Kim’s Asian Market (St. Paul, MN)


We were back in St. Paul on Saturday for a pandemic takeout run—this time from On’s Kitchen (review coming on Tuesday)—and combined it with some quick Korean grocery shopping from Kim’s on Snelling. Despite the fact that we’ve been shopping here since pretty much our first month in Minnesota back in 2007 I’ve somehow never done one of my grocery store reports on them. And so here now is a quick look at what you can expect to find at one of the Twin Cities’ Korean mainstays, which sits across Snelling Avenue from both Pho Pasteur and Sole Cafe and only a few blocks away from the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street, University Avenue. Continue reading

Loch Lomond 12 “Perfectly Balanced”


Let’s close out Loch Lomond week with the new Loch Lomond 12. Well, I’m not actually sure if there is anything new about this version of the 12 yo beyond the packaging and the “Perfectly Balanced” epithet it now bears. The Inchmurrin 12 and Inchmoan 12, you may recall, go by “Fruity & Sweet” and “Smoke & Spice” respectively. As to whether this Loch Lomond 12 is meant to be the perfect balance between those two or represent some more Platonic perfect balance of malt whisky character, I don’t know. I do know that I liked the last Loch Lomond 12 I tried and if this is at least as good I will be happy. I’ll be happier still if the distillery knocks off its dubious marketing claims re its origins—which decidedly do not go back to 1814 no matter what their packaging may claim. Why they insist on selling this bogus claim when they make interesting and rather unique whisky that can stand on its own merits I really can’t say. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Dum Alu with Sesame and Peanut


Is there a term in India now for home cooking that wanders over the map and isn’t strictly regional? Whatever that term might be, it would describe this recipe (and also most of my cooking these days). I’m calling this dum alu but it looks and tastes nothing like the Bengali alur dom or broadly North Indian dum alu I am most familiar with. It looks like it could be Kashmiri dum alu but really the flavours are borrowed from a range of South Indian preparations. Its most immediate relative or inspiration is probably the Hyderabadi baghare baingan. That’s where the sesame seeds and peanuts probably come from, but there’s no coconut here and also no onions or garlic. If there is indeed a regional version of dum alu or some other potato curry that is made like this, please let me know. It is almost impossible to come up with anything new in the Indian context, given the vastness of the country’s foodways. What I can tell you for sure is that this is a very tasty dish, one that works very well as a side or a main. Give it a go. Continue reading

Inchmoan 12 “Smoke & Spice”


Here is another whisky from the distillery that has for some reason decided to mislead people about its history/origins even though they make whisky that can stand on its own merits.

Actually, Loch Lomond makes a number of different styles of whisky. On Monday I reviewed the new Inchmurrin 12 and today I have a review of the new 12 yo version of  Inchmoan aka the whisky with the most unintentionally and comically dirty name in all of Scotland. My understanding is that Inchmoan is essentially peated Inchmurrin, made the same way except with peated malt. Like Inchmurrin, and a few of the other Loch Lomond variants, Inchmoan is named for an island in Loch Lomond—the loch not the distillery. How exactly it differs from Loch Lomond’s other peated whiskies—Inchfad and Croftengea among them—I don’t know but someone else can doubtless tell us. Unlike the Inchmurrin, I don’t believe there’s ever been a regular release of Inchmoan and so this 12 yo—which bears the epithet “Smoke & Spice”—may be a newcomer to the stable. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 52: Back to Homi (St. Paul, MN)


Those who read my pandemic takeout posts regularly know that we’ve been wanting and planning to get back to Homi for a while now. Something or the other has been getting in the way. We could have hit them up a week ago but the weather that weekend was not going to be conducive to outdoor dining and so we decided to do a Vietnamese meal (from Trieu Chau) by ourselves. This past weekend, however, was a different story. It was warm and sunny which meant we could return to pandemic deck lunching with friends—which in turn meant we could get a very large order from Homi, with most of our favourite dishes on it. And so we did. And it was good. Continue reading

Inchmurrin 12 “Fruity & Sweet”

At some point recently the Loch Lomond distillery revamped their slate of official releases. At the entry-level now are three 12 yo malts, all very fairly priced: an Inchmurrin, an Inchmoan (basically peated Inchmurrin) and a Loch Lomond. The Inchmurrin is billed as “Fruity & Sweet”, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has had malts from this label or any malts really produced in the last decade or so at Loch Lomond: they all tend to be fairly fruity, Inchmurrin in particular. Also at some point recently—more regrettably—the Loch Lomond distillery decided to engage in some pretty dishonest marketing about their history. I’ve gone over this in a separate post last month: essentially, despite only having been founded in 1965 or 1966 they are now claiming a history going back to the early 1800s. This is really regrettable as the whisky they’re making can stand on its own merits. I will admit that it’s been a bit of a quandary for me whether to review these whiskies from the distillery or not, given their dishonest marketing. I decided finally to go ahead but to foreground that dishonest marketing each time. I do hope they’ll knock it off soon. Continue reading

