Saturday, March 16, 2013

La Commanderie de Bordeaux Manila's 1st Board Meeting for 2013.

Lunch today, the 15th March 2013, was at Bizu Pâtisserie - Rockwell for La Commanderie de Bordeaux Manila's first board meeting of the year.

Alex Lichaytoo, whose sister owns Bizu, made the meeting's lunch arrangements with his nephew, Xander (who happens to be the restaurant's chef)... the Paris-reminiscent private room over-looking the pool.

All Commanderie occasions naturally involve Bordeaux wine, even board meetings. Alex opened a well-poised, very pleasant and charming 1996 Château Rieussec... pair (well, I might add) with a delicious, silken rendition of Terrine of Foie Gras with Fig Jam & Salad (the fig jam he brought in from a trip to Provence lent a sweetly fruity lilt to the gustatory composition).

With the foie course, we enjoyed more of the Rye w/ Assorted Seeds Toast which I had been compulsively munching on earlier. It's savory, earthy, appetizingly ferrous/bitter notes and crunchiness added both depth and textural contrast to the course.

For our main course, there was a choice of either the Baked Chicken with Potatoes (which Edouard, Felicia, Ivan, and Bernie went for)...

...or the Crispy Pig's Knuckle w/ Sauerkraut & Mustard (which Alex, Oscar, & I chose). This was delicious as well - the skin nicely crisp, the underlying tendons in gelatinized juxtaposition, the flesh tender and moist in its clean, virtually oil-free porkiness. In the past, I'd known Bizu solely as a pâtisserie, but, now, I know it to be a good lunch, or even dinner, venue as well. I've also heard good things about its breakfast (particularly their omelettes from Quito Moras, and Catha's been wanting to try out their Eggs Benedict too).

These are but three of the many reds that were on deck, but, since I got pretty wasted the night before, I had sworn to eschew all alcohol today. I was, however, convinced by Alex o try a sip of Felicia's medium-bodied, softly dark fruited, earthy, typical Pessac-Léognan 2000 Domaine de Chevalier (I've had this many times before and have always liked it) as he told me to see how well it went with the trotter and mustard. Well, he was right.

Dessert was, obviously, a trio of Bizu pastries; a Mini Kouign Amann, Opera Cake (one of my favorites from Bizu), and a Macaron (mine was pistachio, I think) - all very nice. I must say that, in the past, although I did buy Bizu's macarons, I'd always found them a tad too sweet and not moist enough in the middle. Now, they are not overly sugary-sweet and the texture is spot on. As such, it is a definite buy for me.

Oscar, Alex, Bernie, Felicia, Edouard, & yours truly (Ivan took the photo).
A round of double espressos later, all matters on the agenda dealt with, papers signed, and the meeting was adjourned. A very pleasant working lunch with good food (and very reasonably priced, I might add), in genteel company and ambiance. Nice Friday. Until the next!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thursday Beer Time.

Yesterday, the 14th March 2013, was Jim's Russian River Blind Pig IPA & Pliny the Elder Imperial IPA Event at The Bottle Shop, and, concurrently, Santi's belated birthday celebration for friends at nearby Kublai's Rock.

That day started off unusually early for me as I had to go to the French embassy to renew my visa and get some for my sons. I literally had to go the extra mile (several miles, actually) to help ensure I get another 3-year one. That finally done, I returned home for a couple of hours' rest before heading to Paseo de Magallanes for Jim's event.

Mauro, Lorenzo, Mon, & Paolo.
It was scheduled to begin at 6pm, but some of us simply couldn't wait. With Jim's green light, we, the earliest birds there, got to start at 5pm. I seem to recall Mon and Paolo starting off with lighter fare before hitting the Russian River Ales over a few of the day's featured porchetta sandwiches together with my sons.

The "long-lost" Ancheta twins, Tere & Thea, finally rejoin the craft sessions.

A bunch of us (Jim, Mags, & myself included) actually had some Russian River's Blind Pig IPAs (and many more) back on the evening of the 9th September 2011 at Elbert's Steak Room, care of visiting friend Clem Nieto. We had so many fine ales, though, I got too drunk to clearly remember the details, so I didn't post on that dinner. This time, however, although I admittedly got really smashed as well, I had only 3 kinds of beer, so I remember enough to post on them.

