September’s Recipes: A Poll


In case you’re new to reading this blog, I post recipes every Thursday (usually) and at the start of the month I post a poll of the possible candidates and have you vote for up to four of the ones you’re most interested in. As was the case late last summer, my community garden plot is overflowing with eggplant and so this month I have a lot of eggplant-centered possibilities (all vegan). But there’s more than eggplant in the poll below. In fact, there are two shrimp possibilities as well for you to consider, one in which the shrimp is optional and one in which it’s central. And there are also the two holdovers from August’s poll which feature pork and mutton (goat) respectively. Yes, it’s a larger poll than usual which should make for a tighter race. Let’s see how it goes. I will leave the poll up through the weekend but don’t leave it too late to make your picks. Continue reading

Loch Lomond/Croftengea 7, 2011 (SMWS 122.26)


Last month I kicked off a week of highlands distilleries with a peated Loch Lomond: an Inchmoan. This time I’m kicking off an entire month with a peated Loch Lomond, but this time it’s a Croftengea. (Again, you’ll need to go to more detail-oriented people to find out exactly how Inchmoan and Croftengea differ from each other or, for that matter, from Inchfad, Loch Lomond’s other peated line.) I’m also using it to end a week of reviews of peated whiskies (after Monday’s Lagavulin and Wednesday’s Talisker), even though the SMWS named this one, “It’s peat, Jim, but not as we know it…”

I’ve rather liked the other Croftengeas I’ve reviewed. This, a 7 yo, is the youngest of them yet, but I will remind you that one of my favourite whiskies of 2018 was a 9 yo Croftengea. Which is to say in a hopeful tone of voice that young Croftengea can be very good indeed. Let’s see if that hope survives reality. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


The summer comes to an end soon and the high season at work is about to kick off. On the blog, though, little will change. I’ll still have three whisky reviews a week interspersed with recipes and restaurant reviews. Minnesota reviews will be posted on Tuesdays as usual; on the weekends I’ll be posting meal reports from my travels in the summer till I’ve caught up with that backlog. It might take the whole of this month to do that. I have, however, caught up with my Minnesota restaurant review backlog. We have no reservations yet for dinner out in September and no set plans yet for even this coming weekend. So it’s an open book there. On the cooking front, there will be four recipes again this month, on Thursdays. I’ll be posting the poll to select those recipes in a few hours time—it’ll stay open through the weekend. To help me choose the whiskies to review this month all you have to do, as always, is respond in the comments below and let me know which ones you’d like to promote from the long list that follows to the short list. I think I got to all the requests in August and will try my best to do so again in September—as long as I can construct coherent themed weeks from the candidates. Odds are good though that I will do a Caol Ila week as I’ve been wanting to review that trio for a while. The rest are all up in the air—so have at them. Continue reading

Talisker 11, 2009 (Old Particular for K&L)


Let’s finish the month with one more peated whisky, but let’s get off the island of Islay for at least one day. We’ll go up north to Skye, to Talisker and an unusual independent bottling. Unusual, not because I know something about this particular release but because independently bottled Talisker is not very common—though it’s relatively more common of late than it once used to be. I think this was part of K&L’s cache of 2021 casks. It’s twice the age of the two previous K&L Talisker releases I’ve reviewed, which were 5 and 6 years of age respectively. Add the fact that it’s from a refill hogshead and I am positively looking forward to this one. Let’s get right to it.

Talisker 11, 2009 (59.6%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Mild notes of lemon and malted wheat with some light mineral smoke running through it. Sweeter with each sniff and then more savoury (ham brine). With time the lemon turns to citronella. A bit of water brings the salt out here as well and push the lemon back. Continue reading

Tenant VIII (Minneapolis)


This is my second review this month of a meal at Tenant but it’s not my second review of a meal eaten at Tenant this month. Try saying that three times fast. No, my previous review was of an outing to Tenant in early July. This meal, on the other hand, is of a meal eaten this past Saturday and represents my attempt to become current with at least my Minnesota meal reviews. It took some doing to get to this meal. We were originally supposed to eat there on the Friday of the prior week. But it transpired that the menu had not yet turned over since our dinner in July and so they very kindly got us in a week later. And then the ongoing reconstruction of Bryant Ave. led to an issue with water mains and they had to close at short notice on Friday. Thankfully, they managed to squeeze us in the very next day and so here I am with a report on possibly the best meal we’ve had at Tenant in a year. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Lagavulin 12, 2021 Release


