Monday, July 30, 2012

Back to Basics with Beam

As a high fallutin' whiskey aficionado, I don't spend a lot of time drinking Jim Beam. I prefer me a single barrel, cask strength, limited edition non-filtered, get out your credit card type bourbon. In fact, if I'm drinking Beam, it most likely means I'm in an airport, on an airplane or staring down a six bottle bar at a wedding, convention, bar mitzvah, etc.

But my picky tastes aside, Jim Beam is the world's best selling bourbon (assuming you pretend that Jack Daniel's isn't a bourbon, as everyone seems happy enough to do). And what right do I have to call myself a whiskey blogger if I've never written up the standard Jim Beam line. Not much I tell you. Luckily, a Beam miniature bottle sampler is available for a mere $7.99 which includes Beam white, Beam Black, Beam Rye, and perhaps because misery loves company, Red Stag.

Jim Bean White Label, 40% abv ($15)

This has a light nose with candy, medicinal notes and some rye notes. The palate comes on sweet with some medicinal/rye type notes and ends with a bitterness that carries into the finish. It's not good, but it's certainly not horrible.

Jim Beam Black Label, 8 years old, 43% abv ($20)

The nose on this has some of the same candy notes as the White Label but with a dose of oak that gives it a bit more complexity. The palate is quite acidic without much flavor, then some chocolate malt notes, and then the bitterness kicks in. I actually think I like the White Label better than this. The main flavors in this are acid and bitterness and they don't play well together.

Jim Beam Rye ("Yellow Label"), 40% abv ($20)

The nose has rye but more medicinal than spicy. The palate is sweet with canned fruit and just a touch of spice. The spice is a bit more evident in the finish, but not by much. Tasting blind, I doubt I would have ever guessed this was a rye given out light it is on rye spice. This has been my general experience with Beam ryes, so I did a head to head with some Old Overholt, another Beam rye. The Yellow Label actually has a bit more rye spice than the Overholt, while the Overholt seems to have a bit more oak on it and lacks some of the rough edges that the Yellow Label has.

So there it is, the standard Jim Beam line. If I had to choose between these three Beams, I would definitely choose the rye, which has a bit more character. Honestly, these were not as bad as I expected, though I'll still reserve my Beam consumption to the wedding bar.

Later this week, I descend even further into the bottom shelf!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Welcome to Diageo's Recent Eats

Dear Readers,

Over the past five years, Sku's Recent Eats has prided itself on its fierce independence. We have never held back on a whiskey we didn't like, and we have never tried to please the industry or its promoters. However, while we like independence, we like money more.

When Diageo made an initial offer to purchase this blog for $15, I told them that no amount of money was worth our independence. However, when Diageo raised their price to the low three figures, the most ever paid for a whiskey blog, I decided that some amounts of money were worth our independence.

I want to assure all of our readers, that regardless of the change in ownership, I am still at the helm here, and we will retain our fierce, independent spirit. After all, Diageo would not have made a substantial investment in this blog if they didn't admire our fierce, independent spirit.

Please join us next week for the following stories:

Monday: Is Bulleit the new Pappy Van Winkle?

Tuesday: Roseisle - Why it's the best thing that every happened to whiskey.

Wednesday: Which is the best distillery on Islay, Lagavulin or Caol Ila?

Thursday: Blind Tasting - Bailey's Caramel vs. Bailey's Mint

We welcome you to join us into this exciting era. Now if you'll excuse me, I have $150 I need to go spend.



Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hawaii Eats: Alan Wong

Alan Wong is the godfather of Hawaiian cuisine. Around twenty years ago, he and a handful of other chefs created a new haute cuisine, blending classical technique with the global intersection of foods and the fresh produce that can be found in the islands. It had been ten years since I visited his flagship restaurant located in a nondescript office building on King Street, and I wondered if it was still great or had faded. I needn't have worried.

