November 30, 2009

Yummy Michelin-starred beef

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We had another MNSC dinner tonight at the newly-minted 1-star Michelin Wagyu Kaiseki Den.  My friends were totally shocked that I had never heard of the place, let alone dined here, before the press release came out last Thursday.  Well, it's never too late to add a new restaurant to my list!

As usual the menu was pre-set and we had the following:

前付: tamago yaki (玉子焼き), grilled dried puffer fish (ふぐ味醂干し)- both have that smoky flavor from the grill, and for the egg it's a little heavier than what I'm used to.

前菜:Matsuba crab (松葉蟹), kikuna (菊菜), kika and persimmon mixed with seasame vinegar sauce - I must admit that I couldn't tell it was kikuna...thought it was just spinach (ほうれん草). No sign of the persimmon either, unless it was part of the sauce.  But the Matsuba crab was really nice and juicy.

寿司:Chef's recommendation sushi - 6 pieces which were done a little more creatively than the traditional nigiri.  Botan ebi (牡丹海老) with some mayo on top; scallop (帆立) with sea urchin (雲丹); egg; raw beef; fatty tuna (トロ) and seared tuna (炙りトロ).

煮物:stewed ox tongue with radish - this was just a perfect little piece of ox tongue...soooo tender yet still springy on the bite.  Fatty and succulent.  The radish was nice, and the soup was flavored with sanshio (山椒) to give it some kick.

強肴:wagyu tenderloin with foie gras in red wine teriyaki sauce - Wow! The classic combo with impeccable execution, topped with a single pepper (しし唐). The beef was fatty, juicy and tender, while the foie just melted on top of my tongue! The teriyaki sauce ain't bad, either.

We had an extra course of salad to cleanse our palate, consisting of arugula, spinach and beets.

主菜:charcoal grilled wagyu sirloin - this was some piece of delicious beef!  I must admit that it's been a while since I've gone out for some real tasty wagyu (the real Japanese stuff...not the Aussie or American imitation), and this definitely hit all the right buttons!  There was just enough charring on the outside for flavoring, while the juices (and fat) just oozed from the meat once you bite into it.

The wagyu sandwich was awesome.  A thin piece of wagyu and some tomatoes between two slices of white toast.  The marinated ripe tomato salsa was very, very delish, and the Japanese milky white toast (were these from Bo-Lo'Gne?) was so soft and silky...I hardly noticed the slice of wagyu inside!  Thank you, sir...may I have another?

Finally we had Matsuba crab and kinoko truffle rice (松葉蟹、木の子とトリュフ土鍋ご飯) in a claypot.  This was divine... As soon as the lid came off the claypot, the scent of black truffles filled the room.  I had no trouble taking down two servings of this, and then I asked for some of the rice there's nothing better than burnt rice with the flavors of truffles and mushrooms!  Oh, if only I had a bottom-less stomach!

甘味:dessert - this was some pumpkin purée with some fizzy cream on top, and a sprinkle of macha (抹茶) powder.

Our host arranged an amazing lineup of wines tonight - across St. Emilion.

We started with 1996 Salon, which was drinking much better than the bottle we had a few weeks ago.  Yeasty nose, not too acidic on the palate with a very nice finish.

1982 Figeac - nose was very alcoholic, with smoke, black truffle, mint and sweet grass notes.  A little bit of wet chalk after a while.  A very beautiful wine. 96 points.

1982 Canon - nose was more medicinal yet at the same time very sweet, with some smoke and a bit of sharp alcohol.  92 points.

1983 Cheval Blanc - very sweet nose with some smoky notes.  A pretty full-bodied wine, smooth on the palate but there were still lots of tannins.  95 points.

1983 Ausone - nose was very strange initially... Body was lighter compared to the Cheval, and it was definitely more acidic on the nose, with a bit of orange and sharp alcohol.  Pretty flat on the palate. 95 points.

1990 Figeac - smoky, sweet and grassy nose, with sharp alcohol, a hint of chalk and a bit of brett.  A little acidic on the palate.  95 points.

1990 Angelus - forest, pine needle, smoke and brett notes, with a bit of coffee grinds on top of a very ripe and sweet nose.  A beautiful wine!  98 points.

1986 Canon - a little bit of ripe fruit on the nose but acidic on the palate. 90 points.

This was a really enjoyable evening.  The wines were fantastic - often drinking above our expectations - and so was the food.  Now I've got another Japanese joint on my list...especially for the beef!  Looking forward to a return visit.

November 29, 2009

Running for charity

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After only a couple of hours of sleep, I woke up before dawn and headed to Hong Kong Disneyland.  My friend heads up the corporate fundraising at UNICEF Hong Kong, and I was on hand to lend some moral support to the UNICEF Charity Run 2009.

There was a record turnout this year, with more than 8,000 participants raising over HKD 6.7 million.  In addition to the half marathon and the 10k runs, a 3k "fun run" was added to encourage participation from young runners as well as families.

I was surprised at the level of participation from corporates, on top of the local running clubs and schools.  ING fielded more than 100 runners this year.  Van Cleef & Arpels participated for the first time, and sported T-shirts with their fairy logo printed on them.  The Mandarin Oriental fielded a pretty large team, with the crew from Pierre - chef de cuisine Olivier, maître d' Hervé, sommelier Pierre and chef pâtissier Nicolas all coming out for the 10k.  Olivier carried the Mandarin Oriental standard like a warrior charging into battle...

I came as a spectator this year.  Perhaps I should do a bit of training and return next year as a runner for the 10k.

November 28, 2009

The second Thanksgiving dinner

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It's the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and I've been invited to my friend's house for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  We were advised against having a big lunch (or having lunch at all!) since there was gonna be a ton of food.

I arrived a little later than expected, and found the house packed with people.  Most of the food was already on the table, and included both traditional and non-traditional items (kimchi for Thanksgiving?)

Last night while I was enjoying myself at Caprice, two of Santa's little elves turned up at my friend's house, and helped the family prepare for the feast.  And the results are clearly evident.

In addition to the 22-pound big bird from Pennsylvania, we also had a big chunk of honey mustard ham, along with the usual trimmings of stuffing, sweet potato, peas, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy...etc.  The turkey was just about the best I've had, thanks to the amount of work that went into it.  Bacon was used to enhance its flavors, and the juices were injected back into the bird to keep it moist.

