Clynelish 11, 2008 (Signatory UCF)


This week of reviews of malts from Highland distilleries began with a 10 yo Loch Lomond/Inchmoan. Let’s go further north now to Clynelish in the northern highlands and add a year to the age. Unlike Monday’s Inchmoan, which was made with wine yeast used in the fermentation process, there is nothing, as far as I know, out of the ordinary about this Clynelish. It was released by Signatory in their Unchillfiltered Collection. Signatory released a few of these 11 year olds from the 2008 vintage and I’m sorry to say that not having realized that before this evening I failed to ask the source of my samples for more specific cask information—and now I can’t remember who the source of my samples was! As always, getting old is a lot of fun. Anyway, of those 2019 releases were from bourbon barrels and so we know what the cask type is. Anyway: bourbon cask Clynelish is almost always a good thing and Signatory has always been a good source of Clynelish casks. And so I am hopeful that this will not disappoint. Let’s see. Continue reading

Luci Ancora (St. Paul, MN)


I have been told on occasion that for someone who reviews a lot of restaurants in the Twin Cities I have a major blind spot when it comes to older restaurants. I suppose this is true, especially at the high end. With very few exceptions, most of the high-end restaurants I’ve reviewed either opened after we got to Minnesota in 2007 or not so very much before. I’m not really sure why that is—I suppose I am guilty as much as anyone else of following the pr-driven newer places that get more attention online. Well, in an attempt to begin to redress that gap we had dinner recently at Luci Ancora, a venerable St. Paul institution for Italian food. Continue reading

Loch Lomond/Inchmoan 10, 2009 (SMWS 135.22)


Okay, let’s do a week of reviews of Highland distilleries. First up is a Loch Lomond 10 bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Word on the street is that this is more specifically an Inchmoan. Inchmoan is, as you probably know, one of Loch Lomond’s peated lines. Though what exactly separates Inchmoan from the other peated Loch Lomonds—your Inchfads and Croftengeas—I’m not entirely sure and you may need to go to a more reliable source to find out. Well, this particular Inchmoan is quite different from most whiskies, whether made at Loch Lomond or elsewhere. That because the yeast used for the batch this cask came from was quite different from the types normally used in the fermentation process in making single malt whisky: it was a wine yeast. Now, for all I know, I’ve had other whiskies before without knowing it that had wine yeast in their production process but now that I do know for a fact that it was used to make this whisky I am very curious to see what characteristics it imparts. Let’s get to it. Continue reading

Scenes from the Little Africa Festival, 2022 (St. Paul, MN)


In 2017 I reported on a visit to what was then the fourth iteration of the Little Africa Festival in St. Paul. Organized by the African Economic Development Solutions group, the festival is held in early-mid August every year—though the pandemic doubtless intervened in the last few years. The location is Hamline Park in St. Paul (where Lafond meets Snelling). It was held again this past Sunday and we returned for the first time since 2017 (we were unfortunately out of town in 2018 and 2019 and we all know what happened in 2020 and 2021). We found the festival slightly larger in scope and just as vital, in both senses of the word. Continue reading

Ambala Sweets & Snacks (Los Angeles, June 2022)


Here is a quick look at my solo Father’s Day brunch in Los Angeles in June. Why solo? Well, we’re not really into the Mother’s/Father’s Day stuff in our family in normal times—and when we’re in Los Angeles we’re really not: I’m still outranked by Jebus, you see. I did manage to wiggle out of attending my mother-in-law’s church that Sunday and—in proper Old Testament style—offering up the boys as a sacrifice, I made my way to Artesia for some chhole-bhature. My port of call was Ambala Sweets & Snacks. This was a nostalgic return to one of the OG Indian establishments of Pioneer Boulevard. Of course, like the rest of Pioneer Boulevard, it’s become much shinier than it used to be back when I used to eat there every few months in the 1990s. Continue reading

Arran 17, 1999 (Cadenhead)


Here is the third of three Arran reviews for the week. The first two were official distillery releases: the Quarter Cask/The Bothy Batch 3, which is part of the distillery’s current range; and the 2018 release of the 14 yo, which has apparently since been discontinued. Today’s whisky is an independent release, a single bourbon hogshead bottled by Cadenhead in 2017. Somewhat unusually it seems to have been bottled for the American market. Coincidentally, there was also a distillery bottled 17 yo sherry cask from the 1999 vintage that was bottled for the Japanese market. But that is neither here nor there.

