Watermelon Radish

Watermelon Radish
Seven years ago I would not have believed that a radish could be beautiful. Seven years ago I had never heard of a watermelon radish. Then we joined a CSA and in the late fall I cut into my first watermelon radish and it was a startling thing: the very opposite of your regular salad radish, which, as you know, is red on the outside, plain white inside. The watermelon radish, however, is innocuous on the outside, homely even: large, lumpy, the peel coloured a mix of fungal green and mottled, pockmarked white—you might even mistake it for a turnip. But inside there’s an explosion of purplish-pink, like a grenade of pink has gone off, suffusing the flesh but stopping just short of the outer rim.

It’s good not to be sentimental about even beautiful vegetables though and I don’t want you to think that I left my family to take up with a bunch of watermelon radishes with whom I’ve since been living in uncomfortable and confusing sin. I cut  that radish into chunks, dipped them into salt and ate them. Continue reading

Caol Ila 14, Unpeated

Caol Ila 14, Unpeated, 2012 Release
It’s Diageo Special Release season and here I am with this unpeated Caol Ila that was part of the lineup in 2012. Timely! I’ve previously reviewed the 2009 and 2010 releases—I liked both of those a lot. While the 10 yo released in 2009 was indeed unpeated, the 12 yo released in 2010 was anything but. I’m not sure what the story is supposed to be with this 2012 release. I am hopeful though that I will like it more than some have (see Michael K.’s review from 2013 here and Jordan D.’s review from earlier this month here—Jordan’s sample came from the same bottle as mine). This one is also unusual in that it is from European oak casks. This essentially means sherry casks—bourbon casks are made from American oak and I assume they’d have specified if these were wine casks. Anyway, peated Caol Ila from sherry casks can be really excellent—I’m curious to see how unpeated Caol Ila from sherry casks comes out.  Continue reading

Ham Ji Park (Los Angeles)

Ham Ji Park: Gamjatang
I have two more London restaurant write-ups yet to come but I also have two restaurant meals from our trip to Los Angeles in July that I’ve planned to get to for a while. Here, therefore, is one of those: a quick lunch at Ham Ji Park on 6th Street in Koreatown.

Ham Ji Park has been around since they opened their first location on Pico in Arlington Heights in the late 1980s early 1990s. This 6th Street location is the second to open. As this one is in Koreatown proper, and much closer to our usual base of operations in L.A, we’ve never actually been to the original and so I can’t really compare the two—I’m told this location is more than a little shinier than the original. I can tell you though that if you eat here you will be happy. Continue reading

George Dickel No. 12

George Dickel No. 12
I’ve previously reviewed two releases of George Dickel that were private barrel store selections: one a 14 yo for Park Avenue Liquor in NYC and the other a 9 yo for Ace Spirits right here in Minnesota. If you need more information on the distillery I have the bare minimum in that second link (even more briefly: Dickel is the Tennessee whiskey you can tell people you like without feeling a sense of shame).

My review today is of the regular issue George Dickel No. 12. No, it isn’t 12 years old, apparently somewhere in the 8-9 yo range. They also put out a No. 8 which is apparently somewhere in the 6 yo range. And they also have a No. 1 which is unaged whisky. They have an interesting approach to numbers in Tullahoma. Anyway, I’ve had the No. 12 a number of times at bars and quite liked it. Here now is a formal review. Continue reading

Laphroaig Lore

Laphroaig Lore
The Lore is a new entry in Laphroaig’s lineup—which is so much larger suddenly than it used to be when I first acquired whisky derangement syndrome. It is apparently the replacement for the discontinued 18 yo and will see batch releases every year. It will not surprise you to learn that it is a NAS whisky. The talk around it is that there’s a mix of ages and cask types in the blend but it’s probably the case that most of it is very young. It’s also said to be an attempt at putting together an expression of Laphroaig that pulls together all parts of their profile—young, old, bourbon cask, sherried, wine cask etc. But if there’s a lot of sherry cask spirit in here I will be almost as surprised as I would be if there turned out to be very much in here over 10 years of age. If pressure on teenaged stock is what made the 18 yo go away and the 200th anniversary 15 yo just a one-off, then there’s probably only just enough older whisky in here for them to be able to wink in its direction without too much embarrassment. Well, as I purchased a bottle anyway and am reviewing it I guess I shouldn’t get on too high a horse about this—what can I say? I’m a fan of Laphroaig and people I trust said it’s a good one. Well, let’s see.  Continue reading

