Cook St. Paul (St. Paul, MN)


When last seen on these pages Cook St. Paul was the location of Golden Horseshoe, a Sichuan “residency” that ran for two months this summer, whose passing we are still mourning (my second review is here). At the time Cook St. Paul was essentially a diner, with breakfast their largest draw and no dinner service—which left room for them to host pop-ups. Not too long after the end of the Golden Horseshoe run the proprietor, Eddie Wu announced on Facebook that the restaurant was going to change form in October, now serving only lunch and dinner. This was greeted with some ambivalence by their patrons who were attached to their breakfast offerings. We, however, were intrigued. We live too far away to have ever made it there for breakfast and were interested to see what the new incarnation would be. Continue reading

Port Charlotte 13, 2001 (Rest & Be Thankful)


As long-time readers of the blog—the few, the ashamed—know, I almost always pick up a strong butyric note on Bruichladdich’s whiskies. Ranging from scalded milk to sour butter to parmesan rind all the way to more vomitous associations, this quality is not my favourite. I find it more pronounced, ususally, in the unpeated Bruichladdich line. In the heavily peated Port Charlotte the peat and smoke tend to neutralize it after a while. In the case of this release, a 13 yo bottled by an indie outfit named Rest & Be Thankful, there is also a wine cask involved. This is rarely good news when you’re dealing with Bruichladdich who’ve made a lot of wineskys. I had not heard of Jurançon wine before looking this cask up. Jurançon is a French AOC that produces white wines, dry and sweet, apparently known for their tropical fruity character. I’ve no idea which kind of Jurançon wine this cask had previously held but a) I’m glad this is not from a red wine cask and b) I’m intrigued by the theoretical promise of fruit. Let’s see how it goes in practice. Continue reading

Ippudo Ramen (New York, August 2019)


As you ritually commit all my posts to memory you do not need me to remind you that we were rebuffed on our first attempt to eat at the 51st St. location of Ippudo Ramen. Well, not so much rebuffed as hit in the face by a minimum wait of an hour at 5.15 pm on a Saturday. On that occasion we decided not to chance the missus getting late for her theatre date and ended up eating a nice if expensive for what it was dinner at Empire Diner. And given the fact that Ippudo does not take reservations we resigned ourselves to probably not being able to eat there at all on this trip. One hour waits with young children are no fun for anyone and our weekday dinner plans for the next week were pretty set anyway. As it happened, though, we got in without any wait at all just the next day. Continue reading

Oats Pongal


Pongal is in a genre of rice porridge made in parts of South India, often with some lentils added. Usually eaten at breakfast, it’s a savoury porridge. Though I’ve always enjoyed it when I’ve had it, it’s not something I’ve been very drawn to in the past and in recent years I’ve been trying to limit my white rice intake in order to try to make a dent in my high triglyceride levels. Related concerns have also had me trying to increase my consumption of oats. But every time I try to make a habit of eating a bowl of oatmeal every morning I run out of steam in about a week. I’ve tried counter-programming with oats upma (upma with roasted oats in place of sooji/rava) but for whatever reason that never feels like breakfast food to me. However, about 10 days ago when I posted a picture of my latest iteration of oats upma on Facebook a friend recommended I try making oats pongal as well. She gave me her basic recipe which I tinkered with a little bit and now present here. I am not exaggerating when I say that I actually look forward to eating this every morning. Continue reading

“Probably Speyside’s Finest” 22, 1991 (OMC)


Glenfarclas don’t usually allow independent bottlers to release casks of their whisky with the distillery’s name on it. As to whether they also require that said bottlers kiss their asses by using names like “Probably Speyside’s Finest” or whether it drives them insane with rage that they don’t go with “Absolutely And Indubitably Speyside’s Finest, You’d Have To Be An Idiot To Not See It”, I don’t know. (As always, there are exceptions: see this Cadenhead bottling of a 33 yo.) Some say this is because most indie Glenfarclas is bourbon cask and the distillery doesn’t want their sherry maturation branding disturbed by this. Of course, there have been official ex-bourbon releases as well; for example, this one in the “Family Casks” series, which I was not very enthused by. This particular cask was bottled as an exclusive for Binny’s by whichever part of the Laing family it is that now owns the Old Malt Cask label. There was a time when Binny’s picks were very reliable and this cask dates from that time. Let’s see if my faith is rewarded. Continue reading

Foxface (New York, August 2019)


[Upfront disclosure: this write-up is of an establishment owned by friends and of a meal at which we received a significant comp.]

