Aberlour 25, 1995 (Old Particular for K&L)


And here finally is my review of the last of the samples I got from a big bottle split of K&L’s single casks from late 2020. A bit of a miracle really that I actually reviewed them all in 2021. Next month I’ll start on some of the 2021 casks. The penultimate review from this lot was posted on Monday. That was a nine year old Linkwood that really surprised me with its mix of fruit and oak. That was from a refill bourbon barrel. This Aberlour is a fair bit older at 25 years of age and despite what the sample label says it’s not from a sherry butt. I’ve not seen the bottle myself but the label on Whiskybase clearly indicates that it’s a refill hogshead and there’s no sign of it being a sherry hogshead—which you’d expect would be touted by any indie bottler. K&L’s own marketing spiel for this one was unusually reserved, by the way: not a single store employee can be found here waxing poetic about its qualities. And just in case you think it’s only sample bottles that have inaccurate information, the K&L text says 184 bottles came out of the cask but the bottle label as seen on Whiskybase notes it produced 211 bottles. Lots of confusion all around. Anyway, let’s see what the whisky itself is like. Continue reading

Stir-Fried Gobi with Ajwain


There is no dearth of gobi recipes on this blog. I’ve posted a recipe for shrimp curry with cauliflower. I’ve posted a recipe for rajma with cauliflower. I’ve posted a recipe for cauliflower-corn soup. I’ve posted four separate takes on alu-gobi (here, here, here and here). I’ve even posted a recipe for oven-roasted spicy cauliflower. But variety, as they say, is the masala of life and so here is yet another gobi recipe. I swear it’s not my “Alu-Gobi with Ajwain” with just the potatoes left out.

This is a very simple stir-fry on the face of it: it features very few ingredients and other than breaking/cutting the cauliflower into very small florets there’s nothing to the prep work. But looks can be deceiving. You have to handle the heat carefully at the outset because if you burn the spices or chillies there’s nothing else coming later to hide the evidence. The primary flavour here is that of ajwain (you might have to go to a desi store for this) but you only need a pinch. A little bit of ajwain goes a long way so resist the temptation to add more. Continue reading

Old Pulteney 16, 2002


I forgot to say on Monday that this week’s theme is bourbon cask whisky. The week kicked off with a 9 yo Linkwood. Here now is a 16 yo Old Pulteney. I have not reviewed very many Pulteneys on the blog: a total of eight over the last eight and a half years and the last was more than two years ago. After my visit to the distiller in 2018—as I said, one of the very best distillery tours I’ve been on—I’d hoped to try more of the distillery’s whisky. But it’s not one that’s widely available from the indies and certainly not in the US. Like the 14 yo I reviewed in 2019, this is an official single cask release. This one was released in the Japanese market. Let’s see what it’s like.

Old Pulteney 16, 2002 (54.2%; cask 722; from a bottle split)

Nose: Very salty off the top with wet wool and vegetal notes below (boiled and mashed turnips). On the second sniff there’s some mineral oil. With time some fruitier notes emerge (lime peel, gooseberry and then much later some sweeter stone fruit). With a few drops of water the sweeter fruit is emphasized and the wet wool turns into a cereal note. Continue reading

Meritage II (St. Paul, MN)


For the second weekend in a row it seemed like our plans to eat an outdoor meal at a fancy restaurant would be spiked by the weather. You may recall that we tried to eat at Colita the weekend before last but the forecasted rain (which did show up) led to the reservations on their patio being cancelled that morning. (Don’t feel too bad for us: we ended up under the awning on Andale’s patio and ate very well.) Undaunted by this damp outcome I made reservations for the missus’ birthday dinner at Meritage, whose website lists a terrace. Now I couldn’t remember a terrace from the last time we ate there—it turns out they use the word “terrace” for what I would call “the sidewalk in front of the restaurant”. But this is not the season for semantics. Winter is coming and we will take whatever opportunities for outdoor dining as present themselves. As the week went on I checked the forecast every day. Wouldn’t you know it, by Thursday there was rain predicted for the exact time of our reservation. Not wanting a last minute cancellation, I called the restaurant on Friday to see what kind of shelter they might have on their “terrace” and was reassured to be told that our table was under an awning and it would probably take a major thunderstorm for there to be any issues. To be safe, I moved our reservation from 8 pm to 7.15 pm. I am happy to say that there was no cancellation call on Saturday morning. Here is how the evening went. Continue reading