A Worthy Cause

Greenvale Geckos
Yes, I am asking you for money. No, not for me; I’m never a worthy cause: for my children’s school. Our boys attend Greenvale Park Elementary School in Northfield, the small town in southern Minnesota where we live. It is a very good school and we couldn’t be happier about our boys being there. The school does, however, face some challenges that the other (also excellent) elementary schools in Northfield do not. It enrolls the largest number of students from low-income backgrounds (almost half the students are eligible for the free or reduced lunch program)—and this means that it faces greater fund-raising difficulties than any of the other schools do. These issues aside, the school is the most diverse institution in Northfield (both in terms of class and race)—this includes the two liberal arts colleges in town—and is a wonderful symbol of the graceful ways in which our community is slowly transforming. I am asking you to help in a small way with this with a donation to the school’s annual fund-raising campaign that ends on Tuesday. Continue reading

Keema Chops

Chops mean something very different in India than they do in the West (and when I say India I mostly mean Bengal). They do not refer to a particular cut of meat; in fact, they don’t refer to any cut of meat at all. Chops can have meat in them, they can have fish in in them, and they often have vegetables in them. By “chop” you see we mean what people elsewhere refer to as croquettes. How it is that we came to call them chops I don’t know, and I have no idea why other people didn’t start calling them chops either. Indian English is generally better when it comes to food names: brinjal is a much better word than eggplant or aubergine; and you would have to be mad to think that okra is a better name for that vegetable than lady’s finger (oh the confusion when Indians first see ladyfinger on menus in the West). Anyway, just so you know, a chop is made by taking mashed potato, stuffing it with a savoury filling, breading it and deep-frying it. You can eat them as snacks or as accompaniments with dal and rice. Continue reading

Ardbeg 28, 1972-2000, 234 Btls (Douglas Laing)

Ardbeg 28, 1972-2000, Old Malt Cask
Last week I posted the first of three reviews of early 1970s Ardbegs from Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask line. I really, really liked that 27 yo. Here now is the first of two 28 yos. As noted in the previous review, these bottles did not have cask numbers on them and are identified by a combination of distillation and bottling years and their outturn. In this case, the abv is relevant too: at 50.1% it’s a touch higher than the usual 50% of the OMC line. Anyway, let’s get right to it.

Ardbeg 28, 1972-2000 (50.1%; 234 Bottles; Douglas Laing OMC; from a bottle split)

Nose: Bright, phenolic peat: more citrus and cereals here than in the 27 yo. Starts expanding almost immediately with salt crystals and olive brine, more disinfectant and the sweet, sweet stink of the sea. A little inkier as it sits and even more coastal (the sea, the beach, the air). More lime peel now and pickled mustard seed. With more time there’s some ham cure here too but not as pronounced as in the 27 yo. A few drops of water push the smoke back a bit and pull out more of the coastal notes and more of the ham cure and some preserved lemon.  Continue reading

Hedone (London)

Hedone is located in Chiswick, a long tube ride from central London. A lot is made of this incongruity in some quarters; and even for someone like me who doesn’t have much of a sense of the geography of London, physical or cultural, the setting does seem unlikely: it’s not just that it’s far away from the center of the city but also that Chiswick High Street, once you get to it (after getting off at a very unprepossessing train station), doesn’t really seem like the kind of place where you’d find a Michelin starred restaurant that is one of the most innovative in England. Then again, Hedone is far from the only restaurant of its ilk in the world to be located in unlikely surroundings and it’s probably very likely that lower rents in Chiswick allow for their food to be sold at lower prices than would be possible in hipper locations. It’s not that a meal at Hedone is cheap—I hasten to add—but it’s both extremely good and clearly made from top-notch ingredients. It was a superb meal—the best I ate on my short trip—and, while not cheap, it felt like a good value for what I was eating (though the post-Brexit exchange rate helped).  Continue reading

