Pandemic Takeout 68: Original Mediterranean Grill (New Brighton, MN)


Despite the name of the restaurant this is actually a review of a Pakistani restaurant.

At the end of my rankings of Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities metro, posted late last year, I’d said that in 2021 I would try to finally get up to the Pakistani restaurants in the North Metro I’d heard tell of. Original Mediterranean Grill is one of them. It is one of a few (several?) Pakistani restaurants in the area that trade on Mediterranean, which is to say Mediterranean Arab branding. This may be a kind of allegory for Pakistani food in most of the US: usually elided by the relentless focus on Indian food but not able yet to proclaim its own name as a marketable category. And so in the Twin Cities—at least—it can be found in a few restaurants whose main hustle is a cuisine the mainstream market can recognize: gyros, shawarma, hummus, falafel etc. Elsewhere on the menu are some Pakistani dishes for those who know to look for them. So it is at Original Mediterranean Grill in New Brighton. Continue reading

Bowmore, Bw1 (Speciality Drinks)


August ended with a peaty whisky (this Ledaig) and September began with another peaty whisky (this Laphroaig). Let’s stay on Islay this week and visit a few other distilleries, so to speak.

First up is this Bowmore from the Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series. Indeed, it’s the very first Bowmore in that series. I’m not sure what number it’s up to now but I’ve previously reviewed the Bw5. As per Whiskybase, this was put together from refill sherry casks from 1994, but as neither piece of information is noted on either the bottle’s label or The Whisky Exchange’s original product listing it’s hard to verify them. I can tell you for sure that it was bottled in 2012, which is when I purchased a bottle for roughly $75 at the then quite brutal, pre-Brexit exchange rate. Since the Elements of Islay bottles are 500 ml that works out to about $112 for a 750 ml equivalent of likely 17-18 yo Bowmore from sherry casks. At the current exchange rate it would have been quite a bit lower. By comparison, the Bw8, said to be 16 years old, is currently available from the Whisky Exchange for £117 ex. vat for a 500 ml. That would be £175 for a 750 ml equivalent or roughly $242 at the current exchange rate. I’m no mathematician but it would appear the price has more than doubled in 9 years. This is why I no longer buy very much whisky. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Bandung (Madison, Wisconsin)


Our first meal in Madison on our brief trip there in August was centered on ramen. Our next stop also deviated from the stereotypical Wisconsin food itinerary. As you might guess from the name of the restaurant in the title of this post, it featured Indonesian food. I should say here that our restaurant selections in Madison were driven entirely by two factors: 1) Were they in fact open (for lunch) or answering their phones? 2.) Did they have outdoor seating that they were actually using. A few of the restaurants recommended to us were not open for lunch; others had no outdoor seating. Bandung was open for lunch and had outdoor seating and so they were right in our sweet spot. But it’s not as though we weren’t interested in it for its own sake. As far as I know we don’t have an Indonesian restaurant in the Twin Cities metro and so we were very glad to give Bandung a go. Continue reading

Laphroaig 16


My last whisky review of August was of a Ledaig. Let’s get September off to a peaty start as well. We’ll stay with the Ls but move from the Isle of Mull to the Isle of Islay for my second review of an officially released Laphroaig in less than two months—and to think people say I review only esoteric whiskies…

Unlike July’s review of the 2009 release of the Triple Wood, this 16 yo is far more current. It was first released as a limited edition travel retail bottle as part of Laphroaig’s 200th anniversary but, as often happens these days, soon became part of Laphroaig’s regular stable. It’s made from whisky matured in ex-bourbon casks, I believe and bottled at 48%. As far as I can make out it goes for about $100 in most markets in the US—though I’ve seen references to a much higher price as well. $100 for a 16 yo at 48% is probably not too outrageous a price in this market (which is not to say it’s a reasonable price) but closer to the $140 I’ve seen mentioned here and there it becomes much harder to support no matter how good the whisky itself is. Speaking of which, let’s get to it. Continue reading

