Asian Mart (Burnsville, MN)


A couple of weeks ago I posted a detailed pictorial report on Rong Market in Richfield, whose focus is on Chinese items (and secondarily on Japanese and Korean as well). Today I have for you a report on a much smaller market in Burnsville which focuses on Filipino groceries, belying its generic name: Asian Mart. It occupies the exact location of the Thai market it replaced, Rearn Thai (which I never got around to reporting on). I believe the changeover happened two years or so ago. It may not seem very different at first when you go in but it is an entirely different market now. Unlike Rearn Thai they do not carry any produce; they make up for this by carrying a much larger selection of frozen meats and fish of interest to more than just the Filipino kitchen. They also carry a number of refrigerated Filipino prepared snacks etc.; and on weekends their deli offers a broader selection of hot dishes (currently takeout-only). I hope to stop in next weekend to pick up some of this food but for now here is a look at the market itself. Continue reading

Tomatin 23, 1976 (OMC)


So here we are at the end of Highlands Week (see here for Wednesday’s Ardmore and here for Monday’s Ben Nevis). It’s been a week of excellent whiskies so far and it’s also been a week of wonderfully fruity whiskies, albeit two of quite different profiles. Today’s Tomatin—which also takes us roughly another decade back in time in terms of bottling year—promises to keep that streak of fruity excellence going and it’s also likely to be of a different profile still. Tomatins of any era—leave alone the 1970s—don’t exhibit the mineral peat of Ardmore or the malty-gingery funkiness of Ben Nevis. What 1970s Tomatins—and 1976 Tomatin in particular—are known for is tropical fruit. I’ve registered on many occasions previously my suspicion of the notion of “magic vintages” for any distillery—usually these high scores turn out to be a case of sampling bias. That said, I have enjoyed the few Tomatin ’76s I’ve had immensely—I’ve reviewed two (here and here). This bottle is one I purchased from Binny’s in Chicago more than a decade after it was released—imagine that a Tomatin 1976 that hung around on the shelf of a major retailer for some 11-12 years—and didn’t pay anything approaching a king’s ransom for it—imagine that as well. There are a couple of these 23 yo, 1976s bottled by Old Malt Cask, by the way. This one was for the US market only (as far as I know), distilled in November 1976 and bottled in July 1999, yielding only 186 bottles. Let’s get into it. Continue reading

Chana Masala, Take 3


This is my third recipe for chana masala made with the smaller, darker desi chana. Here, in case you missed them, is the first, made with regular desi chana and here is the second, made with Rancho Gordo’s desi chana. I have quite a lot of the Rancho Gordo chana in the pantry and so have been experimenting with cooking times/methods and masala mixes for a while. I think I have now got things to where I like them best. Of course, I’m going to keep tinkering with the mix and proportion of spices because that’s the kind of asshole I am. But I’ve been coming back to this version often—which says something. The thing that I have settled on though is the mode of cooking the chana itself. I started out doing them entirely on the stove-top—as I do with my all other Rancho Gordo bean preps—but the desi chana just take too long. Now that I am in the middle of a teaching term I can’t constantly get up to check and stir and add water and so forth; and so I’ve been deploying my workhorse Prestige pressure cooker—one of those terrifying, shaking-whistling ones. And I’ve been pressure cooking this chana quite a bit longer than I would normally pressure cook beans: about 50 minutes total (see the first note below). I’m sorry I don’t have conversion instructions for whatever new-fangled pressure cooker you might have but the recipe will provide excellent results no matter how you get the beans ready for the show. Continue reading

Ardmore 19, 1992 (Whisky Doris)


Highlands Week got off to a great and terrifically fruity start on Monday with this Ben Nevis 23. It was also a timely start to the week and month, what with the cask having been bottled only in 2020. Today we go back almost a decade to a cask bottled almost a decade ago in 2012. This Ardmore 19 was one of several of similar age released at that time from the 1992 vintage. I’ve previously reviewed a 20 yo released by Whiskybase under their Archives label and another 20 yo released by the Whisky Agency (are they still around? I don’t think I’ve seen anything released by them in quite some time). Those ran the gamut from very good indeed to excellent. Both the Archives and the Whisky Agency cask were very fruity and so I am hoping that this one will not belie the hope I expressed on Monday that this would turn out to be not only Highlands Week but also Fruity Whisky Week. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 56: Firebox Barbecue (St. Paul, MN)


