Having set the world afire with a week of Edradour—by which I mean that absolutely no one was interested—let’s do a non-distillery-themed week. Three different distilleries this week but the malts will all have one thing in common: peat. Let’s start with the oldest. This is a 23 yo Ledaig bottled by one of the Laing outfits for my old pals K&L in California. Yes, this means the return of the EW! Rating (patent pending). This was part of their parcel of exclusive casks from late last year. As with many in that parcel this cask was teaspooned, which is to say it had a small bit of malt from some other distillery added to it. Hence also the silly name. It can’t officially be a Ledaig— but for all intents and purposes it is. Well, let’s hope this one turns out well. I’ve had an up and down run with the others from this parcel of K&L exclusives I’ve reviewed so far. I’ve liked most of them but none have hit it out of the park for me. And indeed, two of the 20+ year olds were among those that disappointed. Where will this one land? Let’s see. Continue reading
Here is my second quarterly report of some of the best dishes we’ve eaten in 2021. The first report, which covered meals from January 1 to March 31, is here. This one covers meals between April 1 and June 30. As with those represented on the January list, these were almost all takeout meals (with one meal eaten at outdoor seating). With our first dine-in meal scheduled in less than two weeks it seems likely that the next version of this list will not be quite as takeout-heavy. As with the first list I am including here every restaurant we got food from in this period. Depending on the restaurant 1-3 dishes are featured in the slideshow. The list features some of our old favourites—Grand Szechuan, On’s Kitchen and Homi; it also includes some places we went to for the first time but which will likely join our regular rotation going forward—El Cubano, Firebox, Basil’s Cafe. Some of the others we’re less likely to go back to but there were things we liked at pretty much every meal and so they are all represented here. Continue reading
For a while now I’ve been doing polls on Twitter at the start of each month to figure out the sequence of the month’s recipes. Twitter’s poll function is very limited, however, and so I’ve decided to do these polls on the blog going forward. If you are among those who are interested in my recipes please respond to this poll in the next 48 hours. You can vote for up to three options. The top four vote getters will be posted on the remaining Thursdays in July. The others will enter the pool for August’s poll. Continue reading
Edradour Week comes to a close with another 10 yo from an oloroso sherry cask. But this is completely different from Monday and Wednesday’s 10 yo and 11 yo oloroso sherry casks, you see, as it was distilled in the year in between and not bottled for Specs. All kidding aside, I don’t really expect this to be very different from the other two. Which is not to say that Monday’s 11 yo and Wednesday’s 10 yo were identical: between the slight variations and Edradour’s idiosyncratic qualities it should at least be interesting to track the profile across another cask.
Edradour 10, 2009 (55.8%; oloroso sherry cask #2; from a bottle split)
Nose: Clearly a sibling of the other two but the nutty/beany thing is in far greater evidence here off the top. Below that is the usual oloroso complex of raisins and citrus peel. On the second sniff there’s quite a bit of oak. As it sits the oak recedes and the fruit begins to come through more fully: a lot of dried orange peel and some apricot and not as much red fruit as in Wednesday’s 10 yo. A few drops of water bring out some dry notes along with some salt and earth. Continue reading
I was at the municipal pool with the boys last afternoon armed with a novel (my friend Ben Percy’s The Ninth Metal—available from Content Books and everywhere else) and a large container of aam panna. As anyone who has had it knows, aam panna is one of the best things about life and especially about life in the summer. If you haven’t had it and don’t know what it is, aam panna is a tart-sweet drink made with boiled unripe mangos whose flesh is pulped and mixed with sugar, rock salt and a few ground spices to form a thick concentrate. A few tablespoons of this concentrate per 8 oz glass of water + ice = refreshing bliss. Between sips of my supersized serving of refreshing bliss, sprawled very elegantly on an unclean and uncomfortable plastic deckchair, I wondered idly on Twitter if some Indian-American food influencer or the other had yet presented a recipe for an “elevated” aam panna or made it with peaches in place of the mangos (re elevated aam panna see Commandment 2). Naturally, this led in less than 24 hours to my making peach panna. And it was good. Here now before I forget what I did is the recipe. You are welcome. Continue reading
In June we ate our first meal at a restaurant since the pandemic began (outdoors at El Cubano). In July we are scheduled to eat our first meal inside a restaurant. No, not with the kids: the missus and I are booked in at Tenant in the middle of the month. On the booze reviews front it will continue to be business as usual. Three reviews a week, each week themed in one way or the other. Edradour Week will end on Friday. What follows after that will be highly influenced by any nominations you make from the long list to the shortlist.
