Friday, April 29, 2011

A Tale of a Few Ales.

I've been most intrigued by what I've read and heard about the Ballast Point Sculpin India Pale Ale (received an award for the best IPA of 2011 from The Full Pint and the 2009 Silver Medal for American-Style India Pale Ale during the Great American Beer Festival Awards). Jimmyton said it is best consumed within a few months, so I made it a point to have some the moment it became available at The Tasting Room: yesterday, the 28th April 2011.


Jim said they start pouring at 5pm, Miguel, Richard and I made plans to see him there at that time - but I got there by around 5:30pm.


High school classmate Dino Jalandoni, a fixture at the Tasting Room, was there with his guys as well; and, thus, we immediately got down to business. Gino Garcia joined us after a while and quickly caught up; as did Ken Quintal (a good friend whose wife is Catha's 1st cousin, and, coincidentally, Ken is Jim's childhood a friend as well).


The Ballast Point Sculpin India Pale Ale is an exuberantly fresh, fruity (peach, mango) but dry, slightly floral, very hoppy pale ale with a long fruit finish with appetizing bitterness trailing. Nice brightness; smooth, it goes down very easily and is perfect for summer drinking. Easy to drink a lot of, and, at a mere 7% or so abv, one can slug it down all day at home, in a bar or at the beach.

Its fruity dryness made for a good foil for the platters of Vela de Lomo and Jamón Ibérico we started off with. As Richard eats no pork, we later on ordered for delivery a Quattro Formaggi Pizza and, eventually...


...Miguel, Richard, Gino and I had delivered (through Eric Jurado's kind intercession - he's my original batchmate at Ateneo after all) an order each of Foie Gras Burgers from Gaita Fores' nearby Lusso (talk about a luxurious belly-buster of a burger; promptly delivered on covered trays by 2 crisply white-uniformed waiters no less). The foie is cooked inside the dauntingly thick and juicy patty as one can see from the above photo. With our burgers, at Jim's recommendation, Richard and I switched to a couple of Ballast Point Calico Copper Amber Ales - Very nice; the added rounded heft and density, coupled with its slight creamy, toasty, caramel-laced maltiness making for a good match - and the surface hoppiness cleansing the palate between bites.

Needless to state, we went through so many of the Sculpins, I cannot now, for the life of me, remember how many bombers we laid to waste. By then, Alex Tiu had joined in, regaling us with how his craft beer therapy helped hasten healing of his recent biking injuries (a broken collarbone and 3 busted ribs, no less) - plus it helped him save money on pain-killers as well said he.


As the session neared its end, Ken and I "washed off" with a bottle each of the always clean and rejuvenating Rogue Juniper Pale Ale. Of course, I took home several bombers of the Sculpin for my teen-agers to enjoy. What a night! Until the next session!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Lunch @ Mamou.

I eat at Mamou fairly regularly as it is my favorite steakhouse in the country. I always wind up ordering the same things, namely, the Grana Padano & Fuet w/ Honey Dip, Mamou Bacon, Healdsberg Farm Salad, Spaghetti Bottarga, the Double Dry-Aged US Prime Grade Rib-Eye, Key Lime Pie and Pecan Pie.

I've been eating there, and consequently, writing about it more frequently it seems. I was there yesterday, Easter Sunday (24th April 2011) as my in-laws chose to hold the regular Sunday lunch thereat. We had all my regular dishes with the accompanying White Steak Rice, plus a curry dish of some sort (which I did not partake of). At the end of the day, for me, the Mamou experience is all about the steak.

Enough said.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sábado de Gloria 2011 Eats & Drinks.

Stayed in Manila for the Holy Weekend as I most usually do. The kids have been in Singapore the past week so the house is pretty quiet. Played golf on Holy Thursday, wanted to go out to dinner after, but Prince Albert, Sala and Terry's 2º Piso were closed so we just had dinner at home. Good Friday, I didn't even bother trying to find a good restaurant that was open. Holy Saturday, the 23rd April 2011, Catha, I, together with a couple of longtime friends, Tonji & Sylvia, had dinner st Sala.

There was absolutely no traffic that evening, and, with the use of the new Alabang Skyway, we got to the restaurant in just 20 minutes at most.

Catha & Sylvia

Sala was full that night. I guess there was a lot of pent-up demand over the past couple of days. We started off with my bottle of...

Freixenet Reserva Real Cava which went very well with my...

...Twice-Baked Prawn & Goat Cheese Soufflé with Dill.

