Sunday, March 27, 2016

Clem in Manila 2016, Part II: Burgs at Champêtre.

The next evening, Friday the 26th February 2016, was a more wine-centric dinner at an old favorite brasserie, Chef Marc Aubry's Champêtre. We were only 6 in all this time.

L-R: Alex, Clem, me, Catha, Richard & Aaron.
Alex starts opening the bottles... does Richard. Some corks broke in half, but we managed.

I had earlier reserved a few orders of Moules de Bouchot, prepared à la Marinière; the relatively smaller, tender, succulent, delicately and distinctively flavored AOP mussels flown in live from France.

With the moules, we started with a bottle of 2001 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre - Alex's bottle. Properly dry and reserved; it presents its precisely minerally, slightly nutty fruit on a medium-plus body. Notable depth and firm structure. Patrician, yet decidedly masculine; like a gentleman farmer.

Richard had opened a 1983 Robert Sarrau Pouilly-Fuissé - Unfortunately, the wine was way past its time, showing disturbingly mushroomy, sherry-ish notes. While it did pull a slight Lazarus towards dinner's end, it was really just too far gone.

The '01 Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre went very well with the afore mentioned moules, the immediately above depicted Escargots à la Bourguignonne...

...and, especially with Marc's signature Terrine of Foie Gras d'Oie with Brioche and Berry Compote. This, for me, is, without doubt, the best terrine of foie gras in the country. I've yet to try anything here that even comes close.

With the goose foie gras terrine, I also greatly enjoyed Clem's 2000 Champagne Krug - Broad, rich, impressively round and long, opulently creamy, nutty, with butter & baking spice lacing its dried fruit base. Lovely champagne.

For main courses, Clem had the salmon (of which I have no photo); while Catha went for her usual...

...Roasted Veal Tenderloin with Morel Sauce.

By then, we had begun on the night's reds; beginning with Alex's 2003 Domaine Prieuré Roch Grand Cru Clos de Vougeot - this precocious, muscular, youth already shows notes of iron, meat & slight Burgundy decay in its deep, concentrated, tannic, sweetlishly ripe (bordering on jammy) dark fruit. Big-boned and full bodied. Intense, heady stuff. Very long. Clos de Vougeot on steroids...

...which easily stood up to my hearty, perfectly cooked & juicy Grilled Lamb Chops.

With our main courses, we also enjoyed my bottle of 1997 Joseph Drouhin Beaune Premier Cru Clos des Mouches - Still notably fresh with good acidity, which cuts nicely through the hearty lamb. Notable grip. A notch or two over medium-bodied; sappy dark red berries over plum base, with good earthiness, focus, and definition. More than decent length; nicely rustic. I had my share of this before finishing off the other two reds, as, comparatively, this was the lightest in body.

Clem's 1988 Joseph Drouhin Grand Cru Charmes-Chambertin was ample, richer and more concentrated than any other Charmes-Chambertin that I can remember having had. Notably ripe, but not over-ripe or jammy, with precise intensity. Good balance and harmony in this relatively stylish Charmes-Chambertin. Lovely stuff.

We finished off the mentioned bottles...
...with a shared platter of assorted French cheeses...
...Marc joining us as the evening's service wound down.

We had started on dessert, the first of which was a Dark Chocolate Nelusko Cake (the remains of which are on the red platter immediately above), which got Marc and I in a discussion about desserts that were popular in Manila in the late '70s to early '80s. Marc then began sending us more desserts:

Melt-in-your-mouth Tarte Tatin
Superb Baba au Rum with Fresh Strawberries.
Excellent "Pithivier" of Pears with Frangipane Sauce.

Our conversation about de rigueur desserts of the past, Marc then sent us the new Champêtre Mystere, his take on Baked Alaska (which was the rage in '70s Manila) - dried figs & Cointreau ice cream, coated in meringue and roasted almonds...

...served flambée, naturellement.
Aaron then noted that none of the bottles he brought were yet opened. Though the rest of us were already quite full by then (and most of us had had a lot to drink the previous night), some suggested we open his wines next we meet. Richard, however, was still a bit thirsty, so...

...Aaron immediately offered up his bottle of 1994 Harlan Estate - Very impressive. Deep, intense, concentrated, full-bodied, distinctively Napa, but remarkably refined (more than other vintages I've had). Good restraint, though undeniably rich. Well-knit, streamlined, with notable acid balance that keeps things interesting. A class act of a Napa cult.

Seven wines for six persons - a very reasonable wine dinner. Alex clamored for more, stronger stuff, and invited everyone to his place for cognac, single malt & gin with Cuban cigars, but, as most of us already had a lot the previous night, we were constrained to decline his generous offer (but that certainly didn't stop him from having a few himself at home).

