Alu-Gobi, Lightly Spiced


I made this take on alu-gobi a couple of days ago and here now in response to some queries is the recipe. This is, I believe, my third alu-gobi recipe and it is by far the simplest. (The other two are here and here.) It involves very few ingredients and very few spices. Sometimes I am tempted to launch a campaign aimed at getting Americans to stop associating Indian food only with big flavours. It’s not that there aren’t a lot of classic Indian preparations that involve big flavours—and god knows, I often fall prey to over-spicing things as well. But that expectation and the many dishes that feed it often completely obscure all the ones that aren’t BIG in that way but which are rather tasty anyway. A lot of Indian food is very subtle, even if that’s not its reputation. This alu-gobi is one such. The major flavour here is that of the cauliflower set off by some cracked coriander seed. A light tadka of hing, zeera and red chillies give it a bit of umami depth and heat, some amchur for acidity at the end and that’s pretty much it. There’s no tomato, no garlic or ginger and only a bit of onion. Give it a go, you’ll like it. Continue reading

Allt-a-Bhainne 7, 2011 (SMWS)


Okay, let’s bring the long run of sherry casks to an end with this Allt-a-Bhainne. It does not, however, bring the shorter run of peated whiskies to an end. Apparently, Allt-a-Bhainne recently became another of the Speyside distilleries that traffics in peated whisky. When exactly this happened I do not know—I stopped following whisky news a long time ago. They’ve released an official NAS peated whisky and it’s been met with very poor reviews. This one—a cask from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society—may not be very much older than the NAS release: it’s 7 years old, which is the kind of age that whisky companies feel very embarrassed about after years and years of trying to convince people that age equals quality. The fact that the SMWS has the decency to mark the age of their cask does not, of course, mean that it’s necessarily any better than the previously mentioned official release. That said, I’ve quite liked the few Allt-a-Bhainnes I’ve reviewed previous to this one though the youngest of those was 16 years old. Let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 30: Back to Kabob’s Indian Grill (Bloomington, MN)


We got Indian takeout again at the end of last week but not from the place I’d been hoping to finally get to. The plan earlier in the week had been to do our usual weekend family walk in Maplewood and pick up some food from Indian Masala. But as Saturday approached, the forecast sapped our will and we decided we’d spend the day huddled at home. It’s not that we don’t plan to go out at all in the winter but that it’s too soon for temperatures so low. It may be Minnesota but it’s only fucking October, dammit. However, the story ends well. I ended up going to Costco on Friday morning and picked up a large order from Kabob’s Indian Grill in Bloomington. I’m happy to report that they continue to survive the pandemic, that they are now offering their lunch thali to go on weekends and that their food is still very good. Herewith, the details. Continue reading

Ledaig 17, 1998 (A.D. Rattray)


Here is another Ledaig from a sherry cask that was released in the middle of the decade. This is almost twice the age of Friday’s cask and was bottled by A.D. Rattray, not Signatory. It’s also a ludicrously high strength. 65.8% after 17 years? Just where was this cask stored? I have to say I am not a big fan of whiskies being bottled at these crazy strengths (or any other kind of spirit for that matter). Its hard for me to enjoy most drinks fully very much above 55%—and I usually tend to like things closer to 50%. Sure I can—and do—dilute things down to where I like them but it’s an unnecessary level of futzing with your drink, in my view. I realize there’s a layer of authenticity that comes with the “cask strength” tag and that it gets some extra sheen of machismo probably when that cask strength is eye-wateringly high. Add to all of those prejudices that this is a Ledaig—a spirit that can be challenging even at a much lower strength—and I have some trepidation entering this pour. Let’s see how it pans out. Continue reading

Ledaig 10, 2005 (Signatory)

Let’s round out the week with another sherry cask whisky but turn the peat up a little higher past Wednesday’s Bowmore 11. Just about two years ago I reviewed a Ledaig 10, 2004 bottled by Signatory. I was supposed to follow that up with a review of this 10 yo distilled in 2005 and also bottled by Signatory that I’d acquired as part of the same large bottle split but never got around to it. Both are from a large parcel of young sherry casks put out by Signatory (and a few other bottlers who may have acquired their casks from Signatory). Most of these 10-11 yo Ledaigs have been very good indeed—very nice marriages of heavy peat and heavy sherry. I really liked that 2004 and I’ve been drinking this one down at a rapid rate as well since opening it a week or two ago. Here now are some notes on it.