But the other highlight was the mashed potato.  This was done based on the famous Robuchon recipe, and one of the elves did spend time in the kitchen of L'Atelier.  This was refined with eggs and black pepper, and the result was pretty stunning.  It was so creamy that I ended up ditching the gravy and used this instead...

For dessert, there was delicious homemade pumpkin pie, in addition to other store-bought cakes.  Finally we were treated to some salted chocolate chip cookies with walnuts and pecans.  I only had one but wished I had room for many more.

There were lots of wine but people didn't drink too much of it.  I opened up the 1997 Clarendon Hills Old Vines Grenache Kangarilla Vineyard that I brought, but it took a little time to aerate.  In the end it was pretty fruity but a little light and acidic on the palate.  The 2004 Goldeneye Pinot Noir was a very typical Californian Pinot, and drank pretty nicely.  For some reason a bottle of 2000 Cos 'Estournel was opened, and it was beautiful - very classic St.-Estephe.

This was definitely one of the best Thanksgiving meals for me.  I gotta learn how to make that mash...

November 27, 2009

The ceremony of cheese

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Tonight I had the distinct pleasure of participating in the "ceremony of cheese" with Jean-François Antony, son of the distinguished cheese affineur Bernard Antony.  J-F is in Hong Kong at the invitation of Jeremy Evrard, the maître d' of the newly-minted Michelin 3-star Caprice.

We kicked off the evening by sipping some Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru.  I loooove NV Champagnes from Egly-Ouriet, and I carried back a few bottles of this from my trip to Reims earlier this year.  Initially a bit acidic and sharp on the nose, but faded to a very vibrant nose with honey, straw, jujube and apricot notes.  A beautiful wine with great acidity balance.

The first group of cheese:

Mothais - this goat cheese showed nutty flavors with slight acidity.  It was a bit viscous and half runny in texture.

Selles-sur-Cher - this is my second serving of this cheese within a month.  The outer section just beneath the rind was interesting and melted in the mouth.  The middle part was a bit more dense, creamy and salty with slightly nutty flavors.  With the wine pairing it brought out the acidity of the wine.

Charolais - this goat cheese from Burgundy had stronger flavors, which was salty with a dense, chewy texture.

Brin d'Amour - this Corsican export was covered with lots of rosemary, thyme and fennel seeds, with relatively high acidity that was neutralized by the wine.

Cabri Ariégeois - made in Vacherin Mont d'Or fashion with goat milk from the Pyrénées, this was something I really enjoyed back in April this year.  Really, really creamy and runny, fairly salty and a bit strong.  Interestingly the tastes were toned down by the wine.

The wine pairing for the first group of goat cheese was the 2008 Joseph Mellot Sancerre La Chatellenie.  This monopole was very nice and refreshing, with notes of sweet pear, minerals that did not overpower, and a bit of green apple characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc.  Ripe on the palate with a tiny bit of acidity on the finish, giving the wine an overall nice acidity balance.

Second group of cheese:

Abbaye de Tamié - made by trappist monks in Savoie, this was a little salty.

St.-Nectaire - made in Auvergne and first introduced by the Marshal of Sennecterre, this smelled pretty musty, was creamy to the taste with a slightly sweet finish.

Tomme au Marc de Raisin - available only in November/December each year, made by covering Tomme de Savoie with a layer of marc (the grape must remaining after the wine pressing).  I thought there was the distinct taste of pork fat like one would get from a prosciutto... It was acidic in mid-palate, and was little bit strong and creamy with a bit of sweetness.

Comté (4-year old) - about 30 wheels of this is made each year by the Antonys, and remains one of my favorites.  Tonight it was sliced fairly thin instead of the usual thickness, and the taste is quite different.  You still get the nutty flavors with the salt crystals, but the finish is much sweeter and you can really taste the sweet grass.  I'm still waiting for my invitation from Jeremy to sample his treasured 5-year old Comté...

Cantal - also introduced by the Marshal of Sennecterre from Auvergne, this was creamy, acidic and salty with pretty strong flavors.

The second group was paired with the 2006 Arlaud Gevrey-Chambertin, which had good amount of sweet fruit with the classic smoky and game meat nose.  Tannins were pretty smooth.

The third group:

Chaource - this cheese from Champagne was really creamy, thick, salty and at the same time acidic, with a slightly bitter finish.

Saint Félicien - I've had this Burgundian cheese numerous times and have never failed to love it.  I still remember the lunch where my colleague decided to clean up by using her finger to wipe the plate clean, then licking the remainder of the cheese off her finger.  It is sooooo creamy and runny, with a salty mid-palate and a slightly bitter finish.  Yum!

Saint-Marcellin - this cheese from Isère was salty, creamy and a bit nutty.

This group of cheese was served with some Ratte potatoes, and we were advised to put some salted butter on the potatoes.  The combination was sooooo good!  Nutty and sweet with a smooth texture, this is what Robuchon uses to make his creamy mashed potatoes...

The third group of cheese was paired with the 2003 Yves Cuilleron Saint-Joseph Les Serines.  Coming from a blockbuster vintage for northern Rhone wines, this was very fruity, concentrated, with lots of iron and minerals in the nose, as well as eucalyptus and caramel.  Pretty smooth on the palate.

The last group of cheese:

Livarot - this cheese from Normandy is pretty smelly and stinky, but surprisingly mild in terms of taste.

Maroilles - I'm ashamed to say that I don't remember much about the cheese... think it was fairly mild in taste but again with a stronger smell.

Bleu des Causses - this is essentially Roquefort made with cow's milk, and is pretty salty (like most bleus), buttery, creamy with a bit of acidic finish.

The final wine was the 2007 Albert Mann Gewurztraminer Furstentum Vieilles Vignes.  This was absolutely fabulous.  Tell-tale notes of lychee, flowers, orange blossom and some minerals.  A sweet and ripe wine that is such a pleasure to drink.

We were all pretty full, but there was still dessert!  The tarte tatin with green apple sorbet was really wonderful, with crispy puff pastry and a really refreshing sorbet.

There were the usual petits fours...and the highlight was a mini île flottante with a black cherry vanilla cream.  This was just awesome...

Another perfect dinner at Caprice, where I stumbled out of the restaurant carrying my stomach... It was a real pleasure to meet Jean-François, as his family is responsible for most of the wonderful cheese that I've been having at Caprice over the last few years.  One of these days I hope to travel to his hometown, and sample the cheese right there in France!

