Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kokotxas de Bacalao and Txakoli at La Tienda

Lunch last Wednesday was at La Tienda. The purpose was to try Txakoli, a very dry white wine with high acidity and low alcohol content produced in the Basque region of Spain. It is normally taken as an aperitif and goes very well with seafood dishes. It is served very chilled and poured at arms length height from the glass. We did not know that so Javi came out and tried to pour it for us. Unfortunately, we did not have the dispenser they normally put on the Txakoli bottles, so it was very difficult to pour that high. I'll have to find those dispenser next time I go to Spain.

We decided then that the lunch would be all tapas, which Chef Javi prepared for us. For starters, and while waiting for Noel who arrived late, Jay and I started with Jay's bottle of: Bodegas Hidalgo Pastrana Single Vineyard Manzanilla Pasada, a fine sherry from the Southern region of Spain. This sherry was quite dry and pairs very well with Tapas like chorizo and olives and cheese.

As soon as we were done with the Sherry and still waiting for Noel, we decided to have the other food brought to our table. We opened my bottle(thanks to Nick for hand carrying this for me all the way from Madrid): Txomin Etxaniz Getaria 2008 from the DO Getariako Txakolina. As said in the beginning, at first we poured it directly into the glass, then Chef Javi told us it had to be poured from high above and in a wider/shorter glass, to sort of 'activate' the wine and for it open up. It was quite acidic and fruity, and it felt like it was a bubble, very refreshing and a simple wine. I will definitely stock up on this wine, for those hot summer days or for a tapas dinner.

With the Txakoli, we also opened a bottle of: 2007 Laxas Albariño, one of my favorite locally available Albariño wines. With this we had Kokotxas de Bacalao al PilPil, a Tortilla of Jamon, Asparragus and Cheese and Hojaldritos (small cakes) of Chistorra, Squid on its own ink and one of our house favorites: Escalivada. All the appetizers were as usual superb and perfect match for our wine. We decided to stick to whites, although Noel brought a Bandol Rose wine, we decided not to open it anymore.

We had no more room for dessert, so after finishing up all the wine and tapas, we had our double espressos. My Dad showed up and joined us for coffee and since we were talking about Sherry, he offered us a drink of Bodegas Hidalgo Cream Alameda, I think some sort of sherry mixed with Pedro Ximenez. A perfect after meal digestif...

Thank you Javi for preparing this tapas meal for us, and I still have one bottle left of Txakoli which I will gladly share with you soon....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Osteria Gusto, Rome

I've been slow on my posts lately...I blame my laptop for that. Its been malfunctioning so it's been back and forth trying to be fixed. It seems to be ok now so I am back to my blogging mode.

Osteria Gusto was one of the last dinners I had during my last trip to Rome. It was recommended to me by Travels with a Gourmet. which I am very thankful for. Located near the center, Gusto is a Bar-Restaurant-Tapas place. When we got there, the Bar was quite full so we opted for the sit down restaurant.

For starters, I ordered a Salumi platter and a Cheese platter. Salumi is an Italian word for cured meats. I would have like to ask the waitress what were the names of what we were eating, but she did not seem too friendly and her English was very limited. I do remember tasting the Prosciutto, Salami Milano and a sort of smoked for the cheese, same as the Salumi. Didn't know much of the types we were eating but of course, we had the usual Reggiano, etc... The blue cheese was excellent but I'm not sure if this is native to Italy.

For main course, I had Carne Cruda (of course Steak Tartare)'s really hard for me to resist not ordering this if I see it on the menu, since its not a very common dish to see on Menus of Restaurants. I have tried several Tartares the Italian way, and I must say they are pretty good. More subtle then the traditional ones (I don't think they use Lea and Perrins) but very tasty. It had green green and Red Peppers, aside from the usual Anchovies and Capers. I enjoyed this dish with a glass of Barolo wine.

We also had a Pasta dish: Bucatini all Amatriciana, a thick pasta with Tomato based sauce and Pancetta. The sauce was ok but personally I prefer Angel hair or Spaghettini pasta.

Over all a nice experience, thanks R for recommending this place.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Steak Dinner ......

Dinner last Wednesday was and Noel and Catha's house. We were 6 people in all including Rene and Aimee. I was quite excited all week actually for this dinner, not just for the company, but also to try Noels cooking. We got there quite early and started off with a bottle of 2006 Domaine Bott-Geyl Gewürztraminer Les Éléments, a wine I've grown fond of ever since I tried it last year. I never really liked sweet wines, but when paired with the correct food, I really enjoyed it. With this, they served Je Suis Gourmand's signature Terrine of Foie Gras and the Miguel Family's Chicken & Duck Liver Pâté with Port Jelly. The slightly sweet wine is a perfect match for the Foie...lovely.

