Friday, April 23, 2010

Special Pintxos dinner at La Tienda

After I got back from San Sebastian, I have been obsessed by the food and the town of Donostia. The closest I will get to Donostia in Manila would be if I asked Chef Javi of La Tienda to prepare us some local dishes that he knows so well about. There was another excuse for this dinner though, (not that we need any) which was to try out some special wines, sent by Victor Quinson to Aaron(Thank you Victor). It turned out to be a special dinner, plus a mini vertical of Viña Tondonia, by Bodegas Lopez De Heredia, one of the few who still produce traditional classic Rioja wines.

With the impressive line up of wines, I asked Javi to prepare us some Pintxos as starters and a Chuleton for main. We started off though with some Cava courtesy of Aaron: NV Elyssia Gran Cuvée Brut, a fresh and light Cava, which is always good for me before starting a meal.

Javi then came to see us and asked if we wanted to start, so we all agreed to start. They served us in this order:

Salmorejo - an Andalusian style Gazpacho, made with only Tomatoes. It came with a shrimp, which I think was cooked in Vinegar (a la Boquerones).

Pintxo de Anchoas con Crema de Centollo - Anchovy with Cream of Spider Crab - this was my special request, after I have tried this in bar Txepetxa in San Sebastian, upon recommendation of Javi.

Escalivada - No meal in La Tienda would be complete without Escalivada, This one is Javi's own version with Anchovies and Cheese.

Bacalao Encebollado - Bacalao with lots of Onions - Fantastic dish and perfect with the Txacoli.

Txangurro - a very typical Basque dish made out of Crab Meat, Onions, Peppers, Garlic, all baked and normally served on bread, although this one was served in a small bowl.

Pies de Cerdo con Foie - Pig's Trotters with Foie - incredibly rich and tasty. Loved this and one of my favorites of the night.

We paired the first with 2008 Itsas Mendi No. 7, a Txacoli that we have had many times, and is really a good pairing with seafood based dishes, specially the ones we had. It's normally served high at arms length, to 'activate' it and release the bubbles, so since we had a pourer which I had bought in from San Sebastian, I gave it a shot.

We also had Doc's bottle of 2005 Domaine Weinbach Riesling Alsace Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvee Ste.-Catherine, a nice light Riesling with typical hints of Lychee that Riesling have, I enjoyed this with the Foie very much.

We moved on to the main (after break since we were quite full from all the Pintxos) not before opening all the wines to match with our Chuleton. Aside from the 2000 Reserva and the 81, 91 and 94 Gran Reserva of Tondonia, we also had my bottle of 1991 Beronia Gran Reserva and Rene's 1978 castillo Ygay Gran Reserva, the last 2 being spared, since we had too many wines on deck.

Javi came out and volunteered to help us open the Tondonias, which all had wax caps, so it took us quite some time to open them. We were happy to see that all the corks were in good condition.

My favorite of the night, the 1991 Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva. This was everybody's Wine of the night, some comparing it to Catherine Zeta Jones and others to Penelope Cruz. I'd personally go with Penelope Cruz. This wine was elegant, classy and with a long finish. I found the 81 to be too old, and quite tired, similar to the notes I had of my the 85, which we had at our Aged Rioja dinner last year.

Gerry also brought a mystery wine, already decanted when he arrived, which turned out to be a 98 Angelus from St. Emillion. Although a bit tight and still closed, it went will with our meat. We also had Noels 1987 Viña Tondonia Reserva which unfortunately was corked.

The Steak (Chuleton) was excellent, rare as I like it and tender. It also came with some special Peppers that I requested Javi to Make. These Piquillo Peppers go really well with a good steak and Rioja wine.

For dessert, we had a Gateau Basque with Doc's bottle of 2004 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume. I liked this very much with the Gateau, which had some strawberries to give it some acidity. The wine was quite sweet and apparently a Chenin Blanc. very nice.

Another fun dinner, great food, wines and friends. Thank you all for coming and thank you Javi for preparing the food...hasta la proxima!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spasso, Italian Tapas and Wine bar

We were invited by Tita B some two months ago to try this restaurant. It had just opened and she had met the owner so we decided to try it out. Streets names are very confusing for me in the Fort area so this place is located just behind Je Suis Gourmand, near Net One Building.

