Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Chapoutier Wines at Topshelf - fantastic night!

More desktop clearing. Also trying to boost the number of posts before year end. Didn't take the camera to this one, as I was not really expecting a knockout dinner, so I only got some crappy handphone shots. Lenglui took more and better, but lost the handphone on a trip to France. Forgot to ICloud them too. Bugger. Bloody French.

5th September 2016
Topshelf, Taman Tun Dr Ismail

We have had very good dinners at Topshelf and this was one where all the stars and the wine and food and traffic gods aligned (well mostly - apart from a somewhat manic and panicking Waze and a bit of heavy traffic getting there). Excellent food, very good wines, delightful company and home before 11pm feeling well sated both gastronomically and bibulously. One of the times when the food was more memorable than the wines. Darn outstanding in fact - every dish I can recall even now. The Quail especially - magnificent with the Foie Gras and Port Wine sauce. Wines not so, but good gear nonetheless. I think they were all maybe a bit young and (for me) a bit on the thin side - Rhones need some whack and as memory serves these expressions were a bit lacking. Definitely go back for the food, though. 

We had been to Topshelf on a previous wine dinner with Villa Maria wines (click here for the report) and enjoyed the food over the wines. But the place seemed to have got forgotten in the madness of the various food groups we seem to belong to and the need to take an occasional evening off the sauce. The foodie groups all seem to prefer new places and traditional Chinese cuisines and madness expeditions into the urban wilds in search of the perfect tongue and belly titillation. Also, the Topshelf borders on the "quite a trek to get there through bad traffic" so that it rarely enters the consciousness as somewhere to head to. Shame, really - though a few recent trips have put this part of TTDI back on our map so we shall see.

Lenglui and I arrived a shade late due to ignoring the berating we were getting from the Waze to turn back home and start our trip again. Visiting Chapoutier wine chappie Michael Travostino was just finishing up his opening spiel as we slunk in and found out seats next to the Governor and other assorted IWFS diehards who all looked somewhat stunned for some reason. Perhaps all were in need of more wine, given the low levels I could see in the glasses on the table. I understand. 

It looked like quite a full house of about fifty plus, all already sipping on the aperitif and charmingly pleasant first wine, the Belleruche Blanc. A blend of White Grenache and Clairette and Bourboulenc (never heard of these) this was being billed as "pale yellow and limpid.. citrus aromas and exotic fruits… fresh.. well balanced, lots of fatness and length." Didn't find it all that fat, actually quite fresh and blowsy, cheeky in the cheeks and a good quaffer. And clearly so, the way the table seemed to be sucking it down - lots of refills coming through with the whites. 

The speech ended quite quickly with little in the way of rumblings from the tables. My experience is that when people feel "enough of the speech already", they will start whispered conversations which gradually rise in number and volume and normally give a perfect cue for the speech to stop. Well, most of the time - some occasional thick faced visitors who have their spiel perfected and enjoy the sound of their own voice (Ed -does that include you, dear boy?) will plug on to the very bitter and stultifying end. People normally will listen politely for a while, but if the content is too turgid or the voice a dull monotone that makes you want to bang your head on the table then they will make their preference known and shut the fellow up. Yes. Our friend tonight sensibly kept things short. 

The menu said there were to be three Amuse Bouche, each with a different wine to pair. First out was the Ceviche with Herbs and Pea Espuma. This was a shot of fish in pea mush which seemed to gain a choppy black pepper hit from the wine. In contrast, the fish brought out apricot and peach notes and a somewhat richer mouthfeel. The Ceviche was nicely done and the presentation with a wafer cone of creamy something to dip into the pea mush. This was a well crafted piece of food elements that combined great pea sweet cream with a carbo wafer and vinegared raw fish - the mouth was indeed nicely amused.

