Friday, October 16, 2009

International Wine & Food Society Philippines President's Dinner 2009.

Last night, 15 October 2009, I attended the International Wine & Food Society Philippines Branch (the "Society") President's Dinner, a black-tie event that the Society holds in the 4th quarter of each year. The venue this year was Old Manila at the Peninsula Hotel Manila, just under 50 persons attended.

L-R: Robert Burroughes, Sunny Garcia, David Ong & Kuni Munetomo

Cocktails were served at a cordoned-off area of the Peninsula's grand lobby, featuring canapés of chilled Fin de Clair Oysters au Naturel, Smoked Salmon Rosette with Crème Fraîche, Gougères (choux pastry puffs flavoured with gruyere) and Lobster Thermidore Vol-au-Vent. These were all washed down with a seemingly endless stream of crisp and lively Champagne Jacquesson Cuvée 732 NV; the bright lemon and citrus dominant flavours of which, combined with an entertaining slight breadiness past mid-mouth, paired naturally with the fresh oysters and provided a refreshing cut to the richer smoked salmon rosette, gougères and lobster thermidore vol-au-vent.

L-R: Freddy Pio de Roda, Othmar Ober, Johnson and Candy Uy & Eddie Yap.

L-R: Oscar Ong, Jojo Madrid, Jay Labrador, Christine and Keiichi Miki

By around 8pm, we were ushered into Old Manila, took our assigned seats and Director Bill Stone introduced our venerable 6-term President and Wine Master, Bernie Sim, who welcomed everyone and explained that the point of the evening's pairings were neither competitive nor evaluative, but, rather, for contemplative enjoyment. This suited me fine. As I do tend to over-think all wines I drink, Bernie's gentle reminder that the night was for sheer enjoyment was most well placed and duly noted.

In line with Society protocol, the guests were introduced by their sponsoring members, Director Jojo Madrid presenting good friend and soon to be member Keiichi Miki, as well as his better half, Christine...

...while Bill Stone introduced Bob Houldsworth and Brian Connelly to the membership and asked them to say a few words about themselves.

Thereafter, dinner proper was served.

The first course was Crab and Avocado Tian, Organic Leaves and Saffron Crème. The crab used was that of Pacific coast Dungeness crab, known for its succulently-sweetish pinkish flesh; the saffron, cream and white wine reduction painted on the plate; the organic salad greens simply dressed with olive oil; and, everything garnished with a bit of boiled egg, capers and parsley salsa. With this opening dish was paired...

2005 Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé Clos des Prouges - From walled vineyards owned by Jadot in Pouilly-Fuissé, within the Côte Mâconnais of southern Burgundy, very near Beaujolais. If I am not mistaken, this is the maiden vintage of this bottling of Jadot. Typical of Pouilly-Fuissé (and Burgundy whites in general), the wine is 100% chardonnay; highly regarded vintage 2005, as most know, was a roasted-ripe vintage, touted by some professional reviewers as one of the vintages of the century for certain areas of France.

True to the vintage, this wine is generous and, at this point, already notably lush and open; showing off, very ripe, rounded, broad, softly baked apple and pear, leesy, oaky vanilla notes with a finely interwoven, discreet minerality. Quite lavish and forward, but, somehow, comes off in balance; its lowish acid allowing the ripe fruit center stage.

This was indulgent pairing, a rich shock-and-awe opener of a white in line with the evening's celebration of yet another year of the Society's fine wining and dining. This was purchased from Alex Lichaytoo's Bacchus International, but I am not sure if it is still in stock.

~ oOo ~

The second course was Poached Lapu-Lapu Filet with Asparagus, Slow Oven-Roasted Vine Tomato and Vanilla Beurre Blanc. The fish was very fresh and delicately poached in a stock made from its own trimmings, while the asparagus, likewise poached, was tied with a length of chive making for a natural, simple, honest and enjoyable dish. The bit of tomato added a nice acidic lift to the enriching heft of the vanilla beurre blanc. With this dish we enjoyed...

2005 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon Clos du Four Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine - Also chardonnay, from the best section of the domaine-owned vineyards in the town of Milly-Lamartine in Mâcon. Bernie surely served this wine to show a contrast in styles from 2 highly-regarded Mâcon producers in the same vintage. Unlike the openly lush, fruit-forward and eager-to-please '05 Clos des Prouges, the '05 Clos du Four was more firmly structured, leaner, edgier, nervy, minerally, purer and more focused in (likewise well-ripened) fruit, with more pronounced drive and acidic lift. It also possessed leesy vanilla/oak notes, but comparatively subtler and submerged.