Ledaig 10, 2005 (54.6%; Signatory; first-fill sherry butt 900145; from a bottle split)

Nose: Rubbery smoke with charred, barbecued pork coming up behind alongside some sweeter sherry notes (dried orange peel, pipe tobacco). The salt from the palate pops out here too with time and it gets more acidic too (lemon); and with a lot of air/time the rubber recedes a bit. Water pushes back the salt, pulls out some softer notes (milky cocoa) and ties it all together nicely. Continue reading

Chana Masala, Take 2


Way back in January, before there was a global pandemic, I posted a recipe for chana masala made with kala or desi chana. These smaller, darker chickpeas (compared to garbanzo beans aka Kabuli chana in India) have, as I said then, been eaten in India much longer than garbanzo beans. They can be prepared very similarly but are far from identical. They’re smaller and their skins are harder and their texture much denser; and their flavour is earthier and not as “sweet” as good garbanzo beans can be. So far, so repetitious. Here’s something new: back in January I’d said that I’d heard a rumour that Rancho Gordo—the Californian purveyor of bespoke beans—might soon start carrying desi chana. 10 months later that rumour has turned to fact. Rancho Gordo’s desi chana will be going on sale around Thanksgiving. If you’re not in their Bean Club (yes, I know) you’ll have to punch other people in the mouth to get them into your cart when they go on sale. (Well, you’ll be shopping online but you can always imagine.) Since I’m special (by which I mean, I know things Steve S. of Rancho Gordo doesn’t want you to know about his whereabouts in April of 1982), I was sent a few packets of these to play with before you heathens get anywhere near them. You can therefore view this as a sort of sponsored post if you like—I can certainly be purchased for less than the price of a few packets of beans. More accurate would be that Steve and I are old friends and that he clearly doesn’t need a D-list food blogger like me to talk him up when he has all of the North American food world falling over itself to praise his beans. At any rate, I’ve made a few different preps with them and this is the one the missus thinks I should share first with the public. Continue reading

Bowmore 11, Feis Ile 2017


My love of Bowmore collides here with my poor track record with whisky that has been in close proximity to wine casks. Yes, this 11 yo Bowmore released at Feis Ile in 2017 was matured in a combination of sherry and wine casks. I was not at Feis Ile in 2017—though I did visit Bowmore a few weeks later. I fear I will never be at Feis Ile, not even after the pandemic ends. I know how important whisky festivals are to many enthusiasts, and I know how important a festival like Feis Ile is to not just the distilleries involved but also to the local economy. But no description I’ve read of the crowds at Feis Ile and the long lines to purchase festival exclusives for purposes of auction flipping has ever made me wish I could have been there. And no, I’m not being hypocritical about the auction part. I purchased this bottle not from an auction but from a store in Tarbert shortly after our week on Islay ended in 2017—and I paid less than was being asked at auction at the time. Three years later, I’m finally opening it. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 29: Pho Pasteur (St. Paul, MN)


The plan for this past weekend had originally been a walk around a park in Maplewood followed by takeout from Indian Masala, an Indian restaurant in Maplewood that’s been recommended highly to me by Mike McGuinness (who runs the excellent East Metro Foodies Facebook group). But the plan never quite came together and we ended walking around Como Lake instead and picking up more Vietnamese food to take back to the yard of the friends in St. Paul we often do these walk+meals with. On the last occasion we’d picked up lunch from iPho by Saigon; this time we hit up Pho Pasteur, which is very close to their house. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Auchroisk 22, 1990 (Whisky-Fässle)


This is not a Ben Nevis. It was not distilled in 1991 and it was not bottled by Signatory. But it is from a sherry cask and from a distillery that often produces very fruity whisky: Auchroisk. I haven’t had too many—and have reviewed even less—but the best have been very good indeed. Such, for example, was the one 1990 I’ve previously reviewed—this 24 yo bottled by Signatory for Binny’s, which I scored a little lower than I should have. If this one is as good I’ll be very happy indeed; I certainly hope that the sherry maturation won’t have covered up the fruit (as it hadn’t in the case of last week’s Ben Nevis trio). Let’s see.