Tomato and Octopus Salad. Tentacular...
The Tomato and Octopus Salad was also very good, with the salad proving most refreshing given the lime vinaigrette hit. The avocado was well ripe and slimy which made for a cracking contrast with the firm chewy bite of the day fresh Octopus chunks. 

The Quail. Magnificent.
It was being paired with the Les Meysonniers White, 2014, a total Marsanne with no other grapes in the bottle. The notes talked about "pale yellow…quince, peony and roasted almond nose… palate supple and fresh with good length."  The wine's texture was somewhat more oily and industrial with a firmness in the weight and mouthfeel. Didn't get much in the way of fruit, but seemed to get a cute pop of chili oil when sipped with the Octopus. 

Never been a great fan of the quail I have eaten in my time, but I have to say that the one tonight was stunning. Great seasoning with a mushroom like stuffing, full of bird taste and without that gamey oily feel that quail seems to continually exhibit. Imagine the lightest, freshest spring chicken you have ever eaten and triple the intensity of the taste - that was this bird. The Foie Gras was smooth and clean and lean and tasted fantastically fresh and wonderful. Chef definitely has talent to put these together. Wicked sinful debts to be paid at sometime in the future. But not tonight.

It was being paired with the 2014 "La Bernardine" which I found a bit light but which brought out brilliantly earthy notes from the mushrooms. The table expected more power and fruit in the CdP and I had to agree. It needed far more whack and came across as more CdR than CdP. Texture wise it would have gone gangbusters with the duck. Sadly there was not enough pourings to put this theory to the test. Only the most restrained and disciplined of drinkers would have been able to reserve a little given the apparent thimblefuls we seemed to be receiving. Though I think someone blagged some more of the earlier wines. The Boozer's Mantra - Take whatever comes.

I was having the lamb though I seem to remember whacking Lenglui's duck with deep joy and abandon. Beautiful taste and texture on that bird. 

The Duck. It was the total Quack
Back to the Lamb and the Gnocchi was a knockout. Sublime texture on the cheesy potato gratin, coming across like a Camembert. The lamb medallions were nicely done and the jus was stunning - fire, taste and power and which took the meat and creamy Gnocchi into overdrive. Great, great satisfying combo but with taste and whack and finesse. No notes on the 2013 Cote Rotie. 

Also no notes on the dessert (as usual) or on the Muscat. I seem to remember feeling quite sober at the end of it all, though not to say that there wasn't enough wine - just perhaps not enough of the better stuff? But foodwise it was a brilliant night. Have to take the gang there one night and bring our wines. The downside of Topshelf is that it IS a bit isolated, located along a dark back road in Taman Tun which anecdotally puts some in fear of Mat Rempits on bikes rolling up and stripping the assets of the assembled before disappearing into the backstreets. In this, stories of Motor Bike robbery of restaurants and petrol stations do occasionally surface on Facebook or Whatsapp and I now carry an old phone and a fake wallet to some of the more isolated places just in case. Over-reacting? Perhaps. But better safe than sorry. And I figure one can always run into the kitchen to grab a pot of hot soup to douse the bastards or crack them across the skull or the knees with a wok or kuali. Go Mat Rempit on your bike after one of those, asshole…

PS I seem to recall somewhere along the evening The Governor holding court about how Brexit was a good thing ("Britain being ruled by these bloody Europeans - can't have it!") and the ongoing ruin of the Malaysia left by the British in the 1950s. Well, and maybe - I still think it is a mistake to leave the EU, and far better to seek reform from within than without. But the Brits have never been good Europeans and probably never will be. Different patterns of thinking that don't seem to jive with the Continentals. There you go. Got to love The Governor though - he is the old generation of Brits who still know how to command compliance with the well chosen epithet or the meaningful silent stare. Total projection of gravitas and don't playplay with me, sunshine. Maybe we should set HIM on the Mat Rempits...