Because of its leaner body, sharper/edgier focus and more pronounced acid lift, it made for a precise pairing with the fish, where, I'd imagine the Clos des Prouges would have over-powered it. Actually, I could just as easily imagine that the Clos du Four, because of its cut and good structure, would have also stood well with the previous dish of dungeness crab and saffron infused cream.

The presentation of the contrast in styles was both masterfully executed and deftly paired. Clearly, this shows why Bernie has been elected the Society's Wine Master for many successive terms.

~ oOo ~

After a Raspberry Sorbet, the soup course followed, a Duck Broth Scented with Jasmine Tea with Oxtail Raviolini. This was a clear duck consommé, lightly infused with jasmine tea leaves (3-4 minutes only, I understand), with twin, small raviolis stuffed with shredded, braised oxtail, small bits pumpkin and turnips thrown in and garnished with chive. With the soup was served...

2005 Louis Jadot Beaune Clos des Ursules - From Jadot's monopole (i.e., solely owned, purchased in 1826) enclosed vineyard within premier cru Vignes Franches climat (approximately 2.2 hectares situated in the central west portion of Beaune's vineyards). I am quite familiar with and fond of this particular wine of Jadot, the antipodal vintages 1990 and 1999 especially - the mentioned vintages having nice masculine depth and seriousness without being at all cumbersome.

The 2005, while very young and, understandably primary and a bit tight, is already charming enough: raspberries and cherries, hints of underlying, earthy darker fruit and spicy wood on a shades-over-medium body with a silken texture. There seemed to be a hint of tea in this, but that could easily have been the consommé. I fully expect it will gain material heft, plumpness and depth after 4-6 more years in bottle, but I'm not sure it will grow up to be like the '90 or '99. Of course, I could be mistaken.

I understand that there was also some 2006 available that evening, but I somehow didn't get to try any.

The meat course then made its way to the table, Pepper Roasted Rack of Lamb with Pommes à la Dauphinoise, Ratatouille & Garlic Jus, and, with it, the most anticipated wine of the evening:

1999 Château Palmer - I expect everyone is familiar with this over-performing 3rd growth from Margaux (well, it is certainly priced above its classification anyway). 1999 is, in my experience an under-appreciated Médoc vintage. Certainly the '99 Latour shows prodigious power, depth, weight and breadth, Margaux its trademark elegance, Lafite Rothschild its ethereal complexity, etc.

Naturally, one has to be selective as even the '99 Lynch Bages and Pichon Lalande have left me somewhat longing for more respective hallmark traits; and the '99s seem to be drinking sooner at all levels. Still and all, there are a few exceptions, and, in any event, '99s are very reasonably priced - a vintage of good and affordable drinking.

That said, the '99 Palmer is not what I would call a wine priced for casual drinking at US$150 and up at retail (no thanks to high scores bestowed by certain professional reviewers). It is undeniably a good wine though. This was the third or fourth time I've had this, and, excepting the first bottle which I sadly mishandled on the way to a blind competition, they have shown very well - less than stellar vintage or otherwise.

Deep, serious and broad in its well structured gravel, darkly spiced black currants and cassis, cedar, violets; I swear if tasted blind I wouldn't guess this to be from 1999. With added aeration in glass, black cherry and a bit of plumminess emerge. Admirable balance and structure, this will get even better with more age. Much as we enjoyed it, Jojo Madrid and I think that it still has a lot of room for evolution. Great to be able to have this again. Another tip of the hat need be made to Bernie for acquiring these for the Society' cellar at a virtual song en primeur.

As regards the lamb, it was very tender and juicy and I truly enjoyed it. My only comment is that there was a bit more cumin thrown in the dish that interfered with my smelling the wine, but that's picking nits. I do recall thinking that a mature Cos d'Estournel (say '86 or '90) would likewise have matched the "exotic spice" spin on the lamb nicely.

L-R: Othmar Ober, Jay Labrador, Sunny and Boots Garcia & Kuni Munetomo

L-R: Ernie Fajardo, Ramon Diokno, Markus Ruckstuhl and Bernd Schulze Koehling

The cheese course followed featuring Bill Stone's choices of Pont-l'Évêque, Comté and Stilton, garnished with parsley coulis, shaved beetroot, balsamic reduction and a toasted bread stick. The Society is assured of good cheese courses as Bill also happens to be president of the Cheese Club. With the cheeses, we, naturally, had...

1995 Dow's Quinta do Bomfim Vintage Port - from the producer's prized, low-yielding, elevated 49-hectare single vineyard named Quinta do Bomfim planted to touriga franca, touriga naçional, roriz and barroca. Scents and flavors of rich, dried dark fruit, fig with mere suggestions of molasses (in the nose) and chocolate. Concentrated and broad with medium length, it is discreetly off-dry, a natural and traditional pairing with Stilton.

