Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday Dinner with Apple at Sala.

Dinner last night, Thursday, 25th June 2009, was at Sala Restaurant with Apple. My wife and she have been close friends, schoolmates and carpool mates since their elementary school days. Over the many years, I , as well, have grown quite close to her and Rocky - her fellow foodie/wino/soulmate, as we share the same passions. Though we get to see each other only a few times a year since they and their kids live in Hillsborough, Ca, we always make it a point to get together for some good wine and food whenever they are in town.

Rocky, unfortunately couldn't make it this trip and Apple brought only one of her children along. Since she is here for a relatively short while and, naturally, has to spend time with her folks, my wife and I eventually decided that this dinner just be for us three to be able to spend quality time with her.

Apple was well-prepared for the evening, having spent time in the gym and treadmill earlier in the day to be able to indulge without remorse. She and my wife immediately chose the Degustacion Menu, while I, having recently had the same thing, opted for my usual starter of Twice Baked Soufflé of Prawns and Feta Cheese with Dill and the Sous-Vide Squab with Seared Foie Gras, Horseradish Potato Purée and Port Wine Jus for my main course.

Our wines for the evening were Burgundies, both from the Côte de Beaune, by Louis Jadot, both sourced from Bacchus Int'l.

I had the young 2004 Jadot Domaine Duc de Magenta Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Morgeot Clos de la Chapelle decanted to breathe in a bucket of mildly iced water for around an hour before serving. The 1999 Jadot Corton-Pougets Grand Cru was just left opened for 45 minutes in the bottle - no decanting.

Amuse bouche of crab and tomatoes arranged like flower petals in a little tart

Trio of Corn and Sweet Shrimp Bisque, Sweet Shrimp Beignette with Corn Purée and Sweet Shrimp and Corn Salad

Salad of rare tuna and some greens with quail egg

Quail Bacon Sage Tortelloni with Mushroom Fricasee and Truffle Oil

2004 Maison Louis Jadot Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Morgeot Monopole Clos de la Chapelle Domaine Duc de Magenta - The grapes that go into making this wine come from the monopole (single owner) enclosed vineyard ("clos") named Clos de la Chapelle located in the premier cru climat of Morgeot within the Chassagne-Montrachet appellation in the Côte de Beaune. While Domaine Duc de Magenta is the sole owner of Clos de la Chapelle, the produce thereof is, by long-term contract, under exclusive vinification and distribution of Maison Louis Jadot. The premier cru Morgeot is known to yield the most masculine of the whites of Chassagne-Montrachet.

For those new to the wines of Burgundy, the Côte de Beaune is more famous for producing white wines (chardonnay), including the most sought-after grand cru Montrachet, the vineyards of which straddle the villages of Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet.

This is a rather self-possessed, austere Morgeots, likely due to the vintage. It is initially a bit tight, presenting clean, dry, highly focused, slightly floral white fruit, apple, steel, white minerality with hints of spicy/toasty oak and leesiness on a medium body. As it warmed a bit in the glass, the wine fleshed out, gaining a little heft and breadth mid-mouth and through to the finish. In so doing, it showed more depth and concentration in its fruit. Over-all, it has admirable purity, balance and restraint - a classy performance.

The main courses:

Roast Lamb Shortloin and Lamb Shortribs Confit with Root Vegetable Pâve and Shallot Jus for the ladies with...

1999 Jadot Corton-Pougets Grand Cru

I enjoyed this with my Sous-Vide Squab with Seared Foie Gras, Horseradish Potato Purée and Port Wine Jus.

1999 Jadot Corton-Pougets Grand Cru - I first tried this from Vancouver Vince over a post golf dinner at home on the 13th May 2009. I liked it a lot, so got some for Apple to try. As luck would have it, she is currently enjoying pinot noir based wines after spending a weekend at a recent Pigs & Pinot festival - so my choice of red was most appropriate. My previous notes were as follows:

From Jadot's own south-eastern exposed vineyard situated on the Rognon de Corton (literally, the "Corton kidney"), just below the vineyards of Corton-Charlemagne.

A bit reticent, initially, after around 15 minutes in the glass, this attractive dark red wine started opening up with sweetly-spiced raspberry, cherry and fine cedar - eventually developing into a nicely perfumed bouquet.This wine was alluringly, seductively feminine in character, with very notable finesse - from the attack to finish, there is definitiveness, but elegantly understated. In the mouth, notes of dried cranberry, red beet and a whisper of violets are intricately intertwined with the mirrored sweetly spiced red fruit/berry aromas - making for a very enjoyable wine indeed.

