Coming Soon…

We got a blizzard last evening and then a big blast of snow around midnight; so April is already looking good. I’m also back to teaching after being off on sabbatical since last November. You’d think I’d be well rested after the sabbatical but it’s been a crazily hectic few months with travel all over the place. Anyway, all this to say that I am busier right now than I have been in a while and as a result don’t have the coming month mapped out as clearly as I usually do. I have no whisky reviews already completed and ready to go. And while I have a huge backlog of food reports—the last couple from Delhi, a bunch from Goa and a bunch from Seoul—I don’t have any of those prepared either. So, all I can tell you at this point is that in April on the blog I will have some whisky reviews and some food reports. (Oh, I can also tell you that I won’t have any recipes this month either—you should look to my Instagram for those.) Nonetheless, I do invite you, as always, to weigh in on my possible whisky reviews—remember, I do themed weeks these days. If any of the possible themes below interest you, write in to the comments. Continue reading


Kilchoman 11, 2007, ImpEx Cask Evolution

This week of reviews of bourbon cask whiskies has been going rather well. Wednesday’s Teaninich 11 from Berry Bros. & Rudd, at the border of austere and fruity, was very nice indeed. And Monday’s Bowmore 17 from the SMWS was a fruity delight. To close out the week now, I have another 11 yo and it takes us back to Islay. This Kilchoman was distilled in 2007 and matured in an ex-Buffalo Trace bourbon barrel before being bottled for the American importer’s Cask Evolution series. Though the back of the box mentions the fact that Kilchoman’s 100% Islay range uses barley grown and distilled on Islay, I don’t believe this is a 100% Islay bottling. It was distilled from barley peated to a pretty high level of 50 ppm, whereas the 100% Islay line comes in at 20 ppm. Of the ImpEx Cask Evolution releases I’ve tried this is certainly the most staid one. You may recall that my previous review was of a 7 yo that had received a mezcal finish; and before that I’d reviewed an 8 yo that had been doubled matured in port casks. I did like both of those—the port cask more than the mezcal finish—but am looking forward to this one, as my boring opinion is that ex-bourbon Kilchoman is the best Kilchoman. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Indian Accent III (Delhi, January 2023)

One of my very favourite meals of 2022 was eaten in Delhi in March: lunch at Indian Accent. That was my second meal at Indian Accent, the first having been eaten several years ago, when they were still in their original Friends Colony location, long before the international acclaim and the opening of branches abroad. Now, Indian Accent is in the swanky Lodhi Hotel (not that the previous location was not swanky as well) and is a mainstay on all those stupid “Best Restaurants in X” lists. I am generally skeptical of those lists but there’s no denying the excellence of the food at Indian Accent. Eight years passed between my first and second meal there, but given how good that second meal last year was, there was no way I was not going back again in January, this time with the missus in tow. Continue reading

Teaninich 11, 2007 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)

I started the week with a bourbon cask Bowmore bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society that I thought was excellent. May as well make bourbon casks the theme for this week. Accordingly, here is a young Teaninich, distilled in 2007 and bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd in 2019. Mind, these days 11 years is not terribly young for single malt whisky. And I’m sure this was not priced like an 11 yo of days of yore. Or maybe it was— I don’t think the current insanity in the whisky market had yet begun to approach its peak in 2019. Anyway, Berry Bros. & Rudd rarely indicate the cask type on their labels, and this one was no exception. It’s safe to say though—via a look and a quick sniff—that this was an ex-bourbon cask. Though whether first-fill, second-fill or refill is unknown; and the cask’s outturn not being mentioned on the label either, it’s hard to know whether this was a hogshead or a barrel—though perhaps the whisky itself will offer some clues. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading

A Grand Szechuan Check-In (Bloomington, MN)

Here is a quick, somewhat anxious check-in at Grand Szechuan, the Twin Cities metro’s house of Sichuan delights par excellence. Why anxious? Well, late last year—as noted in my annual year-end survey of our meals eaten there—the voluminous menu at Grand Szechuan suddenly shrank. The large “leather”-bound menus were replaced by a somewhat makeshift menu on folded printer paper. I did not see this myself but this was confirmed by a number of people. And a number of favourite dishes were not on that menu. The word was that there were staffing problems that caused this. We left for India shortly thereafter, had a busy February after we got back, and then I was off in Seoul in early March. And so it wasn’t till last week that I finally had a chance to go see for myself where things stood. Here is what I found. Continue reading

