I said while setting up the poll to select this month’s recipes that this was currently my favourite way of cooking and eating eggplant. This is still true. It hurt me to say it then and hurts me more to repeat it now. This because the recipe comes to me from a Tamil nationalist who persecutes me on a near-daily basis: Aparna Balachandran (who you may remember from this piece last year on reading Agatha Christie during lockdown in Delhi). In August I had a brief flood of long green eggplant from my garden (I really recommend planting the Thai Long Green varietal if you can find it) and she suggested I make some of it this way. Normally, I would have discounted this as “make it in a Tamil style” is her answer to everything (her other favourite occupation is claiming that anything that is good about other South Indian cuisines is basically due to Tamil derivation); but I had a lot of eggplant and I needed new ways to cook it. And wouldn’t you know it, this is in fact a great recipe. Continue reading
I think the Whisky Exchange’s annual Whisky Show is coming up soon. I say annual but they obviously skipped it last year (this year’s show is in person again, I think). Anyway, I didn’t mean this review of a Longmorn 18 released 10 years ago at the 2011 edition of the Whisky Show to come close to coinciding with it—I’ve actually had this bottle open for some months now but have just not gotten around to reviewing it. Now that it has dipped below the half-full line it is time.
Speaking of the Whisky Exchange, you may have come across the recent news that they have been purchased by Pernod Ricard. Given how much difficulty I’ve had with keeping track of all of the Whisky Exchange properties, affiliates and spin-off concerns over the years, I don’t actually know what this means for the various whisky releases their various bottling concerns put out. Will this mean greater access to malts from the group’s distilleries? Less attention to malts from competitors? (Longmorn, of course, is part of the Pernod Ricard portfolio.) The most important question is whether the new corporate masters will approve of Billy Abbott’s beard. Only time will tell. Continue reading
I am being told I should do a better job of self-promotion and so here it is. After many years of saying (truthfully) that I have no financial relationship with Rancho Gordo I have now developed a small one. I have written a digital booklet of bean recipes for Rancho Gordo that was “published” last week and announced to those who receive their occasional newsletters and follow Rancho Gordo’s founder/head honcho, Steve Sando on Twitter. And now I am telling you about it here as well. The booklet contains six bean recipes. It’s titled “Indian Bean Recipes: Traditional and Not-So Traditional”. Four of the six recipes have already appeared on the blog. The other two have not and probably will not and so you will have to download the booklet here to see them. The good news is the booklet is free for you to download and since I was paid upfront you will not be putting money in my pocket by downloading it.
As a result of Steve kindly putting a link to the blog in the newsletter announcing the booklet I also seem to have a fair number of new readers and so I thought would offer a brief overview of how the blog works. Continue reading
1979 appears to have been an important year in the history of Twin Cities dining. It is the year in which Saji-Ya opened in St. Paul and it is also the year in which El Burrito Mercado—perhaps the Twin Cities’ most iconic Hispanic business—opened. It opened however entirely as a mercado/market; it wasn’t until 1983 that they started serving food. And it was in 1995 that they moved into the massive space they currently occupy on Cesar Chavez avenue and which they have added to steadily over the years. This expansion has largely taken the form of ever-greater dining space. The complex now contains a large market (with prepared foods and a butcher shop), a counter-service cafe, and a bar/restaurant space with two dining rooms and a large adjoining patio which features live music and so forth. We ate lunch on this patio this past Saturday with the same crew that had joined us at Mañana two weeks prior. Here’s how it went. Continue reading
Continuing with K&L’s teaspooned casks from 2020 (see here for last week’s review of a 27 yo teaspooned Linkwood), here is a 22 yo Dailuaine. I think after this review I will have only two left from last year’s parcel—an older Aberlour and a younger Linkwood. Dailuaine, like Linkwood, is a distillery with no real identity of its own. It produces a mild classic Speyside spirit that goes into Diageo’s blends. Which is not to say, of course, that single casks of Dailuaine cannot be very good or even excellent—every distillery is more than capable of producing great casks of whisky (it’s just a matter of whether they ever see the light of day in single malt form). It is to say, however, that no one really goes to a bottle of Dailuaine looking for something very individual or idiosyncratic. But good whisky is good whisky even if it doesn’t set the pulse racing. That said, not all of K&L’s older teaspooned casks from 2020 have proved to be very good whisky. Let’s hope this 22 yo is closer to their Ledaig 23 than to their Glenfiddich 23. Continue reading
And so I finally come to the end of my meal reports from our trip to Madison in August. I know it will be hard for you all to face the coming weekends without the succour of these brief reviews but somehow you will have to manage.