Auchroisk 22, 1990 (49.8%; Whisky-Fässle; sherry cask; from my own bottle)

Nose: Copper coins, leather and a big dose of fruit running through it (orange peel, plantain, apricot). The orange peel expands as it sits and the oak begins to peep out here as well. Water brightens it up and pulls out malt and toffee. As it sits the fruit gets muskier too (more tropical accents). Continue reading

Ben Nevis 26, 1991 (Signatory)


Let us bring Ben Nevis week to a close. To recap, three sherry casks filled in 1991 and bottled by Signatory at the ages of 22, 24, and 26. I thought the 22 yo was a gem and then liked the 24 even more. Do I dare hope that the 26 will be better still? Of course, we know that age is no reliable predictor of quality—a few extra years can take a cask past its prime just as easily as they can add further depth. I am hoping for good things though as the colour of this sample suggests that this too was not an over-active sherry cask. Hopefully, that funky, fruity Ben Nevis character will be front and center here as well. Let’s see if that’s the case.

Ben Nevis 26, 1991 (57.3%; Signatory; sherry butt 2377; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: That familiar mix once again of musky citrus, powdered ginger, malt and yeast. On the second sniff the powdered ginger moves in the slightly rubbery direction of old-school medicine bottles. With time and air the sweeter fruit from the palate (peach nectar) joins the musky citrus. A few drops of water and there’s more malt and some very milky cocoa to go with all the rest. Continue reading

Chaar Dal


“Chaar” means four in Hindi (and Bengali and other languages) and this is a dal made with a mix of four lentils or dals. While the most common way of making dal in India is with a single dal at the time, there is nothing very unusual about dals made with a mix of two, three, four or even five dals (the Rajasthani panchmel dal, for example). Who knows, some day I might even go to seven. I made this particular version on a whim two weeks ago with equal parts of split masoor, toor, chhilka moong and split kali urad dals. For all I know, I hit upon an existing traditional combination from some part of the large country but the major logic in my mix was that these dals would cook in roughly the same amount of time. As it happens it works out very well texturally and in terms of flavour as well. The result is earthy with a bit of tang and even a hint of, yes, char. The tadka is a standard one: zeera, onions, garlic, chillies and a bit of tomato—you can adjust the proportions up and down as you want but don’t overdo any of it. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 24, 1991 (Signatory)


Here is the second of three Ben Nevis 1991s this week. Like Monday’s 22 yo, this 24 yo was bottled by Signatory from a sherry butt. I loved the 22 yo—will this one be as good? Let’s see.

Ben Nevis 24, 1991 (55.7%; Signatory; sherry butt 3834; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: A very obvious relative of the 22 yo but here the roasted malt and nutty notes are on top of the citrus (which is brighter/more acidic: lime). On the second sniff the citrus is muskier (makrut lime peel) and here’s the powdered ginger too now. Continues in this vein. A few drops of water and there’s a big hit of citronella and then the fruit begins to get first sweeter and then savoury: peach nectar laced with lime juice and a bit of salt. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 28: Szechuan Spice (Minneapolis)


I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to keep up our long family walks on Saturday mornings in parks in the Twin Cities Metro. It’s about to start getting pretty cold. The maximum for this coming Saturday is forecast to be 46f, which means it’ll be in the high 30s at the time we usually start our walks. This past Saturday, however, was not quite so chilly and we went for a walk around Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis. It’s a 3.2 mile look around the lake but we managed to get off-track right at the start and added another .3 miles on to it. Which meant that by the time we picked up our lunch and took it home to eat with friends on our deck we were good and hungry. A good thing then that we picked up a lot of food. Where did we get it from? Szechuan Spice, which is just a few minutes drive from the lake. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 22, 1991 (Signatory)