I liked the 14 yo quite a bit more than the NAS Quarter Cask. Will I like this 17 yo even more? Let’s see.

Arran 17, 1999 (55.2%; Cadenhead; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Lemon and toasted oak to start. On the second sniff there’s malt and some toffee. The toffee expands as it sits and the fruit transitions from lemon to apricot (baked rather than fresh or jammy). Some wood glue in here too now. Sweeter with water but otherwise in the same vein. Continue reading

Mushroom and Cauliflower Curry


I love king oyster mushrooms and buy them every opportunity I get—which is to say, every time I am at a Vietnamese or other East Asian store in the Twin Cities. We cook them up in a number of different ways at home. What I have for you today is a relatively unusual prep for me for these mushrooms but otherwise fairly familiar. By which I mean that this is essentially a take on alu-gobi with the mushrooms taking the place of the potato. A little more gravy than I typically make in alu-gobi and so I’m calling it a curry. There are not very many ingredients and it comes together very easily. I start out by frying the cauliflower and mushrooms till they’re half-done. If you’re short on time you could skip this step. It won’t be quite as good but it will still be very tasty. As with a lot of my recipes, the ingredients list is really a general guideline and not a specific prescription. I used the quantities of cauliflower and mushrooms I had. You could change that ratio and still end up with a very similar dish as long as you stay close to the spice blend. Continue reading

Arran 14, 2018 Release


My week of Arran reviews got off to an inauspicious start with the Quarter Cask, Batch 3. Let’s hope this 14 yo moves us in the other direction. It’s been a while since I’ve had the Arran 14 but I’ve always liked it when I have in the past (see my review of a bottle from the 2010 release). I have to say I don’t remember seeing it on shelves here in a while but that may just be a marker of how little whisky I’ve bought in the last couple of years. This sample is not from a recent release, for what it’s worth: my source tells me the bottle is from 2018. I’m interested to see what it’s like.

Arran 14, 2018 Release (46%; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah yes, a lovely blast of fruit, with lemon and pineapple leading the way; malt comes up from below to join the fruit, bringing a touch of yeast with it. Some oak framing it all below. On the second and third sniffs the fruit gets muskier with cider and overripe pears. A few drops of water push the acid down and emphasize the malt and muskier fruit. Continue reading

Tenant VII (Minneapolis)


Turning a menu over every six weeks is no easy task for a restaurant. I suppose it’s easier if, like Tenant, the restaurant is small and serves only a set menu every night. Of course, Tenant doesn’t turn the whole menu over all at once: new dishes are introduced one or a few at a time till finally the whole is transformed. And it’s also true that this discipline would have been ingrained in the proprietors from their long tenure at Piccolo which also had a similarly restless menu. Nonetheless, it cannot be easy. Difficulty of conception and execution of new menus aside, it’s a canny move. This because it encourages those who particularly like their approach to come back often to try dishes that they might not otherwise encounter again. And so it is that we—who rarely go back to the same restaurant twice in the same year—find ourselves back at Tenant over and over again. We ate there in June before leaving for our travels; we ate this meal in July after coming back from our travels; and in less than two weeks we’ll be eating there again. If the next meal is as good as this one was we’ll be very happy indeed. Continue reading