As recently stated, this is one of the top cuvées of Spanish giant Freixenet (a blend of vintage cavas) created to commemorate the royal family's visit to the winery. I, together with wine journalists from Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea, visited Freixenet on the 24th March 2010. Incredible winery; so huge one has to take a train to get around their cellars. Dry, bright, crisp, mildly toasty and biscuity, this premium cava easily has the volume, heft and cut for the savory soufflé.

It's actually been many months since I've been to Sala; I used to be a very regular customer when Carl Miguel used to work there. Colin has changed the regular menu, so I went for his new Lamb Rack with Greek Salad. It was a safe order for the bottle of 1995 Bodegas La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890 that I brought along - chosen because I remembered how much Tonji enjoyed it during a dinner at La Tienda in late July 2010, and at home late August 2010.

I had it decanted for about 45 minutes to an hour before service and it showed quite differently from when it is just popped and poured. After decanting, the otherwise explosive aromas of creamy oak, dill, licorice, black cherry, mocha and kirsch are more self-possessed/circumspect and show quiet depth. In the mouth, more leather, violets and herbs make their presence felt more; and the oak/vanilla and dill are more subtle and seem better integrated. What remains constant, however, is that it is undeniably an alluring wine. Loved it as I always do.

Miguel brought this bottle in for me from Spain as, at the time, Premium Wine Exchange had run out of stock. Fortunately, that lack has been remedied as the subject gran reserva is now in stock and readily/locally available anew. Lucky us - moreso to have been able to enjoy it with such good food and great company. Until the next!

Friday, April 22, 2011

18th Birthday Dinner @ Mamou (Not mine, of course).

Saturday, the 16th April 2011, was my eldest's 18th birthday and, not surprisingly, he chose to have dinner at Mamou. The red I brought along was quite a bit older than he:

1964 Faustino I Tinto Gran Reserva. Before that, however...

...we had two orders each of Fuet & Grana Padano w/ Honey...

...and Mamou's Bacon (which the youngest volunteered to pay for as his brother's gift). With these we offered a... the birthday boy, with some...

Freixenet Reserva Real Cava - one of the cava giant's top cuvées which was created to commemorate the royal family's visit to its winery. I've written about this creamy, rounded, complex, slightly toasty cava so many times before, there is no longer any need to elaborate further. This is my favorite locally available cava by far. Enough said.

My boys.

To ease the guilt of chowing down the coming meat, Catha and I shared a Healdsberg Farm Salad which she must always have when we are in Mamou... I got a couple of orders of Spaghetti Bottarga for all of us.

The steaks, two orders of rare Dry-Aged US Prime Grade Bone-In Rib-Eyes, followed soon after. The boys have long been at the stage for quite a few years wherein we simply cannot just have one order of anything. With e steaks, we had the...

1964 Faustino I Tinto Gran Reserva* - a wine I, together with Miguel, Aaron, Rene and Jojo, fell in love with when we first had it during Miguel's birthday lunch last year. The bouquet is of violets, cedar, mature red fruit, balsamico, slight orange peel, anise and hints of leather. Its medium body just glides on the palate silkenly. The acidity is firm, making for good cut to the rich beef's fatty goodness. Lovely, lovely old-school Rioja.

* Aaron and I import this wine, but quickly ran out of stock.

The youngest isn't all that into steak. He'll happily have some in the absence of any of his other favored dishes, but, at Mamou, he always asks for the Crispy Duck Adobo with Scrambled Egg & Fried Rice.

Such gusto, this guy.

Desserts were Pecan Pie and a couple of orders of Key Lime Pie (the latter being the second's favorite). All the orders were accompanied with sides of Schlag. The eldest also ordered a Dark Chocolate Gelato for himself.

Annie kindly sent the eldest his own little Red Velvet Birthday Cake as well.

Excellent meal, as usual. Happy Birthday again, son.

IWFS Scandinavian Dinner by Chef Jonas Lundgren.

Dinner of the 11th April 2011 was an International Wine & Food Society (Philippines Branch) Scandinavian event at I Am Angus by visiting Chef Jonas Lundgren (Silver Medal Awardee at the 2009 Bocuse d'Or Competition). All ingredients were flown in specially for this dinner. We were 23 in all (Dong Puno, unfortunately, wasn't able to make it), mostly members and spouses with only 2 guests.

Catha, Markus, Bernie and Lawrie, who, with Bill Stone, were the earliest to arrive.

