Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Italy still on my mind...

After our lunch at Pepato, I remembered that I still had 2 pending posts about 2 restaurants I visited to during my last trip to Milan. I cannot remember the name of the Restaurant, all I remember is that it is somewhere in the industrial zone of Lainate, near our warehouse, around 40 kilometers from Milan City.

As we got there, all I could smell was the pungent scent of White Truffles. It is Truffle season now in Italy so many 'good' Restaurants should have fresh ones off the menu. Immediately, the waiter brings them on a glass container for us to smell...ohh what a smell...I asked for them to serve us a small dish of white Truffles on Scrambled egg. With my excitement, I forgot to take a picture of it.

Immediately After, they serve us more appetizers..some Parma Ham, Bread, and Pickled Peppers and mushrooms...just enough to get our Appetites started..

All this washed down with some Vino Rosso from Tuscany: Made wityh 100% Sangiovese grape, this wine was a perfect pairing with our meat..not quite as powerful and tannic as a Piedmontese wine (Barolo or Barbaresco), but held up pretty well with my Bistecca alla Fiorentina.

Then came the 'real' food...The waiter recommended us to have Carne Cruda (Tartare) since it was one of their specialties...happily I obliged(how can I say no when someone offers me this??). Like every good Tartare, this was prepared right in front of you. It was not as 'basic' as the Piedmontese Tartare, which just has Oil, salt and Pepper. This one was a bit more complex, with Oil, Mustard, Vinegar, Tabasco, capers, etc...still it was very good and the beef was excellent and fresh.

But this was just the first course...for main, the waiter told us to have Bistecca alla Fiorentina, another of their house specialties..how could I say no?? it was carved right in front of us, served very simple (notice my plate has nothing but the meat) and a plate of sauteed mushrooms with Olive Oil and garlic.

After carving the piece of meat right in front of us, this is what was left. I really love this type of food..so simple, honest to goodness cooking. The presentation was so basic yet the meat was so tasty and perfectly done. The Mushrooms were a perfect complement to the dish.

Obviously, after a meal like this, I was done. No room for dessert or anything...just enough space for a cafe and the bill. Will definitely come back here (since this is near our warehouse in Milan) and try their other specialties next time.

The Goose Station, Fort

I was lucky to get invited to the soft opening of The Goose Station(a play on words for 'Degustation'), a new restaurant that just opened today at the Fort. A dream come true for young Chefs Rob and Sunshine Pengson. I have tried many times their Degustation menus during private events and I am glad they opened their own restaurant.

Their concept: A casual Degustation Restaurant where people can enjoy a 10 course meal, allowing them to try the unique creations, textures and flavors of their dishes. If I am not mistaken, there will be 2 types of Degustation: a 7 course and a 10 course meal, although for those who do not want to eat so much, you could also order a la carte. I would definitely recommend the 10 course to be able to try as many dishes possible, since all of them are superb.

Chef Rob and Sunshine preparing the snacks..

Lets get on with the food. For starters: Foie Gras Cone - this small cone is served with Foie, just to get your appetites up and going - and to prepare for what is coming next.

Next, Snacks: Peanut & Jelly, Ham and Cheese, Onion and Potato. More snacks to wet your appetite. Very creative and tasteful dishes...I was already getting excited for what was coming next.

SASHIMI - Tuna, Sea Urchin, Crab, Mirin Jelly, Wasabi Tobiko, Kaiware, Miso, Mustard Sorbet, Puffed Rice. A very complex creation , a tribute to Japanese food and the many textures and flavors it has. The puffed rice was a nice touch to give this dish a bit of crunch contrast.

Next: BEET GARDEN SALAD - Textures of Beetroot, Orange, Goat's Cheese, Candied Walnuts, Leaves, Aged balsamic, Lightly pickled Vegetables. Another very complex creation. After the first bite, it all makes sense..all the flavors and textures just seem to combine so well.

Next dish was one of my favorites, which I have tried before:EGGS BENEDICT 2007 - Poached Egg, Hollandaise Foam, Bacon Tuile, Fleur de Sel, White Truffle Oil. Their own version of the classic Eggs Benedict sort of deconstructed. As soon as you take the first spoonful with the Bacon Tuile, the flavors just burst out and you are reminded of the classic breakfast dish.

Next were the Foie Dishes: UNAGI AND FOIE GRAS TERRINE - with Caramelized Apple Tartare and SEARED FOIE GRAS - Brioches, Squash, Chestnut and Ginger Bread. You normally would have to choose any of the 2 dishes, but I was lucky someone in our table offered hers to me so I was able to try both of them. I have tried similar dishes before, so it really depends if you prefer the pan seared Foie or the Terrine, which is complemented very well by the Unagi and the crunchy..