Linkwood 9, 2010 (Old Particular for K&L)


I believe that after this review I will only have one whisky left to write up from K&L’s 2020 parcel of casks—or at least the ones I went in on bottle splits of. A good thing too as their 2021 casks have begun to arrive, as have my shares of bottle splits of some of those casks! Anyway, after this Linkwood I will only have an Aberlour 25 to review and I expect to get to that this month as well. At nine years of age this one is quite a bit younger—and it’s also quite a bit younger than the teaspooned Linkwood they brought in last year. I was not terribly enthused by that 27 yo. Will this one, a third its age and bottled from a refill bourbon barrel at an eye-popping strength, be any better? Let’s see.

Linkwood 9, 2010 (62.6%; Old Particular for K&L; refill barrel 14285; from a bottle split)

Nose: Quite expressive despite the high strength: red fruit (cherry) mixed with lemon; some floral sweetness; cereals; malt; and a bit of polished oak. The fruit intensifies with time and the oak expands a bit too. A few drops of water and this turns into a lemon bar dusted liberally with powdered sugar. Continue reading

Favourite Dishes Eaten in the Twin Cities Metro: July 1-Sep 30, 2021


A week later than usual, here is my round-up of some of our favourite dishes eaten at/from Twin Cities restaurants in the last quarter of the year (see here for the April 1-June 30 round-up and here for the Jan 1-Mar 31 round-up). At the start of July we expected we’d be back to in-person dining on a regular basis very soon. Indeed, two of the July meals here (at Tenant and Estelle) saw the missus and I dining indoors. But then the Delta numbers began to look worrying and given our not-fully vaccinated family we decided to return to a more cautious posture—which we continue to exhibit now. But that’s not to say that all the rest of our restaurant meals were takeout. There are a number of those, yes, but of late we’ve been eating more and more at places that have dedicated outdoor seating. Winter is coming but it has been a quite warm fall so far. Hopefully the younger boy will get his shots soon and hopefully the Delta numbers will go down soon as well. If that happens you can expect the next edition to feature more in-person dining. Continue reading

Ardmore 23, 1997 (SMWS 66.197)


Okay, let’s end this week of peat in the eastern highlands of Scotland, at Ardmore. (You may recall that I started the week on Islay at Caol Ila on Monday and stopped in the Speyside at Benromach on Wednesday.) Ardmore is one of my very favourite distilleries these days. The only reason really that I didn’t put in my list of top five distilleries last year is that it’s very hard to come by Ardmore in the US and the official lineup has never been very inspiring. The one regular source for a varied supply of Ardmore in the US is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society but I’m not sure if even they send more than just a few of their Ardmore selections here. I reviewed three SMWS Ardmores in August and I don’t see 750 ml releases for any of them listed on Whiskybase. Nor for that matter is a 750 ml release listed for this one. (If you know if any of these were in fact released in the US please write in below.) August’s Ardmore trio were a 20 yo, a 21 yo and a 22 yo—all distilled in 1997. This one is a 23 yo distilled in 1997. Unlike the first three, however, which were matured entirely in refill bourbon hogsheads, this one spent 21 years in refill bourbon and then the next two years in a refill Spanish oak sherry hogshead. Will the sherry cover up all that I love about bourbon cask Ardmore? Let’s see. Continue reading

Lobia Masala


You may have seen—or missed—my post last week about the booklet of bean recipes I recently wrote for Rancho Gordo.  This recipe is not in the booklet—which you can download directly here if you’re so interested (don’t worry, it’s free). It features Rancho Gordo’s black-eyed peas or as they’re known in North India, lobia. Lobia is eaten elsewhere in India as well—in Maharashtra, for example, where it is known as chawli—but growing up I only knew it as a Punjabi ingredient/dish. Unlike rajma it wasn’t made in our house but I always looked forward to eating it in the homes of Punjabi friends. This recipe is not a traditional Punjabi recipe per se, though it does broadly resemble Punjabi preparations. I tend to cook lobia in much the same way in which I prepare rajma, with a robust blend of spices that complements its more vegetal character. Which is to say if you don’t have black-eyed peas handy this recipe, which is how I most recently cooked it, will work well with many other beans as well. Give it a go. Continue reading