Oh, and congratulations to Chef Vincent and the entire team at Caprice on their third Michelin star!  Quite an achievement for a restaurant with such a short history!

Michelin gets it wrong - again

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So the town is abuzz yet again over the stars handed out by the cute and chubby Bibendum, as the press release came out yesterday and some of us have been poring over the list ever since.  There are a lot more restaurants on the starred list, but once again I think that these people still got it wrong in terms of the Chinese side of things.

OK, let me start by talking about the improvements - a few things that they got right this year in my opinion:

Caprice - now elevated to the only 3-star French restaurant in town, shoulder-to-shoulder with its Cantonese sibling Lung King Heen.  Caprice has long been my favorite French in town, and I think this is fully justified.  Kudos to Chef Vincent, Jeremy and the team.

Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) - the flagship Wanchai restaurant now has 2 stars.  The food here is excellent, and I shouldn't complain so much about how often my friends want to go there...

Bo Innovation - lost a star and now has 1 left.  I do like Alvin's creativity, but a 2-star restaurant it is not...and no way should it rank ahead of Pierre!

Mandarin Grill + Bar - Uwe deserves to be recognized for his creativity.

Yan Toh Heen (欣圖軒) - historically one of my favorite places to take tourists, with impeccable Cantonese cuisine (some of the best steamed fish) and a unbeatable view of HK's skyline.

But here are a few "WTF" moments:

Farm House (農圃) - I think I've been here enough times to say that they don't deserve a star.

Island Tang (港島廳) - I've generally been a fan of this place, but star-worthy? It's basically another Hutong - decent food in a nice setting that tourists would like.

Morton's of Chicago - HELLLLOOOOO????!!!!  WTF?! A chain steakhouse in HK gets a Michelin star???!!!  Not even the Morton's in NY, LV or elsewhere get stars, so why should the one in HK get a star?  What were these people thinking?!

Din Tai Feng (鼎泰豐), Hung's Delicacies (阿鴻小吃), Tim Ho Wan (添好運) - the Bib Gourmand section of the guide was created just for this type of establishments, where the food is good (for what it's supposed to be) and everything is cheap and good.  I've always loved DTF but never thought it star-worthy.  Susan and I just went to THW last week with a group of friends, and none of us thought it was THAT special.  This is a clear example of the halo effect from the chef having been the dim sum chef at Lung King Heen...

I think I'll save my money for the WOM Guide instead...

November 26, 2009

Another fragrant Thanksgiving

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For the second year in a row, I spent Thanksgiving evening at Tien Heung Lau (天香樓).  Me thinks this might become a tradition going forward...

It was a busy day.  Bibendum had put out a press release regarding the 2009 version of his Red Guide to tourists visiting Hong Kong/Macau, and there had already been some chatter among my friends about some of the choices.  Then we kicked off the evening by attending the launch party for the 5th edition of the WOM Guide. The editors are dining buddies so we showed our support, and some of us relived college days by taking a few sips from the vodka luge... wonder why Fergus thought it'd be a fun party trick...

But the main event was dinner in Jordan.  As soon as we walked in, I saw Chua Lan (蔡瀾) seated at the table next to us.  We know how much he loves this restaurant, and so do we!  Probably should have asked the restaurant to give us the same menu that he was having...  I didn't do the ordering this time, but most of the dishes would have been on my list anyway.

For cold starters, we had malantou (馬蘭頭, chopped Indian aster and tofu), soy-marinated duck (醬鴨), and drunken pigeon (醉鴿).  Everyone loved the malantou and the plate was cleaned up in no time.  The duck was salty as usual, and half of it remained untouched.  The pigeon, however, was very delish.  There was just enough flavors of the wine, and the meat was moist (with all that wine!) and tender.

Next came a plate of stir-fried freshwater shrimps (清炒蝦仁).  The shrimps were rather large by our standards, and my friend were disappointed that he didn't order the version with tea leaves.

Deep-fried frog legs (炸田雞腿) showed up, and we all happily dug into them.  Very light as usual, although just a liiiittle off the usual level.  Our Resident Froggie suffered an accident, however, when she dropped it on the floor after taking just a couple of bites.  I think she was a little traumatized...

My favorite dish - the smoked yellow croaker (煙薰黃魚) - followed and the smoky fragrance immediately filled the space around our table.  It's still my favorite fish and the Taiwanese contingent absolutely loved it.  We even had someone take spoonfuls of white rice and scrape the smoky flavors off the lotus leaf...

The very fragrant beggar's chicken (富貴雞) always seem to follow the croaker, seemingly wanting to compete for the title of the most fragrant dish.  Despite its detractors at the table, I still love this chicken.  It's true that this isn't the most succulent chicken in town - although the breast meat today was reasonably soft and juicy thanks to a friend's handling - but the fragrance is hard to beat.  I think I ended up eating the most chicken.

It's apparently still not the season for 塌窩菜 (for the second Thanksgiving in a row!) so we had to settle for stir-fried bamboo and pea shoots (冬筍炒豆苗).  Both were pretty yummy as they're in season.

The Dong Po Pork (東坡肉) was as I expected - the lean section was tough and a bit chewy.  But for those who were here for the first time, it was natural that they wanted to try the dish.  This is consistently one of the sub-par dishes here.  The crowd ignored this dish for the longest time because they were all busy chowing down the other highlight of the evening...

...which was of course the stir-fried crab roe over noodles (蟹粉撈面)!  This is hairy crab season, and of course we'd come for the crab roe.  It was as good as it always has been, and we had brought along our own silicone spatula so that we could scrape every last drop of the crab fat off the plate!

For the first time ever, I was not offered the complimentary dessert.  Apparently they had run out of this, which I find incredulous because I've always managed to close down the restaurant and had always enjoyed the dessert on previous visits.  Oh well.  Maybe they got upset with us since we brought along our own pandan chiffon cake from Bengawan Solo.

It was another happy meal for Thanksgiving.  The more capable members of the group went in search of some Taiwanese shaved ice for dessert, but I decided to call it a night and go home, knowing what is still to come over the next two days...

November 23, 2009

Piggy pasta

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My dinner at Fook Lam Moon got cancelled at the last minute, so my friend Jerry and I headed over to Tuscany by H for a simple meal.  Jerry's never been to Tuscany by H, and I wanted to get some good pasta.  I was particularly looking forward to any seafood pasta specials that Harlan may whip up...

