Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lunch for Keiichi @ Je Suis Gourmand.

Keiichi being in town for the holidays, some of the Usual Suspects got together for lunch with him today, the 30th December 2010, for what will surely be the last get together of the group at old favorite Je Suis Gourmand. Marc will open a new French restaurant at the same site sometime in March 2011. "More French", said he, but promised to retain old favorites such as his signature terrine of foie gras, escargots à la Bourguignonne and boeuf onglet.

Since I had a lunch meeting, I chose JSG as the venue so I could join them immediately after. Johnny kindly took all the following photos except the 2nd, 3rd, 8th and 9th ones. I sat with the guys (Keiichi, Kuni, J-Lab and Johnny) until the person I was to meet with arrived.

J-Lab, Kuni, myself & Keiichi, starting off with...

Baron Fuenté Champagne Meunier Grands Cépages - From J-Lab whose company "The Wine Steward"* distributes this 100% pinot meunier bubbly from Charly-sur-Marne. Very focused crunchy green apple, pear, sultanas, citrus, bread, bit of white flowers and very mild yeastiness come together in a light, bright stream. Working the bubbly on the sides of my mouth and a bit of chewing released entertaining notes of chocolate and mint - especially towards the back and finish.

*Contact info:; Mobile: +639189241642

Meeting done by around 2:30pm, I rejoined the guys, who had thoughtfully left me a pour of each of the wines they had already gone through. The wines had already been breathing for around 1-1½ hours by then.

2007 Domaine Albert Grivault Meursault Premier Cru Clos des Perrières - Keiichi's bottle, one he brought in from Tokyo, which he had identified as a 2007 Meursault in a previous blind tasting. I, not having had any vintage 2007 Burgundy before, was very curious about them (nb: Clos des Perrières is a small 1er cru monopole within the Perrières vineyards).

Very slight French butter lines the ripe apple, pear, with slight white minerals, nougat and hazelnut notes (I thought this quite precocious as Meursaults' nuttiness, to me, usually becomes apparent with some age). Vanilla oak is more apparent (but at no time over-bearing) in the attack, and, to a lesser extent, in the back-end and through the finish. Quite nice. Johnny noted that this plumpish wine "starts off as macho (with oak) and turns gay at the end".

2000 R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rosé Gran Reserva* - My bottle, recently arrived from the winery. This is a bone-dry rosado with an austere, somewhat sternly masculine character, showing slight orange peel/rind in its strawberry, whisper of currants, slight citrus, bit of dried herb (lavender? tarragon?), and, past mid-mouth, almond skin. This is quite a particular rosado, not for everyone for sure. I think one must be an aficionado of, or otherwise tuned to the typically severe López de Heredia style. Those looking for usual fruity, playful rosé had best look elsewhere. I'll experiment with food pairings for this. My other bottle, a 2001 Domaine Faiveley Grand Cru Latricières Chambertin, was spared, to be enjoyed another day.

*Aaron and I import this and other wines of R. López de Heredia.

2000 Château Gazin - Keiichi's bottle, also brought in from Tokyo. Whisper of mint (topnote) before getting to a darkly smoldering, deeply-veined wine of concentrated, slightly roasted-ripe/confited plum, black cherry, hint of kirsch, underlying loam, chocolate, espresso, licorice, violets and a bit of toasty oak. Raspberry surfaces past mid-mouth. Maybe just a notch or two under full body. Very nice. Notable structure and depth.

2005 Coudoulet de Beaucastel Côtes du Rhône - J-Lab's bottle. Mellow, comfortably warm, soft, darkly ripe fruit, blackberry, very slight black pepper, bit of smokiness, tobacco, old leather and slight feral/animal notes towards the back and finish. This must have a good dose of mourvèdre in it. Nice enough. I'd have this with venison.

With a bit of cheese...

2006 Hessische Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling Beerenauslese - Whew! What a mouthful of a name! J-Lab's bottle, of course. Immediately pleasing, moderately sweet peach, apricot and orange marmalade. Acidity balances it nicely, lending some lift to the fruit. Good with the soft cheeses. Everybody liked this. Very approachable and readily pleasing if rather simple at this point. I certainly wouldn't mind tasting older versions to see if they are complex.

Johnny left ahead to prepare a stew; Kuni followed around a half hour later. J-Lab, Keiichi and I lingered, making dinner plans for when Keiichi is back in February. Great to see and drink with the guys again after a couple of weeks' hiatus.

Happy New Year to all!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dinner @ Masseto.

