Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Birthday Dinner @ Gustavus Steak Lounge.

This past Monday, the 23rd May 2011, was my sis-in-law, Mich's, *cough*th birthday. She is based in Singapore these days and was just here for less than a week for some business. She wanted steaks and was thinking of going to Mamou, but she'd been there quite often already. Thus, I suggested she try out Gustavus Steak Lounge (Ground Floor, F&M Lopez Building, 109 C. Palanca Street, Legazpi Village; Tel. No. 846-2430) since I enjoyed my dinner there so much after a long ale session with Jimmyton and J-Lab a couple of weeks before. She agreed to my suggestion, so I made arrangements with Gustavus' Managing Partner, my Ateneo high school classmate, Mike Gayoso.

We were 16 in all that night with my in-laws and a few of their cousins. Mike was to be out of town that whole day until late, but left instructions for how our large party was to be accommodated (2 tables for 8 side-by-side, etc.). We were very well taken care of. Though a party of 16 having multiple courses is normally quite a strain on the waitstaff, there were no problems at all. On the contrary, I thought the service was quick, crisp and precise. Some of the dishes we enjoyed at our (the boys') table were:

Fresh Oysters (file photo)

The kids started off with the above-depicted fresh oysters (I've had these a couple of times before). They are always super fresh and delicious - an absolute must in Gustavus.

Grilled Rib-Eye, one each for my 2 brothers-in-law.

One of them got some Gustavus Steak Rice.
The rest of us went for the excellent French Fries and Gnocchi for our starch.

Grilled T-Bone Steak (for me; rare of course). Delicious. I've had it here thrice so far.

Roast Rack of Australian Lamb w/ French Green Lentil & Bacon Cassoulet for my second son. Looked magnificent.

Grilled Tenderloin Steak; a couple of them, one was for my youngest.
You can see from the photo above how well it was cooked and how juicy it was inside.

Mr. D's Ultimate Beef Burger - my eldest went for this.

There was an assortment of similar dishes at my sis-in-laws' table. I get along very well with my sis-in-law (Catha's sister). I always have. You can see from the photo above how very much she enjoys her food - so we naturally enjoy each other's company (and obviously mean sense of humor). Desserts were excellent as well:

Choco-Nut Pinoy Buster Parfait. My nephew got this. It looked so good I vowed to have it myself next I was there - a vow I've already made good on. It definitely tastes as sinfully good as it looks.

Strawberry Cheese Cake, I don't recall whose this was though.

Crisp Apple & Mango Filo.

This was my dessert - a scoop each of Dark Chocolate & Mint Chip Ice Cream, which, together, made up a cool bowl of After Eight Dinner Mint of sorts. Loved it. I don't know what else was ordered for dessert as I was so concentrated on my own.

We didn't have any wine that night, but we continued on until late with some beers, cognac and some hilarious stories. Excellent evening. Thanks, Mich! I daresay we'll be back in Gustavus next you're in town!

IWFS Blind Old World-New World Wine Pairing Dinner.

Last Thursday, the 19th May 2011, was at CAV for an International Wine & Food Society Philippines Branch ("IWFS") Blind Wine Pairing Dinner organized by Director Jay Labrador.

Two wines for each course, plus two bubblies for the pass-arounds, one Old World and one New World, were served sans identification. In choosing the wines, local availability, identity of vintages and close matching of prices were made the standards. The wines themselves were disclosed ahead of time, but nobody except a few members of the waitstaff knew which was which when served. Those in attendance were asked for their preferences and to try and tell the wines apart. Of the total of 26 participants, most were members and spouses- only 5 or 6 were guests.

CAV proprietor David Ong flanked by David Celdran and a friend.

Catha & Michelle Server with Lawrie Martin & Jay Labrador.

Bill Stone, Oscar Ong, Dong Puno, Robbie Delgado & Bernie Sim with Robbie's guests.

Richard & Yuki Joye with IWFS President & Wine Master Bernie Sim.

