Bay Leaf (Eagan, MN)


My renewed slow-motion survey of Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities metro continues. The last stop was at Persis Biryani Indian Grill in Eagan back in February (see that post to see why I started this survey back up after the disaster that was my previous attempt to explore the local Indian restaurant scene). At the time that I reviewed Persis a number of people online waxed rhapsodic as well about the branch of Bay Leaf in Eagan, about a mile or so from Persis (the original location is in Eden Prairie). It took us a while to get there but last night we finally got there. How was the meal? Read on. Continue reading

Coming Soon…

The best part about June is that Game of Thrones is over and I no longer have any of Diageo’s Game of Thrones malts to review. I liked some of those but, on the whole, the set was underwhelming and I grew to regret having announced that I would review them all. Yes, I know, no one is going to hold me to a contract but I do like to honour the constraints I place on myself. There were a few requests from last month’s long list that I did not get to, and I’ll try my best to cover all of those this month. If there is anything else in addition that grabs your fancy please write in below.

On the food front, I will be done next week with my Los Angeles reviews from our trip in December. I’ll have some Twin Cities reports in the next couple of weeks. After that I’ll be in Toronto and Montreal for a week on work and you can expect some more Canadian entries. Beyond restaurant reviews my long-threatened review of Priya Krishna’s cookbook, Indian (-ish) will be up soon and I hope to get as well to a piece I’ve been mulling for a while on the place of so-called “ethnic” food in the mainstream foodie ecosystem. And maybe I’ll have another recipe or two as well. Continue reading

Raku, Again (Los Angeles, December 2018)


There’s a lot of eating out our boys look forward to when we plan trips to Los Angeles—dim sum, Korean barbecue and soups—but on this trip for the first time there was a specific restaurant they wanted us to return to: Raku. They didn’t remember its name from our lunch in late 2017 but they were clear that they wanted to go back to what the older brat remembered as “the Japanese place with the grilled stuff” and the younger one as “the awesome restaurant”. Luckily, it was near the top of our lists as well and we hit them up for our first family meal out after I got to L.A from Delhi, on our way to the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Continue reading

Kilkerran, Heavily Peated, Batch No. 1


On Tuesday I reviewed the 2019 release of the Springbank 21. Here now is another recent Campbeltown release: a new NAS heavily peated whisky from Kilkerran. I don’t really pay attention to whisky news anymore and so I had no idea that this had been in the works. Like most optimistic idiots I’d assumed that once Kilkerran aged their stocks up they’d be putting out whiskies with age statements. And given how good the 2016 release of the Kilkerran 12 was I’d assumed they were just continuing on that path. But here’s a heavily peated NAS release. What is the impetus for this? To capture some more of the heavily peated market? Doesn’t the NAS Longrow already aim to do that for the group? I do hope they’re not going to do a Kilchoman-like pivot to a series of NAS malts. They put out an 8 yo at cask strength not too long ago; I’m assuming this one is a year or two younger than that. And that one I thought was rather unremarkable. That doesn’t seem to bode well for this. But the proof will be in the glass. Let’s see. Continue reading

Saint Dinette (St. Paul, MN)


St. Dinette opened in St. Paul’s Lowertown almost exactly four years ago. They immediately got a lot of good local press. Rick Nelson of the Star Tribune gave them 3.5/4 stars and that was more or less representative of the local acclaim. The restaurant’s pedigree was established—-opened by the proprietor of St. Paul’s The Strip Club (now closed) and featuring a chef and general manager from local legend, La Belle Vie. Even though our own opinion of La Belle Vie diverged dramatically from those of many people in the area (our last meal there was eaten before I started the blog), we were intrigued by Saint Dinette. In the early going, however, they did not take reservations and this was a big problem for us as our children were (and still are) young and it’s hard to do the babysitter thing not knowing how long you’re going to be away (keep in mind that any Twin Cities meal includes a two hour round trip for us). At some point, however, Saint Dinette started taking reservations and so we put them back on our list. And last weekend we finally made it there with four friends who’ve joined us at a number of other meals. What did we find? Read on. Continue reading

