Just another month of this so-called year. Well, at least December is off to a less stressful start than November. Which is not to say, of course, that we are at risk of complacency. Things are not so great in Minnesota on the Covid front. We are trying our best to stay as locked down as we can. I hope things are better where you are and that you too are managing to stay safe without going too crazy. Well, on the blog, at least, the year will end as it began: three whisky reviews, one restaurant/takeout report and a recipe each week. And occasionally an extra food-related post. On that last front I’ll soon be posting a follow-up to my annotated list of regional Indian cookbooks. I’ll also soon have another roundup of recent’ish writing on South Asian food. And if I can find some time I might even get to some of the other stuff I threatened back in August. In the meantime, I invite you, as always, to let me know in the comments if anything is of particular interest to you in the long list of potential reviews below. Continue reading
Happy Turkey Day to those of you who mark it. For us it’s going to be our first Thanksgiving by just ourselves in more than 15 years—for the boys, their first Thanksgiving with only the family. We’ll miss the usual, excessive gathering we host every year with friends who haven’t gone out of town but we look forward to doing it again next year when, hopefully, all of this will be behind us. As I’ve been gearing up all week for the smaller Thanksgiving lunch I’m going to be making in the morning, I don’t have the usual Thursday recipe post. Instead, I have something for my beleaguered whisky readership—or at least for what remains of it. It’s a simple question: which are your five favorite distilleries?
This question arises out of a brief conversation I had earlier this week on Twitter about Springbank. As I waxed enthusiastic about that great distillery which has always been in my top 5 (I think so anyway), I began to wonder how I’d round out the rest of my top five these days. Continue reading
Well, one of the most consequential weeks in recent US history is upon us. I am guardedly optimistic that this Tuesday will go better than the one four years ago but I am also steeling myself for the worst. The reports of what may be in store if Trump and Co. win another four years are alarming enough but it will all pale, I’m sure, in comparison with what will actually happen if another four years of this shit come to pass. I mean, I thought after the last election that the next four years were going to be bad but I didn’t realize just how bad they’d be. This time I’m a citizen and will be casting my first-ever vote in a governmental election (I never did in India before leaving in my early-20s). I hope the rest of you who are citizens are planning to vote too—if you haven’t already. And I hope all our votes will be counted. Continue reading
I usually post a recipe on Thursday. I will have a recipe this week—I’ll post it on Saturday, probably. Today I have a post for the people who are not here primarily for the food, and it’s a simple question: do you still read whisky blogs?
I obviously don’t mean the question literally. If you’re reading this you’re reading a whisky blog (though for a couple of years now this has been a whisky and food blog). The better, though less catchy, question is really, how has your relationship with whisky blogs changed over the last few years? I’ll lead things off by answering for myself, both as a whisky blogger and as a reader of whisky blogs; then a poll or five; and finally, an invitation to respond more fully in the comments. Continue reading
September was a busy but unusual month on the blog. A lot of readers but not seemingly always reading what people mostly seem to come here to read. The most read post, you see, was an entry from my food poetry series that petered out in the spring; “At the Lahore Karhai“. Usually, my posts about anything literary compete with my jam recipes and reviews of Japanese whiskies for the fewest possible readers. But it turns out this post on the Imtiaz Dharker poem has picked up a lot of views since the summer. Why this should be so, I don’t know. I should be happy, of course: I like the poem a lot and if my post is getting more people into reading Dharker, then great. The literature professor part of me worries though that the post may perhaps be being used as a crib by students somewhere. Is this poem often assigned at school in the UK? It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s the case. At any rate, if you are one of the people who has been reading my thoughts on that poem do write in in the comments on that post. Continue reading
Onward into autumn and September. The busy season at work starts up again in the middle of the month. I’m teaching online again this term but that amounts to more work than teaching in person. The missus is teaching online too and the boys are going to be at home as well—we passed on the in-person school option for them. Hopefully, we won’t go crazy and hopefully, our little town will not be hit too hard by the fact that both the local colleges are bringing all or most of their students back to town from all over the country and the world. Let’s see how it goes,
