El Triunfo to Start Another Year (Northfield, MN)


My first restaurant report of 2022 was a brief round-up of a few meals eaten at El Triunfo in 2021. And my first restaurant report of 2023 is of a few meals eaten at El Triunfo in 2022. El Triunfo, as you may remember, is a small Mexican restaurant in our town of Northfield, Minnesota. When I first wrote them up on the blog, many years ago, I referred to them as our favourite restaurant in our town. This is still the case. The restaurant scene in Northfield has not remained static in the past decade but that’s not to say it’s improved radically—though there have been some welcome additions (Tin Tea and Coco’s Place among them). El Triunfo remains, however, and it remains reliably dependable for what it does: putting out an edited menu of basic Mexican fare; they push no boundaries and follow no trends, but the food is predictably tasty and always a good deal. And they remain an essential part of our town’s cultural geography. Continue reading

Clynelish 10, 2011 (Single Malts of Scotland)


Yes, Tuesday is usually a restaurant report day on the blog, but we’re desperately trying to finish the last season of Better Call Saul before we leave for India and I didn’t have time last evening to resize all the images for my first restaurant report of 2023. And so here is the second review of the trio of releases by Single Malts of Scotland that I am reviewing this week.

The series began yesterday with a young Laphroaig that was fine enough but didn’t really impress me—especially relative to the price. This Clynelish—which also bears the appellation “Reserve Casks”—is three years older but was a little bit cheaper ($65 to the Laphroaig’s $80, I think). I guess there’s no Islay peat tax to be paid here. Like the Laphroaig it’s not a single cask; this is a vatting of three bourbon barrels. Let’s hope the barrels were not over-active and that this proves to be a better value. Continue reading

Laphroaig 7, 2014 (Single Malts of Scotland)


Let’s start the year in whisky reviews with a young Laphroaig. This is a 7 year old put together as a vatting of three bourbon hogsheads by Single Malts of Scotland—once a Whisky Exchange label, now put out by their sister company, Elixir Distillers. There was a time when whiskies from Single Malts of Scotland were not available in the US. That time is past. This Laphroaig and a few others that I’ll be reviewing this week that also bear the “Reserve Casks” appellation were released in the US market in 2022. And they’re not the first Single Malts of Scotland bottles to make it here. The Caol Ila 10, 2009 I reviewed in December was also a US release and, for all I know, they’ve been here even longer. I think I’ve mentioned before that I no longer follow whisky marketing news—if one of my readers knows more about this I hope you’ll write in below. As for these “Reserve Casks” releases, I expect “Reserve Casks” is just a nice way of saying “Not Single Cask or at Cask Strength”—these are all bottled at 48%. I say this because single casks at cask strength might well be what people expect of indie releases, especially when a 7 yo whisky costs $90 and above as this Laphroaig did on release. Well, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


Yesterday I posted a look back at 2022 on the blog; today I have the customary look ahead to the coming month and also a little bit beyond. As I said yesterday, the blog will hit its 10th anniversary in late March. Contrary to public demand I will continue to blog into my 11th year. I feel the blog should at least make it into its teens. Maybe I’ll shake things up in year 13 but in year 11 you can expect pretty much more of the same. Three spirits reviews, one restaurant report, and one recipe post per week in most weeks. From time to time a bonus weekend report that looks at immigrant markets or catches up on restaurant report gluts from my travels. There’ll be a bunch of both in January: I have two reports coming on major markets in the north metro of the Twin Cities, and I have seven or eight reports to file from our recent trip to southern California. What there won’t be much of in January is reports on Minnesota restaurants. That’s because next Monday we are scheduled to leave for India for three weeks. What this means is that you can also expect reports on restaurants in Delhi etc. in January and February. My booze reviews for January are mostly already completed and so I won’t as usual be asking you to nominate reviews below—though I will be inviting some feedback.  Continue reading

Looking Back at 2022


Please join me for a trip into my navel as I look back at 2022 on the blog.