Topshelf Restaurant
61, Lorong Rahim Kajai 13, 
Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 
60000 Kuala Lumpur

Phone: +60 3-7727 7277

Menu and Wines

Amuse Bouche
Ceviche with Herbs and Pea Espuma
Cotes du Rhone "Belleruche" Blanc 2015

Tomato and Octopus Salad
Marinated Roma, Avocado, Grilled Octopus
Micro Herbs and Lime Vinaigrette
Crozes Hermitage "Les Meysonniers" Blanc 2014

Stuffed Quail with Foie Gras
Mushrooms, Truffle with Port Wine Glaze
Chateauneuf du Pape "La Bernardine" 2014

Confit de Canard
Slow Cooked Duck Leg, Potato Puree and Caramelised Onion
Cote Rotie "Les Becasses" 2013


Grilled Lamb Loin
Roasted Lamb Loin, Pesto, Garlic Cream, Saffron Gnocchi and Lamb Jus
Cote Rotie "Les Becasses" 2013

Chocolate and Coffee Cremeux
70% Noir Dark Chocolate Cream
Olive Oil and Maldon Sea Salt
Muscat Beaumes de Venise 2014

Dinner accompanied by San Pellegrino Mineral Waters

Friday, December 23, 2016

IWFS Kuala Lumpur Visit to Champagne, Burgundy and Alsace September 2016 - Day Six

Lenglui and flowers. Oui.
Thursday, 29th September 2016

1. Visit to Famille Hugel Winery in Riquewihr, Alsace
2. Lunch at Winstub du Chambard, Kayserberg
3. Dinner at L’Atelier du Peintre, Colmar

Quite a restless night before an unbearably early get up and at 'em and lug the bags down and on to the bus again. Felt pretty dazed and not really rested and don't remember much about the hotel or breakfast. Oh yes…  breakfast was very cramped inside and a bit stuffy, though there was a small area to sit outside and get some chilled morning air in the shade. There was also a long queue for the one single coffee machine which was made worse by the darn thing taking two minutes per cup and everyone was filling up two cups each. Aarghhh! Anger and frustration at everyone taking an insane amount of time and delaying the morning fix. I have a vague memory of having eggs and bread and ham and feeling quite glad to leave this cramped hotel for some reason. I think our room was way at the back of the place, which always makes for a grumpy camper. Think the room was also a bit small. Can't remember the name of the place. Don't think I will be back there. Which often means I well might. Famous last words, eh? 

Zoomed out to get the sunlight on the vines
Napoleon had already picked up the other eight pilgrims who had stayed at the other hotel and was grumpily loading our bags into the bus hold. He really was quite a miserable in this sense, though perhaps he was a bit more affable to those nearer the driving seat. But then again, I am not at my best in the morning - need two coffees to get going, and the inability to drink the OJ meant the early morning grumps lasted a bit longer than normal. Maybe Napoleon was also not a morning person. Not much of an afternoon person either, as memory serves. 

Delightful breakfast seating in Riquewihr
As we left Colmar town, the sun came out to herald another blisteringly bright day in the Alsace. I blame the Lenglui - she always brings the sun wherever we go. Love her to bits for it.

There is a reference to Domaine Trimbach on the schedule, but I have neither memory nor photograph of this. My guess is that it was ditched in favour of more time in the village for photos and wandering and to give a tad more time to people to rest up given the lateness of the previous evening. Which is difficult to argue against, though missing out on an Alsace wine breakfast brought a twinge of regret. Maybe next time. 

The bus went along the highway for a short while before turning off and into country roads and past vine covered tracts of land before landing us outside an arch which proved to the the village gate of Riquewihr. Being labelled by the tourist pamphlets as "The Gem of the vineyards", Riquewihr proved to be another impossibly pretty village of narrow cobblestone roads and lanes and the location of our morning visit, the Hugel winery. Riquewihr was also the destination of two cruise boats that were in dock somewhere up river and who were also being disgorged at the gate - clearly no buses allowed in the town. The brilliant sunshine made for fantastic photo opportunities and we all joined the meandering tourist fun in gawping and gaping at the medieval feel of everything. 

