Thanjai (Montreal)


South Indian food in Montreal? Why not? While associated with cooking in the French idiom, Montreal is home to a large number of restaurants featuring the cuisines of the large number of immigrant communities that can be found in the city. Jewish concerns like Schwartz’s and St. Viateur may be the most famous, having become iconically Montrealer. The Portuguese presence is also long established as are immigrants from Francophone countries such as Haiti and Vietnam. But there are other communities as well—Montreal is home to a dizzying array of languages. On our final full day in the city we spent the morning in conversation with two non-profit groups in the Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood that work with immigrant communities, especially people from lower income brackets. Right next to the building that houses the second group is Thanjai, a restaurant recommended to us for dosas. All 13 of us accordingly descended on them for lunch. Herewith an account of our experience. Continue reading

Caol Ila 10, 2006 (Gordon & MacPhail)


Let’s do another young sherried Caol Ila to start the month and let’s hope I like it better than the other one I reviewed a few months ago. In fact, I really hope I do as I have a full bottle of this on my shelf—I had forgotten that when I acquired this sample. Like that one this is a vatting of four first-fill sherry casks. Will this show more sherry influence than that one did? Let’s see.

Caol Ila 10, 2006 (60.2%; Gordon & MacPhail; first fill sherry casks 306183+4, 306186+7; from a bottle split)

Nose: Slightly rubbery right off the bat and then there’s a fair bit of salt and phenolic peat below it. This is first-fill sherry? The rubber expands on the second sniff. After a bit the rubber begins to subside and sweeter coastal notes begin to develop (kelp, oysters); quite medicinal now (dettol). Water pushes the rubber back almost all the way and pulls out a lot of lemon to go with the salt and the coastal notes (which now include kippers). Another splash and now the rubber is gone and the lemon, salt, disinfectant and oysters have free rein. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


August is here, summer is almost over. It’s going to be a busy month for us, however. We’ll be spending most of the second half of the month on the east coast, visiting first DC and then New York. The agenda is mostly to take the boys to the major museums and other big tourist sites but I’m not averse to checking out a whisky bar or two if the opportunity presents itself. So if you have any recommendations reasonably close to the Convention Center in DC or within easy reach of the Upper Westside in New York, please make them below. Please also, as usual, look at the long list of potential reviews below and nominate to the short list any you’d particularly like to see reviewed. On the food front I will be wrapping up my reports from Canada in June and the North Shore in early July and maybe I’ll have another Twin Cities report or two before we leave town as well. And, who knows, I may even get around to posting my review of Priya Krishna’s Indian(-ish). I checked and I’ve actually been threatening that since May…

Continue reading

On the New (and Old) Curry Denialism or We’re Here, We’re Brown, We Eat Curry, Calm Down!


Two things are seemingly guaranteed in discourse around Indian food in the US. Many non-South Asians will refer to it with the shorthand “curry”, and just as predictably Indian Americans writing about Indian food will periodically rail against this shorthand, sometimes going so far as to issue denials of the very existence of curry. Here, for example, is Madhur Jaffrey in 1989 supplying a Chicago Tribune article with its dramatic title, “Let The Truth Be Known: There Is No ‘Curry’ in India”.  And here now in 2019 is Khushbu Shah with a tweet that reads “Indians don’t eat curry, colonizers eat curry. Never forget.” And these are just two examples. If you do a quick bit of googling of phrases like “curry in India” you’ll find plenty of other denials of its existence. There is only one problem with all of this: it’s not true. Indians cook and eat curries happily and have been doing so for a long time. Why then do some people of Indian origin in the West keep denying the existence of curry as an Indian thing, and also relatedly the existence and use of curry powder in Indian kitchens? Let me try to explain. Continue reading

Caol Ila 33, 1984 (Gordon & MacPhail)