I can add now, since the wine had more aeration in bottle and glass this time, that it exhibited more openly the power, breadth, body and push expected of grand cru status and more depth in its deep, pure and well-defined cherry and raspberry flavors - but all in a polished and poised manner.

We finished the evening with a lot of stories, desserts (of which I forgot to take pictures, I had the Mango & Passion Fruit Pavlova), and cups of coffee. It was really great catching up with Apple again. Next time, hopefully, Rocky will also be around to share in the fun.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

La Tienda Lunch: Kokotxas de Bacalao, Txakoli, Etc.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009, I woke up very late after the German Beer & Sausages Dinner and rushed to La Tienda to catch up with Miguel and J-Lab for lunch. Apparently, the German beers share the same powerful narcotic effects on me as Chimay Blue. Thanks to the usual horrible traffic on the SLEX, I got to La Tienda just before 2pm. The guys had long started, naturally, but had some food kept warm for me.

The point of the lunch was to try out the Kokotxas al Pilpil made from the real deal cod ganglions Miguel's mom had sent to him from Spain regionally paired with his bottle of Txakoli. Aside from that, we had other tapas and bottles of wine.

Chorizo, Cheese, Olives, Escalivadas and a couple of specials made for us by the chef.

With the Kokotxas de Bacalao al Pilpil, I had a couple of glasses of...

Txomin Etxaniz Getaria 2008 - Miguel's bottle, brought in from Spain specifically to pair with this dish. From the DO Getariako Txakolina located in Getaria, just outside chef Javi's hometown of San Sebastian in the Basque region whereat Txomin Etxaniz owns 35 hectares of sloping vineyards planted to the native hondarrabi zuri (90%) and hondarrabi beltza (10%) grapes. For whatever it is worth, Jancis Robinson considers this producer the best of the area.

Meant to be served very chilled and traditionally poured at arms' length height, this is a wine meant to be enjoyed casually, paired with starters of shellfish and fish - anchovies and tuna in oil particularly recommended by the producer.

Though it is a still wine, it has a slightly fizzy/carbonated feel on the palate, exhibiting very dry and fresh, light, tartish green apple and lime/citrus flavors with high, though not disturbing, acidity and a very slight appetite-enhancing bitterness past mid-mouth. From my readings, this is typical of txakolis.

It is a rather simple, straightforward, refreshing wine well-suited for the tropical heat and, indeed, seafood dishes. I'd guess it is not for everyone, but I liked it well enough for the novelty of a typical Basque regional pairing. Since it is quite inexpensive, I'd likely buy some to keep at home, but, unfortunately, I do not believe there is any txakoli locally available. Terry Selection used to offer it, but they stopped a while back according to JC de Terry.

J-Lab pouring out some Txakoli

Othmar Ober, by that time done with his own lunch at another table, stopped by for a short chat and a glass of wine. This fellow is everywhere, I tell you.

Bodegas Hidalgo Pastrana Single Vineyard Manzanilla Pasada - J-Lab's bottle; from the village of Sanlúcar de Barrameda along the Costa de la Luz, in the Anadalucian province of Cadiz in southern Spain. This 217 year-old bodega's holdings span 200 hectares planted to vine, with some reaching 80 years of age. "Pastrana" is the name of the particular vineyard wherefrom the fruit to make this wine is harvested.

According to Miguel, this is the typical drink enjoyed in Spain, after work, before dinner, at a tapas bar, with some olives and slices of chorizo.

It struck me as a rather light type of sherry, quite nicely dry, with a subtle, vaguely roasted-nutty character with faint wood notes. Smooth and comfortingly warm on the palate. I could easily get into this pairing with tapas. Per J-Lab, this is readily available at Uni-Mart in Greenhills at the very reasonable price of only P700++ per bottle.

2007 Laxas Albariño - Miguel's bottle, purchased from Terry selection for sure. I've enjoyed many bottles of this ever since Miguel introduced me to it, and have written about it, as well as the 2006 vintage, several times. For me, it is simply a must with Javi's escalivadas, pulpo à la Gallega and fresh boquerónes.