Russian River Blind Pig India Pale Ale - As also noted by Eli in his well written beer-centric blog, this is an openly fragrant ale, fresh, ripely sweet citrus, and dried-fruitiness, with notes of pine, freshly cut/dewy grass in a moderately  malty theme. Smooth, fresh and very easy to drink although the typical IPA hoppiness does kick in past mid-palate and follows through to the finish. Dangerously drinkable at a relatively modest, easy 6.1% abv.

By this time, our orders of Kublai's ever delicious and reliable Chorizo Sisig and Buffalo Chicken Wings had been delivered to be enjoyed with our ales, as well as cold cuts courtesy of the Ancheta twins. Needless to state, our Thin Crust Shakey's Specials followed not long after.

Russian River Pliny the Elder Imperial India Pale Ale - "Blind Pig IPA on steroids" sounds a bit too flippant, I know, but, a somewhat fair assessment I think. Deeper, more robust, denser, and fuller bodied, this wasn't (as also noted by Eli) as openly fragrant as the Blind Pig (or as a fresh Ballast Point Sculpin IPA for that matter), but, on the palate, it was so much more serious and commanding.

The fruit profile is more of the dried fruit type, the hops are jacked up several notches, and it is less ripely sweet. The resiny pine notes are also more forward, and, at 8% abv, it is more powerful and packs a stronger punch. What I particularly love about this, however, is, despite its power and almost exaggerated pine resin, everything is still in balance. Always a treat to have this elusive ale. Many thanks again to Jim for finding a way to bring some in.

More regulars (Christian, Eli, & Nicole) check in for their prized ales.
Dino, Nena, & Tinchu, and many others join in the fun as well.
I recall Dino enjoying the IPAs and believe he'll be visiting The Bottle Shop more often.
Cyrene & Bryan finally show up to join the happy hop-heads.
Paolo, Carlos, Enki, & yours truly.
A bunch of us then transferred to Kublai's Rock for Santi's belated birthday bash. I was, by then, well on my way to an altered state, so forgot to take photos there (one of the waiters took the above shot).

The young ones also packed The Bottle Shop (Gretchen waives "hi").
I had to leave by 9pm as I was already quite inebriated, passed by the Bottle Shop again to say goodbye to the ones there, and quickly got my final beer gin-spiked by the Alex, our resident evil spirit. Way past caring, and, indeed, feeling no pain, I downed it anyway. Good thing Mauro hung around to drive his old man home, as I didn't bring a driver that night and was certainly in no state to drive.

What a fun, drunken night! Until the next!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Despedida Wine Dinner for Clem Nieto @ Impressions.

Despedida dinner for Clem with the winos last night, the 28th February 2013. Since Clem, who is to return to California tomorrow, brought some special white Burgundy, lobster was definitely on the menu. I suggested that we hold the event again at Impressions, and, unsurprisingly, everyone immediately agreed. We were six in all: Clem Nieto, Rene Fuentes, Alex TiuRichard JoyeJay Labrador, and myself.

Apéritif of (grower) Champagne Victor Dravigny "Hommage" Brut Rosé - J-Lab's bottle. Lively, perky rosé showing straightforward, nice purity with clean lines of juicy ripe strawberry and red currant. Well made, charming, if rather straightforward.

Executive Chef Cyrille Soenen hands on as always.

Amuse bouche #1 - Mushroom Meringue on Truffle "Soil" - probably the prettiest, cutest amuse bouche I've ever had anywhere. Whimsically earthy, tasty and entertaining.

By this time, we had started on the 2000 Champagne Billecart-Salmon "Cuvée Nicolas Francois Billecart" Brut - My bottle, in lieu of a 1999 Champagne Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs Brut per J-Lab's advice re: drinkability (I just pretty much follow anything J-Lab says when it comes to champagne as bubblies and sweet whites are within his expertise and I somewhat know by now his palate preferences). Opulent, big, rich, generous, openly toasty, brioche & pastry buttressed, slightly honeyed baked apple, pear and peach. Very hefty. Eager to please, very stylish. Still coming together, but may be enjoyed now.

Amuse bouche #2 - Turkey Confit with Beetroot Purée and Potato Allumettes - I think the very first time I've had turkey confit. This reminded me of the old Restaurant CiÇou in Makati for some reason.

The star of the evening for me: Gillardeau Oyster & Scallop Tartare on Tartine, with Avruga and Citrus Dressing. Absolutely superb, complex, and wonderfully balanced. It blew me away.

