April 1, 2021

Years of the Ox

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It's April Fool's Day, and a few wine lovers decided to get together and pop open a few bottles.  Someone suggested that as a theme, we bring wines from vintages which were Years of the Ox.  This sounded like a fantastic idea, and we quickly put together a list featuring great wines from 4 different vintages - reaching back 60 years.

We were meant to check out a French restaurant I have yet to try, some a year-and-a-half after its opening.  However, their restrictive corkage policy didn't work for us, so I guess I'll just have to wait for another occasion to try it.  Instead, the Baller very wisely suggested dinner at Forum Restaurant (富臨飯店) - which turned out to be a most excellent idea. Having had some recent nibbles in the form of their dim sum, I was eager to see how they would execute a number of other interesting dishes. So I scrolled through their menu, picked out a number of things I wanted to try, and the Baller made arrangements with the restaurant to select a few of those for tonight.

The advantage of dining with the Baller - who certainly fit his moniker by the looks of tonight - was that we were able to get ourselves set up in a private room.  My friend also ensured that we had the attention of Chief Sommelier Jacky Luk, who helped us with our tricky bottles - and did so flawlessly.

Salad prawn on toast (沙律鳳尾蝦多士) - I love these nostalgic Canto dishes, and what better way for me to kick off a major cheat meal than some breaded and deep-fried prawns with deep-fried toast?!  I don't think I needed the mayo, but tried adding some to get the full effect.

Double-boiled black chicken with sea whelk and fin (螺頭翅裙燉竹絲雞) - I wasn't planning on having soup, but there's no harm following Cantonese tradition. Knowing we have planty of food coming, I didn't bother to touch the 'dregs'.

Braised garoupa and pork belly with garlic (蒜子火腩炆東星斑) - I had asked for the original version with giant grouper (龍躉) fins, but apparently that was no longer available so we took a leopard coral trout (東星斑) instead. This was very, very tasty. Of course the fish itself was tender and lovely, but I love the presence of those big chunks of pork belly that had been roasted before braising. The cloves of garlic were good, too, along with mushrooms and tofu skin (腐竹).

Braised dried sea cucumber with shrimp roe (蝦子紅燒遼參) - it's been some time since I last had decent sea cucumber, and this was pretty good. Love the flavors of dried shrimp roe.

Baked crab meat with foie gras in crab shell (法國鵝肝焗蟹蓋) - I love stuffed crab shell, and this was pretty good. No breadcrumbs on top to make the crust crispy, though. And both the Baller and I agreed that the slice of foie gras on top added very little to the dish.

Roasted chicken wing stuffed with minced shrimp and foie gras (百花鵝肝燒釀雞翼) - this was no ordinary chicken wing. Looking at it on the outside, it was obvious that the golden brown skin would be nice and crispy. Once I took a bite of it, the oil started to drip down onto the plate, and the stuffing of prawn paste and foie gras seemed to work seamlessly with the flavors of the chicken skin. Honestly, this was fucking good. I'd take another 2 of these in a heartbeat.

Leafy amaranth in supreme soup (高湯浸莧菜) - leafy amaranth is always a good idea, and having it in superior broth is probably my favorite preparation.

Pan-fried chicken with salted cabbage (梅菜煎焗雞) - the only disappointing savory dish tonight. I didn't find anything special with the addition of preserved leafy mustard (梅菜), as it just got overpowered by the ginger and spring onions.

Since this was my big cheat meal of the week, there was every reason to order up a bunch of desserts to load up on sugar. I had the pudding by myself and shared the rest with the gang.

Serradura pudding with Hokkaido Specially Select 3.6 Milk (北海道特選3.6牛乳木糠布甸) - this was, honestly, unlike any serradura I've ever had. The texture was more like panna cotta, or a jiggly milk flan, with some raisins embedded inside and only a small amount of digestive cookie crumbs on top.

Steamed creamy Japanese sweet potato bun (日本紫薯流沙飽) - this was pretty good, and I definitely tasted the sweet potatoes.

Egg twist with citron honey (柚子蜜脆蛋散) - this was slightly disappointing. The egg twists were fluffy for sure, but they didn't quite deliver the ethereal feeling that the best versions would. I did think that the yuzu (柚子) honey made things better, and certainly more interesting than plain honey or syrup.

Deep-fried sesame glutinous ball (黃金煎堆仔) - these were DIVINE. Probably the best I've had in recent memory. The sesame seeds were so, so fragrant! I'd love to have a couple of these every time I'm here.

We couldn't be happier that all four bottles tonight were in perfect condition and drank very, very well. That's certainly not a given when you've got older vintages in the mix.

1997 Salon, degorgée en 2020 - very fragrant and absolutely floral and really perfumed. Already beautiful right from the start even though it was served a little too cold. A little toasty. Nicely balanced on the palate, even though it was a little more ripe than expected. After an hour there was some coconut, also sugar cane and water chestnuts. Very lovely.

1961 Ducru-Beaucaillou - WOW! Soooo beautiful, soooo fragrant and open just 15 minutes after decanting. Plenty of bacon fat lots of toast, smoke, and lots of sweet fruit. After an hour this seemed to have faded, becoming leaner and showing more brett, more like a classic claret. Good acidity still. After two hours this seemed to improve and fruity notes like cherries were still around. Very, very happy with how this bottle drank tonight.

1985 Faiveley Chambertin Clos de Beze - lovely and fragrant nose, with bacon, leather, and toasty notes. Soooo floral and elegant. So clean and perfect.

2009 Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche - decanted about 3 hours prior to serving. Nice with just the right amount of caramelized ripeness, with a nice amount of flint, a little sugar cane, vanilla, and coconut candy. Plenty of legs left in this wine.

What a perfect evening this turned out to be. We had some very delicious dishes, and we couldn't have asked for better showing of the wines. Of course, the company was simply the best and we had a blast. So why is it that I don't get together more often with the Baller and Belo???

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