As I’ve noted in my other reports, we experienced variable weather in our three days in Madison, ranging from the sunny and extremely hot to the extremely rainy. Somehow, this only impacted one of our meals (we ate breakfasts in our hotel room). We managed outdoor dinner on the first night (at Strings Ramen), outdoor lunch and dinner on the second day (at Bandung and Ian’s Pizza) and lunch on the third day (at Settle Down) but there was no hope of eating out on the third evening. The rain was torrential and it was unrelenting. As we were unwilling to eat in with an unvaccinated child in tow it had to be takeout then. How did it end up being sushi and what was it like? Read on. Continue reading
Here to close out 25+ yo whisky week is a 27 yo Linkwood (see here for Monday’s Ben Nevis and here for yesterday’s Bunnahabhain). Actually, technically this is not a Linkwood as it is yet another of K&L’s teaspooned casks from their late 2020 parcel of exclusives. Which other distillery the small amount out of 27 yo used to teaspoon this cask came from I have no idea. Linkwood itself is an unstoried name and Diageo does so little to promote it as a single malt that it’s a bit surprising they care enough to insist on indie casks of its whisky being teaspooned and sold under another name. Then again, I suppose it may not be Diageo that’s insisting on the teaspooning: some/many of the teaspooned casks in this K&L parcel are not from Diageo distilleries. K&L’s own comments about this are characteristically confusing: as far as I can make out, they’re saying the decision to teaspoon is a decision to offer better value to the customer. But why would their source sell them for less the exact same cask they could have charged K&L more for just because they teaspooned it? Or is it something like avoiding an add-on licensing fee for using the name of the distillery? If so, why does it need to be teaspooned—why can’t it just be given a different name? And why doesn’t the source care that K&L tells everyone in its marketing that this is in fact a Linkwood? If you understand the nuances please let me know. Continue reading
As you may recall, this week’s theme is whiskies aged 25 years and above. I started with a 25 yo Ben Nevis on Monday (which I really liked) and the plan had been to add a year and do a 26 yo next: this Bunnahabhain 1987 released by Whiskybase for their Archives label in 2013. But as I was looking more closely at the bottle today while pouring a little more to taste while writing this fascinating preamble to the review proper (already recorded a while ago) I noticed an anomaly: the age is stated on the rear label as 26 years but the distillation date (11/1987) and bottling date (10/2013) suggest it is indeed a month short of being a true 26 yo. Now it’s possible that the error is not with the age statement but with those dates (the months might possibly be transposed) but here at Glen MyAnnoyingOpinions we believe in erring on the side of a lower not higher age statement. And so I’m noting it here as a 25 yo. Continue reading
God, I hated the sight of baingan bharta as a kid! I had, as I’ve said before, a huge aversion to eggplant that continued into adulthood and indeed only ended a few years ago. And no preparation of the vegetable was more repulsive to me than this dish: the mashed baingan, replete with seeds, looking like the insides of some disgusting squashed creature.
