Pandemic Takeout 72: El Triunfo To Start the Year (Northfield, MN)


Yes, I’ve posted quite a few restaurant meal reports already in 2022—but those are all of meals eaten in 2021 in Los Angeles. Today’s report is the first from 2022 proper. And I’m kicking the year in restaurant reviews off in hyper-local style with another look at some things eaten at our favourite restaurant in Northfield, Minnesota: El Triunfo.

Okay, so I’m cheating a bit here. This report encompasses food from three separate outings, two of which were in the summer of 2021—and one of which was eaten at the restaurant when the pandemic was briefly looking less concerning. But the largest report is of the most recent meal, which we picked up and ate just this past weekend. Continue reading

Golden Devil Dark Overproof Rum


This week’s theme: things that aren’t single malt whiskies. First up, a rum.

I haven’t reviewed very many rums on the blog; rarely going over 1 review per year. And all the rums I have reviewed have been from single distilleries. This one’s the exception. It is a blend of Jamaican pot still and Guyanese column still rums. The age and identities of the constituent rums are unknown to me. This was bottled for K&L in California a few years ago and went for the low, low price of $20. I have a horrible feeling that I am going to deeply regret having waited more than three years since receiving this sample from Sku to review it.

Golden Devil Dark Overproof Rum (57%; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Molasses and (over-ripe) plantains and a slight rubbery note off the top and then the funk begins to come through bringing some diesel with it. Burnt caramel as it sits and a slight mossy note emerges as well. The funk recedes as it sits and it’s the plantains and caramel that dominate. A few drops of water push the funk back further and pull out some vanilla and aniseed. Continue reading

Chennai Dosa Corner (Los Angeles, December 2021)


Yesterday I reported on a brief stop at Surati Farsan Mart in Artesia to eat paani puri and chaat. After that tasty start I made my second stop: at Chennai Dosa Corner for, well, a dosa.

Chennai Dosa Corner has been open for about eight years (so the gent at the counter told me). It is now one of several South Indian specialists open on and off Pioneer Boulevard. Back in the day if you wanted a good dosa in L.A County you had to go to Udupi Palace further up Pioneer Blvd. (Well, Paru’s in Hollywood was also quite good but didn’t have quite the same ambience for the immigrant nostalgist; nor did Sunset Blvd. have a branch of the State Bank of India right at the freeway exit.) My local informants tell me that Udupi Palace is still the gold standard in Artesia, and as an immigrant nostalgist of the old school it would have been my first choice except for one problem: yes, no outdoor seating. Thus Chennai Dosa Corner just a little bit up the road. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Surati Farsan Mart (Los Angeles, December 2021)


I noted in my review of dinner at Mo Ran Gak earlier this week that my mother-in-law’s move to Seal Beach a couple of years ago has meant the loss of Koreatown as our base of operations on our trips back to Los Angeles. But as an unfortunate bearded bloke once said, what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts. For us this has meant greater proximity to the Japanese restaurants of Gardena and Torrance. And it has also meant even greater proximity to Artesia whence is located Southern California’s premier Indian enclave. Back when I lived in Los Angeles in the 1990s and early 2000s, trips to Artesia to eat on the long drag of Pioneer Blvd. were always special—there not being very good Indian food in Los Angeles proper (a situation that is still probably true). But it was also a major pain in the ass to get there from the Westside. Now, it’s a short 15 minute drive from my mother-in-law’s door to Pioneer Blvd. And so on a day when the boys demanded burgers from In-N-Out I abandoned the family and sallied forth in search of chaat and dosas. My first port of call: Surati Farsan Mart. Continue reading

Tamdhu 20, 2000 (OMC for K&L)


Speyside week comes to a close with another refill hogshead bottled for K&L in California. This is a Tamdhu and it is two years older than Wednesday’s Linkwood. You may recall that I quite liked that Linkwood and also Monday’s 10 year old Dailuaine (that one from a sherry cask). Will the oldest of the trio be at least as good as the one half its age? There are no guarantees but I did like the last Tamdhu 20 I reviewed—that one was also bottled by Old Malt Cask (for their own 20th anniversary). And I did also like the last K&L Tamdhu of similar age that I reviewed, that one a 19 yo. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Tamdhu 20, 2000 (52%; OMC for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Cereals, toasted oak and some sweet fruit—citrus at first but then some cherry joins in as well. As it sits the oak expands quite a bit, making me a bit apprehensive about the palate…On the plus side the cereals get more malted and the fruit turns a bit muskier (somewhere between apple and pear). With more time still the oak recedes again. Water pushes the oak back further and pulls out some cream. Continue reading