I didn't want to eat too much tonight, since I've been gaining back some of the weight I lost over the last couple of months.  I decided to just stick to a pasta dish.  To my dismay there was only one pasta special tonight, and it had nothing to do with seafood!  I was more than happy to settle for the fettucine with porcini mushrooms and truffle purée, though, given the way some friends raved about the porcini pasta here.

But what arrived in front of me didn't look anything like porcini pasta.  I took one bite and found lots of I called the waiter over and asked about the identity of the pasta.  It turns out that they had gotten my order wrong and sent me the wild boar ragout pasta instead!  I was debating whether to get the porcini or the wild boar ragout, and I guess the waiter got confused.  They offered to change to the correct pasta for me, but as I've already taken a bite and I am a big fan of Harlan's wild boar ragout, I decided to stick with it.

Today's pasta was a bit different from past versions, and I guess it always varies.  First of all there was a semi-cooked egg on top, and I guess it must have been a duck egg coz the yolk was really orange.  A small sprinkle of what looked like parmesan shavings was on top of the egg.  Then the texture of the ragout was much chewier than I remembered, as there was not only pancetta affumicata added to the wild boar, but chorizo (or some other chewy sausage) as well.  It was a hearty pasta suited for winter, and pretty much hit the spot despite the texture being a little too complex...

I brought along a bottle each of red and white, and decided to go for red as Jerry was having beef as his main course.  The 2001 Kongsgaard Syrah drank pretty well, with nose of prunes, forest, pine needle, Christmas potpurri, orange...and the nose was sweet and jammy after it opened up.  The tannins were round and smooth, and the wine was still pretty concentrated.  Sweet on the palate with a hot and spicy finish.  Not bad at all.

I'm happy I kept things light tonight, as I didn't have to carry my stomach home after dinner.  I did get a nice buzz though, as the 14.1% alcohol definitely kicked in... Not bad for a Monday night!

November 21, 2009

Getting lucky on the Dark Side

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It's not often that I cross over to the Dark Side for food, but I eagerly took the MTR across the harbor to have an early dim sum session with friends at Tim Ho Wan (添好運), the popular mass market shop run by the ex-dim sum chef of Four Season's Lung King Heen (龍景軒).  A few of us had been wanting to give this place a try, and despite what we thought was an early start, we arrived to find a short line outside the restaurant about an hour into the business day.

After getting seated into slightly cramped quarters, the 6 of us ordered up a storm.  Once the dishes started to arrive, the gang sprang into action and gobbled everything up.

Pan-fried turnip cake with preserved meats (臘味蘿蔔糕) - this was pretty good. Lighter than your normal mass market version with a decent amount of turnip strips (and not just powder).

Steamed rice flour rolls with honey-glazed char siu (蜜味叉燒腸) - the char siu was indeed nice and sweet, and the rice flour roll was thin and soft.

Steamed rice flour rolls with pig's liver (黃沙豬潤腸) - same as above but with diced pig's liver as the filling.  The liver was done very nicely - still tender and succulent.

Baked char siu buns (酥皮焗叉燒包) - these were really excellent.  The outer crust is a little crunchy and flaky, while the filling was very sweet and runny with a good amount of char siu (and not just fat).  One of the better baked char siu buns in town.

Steamed dumplings with shrimp and chives (鮮蝦韭菜餃) - stuffed full of fresh shrimp and fragrant chives and pretty tasty.  Unfortunately the skin - as was the case with all the steamed dumplings here today - did not hold the filling together well.  The chef had made the skin very thin, which normally would have been great, except that these dumplings have been steamed for too long until the skin got mushy.  Now it became very easy to poke holes in the skin when you try to pick the dumplings up with chopsticks.  It's too bad, but with the restaurant being so busy, I guess it's impossible to steam them to order...

Steamed dumplings with shrimp / har gao (晶瑩鮮蝦餃) - very nice and yummy filling.  Shame about the can see one of the dumplings already has a hole in it.

Steamed dumplings with kimchi and beef (泡菜牛肉餃) - pretty nice with the spicy kimchi.  I always find kimchi snacks to be very interesting.

Steamed Chiuchow dumpling (潮洲蒸粉果) - I've always liked Chiuchow dumplings for their interesting fillings, and this one was delicious.

Steamed dumpling with shrimp and pork / siu mai (鮮蝦燒賣皇) - classic and straightforward.

Steamed beef meatballs with preserved orange rind (陳皮牛肉球) - the subtle taste of the preserved orange rind (陳皮) neutralized any potential unwelcomed flavors from the beef.  The meatball itself is very tender as one would expect.

Steamed glutinous rice with chicken (古法糯米雞) - nicely wrapped in a big lotus leaf which imparted the rice with its fragrance.

Steamed pork spare ribs with black beans (豉汁蒸排骨) - pretty standard stuff.

Steamed chicken feet with black beans (豉汁蒸鳳爪) - as I remarked to my friends: "This is seriously good!"  This was better than your average chicken feet, because it hasn't been over-steamed.  The skin is still a bit chewy from being fried, and all the flavors were there.  Good stuff.

Finally we get to the dessert, which was steamed Malay sponge cake (香滑馬拉糕). The color here was a beautiful golden brown, but unfortunately the taste was a bit off for me.  What followed the initial sweetness was the obvious taste of baking soda, and this ruined an otherwise lovely dessert.

Overall it was a pretty satisfying meal, as there were definitely some hits today.  I'm not gonna complain too much, though, given that this place is really aimed at the mass market and the prices are really cheap.  It's one of those things on my check list, and I'm glad I had a chance to tick it off.  But would I regularly trek all the way here for weekend dim sum?  Probably not.

A few of us strolled around Shanghai Street and hit a bunch of stores selling restaurant /cooking supplies in search of a cotton candy machine.  Unfortunately all the models we saw were a little big to fit into our kitchens.  Oh well...

Apparently some of us got hungry again, so we stopped by Ha Ming Kee (夏銘記) for some fish balls.  We ordered bowls of Chiuchow four treasures (潮洲四寳) and wonton/dumpling (雲吞水餃) to share.  The Chiuchow fish ball was soft but not mushy, which was pretty good.  The cuttlefish ball was pretty chewy.  The wonton was surprisingly yummy and bursting with flavors.