There was a time when the Lagavulin 12 was another annual release—along with the Laphroaig Cairdeas—that I purchased every year; it was certainly the only member of Diageo’s annual special release about which that could be said. But I haven’t purchased a bottle since 2017. The following year—as I have doubtless noted before—is when the price of this release went up sharply, and it also became harder to find in stores in the US. I have managed to get my hands on some each year via bottle splits, however, and so have been able to remain more or less current with it (I’m yet to review the 2014 and 2015 releases though I do have bottles of those in my stash). The 2022 Special Release roster should be on shelves soon. I’m not expecting to buy the 2022 iteration either but am hopeful I’ll be able to review it anyway at some point. The 2021 edition had a lion on the label and bore the sobriquet “The Lion’s Fire”—we can only hope the fire did not emerge from the rear. And no, it’s not a hint of it being a sherry cask either. This is from refill bourbon casks (all the Lagavulin 12s have been ex-bourbon, I believe—please correct me if I’m wrong). Price and marketing shenanigans aside, the Lagavulin 12 has always been quality whisky and some releases have been truly excellent. Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading

Mark’s Place (Kauai, Summer 2022)


Back to Kauai (I wish). We spent the morning of this day doing a lovely hike on the Kuilau Ridge Trail. Some problems with our rental car’s keyless entry system then required a trip to the rental counter at the airport in Lihue. Casting around for places to eat we landed on Mark’s Place, a restaurant that got lots of positive reviews online for their Hawaiian fare. As with many other places on Kauai and the Big Island, they were not open for dine-in in June/July. Unlike Hana Hou, however, they were not even letting people in to order or allowing them to eat at their outdoor tables. We lined up outside the front door to order and once our food was ready we could either eat in our car or take it away. We opted to drive to a park in the vicinity and had a nice lunch on a picnic bench there. Continue reading

A Farewell to Kiriko (Los Angeles, June 2022)


My penultimate meal report from our Los Angeles trip in June is of what was probably my favourite meal of the trip, and definitely the most melancholy. Favourite because, well, sushi and particularly the lunch sushi omakase at Kiriko has always been excellent (see here and here). Melancholy because a few minutes after finishing and pledging to once again start eating regularly at Kiriko on our Los Angeles trips we discovered that they were only two weeks away from closing for good. We kicked ourselves for our years of neglect—though I should add they did not close due to lack of business; rather, due to exhaustion borne out of the stresses of the pandemic. Well, as sad as we are to see Kiriko go and to know we won’t be able to eat there again, it was a wonderful last meal. That’s something. Continue reading

Kilchoman 8, 2012, Cask Companion Series, Cask 726


Here is the second cask in the first batch of Kilchoman’s Cask Comparison series. As I noted in the introduction to my review of the first cask on Wednesday, this batch comprises two casks, both distilled in 2012 and matured for 8 years in ex-Buffalo Trace barrels. Cask 719 was distilled from the distillery’s own farm barley peated to 20 ppm (making it a 100% Islay release), whereas this cask, Cask 726, was distilled from malt from Islay’s Port Ellen maltings peated to 50 ppm. So there are two variables in play here: barley type and peating level. Let’s close the comparison out. By the way, when I took notes on Cask 719 I tasted 1.5 oz of it over an hour or so, tasting .5 oz of Cask 726 alongside for reference. My notes on Cask 726 were likewise taken from the remaining 1.5 oz of that sample with the remaining .5 oz of Cask 719 as reference. I am nothing if not conscientous here at the My Annoying Opinions Tasting Rooms. More detail on my comparison of the two casks follows the review itself. Continue reading