Foxface, a tiny—and I mean tiny—sandwich shop in St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan, opened late last year. Ori and Sivan, who own and operate it, are not strangers to the once vibrant, now moribund American food forum world. I’ve known them for some years now, mostly online. Some of those who’ve followed their restaurant reports over the years might well have been surprised that on their return from a five year sojourn in Tokyo they decided to sell sandwiches; but nobody would be surprised to learn that these are some bloody excellent sandwiches (in some cases literally so: blood shows up in the ingredients of a couple of sandwiches in their ever-changing lineup). Continue reading

Longmorn 36, 1976 (Malts of Scotland)


Earlier in the month I had a review of a dark sherry cask 17 yo Longmorn released in 2013. I liked it quite a lot but didn’t find anything very distinctive about. Today’s Longmorn was also released in 2013 but is more than twice as old and is from a bourbon cask. As you may know, older Longmorns from the late ’60s and early ’70s have a very strong reputation for an intensely fruity character. It will be interesting to see if this is manifested in this malt distilled in 1976. Certainly, some of those who have left notes for it on Whiskybase mention tropical fruit. However, the other 1976 Longmorn I’ve had, a 34 yo also bottled by Malts of Scotland, was no fruit bomb—and nor, for that matter, was the 31 yo from 1978 bottled by the Whisky Exchange. And so my expectations for fruit are in check—it may be the case that production process changes had happened by the mid-70s that reduced that aspect of the malt’s character. That said, if this is as good as that Whisky Exchange bottle, a happy mix of fruit, oak and malt, I’ll be very pleased. Let’s see. Continue reading

Top 5 Twin Cities Dishes, July-September 2019


A little later than usual, here is my clickbaity list of the five best dishes I ate at Twin Cities restaurants in the last quarter. Same rules as always, except when I break them. That is to say, these lists are supposed to include only one dish per restaurant, and only dishes that are still likely to be available. I’m not breaking the first rule this time but the second one I am breaking in more than one way: there’s a dish from our recent dinner at Tenant on here and if it isn’t already off the menu it will be very soon; and not only do I have a dish on here that’s no longer available, it’s from a “restaurant” that’s no longer available. I put “restaurant” in quotes because I am referring to Golden Horseshoe, the outstanding Sichuan residency at Cook St. Paul that burned like a comet for two months in the summer before disappearing. All five restaurants on this quarter’s list have made an appearance on previous versions of the list. Yes, that means nothing from our dinner at Young Joni in early July made the cut. We’ll have to give them another try next year and see if we can figure out what the fuss is all about. But now, to the list (in reverse chronological order as usual)! Continue reading

Millstone 100, Dutch Rye


Here is my first and quite possibly last review of a whisky from a Dutch distillery. It was distilled at the small Zuidam distillery. The distillery started up in the mid-1970s. A family-run concern it operates on a very small scale, making gin, genever, rum and whisky in a pot-still. Whisky has been produced at the distillery since the mid-1990s. They currently put out a handful of single malt releases from 5-14 years of age from a number of different cask types, and a 100% rye whisky. The rye is said to be at least 8.5 years old but as per the source of this sample, Florin—stunt double for Lionel Richie in the “Dancing on the Ceiling” video—this particular release was an 11 yo, distilled in 2004 and bottled in 2015. It was matured entirely in new American oak casks, which continues to be the norm for the Millstone rye. Perhaps to stick with the “100” branding they also bottle this at 50% abv. I remember when this first came on the market in the middle of the decade. I was very tempted to buy a bottle but for one reason or the other never got around to it. Florin sent me the sample in 2016 and as is my wont I promptly forgot about it as well. But I recently dug it out and here, finally, are my notes. This is not an entirely irrelevant review, however: Millstone rye appears to now be available in the US. Continue reading

Baar Baar (New York, August 2019)


