Eats

Scotland Whisky Testing

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My good friend and mentor, Ken, has a world class weak spot for valuable whisky. His collection will probably end up in a museum one day, or we’ll die drinking it all when we find out the Mayan’s are correct about 2012. It’s housed in a bunker underneath his home and is accessed via a secret elevator - more on that another day.

This last summer, he, I and another friend decided to head over to Scotland and visit some distilleries. I’ve done some of the whisky trail before and it’s great fun, but let me tell you, it’s a little different when you consult to one of the brands and are travelling with a guy who owns more of their old stuff then most of us could ever conceive. I couldn’t believe the “insider” treatment we received, most notably from Glenfiddich and The Macallan. We stayed in the 300 year old Easter Elchies house on Macallan’s grounds and were hosted impeccably by their team. It was the most magical place to wake up to on the banks of the river spay, with early morning Scottish mist (fog).

Both distilleries did what I'm coining “open cask” tours for us. That basically means if we pointed at a cask and asked a question, we got to taste it. Frankly, it was nuts and at some points a little overwhelming. I think at one point in time I had 2 glasses in my hand and we couldn’t remember which was the 1934 or the 1941 - so I did the noble thing; I drank both and refilled, just to make sure.

Forgetting the craziness for a minute, these old distilleries filled me with awe wherever we went. I guess it maybe seems stupid, but it was moving  to sit by a cask, knowing that it lived in that spot through 70 years and a world war and still houses something that tastes so delicate and incredible. There was a cask of ‘41 at Glenfiddich that really stuck with me. I got lost thinking about the fact that it was being filled back when my 19 year old grandfather was gearing up with his mates in Burma to go dogfight in his spitfire. I know that partying and drinking is fun, but I get such enjoyment pondering the history of good whisky as well. Another incredible thing I learnt is that every bottle of a certain age, let’s say 12 year old, comes from an exact mixture of 55 casks of 12 yo. Not every cask tastes the same, though, so Ian in their lab takes a 10ml sample of every cask and mixes exact portions of the 55 samples to get the approved 12 yo taste AND color. These exact portions are then scaled up to barrel volumes. It seemed like completely mad science, but it works. I just drank an 18 from 1983 and it tasted like the 18 I know so well. I love being back in Scotland and I love the culture of the  whisky business.  Hopefully this will make you ponder the history just for a second when you pour your next dram.

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Espresso Fanatic: The Mypressi Twist

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Men like toys. That’s just a simple fact of life. Unfortunately, working in the design team at Oakley, that “like” expands, contorts and morphs into a horrific disease of toys.  Cars, gadgets, guns, bikes, boards, speakers… it’s an ugly spiral, but boy is it fun. Coffee machines are toys I like. Espresso is one of my many loves. My uncle back in Scotland is an eclectic chap. An incredibly gifted musician, cook and photographer. I learnt the magnificent taste of a great espresso from him. He’s quite adept at “Tickling Miss Silvia” (great Gizmodo article ). I’m hopeless at describing tastes, but the right one has a huge fruity punch to it that is like nothing else. No sugar, milk or water is needed.

This espresso love grew as my dad became talented at it and I was finally ruined for life when Oakley was bought by an Italian company. To keep a long gush short, Italian gas station espresso is made with passion that shames almost any coffee shop in the US.

Where am I going with this? My new toy! It’s not a huge challenge to spend $10k on an espresso machine and don’t even get me started on those crazy all in one pop out a pre-frothed, multi-layered, espressinoachiato (Ok I digress, they are kinda awesome, but espresso should be an art!). However, my new toy is arguably the least expensive legitimate espresso maker out there. It was a Christmas present from my dad after some well placed hints. We’re talking about the mypressi TWIST Handheld Espresso Maker, a gas cartridge powered, trigger operated espresso “machine”.[gallery link="file" columns="5" orderby="rand"]

There are some great reviews out there on the machine and the process of pulling a shot, but I just wanted to add my comments to the mix. I’m a design Engineer and my product expectations are high to say the least.  The Mypressi was just SUCH a great idea by someone and is executed to perfection…simple, ergonomic, aesthetically pleasing and best – effective.  Get the right grind of a great bean and the TWIST will knock out a shot that will blow your mind. Every morning I have one, I sneak a little smile to myself, it is genius and gives me my little piece of Italy every day.  Class work Mr. TWIST.

Picca Peruvian Cantina: New Year's Eve

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Chef Ricardo Zarate is not a man lacking in praise right now. Picca in Los Angeles is appearing on everyone's (literally) list of top restauarant openings in 2011. There are so many glowing reviews for it, that it's almost redundant for me to add my 2 cents. Almost...

I enjoy my food, but am not well enough versed in the intricacies of it to even pretend to do a proper food review. However, I'm confident that I know a great meal and a damn good night out.

My wife and I decided last minute to do Chef Ricardo's multi-course NYE menu and hustled up to LA for the kfirst seating. I have heard and read all the hype on Picca - a dangerous thing for me as it makes me want to rebel against the masses. That grand rebellion lasted about 3 steps past the door before I chuckled to myself and knew it was going to rock. It just FEELS right as soon as you are in there. My buddies at Croft House (woop!) did some great reclaimed wood furniture, the kitchen is wide open and lively and the bar stacked to the ceiling with south American Liquors that I hardly recognized. The first thing I saw as we walked to our table was the Chef taste something in a pot, grin and slap his protege on the back - good sign.

 

 

Long Story short. We had a fantastic night out. We were welcomed like it was a dinner party, I was a little nervous as the courses started slow and delicate, but they accelerated in taste through to a beef stew that made me ignore literally everything but my fork for 4 minutes. I'm dreaming of it as I type...

We sat at the bar, where I established the guys were taught by the cocktail masters at Rivera in DT LA (same ownership). They were creative without being cliche'd and celebrated and all south american bar - cool touch. Finally - the bar staff were a riot on top of being knowledgable. At one point I'm pretty sure two of them sang a NKOTB song and knew the dance to it, but the denied this vehemently...

Picca - just accept the hype.