Well, now that I’ve got your appetite stimulated, here’s the general way in which I’ve been making the dish since I suddenly started eating eggplant. You have to understand, as I always say about dishes from the vast Indian home cooking repertoire, that baingan bharta is a genre more than a specific dish. It involves mashed eggplant, ideally first charred, and then cooked with onions and spices. In its simplest form it can be nothing more than roasted eggplant mashed with chopped onion and chillies and salt. More involved iterations bring in different combinations of spices. It’s very common to add tomatoes as well. But in most versions the goal is to let the smoky flavour of the charred and peeled eggplant remain the star of the show. This is the case in this recipe as well. I use a mix of black peppercorn and fresh green chillies for heat and balsamic vinegar rather than tomatoes as the souring agent. Give it a go and see what you think. Continue reading
My last dine-in meal before the pandemic closures first hit Minnesota in March 2020 was eaten at the sushi bar at Sakura in St. Paul. That meal surprised me by being completely decent—my history with sushi in the Twin Cities, you see, has been less than inspiring (see my accounts of meals at places like Kado no Mise, Sushi Fix and Origami which have all been or are local critical darlings). It wasn’t the case that I found the sushi at Sakura to be of a very high quality but that it was all fine! Fine is good. At the time a number of people told me I needed to also get to Saji-Ya. And then the plague intervened. A year and a half later, I’ve finally made it there. We had a family dinner on their patio last Saturday and once again the experience was far better than I’d feared it would be. I know this sounds like damning with very faint praise but we enjoyed the meal on the whole. Continue reading
Alright, after a week of peated Islay whiskies followed by a week of rums, let’s do a week of older whiskies; specifically a week of 25 yo and over whiskies. First up is a Ben Nevis distilled in 1991 and bottled in September 2016 by Signatory from a sherry butt. As regular readers of the blog know, I am a big fan of the idiosyncratic malts made by Ben Nevis. Always fruity, Ben Nevis usually gets even more so with age. The last Ben Nevis I reviewed was a 23 yo from a refill sherry butt and I loved it. I also really liked this 22 yo from 1997—also from a sherry butt—and this 21 yo from 1996 from a refill sherry butt. And for that matter I’ve previously reviewed three other sherry cask Signatory 1991 Ben Nevises—a 26 yo, a 24 yo and a 22 yo—and liked them all very much (though I do note that I liked the 26 yo the least). I guess what I’m saying is that sherry cask maturation rarely seems to get in the way of the pleasures of Ben Nevis’ distillate. Anyway, let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading
Alright, we’re almost at the end of the meal reports from our Madison trip in August. This was lunch on our second and last full day in the city. We’d spent the morning on a lake and once it got nice and hot—like really hot—we ventured forth in search of another restaurant with outdoor seating. Settle Down had been on the list—thanks to another recommendation in the comments from Todd who’d also recommended Ian’s Pizza—but after the non-appearance of the advertised outdoor seating at the Old Fashioned the previous evening we were taking nothing for granted, Thankfully, a phone call to Settle Down confirmed the existence of a lot of outdoor seating and on arrival we saw that it was indeed so. The entire street in front of the restaurant was closed to traffic and strewn with tables and chairs. We picked one and then another and then another before finally finding one that was completely out of the blazing sun. And then we ordered some food and got down to the eating of a pleasurable lunch. Herewith the details. Continue reading
As with my ongoing onslaught of eggplant recipes this chutney has its origin in a need to use up excess produce from my vegetable garden: in this case, green/unripe tomatoes that fell off the vines while I was picking ripe ones and many, many peppers, hot and sweet. The first version was made entirely by the seat of my pants, with nothing measured. I filled three jars, kept one for us and gave the other two away. That would have been the end of it except that the recipients raved about it and two of them in particular have been persecuting me endlessly for the last couple of weeks to replicate it and post the recipe. Well, I have some good news and I have some bad news. You want the bad news first? Well, I wasn’t able to replicate it exactly. The good news? This is pretty close anyway and very good in its own right. Will it get Ben and Lisa off my back? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, they and our friends Aaron and Kip are the only ones other than us who ever tasted the original so that shouldn’t matter very much to the rest of you. Continue reading
To close out Rum Week here is another Foursquare (see here for the previous). I have to admit I am not really on top of Foursquare’s special releases. I know that in addition to the vintage releases they put out some others with names that probably make the marketing braintrust at Dalmore gnash their teeth in envy. This one here is one of those non-vintage releases from 2020. It’s made from a blend of pot still and column still distilled rum. All of it is 14 years old, apparently, but some was aged entirely in ex-madeira casks and some in ex-bourbon casks. Was it half and half? I’m not sure. Anyway, this might be my first wine-bothered rum. I hope I enjoy it more than I do most wine-bothered whiskies.