The Restaurant is casual, quite big and has a large wine cellar. They do not bring in their own wines, so many are from the local distributors in Manila. They even have a private room, with view to the kitchen, for Private functions.

They immediately served us bread, with Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar and Cheese. Bread was warm and Olive oil was good.

For our appetizers, we had Bruschetta of: Foie Gras with Caramelized Peach, Eggplant Parmiggiano and Wagyu Beef Tartare Lardo. Excellent Bruschetta, specially the Tartare..very tasty and lots of Olive oil.

We then had 2 platters of Cold Cuts: Prosciutto and Salami. Both are from the brand Citterio, which are ok but I prefer the less commercial, home made type of Cold cuts you will find it Italy in many gourmet stores.

For our main, we had the following: Rib Eye Rustica, OssoBuco and Lamb Risotto. The Steak and Rissoto were very good, the steak being very tender (although it was medium and not medium rare) and the Rice very creamy and full of flavor. The OssoBuco was 'ok'...nothing really special here.

Over all I was impressed with the food and the extensive menu they have in this restaurant. We said we would come back one day with the Usuals for one of our wine lunches.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pre Easter lunch at Pepato

I had just arrived from an 3 week trip in Europe (where I met up with Noel in Spain) and was craving for a wine lunch with the Usual Suspects. After a few text messages, we settled on a lunch on Wednesday of Holy week at Pepato. We were 4 only since mostly everybody was already on vacation.

I was the first to arrive and had a young wine, so I went there early to decant the wine. soon after, Aaron, Jay and Johnny arrived.

I brought 2 wines, purchased on one of trips: 2008 Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis and 2007 Guidalberto Tenuta San Guido. Arneis is one of my favorite type of grape for Italian whites and Bruno Giacosa they say the best producer of Roero Arneis. This one was fresh, crisp and quite dry. It had some notes of lime and citrus. As for the Guidalberto, this is a Super Tuscan and the 2nd label of Sassicaia. Despite it's youth, I think it was drinking quite well after about 1.5 hours decanting.

To start, I had a order of Spaghetti Pepato, a simple pasta with Olive oil and Parmesan Cheese...such a simple pasta. I enjoyed this with my Roero Arneis.

For main, I had Steak, with Potato Wedges, Greens and Garlic. The meat was cooked just enough, leaving it rare on the inside. Wit the meat, the best pairing was Jay's bottle of Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura 2001. It was a good match with our steak,and improved as it spent more time in my glass.

We also had an order of Squash Flower Tempura and a Cheese Platter, since we still had wines left. The last bottle we opened was Aaron's 2004 Laurona Montsant . A winemaker that I have tried before. I was expecting Typical Priorat/Montsant full heavy wines but this was light, medium bodied and very good.

We stayed a while longer lingering, then decided to walk to Bacchus, since Johhny had to have his watch fixed and Aaron buy some wines. When we walked back to Pepato, we still had time to open the last bottle. The ever reliable Piper Heidsieck Brut NV of Jay.

What a great afternoon...

Ara Korean Restaurant, Makati

This lunch was around 2 months ago,. Organized by Jojo, he had told us he discovered this Korean restaurant that served great food, good service and no corkage. So the Usual Suspects decided to give it a try. We were 6 in total and we were given a private room on the second floor, with our own small Zen garden.

For starters, we had the usual Appetizers...most vegetable, all very good. We also had Kimchi, with a bottle of Brut NV Clos Du Moulin, a nice refreshing Champagne that I had with the Kimchi.

We let Jojo do the ordering, so as soon as the appetizers arrived, all the other food just started arriving non stop..First, this sort of Chawan Mushi Korean style( i think though it was a very light Omelet)...interesting..

This was like a dumpling Soup. I am not really a big soup fan so I can't remember this dish so much.

Next, Beef Sashimi (basically Beef Tartare). This was very different from any Tartare I've tried, it was quite sweet, with a spiciness to it...this was quite good.

This was a dish of different kinds of fried vegetables and sort of omelets...this was also nice.

We then had 2 kinds of beef (Short Rib and Brisket if I'm not mistaken) served as DIY Lettuce wraps(I'm sure there is a Korean Term for this). I love Lettuce wraps. Thinly slices pieces of Beef that you wrap with crispy Lettuce then dip in Sesame Oil.

As for wines, we had 4 reds, aside from the Champagne and a Cloudy Bay if I remember correct.

Gregs 04 Clos du Marquis, Aarons's 00 La Fleur de Bouard, my Spanish 05 Pago de Carraovejas and Jojo's 86 Chateau Lascombes. My favorite of the day was the 86 Lascombes. I've tried a 2003 and also enjoyed it. We had most of the reds after the lunch though, since Korean food tends to be spicy and this will definitely clash with the wines.

I enjoyed this lunch...and would recommend this restaurant. Staff is very friendly, food is great, value for money, a good deal. They don't charge corkage but if you plan to go, bring your own wine glasses.

Agata e Romeo, Rome

I Have lots of pending posts over the past 3-4 I'm desperately trying to update my blog. This post was from my last trip, almost a month ago. Agata e Romeo, another husband and wife team (same as Aimo e Nadia, a similar caliber restaurant), execute perfectly Creative Italian Cuisine. The Restaurant from the outside seems very simple, but as soon as you walk in, you know you are in for a great meal.

For starters, they served us several kinds of bread, including a very interesting muffin, made with some Olive oil and Basil...then a small 'appetizer'..squash soup, which was quite sweet and with a bit of Bacon bits...I had this with a glass of Champagne.

For our starters, 2 Great dishes: Gnocchi di Patate con Vongole, Salsa Basilico e Pomodorini Canditi (Dumpling with Clams, Basil Sauce and Candied Tomatoes) and Budino de Pecorino di Fossa di Sogliano Salsa al Vino dolce, Gelato di Pere e Miele di Castagno (Flan of aged Pecorino Cheese from Sogliano, with Pear Sauce (Gelato) and Chestnut Honey. The Gnocchi was great, quite different since it's a Vongole Gnocchi, but this was perfectly executed. The Aged flan blew my of the best dishes I've had in my meals in Italy. Similar to a twice baked Cheese Souffle, this was so moist and you could taste the Aged Pecorino in every bite. The Pear and Gelato gave this dish a bit of sweetness, which was well in order. This was perfect!

Over all I really enjoyed this Restaurant. I was a bit unsure since I thought it would one of those ultra modern Restaurants. It had the right amount of creativity and excellent service.

For my Main, I had Cinque Modi di Cucinare Il Baccalà ( Salt Cod Medley in Five ways). Poached, fried, grilled, crispy skin, confit...another perfectly executed dish, simple and comfort food for me ( I love Bacalao). The Bacalao used was top notch and had just the right amount of saltiness...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Friday Liquid Lunch at Gourmand

It has been quite a while since my last meal in Gourmand (some time December if my memory does not fail me) and honestly I was really craving for my comfort food. We were 4 that day for lunch and we had a great time.

For starters, Foie Gras Terrine, one of Marc's bets sellers in the restaurant. It is done perfectly and always a good way to start a meal.

For my first course, I had Special Escargots, which Marc makes for us upon special request. I had this the first time in Daniel Boulud Brasserie in Las Vegas. Escargots with Chicken Oysters, Panceta, poached Egg and Salad. Lovely dish. We paired this with Rene's Bottle of 2008 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose. Without doubt, this is the best Rose in the world for me. Such an elegant wine, of a pale salmon color. It also pairs very well with Escargots.

For main, Onglet with caramelized Onion and fries. We asked it rare and it came out Medium rare, which was already for me. Onglet is a cut that is near the kidney, so it is a a bit gamey but very tender and tasty if cooked well. Gourmand serves very good Onglet (Hanger Steak) in my opinion.

For the wine, we had 4 bottles of Red: Jojo's 1989 Tinto Pesquera Reserva, from Ribera del Duero, Noel's 1988 Chateau Talbot from St. Julien, Rene's 1999 Leoville Les Cases, also from St. Julien and my 1995 Dalmau Reserva from Rioja.

We enjoyed Pesquera (well at least Noel and myself) the most paired with our Steak. It had the body to stand up and pair well with the gaminess of the Onglet. The Chateau Talbot was very good also and could stand up a bit to the Steak, although I detected a bit of a funny(stinky) smell at first, which dissipated after a few minutes. The Les Cases was a very elegant wine, and was perfect for after the meal, with a cheese platter. My wine was opened last and we all agreed that it would have paired very well with with the Steak.

We lingered around until around 5:30 PM and headed home after .It was good to be back in Gourmand with good friends and good wine. I hope we can repeat this again soon!!