parmesan, Toasted Pine Nuts, w/ Honey-Mustard Dressing) as I started grilling the steaks outdoors.

Dinner conversation was animated...
...involving pretty much anything under the sun.
Seafood Paella by Catha.
Chili-Garlic Prawns by yours truly.
With the foregoing dishes, we had some of Alex's 2008 Domaine J-M Brocard Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. Since I just posted on that particular wine, no need to repeat myself herein.

Grilled USDA Prime Grade Rib-Eye Steaks by me.
The night's wines.
1985 Domaine de la Pousse d'Or Pommard 1er Cru Les Jarollières - My bottle. Still alive and in more than decent form, this showed a good dose of bottle-aged sweetness in its violets, cep and loam touched dark plum, ripe raspberry woven onto a mild black cherry base. Slight topnotes of camphor and cedar. Medium-bodied with a medium finish, it's middle was a bit weak, and it lacked the stuffing and power for the steaks. Still, as a whole, it was a pretty good aged Pommard. I'd not wait longer on this, so drink up if you have any.

1995 Bodegas Campillo Gran Reserva - Sanju's bottle - quite possibly the last of its kind in the country (I know because Aaron & I were the ones who used to import it). Still drinking quite youthfully, full-bodied, good depth in its dark, ripe fruit, nice middle. With good push on the palate, through to the long, liquorice and vanilla/oak finish, it handled the steaks easily. I was quite happy with the way this showed, and do appreciate Sanju's sharing his last bottle with us. Unfortunately, the producer is no longer selling this particular vintage, so, the best one can do now is order it on retail from abroad.

1999 Alfredo Prunotto Barbaresco Bric Turot* - My bottle. Nice rose, vanilla, violets, cedar, and sweet berries in the bouquet. Several notches over medium-bodied, sleek and silky, a bit of tar, leather and dried herbs in its dark fruit. Neat and moderately polished. Good length. Its acid balance gives good balance, with enough cut for the steaks. Alex liked this more than the succeeding wine. This is actually one of my go-to locally available Barbarescos - one that I usually bring to Mamou Too! for their rich, dry-aged porterhouse and rib-eye steaks, as well as to L'Opera for their large T-Bones.

2004 Alfredo Prunotto Barolo Bussia* - My bottle, decanted for aeration for approximately 2-1/2 hours before being served. Still too young and quite tight, this shows good grip, healthy acidity, and notable depth of fruit. There are also hints of the tar and rose notes one expects from Piedmonte's nebbiolo-based reds, but, nice enough as it was, it is still really too young. I'd wait at least another 5 years before opening another one of this. Good potential though.

* Both moderately priced; purchased from Bacchus' Epicerie in Commerce Center, Alabang.

Desserts were: Espasol...
...German Cookies by Tina de Jesus...
...and an excellent Lemon Torte by Roshan (thanks, Cutie!).

Digestifs were bottles of Destilería Limtuaco's Manille Liqueur de Calamansi & Liqueur de Dalandan   (the very first bottle produced, no less) courtesy of Berna. Quite impressive, indeed.

Sanju & Gani with bottles of Very Old
Captain Rum
, courtesy of Berna.

Fun night! Thanks again for coming all the way to the boondocks and braving the then already heavy pre-holiday traffic, guys! Until the next!

Christmas Dinner 2014.

Our usual family dinner of the 25th December was smaller than usual - just 7 of us as Tad & Chako spent the holidays in Japan, and, Pia, Harry & Suyin couldn't make it to the Philippines this year. As I was too tired to cook, we opted to have dinner at Cyrille & Anna Soenen's Brasserie CiÇou (same as last year).

After we settled in and placed our respective orders, Cyrille thoughtfully sent over a couple of platters of complimentary canapés for us to munch on as we waited. With them, we started on the first bottle of clean, pure, minerally, discreetly cold stone and steel touched, somewhat pillowy-fruited 2008 Domaine J-M Brocard Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. The producer is quite competent and pretty reliable. Catha & I actually visited them in Chablis once in the very hot summer of 2006. I liked what I tasted, brought home some bottles, and shared some with Jojo Madrid - who now distributes their wines through his Premium Wine Exchange.

Its appetizing dryness and minerality made for a very nice pairing with the Fresh Oysters; while its bright acid cut and precise fruitiness made it a nice counterpoint for the previously mentioned canapés...

...and the Assiette de Pâtés as well.

We also tried out a couple of orders of Cyrille's then new luxurious dish of Kouign Amann Tartine of Pork Head Pâté & Seared Duck Foie Gras with Mushrooms and Raisin Chutney - definitely lovely and indulgent. I think it was a season's special, but, they would likely be able to accommodate orders made a couple of/few days ahead of time.