Favourite Dishes Eaten in the Twin Cities Metro: Jan 1-March 31, 2021


In the Before Times I used to post a quarterly round-up of the top 5 dishes we’d eaten in the Twin Cities metro in the previous three months. I don’t think I posted any of those last year—it’s hard to remember through the pandemic fog. But here is a new edition that covers the first quarter of 2021. Through the pandemic I have damped down my normal critical impulses and have focused on the positives of all the meals we’ve eaten. This hasn’t actually required any fudging of the facts—all the meals we’ve eaten over the last year and change have been very tasty and very much appreciated. And so to continue to show our appreciation for these meals, this edition of the list is not simply restricted to the top 5 dishes but includes my two favourite dishes from each of our pandemic takeout runs so far this year. Continue reading

Glen Moray 25, 1994 (SMWS 35.275)


Following Monday’s Tamdhu and Wednesday’s Balvenie, let’s make it a whole week of 20+ yo Speyside whiskies. This Glen Moray was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and they gave it the relatively restrained—by their standards—nickname “Desert Island Dr(e)am”. It was bottled from a first-fill toasted hogshead. I assume this means a relatively tired hogshead was reconditioned via toasting and then filled. Was this done at origin in 1994 or is this merely the cask in which this whisky spent some time prior to bottling? I do not know. If you know more about this please write in below. In the meantime, I will note that I have previously reviewed a SMWS-issued Glen Moray 24, 1994 and that too was from a first-fill toasted hogshead. I wasn’t overly enthused by that one, which I found to be far too oak-driven for my taste. Let’s hope this one puts on a better, less woody show—though given the dark colour, I am a little nervous. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


Oh look, it’s April 1, the day every year that comedy goes to whisky blogs to die. Don’t worry, I don’t have an elaborate April Fool’s joke post for you. Only my usual list of potential whisky reviews and such. March was a somewhat atypical month on the blog; at least insofar as the most read post of the month was neither about whisky nor about food. No. it was a post about a poem, my reading of Imtiaz Dharker’s “At the Lahore Karhai”. Alas, I fear that this is not a sign of the world changing for the better; if anything, probably more confirmation of the bad. I suspect, based on traffic patterns and a bit of desultory googling, that this poem is on an examination list at an Indian university and that a lot of desperate students have been casting about for study aids. Well, if that’s the case, I hope their professors don’t fail me.  Continue reading

John McCrae/Balvenie 28, 1991 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)

John McCrae:Balvenie 28, 1991, Hepburn's Choice
Okay, let’s end the month with another older Speyside from a bourbon cask, and having started the month with one of K&L’s recent exclusives, let’s end it with another. This is one more of the many teaspooned casks released by K&L this year, in this case a teaspooned Balvenie—why John McCrae, I have no idea. As far as I can make out from K&L’s marketing spiel, this cask was not teaspooned prior to bottling but right at the beginning when the spirit entered the cask, presumably using a bit from one of William Grant’s other malts (Glenfiddich or Kininvie) but that’s only speculation on my part. Balvenie almost never shows up under its own name from independent bottlers— and very rarely shows up at all by any name. And so, however this was made and sent out into the world, it is a welcome opportunity to try older bourbon cask Balvenie. Let’s hope what’s in the bottle doesn’t let me down. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 51: Trieu Chau (St. Paul, MN)

We’ve eaten a fair bit of Vietnamese food in this past pandemic year but somehow we hadn’t gotten back to the restaurant that has over the last several years been perhaps our favourite slinger of pho: Trieu Chau on University Ave. in St. Paul. Well, we fixed that this past weekend. I’m not sure what incarnations their service model has gone through in the last year but they are currently open for dine-in and takeout. We are, however, not yet open for dining in and so it was takeout only for us. I called in our order just after 10 am (which is when they seem to open even though their menu etc. says 11 am) and picked it up just before 11. Continue reading

Tamdhu 26, 1984 (Exclusive Malts for the WWW Forum)


I purchased this bottle in December 2010. I cannot fully explain why it has taken me more than a decade to open it. I do know why I didn’t open it right away though. I’d been drinking single malt whisky for the better part of a decade at that point but 2009/2010 is when I began to spend a lot of money on it and when I began acquiring more bottles than I could drink down at my normal, rather moderate rate of intake (1-2 drinks a night). This was not one of the very first older whiskies I’d purchased then but it was the first whisky I’d purchased that was a pick by a group I was part of. That group was the venerable Whisky Whisky Whisky forum, which I was an active member of then, before it—like many forums—fell prey to the creep of social media. I think I’ve said before that the decline of that forum was a large part of the impetus for starting this blog in 2013. This was the first—only?—cask of whisky bottled by the forum and for me it was an entree to an exciting world of “exclusive” picks that I’d only read about till that point. And so I put it away for a special occasion…and then forgot about it for a decade. Now I’m drinking my collection—mostly acquired in the 2009-2014 timeframe—down far more rapidly than I’ve ever done and I’ve begun to open a number of these “special” bottles. I was a bit nervous when I uncorked this one for the first time last week—after a decade’s wait would it actually be good?—but I’m glad to report the notes don’t include retroactive regret. Continue reading