Spiced Chicken Liver Mousse


Until early this year we were purchasing all our eggs and chicken from a small farm about 15 miles away from us. Eventually, coordinating times and places to meet for exchange of money and goods became a bit too much of a hassle for both parties and we stopped. But not before I acquired large amounts of various non-standard parts of chicken (from the American grocery point of view). I still have a very large bag of chicken feet in the chest freezer, for example. And I also went through a large bag of hearts and gizzards in the spring (they cooked up very nicely with onions, cauliflower and spices and tasted very good rolled in tortillas). In the spring I also made a spiced mousse with a large bag of livers and served it on bread at a potluck with some friends. It was quite popular, even among some who are not usually very liver-positive. I’ve been trying to get it on the blog since May but it’s only now that it has finally (and I must admit, improbably) made the cut. There are a few people, online and off, who have been asking for a recipe and this goes out first and foremost to them. Remember, kids: don’t let go of your dreams—they’ll come true someday. Continue reading

Kilchoman 8, 2012, Cask Companion Series, Cask 719


Here is the first part of an interesting diptych from Kilchoman. Islay’s farm distillery’s hallmark seems to have become the release of more and more single casks and cask variations and so forth to go along with their more edited regular lineup which—please correct me if I’m wrong—comprises the Machir Bay, Sanaig, Loch Gorm and the 100% Islay. For whatever reason, they seemingly are not interested in putting out a regular age-stated whisky—even though they would be able to put out a 15 yo by now. I guess if you can sell much younger NAS whisky then there isn’t much reason to tie up limited warehouse space. Or maybe there’s an age-stated lineup in the works and we won’t know till it hits us. Anyway, in 2021 they launched a “Cask Comparison” series. The idea is to release similar whiskies with some variation in them that allows the drinker to compare the effect of a single variable being shifted. Batch 1—a UK exclusive—comprised two casks of 8 yo spirit, distilled days apart in 2012 and matured for just over 8 years in ex-Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels. What’s the variable that’s different? Cask 719—this one—was filled with spirit distilled from 100% Islay barley peated to 20 ppm; cask 726—which I’ll be reviewing on Friday—was filled with spirit distilled from barley from the Port Ellen maltings peated to 50 ppm. The idea is that the juxtaposition will allow us to tease out the difference between the peating levels…or wait…is it the difference between the types of barley…or wait…is it the difference between the combination of both those things? Hmmm the premise is at risk of breaking down before I even begin and so it may be best to just get to it. Continue reading

Restaurant Alma, Summer 2022 (Minneapolis)


Our last meal at Alma, in early April this year, had unaccountably come four and a half years after our previous dinner there. I noted then that it was unlikely to be more than four and a half months till we were back again and for a change I am not a liar. We went back for dinner this past weekend, just a little short of four and a half months since the last. And I’m very glad we did. Our dinner in April was very good, but this one was even better. This might be because Alma serves a seasonal prix fixe, and late summer in Minnesota offers chefs far more to work with than the early spring—keep in mind that Alma’s sourcing is local/regional. Even if that’s not the reason, I would highly recommend going to eat this menu before it shifts in the fall. We liked it so much that we’re almost tempted to go back and eat it again. Continue reading

Kilchoman Machir Bay CS, US East Coast Tour 2016 Release


The month began with reviews of a pair of Speysides. This was followed by a week of Arran and then a week of distilleries in the Highlands. Let’s close the month out now with a big dose of peat. First up is Kilchoman, three of them to be exact. I’ll begin with a special cask strength release of their Machir Bay release. This was put out to mark their East Coast Tour of 2016. (I believe Journey was the opening act. I couldn’t make it to this tour but hope to catch them at the Minnesota State Fair one of these years.) It’s made with malt peated to 50 ppm (I can’t remember if that’s the case for all the Machir Bay releases) and from spirit mostly matured in ex-bourbon casks (90%) and partly in ex-oloroso casks (10%). A total of 840 bottles were released, which is actually a limited release as these things go. The last time I reviewed a Machir Bay of any kind was back in 2014, just a year into the blog’s life. That was the regular 2012 release at 46%—the very first release, as it happens. I’m curious to see how much similarity there will be between that and this one at 60.1% from four years later. At any rate, I’m sure this will be very different from the last two Kilchomans I reviewed this year, both of which were ruby port cask matured (here and here). Continue reading

Lotus Garden (Kauai, Summer 2022)


A couple of weeks ago I finished up my meal reports from our time on the Big Island of Hawaii. After a week’s break here now is my first report from the week we spent after that on Kauai.