Baingan Masala with Pork Keema


I improvised this recipe late last summer as part of my desperate campaign to hold at bay the endless flood of eggplant from my vegetable garden. It came out rather well and I’ve been trying to share it on the blog ever since. But you bastards shot it down in the recipes poll in November and December. I was tempted to just declare that it would be posted in January but I kept faith in the democratic process and it finally limped into the top four this month. (Now if we can only get justice in February’s poll for the masala spare ribs which have been shot down in the poll for four months straight.) Anyway, if you like pork and if you like eggplant you will like this. I guarantee it or your money back. Indeed, I may have to go get some long eggplant from the desi store and make it again for us. If you don’t have access to long eggplant, don’t fret: it’ll be good with regular globe eggplant as well. The only real controversy here is whether this should be named Baingan Masala with  Pork Keema or Pork Keema Masala with Baingan. It’ll taste as good either way. Continue reading

Linkwood 18, 2002 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)


Let’s make it a week of not just Speyside whiskies but Speyside whiskies bottled for/by K&L in California. The week started with a 10 yo Dailuaine that I dubbed a very good value at the price. Here now is an 18 yo Linkwood. The Dailuaine is a sherry cask; the Linkwood a refill hogshead. The Dailuaine was still available as of Monday; this Linkwood is sold out. Like Dailuaine, Linkwood is a workhorse distillery in Diageo’s stable that predominantly produces malt for the group’s blends. Which of course means that they are as capable as any other distillery of producing casks that are rather excellent indeed. Monday’s Dailuaine stopped a bit short of sheer excellence; will this Linkwood make it all the way? Let’s see.

Linkwood 18, 2002 (53.9%; Hepburn’s Choice for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: A lovely mix of fruit—apples, pears, a bit of lemon. There’s some honey in there too and a mild grassiness. Gets maltier on the nose too with time and air. Some floral sweetness emerges with more time still. With water those sweet notes move in the direction of vanilla and it gets maltier still. Continue reading

Mo Ran Gak (Los Angeles, December 2021)


When my mother-in-law first told us in 2019 that she considering moving to Seal Beach we thought this was going to be a rather dramatic shift for her. This because she was leaving Koreatown where she had been based for 30 odd years, in the embrace of what is probably the most hardcore Korean enclave outside the two Koreas. It turned out, however, that the retirement community she moved to has a large population of Korean seniors; and that just 10-15 minutes down the freeway there is another Korean enclave in Garden Grove. Now this is not news to anyone in the South Bay but back when we lived in Los Angeles—or when we visited Koreatown every year—places south of the Orange County border weren’t really on our radar. But Garden Grove has a significant Korean population too, along with major grocery stores and lots of restaurants. It’s not Koreatown but there’s enough there to not make us mourn the loss of our Irolo/James M. Wood base too much either on our trips back. For example: Mo Ran Gak. Continue reading

Dailuaine 10, 2010 (Sovereign for K&L)


From a week of reviews of heavily peated whiskies from the highlands let’s go to a week of milder fare from the Speyside. The last lot of Speysides I reviewed at the end of December were all fairly old—two 28 yo Glenfarclas (here and here) and a 33 yo Longmorn (here). We’ll start this week with a much younger whisky from a far less storied distillery: Dailuaine. This is from a sherry butt that was also part of K&L’s 2021 cask selections. I am now almost at the end of my reviews of that large batch; it would be good to get them done before the 2022 casks show up.

