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
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