June 30, 2010

Forty again

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I'm in Taipei today, spending my fortieth lunar birthday with the parental units.  The folks requested for a return to Paris 1930, our usual venue for these celebrations.  I, of course, had no complaints.

When we first arrived, the bottle I prepared was a little too warm, so Rolf arranged for it to be chilled.  Meanwhile he arranged for us to start with a glass of 2006 Schlumberger Riesling Les Princes Abbés.  This was not bad at all... Nose of minerals, plastic, a little ripe and slightly sweet on the nose, floral and fragrant, eventually some petrol came out, along with something sweet and tropical, and finally some orange blossom.  Very balanced on the palate.

The amuse bouche consisted of a piece of parma ham and a lump of melon gelée, along with a tiny slice of gherkin.  Somehow I thought the gelée tasted a little weird...almost artificial.

Foie gras torchon, apricot coulis, ginger, edible flower, served with a warm brioche - this was just about the thinnest slice of foie gras torchon or terrine I've ever had... but it was pretty tasty!  A sprinkle of salt really brought out the flavors.  Combining the foie with the apricot coulis or the pickled ginger made it very interesting.

Pan-fried Hokkaido scallop and sea urchin, tapioca pearls, wild mushrooms, chicken jus - I thought the scallop was a little dry, making it a little too springy on the bite.  The bahun uni (馬糞雲丹) had pretty strong flavors and kinda overpowered the scallop.  I thought the gold foil on top was totally unnecessary, though it seems like this stuff is back in fashion...  But the interesting part of the dish was not the prima donnas but the chorus!  The little tapioca pearls - I jokingly called them sago rice (西米露) - reminded me of Thomas Keller's famous oysters and pearls.  The chicken jus had just enough fragrant pepper to make it smell wonderful, but was totally undetectable on the palate.

Smoked halibut on a Jerusalem artichoke purée, avruga caviar cream, caper berry - this was also pretty yummy.  I do like halibut, even though it's not considered a "premium" fish.  The stuff that the fish sat on, though, was more interesting.  The capers provided the right amount of acidity to counter balance the cream, as well as the crunchy texture along with kidney beans, peas and pearls made from turnip.

Parmentier of confit duck leg, in truffle sauce, mixed greens - wow!  This was soooo delicious!  The perfume of the black truffle hits you immediately, and I took a spoon and mixed up the ingredients, letting the jus of the duck blend with the potato...  The duck was pretty tender, and very tasty.  I thought the combination was just perfect.

Roasted lamb tenderloin, mint jus, citrus and herbs couscous - this was probably the weakest course of the menu, although there was nothing wrong with the execution.  I like my lamb fatty and I could barely taste the real flavors here.  The pairing with couscous was nice, though.

The dessert was a passion fruit concoction, which I guess was right up dad's alley.  Mom got something different entirely - vanilla soufflé.  Rolf remembered that mom loves her soufflés so he took the liberty of changing her dessert.  Now that's what I call service, and this is why we keep coming back here!

In keeping with tradition, I opened a bottle of 1970 Dom Pérignon tonight.  What a beautiful wine this was!  Loads of caramel, marmalade, apricot, preserved salty plum (話梅), toasty and a little smoky, with even a hint of coffee.  Later on honey, preserved orange rind (陳皮), and mushrooms.  After 3 hours, the finish turned a little weird and almost tasted a little like bleach.  Hmmm...  But the nose was just fabulous, and kept on giving.

I ran into Jeremy, my old colleague, who was dining here for the first time with his wife.  I shared some of the Champagne with them on this happy occasion.  Hopefully they liked it...

I was a little full to take in the chocolate cake they made for me, so I had it packed up to go.  Guess that will be my breakfast tomorrow...

Mom was more than happy to recount the events on that fateful evening 40 years ago, and included details which I had never heard before.  I guess the manner of my arrival kinda surprised everyone, and I just couldn't wait to pop into this world!  After all the cool adventures of the last 40 years, I guess I can understand my eagerness back then.  Let's hope there are plenty more advntures coming my way...

June 28, 2010

The culturally insensitive American and the new Middle East

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I finally got around to watching Sex and the City 2 this past weekend.  I have no issues with admitting that for years, I was an ardent fan of the TV series.  I liked the fashion, although sometimes it got to be a little too much.  I thought it was great that women could get past 30, be single and independent. 