Dailuaine 10, 2010 (59.4%; Sovereign for K&L; sherry butt; from a bottle split)

Nose: A nice mix of sweet malt, light caramel and fruit (orange, apricot). Somewhat waxy on the second sniff with some honey in the mix too now. The citrus gets a little brighter as it goes and some cream emerges. The fruit gets richer as it sits and mixes nicely with the malt and the wax. With a lot more time it gets quite sweet. A few drops of water and the lemon wakes back up and picks up a biscuity note. Continue reading

Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori (Los Angeles, December 2021)


We got back from Los Angeles about 10 days ago. Given how maniacally we ate out while there, we’ve been taking a break from eating out since we go back. We’ll probably get back on the horse next weekend. Until then I’ll be posting more meal reports from the Los Angeles trip. Unlike from trips past—where I have posted reports 6 months to a year after the meals were eaten—I’m hoping that this time I’ll be done with all of them before we get too far into February. Here now is the 4th report of the 10 meals we ate out. It is, as it happens, an account of our very first restaurant meal on the trip: at Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori in Gardena. Continue reading

Ballechin 15, 2005, Second-Fill Sherry (WhiskySponge)


Three Ballechins bottled by Whisky Sponge to start the month and year, I said. On Monday I reviewed a 17 yo distilled in 2004 and matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel. On Wednesday another 17 yo from 2004, this time matured in a refill fino butt. Here now to close the week is another sherry cask but this one was distilled a year later and is two years younger. It’s from a second-fill sherry hogshead—what kind of sherry does not appear to have been specified in this case.

As I said on Monday, I only recently learned that Angus MacRaild (the Whisky Sponge) was bottling whisky. I don’t know what reputation his releases have at this point or where they fall price-wise in the market. I will say that I liked the other two fine but did not find them to be anything particularly extraordinary. Will this one be a departure in either direction? Let’s see. Continue reading

Sweet Potato Curry with Tamarind and Peanuts


Almost all of my cooking is not only improvisatory in nature but also often a hodgepodge of ingredients and approaches from different parts of India. I do sometimes cook from cookbooks that features dishes/cuisines of regions of India other than my own and when I do I follow those recipes closely—at least the first time. But invariably aspects of those recipes—be they combinations of ingredients or broad flavour profiles—enter unpredictably into the improvised dishes I make far more often. Not every bit of hybridization works or has particularly striking results but when one does it feels very satisfying. This improvised sweet potato curry, which draws on ingredients and flavours in dishes from Marathi and various South Indian cuisines, is one of my recent hits. For all I know it ends up close to some community or the other’s traditional preparation of sweet potato. If so, please don’t give me a hard time for departing in some crucial way from a canonical preparation you’re familiar with; this is not trying to be whatever that might be. What I can tell you is that—sour and hot and sweet and thickened with ground peanuts—it makes for a hearty winter meal with rice. Give it a go and see what you think. Continue reading

Ballechin 17, 2004, Refill Fino (WhiskySponge)


Here is the second of three reviews of single casks of Ballechin—or peated Edradour—released recently by Whisky Sponge. See here for a review of the first cask (a first-fill bourbon barrel) and read the comments on that post for some discussion of the ethical issues that these releases raise. If you have any thoughts about any of that please add them to the comments on that first review so it all stays in one place.

Ballechin 17, 2004 (55.5%; WhiskySponge; Edition 36B; Refill Fino Sherry Butt; from a bottle split)

Nose: Dry, farmy peat with some sweet notes around the edges of the smoke. Gets more organic and vegetal as it sits—definitely something rotting in the undergrowth in the middle distance, the aroma being wafted over on a briny, sea breeze (yes, I know where Edradour is located). Water softens the whole up: the farmy peat abates and there’s a touch of vanilla now. The salt expands again with time. Continue reading

Holbox, Again (Los Angeles, Dec 2021)


One of our favourite meals on my last visit to Los Angeles before the pandemic was at Holbox, the seafood-centered counter at Mercado La Paloma from the people who first brought us the excellent Chichen Itza. We have been plotting a return ever since, never expecting that it would take another three years. Of course, dining out on this trip was complicated. While proof of vaccination is required for dining in at restaurants in Los Angeles proper—the mandate is not really being followed elsewhere in LA County—our preference was also for dining outdoors whenever possible. Thankfully, both sets of caution were in evidence at this meal: proof of vaccination was checked stringently on entry to Mercado la Paloma to order our meal and there was excellent outdoor seating out front on a lovely, sunny day. And so, our meal. Continue reading

