Rezdora (New York, August 2019)


Back to New York. After a run of informal or relatively casual meals, here’s the first fancy’ish restaurant for which we hired a sitter and abandoned the boys to go eat at. (By the way, Manhattan babysitting rates: what the fuck?)

When I was planning our New York eating I asked the brain trust at Mouthfuls to recommend a couple of “fine dining” (whatever that means these days) places in Manhattan where two people could eat well and get out for about $250 all-in. This sounds like a tough proposition in Manhattan but bear in mind that the missus never has more than one drink and I rarely have more than two. A few names came up but after filtering for “sounds interesting to us” and “not difficult to get a table” only two remained: Rezdora and Crown Shy. We ate at both on consecutive nights. Here first is the Rezdora write-up. Continue reading

Longmorn 17, 1996, Cask 72324


In 2013’ish van Wees bottled a number of sherry casks of Longmorn 1996. We didn’t know it then but that was right at the end of the era of reasonable prices for teenaged whiskies. Even with the higher Euro/USD exchange rate of the time these casks went for about $65. That’s for 17 year old sherry cask whisky. Can you imagine such a thing now? Anyway, these casks were very popular—all have very high scores on Whiskybase—but because the whisky world had not gone crazy yet they didn’t all sell out immediately. I purchased a bottle from cask 72315 and my friends Rob and Clara purchased a bottle from cask 72324. They opened theirs right away. I got a sample from their bottle and promptly forgot all about it and my own bottle. Here now more than five years after we purchased our bottles, and in a far less innocent time, is my review of the sample from their bottle. If I like it a lot, as I am expecting to do, I will open my own bottle next month. Continue reading

Chicken Curry with Peanut Butter


I made a somewhat involved chicken curry for a dinner party last week. Made in a Hyderabadi style it involved roasting and then making a paste of sesame and peanuts and various spices. It turned out very well and as we were eating I began to think of a simpler version I could make for more everyday cooking and which might be a little more kid-friendly. This recipe was the result of that thinking. It sits somewhere between that more complex Hyderabadi prep and a “white” chicken prep that one of my aunts is famous for (and which I’ve hybridized before). It involves very few ingredients and only whole spices. And if you have a good not-too chunky peanut butter at hand you’re well past the starting line. Give it a go. It’s very tasty and goes well with rice or parathas—or for that matter you could sop it up with dinner rolls.  Continue reading

Benriach 12, Heredotus Fumosus


I’ve had variable luck with the official Benriachs I’ve recently reviewed. I thought this 29 yo from 1986, peated with an oloroso finish was good but nothing very special. On the other hand, I did not care very much at all for this 18 yo from 1998, which was not peated but had a PX sherry finish applied to it. As it happens, this Benriach 12—which dates from the period when Benriach were issuing whiskies with stupid faux-Latin names—is peated with a PX finish. So, will it fall between the other two or will it go past them and approach the wild glory of the 21 yo Authenticus? Only one way to find out.

By the way, I’ve no memory of how/where I received this sample. Normally, I would have suspected Jordan D. (who has reviewed it) and Michael K (also) of being likely sources, but the ugly scrawl on the label is mine. While I used to save reference samples from my own bottles once upon a time, I’ve never owned a full bottle of this. I think that might indicate that I filled it from a bottle someone brought a couple of years ago to one of my friend Rich’s “sherryfest” tastings in St. Paul. Yes, I know, not a very interesting mystery. Continue reading

El Triunfo, 2019 (Northfield, MN)


I may not have much of a readership on my blog but I also am under no pressure to chase novelty. I am free to return to restaurants, either to check in to see if they’re still as good as they were or to continue to shine a (small) light on deserving places that don’t get much if any attention from the professionals. The latter description fits El Triunfo, the best restaurant in Northfield, MN very well. I’ve reported on them twice before in the last five years but that’s not to say we’ve only eaten there twice in the last five years. They are our go to for all our “oh shit, we haven’t cooked” dinners or weekend lunches and I often stop in for lunch from campus as well. I am glad to report that they’re still going strong—though their menu has shrunk quite a bit since my first report—and that their food is still very tasty. Continue reading