While we were having our appetizers, Noel was busy preparing the steak, the main dish of the dinner. as I took a peek at the kitchen, I was able to see how the steak was being prepared.

Four huge pieces of US Prime Grade Rib-eye are thawed overnight in the refrigerator. Before cooking, it is rubbed with a little oil and pepper. The pan is then placed at high heat, using Canola oil so It does not burn. The Steak is then seared quickly then roasted in the oven for 5 minutes...then it's ready to serve.

Anyway, moving on to our dinner, we started with a house salad (Butter lettuce with Parma Ham, Pine nuts and Parmegiano Reggiano)..with a lovely honey-mustard-oil-vinegar dressing. By the timke we started we already opened the other white, which was my bottle: 2006 Domaine Raimbault-Pineau Pouilly-Fumé. We have been enjoying this PF for quite a while now ever since we discovered it in one of Rene's dinners. This was my last bottle of 06, since now they have the 07.

Then the Main courses were served: Grilled Prawns with Cheese and the Steak with fries. I enjoyed the grilled prawns with the Pouilly-Fumé. For the Steak, we decided to open first my Bottle: 2002 Lo Piot from Priorat. This wine is owned by a good family friend of ours In Barcelona. It's a full bodied typical Priorat made from 90% Grenache and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. I think it was good pairing with the Steak, since as per Noel we needed this type of wine to match the Steaks rich fatty flavors.

The Steak was very good and flavorful. Served just plain with some Sea Salt and Pepper on the side, I enjoyed it very much. We had 2 other wines, which were served after our steak, served with the cheese platter and Dessert: Noel's 1999 Château Lynch Bages and Rene's 1996 Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux, 2nd Label of Château Margaux. As per Noel, 96 was a very good year for Margaux. We enjoyed both wines with a platter of Tomme de Savoie with Walnuts and dried Apricots.

Dessert was Je Suis Gourmand's Thin Apple Tart with Caramel & Vanilla Sauce and Green Apple Ice Cream. I enjoyed the Ice cream - probably my first time to try Green Apple Ice Cream. It was creamy but with a little hing of the acide of the Green Apple, plus tiny bits of skin..

We stayed on a bit longer, finishing up the Cheese and the wine. This was a very enjoyable night. Thank you Noel and Catha for inviting us..I definitely enjoyed the company, the food and the wine...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Ristorante La Brisa, Milan

My recent Italian wine lunch (yesterday at PWX) has opened up my appetite for hearty Italian food and wine, so I remembered that I still had a few posts about some Restaurants during my last trip to here I'm going to feature La Brisa. I heard about this Restaurant through a Food magazine, highly recommended by one of Italy's top food critics, so I decided to try it out.

I went there for lunch and as I got there, it was quite packed, mostly all local businessmen. That was a good sign. They had 2 menus: a set lunch and a la carte. It was my first meal in Italy so I was craving for ham, so for starters I had: Culatello de Zibello con focaccina. Culatello is a refined variety of prosciutto, made from heavier pigs, cut to a fraction of the normal prosciutto and aged, and may be cured with wine, with Culatello di Zibello having DOP status. Zibello is a Municipality in the province of Parma, where most of the Ham in Italy come from. Initially found it saltier than the usual Parma ham (maybe it's aged longer), but not as fatty. Its very different to Spanish ham which is what I'm used to, having less salt and spices, but still very good.

For second, I had: Tagliata di Controfiletto con Finocchi Gratinati e Salsa Agro-Picante (Thinly sliced veal, Fennel Au Gratin and Spicy-Sour sauce. Perfectly cooked veal (grilled on the outside and bright pink on the inside), a perfect combination with the Fennel Augratin and the sauce, which I found actually sweet and spicy. Again a very simple dish which I loved. With this, I had a glass of their house wine, which was actually French and not Italian: 05 Chateau Pierre Bise-Anjou Villages, from Loire Valley.

For dessert, another simple but great and refreshing one: Carpaccio di Ananas (Pineapple Carpaccio). Just thinly sliced pineapple served...very refreshing and light dessert.

I loved this Restaurant and do plan to go back on my next trip to try the other dishes...and hopefully pair them with Italian wines too....Ciao!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

TAPELLAS - Tapas, Paellas and More By Gaudi

Lunch this Friday was in Tapellas, the newly opened Tapas place of the Gaudi group in Greenbelt 5. I had asked N if he wanted to try it since it was newly opened since I was in the mood for Spanish food and wine. We were 4 in total: Noel, Jojo, Robert and myself.