Pilgrims banging on the Hugel door pleading for liquid breakfast. Little pleaders...
A gentle ten minute stroll along this intermittently shaded and sunlit main cobbled street (the Rue du General de Gaulle) brought us to the Hugel winery, parked conveniently on one corner along the main drag. Famille Hugel is a global brand, one most of us will have seen in the supermarkets and probably drunk somewhere along our wine journeys. The marketing blurb talks about 13 generations of family tradition since its inception in 1639 - not far off four hundred years of winemaking. The wines are well made, wonderfully Alsacienne, and ranking up there as among some of the best whites in the world. 

Enraptured Pilgrims hypnotised by Marc Hugel and his bottle in the Hugel Tasting Room
We gathered at the Winery entrance and got met at the door by (I think) Marc Hugel (certainly according to Google Images - our chap in my photos looks more like Marc than any of the other family members) who let us all into the quaint and dark tasting room for a brief talk about Alsace and Hugel's place in it. Smart man, he went straight for the booze, no doubt persuaded by some of us whose tongues were hanging out. He also told us that the public loo was just across the road. Double smart man. He knows his customers. On one side of the room was the bar with all the marketing blurb and prices and on the other was seating in various arrangements. Strewn on the walls were maps and marketing photos from across the campaigns. We all settled in and politely listened to the Hugel story. 

Happy Pilgrims. One clearly in transcendent mode. Oui.
Some of us were a little bit dreading the Hugel visit, and a bit not quite sure how to handle it.  Many of us knew Etienne, the witty and somewhat manic but utterly charming marketing man for Hugel's global distribution empire. He had passed away earlier in the year in somewhat tragic circumstances. I had met him twice on his visits to Kuala Lumpur, though friend Julian from Singapore as Alsace Wine Society President was quite close to him and was en route to a scheduled lunch with him when he got the news. Desperate. We presumed the family wounds were still a bit raw, so Dear Leader had earlier suggested we express simple condolences to the brother and raise a glass to his memory. 

Happy Money
It never happened. Marc got straight into the performance and neither he nor us referred to Etienne at all throughout the session. Which was a bit… unnerving in a weird way. Neither got the chance to express any grief. And why should he share his? He didn't know that we knew Etienne and we never seemed to get around to saying that we did. But the man was there - in marketing photos on the walls and in the blurb, in spirit, in memory, like a ghostly elephant in the room that no one seemed to want to acknowledge. Most odd.

The tasting was in one straight session and we got the chance to sip some right lovelies. Sharply sweet, perfumed, full in the mouth and lovely and firm on the finish. All breakfast should be like this. There were eight on the menu - Gentil 2015, Classic Riesling 2014, Estate Riesling 2012, Jubilee Riesling 2009, and Grossi Laue Riesling, Grossi Laue Pinot Noir, Grosse Laue Pinto Gris and Grossi Laue Gewurtz all of which were 2010. Seem to remember lots of people spitting out the Classics but retaining more of the Grossi. According to the Hugel brochure, Grossi Laue is Alsatian dialect to signify Hugel's finest vineyards and the tag looks to mark those timeless cultural values of the family as deeply anchored in their historic vineyard terroirs. Kind of like a local Grand Cru, though apparently this has caused some ruction amongst some of the other growers who cry foul - "eet ees not an official classification, monsieur, and so should not be yoosed" kind of argument. Which some might suspect to be sour grapes for not thinking of it themselves. Or not.

We took a toilet break prior to a brief visit to the cellars and then back to the tasting room for farewells. We bought one of the 2010 Grossi Lauer Riesling from the upstairs store to bring back for El Manica to try at some time (Euro48). I think we had it at the Nobu dinner earlier in the year and recalled it was not generally available. Others went for the Late Harvest stuff, also not too well available over here in Malaysia. 