Since Doc & Tina would be spending the holidays in Canada, we, together with Mich & Ron (my sis-in-law and bilas) and others got together for dinner at Masseto a few days ago. Since several people were riding with me, I had to switch cars on the way and forgot my camera in the first car. Thus, I had to take photos with my phone camera - so please excuse the very poor quality of the shots.

We were around 45 minutes late due to Christmas traffic on SLEX (crawled until Sucat) so the others started ahead. Once I got in, Doc had me poured some welcome bubbly.

1996 Champagne Henriot - Doc's bottle, the 4th I've enjoyed from him since the 20th May this year. My notes have always been consistent:

Excellent, full, hefty, robust, yet lively, vibrant and light-footed fruit vintage Champagne from an excellent year. Founded in 1808, Champagne Henriot, to this day, is family-owned and run. Notable ripeness, complexity, indulgent layering and lovely, bracing acidity make for an impeccably balanced and impressive champagne. This bubbly calls to mind wild honey (in the nose), lightly spiced, fat pears, apple, moderately dried apricot and citrus, fresh brioche and hints of underlying milkiness and white chocolate (the latter two from the pinot noir most likely). Excellent verve in this. Love the weight and roundness. Undoubtedly one of the best champagnes I've had the past year together with Bernie's 1988 Dom Pérignon.

Along with 3 or 4 shared appetizers, I ordered the Rib-Eye Steak (again properly rare).

With my steak, Doc had me poured some red blind.

Mystery Red - Doc's bottle. Lots of mint on the bouquet. Sweet cedar, cassis, bit of dark plum, black cherry, slight kirsch, underlying pencil graphite shavings, bit of violets. Past mid-mouth, it expanded with milk chocolate notes which continued on the confident finish. Just a notch or two under legitimate full-bodiedness. Clean and neat. Nicely streamlined. I guessed it to be a Pauillac from 1990. Because of the prominent chocolate notes, I specified it to be a 1990 Château Mouton Rothschild (which was lighter than the usual solidly full-bodied Mouton style when I last tried it). Doc then had the waiter show me the bottle.

It turned out to be a 1989 Château Grand Puy Lacoste (Magnum). I got the appellation (i.e., Pauillac) correctly, but missed the vintage by 1 year and got the producer wrong (in Pauillac, Grand Puy Lacoste is approximately 2-½ kilometers south of Mouton Rothschild).

Interestingly, I had the same wine blind just over a month ago (but in the regular 750ml format) at Bordeaux Challenge XVII, during which I also guessed it to be a Pauillac from 1990 (again getting the appellation correctly and missing the vintage by 1 year). That time, however, I didn't get the prominent milk chocolate note.

Later that evening, I photographed Tippi with her new stock leg of silky-meaty D.O. Jamón de Trevélez which she sources from Terry Selection. I recounted to her that I was with JC de Terry at a function at the Casa Llotja del Mar (Barcelona), on the 24th March 2010...

...during which 5 of Spain's most famous jamón D.O.s were represented with patas galore. When we met the producers of jamón de Trevélez (the pig is white-hoofed, unlike the black-hoofed Iberian pigs used in making jamón Ibérico de Bellota) and tasted their ham, JC was immediately impressed and made an appointment to visit their farm in the mountainous region of far southern Spain right then and there.

The rest is history.

I thereafter opened a bottle of 2001 Bodegas Protos Gran Reserva*, my Christmas gift from JC. A few notches over medium-bodied, this has a marked elegance in its smooth, velvety, deeply-veined black cherry, cassis, slight dark raspberry, whispers of licorice and underlying café crème, new leather and vanilla bean notes. I sense that this relatively youthful Ribera del Duero gran reserva, though already quite impressive, is still developing and will gain even more weight, complexity and even a bit more muscle in approximately 2-3 more years.

*This is currently available at Terry Selection, but I don't know its price (one doesn't ask that of a gift).

Ron, my bilas (seated 2nd from the right), treated us all to dinner. Thanks, Ron! Again, Merry Christmas to all!!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Dinner @ Terry's with Rocky & Apple.

The 21st December 2010, Catha and I had our annual Christmas dinner with Rocky & Apple Villadolid who are always in Manila for the holidays. Though I am usually the one who chooses the venue (or cooks for them at home), this year, Apple wanted to try the cuisine of Manila's master of all things Spanish, Juan Carlos "JC" de Terry at Terry's 2º Piso.

A few quick calls to JC, and it was all set up. Aside from requesting for the large chuletón Vasco (which needs a couple of days' notice to be prepared), I asked JC to surprise us with the rest of the dishes.