Next, we had a choice of 2 main dishes (Again I was lucky ti get to try both): CHICKEN ROULADE - Bacon, Port Jus, Sweet Red Mung Bean and Pistachio Stuffing, Roasted Shimeji & Morel, Sweet Potato Foam, Red Cabbage and LAMB RIBS - Horseradish Potato Puree, Port Jus, Cabbage, Bacon. Both were excellent dishes. The Chicken Roulade was another very complex creation, with many textures and flavors, and the Lamb, sous vide, excellent tasting and more than a generous serving.

Then came the dessert: Pineapple Tarte Tatin with smoked Coconut Ice Cream. I liked this dessert since its not as sweet as others, and the Smoked Coconut gave this dish a nice touch.

And when you think it's all over..no...there still one more dish: Petit Fours - small bite size desserts to finish off your meal. I enjoyed this with coffee and what was left of the wine we brought.

A Fantastic meal that I really enjoyed. I wish them luck in this venture and they will definitely come back soon.

Italian wine lunch at Pepato

Lunch last Monday was at Pepato., I had been craving for the steak and had some wine I had brought back from my last trip to Italy, so decided to ask the usual suspects to join me for an Italian lunch at Pepato. We were 5 in total: Jojo, Jay, Aaron, Greg and myself. Noel was supposed to join but begged off, although he joined us for some coffee and after lunch drinks.

I was craving for Bistecca alla Fiorentina with a good potent Piedmont wine, so I brought a bottle of 1998 Giacomo Conterno Barolo, a young Roero Arneis and a Passito dessert wine. Many had the same thing in mind, so we had a Brunello from Jay, a Barbaresco from Jojo, another Barbaresco from Greg and a Bordeaux from Aaron, which we had with cheese after our meal.

I will not go into details of the wine notes, but if you are interested, you can read Noel's blog, with the detailed wine notes. As for the whites, we had a 2008 Roero Arneis, a regional wine from the Piedmont area, and a special wine from Jojo: 2004 Vare, from Napa Valley. This is a special wine specially done for Thomas Keller of French Laundry and Per Se restaurants. It is made of 5 different varietals of grape. My first impression of the wine at the first pour is that it was very dark colored, dense and viscous. My first impression on the smell was oxidized, sweet , molasses, so I thought that the wine would be sweet. It was not sweet at all and I enjoyed this wine, since it was interesting and something new.

As for food, we ordered the usual that is normally ordered the times I have been there. For appetizers, Squash Flower Tempura, Roasted Bone Marrow, and Spaghetti. For Main, we had the "Bistecca alla Fiorentina", to go with our Barolos and Barbarescos.

The food is always consistent and good in Pepato, at least the times I have been there. Quality is always top notch and service is always good. The 'Bistecca' is really the reason why I wanted to eat there, and paired with the wines, fantastic. My Barolo was a classic one, typical of Barolos and I thought would be a perfect match for the steak. Despite being almost 10 years old, it was still pretty closed after decanting it for almost 2 hours. This could definitely keep in the bottle for at least 5-10 years more. All wines matched very well with the steak, but for me I liked as pairing the Barolo and Jay's Brunello.

We also had a mystery wine from Jojo, a wine that was sent to him by a friend. He asked us to guess what the wine was. I thought it was a California wine, but it turned out to be a Hungarian wine. First time fro me to try a wine from Hungary, so I thank Jojo for educating us on other wine regions.

We had loads of fun and laughter during the lunch. Having Greg and Jojo in the same table is like having a stereo headphones...it's just so contagious and loud that you will end up laughing with them. We had the restaurant pretty much all to ourselves, so we could make all the noise we wanted..

At first it was serious talk about wines...
Then came the bursts of very loud laughter...

We continued the afternoon with more fun and Noel Joined us shortly after our meal, just in time to try the wines. We opened Aaron's 89 Lagrange to go with our Cheese platter. I've had this wine before with Noel and it was excellent. Perfect match for our cheese.

We continued drinking until about 4 pm and we all left Greg and Jay, who were finishing up their drinks. A great lunch..thanks to everyone for sharing their wines and hope we can do this again soon!

And another group shot with Noel in it..

A Presto...Arrivederci!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Double Blind Tasting/Paring at Elbert's Steak Room

Lunch last Friday was at Elbert's Steak room. During Jay Lab's birthday lunch, someone had suggested to have a lunch at Elbert's and try the Burger. The concept was we all had to have the same Burger and see which one would pair best with it. We all had to bring a bottle each of the best wine we thought would pair well with the Burger. To make things more exciting, Arnie suggested it should be blind.

So after a few messages to Elbert, who graciously organized everything for us (64 glasses all labeled, brown bags to cover our wines, etc...), we all met up for lunch last Friday. I had arrived early so I helped out in organizing the glasses, labels, etc...it was hard work but someone had to do it..

As the others arrived, wines were poured in our glasses. None of us were really drinking any yet, since the whole point was to see which wine would pair best with the Burger, not which was the best wine.

Salad was served as it is part of the set Burger lunch menu (a great deal if you ask me - 599 for salad and the Burger). It was quite hard not to drink the wines before the food arrived, all we could do was smell the wine and try to imagine what it was. Maybe we should have brought a bubbly or a white to start the meal.