While I found the movie to be very entertaining, this time Samantha really got on my nerves.  For years I'd been a big supporter of this successful career woman who doesn't take no for an answer and flies in the face of convention.  Not this time.

Samantha was the stereotype of the culturally insensitive American.  Loud and brash, they walk around the world expecting everyone else to speak English, mainly because it's the only language that they themselves are able to speak.  They don't bother to study the local customs or language, and feel that they can do as they please anywhere.  While I haven't met many of these people in real life, especially in recent years as I tend not to move in those circles, anecdotal evidence suggests that they do exist.

I may not speak the language of every country I visit, but I take pride in the homework I do on the customs and culture of the people of those nations.  I dress modestly when I visit temples around the world.  I take care to point the soles of my feet away from people in Thailand, and I don't pat children on the head.  I don't extend my left hand to greet others while in Muslim countries, and PDA is the furthest on my mind.

I'm not sure what kind of message the writers were trying to send the audience.  For me, I always knew that while the Middle East has "modernized" over the last few years at a breakneck pace, it doesn't mean that the people have thrown away their culture or morals.  So while Samantha may scream "The new Middle East, my ass!" I would attribute her mistake as a combination of arrogance and naïveté.

One should always be aware of the legal and moral boundaries wherever one goes, and cross them at one's peril.  I have zero sympathy for people who cross the line, plead innocence, then decry the local laws as being "barbaric" and "outdated".  I always thought Michael Fay deserved the caning he got, and that Bill Clinton was wrong to plead for mercy.  Same with drug traffickers who got caught and were hung in Malaysia.

I hope that while the audience got a few good laughs at Samantha's antics, it also served to remind them how not to behave.  It really doesn't pay to act insensitively in foreign countries, as it could only ruin what would otherwise be a pleasant experience.  Next time you're in a country like France, instead of hollering in English, try a couple words of your broken French.  My guess is that you'll find a much warmer reception than you were expecting...

June 26, 2010

The last of the birthday meals...perhaps

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It's T+4 and I'm still having birthday-related meals.  A couple of friends took me out to lunch at Golden Leaf (金葉庭), and were kind enough to pop open a bottle over this relaxing lunch.

The first item to arrive was the char siu filled pineapple bun (菠蘿叉燒包).  These were good but they were pretty huge... not exactly what you'd want as the first thing to take in.  There were a few more dim sum items, including some steamed scallop dumplings (帶子餃) which basically fell apart as I tried to pick them up.

We also took 2 pan-fried pigeons (炸乳鴿), which were done pretty well.  The skin was very crispy, and inside there was still a little bit of the oil from the pigeon fat.  There were also some veggies and pan-fried radish cake (蘿蔔糕), but the radish cake was a little too thick and mushy for my taste, in spite of the generous topping of pork floss and dried egg yolk.

My friend generously shared a bottle of 2000 François Mikulski Meursault Les Poruzots.  Lots of toast, minerals, popcorn and lemon.  Very nice.

After watching a movie in the afternoon, I traveled to the home of another friend for dinner.  I arrived a little later than expected, but fortunately the two little kiddies waited up to sing me "Happy Birthday".  I also received a birthday card from the kiddies, which was pretty cute.

Dinner in this household is always a simple affair, but always excellent.  We had some San Daniele ham with a flute of 1996 Dom Perignon.  The wine was very nice.  Surprisingly I could taste a little age on the palate, as it was very smooth and a little ripe.

We moved to the table and had some wonderful caprese.  Lots of ripe cherry tomatoes here, along with some fragrant basil and very creamy burrata.  The vinaigrette dressing was simply delicious, and made with aged balsamic.

I was a little disappointed in the 2000 Bouchard Corton-Charlemagne.  There were subtle notes of toast and roasted corn, with some ripeness and sweetness on the palate.  But it was nothing like the bottle I had a few months ago, which was purchased at the same time as this one.

Our hosts had prepared a lot of fettuccine for the veal slow-cooked in red wine sauce.  It was wonderful as always, and did kinda go together with the bottle of 1995 Remírez de Ganuza Gran Reserva I brought.  It was very smoky, a little alcoholic on the nose, with sweet fruit, mint and pine needle.  I would never have guessed this was Tempranillo...  I actually carried this bottle back from the winery, which I visited on the trip we did together a few years ago.

