Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weekend Snippets.

After a particularly hectic, almost alcohol free past couple of weeks, at Santi's invitation, I got to let off steam Friday, the 27th January 2011, at Kublai's - a sports bar located in the Magallanes commercial area (beside Shakey's) owned and run by the Camahort brothers, Dong L. and one or two other guys. I know this is Santi's favorite bar, but, until Friday, I'd never been there.

Santi, Dong, Fin and I started off late afternoon (Fin left after an hour or two). Mike joined us in the early evening, with his and Dong's better halves arriving later on.

The 5 things about Kublai's that struck me most while there were:
  1. I loved the music. I knew and liked most every single song that played - mostly '80s music (my time) with smatterings from the Rolling Stones later at night.

  2. The pica-picas were good, rustic and comforting. Of special note was the Chorizo Sisig; the chorizo, I was told, made specially by Mike's brother, Poch, who runs the bar hands-on.

  3. Kublai's, at dinnertime, lays out a Mongolian BBQ buffet - where one picks the ingredients and sauces themselves. Being somewhat comfortable in the kitchen, I do enjoy this type of dining. Not having had Mongolian BBQ for around 20 or so years, this was a nostalgic treat for me - one I will certainly repeat in the future.

  4. Prices are very reasonable and the beer is always served nice and cold.

  5. The crowd is mixed: office people, a long table of advertising people, a few tables of 20-30 somethings on dates...and I'd say almost a quarter of the people inside that night (there is outdoor seating as well) from Manila's mestizo community (the owners' friends apparently).
Post-dinnertime, when space allowed, some tables were pushed to the sides to make a dancefloor. Mike sure could tear up the floor...

...and I was pleasantly surprised when Santi demonstrated his skills at dancing the Boogie with Machalen, Mike's better half. Conviviality reigned that night, as well as alcohol-aided antics that had me in stitches. I hadn't laughed that long and hard in quite a while, and I had a great time. I'll drag Catha along with me next time so I can have someone to dance with (which would help get rid of the tipsiness more quickly for my drive home as well).

As I began begging off the last couple of rounds of beer (after all we had been there since late afternoon and, from past experience, I knew well enough that I couldn't keep up with Santi and Mike in that department), we were served platters of mildly spicy Chorizo Rice - which was both delicious and sobering. I asked Dong if they used sobresada for the dish, and he replied that it was the same chorizo they used for the Chorizo Sisig. Loved it.

As Arnold said in "The Terminator", I'll be back.


The next day, Saturday the 28th January 2011, I woke up late and a bit ragged (I do believe that was the most number of beers I've ever had in a single evening), skipped golf and just watched videos at home. That afternoon, my wife was fussing over our 2 older boys since it was their Junior-Senior Prom. There were last minute decisions on the ties to be used, which dress shirts to wear, etc., all resulting in...

...these 2 dapper beasts.

After seeing them off, Catha and I took the youngest to old favorite Caffé Caruso (210 Nicanor Garcia St., Bel-Air Village, Makati; across the Alliance Française de Manille). As usual, I had my glass of...

...Campari Soda as I decided what to order. I really don't know why we bother reading the menu anymore, as we've been customers for years and always order pretty much the same dishes every time we are there. As usual, we started off with platters of...

...Antipasti Caldi, some Insalata di Rucola (no photo of the latter),...

...and a Pizza Napoletana.

Thereafter, a dish of Spaghetti allo Scoglio (moderately spicy) for me. With the foregoing, Catha and I had a couple of glasses of the simple but decent house pinot grigio. Having had a lot to drink the night before, I thought it better to take it easy on the wine and, so, didn't bring a bottle along. Catha and the youngest shared platters of ...

Pan-Fried Veal Cutlets and...

...Saffron Risotto.

For dessert, we had the Panna Cotta as we always have had ever since Johnson told us Caruso's serves one of the 2 best in the country (the other being at L'Opera in the Fort).

We ended with a couple of double espressos (I absolutely love their espresso here) and, for me, a shot of grappa, both compliments of co-owner-manager Dario Gardini. Grazie tante, Dario.