Three pass-arounds were made available to go with the two bubblies. Aside from some very nice Mini Onion Tartes Flambées (sorry, no photo), the others were...

...Escargots Vol-au-Vent...

...and Sea Urchin Toast.

Bubbly "A", pleasant, quaffable and citrusy, was comparatively lighter, tight and linear compared to Bubbly "B". Bubbly "B" was fuller, heftier, toastier and creamy in comparison. As to the pairing canapés, all were delicious, the escargots vol-au-vent and uni toast being outstanding. Given the escargot vol-au-vent's comparative richness, I preferred Bubbly "B" as the pairing; and, due to Bubbly "A"s lean, fresh citrus, I preferred it as a pairing for the uni toast.

Over-all, however, I preferred Bubbly "B" and guessed it to be the Old World Bubbly (Piper Heidsieck Brut NV), leaving Bubbly "A" to be the New World bubbly (Schramsberg Mirabelle NV). Catha and Michelle made the same identifications.

Bill Stone then took the floor, and, with Jay Labrador, took the tally of votes. In just a few minutes, the results were announced:

Bubbly "A" was the Schramsberg Mirabelle NV (New World) and Bubbly "B" was the Piper Heidsieck Brut NV (Old World). 23 of the 26 participants (88.46%) preferred the Piper Heidsieck Brut NV with 18 (69.2%) being able to identify it as the Old World bubbly.
The seafood course was then served with the 2 pairing whites (both sauvignon blanc):

Prawn Carpaccio w/ Lemongrass,
Jellied Spice Consommé & Aromatic Leaves

This wasn't much of a challenge since I've had the wines of Pinard and Dog Point before and it is no secret that, for sauvignon blancs, the wines of the eastern Loire (Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé) are my favorites. Sauvignon Blanc "A" was evidently more floral, graceful and pure with passionfruit nuances; while Sauvignon Blanc "B" had telltale grassiness and comparatively more forward gooseberry notes. I preferred Sauvignon Blanc "A" and guessed it to be the Sancerre (Old World).

The results were:

17 out of 26 (65.38%) preferred Sauvignon Blanc "A" which was revealed to be the 2008 Vincent Pinard Sancerre Flores; though only 13 (50%) were able to identify it as the Old World wine. Sauvignon Blanc "B" was the New World wine, namely, 2009 Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc.

Jerome Philippon, the Philippine distributor of the wines of Vincent Pinard (above with Louie & Maritess Lee and Guido d'Argensio), didn't look overly surprised. In fairness, however, neither was I. As regards the pairing dish, on it's own it was quite unremarkable, if not outright uninteresting. With the wines, though, it was nothing less than a masterpiece - different composite flavors coming alive with each wine. My compliments to the chefs; it was undoubtedly one of the most skillful, if not the most skilful, interplay of flavors a single dish for two different wines that I have ever had.

Next was the pinot noir pairing; the dish being...

Sweetbreads w/ Bonito Purée, Spring Vegetables & a Truffle Jus.

Pinot Noir "A", on the one hand, I found comparatively clunky/chunky/blocky in its overly concentrated, dense and extracted fruit. I, further, felt that its considerable alcoholic level threw it out of balance even more. This is not how I personally prefer pinot noir. Pinot Noir "B", on the other hand, to me was, at first blush, purer in fruit, more refined and balanced. I, naturally preferred Pinot Noir "B" and guessed it to be the Old World Wine. The results were:

11 out of 26 (42.30%) preferred Pinot Noir "A" (i.e., 2008 Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir) and 15 (57.70%) preferred Pinot Noir "B" (i.e., 2008 Faiveley Nuits St. Georges Vignes Rondes). 21 of the 26 participants (80.77%) were able to correctly identify Pinot Noir "B" as the Old World wine.

Dong Puno, Freddy Pio de Roda & Rene Fuentes, Sr.

Bernie Sim, David Ong & Oscar Ong.