Lheraud Grande Champagne 1976 (Cognac)


Here is the last of my reviews of Lheraud cognacs from the 1970s. The tally between the excellent and the merely very good currently sits at 2:2. I really liked the Fins Bois and the Bons Bois but was not as enthused by the Petite Champagne or the Borderies. Which way will this Grande Champagne take the score? On the one hand, Grande Champagne is said to be the top cru of cognac. On the other hand, even at 25-26 years of age I think this is the youngest of the five bottles and my understanding is that the fruity notes that I prize arise more predictably in cognac with even greater age. That said, the Bons Bois was younger than both the Petite Champagne and the Borderies. And speaking of qualities I prize, please don’t forget that all my brandy reviews are from the perspective of a single malt whisky drinker and particularly a single malt drinker who loves notes of tropical fruit. Other subtleties that may appeal to cognac aficionados may be either lost or wasted on me. With that caveat registered let’s get to it. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


Another month, another look ahead to reviews and such on the blog. As the king of empty promises let me lead by saying that this will DEFINITELY be the month when I will finally get around to that review of Indian-(ish) that I’ve been threatening since May. Look for it any day now or maybe in December. Of 2020. But seriously, I am going to do it: I’ve begun to draft it in my head and only need to find a couple of hours in a row to sit down and type it up. Speaking of finishing things, I posted the last of my DC meal reports last month. I was hoping to get done with the New York reports this month but there are still quite a few of those to go and so they’ll likely trickle into November. They’ll be interspersed with Twin Cities Metro reports as usual and maybe a recipe or two. And, of course, booze. Though I’m not sure if I really have much of a booze following anymore—does anyone still read whisky blogs?—I will be keeping up my usual schedule of three reviews a week: mostly whisky, some brandy.

Continue reading

Bowmore 16, 1996 (SMWS)


A Bowmore to close out the month. I took this sample of a 16 yo bottled by the SMWS with me to our trip to the North Shore in July. But my dreams of drinking it on the deck while listening to Lake Superior crash on the rocks in front of the cabin were dashed or rather punctured by the swarms of mosquitoes that made it all but impossible to be outside the cabin unless covered in deet. I did manage to taste it inside the cabin though. I might not have been able to hear Lake Superior (the screens on the windows sucked and so they had to be kept closed at all times) but I could at least see it. None of this has anything to do with Bowmore really, except that the distillery is also located by the side of a large body of cold water. Anyway, I’ve held on to these notes for a long time for no good reason. So, now that summer is well and truly done in Minnesota and even the mosquitoes are finally on the run, let’s get to it. Continue reading

Gray’s Papaya (New York, August 2019)


On Friday I had a quick report on casual lunch at the Upper Westside location of Luke’s Lobster, an establishment whose proximity to Central Park and the Museum of Natural History I appreciated. Today’s report is of an even more casual lunch at a far more iconic and certainly far cheaper restaurant: Gray’s Papaya. The flagship location at Broadway and 72nd is also easily walkable from the Museum of Natural History, though a bit further than Luke’s Lobster. But a large part of the charm of being in New York is walking the streets and despite the heat and humidity we did not object (we averaged about 6 miles a day over our 10 days). And without making over large claims about the quality of either the hotdogs or the juice I can say that we enjoyed our meal at Gray’s Papaya as well. Herewith a few details. Continue reading

Luke’s Lobster (New York, August 2019)


We stayed on the Upper Westside while in New York last month in no small part because we were going to be spending a lot of time with the boys in the museums and in Central Park. For food-obsessed people like us, however, this presents some challenges as both the UWS and the UES are relative interesting food deserts, especially in close proximity to the big museums. On our first full day, however, we had a nice casual lunch at the UWS outpost of Luke’s Lobster, a chain with locations all over Manhattan and other places on the East Coast as well Las Vegas, San Francisco, Japan and Taiwan. Herewith a brief report. Continue reading