Alan Wong offers an a la carte menu as well as two tasting menus: one made up of classic dishes from the restaurant and a pricier chef's tasting menu. Since I hadn't been in a decade or so, I chose the classics, and I was not disappointed.

I won't run through all of the dishes but there are a few that were really memorable. A "soup and sandwich" included a mini kalua pig and foie gras sandwich served with a tomato soup. I expected to love the sandwich, but while it was good, I really found myself loving the soup, which had two parts, a tangy red soup and a rich, cream colored soup, served in a yin yang design.

The seafood lasagna featured lobster and scallops in a cream sauce wrapped in a single lasagna noodle. It looked very rich but the distinct flavors of the perfectly cooked shellfish cut through the richness.

Lastly, the "mini coconut" dessert consisted of a haupia sorbet in a chocolate shell, cut to look like a coconut. It was both amusingly presented and delicious. Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian coconut gelatin-type dessert. I'm generally a big fan of coconut sorbet and this one was as smooth and rich with coconut flavor as I could have wanted and it was well complemented by the dark chocolate shell, like a sophisticated Mounds bar.

Alan Wong, he's still got it.

Alan Wong
1857 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 949-2526

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hawaii: Shave Ice Update

I've been a big fan of Hawaiian shave ice since I was a kid and discovered the old Island Snow chain in Waikiki. Even though those were likely sub-par examples, it was a revelation. A snow cone that was actually soft like snow, not hard and icy, with tropical flavors and ice cream on the bottom (only later on the North Shore would I experience the beauty of sweet beans mixed into the ice cream). I would sometimes eat a couple per day. When I go to Hawaii for vacation, I still eat an embarrassing amount of shave ice. Here's a run down of a few old favorites and some new ones from this trip. In tasting note fashion, each Shave Ice will be rated on three categories as follows.

1. Ice. The ice should be soft and melt in your mouth. This isn't a snow cone. Points off for big ice crystals or hardness.

2. Flavors. How do the syrups taste. My favorite flavors are strawberry, strawberry and cream and lilikoi, but I reserve the right to try whatever I feel like.

3. Add-ons. I like ice cream and azuki beans (sweet black beans) on the bottom of my cone. The beans should be sweet and soft so that they form a beany, fruity milkshake at the bottom of the cone. This is really the best part of a shave ice.

So, here they are in the order I consumed them.

Waiola Shave Ice, Kaimuki, Honolulu (pictured above right): This is an old favorite but many say it's gone down hill since a change in location a few years ago (there is another branch in Moilili). That's certainly true of the service, which was pretty bad and disorganized, but the shave ice is still very good.
Ice: Near perfect. Soft all the way through.
Flavors: Fantastic. Strong flavors that last through the whole shave ice.
Add-ons: Meh. The beans are too hard and not sweet enough which means they don't blend well with the ice cream and deny you of that lovely beany milkshake. It's like having canned kidney beans at the bottom.

Keneke's, Waimanolo: This storefront plate lunch stand makes a solid shave ice.
Ice: Good, some hardness and an ice chip or two, but mostly soft.
Flavors: Good. Nothing homemade tasting but solid stuff.
Add-ons: Good. Beans are a mashed paste, ice cream is fine, nothing to complain about. And hey, where else are you gonna' get shave ice if you're out there anyway.

Shimazu Store, Kalihi, Honolulu: This is one of the most popular shave ice places on Oahu. It's only been around for a few years but it's definitely got foodie cred. The shave ices here are enormous, the flavor list extensive with lots of innovative flavors. It's also a fun place and the proprietor is very friendly.
Ice: Very good. The inside of the cone is as soft as can be, but the outside of the cone tends to harden, possibly due to the size of the thing. This encourages you to burrow into the middle which leaves you with an icy outside shell, which is not a great situation to be in.
Flavors: I was actually not very impressed with the flavors. The lilikoi had an artificial-candy taste instead of a natural lilikoi flavor. The strawberry and cream was fine but not as rich as the Waiola version.
Add-ons: Beans were good, ice cream seemed a bit too sweet.