As we walked back to the car, a tiny kitten, from under another vehicle, ran up to the youngest and started trying to play with him. The guards told us that the kitten had been living in the parking lot the past 2 nights and had no owner or mother taking care of it. We took it along, of course, to give it a good home.

Running into bad EDSA traffic on the way to the SLEX, Catha would check on the kitten and the youngest every so often. Nothing to worry though, the kitten fell asleep, contentedly purring on the youngest's lap. We wound up giving the kitten to my mom-in-law since our labrador retriever, though very friendly and gentle with people, is a confirmed serial cat-killer. Anyway, my mom-in-law loves pets and her dogs grew up living with cats.

What a nice weekend. I really needed that.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Beef Fondue Dinner for Sandy.

I usually help organize a dinner or two for Sandy when she is in town on her annual visit, but, this year, my schedule a bit too hectic, Boozze & Margarita took the lead and held one in Sandy's honor around a week ago. The evening's hosts made it a Beef Fondue dinner this time as Boozze (very accurately) pointed out that "We always have steaks."

Sandy, Kenny, Margarita & Sylvia

I contributed a dish of my Chili Garlic Prawns, but forgot to take any photos of it. My dish took far longer to cook than I had anticipated, so I sent Catha ahead with a few bottles of wine and I caught up by 8pm.

Lisa & Catha

Tonico (Yvonne arrived later), Tonji & Willy (Minnie was out of town)

Johnson arrived around half an hour after I did due to traffic, and Boozze summoned us to the dining room thereafter to start off with some...

...Broccoli Soup.

Soup & Sandy

In the meantime, the kids had trooped in and made the rounds to greet all the titos and titas.

I've always found it so charming that Boozze's family has perpetuated the traditional Filipino way of greeting their elders - the children bow their heads to touch the back of elders' hands - called "Mano" (from the Spanish word for "hand"). This old tradition is rarely practiced these days.

The soup course done, bowls were cleared from the table...

...and we started on the Beef Fondue.

The wines were from me, 2009 ItsasMendi No. 7 Txakoli (for the Chili-Garlic Prawns) and 1995 Bodegas Campillo Rioja Gran Reserva (for the Beef Fondue).

As Aaron and I have recently embarked on a small venture of importing personally hand-picked wines (we taste many wines and bring in only what we personally like, buy and drink ourselves) and these two are wines we sell, I will no longer post tasting notes on them - anyway, I've already written about them before. We focus mainly on aged reds from Rioja, but we have some txakoli (the typical Basque white wine, this, specifically from D.O. Bizkaiko Txakolina), as well as aged Riojan blanco and rosado from the revered bastion of Riojan traditional wines, Bodegas R. López de Heredia.

Johnson entertains the ladies.

Desserts were Frozen Brazo de Mercedes, Cheese Cake and, from Catha and I, a German Cherry Chocolate Cake made by Mrs. Doc's sister. Unfortunately, I was chatting with Boozze and Tonico outside for so long, I totally forgot to take pictures of the desserts before they were massacred.

Two of the dessert-killers.

It was, as always, great to see Sandy again. I will definitely see her before she heads back to SF. For now, however, the best I can do is give many thanks to our gracious hosts for opening their home to us yet again to enjoy the company of our dear friend. Until the next!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jahva Stout, Juniper Pale Ale, Etc. Over the Weekend.

Another installment on my mixed orders from Global Beer Exchange. Friday night, after dinner of the 14th January 2011, my 2 older sons and I tried out some...

Southern Tier Brewing Company Jahva Imperial Coffee Stout - Again, this is a rich, luscious, powerful, mouth-filling stout displaying roasted coffee beans, bit of semi-sweet cocoa, just a hint of vanilla bean and moderate roasted malt. This less sweet than and not as dense or heavy as the Crème Brûlée and Mokah Imperial Stouts. Not as broad on the attack as well, but it expands nicely mid-mouth. It is evidently more focused and neater than the mentioned two. Of the three, my sons and I like the Jahva the most, though we did enjoy all of them. This is most definitely a repeat buy for me.

The afternoon of Saturday the 15th, before a dinner for Sandy at Tonji & Sylvia's, my eldest and I split a bottle of the Southern Tier Mokah Imperial Stout - which I wrote about a few days ago. Actually, I had around a third of the 650ml bottle, the eldest had the rest.

