Saturday, January 30, 2010

St. Johns @ Smithfield, London

I finally had the chance to eat here, after failing the first time. During my first trip to London, I had asked a cousin of mine to reserve a table at St, Johns. It turned out to be the St. Johns @ Spitalfields, which is their second restaurant. The food was great and I really enjoyed, but I said i would return to try the original one, and so I did.

What's so great about this place? The decor of the restaurant is very simple. White rough walls, white floors, a very simple table setting. Yet, it seems to be a Mecca for Pork lovers, because of Fergus Henderson's 'Nose to Tail' philosophy, where all parts of the pig are used and nothing is wasted. St. Johns is also on the list of Best 50 Restaurants in the world, currently in 14th place.

So let's get on with the food. For starters we had 3 dishes: Brown Shrimp and White Cabbage, Ox Heart, Beetroot & Pickled Walnut and probably their best best selling starter: Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad

As you can see, very simple presentation, but all the ingredients of the dishes just seem to marry so well...lost of flavors and contrasts. The white Cabbage was pickled, very crunchy. The Bone Marrow?? What can I say?? Pieces of Heart clogging marrow on bread, sea salt was delicious. The Parsley was a great side for this to cut through the richness of the fat.

For main, we ordered 2 dishes: Middlewhite and Prunes and Ox Tongue, Beetroot and Horseradish. Middlewhite is a rare type of Pig bred in Yorkshire. Simple slices of Pork with Prunes, another classic combination. Crispy pieces of skin gave the dish the texture/contrast. The Ox tongue? Great combination with the Beetroot and Horseradish. It was also quite crispy on the outside and tender inside.

We also had a side order of Welsh Rarebit, a savory sauce made of melted cheese, ale, Mustard, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce spread on bread. Delicious!

Over all one of the better dining experiences I've had in London. It's nice to see that they stuck to simple, down to earth cooking and not fallen in the modern, European fusion type of restaurants that are so abundant in London! Bravo to Fergus Henderson!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Can Valles, Barcelona

My first lunch in Barcelona was a Restaurant called Can Valles. I have been wanting to try this place, since I heard a lot of good reviews about it. In a world full of Michelin Stars, best Restaurant lists, etc... it was nice to search and find a restaurant that had simple yet creative/homey cooking that was not rated by any of the Restaurant list all over the net. This place is like a well known secret, full of locals who are regulars.

For starters, we had a simple yet sinful plate of Jamon Iberico Pata Negra (made from Iberian Pigs who are fed with acorns) with Pan con Tomate (Bread rubbed with tomato, lots of Olive Oil and salt). Washed down with a glass of Fino, one of the best things in life...

Next, one of the house specialties: Carpaccio of Smoked Deer Meat, Mustard and balsamic Vinaigrette and deep fried Orange. This was one of their more creative dishes, very tasty and quite different to regular Carpaccios I've had. The deer meet was smoked, and obviously had a little gamey hint.

Our last appetizer, a more traditional one: Canelones de Pies de Cerdo (Pig's feet Caneloni). One of the best ones I've tried. There is something about Pig's feet, I know it does not sound very good but believe me if you try this, you will change your mind. Very creamy Bechamel sauced topped the dish.

And for our main course: Chuleton de Buey a la Llossa. The Chuleton must have been at least 1 kilo or more, served in a hot stone/plate, lots of salt flakes and french fries.

Served medium rare, the meat was perfectly charred on the outside and rare on the inside. All this we washed down with a bottle of 2005 Remelluri Reserva, a wine I really enjoy for this type of meals. This is a classic Rioja, medium bodied wine which pairs very well with meats and even the Cannelloni.

Simple meals like this I really enjoy. I will continue to search fro restaurants of this type and hope I find one as good as this. My next post: a similar restaurant to this in London!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Kaiseki Dinner at Manila's best private table

We were again lucky enough to have the chance to have dinner in Tita B's house, which we consider Manila's best private table. I feel bad for people who love food and will never have the chance to try Tita B's cooking. She has no formal training, just imagination and skill to produce great dishes.

Sine I was the first to arrive, I got a chance to peak in the kitchen and watch how meticulously the food was being prepared, not leaving out any detail...

Our dinner was 7 months in the making, since we had tried many times to put together a group for this but for reasons beyond our control, it never happened. We were 9 in total, including Tita B who joined us for dinner. While waiting for the others to arrive, we opened a bottle of 2008 Bouldevines, a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Very refreshing crisp wine which I always enjoy even without any food.