Benromach Cask Strength, Batch 04


One of my great regrets from our trip to Scotland in 2018 is that while on the Speyside I didn’t stop in at Benromach. I hope to remedy that at some time in the future when international travel will be less complicated. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve had from the distillery since it was taken over by Gordon & Macphail—their brand of non-phenolic Highland smoke is very nice indeed. Which is not to suggest that I’ve tried so very much of their whisky. But I really liked this 9 yo bottled for Costco in San Diego; and more to the point I really liked this 8 yo bottled for the Whisky Exchange and this release of the Benromach Peat Smoke, More to the point because like those latter two releases this one—distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2020—features sherry cask maturation. In this case it’s not a single cask release (like the TWE bottle) or exclusively from sherry casks (like the Peat Smoke). My understanding is that it was put together from 29 casks, some first-fill bourbon and some first-fill oloroso sherry. The colour of the bottle would suggest the sherry casks had more to say. Let’s see if that’s borne out in the glass. And no, I’ve not had any of the previous batches of the Cask Strength (I believe this was the first release in this bottle design). None of these have come to the US as far as I know. I hope that will change. Continue reading

Andale Taqueria, Again (Richfield, MN)


We were scheduled for Mexican dinner with friends on Saturday night but not this Mexican dinner. We had reservations at Colita for a four-top on their patio. Alas, as the day approached the weather forecast turned ever dire. We woke up with hope on Saturday as the meteorologists predicted that the rain would end before dinner time. But the meteorologists are dirty liars and as the evening approached the threat of rain remained constant and the restaurant cancelled all patio reservations. We could, of course, have chosen to stay at home but I put it to our friends that we could go somewhere else for a Mexican meal and they were up for it. And so we drove to Richfield and ate dinner on Andale’s patio. It was not the fine dining meal we’d planned but it was a very fine meal. Continue reading

Caol Ila 11, 2008 (SMWS 53.345)


I was supposed to review this Caol Ila bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society last month but accidentally reviewed this 13 yo instead. That was not a grave mistake as I liked it a lot. But then I almost always like Caol Ila from refill bourbon hogsheads. This one is 2 years younger but is also from a refill bourbon hogshead. Let’s hope it doesn’t prove my preferences wrong.

Caol Ila 11, 2008 (58.1%; SMWS 53.345; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Bright carbolic peat with lemon and lightly ashy smoke. On the second sniff there’s a coastal array: kelp, oysters, brine. Some agave aromas lurk beneath. Gets quite salty as it sits. A few drops of water and this gets turned up to 11 on all counts. Sweeter now with malt and ham brine joining the party. Continue reading

Shopping at El Burrito Mercado (St. Paul, MN)


We ate lunch on the patio at El Burrito Mercado last weekend and after the meal I browsed the mercado itself. The meal was fine but the mercado is truly special. The first incarnation opened in 1979—though not at this location—and as the business has grown over the years it has become a very impressive one-stop shop for Mexican foods (or so I assume anyway). From vegetables to a carniceria to spices to canned foods to prepared foods to pastries they’ve pretty much got you covered for all but the most esoteric needs. If you haven’t been—or haven’t been in a while—go take a look and buy a little—or, even better, a lot. Continue reading

October’s Recipes: A Poll


And here now is the poll to select the recipes for this month.

Unlike September, October will not be focused on a single main ingredient. My garden is still giving me eggplant, courtesy our warmer than usual September, but it’s now a manageable trickle rather than a flood. Two of the recipes on this list of candidates were very good too, as it happens, for using up a glut of other garden produce this summer and early fall, namely hot peppers and tomatoes. And though my cauliflower harvest was no more bountiful than it has been in the past (i.e not very bountiful) the cauliflower recipe is also inspired by my own crop of white, yellow and (so far, one) purple cauliflower. But it’s not all vegetables. If after 4 weeks of vegetarian recipes some of you are hoping for some meat, there are two chicken recipes (one curry with lots of tomatoes and one roast with zero tomatoes) and one with pork. Cast your votes for up to four of these recipes below. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


