Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Usual Suspects Pre-Christmas Dinner at The Goose Station

As I said, I would be posting backwards from latest to earliest, so this was our one of our Pre-Christmas meals with the group. We all had decided to have it at The Goose Station, since we feel quite at home there and food is great. Rene was in charge of making reservations and preparing our Degustation Menu. We were the usual group (Jojo, Rene, Keichi, Greg, Aaron, jay and myself..unfortunately Noel could not join us although he came for a few drinks)

For starters, some Champagne: Freixenet Reserva Real from Aaron and a BilleCarte Salmon Brut Rose from Noel. I always enjoy good bubbly before starting a meal and both of them were very good, crisp and fresh.

We were then served with the Amuse Bouche: Foie Gras Cones, Potato and caramelized Onion, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Prosciutto and Brie. I have tried all of this before and spoken about it in my previous blog, so I will only talk about the new dishes I have tried this time.

We then had: Salmon Tartare - White Asparagus Foam, Mango, Cilantro, Daikon Sprouts, Avocado oil and Caviar. My first time to try this and I loved it. All the flavors perfectly balanced and with good contrast. I had this with a 2007 Domaine Rimbault Sancerre (sorry no picture).

We then had 2 wines served blind. Keichi had already mentioned that he was going to bring an 82 Cos D'Estournel. Jojo then pulled out a wine saying it was the same years as keichi's Cos, so he suggested we serve them blind and see how they fair...so we did

As we were tasting, we had the 3rd dish of the night: Beet Garden (see my previous post on this), which I also like very much.

Eventually everyone had their votes and 5 out of 4 voted the 2nd wine better then the first. At that point we still did not know what wines was Jojo's, we only knew Keichi's wine. After Keichi Voted, we asked him to reveal the bottle of the wine that he voted 2nd, and to his disappointment, it was his wine. The winner was Jojo's 82 Le Bon Pasteur.

Notice Keichis 'serious' face...

Next, we had one of my favorite dishes: Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Foam, Bacon Tuille, Fleur de Sel and White truffle Oil. This we had with Rene's Bottle of: 2006 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. Not really my type of white wine, since i find many of the Bordeaux Whites oaky, although still quite enjoyable. I did not drink the wine with the Eggs Benedict, as it is really quite hard to pair any Egg dishes with wine.

Next, the Seared Foie Gras, a tribute to the Holiday Season, with Roasted Pumpkin Pudding, Ginger Bread, Blueberry, Toasted Brioche, Chestnut and Micro Mustard Greens. With this we had the perfect wine: 2007 Dr. Loosen Riesling Spatlese. I think one of the better pairings, since I find Sauternes too sweet.

After a break, them main dish arrived: Black Angus Rib Fillet, Sausage Jus, Haricot Verts, Truffle Oil, Whipped Potatoes, Burre Schublig, Peas and Crisp onions.

With the Steak, we had several wines on the Table: 2002 Lynch-Bages from Greg and a 2005 Chateau Taillefer from Aaron. Both wines were very good and match perfectly with our steaks.

For Dessert, we had Chocolate Candy Bar, Earl grey Mousse, Ganache, Bisquit. With this, Jay pulled out his bottle of Benriach 15 year old Single Malt. The Dessert was sinful and the Single Malt, what can I say? Before enjoying wine I was a scotch drinker so I loved it. In fact I am now more into Single Malts than Scotch, So I really enjoyed this one.

And now, for the 'fun' photos:

Group Shot

Too much Single Malt???

Another group Shot....

Final Group shot with The Chefs and Owners of TGS, Rob and Sunshine

We had a great time, food and wine was great. My next post: the Pre-Christmas Lunch to this dinner, a Roast Goose lunch specially prepared for us by Chef Marc Aubry in Je Suis Gourmand.....

Usual Suspects last Meal for 2009 at Masseto

I know it's been a while since I've updated my blog. I've just had too many things going on, work, relatives, Holiday rush, etc...I've resumed blogging but will start from my latest meal, then work backwards from there.

This a was dinner organized by Jojo. He had prepared a set menu care of Chef Tippi Tambunting. It was one of those "I'll take care of all the wines' by Jojo, so we were sure to enjoy. Obviously it would not be complete if he did not serve some of them blind...he likes playing those 'guess the region/year" type of games..

