Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rosé tasting and comparison at Gourmand

The excuse for lunch this time was to taste 2 wines from Bandol (known for their Rosé..actually any excuse is good to go to Gourmand since the last time I was there was some 2 months ago, before Marc left for his year vacation to France. Also, I've been enjoying a lot of Domaine Tempier Bandol lately (thanks to Noel) and was curious to try another one.

The Rosés we tasted were: 2007 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé and the 2007 Domaines Ott Château Romassan Rosé Coeur de Grain. The first one courtesy of Noel and the 2nd one, care of Jojo who purchased the bottle on a recent trip to Japan. Both were practically the same in color but as others, I found the Domaine Tempier a bit more complex, serious wine compared to Domaines Ott. As Rene mentioned, Domaines Ott is they type you can drink a lot of in the beach or for casual drinking, while the Domaine Tempier is a more serious rosé, one you can pair with food and more serious drinking.

For starters with the rosés, we had an order each of Escargots Bourguignonne. As Keiichi said, this paring is magical. I don't know if this a regional pairing, but definitely is a perfect match for me. I will be ordering more of this soon.

For the main, we all had the same: Beef Onglet with Caramelized Onions and Frites. I read about this dish from the many times Noel posted it in his blog and was curious to try it. Served rare, it is a bit gamey and paired perfectly with a robust 2004 Flor de Pingus, which was given to me by a friend during my last trip to Spain.

Flor de Pingus is the 'second' label or more like a second brand of the famed PINGUS, the highly rated and prohibitive wine from Ribera del Duero made by Peter Sisseck. Obviuosly quite young, this wine could do with a few more years in the bottle.

With this we also had a small dish of Chantrelles specially made by Marc, with Filo pastry. At this point, Keiichi had already started pouring his wine, another treat for us: 1994 Château Lafleur. This wine was not decanted, but it was already open when he arrived. My first swirl and smell, and you could tell this was a Bordeaux. This was a very elegant wine.

We skipped dessert and had a cheese platter, with this we had a 2002 Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Rene's bottle. This was a good wine to have with the cheese platter, and despite the youth, it was drinking already quite well. Rene was quite happy about that, since he had purchased this bottle some 2.5 years ago, the first time we started purchasing form KL Wines.

We ended the meal with a bottle of La Bella Estate Moscato Passito, a moscato I purchased on my recent trip to Italy (Barolo). A very light, slightly sweet and very easy to drink Moscato. After our usual espresso, e headed towards PWX, were we had 2 more bottles of wine. They were: 2004 WesMar Pinot Noir Hellenthal Vineyard (Sonoma Coast) and a 2006 Freeman Vineyard & Winery Akiko's Cuvée Pinot Noir (Russian River). Quite nice and easy to drink Pinot Noirs.

Thank you guys for the fun afternoon, I really enjoyed the wine, food and the company. Hope we can do this again soon.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Last meal for my week long birthday celebration

Saturday was the last day of my week of "debauchery" as Noel calls started with a dinner at Peoples Palace with some good Riesling, then Steak Dinner in Elbert's, with Barbaresco, Burgundy and Bordeaux. Then a Tapas dinner at Tapellas, followed by a quiet celebration (the same day of my birthday) at home.

For Saturday, I invited some friends for dinner at my mother-in-laws house(thank you Mom!!). The menu was to be simple: some Deli from my last trip to Italy, Sobrasada and Chorizo (Jabuguitos) with Homenaje Rosado and Sherry.

For main: Rack of Lamb, Steak, prawns and some fish, followed by some salad and pasta for long life. I have to give a big big thank you to Noel for helping me. He offered to cook the Rack of Lamb as a gift for me, and since I've heard and seen through his blog how good it looks, of course I accepted. Then, he also cooked the steak for me, the same steak we had in his house during a dinner some time ago.

