Friday, June 24, 2011

Russian River Night @ The Tasting Room.

Last night, the 23rd June 2011, was at The Tasting Room for a special session of Russian River Ales. These ales are very highly rated and, actually, Jimmyton's Global Beer Exchange doesn't even carry these. Jim just brought some back from a recent trip to California so we could all taste them.

We were to be 9 in all, but Alex and Richard were delayed due to the traffic the rains brought. Above, aside from myself, the early birds were Tonji, the Ancheta sisters, Jim, Miguel and Sylvia. We decided to wait for the others, so Jim popped open a couple of bottles to warm us up.

My favorite Rogue Juniper Pale Ale & Miguel's favored Stone Pale Ale.

With these, we had platters of Jamón Serrano, Vela de Lomo, etc. I've written about the Rogue Juniper Pale Ale many times before, so there is no need to repeat myself. The Stone Pale Ale is a clean, refreshing hoppy ale with a light, underlying maltiness. Very nice indeed. I can see why Miguel favors this. Both were nice with the deli.

After a more than decent wait, we decided to start on the featured ales, saving some for the others, naturally.

The lecture begins...

...followed by the precision pours.

A pair of Russian River Temptation.

These are "wild ales" per Jim, but I forgot to ask him what that meant. Both were aged for 12 months in chardonnay barrels. One was a new release , the other a year bottle-aged already. Both are very dry and hoppy with notes of sour apple, white grapefruit and a hint of calamansi. The younger one's citrus was quite aggressive and had a prominent yeasty touch to it. The aged one was comparatively quite mellow (much more ready to drink to my mind), and the citrus was mild - emerging more towards the back and finish. Most of us found it a bit strange and too different, but Tonji (who knows much more about beer than I) liked them and said they would be good for the beach or on a hot day.

Richard finally arrives in raincoat and sandals
- not really the ideal footwear for Philippine flash flood weather.

Of course, he immediately got down to "business".

A pair of Russian River Consecration.

Like the Temptation, one was a new release and the other a year bottle-aged. These were oak aged and flavored with currants - like a cabernet sauvignon ale, per Jim. Both reminded me of kir but made with beer instead of white wine. I think most of us found them a bit too weird - descriptors of champoy and kiamoy were mentioned. I seem to remember that Richard and Miguel mentioned that there were summer drinks of beer mixed with fruit liqueur in Switzerland and Spain. I've never tried them though.

This double IPA Russian River Pliny the Elder, named after the Roman scholar and writer, Gaius Plinius Secundus, was an absolute hit with the group. We all loved it and, for Tonji, Richard and I, was clearly the beer of the night. It is powerful, yes, but so refreshing, smooth and balanced in its malt, hops, citrus and yellow apricot reminiscent flavors. Excellent, excellent brew. I've read and heard a lot of good things about this beer, and it certainly did not disappoint. What a great treat! Thanks for bringing this in, Jim!

Tonji was actually the one who introduced me to
Jim's craft beers and assorted Belgian ales several years ago.

He's always had the habit of asking such strange yet thought-provoking questions.

The Russian River Ale tasting done, we moved onto a new line of Jim, the Ballast Point Sea Monster Imperial Stout. Roasted malt, just a hint of arnibal, bit of chocolate, black coffee, dried fruitiness, underlying oatmeal, nicely rounded and pliant on the palate. Again, there is notable balance to this; nothing juts out, no angles. Very, very nice indeed. I can very easily get into this stout. In the meantime, Alex and our pizzas had arrived.

Since I wasn't able to attend the last Rogue event, I simply had to have the two releases that I missed, namely, the Rogue John John Dead Guy Ale and the Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager. The John John Dead Guy is, as I understand, a barrel aged release of my favorite Dead Guy Ale. It is similar in power and flavor, but with seemingly slightly more heft, punch and slight notes of caramel and vanilla. The Chatoe Dirtoir Black Lager, on the other hand, displays an alluring deep roasted maltiness that I find delicious and dangerously easy to slug down. I had to watch it, though, as I noticed I was already swaying a bit when I went outside for a quick smoke. Needless to state, both are on my beer re-stocking list.

By that time conversation was flying, about the environment, birds, mining, investments, foreign exchange, what-have-you - peppered with a lot of good-natured teasing and a lot of laughs.

