Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dinner @ Home: Cavas, Rioja & Napa.

Another recent dinner at home with family and longtime friends was all cavas and a couple of reds. I do enjoy cavas very much. True, many I've tried seem to exhibit jutting grassy, at times green-beany (haricots verts, in particular) notes, but I've been enjoying some locally available, higher bottlings from Freixenet that I even prefer to some locally available non-vintage champagnes. Not only are good cavas notably fresh, fun and light (and, thus, well-suited for our warm weather), they offer very good value for money and don't give me hangovers as well.

For pica-picas, we had:

Blini w/ Smoked Salmon, Sour Cream & Red Caviar

Jamón Serrano, Salami Milano, Grapes & Livarot


Morcilla con Arroz

Reblochon & Chèvre

These were washed down with a few bottles of a cava that I enjoyed a few times before, and, most recently, around a week-and-a-half ago at Miguel's advanced birthday lunch.

2004 Freixenet Cuvée D.S. Gran Reserva Brut Cava - So named after Dolores Sala, a former president of the giant Freixenet conglomerate, this special gran reserva cuvée started being produced in 1969 and is made only in exceptional years. The 2004 is only the 17th bottling of Cuvée D.S. since inception. This cava displays a very fine, persistent mousse, more and readily apparent depth to its fresh, dry white fruit and has a notably firmer structure as compared to most all other cavas I've had. There is also a good deal of complexity to this, all the while maintaining a bright, fun and exuberant personality. This is locally available from ADP Industries, the exclusive Philippine distributor of Freixenet.

I could drink this all night - and we actually did - through the pica-picas, with the soup, salad, fish course - switching to reds with the meat course - and returning for more after dessert.

The Food

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Sole Meunière

There was also Catha's Salad with Feta Cheese, Olives, Grapes & Caramelized Pili Nuts, but I forgot to take a photo of it. As mentioned earlier, several of us (notably Ken, Tonji, Maxie, Maricel and Sylvia) continued with the cava throughout the foregoing dishes.

We then switched to the reds with the meat course of...

Medium-Rare US Angus Roast Beef.

2006 Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - This was a gift from Rocky & Apple last Apple was here. I thought of opening it since Boozze. confirmed Napa-head that he is, said he'd bring (and did, in fact, bring) a bottle of 2006 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve (which we didn't get to that night). Due to its youth, I decanted the 2006 Mondavi CS Reserve for around 2 hours before service.

This was surprisingly ready for business considering how very young it is. Yes, it is typically Napa in its marked ripeness, concentration, density, heft and full-body, but, like several other Mondavi CS Reserves (notably the 2001 for me), but it is also distinctive in its sleek, clean lines, freshness, comparative refinement, harmony and notable balance. Crème de cassis, black cherry, bit of ripe raspberry, dark/ripe plum underbelly, touches of mocha, licorice, chocolate, violets and well-knit/moderately creamy oak/vanilla. Acidity was just enough to balance the wine. Very nice with the steak, it was a rich-on-rich pairing.

1995 Bodegas La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890 - I've been enjoying this so much lately, I simply had to open another with the roast beef. My most recent notes on this were as follows:

1995 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890 - This wine I've posted on several times in the past few months (most recently here) so it is no secret how much I love this wine - so elegant and expressive with great typicity. Since I've written about it last just over a week ago, there is no need to repeat myself. Besides, the entire stock of PWX of this sold out almost immediately (at P6500/bottle SRP), so no more is currently/locally available. The Stockbroker said PWX may likely try to get more stock though. The last several bottles have been set aside for the coming event.

It is, thus, no secret how much I love this wine: its focus, purity, structure, remarkable balance; the way its seductive cedar-balsamic notes exquisitely intertwine with the clean, slightly red-spiced cherry, dark raspberry and underlying blackcurrant, leather and violets, etc. Tonji, who takes his time with his wine like I do, couldn't help muttering every so often how good it was. Just a few notches over medium-bodied, but firmly structured, it's acidity was on point and cut through the roast beef's richness perfectly. Loved it then, love it now. Excellent specimen of a Rioja.

The Desserts

Yulo's Strawberry Cake

Yulo's Turtle Pie & Cuerva's Mango Torte

After the desserts, I re-poured some more of the Freixenet Cuvée D.S. and I recall Ken and a few of others returned to the cheeses and grapes with it. After the 3rd bottle was killed, I switched to the equally good but slightly less dry Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuvée Brut - another locally available favorite cava of mine which I drink very often at La Tienda. For some reason, I simply must have this with Javi's chistorras. We managed to go through two more bottles of this before the dinner's eventual end past 2:30 am.

