Sunday, December 30, 2012

Belated Christmas Dinner w/ Rocky & Apple.

Rocky & Apple, longtime friends based in Hillsborough, Ca, are in town as they always are for the Christmas holidays. Busy with their respective families' affairs, we had our usual Christmas dinner together a bit late this year, last night, Friday the 28th December 2012. Catha chose Impressions as the venue since Rocky & Apple hadn't tried it out yet, and because she wanted to try out Cyrille's pithiviers of wild French pigeon since I told her so much about it. It took only a text message or two with Cyrille, and we were all set.

Amuse bouche

Our 1st course was Cyrille's signature Terrine of Duck Foie Gras & Unagi, Cubes of Aspic Lemon Confit and Red Cabbage Foam in Teriyaki Jam which we enjoyed with a bottle of 2005 Champagne Mailly Grand Cru "L'Air" - a gift from Juan Carlos & Mari de Terry (muchisimas gracias, JC y Mari). This is the first time I've had anything from this producer - a cooperative of grand cru vineyard growers established at the end of the 1920s.

It's fruit (green apple, touches of pear and lemon, bit of underlying ripe grapefruit towards the back and in the finish) is markedly lively, fresh, and pure. The grapefruit emerges past mid-palate and extends through the finish. Its middle shows a vaguely milky pinot noir underbelly. Still very young, but already very enjoyable. Dry and lively, with brisk acidity, it did very well with...

...our excellent 2nd course of Tartine Iodée of Sea Urchin, Scallops and Oysters, Assorted Cress, Sea Urchin Parfait in Cucumber Confit. This, like the 1st course, is on the regular menu. Anyone who likes fresh seafood should try this out with a good, dry champagne. Lovely.

So good it deserves another close up shot.

The 3rd course is not on the regular menu, but something Cyrille devised earlier that evening and whipped up for us - Seared Scallops with Black Truffle Spears & Chestnut Mousse. As can be seen, the scallops were perfectly seared, with the black truffle spears adding a discreet earthiness and a bit of textural contrast.

With this I paired a bottle of 2001 Louis Jadot Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes - A richer, riper type of Puligny Montrachet, it shows a Meursault-reminiscent nuttiness/beurre noisette to its rigid-backboned, somewhat forward, lightly spiced, ample ripe fruit. Acidity is moderate, sufficient (but not bright enough, to my mind had I paired it with the 1st course or with fresh oysters). The oak is moderate and well-integrated. Quite nice, actually - certainly one of the better 1er cru Puligny Montrachets locally available. Got this at Bacchus Int'l. I shall get more.

Our 4th (and main) course was of fowl - Cyrille's Pithiviers of French Wild Pigeon & Duck Foie Gras with Asparagus Spears, French Morels, Chanterelles, & Truffle Jus. Absolutely wonderful - a showcase of comfort, earthiness, heartiness and commitment to high-quality ingredients. Sublime.

With this earthy masterpiece, I paired a 1981 Vieux Château Certan - Notable depth and somber power in its dark, properly ripe/concentrated midnight plum, dark raspberry and black cherry, bit of smokiness, discreet underlying loam, worn leather, warm asphalt, moist pipe tobacco, cedar, and violets. Dry. Good structure. Quietly full-bodied. Decent length. Quite nice, in good condition at 31 years from vintage, and, I'd guess at its peak. I'll get more of this for short-term consumption/enjoyment.

Catha, Apple, Cyrille, & Rocky.
One of two platters of Samplers of Impressions' Signature Desserts.

We chatted until around 10:30pm, and, for Rocky's single malt fix (he's really into single malts these days), proceeded to Bar M, which, unfortunately, was closed. We then moved on to The Blind Pig for nightcaps (where Rocky did get some single malt), calling it a night by around 2:30am. Wonderful evening with longtime friends, excellent food, and fine wine. Until the next!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wine Lunch for Keiichi.

Lunch today, the 27th December 2012, was called for by Tokyo-based Usual Suspect, Keiichi Miki, who is in town for the holidays. I was at my Makati office this morning, so just took a leisurely 2 minute walk over to the Mandarin Oriental Manila's Tivoli at noon. Since some of the Usual Suspects were either on off on vacation or too busy at work, we were only 6 for lunch: Keiichi, Jojo, J-Lab, Richard, Alex, & myself.