September’s Recipes: A Poll


Yesterday’s look ahead to the coming month on the blog presented the usual long list of whisky reviews and invitation to nominate those you’d particularly like to see reviewed. Here now is the poll to select the four recipes for September. There are six recipes on the poll and you can vote for up to four of them. The top four vote getters will show up on the remaining four Thursdays of the month. In the past—when I did a version of this poll on Twitter and also the last couple of times on the blog—I’ve used the ranking to sequence the posts. But this month I might juggle that depending on the selection. And oh, there’s a twist this month: all the recipes feature eggplant/brinjal. We have been drowning in eggplant from my plot in a local community garden and as a result I’ve been cooking it in all kinds of ways of late. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


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

Pandemic Takeout 67: Krungthep Thai (St. Paul, MN)


Having gone back to Grand Szechuan for our previous pandemic takeout outing it followed naturally that this weekend’s takeout would be Thai. It was tempting to just go back to one of our University Ave. standbys—Bangkok Thai Deli, On’s or Thai Cafe—or to hit up newcomer Basil Cafe again; but in the end we decided to return to Krungthep Thai where we had an excellent meal back in late 2019 and which we’d inexplicably never gone back to. Well, it’s not that inexplicable, I guess—they’re a bit further out for us than the University Ave. stalwarts. Anyway, we did go back to pick up some food and bring it back to eat on our deck with friends. And I am pleased to report it was again an excellent lunch and perhaps the best of our recent takeout Thai meals. Details follow. Continue reading

Ledaig 13, 2007 (SMWS 42.50)


For the last whisky review of the month let’s stick with the SMWS and with peated whisky. We’ll move from Ardmore in the eastern Highlands, however, to Ledaig/Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. In case you’re wondering, the SMWS uses the same code for Tobermory and Ledaig (which is the peated variant of Tobermory). Ledaig is much more heavily peated than Ardmore and far closer in profile to the heavier, phenolic malts of Islay (which Mull is also closer to). Like the last Ledaig I reviewed, one of K&L’s teaspooned casks from 2020, this one is from a refill hogshead. I rather liked that K&L cask, a nice break from most indie Ledaigs that hit the market from sherry casks. This one is 10 years younger, however. Let’s see how much of a difference that makes.

Ledaig 13, 2007 (56.6%; SMWS 42.50; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Very clearly peated Tobermory as the smoke and phenols sit on a big yeasty, bready base. The yeasty tang begins to drift towards lemon as it sits and the smoke expands, getting even more phenolic. Water gives it more “weight”: deeper char and sweeter smoke (pipe tobacco). Continue reading

Gates Bar-B-Q (Kansas City)


Here now is my last meal report from our brief visit to Kansas City in July and quite appropriately it is of a meal eaten at one of the city’s most sanctified barbecue institutions, perhaps second only to Arthur Bryant’s in that sense. I am referring, of course, to Gates Bar-B-Q. It too traces its history back to Henry Perry—the father of Kansas City barbecue and the man whose restaurant evolved into Arthur Bryant’s. The original location of Gates was founded in 1946, with the Gates family partnering with another of Perry’s employees/students, Arthur Pinkard. Unlike Arthur Bryant’s, Gates is still black-owned and indeed still in the Gates family. That original location, at 18th and Vine, does not appear to still be extant. Gates does have six locations in the Kansas City metro now. Of those, we dined at the large restaurant on Emanuel Cleaver Blvd., selecting it for its proximity both to the Nelson-Atkins Museum, which was our previous port of call and to access to the highway back to Minnesota, which would be our next. It was a fine meal and a fine farewell to Kansas City. Continue reading

Strings Ramen (Madison, Wisconsin)


Here begins my series of reports on our meals in Madison a few weeks ago.

