Sunday, October 30, 2011

Vega Sicilia in Manila...Again.

Back on the 10th April 2008, through the kindness of JC de Terry, I attended a stunning Vega Sicilia dinner at Terry's 2º Piso in honor of Pablo Álvarez, Vega Sicilia's Director General.

JC de Terry & Pablo Álvarez

Almost three and a half years later, on the 12th and 13th September 2011, Catha & I attended two more, both in honor of visiting Vega Sicilia Export Manager, Puri Mancebo.

Puri Mancebo

Monday, the 12th September was a wine, food and music pairing affair at Enderun College’s Restaurant 101; Chef Nicolas Cantrel’s French pairing courses marked by studied precision.

My table @ Restaurant 101 with Mikel Arriet, Catha,
David Lim, Javi Berenguer-Testa & Katrina Holigores.

Tuesday’s Spanish menu at Terry’s 2º Piso bore JC’s hallmark depth, complexity and passion.

At Terry's: Usual Suspects Rene, Aaron, J-Lab, the Stockbroker & myself.

While both menus more than did justice to the wines, the following were my standouts:

2009 Oremus Mandolás Dry Tokaji with the amuse bouche of Crema de Queso de Cabra de Poitou al Perfume de Salchichón de Montánchez y Bálsamo de Arbequina - In this marriage, the lush wine’s complex, medium-bodied vanilla-touched fruit gave brightening lift to the rich goat cheese, while its long finish intertwined gracefully with the gamey breath of salchichón (Terry's dinner).

JC w/ Pedro & Regina Roxas, Gema Garcia & Barbara Aboitiz.

2006 Pintia with Medallones de Bacalao en Camita de Lentejas Estofadas al Humo de Panceta Ibérica – The bacalao underscored the wine’s bold, warm, well-ripened, sweetish dark berries; while the earthy lentejas played nicely the wine’s judicious smoky oak-related spice undertones (Terry's dinner).

Mari de Terry, Puri Mancebo, JC & Heny Sison.

2007 Alión with Magret de Canard aux Cerises – A French classic meets a modern interpretation on Ribera del Duero. The Alión’s firm structure and masculine, self-possessed lush blackberry, black cherry, new leather, slight anise, violets and lavender notes made for a precisely balanced, naturally harmonious match (Enderun dinner).

JC w/ the Stockbroker, Bernie Sim & Freddy Pio de Roda

It was likewise up to the task for JC's generously earthy and deeply complex Falda de Ternera en Salsa Española al Tempranillo Sobre Ragú de Boletus en Crema de Cuscús al Manchego Joven (Terry's dinner).

Gema Garcia & Catha enjoying the 2000 Único at Enderun.

The 2006 Valbuena 5º was, at this point, personally my favorite of all the wines of both dinners. It went beautifully with the respective meat courses of both dinners. With Cantrel's Souris d’Agneau Braisée, remarkable depth, neat focus, clarity, polish and balance mark this quietly dignified wine, its admirable structure lending precise counterpoint to the hearty, rustic dish (Enderun dinner). Elegance in a glass.

Abba Napa had just flown in from Paris, but made sure to attend the Terry's dinner.

Vintages 2000 & 1999 of Vega Sicilia’s flagship Único were served with the cheese courses at both events: Cancoillotte from the Franche-Comté (with the 2000, Enderun dinner), and, a trio of Manchego Viejo, Fleur de Surreau and Brie de Meaux with Black Perigord Truffles (with the 1999, Terry's dinner). These wines are virtually immortal, typically released over a decade from harvest, they take many, many more years to mature; and they last for ages.

I first tried the 2000 Único a year and a half ago at Terry's (it wasn't even officially labeled yet as you can see from the above photo, the bottle a gift to JC from Pablo Álvarez) and it was understandably reticent then, needing extended breathing and swirls to elicit intricate notes of deep red cherry, black currant, strawberry, violets, new leather, some raspberry, cedar, underlying minerality, licorice and plum. Now, despite its serious structure, it is more open and accessible. The 1999, on the other hand, has an inherently friendlier personality, showing more complexity now in a comparatively warmer, softer, velvety texture.

Aaron Palileo savors some white.