For starters, as we arrived , we were served by Jojo himself (who was our Bartender/Sommelier for the night) nicely chilled glasses of 2000 Champagne Jacquesson Avize Grand Cru. I have only tried a few vintage Champagnes, so I don't have much experience. I was expecting this to be not as fresh and Fruity but I was pleasantly surprised with this Champagne. Very nice, lemon, fruity... a perfect way to start the night.

Once we were complete,. food and more wine started arriving. We had for appetizers: Scrambled Eggs-Chorizo and shrimps with Garlic Chips, we were served 2 reds blind. Clues we got were it was the same maker and we were to guess which was the older vintage and the region of possible.

I decided to leave the blinds reds and have the tapas with the 2004 Maison Leroy Bourgogne, which I have had twice this year, I enjoyed this light fresh red wine. As for the blind reds, I was almost immediately able to tell which was the older one, as it was quite of a brick color, while the other one was still a brighter more vivid ruby red. I enjoyed Wine number one (the younger one) which turned out to be a 1998 Château Le Bon Pasteur. With wine number 2, I detected a weird smell, which Noel pointed out to be saline aroma..I called it a 'fishy' smell and Rene had mentioned salt water If I'm not mistaken. I left the wine and the particular smell was gone in about 45 minutes. The wine was revealed as 1982 Château Le Bon Pasteur. It was an enjoyable wine, but not as good as the same bottle we had on our DEC 21 Dinner at the Goose Station.

Done with the reds, we moved on to the whites. We were served 3 New World Chardonnays, all of the, very different in style. 2000 Château Montelena Napa Chardonnay, still quite fresh for a 10 year old wine. It was oaky and buttery, typical qualities of Chardonnay. The second wine was 2003 Ridge California Chardonnay Montebello, a lot oakier. A few had mentioned that it was like Buttered Popcorn and i definitely agree with them. Not really my style of wine. The last was 2006 Leewin Art Series Chardonnay, this was more my type of wine. Much less oak and with some fruit and acidity on it.

After this, yet again another wine served blind. This was a magnum and we were to guess if it was New World or Old World. Many had voted new world, but at the end it turned out to be a 2000 Chateau d'Aiguilhe. My first time to try this wine. Many said this Chateau really makes Modern wines, that's why many were confused.

More food was served: Halibut, Clams and Clam Jus, Fideo, Aquid and Prawns and Prime Rib Eye Steak.

Then, 2 more wines were served blind: this time, Jojo wanted to to say which was Right Bank and which was left Bank. It was very hard for me to guess, so I just decided to enjoy the wine instead while the rest analyzed and analyzed. I preferred the first one, which turned out to be a 1998 Château Pape Clément, mostly the one preferred by everyone. The 2nd wine was a 2000 Chapelle d'Ausone, for me no where close to the first one and not as open and ready to drink yet. Maybe this will get better after a few more years in the bottle.

This last 2 wines were served with a cheese platter (sorry no photo). We had more wines after this, but at this point I don't remember most of them, so no pictures of them anymore. Here are some 'fun' pictures:

Greg threatening to take home all the Droste that Aaron had brought for all of us..

Noel, Greg, Jojo and Aaron..

Johnny fulfilling his long time dream of being behind a bar..although he did not serve us anything

Jojo, not just a great host but also our Bartender/Sommelier

Rene and myself, Cheers to a great 2009 and looking forward to 2010!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pre Christmas lunch at La Tienda

I had asked the guys if they were free for a Christmas dinner on December 18 in Je Suis Gourmand. Everybody confirmed their attendance and emails started going back and forth regarding what menu and wines we would have for said lunch. It was Jojo who suggested that we have a lunch to plan for the December 18 lunch, so we all of course agreed to Lunch at La Tienda. Obvioulsy, during this lunch, we did not plan or all about our JSG lunch, but we had a lot of fun, which is all that counts.

I got there quite early since I was planning the menu with Chef Javi. We would have the usual (a meal there cannot be the same without our 'usual' dishes) and some new ones. Naturally the theme of the lunch was Spanish so mostly everybody brought Spanish wine.

As the first people Started to arrive, we decided to open the bubbly, Rosado and whites while waiting for the others. Aaron brought a bottle of Cava Freixenet Reserva real, a NV bubbly from one of the biggest Cava Manufacturers in Spain. I found this Cava fresh, with hints of lemon and very elegant.

As some platters of chorizo curado were served, JayL popped open his bottle of Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana, by bodegas Hidalgo. Sherry specially this type, is an acquired taste, but I have also loearned how to enjoy this, spacially with some cured Chorizo and Olives. This particular sherry was dark in color and dry, aged for about 12 years in Oak Barrels.