Bowmore 17, 2004 (SMWS 3.331)

The first whisky I ever reviewed on the blog was a Bowmore (the lowly Legend of yesteryear), and since then I’ve marked every anniversary of the blog with a Bowmore review. All except for the 10th anniversary this past Friday when I instead posted a look back at the decade on the blog. And so, a few days late, here is the requisite anniversary Bowmore review. This is a Bowmore 17, 2004, bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and is one of several they’ve released that were distilled on the same day in 2004 and matured in second-fill hogsheads. Indeed, the whole sequence of releases from 3.330 to 3.341 (where 3 refers to the SMWS’ distillery code for Bowmore and the other digits to the release number) are casks that were filled with spirit distilled on February 16, 2004; and almost all of those casks were second-fill hogsheads. Confusingly, this release, 3.331 was put out under two different silly names by the SMWS. Whiskybase shows one with the name “Taken out to sea” and one with the name “Ice cream dusted with chimney soot”. The former was the allocation for the US market and I guess they may have given that a different name—everything else is the same, down to the tasting notes on the label. Fascinating, no? Continue reading

Ten Years of Restaurant Reviews

Please continue to join me as I gaze at my navel. This blog marked its tenth anniversary on Friday. And if it weren’t enough that I posted a long look back at the life of the blog on that day, last night I also posted a brief retrospective of some of the whisky reviews I most enjoyed writing in that time. And this morning I have for you a list of restaurant reviews/reports that I am also particularly fond of (for different reasons). Some are of meals I enjoyed very much; some of meals I enjoyed not at all; and in some the food itself is somewhat beside the point. They’re drawn from across the life of the blog and include reviews from many of the locations I’ve covered: Minnesota, obviously, but also Delhi, Calcutta, the U.K. and Hong Kong; and elsewhere in the US, from Kansas City and New York. Nothing from Los Angeles, but that’s because my L.A reviews are largely functional. The ones I have chosen to highlight in this post have other commentary in them that recommends them. Continue reading

Ten Years of Whisky Reviews

I’d planned to clear out a couple more of Delhi restaurant reports this weekend, but I’m being told that I should do a bit more to commemorate the blog’s 10th anniversary (see Friday’s post for a maudlin recap of the last 10 years). I’ve decided to do this by highlighting some of my posts from the last 10 years. I’m going to begin with a list of 10 whisky reviews; later I’ll post 10 restaurant reviews; 10 recipes; 10 other pieces of food writing; and 10 posts that don’t fall into any of the above categories. I do also have whisky posts that aren’t reviews—but I’ve already highlighted a number of those in Friday’s post. As you’ll see, the reviews I’ve chosen to highlight here are all taken from the first five or six years of the blog’s life—back when this was, as I noted on Friday, decidedly a whisky blog. Indeed, the list slants particularly towards reviews from the first year of the blog. This is not because I didn’t review any whiskies worth remembering after 2018. But I did put a little more effort into the introductions/preambles I wrote in those days; and also, let’s be frank, into the reviews themselves, which were less brief than those from more recent years. Continue reading

Ten Years

The blog turned 10 today. Well, not exactly. If I recall correctly, it went live to the public closer to March 29, 2013—but the first post was dated March 24. The blog began as a whisky blog and for the first several months I posted a whisky review every single day. Ten years later, I can’t believe I kept that up that long (even as I acknowledge that Serge still posts a minimum of 10 booze reviews a day). In those days I was very much a whisky blogger. In that first post, the other subjects I say I might occasionally post about are film, music and books. I have done a little of that over the years but it’s funny that the thing I don’t mention is food. Funny, because by now this is probably almost entirely a food blog in the eyes of most of my readers—and I now have far more readers than I did in the early years of the blog. I can’t say I had any idea when I started out of how long I would blog but since 10 is a nice round number, let me take the opportunity to look back a little (and then a little bit ahead). Continue reading

