Monday, March 5, 2012

A Special Terry's Dinner: 7 January 2012.

Catha & I have always celebrated our wedding anniversaries, usually having 2 or 3 separate dinners for family, in-laws and sets of friends. This year, though, since my mom-in-law has been very ill, we just had an impromptu one on the day itself at nearby Studio Kitchen, just us (more on that some other time).

On the 7th January 2012, we held only one more, this time at Terry's 2ºPiso with some friends. Good friend and mentor in all things Spanish, JC de Terry, personally created and executed the menu, and, did all the wine pairing as well. All Catha and I had to do was walk in and enjoy with our guests.

Upon arrival, JC and Rene & Aimee Fuentes started us off with flutes of well-chilled, bright, refreshing, appetite-enhancing Masachs Cava Brut Reserva Kir Royal. In the photo above is also Escargots on Red Bean Stew, one of the delectable special pass-around tapas JC prepared for the dinner.

Rene & Aimee Fuentes with Catha & JC.

Catha & I, Jay & Lance Gokongwei, Ann & Mike Tan.

Pepper Salami "Cornet" Filled w/ Truffled Goat's Milk Cheese Cream & Dates Confit.

Tonico Climent, Johnson Uy, Sylvia & Tonji Ramos, Maricel & Maxie Abad.

Muscat Figs Wrapped in Jamón Ibérico de Bellota.

Miguel Aboitiz & Santi Araneta.

Miguel Vecin, Rene & Aimee Fuentes, Mayette & Enki Rey.

As we settled in and chatted over cocktails, JC got back to work.

Maricel Abad with Tina & Gerry de Jesus.

Home-Made Roasted Almonds.

Maite Araneta, Aimee Fuentes, Mayette & Enki Rey.

Ken Quintal & Lance Gokongwei.
By around 8:15pm, we were complete, so we took our seats for dinner proper.

The Menu.

The Pairing Wines.

The amuse bouche was Russian Style Salmon Blinis w/ Salmon Roe & Dill Mousse paired with 2010 Auzells (Costers del Segre DO) by Tomàs Cusiné. Mike and Ann commented that this was the largest amuse bouche they'd ever seen - indeed, surely for the rest of us too. The capers, onions, etc. were infused in the blini itself. I loved this. I remembered then JC's reply to his sister-in-law, Gema, when once, in the past, she commented how big his portions always are: "I do not know how to make miniature food" - and thank God for that.

The 2010 Tomàs Cusiné Auzells hails from the comarcas of Pallars Jussà, el Segrià, l'Urgell, les Garrigues, la Noguera and la Segarra within Lleida and Tarragona. The wine itself is a blend of, as I understand, macabeo (28%), viognier (25%), sauvignon blanc (19%), chardonnay (14%), parellada (7%), müller turgau (2%), muscat frontignac (2%), albariño (1.5%) and riesling (1.5%).

As such, it is really quite difficult to describe. I, personally, can recognize the viognier, chardonnay and macabeo in it (apple, yellow apricot, pear, slight peach, bit of ripe grapefruit, underlying unsweetened almond paste, hints of honeysuckle and orange blossom essence, bit of a viscous, slightly oily mouthfeel, etc.), but that's it. Has a definite, softly rounded tropical character and, though a buxomly fruity white, it is in balance. An intriguingly enjoyable one, to be sure.

Ann, watchful of Mike's eating, cautioned him to pace himself as the amuse bouche's size foreshadowed a heavy meal. Johnson, however, was undaunted.

Catha with Barbara Aboitiz.

The next course was Mediterranean Lobster-Seafood Soup Topped w/ Puff Pastry, Sprinkled w/ Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Flavored w/ Herbs - an incredibly complex soup course with a quiet, serenely balanced depth of flavors. Superb. This was paired with...

...2010 Macabeu Finca Racons Costa del Segre DOC by Tomàs Cusiné (thanks, Juan Carlos, for the photo, as I forgot to take one). This is a blend of macabeo (96%) and albariño (4%). Toasty-leesy-vanilla topnotes to this heftier, but more firmly structured white. There is a smokey, almond-creaminess to the pear, nectarine and ripe pineapple. The vanilla-oakiness is apparent, but well enough integrated. This is, apparently, higher in alcohol (13.8% abv) than the Auzells, but the former has the freshness and acidity to keep things interesting.

Maxie & Maricel Abad with Lisa Quintal.

The following Oxtail & Wild Mushroom Risotto Wrapped w/ Aged Sheep's Cheese was a runaway hit with the group (as it was at the earlier Gran Cena Homenaje a Extremedura of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce). Earthy, indulgently complex, everything in harmony, the risotto cooked to perfection, with an exotic touch of pungent gaminess from the aged sheep's cheese. Lovely.

This was paired with 2007 Propiedad Rioja DOC by Álvaro Palacios which JC kept breathing in bottle at least 4 hours before service. A young Rioja with commanding presence, awash with spicy, rich, ripe strawberries, black cherries, flecked with pepper and herbs, a slight tobacco undertone and added violet and cedar notes.