For the wines, we had several bottles of Homenaje Rosado (2008), which I found a bit more "full-bodied" or heavier than the 2007, but surprisingly it has less alcohol content than the 2008. Noel also brought a bottle of Bodegas M. Gil Luque Leyenda Amontillado Jerez, a very dry type sherry, which goes quite well with Tapas.

For reds, we had: 1999 Michel Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Nizze La Court(Noel's bottle). I opened a bottle of 2000 Abat Domenech Priorat, which is partly owned by a family friend of ours in Spain. We also had a 2003 Chateau Lascombes (courtesy of Edwin) and a 2003 Descendientes de José Palacios Corullón(my bottle).

Initially I was thinking of the Priorat to go with the steak, since they are powerful, tannic and full bodied wine. This was a 2000 so I decanted it for almost 2 hours. It was very slushy (Initially I thouight it was sedminent, but it looked more like mud). After 2-3 sips, I decided to go with the Barbera for the Steak, a less tannic, medium bodied wine. This paired perfectly with the lamb, and even the steak. We also had a 2007 Burgáns Albariño, to go with the Prawns and Blue Marlin. This is a Albarino blend, very easy to drink and a perfect pairing with Seafood.

The Corullon, from Bierzo was also more my type of wine. Not as overly powerful and full bodied as the Priorato. This also paired well with the lamb, plus I had some left over to go with the cheese platter (Old Amsterdam, Reggiano, Tomme de Savoie and Fourme D'Ambert).

This time, I was very remiss at taking pictures. This time, Noel took much more than me. I'd like to thank everybody who came, and again Noel, for doing all the cooking. The Food was superb.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Elbert's Steak Room...

Dinner last night was at Elbert's Steak Room. It's part of my whole week celebration for my birthday which started last Saturday with a dinner in People's Palace which I will blog about soon. Elbert's has been open for quite some time but for some reason or another, I never got a chance to eat there, so this was a perfect opportunity for me..

I had a table reserved for 7 PM and we got there on the dot. I had my mind fixated with Steak and wanted a proper wine pairing. I was looking for a powerful wine that would go well and that would not be lost with the rich/juicy flavors of the meat. I zeroed in on a wine from Piedmont (Barolo or Barbaresco actually) since I had just been to Barolo and Barbaresco on my recent trip to Italy. After consulting with Noel and the Stockbroker, the latter recommended a 98 Pio Cesare Barolo Single Vinyeard. Bachus was out of stock so he told me to get the 98 Pio Cesare Barbaresco Single Vineyard, which is actually the same grape(Nebbiolo), just a few kilometers away from Barolo.

This wine needed some serious decanting so I asked Noel what other wine we could get to sort of start the night, some ready to drink that did not need much decanting and not as powerful as the Barbaresco. He recommended a Burg: 99 Jadot Corton-Pougets, which he described a one of the mos readily drinkable Burgs available locally. True enough he was correct, no decanting although I left it on my glass for 10 minutes to let it breathe. We also had a Henri Bourgeois 2006 Pouilly-Fume and 2001 Sociando Mallet.

While the wines were decanting, we started with the Pouilly-Fume, which we had with an order of Gambas. We also ordered our Steaks, with already come with Soup and Salad. I decided on Super Prime Grade Ribeye steak, rare-medium rare. I specified no blood if possible. They proceeded in serving us the Gambas, soup then salad which we enjoyed with the Pouilly Fume and the Jadot.

The salad was a simple one, with Balsamic glaze, Lettuce. Tomato and cheese. Pretty appropriate for the huge meal we were going to have. The Soup was a choice of Consomme or Tomato with Basil foam.

Then came the star of the night: Super Prime Grade Ribeye, rubbed with Sicilian Sea Salt perfectly grilled to medium rare. Very soft and super juicy, the first bite was heaven, paired with the Barbaresco that had been decanting, perfect. The Barbaresco was quite spicy/peppery, full bodied masculine wine, which paired perfectly with the steak. Every bite had the juiciness of the salt from the Sicilician Sea Salt rub and powerful wine...simply perfect.