By that time, everybody had arrived already and we were ready to starting with the Tapas. We had so much wine that we did not even know where to start nor what to open. As food started arriving, more whites were open.

Our appetizers: Escalivada (a meal is not a meal in La Tienda without this), Gambas a la Plancha, Brandada de Bacalao, Huevos estrellados 'a la casa Lucio' and Calamares a la Plancha con Cebolla.

All dishes were perfectly executed and so flavorful. The highlight for me was the 'Brandada de Bacalao', a puree of cod fish on bread, topped with a shrimp. a bonus dish was the Huevos Estrellados, a very typical dish in Madrid made famous by Lucio, the owner of the restaurant Casa Lucio. I must say, Javi's version is excellent and very close to the one in casa Lucio.

As for wines, we continued pouring mainly whites and few reds that were already opened. For whites we had a Naia 2008, Pazo Pineiro de Lusco (Albarino) and a Rubaiyat Koshu Barrel aged Japanese White Wine.

The 2008 Naia was a bottle I brought back from one of my trips to Spain. It is 100% Verdejo, from the Rueda Region is Spain. Very refreshing, crisp with a slight citrus/zesty taste. I was quite surprised by this wine and how I liked it. A lot of people seemed to like it also. I will definitely stock up on this wine on my next trip. Keichi's Japanese wine (Rubaiyat Koshu Barrel aged) was a first fro me, since I had not tried any kind of Japanese wine (aside from Sake). I was also surprised and enjoyed this wine, made from Koshu, which is a grape grown in Japan. Aaron's Albarino, a sample that was sent to him by a supplier. The 2005 Pazo Piniero de Lusco Albarino is a selection of grapes from the oldest and steepest section of the vineyard to provide superior terroir character. It was also good, although it lacked the acidity and freshness that Laxas or Martin Codax have. It was a great match though for the Gambas a la Plancha.

Then came the main courses, plus of course the reds. My Bottle was a 2004 Mauro VS, a relatively new maker in the Castilla y Leon region, made by the same makers of Vega Sicilia. It is actually a Ribera del Duero but the vineyards are just about 10 miles out of the region, so technically it cannot be a D.O. Ribera del Duero. This was decanted for about 1.5 hours before serving. Although quite young, shows great potential. It is very modern, deep dark purple color and subtle. It is made of 100% tempranillo, but is still quite full bodied.I would like to try an older vintage of this same wine, maybe a 99 or 2000.

Rene's bottle, a Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva 2001 was also on the table. Initially, we thought this would need decanting, but after a few sips from Jay and Rene, they decided to just leave the bottle open 1 hour before serving. This a very classy elegant wine, made of 80 Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha, mazuelo and Graciano. I have tried several of the Muga wines, and this one is good, although i prefer the Torre Muga or the Reserva Especial, since they are a bit more full bodied and modern, compared to the classic Prado Enea. There were other bottles that were not opened (Noel's Mauro 2005, Greg's Tres Picos from Borsao) and wines I didnt have the chance to try (Aaron's Honoris Valdubon). I've been wanting to try this wine but both dinners were this wine was available, I just did not get the chance to try it.

Then the food was served. of course we had the 'usual' dishes: Paella De Verduras con Arroz Basmati, Besugo al Horno and Chuleton. All the food was as always perfect, but I must say the paella this time was better and tastier. I wonder if Chef Javi added something new? The Besugo was spot on and the Chuleton was perfectly cooked, charred outside and rare inside. A generous serving of fries made up the plate of Chuleton.

We had 2 more bottles of Red, care of Jojo: 1990 Protos Gran Reserva and a 2005 Dominio de Atauta, both from Ribera del Duero. Protos is a classic Ribera, very classic and elegant wine, while the Dominio de Atauta is a bit more modern, although in some cases they use 100 year old vines. Both very good and good pairing with our food.

Javi then came out of the kitchen just to make sure that everything was in order and that we were enjoying. he definitely noticed that we were enjoying everything since mostly everything was wiped out.

We had no space for dessert, but we still had some space for dessert wine. We opened my bottle of Bodegas Toro Alabala Pedro Ximenez Reserva 1982. This was quite an aged PX, not as sweet as many of the younger ones I've tried. Still like most Px, hints of molasses, thick, viscous and very dark.

Finally, our group picture before everyone started to go their own way..as usual some stayed, to drink more, to drink coffee and to have more laughs. Great lunch and I can't wait for our next Christmas Lunch!