It was a very good evening, finished with some of the low-fat, low-sugar birthday cake my friends baked me.  That was good news, because I really couldn't eat any more food.  It's been a pretty good week, but the eating has gotta stop...

June 25, 2010

Party animals unleashed

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I was invited to dinner hosted by a friend in honor of a couple of visiting pastry chefs, one of them from a 3-star restaurant in New York.  Naturally it was a gathering of foodies, including - according to the hostess - "the person who can make or break a restaurant in Hong Kong".  There were 3 professional writers, 2 bloggers and 3 chefs - a tough crowd.

So I obligingly dragged my behind back to Fook Lam Moon (福臨門)...again.  The menu had been put together by the two siblings from the second generation who are currently managing the restaurant.

The appetizers consisted of fried pomfret (炸鯧魚), grilled chicken liver (燒雞肝), pig's ear terrine (千層峰) and deep-fried pork neck (椒鹽肉根).  Honestly, I didn't really care for the pomfret...these tiny slivers were just miles away from the whole fish that I'd normally have.  The liver was pretty good, though, and I especially liked the sweet, honeyed sauce. The terrine and pork neck were decent.

The roast suckling pig (大紅片皮乳豬) was up next.  While the skin was as crispy as ever, I thought the pig was a little over-roasted.  The leg that I was gnawing on was definitely a little too charred for my taste.

Conch and chicken feet soup with Chinese yam and wolfberries (淮杞鳳爪燉螺頭湯) - same as it ever was.  Good stuff to cool down my overheated body...

Stir-fried shredded soft-shelled turtle with chinese pickles (炸菜絲炒水魚絲) - this was not bad.  You can't really tell it's soft-shelled turtle... and the shredded pickles (榨菜) and chili really made the dish.

Deep fried live groupa fillet topped with fresh crab and sweet corn (蟹肉粟米扒斑塊) - before we arrived, I had joked about this dish being very cha chaan teng (茶餐廳).  The execution here, of course, was better.  The fillets were nice and crispy, and tasted pretty good.  But I can't shake that feeling about it being the same as what I'd have in a local cafe...

Braised pomelo skin with dried shrimp roe accompanied with chinese mustard green (蝦子柚皮拌芥胆) - not bad, but I found the flavors a little weak... the pomelo skin was simply soaked in too much liquid.

Braised duck with summer baby ginger (子薑炆鴨) - our hostess tried to introduce the dish to her guests, but misunderstood and Cantonese and got confused between "napkin (紙巾)" and "baby ginger (子薑)"... which made for a good laugh.  The duck was not bad, but the baby ginger was pretty nice.

Steamed rice wrapped in lotus leaf (鮮荷葉飯) - a very nice and fragrant way to finish.

Then came the desserts:  deep-fried squares with walnuts (合桃馬仔), glutinous rice balls steamed in apple leaves (豆沙蘋葉角), deep-fried glutinous rice puff (煎堆) and walnut cream (杏仁茶).  The highlight was without a doubt the puffs... they were so perfectly round, and because the layer was thick enough, did not collapse under their own weight as the air inside cooled.  They were also really fragrant... probably the best I've ever had.

I always knew this was not a drinking crowd, so I was pretty reserved when it came to bringing alcohol.  We started with a bottle of 2003 Moët et Chandon Grand Vintage from a friend, then moved on to another bottle of Moët taken from the restaurant.

We then opened the magnum of 1996 Hugel Riesling Vendage Tardive I brought.  Pretty classic Riesling... lots of plastic, floral (osmanthus?) notes, sweet, orange and honey.  Sweet on the palate thanks to this being a late harvest wine.

There was also a bottle of Oka Ichirin (桜華一輪), a very nice daiginjo sake (大吟醸酒).  This offering from Sakura Masamune (櫻正宗) came with a seimaibuai (精米歩合) of only 37%, and was pretty fragrant and slightly dry and spicy finish, despite the slight sweetness mid-palate.

We were all pretty full and getting a little high... and decided to adjourn to a Japanese karaoke lounge for some fun.  What I witnessed in the room afterwards can only be described as the unleashing of a bunch of party animals... but that's another story.

