Dallas Dhu 26, 1979 (Signatory)

Dallas Dhu 26, 1979, Signatory
This Dallas Dhu was bottled in 2006. I stared at it on the shelves of a local retailer for most of the years since, trying to decide if I wanted to take a chance on it. This summer I finally did it—thankfully, the price hadn’t gone up too dramatically in the interim (it’ll take a lot to make Dallas Dhu sexy, apparently). Was it worth it? Well, as you’ll see below, while I liked it, I did not love it—which is about how I felt about a Dallas Dhu 30, 1980 I reviewed three years ago. But I would still say it’s worth it. It’s a very unsexy profile but very interesting in the glimpse it gives us into an older style of malt whisky. I would urge whisky geeks who’ve only come to the obsession relatively recently, and, like me, may not have tried so very many 1970s whiskies, to ignore scores and check out malts like these with idiosyncratic profiles that are really not around any more. You don’t only have to drink and buy “90 point whiskies”.   Continue reading

Pulao with Cranberries and Pine Nuts

Pulao with Cranberries and Pine Nuts
I’ve previously posted a recipe for a Bengali-style sweet pulao with whole “garam masala” and raisins. Today I have a somewhat different version. It riffs on some different pulaos I’ve had in different parts of India—from Kashmir and elsewhere in the north it borrows the use of pine nuts; the use of tart dried cranberries pays homage to the berry pulao of Irani and Parsi restaurants in Bombay. Like all good pulaos it places these ingredients in supporting roles to the rice. Pulaos, in my opinion, are about the fragrance of good basmati rice (this is, of course, a North Indian prejudice—Basmati is not used much elsewhere in India) and that fragrance should not be suppressed or muddied by other overly strong flavours. The subtle nuttiness of pine nuts complements the basmati perfectly, the cranberries add a tart-sweet counterpoint, and a bit of mint brightens it all up. Give it a go: it works wonderfully with rich curries (like this korma, for example) but also just by itself. Continue reading

Beudin 18 yo/Bordelet Selection (Calvados)

Beudin-Bordelet 18, Calvados
If this Calvados has a bit of a mouthful of a name it’s because it has a complicated origin. It was bottled by Eric Bordelet, who makes Calvados but it wasn’t distilled by him. Henri Beudin is apparently his neighbour. Beudin does not, however, make an appearance in Charles Neal’s great book on and guide to Calvados (which is rather comprehensive and which, again, everyone should buy). This suggests that Beudin is not a regular Calvados producer. Bordelet, however, is in the book, but at time of publishing (in 2011) he was not yet bottling his own Calvados, “as he feels many of his spirits are still too young” (Neal, 562). He is a renowned maker of cider, however, and I’ve heard very good things about his cider, some of which is available in the US. Bordelet, and presumably his neighbour, Beudin, are in the Domfrontais region but Neal reports that Bordelet double-distills his Calvados—I’m not sure if this is true of Beudin as well. If someone who has a bottle could clarify if this is mentioned on the label (or if the Domfrontais appellation is used, which would require single distillation) that would be great. All I have is this sample, which Sku kindly shared with me—he really liked it and I’m interested to see what I make of it. At 18 years of age, it’s the oldest Calvados I’ve yet had.  Continue reading

Matsumoto/Hirozen (Los Angeles, July 2016)

Hirozen: Tasmanian Ocean Trout
I will not annoy my Minnesota readers again by repeating my views on the quality of sushi in the Twin Cities metro area. Suffice it to say, we save our sushi dollars and eat sushi when we’re in Los Angeles. While we splurge on one high-end sushi meal on each trip (it was Mori again on this trip—review coming in a few weeks) we also eat a lunch or two at mid-range places. On this trip we decided to go back to Hirozen in Beverly Hills, a place I used to eat at every once in a while more than 12 years ago, when I lived in Los Angeles. Well, time doesn’t stand still. The name has changed (it’s Matsumoto now; everything else about the restaurant remains the same—Matsumoto is the old chef’s name) and I didn’t like it quite as much as I did back in the day. Is that because they’ve changed, or is it because then I hadn’t had any sushi that was better? Tough to say, but I suspect it’s the latter.  Continue reading