Thanks for setting aside time for us, Clem! Great seeing you as always! Until the next!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Clem in Manila 2016, Part I: Bar Pintxos, Tapas y Más.

February the past several years has been marked by California-based fellow wino's, Clem Nieto's, annual visit to Manila. This time, Clem had only 2 successive free nights in Metro Manila, so some of us Usual Suspects made sure to have dinner with him both those nights; the first one, the 25th February 2016, being at Miguel & Tinchu's Bar Pintxos, Tapas y Más (which everyone just calls "Pintxos").

L-R: Rene, Sanju, Clem, me, Alex, Cutie, & Catha.

For purposes of efficient drinking, we started early at 6pm; kicking the early evening off, as usual, with a couple of bottles of Ayala champagne, both courtesy of Alex:

NV Champagne Ayala Blanc de Blancs (no photo, unfortunately) - Edgy, nervy, appetizingly dry, racy; a rather linear, light-bodied champagne dominated by notably pure, keenly focused green apple & citrus, infused with a Chablis-esque white minerality.

2002 Champagne Ayala Cuvée Perle de Ayala Brut - Similarly pure, focused, crisp, vibrant and racy as the immediately above mentioned NV Blanc de Blancs, but obviously heftier, creamier, with more of a pronounced middle, creamier texture, and added notes of nuts and brioche.

Both bubblies were enjoyed with the first few pintxos of:

Fresh Tuna, Guindillas & Anchovy.
As we know Clem prefers lighter seafood dishes over heavier meat-based fare, almost the entire menu revolved around seafood.

Salmorejo with Scallop & Crisped Jamón Accent.

By then, a few of us had started on Alex's bottle of 2008 J-M Brocard Chablis Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre which presented good freshness in its cold limestone & seashell laced green apple and Korean pear. A shade or two lighter than medium-bodied, with a nice roundness to the fruit.

Next was a platter of Miguel's more recent creations: Pintxos of Boquerónes, Uni (flown in fresh from Japan) & Caviar.

Clem then opened and shared his bottle of 2002 Champagne Piper-Heidieck Cuvée Rare - A broader, more expansive, riper style of bubbly compared to the two previous Ayalas, featuring creamy, softly-baked apples and pears with a touch of almond paste. Good complexity and heft. This went very nicely with the following heftier...

...Pintxo de Bacalao con Crema de Ajo, and...
...Gambas a la Plancha.

The Besugo a la Oriotarra bears special mention - a recipe taught to Miguel by our Basque friend, Javi Lecumberri (a.k.a., Xabi Lekunberri), who hails from San Sebastián. The fresh besugo is cooked in the style of Orio, a fishing village a short drive west (following the coastline) from San Sebastián (towards Getaria), its western perimeter on the river Oria. Incredibly succulent, moist, gently laced with olive oil, a bit of cooked vinegar, garlic and a bit of chili. Simplicity at its best. Loved it.

Moving on to more substantial fare, we had a few orders of Huevos Estrellados con Patatas y Chistorra. This is one of the typical comfort dishes I favor in Bar Pintxos...

...and it went great with the delicious bottles of Russian River Blind Pig IPA that Clem brought along.

Bar Pintxos partner, Tinchu, proudly serves... of two huge dry-aged Chuletónes, served, as is traditional, with sides of fries and confited piquillo peppers. The beef was from Carnicería Asensio in San Sebastián, flown in for us by Xavi during his previous trip to Manila.

Clem looks a bit intimidated by the chuletón's size.

With the hearty beef course, we had some 2003 Bodegas López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva (care of yours truly) - Notable riper, denser, lusher in fruit and fuller in body than the usual Viña Tondonia, the unusually hot vintage weather is obvious indeed. It is still quite primary, with just the merest hints of balsamico and the producer's distinctive oxidative style, but, to my mind, already enjoyable with a big, juicy steak.

I note that many other producers went a bit wild in oak exposure in this vintage (maybe because they figured the fruit could take it), but, in López de Heredia's case, it maintained its judiciousness as far as oak goes.

Meanwhile, Sanju had already opened his bottle of Sipsmith London Dry Gin, with which we had as many Gin-Tonics as the bottle allowed. I also shared a bottle of Monkey 47 Gin, but I forgot to take a photograph of it. Both bottles were gone by the evening's end.

The gang with chef-patrón Miguel (4th from right). ¡Salud!

Dinner done, we refused to call it a night; so, 5 of us intrepid imbibers made our way back to Alex's place (very near where Clem, Sanju & Cutie stay) for some Cuban cigars, cognac, single malts & more gin-tonics. I vaguely recall Clem got pretty smashed, so I made sure to get him back to his place before 2am (barely), so he could recuperate well for the following dinner.

Great night; great to see Clem again. Until the next (night)!