I said I’d close out the month without a mini-theme but I am a liar. Here’s another sherried whisky, albeit twice the age of yesterday’s Mortlach and made from far more heavily peated malt (I’m not sure what Mortlach’s peating levels are). I first tried this at a tasting up in St. Paul last November. That tasting featured a number of very impressive whiskies. I’ve reviewed some of those: the excellent Archives Ben Nevis 27, 1990; the “Speyside Region” 43 from the Whisky Agency; and another excellent old Caol Ila, a 34 yo distilled in 1982 and bottled by Cadenhead. I really liked that Cadenhead’s cask and at the tasting we had some difficulty deciding on which we liked better. As I recall, this one was smokier and heavier. By the way, though when I filled the label I put it down as a 34 yo, this is in fact a 33 yo. I am intrigued to see what I will make of it almost nine months later. I rather expect I will like it quite a bit more than the last sherried Caol Ila from G&M I reviewed. Continue reading

Mortlach 16, 2018 Release


Okay, after a week of bourbons followed by a week of 20+ yo whiskies followed by a week of peated whiskies let’s maybe close out the month with no theme at all. This is the new’ish 16 yo from Mortlach. It’s all a bit hazy now but some years ago Diageo had suddenly put out a range of Mortlachs, including an 18 yo which replaced the old Flora & Fauna 16 yo (reviewed here). The original range was rather overpriced even by Diageo’s enthusiastic standards, especially considering the bottles were 500 ml. This must have been when everyone thought the market for single malt whisky was going to go through the roof in Asia and that the appetite for expensive whisky would be bottomless. Well, that second part isn’t entirely untrue but high prices on that Mortlach  range didn’t quite work out. Apart from the enthusiast crowd no one really had heard of Mortlach and the enthusiast crowd were not enthused by the high prices (£180 for the 18 yo). And then something rather unusual happened: Diageo withdrew that range and in 2018 relaunched the official Mortlach range with new whiskies at far more reasonable prices. This new 16 yo was part of that and was offered at less than half the price of the 18 yo. It’s matured in American and European oak sherry casks, a mix of first and refill. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Lunch at the Naniboujou Lodge (Grand Marais)


The Naniboujou Lodge is located about 15 minutes north of Grand Marais proper. Granted I had not really looked into the North Shore until days before arriving there for the first time earlier this month, but I have to say that I am a bit surprised I had not previously heard of the Naniboujou Lodge. This because it’s a place that might be best described as…unusual. And in the recent/current cultural climate in the US it might also have been expected to have become a bit controversial. But as far as I know, this hasn’t really happened. Now, I’m not wishing controversy on the place or its owners, but when you read up on its history and look at the pictures below of the design of its dining room you might get a sense of why I wouldn’t have been surprised to see it caught up in cultural appropriation discussions. Continue reading

Dim Sum at Rosewood (Toronto)


Here is some better dim sum than last reported on from Minnesota. The dim sum at Rosewood in Toronto was nothing amazing on its own terms but was on a whole other level than that at Mandarin Kitchen which was no good at all. Of course, Toronto is one of the major centers of Chinese immigration and cuisine in North America, and for Cantonese food in particular Vancouver is said by the knowledgable to be the only metro above it. However, the best Chinese food in Toronto is now found not in the city proper but in the suburbs of Scarborough, Markham and Richmond Hill. The old Chinatown is no longer the center of Chinese food in the city. However, my group was staying close to Chinatown and we did not have space in our itinerary for a long round-trip just to eat brunch. And so a couple of us cast about for plausible places in Chinatown and Rosewood showed up on both our radars. Continue reading

Bowmore 18, 1998 (Wemyss Malts)


From a 10 yo Laphroaig to a 12 yo Yoichi to now an 18 yo Bowmore. I’m pretty sure the Yoichi Peaty & Salty had a sherry component but this one I know for certain is from a sherry butt. It was bottled a couple of years ago by Wemyss Malts, aka the other indie bottler who like to give their releases whimsical names. They called this one “Mocha on the Deck”. It was another sample I took with me to Lake Superior with a view to actually drinking it on a deck but which I instead drank inside the cabin while the mosquitoes taunted me from the other side of the window screen.

