Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thursday Wine Night w/ the Boys at Impressions.

Last night, the 23rd August 2012, was back at Impressions (Resorts World, Pasig) with some of the Usual Suspects. We were only four that night: Aaron Palileo, Jojo Madrid (a.k.a., "the Stockbroker", who called for the get-together), Rene Fuentes, & myself. Chef Cyrille Soenen made sure we were well taken care of, as usual...

...and graciously sent us a complimentary platter of Charcuterie...
...with which we started the night's two champagnes.
2004 Louis Roederer Cristal - My bottle, a gift from Apple & Rocky Villadolid. I knew it is still exceedingly young, but I wanted to get a handle on it and see if I should get some for stocking purposes. Although unsurprisingly tight in the attack and mid-palate despite breathing in a bucket for around 35-45 minutes, then in glass for more (nb: the flutes used for this were very narrow), this bubbly expanded well just past mid-mouth, releasing prominent pâte sucrée and hints of white chocolate and honeysuckle into the primary apple, crunchy pear, vanilla, and emerging brioche. Good potential in this for what I, at this point, perceive to be a luscious, heftier, pastry-laden crowd-pleaser in-the-making.

1998 Dom Pérignon - Jojo's bottle. Undoubtedly the most advanced 1998 DP I've had, and I do admit that I prefer it this way (compared to past, citrus-aggressive bottles). Underlying café crème to its minerally apricots, baked pear, bit of peach, slight caramel and a breath of oxidation, comparatively heftier (especially mid-palate) and more rounded than the above-mentioned bubbly (nb: the flutes for this one were nowhere near as narrow nor high). With these two champagnes we moved on to...

...the amuse bouche...
...and 1st courses of Oscietra Caviar on Crab Meat with Blini (for me)...
...and Fresh Pamora Farm Egg Topped with Avruga (for Rene and Aaron).
A bubbly toast.
In the meantime, Jojo had decanted his and Aaron's reds...
...for our main course of Cyrille's deservedly famous 24-Hour Sous Vide Veal Shank...
...which simply falls off the bone upon being carved tableside.
Voila, with in-season chanterelles, and Imperator carrots.
More for seconds - wiped out. The evening's reds were:

First of all, let me just state that every single red that night I greatly enjoyed. We were on a definite roll.

1982 Château Gruaud Larose - Rene's bottle. I've had this at least twice before (that I documented, anyway: here, and here), and it has consistently been one of my favorite 1982 Bordeaux 1855 classed growths, as well as one of the most gracefully (and slowly) ageing ones to boot. This bottle showed more truffle, animal and sanguine notes than the previous ones, but, to me, was all the more complex and captivating for it. The earthy cassis-dominated base was solid and cedary as ever; with black cherry, hint of fig, violets, licorice, underlying warm asphalt, and violets seamlessly woven in. Smoothly muscular. Remarkable harmony and unquestionable balance. Loved it more than ever. Jojo's and Aaron's wine of the night.

1990 Vega Sicilia Unico - Jojo's bottle. Rich, ripe, dense, full-bodied, multi-layered, red-spiced, dark  wild cherry, dark plum, molten ripe strawberry over crème de cassis, leather, cedar, violets, licorice, bit of ceps, hints of chocolate and vanilla. Healthy acidity, rigid structure, the rich, velvety fruit to last, big and molten tannins. Superb wine - one that I believe will keep going much longer than any of the night's others. Stunning. This was my wine of the night.

1996 Château Lynch Bages - Aaron's bottle. I've enjoyed this vintage of Lynch Bages countless times, the last documented one being just under 11 months ago during Jojo's birthday dinner at Mamou Too!. From the first scents of its bouquet, it was all Pauillac - Spanish cedar-lined, pencil lead shavings-infused earthy dark black currants, whisper of mushrooms, licorice and violets. Slight vanilla. Warming, familiar, and comfortable. Notable backbone, fine tannins, typical 1996 left bank masculine rigidity. Then, as now, this is one of my favorite vintages of Lynch Bages.

We then shared a platter of Impressions' Dessert Sampler...
...and delectable Mignardises.

My usual double espresso rounded off this evening of fine wine, food, and friends as Cyrille joined us for a glass of the 1996 Lynch Bages. Excellent evening, guys. Many thanks to all for such a wonderful evening vinous fraternity, and, to Cyrille, of course, for yet another memorable meal. Until the next!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Goose Foie Gras, Roasted Stuffed French Pigeon, Etc. @ Champêtre.

It had been over three months since the family had been back to Champêtre, so a couple of nights ago, the 18th August 2012, we remedied that situation. Marc has since changed his menu, but, of course, many old favorites remain, and he is willing (subject to availability of the ingredients) to accommodate special requests.Thus, aside from the timeless appetizers of...

Terrine of Duck Foie Gras w/ Salad & Melba Toast...
...a couple of orders of Escargots à la Bourguignonne...
...Mushrooms w/ Oeuf Cocotte...
...and Steak Tartare with Frites...
...we also had Goose Foie Gras Terrine w/ Blueberry Compote & Brioche...
...and Crottin de Chavignol with Salade Niçoise.
We'd had the foie gras d'oie at least twice before, but they were specials at the time and not on the regular menu. The crottin de Chavignol used to be on the regular menu, but in a different version - I recall it was baked in phyllo pastry then, also served atop a salad, but not one à la Niçoise.

In any event, with Mauro, Lorenzo & Joaquin, plus nephew Zach, all the appetizers were made short work of - conclusive evidence of their gastronomic goodness. We loved them all.