I am approaching the 10th anniversary of the blog (which will be marked in the last week of March ’23). As per my old pal, Sku, you’re supposed to end your blog after 10 years and so I am on the clock. If 2022 ends up being the last full year of the blog [it won’t] then it was a pretty successful year, with the most traffic by far (up by another 10% this year). Where did all that traffic come from and what was read most? Well, one thing I can tell you is that the most popular post of the year in terms of page views was not a booze or restaurant review or a recipe. What was it? Well, let’s take a look at the larger picture first. Continue reading

Glenburgie 21, 1993 (Cadenhead)


Here to close out the week, the month and the year in whisky reviews on my blog is a Glenburgie. It is 21 years old and was bottled in 2014 for Cadenhead’s whisky club in Europe from a single sherry cask. In case you’re wondering, I purchased it at auction some years ago. As you may recall, this week is a week of sherried whiskies. It got off to a very good start on Monday with an 18 yo Ben Nevis. The Glen Elgin 16 I reviewed on Wednesday was also good but not quite at the level of the Ben Nevis. This Glenburgie, I know, is very good indeed—I opened it a few weeks ago. Indeed, when first opened I liked it more than I had the Ben Nevis when it was first opened. But now it’s sat with a bit of air in the bottle and I’m curious to see how it’s developed. My experience with Glenburgie is not very extensive and is largely centered on bourbon casks. It’s a distillate that can be very fruity indeed and there was certainly a lot of fruit in the first few pours from this bottle. Has that fruit expanded further? Let’s see. Continue reading

Goat Neck Curry with Potato


As you’re utterly sick of hearing from me, this past year we have been getting a whole goat from a local small farm and splitting it with friends. Processing happens at the excellent Dennison Meat Locker and our half is cut to my specifications by the butchers there. I actually send them links to Youtube videos of Pakistani butchers cutting goat and they follow their lead! Quite apart from the appeal of getting high quality mutton/goat cut in the proper desi style, a big advantage of getting a whole/half goat is getting all kinds of different cuts. Among these is the neck, which is very bone-heavy—which means curries cooked long and slow with those pieces have excellent flavour and rich texture. Such was the case with this curry with potatoes that I first made in early November, and which some people have been calling for the recipe of ever since I posted a Reel of the finished dish on Instagram. Here it is now. Continue reading

Grand Szechuan, 2022 (Bloomington, MN)


As I have said many times before, Grand Szechuan in Bloomington is probably our family’s favourite restaurant in Minnesota. It is the place we eat at the most, the place we’ve eaten at the most with the largest cross-section of our Minnesota friends, and the place we’ve probably taken more out-of-town guests to than any other. Through the first two years of the pandemic we got takeout from them at a steady tick, and this February they were the first Minnesota restaurant all four of us ate together at. I’ve previously chronicled that happy return on the blog. This report covers three other meals we ate in at Grand Szechuan over the rest of the year, mostly in the company of our usual Grand Szechuan crew. I can’t think of a more appropriate restaurant with which to close out my year in restaurant meal reports/reviews. Continue reading

Glen Elgin 16, Diageo Special Release, 2008


I know most of you set your clocks and calendars by my blog posting schedule and so it would be irresponsible of me to not say very clearly that today is not Wednesday. Yes, my second whisky review of the week is usually posted on Wednesdays, with Tuesday being my restaurant review day. But for boring reasons we don’t need to go into, I don’t have a restaurant review post ready today. That post—my look at a bunch of meals eaten at Grand Szechuan over the course of the year—will be published tomorrow. Today, I have for you the second in this week’s series of reviews of sherried malts.

Monday’s Ben Nevis was released in 2010. This review is no more timely. It is of a Glen Elgin 16 that was part of Diageo’s Special Release slate in 2008. Like the Ben Nevis, it is another bottle that I purchased more than a decade ago and kept around for no good reason. Like the Ben Nevis, it’s open now and here are my notes. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 18, 1991 (Mackillop’s Choice)


After two weeks in a row of bourbon cask whiskies (from Bladnoch, Linkwood, Dailuaine, Ardmore, Glen Garioch and Teaninich), let’s finish the month, and the year, with a week of sherry-matured whiskies. Instead of going up in age over the course of the week—as I usually do—let’s do them in order of increasing sherry influence. First up, accordingly is a single cask Ben Nevis 18, 1991 that was bottled by Mackillop’s Choice back in 2010. I purchased this bottle not too long after, and as with so many bottles purchased in that time period, I have no idea why I haven’t opened it in all these years—except perhaps that I purchased rather a lot of bottles in that time period. Anyway, it’s open now.