Both evenings ended on the sweet, floral notes of the 2002 Oremus Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos, respectively paired with Pain Perdu aux Épices (Enderun dinner) and Una Sinfonía de Dulzáinas Hispano-Húngaras (Terry's dinner; above photo). From Vega Sicilia’s winery in the Hungarian Tokaj-Hegyalja region, this is a traditional sweet white made from botrytis cinerea affected furmint, hárslevelu and moscatel de grano menudo. Though intensely sweet with typical flavors of spicy dried/candied apricot, pineapple, peach and ripe pear with hints of vanilla and candied orange rind, it was gracefully balanced by bright acidity.

Reminiscing on these dinners, I cannot help but think how lucky we are that Vega Sicilia’s entire line is locally available in Manila, albeit in limited quantities. ¡De nuevo un millón de gracias, Sr. Don de Terry!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Stockbroker's Birthday Dinner 2011 @ Mamou Too!

This past Tuesday night, the 11th October 2011, was the Stockbroker's birthday blow-out for some of the guys. Our venue was the relatively new branch of Mamou at Rockwell, Mamou Too! All the wines came from his vast collection, including a mini-horizontal of 1996 Bordeaux rouge. We were only 5 in all since Rene had a lot of work and an early flight the next day.

I got stuck in some rush-hour Makati traffic and was the last to arrive at around 7pm. By the time I arrived, the guys had already made headway into some glasses of...

1996 Champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin La Grande Dame - My last notes on this vintage of La Grande Dame was from another of the Stockbroker's 1996 horizontals back in mid-May 2009, that time of northern Rhône reds. Those notes included even earlier notes from back on the 29th June 2008, to wit:

Last I had this was almost a year ago, on 29th June 2008, at a 1996 all 1st Growth (1855 Classification) dinner, so it was great to see how it was coming along. My last notes were as follows:

Clean, pure white fruit attack turns floral, very toasty and mildly yeasty the moment it hits mid-palate, where it expands generously and gains substantial creaminess towards the back. Sucking in a bit of air once the bubbles allow emphasizes the toastiness. This bubbly certainly wasn't shy; it was eager to please, displayed proudly mid-mouth with a funneling exit of added citrus notes.

This time, the bouquet and flavors were much more layered and complex, displaying a most alluring mix of dried apricot, sultanas, brioche and coffee, mildly toasty, honeyed with a pronounced creamy-biscuity character. There was notably more heft, mid-palate roundness and length than before as well. Excellent bubbly, it made the last one I had seem comparatively linear and simple.

This past Tuesday night, it was similar to the last time, but even more open, with oxidative and nutty notes adding even more complexity to the wine as a whole. Very nice indeed.

For the couple of orders of Pasta Bottarga, a bottle of 2004 R & V Dauvissat Chablis Premier Cru La Forest - I had a bunch of 2004 Chablis village, 1er and grand crus from various producers back in 2006 (mostly in Paris, Chablis, Beaune and Vezelay) and a few 2007 (well, maybe one or two 2008, I can't really remember now). This is surely the first 2004 Chablis I've had in 2011 though. I know I've had at least 3 Dauvissat La Forests before, 2 of which I recall from the Doc, but I can't find any of my notes thereon.

In any event, this is readily pleasing now, with a moderate, past-mid-mouth creaminess/softness to its cold steel, flinty seashell, brioche, vanilla and white flower nuanced, fresh pear and apple. On the surface and from attack there is a nice crispness; from mid-palate towards the rear the fruits' softness becomes apparent. Its good focus, neatness, decently firm/steely backbone and moderately bright acidity were enough to keep everything balanced and refreshing. Very nice.

Greg, Miguel, Aaron & the Stockbroker.

For the couple of hunks of US Prime Grade Steaks and several bowls of
Red Steak Rice...

...we enjoyed three 1996 left banks:

1996 Château Léoville Poyferré - The most full-bodied, modern, lushly/ripely fruited, concentrated and extracted of the three (lowest acidity too). Chocolate (think Raisinets or Cadbury's Fruit & Nut with the chocolate a few shades darker) on the nose and on the palate. Bit of a dried fig nuance there as well. As much a crowd-pleaser as ever it was the first I had it from the Doc at a dinner at home around 5½-6 years ago. A hedonist's Bdx rouge. Nice with the steak, immediately and undeniably pleasing and easily approachable. There is no intellectual discourse to be had here. This is for sheer pleasure - and why the hell not?