Slightly delayed due to the usual Christmas traffic on SLEX, Catha and the Villadolids arrived ahead. JC jokingly told me that they had already been waiting for 2 hours. Apple mentioned that JC also teased them by acting surprised at seeing them, saying "Your dinner is tomorrow, right?" They actually believed him for a second, until they saw the above-depicted menu at our table. Complete at last, the parade of dishes began with 2 amuse bouches.

Moluga Pearls on Artichoke, Crab Claw & Mahon, and, Duck Rillettes with Baby Gherkins & Charlotte Brunoise

We had these with a bottle of Josep Masachs Cava Brut Nature Gran Reserva - Bright, crisp, dry, light, with sharply focused and lemon-citrus-slight grapefruit flavors, this light, lemon-gold cava showed exceptional clarity and very fine, persistent mousse. I continued with this cava through the first 3 appetizers, transitioning on the 3rd to a Riojan viura.

Josélito Ibérico Bellota Gran Reserva 2007 (yes, Josélito gran reserva jamón is by vintage).

Apple and Rocky were happy to have some Ibérico de bellota, mentioning that their 2nd daughter absolutely adores this very special jamón. Lusciously rich, silken goodness, I always love this ham. JC explained that one must choose this by vintage because, the quality of the ham depends on the weather's effect on the quality and quantity of acorns (i.e., bellota) upon which the black-hoofed Iberian pigs feed on - especially during the montanera stage roaming free at the sprawling dehesas.

Apple & Rocky

I loved that this luxury jamón was served simply with thin, corrugated sheets of toasted bread and fresh, small tomatoes (a de-constructed version of the pan con tomate with which such fine ham is traditionally served in Spain) - allowing us to adjust the amount thereof with the ham with each bite.

Double Aspic of Seared Scallop & Bulgur Vegetable Salad

The Moorish-influence bulgur vegetable salad (a.k.a., tabbouleh) was, almost surely, a little tribute to JC's youth spent in his hometown of Cadiz where his family owned and ran sherry and brandy producing Bodegas Terry for hundreds of years. Light and refreshing, with a nice play on textural contrast, this slightly chilled "meaty" scallop dish was a graceful transition to the next appetizer - this time hot.

Tempurized Oyster in Delicately Spiced Cumin Sauce

Catha and Apple absolutely adored this dish, the former exclaiming that these were the best oysters she'd ever had. We all loved it and were sorely tempted to ask for additional helpings, but thought better of it as there were many dishes to come. The dish was perfectly executed - the batter light and crisp, the oysters still very rich, plump and bursting with their natural juices inside. Heavenly.

(File photo)

By the time, JC had already begun pouring a bottle of the 2008 Palacios Remondo Plácet, an excellent, complex, 100% viura crianza that Johnny, J-Lab, Miguel and I so enjoyed during our recent tasting-dinner with JC. Definitely a cut above all other viuras I've had thus far - but, then, that is nothing surprising when it come to the wines from grupo Alvaro Palacios.

JC personally serves Apple the 4th appetizer course.

"A Surprising Version of Spanish Omelet"

Nothing more Spanish than the traditional tortilla de patatas. JC's version, however, has hidden within a small "gift" of a piquillo pepper stuffed with a tuna belly-bechamel sauce. A pleasant surprise indeed!

JC pours for Rocky...

2001 Bodegas Olarra Cerro Añon Rioja Gran Reserva - I first tried the 2001 vintage (an excellent one for Rioja, by the way) of this wine during a dinner at home for Sandy and her folks on the 27th January 2010. This bottle, however, was opened by JC to slowly breathe for several hours and decanted for over an hour before service.

Warmingly comforting, well-rounded, a shade or two below full-bodied and nicely balanced, this is a typical old-school Rioja with notes of somewhat creamy oak and oak spice nuances seamlessly blended into the precisely ripe and concentrated dark cherry, raspberry, with underlying new leather, slight licorice and violets. Rocky liked this a lot, as did I.

Josélito Duet

This was a warm dish featuring a duet of Josélito Chorizo and Vela de Lomo Gran Reserva, gently bathed with a flourish of manchego cream. They tasted as lovely as they looked.

In the meantime, JC had been in the kitchen to personally attend to our next dish - the second of our 3 main courses. I was able to sneak a photo of him at work.