Very nice and it mellowed me out nicely. The second opted for a Rogue Juniper Pale Ale which he slugged down while watching tv in the playroom.

They then decided to order some burgers and called in a couple from Brothers Burger. I mentioned that I liked having the Rogue Juniper Pale Ale with the burger at Elbert's Steak Room, so my eldest tried out the pairing after finishing the Mokah.

When I asked him what he thought of the two together, he said he enjoyed the pairing since the dry ale cut the fatty burger's richness and cleansed the palate between bites.

Sunday lunch of the 16th was at our place instead of my in-laws'. Catha prepared and cooked the usual USDA Prime Grade Rib-Eyes instead of I - her first try at it. Pretty good effort, I must say - the steaks were nicely rare-to-medium-rare. Before that, however, we started off with some Fresh Strawberry Salad (sorry, I forgot to take a photo of it) and...

Tomato Bisque.

There were Baked Prawns... well as the mentioned steaks.

Rogue Juniper Pale Ale - As I remember it from Elbert's: notably fresh and dry, it shows, as its name indicates, notes of juniper berries, as well as very mild citrus in its moderate malt and hops. Very nice with a Sunday steak lunch. My father-in-law, who doesn't really drink any beer, took a small taste and obviously liked it since he asked for some to take home with him.

After desserts of Chocolate Ice-Box Cake, Brazo de Mercedes and Fresh Strawberries & Cream, I popped open another Javah Imperial Stout and shared a bit with my niece and eldest.

Jimmyton wasn't kidding. This put me to sleep the same way as Chimay Grande Réserve does. I don't take naps unless I'm sick. Well, I'm not sick, but fell asleep shortly after while watching Avatar in my room with my youngest. It made for a beery nice day.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Two After-Dinner Stouts.

I've been tired the last couple of nights - almost too tired to drink (the operative word being "almost"). Not wanting to spend too much time on pre-bedtime drinks, I didn't open any wine, but had some stouts instead (both by the Southern Tier Brewing Company of Lakewood New York, USA, both purchased directly from Jim Araneta's Global Beer Exchange).

As I understand, stouts are dark beers made from, among other things, barely and various types of malt. The subject stouts are flavored, as their names clearly imply.
Wednesday night, the 12th January 2011, I had some...

Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout - Roasted malt, very dark caramel, vanilla bean, bit of cream and a lightish dose of dark chocolate. Creamy, lush, rich, smooth. Dark caramel (think of a very dark, slightly burnt version of the syrup of leche flan) and dark chocolate towards the back, which turns slightly bitterish at the finish, with a vague citrus note that trails with the caramel. This is quite sweet, especially mid-palate. Definitely a dessert on its own.

My two older boys had some as well.

The next night, Thursday, the 13th January 2011, I just had to try another from the batch of beers I ordered, so I chose the...

Southern Tier Mokah Imperial Stout - Deeply roasted malt, roasted coffee beans and dark, unsweetened chocolate with slight caramel notes past mid-mouth. Rich, luxurious, dense, creamily-textured, very smooth. Mouth-filling. Though we liked the Imperial Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout well enough, my boys and I all preferred this one. My eldest said he'd like to try the former with some crème brûlée though.

NB: Both bottles are special and/or seasonal releases and come in large 650ml bottles that cost P750/bottle).

Tonight, I believe I'll open some of the Southern Tier Jahva Imperial Coffee Stout - and that will be another story.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Couple of Ales from Global Beer Exchange.

Quick impressions of a couple of locally available ales distributed by Jimiton Araneta's Global Beer Exchange:

Anderson Valley Brewing Company Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout - I have a fondness for dark ales, especially during winters when I'm out and about (I really enjoy the narcotic effect Chimay's Grand Cru Ale has on me - a couple of tall glasses and I'm out like a light). Problem is, in the past, very few were available locally. This is a moderately rich, smooth stout with pretty straightforward, a tad off-dry roasted malt, dark chocolate, slightly creamy oatmeal and caramel flavors. It is dangerously easy to drink a lot of, as far as I'm concerned.