Aberfeldy 17, 1997 (Cadenhead’s Small Batch)

Aberfeldy 17, 1998, Cadenhead's Small Batch
This is the first Aberfeldy I’ve reviewed on the blog and it may well be only the second Aberfeldy I’ve ever tasted. Not much of it is available. Until recently, there were only a 12 yo and a 21 yo available from the distillery and my experience of the 12 yo did not ever make me curious about the 21 yo. I found it to be an unremarkable malt, in a somewhat generic, mildly fruity Highlands style: not offensive but not really intriguing. Not that intrigue would have helped much: there’s very little Aberfeldy available from the independents (most of it goes into the bottomless vats of the Dewar’s blends) and most of those seem to be G&M releases in their Connoisseur’s Choice line—which also has rarely gotten very many whisky geeks’ pulses racing. This one was bottled last year in 2014 by Cadenhead’s in their Small Batch series. As my experience with the last lot of Cadenhead’s Small Batch releases was pretty positive I was willing to take a chance on it. I am happy to say I rather like it.  Continue reading

Caol Ila 25, 1983 (Jean Boyer)

Caol Ila 25, 1983, Jean Boyer
I said last week that it had been a long time since I had reviewed a Laphroaig. Well, it’s been even longer since I’ve reviewed a Caol Ila. Like that Laphroaig this is also in its 20s age-wise, but it’s not at cask strength or from a sherry cask.This was bottled in 2008 by a French outfit I know very little about: Jean Boyer. Whiskybase lists a number of releases from them, but very few seem to be recent (and very few also seem to be at cask strength). This one is from a re-coopered hogshead. I assume this is an instance of a hogshead being reassembled from broken down bourbon barrels—there is no hint of sherry in this. Not too long ago older Caol Ilas from the early 1980s were easily had from the indies, and for very reasonable prices at that. If I’d only anticipated what was coming, I would have purchased more than one bottle of this when I could have. So it goes. (Actually, it appears this is still available in a few places, but they’re in Germany.) Continue reading

Octopus and Chickpea Salad

Chickpea and Octopus Salad
I’ve posted a number of recipes that use my friend Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo beans. I think his beans are great and I haven’t had better. But I’ve secretly always thought that the best thing he carries might actually be a vinegar. Specifically, banana vinegar. It’s made from fermented bananas on a plantation in Mexico, and costs a lot, but it smells like heaven and tastes pretty good too. I can’t bring myself to cook with it; I can’t even bring myself to make a vinaigrette with it: instead, I just pour glugs of it over things so I can get that aroma. This summer I’ve been making a number of warm salads that use it to impart a tang with just the right amount of fruity sweetness. Here is a recent version that came out quite well. It features “baby” octopus along with another great Rancho Gordo product, their incredibly fresh garbanzo beans. If you don’t have octopus at hand or it’s not to your taste, you can just as easily substitute shrimp; you could even make it vegetarian and go with potatoes instead.  Continue reading

Domaine Pacory, Calvados

Domaine Pacory, Calvados
Here is another K&L exclusive Calvados (after the Hubert) and another from the Domfrontais (after the Lemorton Reserve). This is another whose age is not stated, only alluded to. Sku, from whom I got this sample, notes in his review that “while there is no age listed, K&L tells us it is five years old”. Florin pointed out in the comments that the label states the “Réserve” category which is used for three year old Calvados and wondered why they wouldn’t have used the higher category if it were indeed five years old (“VSOP” or “Vieille Réserve”). Sku noted that he “spoke to K&L and they assured me that it is 5 years old, distilled 2011. Apparently, they used existing, available labels rather than create a new one to get it done more quickly.” I found this explanation from K&L a little unconvincing and said so there but I’ll repeat myself here (I’m good at repeating myself and believe in sticking with my strengths).  Continue reading

Szechuan Impression, Take 2 (Los Angeles, July 2016)