Other than our Tenant meal I expect we’ll continue to do takeout most weekends. I really need to make some headway on my survey of North Indian-centric Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities metro. The plan is to hit up one of them this weekend: Namaste Indian Grill in Arden Hills. If there are others you’d recommend, please write in below. And I hope to continue my survey of immigrant markets as well. On the recipes front, I will do the poll to select recipes not on Twitter this month but right here on the blog. So if you’re interested in weighing in on that look for a poll very soon—probably on Saturday. Continue reading
Edradour Week began on Monday with an 11 yo distilled in 2008 and bottled in 2020 for Specs in Texas. Here today is a 10 yo distilled in 2010 and bottled in 2020 for Specs in Texas. Like Monday’s whisky (and also Friday’s) it is from a single oloroso sherry cask. I quite liked Monday’s 11 yo and am curious to see how much variation, if any, there will be in this one. My suspicion is there will not be a lot of variation as there tends to be a reversion to a heavy oloroso mean in young whiskies. But the proof is in the glass. Let’s get to it.
Edradour 10, 2010 (57.4%; oloroso cask 115 for Specs; from a bottle split)
Nose: Very similar to Monday’s 11 yo except with less of the nuts and ginger. Instead, more red fruit; the old-timey medicine bottle rubber gaskets/stoppers are here too though. Saltier as it sits and the fruit gets richer as well, with apricot and some orange peel joining the red fruit. As with the other, more malt here with time but the fruit is in the lead. Water softens it further and brings out more malt along with a fair bit of vanilla cream. Continue reading
The food plan for this weekend was a takeout run to Namaste India Grill all the way up in Arden Hills. But the crappy weather on Saturday (though my vegetable garden plot appreciated it greatly) put paid to that. So instead of picking up Indian food from the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities to take to our pod friends’ home for dinner we picked up Mexican food right here in our own town. And for a change we did not pick it up from El Triunfo. No, we got it instead from Coco’s Place, a new restaurant located on the town’s main drag, Division Street. This is the spot previously occupied by another Mexican restauant, Kahlo, which I never got around to reviewing before they moved to a less settled situation down the street. Kahlo, by the way, is the venture of the chef/owner who had operated Maria’s at the same location that now houses El Triunfo. Coco’s Place meanwhile is the first official retail location of a food business that has been in operation for a few years now but not previously from a storefront. Well, despite my ongoing loyalty to El Triunfo (for food and extra-food reasons) I am very glad to also have Coco’s Place in town now. Their menu is not identical to that at El Triunfo but the food we got from them was very tasty as well. Herewith the details. Continue reading
I recently realized that all the Edradours I have yet reviewed on the blog have been Ballechins—Ballechin, as I’m sure you know, is the name of the peated variant of Edradour, much like the Ledaig/Tobermory split at Tobermory. If you don’t know the distillery, it’s in the highlands, is owned by the same people who own the indie outfit, Signatory, and is one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland. I’ve now driven more or less past it twice on two trips to Scotland—perhaps if I ever get back there I will finally stop in. Anyway, I do like a good Ballechin but it’s time to start bringing some balance to this picture. Accordingly, this week will feature three Edradours. They are all of similar age—10-11 years old—and all have been matured in single oloroso casks. First up is the oldest of the lot in terms of both length of maturation and of vintage, if only by the slightest of margins. This 11 yo was distilled in 2008 and bottled in 2020 for Specs, the large Texas spirits retailer. Way back in the golden age of single malt whisky in the US, when shipping between states was not an impossible or very expensive venture, I purchased a fair bit of old whisky from Specs. I don’t expect that this store selection of a young sherry cask Edradour will quite reach the heights of those ancient Caperdonichs and Banffs and the like but I’ll be happy enough even if it’s just a very good whisky. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading
The final whisky of Kilchoman Week is the oldest. And with a young distillery it’s not surprise that it’s the oldest vintage as well. This was distilled in 2006—one year before Monday’s 3 yo—and bottled in 2019 from a single sherry cask. This was a private bottling for some entity called Islay Cask Company. Who they are, I have no idea. This does have a very high rating on Whiskybase which is promising because, Wednesday’s 7 yo notwithstanding, I’ve generally not been very persuaded by sherry cask Kilchoman. Let’s hope this keeps the positive streak going.