End of the Hugel Pilgrimage
After the tasting everyone went separate ways on a brief town walkabout, buying tasty pastries and nibbles and touristy knick knacks. One of our ladies had somehow managed to either charm or pressgang one of the gentlemen into being her personal photographer and was happily getting shot in various mad fashion style poses all over the Rue. Wonder what the old General De Gaulle would have thought of it all. He was famous for saying "Non" to British entry into the EEC in the late 1960s. Not sure that it would have worked with our friend...

The Church across from Hugel
Across the Rue almost diagonally opposite the Hugel winery was the Place des 3 Eglises (Three Churches Square) one of which was open and which I hoped might have been where the funeral took place. Quite a bare place, with lots of pews leading up to the altar. I recall Julian saying it was a Methodist affair, so the spartan feel of the place certainly fit. I popped in to say some quiet goodbyes to Etienne. I remember him telling me at the KL Nobu Dinner in January 2016 that he was the "clown" whilst his brother was the maker of the magic. No one ever saw any of his tears. Dam sad. Adieu mon brave, adieu…

Hugel et Fils / Famille Hugel
3, Rue de la Premiere Armee
email info@hugel.com
Open all days 9 - 12 noon / 1 - 6pm

Riquewihr Well. Think I made a wish to come back...
Lenglui had found a few bits to buy and some of the biscuits on sale were brilliant snaps of sugar on the tongue. We all meandered back to the bus and on a short drive toward lunch at the Weinstub du Chambard in Kayserberg, a "traditional inn serving the classic Alsatian Baeckoffe (casserole)". The place itself looked small from the outside but once we got whisked through to the back it turned into a huge spa and hotel. We got sat on a long table just below ground level and got stuck into the bread and butter and the delightful white that was getting poured. We were having the Albert Boxler 2013 Pinot Blanc (the label of which looked familiar from earlier in the tour) and would later move to a Loire Valley Domaine des Roches Neuves Terres Chaudes Saumur-Champigny 2014 made by Thierry Germain. I have no notes of the wines but a great memory of getting belly busted by the Baeckoffe. Big pots of it got brought out by the impressively strong ladies who then proceeded to ladle it into our plates.  Lots of pig and potatoes and gravy, it was good hearty fare. I had seconds - good stuff. Can't remember if there was starters or dessert. Was there?

Main Street, Kayserberg
Table Setting at Weinstub du Chambard

Ladies who Lunch - Lenglui and May Peng
"An extra beeg dollop for yoo M'sieur?" "OUI!"

Happy President
Lunch. Oui.

The Hearty and Belly Busting Baeckoffe. Magnificent.
Back on the bus to return to Colmar and our hotel. Having been belly busted I opted to nap whilst Lenglui went on a town walkabout. On her return, there was about an hour before dinner so on her suggestion I also opted to talk the town. The lump of lead in the belly that was lunch had lightened sufficiently to make this suggestion workable so off I trotted into the darkening gloom of the late autumn dusk settling over the town. It being about 6pm, all the shops had shut and what was left seemed to be a constant stream of bars and eateries. Every other door seemed to have seats with people parked outside boozing and eating. As said, most of the shops were shut, so there was little chance to spend on anything. Got a couple of photos here and there, and it did indeed look a very pretty town. On the walk back along the river to where the hotel was I found a second hand DVD and CD store still open and ended up buying a Blues Music CD with the same title as one of my songs - Coming Home To The Blues. At 3 Euro it was a must buy and a memory. Hopefully a sign that the song will one day sell millions. Click here to listen...