The grapes lent a rejuvenating burst to the palate in between sips and bites of the cheeses. Robert, who has far more experience and knowledge with vintage port than I, said he liked it a lot.

L-R: Chinggay Rode, myself and Robert Burroughes

In the interim, Bernie congratulated Bill Stone and Markus Ruckstuhl for helping organize the evening. Credit was also given to Oscar Ong for creating the Society website - a fine one I might add, the envy of other IWFS branches to be sure. Oscar, after humbly acknowledging the much deserved round of applause, took the mike briefly and encouraged everyone to support the coming Asia Pacific Zone events, especially the one coming up in Cebu.

David Lim and Oscar Ong

Thereafter, dessert was served: Poached Pear and Rhubarb á la Tarte Tatin with Yoghurt Sorbet. Tarte Tatin, as most everyone knows, is actually an apple tarte baked upside down for intense caramelization, named after two French sisters of Lamotte-Beuvron in the central Loire valley (east of Blois), les demoiselles Caroline et Stephanie Tatin, who are credited by some to have created the original apple-based dessert. This twist on tarte Tatin was paired with...

2004 Château Doisy Daëne - This is actually a Barsac wine (due to archaic political squabblings, wines from Barsac may be labeled as Sauternes but the reverse is not allowed), generally known to be less unctuous, rich and opulent compared to Sauternes, but lighter-footed and with better acidic balance and lift (an exception that immediately springs to mind is Château Climens, e.g., 1986). I've had quite a few vintages from this maker and enjoyed them well enough, though was never impressed - and I'm sure many will question my judgment on that. I just have found them in the past a bit too simple and lacking in depth.

The 2004, however, seemed to me surprisingly heftier, fatter and more pleasing than older vintages I've tried (note that I haven't tried their 2001 and 2003). The acidity was slightly on the low side, but the wine as a whole was in good enough balance.

L-R: Manfred and Chinggay Rode with Lawrie Martin

Bill then, keeping with Society tradition, called the kitchen and waitstaff out to receive our thanks and applause.

Pours of smooth and comfortably warming Tesseron Cognac, a double espresso and another hour's chatting with friends brought the evening to a close for me. It was most enjoyable. As I always say, fine wine and food really don't mean much without like-minded friends to enjoy them with. I think that pretty much sums up why I joined and remain in the IWFS.

L-R, Standing: Candy & Johnson Uy, Lawrie Martin, Dong Puno, Othmar Ober, Bernie Sim, Oscar Ong and Ernie Fajardo. Seated is founding member and chairman Fil Juntereal.

Many thanks and congratulations again, Bernie, Bill and Markus for a wonderful evening. As always, until the next.


R Schiffman (Brownbag) said...

This was one of your best write-ups in a while. Thanks.

Miguel said...

Wow seems like a formal event...nice notes and great write up...

Michi said...

I miss these dinners...

Noel said...


Thanks. I did enjoy writing it. It's easy to write about particularly fun events, and this was surely one.


Thanks, and, yes, the IWFS president's dinner is always black tie. It's one of the rare occasions a year one will see Jojo in formal attire! Ha ha ha!

Enjoying yourself in Barcelona? Your latest blog post was in Australia pa. I want to read about Spanish food!

Hi, Michi.

And we miss your personal touch when we're there!

Anonymous said...

too bad i missed the dinner. food and wines looked good. however, four whites before any reds were served?! too much foreplay...

gerry dj

Noel said...

Ha hah hahhah!!!

Just 2 whites before the reds, Doc. Well, not counting the bubbly.

Some of us enjoy extended foreplay by the way!



Anonymous said...

your notes said champagne to start, then 2 jadot's and 1 comte lafon...


Noel said...

True, 2 vintages of Jadot were available but I only tried the '05, not the '06 - and I don't really consider cocktail drinks (bubbly or otherwise) in counting whites with dinner.

Anonymous said...

I'm a regular lurker and your low-light photos are always a source of wonder to me: How do you do it?

R. Lurker

Noel said...

Hi, Lurker.

I turn off the flash and play around with the candle on the table (if any) and the ISO settings until I feel I get it right. Then, I adjust exposure, contrast, highlight, shadows, sharpness on my computer as needed.

I should really get a better camera one day though....


Anonymous said...

Thanks for indulging me. I really should study how to manipulate images on the computer.
New camera, eh? May I suggest the Canon G11. Just got mine last month and it's great with low-light situations. Have yet to figure out the other doodads, but it tucks in very nicely in the jacket pocket.

R. Lurker

Miguel said...

I did not know there was a G11 already...I've been using the G9 for almost 2 years already and it's the best point and shoot camera IMO.

Noel - get the G11 na it's a good camera.