Jim and I then had a bottle each of the Rogue XS Barely Wine - the first barley wine I've ever had. I was already quite hit by that time, so, honestly, I don't really remember how it tasted; I just know I finished the bottle. I'll have to try this again for proper notes. Jim showed a lot of restraint - well, and sleepiness too; so he took his leave and headed on home. We lingered for a couple of hours or so more and I got home at around 1am. It was yet another fun-and-beer-filled night at The Tasting Room.

Until the next!

Fathers' Day 2011 @ Home.

This past Sunday, the 19th June 2011, was dinner at home for my dad to celebrate Fathers' Day. I, unfortunately, missed my father-in-law's lunch at his place since I was stuck at the dentist's office having a root canal procedure. Dinner was simple, but good. Catha had the maids prepare a few pica-picas of, among others, Olives, Hummus & Pita Bread, Eggplant Pizza and Sobresada w/ Baguettes, which we had with...

Bodegas Hidalgo Palo Cortado Wellington 30 Años Sherry - I was (and actually still am) on painkillers, so I had but a small glass of this late in the evening. Alluring bouquet, with gliding, walnut, rancio notes to its dry, preserved fruit flavors. Very, very nice. Catha and Chako really liked this.


My sons with my only direct, blood niece, Anne Suyin, who is in town for vacation.

All of us with my dad.

My sister, Pia, Yin's mom, was, and is still in Indianapolis as she had to stay and attend to her recently-opened allergy clinic; while, Harry, my brother-in-law, was out of town for a few days on a diving trip with his old friends. Pia called, though, to greet dad and chat with Yin.

Yin with my other sis, Reena.

Dinner proper started with some Salad Greens with Candied Pili Nuts, Craisins, etc. prepared by Catha. No photo though as I was still in the kitchen at the time cooking the main course.

After the salad, Chako goes for some of the...

Prawn Pasta made by my dad's cook. This was pretty good and timely since I could chew it
despite my aching teeth.

Above is the platter of Pan-Seared Magret de Canard by me (mostly rare, some medium rare). I also made a quick pan sauce with the duck fond, bit of duck fat, balsamic vinegar (reduced) and honey. The others seemed to like it a lot. I recall Yin liked it especially with the sauce and Tad's specialty Rosemary Potatoes.

Because of the duck's rich sauce, I decided to open a bold, young Bdx from a big, ripe vintage, namely a bottle of 2005 Château Pouget, a 4th Growth from Margaux given to me by Aaron. I decanted this for only about an hour before service. I couldn't really drink because of my meds, but I did have a tiny bit that showed big, bold rich aromas and flavors of crème de cassis, kirsch, licorice, vanilla/oak, bit of cedar, violets and some underlying warm asphalt. Big, concentrated, dense, viscous, mouth-filling, modern and still quite primary. It definitely had the stuffing for the duck and its sauce though. Desserts were...

...Rum Cake,

Key Lime Pie (from the Blue Kitchen), and...

Chocolate Cake from the Diamond Hotel
Renzo & Yinny at the dessert table.

Dad, Reena, Yinny, Mauro & Renzo.

Tad, Chako & Catha

Yinny really likes Sparky, and the feeling is apparently mutual.
Here, Yin gives Sparky a tummy rub.

After dinner, we all had some shots of Pacharán. This bottle was a gift from Miguel - a personalized bottle no less. Tad and Dad had seconds, so I'm pretty sure they liked it. I didn't have any, though, as I was afraid that my stomach would react badly to a digestif with all the meds. I still have a lot of it, so no worries - as I've often said, it's not really all about wine and food, but the company one shares them with.

The kids wound up the night playing Wii Sport Tennis after Dad, Reena, Tad & Chako left. They would have played way past midnight, I expect, but I told them to continue the next day as I wasn't sure if Yin was used to staying up so late. They obviously had a lot of fun though. Until the next!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Aaron's Birthday Lunch 2011 @ Mamou.

Friday lunch, the 17th June 2011, was at Mamou hosted by Aaron for his birthday. Miguel and I were the first to arrive; Aaron followed within 15 minutes. We were 5 in all for lunch (Aaron, Greg, J-Lab, Miguel & myself) and were complete before half past noon. Rene was at a working lunch but would follow afterwards; while the Stockbroker, unfortunately, was stuck in a day-long seminar on corporate good governance. Unless otherwise stated, the bottles were from Aaron.

As usual, the meal kicked off with a bottle of bubbly - in this instance, we had...

2009 Agustí Torreló Mata - This rosado cava ("rosat" in the dialect of Catalunya) is quite dry, with decent frothiness, dominated by strawberry, cherry and some hints of red currant. Pleasant enough as an apéritif albeit rather straightforward and not really very distinctive. Still and all, it made for a perfectly acceptable welcome drink and birthday toast - and Aaron thought it went pretty well with the...