Unbelievable as it may sound, this group (yours truly excepted) was still "peckish" so we went in search of some very good Vietnamese bánh mì - those yummy baguette sandwiches.  We trekked over to Tim Kee French Sandwiches (添記) on Man Yuen Street, in an old community a stone's throw from Elements Mall.  I decided that it would be detrimental to my health to eat any more, so I passed on having a bite.  My three companions decided to share a sandwich, and put on a performance for me by biting into the three sections of the sandwich simultaneously so I could vicariously feel (by audio) how  nice and crunchy the bread is.  Looks like I'll have to come back and try this someday...

I enjoyed the nice foodie outing to the Dark Side today.  Let's hope there's more to come.

November 16, 2009

Primum Familiae Vini Gala Dinner

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I was lucky enough to be dragged out of my apartment tonight by my friend Lili, who insisted time and again that I join her for the gala dinner for Primum Familiae Vini tonight at the Island Shangri-La.  It was a helluva lot better than sitting at home in front of my PC, going through a bunch of legal documents...

Primum Familiae Vini is a group of European family winemakers who are part of an elite club.  Each family must have made wine for several generations, and families must be invited into the group - which is limited to 12 families.  Currently there are 11 of them, as the Mondavi family has dropped off the list after the winery was sold by the family.

The menu was put together by the chef of Petrus, and was obviously meant to match the wines.  The evening went something like this:

1998 Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill - this was served during the cocktail preceeding dinner, and naturally it was gone by the time we sat down at the table.  Hubert de Billy introduced the wine and mentioned how difficult it was to talk about a wine when the audience no longer has it in front of them... I didn't take notes but remembered it was a bit acidic on mid-palate, which is consistent with my memories of this wine.

Carpaccio de noix de St. Jacques aux grains de caviar - the Hokkaido scallops were diced into cubes and marinated.  I thought it might have been ginger, but my neighbor - who probably had a better palate than me - was sure it was celery leaves...which actually makes sense looking at the picture.  The Oscietra caviar on top was creamy and lovely - not overly salty.

2005 Hugel Riesling Jubilee - Hugel is one of my favorite producers and the Jubilee wines are among my favorites from this house.  The 12th generation of the family is now running the business, and the wine was introduced by Etienne Hugel. Class nose of petrol, minerals, plastic, white flowers...beautifully sweet.  Ripe on the palate but not too much, with good acidity balance.  The only drawback is that it didn't pair well with the caviar.

Filet de sole glacée à la truffle blanche, gnocchi de pomme de terre Monalisa - a pretty interesting way to present Dover sole.  Fortunately it was only a tad over cooked, but the glazing was nice.  The gnocchi was too soft and mushy, lacking that chewiness I was looking for, but I liked the shaved lemon rind on top - a classic flavor combo done in a new format.  Of course it's always nice to have white truffles on your plate...

2005 Joseph Drouhin Corton-Charlemagne - Wow! This was one of my wines of the evening, if not THE wine this evening.  Nose of toasted oak, lemon, a hint of minerals at first as it was served too cold... nose was a little ripe but not overpowering as I expected... beautiful and subtle.  When I warmed up the wine, a little cedar emerged, with honey, floral, flint and a bit of sweet corn notes.  The wine was ripe on the palate, a bit acidic on mid-palate but interesting with a sweet finish - great acidic balance.  With the second pour, the high alcohol level became very evident, especially when drunk with food.  Introduction by Laurent Drouhin who joked about his height...

Ravioli de jarret de veau en osso buco, fine marmalade de légumes - this dish just didn't work.  The veal shank stuffing was a little too dry, and a little too bland.  The ravioli shell was pretty al dente, although I wonder if it was too much for me... I actually really liked the vegetable marmalade and the sauce, and wiped my plate clean with the help of some bread.

2004 Tignanello - I am usually not a big fan of this wine given the dominance by Sangiovese, but tonight the wine drank surprisingly like a Bordeaux.  Smoky, sweet fruit with grilled meats, eucalyptus and coffee on the nose. The wine gained concentration with time, with tannins sooo smooth and round it took me by surprise.  With more time in glass it finally started to turn acidic on the finish, and later died horribly and turned medicinal.  But for a time it drank beautifully.  Introduced by Alessia Antinori, who used to live in Hong Kong and is part of the 26th generation of the family in the business.

2003 Sassicaia - nose of mint, concentrated sweet fruit, toffee, smoke...the Cabernet was very evident.  Sweet and tannic on the palate, but curiously the wine was tannic on mid-palate with a short and acidic finish.  The alcohol was very obvious, and remained so with a fresh pour.  The sweet nose got better with the second pour.  Decanted for 3 hours prior to serving.  Introduced by Sebastiano Rosa.

Caillette de pied de cochon champignons des bois marines - I loooved this dish.  These little hamburger patties were made from pig trotter (and probably a bit of offal) and wrapped in caul fat, giving the whole thing a really wonderful, fatty taste. Of course the use of black truffles helped with the success of the dish, too. The marinated mushrooms were a little too acidic for me, but I can understand that it was meant to cut down on the fat.

2001 Torres Grans Muralles - introduced by Juan-Maria Torres and probably my least favorite wine of the evening.  This was soooo alcoholic, especially at the start.  Nose was a bit chalky, smoky and plasticky, which surrounded the core of tangerine and mint.  I felt the tannins on mid-palate but the finish was smooth.  Later on the wine improved as the chalky nose faded.

1994 Vega Sicilia Unico - this very beautiful wine was introduced by Pablo Alvarez.  Nose was sweet and grassy, with mint and a bit of smoke.  The wine initially tasted a little thin and acidic on the palate, but improved later.

Canard colvert à la royale - the Mallard duck was done in a classical style with duck liver, black truffles and (I believe) the blood of the duck.  Unfortunately this didn't quite work for me...the taste was complex and decent, but the execution somehow failed to impress as it was overcooked.  The foie on top, though, was done very nicely.

1995 Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin en magnum - just about my red wine of the evening... The nose was nice but a little closed at first.  Eucalyptus, pine needle, a bit of smoke with game notes and a hint of white pepper.  Initially a little alcoholic and sharp, but very smooth on palate.  Introduced by Marc Perrin who is the current President of the PFV.