I truly enjoyed the steak specially with the wine. My plate was left practically clean. It was my first time to go and definitely not my last. After dinner we stayed in the smoking room, over some cigarrettes and 18 year old Macallan Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky. A Perfect way to end a meal.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Special Dinner by Ian Padilla

Just a quick break in between my blogging about my trip (I still have like 4-5 left to update), last night dinner was at Tita B's house, our very gracious host who organized a special dinner prepared by Ian Padilla, who works in Taillevant Restaurant in Paris. You know when someone is serious about what he does and really enjoys it, I think tyhat's how Ian is.

We were on the same flight from Amsterdam to Manila (he is here on vacation) 2 weeks ago. As we were lining up at the gate, he tells me that his hand carry is full of kitchen gadgets, etc(at first I panicked as i thought he had knives, etc...)...I immediately thought that with all the strict policies they have now with Security in airports, here comes this guy bringing all of this weird looking gadgets. He would for sure be subject to thorough inspection by the Police. True enough, he was, but that didn't seem to bother him....anyway on to the food....

We got the menu 3-4 days before the dinner, and we immediately asked Noel's advise as to what would be the best wines to bring...for the meal we had, we brought a total of 8 bottles, from bubbly all the way to dessert wine. A day before the dinner thou, Noel informed us that he was not sure to make it since he had flu. True enough, he was not able to come but sent a replacement and sent all his wines (which we are very grateful for)...

We started the night with 2 bottles of: Sieur d’Arques Grande Cuvee 1531, a Crémant de Limoux sparkling wine courtesy of Tita B. As soon as we were seated, they served us the selection of Amuse Bouche: Cold Tomato Consomme in Gelee-Olive Oil and Fleur de Sel, Deep Fried Watermelon-Pimenthe de Espillette and Salt Cured Beets, Balsamic Syrup, Apple Gelee, Brie.

I enjoyed the Deep fried watermelon, on a thin coating of tempura batter, and the Salt cured beats. Both were on the salty side and I love salt. We had no wine with this amuse although I still had some Cremant left, which was good enough for the dish. Next, the first of the courses: Ravioli of Pumpkin, Wilted Rocket, Almond Foam. A Very well executed Pumpkin Ravioli. It reminded me of the one I had some time ago in Italy. The powdered parsley gave it an extra 'zing'. For this dish, as suggested by Noel, we served a 2006 Cervaro della Sala, a chardonnay from Umbria. With this we also opened a bottle of: 2008 Astrolabe Pinot Gris, from New Zealand. I actually enjoyed more the pairing of the Pinot Gris to the Chardonnay for this dish.

We were then served: Tartare of Mackarel, Avocado Mousse, Chives, Cilantro, Cucumber, shallots and Garlic Chips. As most of the people in the table, this dish was one of their favorites. Its amazing how this dish tasted, when this is a very popular affordable fish locally called "Galunggong". It was perfectly executed, the right spice and the presentation of the dish was very original and creative. We had a 2006 Laurent Tribut Chablis to pair with this dish (which I forgot to take a picture of) but again, wonderful pairing and perfect wine for the Mackarel Tartare. I was hoping to have some extra servings, as my wife is pregnant and is avoiding raw food, but she left the plate 'clean'.

After a short break and a Melon and Ginger Sorbet, they served us: Terrine of Foie Gras in 3 Forms, Mango Chutney and Gastrique, Fried Mint and Mint Oil. A huge pice of Foie, made in 3 different ways (I'm sorry but I was not listening when he explained how he did it). I would have wanted some crackers to go with this, as it was so rich, although the Mango Chutney gave the dish the sweet contrast it needed. We paired this with: 2006 Domaine Bott-Geyl Gewürztraminer Les Éléments. A More common pairing with this would be a Sauternes, but I also think that Sauternes and Foie are a bit over the top, and as Noel says, its hard to switch back to another white or red after drinking a Sauternes, and I tend to agree on that.