As I said last week, our trip to Madison was in many ways an inverse of our trip to Kansas City in July. The earlier trip was centered on the eating of barbecue and we didn’t find Kansas City to be so very compelling as a family destination beyond that. Madison on the other hand didn’t hold very particular food significance for us but there was a lot of outdoor stuff for us to do or there would have been (even more) if not for the weather. However, armed with recommendations from friends who know the city very well and some people who’ve lived there a while, we ate quite well anyway. That said, the list of places we ate at might possibly strike some people as surprising and perhaps not in line with what comes to mind when you think of food in Wisconsin. For example, our first meal there—a few hours after arrival—comprised ramen, at Strings Ramen, a hop, skip and a jump from our hotel. Continue reading

Ardmore 22, 1997 (SMWS 66.174)


And here to close out Ardmore 1997 week is a 22 yo. Will it be closer to Monday’s 20 yo whose combination of fruit and smoke I really, really liked or to Wednesday’s 21 yo whose more austere charms I only really liked? I’ll find out soon. Oh yes, the SMWS’s panel named this one “A Vintage Dinner Suit” which probably means something.

Ardmore 22, 1997 (56.1%; SMWS 66.174; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: A big zesty hit of lime off the top, a lime that has been charred heavily. The lime is sweeter on the second sniff and then muskier fruit begins to emerge (pineapple, a hint of passionfruit). The char burns off and now there’s more of a mineral note; the lime turns to citronella. As it sits the char begins to come back though it’s more ashy now; some cream too. Water emphasizes the fruit and the cream—really very nice now. Continue reading

Chicken Curry with Pepper, Star Anise and Vinegar


Here at the My Annoying Opinions haveli we eat a lot of chicken curry. To broaden the kids’ horizons past their favourite “red curry chicken“, and to keep things interesting for the missus and myself as well, I am constantly tinkering with spice blends and souring agents. I improvised this version in early July and as the missus deemed it worthy of addition to the rotation, I wrote down what I did. Accordingly, I am able to present it to you as well to try.

I use Kashmiri chillies here for colour, black peppercorns for the heat and Sichuan peppercorn to accentuate the black peppercorn’s bite. Star anise adds a nice brightness as well around the edges. In place of tomatoes or tamarind I use Chinkiang black vinegar as the souring agent (if you don’t have any you can use balsamic or sherry vinegar). Give it a go: you might like it a lot as well. Continue reading

Ardmore 21, 1997 (SMWS 66.146)


Ardmore 1997 week continues with another refill bourbon hogshead bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I really liked Monday’s 20 yo which displayed a lovely mix of rich fruit, char and mineral notes. Will this one, which is a year older, be as good or better? Let’s see.

Ardmore 21, 1997 (51.9%; SMWS 66.146; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Comes in with more lime and less mineral peat than the 21 yo and there’s some cream here as well; some ham brine too. As it sits the mineral note expands and it gets more peppery; the fruit is less expansive though than in the younger cask. With time muskier fruit begins to peep out. Let’s see if water releases it more fully. Well, the citrus expands and turns to citronella but the hints of muskier fruit remain just that. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 66: Grand Szechuan (Bloomington, MN)


It’s been just about a month since my last pandemic takeout report. At the time of that post (a brief write-up of takeout from Matt’s Bar) I’d begun to think we were done with mostly takeout meals. We ate dinner in at Tenant, we ate in at all our meals in Kansas City, and we came back to the Twin Cities and ate in at Estelle. The coda to that Estelle meal, however, was a call from the restaurant the next day alerting us that a server had tested positive for covid and that they’d be shutting down for a few days as a result. A bad omen it seemed like and so it proved to be. With the rapid spread of the delta variant we’ve gone back to our previous cautious posture. We did not eat in anywhere in Madison and are unlikely to be eating in anywhere until either the numbers approve or vaccines are approved for <12 yos. We’re happy to eat at places with outdoor seating (see Taco Madre) and we’re happy to bring food back to eat with cautious and vaccinated friends at home. And that is what we did this past weekend with a a takeout order from Grand Szechuan. Continue reading