For cocktails was a case of 2005 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, generously donated by Happy Living Wines through the kindness of owner (and IWFS member) John Lim and Kathy Yao Santos. Crisp, clean, focused apple, slight Korean Iya Pear and lemon (the lemon trailing in the finish) dominate, with a whisper of brioche mid-mouth and towards the back. Lightish in body, crisply dry, with bracing lemon-acidity. Rather straightforward, but definitely easy to drink. Nice with seafood.

Jun Sison, Freddie Pio de Roda, Martin Kleger & Markus Ruckstuhl laugh it up.

There were several pass-arounds served, but the one that struck me was a bit of herring served on a spoon with a precise dab of piquant mustard cream. That was delicious. I grabbed at least 3 of those after tasting all the others.

Catha & Chinggay Rode.

Complete by around 7:45, all were summoned by Bill Stone to the dining room whereat he gave a brief talk on coming meal.

The Menu

Johnson & Candy Uy.

1st Course: Norwegian King Crab

Most all of us had had Norwegian King Crab countless times in the past, but this was the best one I'd tried - "meatier", better integrity, it tasted fresher and cleaner than all the others I've had. It was simply prepared/dressed as one can see above, the crab allowed center stage - how all good quality, fresh seafood should be served in my opinion. The blanc de blancs brought a refreshing, cleansing and entertaining counterpoint to the dish.

2nd Course: Mussel Soup Sherry Manzanilla, paired with La Guita Manzanilla.

Again, Chef Lundgren presented the seafood simply, this time in a skilfully balanced cream soup: neither overly creamy nor insipidly thin as, I find, we usually get in local restaurants, with the mussels' flavoring both precise and comforting. At the bottom of the cup lay the mussels themselves, very fresh and lightly cooked, preserving their integrity and releasing their juices in studied gastronomic explosions as one bit down on them. Excellent harmony, the touch of manzanila in the soup adding a bit more complexity. It takes admirable technique to make a simple dish so very remarkable; and Chef Lundgren displayed his masterfully in this dish.

As regards the pairing, well, I was quite ambivalent about it. With the cream soup alone it was good, but once one had the flavors of the mussels themselves on the palate, the manzanilla seemed, to me, a bit awkward. Perhaps it is because I am used to having manzanillas as apéritifs rather than with a meal, but that is my own issue.

Klaus & Diane (Bill's guests who happen to be my neighbors), Markus Ruckstuhl, Jojo Madrid, Martin Kleger, Bernie Sim, Oscar Ong, Sheila & Mike Whiting, Manfred and Chinggay Rode.

Jay Labrador, Catha, Lawrie Martin, Brendan Egan, Bill Stone, Edwin Ong, Freddy Pio de Roda, Jun Sison, Johnson & Candy Uy.

The 3rd course was Grilled Turbot w/ Soy-Browned Butter, paired with 2006 Leewin Art Series Chardonnay. The fish had a nice, firm and "meaty" texture; it was perfectly seared, which lent a contrasting, gossamer crunch to the moist, slightly creamy inner flesh. The soy-touched beurre noisette subtly enhanced the fish and added some nutty richness and depth to the dish as a whole.

The 2006 Leewin Art Series Chardonnay has fleshed out quite a bit since I first had it on the 28th December 2009. Back then, it was almost racy with slightly minerally, clean citrus and apple. Now, the malolactic treatment is very apparent and the oak has come to the fore. Its own nutty notes, however, did run with the beurre noisette, and that, I suppose, was the basis for the pairing. It was an acceptable enough match, but, personally, to my mind, because of its considerable heft, forwardness of fruit and generous oak, it would be much better suited with richer, heavier seafood dishes - Carl Miguel's Scallop & Lobster Risotto and Lobster Thermidor immediately come to mind.

The 4th course was Braised Lamb Shoulder with Creamed Jerusalem Artichoke, paired with 1999 Château Haut-Marbuzet. The piece I got was rather lean and, frankly, I found it quite ordinary, its saving grace being the artichoke cream which one rarely gets here in Manila. My wife, however, said her piece was very tender and lusciously infused with sticky-soft cartilage (of which I would have loved in mine).

The pairing Bordeaux rouge is one I have had many, many times over the years as I used to buy them at Säntis (owned by Werner Berger who also owns I Am Angus, among other restaurants) for casual dinners. Plummier than most St-Estèphe's, it is now quite soft, comfortingly warm with nice tobacco and subtler, somewhat creamy oak seamlessly woven into its black cherry, cassis and whispers of kirsch. Good showing with my piece of braised lamb shoulder (such as it was).