Sherried Bowmore can be great—I’m thinking in particular of an excellent 18 yo bottled by A.D Rattray almost a decade ago*. But I was not a huge fan of the the last full-on sherried Bowmore I reviewed. That was the official “Dark & Intense“, a 10 yo. I am hoping this will be a lot better. Let’s see if that’s how it works out in reality. Continue reading

Tenant II (Minneapolis)


Tenant opened in the old Piccolo space, just a month or so after that great restaurant closed in the spring of 2017 (though in Minnesota it may still have been winter). We tried to go eat there a few times that first year but it wasn’t until the fall of 2018 that we finally managed it. We really liked that meal and wanted to go back a lot sooner than in another year and a half. Alas, between our schedules, travel and the difficulty of scoring seats at the tiny restaurant it was almost another year before we made it back for our second meal. That was last weekend. We liked this meal even more and I think we are both ready to say that it may in fact now be our favourite and quite likely the best fine dining restaurant in the Twin Cities metro. Depending on your view of fine dining in the Twin Cities you may think this faint or high praise but either way Tenant is very good indeed. And we are already plotting a return in September. Continue reading

Yoichi 12, “Peaty and Salty”


Peat week continues. Yesterday I had Batch 010 of the Laphroaig 10 CS. Today’s malt is 2 years older but was never as easily to hand as any iteration of Laphroaig 10 CS. I could be wrong but I believe this was only ever available at the Yoichi distillery; and as that’s on Hokkaido you’d have to be very dedicated to get to it. I have never been to Japan (except in transit), leave alone to Hokkaido and I did not get this at auction either (which is probably the only other place to find it now). I got it via a sample swap some years ago with a fellow whisky geek who had indeed made the journey to Hokkaido. I believe this and a number of others were made available at the distillery as so-called “key malts”, components that went into Nikka’s signature blends—others included “Sherry & Sweet” and “Woody & Vanilla”. I’ve reviewed a number of the other hard-to-get Yoichis I acquired in that sample swap but somehow forgot all about this one. I took the sample with me to Lake Superior earlier this month. I’d hoped to drink it on the rocks by the lake but the mosquitoes made short work of that fantasy. I drank it inside the cabin instead, looking at the lake through a window. Please construct your own metapor. Continue reading

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 010


I reviewed Batch 009 of the Laphroaig 10 CS in May and really, really liked it (89 pts). I have not had the opportunity to try Batch 008 (which does not seem to be lurking on any local shelves I’ve looked at) but all the signs from Batch 006 onward suggest that the dip in quality at Batch 005 was just a blip. As to whether this is because the distillery is now setting aside particular casks for this release or whether the blip was entirely random, I have no way of knowing. All I can say is that Batch 009 was as good a Laphroaig 10 CS as I’ve had since Batch 001. And I am very pleased to say that Batch 010 keeps that positive momentum going—though I’m only now publishing these notes, I’ve been drinking this bottle down steadily for the last month. I can only hope that the 10 CS will continue to be released, will continue at this level, and will continue to be available in the US (or at least in Minnesota) at very reasonable prices. Now let’s get to the notes. Continue reading

The Crooked Spoon Cafe (Grand Marais, MN)


Back to the North Shore. My previous review of a Grand Marais restaurant really bothered a few people on a North Shore Facebook group. I thought it was a positive review with a couple of caveats but it appears that for some people anything short of a rave qualifies as a pan. One of them went so far as to tell me that I should preface all my reviews with the phrase, “I have no credibility but this is my opinion…” Accordingly, I inform you that I have no credibility but this post contains my opinions of our lunch at the Crooked Spoon Cafe, eaten a couple of days after our lunch at the Angry Trout. Please don’t take it too personally but I liked it.  Continue reading

Quetzal (Toronto)


Back to Toronto. As you probably do not recall, I was there with for a few days with a group of colleagues in June. On the first night the entire group ate a banquet dinner at Crown Princess together. On the second night I ate dinner by myself at Canis. On the third and final night two members of the group joined me for dinner at Quetzal, a modern Mexican restaurant that has garnered strong reviews since its opening last year. I gather that the strongest of the reviews came when the original chefs were on board. Early in 2019, however, there was a parting of the ways over artistic differences and a new regime took charge. I was advised that it was still worth a visit and so I decided to make the reservation. Continue reading