I’ve been promising (threatening?) a pandemic takeout report from the St. Paul outpost of Firebox for a while now. This past weekend the stars finally aligned and I was able to go up to pick up a large order. I’m not sure what their hours were in the Before Times but at least during the pandemic they are only open in the evenings (see the posted hours in the slideshow below). Like most barbecue restaurants they have a compact menu—even more compact, in fact, than at either Ted Cook’s 19th Hole or Smoke in the Pit. We got almost everything on it. It was our first time eating their food and it seemed like it would be a mistake to not be comprehensive (also: we were being joined on our deck by two sets of vaccinated friends and so there were a lot of mouths to fee). Well, we had no regrets. Details follow. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 23, 1996 (First Editions)


Let’s get the month off to a likely fruity start with this Ben Nevis. I have three Ben Nevis on my long list for May and I’d said that if I reviewed a whisky that was part of a listed trio I’d likely review all three—as I’m liking organizing my reviews in a themed manner. However, given that I did a Ben Nevis week back in October and have reviewed three more since then, perhaps I don’t need to do another all Ben Nevis week. Accordingly, this will be the first in another week of reviews of highland malts (and I suspect it will also end up being a week of reviews of highly fruity malts).

This Ben Nevis was released in 2020—thus allowing me to spit in the eye of people who accuse me of only posting useless reviews of whiskies released a long time ago. Well, I don’t know that this review will be of any use to anyone either from a purchasing perspective, as I’d guess this sold out a long time ago. But perhaps some of my readers have or have already finished a bottle of this. If so, please consider sharing your take on it in the comments as well. Continue reading

Golden Beet Pickle


I usually post only one recipe a week but my backlog of recipes is getting a bit long and so I’ll be putting up the occasional bonus recipe post on the weekends for the next couple of months—not every weekend, mind, but 1-2 weekends a month. First up is this recipe for a simple achaar made with golden beets, the milder, sweeter cousin of the more familiar red, the one that is less likely to make you panic the morning after. It has its origins in a carrot-garlic pickle I posted the recipe for back in August. That recipe eventually morphed into one for a combination carrot-red beet achaar that I never got around to posting a recipe for. This is a simpler prep than both of those and may be even tastier. It comes together very quickly and goes well with almost anything. In addition to eating it with dal and rice since making it earlier in the week I’ve been drizzling the “syrup” over pan-seared fish as well. No matter how you eat it I think you’ll enjoy it. And, oh, this is not tested for ph etc. and I wouldn’t suggest that you keep it around forever. This recipe makes one jar that you should store in the fridge and finish within a month. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


Here it is, the day you look forward to for 30 or 31 days (or 28 or occasionally 29): the day I tell you what might be coming up on the blog over the next month . Contain your excitement. As you may have noticed, I’ve of late been doing a lot of themed weeks of whisky reviews (in April I did a Loch Lomond week, a Springbank week, a highlands distilleries week and a sherry cask week). I have stolen this idea from, by which I mean I have been inspired by Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls who has been doing wonderful deep dives into distilleries—he currently has a Port Charlotte series going on. You should really read him regularly if you want good whisky reviews and good writing on whisky. But what the hell am I doing promoting the competition? I should be telling you what you can expect to find here in May. Continue reading

Auchroisk 27, 1989 (Cadenhead)


Here to close out sherry cask week and the month on the blog is a 27 yo Auchroisk bottled by Cadenhead in 2016. It is somewhat atypically—based on my experience anyway—a sherry cask. Bourbon cask Auchroisk can be wonderfully fruity and I’ve been intrigued by the distillery ever since I drank this fruit bomb bottled for Binny’s by Signatory some years ago (and which I probably gave too low a score then). Most of the other Auchroisks I’ve had have been bourbon casks as well (for example, this, this and this—the last of those another 27 yo from Cadenhead). But I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve not had any sherry cask Auchroisks before; just last year I reviewed another, a 22, 1990 bottled by Whisky-Fässle. I liked that one a lot and particularly liked that the sherry in that case was not very obtrusive and certainly did not cover up the fruit. I’m a little less sure of this one—the reviews on Whiskybase suggest it may be one best aligned with the tastes of the German market, with more than one reviewer noting the presence of “dirty sherry”, which is another way of saying sulphur. Well, as it happens I don’t mind sulphur when it presents in the savoury gunpowder end of things. But I do hope that it won’t block the fruit. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading

Braised Lamb Belly, Curry Reduction


Back in December I started purchasing lamb and beef from a small farm in southern Minnesota. I’ve previously posted recipes for an oxtail curry made with one of the tails we got from them and also for two curries with lamb shanks (here and here). At my most recent pick-up from them—in a gas station parking lot off Highway 35—I also got a 2 lb pack of lamb bellies. I had not previously known that lamb bellies were a thing. Well, I knew lambs have bellies but I had not encountered this cut before. Still I couldn’t resist it when I knew they carried it. Looking it up when I finally got around to defrosting it to cook I learned that this is probably not a belly cut at all. What part of the lamb it is actually from I’m not sure. What I can tell you though is that it is very good in a braise, which is to say, it is very good given the curry treatment. The broad contours of the recipe are inspired by this one; the flavours etc. here are, of course, squarely North Indian in nature. It makes for a dramatic presentation—the kind of dish you might trot out for a dinner party—but we also enjoyed it for lunch on a weekday. It might seem like a complicated preparation but it actually comes together very easily (you can see most of the steps in the thread I posted on Twitter when I made it). Continue reading

Glendronach 18, 1994 (PX Puncheon for the UK)


As I said on Monday, the last week of this month is sherry cask month. The week got off to a high abv start with a Glenrothes 12 bottled by the SMWS from a first-fill oloroso sherry cask. Today I have an official Glendronach 18, a PX puncheon bottled for the UK. On release this cost me $103 at the then much higher $/£ exchange rate. These days I’m sure it would cost a far prettier penny on the secondary market.

I have to say I am a little nervous going into this. On the one hand, some of my favourite Glendronachs have involved PX (including this one, also bottled for the UK market). However, my experience also suggests that these PX releases are also the most likely to involve shenanigans from Glendronach’s so-called “single cask” regimen and unsuccessful ones at that. Certainly some of the flabbiest of these alleged “single casks” I’ve had from the distillery have seemed to involve re-racking in PX casks to rescue spirit that had probably gotten over-oaked or just gone flat in terms of flavour. Such, for example, was this one, also a PX puncheon. Let’s hope this is closer to the 1993 than the 1990. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 55: Basil Cafe (St. Paul, MN)


In my recent review of takeout from On’s Kitchen I noted that we would not go three months between Thai meals again and as it happens we didn’t even go three weeks. This past weekend we went back to University Ave. in St. Paul (the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street) to pick up another round of Thai takeout. Not to On’s again and not to Bangkok Thai Deli or even Thai Cafe either. In fact, we went to a place we’d never been before and which I’d not even really registered the existence of till someone recommended it to me in a discussion on the excellent East Metro Foodies Facebook page: Basil Cafe. Recommendations from strangers for Asian restaurants of any kind in the Twin Cities can be hit or miss—usually more miss than hit—and this is particularly true of Thai food, the preferences for which in the area seem to run towards the sweet and standard. And so I won’t deny that I was a bit skeptical going in. I am, however, very happy to say that we did in fact enjoy the food a lot. Here are the details. Continue reading

Glenrothes 12, 2007 (SMWS 30.111)


I’ve already done three themed weeks of whisky reviews this month and so may as well end with another. The first was a week of whiskies from the Loch Lomond distillery—the new Inchmurrin 12, the new Inchmoan 12 and the new Loch Lomond 12. That was followed by a week of whiskies from Highland distilleries—a Dalwhinnie, a Dalmore and a Glenmorangie. Then last week saw three whiskies from Springbank—the 2019 Local Barley release, a Hazelburn 12 from a decade previous and last year’s Springbank 17, Madeira Wood. What there hasn’t been a lot of this month is sherry cask whiskies and so let’s end with a week of single sherry casks.

First up is this Glenrothes 12, 2007 bottled by the SMWS. I’ve previously reviewed two other Glenrothes 12, 2007s bottled by the SMWS (their two Glenrothes releases immediately prior to this one, in fact—here and here). Both of those were at ludicrous abvs and so is this one. I’m not generally a fan of whiskies at stupid strengths—especially those coming out of first-fill sherry casks, as all three of these did—but I did end up liking those two a fair bit once I added the right amount of water. I’m guessing this will need a fair bit of water too—I do hope it will be as good as the others.Oh yes, the SMWS named this “Inferno Toffee Pudding”. Continue reading

Rong Market (Richfield, MN)


If you thought some of my previous posts had an excessive number of photographs in them wait till you get a load of the slideshow in this one.