Next, the fish dish: Nage Steamed Lucena Grouper - Daikon Puree, Garlic Confit, Braised Leaks, Red Pepper Piperade, Crispy Pigs Ears, Veloute of Horseradish(Lapu-Lapu). We had this dish with a 2007 Tempier Bandol Rosé, because it would go well with the Pigs Ears and Garlic. The fish was perfectly steamed and the Veloute of Horseradish gave it the spice it needed, but combined with the Pigs Ears and the Rosé , it was heaven.

The Meat dish: Roasted US Cornish Game Hen, Leg Confit, Creamed Leaks, Cauliflower Beignets, Date Sauce. The pairing of the wine here was a bit tricky according to N, because of the Date Sauce. An ideal wine would have been a light Pinot Noir or a medium weight red Bordeaux. So we decided to bring 3 Bordeaux: 1995 Sociando Mallet, 2000 Reserve de la Comtesse and a 2001 Chateau Latour Haut Brion, which we did not open. I particularly enjoyed the Leg Confit and the Cauliflower Beignet, and it paired very well with the Sociando mallet.

For dessert: Mille Fuille of Sugar Almond Crust, Chocolate Mousse and Cocoa Sorbet, Vanilla Syrup. Interesting as I think it was my first time to try a Chocolate Sorbet. This was perfectly paired with a: Leyenda Pedro Ximenez, an intensely sweet, dark, dessert sherry.

Dinner finished quite late so as soon as dessert was done, some people started to leave. We did not stay longer as it was quite late. First I'd like to thank Tita B for organizing this dinner for us and Ian for cooking for us. I understand that this would be his only catering in Manila during this trip, since he wants to relax and spend more time with family and friends. Thank you also to the students of Robs school and to Rob for helping out in the kitchen. As I walked in during the breaks, I could see everybody really busy preparing everything. Thank you and til the next dinner!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Il Luogo de Aimo e Nadia, Milan

My last post on my Italy trip is a restaurant Called Il Luogo de Aimo e Nadia. Its a 2 Star Michelin located a bit away from the city center, so going there took a while, but it was well worth it. A mix of Tuscan and Emilia Romagna cuisine, husband and wife team up to create intense and flavorful dishes with the best ingredients available. Not too much fancy cooking techniques, just good old cooking with a modern presentation.

For starters, they gave us a Tomato based soup, like a Spanish Gazpacho, mixed with First Press Extra Virgin Olive oil, capers and a sort of Pesto. I don't remember what this dish was called but it was very refreshing and perfect for a hot summer day.

For First course, of course I could not resist not having the Carne Cruda - Raw Piedmontese young Beef filled with green Celery and Pine Nuts, lemon and vegetables. Yet again another hard core/Old school type of tartare, where the meat is treally the main ingredient, not trying to disguise the taste with Tabasco or Lea & Perrins. I enjoyed this with a glass of yet again, Roero Arneis, one of my new favorite Italian whites.

For Main course, I ordered a classic Tuscan dish: Tuscan Suckling Pig flavored with Edera Honey with a Sweet Red Onion gratin & Red Beet Root with Pear. Ridiculously tender and crispy, I am still dreaming of how tender/tasty/creamy this dish was. I guess it has similarities to Pork Kurobota, but definitely much more flavor in this Pig. Must be the Tuscan air?? I enjoyed this with a 2 glasses of Chianti Classico, highly recommended by the Sommelier, a perfect regional paring for my taste at least...

With again no room for dessert, they served us 'Cafes' (Espressos) and Petit Fours. Very simple Fruit Baskets, Chocolate Truffle Bombons, Chocolate filled with Pistachio cream, etc...very simple yet very tasty.