1989 Mouton-Rothschild - it's always a great honor to have Baroness Philippine de Rothschild in attendance, and she was very lively tonight - almost giddy like a little girl.  I had little expectations for the wine, and therefore was pleasantly surprised.  This was a classic Pauillac, with cigar smoke, fruit, a hint of medicine, mint, lead pencil and lots of coffee.  Finish was acidic with round tannins.

Tarte au Stilton, crumble de fruits secs - what a surprise this turned out to be.  Basically done like a tarte tatin with blue cheese on top. There were almonds, walnuts and raisins underneath the Stilton cover, and the whole thing had a sweet, butterscotch taste to it.  Simply wonderful.

2006 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Auslese Goldkapsel - what a privilege it was to be able to taste this wine, rare as it is on the market. Egon Müller himself was on hand to do the introductions, and joked about his family's preference for the name Egon.  The wine itself was like sweet nectar of the gods, with a bit of orange, plastic, honey, orange blossom, marmalade, minerals and beautiful botrytis.  Very sweet and viscous, with good acidity balance at the same time. Wow!  On par with the Drouhin Corton-Charlemagne as my wines of the evening.

1994 Graham's - I'm still not a fan of vintage port, and much prefer my tawnys and colheitas.  This was just too alcholic and sharp for me.  Very sweet nose of medjool dates and caramel.  Introduced by Paul Symington.

Croustillant caramel, bavaroise poire et sorbet Williams - this was such an awesome dessert, and possibly the best dish of the evening (what does that say about the chef when he is upstaged by his pastry chef?...).  The bavaroise with bits of pear was just soft and delish, and the poire Williams sorbet was wonderfully refreshing.  And the caramelized pear on the side...  A great way to finish the meal.

Serena Sutcliffe was the MC for the evening, and auctioned off a PFV Collection Case to the tune of HKD 300k to benefit the Heep Hong Society.  Very well done!

Amazingly, I didn't have to carry my stomach out of the Shangri-La tonight, although I was very nicely buzzed and really enjoyed the evening.  I'm really glad Lili dragged me out!

November 14, 2009

Kimchi day

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My friend Lambda had always talked about having a kimchi day at her home, where her Korean mother-in-law would teach us how kimchi is made in a traditional Korean household.  That day finally came when she made an emergency announcement that the family had run out of kimchi (quelle horreur!), and that they would be making a new batch today.

A small group of us were privileged to be invited to watch as grandma took us step-by-step through the process.  They bought 10 heads of Napa cabbage (大白菜), which honestly looked really impressive when sitting in a large pan.  Other ingredients such as Japanese daikon (大根), watercress, mustard green, carrots, squid, cutlassfish (帶魚), anchovies...etc were thrown in a bowl along with - what else - chili powder, anchovy sauce and makgeolli (막걸리, a Korean rice wine).

Once the "sauce" has been done, it's time to get our hands dirty and rub it on all the available surfaces on the cabbage, and also to stuff it in between the leaves to make sure that the flavors can really get into the cabbage.  I must admit that I had a little more trouble than expected with folding the cabbage into the right shape.  We placed the finished product into various jars and containers, and moved on to marinate the daikon, which has now been cut into cubes.

The next task was to make gochuchang, the ubiquitous chili paste essential in Korean cuisine.  We start with cooked sweet rice flour, then mixed in wheat germ, finely ground chili powder, salt...  The key here is to keep stirring until evenly mixed and the consistency becomes uniform.  It's then scooped into a ceramic pot, covered with a layer of sea salt on top, then sealed with cloth for the fermentation process.  It's amazing that in today's society, the women of some Korean households still spend the effort to make their own sauces and pastes, when it has become so easy to buy them off the shelf.  I'm glad to have been a part of this process, even if only as a witness.

Pretty soon it was dinner time, and we gathered around the table for our highly anticipated Korean feast. The first item on the menu was ogyeopsal (오겹살), or five-layered pork. Fatty pork always gets me going, and this was bacon that came from Jeju's famous ddong dweji (똥돼지) - pigs that used to feed on feces (but no longer, I hope...). The bacon slices were expertly fried at the table, then wrapped in cabbage leaves with a healthy clump of kimchi and marinated minced shrimp. The fat was caramelized and a bit chewy thanks to being marinated in salt. Absolutely wonderful stuff. The usual sounds of "mmmm...", "ooooh..." and other unintelligible grunts were once again heard around the table.

There was also a plate of large raw oysters, which we had been marinating in kimchi for the last couple of hours.  That was pretty nice, too.

To go along with our kimchi-dominated feast, it was appropriate that we would be drinking Korean wine. Bottles of makgeolli (막걸리) were served in little bowls. This fermented rice wine came from the bottom of the barrels, hence the large amount of sediment giving the wine its milky color. The wine was low in alcohol (6%), slightly effervescent with a light, sweet taste. This is a pretty good wine to drink with the spicy kimchi, as the cold, sweet wine helps put out the flames that are now dancing on my tongue.

I was already pretty full by this point, but the best was yet to come.  We would finish our meal with budae jjigae (부대 찌개) - the dish that developed with the use of leftover supplies from American GIs.  This is a dish that Lambda introduced to me, and my friends and I have come to love it.  It is sooo far from anything that would normally be considered gourmet, yet to me it's a bunch of comfort food ingredients thrown together.

First the diced pieces of smoked sausage (or hot dog) and SPAM are fried up in the pan.  Then kimchi juice is added, along with tofu, spinach and rice cakes.  Next we break open a pack of kimchi-flavored Shin Ramyun, and add water and the powder pack into the pot.  We cover the pot with the glass lid, allowing the instant noodles to soften via steaming.  Finally some udon is added for more carbo.  No baked beans today, though... I looove this stuff, and would have had a second bowl if I wasn't already so stuffed.

We sat around after dinner, trying to not to slip into the inevitable food coma.  To help with the digestion, I opened up the bottles of wine I had brought along.  The 2006 Grosset Piccadilly was a pretty typical Aussie Chardonnay - heavy oak, with lemon, minerals, flint and a ripe and honeyed nose.

The 2007 De Villaine Bouzeron was another lovely wine.  I opened a bottle of the 2006 vintage earlier this year and was very pleasantly surprised.  This humble Aligoté is made by the same winemaker who crafts the sought-after wines of DRC, and showed a nice nose of lemon, pear and honey, with a slightly acidic finish.

