Un-Makhni Dal


The poll to select recipes for July closed on Tuesday. Here are the four recipes that will be posted on Thursdays this month, in descending order of votes received: Un-Makhni Dal; Baingan Masala; Lamb and Bean Stew; and Lamb Shank Curry with Peanuts and Potatoes. I’m particularly happy to see the two lamb dishes make the cut as they’ve been on the poll for a while. But I’m going to start the month with the top vote-getter: Un-Makhni Dal.

The first thing I will note is that this recipe is very similar indeed to a recipe for kali dal that I posted more than seven years ago. There is only one major ingredient that is added here; the rest differ only in proportions. That major ingredient is smoked ham and it keeps this from being a vegetarian or even a vegan recipe. But, as with my earlier recipe for Smoky White Bean Stew, you can fix that by substituting a smoked vegetarian/vegan ingredient of your choice: tempeh or tofu, most probably. I use whole, unpeeled kali urad dal but you could certainly make this quite successfully with Rancho Gordo’s Black Caviar Lentils, if you have any lying around. Those cook much faster and would obviate the need for a pressure cooker. Of course, if you have time and patience you could also slow cook the kali urad dal—which is something I did during the first year and a half of the pandemic, when time was not in short supply. No matter what route you take, you’re likely to end up somewhere tasty. Continue reading

Craigellachie 13, 2007 (Cadenhead)


Craigellachie week did not get off to the strongest start on Monday. The official 13 yo did not make me regret failing to try it in the near decade that it’s been out (though I suppose it may have improved a lot since the 2017 release, which is what I reviewed). Today I have a review of another 13 yo but this one is an indie release. It’s a single bourbon hogshead, and an ex-peated one at that. I do not know which distillery was the source of the peated cask; I don’t believe Bacardi—the owners of Craigellachie—have any other distilleries in their portfolio that traditionally produce peated malt (though one of the them may put out a peated variant). I suppose it’s also possible that the source of the cask may have been the bottler, Cadenhead—but that’s all speculation. If you have any ideas/knowledge on this score, please do share below. I can tell you it was distilled in 2007 and that the Cadenhead name is usually a good thing. Will it put Craigellachie week back on track? I can only hope so. Continue reading

Orale (Minneapolis)


A month and a half ago I took the boys up to Fridley for taekwondo belt testing (yes, I know it’s a bad idea to get them training in how to beat us up). I’d wanted to stop at Tangletown Gardens on the way back to buy some vegetable seedlings for my community garden patch. We ran away screaming when we saw the prices but didn’t go very far. Just around the corner is Orale, a casual Mexican restaurant that was our port of call for a quick lunch before heading home. I’d heard up and down things about its likely quality but based on the options in the neighbourhood it seemed like the best bet for us. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Craigellachie 13, 2017 Release


Let’s start the month with a week of reviews of whiskies from Craigellachie. Located in the Speyside, Craigellachie has not always had a high visibility among non-whisky geeks. It was established in the late 19th century and produced malt for blends for most of its life. Indeed, until relatively recently, there were no regular official bottlings from the distillery. The turning point was the purchase of the distillery in 1998 by John Dewar & Sons, themselves a subsidiary of Bacardi. In 2014 official Craigellachies appeared: a 13 yo, a 17 yo and a 23 yo. Idiosyncratic age statements to be sure, and perhaps meant as a reflection of the spirit’s idiosyncratic character. For whisky geeks, Craigellachie—available from independent bottlers before this—has always been of interest as one of the few distilleries still using old-fashioned worm tubs to condense their spirit. This results in spirit that can have a “meaty” texture and character. I’ve not had enough Craigellachie to be able to track all this meaningfully but I am interested to try this official 13 yo—which somehow I have not had at all since it was first released. This sample comes from a bottle from the 2017 release. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Favourite Dishes Eaten in the Twin Cities Metro: April 1-June 30, 2022


Here is the second quarterly round-up of the year of my favourite things eaten in the Twin Cities. While recent  roundups have been centered mostly or only on takeout and outdoor meals, this one covers the period in which we started eating in freely at Twin Cities restaurants. It includes meals at some new(er) restaurants, some “new to us” restaurants, and some meals at old favourites. Most of these meals have been written up in more detail on the blog and in almost every case you can click on the restaurant’s name to go to the fuller review. A few of them, however, are from meals that haven’t yet made it from the backlog to the blog. You can consider these to be appetizers for the main review to come. As has been my practice throughout the pandemic, every restaurant we’ve eaten at in this period gets a look-in here. Continue reading

