Thursday, October 27, 2011

Shingo Gokan

Recently, I found a couple videos of one of my favorite bartenders, Shingo Gokan of Angel's Share in New York.

Seeing Angel's Share again, even in video form (in brighter lighting that I am used to and with unnecessarily overwrought slow-motion videography), made me miss it immensely.  I guess that just means that I will have to make a trip down to New York sometime soon.

As a bonus, below is the recipe of one of cocktails that Shingo taught me, the Speak Low, which has recently also come back to my mind because of the temporal evolution aspect of the drink, a broader theme worth delving into at a later time.  I had initially sampled the drink back in May, and my impression of the drink was documented earlier.

Speak Low
From Shingo Gokan of Angel's Share
50 mL Pampero Aniversario rum
15 mL Osborne Pedro Ximenez 1827 sherry
3 tsp matcha

EDIT (11/1/11): Apparently there's even a video for the Speak Low that I just now saw.  The recipe given in the video is a little different from the one given to me originally, and I would be quite interested to try the new version with the switch in rums.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Scotch Roundup: September

As Joe at Federal W&S had recently emailed me to say that he had received some bottles of Ardbeg Uigeadail, a bottle about which I had previously inquired, I decided to swing by and pick it up.  Unfortunately, as I had already made arrangements to meet some friends for dinner at Oliveira's in Eastie, I did not have enough foresight to consider that I would have to lug my precious new acquisition across town.  Nevertheless, the bottle made the trek with me and waited patiently as the rodizio churrascaria kicked into full gear, with nary a moment where my plate was without meat.  Afterward, I went home to recover and to slake my thirst.

Ardbeg Uigeadail (non chill-filtered, 54.2% abv):
Nose - smoke, smoke, soot, peat, bonfires, saline, burning leaves in autumn, smoke; after adjusting to the smokiness, jamon, lingonberry jam, bread pudding and Kansas City-style barbecue, pancakes and bacon; a savory, meaty sweetness subsumed by smoke
Taste - hit of initial spice, aggressive pepper, cigar tobacco both before being smoked and the ash after, salted caramel, worn leather, s'mores, a medicinal bitterness, cherry candy at the very end as everything else is fading; after a bit of water is added, the smoke and spice drop off a bit to reveal a touch of creamy sweetness, toffee, brioche, cashew butter, cinnamon, darkly roasted coffee

Ardbeg Uigeadail
 Later in the month, when I was down in DC, I met up with Carlos and Casie at Jack Rose.  My previous trip there was fantastic, so I was eager to go again.  Not much had changed since my last visit, although the gears seemed to be a bit better oiled.  I wasted no time in ordering my first dram, having picked the distillery of Longmorn while on the Metro ride over, as it got consistently good marks in the Malt Maniacs Matrix.  The second was a Port Charlotte because I could not afford the Port Ellen, and the third was just a random shot in the dark.  I also had a chance to try the Dallas Dhu that Carlos ordered.
Port Charlotte (PC6 is pictured, PC8 tasting notes below)
  • Longmorn 15 (45%):
    Cooked apples, lychee, mild British-style curry, lemonade sweetened with honey
  • Port Charlotte PC8 (60.5%):
    Cumin, hickory-smoked barbecue, cedar-wood sauna, peaty
  • Glenburgie 26 year (Signatory C/S collection, 1983-2010, hogshead C#9812, 266 of 289, 55.2%):
    Bubblegum, grapes, sweetened breakfast cereal, tangerines or kumquats, black pepper but not the spice thereof
  • Dallas Dhu 18 year (The Cooper's Choice):
    Very fruit forward, mango, celery, gooseberries, champagne
Glenburgie 26 year
 After Jack Rose, we adjourned to Carlos' apartment, where he was kind enough to share a bit of his Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix.  By this point, my palate was no longer as sharp as it should be to appreciate the nuances of whisky, but it tasted the most grain-forward of the scotches that night, more specifically, buttered toast.  In addition to the grain malts, it tasted of honey, nuts and fall fruits.
Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix

Monday, October 10, 2011


On a muggy evening a few weeks back, I met up with Carlos on a quiet corner in downtown Alexandria.  A few revelers could be seen carousing up and down King Street, but we turned our attention down a quiet side street.  Coming to a door lit with a blue lamp, we went up the stoop and rang the bell.  As we waited, a couple ladies parked their car on the opposite side of the street and fell into line behind us.  A moment later, the peephole slid open, the darkness obscuring the observer within.  Pleasantries were exchanged in hushed voices.  The door opened a crack to let the two of us in; the women behind us were not as fortunate.