June 24, 2010

Two down, two more to go

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The birthday celebration continues... and I got together with some of the boys for dinner at Cipriani.  Four of us are hitting 40 this year, with another old man turning 50...  It's a big year for birthday celebrations, and they were kind enough to buy me dinner.

I brought a magnum of 1970 Bollinger R.D. for the occasion.  This has got to be the freshest, most vibrant example of Champagne from this vintage that I've ever tasted... the reason being very obvious once you remember that this is an RD - "recently disgorged".  There were lots of bubbles still... Nose of salty plum... you can smell the acidity and the saltiness.  Caramelized with peach notes.  A little acidic on the palate with some orange marmalade on the finish.  After an hour, the wine was really beautiful and a little toasty on the nose.

I saw tiger prawns wrapped with lardo di Collonata and immediately knew that this was the dish I wanted.  Anything with lardo is bound to be good.  They pan-fried the prawns until the lardo became crispy, and honestly a little more salty than I'd like, but the prawns were very, very delicious.  The arugula was a surprising touch. 

I reverted to my old standby yet again... and got with baked tagliolini with ham but with spinach tagliolini this time.  It's been a while since my last visit, and how I have missed this wonderful dish!  Impeccable execution on a simple and straightforward pasta.

The other wine I brought was a magnum of 1998 Chateau Montelena.  This wine is still very young, and it would have been better if I aged it for another 10 years...  But it was very enjoyable.  Nose of mint, pine needle, a bit smoky, ripe and sweet fruit with cedar.  I could still feel the sharpness of the alcohol.  Full-bodied and concentrated, but the tannins have started to soften so it was actually pretty smooth on the palate.

For dessert I once again reverted to the usual, ordering the vanilla meringue cake.  Can never go wrong with this...

'Twas a good evening... Two more 40th to go this year, and of course there's that big five-O coming up...

June 22, 2010

Four sheets

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Today was the big day, and while I got lots of heart-warming birthday wishes, a few people seemed intent on making an issue about my age...  I was ambushed in the office by a few of my friends, including a three-year-old who sang "Happy Birthday" to me.  I'd already gotten a call while having breakfast, when an 18th-month-old sang "Happy Birthday" over the phone...  What does it mean when your friends' kids are now the ones doing the singing?

Dinner was celebrated with Tigger, Piglet and co.  I was secretly hoping to go back to Pierre, but we ended up at Otto e Mezzo.  Nevertheless, I was looking forward to more of Bombana's yummy cuisine, since my previous samplings ended up with smiles all around. 

My first course was risotto with mushrooms and beef tongue.  This was perfectly al dente, with a nice blend of mushrooms, creamy but not too rich and heavy... I was surprised at the cube of beef tongue, though... but it was so soft and tender.  Now, if they had given us two (or maybe three) cubes... that would really make my day.

I debated with myself about having the same dish again, but in the end I chose to have the Colorado rack of lamb again.  It was such a mind-blowing experience that I wanted to do it again.  And I was not disappointed on my birthday.  Two smaller pieces were served tonight, but still just as tender and juicy.  I used my knife to play with it, showing the others how soft and wobbly it was... only to get scolded for playing with my food at my age...  The fat was very, very yummy...and oh-so-lightly charred to impart the right amount of flavor.  I wasted no time in cutting off all the meat, then picked the bones up to strip them clean with my teeth per SOP.  I couldn't be happier.

Of course Tigger got me a cake on my birthday.  Yes, it had to be peach.  And yes, he got it from the Mandarin Cake Shop.  The boy is predictable... The whipped cream was very nice, but the cake itself was a little rough in terms of texture... and the peaches were not fully ripe.  But it's still a very nice birthday cake.

As is traditional, we drank a bottle of wine from my vintage.  My last bottle of 1970 Latour drank pretty well.  It was so classic... smoke, spicy, peppery and minty on the nose.  Actually spicy on the palate, too, with a very long finish.  Latour is Tigger's favorite wine, and I hope he liked this bottle...

A very nice way to spend my birthday...  Thanks to everyone who showed me some love today...and there were many of you.

June 21, 2010

My last night as a thirtysomething

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Today is the last day in my life with a three-handle to my age. It was also my turn to host the MNSC dinner, and I finally got a chance to open up some of the nice wines that I'd been saving up for this occasion.  But the day started off badly... both of the female guests for dinner - within minutes of each other - informed me of their illness from recent travels and bailed out of dinner.  That left me with a party of all guys, and once again it was gonna be a sausage party...