July’s Recipes: A Poll


There were five Thursdays in June and so I posted five recipes. In July there will be only four. Once again you can vote for the four you’d most like to see and the top four vote getters will be featured every Thursday this month. Returning to the poll are the three recipes that didn’t clear the bar in June: lamb shank curry with peanuts and potatoes; lamb and bean stew; and spiced chicken liver mousse. Joining them are a recipe for baingan masala (made with Bedekar’s Malvani masala); what I call un-makhni dal; and slow-cooked mutton curry. Not very many vegetarian options this month, I’m afraid: only the baingan masala (the un-makhni dal contains smoked ham hock). I expect I’ll have a lot more in next month’s poll. Remember: you can vote for up to four recipes. You don’t have to vote for four, of course—I only mention it because there are a lot of people who vote for only one or two each month. Maybe you’re voting strategically or maybe you’re not interested in all the options but just in case the clarification is needed: you can vote for four. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


Another month in the books, another to look ahead to. I’ve spend most of June outside Minnesota (and won’t be back for a few days yet). I’ll then be staying put for about two weeks before taking off again—this time for work. On the food front I’ll finish catching up on my backlog of Twin Cities restaurant reports: my second dinner at Khaluna, lunch at Orale and dinner at Myriel are what remain of that backlog. Not sure yet what the fourth Twin Cities restaurant report will cover. And at some point, I’ll also start posting quick roundups of some meals from our June travels. Also coming soon is my next quarterly round-up of favourite dishes eaten in the Twin Cities, from the beginning of April through the end of June. And one final food-related thing to keep an eye out for: this weekend I’ll post the poll to select the recipes I’ll post in July.

On the booze front there’ll be the usual complement of three reviews a week. As always, you can help me finalize that list by making nominations from the long list below. Continue reading

Gurda-Kapoora Masala


Here is the recipe for goat testicles and kidneys in a spicy sauce that you have been clamouring for. Some of you in the US will ask, “But where can we buy goat testicles and kidneys?!” What am I, your fucking personal shopper? Look in grocery stores catering to goat-eating cultures. For my part I got the testicles and kidneys used in this recipe from the goat friends and we bought from a local farm at the end of December and had cut up to our specifications. I asked if the testicles could be saved by the processor and they could and I got ’em. Now you may not associate Indian food with the cooking of offal. But liver and kidney are very commonly eaten, be they of chickens or goats. They were always included in the chicken and goat curries cooked at home when I was growing up as were dishes centered entirely on liver. My mother did not, however, cook goat testicles. But we ate them in dhabas in Delhi, along with things like brain curry (a particular treat on my 13th birthday at Kake da Hotel in Connaught Place). In Punjabi cooking these are not particularly exotic items. And nor are they anything very exotic on the plate. Goat testicles, in particular, have a very mild flavour and a pleasant spongy texture; perfect for coating in a spicy masala and that is what I do here. Please keep in mind that mine is not a traditional Punjabi recipe—it may resemble one in some ways but doubtless departs from most in others. Continue reading

Aberfeldy 16, 2003 (G&M)


There’ll be no whisky review this Friday as it’s the first of the month and so let’s call it a mini-sherry cask week (following Monday’s Balvenie PX Finish). I noted on Monday that I have not reviewed very many Balvenies; well, this is only my second review of an Aberfeldy. The first was a 17 yo bottled by Cadenhead in 2014 from bourbon hogsheads. This one is a year younger and was bottled in 2020 by G&M from a refill sherry hogshead. I quite liked the ex-bourbon 17 yo—will this one be at least as good? Let’s see.