1996 Château Léoville Barton - Typically neat, trim, with not a strand of hair out of place - veddy British I'd say. Medium-bodied, clean, comparatively lean, definitely polished and refined. Clean sheets of blackcurrant, blackcherry and, towards the back, some raspberries, cedar, violets with an underlying sheet of pencil lead and dark minerality. Finish could be just a bit longer, but that's picking nits. Right and proper balanced and harmonious Léoville Barton.

1996 Château Lynch Bages - I started buying this 1996 with Tonji sometime in the early 2000s - the first time I had it was at Sylvia's parents' cabin in Tagaytay Highlands I vividly recall (How could I not? We left the coffee maker on when we left and Sylvia's mom was less than happy about that omission). Since then, I've had many, many bottles of this. Judging from this bottle, this wine has mellowed quite a bit, its previously persistent drive/push is no longer as it once was. More self-possessed, quietly complex and intellectual now - cedar, violets, whisper of camphor, underlying tobacco and gravel seamlessly intertwine its introspective dark fruit.

I had the steak mainly with the Poyferré and the Barton and Lynch Bages alone.

There were at least 6 or 7 birthday celebrations at the restaurant on the subject evening (must have been those cold January nights back then); but the Stockbroker was discreet about his. However, Greg tipped off one of the waiters, which resulted in...

...the Stockbroker's receiving a vigorous birthday serenade
and a single candle adorned mini red velvet birthday cake.

Many thanks and Happy Birthday again, buddy! Until the next!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Couscous & Rosé @ Champêtre.

Around 5-½ years ago, while researching on how to pair wines for Moroccan cuisine, I learned from a friend, Rod Schiffman (who spent a bit of time there), that rosé is typically consumed with the couscous. Being partial to regional/traditional pairings, I tried it out and have stuck to the same ever since.

Marc Aubry used to make Algerian couscous for my friends and I at Je Suis Gourmand. One had to order the dish a few days in advance since the dish wasn't on his regular menu at the time. These days, in Marc's Champêtre (same location as the old Je Suis Gourmand), Algerian couscous is now on the regular menu (each order good for 2 persons). On the 3rd September 2011, during a Saturday dinner with Catha and our children, we had it again.

As it was in Je Suis Gourmand, no meal in Champêtre is complete
without Marc's Terrine of Foie Gras.

We also had the night's special of French Chanterelles w/ Foie Gras...

...and Marc's signature Escargots à la Bourguignonne too, of course.

Our seafood course was a couple of orders of
Moules de Bouchot & Frites, the moules flown in live from Brittany.

The Algerian Couscous comes in 2 servings,
one of the couscous itself topped with lamb chops & merguez...

...and a rich, spicy broth with bits of
chicken, lamb, chick peas, some vegetables, little tomato, etc. Delicious...

...especially when paired with the 2009 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé. I drink this so often and have written about this (and a couple of previous vintages thereof) so many times that some friends joke that I am a stockholder of the producer. Suffice it to state that, to my personal tastes, Tempier produces the best rosé in the world. The Stockbroker held a side-by-side blind tasting of Tempier's and Domaine Ott 2007 rosés back in late August 2009, and the conclusion was that while both were excellent specimens of rosé, Tempier's was the more serious of the two.

The eldest's main course was the night's special
Lamb Loin w/ Risotto.

The second requested for Marc's Trio of Seafood Pasta (Chilean Sea Bass, Scallops & Prawns) which used to be on Je Suis Gourmand's regular menu but is not on Champêtre's. Marc kindly accommodated the special request though.

For everyone's information, Marc does entertain off-the-menu requests for so long as he has the ingredients available. It is always better, though, to give him a few days' advanced notice for special requests, just to make sure. For requests of dishes, the ingredients of which are not ordinarily/readily/locally available (e.g., wild pigeon, wild duck, venison, etc.), it's better to give him around around 3 weeks advanced notice.

For dessert, I had the Dark Chocolate Soufflé...

...while the second had the Lemon Soufflé (another special request). The youngest had a Butter-Dark Chocolate Mousse, but, unfortunately, my photo of it got ruined for some reason. Thanks, Marc, for yet another most excellent dinner.

