Lagavulin 11, Offerman Edition, Charred Oak


Tuesdays are normally restaurant review days on the blog. However, the World Cup has been messing with my schedule and I didn’t have time yesterday to finish resizing all the photographs from the meal I was scheduled to report on: the weekday lunch buffet at Kumar’s in Apple Valley. And so I’m going to post that tomorrow. In its place, here is the whisky review that was going to go up tomorrow.

This is the third release of Lagavulin’s Offerman Edition. The first came out in 2019. At the time I assumed it was a one-off. But then there was a second release last year, a finish in Guinness casks. And 2022 saw a third release, this one involving oak casks that were shaved down and re-charred. I’ve seen some references to the casks in question being American and European oak casks and some that specify that they were ex-bourbon and ex-red wine casks. I can tell you though that the text on the back of the box says that this particular edition (11 years old like the two previous) was “curated” to pair with a medium-rare steak. Personally, I don’t drink whisky with food but I’m not sure how seriously anyone should take any of that anyway. I think the text may be written in the voice of Ron Swanson (I cannot confirm as I still have not watched any Parks & Recreation). I liked the first two releases and hope this will be as good. Let’s see. Continue reading

Laphroaig Cairdeas, 2022 Release


After a week of mezcal reviews (here, here and here), let’s get back to whisky, to Scotland, and specifically to Islay for a week of reviews of heavily peated whiskies. First up, is the 2022 iteration of the Laphroaig Cairdeas, bottled for Feis Ile, the annual Islay whisky festival. It’s a bit of a departure for the recent run of the series being from bourbon casks. Last year’s Cairdeas release was a cask strength version of the Laphroaig PX release; the 2020 Cairdeas was finished in port and wine casks; the 2019 was a cask strength version of the Triple Wood; the 2018 was a fino cask finish. The last ex-bourbon release was in 2017, with the cask strength version of the Quarter Cask. Indeed the last ex-bourbon Cairdeas from regulation ex-bourbon casks was back in 2015 for the 200th anniversary of the distillery. This year’s Cairdeas is back to bourbon casks, the twist being only that these were first-fill casks (from Maker’s Mark) matured in the distillery’s Warehouse No. 1. Will that mean too much oak influence and too much vanilla? The people who obliquely warned me about buying a bottle in the comments on other reviews are probably nodding in the background. But, as I do every year, I bought not one but two bottles: one to drink right away and one to put in my completely pointless Cairdeas collection, which goes back to 2011 (I’m realizing now that I’ve not reviewed the 2011 and 2012 releases, which were both pre-blog). Alright, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Double Dragon Foods (St. Paul, MN)


My recipe post this week was two days late. To make up for the heartbreak this undoubtedly caused you, here is a bonus post, a look at another of the large Asian groceries in the Twin Cities metro: Double Dragon Foods in St. Paul. It was brought to my attention by frequent commenter, steveinmn, in the comments on my look at Ha Tien Supermarket back in September. The name didn’t register then when he mentioned it but as we approached it this past week, I realized I’d passed it a couple of times on the way to Krungthep Thai, which is located just a hop, step and jump from the intersection of Rice and Maryland where Double Dragon occupies all of one large strip mall in the northeastern quadrant. It’s not the largest of the Asian groceries in St. Paul but it’s quite comprehensive and does have some things to recommend it over the larger outfits (such as Ha Tien and Dragon Star). Continue reading

Red Pork with Wine and Spices


I didn’t post a recipe this Thursday. Apologies for ruining your Thanksgiving. But here it is today, just two days late. This is a recipe for braised pork shoulder that I improvized in July and have been trying to get on the blog ever since. It finally made it through the poll for November. Do you people not like pork that much? Or are you just tired of my braised pork recipes? God knows, I’ve posted a lot of them (here, here, here, here and here). They’re all different from each other, though—I swear. The one I posted earlier this year also had white wine in it but this has a completely different flavour profile. As with that recipe, I used white wine here because I had an open bottle in the fridge. In this case though the bottle had been open for a long while and the wine had begun to approach the border of vinegar. I ended up mellowing the sauce with coconut milk. I’ve listed coconut milk as optional in the recipe though because if you’re using wine from a freshly opened bottle you might not feel the need to add any. Taste it at the end and decide. Continue reading

Quiquiriqui Cacao Pechuga, Mezcal


Housekeeping note: I did not post the usual Thursday recipe yesterday. For a change, I didn’t have the post ready to go a week prior, and the days leading up to Thanksgiving got a bit too full for me to get around to it. I’ll post that recipe on Saturday instead. Here, on schedule, however, is this week’s third booze post: the final post in my mini-run of mezcal reviews.