Aoki's, Haleiwa: I've stopped hitting the more famous Matsumoto's on my trips to the North Shore because the lines are just too long so instead, I went to nearby Aoki's.
Ice: Okay. Not super soft.
Flavors: Not very good. Flavors were weak and indistinct. Everything just tasted like sugar and citric acid.
Add-ons: Very good. Beans were sweet and mixed in well. Proportions of beans and ice cream were perfect.

Bonus - Snow Factory, Moiliili (pictured above). Technically, this isn't shave ice, it's shave ice cream, but the format is similar. Instead of ice, they shave a giant block of ice cream and add syrups and other add on such as mochi, cookies, etc. The add ons here are more similar to a Korean bingsu then a traditional Hawaiian shave ice.
Ice/Snow: The shaving of the ice cream creates a great, melt in your mouth flavors.
Flavors: Fruit flavors tended to be better than more traditional ice cream flavors. Maybe it's just the psychology of eating this as a shave ice, but I thought the lilikoi worked better in the shaved format, then say peanut butter.
Add-ons: Most were pretty good. The mochi balls go well with the ice cream, but the best were passion fruit pops. Little gelatinous balls that explode with passion fruit when you bite them. These reminded me of the "cherries" they serve at Jose Andreas' Bazaar and other molecular gastronomy treats.

Summary: Overall, I would say Waiola still has the best flavors and ice. Keneke's may be my favorite for the add-ons. Even though Shimazu is a big hit with pretty much everyone these days, I didn't think it lived up to the hype.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hawaii Fish Market Smackdown: Nico's vs. Uncle's

Out on Pier 38, just off the Nimitz Highway, are two well loved fish restaurants: Nico's and Uncle's. Literally across the paring lot from each other, hese places are very similar, offering a range of poke, fish & chips and fresh seafood dishes. Nico's seems to get more tourist love while Uncle's seems to be more favored by locals. I'd never tried either of these spots on previous visits, so I figured I would give both a try.

Nico's has a sort of sports bar vibe and a more limited menu. I had a special of furikake seared ahi which was very good, but the other dishes were mostly just okay. A fish chowder was fairly bland.

Uncle's fish dishes reminded me a lot of the old Sam Choy's on Kapahulu. I really enjoyed a dish of opakapaka in garlic cream sauce with crab meat. The fish was well cooked and the sauce was rich and full of garlic. We also tried the butterfish with miso dressing. The butterfish was cooked well but the miso dressing was overly sweet. We also enjoyed a poke trio, including a spicy poke and a kukui nut poke. And Uncle's does a great li hing mui maragarita - just the right amount sour and salty and not too sweet.

Overall, I liked Uncle's better than Nico's, but I didn't go nuts over either place as some people seem to, and both are fairly expensive, though fresh fish does tend to be pricy.

Nico's Pier 38
1133 North Nimitz Highway
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 540-1377

Uncle's Fish Market
1135 North Nimitz Highway
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 275-0063

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hawaii Eats: The Whole Ox

The Whole Ox is a gourmet butcher shop that serves breakfast and lunch on wooden picnic tables out of a store front on Keawe Street just off of Ala Moana Boulevard.

The food is similar to what Angelenos would be familiar with from places like Animal with a casual vibe. In fact, this place would fit in well in LA with its emphasis on local produce and organic meats.

We stopped in for breakfast and tried a sampling. The menu is limited, but all of the dishes looked good. Less than a month after the California foie gras ban went into effect I was excited to get my foie fix with the eggs benedict foie gras (pictured below), which was an eggs benedict on a homemade biscuit with foie in place of the Canadian Bacon (they offer the Canadian Bacon version as well) and some stewed dried apricots, all covered in a light hollandaise. The foie was just slightly overcooked but the poached eggs were perfect, and the whole dish worked well.

Sausages with biscuits and gravy was not quite as strong a dish. The gravy lacked flavor. The sausages were a very dense, merguez type sausage which I liked a lot. The biscuits, the same ones used on the benedict, were a bit dense as well, lacking the fluffiness I tend to like in biscuits, which made the whole dish a bit heavy.