Ushered upstairs, we first passed a room full of gentlemen, nattily dressed perhaps, but clearly as an affectation, for a goodly number still had their hats atop their heads.  A gentleman does not fail to remove his hat in private spaces, much less while in the presence of ladies.  Then came the main stage, the dais upon which the master practiced his art.  A small bar with ten or so seats around it, mahogany and marble, matching the rest of the dimly lit room, all mahogany and white upholstery.  We continued on, however, into the last room, a parlour of sorts, the type that would easily play host to a salon of literary wits.

We took our seats as indicated, joining the other eight occupants in the room who were all engaged in hushed conversations.  Aside from the dim chandelier, the room was illuminated by plenty of votive candles on the side tables and mantel ledges.  The ledges also were home to a variety of vintage cocktail shakers, soda siphons and the like.  After perusing the menu, I decided to make my first drink the Dreaming of the Green Can, whereas Carlos picked the Norfolk Dumpling.  I also took the opportunity while I had the server's attention to request a move to the bar as soon as a couple seats opened up.  Habitual barfly that I am, I feel more at home in that specific habitat.

While the menu certainly had many interesting drinks, I wanted to play it safe to start; after all, I think it is more useful to judge the quality of the cocktails that are more simple.  Containing roasted pineapple juice, hibiscus bitters, pimiento dram, and Barbancourt 8, my first cocktail sounded, and indeed tasted, very tiki.  Served up, unlike most tiki drinks, I was struck by how balanced it was with mellow pineapple, allspice coming to the fore, and a subsumed rum backbone.  Personally, I think I would have preferred a rum with a bit more character to stand up to the spices, such as an agricole.

Menu, Page 1
While a very good cocktail, it was by no means as adventurous nor as exciting as the Norfolk Dumpling, which contained and tasted very strongly of duck sauce.  To be honest, it tasted like Chinese food and very little else.  Out of balance, perhaps, but it showed some signs of real creativity and funk.  Thus, for my next drink, I took up the gauntlet and got the I Bet You Won't Order This Cocktail.  We had finished our previous round with perfect timing as a couple seats at the bar did indeed become available, and we made our move to the front row.

I Bet You Won't Order This Cocktail
After making introductions, Clinton, the sole bartender behind the stick, mentioned that my order was not a challenge.  Containing soy sauce, honey, citrus vinegar, smoked Blackstrap rum and Ron Zacapa, one could certainly beg to differ.  While the beautifully creamy head was one reason why a straw was needed, the intensity of the drink would be another.  The soy sauce was not overpowering, unlike the previous duck sauce, but it did lend a very noticeable umami taste to the drink that played very well with the molasses from the rum.  This was definitely a drink for sipping.

The Bar, PX
On the other hand, Carlos picked the Sampaloc Sour for his second round based on his affinity for tamarind.  If tamarind was what he was after, then the drink hit the nail on the head.  We also learned later that the tamarind syrup that the bar uses also includes some dates, which I think really made a nice bridge between the tamarind and the rum.

Next, Carlos stuck with a dried-fruit flavors sort of theme by picking the I Don't Know off the menu, which contained figs, while I challenged Clinton to make me something with basil.  Basil is one of Jose's favorite challenge ingredients, and I thought it especially appropriate as summer was winding down.  In return, I was served a Basil N' Bourbon.  As the name implies, the drink contained basil, in the form of a basil syrup, but instead of bourbon, my drink had rye.  The drink was rounded out with lemon juice, lemon bitters and a spicy ginger ale.  I found the combination to be quite perfect, with the basil playing off the rye's grass notes while the ginger played off the spice notes, and the lemon brought everything into balance.

Basil N' Bourbon
Meanwhile, Carlos was intrigued by use of spices and decided that his last drink would be the Cure All, which featured fresh tumeric.  While one typically thinks of tumeric as an ingredient in Indian curries, the freshly grated stuff was far less pungent.  The rest of the cocktail was composed of gin, blanco tequila and a coconut-basil soda, again demonstrating the inventiveness and focus on culinary ingredients.