The first two were both Del Maguey releases: the Tobala on Monday and the Wild Tepextate on Wednesday. I liked both but the Tobala more than the other. Today’s offering is not not from Del Maguey but from an outfit named Quiquiriqui. This is a brand based in the UK that apparently works directly with producers in Oaxaca—though looking at their website, it’s hard to tell if they work with separate producers or just one family. Their range includes a number of pechugas: one made with mole (a la the Cinco Sentidos I reviewed earlier this year), one made with coffee, and this one which deploys cacao. I’m not sure how exactly this is done: are cacao beans hung over the still during the third distillation a la the traditional chicken or turkey? Are the cacao beans in addition to chicken/turkey or a replacement? If you know one way or the other, please write in below. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Del Maguey, Wild Tepextate, Mezcal


I began this week of mezcal reviews with Del Maguey’s Tobala, which I rather liked. Here now is another of their releases: Wild Tepextate. As per the Mezcal Reviews site the producer is the same as that of the Tobala, which means it’s also from Santa Maria Albarradas. Tepextate is also a variety of agave found at high altitudes—you’ll never guess but it grows wild. That pretty much exhausts my knowledge about this mezcal. Well, I can tell you it also costs in the neighbourhood of $100 in most parts of the US and that it is currently available in Minnesota for a bit more than that. Okay, let’s get to it.

Del Maguey, Wild Tepextate (45%; Lot: TEP 181; from a bottle split)

Nose: More acidic than the Tobala, with more of a mineral note as well. Otherwise, similar notes of lime, green chiles and salt with mild passionfruit. Some charred pineapple in there too. More savoury as it sits with a bit of ham brine joining the party. With a couple of drops of water the “green” notes recede and the savoury notes expand. Continue reading

Las Cuatro Milpas (Bloomington, MN)


Las Cuatro Milpas on Lake St. in Minneapolis (diagonally across from Mercado Central) is a Twin Cities fixture. Their claim to fame is to have made birria and birria tacos popular in the metro. I cannot tell you if they were indeed pioneers in those areas but that’s the story. I’ve been meaning to eat there for many years now and was reminded of them when walking outside Mercado Central a couple of months ago. I then learned that they’ve recently opened a well-received branch in Bloomington, which lops 10-15 minutes off our drive in both directions relative to the Lake St. location. And so when our lunch plans for this past weekend moved in the direction of Mexican food they were the first place I thought of. I came in with high expectations and I am sorry to say that what we encountered was a rather ordinary meal, perhaps the most underwhelming Mexican meal we’ve had in the Cities for a while. Herewith, the details. Continue reading

Del Maguey, Tobala, Mezcal


This month I’ve already done a week of reviews of a category I don’t know very much about: bourbon. I’m now pleased to do a week of reviews of a category I know even less about: mezcal. I’ll be reviewing two mezcals from Del Maguey, the brand that has in recent years raised the profile of mezcal among whisky drinkers, and another from Quiquiriqui, a brand I had not heard of until I acquired a sample of it. First up, Del Maguey’s Tobala. It is named for the variety of agave from which it is is distilled. The tobala agave is much smaller variety than most others used to make mezcal, grows at high elevations, takes a long time to reach maturity, and apparently its yields too are quite low. All of this means mezcals made from tobala are typically more expensive. This Del Maguey iteration—which is a single village/town expression from Santa Maria Albarradas—goes for over $100, if you can find it. I’ve never had a tobala mezcal before, and so will not be able to tell you if this is a representative example of the varietal, but I’m curious to try it. Continue reading