Booker’s Noe Secret

Booker's Noe Secret
As I don’t really follow bourbon news I didn’t know anything about this oddly named release of Booker’s, not even that it existed, until Florin (a man who owns many red sweaters) sent me a sample. It turns out that this is one of several batches of Booker’s released last year to commemorate the career of Booker Noe (the man who created Booker’s back in 1992 and whose name is on every bottle). I had a terrible suspicion that “Noe Secret” was a pun on “no secret” and I am sorry to have to inform you that this is in fact true: apparently the man had no secrets. Well, I guess that’s better than a story claiming that this was a batch made from one of his secret recipes. Anyway, it’s at as high a strength as most other Booker’s releases (a very specific 64.05%) and is apparently six years, eight months and seven days old—which is a long way of saying that it is six years old. Let’s see if it’s as good as the regular batch of Booker’s I reviewed last weekContinue reading

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016
The 2016 edition of the Laphroaig Cairdeas has been in the US for almost two months now and I’ve finally got my hands on a bottle (okay, two bottles). I am very happy to say that I paid only $5 more per bottle than I did for my first bottle of Cairdeas back in 2011. And I’m also very happy that those of us in the US still have no difficulty purchasing the Cairdeas which is always widely available here, unlike every other Feis Ile release which require trips to Islay or large amounts of money or both.

Last year’s edition of Cairdeas was a classic bourbon cask Laphroaig. This year’s edition, however, returned to the wine cask experiments that marked the previous few years (the 2014 release was double matured in amontillado sherry casks and the 2013 in port casks). This year’s has been double matured in “Madeira seasoned traditional hogsheads”. I assume these means that these were not casks actually used to mature Madeira. The wine influence should therefore be mild. I’m curious to see what it’s like—though as a Laphroaig aficionado the odds are against my not liking it (please keep this bias in mind).  Continue reading

Lagavulin, Lg5 (Speciality Drinks)

Lg5, Elements of Islay
This is the fifth release of Lagavulin from The Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series. These are 500 ml bottles with periodic table of element style names that refer to the distilleries (though you’re supposed to be coy and not take the identities for granted). The early entries in the line came out together at a steady clip some years ago (and I purchased most of them) but I lost sight of them in there somewhere. I reviewed the Lg1 and the Lg2 relatively early in the life of the blog but I never saw any sign of the Lg3 or the Lg4. Given how much I liked those early entries in the series when I had a chance to grab a 2 oz sample from a bottle split I went for it. This has received a heady score from Serge Valentin on Whiskyfun and so I’ve particularly been looking forward to it. Having started the week with an outstanding peated malt from Islay it’ll be nice to end it with another one as well. Then again Serge liked the recent official 8 yo quite a lot more than I did...  Continue reading

Pork Pickle

Pork Pickle
I’d said that I wasn’t sure if I’d have any recipes this month either (I last posted one in mid-August) on account of the backlog of restaurant write-ups I need to put up. But then earlier this week I improvised this pork pickle and it came out so well that I couldn’t resist throwing a quick recipe up. It is extremely easy (though not extremely healthy) and if the notion of pork pickle seems odd—we’re not talking Western-style pickled meats here, but an Indian-style pickle/achaar with pork in place of a vegetable—just think of it as confit of pork shoulder with Indian spices. It’s very rich and a little goes a long way. But you can eat it with rice and dal, with chapatis or parathas, and you can even make sandwiches with it. It’s delicious and versatile and, as I already said, it’s very easy to make. The toughest part is to resist eating it on the first or second day as it “matures”.  Continue reading