Smoky pork hash (pictured, top) was fantastic. Hash dishes are very popular on the islands and this pork hash had chunks of shredded, smoky pork, reminiscent of kalua pig, with nicely cubed potatoes. Corn beef hash was good but not as good as the smoky pork hash.

A special of "piggy grill cakes" (or something like that) was a rectangular pattie made from pork and steel cut oats. It was fried crisp and had a nice porky flavor. The oats provided texture more than anything else.

Most breakfast dishes were in the $10 range (the foie gras benedict was $19).

Overall, this was a fun place and one I'd definitely return to. I appreciated both the creativity of the dishes and the emphasis on local and organic ingredients.

The Whole Ox
327 Keawe St
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808) 699-6328

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hawaii Food Week

I just got back from a wonderful vacation in Oahu, Hawaii and will spend the week writing up some of the great food I had (not including the above). Stay tuned.

Check out all my previous Hawaii coverage here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jefferson's Bourbon

Jefferson's Kentucky Straight Bourbon is the standard offering from McLain & Kyne's Jefferson label which also includes Jefferson's Reserve, Jefferson's Presidential and Jefferson's Rye. They call it a "very small batch" bourbon.

McLain & Kyne is a bottler who buys bourbons from other distilleries, so we don't know which distillery or distilleries produced this bourbon.

Jefferson's Bourbon, Batch 194, 41.15% abv ($30)

The nose on this is oaky, a bit nutty, with good sweet bourbon notes. The palate is sweet with light minty notes. Some rye spice comes on mid-palate and continues on to the finish.

This is a fine bourbon. It's sweet and fairly light. It's not complex but is an easy drinker. It has a lot in common with the standard Evan Williams and could well be from Heaven Hill. If this were $10 cheaper it would be easy to recommend. At $30, though, it's a bit out of its weight class.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Happy Belated Canada Day: Crown Royal XR Waterloo

Damn, I missed Canada Day. I always mean to do a Canadian Whisky review for Canada Day, and I always seem to miss it. Maybe it's just too close to July 4th to enter the American consciousness. Well, let's consider this a belated Canada Day post.

Crown Royal XR Waterloo. Crown Royal's XR (Extra-Rare) series are blends that include whiskies from closed Canadian distilleries. The Waterloo was the first edition of the XR and includes whisky from the Waterloo distillery in Ontario which was closed in 1992. Crown Royal just released the second edition, featuring whisky from the shuttered LaSalle distillery in Quebec.

Crown Royal XR Waterloo, 40% abv ($130-$180)

The nose immediately gives a nice rye spice, so much so that tasting blind, I would easily mistake this for a straight rye. It's got good vegetal aromas. The palate is syrupy sweet with rye undertones. If Monin made a rye syrup, for rye cafe mochas or something, this is what it would taste like. The rye continues into the finish. While a bit on the sweet side, the rye and the sweet notes play well together.

I don't think of Crown Royal expressions as having much in the way of rye, but this one clearly does. It's quite pleasant and definitely worth drinking. In fact, it's probably the best thing I've had from Crown Royal, though for the price, I'd be more likely to opt for one of the Canadian straight ryes, like WhistlePig or Masterson's, that cost half as much.

Happy (belated) Canada Day!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

High West Campfire

David Perkins of High West distillery is fast becoming America's version of John Glaser, the mad genius blender behind Compass Box Scotch (Glaser actually is American, but he works in England). Perkins burst onto the scene with blends of excellent old ryes, then created Bourye, a blend of bourbon and rye whiskeys. Now he's got something else the likes of which we've never seen before.

Campfire is a blend of bourbon, rye and peated Scotch. Yes, you heard that right, bourbon, rye and Scotch. The bourbon and rye are both made at Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana; the bourbon is made from 75% corn, 20% rye and 5% barley mash; the rye is the high rye LDI mash of 95% rye and 5% barley.