Dessert was an interesting dish of Rose Hip & Vanilla, paired with 1990 Warre's Quinta da Cavadinha. Fair enough, the sauce's slight tartness providing a contrast with the ice cream. Lawrie Martin told us of an old English tradition of community dancing on rose hips, the resulting fumes of which possessed (alleged) aphrodisiatic effects. I didn't notice any such effects, but it was surely an interesting story.

The dish's prominent aromas did remind me, though, of potpourri, teas a former client used to give me for my hypertension, and, the smell of Romy Sia's Healthy Options shops. The pairing vintage port was warmly comforting, if rather straightforward on its own. It was certainly a pleasant and welcome close to a good meal.

Bill Stone then formally presented Chef Jonas Lundgren who gave a brief talk of his career and his soon-to-open restaurant in Stockholm. Among others, he has worked in Thomas Keller's French Laundry in Yountville, California, and in Pierre Gagnaire's 3-Micheline starred Parisian restaurant.

The diners listened intently.

Jay Labrador, Jojo Madrid & Catha.

In all, it was a very enjoyable dinner; certainly a good opportunity to have some authentic Scandinavian dishes with real Scandinavian ingredients - all prepared by an award-winning Scandinavian chef, no less. Congratulations to the organizing IWFS directors for the successful event. Another one for the books. Until the next....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Once Again: Long Wine Lunch @ Mamou.

Lunch of Friday, the 8th April 2011, with the Usual Suspects was back at my favorite steak restaurant, Mamou. None of us ever say no when a Mamou call is made. We were 7 in all that day: the Aaron, J-Lab, Miguel, Rene, the Stockbroker, Global Beer Exchange's Jimmyton Araneta and myself.

As usual, we started lunch off with a couple of bottles of bubbly: Rene's old reliable, fresh, rounded and slightly toasty Billecart Salmon Champagne Brut Réserve NV (this is one of my and Rene's go-to non-vintage champagnes), and, something new to many of us, Aaron's Perrier Jouët Champagne Grand Brut NV.

I've never had the non-vintage bottling of Perrier Jouët, as I'd always buy their Belle Époque line (I used to buy lots of their 1989 and 1990 Belle Époques from Säntis for only around P750/bottle back in the mid-late '90s). Pretty much everyone was quite impressed by this non-vintage champagne which was comparatively brighter, deeper and more complex with white flowers, brioche, underlying white chocolate (the pinot noir speaking, most likely) and alluring biscuity notes past mid-mouth and to the finish. Very nice non-vintage bubbly.

Cheers from the Stockbroker & J-Lab.

As usual, our first course consisted of platters of Spaghetti Bottarga. With this, we had some of Miguel's 2009 Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis. I've written several times about this wine from the Roero hills of Piemonte. Firm, dry, clean white grapefruit, bit of citrus, infused with notes of seashell and bitterish almond. Straightforward, honest and an excellent match for the spaghetti bottarga. I never get tired of this pairing.

Salud from Jimmyton & Miguel, coño.

Cin cin from Rene & Aaron.

Of course, we had to have the coup de coeur, Mamou's Dry-Aged US Prime Grade
Bone-In Ribeye
(3 double orders, rare).

It being a Lenten Friday, J-Lab opted for the Salmon with Couscous which the Stockbroker also ordered (aside from his separate meat course). For his fish main course, J-Lab had brought along a bottle of 2002 Maison Leroy Meursault Blagny 1er Cru...

...which was, unfortunately, prematurely oxidized.

With the slabs of dry-aged rib-eye, we, naturally had several bottles of reds. Nice thing with this group, there is always a surplus of bottles of red. The difficult part is deciding which ones to open.

Again, unfortunately, my bottle of 2001 Tenuta Guado al Tasso (purchased at Bacchus International) was horribly corked, and, consequently, dumped. Pity, last time I tried it was over 3 years ago and I found it way too young then. Thus, I was very curious to see what it was like at this point. Oh, well, it happens. Next one, I hope, will be a healthy bottle.

The 1992 Chateau Montelena Montelena Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (Rene's bottle) was, in a word, excellent. It was also a great pairing for charred beef. Deep, quietly serious cassis, bit of a minty topnote, dark fruit, tobacco, slight licorice and charcoal and an underlying nuance of tar. Wonderful. Very happy to have had this again.