I enjoyed this place very much, as again it was not as fancy/over the top as some of this modern molecular restaurants, good simple honest food. And the Chef, Aimo, was personally there to cook the food and talk to us. Something that does not happen too often nowadays with there celebrity Chefs, who can hardly even be seen in their own restaurants.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Osteria dell' Arco, Alba, Piemonte

What is an Osteria?? It's a simple Italian restaurant serving wine by the glass as well as regional/traditional cuisine. In this case, the one I went to was a Osteria-Enoteca, where they sold also wines by the bottle, to consume during the meal of to take home.

Alba, a picturesque town in the heart of Piedmont that's renowned world-wide for its succulent white truffles, Barolo and Barbaresco wines is where Osteria dell' Arco located. It was quite hard to find as it's tucked away inside a residential building near the central Piazza. The place was packed with locals and some tourists (as usual I normally make reservations just to be sure) so it was a good thing we had reservations.

I started the meal with 2 very traditional Piedmont dishes: Carne Cruda all Albese Batutta al Coltello (Raw Meat Alba style hand cut) and Vitello Tonnato (Chilled veal with Tuna Sauce). Both dishes are very typical Piedmontese cuisine and looking beside me, I could see that many tables of the locals had ordered the same thing.

The Carne Cruda, one of the most basic I've tried. No capers, no Perrins, no Tabasco, no anchovies - basically just raw beef with a little lemon, salt and pepper, which is the traditional Piedmontese way. They serve you Olive Oil on the side, which you are supposed to pour on the meat and mix all together. Simply a wonderful perfect dish. The Vitello is thinly sliced Veal with a light Tuna sauce...very traditional from this region also. For wine, I had Roero-Arneis, a typical grape of Piedmont from the Roero area in the Province of Cuneo.

For main, we had: Lingua Arrosto con Peperone e Salsa Verde (Roasted lambs Tongue) and Tagliata di Fassone (Ox Fillet). Again very traditional Piedmontese dishes, which is what I was really looking for..

As seen on the pictures above, the presentation is very simple. They focus on the quality of the ingredients rather than the fancy presentations. The Lingua was excellent, a little crisp on the outside but soft and juicy on the inside..this was the best dish of the meal and I wish I had ordered this as my appetizer also...that's how good this was. The Ox Fillet was actually also very good, quite tender and tasty, and cooked rare-medium rare, the way I like it. With these dishes I had 2 glasses of Barolo, which was a great match for the dishes I had.

With no more room for dessert, we paid the bill and had coffee in the main Piazza, al fresco..a perfect way to end a meal like this.

Latteria San Marco, Milan

Next stop was Milan. I had heard many good reviews of this restaurant, so decided to have a quick lunch the day after I arrived. It's a very small restaurant, probably only seats only 20 to 25 people. This a very typical Italian family owned restaurant, where the wife is the cook, the husband handles the bar and the rest of the family are involved somehow...

For starters, I had Coppa Piacentina with Melon. This is a very typical summer dish in Spain/Italy...actually a no brainer: The freshness/sweetness of the Melon combined with the salty Jamon Serrano/Prosciutto or Coppa in this case is just a perfect combination. Coppa is a type of Salami made from pork (neck) salted, aged naturally and stored raw. The finished product is cylindrical in shape and weighs around 1.5 kilos. It's not as salty as prosciutto, in fact a bit sweeter, but it still has enough salt to have a good contrast with the Melon.

For main, I had: Carne Cruda Marinata con Pomodori - a different version of Carpaccio, in this case the meat is marinated in some kind of lemon mixture..which I know is typical from Piedmont. a very refreshing/light dish which, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know how I love raw meat. When i see it on the menu, I just cant resist not ordering it.

We opted not to have dessert, just 2 cups of 'cafe', which is how they call the espresso in Italy. Incidentally, I must say that the best espresso I've had, is in Italy. A short, concentrated shot of espresso, served at the right temperature and with the 'crema'...just a perfect way to end a meal.