Springbank 21, 2019 Release


I am a big fan of the whiskies made at the Springbank distillery but not always a fan of their pricing, especially in the US. On the one hand the price of the 10 yo has remained constant for a long time (and it offers great value) and the 15 yo too—at this point anyway—remains reasonably priced for the age (and also very good). But after that the prices begin to go through the roof. The 18 yo is very expensive and the 21 yo even more so still. The lowest price currently shown for it in the US on Winesearcher is $350 (before tax) and there are stores charging north of $500 for it. As far as I can make out the justification for this is that it is not made in very large quantities and Springbank is a cult distillery. Certainly, while the only other Springbank 21 I’ve had was very good (the 2013 release) it did not remotely justify the price being asked for it then (which was about the same as the current price). Will this 2019 version be a lot better? I’m not sure but I’m curious to see what a Springbank from a combination of rum and port casks—which is what this is—is like. I’ve had rum cask Springbank and port cask Springbank and neither made me wish for more of those over their regular bourbon and sherry offerings. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading

Vallein Tercinier, Petite Champagne, Rue 71

I have Sku to blame for my sudden interest in cognac. He’s been going on about brandy in general for a good while now—you may remember that in 2013 he’d proclaimed the Golden Age of Brandy. I took that as a sign and a couple of months later promptly started this whisky blog (well, it used to be a whisky blog then). I ignored the whole brandy thing for a while till the bastard got me into first calvados and then armagnac. And then this past winter, when we met in Los Angeles, he passed me a bunch of samples, which included the Vallein Tercinier, Lot 70. As you may recall, I liked that one a lot. Enough to grab a couple of bottles. And enough in fact to look more fully into this cognac thing. One thing led to another and I purchased a few older cognacs and passed samples of the couple I’ve opened so far on to Sku. I was going to ask him what he thought of them but then I thought I’d ask him if he’d be willing to share his notes alongside mine on the blog. He readily agreed—clearly he misses writing reviews. Here then is the first of two cognac reviews that feature my tasting notes and then below them a terse capsule review of the kind we all enjoyed on Sku’s Recent Eats before he shut up shop. Try to control your emotions. Continue reading

What the Actual Fuck? (Covering the Coverage of South Asian Food)


On May 13, 2019 Saveur, a serious food magazine (I mean it’s called Saveur) published the picture at left alongside a recipe for jalebis. As I quipped on Twitter, this picture explains a lot about the state of Indian food coverage in the American media. All of which can be boiled down to one sentence: people do not know what the fuck they are doing but feel very empowered to keep on doing it anyway. The picture accompanies a recipe (adapted from Pushpesh Pant) and both accompany a travel article by one Kiran Mehta on a jalebi vendor in Varanasi, Ram Bhandar. I can only hope that the proprietor of Ram Bhandar has not been shown this picture (and if it turns out that this is a picture of jalebis made at Ram Bhandar then no one should ever eat jalebis at Ram Bhandar). Mehta’s piece fits well in Saveur‘s mall food court model of global food coverage: here’s a random Indian thing next to a random Korean thing next to a random French thing next to a random Amazon thing next to a random Ukrainian thing and so on. It’s all touristic breadth, no depth. Let’s start there and work our way back to Saveur‘s crime against jalebis.  Continue reading

Steamed Fish in Spicy Red Curry


It has been a long time since my last recipe post—almost exactly six months in fact. I imagine you have been subsisting in the interim on water and stale bread, hoping each day that I would bring you something new, never letting disappointment crush you entirely. Good news! Your wait is at an end! Here is a recipe for a very tasty fish dish and you can make it today as long as you have banana leaves on hand. What’s that? You don’t have banana leaves on hand? I don’t know why I bother with you bastard people. Well, I suppose you could get by with parchment paper, or perhaps even foil; but if you have an East Asian market somewhere in your vicinity you should stop reading now and go get some banana leaves and come back and find out what to do with them. And, oh yes, get some fresh fish fillets as well. Continue reading

Shin Sushi (Los Angeles, December 2018)


A visit to Los Angeles for us always means a good sushi dinner. As my readers in the Twin Cities are sick of hearing—and as many are enraged to hear—we have a very low opinion of the sushi options here (including the much-lauded Kado no Mise) and prefer to not eat sushi at all in the Twin Cities. Of course, we have the advantage of being in Los Angeles once or twice a year to visit the missus’ family and so going without is easier with anticipation of much better sushi to come. We’d thought that on this trip we’d eat that much better sushi at Shiki in Beverly Hills. We’d eaten a very good lunch there in 2017 and had been surprised to discover Chef Mori Onodera was then working there. Though he was not working that lunch service he’d invited us to come back and sit with him at dinner on our next trip. This we had planned to do. Alas, in the intervening period Shiki raised their prices through the roof (omakase there is now even more expensive than at Mori, the restaurant that still bears Chef Onodera’s name). So, it was off our list*. We thought of going back to Mori again—always a treat, if a very expensive one. Then I read reports of a new place in Encino, started by a Mori alumnus: Shin Sushi. Almost as good as Mori, sources said, for much less money. That sounded like a good combination to us and so off we went on a Sunday evening in late December. Continue reading