Baar Baar is a recently opened mod Indian restaurant in the East Village in Manhattan. Its name means “again and again” but I have no desire to eat there again, which is a shame because there is real talent in the kitchen. But that talent is in service of taking what could be excellent iterations of more traditional dishes and marring them with unnecessary jhatkas or flourishes that must read well to those looking for novelty but which come across as trying too hard on the plate and palate. At least so it seemed to us at our table. I ate here two days after my dinner at Adda and here again I was sans the missus; I dined instead with more people who I know from the food internet. In this case, one person I knew in the heyday of Another Subcontinent (and her partner) and two others I’ve come to know more recently on Twitter but had not met until this meal. So as to not tarnish their reputations by association with me I will preserve their anonymity. Continue reading

Hot and Sour Fish Curry


Here is a variation on a dish I make on the regular but which I have not gotten around to posting a recipe of yet. Why do I say “a variation on a dish I make on the regular”? Well, because that’s what home cooking is, or at least what it is to me. I rarely measure ingredients, add more or less (or none) of some things on different occasions, and generally improvize each dish each time I make it. In that sense the recipes I post on the blog are lies or at least not accurate representations of how I actually cook. Recipes suggest exactness but I’m not a very exact person. A recipe I think should be treated as a general roadmap: you don’t want to deviate so far from it that you end up somewhere completely different but you don’t need to have it dictate every stop along the way either.  At least you don’t want it to dictate one fixed route for every destination. Continue reading

Pastrami Queen (New York, August 2019)


I said my next New York restaurant report would be of a newer, mod-ish Indian place. I lied. Again. Instead I have for you a report on an older, very far from mod-ish Jewish deli. Deal with it.

We ended up at Pastrami Queen on the Upper East Side for two reasons: 1) we needed to find a place to eat within walking distance of the Met; and 2) we wanted the boys to try pastrami and other Jewish fare in New York and didn’t want to deal with the madness of Katz’s. Not knowing much of the New York deli scene I didn’t actually realize that we were eating anywhere significant till after our meal when I looked them up. It turns out they’re pretty celebrated and are reputed to serve some of the best pastrami in the city. Continue reading

Glen Scotia 12


Ah, Glen Scotia: forever labouring in the shadow of Springbank in Campbeltown. I’d love to say that I’ve always been a champion of this underdog but, as I always note when posting a review of a Glen Scotia, I’ve had very little Glen Scotia in my time. When I first started drinking single malt whisky there wasn’t a whole lot of it around and nothing I read led me to want to seek it out. Since then I’ve had a couple of older Glen Scotias that I really liked (two 20 yo releases from Archives and Wilson & Morgan and one 40 yo from Malts of Scotland) and two younger ones that I did not care for very much (one indie released in the mid-2000s and one more recent official release, the Double Cask). The official line has been revamped a couple of times in recent years and there are now at least a couple of teenaged releases out there along with the NAS Double Cask. This 12 yo dates from the early-mid 2000s, I think, before their bizarre disco cow bottle design. I *think* I might also have a sample of the older 14 yo knocking about somewhere (unless in my addled state I am confusing it with a sample of Scapa—another distillery labouring in the shadow of a more famous neighbour). Let’s see if this one leads me to want to track it down. Continue reading

The Lunch Buffet at Tandoor (Bloomington, MN)


I was sworn in as a citizen of the US yesterday/today, along with another 999 people—all of us together representing 96 nationalities before the start of the ceremony. Many of my fellow new citizens doubtless come from countries that allow dual citizenship but India does not. India offers a status called “Overseas Citizen of India” but it is not full citizenship and does not come with a passport. Yesterday/today, therefore, was my last day with a valid Indian passport. Despite being someone who is not very persuaded by the claims of nationalism—culture is a different thing and is not tied to citizenship—I found myself somewhat melancholy about this prospect in the days leading up and after my naturalization interview. I’m never going to stop being Indian; despite having lived here for 26 years I’m not able to flip a switch and think of myself as American; but Indian-American I am now for sure. It’ll take a while to sort all this out in my head but to start with I decided to mark this stage in my translation with a lunch buffet at an Indian restaurant and to eat some of the dishes that Americans so love to eat in Indian restaurants. The only question was which one. Continue reading