Lheraud Bons Bois 1976-2004 (Cognac)


On Monday I reviewed an American brandy (the Butchertown from Copper & Kings). Today I have a French brandy, to be specific a cognac. To be even more specific, this is a cognac made by the house of Lheraud in 1976 and bottled in 2004. I’ve previously reviewed a few other Lherauds from 1970s, a Fins Bois 1970, a Petite Champagne 1973 and a Borderies 1975. I thought the Fins Bois was dynamite but was not quite as impressed by the other two. I’m hoping this one from the Bons Bois region will move my Lheraud experience back in an upward trajectory. Let’s get right to it.

Lheraud Bons Bois 1976-2004 (46%; Cognac; from a bottle split)

Nose: A lovely fruity nose with mango, passionfruit and guava plus some polished oak forming a nice frame behind the fruit. On the second and third sniff the oak expands a bit but it’s all still in very nice balance. Water pushes the oak back a bit and makes the fruit richer/darker (think mango leather rather than mango). Continue reading

In Bloom, Again (St. Paul, MN)


We really enjoyed our dinner at In Bloom this past March and had been talking about going back ever since. Well, it took six months but we finally kept our promise to ourselves. We had dinner there again this past Saturday with a few friends, two of whom had been with us at that first dinner. I was curious to see how the restaurant is doing. The current menu on their website is quite pared down from what we saw in March and I noticed there was absolutely no game on it. I had been under the impression that game was part of their signature—and I’ll admit that part of my strong desire to return was due to having missed out on the roasted leg of venison in March. I hoped therefore that it, and perhaps other game dishes, might make an appearance as specials. Well, it turned out that there were some deviations from the website menu at the restaurant but there was no game of any kind and indeed no specials. It was a fine meal anyway. Details follow. Continue reading

Brown Sweetness Vol. 1: Bottling a Private Barrel of Knob Creek


As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, I run a small whisky tasting group in our town. We’ve been meeting for near-monthly tastings for going on a decade now. Our focus is almost entirely on single malt whisky but from time to time we have been known to drink bourbon as well. For a while now I’ve harboured a fantasy of bottling a private cask of single malt whisky for our group. Alas, living in the U.S it is all but impossible to do this. I mean, you could, but getting the bottles to the US legally would be difficult to say the least, and the cost would be prohibitive. However, bottling a private barrel of bourbon is not as much of a challenge. That’s not to say it’s easy. Private citizens cannot buy directly from distilleries here; so you have to work through a store that has a private barrel program of their own and is willing to assist you. If you know such a store and if you have enough takers, you are in business. I eventually gave up my single malt cask fantasy and realized that I might know such a store*. Herewith the saga of actually getting to the point of writing this post. Continue reading

Copper & Kings, Butchertown Brandy


About four years ago, Sku sent me a sample of an American brandy named Butchertown by a new Kentucky-based craft outfit named Copper & Kings. The distillery was being hyped at the time by David Driscoll at the K&L blog (remember him? I wonder if he’s helped cure cancer yet) and that was good enough reason for many to be skeptical. Then Sku gave it a very strong review, which led me to open and taste my sample. I remember finding it interesting but nothing so very special but as I was not reviewing brandy at the time, I didn’t bother taking notes. I did, however, mention in the comments on Sku’s blog that I had found a strong anise note in the brandy and this led to the proprietor of Copper & Kings becoming very excited. Not very surprising behaviour perhaps from one who apparently plays loud rock music to his casks. Speaking of “his casks”, Butchertown is sourced brandy, not distilled by Copper & Kings. They only started distilling their own brandy in 2014—I assume some of it will come online soon. Continue reading