Codfish Ingots Confits

No Spanish meal could also be complete without a bit of bacalao (salt-preserved cod). The fish's texture was perfect and the sun-dried Riojan pepper & cognac sauce deeply savory and complex. The bacalao itself was a bit saltier than usual, however, so, being hypertensive and sensitive to salt, I thought it prudent not to finish the entire generous serving.

A few minutes earlier, JC slowly and expertly opened my bottle of 1991 R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva. How many opportunities does one have to have a PhD in oenology acting as sommelier? Not often, I'll tell you that - except at Terry's. As I and Aaron import these wines and I've already written about them repeatedly, I shall refrain from further doing so. I will, however, comment that this bottle wasn't the freshest one of these I've had. It happens, however, with all aged wines that there is a degree of bottle variance.

JC's version of Chuletón Vasco arrives...

...carefully carved and sliced under his watchful eye...

...garnished with Spanish fricasseed Piquillos Peppers, French Salardaise Potatoes & Whole Roasted Garlic.

The steak was juicy, tender - yet just firm enough to make you feel like you were having a real man's steak. It had a rustic, intensely beefy flavor reminiscent of the French charolais beef - but more tender and juicier. Loved it as always.

This was followed by dessert. I always look forward to JC's dessert creations as they are always so very intricate and complex...

...and it was no different that night: Black Olive Confits-Extra Virgin Olive Oil Ice Cream served with Almond Tuile atop a Ginger and Green Olive Cake Bathed with a Pedro Ximénez-Fresh Thyme Syrup, Sprinkled with Green Olive Praline. This was truly a symphony of flavors and textures in perfect harmony.

Adding an extra special kick to an already special dessert, this was masterfully paired with...

A Ginger-Chocolate Liqueur by famed chocolatier Fabrice Gillotte and liqueur producer Gabriel Boudier (both based in Dijon). The marriage was complete, complex and a perfect match. Words fail. You simply must try this yourself to know... we, fortunately, were able to that night.

A busy night's service of a full house over, JC finally gets to relax and share some stories with us.

Another masterpiece of a meal greatly appreciated by us all. It was wonderful to be able to spend time with Rocky & Apple again this Christmas season. It was all the more memorable because of all of JC's efforts and prodigious talent. Many, many thanks to all, and Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tribute Dinner for Je Suis Gourmand.

A few weeks ago, while discussing the impending closure of old favorite Je Suis Gourmand over a bottle of nice Burgundy rouge at PWX, the Stockbroker suggested that we shut down the restaurant for a BYOB private dinner in the restaurant's honor. I thought it was a brilliant idea and said so. He then asked me to set it up, so I called Marc a few days later and did just that for last Monday, the 13th December 2010.

I wanted to limit attendance to 50 people at most, preferably only the long and/or loyal JSG patrons who happen to be wine lovers as well. I then set aside a table of 10-12 for the Stockbroker and e-mailed the invitations. Responses were quick and eager - without even asking what the menu would be. Within 2 days, I stopped adding people when the number reached 48. In the meantime, Marc came up with a menu of old reliable JSG favorites and several dishes from my many past special requests. As a bonus, Marc ordered flown in from Brittany some moules de Bouchot.

I reserved Bernie Sim his own long table at the function room for his family and Oscar Ong...

...and the other for the Stockbroker et al. in the same area.

The table nearest Bernie was for fellow IWFS members. Manfred Rode arrived with Chinggay, as well as one of their sons. Othmar Ober & Bill Stone joined them.

Jérôme Phillipon took over the entire inner bar area, reserving 2 tables for his party of 10. Richard & Yuki Joye (from the left) joined them for the evening's festivities.

Of course, several of the Usual Suspects were there as well, with their table next to mine. Above, clockwise from the left, are Marly, Arnie & Helen, J-Lab, Greg and Aaron & Jo.

At my table were Miguel & Ria, JC, Johnson and Catha. Marc joined us later in the evening.


At the center of the tables:

Homemade Duck Foie Gras Terrine with Toasts
Baked Escargot Bourguignonne on Garlic Bread (sans shells for dining ease)
Sautéed Portobello Mushrooms with Egg “En Cocotte” & Cream


Mediterranean Fish Soup with Rouille, Croutons & Cheese


Duck Foie Gras Gateau with Grilled Scallops & Foamy Peppered Tarragon


Fresh French Bouchot Mussel Marinière with Fries


Grilled Trio of Seabass, Scallops & Prawns with Tomato Basil Coulis & Tomato Parmesan Risotto


Grilled Trio of Lamb, Sausage, Chop & Tenderloin Served with Steamed Vegetable Couscous & Thyme Garlic Jus


Pan-Seared US Beef Onglet with Roasted Shallots, Fries & Salad


Chestnut & Dark Rum Cream in Puff Pastry with two Sauces & Ice Cream


Coffee or Tea

As I've photographed all the appetizers countless times, I need not post any by now. Besides, I was too engrossed with my old favorites to remember to take any. JC, Johnson, Miguel & I each ordered the moules de Bouchot for our main course and doubled up with yet another - Miguel, Johnson and I choosing the trio of lamb with couscous, while JC went for the beef onglet (rare).