From previous notes:

From Rias Baixas, a D.O. in Galicia that includes Condado do Tea, Val do Salnés and O Rosal. Albariño is a white wine grape that most all authorities consider performs the best in Rias Baixas (and I definitely agree, having tried several Portugese versions, alvarinhos, which have been comparably insipid). Albariño wines are typically dry, brightly/sharply acidic and floral. As such, in Galicia, they are traditionally paired with seafood dishes the area is famous for.

This wine, as before, displayed fresh, brightly dry, crisp, vibrant mineral/flint touched, slightly grassy green apple, guava, grapefruit, gooseberry and a bit of ripe lemon. There is a slight, appetite-enhancing almond bitterness that comes in towards the back. Its sharp acidity gives over-all lift to the fruit, making for a lively and refreshing wine.

After our double espressos, Tito Kiko Vecin, Miguel's dad, a long-time regular of La Tienda, then joined us and poured us some glasses of...

Bodegas Hidalgo Cream Alameda - From Jerez in the Andalucian region, made from palomino fino and Pedro Ximénez. I understand that this is a blend of Oloroso sherry sweetened by dark rich sherry made from Pedro Ximénez.

After warming a bit in the glass, the aroma foreshadowed the fortified wine's moderate sweetness. In the mouth, it was noticeably darker, heftier, sweeter and slightly more viscous than the above-mentioned mentioned Manzanilla Pasada from the same producer. Surely this is meant to be an after dinner drink rather than an apéritif with tapas - as Tito Kiko confirmed, this serves as a good digestif.

Roasted walnuts, fig, with whispers of candied tamarind, orange rind and wood on a slightly-over-medium body and a nice, long finish - a very enjoyable way to end a rainy Wednesday lunch. My bottle of 2007 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé was untouched, left for another day.

Gracias a todos!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wines & Spirits Club Philippines/Treffpunkt German Beer Dinner.

Dinner Tuesday night, 23 June 2009, was at Café Ysabel for a W&SCP dinner event sponsored by German beer, sausages and cold cuts producer/distributor, Treffpunkt; Raymond Meynet, the current owner (having taken over sometime in 1996), being a member of the club. This was my first organized beer-pairing dinner.

My wife and I arrived just a few minutes past 7:30. Aside from the evening's hosts and the usual suspects, my brother, T, and his wife, C, were already there enjoying huge platters of Salami and Fleische Kaese...

...and the initial salvo of 3 German beers.

EKU Pilsen, Kapuziner Weiss Beer

Mönchshof Black Beer

Raymond, Nico P, J-Lab and Gene with T in the background.

The Clavanos, Nelson and Karla, among others.

T and C had already taken a table for 6, so we naturally joined them thereat and started tasting the "cocktail beers" with the salami and cheese. Our table pretty much favored the rounder, fruitier Kapuziner Weiss Beer over the drier, crisper EKU Pilsen with the appetizers. I'd imagine I would prefer the EKU Pilsen after a long, hot round of golf.

I didn't try the Mönchschof Black Beer until Marty encouraged me to, recommending that I let it warm slightly before enjoying it. I followed his advice, and, with its rich, mouth-filling dark chocolate flavor, it turned out to be one of my favorite beers of the night. I, then and there, decided to buy some for my teenage sons to try; I'm sure they'd enjoy this. Fortunately, Raymond assured me that though it is not found with his other beers in supermarkets and large groceries, it may be purchased directly from Treffpunkt.

Gene then made his opening statements, welcomed T and C to their first WSCP attendance and gave us a brief background on Treffpunkt and its products. Dinner proper began immediately thereafter with a Crème of Onion and Smoked Ham Dumpling Soup. I've loved these thick, rustic German soups ever since Tito Hans (Mrs. Doc's late father/my wife's uncle) introduced me to them many years ago. This was no different - hearty, savory, comforting, plus a nicely smoky and juicy dumpling one can sink his teeth into.

Liked this a lot, perfect for a rainy night. This was paired with...

Warsteiner Premium Verum, which happens to be a beer we keep in stock at home. Just under medium in body, mildly creamy, nicely clean, with a light malt sweetness towards the back of the mouth. Very easy to drink. My teenagers like this a lot, and I can understand why.

Next was a simple, refreshing Green Salad which I made short work of knowing that this would likely be the healthiest course of the night. The following dishes were served together, family style and in most generous amounts, much more than we could possibly finish.