Arran Quarter Cask, The Bothy, Batch 3


I think I may have promised a week of Arran reviews in July. Let’s get to it now before we get too far into August. First up, an official release and one that became part of the distillery’s portfolio in 2015. I’m not sure if this series has come to the US—Whiskybase only shows one 750 ml bottle and that’s from 2015. It is first matured in first-fill ex-bourbon casks and then finished in much smaller quarter casks (also American oak). I’ve seen references to the quarter cask finish having lasted two years for the first batch. I’m not sure if that has remained the case for subsequent releases. The overall age is, I’m guessing, not very high, which makes this a bit of an outlier relative to the last few Arrans I’ve reviewed: the 20 yo Brodick Bay and a 21 yo bottled for OMC’s 20th anniversary among them. I’m generally a fan of Arran’s fruity profile. I hope it’s not overwhelmed here by oak via both the first-fill bourbon and then the smaller quarter cask maturation. Having now jinxed myself let’s see what the whisky is actually like. Continue reading

Hawaiian Style Cafe, Hilo (Big Island, Summer 2022)


And so I come to my last formal meal report from our time on the Big Island. We ate lunch at Hawaiian Style Cafe in Hilo after a morning spent visiting the wonderful Tropical Botanical Garden (a stop I very highly recommend if you are ever on the Big Island). Hawaiian Style Cafe has another location in Waimea—I’m not sure which the original is but I believe they both serve more or less the same menu. It’s a large restaurant but we arrived for a late lunch on Sunday and ran into a very long wait for a table. We were told that takeout would be much faster and that there was a park not too far away where we could comfortably eat our lunch. And so we opted for that. Continue reading

Hakata Ikkousha Ramen (Los Angeles, June 2022)


Here is a quick report on a quick meal on our Los Angeles trip in June. I’ve noted before that my mother-in-law’s move to Seal Beach a few years ago has meant a major adjustment to our Los Angeles life. We are no longer in the heart of Koreatown, no longer a short hop to Thai Town—and quite a bit further away from the San Gabriel Valley. There are, of course, compensations. These include proximity to the beautiful and numerous beaches of the South Bay; and from a food standpoint, we are now much closer to Artesia for Indian food and, above all, much closer to Torrance and Gardena for Japanese food. As a result, our Japanese food intake has risen sharply on recent trips. On our previous trip we enjoyed lunch at Jidaiya Ramen in Gardena; here now is an account of another ramen meal just a little further away on Western Ave. in Torrance. Continue reading

Mortlach 15, 2006 (Old Particular for K&L)


Having started the month with a review of an Allt-a-Bhainne let’s end the the week with another Speyside distillery; and let’s get back to K&L’s recent parcel of casks with a Mortlach bottled by Old Particular. I did a week of reviews of Mortlach in May. Those included a 20 yo refill sherry cask, a 12 yo sherry cask (also bottled for K&L), and a 10 yo bourbon cask. I liked the two sherry casks more than the bourbon cask then. Was that a function of the cask type or the age? Today’s Mortlach is 15 years old and from a refill hogshead. It’s both older than the 10 yo and at cask strength. Let’s see if I like it any better.

Mortlach 15, 2006 (56.7%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Cereals, dusty oak and then rapidly expanding lemon peel and zest, getting quite oily as it goes. As it sits there’s some of what we call ber in India—jujube in English? Anyway, there’s some tart-sweet red fruit. With time there’s some plum mixed in there too. A few drops of water and the lemon peel/oil recedes a bit; there’s more of the ber/jujube along with some ham brine. Continue reading