We got there quite late due to traffic so as soon as we did, we popped open our starter wines: Martin Codax Alabariño and my favorite Rose wine: 2007 Domaine Tempier Bandol. I started out with the Bandol while waiting for the food we ordered. It was just as i remembered it to be, that pale salmon color, very refreshing and just perfect. I think this wine is perfect for starting out and even with some of the tapas we had.

For starter Tapas, we had: Croquetas de Salchichon, Flautas de Anchoas del Cantabrico(small baguette sandwiches with tomato, oil and anchovies), Gulas with shrimp, Black Calamares a la Romana and Pulpo a la Gallega. I enjoyed very much the anchovies and the Gulas (even if they were not the real deal) and was a good pairing with the Albariño...thou I have tried several Codax Albariños, this one seemed to have less acidity then the others I've tried, slightly on the sweeter side also. Never the less it was still good. We had a different kind of Calamares, called Calamares a la Romana El Bulli, which I tried last year here. They are deep fried Calamares in their own ink..interesting.

Jojo had already opened his bottle of wine for the main course to let it breathe: 1992 Chateau Montelena, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley now owned by Chateau Cos d'Estournel. I definitely enjoyed this full bodied Napa. We had also opened Robert's wine, a 1996 Irache Gran Reserva, from the Navarra region in Spain. This is almost 100% Tempranillo and was also a good match for the main course: Chuleton.

As mentioned, for main course we all shared a 950 gram slab of Chuleton, Gaudis most popular dish. At first we thought it would be too much but the 4 of us gladly wiped out the plate. Served just slightly grilled (Villagodio way), it is sliced and served with a hot plate with salt. Depending how rare or well done you want it, you can just cook it a bit more on the plate. With that, we also had a Paella Manchega (Paella with chicken and topped off with grated Manchego on top). Great combination. I was not able to photograph it but believe me it was good...

We then had a cheese platter and opened Noels bottle: 2001 Beronia Gran Reserva. Another Medium bodied Rioja wine, we have enjoyed several bottles of this wine during other Spanish dinners. We had 2 other bottles that were not opened: a 1996 Pontet Canet and my bottle, a 2002 Lo Piot Priorat , a winery owned by a family friend of ours in Catalunya.

We stayed on a bit longer over some coffee, dessert and more wine. They do not close the whole day, so this is a perfect place to hang around on a rainy afternoon with some wine and cheese, or coffee and dessert. Thank you Jojo, Noel and Robert for sharing the wine and for the great company.

Note: I forgot to mention that corkage is very reasonable: 300 pesos per bottle.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I'm Angus Steak House, Makati

Lunch yesterday was at I'm Angus with R and E. Many people have been raving about this newly opened Restaurant in Yakal St. owned by the Santis group, so I was curious to try it. We arrived around 12:15 and there were only 3-4 tables occupied. The interiors were very appropiate for a Steak Restaurant, including an 'open' kitchen with a glass divider.

We started out with appetizers and a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Incidentally, corkage is 800 pesos (I find this quite high) but if you buy a bottle of wine right beside (Santis) you pay 300 (still doesn't make any sense since they are the same owners). Back to the food. We had Mahi Tuna Loin with Wasabi Mayo, Gravelax Salmon and of course: Steak Tartare.

The Tuna was correct, seared outside and raw inside, served with wasabi Mayo. The Salmon was not what I was expecting. As per my understanding, Gravelax is raw Salmon cured in salt, sugar, and dill. This was just thick Salmon cuts, served with a dill sauce. It was still quite good, but not what I was expecting and I may have just misunderstood the menu. As for the Steak Tartare, we ordered the full order and I must say it was quite good, although I think the Chef added too much Perrins since taste was quite strong. I liked its creamy texture and the Caper Berries on the side. Nice touch.

We then proceeded to our main courses: E and myself had each a 300 gram cut of Prime Angus Rib Eye and R had the Turkey Steak since he was avoiding red meat. The Turkey Steak actually looked moist and very was served with Mashed Potatoes and Cranberry. A very healthy alternative if you are watching your weight..

As for our Rib Eye, I asked mine rare while E had his medium. It was actually very tender and the cooking was just how I wanted it: medium rare but no blood. I would have wanted it to be a bit more Char grilled on the outside, but the inside was perfectly pink and tender. I normally don't have any sauce with my steak since I like to enjoy it as simple as it is: a good steak with good wine. Since we did not think we could finish another bottle of wine, we just decided to order a glass of Chateau St. Jacques, the second label Chateau Siran, from the Maurgaux region of Bordeaux. The bottle was newly opened so it took a while to open up, never the less, a great match for the Steak.

Over all a good place, service was spot on and ambiance was OK. I'd come back here again for the Steak Tartare....