I first tried this less than a week ago, having picked up a few bottles out of curiosity at South Supermarket. I had it with a hearty lunch at home of rare roast beef sandwiches. Strange pairing, but I enjoyed it pretty much on its own.

Last night, I had it with some caramelized/glazed liempo at home. The fatty pork's savory flavor, smoky notes and caramelized glaze playing nicely with the ale. The pairing worked well enough in my opinion.

Also last night, my eldest picked out a Rogue Dead Guy Pale Ale to go with the liempo (he also had some crispy adobo flakes). He said it was not too dry to begin with but became drier at the end where a slight appetizing bitterness emerged. He seemed to like it well enough and quickly finished his bottle way before his second serving of food.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

PWX Tasting @ Masseto: Domaine Huët l'Échansonne, Etc.

After work in the late afternoon, Thursday, the 6th January 2011, I headed for Masetto for Premium Wine Exchange's (PWX) tasting of its first batch of Domaine Huët l'Échansonne*. The Stockbroker, part-owner of both PWX and Masseto, organized and hosted this small, by-invitation event.

*"échansonne" means a "cupbearer" - particularly, a female cupbearer as denoted by the extra "ne" suffix. "Échanson/ne" was the title/position of a person who serves drinks to a king or another high ranking member of the royal family or court.

I arrived a bit early (around 5:35pm) and chanced upon the Stockbroker preparing for his little lecture... I sat with him and, not having had lunch, ordered for a couple of pica-picas for me to munch on with a glass of 2009 Huët Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu (more on that wine later). Not wanting to bother the Stockbroker, I stepped out for a smoke and was joined shortly by J-Lab, Richard Joye (a wine-loving, recently Manila-based Swiss-French investment banker) and David Ong of CAV. By a little past 6pm, the group was complete and, thus, the tasting began.

The lecture was very concise, the Stockbroker focusing on the basics of the mainly chenin blanc-based wines of Vouvray (east of Tours in the central Loire region) and Domaine Huët. Having spent a week in the Loire (including, among others, the tiny, limestone-based town of Vouvray with Catha, Walden and Berck back in July 2006) where I drank several of Huët wines (they were on the carte du vin of most every single restaurant I went to in the Loire - and I went to many), I could take photos, concentrate on the wines and chat with friends.

The Inseparables: Sevrine, Felicia & Barbara

The PWX Huët pricelist, which doubled as my tasting notes card.

The Stockbroker served the wines in flights from driest to sweetest (sec, demi-sec, moelleux and moelleux premièr trie), with the 3 Secs together as the 1st flight.

2009 Huët Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Sec - The comparatively driest, leanest, steeliest and possessed of the most piercing fresh acidity and tense, cold limestone notes of the three. Fruit profiles were zippy, Mexican mango, crunchy green apple, pineapple, with, as Richard noted, white grapefruit and citrus - the latter two coming on strong just past mid-mouth and through to the finish. The citrus, towards the back and through the finish, was reminiscent of calamansi (Philippine lime) juice with a moderate amount of syrup-sweetener. Ramrod backbone and very firm structure in this.

I liked this a lot, extremely fresh, laser-focused, pure, vibrant and mouth-watering - perfect for the Philippine summer. Rather simple now, but will surely gain in complexity as it ages (as could everything we tasted that night). I had my first bottle of Huët's Le Haut-Lieu Sec wine back in July 2006. It was the vintage 2004 which I had with my langoustines appetizer at Les Tuffeaux in Tours. Very crisp and mouth-wateringly dry I recall.

J-Lab and I later on discussed possible pairings with local dishes. I recall kinilaw (our version of ceviche) of tuna, lapu-lapu (i.e., grouper) and small squid being mentioned. The possibility of salmon sashimi came up as well (sans the wasabi and soy sauce I'd think).

2009 Huët Vouvray Clos de Bourg Sec - There was pretty much a consensus that this was the most favored Sec at this point, with Sevrine, Felicia, Barbara, J-Lab, Richard and myself giving it our nods as such. Notably fleshier, rounder, moderately softer and not as piercing, dry or challenging as the 2009 Le Haut-Lieu. More widely accessible too, I'd wager.