Back in December I’d posted a look at Saigon Market in Burnsville. On Facebook someone recommended that I also check out Rong Market in Richfield (in a strip mall on Nicollet, between 66th and 65th). I was chastened to discover that they’d apparently been located for a few years now in close proximity to the Costco we shop at in Burnsville, only having relocated to Richfield towards the end of last year. The employee I spoke to as I was paying for my purchases last Tuesday said that they moved because the Burnsville store was too small; he also noted that the new location puts them within easier driving radius of a larger segment of their core clientele. That core clientele is, of course, East Asian. Rong Market is primarily a Chinese store but those interested in Japanese, Korean and other East Asian ingredients will also find a lot there. And you will certainly find a lot more fish and seafood there than you will at any mainstream grocery. I do hope my excessive slideshow may encourage you to go take a look whether you are in their core clientele or not. Continue reading

Springbank 17 2002, Madeira Wood


Springbank week began on Monday with a review of the 2019 edition of the Local Barley. On Wednesday I had a rather more untimely review: the 2009 release of the Hazelburn 12. Today’s review is far more timely, being of a whisky released in 2020. But the whisky world being what it is these days, you may not have very much luck in finding a bottle. And Springbank prices being what they are these days, even if you did you’d probably have to sell a kidney to buy it. The whisky in question is a 17 yo billed on the front label as “Madeira Cask Matured”. In fact—as the rear label clarifies—it’s a vatting of 14 yo rum and bourbon cask spirit matured for a further 3 years in fresh madeira hogsheads. As it happens, one of the first Springbanks I had outside of the standard age-stated lineup was an 11 yo Madeira wood release from 2009—well before I started this blog—and I liked that one a lot (I think I still have a bottle of it on my shelves). And I also quite liked a 14 yo released by K&L in 2011 as well as a 16 yo released in 2013 that was double matured for 10 + 6 years in bourbon and madeira casks. So the odds seem to be in favour of my liking this one as well, despite its more Frankenstein’s monster’ish composition. Let’s see if that actually proves to to be the case. Continue reading

Pork and Squash with Roasted Cumin


Many years ago the top Sichuan restaurant in Los Angeles—which is to say in the San Gabriel Valley, which is to say in the US—was Chung King in Monterey Park. In the early 2000s we ate there almost as often as we now do at Grand Szechuan here in the Twin Cities metro. Indeed, when we left Los Angeles for Boulder in 2003 there was a period when if one of us had to go back to L.A for a few days they were tasked with picking up an order of our favourite dishes the evening before their return, freezing it and bringing it back in their suitcase. We’re not as insane anymore—and, of course, Chung King’s heyday faded long ago, as they moved, lost their chef and closed; and as newer and, let’s face it, even better Sichuan restaurants opened in the SGV (your Chengdu Tastes and your Szechuan Impressions). Why am I going on about Chung King? Well, because on one occasion we saw a special come out of the kitchen and head to another table: it looked like a kabocha squash stuffed with meat. We managed to order one too and it did indeed turn out to be kabocha stuffed with highly spiced ground pork and cooked together. The only other thing I remember clearly is that it was dynamite and that we never had any luck finding it again. Continue reading

Hazelburn 12, 2009 Release


Springbank week began with the 2019 release in the Local Barley series. It continues with a Hazelburn 12 released a decade before that. This is one of many bottles that I purchased in the 2008-2012 timeframe—also known as The End of the Golden Age of Single Malt Whisky—and never got around to opening (on account of having purchased too many bottles of whisky at the time). Well, I’m opening them up now one by one and the time of this Hazelburn has come.

As you doubtless know, Hazelburn is the triple-distilled, nominally unpeated whisky produced at Springbank. I say “nominally unpeated” because among the Hazelburns I’ve reviewed (not very many) is one that had fairly palpable peat. That was an 8 yo from a bourbon cask. I’ve also reviewed another 8 yo doubled matured in a Sauternes cask and more recently a 14 yo from an oloroso sherry cask. I liked them all fine but none got me very excited (I scored them all in the 84-86 point window). This one also clearly has a heavy sherry component—let’s see where it falls. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 54: Aroma Indian Cuisine (Bloomington, MN)


I’m going to keep a promise for a change. I said last week that this week’s pandemic report would be of either a return to Peninsula or a first outing at a new(er) Indian restaurant in Bloomington and I keep my word. This is a review of Aroma, a new(er) Indian restaurant in Bloomington. They opened in April 2020—talk about perfect timing—in the exact same location as the erstwhile Surabhi—a place whose lunch buffet I’d liked more than I’d expected to in 2019 even as I worried about their prospects given the desolate feel of the restaurant when I ate there. Of course, in 2021, many restaurants have no one in them. And even though Aroma is open for dining-in, when I arrived at 11.45 on a Saturday to pick up a large order there was nobody eating there. There were, however, clearly doing a brisk takeout business, which I was glad to see. Here’s what we thought of what we ate. Continue reading