Foursquare Redoubtable (61%; ex-bourbon and madeira casks; from a bottle split)
Nose: Rich with a mix of rummy and winey notes. As it sits the wine seems to trump the rum and there’s more leather and spicy wood. Begins to soften as it sits and there’s toffee and caramel and the whole gets sweeter. Rummier with water; the caramel darkens a bit, the toffee expands and there’s a bit of maple syrup too. A bit more water and it gets a bit dusty but also develops some orange peel. Continue reading
Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, the compendium volume that brings her first two cookbooks together, is one of the two most stained cookbooks in my collection (Mrs. K.M Mathew’s Flavours of the Spice Coast is the other). I have been cooking from it for almost 25 years and many of her recipes have become family staples over the years. But since it’s only been a few years since I began eating baingan/eggplant, I’d never really paid much attention to her eggplant recipes. This summer, however, the eggplants in my community garden plot went off like a bomb and in desperate search of more and more ways to cook them I finally came to Marcella’s recipe for Eggplant Sauce with Tomato and Red Chilli Pepper. I made it with spaghetti and it was dynamite. I made it again and it was dynamite again. Since it needed no amendment, leave alone improvement, I obviously immediately began to think of ways to tinker with it. This led in short order to this fusiony variation that we might possibly now like even more. Continue reading
At some point in the last few years Hampden, the great, idiosyncratic Jamaican rum distillery, got into the business of special annual releases. I believe this one, which came out in 2020, was the second. I’m not sure if one has yet been released in 2021. I believe this is a somewhat unusual Hampden in that it is a blend that contains mostly low-ester spirit. So less wild than usual? Let’s see.
Hampden Great House, Distillery Edition, 2020 (59%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Ah yes, this is a Hampden: assertive, leading with bright notes of over-ripe banana, pineapple and lemon; herbal notes bring up the rear. What’s missing here is the usual heap of garbage rotting in the sun; well, it’s not completely missing but it’s not very loud. As it sits it picks up some light caramel and some toffee and quite a bit of diesel. The caramel expands with time and the diesel retreats. Okay, let’s add water: richer now as the caramel and toffee expand and are joined by brown sugar and the bananas get baked into banana bread. More conventional rum notes now but it’s quite lovely. Continue reading
As I’ve noted before, the Twin Cities metro has a much larger Hispanic population—and by extension, a much larger Hispanic food scene—than a lot of people outside Minnesota realize—and, for that matter, probably a much larger population than a lot of people inside Minnesota realize. Certainly, the Twin Cities food media only fitfully remembers that there are Mexican restaurants outside the few relatively recent high-end places that are part of the pr-driven ecosystem. And if the established Mexican places outside that ecosystem don’t get very much attention non-Mexican Hispanic places seem to get even less attention. Well, to be honest, I’ve not done such a great job myself either of seeking out and covering these places over the years (though to also be fair to myself I’m a one-man operation here). But I hope to be doing more of that in the next year or two, especially in the major Hispanic neighbourhoods of St. Paul. This week’s review comes from one of those neighbourhood, on 7th St., and from what is probably the standard bearer of Salvadoran food in the Twin Cities; Mañana. We ate a very good lunch indeed there this Sunday. Continue reading
It’s been a while since my last review of a rum; a year in fact (this Worthy Park). And it’s been even longer since my last review of a rum from Foursquare, the Barbados distillery. That was of the 11 yo release of the 2004 vintage, a bottle I liked a lot—enough in fact to buy several more of after that first encounter. Today I have for you a review of the release of the 2005 vintage. It’ll be the first of three rum reviews this week. Like the 2004 it was bottled at 59% abv and made without any addition of sugar or other additives. And it’s also a blend of pot still and column distilled rums and matured in ex-bourbon casks. It is, however, a year older. Will that make for a big difference in the profile? Let’s see.
Foursquare 12, 2005 (59%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Comes in sweet with caramel and molasses; just a hint of aniseed in the back. Some toffee too on the second sniff and the aniseed expands and picks up some herbal backing (sage). Gets sweeter as it sits (ripe plantain). Brighter with a few drops of water and there’s a bit of milk chocolate now along with an almost smoky note. Continue reading