Until the next!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Craft Beers @ Craft, The Fort.

Beginning the 1st September 2011, my regular craft beer Thursdays have moved from The Tasting Room to The Tasting Corner @ Craft Pub & Grill at the Fort Strip, the Fort, Taguig. It's a much, much bigger venue with a full menu and 100 kinds of the American craft beers that Jimmyton imports and distributes through his Global Beer Exchange are readily available.

Aside from having around 100 different styles of craft beers to choose from - from lighter lagers, pilsners, weißbiers, pale ales, amber ales, India Pale Ales, porters, and an array of different stouts, etc. - one can pretty much order anything there to enjoy with one's choice brews.

Having arrived past 6pm and starting off with a couple of lighter ales with Jim and Jun Villanueva, we moved to a bigger table and I ordered some of Craft's more popular bar chow choices of Buffalo Chicken Wings, "The Works" Pizza and their Rib-Eye Steak; while Jim ordered the specialty Craft Burger. We shared all these at the table with Jim's triathlete friends including Francis Panuncialman, Tricia Chiongbian-Concepcion and her hubby Guy Concepcion. Jun and I were outnumbered, so we talked about food, wine and travel, leaving the jock-speak to the others.

Hitachino Nest Pale Ale - A lighter style of pale ale with dominant citrus and white grapefruit flavors touched with some yeastiness and a whispered suggestion of sake. Very mild hoppiness and some fleeting sweet maltiness. Nice, light refreshing character. Had there been any sushi available, I would've gotten some for this. The next day or two, Jim told me I could have ordered some from KATSU, the sister restaurant next door. I'll definitely do that next I'm there.

Hitachino Nest Extra High (XH) - A manly brown ale with base flavors of dried fruits, citrus, bit of yeastiness, moderately roasted malt, with mild hops and underlying rice liqueur. This was pretty macho. I liked it alone and it actually wasn't bad at all with the rib-eye steak.

I also had a bottle of the Hitachino Nest Sweet Stout, but I forgot to take a photo of it. I don't recall much of it, but I do remember thinking that it didn't seem to have enough body to support its sweetness (kind of like an overly sweet porter if that makes any sense). I like the sweeter stouts to be fuller in body.

Anderson Valley Imperial IPA - back to more familiar territory here. I have just written about this beer: "Orange peel, slight pine and mild citrus lace this ale's smooth hoppiness and underlying maltiness. Fresh and dangerously drinkable, this went down all too easily". I've said it before; I'll say it again: "I always enjoy this beer". My recommendation? Just go for it.

Longtime friends Tonji & Sylvia Ramos & Yuan "Paella Boy" Ongpin
had joined by then.

As always, I had to have some of my favored Rogue Juniper Pale Ale. I've written about this so many times, there is no need to repeat myself. It went great with the spicy Buffalo Chicken Wings and with the chunk of Jim's Craft Burger that he shared. I also really enjoy having this particular ale with the burgers at Elbert's Steak Room. Tonji, Sylvia, Yuan and I lingered past midnight. Another fun and rainy night! Until the next!

Miguel's Birthday Lunch 2011 @ Elbert's Steak Room.

As usual, Miguel had a virtually week-long celebration for his birthday. For us this year, on the 30th August 2011, he hosted a lunch at Elbert's Steak Room. We were 5 in all: the Stockbroker, Rene, Aaron, Miguel, of course, and I. We started off with a bit of...

Anderson Valley Imperial India Pale Ale - Orange peel, slight pine and mild citrus lace this ale's smooth hoppiness and underlying maltiness. Fresh and dangerously drinkable, this went down all too easily. I always enjoy this IPA, and it went really well with the...

...Culatello di Zibello that Miguel brought back from Italy.
Next came the Salmon Tartare...

...with which we had a bottle of...

2009 Hubert Lamy St-Aubin 1er Cru en Remilly - The Stockbroker's bottle. Baked apple and pear, some citrus emerges past mid-mouth, mild minerality and a touch of honeysuckle. Clean, good balancing acidity and notable definition. Quite nice on the whole. I don't know how much this costs, but, depending on its price, this could very easily be something to watch out for. That said, if QPR is not an object, I'd say go for it.