With all the appetizers, we had a bottle of the clean, bright, pure, well-focused, fresh, zippy, roundly-fruited, off-dry, nicely acid-balanced 2007 Dönnhoff Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl Riesling Spätlese (available at Premium Wine Exchange for P2800/bottle at full retail).

I've written about this lovely Nahe riesling many times before, so there is no need to repeat myself now. Suffice it to state that I really like this wine, and so does Catha (and everyone else I have shared it with), so, I, obviously, make sure to always have a few bottles of it at home. It was a beautiful pairing for the foie dishes, as well as the crottin de Chavignol - lending contrasting sweetish fruitiness, and acid lift and brightness to the rich foie and the gamey chèvre.

After a short break, our main courses made their way to the table.

Mauro's Ravioli stuffed with Foie Gras & Chanterelles.
Lorenzo's Linguine with Seared Salmon, Scallops, & Prawns.
Joaqi's Boeuf Onglet.
Zach opted to have another Steak Tartare w/ Frites for his main course (he obviously likes it a lot).

Marc, knowing that Catha & I love roast pigeon, happened to have some French pigeons on hand, and thoughtfully prepared us a couple of orders of Roasted, de-Boned, Stuffed French Pigeon. These were tender, moist, juicy, the skin nicely caramelized, the stuffing precisely earthy, the sauce of giblets of notable depth and balance. Needless to state, we loved it. Since I knew we were having this, I had brought along a bottle of...

1998 Bodegas Riojanas Viña Albina Gran Reserva - This is another of the traditional gran reservas Aaron and I brought in; one I am especially proud of. Decanted to breathe for approximately an hour before serving, this showed off its Bordeaux reminiscent structure (suggesting  goodly dollop of mazuelo in the dominant tempranillo) and balance, yet holding true to its origins with its red-spiced wild cherry, underlying dark plum, licorice, balsamico, pinch of tobacco, leather, slight smokiness, violets, and cedar. Perfumed nose, around halfway between medium and full body, smooth; there is a rustic nuance to its elegance - like that of a gentleman farmer. Love it. Unfortunately, I am down to my last bottle or two, and we have sold out of this many months ago.

I note that Mauro, after having a sip or two of this red, told me he'd continue with the Dönnhoff riesling spätlese for his ravioli, since the foie in the stuffing seemed to call more for the latter. That showed good wine instinct on his part. He did his father proud. We then moved on to desserts.

Apple & Mango Tarte Tatin. Lovely with my double espresso.
Gâteau de Riz, a typical, rustic French dessert.
Lorenzo's usual Lemon Soufflé.
My usual Chocolate-Grand Marnier Soufflé.

It was a very hectic night for Marc in the kitchen that night as Champêtre was over-flowing with customers. I saw at least one long extra table had to be set up at the al fresco area to accommodate the crush of diners. Still, after a long service, Marc was able to join us to catch up and take a well-deserved break.

It was great seeing Marc and having his food again. It really had been way too long - I didn't realize how long it's been. We've loved Marc's food ever since the early Je Suis Gourmand days - he's pretty much seen my kids grow up in his restaurant, and I've had countless 6+ hour wine lunches and memorable wine dinners there with my wino friends. Naturally, we look forward to many more in the years to come.

Until the next!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Saturday Japanese Family Dinner @ Hanakazu.

After last weekend's overdoing it with assorted German reislings, craft beer, mixed drinks at The Blind Pig, and Long Island Iced Tea and uncounted tequila shots at Dada's '80s party, I had to watch myself for the rest of the week. Though I did have very little wine at last Monday's Les Toques Blanches Charity Dinner by Tony Khoo, and a few beers Friday night, I was watching myself (reasonably enough) the rest of the week, lest my blood pressure start acting up again.

Thus, after my regular Saturday golf game yesterday, 11th August 2012, I figured on lighter, healthier fare nearby. What better to have for light/healthy, yet tasty, grub than Japanese? To Hanakazu, then, just the four of us, as Joaqi was celebrating his cousin's birthday at the latter's house.

Appetizers, of which the delightful, sweetly fresh Baby Cuttlefish on the right was the only thing interesting.
Our usual, very efficient and knowledgeable waitress attended to us. After receiving the menus, I asked her what was on special that night, and the iced styrofoam box of special Japanese goodies was quickly brought to me for inspection. Not too much that night: no mirugai (i.e., Geoduck) that I was hoping for, but some large Japanese scallops and a few sanmas (a.k.a., Pacific Saury and "Mackerel Pike"). I did the ordering and we had not long to wait until our food started hitting the table.

Sashimi: Japanese Toro & Sanma
Japanese Sea Urchin (i.e., Uni), more expensive than local, but with a justifying world of difference in texture and taste.
We got an additional order of Japanese Toro later on, this much fattier than the first.

This time, I made sure to try their Daikon Salad w/ Goma Dressing, not only "para healthy", but mainly because Cyrene de la Rosa and Rob Pengson had both mentioned that they like it. They were right as it really is quite nice, and I will surely have this again - a great way to eat well and healthily.

Crispy Sanma Carcass - not only Max's fried chicken is "sarap to the bone"!
The boys and I killed a bottle of chilled saké. Catha stuck to glasses of cold tea.
Nigiri Sushi: Hamachi, Ikura, & Anago
Grilled Japanese Scallop
Grilled Hamachi Head & Collar
Of course, the mandatory Ebi Tenpura
For dessert, Catha & the boys got a box each of Japanese Mochi Ball Ice Cream...
...while I enjoyed the complimentary chilled, fresh Japanese Peaches that chef-proprietor Hiroaki Otsuka sent over. Loved this - the best fresh peaches I've ever had anywhere.
Kampai! Until the next!