Szechuan Impression: Farm Chicken in Chilli Oil
We ate at Szechuan Impression on our trip to Los Angeles last winter and at the end of my review I noted that I expected we’d be back on our trip in the summer. Well, this came true almost immediately upon our arrival in Los Angeles. We got in on the evening of July 1; we ate lunch at Szechuan Impression on July 2. Joining us for lunch were Sku and his family, with whom we eat on every trip, and with whom we love eating (as they are one of very few families whose attitude to eating out is exactly like ours, that is to say, excessive). Since our last trip Szechuan Impression has opened a second branch but we made a return to the original in Alhambra. I am glad to say that expansion has not had any negative effects on the kitchen: our meal was as good as the previous, and that one was one of the best Sichuan meals we’d ever had (and better than the Michelin starred one we ate in Hong Kong a few weeks later).  Continue reading

Lagavulin 8

Lagavulin 8
The Lagavulin 8, which has only just begun to arrive in the US, was released this year as part of the commemoration of the distillery’s 200th anniversary. It’s not the only bottle they released (there was another, much older and much more expensive) but these days you do have to appreciate a reasonably priced 8 yo, especially from Diageo. It’s an 8 yo because it commemorates Alfred Barnard’s visit to the distillery in the late 19th century—he apparently sampled an 8 yo when there. It is said to be a limited edition, by which Diageo means that they released only 20-30,000 bottles or so of it. The label and box say nothing about the casks used to mature the whisky this was made from; for what it’s worth, while many marketing images make it look bright orange, the colour of this whisky is in light white wine territory—whoever adds the caramel colouring to the Lagavulin 16 might have got a day off when they made this one.  Continue reading

Fried Fish with Onions

Fried Pompano with Onions

Bengalis eat a lot of fish (maach) and fish is a major part of Bengali identity. The classic Bengali fish are almost all bony riverine fish of one kind or the other. As a kid my favourites were magur (a type of catfish) and koi (the small climbing perch). The magur, I remember, was always purchased alive from the fish sellers who came to our door and kept swimming either in a bucket or the kitchen sink before it was time to cook them for lunch. That thin magur maacher jhol (gravy) with long wedges of potato was one of my very favourite things to eat as a child. Later I learned to appreciate fish like pabda (another type of catfish), rui (a type of carp), katla (another type of carp) and particularly the unfeasibly bony ilish (hilsa, a type of shad) in various other richer and spicier preparations (for example, as shorshe-bata maach). Continue reading

Laphroaig 21, 1994 (Cooper’s Choice)

Laphroaig 21, 1994, Cooper's Choice
It’s been almost four months since my last Laphroaig review, which seems too long. I acquired this large sample as part of a bottle split at the same time as the sample of the Ledaig 17 from the same bottlers (Cooper’s Choice) that I reviewed in April. That was also a heavily peated whisky from a sherry cask. Unlike that one, however, this Laphroaig 21 is not at cask strength. It’s also apparently still available, which seems odd for an older Laphroaig from a sherry cask. The skeptical might wonder if that means that this is not very good, possibly sulphured. Might that be why they diluted it to 46%? Maybe, but it’s equally likely that they did it to get more bottles out of the cask and into the budgets of more drinkers. Anyway, I quite liked that Ledaig 17—ended up buying a full bottle—and if I like this as much, and it is indeed still available, I might consider a bottle of this as well. It’s not every day, as I said, that an older, sherried Laphroaig shows up.  Continue reading

Lemorton Reserve, Calvados

Lemorton Reserve, Calvados
Here is my second Calvados review. For the first, and for a bunch of disclaimers about the status of my Calvados reviews, see here. I was not a big fan of that Domaine Hubert from K&L. I purchased this Lemorton Reserve from K&L as well but it is not exclusive to them. K&L’s site describes this as a six year old too, but, as with the Hubert, there’s no age statement anywhere on the label, and elsewhere I have seen it referred to as a five year old. And the website of the importer, Charles Neal (who is also one of the pre-eminent authorities on Calvados), also mentions a five year old but not a six year old blend (let me take this opportunity to again recommend Charles Neal’s massive guide, Calvados: The Spirit of Normandy). I’m not sure why there has to apparently be so much mystery/confusion about the age of Calvados. Or is this merely my Scotch whisky conditioning further revealing itself?  Continue reading