Lorenzo's Salade Périgourdine (para healthy).
Catha's Duck Confit.
A classic Magret de Canard for Reena.
Cyrille deftly finishes...
...Renzo's & Dad's orders of Lièvre à la Royale.
Lorenzo & Cyrille.
An order each of Duck & Wild Hare Sausage for Mau & Joaqi.
The evening's reds.
With my Pithiviers of Duck Breast & Foie Gras:
1964 Château Pichon Longueville Baron -A ways from peak, but, after slow-ox in bottle & glass, still quite pleasurable - nicely complex with iron/sanguine notes in the cassis, black cherry, and underlying loam, slight composte, ceps & liquorice. Medium bodied, medium finish. Very mellow and comforting. My dad & Catha quite enjoyed it. I'd not mind buying more of it (n.b., Don't dawdle over this wine as it started to fall a little after an hour-and-a-half from pouring).  

1993 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - Still good amount of soft, mellow, deep, dark fruit. Sweetishly ripe, slightly creamy cassis and kirsch with toffee and vanilla bean nuances towards the back. A shade under full bodied. Should be good with rich steak at Mamou.

Cyrille & Anna joined us at table, and, later on, their kids too.
Lots of Mignardises - always a must at Brasserie CiÇou...
...same as their signature Kouign Amann. Always a treat.
Mau went for the S'mores Kouign Amann.

We all chatted on until near midnight over several complimentary pours of Cyrille's special Calvados.

An excellent, relaxed family Christmas dinner - just like last year. As far as I'm concerned, we should continue having Christmas dinners in Brasserie CiÇou in the years to come. Until the next!

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Usual Suspects' Year-Ender (2014) Get-Together @ Mamou Too!

With Keiichi and Vince in town for the holidays (from Tokyo & Vancouver, respectively), the guys got together for our annual year-ender dinner on Monday the 29th December 2014. The unanimous choice of venue was Mamou Too in Rockwell - the private room, specifically, so we wouldn't have to deal with the seating shifts, and avoid disturbing other diners should things start to get a bit loud.

Keiichi, me, Richard, J-Lab, Aaron, Miguel, Vince, & Jojo.

The moment I arrived, J-Lab, who is very much into sherry, shared some of Bodegas Lustau Very Rare Palo Cortado Exclusive Solera Premium Sherry - something he came across while searching for some of his usual holiday fruitcake at Marks & Spencer. Dry, nutty, quite smooth - definitely a nice apéritif, and inexpensive to boot. What more could one ask for (especially since palo cortados are very ordinarily very difficult to come by in these parts)? He thoughtfully let me take home the rest of the bottle since he knows Catha loves her sherry. Thanks again, J-Lab!

As always, some bubbly to welcome everyone to table: Champagne Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut - J-Lab's bottle. One of the neater, more focused locally available non-vintage rosé bubblies, this shows charming strawberries, cherry and slight black currant. Notable freshness, tension, and vibrance. Light-footed. Very pleasant, if a tad linear at this point.

2000 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs - Keiichi's bottle. Very expressive on nose and palate, this is a minerally, complex vintage bubbly that presents vivid apple and ripe pears with, after time in the glass, moderate spiciness as well as discreet nutty undertones. Well rounded and precisely ripe, with notable heft especially on mid-palate, it retains good focus through to the finish. Very nice, and, to my mind, will gain even more complexity in years to come.

Healdsburg Harvest Salad (para healthy).
Spaghetti Bottarga - a favourite of the group. With it...

2006 René & Vincent Dauvissat Chablis 1er Cru La Forest - Jojo's bottle. I liked this a lot with the pasta. There is a bit of softness showing in the flint and white mineral touched fruit base (which, curiously for me, included a bit of pineapple), but it is in good form. Not as nervous or dry as I usually prefer my Chablis, but its acid balance gave lift enough to cut through the creaminess/oiliness of the rich bottarga pasta, and the finish cleansed/refreshed the palate well for the next bite. Lovely pairing.

Some Grilled Lamb Chops before the steaks.

Unfortunately, my bottle of 1988 Domaine Louis Trapet Grand Cru Chambertin was not a healthy one - its murkiness signalled it so when I decanted it. Too pruney and tired on the palate. Still drinkable if one had to push things, but that's not what it is all about after all. I gave it a good amount of time to show whatever it still had (if any), but, ultimately, I chucked my glass of it as well as the rest of the bottle. Too bad; but, that's the way it goes. Anyway, I had brought another red for the steaks (more on that later).