Menu, Page 2
As the night was quickly winding down, I decided that my last drink should be in a dessert of sorts and asked Clinton to use scotch as the base.  Thus, he made me a Ron Burgundy with Macallan 12, tamarind syrup, orange juice syrup, orange bitters and orange zest.  Despite containing no chocolate, I distinctly thought I could taste something rather chocolatey along side the malts of the scotch; it must be some interplay of the ingredients that generated that mirage.  It was a perfect way to end the evening, one that I very much enjoyed.

By that point, the bar had emptied out and the hour grew late.  I thanked Clinton for a fantastic evening and promised to visit in the future.  As Carlos and I found ourselves back out on the stoop, we made plans to meet again under the light of the blue lantern and went our separate ways, leaving behind that unmarked door and the wonderful drinks within.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Elk Cove Wine Dinner

A few weeks ago, Jose and I had the chance to attend a wine dinner at Lineage featuring Elk Cove Vineyards.  Having previously enjoyed the Berkshire Mountain Distillery cocktail dinner at Lineage, I had high expectations as the prior experience was superb.  This time did not deviate from my expectations as the pairings were all very well thought out and executed.

After arriving (a bit too early), we caught the staff in the middle of a meeting, but we did not have to wait long before the wine started flowing.  With the passed hors d'oeuvre came glasses of 2010 Pinot Gris, which I thought was quite pleasant and easy-going, with notes of limes, gooseberries, and some kind of candy like Smarties or SweeTarts.  This wine was definitely one that I would consider a crowd-pleaser, especially for the likes of a late-summer garden party.  Moreover, the wine went well with a somewhat seafood inflected selection of hors d'oeuvre, including lobster salad served on spoons, gravlax on toast, and parmesan gougères with pesto.

Elk Cove Pinot Gris 2010
Parmesan Gougères with Pesto
A few minutes of mingling later, Jose and I found our seats.  We somehow managed the good fortune of being assigned to a table with a fantastic group of people, for which I suppose I much be quite thankful to Amy.  Not only was our table probably the youngest on average, but also probably the most convivial, at least from the volume of laughter, with no disrespect to anyone else in attendance intended.

People aside, we started the dinner with a salad of Late Summer Market Vegetables with Alisa Craig onion purée and Vermont goat cheese.  Particularly notable in the medley of vegetables were some tasty beets and peas.  The wine pairing for this course was a Pinot Blanc 2009.  Prior to this glass, I cannot recall previously having tasted a pinot blanc, so it was certainly a learning experience.  My tasting notes involve pineapple, raspberries, chalkiness, and lemony acidity.

Late Summer Market Vegetables
The second course was entitled Oak Roasted Mushrooms, constructed as a sort of open-faced pasty and topped by a crispy shallot and herb salad with pinot vinaigrette.  The mushrooms were absolutely delicious and presaged the coming autumn*, although it was my thought that the pastry could have been perhaps a bit flakier.  A glass of Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2008 accompanied this dish quite successfully with hints of blueberries and cherry pie woven tightly together with very silky tannins.  The mushrooms in the dish, or perhaps the oak roasting thereof, rather enhanced the wet-forest-floor earthiness in the wine and vice versa.

Oak Roasted Mushrooms
Next came the main course of Long Island Duck Breast served with fingerling potatoes, toasted hazelnuts, sweet corn and scallions alongside.  The dish itself actually struck me as somewhat unusual since it lacked the usual sweetness that one usually finds in many preparations of duck breast.  Instead, it was altogether quite savory, with the hazelnuts loudly providing both textural and gustatory punctuation.  I think the idea of preparing the duck in this fashion was to underline the compatibility of the paired wine, a Pinot Noir "La Bohème" 2009.  The wine featured blackberries and cherries heavily, the intensity of the fruit balanced in part by a bit of what I found to be either pâte sucrée or snickerdoodles.

Long Island Duck Breast
The meal was concluded by Poached Sparrow Arc Pear with almond puree and star anise ice cream.  While the pear was not poached quite as soft as I tend to prefer, the synergy with the star anise ice cream was spectacular.  The concluding wine was an equally sweet Ultima 2008, a dessert wine made from a blend of riesling, gewürztraminer and muscat.  I found it to have flavors of tarte tatin, dried apricots and marmalade, but with enough acidity as to prevent it from being cloying.**

Overall, the dinner certainly lived up to expectations with a full roster of both delicious food and wine.  Undoubtedly, Amy had to put in a lot of effort into the logistical planning before the event for it to go so smoothly, and the rest of the Lineage staff were as charming as ever.  I can only hope that more wine/cocktail pairing dinners are slated for the future, but until then Lineage will still remain one of my regular destinations.