Perfectly executed Rack of Lamb w/ Risotto was then served for the pair of Malbecs. Several, including myself, noted that they were served in non-identical glasses - which is a fundamental no-no in comparative blind tastings. CAV was full that night, though, so there was a shortage of identical glasses - so it couldn't be helped, and we soldiered on.

Malbec "A", to me, seemed a bit shy, restrained and lacking in heft for a malbec (not that I have any depth of experience with malbec wines). Though it was quite acceptable as a pairing, alongside the more forward, indulgent, full, lushly ripe and nicely layered Malbec "B", I went for the latter and guessed it to be the Old World Cahors. I was wrong. The results were:

Malbec "A" was the Old World wine (2006 Château Lamartine Cahors Cuvée Particulière) and Malbec "B" was the New World wine (2008 Achával-Ferrer Malbec [from Mendoza, Argentina]) and I was the only one who guessed that the latter was from the Old World. 18 of the 26 participants (69.23%) preferred the Old World (Cahors, Southwest France) wine.

Like the preferred Sancerre, Jerome Philippon's Sommelier Selection distributes the preferred malbec. This time, though, he was visibly elated by his wine's triumph. The Old World, thus far, had been consistently preferred by the group.

France had already clearly made a and strong statement for the Old World.

The Old & New World Reds.

With the cheese course of Gorgonzola w/ Asian Pear Mustard & Walnut Toast, came the pair of fortified wines. Fortified Wine "A", the lighter colored one, seemed more ready to drink, more "together", showing some dried sultanas, lemon drop in its svelte body; while Fortified Wine "B", to me, was a bit too sweet and had a diffuse feel to its redder fruit flavors. With the gorgonzola, I much preferred Fortified Wine "A" and guessed it to be the Old World wine. Wrong again. The results were as follows:

Fortified Wine "B" was the Old World wine; i.e., Ferreira Quinta do Porto 10-Year Old Tawny Port (Portugal). Fortified Wine "A" was the New World wine, namely, Seppeltsfield 10-Year Old Para Grand (Australia). 17 of the 26 participants (65.38%) preferred the New World fortified wine; and, only 2 (7.7%), namely Bernie Sim & Jay Labrador, were able to identify the wines correctly. Thus, Seppeltsfield garnered the only comparative preference for the New World that evening.

Richard Joye, Jay Labrador & Bernie Sim.

Delectable Mignardises followed.

After some discussion of the results, Bill Stone & Jay Labrador called out and congratulated Chef Bjoern van den Oever, who, with Chef Markus Gfeller (not around at the time), created and executed the nights impressive pairing menu.

Jay, Chef Bjoern van den Oever & Bill.

The entire kitchen crew received a hearty round of well-deserved applause.

The evening officially over, we, the few and persistent,
lingered over espressos and the rest of the wines.

Lovely evening. I must note that the food at CAV has been consistently impressive since Chef Bjoern van den Oever's been around. Congratulations to the IWFS Board, especially Jay Labrador, for such a wonderful and interesting evening. Then, as always, until the next!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lunch for/with Anthony Hwang (Domaine Huet l'Échansonne) @ Masseto.

This past Monday, the 16th May 2011, was lunch at Masseto for visiting Philippine born, now New York-based winery owner Anthony Hwang. It was a smallish affair with barely 15 persons in all. Though known more for his jewel of Vouvray, Domaine Huet, not very many know that Anthony also owns Domaine Királyudvar of Hungary.

Host Jojo Madrid, Jay Labrador, Anthony Hwang & David Celdran.

David Ong & Felicia Atienza.

I arrived pretty much on time but many were already there: among others, IWFS President & Wine Master Bernie Sim, Freddy Pio de Roda, Michael Uytengsu and some friends from the Peninsula Hotel (photo above). Assorted pica-picas were being served with cool glasses of...