I am very grateful for Lambda's family for their hospitality, and for giving us a look into a Korean household tradition.  Now I just have to wait for my kimchi to age a little, and I'll be ready to pop the lid on the jar!

November 13, 2009

2009 Altaya annual tasting

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It's my fourth wine tasting in 5 days...but I couldn't possibly miss out on Altaya's annual tasting at Grand Hyatt's Residence.  Paulo's a friend and naturally we all want to show our support, but it's also a chance to taste some really great wines and to meet the people behind the wines.

The space was set up pretty much like the way it was last year, and I quickly spotted a few familiar faces: Patrick Maroteaux, Président of Branaire-Ducru who hosted us on our Bordeaux trip this past April; and the ever-present Pierre Perrin from Château de Beaucastel.  Rob Fisher flew up to Beijing this morning, where he would stay for a tasting hosted by the Ãman at Summer Palace (rough life...), so his presence was missed.  Also noticeably absent was Nicolas Potel, who was present last year but is no longer at the negociant firm bearing his name - a shame because he is really nice guy.

I think I was pretty slow tonight, so I didn't get through to many wines I had wanted to try.  But here are the notes on the ones I tasted:

2006 Domaine des Lambrays Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières - a little ripe on the nose but with a certain metallic sharpness at the beginning, turning fragrant and sweet with notes of honey.

2006 Domaine des Lambrays Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos du Cailleret - nose was a bit closed at the beginning, with a bit citrus and white flowers, opening up to reveal honeyed notes.  Ripe on the palate and the finish was not too acidic.

2006 Domaine des Lambrays Morey-St-Denis - this was one of the surprises of the evening.  Wow! Lots and lots of sweet fruit here, very rich with tangerine, blood orange marmalade and muscat grape notes.  Very open and nice!  A surprisingly beautiful village wine.  I gotta get me some of this...

2006 Domaine des Lambrays Morey-St-Denis 1er Cru Les Loups - softer than the village, with nice sweet fruit, a bit of orange marmalade although not as strong as the village, and some smoky, grilled meats.

2006 Domaine des Lambrays Clos des Lambrays - sweet and fruity, very ripe, with notes of game meat.

Thierry Brouin, the Domaine's Oenologist, was on hand to introduce the beautifully-crafted wines.

2007 Nicolas Potel Corton-Charlemagne - nose was very sweet and buttery, with plenty of oak and minerals.  Very nice.

2005 Araujo Altagracia - made from declassified lots, this was a classic Cali Cab.  Nose was very sweet, with caramel, chocolate and smoky notes.  Not too tannic, actually.

2005 Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard - the flagship wine was in very good form, with nose of sweet fruit, marmalade, mint and eucalyptus.  Powerful with a long finish.

2009 Rolf Binder Selection Chardonnay - very heavy on the vanilla from the oak, with green apple and flinty notes.

2007 Rolf Binder Helios Semillon - Whew! Definitely some cat pee ("pipi de chat" to the French), green apple and flint.

2008 Rolf Binder Selection Shiraz - a typical Aussie Shiraz.  Very fruity and sweet with orange and a bit of mint.

2006 Rolf Binder Halcyon Cabernet Merlot - nose was pretty open and sweet, although less sweet as the Selection Shiraz.  Alcoholic.

2006 Rolf Binder Hales Shiraz - nose was almost a bit floral (or did the glass just gather some air freshener from the room?). OK but not great.

2006 Rolf Binder Heinrich GSM - fruit nose with marmalade, caramel, eucalyptus notes.  The wine was a bit acidic mid-palate, which was a bit surprising.  But I guess it's the Grenache...

2004 Rolf Binder Heysen Shiraz - nose of coffee, sweet caramel and eucalyptus.

2005 Rolf Binder Hubris - sweet, jammy nose with caramel.  A little smoother on the palate.

2004 Rolf Binder Hanisch Shiraz - what a welcome change from the rest of the range!  Nose was pretty smoky and much more like a Rhone.  Sweet fruit emerged a bit later.  Very smooth on the palate.  A very nice wine.

I took my time and tasted through all of Rolf's wines, and I told him that "I like everything" - which drew laughter from him.  While most wines were typically Aussie, it was interesting to see what a little ageing can do - which was evident in the Hanisch.  I did ask him why all the names began with "H", but he declined to elaborate...

2007 Burge Family Semillon - very strong pipi de chat, flint and lemon.

2008 Burge Family Shiraz Rosé - normally I pooh-pooh rosés because I have always found them to be neither here nor there, but this has got to be the first rosé that I really liked.  Nose was very floral...dare I say rose?  Red fruits, with a hint of pipi de chat but overall it's a very nice wine.  Maybe it's time I stocked some rosé in my cellar...

2006 Burge Family Clochmerle - 60% Shiraz / 40% Grenache with no new oak.  Nose was a bit alcoholic (15%), strangely violet with Asian spices.  Not too heavy on the tannins.

2006 Burge Family Olive Hill GSM - 68% Shiraz with 1/3 new oak for the Grenache and Mourvèdre.  This wine clearly had more concentration, a little more complexity with caramel notes.

2006 Burge Family Draycott Shiraz - almost 100% Shiraz now, with even more concentration and the alcohol was more noticeable (15%). Toffee nose.

I had a good time chatting with Rick Burge, who was gracious and patient with me despite having had a pretty long day.

2009 Sunshine Bay Sauvignon Blanc - nose of muscat grape and green apple, vanilla oak and minerals.  A bit ripe on the palate.  A very straightforward NZ Sauvignon Blanc.

2008 Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc - less like a classic NZ Sauvignon Blanc, with more flint and minerals in the nose.

2008 Wairau River Riesling - a classic Riesling with nose of petrol and minerals.

It was good to meet Phil Rose, who was the owner of the estate and was happy to share his wines with us.

As the tasting drew to a close I found myself with a few friends who, for reasons I cannot fathom, have been following my humble little blog.  We were thinking about heading to dinner when Paulo swung by and dropped a few bottles in front of me.  When Paulo gives me a few bottles to taste, who am I to doubt him?

2006 Malartic-Lagravière Blanc - a little pipi de chat, lots of minerals, green apple, muscat and a bit smoky.  Very open nose and a really nice wine.

2006 Marquis d'Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Les Fremiets - very fruity nose with smoky game meat.

2004 Marquis d'Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Les Taillepieds - this is probably my favorite 1er Cru from the Côte de Beaune, and I wasn't disappointed.  Nose had lots of nice sweet fruit with rapsberries, but not overpowering.  Yummy yummy.

