It’s hard to believe that we’re approaching the end of 2021. Here in southern Minnesota that’s partly because it doesn’t feel like it’s October yet. Yes, colours are beginning to change on trees and bushes but it’s still pretty warm out by our standards—this past week saw a couple of days with maximums in the 80s and we seem to have maximums in the 70s to look forward to for at least the next 10 days. As for the pandemic it’s hard to know where we are for sure. On the one hand, it’s clear that the vaccines are very protective against both infection and serious complications in case of breakthrough infection; on the other, cases are once again rising in our county. And so even though three of the four of us are fully vaccinated we are going to continue to be quite cautious until the fourth is as well. There was some hope that might be a possibility before Halloween but now we’re hoping it’ll happen before Thanksgiving. Until then meal reports will continue to be a mix of outdoor dining at restaurants and pandemic takeout reports. Whisky drinking and reviewing will not be affected, of course, by the weather. Though my consumption is lower than ever, I’m still good for three reviews a week. Continue reading
I am being told I should do a better job of self-promotion and so here it is. After many years of saying (truthfully) that I have no financial relationship with Rancho Gordo I have now developed a small one. I have written a digital booklet of bean recipes for Rancho Gordo that was “published” last week and announced to those who receive their occasional newsletters and follow Rancho Gordo’s founder/head honcho, Steve Sando on Twitter. And now I am telling you about it here as well. The booklet contains six bean recipes. It’s titled “Indian Bean Recipes: Traditional and Not-So Traditional”. Four of the six recipes have already appeared on the blog. The other two have not and probably will not and so you will have to download the booklet here to see them. The good news is the booklet is free for you to download and since I was paid upfront you will not be putting money in my pocket by downloading it.
As a result of Steve kindly putting a link to the blog in the newsletter announcing the booklet I also seem to have a fair number of new readers and so I thought would offer a brief overview of how the blog works. Continue reading
Summer is almost over and I am just about two weeks away from the busy season at work starting back up. Not that you’ll be able to tell from the blog. I’ll have my usual complement of whisky reviews (on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays), restaurant write-ups (Tuesdays and occasionally on weekends) and recipes (Thursdays). Who the whisky reviews are for—beyond serving as a repository of my tasting notes for my own archive—I’m not quite sure. I continue to post reviews at the same clip I’ve maintained for several years now but each year my whisky readership seems to dip even as my food readership seems to grow. Ah well, so it goes.
Below you will find the usual long list of potential whisky reviews. Let me know in the comments as usual if there are any you’d like to promote to the short list. On the food front, this month I’ll be finishing up my write-ups from our recent trip to Madison. Those will be posted on the weekends. During the week I’ll have more pandemic takeout reports from the Twin Cities metro. And tomorrow I’ll be posting a poll to select September’s recipes. Continue reading
Hard to believe the summer’s already over. This month saw us take our first post-covid steps towards pre-covid life as a family. We made a brief road trip to Kansas City—the meals from which I began to document yesterday. Next weekend we will be off to Madison, Wisconsin for another brief road trip, delta variant permitting (and I do hope it permits as our hotel reservations are nonrefundable). Unlike in Kansas City, I do not think we will be eating in anywhere unless a restaurant has outdoor seating. We will bring dinners back to our hotel room and take lunches to lakeside locations. Whisky drinking, thankfully, happens only in the secure confines of our own house and so the whisky reviews will continue unconstrained. This month I am in the unusual position of not having a single set of notes already written; and so I invite you especially fervently to nominate whiskies you’re more interested in from the long list below to the short list so I can make some decisions about what to review tonight. On the restaurant reviews front I will have a review on Tuesday from a fine dining restaurant in St. Paul. We also have reservations in a couple of weeks at another place in Minneapolis. The rest of the month’s regular restaurant reviews will be filled out by reports from more casual places in the Twin Cities metro. I hope to finish up the Kansas City reviews on the weekends—which means any Madison reviews will have to wait till September. There’ll also be a recipe a week as usual. Look later today for a poll to select which those will be. 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
And so it’s June. The school year is almost over and we are headed into the summer here in Minnesota with things slowly limping back to something resembling the pre-pandemic normal. By the end of Thursday three out of the four of us in our house will have received both doses of vaccine (the younger boy is too young). It feels strange to talk about our 12 yo getting fully vaccinated when I know people in my age group in India who still haven’t received their first dose. And it also feels odd thinking about a return to normalcy while the pandemic still rages in India (though the situation seems to be slowly improving). But it’s true that here in southern Minnesota at least we’re moving forward more hopefully. The kids are going to go to outdoor summer camps (though, having been housebound for more than a year and now having got used to it, they’re both resisting it) and we’ve begun to think about possibly doing a driving trip out of town in the second half of the summer. The boys and I have also planted our plot in the local community garden and are ardently hoping that the raccoons and deer won’t chomp or carry off most of our tomatoes as they did last year. Well, if that’s the worst that happens this summer I guess we’ll come out ahead. Continue reading