Aberfeldy 16, 2003 (58.8%; G&M; refill sherry hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: No sherry bomb, this comes in with some dried orange peel, cereals and dried leaves. The orange peel picks up as it sits and some mildly-spicy oak joins it. With time the oak softens and some toffee emerges along with some roasted malt; a bit of cream/milky cocoa too now. Water emphasizes this development and pulls out more of the leaves as well. Continue reading

Vann (Spring Park, MN)


Even by my very low standards this is a very low-utility restaurant report. I’ll tell you why in a bit. But first a bit about the restaurant. Spring Park, a western suburb of Minneapolis is located alongside Lake Minnetonka, and Vann—Norwegian for “water”—is located just across the street from the lake and boasts lovely views of it from its large windows. The chef is Erik Skaar whose path to Spring Creek included stops in Tampa Bay, Denver and Seattle before a return to the Twin Cities where he cooked at the Bachelor Farmer and Tilia before finally opening his own restaurant in late 2019. No, it wasn’t the most fortunate timing. But they made it through the first two years of the pandemic and have now seemingly hit their stride again. We finally made the trek out to Spring Park earlier this month to try their food, and we were very glad we did. Continue reading

Balvenie 18, PX Finish


I’ve not reviewed very many Balvenies over the years (only 10 total and only a handful in the last 4-5 years). There was a time when their 12 yo Double Wood was a regular in my rotation but that was a long time ago. It seems to be available for a relatively reasonable price in Minnesota. Should I give it a go? I do know I wasn’t terribly impressed the last time I tried it but it may have improved since, I suppose. I was also a huge fan a decade ago of their 15 yo Single Barrel series that was all from bourbon casks (here’s the only one I’ve reviewed). But that got replaced by a hot sherry bomb that cost a lot more and which I was not very impressed with the first time I tried it, though I did like the second cask I tried better. The Balvenie I’m reviewing today is also sherried, albeit the sherry comes in only via a finish: it spends some time in PX casks after initial maturation in American oak (presumably ex-bourbon) casks. It was/is a Travel Retail exclusive, which makes it a bit surprising both that it has an age statement and that it’s at a good drinking strength of 48.7%. How much of its 18 years it spends in either cask type I’m not sure, but here’s hoping the finish is well-integrated. Let’s see. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 21, 1998 (Archives)


This week of Ben Nevis has not turned out to be all I hoped it would be. Monday’s 20 yo from Single Cask Nation was disappointing; while Wednesday’s 21 yo from the Daily Dram was a fair bit better, it didn’t have me reaching for superlatives either. Those were both refill sherry casks. Today’s closer is also 21 years old but is from a hogshead. Will it reward my oft-stated faith in bourbon cask Ben Nevis? Let’s see.

Ben Nevis 21, 1998 (48.2%; Archives; hogshead 188; from a bottle split)

Nose: Quite fruity with melon, pineapple, tart-sweet apple. The nuts and powdered ginger and funky notes are so far not here. The powdered ginger emerges with time along with some cream and some dusty oak A few drops of water make the cream expand and bring out more sweet fruit to go with it—some blueberries too now. Continue reading

Bhindi Masala with Yogurt


Normally, when I make bhindi/okra, I end up without much conscious thought with this excellent bhindi-fry with onions which is a beloved staple in our house. On some occasions, however, I blaspheme and experiment with other preparations. Not all these experiments are successful enough to merit repetition. This one, however, has joined the semi-regular repertoire. Where the bhindi-fry with onions is minimalist, with barely any spices used, this has a bit more going on—which is not to say that it is particularly complicated. And what it adds in ingredients it subtracts in prep time for the bhindi. You don’t have to slice it thinly. Instead, just cut off the tops and then cut each pod in half (or into three pieces for particularly long pods). The onions provide the base, the spices the punch and the tomato and yogurt add tang and turn the masala into a sticky coating for the bhindi. And if you cook it in mustard oil it will add a bit more pungency around the edges. It goes very well with rice and dal but is even better with chapatis or parathas. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 21, 1996 (The Daily Dram)


Ben Nevis week got off to a disappointing start with Monday’s 20 yo from 1996. That one, bottled by Single Cask Nation, was from a refill oloroso puncheon. Today I have for you another from the 1996 vintage, with an additional year of age. It is also from a refill sherry cask—a butt in this case, and the type of sherry not specified. This one was bottled by the Daily Dram—which, I have to constantly remind myself is an independent bottler unrelated to the Nectar’s “Daily Drams” series. Anyway, I’m hoping this will reset this week of Ben Nevis. Odds are good as I can’t remember the last time I had two indifferent Ben Nevises in a row.

Ben Nevis 21, 1996 (50.6%; The Daily Dram; refill sherry butt; from a bottle split)

Nose: A classic Ben Nevis arrival with roasted nuts, malt, ginger powder, yeasty dough and rubber gaskets from old medicine bottles. On the second sniff there’s a fair bit of salt and just a hint of smoke. As it sits some sweet citrus emerges (orange peel and juice). With time the yeast comes to the fore and is joined by some white pepper. Water pushes the yeast back a bit and brings out more citrus. Continue reading

The 5-8 Club (Minneapolis)


My last two Twin Cities restaurant reports have been from the high end (Tenant and Saint Genevieve). Let’s go towards the other end of the range for this week’s report: all the way to the 5-8 Club in South Minneapolis, a decidedly casual spot that specializes in burgers. And not just any burgers: the 5-8 Club is the primary rival of Matt’s Bar (a little further up Cedar Avenue), both claiming to be the originators of the Jucy Lucy, or as the 5-8 Club spells it, the Juicy Lucy. This is, of course, one of Minnesota’s iconic foods. I have to confess that I am not a major fan of the genre of burgers with unfeasible amounts of cheese oozing out of the patty (I don’t even like too much cheese on the patty, as in a classic cheeseburger). But I’d managed to spend almost 15 years in Minnesota without eating at the 5-8 Club and it seemed like it was time to fix that. Especially since the boys love burgers and the younger one particularly likes Jucy/Juicy Lucys. And so on a weekday in May, when the whole family had an appointment to keep in the Cities, we stopped in for an early lunch. Herewith a quick account for the benefit of those who have not been.  Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1996 (Single Cask Nation)


Let’s do another week of Ben Nevis. Another?, you ask. Yes, I did a Ben Nevis week back in April. That was a trio of 20 year olds: two distilled in 1997 (one from Exclusive Malts and one from Berry Bros. & Rudd), and the other was distilled in 1999 (and bottled by the Daily Dram). We’ll start this week with another 20 yo, this time distilled in 1996 and bottled by Single Cask Nation. Like the Exclusive Malts and Berry Bros. bottles, this one is from a sherry cask—a refill oloroso puncheon to be exact. Even though I generally prefer bourbon cask Ben Nevis, I did like both of those. Let’s hope this one is in their vein.

Ben Nevis 20, 1996 (55.6%; Single Cask Nation; refill oloroso puncheon; from a bottle split) 

Nose: Opens with brown sugar, dried ginger and roasted nuts. Orange peel and orange juice as it sits and then whiffs of muskier fruit (tart-sweet mango, a hint of passionfruit). The muskier fruit never quite arrives fully. With a few drops of water there’s some light caramel and some cocoa and then more of the musky fruit. Continue reading

Unnamed Orkney 14, 2006 (Signatory)


Okay, let’s bring to an end this week of reviews of recent’ish releases in Signatory’s Un-Chillfiltered Collection. The week began on Monday with an Ardmore 11 that was matured in ex-Islay casks. It continued on Wednesday with a bourbon cask Glenrothes. Both those casks were unusual expressions of those distilleries’ profiles but neither got me very excited—though I did like them both. The final whisky for the week is more in line with the distillery’s official profile: this is a Highland Park from a refill sherry butt. Yes, it says it’s an “Unnamed Orkney” but unless word emerges that casks from Scapa are also being sold under these “Unknown/Secret Orkney” appellations, it’s safe to assume these are all Highland Parks. I did a whole week of Highland Park reviews last month (here, here and here). I liked two of those quite a lot and was only a bit disappointed by the one official release in the lot (though I didn’t think it was bad). Let’s hope this one is more in line with the two indies from the last go-around. Continue reading

Thick Chicken Curry


I’ve posted a lot of chicken curry recipes over the years. Keep in mind that the name “chicken curry” doesn’t refer to a specific dish but to a genre: chicken cooked with spices in a thick or thin gravy/sauce. Variations in the spices and proportions and ingredients make for results that are subtly or wildly different. And this is home cooking: while there are canonical forms of many dishes (sliced by region, religion, caste, community etc.) in the home cooking repertoire, there are as many, if not more, that arise out of playing with what is at hand (or what catches your eye as you are cooking). Those of you who’ve made a number of my recipes know that this is the genre in which most of my recipes fall and this recipe is no exception. I improvized it when I first made it and it was a big hit at home. And so here it is for you all to try as well. Continue reading