Wonderful evening with lots of stories, laughter and wines well into the morning after with family and longtime close friends. Evenings like these are precious indeed. Until the next....

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dinner @ Home for Tita Rose.

Dinner of the 24th August 2010 was for Tita Rose, Miguel's mom, who so graciously hosted Catha and I at her home in Barcelona for several days in March and April 2010. Even when we were planning this dinner back then, Tita Rose made it clear that she would like to have Filipino cuisine. Of course, we were more than happy to oblige.

With Tita Rose on this trip was her sister, Tita Amen, who was the one who was able to get Catha and I a reservation at 3 Michelin star Restaurante Arzak (San Sebastian) with just a few days' notice - certainly no mean feat. Besides them and, of course, Miguel & Ria, longtime friends Beto & Teresa joined us (Beto being a cousin of Tita Rose and Tita Amen on the Cacho side). It had been a long time since Beto & Teresa came over for dinner, so this was a nice little reunion.

Beto, Teresa, Tita Rose, Catha, Ria, Tita Amen & Miguel

Though we had discussed some of the dishes with Tita Rose back in Barcelona, I double-checked the menu with Miguel a few days before to make sure Tita Rose would enjoy. We started off with appetizers of Blini with Smoked Salmon, Sour Cream & Red Caviar washed down with Miguel's bottle of a sauvignon blanc that Tita Amen favors (Tita Rose gave up drinking alcohol a while back). We then moved onto the first red and, eventually, seated ourselves for dinner proper.

The Food

Lumpiang Sotanghon w/ Crab Meat, Minced Prawns Served with Carrot & Singkamas (Jícama) Relish

Chili-Garlic Prawns

Crispy Tadyang ng Baka (Beef Ribs)

We also had some Pinangat (a version of "laing" from my dad's hometown of Daraga, Albay) - which is a packet of young gabi (Taro) leaves stuffed with pork (sometimes shrimp or fish) and simmered in first-press coconut cream with green chilis - and, of course, Garlic Fried Rice.

The Wines

2007 Dönnhoff Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl Riesling Spätlese - I opened this with the Chili-Garlic Prawns in mind, figuring its clean, pure, light-footed, graceful, off-dry, white minerally, slate-touched pear, bit of peach, apricot, quince, bit of kiwi and slight ripe pineapple notes would balance off the dish's spiciness. It was a good call resulting in a good match (if I do say so myself). Eminently drinkable wine this, and it is available at Premium Wine Exchange for around P2400/bottle more or less. This was my last bottle of it, and I'm definitely getting more.

1995 Bodegas Campillo Rioja Gran Reserva - Pretty much consistent with the last couple of bottles I've had, it showed good depth of nicely concentrated, macerated black cherry, bit of kirsch and ripe raspberry with undertones of cedar, sweet tobacco, mildly toasty vanilla/oak, licorice, violets and whispers of cinnamon. Plush and soft, it has a notable heft mid-palate and good push (it somehow reminded me of a red from Ribera del Duero). The tannins are rounded, soft and velvety. Beto opined that this was a wine for food.

1997 Bodegas La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 - Of all the times I've had this wine, this was by far the best bottle. The perfumed scents of balsamico and cedar sweetly permeated the red and dark spice-touched pure, dark cherries, strawberries, raspberries and violets. A firm balancing acidity as a backbone kept things interesting throughout. The poise, structure and balance called Médoc to mind, yet I also had to agree with Beto's comment that its flavors were Burgundian in nature (something the Stockbroker, Doc, Eric and I have, in the past, noted in fine, aged Riojan tintos - particularly the 1976 López de Heredia Viña Bosconia Gran Reserva and the 1974 Contino Reserva).

Remarkable balance, poise, finesse, expressiveness and typicity. I loved this wine. Miguel pointed out it was a wine to sip through the night alone or with some cheese. Luckily, it is now locally available at Premium Wine Exchange at a little under P4000/bottle.

Desserts, brought by Beto & Teresa, were Frozen Brazo de Mercedes and Mango Torte (which I forgot to photograph). Fruits were sampaloc (a local tamarind that Tita Rose likes) and mangosteen.

Chamomile tea for me after - no more espressos at night. Alka Seltzer for Miguel.