Here it is, the day you look forward to for 30 or 31 days (or 28 or occasionally 29): the day I tell you what might be coming up on the blog over the next month . Contain your excitement. As you may have noticed, I’ve of late been doing a lot of themed weeks of whisky reviews (in April I did a Loch Lomond week, a Springbank week, a highlands distilleries week and a sherry cask week). I have stolen this idea from, by which I mean I have been inspired by Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls who has been doing wonderful deep dives into distilleries—he currently has a Port Charlotte series going on. You should really read him regularly if you want good whisky reviews and good writing on whisky. But what the hell am I doing promoting the competition? I should be telling you what you can expect to find here in May. Continue reading
Just a short note to say that having had lots of better things to do last evening I instead spent some time updating the Google map of my restaurant reviews. It turns out I hadn’t done so for almost two years. All the places I’ve reviewed in the Twin Cities metro are now on the map along with links to my reviews of them. This map can be found at the bottom of the Minnesota restaurant reviews page. There are currently 127 restaurants in the metro listed there—not included are some places that had closed by the time I first made the map. I continue to recommend the big cluster on University Avenue in St. Paul as the area most worth your time. At some point I might explore making some layers that allow sorting of the restaurants by cuisine etc. Though I don’t know if I want to do quite so much work for my friend Chad, who is, as far as I know, the only person who uses this map. Continue reading
Oh look, it’s April 1, the day every year that comedy goes to whisky blogs to die. Don’t worry, I don’t have an elaborate April Fool’s joke post for you. Only my usual list of potential whisky reviews and such. March was a somewhat atypical month on the blog; at least insofar as the most read post of the month was neither about whisky nor about food. No. it was a post about a poem, my reading of Imtiaz Dharker’s “At the Lahore Karhai”. Alas, I fear that this is not a sign of the world changing for the better; if anything, probably more confirmation of the bad. I suspect, based on traffic patterns and a bit of desultory googling, that this poem is on an examination list at an Indian university and that a lot of desperate students have been casting about for study aids. Well, if that’s the case, I hope their professors don’t fail me. Continue reading
I recently purchased four bottles of whisky made at the Loch Lomond distillery. No one was more excited when they arrived than my children. This not because they are already drinking whisky but because Loch Lomond is the distillery whose name they know best. No, it’s not because it’s one that we’ve visited together in Scotland—I’ve still not been there. The reason is that they are big fans of Tintin comics and, as anyone who knows the series well knows, Loch Lomond is the favourite whisky of not only Captain Haddock but also Tintin’s dog Snowy. I’ve mentioned before the more-complicated-than-it-seems history of Loch Lomond and Tintin. Loch Lomond first appears in one of my favourite Tintin adventures, The Black Island, which was first serialized in 1937. Continue reading
Goddammit, it’s been almost a year since our first quasi-lockdown began. Looking back at the March 1, 2020 edition of this post I can scarcely believe that it shows no awareness of what was coming. It had been more than two months since the actual beginning of the pandemic and we still didn’t have any clear sense in the US of what was about to come down the pike. I celebrated my 50th birthday belatedly at the end of the first week of March last year. It was a big all-day potluck at our house and for most of the attendees it was the last party we were at in the last year. How many more months of this do we have to endure? I hope not very many. My first pandemic takeout report was posted on March 31, 2020 and my review of my last meal eaten in a restaurant was posted on March 10. Well, I’m not going to have any in-person dining reports this March or anytime soon thereafter. I will have what has become the usual complement of takeout reports. And also the usual complement of booze reviews and the weekly recipe post (see here for the likely schedule). Oh yes, the blog turns 8 towards the end of the month as well. Send expensive gifts. Continue reading
I’ve been doing Twitter polls for the last couple of months to decide the order of my recipe posts. All four recipes eventually get posted; the poll only helps me decide the order. If you’d like to vote, please click on this link; pictures of all four candidates are in the next tweet in the thread. I’m only going to go by the results of the Twitter poll because it’s easier to keep track of that way, but you can ask for more information on the dishes here. However, the poll will close at 10.15 am CST tomorrow so you’ll need to respond relatively quickly.