Talisker 11, Special Release 2022

This week of reviews of official Taliskers began on Monday with a 9 yo hand-fill cask that was available at the distillery in 2022. It was matured in “rejuvenated” red wine casks. I did not like that one at all. It continued yesterday with the 2021 release of the classic 10 yo. I liked that quite a bit more than the 9 yo, though not as much as I had earlier releases. Today I have for you a review of an 11 yo that was also released in 2022, albeit in much wider release than the distillery hand-fill. This was part of Diageo’s Special Release slate for 2022. All their Special Release bottles now seem to have some sort of animal imagery on their labels and this Talisker is no different. It sports a psychedelic cephalopod on the front and a fair bit of marketing malarkey on the back. The important things to know are that this was put together from first-fill bourbon casks and was bottled at 55.1%. In the US the average price being asked for this—as per WineSearcher—is $144. Not surprisingly, there’s still a fair bit of it about. And not just in the US. The Incheon airport duty free stores had lots of it a couple of weeks ago (along with lots of most of the rest of the 2022 Special Release). I can only hope Diageo is having a tough time flogging these overpriced whiskies. That’s not to say that the whisky itself is not good. I opened this bottle right after buying it (for quite a bit less than $144) and liked it very much from the get-go. Here now are my notes. Continue reading

Talisker 10, 2021 Release

This is a week of reviews of officially bottled Taliskers. Once upon a time, officially bottled Taliskers were pretty much the only kind there were; in recent years, however, some young casks have emerged from indie bottlers. But that is neither here nor there. The week began with a 9 yo distillery hand-fill from a “rejuvenated” red wine cask. I did not like it. I did not like it at all.  Today’s whisky is one year older and is the classic 10 yo—a whisky that I once recommended without reservation to anyone looking for a reasonably priced single malt of good quality. This quality has slipped over time—see the transition from the 2009 release I reviewed in 2014 to the 2016 release that I reviewed in 2018—but the Talisker 10 has remained a solid malt. And the price too has remained reasonable—I got this for less than $50 in Minnesota (compare with the Springbank 10). Well, as I say that it remains a solid malt, I remember that it’s been a while since I last tried it. Today’s review is of a bottle from the 2021 release. I’m not sure when Diageo’s brain trust decided to mess with the label design but, as I noted on Twitter when I purchased this bottle last year, they’ve really hit it with the ugly stick. How about what’s inside? Let’s see. Continue reading

Wonjo Agujjim (Seoul, March 2023)

Seoul, as you may have heard, is a great city to eat in and a very easy city to eat well in (assuming you like to eat Korean food). It is not always, however, a city in which it is easy to eat well alone (though, of course, I managed to do so at my lunch in Namdaemun Market’s Kalgusksu Alley). This because many of the things you may wish to eat—and when I was there last week, I wished to eat them all—are only prepared and served in portions that seem to assume that you will be eating out with at least one other person and probably more. And, indeed, in many of the restaurants and market counters where I ate, that did seem to be the dominant mode in which locals ate. At one dinner at Gwangjang Market, for example, I ate a bowl of dumpling soup that was perfectly sized for one. But throughout the meal I was tormented by the sight of massive links of soondae and many other dumplings and sliced meats—none of which I could have ordered because each order would have been a very large meal for one. And so I ate my dumpling soup, pondering the mechanics of setting up a service through which tourists visiting Seoul alone could form alliances for the purposes of eating out. No need to talk, just order food communally and eat it. A very gluttonous version of Tinder. If it already exists, please forward the details; if not, please forward me 75% of all profits once you set it up. Continue reading

Talisker 9, Distillery Hand-Fill, October 2022

Okay, let’s do a week of official Taliskers (still pretty much the only kind there are). When I first got into single malt whisky, there wasn’t much Talisker about. Really just the 10 yo and the Distillers Edition. This was in the early 2000s. The 18 yo was introduced in 2004 and that’s also when the 25 yo became a regular annual release (the first one had been released in 2001). The 30 yo came along a few years after that. With both the 25 yo and the 30 yo in the special release category, it was really the 10 yo and the 18 yo that carried the distillery’s flag through the 2000s and into the early 2010s. Even without the excellent 25 and 30 year olds taken into account, the distillery’s batting average was pretty high. In the decade and a half since, the official releases have proliferated somewhat. You might say that’s a good thing: the more Talisker, the better. I would have said the same if this expanded range were more to my taste but I’m afraid I don’t have a very high opinion of the newer NAS releases. Well, the Talisker that leads off this week is not NAS—it’s a 9 yo (though no vintage is mentioned). And it’s not a wide release, being a cask that was available last year to be filled by hand at the distillery. The source of my bottle split filled it in late October (along with the Oban, Lochnagar and Dalwhinnie I reviewed in December). It’s from a “rejuvenated” red wine cask, which means that there are two things about it that scare me. Let’s see if it allays my fears. Continue reading