...Spaghetti Bottarga, of which we quickly wiped out no less than 3 orders.

With this favorite dish, we had one of our usual pairings in a bottle of Piedmontese white.

A few days before the lunch, Miguel and I were discussing what to bring for the bottarga pasta. After a few minutes, we decided not to fix what isn't broke, so I brought along yet another bottle of the 2009 Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis to pair with the dish. I've written about this wine so many times, I need not now repeat myself. It is such a pity that this particular Giacosa wine is not available locally. It's through Miguel that I have these bottles and my stock thereof is quickly dwindling.

I brought an aged, traditional Riojan gran reserva as Aaron's birthday gift - it wasn't opened since we had more than enough bottles as it was.

The steaks are served.

We had slabs of 28-Day Dry-Aged US Prime T-Bones. Tragically, I had a terrible toothache since early that morning and could manage only a few small bites. I had a decent helping of the spaghetti bottarga, but chewing even that was very painful.

The Reds.

1964 Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva - Aaron got this direct from the producer's cellars, flown in by Miguel during his most recent trip. Typical bouquet of an old tinto Riojano, with cedar, violets, red fruit, slight orange peel, slight balsamico with suggestions of ceps and lavender. Mirorred on the palate on a medium body, discreet old, clean leather and wood spice in attendance. The wine is in very good shape and was a real treat by its own merit, by any account.

It was impossible for Aaron and I, though, to keep from mentally comparing it to the 1964 Faustino I Gran Reserva. The '64 Monte real GR had marginally more heft in the middle than the '64 Faustino I GR, but, to me, the latter has more definitive presence in both nose and mouth, plus, is more giving and complex. I recall Aaron shared my view. As neither of these aged beauties could stand up to Mamou's opulent steaks, I had my share after the main course.

2001 Château Lynch Bages - Greg's bottle. This stood up to the steaks well. 2001 is, in my opinion, generally under-appreciated as it was overshadowed by all the hype of the increasingly hotly ripe/roasted 2000, 2003 and 2005. Very confident, nicely ripe dark fruit, kirsch, crème de cassis laced with nuances of mint, new leather, bit of vanilla & dark chocolate, underlying asphalt and some cedar. At this young stage, it has a rather modern, dense, roundedly full Napa-esque slant to it - but this, to me, just helped it go wit the steaks. Quite enjoyable as a pairing.

As I had taken a good dose of pain suppressants due to a very bad toothache and had an afternoon dental appointment (I anticipated either a root canal or extraction procedure), I reluctantly gave Aaron's 2005 Château Montrose and 1978 Bodegas Campillo Gran Reserva as pass.

Though in great pain (chewing even the pasta was very difficult for me), I simply couldn't pass up the dessert and pairing wine.

1971 Bodegas Toro Albalá Don PX Gran Reserva - Miguel's bottle, one he picked up at the Lavinia wine shop near his place in Barcelona. I happened to be with him at the time and also picked up a bottle that we immediately drank in his sala after a great seafood lunch at Ribera Manero together with Tita Rose (Mig's mom) and Catha.

Then, as now, the wine displays "(t)ypical pedro ximenez scents and flavors of molasses, dates, raisins, toffee, cinnamon, vanilla with a hint of licorice. Incredibly fresh and young at almost (now) 40 years from vintage." I noted that it seems fresher and even more youthful than the 1982 version of the same wine that the Stockbroker opened at the Usual Suspects' Pre-Christmas Lunch 2009 at La Tienda.

With Mamou's excellent Pecan Pie, this was a perfect example of a run-with-the-ball pairing. Decadent, extravagant, over-the-top even; but a damned good pairing.

Both Malou and Annie were there that day. Greg had mentioned to Malou that it was Aaron's birthday, so he was given a little Red Velvet Cake and a rousing chorus of the Happy Birthday Song by the waiters, complete with a closing round of applause.

Rene had finally arrived by then, just in time to share in the 1978 Campillo Gran Reserva with the platters of Grana Padano & Fuet and the dessert pairing.

In the Spanish style, cava was served again at the end of the meal (JC told me before that this is done for the after dinner toasts and speeches). This time it was a bottle of Bodegas Agustí Torelló Kripta Cava - the high-end cava bottling of Agustí Torelló. The bottle is shaped like ancient Greek/Roman amorphae, i.e., vessels in which certain goods, including wine, were transported. Moderate mousse, mellow flavors of mild lime, young haricots verts and underlying calamansi bitterness (not the sourness). Nice enough, but I'd personally have Freixenet's Reserva Real over this any day of the week.