Even though I tell myself every year that I won’t do it, I invariably find myself going in on bottle splits of K&L’s annual year-end parcel of single malt exclusives. My shares of their 2020 exclusives—many of them casks of teaspooned malts—got to me in mid-January and I expect I will review them all over the next month or two or three. Half of them are in the list of potential reviews for this month and the rest will show up next month, whether I get to all of these this month or no. I’ll also be rolling out a very special review feature for those K&L casks—but more on that later this week. On the food front I think I’m going to take a break from the biweekly Indian restaurant review for a few weeks. This month will probably see more Southeast Asian food and a return to St. Paul for Ethiopian and/or barbecue. Oh, and I think I’ll finally put up the next installment of my wrap-up of writing on Indian food. As for cooking, if you’re on Twitter you may want to look out for my next poll later this week to determine the order of the next four recipes. Continue reading
I’ve been writing this blog for almost eight years now. But what have I got for it? Very little. You fuckers have been taking me for granted. I try to put some light into the world and all I get is complaints, threats of lawsuits or just plain indifference. I don’t know why I go on. Actually, that’s not true. I do know why I go on. It’s because there is one group of people who really, completely get me. They understand the value of my work; they offer sharp critique from time to time; and they also offer many products that help—so I am told—with issues of virility, hair-loss and acquisition of female Russian friends. I am referring, of course, to my spammers. I too have been guilty of taking them for granted. No more! While I will be keeping their product offers to myself, I do want to share with you some of the lovely comments they have left for me in just the last week or two. Read them all—you too might learn to value me as you should! Continue reading
Here’s a quick question about a bottle I opened last night: the 2020 release of the Lagavulin Distillers Edition. I didn’t pay close attention at purchase and assumed it was, like all previous releases of the Lagavulin Distillers Edtion, 16 years old. That is to say that it was—as it used to be—the Lagavulin 16 + a few months extra maturation in PX sherry casks. See, for example the three I’ve previously reviewed: the 1991-2007, the 1993-2009 and the 1997-2013; but it’s not just mine: all the listings on Whiskybase for releases prior to 2020 have the same 16 year gap between distillation and release. However, this label lists a 2005 distillation before bottling in 2020. There doesn’t appear to have been a change in the nature of the double maturation—the box still notes that PX sherry casks are used. So why this change? Is this a one-off due to insufficient stocks from 2004? Or is the Lagavulin Distillers Edition going to be younger going forward? For that matter, I suppose, there may have been changes in the ages of Diageo’s other Distillers Editions as well—I confess I haven’t tracked them. If you know more about this please write in to the comments below. Continue reading
In my look back yesterday to 2020 on the blog I noted that there were no whisky reviews among the top 30 most viewed posts of the year. Yet more confirmation surely that at this point far more people are coming here for posts on food than for whisky reviews. Nonetheless, I still think of the blog as a whisky blog first and foremost. And so, as I noted yesterday, there will continue to be three whisky/booze reviews a week as I approach the end of the eighth year of the blog. And, as always, you can help me narrow down the list of likely reviews by nominating to the shortlist for January those on the long list below that catch your eye. There are a few that are almost certainly going to be posted—though I haven’t taken notes on them yet—but mostly it’s an open book at this point. Continue reading
Happy New Year to you all. I hope everyone had a safely podded or distanced passage from 2020 to 2021. And, of course, I hope 2021 will not be like 2020 for too long. Among our New Year’s Day rituals is the eating of tteokguk (the Korean rice cake soup) and dumplings. The making of these is the missus’ department—I participate heavily in the eating—which means I have time this morning for my own annual ritual gazing at my navel or my look back at the past year on the blog.
I have to confess that when the stay at home orders started back in March I wasn’t sure that the blog was going to continue for very much longer. I had a few weeks worth of whisky reviews lined up but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to muster the motivation to keep going once those ran out—and it didn’t seem there’d be any reviews possible of restaurant meals. Of course, as invariably happens, sticking with routines turned out to be a way of managing the uncertain. Continue reading
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