Here starts a week of reviews of sherry matured whiskies from Ben Nevis. All three of this week’s whiskies were distilled in 1991 and were bottled by Signatory. Signatory, by the way, have bottled 31 of the 42 releases of 1991 Ben Nevis listed on Whiskybase. They’ve all but cornered the market on that vintage. My reviews start with this 22 yo; on Wednesday I’ll have a review of a 24 yo; and Friday I’ll have a review of a 26 yo. Assuming the casks were of similar character/quality this may shed some minor light on the effects of a few more years of aging past the 20 year mark. All these samples, by the way, came to me from the excellent Michael K. of Diving for Pearls. Last week he reviewed all three and added on two others for good measure—a 23 yo and a 25 yo. So if you’re interested in that question of the incremental effects of aging you can find more specific data on his blog. I have avoided looking at his reviews so as to not be overly influenced by his silken tones. Continue reading

Alu-Mirch Sabzi


I think I promised this recipe to people on Twitter a couple of months ago. It’s a very simple preparation of potatoes and peppers that I improvized some years ago to deal with the deluge of bell and other large hot and sweet peppers every August from our CSA—the excellent Open Hands farm. It’s made with very few ingredients, comes together very quickly and is very versatile: you can have it as a side with dal and rice (it’s particularly good with more lightly flavoured dals like this moong dal or this mushoor dal); it’s also very good with chapatis and parathas; and you can also eat it as as a side with non-Indian dishes in place of any roasted or sauteed potato dish (or even potato salad, for that matter). What kind of pepper(s) you use is entirely your call, as is the proportion of potato to pepper. It will be tasty no matter what your choices are. Continue reading

Littlemill 22, 1990 (Berry Bros. & Rudd for Total Wine)


At this point everyone knows that a whole slew of casks filled at Littlemill in the 1988-1992 period and bottled 20+ years later by various indies has made us forget how awful the distillery’s official releases before it closed were. One wonders how many distilleries with indifferent to bad reputations that scenario might not work out well for. All this to say, I’m expecting this sample to blow my socks off and if it doesn’t then I will blame Michael K.

Littlemill 22, 1990 (54.3%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 17 for Total Wine; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Lemon, grapefruit, tart pineapple, a whiff of gasoline. Chalkier and more mineral on the second sniff and there’s some gooseberry in there too now. With a few drops of water the acid backs off a bit and there’s some cream and a leafy note. Continue reading

Does Anyone Still Read Whisky Blogs?


I usually post a recipe on Thursday. I will have a recipe this week—I’ll post it on Saturday, probably. Today I have a post for the people who are not here primarily for the food, and it’s a simple question: do you still read whisky blogs?

I obviously don’t mean the question literally. If you’re reading this you’re reading a whisky blog (though for a couple of years now this has been a whisky and food blog). The better, though less catchy, question is really, how has your relationship with whisky blogs changed over the last few years? I’ll lead things off by answering for myself, both as a whisky blogger and as a reader of whisky blogs; then a poll or five; and finally, an invitation to respond more fully in the comments. Continue reading

Teaninich 10, 2009 (SMWS)


Here is another 10 yo Teaninich from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. This was distilled a year after Monday’s Teaninich 10 and was bottled a year later as well. The 2008 was a quintessentially austere Highlands whisky from a bourbon cask that had not seemingly interfered too much with the base spirit: the fruit was tart and joined by wax and mineral notes. I don’t say “quintessential Teaninich” above because I’ve not had enough to be able to rule on that. At any rate, I liked it a lot. Will this one be as good? The SMWS in their wisdom called it “This Ain’t No Pussycat”. Hopefully it’s not a dog either. Let’s see.

Teaninich 10, 2009 (58.4%; SMWS 59.58; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Less austere than the other, this presents with a lot of fruit from the get-go (pear, tart apple, lemon) along with wax and a peppery, mineral quality. After a few minutes there’s a fair bit of cream and also a leafy note; the wax moves towards paraffin. Water takes the lemon and the paraffin towards citronella and pulls out bits of pineapple and gooseberry. Continue reading