In the meantime the blog will carry on as normal with the usual complement of booze reviews and takeout meal reports. I’ll also be filing regular entries in my new series, Bombay Cinema: A Rough Guide. If time permits I hope to get another longer piece on Indian food started and finished as well. The experiment with ads on the blog will continue as well for now. The gap between page views and ad impressions suggests most of my readers have ad blockers on but the ads still generated enough money to cover August’s hosting costs. Ads should no longer be appearing inline in posts—hopefully those of you who’ve turned off your ad blockers are not finding the ads to be too disruptive. Do let me know if that proves to be the case. Continue reading
As you may have seen if you don’t have an ad-blocker enabled on your browser, at the end of July I suddenly enabled ads on this blog. The idea is to see if the ads can generate enough money to pay for (most of) the costs of hosting the site without becoming an irritant to readers. I use the WordAds service from WordPress.com and from the blog dashboard it appeared that I had a fair bit of control over where the ads appeared: only in the sidebar and at the bottom of blog pages but not blog posts. However, it appears that in addition to these locations WordPress randomly inserts ads between paragraphs on some posts. I seem to see these only on Firefox and on my phone and never on Chrome for the Mac. I’ve no idea how consistent this is. WordPress tells me that I can request to have this “feature” turned off. Before I do so I thought I would check with readers to see what your take on all this is. So if you wouldn’t mind terribly, please take 30 seconds to respond to the following polls. Thanks! Continue reading
I think it might be August. There will once again be a number of booze reviews, three a week, mostly whisky. I do have a few more rums and brandies listed than usual so if you’re looking for a malternative month on My Annoying Opinions this is your opportunity to get at least half a month out of it. (As always, I invite your nominations from things to promote from the long list of potential reviews below to the shortlist). There will also continue to be a couple of food posts per week. My pandemic takeout reviews from the Twin Cities metro will continue (we’re not eating in anywhere till at least the end of the year, probably) and I’ll post a recipe most every week. I hope to also finally post my last report from our Calcutta trip and my last report from Delhi from the winter. And I may also have a fresh annoyance for the food media in the form of yet another piece on writing about Indian food. On the non booze and food front, I’m also planning to start a regular series of capsule reviews of Bombay films; and I’d like to revive my literary posts from the spring. Let’s see how these big plans go. Continue reading
Another month of barely leaving the house behind us, another about to begin: good times! In keeping with the unchanging nature of our days here is the latest evidence of the unchanging nature of this blog. I will once again offer you three booze reviews a week, along with at least one restaurant review and one recipe. And possibly the occasional post on books and movies. And if I can be arsed to do it I may become the 543rd person on the internet to offer a take on Padma Lakshmi’s new Hulu show, Taste the Nation, which I was looking forward to but found extremely disappointing.
By “restaurant review” above I mean takeout reviews. I do still have a few reports from our India trip remaining that were of actual meals eaten in actual restaurants but there will be no dine-in reports from Minnesota for a long time. The state has allowed restaurants to re-open with social distancing but it’s going to be takeout-only for us for a while. Anyway, here is the usual long list of potential booze reviews. If there’s anything that catches your eye please nominate it to the shortlist in the comments below. Continue reading
Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse, here we are. Both my countries continue to plumb the depths of their foundational pathologies. In India Kashmir continues under a repressive and brutal lockdown, while the ruling BJP takes advantage of the pandemic to crush political dissent elsewhere in the country as well. In the US the march of fascism gets more open and confident every week, seemingly. And last week the Minneapolis Police Department re-confirmed what should need no re-confirmation: the enduring—because foundational—racism of American society, and the particular inequities and contempt faced by black Americans, 155 years after the end of the Civil War. There seems to be no end to the shit coming relentlessly down the pike, no sign of hope convincing enough to believe in. And here I am blogging about whisky and food. Continue reading
April is in the bag—I think. Another month looms and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be very different from the one ending. Minnesota’s “stay at home” order will continue for another two weeks but it’s hard to see how we’ll be returning to anything resembling “normalcy” after that. On the home/work front we’ve been doing four simultaneous Zoom sessions most days and that’s going to continue through May as the kids’ school and our colleges are all staying online. The question right now is what the fall term will look like, for us and for all the people who work at schools and colleges with less security than we are privileged to enjoy.