At around 8 PM, the first of the many dishes started coming out from the kitchen. Our first dish was the Amuse: Caviar Tempura, Mayo Ponzu Sauce. The wrapper used for this is a special one only found in certain specialty shops in Tokyo. These were deep fried for a few seconds, just enough to give it a little crunch. A great combination with the Mayo Ponzu Sauce.

With this, we had Noels bottle of Sake (sorry I don't have the name), but Keiichi who is very well versed with Sake, mentioned that it was a "Junmai Daigin-jo which is the highest possible rank in sake categories. It 's a pure rice sake (Junmai), i.e. no alchoholic additives and daiginjo - polished to less than 50% of the original form. The bottle was made by Shikoku maker called Kinryo and this Kirameki is the top of their line. It's polished down to 35%". It was a very good sake which paired very well with the Amuse and the 2 other dishes that came after. Noel had mentioned that the Sake had a Chocolate/Cream taste in the middle of the palate. A very good choice of wine pairing specially for a meal like this.

Next, we had the appetizers and Sashimi: Gyoza Medley: Mushroom and Fiji Apple Gyoza, Soya Dipper, Nasu Gyoza, Sesame Dip and the Tuna and Salmon Tartare, Spicy Lemon-Ginger Vinaigrette, Sesame Tuilles, Black Caviar.

Both dishes excellent in execution. The Gyoza, made with a slight variation from the original ways, one crunchy and one steamed. Perfect combination and each with their own dipping sauce. The Tartare, what can I say? A combination of Tuna and Salmon, over a base of spicy vinaigrette, which reminded Keiichi and myself of a Korean sauce. A crispy Won Ton gave this dish the crunch it needed. Jay's Champagne, a 1995 Nicolas Feuillatte, was a nice pairing for these 2 dishes.

After a short break, we proceeded with more food: Chawan Mushi, Foie Gras and Miso Gindara, Snow Pea Salad, Udon Noodles, Truffle Oil. I am not a lover of Chawan Mushi, but I enjoyed this one. Why? It had some shrimp on the bottom of it and of course, Foie Gras. We enjoyed this with Noel's bottle of: 2007 Keller Westhofener Kirchspiel Riesling Spatlese, another good pairing. The Gindara, which we were told was marinated for 3 days (a technique used by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Iron Chef Morimoto) was so full of flavor. The dish had various different textures that married perfectly, from the crunch of the thinly sliced cucumber to the noodles with Truffle sauce.

Then, they served us: Deep Fried Shrimp with Cornflake Batter, Carrot Miso Dressing. The batter, which was made of cornflake, was so crunchy yet very light, not oily at all. The Carrot Miso dressing, the perfect dipping sauce for the Shrimp. I had this with Rene's bottle of: 2007 Le Mont Damne by Didier Dagueneau, who is known to be one of the best producers in the Loire Valley. The wine was very fresh with just a slight hint of acidity, and some citrus notes.

Another break, and we opened our red wines: 1982 Chateau Palmer from keichi, my bottle of 2003 Artadi Pagos Viejos, and rene's mystery wine, which turned out to be a 2001 Chateau bahans Haut-Brion.

All these wines, to be paired with: Boneless Beef Ribs, Japanese Glaze, Gohan with Moromigake. Thinly sliced and perfectly medium rare slices of Beef, with a light sweetish Japanese glaze sauce, served with Steaming hot Japanese Rice. This was excellent, although the sweetness of the sauce was clashing with our wines, so I decided to just eat this without any wine.

I was a bit disappointed with my wine, since I was expecting much more from it, although Noel said that the bottle show potential and needs more time. It was very tannic, although in the nose the seemed sweet. After some time decanting and in the glass, it satrted to open up but I
I think it was just too young to drink. Keiichi's 1982 Chateau Palmer was a mature Bordeaux that I really enjoyed. It was my first time to try this, although I have tasted the Alter Ego which is Palmer's second label.

Dessert was a light Watermelon Soup, Vanilla Ice Cream, which I appreciate, because by that time, I was quite full after double servings of most of the dishes..

Thank you Tita for another first outstanding flawless meal...we enjoyed every single bit of it and hope to come back soon. We will already plan the Chinese Lauriat dinner soon..I hope it does not take 7 months to happen.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

All Bordeaux Lunch at Pepato

Lunch Organized by Greg, who was craving for an all Bordeaux wine line up. We were 6 in total, including Lester, who runs Zen Asia, an importer of wines. It was quite hard for me to bring Bordeaux, since most of the meals I have had there were mostly all Italian wine meals. I was tempted to bring a Barolo or Basrbaresco for the lunch, but decided on Bordeaux so as not to veer away from the theme of the lunch
Anyway, on to the food and wine...Jay brought (as he normally does) the white wine for starters, a 2004 Leewin Estate Chardonnay. I enjoyed this one (I normally don't like Chardonnay), quite fresh and a touch of sweetness to it. I had this with the Squash Tempura flowers. This, together with the Bone marrow, is my favorite appetizer in Pepato.

