Here to close out 2016 on the blog is Batch 007 of Laphroaig’s 10, CS. I’m not sure if Batch 008 made it to the US—I haven’t seen it in Minnesota, at any rate. This year we got a bit of a scare when word began to make the rounds that the 10 CS was going to be discontinued after Batch 008; the distillery put out statements shortly thereafter to reassure customers that this is not true (I covered all this in my review of Batch 006 earlier this year). Since then, however, I’ve been told by a reliable person that he’d heard first-hand at Feis Ile from a high-up at the distillery that the 10 CS was indeed on the chopping block—so who knows? If it is going out—and I hope it is not—I hope it will go out strong. The series took a big dip with Batch 005. Unlike some others, I thought Batch 006 was a big improvement, and I’m hoping Batch 007 will be further along in that direction. It certainly has been received a lot better than Batch 006 (see here for Grinch Kravitz’s take). Less vanilla and more phenols: that’s what we want. Continue reading
Grand Szechuan is the restaurant we eat at most in the Twin Cities area. I stopped posting regularly about our meals there a couple of years ago, as otherwise things would get pretty monotonous. As I did last year, I instead have for you an end of the year round-up drawn from a number of meals eaten this year. It highlights mostly dishes that have not been featured before, as well as a few old favourites. A few new things entered our rotation this year and we also got around to eating for the first time a few things that have always been on the menu. Whether it’s to eat old or new things, we’re always glad to walk in their door. Continue reading
Here is the last installment of my Four Roses recipe roundup—try to contain your excitement. On the advice of more knowledgeable people, I’m ending the series with low and high-rye variations on the K yeast strain, which is said to be their spiciest. Let’s get right to it—I’ll have more comments on the entire exercise at the end.
Four Roses 10, OESK (55.6%; single barrel for Beach Liquors; from a bottle split)
Nose: Toasted oak and cinnamon up top; pine and sour plum below. Gets quite spicy as it sits, with some nose-tingling black pepper and red chilli flakes in there too; some salt too. Softens up with more time and more fruit begins to poke through (apricot) and there’s some light toffee too. Fruitier with water but also more herbal. Continue reading
Living an hour south of the Twin Cities is no fun if you enjoy eating out. We live in a town with two colleges that somehow does not have a single Thai or Vietnamese restaurant—though given the state of our Chinese restaurants and the lone Indian restaurant that’s probably not a bad thing. The only decent food in town, really, is very casual Mexican at El Triunfo and there’s only so many times we can eat there in a month. Things don’t improve very much as you go further north. Not, in fact, until you cross the river into Bloomington: there Grand Szechuan heaves into view. But if you were looking for Thai food it used to be that you’d have to go much further to get anything that even went past passable status.
My first review in November was of a 19 yo Ben Nevis, bottled by Master of Malt in their That Boutiquey Whisky Company series. I did not care for it very much. It was a little too spirity and not generally very good evidence for my repeated claim that Ben Nevis may well become the next big thing among whisky geeks, as the prices of current top line distilleries, especially for sherry casks, continue to rise towards and past the roof. I noted of that one that it was frustrating because everything I like about Ben Nevis was obviously there in it but covered by chemical/artificial notes of one kind or the other. I am happy to say that this one does not suffer from any of those problems. It was bottled by Whisky Import Nederland and this is my second bottle. I went through the first at a pretty rapid rate—I also took it to one of my whisky group’s tastings a few months ago, and it was a hit with everyone there as well. It’s from a refill sherry cask but not a very shy one. Let’s get to it. Continue reading
While in Delhi in January, we ate at Sodabottleopenerwala, a restaurant that packages Bombay’s Irani cafe kitsch and Parsi food to (largely) non-Parsis. I was somewhat bemused by the experience and not particularly enthused by the food. What I failed to mention in my description of that restaurant’s maximalist aesthetic—what I called “Irani restaurant as theme park—is that it represents not merely a simulacrum of Bombay’s fading Irani cafes but also the return to India of a template that had already become a huge success abroad. There was a time in India when the diaspora was culturally and politically suspect. Now, of course, it is both culturally and politically a source of ideas (and money). The location of this particular set of new ideas, perhaps predictably, is London, and the restaurant that is the source material is Dishoom. Continue reading
My planned Four Roses recipe roundup went on an unplanned hiatus after the first three entries in November. I’ll be finishing up now before the year is out. To refresh your memory, I’m reviewing paired single casks of the OE (low-rye) and OB (high-rye) mashbills made with a different yeast strain each time. I started out with OESQ/OBSQ, went from there to the OESV/OBSV, and then to the OESO/OBSO. The original plan had been to do the K strain next and end with the F. However, people who know better recommended I flip the order of the last two, and so here I am now with the OESF/OBSF pair. As with the previous pairs, both of these bottles come from single cask selections made by liquor stores. This series got off to a very good start for me with the Q strain; I liked the V and O a little less. Here’s hoping the F will be closer to the Q casks in quality. The F strain is said to be the most herbal one, and I’m interested to see if that means that this will be the most rye’ish of the recipes. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading
Rampur is the latest Indian malt whisky to hit the market, following Paul John and the more established Amrut. Unlike those, Rampur is based in North India. The distillery was established in 1943, before India gained its independence, but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that they started distilling malt whisky—until very recently most of this went into their own blends. The distillery is owned by Radico-Khaitan and produces a mind-boggling volume of neutral spirit from molasses and grain, and also produces and sells a large range of whisky, rum, brandy and vodka (feast your eyes on the company’s romantic website). Most of these are for the Indian market—unlike the Rampur Select, which is only for the international market. This market now includes the United States. This release showed up here earlier this year and is going for anywhere between $60 and $75. Presumably, a large part of this is going to recoup the cost of the ludicrous packaging (each bottle is inside a silk pouch inside a round tin) and whoever they paid to come up with the purple prose of the marketing materials. Among other things, we are told that Rampur is the Kohinoor of single malts—I guess that means that the company will shortly be illegally taken over by the British crown. On the tin we’re also told that the princely state of Rampur rated a 15 gun salute—they’re going to feel really silly when some distillery located in an ex-princely state that rated a 21 gun salute puts their whisky on the market. Continue reading
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone: the best restaurant in the Twin Cities, and one of the best in the country, is closing. Yes, Piccolo will serve its last meal on March 11. Read Chef Doug Flicker’s announcement here. Why they’re closing is not entirely clear. My best guess would be some combination of the (not-so) slow death of the market for serious food for adults, a desire to go out on his own terms, and a desire to do something else after seven years of Piccolo. The good news is we are not losing Doug Flicker: his stamp will be on the new Esker Grove at the Walker Art Center; Sandcastle will still be around at Lake Nokomis for people who want lakeside food that raises the bar for the genre; and he will doubtless surface soon elsewhere (though if it’s at the helm of a burger and ramen shop I will not be happy). The bad news, again, is that Piccolo is closing. Continue reading
Kilkerran, as previously explained, is the name of the whisky produced by the Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown. They’re a part of the Springbank family and, as I’ve also noted before, the Kilkerran profile bears lots of genetic markers of the Springbank/Longrow line. This profile has until now been accessible only through a few years worth of “Work in Progress” releases—(not-so) small batches released every year after the distillate got past the legal minimum of three years, showing the progress of the aging barrels. Unlike Bruichladdich with their Port Charlotte line, the Kilkerran WIPs were not put together in complicated ways and were thus likely to be pretty good indicators of what the profile of the eventual regular release would be. I will say that I’ve liked every edition of the WIP that I’ve tried (though I’ve only reviewed a couple so far) and I’ve thus been looking forward to the regular release, which I’d thought would be ready at 10 years of age. Well, the distillery waited till it was 12 years old, which brought us to 2016. Towards the end of the Work in Progress series they started putting out parallel sherry and bourbon wood expressions; it turns out that this 12 yo is a vatting of 70% ex-bourbon and 30% ex-sherry casks. Continue reading
The Rabbit Hole’s first incarnation, about four years ago, was as the Left-Handed Cook, a counter among many other counters at Minneapolis’ Midtown Global Market. Run by two young, ex-Angeleno Korean-Americans, Thomas and Kat Kim (and named for her nickname for him), the Left-Handed Cook was quite popular when it opened. We never got around to eating there, though we’d always talked about doing it (we just haven’t been eating much at the Midtown Market in recent years). Then in late 2013 they closed it down and re-opened a little later within the Midtown Market as a proper sit-down restaurant, the Rabbit Hole. We talked about eating there as well for a good while and now we’ve actually gotten around to doing it. I wish I could say we liked it as much as we were hoping we would. Continue reading
This is the first Glenlossie I have reviewed on the blog and it may well be the first Glenlossie I’ve ever had. I know very little about the distillery except that it is in the Speyside, is owned by Diageo and produces malt for their blends. As per Whiskybase there have been no official releases other than one each in the Flora & Fauna, Manager’s Dram and Manager’s Choice series and the most recent of those was released in 2009. What this means, of course, is that next year Diageo will put a 37 yo Glenlossie in their annual special release and ask £2000 for it.
There does seem to have been a slight uptick in independent releases in recent years but I’m not sure that I’ve heard or read anyone waxing rhapsodic about Glenlossie. As you will see below, I won’t be waxing rhapsodic about this bottle either but it was a pleasant, easy drinker. Continue reading
As you’ve probably forgotten, I was in London for a week and change at the end of August. My first meal was at the smaller, Spitalfields outpost of Fergus Henderson’s empire, St. John Bread and Wine. In the throes of jet lag, I wrote that meal up only a few hours after eating it. The rest of the week’s eating has taken me a long time to fully write up—indeed, after the review of Hedone in mid-October I all but forgot that I still had two more to go. Here now is the first of those two: a Friday night dinner at the St. John mothership in Smithfield. This has become hallowed ground for foodies from all over the world and as I am entirely conventional there was not much chance that I would not stop in here as well. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I might have skipped it if the Bread and Wine location had offered a slightly different menu the night I dined there. You see, I’d wanted to have their iconic roast bone marrow with parsley salad and I’d been hoping for grouse as well, and neither were on offer there that night. Luckily, the mothership came through. Continue reading