With notable lift and cut, Tonji called it "bold" and commented that "(it) stood up well to the cheese.". As a pairing wine he opined: "Fantastic". I couldn't agree more. It had the precise amount of push, body and acidity to complement without over-powering, plus a touch of spiciness in its vinosity to balance everything. ¡Olé!

Miguel A., Santi, Rene, Mayette, Miguel V.

El Maestro Grills the Lamb Cutlets.

After a Yellow Pepper Citrus Sherbet, our main course arrived: Beef & Lamb Duet: Short Plate Confit in Sauce Espagnole and Lamb Cutlets Bathed w/ a Roasted and Sun-Dried Rioja Pepper-Tempranillo Sauce - Accompanied by Piquillo Stuffed w/ Blood Sausage Béchamel & Gnocchi topped w/ Gorgonzola Cream, paired with...

...2006 Alion by Grupo Vega Sicilia. I and others were actually already quite full by then, but we somehow managed to make good headway into this indulgent dish. I absolutely loved the piquillo stuffed with morcilla cream - I'm thinking about it until now. Some appetites are more prodigious than others - Johnson finished his meat course and ate some of Ann's as well.

As regards the 2006 Alion, it is a serious, smoldering, ruggedly handsome youngster that, even at this early stage, readily gives us a glimpse of its depth, power and structure. I had it once before from Gino Garcia during an IWFS BYOB lunch, and my notes then are still applicable:

2006 Bodegas Alión - Gino's bottle (which I forgot to photograph), a more modern line of the legendary Vega Sicilia of Ribera del Duero. I recall this was decanted for aeration for 2-3+ hours before I tried it. Though still very young and primary, one can note the superior balance and remarkable structure in this wine. Nicely ripe, firm, precisely concentrated dark fruit (black cherry, bit of raspberry, underlying blackberry, some sweetish tobacco, dark chocolate and oak spice. Tannins are very apparent, but fine enough. It shows more restraint and better structure than, say, the 2003 - as well as comparatively more refinement than the 2001.

After some deliciously warmed and pungent Torta "El Porfiao" (which I ate before remembering to take a photo), dessert was a wonderfully indulgent Mandarin Orange Ice Cream Accompanied by Mandarin Cream Crêpes Flambées, Showered w/ Armagnac-Chocolate Ganache. Superb.

No matter how filling the meal is, I always manage to finish JC's dessert creations. After all these, we had pours of Pacharán Reserva by Grupo La Navarra and Samalens Armagnac. Thank you so much, JC, for making this celebration so memorable with an excellent meal and wine pairings. It wouldn't have been the same without your passion and grand orchestration. Un millón de gracias.

Until the next!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Usual Suspects @ Champêtre: 29 February 2012.

I know, it's been a while. An over 2-month backlog of posts has overwhelmed me, so I'll just play catch-up from hereon in - picking and choosing past and current meals to post on. Hopefully, I'll whittle away the backlog somehow....

The last Usual Suspects get-together was a year-end lunch (30 December 2012) at Champêtre during which Marc made us a couple of roast geese (I'll post on that another time). Two months later, upon the Stockholder's call, we reconvened at Champêtre for dinner. We were 9 in all, Johnny catching up after dinner for a few glasses of wine.

Ordering one's meal is serious business for this group...

...but we eventually manage to get it done.

We started off with glasses of bubbly as usual, namely, 2005 Domaine Huet Vouvray Pétillant Cuvée Brut - from Jojo, 100% chenin blanc. Lively, bright, precise pear, peach and ripe lemon with a faintly creamy, biscuity underlay and whispers of honeysuckle. Not bracing, but nicely zippy. Lovely stuff. PWX brought this in, but it was quickly sold out. I hope they re-stock soon.

There was also a bottle of 2002 Domaine Michel Redde Pouilly-Fumé Cuvée Majorum from Richard (very apt to have Loire white and pétillant as apéritifs as summer is creeping in). Last I had this was a little over 2 years ago at the 1st IWFS Wine Fair. I've always favored this comparatively pricey Pouilly-Fumé ever since I first had it from Jerome Philippon sometime in early 2008, and have had it many times since then - beautiful with chèvre. This is one of the few Pouilly-Fumés that can age well. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the bottle.

My hearty and delicious Seafood Bisque with which the Loire whites did well.

For all the reds, I had the Dry-Aged US Prime Grade Rib-Eye w/ Frites & Salad
- rare of course.

The Stockbroker started the reds off with a bang, his bottle of 1964 Bodegas Faustino Faustino I Gran Reserva. We've had it many times as Aaron and I import this wine, so I'll just stop at saying that this wine, from a legendary Rioja vintage, by a traditional Riojan producer specializing in gran reservas, has never disappointed.