Jay had this dish as his appetizer, which I believe is new on the menu. I think it was Asparagus Fritters, Scallops and some kind of Chorizo Panacotta (?)

As we were having our Chardonnay, all our reds were being decanted. Some for more time and some for less. Our first red was the 2004 Chateau Clinet, Keichi's bottle. This was a young wine, so as expected, it was quite tannic and strong. As others mentioned, this needs a few more years in the bottle, or major decanting. Next was my bottle, a 2003 Reserve de la Comtesse. Despite it's youth, this wine is drinking very well. I'm not sure how this will taste years from now, but if you have this wine, drink up now.

We reserved the best wines for last: Greg's 1999 Chateau Angelus and Jojo's 1995 Chateau L'Evangile. The Angelus was superb, a typical Bordeaux, medium bodied and great nose. For me this is already very drinkable now but I'm sure this will be much better with a few more years in the bottle. Jojo's L'Evangile, another great wine that I have tried before in one of our La Tienda Dinners. This and Greg's wine were my favorites of the lunch.

With all this wine, I was really craving for the signature Steak that I always order: Bistecca a la Fiorentina. I was very tempted but decided to for for a smaller, lighter dish of Grilled lamb Chops (Scottadito). I normally do not like my lamb very rare, so I had to send mine back for a little more grilling action. It came out great, very tasty and a great match for all the wines we had.

It was a fun lunch as usual, which stared very quiet but ended with the stereo laughing of Jojo and Greg as you will see in the following 'fun' pictures:

I wonder who Keichi is pointing at??

5.1 Surround sound laughter....

And last, a serious pose for the group picture

An enjoyable lunch. Thanks for sharing your wines!! Til the next one!

Monday, January 11, 2010

First Wine lunch of the year at Elbert's

My first lunch of the year was at Elbert's. Jay emailed us that Mon, a fellow WSCP member who lives in New York, was leaving after spending his Christmas Holidays in the Philippines, so it was a good excuse to meet up and drink. It was my chance to try the Chef's Burger, which I was not able to try the last time we had lunch at Elbert's.

We arrived all on time at 12:30 and proceeded to order the food and bring out all our wines. We had several wines on Deck, so we chose in which order we would open the wines. But before the reds, we opened a 2007 Wagner Stempel Siefersheimer Riesling QbA Trocken Vom Porphyr. Of course, this was jay's bottle. A very light, crispy, fresh Riesling. This was not as sweet as the others I've tried. It went very well to start our meal and also with the Asian Salad wee had that comes with the Burger Meal.

Next bottle we opened was the 2008 Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir, Rene's Bottle. For me, this was a medium bodies light wine. has potential but I think it still needs 2-4 years more in the bottle to show full potential. Was a good match though with the Burger.

Next bottle: 1999 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva, Noel's bottle. This is my style of wine (of course it's a Rioja), a medium to heavy bodied wine, although it was quite light in Color. This was not decanted but got even better after a few minutes in the glass.

Our main dish was then served: Elbert's Chef's Special Burger. This is not on the menu, as sometimes they do not have enough stock to make this. Basically, they are made from trimmings of Prime Rib eye, hand chopped and mixed with Bone Marrow. Ours had some Blue Cheese on it and I must say, it was very tasty, moist and probably for the price, the best Burger deal in town. The fries, twice fried, were irresistible!

We had 2 other red wines, 2000 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Gran Bussia and a 1983 E. Guigal Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde, both Mon's Bottles. I enjoyed the Barolo, still quite young but light and easy to drink. The Cote Rotie was light to medium bodied, with a very light color. Was a good wine but I enjoyed the others more.

Our last Bottle: Bodegas González-Byass Apostoles Palo Cortado VORS. I loved this Sherry called Palo Cortado. Since this was a VORS, minimum aging is 30 years. I had asked jay a few days before the lunch if he had tasted any since I was curious. Of course he had tasted it before and had several on stock at home. Thank you Jay for sharing this bottle with us...I will have to buy some for me soon...great Wine.

Thanks Guys!! This was a great start of 2010!! Cheers to more Wine in 2010!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Spanish Night at my House

We had a small get together at my house 2 nights ago for some Spanish Tapas, appetizers, etc.. My Mom is in town and she brought some great Cold Cuts and Cheese fort he night. The Get together was for her friends and relatives.