We moved on to Pala, an Italian restaurant occupying the space that was formerly Baci.  We had a couple of pizzas and a "sampler" of three pastas - squid ink spaghetti, ravioli with truffled (squash?), and duck pappardelle.  A simple and nice way to end the evening.

The rest of the gang moved on to Fevar Club to party, but I was just waaaay too drunk by this point.  A couple of sips of Moët and I knew it was time to go home...

November 10, 2009

Dinner with Krug Champagne, 2009 edition

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Tonight I was invited to a dinner hosted by Krug Champagne for the clients of my regular wine shop.  The venue was Plateau at the Grand Hyatt, which was interesting.  Margareth Henriquez, Président Directeur Général of the House of Krug, was in attendance and introduced each of the wines.

We started the evening with Krug Grande Cuvée, which has always been one of my favorites.  The nose was beautiful and open, full of toasty oak - a little heavy at first - along with limestone, minerals, and whole grain bread... The wine was ripe on the palate at first, and the finish was very long and slightly acidic.

The wine was paired with the amuse étagère, which came with three different layers much like the traditional English afternoon tea set:

Blue swimming crab and avocado salad with watercress Keta caviar mascarpone - the dressing was a little sour for my taste, but otherwise pretty good stuff.

Pan-seared Atlantic scallop, Jerusalem artichoke mousse and crisps - the scallops were yummy...seared to just the right level so that the whole thing was still soft and juicy, and was slightly smoky. The artichoke mousse was light and ever so slightly on the sweet side.

Sea urchin crème brûlée - this was not so great.  Sea urchin of course has pretty strong flavors, and you tend to leave some of it on your tongue even after you've swallowed, which would interfere with the tasting of wine and other foods.  And believe me, the carbonation in Champagne and sea urchin do not make a good combination... I had to discreetly maneuver a piece of bread inside my mouth in order to scrape any bits of sea urchin off my taste buds...

Next came the 1998 Krug, which as I expected was just way too young to drink.  It was a year where there was more Chardonnay than Pinot in the blend, and it definitely showed.  The nose was lighter than the Grande Cuvée - not as toasty.  It was more round, ripe with a bit of oxidation and Anjou pears.  The wine was pretty sharp on the palate with a yeasty attack.

This was paired with chervil cream soup with butter poached Boston lobster.  I could definitely taste the liquorice flavor of the chervil.  There were some bits of lobster swimming around the bowl.  This was a little rich so I started to get a little full... The interesting thing was that as the tongue got coated by the creamy soup, it neutralized much of the acidity of the Champagne in the process, and as a result the acidity only showed up on the finish.

One of the two highly-anticipated wines of the evening was the 1998 Clos du Mesnil.  The clos was created in 1698 so this would be the 300th anniversary of the wall going up.  Surprisingly sweet on the nose, which was ripe but a little more closed compared to the 1998 Vintage.  Nose showed a bit more subtlety, again slightly oxidized with pear notes.  The wine was ripe and full on the palate, but turned acidic fairly quickly on the finish - showing its characteristic as a blanc de blancs.

Steamed pink garoupa fillet on truffled leek fondue and Oscietra - not a bad dish at all.  I did get a little shock, though, as there a small bone stuck into the roof of my mouth on the first bite.  The chopped leeks had been slow-cooked for a long time until it was soft and sweet, flavored with diced truffles.  The garoupa was just a little bit overcooked, but it wasn't a big deal.  The dollop of Oscietra tried to steal the show but was finally neutralized by the sweetness of the leeks.  All of this was very well until I took a sip of the Clos du Mesnil...  For some reason the combination failed horribly, and really brought out the metallic/oxidized taste of the Champagne.  I thought I was licking a piece of copper...blegh!

The other highlight of the evening would be the Krug Collection 1982.  This is Krug's version of late disgorgement, so naturally I would expect it to taste younger and fresher than an '82 released some years ago.  Very nice and elegant - softer on the nose.  Nicely oxidized as I would expect in an older vintage, with notes of straw dominating.  Very sweet on the palate, well-rounded and not too sharp on the finish.

The Krug Rosé was actually served alongside the Collection.  The nose was very metallic and a little sharp.  Pretty rich and full-bodied on the palate.  I did not find it as appealing as I did at the Krug dinner two years ago.

The main course was a trio of veal: slow-roasted herbed veal tenderloin, braised veal cheek and poached tongue with glazed autumn vegetables, potato terrine and roasting jus.  The tongue was pretty tender as one would expect, wrapped around some julienned carrots and celery.  The tenderloin was not so impressive.  The cheek was heavy and rich in flavor as it's been braised.  Margareth asked us to try the Rosé with the beef, and I think it definitely stood up to the rich and heavy veal cheek.

I was stuffed beyond my limit by this point, but how could I turn down cheese?!  We had Brie de Meaux, Brillat-Savarin, Langres with quince jam, muscatels and figs.  Brie de Meaux was pretty ho-hum compared to the other two.  The Langres was nice and acidic on the palate, while the Brillat-Savarin - being a salty triple-cream Brie - was sooo rich that it melted in the mouth.  I used some of the quince jam to balance out the heavy salty finish of the Brillat-Savarin.  The muscatels were sweet and yummy while the figs were not ripe enough.

We were once again served Grande Cuvée from magnums to go with our dessert.  For me this was definitely my wine of the evening, drinking beautifully with its open, opulent nose full of toasty notes.

The dessert sampler consisted of 5 items:
Fribourg's - this looked and tasted like a Bordelais canelé whose outer crust was not caramelized.
Apricot and lavender sorbet - a pretty interesting combination although some of my fellow diners did not appreciate the taste of lavender.
Fig and almond tart with sabayon - very ho-hum.
Lait douceur de Normandie with stewed apple and raspberries - this was like a milk custard
Bittersweet chocolate chiboust cream - OK but these days it takes a really good chocolate dessert to get a reaction out of me...

I was amazed at myself for finding room in my stomach for the cheese and desserts, after fully believing that I had already been pushed to the edge.  I'm glad to have had a chance to dine at Plateau, and to taste the full range of wines from Krug (with the exception of Clos d'Ambonnay, of course...).  I went home with a smile on my face, knowing that I've got a few magnums of the Grande Cuvée on the way to my cellar...


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