Ardmore 20, 1997 (SMWS 66.138)


This will be a week of malts from Ardmore. What’s more they were all distilled in 1997, matured in refill hogsheads, and  bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. And they were bottled in successive years at 20, 21 and 22 years of age. Now I don’t want to pretend that very significant differences can be spotted between malts a year or two apart in age from each other even with all other variables quite similar to each other, but it’s an interesting juxtaposition anyway. What’s certain is that I like Ardmore a lot; it’s always a pleasure to try their mildly-peated, fruity malt, especially when matured in ex-bourbon casks. I’ve reviewed a few SMWS Ardmore releases before, including a couple from 1997. Indeed, I’ve reviewed another 20 yo (which I liked a lot) and another 22 yo (which I also liked a lot). And I’ve also reviewed casks from adjacent years from other bottlers (most of which I also liked a lot). All of this history seems to bode well for this one. Let’s see if it works out that way in practice. Continue reading

Voltaire (Kansas City)


My reports on our meals in Kansas City in the second half of July are almost at an end. Here is an account of our penultimate meal in the city, at Voltaire. This was one of two meals we ate on this trip that were not centered on barbecue and both were positioned to break up the consumption of barbecue so we wouldn’t get stuck in a (smoky) rut or die (at this point we had already eaten smoked meats at Joe’s Kansas City, Arthur Bryant’s and Pigwich). The first of those meals was our dinner the previous night at Waldo Thai Place. Like that restaurant, Voltaire had been recommended by the same friend of a friend on Twitter. And given how much we’d enjoyed our dinner at Waldo Thai we had high hopes of our meal at Voltaire as well. These high hopes were mostly met. Read on for details. Continue reading

Three Days in Madison, Wisconsin


A couple of weeks after our short vacation in Kansas City—the last couple of meal reports from which are still to come—we hit the road again for a brief getaway. Not on Highway 35 this time. Instead we went southeast to Madison, a shorter drive of just about four hours from our house to the hotel we were staying in in downtown Madison. We decided to go with a hotel as we couldn’t really find any viable AirBnB options—and as it turns out it was a lucky break given the weather we experienced on more than one day (more on this below). This trip was in many ways an inverse of our Kansas City trip. Those days were organized largely around the eating of barbecue. Madison has no equivalent local cuisine to tempt us—which is not to say that we ate badly. For us, however, there was a lot more to do in Madison as a family. A quick sketch of the trip follows below and then over the next several weeks I’ll have reports on the meals we did eat. Continue reading

Perhaps Speyside’s Finest/Glenfarclas 28, 1992 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)


When this week’s series of reviews kicked off on Monday I said that it would fulfill three themes: all Hepburn’s Choice whiskies, all K&L exclusive casks, and all Speyside distilleries. I forgot a fourth category they all fulfill: they’re all teaspooned malts (i.e have had a small amount of malt of at least the same age but made at another distillery added to the cask so as to prevent it from being sold as a single malt from the distillery the cask originated in). So was Monday’s Mortlach 13, so was Wednesday’s Craigellachie 14, and so is today’s Glenfarclas which is one year older than the other two put together. Unlike the other two—and most/all of the other teaspooned malts in this round of K&L casks—the variant name used here, “Perhaps Speyside’s Finest” is not a one-off, though it represents a bit of scaling back of the claim. What I mean is that over the years the various Laing outfits have released a number of Glenfarclas casks under the label “Probably Speyside’s Finest”. I’ve reviewed a 22 yo that bore that label. I was not a huge fan of that one but I’ll try not to read too much into the greater uncertainty in this one’s name or in the fact that it’s from a refill barrel and not a sherry cask—I’ve not generally had a lot of good luck with other older Glenfarclas from bourbon casks (see here). Anyway, let’s get into it and see what’s what. Continue reading