Kwality (Delhi, January 2023)

On Friday I posted a report on our most recent lunch at one of our new(er) Delhi favourites, Cafe Lota. New(er) in the sense that it opened only a decade ago. Today I have for you a report on a much older Delhi favourite, Kwality, located in the Regal Building in Connaught Place. Often said to be Delhi’s oldest restaurant—though this doubtless depends on how you define a restaurant—Kwality opened in 1940 as an ice-cream shop. The ice cream, of course, went far past the shop and the borders of Delhi. Indeed, Kwality ice cream—and the men selling it from hand-pushed carts—was a major part of my childhood and that of many other Indians in cities and towns far from Delhi. The iconic ice cream business was sold off in the early-mid 1990s but the original location remains, if not in its original form. Continue reading

Lunch at the Kalguksu Alley in Namdaemun Market (Seoul, March 2023)

I will be taking a bunch of students to Seoul for five weeks next February/March (we’ll get there after five weeks in Bombay). In preparation for this trip, I recently spent a week in Seoul, visiting sites, checking out possible accommodations and group activities; and, of course, also eating.

Though the missus was born in Seoul and lived there till the age of nine (at which point she moved to Los Angeles with her family), we have not been to Seoul as a family and nor had I ever been there before myself. I was a little intimidated by the thought of navigating the city by myself for a week but quite predictably ended up having a blast in the periods of time before, between and after my appointments. I walked an average of 7 miles a day—a lot of it to markets where I ate. One of these markets was Namdaemun Market—I ate lunch there on three consecutive days. Here is a look at my second lunch, eaten on a Friday in the market’s famous “Kalguksu Alley”. Continue reading

Cafe Lota VI (Delhi, January 2023)

As I noted in my review of Bhawan a couple of weeks ago, we’ve eaten at Cafe Lota in Delhi on every trip since right after it opened just about a decade ago. Indeed, it might be fair to say that in many ways it has been our favourite restaurant in Delhi over that span of time. This even though the original chef whose vision shaped the restaurant, Rahul Dua, left the restaurant a while ago (he’s now one of the people behind Bhawan, which is sort of in the Lota’esque mold). When our home base in Delhi was Noida, Cafe Lota was a fairly convenient place to meet friends. And part of our love for the restaurant does stem from the fact that we’ve eaten there with so many friends over the years. Now that our home base is quite a bit further away, in Gurgaon, you’d think we’d be less likely to choose it as a rendezvous point; but I ate there with friends on my solo trip to Delhi a year ago, and we ate there again with friends on our family trip this January. Herewith, the details of the most recent outing. Continue reading

Glentauchers 27, 1993 (Gordon & MacPhail)

Here is a Glentauchers to close out my week of heavily sherried 25+ year old whiskies bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. Glentauchers is a pretty anonymous Speyside distillery. I’ve reviewed five others previously—I believe those were all from ex-bourbon casks. Like Monday’s Aberfeldy, this one is from a first-fill sherry puncheon; Tuesday’s Mortlach was from a first-fill butt (a bit smaller than a puncheon). Well, I liked the Mortlach quite a bit more than the Aberfeldy and so hope that the cask type is not going to be the predictor of quality here. Let’s get right to it.

Glentauchers 27, 1993 (54.3%; first-fill sherry puncheon 2635; Gordon & MacPhail; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah yes, this is a richer, fruitier sherry cask. It leads with dried orange peel, fig jam and a touch of hoisin. Sweeter on the second sniff with brandied raisins. A bit of pencil lead too. With time some apricot jam joins the party. With a few drops of water there’s some camphor and it get spicier on the whole. Continue reading

Desi Brothers (Bloomington, MN)

Here is the latest in my series of looks at grocery stores in the Twin Cities metro that serve the area’s immigrant communities. In January I posted a look at one of the metro’s most established South Asian groceries, Pooja Grocers—way up in Hilltop. Here now is a look at a more recent arrival in the south metro. It is located in Bloomington, in the same general complex at the intersection of Penn Ave. and American Blvd. that is also home to Itton Ramen. And, indeed, we stopped in there after our lunch at Itton Ramen a couple of weeks ago. That lunch disappointed more than a little but I am glad to say that the market did not. Continue reading