We started off with flutes of 1999 Champagne Gosset Grand Millésime - J-Lab's bottle (he's the group's champagne expert, so bubbly duty is usually/rightfully left to him). Floral and pastry notes on the nose, luxurious and markedly expressive on the palate. Notable heft, roundness, and hedonism in its ripe, bright fruit, almond cream, slight vanilla, and pastry. Precise acid balance keeps things fresh and interesting. This is definitely the most impressive and enjoyable champagne from vintage 1999 I've come across to date - an excellent way to start off any meal. Loved it.

With my first course of Salmon & Whitefish Sashimi, Richard served the first white blind. I noted it was sauvignon blanc-dominant with gooseberries and toasty-nutty topnotes in the bouquet. Keiichi and Alex immediately guessed it to be a Bordeaux blanc, with Keiichi going so far as to calling it out as a Haut Brion Blanc. Richard then unveiled his 1984 Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux (brought over from his collection in Switzerland) - a white made by this 1855 first growth producer every once in a while, not every vintage. Medium-bodied, it fleshed out later as it warmed, showing properly restrained scents and flavors of mild gooseberry, bit of pear, whisper of peach, with the citrus, peach pit, and citrus rind emerging past mid-palate. Good acid balance. Dry and nutty, it was a good match for my fresh fish.

The next white was from Keiichi, a 2006 Clos de la Coulée de Serrant - a naturally chenin blanc based Savennières (an appellation in the north-western portion of Anjou et Saumur, west of center in the Loire) by Nicolas Joly. Racy, zippy, bright, lively, alluringly spicy, a bit off-dry, wild honey touched ripe apricot, pineapple, bit of peach, underpinned by marzipan. The fruit is off-dry and soft, but balanced well by its acidity. Notable complexity; very intriguing personality. This wine keeps making me want to drink it.

For my main course, I tried out the Txogitxu Beef that I've not seen on the Tivoli's menu before - rib-eye for me, rare. From its name, I immediately figured it hails from the Basque country. A quick check on the web shows that Txogitxu is a producer of branded beef based in San Sebastian. Like a lot of Spanish (and even French charolais beef) I've tried, it has, for lack of a better term, a very "beefy", grass-fed flavor - not as fatty as the better US beef I am used to, but, for its relatively reasonable price of P500/100gms at the Tivoli, it is good enough.

Jojo and Keiichi had the Roasted Chicken (for two), which was served tableside. The reds were:

1988 & 1998 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape - from me; I particularly wanted to try these vintages side by side. Unfortunately, the 1998 Beaucastel was corked (more apparent in the nose than on the palate, but definitely corked), and, perforce, immediately set aside. The 1988, however, was in fine form.

Around halfway between medium and full body, smooth and relatively light-footed, it presented a bouquet and flavors of animal-themed (wild boar in particular) in its moderately raunchy, deep, leather-laced black cherry, blackberry, dark raspberry, underlying blackcurrant, gamy roasted meat, bit of licorice, roasted herbs, and tobacco leaf. I'm not really that into CdPs these days, but I loved it. Shame about the 1998 though, but it happens.

1989 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St-Jacques - Keiichi's bottle, yet another special treat. Silken, mild sous bois, bit of loam, ceps, violets in its deep, layered, black cherry, raspberry, and underlying dark plum with a whisper of cola and moderate dark minerality. A natural balance. Somber, serious, wonderful. I haven't had a red Burg this good this year. Domo arigato, Keiichi-san.

1996 E. Guigal Côte Rôtie La Landonne - Jojo's bottle. Meat, smoke, and oak spice infused, rich, concentrated, full-bodied, very ripe (almost jammy, but not quite) dark cherries, raspberries, leather, mild black pepper, dried thyme, lavender, violets. Smoothly muscled. This wine makes a definitive statement from the attack to its long, strong finish. Oak well-integrated. Complex. Decidedly masculine. Impressive. Though all reds went well with my Basque rib-eye, this, because of its quiet power, went best.

