Jacoulot 7, Marc de Bourgogne


Here’s a brandy review for a change and for a real change it’s a brandy that’s neither an armagnac, a cognac or a calvados. No, this is a marc. Marc is pomace brandy, which means it’s made from the leftover skins, stems etc. from winemaking. Not the most poetic origin story…or maybe it is? “They squeezed everything from the grapes, left them there to rot and just when it seemed like it was all over…” Where was I? Oh yes, this is a marc and I obviously know all about marcs and am not at all spinning my wheels here before getting to the review. Marc seems to be made in pretty much every winemaking region of France, which makes sense, I guess. This one is from the Jacoulot estate in Burgundy and is made from Burgundy’s most famous red wine grape: pinot noir. Despite these fancy associations, I’m guessing this is going to be funky as my understanding is that marcs are generally funky. Well, I’ve been known to be funky in my time too—okay, okay, so I haven’t. I do have a couple more samples of marcs on my shelf though and I’m hoping my first experience won’t put me off trying the others (which was roughly my reaction to the first grappa I had many years ago—and I never quite acquired the taste). Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Glenlossie 29, 1978 (Gordon & MacPhail)


Glenlossie is the very definition of a workhorse distillery producing malt for Diageo’s blends; and in their case I don’t believe there even is a mainline blend they are closely associated with. There is no official release of their whisky as single malt, save for the occasional Flora & Fauna bottle (I am still fuzzy on the currency of that series). I have had very little Glenlossie in my time and have reviewed even less; only two others, in fact (this 10 yo and this 22 yo). Which means that this is without a doubt the oldest Glenlossie I’ve ever had (though in a few weeks it may not hold this title anymore). I said rude things about Auchentoshan last week—noting that it was one of the distilleries that seemed to give the lie to my belief that every distillery is capable of producing excellent casks—and it must be said that the few Glenlossies I’ve had have not inspired much confidence in that direction either. Will this much older iteration, distilled in the 1970s, confirm my optimism? I hope so. Continue reading

Mussels Moilee


I made this for dinner last night with the last of a mega-bag of mussels from Costco. I posted the picture on Facebook and a friend asked for the recipe—you may as well have it too.

Moilee—often also transliterated as “molee” or even “molly”—is a Malayali (as in from Kerala) stew made with coconut milk. Where a lot of Malayali food is very robustly spiced, and often very hot, moilees tend to be mild. They usually feature seafood of one kind or the other—typically fish or prawns. I make it with fish and prawns as well but mussels are really my seafood of choice for it. I haven’t come across mussels moilee in Malayali restaurants in Delhi but for all I know it’s a very common variation down Kerala way (I’ve never been). At any rate, I find the briny-umami flavour of mussels goes really well with the other flavours in the stew. As a bonus it’s also a very easy dish to make: I pulled it together in less than half an hour last evening. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse, here we are. Both my countries continue to plumb the depths of their foundational pathologies. In India Kashmir continues under a repressive and brutal lockdown, while the ruling BJP takes advantage of the pandemic to crush political dissent elsewhere in the country as well. In the US the march of fascism gets more open and confident every week, seemingly. And last week the Minneapolis Police Department re-confirmed what should need no re-confirmation: the enduring—because foundational—racism of American society, and the particular inequities and contempt faced by black Americans, 155 years after the end of the Civil War. There seems to be no end to the shit coming relentlessly down the pike, no sign of hope convincing enough to believe in. And here I am blogging about whisky and food. Continue reading

Caol Ila 10 (Gordon & MacPhail)


After a month of reviews of un-sherried whiskies—well, the Glen Scotia 14 probably had some sherry casks in the mix—let’s end with one from refill sherry casks. This is a 10 yo Caol Ila released in Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice series at some point after the casks in that series started being bottled at 46% with new packaging. I think this was released in the mid-2010s, which would, I think, have been not too long after the revamping of the line. I almost always enjoy Caol Ila from sherry casks—and have a very good memory of this earlier G&M 10 yo from refill sherry casks (though that was in their old Cask Strength line). And I quite liked as well this G&M 10 yo from 2006 (also cask strength but in the new livery for their Cask Strength line). That latter one was from first-fill casks though. Well, as long as it’s better than the last sherried Caol Ila I reviewed—this sherry finished 7 yo that was an exclusive for K&L—I’ll be happy. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading

Achaari Baingan


Where “achaari”=”a la achaar” where “achaar=Indian pickles”. There are actual baingan/brinjal/eggplant achaars/pickles—this is not one of them. Instead, as with most achaari recipes, this is made with ingredients that you would use in pickling. There are a large number of variations in how this general family of eggplant dishes is made; this is the one I use more often than not. It comes together very quickly and easily and it is very tasty indeed. As made in this recipe it is also quite hot but you can adjust that down by either using less red chilli powder or using a mild chilli such as Kashmiri or the slightly hotter Byadgi chilli. Either will be available from Amazon if there isn’t a South Asian store doing curbside pickup near you. But I do hope there is a South Asian store doing curbside pickup near you because the recipe calls for curry leaves. It’s not the case that you can’t make the dish at all if you don’t have them but it’ll be much better with a sprig of this otherwise un-substitutable ingredient. Continue reading

Auchentoshan 15, 1997 (Old Malt Cask)


I often say that every distillery is capable of producing high quality malt. But I have to admit that Auchentoshan is one of the distilleries that really tests my faith in this proposition. In my years of drinking single malt whisky I have not yet come across an official Auchentoshan that I have wanted to purchase or even drink again; and, more damningly, I have not also come across any indie releases that have convinced me that owners Morrison Bowmore have been blending quality casks away, whether in the official vattings or in the group’s blends. I’m not denying the possibility that they exist; merely noting that I have not yet randomly encountered one. Of the few I have reviewed, I liked this 23 yo from Archives the best and I gave that 86 points. But hope springs eternal and perhaps this will be the one that rewards my faith. Like some of the other whiskies I’ve been reviewing recently it too was a release from a long time ago—I’ve been sitting on this sample too for a while. Well, let’s get to it now. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 9: Simplee Pho (Apple Valley)


As I’ve noted before, we live in probably the only college town in the US—one with two colleges, in fact—that has no Thai or Vietnamese food on offer. There is serviceable Thai food available within 20-30 minutes drive (Taste of Thaiyai in Apple Valley, for example, or Thai Curry House in Burnsville or Joy’s Thai in Lakeville—where we recently got some pandemic takeout from); but in normal times we prefer to drive further to the Twin Cities’s real “Eat Street” for food that is substantially better. For Vietnamese food, and pho in particular, the gulf is less wide and we’re happy to eat at Pho Valley and Simplee Pho in Apple Valley when taken by a sudden urge for a good bowl of noodle soup. And so it was that after doing curbside pickup of Indian groceries at Mantra Bazaar on Saturday, I stopped at Simplee Pho to pick up a few things. Continue reading

Glen Scotia 14, 2004 Release


Here is the Glen Scotia 14 that I mentioned when I reviewed the Glen Scotia 12 last October. I’m finally drinking my sample hoard down and have begun to make deep inroads into the back catalog. And I mean “back catalog” quite literally: many of the samples I’ve been reviewing of late are from sample swaps from a long time ago: I placed them on my sample shelves and they got obscured by others that came in after them. This one, in fact, might be from a swap from 2011 or so. I received two 1 oz samples of this. My spreadsheet tells me I drank one in 2012 and gave it 85 points. And then I forgot about the other ounce. Which is good since I get to formally review it now. Don’t worry, it’s been in a tightly-sealed, parafilm-wrapped bottle in a cold basement the whole time and the fill-level hasn’t dropped at all. The whisky inside is even older still. As the label notes, the bottling year was 2004. A long way away from the current official Glen Scotia releases—I’m not even sure what their range looks like now—and so unlikely to be any kind of guide. But it’s always fun to drink whiskies released at a time when distilleries were sitting on deep stocks. Let’s see what this one was like. Continue reading

Fisherman’s Wharf (Goa, Jan 2020)