Kilchoman 12, 2006 (56.1%; sherry cask 324/2006 for the Islay Cask Company; from a bottle split)
Nose: Dry, ashy smoke mixed in with a leafy note. Some sweeter notes (orange peel) begin to come through as it sits but the smoke remains dry on the whole. Stays consistent with time which is another way of saying there isn’t much development. A few drops of water make it a bit richer: tobacco rather than ashy/leafy smoke now. Continue reading
When making beans my first instinct is to make some version of the classic Punjabi preparation of rajma. This is a good instinct: rajma is one of the great dishes of the world, especially when eaten with chawal/rice along with some pickle. Indeed, you could say that many of the bean recipes that I’ve posted on the blog are variations on rajma. You might say the same about this one as well but it moves a little further afield and into the intersection that exists between South Asian and Mexican cuisines, broadly construed. Both cuisines feature dishes of stewed beans and in general have many ingredients, flavours and textures in common. This recipe, a result of random improvisation in the kitchen has mole in mind along with rajma: one of the key ingredients is dark chocolate, used to thicken the sauce and give it an earthy base. Cumin, coriander seed, cinnamon and red chillies are some of the other crossover ingredients in it. The result is a bean stew or curry that I expect will be more familiar to South Asian palates but might also spark some recognition in Mexican ones. At any rate it’s quite tasty and goes well with rice or chapatis/tortillas or just straight out of a bowl with a big squeeze of lime. Give it a go and tell me what you think. Continue reading
Kilchoman Week began with a review of a 3 yo distilled in 2007 and matured in a bourbon cask. Here now is a 7 yo distilled in 2011 and matured in a sherry cask (the label on the sample bottle says 8 years old but as per Whiskybase this is a 7 yo). And this was one of their 100% Islay releases, which I think means it was made from Islay barley, perhaps from one of the nearby farms. This was a US release, bottled for the importer ImpEx. Historically, I have preferred bourbon cask Kilchoman to the sherry cask versions. Let’s see if this one breaks that mold.
Kilchoman 7, 2011, 100% Islay (56.1%; sherry cask #622/11; from a bottle split)
Nose: Ashy peat shot through with a mix of orange peel, brandied raisins and smouldering leaves. Some pencil lead/graphite in there too. A little saltier as it sits and then a sweeter mix of milky cocoa and vanilla emerges and expands along with the citrus. A few drops of water pull out some apricot to go with the citrus and push the ash back a bit. Continue reading
This Saturday was a momentous day for our family. We actually ate a meal at a restaurant. Yes, this week I have for you not another pandemic takeout writeup but an account of a meal eaten in person at a restaurant. We didn’t eat it inside the restaurant, however, but in their excellent outdoor dining area. The restaurant in question is El Cubano in West St. Paul, which serves Cuban and Dominican food. It opened in 2019 after a prior incarnation as, I believe, a food truck. I had not heard of it until it was recommended highly in the comments on my report on Black Market StP by both Kathy Jenkins and Constance Lepro. Looking idly at their website I noticed what looked like a proper outdoor seating area and we decided to give it a go with a couple of friends we’ve eaten takeout meals with on a number of occasions during the pandemic. Herewith my report for the benefit of others who have not yet been. Continue reading
After a week of reviews of whiskies from Highland Park (which followed a week of reviews of whiskies from Glen Scotia) let’s do a week of reviews of whiskies from Kilchoman, Islay’s small farm distillery. This was the very first Kilchoman I ever had. It was bottled in 2010 for Binny’s in Chicago at the ripe young age of three. The distillery put out a number of these store exclusives among their earliest releases and they helped make their name in the US (and elsewhere too). Those were the days when Binny’s shipped out of state and I purchased a bottle right away. I drank it down slowly over the next few years and before finally finishing it in early 2013—as per my spreadsheet, a month before I started the blog—I put four ounces away for future reference, as was my practice at the time (well, my usual practice was to put away 6 ounces). In other words, this review is of a sample that was put away more than 8 years ago and from a bottle that was opened more than 10 years ago. Though I’ve stopped saving these reference samples in recent years, I do very much enjoy going back to some of the whiskies I drank a long time ago. I really liked this one back then, as I have a number of other young Kilchomans. Let’s see what I make of it now. Continue reading