Assorted Sausages, Pig's Knuckle and Ham


These were served with additional platters of Baked Spatzle, Home Fried Potatoes and a loaf of dark Rye Bread.

Earlier in the evening, I noticed Aaron and Jo taking a booth for themselves and I kidded them about being anti-social. Pointing to J-Lab and Nico's longer table for 6, I encouraged them to join the former, but they opted to stay where they were. Probably just wanted to enjoy each other's company I thought, and why not?

Later on, though, I figured they just wanted to have those huge platters to themselves without having to compete with a hungry mob.

I also noted that J-Lab and Nico probably had the same thing on their minds....

It was good to see Gene actually eating. It seems to me he is always bustling about and, save for that evening, I don't recall ever seeing him sit down and actually take sustenance.

The sponsors oversaw the event from their table. I must note that the young Meynet did his parents proud - a young gentleman politely and efficiently helping with the evening, distributing the give-away bottle-openers and pens.

I enjoyed this hearty meal with two different beers.

Erdinger Weiss Beer, lightly fruity but nicely dry, I tasted hints of banana and citrus with a very slight, appetizing yeasty bitterness at the end. The finish was not long but quite clean. Very easy to drink.

Erdinger Dark Beer, fuller in body, it had a general malty, roasted nuttiness to it with a slight undertone of caramel and whispers of clove. Very enjoyable.

Before dessert was served, Gene re-took the mike to reintroduce the evening's sponsor...

...who said a few words about his products and thanked everyone for attending, though it was us who should have been thanking him for the evening.

Dessert was a Spiced Apple cream Palat Schinken with Custard and Home-Made Chocolate Ice Cream on the Side.

My brother and I couldn't help but try the dessert, especially the delicious home-made chocolate ice cream, with yet another glass each of the Mönchshof Black Beer which Gene expertly coaxed out of the now reluctant keg. The beer's rich dark chocolate ran hand in glove with the ice cream. Chocolate beer and chocolate ice cream - it may sound strange, but, what can I say? Beer newbie and probably Philistine that I am, I enjoyed the hell out of them together.

The evening ended not long thereafter with cups of then much needed sobering coffee for the long drive home. I had a fun time: a hearty meal, several good beers, spent time with my family and friends and learned some new things to boot. How much better could a rainy Tuesday evening be?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

20 June 2009: Saturday Night Tapas, Paella and Wine at Rene & Aimee's.

Followers of this blog know I enjoy grazing on tapas with wine in lieu of a full course dinner. I don't look for main courses then and am more than happy loading up on various pica-picas with rosés. One such evening was this past Saturday at Rene and Aimee's place. We were again the 6 from this past Wednesday's dinner as Santi and Maite suddenly couldn't make it.

Miguel was already there when I arrived, he, Rene and Aimee having just started on his two savory terrines: Terrine de Sanglier (wild boar) and Terrine de Cerf (deer). With these, we started off with a bottle of...

2005 Bodegas Terramoll Rosado - Miguel's bottle, from their family friends' (the Moll family) winery situated in "la Mola", the highest part of the island (200 meters above sea level) of Formentera (DO), Baleares, Spain. The estate's area is 40 hectares, 12 of which are under vine. For its tinto and rosado, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and monastrell are the grapes used. As far as I can tell, however, for the 2005 rosado, monastrell was not part of the blend.

This is a plump, comfortable rosé with nice heft and a definitively rounded middle. Smooth, very approachable and easy to drink a lot of fast. Its soft fruit has nice depth for a rosé, and the well-balanced dark cherry, blackcurrant and plum, hints of cedar and herbs and ever-so-faint underlying minerality are neatly presented, the alcohol well in check. Nice balance here.

Too bad it isn't available locally, and, as far as I can tell from searching the web, it is also not available in the US. I hope Miguel has more bottles of this.

2005 Enate Rosado Somontano - Miguel's bottle; I remember he looked for this and found some in Bacchus right before our Burgundy & Pinot Noir Lunch at Sala. From the DO Somontano, between the Pyrenean foothills and the Ebro valley, in the heart of northeastern Spain's Huesca province, around 70 kms south of the French border. This rosado is 100% cabernet sauvignon. The winemaker, Jesus Artajona, apprenticed in Bordeaux and worked for a while in Château Margaux.