The last red, but certainly not the least by far, was a fine specimen of a Margaux: 1986 Château Palmer - from Alex. Another silently serious, masculine wine with particularly notable freshness at 26 years from vintage. Wonderfully balanced, smoothly full-bodied, molten dark fruit, walnuts, pipe tobacco, warm black gravel, bit of anise, clean leather, hint of truffles. Impressive depth in this. I could fall into this wine and you'd never find me. Loved it.

Platters of cheeses and walnuts to finish off the reds.
Cheers to the coming new year from Keiichi, Jojo, J-Lab, Alex, & Richard. 

Since Kiplings had yet to open by the time we finished, we settled at the Manila Peninsula's bar and had our cigars (a Ramon Allones Specially Selected Robusto for me, courtesy of Alex - thanks, bud) and coffee there (resisting Alex's single malt temptations). What an excellent lunch. Many thanks again for the excellent wines and company, guys. Here's to a happy and prosperous New Year! Until the next!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Craft Beers for the Supposed End of the World.

In anticipation of the widely publicized, supposed end of the world, a bunch of us craft beer loving friends gathered at The Bottle Shop at the ground floor of the Tritan Ventures Building in Paseo de Magallanes, Makati on Thursday, the 20th December 2012. My intention was to thumb my nose at alleged armageddon with a glass of Unibroue's La Fin du Monde in my other hand, while enjoying some of my favorite bar chow. My second son, Lorenzo, and his craft beer buddy, Pato, already on Christmas break, came along for the festivities.

Renzo & Pato with local craft brewer Allan Baldis Agala (left).
At around 5:30pm, we were the first ones to arrive, aside from local craft brewer Allan Baldis Agala who was pouring his Great Island Craft Beer Brewery's seasonal release of Candied Ginger Honey India Pale Ale ("IPA") on tap.

Allan gives final instructions on how to properly pull draughts.

Although pouring was supposed to start at 6pm, I started off a bit earlier with the first pint of...

...Great Island Candied Ginger Honey IPA - a dark (visually similar to a porter to me), medium-bodied, moderately hoppy IPA with flavors of moderate caramel, citrus, hint of pine, underlying citrus rind and black coffee. Later that night, Jim detected guava notes emerging. Smooth enough and accessible, the stock of 50 pints on tap were wiped out before the night's end.

The boys got a taste first, and a pint each later on.

The college boys went for an immediate taste of Global Beer Exchange's new line of Slaapmutske craft beers from Belgium, Renzo with the Slaapmutske Tripel, which he let me try out - nicely rounded, somewhat floral tripel with moderate spice and a touch of pine to its off-dry maltiness and distinctively Belgian-style candied/dried fruit-and-bubble gum notes. Very nice. I had more of it later on as Sanju shared another bottle with me.

Slaapmutske cheers to the Christmas break!
Kublai's superb Buffalo Chicken Wings, & Chorizo Sisig (no photo).
Tonji & Sylvia have a few with their son Franco.

While I had moved on to the last few bottles in stock of the highly in-demand and fast-moving Ballast Point Sculpin IPA (actually, these from Jim's personal stock - a new shipment on the way), Sanju had arrived, quickly ordered a pint, and some of The Tasting Room's in-house rich and spicy Chorizo de Bellota and creamy, nutty Manchego (supplied by Tierra de España).

The end of the world? Really? Bring it on!
Alex, the group's resident Iki Master, finally arrives.
Alex, Sanju, & Cyrene.
Metro Manila Chowhound Cyrene also made it while I was on my first bottle of Unibroue's La Fin du Monde. She started on a pint of the seasonal ale on tap and enjoyed a bit of Kublai's Chorizo Sisig.

Tita Sylvia with college boys Renzo, Pato, Rafael, & Franco.
Aku Alex tests Franco's Iki skills.
Franco slams it down easily as Tito Jim looks on with approval.
Cutie makes a belated entrance and joins in the fun.

Many, including Alex and myself, were happily chugging down the deliciously apt La Fin du Monde - Alex perhaps a bit too eagerly as he spilled some on his shirt. Cyrene opined that it would be fine though as the ale smells nice anyway.