Roasted Cauliflower and White Bean Salad


Here is a somewhat unusual recipe from me. It is for a warm salad, a genre I rarely make as the centerpiece of a meal but then when I do I wonder why I don’t make it more often. It’s not the first such recipe I’ve posted—see also this Bean Salad with Artichoke Hearts and this Octopus and Chickpea Salad—but it might be my favourite. It’s very tasty and comes together very quickly with a nice mix of flavours and textures. As always with my bean cooking, I use Rancho Gordo beans. I recommend something like their Ayocote Blanco bean for this but you can’t go very wrong with any of their other white beans or with their Flageolets for that matter. This recipe only uses two cups of cooked beans and rather than cooking them for this recipe, I recommend saving two cups of beans you’ve prepared for another purpose (such as this Lamb and Bean Stew). Good tomatoes are a must. I’ve been using Jaune Flamme tomatoes from my garden: these are roughly ping pong ball-sized and have a wonderful sweet and slightly tart flavour. If you don’t have any at hand substitute the best cherry tomatoes you have. The other important thing is to crisp up the cauliflower nicely. I use a cast iron pan and a hot oven to caramelize the tops of the florets without the whole becoming too soft. The florets are coated in ground cumin first and this adds a savoury warmth. Continue reading

Allt-a-Bhainne 7, 2011 (SMWS 108.23)


A 7 yo single malt from a no-name distillery that’s been bottled at >60% abv? Normally that would send chills up my spine. The only saving grace here is that it’s not virgin oak or even first-fill bourbon—or a raw sherry bomb for that matter. Well, I’m assuming it won’t be raw. Allt-a-Bhainne is not the most storied distillery, and it’s not a distillery I have very much experience with but I’ve always found it interesting even as I’ve not developed any real sense of what its profile might be like. On that informational note, let’s get to this SMWS cask which the brain trust at the Society dubbed “Seductive sweetness and smooth smoke”. It’s not every day that I drink a whisky whose name contains not one but two of my old stripper names. Should be special.

Allt-a-Bhainne 7, 2011 (60.8%; SMWS 108.23; second-fill ex-bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)

Nose: Rather closed at first—unsurprising given the strength. Then there’s a bit of candied lemon and some oak and subtle malty/cereal sweetness. A bit of incense in the distance as it sits. With more time there’s a herbal/rooty note as well and a bit of anise. With water it’s the same as before but a bit more intense and a bit more integrated. Some wet wool in there too now. Continue reading

Bar La Grassa, 2022 (Minneapolis)


Earlier this year we began taking our boys out to the occasional formal dinner with us. They’ve been enjoying these meals greatly. While our dinner at Myriel—with their practice of not posting menus—was a chancy shot in the dark, the other two dinners—at Mucci’s Italian and 112 Eatery—were pretty solid bets as both are places with a number of pasta options (as it happens, they enjoyed Myriel as well). Thus when the younger boy expressed an interest in eating a fancy dinner for his birthday in July we decided to go back to a place with many, many pasta options: Bar La Grassa. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


It’s been a busy summer of travel so far. We were in Los Angeles and then Hawaii from early-mid June through early July. And then I was off by myself on work in Ireland for a week. But I’m back in Southern Minnesota now and not planning to go anywhere for the next several months. My vegetable plot in the community garden is the place I’ll be spending most of my time outside the house in August. By the end of August I should have mostly caught up with my backlog of meal reports from Los Angeles and Hawaii. A good thing too as I have a few lined up from Ireland as well. And, of course, we’ll be eating out here in Minnesota too. I’m planning to keep things mostly casual on that front this month. Thursdays will see recipe posts as usual. If you haven’t yet voted in this month’s poll, you have a few more hours to register any preferences. Continue reading

Hana Hou (Big Island, Summer 2022)


Back to the Big Island. We spent most of our first full day on the island at Volcanoes National Park. A few days later we went back and hiked the Kilaua Iki trail which is a loop trail that takes you down the hillside to what was once a lake of lava and is now a lake of stone, all the way across it and up the hill again. The total distance is not very impressive—just about 3.3 miles—but it’s a stunning walk as you go through tropical foliage down to the crater and then walk across a barren rocky landscape before ascending once again into tropical green. I recommend it highly. Our plan for after the hike was to grab some lunch and visit the Punalu’u black sand beach before heading back to our rental. As per Google, the closest lunch spot to Punalu’u beach was Hana Hou in Naalehu and rather than eat again at Volcano House it was there we went. Herewith a brief account of the experience. Continue reading