By the way, I was surprised to learn that Mackillop’s Choice is still a going concern—or at least that it was just a few years ago. Whiskybase doesn’t have any listings for 2022 or 2021 releases from the label but there were at least a few releases in 2020. If you’d asked me before I looked it up, I would have guessed they’d long gone the way of Scott’s Selection. Based on Whiskybase listings, the heyday does seem to have ended in the early 2010s, when they were still releasing 20-30 malts in most years. Continue reading

Twin Cities South Asian Restaurant Rankings, 2022 Update


Here is the third edition of my Twin Cities Metro Indian/South Asian Restaurant Rankings. I posted the original in December 2020 and the follow-up in December 2021. At the end of that 2021 update I promised various things that I would do before the 2022 update. These included checking out the a la carte offerings from a couple of places I had only tried the lunch buffets at; trying the prominent Nepali restaurants in the metro; checking out Raag, Pizza Karma and the Muddy Tiger food truck; and checking out a location each of the Taste of India and India Palace chains. I am pleased to tell you that I only got around to doing one of these things: getting takeout from the India Palace in Burnsville. We had plans to eat at Everest on Grand and Himalayan that fell through at the last moment on a couple of occasions; and I only discovered at the end of the year that Muddy Tiger had been showing up regularly outside a bar in our town! I would promise that in 2023 I will keep the promises I made for 2022 but best not to over-extend myself. Continue reading

Bladnoch 20, Cow Label


The first two days of this week of reviews of bourbon cask malts were spent in the Speyside: at Dailuaine on Monday, and at Linkwood on Wednesday. Let’s now close out the week in the lowlands, at Bladnoch. This 20 yo was released in the early-mid 2010s, during the Raymond Armstrong-led heyday of the distillery. Under Raymond Armstrong, Bladnoch was a significant force in what, with hindsight, was the last gasp of the golden age of single malt whisky. They released whiskies, both their own and of casks from other distilleries, for the regular drinker. Their whiskies were priced well, did not come with any marketing flim-flam, and were usually of a high quality. This was true both of their independently bottled and directly sold whiskies on offer from their Bladnoch forum (I think I might still have one Caol Ila 25 left) and of their own releases. Many of their releases of Bladnoch’s whisky were single casks, but they didn’t always mark this information on the labels. And the way to know if many of these releases were sherry matured or bourbon matured was by checking to see if the label featured sheep (sherry) or cows (bourbon). See here for a review of a 19 yo cow label. This 20 yo cow label is one of the very last Bladnochs left on my shelves (I still have two bottles of a 12 yo sherry cask). Let’s get into it. Continue reading

Tiranga Dal


It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe for dal (this Un-Makhni Dal, cooked with a smoked pork hock). Typically, my dal preps are with single dals. Today’s recipe, however, is for a mix of three dals of three different colours. Hence the name: tiranga or tri-colour. Mixed dal preps are quite common in North India—and I myself have previously posted a recipe that uses four different dals. This is similar, except it leaves out the toor dal and the tadka is not identical. Which is to say, it’s different. This is for me very much a cold weather, comfort food dal. (This is only a personal thing.) It’s a hearty dal with good texture to it and I like to use a lot of julienned ginger in the tadka. You should feel free to tone that down if you like. It goes very well with rice or chapatis and I’ve also enjoyed it very much directly out of a bowl. See how you like it. Continue reading

Linkwood 19, 1997 (Alexander Murray)


Let’s stay in the Speyside for the second of this week’s reviews of bourbon cask whiskies. Like Dailuaine (Monday’s port of call), Linkwood is a workhorse distillery that doesn’t see much official release. Independents do decently by it though. The bottler of the 19 yo I am reviewing today is Alexander Murray. I have little experience of their releases and know even less about them. I did like a Glenlossie 19, 1997 they put out, also from bourbon casks, and hope that’s a good portent for this one. They were, however, also the source of a rather anonymous 23 yo unnamed Speyside malt for Costco’s Kirkland label. Let’s see where this one falls.