We returned to Caprice after a three-week absence.  The restaurant staff were on their toes tonight as it was the first day for the new menu.  Needless to say I was well taken care of by the team.  Many thanks to Vincent and Sebastien for setting up the menu to match the wines, and of course to Jeremy and the entire staff.

I picked a bottle of 1991 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses from the wine list to start us off.  This was an amazingly beautiful Champagne... Nose was very sweet, with lots of caramel, honey, a bit of citrus fruits, nutty and a little metallic. 

The amuse bouche was a trio of crispy toast with melon, deep-fried raviolo with scallop and cream, and finally a very yummy tomato granité with aubergine purée.

Petits Gris snails fricassée, Japanese black garlic emulsion and parsley coulis - pretty nice... and I liked the fact that there was a mix of textures here. 

1970 Heitz Martha's Vineyard - mint, a little oxidized, prunes, a little pine needle and definitely soy sauce.  I served it at another MNSC tasting 3 years ago, and that bottle also drank pretty well.  This was part of the Californian contingent at the now infamous 1976 "Judgement of Paris". 92 points.

1970 Chapoutier Hermitage - nose was clearly oxidized, with orange and sweetness.  A little flat on the palate.  88 points.

Steam duck foie gras, saffron fennel, liquorice, orange blossom foam - always interesting to have steamed foie... as it ends up being very soft and tender.  The orange blossom foam on top was pretty nice.

1970 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle - mint, a little green and vegetal, followed by sweetness, smoke and a little brett.  Even though I knew which wines were in each pair, I actually thought this was the Petrus... 95 points.

1970 Petrus - nose was a little stewed, ripe, smoky, really sweet with honey, syrupy and cotton candy, later on orange, coconut butter, mushroom and wet sous bois.  Very smooth on the palate.  A beautiful wine.  97 points.

Suckling pig rack, carbonara conchiglie and fondant zucchini in sage jus - the suckling pig was just soooo tender... but unfortunately I am not a fan of herbs like sage, so this does not get a "two thumbs up" from me.  I want the full flavor of the pig!  The fondant was very nice, and I liked the conchiglie, too. 

1990 Vogüé Musigny Vieilles Vignes - mint, sweet fruit, some oxidation, concentrated and ripe.  93 points. 

1990 DRC Echezeaux - wow! Nose was explosive, with lots of smoke and toasted/grilled corn on top of the core of sweet fruit.  95 points.

Roasted Racan pigeon, eggplant caviar and morel mushrooms in smoked jus - I really loved this... the smoked jus made the dish for me, and of course I just love roast pigeon, and the morels... yum!  Couldn't resist grabbing the bones with my hands and stripped them bare.

1990 Chave Hermitage - very farmy, with lots of bacon fat, a little orange and even a hint of floral notes.  A beautiful wine.  95 points.

1990 Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon - I have never tasted a bottle of Le Pavillon that I liked, and all of those bottles have carried the "RP 100" designation.  This bottle was no exception.  Initially I just couldn't get anything out of the nose, except a hint of alcohol and a little brett.  Am I genetically wired to dislike Le Pavillon?  Perhaps.  But one man's junk is another man's treasure... My least favorite wine of the evening turned out to be the favorite wine for Mr. Pineapple.  Go figure...  89 points.

Covaillon melon, biscuit de Gêne and aromatic mint cream - very refreshing to have a cold dessert at the end of the evening, and I do love melon... Interesting combination of textures, too.

It was a very enjoyable evening, at least for me.  I'm glad that the MNSC boys were there to share the evening with me.

June 20, 2010

A fragrant finish

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I was dragged coerced invited to dim sum today at Man Wah (文華廳).  It's Father's Day and there were two fathers-to-be... one who is actually going to be a father soon, and the other being me as the godfather-to-be.  For some reason, someone keeps trying to prove to me that Man Wah is actually a good place for Cantonese food... and time and again I find something really wrong and unforgivable with the place.  I wouldn't presume to think of myself as an expert on Cantonese food, but the fact that this was only my fourth visit in the 15 years that I've been in Hong Kong says something...