Cheers from Kailash, Tonji, Allan, & Jim.
Unfortunately, I had to leave by 9pm as the event started heating up even more because of a morning meeting in Makati the next day. Other regulars, such as Eli, Nicole, et al., were already on their way though, ensuring the fully-packed revelry would last until the wee hours of the morning. Merry Christmas again to all! Until the next!

Saturday Dinner with the Reys.

Dinner this past Saturday, the 22nd December 2012, was with Enki & Mayette Rey at Impressions. Unfortunately, Catha couldn't join us since she had a previous dinner commitment - the birthday of a former highschool classmate. I had made reservations with Cyrille several days ahead, choosing a date he would have fresh oysters from France.

Mayette & Enki.
I arrived ahead, was immediately shown to my table, and started discussing the evening's menu with Cyrille. Enki & Mayette arrived shortly, the menu was finalized, and we started off with a bottle of straightforwardly refreshing, lively, white-and-citrus-fruited, and brightly acid balanced...

Champagne Moët & Chandon Impérial.
Mushroom-based amuse bouche.

Specifically to pair with the champagne, Enki & I split six Fine de Claire (left) and six Gillardeau (right) oysters flown in from France just the day before.

I'm sure pretty much anyone who likes oysters is familiar with Fine de Claire. Gillardeau oysters are "designer" ("branded") oysters produced by the Gillardeau family's private company (since 1898) in Normandy, France, and Cork, Ireland (these came from Normandy) - reputedly the very best in oysters that France has to offer.

Mayette, not fond of oysters, had Cyrille's signature Marbled Terrine of Duck Foie Gras & Unagi with Teriyaki Glaze for her first course.

Next, we all had Seared Scallops on a velvety, luxuriously butter-enriched, orange-laced creamy sauce. Fantastic. While we enjoyed all the dishes that night, we agreed that this was the best dish of the dinner.

For our main course, we all had the Pithiviers of French Wild Pigeon & Duck Foie Gras with Asparagus, French Morels & Truffle Jus* - a masterpiece of earthy comfort. Superb. To pair with this, I opened a bottle of 1998 Le Petit Cheval - 1998, as most every wino knows, was a very good vintage for the right bank; while Le Petit Cheval is the well-respected second wine of St-Émilion premier grand cru "A" Château Cheval Blanc. This wine is to enjoy while waiting for its big brother to mature.

I opened a bottle of this recently, during Sunday lunch at home with the Joye family on the 21st October 2012. My notes at the time were as follows:

I served the above 1998 Le Petit Cheval to Richard semi-blind (I just told him it was from St-Emilion). After a few of quick sniffs and sips, Richard guessed it to be a 2003 Cheval Blanc - a pretty impressive guess given he got the producer correctly (albeit this is the second wine) and 2003 & 1998 are both notably ripe years (the former  more than the latter). 
The subject wine possesses a remarkably enjoyable rounded, velvety mouthfeel with precise heft. The tannins molten and softly rounded. Curvaceous and pliant on the palate, especially mid-mouth. The fruit is rich, concentrated, and moderately dense (but not as dense/heavy as that of the 2000 Le Petit Cheval as I vaguely remember). Lush and loamy dark plum, very ripe black cherry, good dose of licorice, slight truffle, bit of vanilla. This is still relatively young, but already entertaining if one cannot/will not wait.
The above notes are still applicable, save that the subject bottle seemed more advanced than the last one, the rich fruit showing a slight prune character and wild cherry towards the back and in the finish, as well as a pronounced underpinning of black coffee in the middle.

* This is not on Impressions' regular menu, but Cyrille mentioned he is thinking of putting it in. I certainly hope he does.

Desserts were shared amongst us three: the above Lemon Soufflé with Vanilla-Coconut Sauce,...

...and a Sampler of Impressions' Signature Desserts.

Cyrille then joined us for a glass of red and a chat, and, before he left, arranged for us to have our double espressos and relaxed after-dinner smokes and conversation at The Genting Club next door. Many thanks to Enki & Mayette for the excellent company; and to Cyrille for yet another memorable meal! Merry Christmas to all! Until the next!