The only thing Perkins will reveal about the Scotch is that it's from the Scottish mainland (which means it isn't from Islay). The label refers to it as a "blended malt Scotch." This could mean that it is "teaspooned." Teaspooning is the practice of adding a teaspoon of malt whisky from one distillery to the barrel of another so that the barrel cannot be marketed as a single malt. Distilleries will sometimes do this when selling a barrel. For instance, if Lagavulin wants to sell a barrel but doesn't want someone marketing it as Lagavulin single malt, they can add a teaspoon of Caol Ila to it. Since the barrel is no longer composed of whisky made at a single distillery, it's no longer a single malt and must be classified as a "blended malt."

According to High West, all three of Campfire's component whiskeys are over five years old. After I was part of a group that tasted some prototypes and gave him some feedback, Perkins was kind enough to send me a bottle (sell-out alert!!) which I'll review today.

High West Campfire, Batch 1, 46% abv ($54)

On the nose I first get a whiff of chimney smoke, then a generous dose of rye spice. The smoke and spice go back and forth making for a nice combination that's somewhat reminiscent of cigar smoke. On the palate that same interplay takes place. Smoke and spice are definitely the most prominent notes but late palate a sweetness comes in as well, as if the bourbon is fighting for its place in the blend. In subsequent sips I'm getting something different each time. There will be a sip with more prominent rye, one with more prominent smoke, all with the underlying sweetness. The finish has some dry smoke (like...a campfire) on the nose and some smoky spice on the palate.

This is a fascinating and totally unique whiskey. Among the prototypes I tasted was a higher proof version of what became Campfire, and the lower proof version is actually better than the higher proof version was. Mad scientist Perkins has yet again hit on a winning, if unexpected combination.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Vodka, Thy Name is Whiskey: Kansas Clean Distilled Spirit Whiskey

"The problem with whiskey is that it's aged."

That's the tag line for Kansas Clean Distilled Spirit Whiskey. According to the website, "You won't find rednecks in overalls or middle-aged men in tweed flat caps anywhere near a bottle of Kansas Clean Distilled Whiskey." The pictures on the site show that this is a whiskey for hip, young people who need something to drink on the way to the club, the rave or wherever it is hip young people go these days.

But what is this colorless "whiskey"? Well, according to the federal regulations, "spirit whiskey" is a mixture of neutral spirits and not less than 5% whiskey. That's right, it's called whiskey but it can be up to 95% vodka. Yum!

It would be easy to prejudge this brand based on its website full of stereotypes and transparent demographic targeting or just the fact that it's vodka with a whiskey label on it, but that wouldn't be fair. So in the spirit of taking one for the team, I sampled some.

Kansas Clean Distilled Spirit Whiskey, 40% abv ($30)

There is no nose on this, none. It tastes mostly like water with a vaguely sweet note underneath, there is also some rice and artificial vanilla. There is no finish, none.

True to the vodka character, this has almost no discernible flavor. It tastes like slightly flavored water. I wouldn't say it's the worst thing I've tasted. After all, I like water, and I actually like this stuff better than most vodka, which I find tastes like rubbing alcohol smells. But it isn't whiskey by any stretch of the imagination, and I can't imagine why anyone would buy or drink such a thing unless their only goal was getting drunk in the most flavorless way possible, or perhaps if one had a palate disorder of some sort which made them averse to flavor of any sort.

The problem with Kansas Clean Distilled Spirit that it isn't whiskey.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

New Trader Joe's Sweets: Caramel Sauce & Cookie Butter

I wanted to give a shout out to two fairly recent Trader Joe's sweets I've been enjoying.

Trader Jacques' Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce is a fantastic caramel topping for ice cream. This purports to be salted caramel (I should note that the idea of using fleur de sel for this is just silly, since it's a finishing salt valued for its texture - when used in cooking, it's no different than any other salt). In truth, it's not very salty. What it is though, is excellent caramel topping for ice cream or whatever else you think should be topped in caramel. It's rich, not overly sweet (for caramel) and has a wonderfully smooth texture. It's one of the best store-bought caramel toppings I've had.

