M-m-m Macallan

A bottle of the Macallan Cask StrengthMy buddy Kevin invited me to join him for a Macallan Scotch tasting at the Hotel Monaco. This grand (and free!) evening started off with copious amounts of the Macallan 12 year and yummy appetizers from Sazerac (the hotel restaurant.) I've never had lamb chops as finger food, but let me tell you, it's wonderful.

We were ushered into a ballroom where we each had four glasses of scotch in front of us that we couldn't touch until our charming Scottish host ran through his 1/2 hour Powerpoint presentation on why Macallan was the best scotch. Powerpoint aside, the presentation and the presenter were very informative and entertaining (lots of jokes about the Irish and British). (Did you know that Irish whiskey is distilled three times whereas Scottish whisky is distilled twice? Irish whiskey can be a bit smoother but scotch is has more interesting flavors as result. I'm enjoying a glass of Jameson Distillery Reserve - my favorite Irish whiskey - right now and can attest.)

He then described the whiskies in front of us and had us guess which was which. The first was a Speyside whisky from another distillery. Nice but a little uninteresting compared to the Macallan 12-year we'd been drinking.

The second was a kick-you-in-the-ass Macallan Cask Strength. Normally, whisky is cut from the full strength to make the 80 proof. This was the full 118 proof. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but it definitely grew on me as I came to terms with it. This was my favorite.

The last two had a very interesting story. They were replicas of the 1841 and 1861 Macallan products. Macallan bought a bottle of each at auction and then had their Master Distiller (what a job!) taste virtually all of their barrels to find ones that matched the 1841 and 1861. Macallan then made replica bottles and made these whiskys available. Unlike wine, whisky doesn't really age or change once it's in the bottle, so it's not that these tasted old, they just tasted different. It was interesting to see how the house style of Macallan had changed over the century.

It's too bad they didn't have any of the Macallan 60 year. Apparently, they only produced a few hundred bottles of this exceptional whisky. Each bottle goes for $39,000 (yes, that's US dollars). The borgata in Atlantic City is selling shots of this fine stuff for $4000 each. That's a bit spendy even for me.

Anyway, it was a very educational and enjoyable evening -- definitely a top notch event with no sales pressure (they weren't selling at the event, probably thanks to our friends at the BATF and Washington State Liquor Control Board). I'm a big Macallan fan now and feel a bit more knowledgable. I'll have to drink a lot more scotch, whiskey, and bourbon for comparison now...

The best rum in the world

I'm not usually a big rum fan unless it's mixed with Coke or something, but I just had a glass of Cruzan Single Barrel Estate Rum. Damn, it's good. Very, very smooth. It is reminscent of good scotch without the peat or smoke. It's a more clean, sugar cane taste.

This is the world's best rum. I think so. So did the 2000 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Anyway, it's delicious.

It will also kick your ass. I've been sipping an albeit generous pour this evening and can already feel it go to my head. How good.

Mmm fried food

cover.jpgThis has been a good holiday for eating. Every New Year's Day, Michelle makes beignets (made famous at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans). These are deep fried doughnuts covered with powdered sugar. Dr. Atkins would definitely not approve. Michelle's are even better than the ones at Cafe Du Monde and more plentiful (quantity has a quality all its own.)

Since we had a pot of hot oil, I decided I needed to fry stuff. I was too lazy to make a batter, so I made strip chips from Alton Brown's cookbook I'm Just Here for the Food. These are home made potato chips made with a vegetable peeler so there's even less to clean up. I made one big batch with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and one big batch seasoned with Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning mix -- a tastes-good-on-everything blend with a kick. Both were damn fine. I have to agree with Alton Brown's note that no matter how many you make, the pile of chips is really just one serving.

Alton Brown is the host of Good Eats on the Food Network, my favorite cooking show. Great food science and hacky gear make for an enjoyable show.

I also made "sun" dried tomatoes from a huge box of tomatoes we got for Christmas -- sliced tomatoes with a little sugar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary then baked all night on a very low oven. Wow. I made an incredible omelette (twice actually) with these tomatoes diced with some salami (really!) Insanely great.

Time to cook some more. Mmmmmm...

Incredible apple dinner

Last week, Michelle and I went to an amazing apple-themed dinner. It was sponsored by the Northwest Cider Society and featured great Northwest hard ciders and the food stylings of Susan Loomis (owner/operator of a cooking school in Normandy and author of the cookbook On Rue Tatin).

The dinner featured apples, naturally, to complement the ciders (Wescott Bay Orchards and Irvings Cider) and apple drinks (e.g. calvados). Susan served up luscious mussels steamed in cider; duck breast with onions, apples, and parsnips (I think); a very nice salad; and a beautiful tart tatin.

The company was also very interesting -- local foodies and restaurateurs (like Sandy Shea, owner of our favorite restaurant, Chez Shea). We also chatted with Jon Rowley, a friend I met at an ethereal oyster and wine dinner he donated and the one who dreamt up the dinner.

All in all, it was a lovely dinner. Check out the pictures here.