It was great seeing everyone again, especially Tita Rose and Tita Amen back here in Manila. Very fun evening. Hopefully, we can do this again soon.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Terry Selection's Yering Station Dinner.

Some think the Usual Suspects drink only Old World wines. Not true. I, personally, happen to like several sauvignon blancs from New Zealand, for example. While we do favor French, Spanish and Italian wines and drink them most often, we do not shun trying anything else. After all, how can one make any informed judgment about any wine without trying it out? The proof, as I say, is always in the drinking.

Last Wednesday, the 18th August 2010, was one such occasion: a dinner hosted by JC de Terry at Terry's 2º Piso in honor of visiting Rathbone Wine Group (RWG) Brand Manager for Asia, Annie Lundin. RWG is an Australian group of companies owned by the Rathbone family, which group includes Yering Station, Mount Langi Ghiran, Parker Coonawarra Estate and Xanadu Margaret River. Terry's carries wines of Yering Station.

Dinner was for 30 persons, Usual Suspects J-Lab and Miguel included. Aaron was also invited, but, unfortunately, couldn't make it. Catha and I arrived at around 7:45pm and were greeted by glasses of chilled...

2007 Little Yering Chardonnay

~ and ~

2008 Little Yering Pinot Noir

Both these wines were easily drinkable and charmingly straightforward. I noted that the chardonnay in particular showed nice purity in fruit and good focus and acid balance (likely no malolactic fermentation). The oak notes were quite subtle (I'd say no new oak) - which is a good thing for me. As I told Annie later on, if I want to taste oak, I'd chew on a piece of the wood - so this chardonnay was fine for me.

Annie Lundin with Mari de Terry.

The 2008 pinot noir was comparatively deeper-veined and the fruit (cherry, dark raspberry, very ripe strawberry with slight hints of kirsch and cola) seemed more of a hotter climate with a macerated, confited character to the very ripe fruit. The wood notes, though more apparent, were fairly well integrated. Since I prefer starting an evening off with bubbly or whites, I stuck with the chardonnay with the pass-arounds of...

Seafood Balls with Tomato-Oregano Sauce &...

Grilled Baby Chorizos (our favorite)

The other pass-arounds were Deep-Fried Queen Olives Stuffed with a Mahón and La Corrala Cheese Bechamel (fantastic) and Almond-Crusted Scallops - both of which I failed to take photos of. JC de Terry was bustling around so busily chatting and welcoming guests, checking the dishes in the kitchen, making sure the wines were at proper temperature, etc. - he was literally a blur of motion - as far as my camera was concerned anyway.

Eventually, we were called to our respective tables so that dinner proper could begin.

The Menu

Cecina de León Stuffed with Ostrich Pâté and Cashew Nuts paired with...

2006 Yering Station Chardonnay

I recall Annie telling me this was a comparatively cooler-climate chardonnay without malolactic fermentation, with battonnage (i.e., lees stirring), and from a warm vintage so picking started very early to avoid over-ripeness and preserve freshness and acid balance. All this information showed in the wine - though the pear, slight white peach and ripe apple did have apparent ripeness (and a nice creamy-leesy character from the battonage), acid balance and freshness were quite apparent. In addition, the oak notes were discreet. I liked this wine, and it was a precise pairing with the first course.

Annie explained that she eats nothing that has 4 legs (due to digestion issues) and so couldn't really eat her first dish. Miguel and I would have quickly offered to take hers, but JC promptly whisked it away and replaced it with a salmon rolled over a creamy white cheese.

The second course was my favorite of the evening: Red Bell Pepper with Gribiche and Capsicum Foam.

With this delight, we continued with the 2006 Yering Station Chardonnay which was also a good pairing - the fruit-freshness and acid lending cut to the creamy gribiche and its creamy, leesy, subtle oak notes balancing off the pepper's mildly red spicy-sweetness. Trust JC to be able to showcase a wine's versatility so clearly - which he masterfully accomplished in this case.

The third course was Poached Bacalao in a Roasted Green Pepper and Cabernet Sauvignon Sauce...

...paired with...

2008 Yering Station Cabernet Sauvignon - Densely ripe, juicy, concentrated and extracted blackcurrant/cassis, macerated black cherry, kirsch, vanilla, black coffee, licorice and a good dose of dark chocolate that comes on strong on the long, rustic finish. Definitely full-bodied, viscous, sweetly fruited and most likely materially past 14% abv, the acid is low for me. This reminds me of the ripe-roasted fruit character of many modern-styled 2003 Bordeaux rouges. For those who favor this style, the subject wine will certainly not disappoint; on the contrary, it will, to my mind, deliver all those want and more, and at a very reasonable price.