A plate of very fresh, guilt-suppressing salad...

...for the shared 2 platters of Elbert's Cheese Steak Sandwiches for the middle...

...and the Elbert's Chef Burgers that Miguel pre-ordered a couple of days before. These special burgers are made up of US prime grade steak cuttings and whatever inspiration its Chef Adrian Cuenca at the time. I've had it several times before (mixed with marrow, foie gras, etc.), but this last one was, hands-down, the juciest, most decadent one so far.

Miguel with Chef Adrian Cuenca.

With all this succulent beefy goodness, we had at least 5 reds. The 1990 Château Gruaud Larose I gave to Miguel as a birthday gift was not opened. I didn't even get to try all the reds; but those I did were:

1996 Domaine Comte Armand Pommard Clos des Epeneaux - From the Stockbroker. Clos des Epeneaux is a premier cru monopole of Comte Armand, generally recognized as one of the very best producers of Pommard, if not the best. I first had this same wine from the Doc back on the 4th December 2007 at Tivoli. We were with the Stockbroker and Bernie Sim for a special all-game dégustation. My notes then were as follows:

From the Doc. I personally have a soft spot for these earthy, masculine reds from the Cote de Beaune (though I was somewhat disappointed with the vintage 2000 version of this wine). Quite lively yet 11 years from vintage - livelier/more youthful than I expected it to be (or could it be that my judgment was clouded by unavoidable contrast to the 2 previous wines?) - a muscular red Burg with an intriguing vague hint of iron to its hallmark earthiness. This one was comparatively much easier to analyze: a smooth compote of red fruit, red cherry and discreet ripe dark raspberry over red beet undertones - more satin than silk on the palate. Good, sturdy, solid Pommard bones and structure.

Very nice and I believe this will continue to age gracefully for another, perhaps, 5 years. Admirable ageworthiness.
Almost 4 years later, it is now more of good Thai silk than satin and I could already get the sous bois. Its bullish musculature has now smoothed out, its focus sharper, its structure still firm. Its fruit is notably softer, deeper, well-defined, spice-flecked and generally more serious and refined. More violets too. Very nice and it made me think. Good show. This bottle considered, at 15 years from vintage, I'd drink up now and in the next 4-5 years.

1995 Château Grand Puy-Lacoste - From Rene. Already quite enjoyable but still has many years left in its tank, this is one of the more open, readily expressive bottles of classed '95 left banks I've had the past couple of years. Properly Pauillac, this smoothly muscled light-heavyweight displays crème de cassis, pencil lead shavings, warm asphalt, violets, cedar and touches of vanilla and licorice. Good backbone. Good acidic balance. More complexity and depth in the years to come I'd wager.

Miguel and Rene said it was quite tannic when they first opened it so they decanted it for aeration in hopes that it would "calm down" somehow. I arrived late for the lunch so didn't get to try it out when they opened it. As above written, it seemed fine to me when I got to it around 1-½ to 2 hours later.

As regards pairing with the Chef's Burger, I vividly recall thinking that Miguel's bottle of 2001 Artadi Grandes Añadas (also decanted for about 2 hours before service) was the best match but it was difficult to drink alone. Unfortunately, I just remember that impression, the details of the wine are now forgotten, and I wasn't able to get to Aaron's bottle of 2005 Clos Mogador Manyetes Priorat.

Some of the assorted desserts.

Mig got his own little birthday cake.

Segura Viudas "Aria" Brut Nature Cava - Aaron's bottle surely as this winery forms part of the gigantic Freixenet group which his company represents. This, as I understand, is a reserva cava composed of a blend of 3 of Macabeo, 3 of Parellada and 1 of Xarel-lo. Fresh, very slighty yeasty, mildly herbaceous scents and flavors of green apple, discreet lime and vague undertones of choux pastry. Pretty frothy mouthfeel. Its clean freshness and verve made it an excellent way to clean and revive the palate after so much food and wine.

Another bottle that was saved for another occasion was Aaron's legendary tinto Riojano, no less than the 1964 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva. Even the Stockbroker told him "I'd better be around when you open that bottle!"

Final glasses & espressos at Elbert's smoking lounge.
Happy birthday again, Mig!!!