Longrow Hand-Filled, August 2022


This week of Campbeltown hand-fills from August of this year began with a Hazelburn on Monday and continued with a Springbank on Wednesday. Let’s end with a Longrow. (A reminder: I did not fill these myself—I acquired these samples via a bottle split with the person who did.) Even though Hazelburn is supposed to be Springbank’s unpeated malt, I found a fair bit of smoke in there (and not for the first time). Well, Longrow is supposed to be Springbank’s heavily peated malt—will this one turn out to an anomaly as well? I do expect I will like it a lot either way as, usually, Longrow is my favourite variant of Springbank—and I really liked the last Longrow I reviewed, which also came directly from Campbeltown, having been issued by Cadenhead (who are owned by the same company that owns Springbank). This particular iteration of the hand-fill is pretty dark—quite a bit darker than the other two—which I would guess means sherry casks were involved at some point in this vatting. What will it all add up to? Let’s see. Continue reading

Baingan Masala with Mustard


The first recipe of the month featured eggplant; here now is another. I improvised this in mid-October and I think it was the last dish I made with the last of the eggplant from my garden. Truth be told, as much as we like eggplant, it’s been a bit of a relief to not be cooking it twice a week as I pretty much had been since early August! These were all long eggplant: a mix of Ping Tung (a purple varietal) and Thai Long Green. Could this recipe be adapted for globe eggplant? Probably, but cut-up globe eggplant is not going to hold its shape the way that long eggplant cut into thick disks does. Long eggplant is easily found in Indian and other Asian stores though, so that shouldn’t be a difficult hurdle to clear. The key flavour in this dish comes from a spice I threw into my grinder on a whim: black mustard seed. Its sharp bite comes through quite cleanly in the finished dish. If you are able to use mustard oil like a good Bengali then you’ll taste the sharpness even more. But it will be good even with a regular neutral oil. I also use the home-made Bengali spice blend, bhaja moshla, to add a little more punch at the end. This is not commercially available but you can use a pinch of your favourite garam masala instead (if you do, keep the pan on the heat for another minute after adding it). Continue reading

Springbank Hand-Filled, August 2022


My week of reviews of Campbeltown hand-fills continues. As with Monday’s Hazelburn, this Springbank was filled in August of this year (not by me). These hand-fills don’t have age or vintage statements and nor are the cask types disclosed. My understanding, as I said on Monday, is that this is because at Springbank these are not, as at most other distilleries, single casks that are replaced when depleted, but continuous vattings that get topped up once they get low. If you can confirm or deny that this is true, please write in below. Monday’s Hazelburn was somewhat uncharacteristic, being quite peaty (Hazelburn is supposed to be Springbank’s unpeated variant). Where will this Springbank fall on the spectrum? Let’s see.

Springbank Hand-Filled, August 2022 (57%; from a bottle split)

Nose: Nutty sweetness (almonds) with olive oil, mild brine and a bit of coriander seed. A bit of vanilla in the sweetness as it sits and also some acid below it (preserved lemon, a bit of tart-sweet apple). The preserved lemon expands as it sits and the almond and olive oil turn to almond oil. A few drops of water and the almond oil expands with some citronella coming up from below it. Continue reading

Eating at Hmong Village, November 2022 (St. Paul, MN)


On Sunday I posted a look at the green market in Hmong Village, one of the two major Hmong markets/food court complexes in St. Paul—Hmongtown Marketplace being the other. I was there—sans the family—with some friends and, as much as I like the green market there, lunch is the primary reason we were there. My friends had not been there before and so it was also an opportunity to introduce them to the pleasures of the food court. We got there around 1 pm on Saturday, and after some adventures in the parking lot we entered the building and made our way through the maze of the shops and stalls to find the food court buzzing. Continue reading

Hazelburn Hand-Filled, August 2022


Okay, after a week of bourbon reviews let’s do a week of Campbeltown reviews. This is going to be a very low-utility series as all the reviews are going to be of bottles that were hand-filled at Springbank (presumably) in August. I did not fill them myself; I went in on a bottle split with the person who did. My understanding is that these hand-fills are not single casks but more like infinity vattings that get topped up when they get too low. And given the likely foot traffic at Springbank in the summer it’s quite likely that the composition turns over every day or two. I’ll start with the Hazelburn—the triple-distilled, unpeated variant of Springbank—then go on to the Springbank hand-fill and finally end the week with the Longrow, which is nominally more heavily peated than Springbank. I say “nominally” because in practice it’s not always possible to tell the peat levels of Springbank and Longrow apart; and, in fact, I’ve even had a Hazelburn that had more than a bit of peat in it. Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading

Shopping at Hmong Village, November 2022 (St. Paul, MN)


This weekend’s eating plans were up in the air. I’d thought we’d probably go out for either Mexican or Filipino food but it didn’t work out that way. The missus and the boys had other engagements on Saturday and so I went out by myself with a few friends for Hmong food. We’d originally considered Hmongtown Marketplace (which I last reported on in 2018). But we ended up at Hmong Village, the larger and shinier of the two major Hmong market/food court complexes in St. Paul. I hadn’t been there in a while and was looking forward to seeing how/if it had changed in the interim. It ended up being a very fun and tasty outing. Continue reading

1792 Single Barrel (for Total Wine)


Bourbon week draws to a close. I began with the 2021 George Dickel Bottled in Bond and then checked in with a 2019 store pick Elijah Craig Small Batch; and now I end with a single barrel of 1792 Bourbon that was bottled for Total Wine in 2020. I have very little experience with 1792 (made by the Barton 1792 distillery in Bardstown in Kentucky). I don’t what the cask number was. The mash bill for 1792 is 74% corn, 18% rye and 8% barley, which I believe means this has higher rye content than either the Dickel or the Elijah Craig. Will that give it more character? Let’s see.

1792 Single Barrel for Total Wine (49.3%; from a bottle split)

Nose: The most restrained nose of the three: some light caramel, some herbal notes and some nail polish remover. The nail polish remover thankfully burns off quickly but there’s not a whole lot of development after that. Nothing interesting happens with a few drops of water at first either but then there’s some apricot and honey to go with the caramel. Continue reading

Shrimp Curry with Tomatoes


Here’s another recipe from August when I was trying my best to use up the flood of tomatoes coming in from my plot at the community garden. In this case, I also had on hand a few pounds of excellent Gulf shrimp purchased from a seafood truck that drives up from Texas to the midwest every summer. Normally, I would have made malai curry with shrimp this good but, as I said, I had a metric tonne of tomatoes to use up. And so I pulled together a relatively basic shrimp curry. Relatively, because two ingredients give the curry extra depth and bite, respectively: dessicated coconut and Sichuan peppercorn. The heat comes mostly from the black peppercorn in the spice mix, with a Kashmiri chilli [affiliate link] used more for colour. It’s a simple recipe that comes together quickly and delivers great flavour for a weeknight or weekend meal. Continue reading

Elijah Craig Small Batch (for Spec’s)


Bourbon week continues. On Monday I had a review of the 2021 release of the George Dickel Bottled in Bond; today I have for you a review of an Elijah Craig Small Batch that was bottled for Spec’s in Houston a couple of years ago. I’ve only reviewed two Elijah Craigs before this: the old 12 yo Small Batch (which used to be very reasonably priced and is now gone bye-bye); and the Elijah Craig 18 (which has never been reasonably priced and is still around). You will not be shocked to hear that the current Elijah Craig Small Batch has no age statement. Well, I suppose in this time of bourbon market insanity we should consider it a minor miracle that the NAS version doesn’t cost twice as much as the old 12 yo did; in fact, it seems to cost about the same (at least in Minnesota where it is available for $25). Now as to whether this store pick is very different from the regulation release, I have no idea. If I like this maybe I’ll pick up a regular Small Batch and see what that’s like. Continue reading

Hyacinth III (St. Paul, MN)


I ate at Hyacinth twice in 2019. The first time with the missus and some friends; the second time with colleagues. I enjoyed both meals even as I felt that its charms were really those of a neighbourhood restaurant. Nonetheless, if the pandemic had not intervened we would probably have gone back at least once in the last couple of years. And this past weekend we finally did, taking our boys out with us once again to an adult dinner experience. Italian food is the easiest option with them (see oiur previous outings to Terzo, Luci Ancora, Bar La Grassa, 112 Eatery and Mucci’s) and Hyacinth’s current menu seemed like it would suit them just fine. I’m glad to report that this did indeed prove to be the case: they enjoyed their dinner a lot. Their parents liked it too but thought it was a little uneven and we were really not convinced by the meal’s value proposition. Continue reading