Time was not on my side, however, and, by then, I had to rush off back south for my much-needed dental appointment. The guys, Greg told me, lingered for an hour and a half more. Toothache aside, it was an excellent and generous birthday treat.

Happy Birthday & many thanks again, Aaron! As always, until the next!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pizza & Craft Beer Night w/ the Alabang Group.

Dinner Friday before last, the 10th June 2011, was Pizza & Beer Night @ Kenny & Lisa's with some of the Alabang group. Boozze, Ken and Tonji host these dinners every so often and it's been quite a while since I've been to one. Ken & Lisa live just a couple of blocks away and I can easily walk to their place, but, due to the recent rainy nights, I took a car there.

Aside from our hosts, Boozze & Margarita, Sylvia sans Tonji (who was at a highschool class reunion), Toñico sans Yvonne, and Manish & Anna were already making headway into the pica-picas of assorted hams, cheeses and nuts. Catha followed shortly thereafter. Ken quickly handed me a large frozen margarita as a welcome drink. It must have been at least 25 years since I even tasted a margarita, frozen or otherwise, but it was pretty refreshing and, it having been a long week, I finished it in a few minutes. Refreshing and perky enough, but mixed drinks have never really been my style.

Rogue Dead Guys from Ken and
my very last bomber of Rogue Double Dead Guy.

Happily, I found that Ken's large coolers were well-stocked with various craft beers distributed by Jimmyton's Global Beer Exchange. Regular readers know that I and my teenagers drink a lot of his ales and that Jim is a friend with whom I've been drinking pretty regularly for the past year - but that's not why I stock a lot of his ales at home. The simple truth is that, aside from some trappist ales that Tonji introduced me to several years ago, I've only really ever known the beers of San Miguel, which, though refreshing enough after a golf game and quite nice with sisig and buffalo wings, have, through the years, become to me, well, one dimensional. Two at best.

The above-depicted Rogue Dead Guys and Double Dead Guy are among my very favorites. Very flavorful, dry, full, deep, complex, powerful yet smooth, fresh and eminently gulpable (I downed my first bottle of Dead Guy in four quick draws), there is really no comparison with SMB's stuff. Ok, so they cost a bit more; but, believe me, they are well worth it.

Ken and Manish showed off their respective pizza prowess by making us various tasty pies. I was quite impressed. In addition, Ken had out a huge bowl of salad and some juicy roast chicken for whoever cared. I stuck mainly to the pizzas, salad and hams though - they made drinking the ales so much more enjoyable...

...and, apparently, more effective as well.

The main meal over, I started opening some heftier ales I brought along to lead into and, possibly, pair with the desserts - among which were...

...Filipinos chocolate biscuits that Toñico brought home from Spain, and...

...Margarita's excellent homemade Tiramisu
which someone took a slice of before I could photograph.

The Rogue John John Hazelnut Brown Nectar Ale is a slightly over medium-bodied, off-dry ale aged in hazelnut spice rum barrels which shows moderately malty, slight hoppiness, very mild caramel, bit of milk chocolate and underlying toasted hazelnuts. Yummy stuff.

The following ale was a stout, inherently bigger, heftier and robustly rounded. The Southern Tier "Jahva" Imperial Coffee Stout is rich, opulent, mouth-filling with deep, bombastic flavors of roasted coffee beans, bit of semi-sweet cocoa, just a hint of vanilla bean and moderate roasted malt. Expansive, broad and long. This is rich in hops which, as explained Jim, is a natural sedative - the reason it delivers to me such a mellow hit that precedes a long, deep night's sleep.

Last, but certainly by no means the least, I opened a couple of my treasured bottles of Highway 78 Scotch Ale. This is a very limited release/production ale as it is the product of a collaboration among three highly respected producers, namely, Stone, Green Flash and Pizza Port. Consistent with my previous notes, this is "complex with a sweetish, scotch lilt to its mildly roasted malt, bit of caramel, nuances of molasses, toffee, dried fig, nuts, slight chocolate - all very well-knit." Serious stuff indeed.

In the meantime, conversation had turned to village politics, a topic that always results in, say, vigorous discussion. Tonji eventually showed up around midnight, heavily lacquered, naturally. I left the others to their politically flavored, alcohol fueled debate and headed home. After all, I didn't want to waste the effect of all the hops. God knows I need my sleep.