1982 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande - Aaron's bottle, and an excellent specimen at that. I've had this wine many, many times throughout the years, and, though we've noted a bit of bottle variation, this bottle was one of the better, fresher ones in the past, say, 5 years. Polished, complex, harmonious, precisely balanced, cassis, cherry, bit of raspberry, cedar, bit of warm asphalt, pencil lead, pipe tobacco, liquorice, leather, and violets. Beautiful wine, very complete. Excellent with the lamb chops.

28-Day Dry-Aged USDA Prime Porterhouse.

2005 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia - Miguel's bottle. Quite impressive with the rich steaks. It certainly had enough power and acid cut for them. Bordering on full body, this showed firm structure, good bones, and properly discreet power. Good depth of fruit as well, finely laced with earthy tobacco and a bit of dried herbs. Ripe enough, but not over-ripe (which is a good thing for me). With the steaks, this was my favourite pairing red of the evening.

2000 Château Léoville Poyferré - Keiichi's bottle. Typically ripe for the vintage, and plushly made with an international slant typical of the producer (based on vintage 1996 onward in my experience/to my recollection). This is a crowd pleaser, and seemingly made to be as such with its luxurious texture and very evident oak-related chocolate/vanilla notes. Very enjoyable, if not quite intellectual. Don't get me wrong - this definitely has its place on table, depending on the evening's mood. After all, one doesn't feel like having intellectual discourse all the time (well, I don't, anyway). It was good with the steaks as well.

2004 Dominus - J-Lab's bottle. Another relatively young wine, though, with the rich steaks, as impressive as Migs' 2005 Sassicaia. More stylish, riper/sweeter/creamier in fruit, a bit lower in acid, this is squarely full-bodied, with an over-all more opulent nature than the two previously mentioned reds (this is Napa Valley after all). That said, it definitely showed good bones, body, length, and confidence. As stated, I was also impressed how well it showed with the steaks. Nice, nice.

By then, Johnny had caught up, and, as we were already very low on reds, I opened my 1993 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - This is a steady reliable Napa cab which, from recent, previously opened bottles (at Mamou Too! as well), has still got gas in its tank enough for a few/several more years, though I see no reason to purposefully hold back on opening them now with steaks. Just a little bit blocky as compared to its more Bordeaux-esque 1992 version, the '93, however, seems to hold longer in glass. Nothing to complain about, really, especially at its reasonable price, but, honestly, I fee no compulsion to buy more of it. Decent, but nothing exciting.

Others on deck, most handed a suspended sentence.
Richard Joye with a bottle of almost the same name.

Thereafter, a bottle of Petit Grain Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois Vin Doux Naturel - Richard's bottle. Pleasant honeyed peach, yellow apricot,  table grapes, touched with orange blossom notes. Nice pleasant, simple, straightforward little wine.

Vince seemed to like it well enough.
As always, our favourite Pecan Pie w/ Schlag for dessert.
Keiichi digs in happily.

J-Lab then offered up a bottle of W & J Graham's 1983 Vintage Port, but we all felt we had had enough and didn't want to waste his bottle. Thus, this lives for another day.

Great dinner, guys! Here's to 2015!
Miguel, Richard, Keiichi, & Elbert.
Still reluctant to call it a night, a bunch of us moved to Elbert's Cigar & Whisky Lounge (a.k.a., the Riedel Room)...

...for cigars and cognac...
...with Alex & Sanju catching up with single malts.

Alex, known for his prodigious appetite for single malts, as well as overly generously sharing the same (at times even surreptitiously) with friends, is fondly called "Demonio" (i.e., "Demon") - as can be seen on his bottles' name tags in Elbert's.

By around 3am, the remaining 4 of us (Alex, Sanju, Miguel, & I) got hungry again, and so moved on to Donu Korean Grill which is open 24/7. Alex and Sanju being the regulars, Migs and I let them do all the ordering and grilling... Migs "wastedly" looks on.
Love the Grilled Pork Cheeks especially.
The super crispy Korean Fried Chicken wasn't bad either... was the Korean Vegetable Pancake.

It wouldn't be a complete Asian meal without a bit of rice, in this case, a couple of shared orders of Kimchi Rice. With all these, we polished off a few bottles of the house Makgeolli (a ubiquitous, sweetish Korean rice wine that looks milky and has a distinctive fermented, yoghurt-reminiscent tang to it). By around 5am, we finally called it a night and headed home (thank God for drivers as there's no way any of us could have safely driven ourselves home). What a night! Until the next!