With this outstanding shellfish 1st Course, we had moved to the evening's 3rd champagne, namely,  Champagne Jacques Selosse "Initial" Brut - Clem's bottle. Fresh, vibrant, lively, clean lines of ripe green apples, pear and citrus fruits, white minerality, notable focus, streamlined, neat. Precise acidity. Remarkable balance. Easily the best champagne that night, and a stunning pairing with the dish. Superb.

Champagne cheers from Manila!
Service was crisp and attentive as always.

The 2nd Course was another seafood delight: Pan-Seared Brittany Lobster with Mushroom Risotto and Sea Urchin Foam. The description alone tells one how delicious it was.

With it, 2000 Remoissenet Grand Cru Le Montrachet du Domaine Thénard - Clem's bottle. Sublime in its fresh bouquet of honey-and-butter-touched ripe apple, pear, & hazelnuts. Mirrored on the palate in a buxom, luscious body with additional nuances of minerals, underlying orange rind and lemon curd. Unctuous, delightfully oily mouthfeel, perfectly rounded, with precise heft and length. A big, remarkably balanced white Burg; it just had to be a Montrachet. Absolutely beautiful in itself and with the lobster dish. What a treat.

Maraming salamat muli, Don Clem!
The night's champagnes & still white.

Our 3rd (Meat) Course was Cyrille's signature 48-Hour Veal Shank served with...

Carrots & Mushrooms; Garlic & Shallots Confit.
Table-side carving & plating.
Among the many lined up, only three reds were selected to pair with the meat course:
1993 Biondi-Santi Tenuta Greppo Brunello di Montalcino - Richard's bottle. Concentrated, viscous, dense, with a loamy bouquet of mildly spiced dark raspberry, strawberry, cherry compote, and a moderate sanguine-meaty touch. In the mouth, it mirrored its bouquet in a soft, slightly low acid manner, with underlying dark, molten fruit. There is bottle-aged sweetness; nuances of sweetish tea join in the back and moderately long finish. The general assessment was that the subject bottle is a bit past peak, but still quite nice.

1994 Soldera Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Case Basse - Clem's bottle. Its bouquet and dominant flavors similar to the above-discussed wine, but slightly more reserved, more masculine, fruitier, spicier, with added tar, cedar and violets. In the mouth, it was comparatively more rigidly structured, fresher, and with healthier acidity. The dark red fruit evidently more youthful, neater, and focused. It is also marginally less earthy, but with similar sanguine and meaty notes. Virtually no bottle-age tea leaves or sweetness in this one. We all agreed this can go for quite a bit more than the previous Brunello di Montalcino. Impressive.

1986 Château Palmer - Alex's bottle. I last had this (also from him) during a year-ender lunch at Tivoli for Keiichi on the 27th December 2012. My notes from that lunch are as follows:

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.
This bottle was more confident, expansive and with a more pronounced crescendo and longer finish. A suave, handsome, manly wine. More impressive than the previous bottle. Excellent. It was pretty much unanimously the red of the night.

There were several other reds up at bat (among others, a 2000 Carruades de Lafite from Rene, and a 1964 Bodegas Faustino Faustino I Gran Reserva from me), but we stopped at three. Well, four, actually, since Alex simply had to have a "pre-red red" (a young CdP, the name of which escapes me as I didn't have any) which he popped together with Clem's earlier mentioned 2000 Remoissenet Le Montrachet.

With the 4th (Cheese) Course...
1983 Château Guiraud - Richard's bottle. Bouquet and flavors of wild honey and spiced touched dried apricots, orange marmalade, crème brûlée and vanilla bean. Slightly over medium-bodied, moderate concentration, good balancing acidity & viscosity, decent freshness. A solid, dependable Sauternes that, unsurprisingly, worked well with the bleu (especially), dried figs, nuts, and grapes.

My niece, Nicole, & friend at the pastry station.

Our dessert - a palate-resuscitating, cleansing, lightly-footed, brightly fruited Minestrone of Compressed Fruits with Fresh Strawberry and Mint Broth. Lovely dessert after such an indulgent meal. Good show, Nicole! I had finished my share of Richard's Sauternes with the cheese course, but Richard opined that the Sauternes went well even with this dessert.

Alex, Nicole, & Clem
Clem with Impressions' young pâtissiere.
Clem, J-Lab & the bottles.

Cyrille eventually rejoined us at the table for a chat and a couple of glasses of Sauternes. Thanks again, Cyrille & Team Impressions for yet another superb dinner! Bon voyage, Clem! Many thanks again, and have a safe and pleasant trip! ¡Salud! Until the next!