As usual I let the hosts do the ordering and only requested one dish I found intriguing.  The end result was a barrage of dim sum items and I ended up stuffing myself into a dumpling...

We started with a plate of barbecued pork belly (脆皮燒腩仔).  This was very nicely presented, and tasted pretty decent.  The skin was very crispy but I wish it would have been thicker.  Interestingly, there was a dollop of sweet soybean paste (甜麵醬) on the plate next to each piece of pork, in addition to a little bit of yellow mustard.

Organic diced vegetable dumpling (有機上素粉果) - this was pretty nice, and the chervil inside really enhanced the taste.

Wild fungus, wolfberry dumpling (杞子珍菌餃) - less interesting than the previous dumpling, even though they were essentially the same thing.  I think the wolfberries (枸杞子) threw me off.

Tiger prawn, bamboo shoot dumpling (筍尖蝦餃皇) - interestingly mild in terms of taste, which I attribute to the kitchen putting less MSG into the dumplings.  A little bland, perhaps, but ultimately better for my body (and taste buds).

Barbecued pork bun (蠔皇叉燒包) - pretty nice.

Lobster, black bean sauce dumpling (豉汁龍蝦餃) - this was the dish that made me wanna scream "WTF?!!!!"  I was warned about it before taking my first bite, and was careful to only take in part of the lobster on top.  The taste of baking soda was so strong it was almost revolting... Why the #%@# would anyone do that to a piece of lobster that is supposed to be succulent and sweet? I know that restaurants sometimes use baking soda when making prawn dumpling/har gau (蝦餃), but this was obviously a real screw up.  I didn't bother to finish the remaining part of the lobster as I had no intention of swallowing or ingesting it.  The bottom half of the dumpling, though, was superb.  The chopped taro bits were pretty tasting after steaming.

Shanghainese soup dumpling, minced pork (南翔小籠包) - the XLBs were actually a little too large for the bamboo carriages, and as I tried to remove mine the skin stuck to the handles and cause the dumpling to break, spilling all the soup.  The weird thing is that the pork filling was mixed with a little bit of ginger.  Aren't we supposed to decide for ourselves whether we wanted some ginger with this?

Green peppers stuffed w seafood paste - long, green chili peppers were halved and stuffed with seafood paste where the seeds would have been.  Then these were pan-fried.  Not bad.

Pan fried turnip cake, preserved meat (香煎蘿蔔糕) - another dish that tasted a little more bland than usual, but again this could be due to a reduction of MSG.  Actually this was not bad.  I did like the topping of dried shreds of conpoy.

U.S. beef, crispy dough (鬼馬牛肉腸粉) - before I talk about the dish itself, allow me to rant about the stupid naming conventions on the menu.  If I didn't read Chinese and looked at the menu, what the hell am I supposed to think when it reads "US beef, crispy dough"??!!  This is not descriptive at all... and methinks they are trying to adapt some of ways fusion restaurants name their dishes, by just listing the ingredients and not being descriptive at all about how the dish is cooked and/or presented.  This annoys the hell out of me.  Anyway.  The dish was not what I expected.  It's essentially the traditional steamed rice-flour roll stuffed with minced beef, except they also stuffed some crispy fried dough inside to add some crunch.  Not a fan.

Wagyu beef puff (千絲和牛酥) - the puffs looked exactly like the deep-fried turnip pastries one would get elsewhere, except here they were stuffed with cubes of wagyu which had been stir-fried with black pepper and onions.  These were OK.

Stir-fried choy sum (清炒菜心) - I had a few stems as I was pretty much at my limit by now...

Fried rice noodles, beef, X.O. chilli sauce (X.O.醬干炒牛肉河粉) - Tigger was apparently still hungry, so we watched him pretty much single-handedly polish off the plate.  I had a little bit so I could try out the dish.  It was OK, but a far cry from the ones I'd normally get at Tasty Congee (正斗) or its sister outlet Ho Hung Kee (何洪記).

I couldn't fit in any more food and passed on dessert, but Tigger asked for - and got - osmanthus jelly (桂花糕) for all of us.  These were very, very good... only mildly sweet with a hint of savory notes from the osmanthus sauce, and topped with a couple of wolfberries.  I didn't hesitate to consume both pieces in front of me, and left the restaurant with that nice, floral and fragrant taste in my mouth...