Another special wine, this time from Aaron: 1982 Château Brane-Cantenac - Deeply-veined, meaty fruit, smoothly muscular, warmly comforting, very Margaux with gravelly, cedary cassis, dark plum, violets, loam, hint of tar, underlying Cuban tobacco and ceps. Lovely. Very masculine Margaux. Very nice.

From me: 1999 Château La Conseillante - I decanted it for a bit, probably 35-40 minutes at most, and served it blind. The closest guess was Richard as a St-Emilion, which was close enough as some plots of this Pomerol estate actually lie within the bounds of St-Emilion, across the street from Cheval Blanc. Its Pomerol neighbors are no less than Pétrus, L'Evangile and Vieux Château Certan. Mostly merlot (around 70-75%) the rest of cabernet franc.

Though, with added time in glass, it fleshed out and showed its Pomerol power and elegance, its vintage did show in that it wasn't as solid as it would be in warmer/drier vintages. Initially a bit clipped per Arnie, but Greg thought the length was good. Marked poise, fair depth, good refinement. I thought it was fine considering its vintage. Medium-bodied, softly/silkily fruited, deep/dark plum, slight tobacco, tar, cedar and violets, good focus and acid balance. Nice enough for the vintage, in my assessment. The middle could stand a bit more presence though.

With my nutty, slightly cheesy dry-aged US prime rib-eye, though, my favorite pairing wine was Rene's 1992 Chateau Montelena - I've had this more than a few times (from the Stockbroker and Rene) and enjoyed it every time. Full-bodied, ripe, mouth-filling, comparatively chewy crème de cassis, licorice, tobacco, tar, hint of charcoal, slightly minty topnote. Never loud, though always hefty, with a strong, confident palate-presence and admirable balance. Loved it with my steak.

Miguel's 1999 Château Pichon Longueville Baron, like Aaron's 1982 Brane-Cantenac, was another wine marked with good typicity. It was very Pauillac in its cedar-laced, pencil lead shavings infused cassis, black cherry and violets. A couple of notches over medium-bodied. Refined masculinity. For me, its typicity and over-all balance were what struck me the most; plus, with its good cut, it was my second favorite wine as a pairing for my steak.

I got to Arnie's 1999 Ridge Monte Bello after my steak, during the cheese course. Ridge, for me, makes some of the most Bordeaux-esque California cabs. I first tried this vintage '99 back in late July 2009 because J-Lab spoke so highly of it. Approximately 2½ years later, though it did feel a bit softer on my palate, my old notes still ring true (which, to my mind, is a testament to its ageing capabilities):

Because of J-Lab's glowing review of the '99 Ridge Monte Bello, I simply had to try it out. Having a dinner to attend in Serendra, I stopped by CAV for some of this wine, chancing upon old friend Felicia there, as well as owners David Ong and chef Marcus Gfeller. I asked for one of their proper, bigger glasses and got a full serving from the wine dispenser.

I found the nose and palate mirrored each other exactly with blackcurrants, mint, demure cedar, mere hints of tobacco leaf and licorice underneath. Wood was quite apparent, but very well-integrated and not at all obtrusive. Very self-possessed character, with precise balance and impressive, minty length. It doesn't shout out like most Cali reds I've tried and it is not at all over-ripe, jammy, syrupy or high in alcohol. I was texting J-Lab while I was sipping, telling him that, if served blind, I think this could probably easily fool me into calling it from Bordeaux.

Unfortunately, Greg's bottle of 2003 Château Talbot (3rd Growth, St-Julien) was drained by the time I got to it; so, sorry, no notes on that one.

As usual, with Arnie around, a lot of teasing and off-color jokes started flying early on...

...resulting in bursts of raucous laughter.

"¡Joder! That's so funny, coño!"

For some reason, I suddenly felt like having a Chocolate & Grand Marnier Soufflé for dessert. Though not on the menu, Marc effortlessly whipped one up for me. It was as delicious as it looks. Excellent. Loved it, and I'll definitely have this again next I'm at Champêtre.

To commemorate Noël Pinguet's recent retirement from Domaine Huet, the Stockbroker (PWX is the Philippine distributor of Domaine Huet) opened a bottle of 2009 Domaine Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Molleux. I've had the 2009s of Huet's Le Haut-Lieu and Le Mont before, but not the Clos du Bourg, so it was a treat to get to try. Nicely honeyed, slightly creamy yellow fruit and a hint of membrillo. Zippy acidity to its plump fruitiness. Sweet, yet palate-cleansing. I could have sipped this all night. Lovely, and will get even lovelier as years pass I'm sure.

A closing sherry from Arnie was González Byass Apostoles Palo Cortado Viejo 30 Años - I remember well the only other time I had this was from J-Lab during a wine lunch at Elbert's Steak room back in early January 2010. This had a decidedly more pronounced oxidized note than that first bottle and was not as sweet. It did still show nice rancio, walnuts, slight caramel and apricot though. Good stuff; a nice way to end a meal.

The fun continued as I capped the night off with a double espresso.


Until the next!