2006 Huët Vouvray Le Mont Sec - Softer in fruit, heftier, more rounded, seemingly lower in acidity and with vanilla/oak very noticeable (for me at least). Shorter and with seemingly more residual sugar than the previous two wines, this, again, to me, was, comparatively, the least pure and focused of the three (though fairly focused and pure in itself). Pleasant enough in all. I'd never refuse a glass of this, I'll tell you.

The pair of 2008 Demi-Secs.

2008 Huët Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Demi-Sec &
2008 Huët Vouvray Le Mont Demi-Sec

Both inherently/naturally weightier, rounder sweetishly riper than the previous 5 wines. Between the two, I found the Le Haut-Lieu Demi-Sec marginally purer and cleaner than the Le Mont Demi-Sec - the latter exhibiting a somewhat prominent toasty-leesy-woody notes. The Le Haut-Lieu Demi-Sec had a whisper of sulfur in it. Richard mentioned he found one of the two was "slightly corked" (which is different from having a sulfur note - sulfur being used to help preserve the wine as it ages, the note of which normally disappears over time). Perhaps we are referring to the same wine?

2007 Huët Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Demi-Sec &
2007 Huët Vouvray Le Mont Demi-Sec

Both 2007s stood out for me in terms of over-all current enjoyability, and, I recall, for Richard as well. Between the two 2007 demi-secs, I favored the Le Mont for me which I found comparatively/moderately deeper, riper and rounder.

The Stockbroker with the representatives of the Manila Peninsula Hotel.

2009 Huët Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Moelleux &
2009 Huët Vouvray Le Mont Moelleux

Inherently/naturally sweeter, rounder, heftier and, to me, more concentrated and deeper than the previous 7 wines. Between the two, I gave the slight edge to the 2009 Le Haut-Lieu Moelleux, and noted that the 2009 Le Mont exhibited additional nuances of pomelo and slight lychee.

David and Richard

2009 Huët Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moelleux Première Trie,
2009 Huët Vouvray Le Mont Moelleux Première Trie &
2003 Huët Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moelleux Première Trie

The term "premièr trie" indicates that the fruit is from the domaine's best selection. These are slightly botrytised wines, each rich and luscious, but maintaining the hallmark precise Huët acid freshness/balance. Every one of them I would buy, but the 2003 much more for current and vigorous enjoyment. Between the two 2009 Moelleaux Première Tries, I favor the Clos du Bourg for its hedonistic edge (both are hedonistic, by the way) but with a marginally more refined character (that in this tasting, I tended to favor the Clos du Bourg over Le Mont across the different cuvées did not escape me).

Thus ended the tasting. It being rather late (and smack in the middle of CBD rush hour as well), Richard and I decided to have dinner there and did not have any trouble at all convincing J-Lab to join us.

I started off with the Spaghettini Bottarga which I enjoyed with more of the 2009 Le Haut-Lieu Sec. I also tried some of the demi-secs as well and both did rather well with the dish in their own ways - the sec to cut and brighten, the demi-secs for a sweetish foil for the pressed fish roe's saltiness.

With my main course of Duck Leg Confit, we had some 1995 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape and 1990 Château Clerc Milon, both courtesy of the Stockbroker, as a reward of sorts for all our "hard work".

I must admit that I was no longer in note-taking mode at the time and just enjoyed both the wines with my meal. As pairings with the duck leg confit, both did nicely, but, that evening, I preferred the way the 1990 Clerc Milon paired with my meal.

With my dessert of Strawberry Pavlova, I had one of the 2009 Moelleux Première Tries, but I cannot recall which one.

Thereafter, Richard and I ordered and split a bottle of 2006 Tommasi Viticoltori Amarone della Valpolicella Classico from the Masseto wine list with a cheese platter. It's been years, probably 3, since I've had an Amarone. Big, soft, rich, concentrated, dense, very extracted, full-bodied with notes of kirsch, sweetly confited cherry and dark berries, dried figs, prune, vanilla, slight muscovado and balsamico reduction. Very nice with the cheeses and grapes, if a bit difficult for me to drink by itself.

I'm certainly very happy that the Huët wines are back in Manila with a vengeance! Many, many thanks to the Stockbroker for the invitation. I'll certainly be getting my fair share of these wines.