I found this wine dominated by blackcurrant, raspberry with some cherry and a pinch of feisty red spice thrown in. Compared to the above Terramoll, the Enate was not as soft or rounded (likely because there is no merlot blended in), drier and a touch austere (perhaps due to his stint in Bordeaux?).

Nice enough, I wouldn't mind buying some of this, but I'd guess more people would find the Terramoll much more approachable and likable.

By the time we started on this second rosado, my wife and Ria had arrived, so Aimee went to organize our meal's service while everyone continued chatting.

Within a few minutes, we took our seats and dug into the platters of...

Jamón Bellota de Jabugo, Salami Milano and Mocetta di Manzo,

Croquetas, and


I understand that the paella and croquetas were made by one of Ria's cousins while the Salami Milano and Mocetta di Manzo were brought in by Miguel from his recent tri to Italy. Having enjoyed the sinfully delicious Jamón Bellota de Jabugo before, I knew it was imported by Miguel's company, Tierra de España. With all these, we enjoyed...

1999 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Superiore Nizza La Court - My bottle. I first tried this upon the recommendation of Alex Lichaytoo with a simple, rustic Italian lunch at PWX on the 9th June 2009. I liked it and promptly bought a few bottles from Bacchus for myself. My notes then are as follows:

From Piedmont's Barbera region of Asti, this wine is made up wholly of barbera grapes from the same-named, 6 hectare, south-west exposure single vineyard "La Court". Largely over-shadowed by the more famous Piedmontese nebbiolo-based wines, Barolo and Barbaresco, Barberas receive comparatively little press. Considering the subject wine, however, this lack of attention is undeserved and, perforce, lamentable.

The complex bouquet recalls dark fruit compote, dried cherry, kirsch, violets and cedar. Its medium body presents mature, soft, velvety dark cherry, violets, a light touch of dried herbs (lavender? thyme?) and hints of balsamico and leather in the underlying black fruit. The finish was moderate and precise; the tannins soft and smooth. It paired very well with the roast chicken. With the first sniff and sip, I decided I must have more bottles of this.

2001 Marqués de Cáceres Gaudium - Rene's bottle, purchased from Terry's. Owned by the Forner family who left Spain for Bordeaux during Franco's time. When they eventually returned, they introduced Bordeaux techniques in Rioja such as, among others, shorter oak ageing and the predominant use of French oak as opposed to American. The Forners also own and run 1855 Classified 5th Growth Château Camensac in the Haut Médoc, and, in the past, Château Larose Trintaudon as well .

The wine is full-bodied, somewhat chewy beside the lighter-framed Chiarlo La Court, the nose is distinctively and generously laced with spicy/toasty oak lending notes toffee, vanilla and cinammon to the comparatively viscous, deeply veined, somewhat jammy dark fruit, strawberry, cherry and raspberry. In the mouth, there are added whispers of thyme, anise and, towards the back, a bit of violets.

I recall from a dinner at Terry Selections' 2º Piso in honor of Marqués de Cáceres' export manager, Joel Martinez, that Gaudium sees approximately 18 months in all new French oak, hence the pronounced, though fairly well integrated oak notes.

Next came the Cheese Platter with Membrillo (quince jelly) on the side of course, paired with:

1988 Dow's Quinta do Bomfim Vintage Port - Rene's bottle. The Quinta Bomfim ("good finish" or "good end") vineyard was acquired in 1896 and is located high in the in eastern Alto Douro, Portugal. This particular single quinta bottling is only produced in undeclared years, otherwise the product of this quinta is used to form the base of Dow's Vintage Port.

This particular port presents a somewhat light and fresh character. User-friendly, it is very easy to drink and appreciate. Its bouquet is of ripe dark plum, raisined berries, sweet cedar with touches of dried fig and molasses. These notes are mirrored on the palate in a medium port body, the flavors light-footed and almost whimsical.

Its fruity freshness was most welcome and even sorely needed due to the queso de Cabrales' (a cheese from eastern Asturias in Spain) aggressive pungency and bleu gaminess which the membrillo alone could not cut.

Dessert then followed in the form of delightful little turons stuffed with mango instead of the usual banana, served with vanilla ice cream on the side.

We then lingered over last pours from the bottles and, at around midnight, took our respective leaves, thanking our hosts for such a relaxing and most enjoyable evening.

Oh, and congratulations to Rene and Aimee, at least now I can already openly say it.