Ballechin 17, 2004, First-Fill Bourbon (WhiskySponge)


Back in the middle of 2020 I posted reviews of a trio of whiskies from Edradour. Let’s begin 2021 with reviews of a trio that bear the name Ballechin, aka peated Edradour. Until that trio of Edradours in mid-2020 I had actually only ever reviewed Ballechins from the distillery. And with only one exception—this Signatory release—I had only reviewed official releases, including a number of the cask variations (port, oloroso, marsala, madeira) released during the spirit’s initial march to the first 10 yo release. Since then a number of older Ballechins have hit the market from various indie bottlers. which leads us to this trio which represents the oldest Ballechins I have yet tried. This trio, furthermore, has been bottled by WhiskySponge, the outfit that bears the nickname of its proprietor, Angus MacRaild. The Whisky Sponge first became known to the general populace via the excellent eponymous blog that lampooned the excesses of the industry—and occasionally published more serious commentary as well. Somewhere along the line Angus M. seems to have become an indie bottler himself—more evidence that I really am out of touch with malt whisky developments is that I only noted this relatively recently. He also became a contributing writer on Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun a few years ago. Now Angus seems to be an upstanding type but I have to confess I find a little messy the situation of one independent bottler regularly reviewing releases from his competition on what is undoubtedly the most influential whisky buying guide around—especially for indie releases. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


Yesterday I published my look back at 2021 on the blog. Today I have for you the customary look at the month ahead. This post contains both the usual long list of potential whisky reviews to be posted on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays and the poll to select recipes to be posted on Thursdays. As always, make your nominations for the whisky reviews in the comments below; and vote for up to four recipes in the poll. Tuesdays will continue to feature restaurant write-ups. And through January there will likely be a bonus restaurant write-up during the weekends as well. This because I have a large backlog of reports from our recent Los Angeles trip and don’t want to still be posting them in March. Having eaten out so much in Los Angeles—where outdoor seating and a proof of vaccination requirement for dining in were both common—I’m not sure if we’re going to be eating out at all now for a while but I hope to get back to Twin Cities metro takeout reports soon. Continue reading

Looking Back at 2021 on the Blog


I started last year’s version of this post by saying, “I hope 2021 will not be like 2020 for too long”. This year I will not make any forward-looking statements.

We were lucky in 2021 in our household and extended family—in the US, India and Korea. Others we know were not. If 2021 didn’t mean a return to normalcy in our everyday lives—though we almost achieved it in patches—the blog kept chugging on normally. At the start of the pandemic in the US in 2020 I’d thought it unlikely I’d keep at it but in both years it’s been the routine I’ve clung to. Approaching its ninth anniversary in March, I think it’s safe to say the blog will make it to it’s 10 anniversary in 2023 (assuming I do as well). Readers don’t seem to be losing interest either—though it is very likely that in the last 2-3 years my old whisky readership has largely been replaced by a food readership. At least that’s what the numbers continue to suggest. Continue reading

Longmorn-Glenlivet 1971-2004 (Scott’s Selection)

The two Glenfarclas 28, 1992s I reviewed this week (here and here) were both very good but stopped just short of true excellence in my view. And so it’s time to bring out a guaranteed heavy hitter to close out the year. Not because this year has been anything to celebrate but in the hopes that it might augur better things for next year. This too is a Speysider, albeit a little older and distilled a long time before the two Glenfarclas. This is one of the great Longmorns bottled by Scott’s Selection in 2003 and 2004 for the US market. I’ve previously reviewed the 1968-2003, the 1967-2004 and the 1968-2004. This is the youngest of the set, distilled in 1971 and bottled in 2004. (The other in the group is the 1967-2003 of which I have a bottle in reserve.) Like most of the great Longmorns of that era, this features a heavy dose of fruit, most of it tropical. I know this because this is not my first bottle. These were all still widely available when I first began to buy a lot of whisky and I bought a pair each of this and the 1968-2003. The first bottle was finished before I launched the blog; here now is the second. My spreadsheet tells me I paid all of $162 for this back in December 2011. Those were indeed the days. Here’s to better days in 2022 as well. Continue reading