2008 Domaine Királyudvar Tokaji Furmint Sec - I have virtually no experience with dry Hungarian furmint secs, save for the broad, masculine and overtly oaked 2003 vintage of Vega Sicilia owned Oremus Mandolás Tokaji Sec which I paired once with raclette. The subject furmint sec, in contrast, is notably svelte, crisp, purer, cleaner and evidently very well-focused with dry white peach, white florality, hint of white grapefruit and an alluring cold, wet stone nuance. Lean, clean, dry and pure, it also has lip-smacking, appetite enhancing acidity. More complex than one's usual summer wine, this is perfect for our weather - all two seasons of it. Nice.

I was introduced to Anthony and who has a soft-spoken, polite, friendly, unassuming, quietly confident air about him. His depth of knowledge is gently shared; there is nothing didactic about this elegant man's conversation. He also spoke a bit in Filipino which he remembers well (though he hardly ever visits), which I found quite disarming.

We were eventually called to table where Jojo gave a brief introduction...

...and turned the floor over to Anthony.

Anthony spoke on the histories of Huet and Királyudvar, the factual details to be found at the herein-linked websites. The common underlying philosophy, however, is respect for terroir and vines (Huet was certified biodynamic over 20 years ago, while Királyudvar adopted biodynamic viticulture in 2008) and using modern, non-intrusive methods to let the wines achieve their greatest potential. I, personally have always appreciated Huet's wines, even before I visited the Loire. For Vouvray wines, while there are, undoubtedly other fine producers, in my opinion, one wouldn't be missing all that much if one were to stick solely to Huet for one's Vouvray fixes.

The Menu

With the Sole, Brown Butter Lemon Sauce & French Beans, we had the 2009 Huet Clos de Bourg Sec. I've had this before at Jojo's Huet Tasting early January of this year during which we had it alongside the 2009 Le Haut-Lieu Sec and the 2006 Huët Vouvray Le Mont Sec. My notes then were as follows (vis-à-vis the 2009 Le Haut-Lieu Sec):

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.
The subject wine was a fine match for the dish. While the 2009 Le Haut-Lieu may have been an acceptable match for the Sole per se, the beurre noisette would have called for something with a little more roundness and heft, which the subject Clos de Bourg aptly supplied. The wine's stony tension and rounded heft played nicely with the nutty browned butter. I had 2 glasses with this course. Lovely.

With the Spaghettini alle Vongole, we had the 2008 Huet Le Haut-Lieu Demi-Sec - Subtle talc/baby powder and white flowers gently infuse the deftly honey-touched quince/citrus/stone fruit. Thrilling acidity. Precise heft. Wonderful balance. Excellent with the main/pasta course. The vaguely sulfuric topnote I detected in the bottle at the mentioned January tasting was not present. Loved the wine; loved the dish; loved them together.

With the Cheese Platter and the 2009 Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moelleux, I naturally focused on the chèvre (a major product of the Loire and a natural, regional pairing for their chenin blanc and sauvignon blancs). The subject wine, a molleux, is inherently/comparatively deeper, creamier-fruited, more honeyed and roundedly heftier. Through all this, the healthy acidity and pureness of fruit (the honeyed quince notes picked up the membrillo) kept it finely balanced and precisely poised.

Dessert was a generously portioned Chocolate Hazelnut Tart which was paired with the 2007 Királyudvar Cuvée Ilona - Botrytis-touched, late harvested furmint and hárslevelű, per Anthony. This special cuvée is named after his wife, Evelyn (evidently, "Ilona" is the Hungarian equivalent of "Evelyn"). There is a difficult to describe sweetish/floral/vaguely banana-like topnote to the slightly spicy wild honey, preserved apricot, candied orange rind, macerated ripe pear, slight lemon custard and vanilla bean. Good lushness and palate-push, but nothing over the top at all. Again, its acidity and general sense of poise make for admirable balance and harmony.

It was an absolute pleasure to have met and spent some time with Anthony, as well as revisit the current releases in the Philippine market (Premium Wine Exchange is the local distributor of Huet and Királyudvar). Thanks to Jojo for inviting me. Until the next....