It’s hard to believe that we’re approaching the end of 2021. Here in southern Minnesota that’s partly because it doesn’t feel like it’s October yet. Yes, colours are beginning to change on trees and bushes but it’s still pretty warm out by our standards—this past week saw a couple of days with maximums in the 80s and we seem to have maximums in the 70s to look forward to for at least the next 10 days. As for the pandemic it’s hard to know where we are for sure. On the one hand, it’s clear that the vaccines are very protective against both infection and serious complications in case of breakthrough infection; on the other, cases are once again rising in our county. And so even though three of the four of us are fully vaccinated we are going to continue to be quite cautious until the fourth is as well. There was some hope that might be a possibility before Halloween but now we’re hoping it’ll happen before Thanksgiving. Until then meal reports will continue to be a mix of outdoor dining at restaurants and pandemic takeout reports. Whisky drinking and reviewing will not be affected, of course, by the weather. Though my consumption is lower than ever, I’m still good for three reviews a week. Continue reading

Podi Potta Kathirikai


I said while setting up the poll to select this month’s recipes that this was currently my favourite way of cooking and eating eggplant. This is still true. It hurt me to say it then and hurts me more to repeat it now. This because the recipe comes to me from a Tamil nationalist who persecutes me on a near-daily basis: Aparna Balachandran (who you may remember from this piece last year on reading Agatha Christie during lockdown in Delhi). In August I had a brief flood of long green eggplant from my garden (I really recommend planting the Thai Long Green varietal if you can find it) and she suggested I make some of it this way. Normally, I would have discounted this as “make it in a Tamil style” is her answer to everything (her other favourite occupation is claiming that anything that is good about other South Indian cuisines is basically due to Tamil derivation); but I had a lot of eggplant and I needed new ways to cook it. And wouldn’t you know it, this is in fact a great recipe. Continue reading

Longmorn 18, Whisky Show 2011


I think the Whisky Exchange’s annual Whisky Show is coming up soon. I say annual but they obviously skipped it last year (this year’s show is in person again, I think). Anyway, I didn’t mean this review of a Longmorn 18 released 10 years ago at the 2011 edition of the Whisky Show to come close to coinciding with it—I’ve actually had this bottle open for some months now but have just not gotten around to reviewing it. Now that it has dipped below the half-full line it is time.

Speaking of the Whisky Exchange, you may have come across the recent news that they have been purchased by Pernod Ricard. Given how much difficulty I’ve had with keeping track of all of the Whisky Exchange properties, affiliates and spin-off concerns over the years, I don’t actually know what this means for the various whisky releases their various bottling concerns put out. Will this mean greater access to malts from the group’s distilleries? Less attention to malts from competitors? (Longmorn, of course, is part of the Pernod Ricard portfolio.) The most important question is whether the new corporate masters will approve of Billy Abbott’s beard. Only time will tell. Continue reading

A Recipe Booklet (and a Welcome to New Readers)


I am being told I should do a better job of self-promotion and so here it is. After many years of saying (truthfully) that I have no financial relationship with Rancho Gordo I have now developed a small one. I have written a digital booklet of bean recipes for Rancho Gordo that was “published” last week and announced to those who receive their occasional newsletters and follow Rancho Gordo’s founder/head honcho, Steve Sando on Twitter. And now I am telling you about it here as well. The booklet contains six bean recipes. It’s titled “Indian Bean Recipes: Traditional and Not-So Traditional”. Four of the six recipes have already appeared on the blog. The other two have not and probably will not and so you will have to download the booklet here to see them. The good news is the booklet is free for you to download and since I was paid upfront you will not be putting money in my pocket by downloading it.

As a result of Steve kindly putting a link to the blog in the newsletter announcing the booklet I also seem to have a fair number of new readers and so I thought would offer a brief overview of how the blog works. Continue reading

El Burrito Mercado (St. Paul, MN)


1979 appears to have been an important year in the history of Twin Cities dining. It is the year in which Saji-Ya opened in St. Paul and it is also the year in which El Burrito Mercado—perhaps the Twin Cities’ most iconic Hispanic business—opened. It opened however entirely as a mercado/market; it wasn’t until 1983 that they started serving food. And it was in 1995 that they moved into the massive space they currently occupy on Cesar Chavez avenue and which they have added to steadily over the years. This expansion has largely taken the form of ever-greater dining space. The complex now contains a large market (with prepared foods and a butcher shop), a counter-service cafe, and a  bar/restaurant space with two dining rooms and a large adjoining patio which features live music and so forth. We ate lunch on this patio this past Saturday with the same crew that had joined us at Mañana two weeks prior. Here’s how it went. Continue reading