Highland Park Week began with an indie release from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society which featured a Jamaican rum finish. On Wednesday, I reviewed an ex-bourbon cask from Berry Bros. & Rudd. Here to close out the series is an official distillery release that has the distillery’s favoured official profile front and center: sherry. Indeed, it is a single sherry cask. In the last few-several years Highland Park have really stepped up their single cask program. This one is a 13 yo distilled in 2006 and as per Whiskybase there are at least 40 such releases from the 2006 vintage alone and at least as many from each of the preceding years in the decade (the 2007s and 2008s appear to still be coming online. Not being insane, I have not gone and looked at the details of each cask but a random sampling suggests they’re all heavily sherried and all at ludicrous strengths, and that many if not most are from first-fill European oak casks. It’s no big surprise that this should be the case. In this market there’s only one thing that would top the mix of stupidly high abv and a sherry bomb when it comes to convincing whisky geeks to pay the big bucks and that’s if you add heavy peat to the mix. Continue reading
Khichdi has become such an emblematic dish in Indian food discourse in the US that I feel a little embarrassed to say that I never liked it as a kid or for that matter in my twenties. My mother made it with moong dal and I didn’t like moong dal as a kid. She invariably put cauliflower in it and even though I could and did eat around it, I did not care for the aroma or flavour of cauliflower. But in my late-middle age I have overcome many of my early life food aversions—see, for example, my sudden and sustained love affair with bainga/brinjal/eggplant—and these days I make and enjoy khichdi as well. And of late I’ve been making it mostly with brown rice, which I am also these days eating more often than I am eating white rice. And I’ve been making it with all kinds of dal variations. The very rough recipe I have for you today uses a combination of three dals and is probably my current favourite. If you don’t have all three dals feel free to just use one; and if you’re using just one the adult me would repudiate young me and tell you to make that moong dal. Continue reading
After Monday’s Jamaican rum and ex-bourbon cask lovechild, let’s move on to an altogether more conventionally matured Highland Park. Well, not very conventionally by the standards of the distillery’s own releases which are overwhelmingly sherry cask-driven. This 14 yo bottled by Berry Bros. and Rudd is from an ex-bourbon cask. And like almost all current indie releases of Highland Park, seemingly, it does not bear the distillery’s name. Instead it’s billed as “Orkney Islands” (this crackdown on the use of official distillery names by indies seems to be spreading through the industry). Well, I suppose it could theoretically be Scapa too. I will note, as I always do when reviewing bourbon cask Highland Park, that I really dig this profile and wish the distillery itself would release more in this vein and not just the massive single sherry casks that seem to be their current calling card (I”ll be reviewing one of those on Friday). Of course, there’s far more money to be made by selling massive sherry cask whiskies in this market and no one ever accused the proprietors of Highland Park, the Edrington Group, of being averse to making large amounts of money. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
In the last year we may have eaten more barbecue in the Twin Cities metro than in our previous 13 years here. We’ve certainly eaten barbecue from more restaurants than ever before: Ted Cook’s 19th Hole, Smoke in the Pit, Firebox, Black Market StP. Hell, we even got barbecue at opposite ends of the spectrum from Tenant during their pandemic takeout pivot and the far humbler Quarterback Club here in our town. Some of these have been among the best restaurant meals we’ve eaten since the pandemic began; all have been at least solid. Which brings me to our latest round of takeout barbecue, which we picked up from Rack Shack in Eagan on Saturday. Located right off Cedar Avenue (on Cliff Road in the strip mall that also houses Atomic Liquors), they’ve caught my eye in the past as well and so I was interested to finally try their fare. I’m sorry to say that while there were a few things we like fine, on the whole, this was the most uneven of our barbecue outings. Herewith the details. Continue reading