Our time on the Big Island was great; Kauai, if possible, was even better. We spent all our time either in the sea or hiking—with a brief sojourn to a museum. As on the Big Island, we did not have eating as the center of any of our days. Once again we ate at places that were close to hand to wherever we needed to be. Indeed, some of my favourite meals comprised poke and wakame salad picked up from grocery stores and eaten either on a beach or at our rental. Which is not to say that we did not eat out at all. One meal a day was usually out. I begin my reports with our first meal on Kauai, eaten at a Chinese-Thai restaurant in the Princeville shopping center, not too far from where we were staying in the northern part of Kauai. Continue reading

Gwang Yang BBQ (Los Angeles, June 2022)


Alright: back to Los Angeles. On our trip in December we somehow managed to not eat in Koreatown, something that would have been unthinkable, and indeed downright impossible in the past when Koreatown was our home base. But in December we ate Korean food instead at the smaller Korean enclave of Garden Grove, south of Seal Beach. Those meals were good but we could resist the siren call of Koreatown only so long. The boys wanted to eat bbq and we wanted a location somewhat central’ish between us and friends in Pasadena and so it was to Koreatown we went, to Gwang Yang BBQ. Continue reading

Oban 12, 2008, 2021 Special Release


Highlands distilleries week began on a strong note with a 10 yo Loch Lomond/Inchmoan. On Wednesday, an 11 yo Clynelish kept things on a positive trajectory. Here now to close out the week is a 12 yo, from Oban in the western highlands. This 12 yo from the 2008 vintage was part of Diageo’s Special Release roster in 2021 (has the 2022 Special Release lineup been announced yet?). The price was reasonable as the Diageo Special Release generally goes. And it’s generally been received well. Despite this bottles are still hanging around a year later, at least in the UK. It was also released in the US but I don’t think I’ve seen a bottle in Minnesota (not that I’m hunting for things as doggedly as I once did). There is some confusion about the casks that went into this. Diageo’s materials say that it’s made from spirit matured in “freshly charred American oak casks”—and this is what it says on websites like the Whisky Exchange. However, the bottle’s actual label apparently lists ex-bourbon and refill casks. Were they all freshly charred? Are the refill casks not ex-bourbon? The only thing I can tell you for sure is that there is both a bird and two wolves on the label. Okay, enough babble: let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Purple Potatoes, Red Masala


I’ve previously posted at least three recipes for alur-dom/dum alu (here, here and here). You might think that’s enough but here’s a fourth. Alur dom/dum alu is made in certain broad ways in the parts of India that make dishes by that name. I do like more traditional ways of making it but I also think of the name of the dish as authorizing all kinds of approaches: as long as you cook potatoes, covered, in a thick or thin gravy with masala I think you’ve made alur dom/dum alu. You may disagree but that’s how I see it. Anyway, I don’t know why I’m leading this post off with these observations because this recipe is nothing very wild or unexpected. The only really unusual thing here is the use of small purple potatoes. Everything else is just a matter of plus/minus from ways in which you might already make alur dom/dum alu. You could, of course, make this dish with small yellow or red potatoes as well but I really like the sweet flavour of purple potatoes and think they work particularly well here. Give it a go and see what you think. Continue reading

Clynelish 11, 2008 (Signatory UCF)


This week of reviews of malts from Highland distilleries began with a 10 yo Loch Lomond/Inchmoan. Let’s go further north now to Clynelish in the northern highlands and add a year to the age. Unlike Monday’s Inchmoan, which was made with wine yeast used in the fermentation process, there is nothing, as far as I know, out of the ordinary about this Clynelish. It was released by Signatory in their Unchillfiltered Collection. Signatory released a few of these 11 year olds from the 2008 vintage and I’m sorry to say that not having realized that before this evening I failed to ask the source of my samples for more specific cask information—and now I can’t remember who the source of my samples was! As always, getting old is a lot of fun. Anyway, of those 2019 releases were from bourbon barrels and so we know what the cask type is. Anyway: bourbon cask Clynelish is almost always a good thing and Signatory has always been a good source of Clynelish casks. And so I am hopeful that this will not disappoint. Let’s see. Continue reading