After some salad and initial mental notes on the wines, our meal was served. I must say that the Burger was one of the better ones I've tried in the Philippines. 2 patties, served with a generous serving of cheese and the sinful twice fried fries..As Noel said, it was hard not to gobble the Burger up right away, since we had to taste each bite with 7 different wines...but obviously we all managed.

After casting all our votes, JayL was in charge of tallying the votes and Jojo to announce the winners. What was at stake? The loosing wine would have to have to pay the meal of the winning wine - not much, but it was all about pride of winning obviously. This was the order of the winning wines, from first to last:

1. Arnies's 00 Ninquem
2. Greg's 99 Château Poujeaux
3. Jay's 03 Alvaro Palacios Bierzo Moncerbal
4. My 05 Alvaro Palacios Remondo Rioja Propiedad
5. Jojo's 06 Orin Swift The Prisoner
6. Noel's 04 Antinori Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Riserva
7. Keichi's 08 Ferrand Beaujolais Nouveau

All the wines were good but obviously there had to be one winner, and that was Arnie's wine. Most of us (except Noel and Jojo) voted it best wine pairing. Keichi was the last, with a Beaujolais Nouveau. He did not expect to be dead last but he was a good sport and took the loss with dignity.

We had lots of fun and laughter (courtesy of Greg and Jojo). Thank you Keichi and Arnie for thinking about this and thank you Elbert and Adrian for being so accommodating to our group.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rene's advanced birthday dinner

Dinner last Friday was at Tita B's house for Rene's advanced Birthday dinner (his birthday is actually 2 weeks from now). Every year, I look forward to this birthday dinner, as it is one of the few times we can sample Tita B's cooking at it's finest. Everything is always perfect when we have dinner in her house..the food, service, wines, company, etc...

For starters, they served us Champagne Billecarte Salmon Brut Réserve NV. As Noel mentioned in his blog, this is becoming also one of my favorite NV bubblies, and locally available so you can pick up bottles of this anytime as needed. After a couple or servings (or more) of bubbly, we proceeded with dinner proper.

For the Amuse, they served: Anchovy on Crouton with Smoked Tomato Sorbet. I had this still with some champagne, and I must say I enjoyed this very much. The saltiness of the anchovy was a good contrast with the sweet yet smoky Tomato Sorbet.

Next, we had: Crab Salad, Tuna Tartare, Avocado Mousse, Caviar. This was one of my favorite dishes of the night (I had double servings of this - and my wife who is pregnant and about to give birth, had also even if she was trying to avoid raw food), so simple but yet so delicious. The Avocado mousse gave this dish the balance it needed, plus the caviar put in that kick in the end. Perfect Dish which we had with 2008 Astrolabe Voyage Pinot Gris, which we already had also in the same house, during the last Ian Padilla dinner.

Next, Sauteed Foie Gras, Tomato Tarte Tatin, Creme Fraiche with Port and Balsamic Reduction. The perfectly seared Foie was just the right size, not heart clogging at all...paired with a 2001 Léon Beyer Gewürztraminer Réserve that Noel brought for Rene, it was a perfect match. Many people love pairing Foie with Sauternes, but personally I just find it too sweet and prefer them for dessert than with Foie.

At this point we were just half way there...but heck who is complaining??..Next, we were served the first of the main courses: Spaghetti, Caramelized Onion, Anchovies, Toasted Garlic breadcrumbs, Poached Egg and Truffle Oil. This was also another one of my favorites (I had 2 servings as normally Tita B always has an extra one or two serving in the kitchen). I loved the crunchiness of the Garlic Breadcrumbs and the Poached Egg..delicious. It's normally very hard to pair wine with dishes that have Egg, but I continued drinking the Pinot Gris with it.

At this point, I was getting really full, but like I said, I was not going to complain about it. The main (and last) dish was served: New York Strip Steak,Seaweed Butter, Saffron Garlic Pilaf. Rene then served the reds for the night: 2004 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and a 2000 Château Smith Haut Lafitte. The Lafitte was decanted for almost 2 hours before serving. I enjoyed both wines with my steak, which was thinly cut, medium cooked steak. The Seaweed butter was a good touch and gave it flavor, while the Saffron Pilaf had a great fragrance to it.

Dessert than was served (I personally liked it) but I just had 2 bites to try it and gave the rest to my wife. I was just too full and could not eat anymore. Dessert was Brown Sugar and Brandy Pear Turnovers, Haagen Dazs Ice Cream, Strawberry and Mango Crunch. This Rene paired with 2007 Astrolabe Experience Noble Riesling. Good choice on wine, which I found very light and slight sweet wine, which did not over power the Dessert, which was already sweet enough.

Coffee followed and a few more drinks (to finish offs the reds left). It was a great night and many thanks to Rene. Happy Birthday and may you have many more to come. Another thank you to Tita B, who prepared this dinner. Everything was perfect as usual..I can never get tired of this kind of food.