Almost exactly four months to the day that we arrived in Goa for a week’s holiday, here is a brief account of our first meal there. We were staying at the beautiful home of old friends (they weren’t there) in Velim in South Goa. South Goa has far less tourist traffic than North Goa does and so is far less hectic. By the same token there are fewer quality restaurants in the larger area, and in a small, sleepy village like Velim there are none. For the rest of the stay all our dinners would be at the house; but as we’d arrived in the evening of the first day it hadn’t been possible to get set up with the cook we’d made arrangements with in the village. I’d looked around before arrival to see what the options were that wouldn’t require us to drive another 30 minutes back in the direction of the airport and we settled on the outpost of The Fisherman’s Wharf in Cavelossim, not too far from the beach on which we would spend the majority of every day following. The Fisherman’s Wharf is a chain with a few locations in Goa and they’ve expanded as well to Bangalore and Hyderabad. We didn’t have any particular expectations but it turned out to be a decent meal on the whole, if nothing very exciting. Indeed, this meal included a few items that we consumed pretty much every day for the rest of the trip. Continue reading

“It’s Time to Find a Place” (More Poems About Food and Drink)


Here is the third entry in my occasional series on poems about food and drink. In introducing the series—two weeks before I actually got around to posting the first entry—I noted that these poems “may centrally be about food, drink or hunger/starvation; they may make passing reference to food/drink; they may employ food/drink/eating/drinking//hunger/starvation etc. entirely as metaphors.” The first two poems I wrote briefly about in the series—Imtiaz Dharker’s “At the Lahore Karhai” and Arun Kolatkar’s “Irani Restaurant Bombay” were indeed centrally about restaurants as particular kinds of spaces; spaces that in the one case allow for a provisional declaration of community and in the other are the stage for a kind of public solitude. The poem I have for you today, Eunice De Souza’s “It’s Time to Find a Place” only glancingly mentions restaurants, as one in a list of spaces where endless prattling happens. Still fits the theme of the series though and is also roundly a poem I like a lot. Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 1997-2010 (Murray McDavid)


Okay after two reviews of things that are not whisky, let’s get back to whisky. But this might be barely whisky. It’s a Murray McDavid red wine-bothered Bunnahabhain, and Murray McDavid wine-bothered anything is rarely a good idea (see, for example, this Bowmore from red wine casks and also this Bowmore from white wine casks). The only sign of hope is that this is one of those peated 1997 Bunnahabhains and that kind of heavy, organic peat (as opposed to Bowmore’s more delicate, floral variety) can theoretically stand up more successfully to the depredations of a red wine finish. Will that be the case here though? Let’s see.

This is another sample that I acquired a long time ago—from Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail—and am only getting around to opening now. Continue reading

Alu-Gobi, Dry Style


I posted a recipe for alu-gobi last November. In the tedious preamble to that recipe I noted that alu-gobi—like most dishes in the vast Indian home cooking repertoire—is more of a genre than a specific dish. That shouldn’t be surprising considering the dish is just named for the two major ingredients in it. Cauliflower and potatoes cooked with a rotating cast of spices: that’s all alu-gobi is. The recipe I posted in November involved a simple spice-mix heavy on the coriander seed, and a fair bit of water for a fair bit of gravy. This one has a different mix of spices and tastes quite different. And as it’s made with very little water the texture is also very different. I like to make it keeping the cauliflower fairly crunchy but that’s easy enough to sort out if your tastes run otherwise. It’s a simple dish that’s not going to set off any fireworks but it’s very good. Continue reading

Domaine de Pouchegu 27, 1986 (Armagnac)


Continuing with review of things that are not whisky, here is a review of a brandy, more specifically of an Armagnac. And if you want to be even more specific, a review of an Armagnac from the Ténarèze region. I note this latter because the vast majority of Armagnacs I’ve had are from the dominant Bas-Armaganc region. Exceptions include a Pellehaut that I liked a lot and a couple of Grangeries that I had a more variable experience with (here and here). All those were brought in by K&L as is this one. It’s no secret that I find the K&L marketing style exhausting and often ridiculous but it must be said they have done more than any other store in the US in expanding brandy horizons here. Pouchegu is, or rather was, a micro-producer even by the rustic standards of Armagnac. In fact, as per the K&L notes, they never produced on a commercial scale or with a commercial market in mind. And with the passing of the proprietor, Pierre Laporte, there may not be any more Pouchegu being made. There is something melancholy about drinking a spirit with such a backstory but it’s also an opportunity to celebrate the skills of its maker. Well, if it’s good, I suppose; but as per the source of my sample—the outsider artist, Sku—it is very good. He does note “huge oak notes” though—Laporte believed in using new Limousin oak casks, apparenrly—and that’s rarely my speed. Let’s see. Continue reading