Miguel's 1995 Marqués de Murrieta Dalmau Reserva was another fine match for the steaks. Last I had this wine was a year ago, but with a cheese course. My notes at the time were as follows:
1995 Marqués de Murrieta Dalmau Reserva - Miguel's bottle, no decanting. I first tried this maiden vintage of Dalmau in late February 2009 from Jojo. So, it was great to be able to see how it is doing over a year later.

The wine seems to have gained even more weight and power over the past 14 months. Now decidedly full-bodied, it is roaring with sweetly ripe black cherry, raspberry, cassis/blackcurrant, licorice, sweet pipe tobacco, cinnamon, cloves, hints of dried fig and chocolate, creamy oak/vanilla. For fans of Rioja in the modern/international style, this would likely be a hit.
Slightly more self-possessed than a year ago, this is still notably ripe, forward and fruit-driven. The wood notes have integrated nicely but are still quite evident. Its bold spiciness brought good counter-point to the lusciously fatty beef.

A few days earlier, Jimmyton asked Miguel and I if we wanted him to bring a 2004 Château Pichon Lalande or if we wanted to try out an aged vintage Imperial Stout for the steaks. Having tried the '04 PL before, we both opted for the latter (it would be my very first aged, vintage imperial stout after all).

The 2008 Rogue XS Imperial Stout is an intensely rich, dense, robust, smoothly and thickly muscled ale. Deep, midnight maltiness, slight dried fig and preserved dates nuances, notes of burnt caramel, dark chocolate and molasses. Wow. Heady stuff. If there was an ale equivalent to Pedro Ximénez (as Miguel also noted), this would definitely be it. I noted that the stout's finish picked up the meat's charred flavors. "Too much for the steak" declared Jim as he set it aside for later on (but not before I got a second pour off the bottle). I liked it a lot. Too bad Jim doesn't sell this stuff - it's from his personal stash.

In the 7 or so years I've been drinking with the Stockbroker,
this was the very first time I've actually seen him have any kind of beer.

For dessert, we had 3 orders of Pecan Pie w/ Schlag. Recalling the parallel the 2008 Rogue XS Imperial Stout drew to Pedro Ximénez, I asked for another pour of it to go with dessert. If I do say so myself, it was a lip-smacking, indulgent, running-with-the-ball pairing. J-Lab had, in the meantime, opened a bottle of sweet white:

1995 Hétszőlő Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos - Nice, clean, relatively light and not intense not sweet for a 6 puttonyo Tokaji Aszú. Typical candied apricot a bit of canned cling peach dominant flavors with light touches of lemon rind and caramel. I liked it fine by itself, but J-Lab didn't seem very happy with it. Well, he is much more experienced with Tokaji Aszús than I.

It seemed to go over pretty well with the others too.

The lunch didn't end there, though. After some double espressos, the Stockbroker suggested we move over to nearby Wine Story for a couple more bottles. Nobody argued, we all simply packed up and followed his lead.

The Stockbroker, as usual, bought a bottle and had it served to us blind.

Honestly, I don't remember much of the guesses, but I recall saying it was from 1999 as it didn't seem very concentrated and it didn't look very old. I also recall it as a bit lean, streamlined, with cedar and violets in its dark fruit. When asked if I liked it, I replied "It's ok." Imagine how surprised I was when it was revealed to be a...

1998 La Mondotte.

I was very surprised because I'd opened one approximately 6 years ago (with the Stockbroker, Doc, Bernie, the Vigneron, etc.) and it was a huge, massively muscled, incredibly fruit-driven, primary beast. I didn't imagine then that it would become, in a relatively short amount of time, anything like it is now. Great, however, to get to have it again now to see how it is. Thanks to the Stockbroker for this bottle; it is by no means cheap, I know all too well.

We then ordered a bottle of 2004 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino - I honestly don't remember much of it now (I even forgot to take a photo of it), but I do recall that I and the others liked it, and that I made a mental note to get a bottle or two of it for grilled meat dishes.

The Stockbroker then opened a bottle of his that didn't get popped at Mamou, a 1995 Bodegas La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890 (his Premium Wine Exchange distributes this). I've written about this alluringly fragrant, generous, well-balanced wine so many times, to gush over it anew would be superfluous. It has always been a crowd-pleaser and has always drawn accolades. That day, it was no different. I'm certainly glad it's back in stock at PWX as the first batch was sold out way too quickly.

Thus ended another long wine lunch with the Usual Suspects. We broke up at around 6pm, with Mig & I heading off to Ukkokei Ramen Ron for a bowl each of Tantanmen. Jim was supposed to join us, but fell asleep in his car so his driver took him straight home. Until the next!