The fourth course of Braised Pork Loin in Prune Sauce then made its way to the tables...

...paired with...

2008 Yering Station Pinot Noir - Materially more concentrated, extracted and heftier than its little brother pinot noir served during cocktails. There is a creaminess to all the dark red berry/cherry/dark plum compote, as well as slightly over moderate, somewhat toasty new oak notes. Bit of red spice, bit of cola and suggestion of chocolate underneath. Very indulgent wine. Warming in a comfortable way, I suppose, and a bit low on acid again for me. As a pairing, its heft and stewed fruit nature ran naturally with the pork loin and prune sauce - a hand-in-glove pairing.

By the fifth course, we were officially moving within the realm of over-indulgence: 7-Hour Roasted Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Lamb Loin Rillette paired with...

2006 Yering Station Shiraz Viognier - Jammy, sweet, viscous, peppery, briary raspberry, blackberry over blackcurrant with vaguely minty topnotes. Underneath are black coffee, bit of tobacco, licorice, oak and dark chocolate. Exudes confidence. Powerful wine - tied in with the lamb's sauce.

The sixth course followed, an excellent and red wine friendly Blue Cheese & Blueberry Soufflé paired with...

2005 Yering Station Shiraz Viognier Reserve - Quite similar to the immediately previous wine of course, but more concentrated and extracted. That said, this somehow seemed to be smoother and rounder than the 2006 YS Shiraz Viognier with underlying café crème in place of the latter's black coffee plus a dash or two of cinnamon. This packs a lot of power too, make no mistake, but it seems to carry it off with a tad more suavité for some reason (to me, anyway).

Kawshik Sehwani (whose Alternative Food Corp. supplies lamb and other meat products to Terry's - including the real deal young lamb racks I buy there so often) got another bottle of this later in the evening and sent me a glass thereof. Thanks, Kawsh. For readers who may be interested, Kawsh's company sells, among others, US Prime Grade Beef and distributes the Snake River Farm brand, including Kurobuta pork belly, and other high-quality food products that regularly find their way to my home freezer.

Annie, JC & Miguel

Dessert, the final course, was then served - Papunya Tula*: a Honey and Orange-Infused Ice Cream with Crumbled Jijona Turron, Topped with an Almond Nougat Crisp, Mantled with Brandy Praline Syrup. Heavenly, so complex, ethereal and palate-refreshing to boot. I've said it before, and I say it again, JC has the heart of a chef and the soul of a pâtissièr. This was paired with flutes of Yering Station Yarrabank Cuvée 2005 - A chardonnay and pinot noir blend sparkling wine made in the méthode traditionnelle through a joint venture of Champagne Veuve A. Devaux (I enjoyed one of the Devaux champagnes during J-Lab's birthday lunch at Toki last 4th November 2009).

Crisp, clean, bright, zippy and palate-cleansing green apple, pear, some almond-milkiness (the pinot noir surely) underneath with an entertaining slight yeasty-breadiness. This is a nice and affordable alternative to champagne. Personally, I like it more than the bottles of Pelorus I tried out some time ago.

*Papunya Tula is roughly translated from the Aborigine language meaning "honey ant dreaming". The dessert was named so because the honey used in the ice cream was from honeypot ants, sourced by JC somewhere in Palawan. A specie of honeypot ants (i.e., Camponotus inflatus) occasionally forms part of the diet of the Australian aborigines.

"Sir JC's" precious stash of honeypot ant honey.

In the meantime, Annie had re-taken the floor and gave a lot more information on the wines of Yering Station to those not lucky enough to be dining at her table, thanked JC and Mari profusely for all their efforts...

...and offered a round of applause for Chef Luis Chikiamco and the rest of Team de Terry.

Dinner proper over, we were all happily stuffed to the gills and, admittedly, slightly tipsy from all the wines. JC then started pouring bottles of Masachs Cava Brut Nature NV for us all. I gladly accepted a pour or two more of the bracingly dry, pure, clean and brightly re-invigorating cava and was glad I thought to bring a driver along that night.

It was yet another in a long line of incredible meals at Terry's 2º Piso, which, in this case, lavishly showcased the Yering Station wines Terry's carries. ¡Muchisimas gracias, JC y Mari, y hasta la proxima! And, to Annie, many, many thanks for the enlightening information on Yarra wines. I look forward to your next visit. Until the next!