Longrow 17, 2002 (for The Nectar)


Okay, let’s make it three peat weeks in a row. Unlike Caol Ila week and Lagavulin week, this week saw stops at Laphroaig and Bowmore and now I’m at a third distillery that isn’t even on Islay. We’re not that far away in the scheme of things though—at Springbank in Campbeltown. Monday’s Laphroaig was from a bourbon cask and Wednesday’s Bowmore was a port finish; this Longrow is from a fresh sherry hogshead and was bottled for the Nectar in Belgium. All of that should add up to goodness but you never really know. My last Longrow from a first-fill sherry cask was this 13 yo which I was not very crazy about—a bit too much sulphur, even for me. I did like the last Springbank I reviewed, which was coincidentally also of a sherry cask, though a bit younger at 12 years old and from quite a few year previous; and, of course, not as heavily peated—at least in theory–as Longrow usually is. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Spice-Crusted Pork Roast


Here is a recipe for a spiced pork roast which raises the question of what exactly the difference—if any—is between Indian cooking and cooking with Indian ingredients. I mean to say that this is not any sort of traditional Indian pork roast recipe. (Though, for all I know, it ends up approximating one made by a pork eating community somewhere in the country.) The ingredients aren’t all Indian either: there’s Sichuan peppercorn in the masala and the vinegars I recommend for making the paste that’s rubbed on the roast are either balsamic of Chinkiang black vinegar (affiliate link). Nonetheless, this falls squarely within an Indian flavour profile for me and we eat it happily alongside dal and other Indian vegetable sides—and also pulled apart and placed atop chapatis a la tacos. I’m not sure what to call it generically but it’s good. I make it in the slow cooker which adds the extra virtue of making it even easier. Continue reading

Bowmore 15, 2004 (SMWS for Feis Ile 2020)


The blog turns 8 today. What did you get it? Nothing? Typical. As long time readers—down to the low single digits at this point—know, my first-ever review was of a Bowmore—the one-time entry-level Bowmore Legend—and so I’ve marked every anniversary since with a review of a Bowmore: The OB 12 in 2014, the OB 18 in 2015 and so forth—the only other official release since 2015 was the 30 yo Sea Dragon in 2019; other than that it’s been a run of independent releases. Well, today’s is an independent release as well, bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for Feis Ile 2020. It was apparently finished in a first-fill barrique or port cask after 14 years in a bourbon hogshead and was given the whimsical name, Loungecore Stave Exoticism. (I’m sure this makes sense to someone but I am fine not having any idea what it’s a reference to.) I’m not sure that I’ve ever had any kind of port-bothered Bowmore before. Well, what better time than at the start of the blog’s ninth year? Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 50: A Midweek Grand Szechuan Feast


So the plan for last week’s pandemic takeout had been a return to Homi in St. Paul. But for tedious reasons we don’t need to go into—not least because it would involve my having to divulge my own idiocy—these got spiked on Wednesday. The options were no pandemic takeout last week or something midweek. The former option being clearly unacceptable we ended up doing takeout dinner on Thursday—and as a bonus we ended up getting food from Grand Szechuan. So winners all around and it turns out I was not an idiot after all but a hero. We’ll try to go back to Homi this week. In the meantime here’s a report on Sichuan excess. Continue reading

Williamson 8, 2012 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


It has been a few months since my last Laphroaig review—that was of a 21 yo bottled by the SMWS in 2016 or 2017. Today’s Laphroaig is also an indie release but it’s quite a bit younger at 8 years old. Oh yes, I should have started out by noting that it is a Laphroaig. Williamson—presumably named for the legendary Bessie Williamson of Laphroaig—seems to be the name under which independent Laphroaigs are now being released. When this started, I’m not quite sure. And as long as good indie Laphroaig continues to be available I won’t really care very much under what name it’s sold. As the label says “single malt” I’m going to assume this is not a teaspooned malt. Though I did read recently—perhaps on the Malt Maniacs F&F Facebook group—that casks that leave distilleries having been teaspooned for the indie market may not always be noted as such at release. As to whether that’s legal, I don’t know. I’d assume Berry Bros. & Rudd would play by the rules. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Lagavulin 12 CS, 2020 Release


And here to close out Lagavulin 12 CS week here is the most recent release, from 2020 (see here for the 2019 and here for the 2018 release). I thought the 2018 was excellent and the 2019 just a little behind that. Where will the 2020 fall? Let’s see.

Lagavulin 12 CS, 2020 Release (56.4%; from a bottle split)

Nose: Closer to the 2018 than the 2019: lemon, carbolic peat, salt smouldering leaves; the sweeter notes on the 2019 are not present—at least not at first. The salt expands as it sits—more brine now than salt and some cracked white pepper to go with it. The nose really gets quite lovely with air as some cracked spices (coriander) join the party along with some Springbank’ish burlap and earth and a touch of some muskier fruit (charred pineapple). With more time still there are some meaty notes as well (ham). Okay, time to add water. A few drops brighten it up, pulling out citronella and more of the pineapple—plus is that a bit of peach? Continue reading