Linkwood 19, 1997 (53.8%; Alexander Murray; bourbon casks; from a bottle split)

Nose: Bright fruit (tart-sweet apple, a bit of lemon) mixed in with some oak and some malt. More lemon on the second sniff and some over-ripe pear to go with the apple. Softer notes of cream and light toffee emerge with time. A few drops of water and it gets muskier/maltier with a slight leafy note popping out as well. Continue reading

NY Gyro (Columbia Heights, MN)


I’ve been planning to eat at NY Gyro for a few years now. I heard about them about the same time that I heard of Original Mediterranean Grill in New Brighton: two restaurants whose names indicate Mediterranean menus but which in fact are also Pakistani restaurants. Original Mediterranean Grill’s Pakistani fare—especially their halwa-puri—did not disappoint in the second year of the pandemic; and I cannot explain why it took me another year to finally eat at NY Gyro. Well, actually, I can: with the opening of desi and Korean groceries south of the river (TBS Mart, Mantra Bazar, Hana Market), we have had very little motivation for a long time now to make the trek up to Columbia Heights as we once used to do regularly to shop at Pooja Grocers and Dong Yang. But now NY Gyro might become a reason in its own right. I first ate there by myself a couple of weeks ago. I liked what I got so much that I dragged the family and some friends there with me this past Sunday for a meal that became a very good celebration of Argentina’s World Cup win. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Dailuaine 10, 2008 (SMWS 41.116)


Last week I reviewed three 12 yo bourbon cask whiskies from three different highlands distilleries: a Teaninich 12, 2009 bottled by the Thompson Bros. for K&L; a Glen Garicoh 12, 2008 bottled by Old Particular, also for K&L: and an Ardmore 12, 2006, bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. We’ll stick with bourbon cask whisky for this week as well, but we’ll ditch the 12 yp and highlands-only themes. The first one takes us to the Speyside. It’s. a 10 yo Dailuaine, also bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Let’s jump right in.

Dailuaine 10, 2008 (61.3%; SMWS 41.116; refill barrel; from a bottle split)

Nose: Toasted oak, damp leaves, lemon, malt. The lemon moves in the direction of Makrut lime as it sits. A little bit of cream, maybe, with time and the toasted oak moves to the front, but not much development here. With a splash of water there’s more cream, a bit of pastry crust and it all melds very nicely with the lemon. As it sits more fruit emerges: berries, pineapple; all of it encased in pastry crust. Continue reading

Favourite Dishes Eaten in the Twin Cities Metro: October 1-December 31 2022


It’s only the middle of December, but we’re off to Los Angeles in a few days and done with eating out in Minnesota in 2022 (with one caveat—see below), and so here is my list of favourite dishes eaten in Twin Cities metro restaurants in the last quarter of 2022. Unlike in the summer, I went nowhere in the fall and nor did we do go anywhere more than once, and so there are a lot of different places to report on. As always, the meals run the gamut from the casual to the high end, with most in the casual end of the spectrum. There are quite a few restaurants in the list that we visited for the first time as well as some of our very favourite restaurants. Not all our outings were great, but I am happy to say that only one was a true disappointment. This was more than made up for by the places we ate at for the first time that were very much not disappointments. As I have been doing throughout the pandemic, I am listing here at least one dish from every restaurant we ate at—even the one that was a disappointment. You can see my fuller reviews of each by clicking on the links in the list. Keep in mind that a couple of the places in the list are there for meals I haven’t reviewed formally yet—those reviews will be coming in the weeks ahead. Continue reading

Ardmore 12, 2006 (SMWS 66.139)


This has been a week of reviews of malts from highlands distilleries. It’s also been a week of reviews of ex-bourbon cask malts and, as it turns out, a week of reviews of 12 yo malts. On Monday I had a review of a 12 yo Teaninich bottled by the Thompson Bros.; on Wednesday I had a review of a 12 yo Glen Garioch bottled by Old Particular; today I have for you a review of a 12 yo Ardmore bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Long-time readers of this blog know that I have a soft spot for bourbon cask Ardmore. Indeed, I’ve had a fair number of bourbon cask Ardmores in recent years that I’ve enjoyed a lot, many of those bottled by the SMWS with numbers adjacent to this one. Among those have been 66.133, 66.137 and 66.138. Granted 137 and 138 were quite a bit older but it still bodes well for this one, which is 66.139 (and 133 was also a 12 yo). I’m sorry if you’re not familiar with the SMWS’ funky bottle codes. The numbers before the period identify the distillery (Ardmore is 66) and those after the period identify the number of the release—which means this was the 139th Ardmore bottled by the SMWS (they’re well past that number now). In addition, they like to give each release a silly name. This one was dubbed “Deerstalkers and hillwalkers”. Okay, let’s see what it is like. Continue reading