June 18, 2010

A little corner of Brittany

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It's been a while since Lunch Club reconvened, and after talking about it for a few days, we finally got around to visiting La Crêperie.  They've been in Hong Kong for a couple of months now, after first setting up shop in Shanghai.  One of us has been to the Shanghai outlet and wasn't impressed, but we were pretty hopeful.  After all, the restaurant is a stone's throw away from all the froggies working at SG and Newedge, who supposedly treat this as their cafeteria...

Now that we are sitting in our little corner of Brittany, what better way to kick off lunch than by having some apple cider?  We started off with a bottle of Kerné Brut, which went down very well on a day like this.  The color was a nice orange in the custom made cider bowls.

There were simply too many choices on the menu and I wanted to order half of them...  So I settled on the combination of 2 galettes followed by a sweet crêpe

La Complète - the classic, with ham and cheese and a sunny side up egg on top.  Pretty nicely done, and the buckwheat flavor was pretty intense...or was it just because it was nicely crispy and browned?  Anyway, I was pretty happy with this.

La Bosco - I've always loved seafood galettes... nicely done with white wine cream sauce, and I always love the extra little something that parsley brings.  Plenty of baby squid, squid tentacles, mussels, shrimps...etc.  Very yummy.

The first bottle of cider disappeared very quickly, so we ordered another bottle of the same, plus a bottle of the Val de Rance Doux.  The second bottle was clearly sweeter, although this isn't a problem for someone who loves drinking sweet and dessert wines.

The restaurant's menu is pretty extensive, but a number of items are still unavailable.  The Resident Froggie and I were very excited about being able to taste far breton here... I had just watched a Bourdain episode on Brittany.  But alas, we were informed that this item was not available.  So I had to make do with La Vague, which was made with salted butter caramel.  As soon as the plate was set down, the lovely smell of caramel brought on that conditioned drooling...  This was really nice.

I think there were a few happy campers today, including the Resident Froggie who promised to return.  I think I will, too... and soon.

June 17, 2010

A round of American Pinot

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Tonight I finally had a chance to attend a tasting organized by my friend at Altruistic Boutique Wines, after having missed every event she has organized in the past.  Tonight's theme was Oregon and Californian Pinot, and I was curious to see what the small producers were turning out.

2006 Bjørnstad Chardonnay Porter-Bass Vineyard - lots of toasty oak here... pretty ripe on the nose, kinda aromatic with some minerals.  Medium acidity.  Pretty good.

2007 Rex Hill Pinot Gris - nose of green apple, pear, sweet caramel and a little flint.  Very light and aromatic... great to drink on a hot summer day.

2006 Rex Hill Pinot Noir Reserve - pretty sweet and fruity nose, with a little mint and kinda alcoholic.  Definitely felt some of that 14.4%...

2007 de Lancellotti Pinot Noir - first whiff of the nose made me to a double-take... it was so Old World... with lots of farmy, smoky notes, plus mint and a bit of orange.  Eventually the sweetness of the nose came through.  Smooth on the palate but the finish was slightly hot and spicy.

2008 Westrey Pinot Noir Justice Vineyard - really sweet with lots of fruit.  Sooo typical for an American Pinot.  Some mint here.  Definitely a little hot on the palate.

2007 Lucia Pinot Noir - lots of very ripe fruit, spices, pretty extracted and sweet with some apricot.  A little sharp on the nose, and actually burns a little going down...

2007 Bjørnstad Pinot Noir Hellenthal - from a bottle that was opened late, so the nose was a little muted at first.  A little mint with some fruit, some farmy notes and game meats.  Opened up with time and got better.

It was a pretty good evening, although I did have to miss watching the World Cup match between Argentina and South Korea...

June 11, 2010

Throwing a birthday party in style

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My friend threw a birthday party at her apartment tonight, and invited the lot of us to spend an enjoyable evening together.  Long before I arrived, and indeed throughout the evening, our hostess threatened warned me - on pain of limb loss emasculation death - not to include certain words which she felt derogatory in whatever I would write the next morning.

So, what transpired tonight was a gathering of wine lovers/experts, all of whom were much more knowledgeable than yours truly, since they all met while taking classes in pursuit of a diploma on wine.

Our hostess brought in a caterer who provided us with a variety of Southeast Asian cuisine, starting with a selection of yummy Vietnamese appetizers like deep-fried spring rolls, pork sausage, shredded chicken salad and steamed rice flour rolls.  I was hungry and everything was yummy, so I had seconds of everything.  The hot food arrived, and besides the nice roast pork neck, I was surprised to find the very delicious otak-otak.  Certainly much better than what I'd had at Sh!ok.

There was, of course, a lot of wine.  I actually arrived at the party a little buzzed, having sipped on some 2004 Kongsgaard VioRus in the office.  The wine was not bad but not what I had hoped for.  Nose of honey, straw, apricot and a bit of oak.  It's a funny age for this wine, when the Viognier has lost its freshness and the Roussanne is starting to mature and take over.

1999 Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill - yeasty and toasty nose, a little sweet and later a little funky.  Pretty nice.

NV Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru (disgorged August 2009) - I looove this wine from Egly-Ouriet, and in fact anything from this house.  This is a delicious Champagne... a poor man's Vieilles Vignes Français.  Lovely oxidized nose of cotton candy, caramel and lemon...  The acidity is a little higher here.

1999 Leroy Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes - the nose was clearly oxidized, but I like them like that.  Pretty sweet nose with a light touch of oak and lots of caramel.

1999 Chave Hermitage Blanc - pretty oxidized nose of cotton candy and a hint of minerals.  There was slight ripeness on the palate.  A beautiful wine.

1999 Leroy Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot - this just blew the Meursault away... A very powerful and huge nose of toasty oak, popcorn, with lots of sweetness.  This is what a 10-year old Chardonnay should be!

1994 Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc De l'Orée en magnum - I brought this big baby to the party, but it had just come out of the office fridge and was too cold to drink.  After letting it warm up a little, I took a sip and was surprised at what I found.  The nose was dominated by plastic and petrol.  Was I drinking a German Riesling?  There was also some lemon, and the nose was a little alcoholic.  A second pour much later continued to show lots of plastic, with enough ripeness and honey.  The palate was pretty well-balanced, but it was still a weird wine.  Not what I expected at all.

1996 Les Forts de Latour - classic claret nose of smoke, mint, sweet fruit and cedar... Very fragrant with a little rose and floral notes.

2001 Marcassin Pinot Noir Marcassin Vineyard - I'd be happy drinking any Marcassin wine on any given day, and this one was a winner.  Very sweet nose as expected, with a little pine needle, very fragrant - almost floral.  Pretty sweet on the palate but there was some acidity to balance it out.  A little alcoholic.

1996 René Engel Clos Vougeot en magnum - very open and beautiful nose, with farmy, toasty oak notes along with sweet, black fruits.

2003 Bouchard Corton-Charlemagne - kinda sweet, toasty with minerals and some popcorn.  Good balance between the acidity and ripeness.

2006 Catena Zapata Malbec Adriana Vineyard - really sweet fruit, a little ripe, with some forest, mint, coffee and vanilla.  Acidity was a bit high with reasonably soft tannins for a wine this young.

2006 Numanthia - funky nose, really alcoholic...so much that it burned my nostrils.  Pretty ripe and sweet, with coffee, smoke and coconut butter.  Surprisingly soft on the palate.

2004 Leroy Bourgogne - what a treat... the gang rushed for the bottle as soon as the cork was popped, and I managed to get the very last few drops.  Beautiful and explosive nose.  Smoky, farmy, a little sweet and floral, and slight acidity on the palate.  The wine was so ready it didn't need any time to aerate.  Our hostess was kind enough to bring out a second bottle since not everyone had enough of this.

Passopisciaro Bianco Dolce - a little ripe, grapey, honey, orange and botrytis.

1985 Noval - a little forest, ripe fruit, a little medicinal, medjool dates, a little nutty, preserved longan (桂圓), and alcoholic.  Naturally the port was sweet on the palate.  Very nice.

1996 Lignier Clos de la Roche - sweet, ripe, a little farmy and minty.  Very elegant and nice.

We kept racking up the bottle count, and there was one more bottle of 1999 Vogüe Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru that was opened.  Unfortunately, I was a little too far gone to partake in it.  Kinda dozed off on the couch there...  I called it a night and left most of the crowd to party on.


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