I had brought, among others, 2 magnums of 2009 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé, so our table started with that for the appetizers - especially for the escargots.

My first course was the Mediterranean Fish Soup with Rouille, Croutons & Cheese. This is actually Marc's own version of the Tuscan fish stew called cacciucco. Hearty and flavored with savory anchovies, this could actually be a meal in itself if served in a regular portion (or to people less gluttonous than I).

With the moules de Bouchot marinière with frites (which I dove into before I could photograph), I opened a bottle of 2009 Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis (which I also forgot to photograph). This was my last bottle from a batch Miguel brought in for me from southeast Piedmonte. I last opened a bottle of this over lunch at Caffé Caruso on the 26th September 2010. My notes then are still applicable:

Not locally available, Miguel got me some bottles of this last time he was in Italy. I love this stuff with antipasti and certain pastas ever since I tried the 2005 version from the Stockbroker over lunch at Pepato back in late January 2009. "Arneis" is the grape (a.k.a., nebbiolo blanco) and "Roero" is the hilly area in Piedmont (northwest of Alba) wherefrom hails this wine.

Slight hints of cool limestone and seashell infuse bright, vibrant, mild grapefruit, bit of pear, apple, citrus with an appetizing bitter-almond nuance....Love it.

Interestingly, JC mentioned that he used to bring in Roero arneis wines, but stopped because they were a bit difficult to sell. That's such a pity since these dry and very food-friendly wines are natural pairings for our local fresh fish and shellfish dishes.

Next came my 2nd main course of Grilled Trio of Lamb, Sausage, Chop & Tenderloin Served with Steamed Vegetable Couscous & Thyme Garlic Jus.

With this we eventually finished both my magnums of 2009 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé - From the far southeastern coast of France's Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, this domaine has been owned by the Tempier family since 1834. All my friends know how much I love this rosé, one I never hesitate to buy in any vintage. Gracefully complex notes of redcurrants, bit of peach, slight lavender, garrigue with a seamlessly smooth, subtle minerality. JC obviously liked this a lot, as did Miguel, Catha and I.

With the lamb loin, it was fine and cooled the palate of the megrez sausages' heat as well (nb: Sometime in 2005, while researching pairings for a Morocccan themed dinner Carlo Miguel executed for the Alabang group, I learned that rosé is what is typically and regionally served with couscous and spicy lamb stew).

Marc & JC

I got to have several reds as well - a glass of 2002 Château Malescot-St-Exupery from Bernie, a 1998 Guigal Côte Rôtie Brune et Blonde from Arnie, a good pour from Miguel's 1991 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva, etc. - all wines I've had a few times and have written about before, so there is no need to repeat myself except to note that the '98 Guigal Brune et Blonde has mellowed a great deal since last I had it and I'd suggest those who still have bottles of this should drink up now and soon.

A wine that I've not had before that I got to try was the 2007 Protos Crianza - brought by JC de Terry who carries the Protos line. Notably rich and hefty in mellow, lightly spicy dark red fruit with a healthy dose of creamy oak and a slight touch of underlying coffee grounds. Acid is just slightly on the low side for me, but, in all, I liked this wine. Johnson and Catha liked it too. JC, Miguel and I agreed that this tastes more like a reserva than a crianza. Should be a pretty good deal then price-wise.

The dessert of Chestnut & Dark Rum Cream in Puff Pastry with two Sauces & Ice Cream was light-footed and refreshingly cool, the pastry very light and flaky. Johnson really liked this as he favors flaky pastry desserts. Aaron then poured me a glass of fresh, hefty, rounded, somewhat candied-fruited with underlying café crème Krug Brut Champagne.

I then resumed table-hopping, photograph-taking and noted that the over-all tone of the dinner had become more jovial and boisterous... well it should. After all, we were not only saying goodbye to an old favorite, we were also celebrating the coming opening of a new one - as Marc had announced that he will be opening his own restaurant at the same site sometime in March 2011. "Even more French", he assured us. I can't wait.