It looks like peanut butter and sounds like a medical implement of some sort, but Speculoos Cookie Butter is a creamy cookie paste. It tastes like mashed up gingersnaps but with the consistency of creamy peanut butter. It's tasty, though I find the ultra-creamy texture a bit creepy, and the ingredient list reveals that it is indeed achieved with a combination of oils and emulsifiers. Dip pretzels in it, spread it on a PB&Speculoos sandwich or just scoop some from the jar, but not too much.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Golden Age of Whiskey is Over

A few years ago, people started talking about this period as the Golden Age of Whiskey. I'm not sure who coined the phrase, but it might have been Chuck Cowdery, who also wrote about it in the most recent edition of his Bourbon Country Reader in which he questions whether the Golden Age is good or bad for consumers.

The thing about this Golden Age, though, is that it's over. Like an economic recession, it's hard to judge exactly when a Golden Age ends until it's been over for some time, but I would estimate that it began in the late 1990s and ended around 2009.

These are the elements that characterized the Golden Age of Whiskey:

  • Improved quality: Whiskey was simply better than ever with the advent of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, the Van Winkle line, the expansion of Four Roses to the US, the resurrection of rye, more great Scotch than ever coming to the US, and the introduction of quality Irish and Japanese whiskeys
  • Availability of Closed Distillery Whiskey: Whiskey from Michter's, Stitzel-Weller, Brora, Port Ellen and other closed distilleries was available at fairly reasonable prices. In 2003, you could easily find a Port Ellen independent bottling for under $200 and an A.H. Hirsch for $75.
  • Innovation: Companies like Buffalo Trace, Bruichladdich, Compass Box and others pushed the boundaries of age, peat, proof, barrel management and other elements, along with eliminating added coloring and chill filtering.
  • Dusties: There was still a plethora of dusties on the shelves and people seemed to have no problem finding really good old whiskey.
  • Availability and Reasonable Prices: All of this whisky was widely available and reasonably priced. There was a time when you could walk into a store at nearly any time of year and find Pappy Van Winkle, George T. Stagg and other whiskeys that barely touch store shelves these days.

In contrast, today's whiskey market is characterized by the following:

  • Younger whiskeys and dropped age statements: Because it's become so popular, whiskey is being marketed younger and without age statements. Macallan is the latest, and most dramatic, distillery to eliminate age statements, but it's happened to so many bourbons it would be difficult to list them all. We are all paying more for less.
  • Inflation and Over-Pricing: Whiskey prices in both the primary and secondary markets are through the roof. Limited releases and gimmicks abound to wrench every last dollar from the thirsty public. Price to quality ratios are completely out of whack, and the secondary market seems to have no ceiling for even recent whiskeys, which in turn drives up prices in the primary market from companies that see they are not realizing their full potential profit.
  • Availability: Scarcity is now a huge issue. As distilleries run out of their glut whiskey, consumers suffer shortages, particularly of rye whiskeys lately, and people fight over each release of Pappy Van Winkle and the BTAC like it's this year's must-have Christmas gift.
  • Gimmicks vs. Innovation
    It seems that gimmicks have replaced innovation as the centerpiece of new whiskeys. We hear less about new techniques and more about the whiskey that went to space, was based on a replica or survived a natural disaster. Finishing was innovative when it first appeared, but now it's old hat, yet distilleries still crow every time they dump a whiskey into a wine barrel for two months. There are still vast areas of whiskey production that have yet to be explored (yeast anyone? corn varieties?), and while innovation still exists, the big ideas of the earlier period seem to have been replaced by gimmicks.

Now, I'm not saying there isn't great whiskey and even reasonably priced great whiskey on the market, but I do think there is much less of it. In part, whiskey is a victim of its own success, and there is just not enough to go around, but companies which are putting profit ahead of quality are also to blame. All of these factors have conspired to change the market and end the Golden Age.