Game of Thrones Whisky: The Night’s Watch (Oban)


You think watching the last season of Game of Thrones was hard? You should have tried watching the last season of Game of Thrones *and* reviewing all eight of Diageo’s Game of Thrones malts. Sure, only a couple have been completely dull but only a couple so far have been better than decent (the Lagavulin and the Clynelish). Nor have very many of the pairings made much sense: House Lannister (built on gold mines) got the smoky Lagavulin while the dragon-riding Targaryens got the Cardhu Gold. The Night’s Watch being assigned Oban makes very little sense as well. The Night’s Watch is at the very north of the known world of Westeros; shouldn’t they have been matched with one of the northernmost distilleries? If you ask me, House Stark should have been given Glen Ord or Teaninich instead of Dalwhinnie (which should have gone to House Tyrell), and the Night’s Watch should have got Clynelish. I’m upset about this because none of it matters. On to the whisky. Continue reading

Game of Thrones Whisky: House Targaryen (Cardhu Gold)


Could it be that the fate of the Breaker of Chains on Game of Thrones was signaled by spirits behemoth, Diageo? You see, as part of their Game of Thrones whisky marketing gimmick they matched House Targaryen with the Cardhu distillery. The natural pairing would have been with the one highly smoky whisky in the lineup; but that Lagavulin was given to House Lannister who really should have been paired with this release of Cardhu Gold. As it happens, House Lannister survived the ending of Game of Thrones while Daenerys Targaryen’s corpse was probably dropped into the sea when Drogon absent-mindedly flexed his claws mid-flight. Her heel turn prior to her demise shocked a lot of people—it had been signaled but not properly developed on the show—but we should have seen it coming, No house is going to rule a continent that has as its namesake whisky an artificially coloured malt from a minor distillery bottled at 40%. Daenerys Targaryen deserved a better arc on Game of Thrones and a better whisky too. All men must die, as that cheerful Valyrian saying goes, but it does not follow that all men must drink mediocre whisky while still among the living. Continue reading

Revival (St. Paul, MN)


Revival opened some years ago in Minneapolis. In a metro area devoid of much by the way of Southern cooking or barbecue it received strong reviews from the get-go. We wanted to go but between our then very young children and their no-reservations policy it never quite worked out—and then they dropped off our radar. But then friends suggested it for a pre-theater matinee lunch in St. Paul last weekend and I remembered that a year or three ago they’d opened a branch in St. Paul. (Since late last year there’s also the counter service Revival Smoked Meats at the Keg & Case complex.) Revival by the way is owned and run by Thomas Boemer and crew, who also operate Corner Table and In Bloom (the high-end anchor of Keg and Case). It’s quite the meaty mini-empire they have in the Cities. Continue reading

Game of Thrones Whisky: House Tully (Glendullan)


So, Game of Thrones is done. No matter how you feel about Daenerys Targaryen, I can’t help feel she deserved to go out better than Roose Bolton. I mean the magic was strong with her: she was able to project her voice so that people hundreds and hundreds of feet away were able to hear her over the neighing of horses. And then she got stabbed by a guy who couldn’t be trusted to take his sword into a guarded cell but could apparently walk up to the queen with multiple stabby weapons with no guards present. Oh yes, SPOILER ALERT!

I was expecting to have the review right after the series finale be of the House Targaryen whisky but I’ve decided instead to go with House Tully, in honour of Erdmure Tully who re-emerged right on cue to be embarrassed again. House Tully is a dull, dull house and fittingly Diageo have matched them with Glendullan, a dull, dull distillery. I know I always say that every distillery is capable of producing great whiskies but I’m not sure anyone has ever had a great Glendullan. It would be a Game of Thrones level shocker if this turned out to be a great one but, alas, it is not. Oh yes, SPOILER ALERT! Continue reading