Those questions are also looming large over the industries whose products I cover on the blog: spirits and food. In all the talk about social distancing and industrial workplaces I haven’t heard too much about what is happening at distilleries. People are certainly drinking more at home but what is going on with employees at distilleries, distributors, importers, stores? Is production being/going to be affected? Casualties in the restaurant world have begun to pile up. The Bachelor Farmer is the most prominent Twin Cities restaurant so far to announce that they will not be re-opening at all. Other smaller restaurants have closed too and I’m sure many others will as well. Will our favourite places survive? Will the industry—farming/food production, distribution, retail, restaurants, bars, food media etc—be able to remake itself to be more equitable and sustainable? Will any of the political and economic transformations that will be necessary to allow all of that actually happen? I hope so but I am not confident. Continue reading
I just took a look at the March edition of “Coming Soon..” and man, that’s from another universe. It was business as usual; no sign of what was coming. In addition to whisky reviews I was going to finish up my reports of restaurant outings in Goa and Calcutta in January and post a bunch of Twin Cities reports as well. A month later, I’ve barely left the house in the last three weeks and I have no idea when we’ll ever eat at a restaurant again. We have hit up a couple of our favourite places for takeout but at my most paranoid—or it it my most responsible?—I wonder if even that will seem untenable in the near future. And while I posted the usual number of whisky reviews in March, most of those were notes taken before the virus hit the fan. Since the middle of the month I’ve been finding it difficult to summon the energy to write tasting notes. And with the entire family working/going to school from home for the foreseeable future, things are a little chaotic all around. But routines preserve us, I guess and so I’m going to try to keep getting back on the blog horse. I hope to have the usual complement of whisky reviews this month. I am going to try to finally finish up with the Goa and Calcutta reports—if only to remember a time when going out into the world seemed normal. I’ll have more recipes too, as well as some more things that will further alienate my whisky-only readership. You’re welcome! Continue reading
This month I might finally finish up my endless series of the K&L exclusive casks I seem to have been reviewing for the last three years. I also have a few bottle splits of some Whisky Barrel exclusives on hand, as well as a few others I’ve been threatening to review for a while now. Not sure if I’ll get to all of the K&L and Whisky Barrel casks but there are a few bottles in the list below that I will be writing up for sure: a few whiskies that I opened the week I turned 50. Everything else is up for grabs so if there’s something that interests you, please write in as usual. On the food front I’ll be finishing up my Goa reports and hopefully my Calcutta reports as well. In between there’ll be some reports from the Twin Cities as well. Continue reading
As our time in India comes to an end here is a look ahead to February on the blog. On the food front there will be a lot of reports from this trip. I still have about five reports to come from Delhi, about eight from Goa and then a few from Calcutta. I do have a few in the backlog from the Twin Cities but it’s entirely possible we won’t eat out for at least a month after we get back home—this has been an excessive four weeks of eating. On the whisky front I will try to finally finish up with my reviews of the recent run of K&L exclusives. I’m sure K&L staff—who seem to have a lot of time to spend on policing reviews of their whiskies online—will be very pleased with my opinions. Other than those, the long list of possible reviews includes mostly a bunch of things that have been on the list for a few month and some bottles that I’ve been planning to open for a while. And there are a couple of brandies and a rum on there too. Let me know if there are any you’d like to nominate to the shortlist. Continue reading
In last year’s version of this post I noted that 2018 had been the busiest year thus far on the blog by some distance with both page views and the unique visitor count going up over 2017. Well, 2019 was busier still: page views went up by 24% over 2018 and unique visitors rose 13%. The chief interest of those new visitors, however, I suspect was different than in years past. I suspect that 2019 was the year in which this became more of a food than whisky blog, at least from the point of view of the majority of visitors. Yes, there were more food than whisky posts in my year-end top 10 rankings by page views last year as well but in 2019 there was only one whisky post in the top 10 (the perennially popular discussion of Glendronach’s “single cask” shenanigans) and only eight in the top 50! Given that this coincided with the number of unique visitors rising as well, I suspect it’s less the case that the whisky readers have gone away than that there are just a lot more food readers now. For what it’s worth, I still think of this as a whisky and food blog, in that order, and the number of whisky reviews per week/month/year has remained constant for a number of years now. If that’s what you’re most interested in, that’s not going away. Continue reading
Here is a brief list of things that I think you could give people that they would be very happy to receive. Only some of these things were published or produced in 2019. Why restrict yourself to strict novelty when what you want to do is buy people things they will like? The list includes things to listen to (children’s music); things to read (cookbooks and more); things to cook with (knives and pans); and things to drink (whisky mostly) . Some of these things are made by friends of mine (and are marked accordingly). The things that are linked to Amazon will make me a small commission if you purchase them there. I feel dirty about this as I am not a fan of Amazon’s business practices, but I also have no other way of trying to generate a little bit of money to support the web-hosting costs of this blog. Nonetheless, I have not linked the recommended books available from American publishers to Amazon—if you have an independent bookstore in your town, I am sure they would be happy to order it for you. Or you can click on the links below and get them shipped to you from our town’s excellent bookstore, Content Books, who ship cheaply all over the United States and to Canada, and apparently also to Hungary. Continue reading
Well, the year’s almost over. It’s the end of a decade as well, I guess, but I don’t have a month of reviews of 10 yo whiskies planned. (Or should it be a parade of 10-19 yo whiskies?) Instead, I have my usual grab bag. Less usually, I have a fair number of actually available and/or recently released whiskies in the mix. Through bottle splits I acquired a large parcel of K&L’s recent exclusives and seven of them show up on the list this month. There’s also the new batch of the Springbank 12 CS, which is doing the rounds in American stores and this year’s Ardbeg Day release, the Drum. The rest are mostly my normal mix of irrelevancies. Let me know which of these catch your eye and I will try to get to them. There were some nominees from November’s list that are still un-reviewed—those will probably get priority. Beyond the booze I’ll keep to my schedule of weekly Minnesota restaurant reviews and recipes. There’s even a chance that a certain book review I’ve been threatening for the better part of the year will finally get written. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading