June 18, 2013

The contrarian

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So it was finally my turn to host a dinner for the boys of MNSC, more than a month after our last official gathering.  I'd been racking my brain about what wines to serve, as I wanted to make things interesting and enjoyable - but without making things incredibly tough.  After the disastrous showing last year, I now have the distinction of having hosted the dinner with the lowest average score, ever.

It's been a while since I was last at Island Tang (港島廳), and I wanted to serve up some Cantonese food alongside the wines.  The sensible corkage policy of the restaurant also helped, as the staff here were very professional when it came to wine service.  So I asked the restaurant to put together a pre-set menu, dropped the wines off a day early with service instructions, and waited for the evening to unfold...

After waiting around for half an hour, I decided not to wait for our late-comer and served up the Island Tang Appetizer Delights (港島廳四小碟):
Roast pork belly (化皮燒腩仔) - this was pretty good.

Preserved duck eggs accompanied with pickled ginger (松花皮蛋酸薑) - sure to screw up your palate for wine...

Deep-fried scallop with taro crust (荔茸炸帶子) - actually pretty decent.  Love deep-fried taro.

Honey glazed barbecued pork (蜜汁叉燒) - the char siu here is really one of the best in town, as I've said before.

Wok-fried hairy crab coral on a bed of steamed egg white (蟹粉扒蒸乳酪) - pretty decent and tasty, but again something that doesn't quite work with red wine...

Wok-fried crystal king prawn with lobster bisque (琥珀水晶蝦球) - gotta say I found this interesting.  The prawn was alright but it was the use of lobster bisque as the "sauce" that stood out.

Wok-fried de-boned pig trotters with mashed ginger, chili and crispy garlic (避風塘無骨豬手) - I was lambasted for having this dish on the menu... as it totally destroyed any palate for wine.  To be fair, though, I wasn't exactly the first to serve up something with lots of deep-fried garlic and chili... although I do have a history of serving dishes at MNSC dinners that don't work with red wines... In any case, I found this dish to be totally delicious!  In spite of Pineapple's refusal to eat this and the Ox choking on the chilis, the wonderfully soft texture and the yummy flavors from frying everything was to die for.

Simmered Tien-Jin cabbage in rice porridge broth (農家粥水煲津膽) - actually a very simple and delicious dish.  The cabbage was sweet, the wolfberries sweeter and the broth was flavorful without being heavy.

Classic Peking Duck (馳名片皮鴨) - FAIL.  I was expecting to get a whole duck, but apparently that wasn't the case.  Pineapple complained about not getting any skin, and asked out loud whether we were getting the "second serving" instead of "first serving".  I have the same question myself.  The duck was also slightly on the dry side.  Not gonna get this again.

Fried rice braised with diced chicken, black truffle and wild mushroom (黑松露野菌雞粒燴飯) - hands down the best dish of the evening, by far.  OMG the black truffle and mushroom flavors... worked perfectly with a pair of big, heavy Cabs!

Chilled sago cream with pomelo and mango (楊枝甘露) - always yummy.

Chinese petit fours (美點薈萃):
Mini egg tart


And now for zee wines... It is meant to be a "birthday" dinner so naturally something had to be from the birth vintage...

1970 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese - white flowers, a little plastic, a little pear, petrol, flinty, sweet like marshmallow or marzipan.  Good acidity here to balance out the sweetness on palate.

First flight:
1988 Henri Bonneau Réserve des Célestins - decanted 2 hours prior to drinking.  Very farmy, leather, manure, also floral, sweet with plum.  Beautiful nose.  Pretty smooth on the palate but acidity slightly high.  95 points.

1998 Henri Bonneau Réserve des Célestins - decanted 2½ hours prior to drinking.  Jammy, ripe, more concentrated, more alcoholic, dried herbs.  Later on huge sweet nose with sugar cane and crème brûlée notes.  Totally different style to the '88.  96 points.

Second flight: (decanted 2½ hours prior to drinking)
1983 Guigal La Landonne - stinky, farmy, acidity evident on the nose, plum, cherry, some sweetness in the nose.  Beefy, grilled meats.  Second pour was much better, with more sweet fruit in the nose.  94 points.

1983 Penfolds Grange - exotic with tons of coconut butter and sweetness, along with coffee.  3 hours after decanting the nose dived and turned rubbery.  95 points.

Third flight: (decanted 1½ hours prior to drinking)
1996 Armand Rousseau Chambertin - sweet and exotic, cough syrup, bubble gum, Asian spices, Chinese licorice.  Also a little toasty.  93 points.

1996 Joseph Drouhin Chambertin - muted nose, green like it was fermented with stems.  88 points.  The other bottle purchased at the same time was also disappointing.

Fourth flight: (decanted 2½ hours prior to drinking)
1996 Harlan Estate - minty, smoky, a little brett, savory, black tea, earthy, mineral, a little sharp.  Tannins are still here.  94 points.

1996 Bryant Family - exotic, tropical, coconut butter, sweet fruit, dried herbs and pine needle.  95 points.

Most of the wines I served tonight are run-of-the-mill for this gang... with a many usual suspects.  The end result?  With the exception of the Burgundy flight, many of the boys got their guesses right, or at least not far off the mark - producing a pretty high-scoring evening.  Egged on by Dr. Poon, Pineapple decided to take a contrarian strategy - with the unfortunate result of getting left farther behind.  No doubt he will attribute it to the fact that he just stepped off the plane right before dinner, although surely jet-lag has yet to settle in?!

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