Not all is lost though; there are a number of promising signs. Distilleries are increasing capacity and new distilleries open every day. Many of the new distilleries have put out some terrible stuff, but all it takes is a few gems to grow and thrive. I would guess that in ten to fifteen years, once all of this new whiskey, micro and macro alike, has had time to age, we may enter a Silver Age...and when we do, I'll be there.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Koreatown Italian: All'Angolo

Koreatown is a great place to live, culinarily speaking. We've got hundreds of Korean choices, dozens of Central American restaurants, a good handful of Oaxacan spots, and we're just a short jaunt from Thaitown and Little Armenia. What we don't have, though, is great Italian. There's La Buca a bit to the north, but it's gotten pretty expensive since the old days when it was a cramped, hole in the wall. Now, I'm happy to report, we have another choice.

All'Angolo Pizza and Pasta is a small restaurant squeezed into a Third Street strip mall between a Baskin Robbins and a liquor store (no dusties, I checked).

Despite its primacy in the name, ignore the pizza, it's served on a soft, sort of pita bread like crust that's not at all crispy. The thing to get here is the pasta.

The pasta at All'Angolo is all made to order, fresh, perfectly cook and tastes handmade (I don't know if they actually make it in-house or not); I've tried a variety since the spot opened last fall, and they've all been great. The highlight for me is the strozzapreti alla trentina (pictured above). Strozzapreti is a short, twisted pasta; it's served in a cream sauce with prosciutto and radicchio. The combination of the meat, the slightly bitter lettuce and the cream in every bite of toothsome, hand rolled pasta is one of those perfectly balanced bites.

I also enjoyed the special of tortellini with sage and butter sauce which featured a rich, ground veal stuffing (pictured above). Even the spaghetti with meatballs, which I order for my daughter is impressive, featuring a somewhat thicker than usual spaghetti, cooked to a perfect al dente, and a rich, tomato-cream's all I can do not to eat it right off of her plate.

Desserts are also quite good. The panna cotta was silky smooth without being overly gelatinous and the custard tart, infused with just a touch of booze (maybe marsala) is rich and creamy.

I love my neighborhood's great Asian and Latin American options, but now Koreatown has great pasta too!

All'Angolo Pizza and Pasta
4050 W. 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 368-7888

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Fall of Foie

Beginning today, foie gras, the ancient culinary delicacy consisting of the fattened liver of a duck or goose, is no longer legal in California. We've known this day was coming for a long time now. The ban was passed back in 2004 in a bipartisan effort by a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature. The long period between the law's enactment and its going into effect was intended to give California's one foie gras producer a chance to adapt or find a new line of work. (If you're interested in an engaging treatment of the general controversy around foie gras, I recommend Marc Caro's excellent book, The Foie Gras Wars.)

The law can be found beginning at section 25980 of California's Health & Safety Code. It prohibits two things:

  • Force feeding a bird for the purpose of
    enlarging the bird's liver beyond normal size; and
  • Selling a product that is made by force feeding a bird.

Force feeding is defined as "a process that causes the bird to
consume more food than a typical bird of the same species would
consume voluntarily. Force feeding methods include, but are not
limited to, delivering feed through a tube or other device inserted
into the bird's esophagus."

Violations are punishable by a fine of $1,000 per violation, per day.

It will be interesting to see if restaurants come up with creative ways around the ban, as they did during the brief period in which foie gras was banned in Chicago. For instance, producing and selling foie gras is illegal, but the law does not prohibit possessing, consuming or giving it away. In Chicago, a number of restaurants provided free foie gras with certain purchases, though my guess is that such schemes would still be interpreted as sales unless the foie could be obtained without any purchase at all.

Who knows what other hijinks or unintended consequences this prohibition might give rise to. Smuggling rings from Las Vegas? Foie gras speakeasys? Clandestine backyard goose farms? Foie gras kingpins? Stay tuned.