For Starters, we had some cheese: Truffled Brie and Clarines French Cheese with some Melba Toast and Fuet (A Catalan type of Salchichon) (sorry no picture). With this, we had a 2007 Martin Codax, a fresh, fruity Albariño which I enjoy even as an appetizer wine.

As more gusts arrived, we immediately served the Cold Cuts: Salchichon Iberico, Chorizo Iberico, Lomo Iberico and Jamon Iberico de Bellota (All these cold cuts are Iberico, meaning they come from a special free range Iberian Pig). This give the deli a distinctive and different taste, somewhat like the Kobe of Beef or the Kurobota of Pork. We also had some Olivas rellenas de Anchoas (Anchovy filled Olives)

I then opened the first bottle red wine, a 2004 Muga Reserva Especial, which I decanted for around 1.5 hours before serving. I have been enjoying lately Muga wines, since they are classic Rioja wines, medium bodied but very elegant in structure. Since this was quite young, the decanting was the only for this wine to reach its potential.

Then, more Spanish goodies: Tortilla de Patata y Chorizo and Croquetas de Pollo. I made the Tortilla myself and the Croquetas were ordered from a friend. Both delicious and a good match for the wine, a 2001 Beronia Reserva. I normally have stock of this in my cav since it's a great everyday wine, easy to drink and medium bodied. It goes very well with any kind of Spanish Tapas.

We also had Fideua, a sort of noodle Paella. It is cooked the same way as a Paella, but instead of rice, short noodles (fideos) are used. This one was very tasty although I did not have any more time to add seafood, like Shrimps, Squid, etc. This is also normally served with All i Oli (I make mine with Egg yolk, Garlic and Olive oil, with a pinch of salt and Lemon).

It was a quite enjoyable night. Most of the Tapas were gone, so next time I know that I should make more. I love this kind of dinners, since you eat in smaller portions and it's a more informal way of having people over. Our guests enjoyed the Spanish goodies and promised to come back again for more soon (until my next trip to Spain, so that I can bring back more fresh cold cuts).

Friday, January 1, 2010

Dinner at the Doc's House

December 14 was dinner at the Doc's house. I had been looking forward to this dinner, since I heard that food is always good in his house, and I was not wrong. Noel was to to season/Grill the Steak while we had our appetizers, which he did while the others had not arrived yet.

As we arrived and for starters, we were served Champagne Krug Grande Cuvée Brut NV paired with Sushi from Toki and Dulong with toast. The Sushi, I think served in honor of Keichi, was excellent and the spicy Dulong, excellently paired with the Champagne.

We were also served a 2007 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett , a Riesling Kabinett. This was also quite enjoyable, since it is not as sweet as a Spatlese. A very good match with the Spicy Dulong.

Noel then proceeded to grill the steaks, as Doc and I watched how he did it. I've always thought grilling steaks was quite hard, but after seeing how Noel did it, it did not look as complicated and it was done quite fast actually.

After grilling, the steaks where let to rest around 10 minutes before serving:

Dinner was then served in their formal dining room. For starters, we had a simple yet delicious Caesar's Salad. This is a salad I really enjoy, so simple yet when well done can be very good.

The Doc then served us 2 reds blind, which I had with the Snake River farms US Prime Grade Rib-Eye. I enjoyed wine #1 better with the Steak, since it seemed to be a younger more full bodied wine, while the second wine was a more elegant wine. Wine #1 was a 1998 Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5 and wine #2 turned out to be a 1994 Vega Sicilia Único. I loved both wines, enjoying the Valbuena with the Steak and the Unico on it's own and later on with the Cheese platter. Thank you Doc for this special treat, since I really love Spanish wines and Vega Sicila is probably the best if not one of the best producers in Spain.

The Doc then opened another bottle, this time a Bordeaux: 1990 Château Gruaud Larose which we had with the Cheese platter, Dried Figs, dates and Apricot. Noel had mentioned later that the bottle was slightly off, or corked, but for me it was still quite enjoyable. Doc also opened a bottle of Sauternes for the cheese: 2001 Château Suduiraut, a light Sauternes which went very well with our cheese.

More dessert followed with the sinful and delicious Home made Ice Cream of Mrs. Doc. I must say this is probably the best Ice Cream I've had, so rich and creamy, I could not help myself from having 2 servings. They also served home made cookies served with the Ice Cream.

Thank you Doc and Mrs. Doc for inviting us to your house. I enjoyed everything, every thing, from the food, the setting, the wines and the company was great!!