Back to the room for a quick change and downstairs for a group walk to the L’Atelier du Peintre, an elegant and modern one star Michelin restaurant serving mainly seafood dishes in the centre of Colmar. Lots of party atmosphere on the way there, lots of young Colmarians (or should that be Colmariners?) on the streets getting loudly cocktailed. We entered the place and got scuttled into a nicely white and bright side room with a long table around which we all parked and decloaked. Here we go again…

Three wildcats. And Dear Leader. Oui.
Our room had a modern feel to it, though it was a bit overwhelming with some imposing animal paintings on the back wall. Massive testosterone. Lenglui was being watched by some fierce tigers all through dinner. Felt a bit like the den of some macho male stud who was somewhere out on the hunt for distressed damsels to ravage and haul back home. In Colmar. During our dinner. Okay…

The fizz got poured and it was wonderful, especially so after the tremendous thirst we had worked up as a result of our ten minute walk from the Columbier Hotel. A Cremant Brut Zero, Barmes Buecher, 2013 from Alsace, it had great, great balance, easy honey apples and a raspy throat clag clearing finish. Cracker. And not a hint of any of that sour acidity we seemed to have been getting from all the other fizz this past week. Could happily drink this one all night, so smooth and easy, absolute belter of a fizz. Someone said that Alsation Cremants are worth seeking out. Amen to that one, total convert here.  

The Amuse Bouche was a Carrot Juice shooter next to some fish paste in Lemon juice along with Creme Fraiche and a Foie Gras bonbon on a Macaron wafer. This was darn tasty, all the elements working tremendously well together, and just sufficiently salted to demand that more of the delightful Cremant be chugged to even things out. Well worth the trip alone for this Amuse Bouche. Charming and delightful.

Amuse Bouche. Was highly amused!
Next out was what looked like thinly shaved prawns in a wonderfully sweet and fresh Tomato sauce which also had a cold zesty sour hit from some fresh lemon. The Sorbet was brilliant, full of fresh and chilled zip which set off very well against the delicately sweet tomato.

Thinly sliced Prawn with Tomato and sorbet. Great colours. 
It was a magnificent dish which absolutely killed the fizz. There was way too much acid going on in the dish and fighting with that which was already in the booze. Acid plus acid equals ripping the lining from the system. Had to drink water to neutralise. So it goes. 

The Riesling got poured and first impression was… good. It was a 2013 Le Dragon by Josmeyer from Alsace. Not too sharp, but still enough to tweak the cheeks and tangily get the salivatories to kick in and make you want to eat and drink more. Which is what a good wine should do, n'est-ce pas? Got balance, almonds, lemons, some smoke and good spritz.

Break between the courses
The next dish out was the visually spectacular Poached Cod with what looked like Octopus Fricassee and garden peas, sprinkled with bits of watercress and (i think) basil and planted in a pond of what felt like some kind of bisque. The table couldn't quite figure out the sauce - Google translate calls it Giant Shrimp Sauce with the Devil. Which would kind of make sense - boil down the shells for the bisque and add up some Chili or Paprika for power. Whatever, it was naturally good sopping gear for the bread to soak up and get sucked down. The idea of a Giant Shrimp facing down the Devil is quite an image - can somehow see them squaring off against each other. Maybe an idea for one of the Isadorable One's Manga nights. Then again, maybe not.

The excellent Cod and Peas
The Cod was perfect - sweet clean flakes melting into creamy heaven in the mouth. The peas were magnificent accompaniment with that greeny sweet nip on the bite whilst the Octopus lent a wonderful salty textural tentacle crunch. Some little tiny crouton balls of pasta gave a carbo hit to balance and tick the element boxes. 

Vanessa and Lydia
The Riesling and heat in the sauce naturally tamed each other and left a cute numbness on the tongue. Can't remember how it went with the fish - probably excellent though no note was made and memory has now failed. Have to find a sponsor to go back to the restaurant and give it a retry. In my dreams. Yes. 

Next up was the main course of beef. The cows presumably come from some place called Salers and are (according to some site unearthed by Google) fed a totally herbage diet (ie no soya, cereal or corn) until aged 22 months when they are then prepared for the plate. Someone said the meat is apparently the Black Charolais and coming from the same area as the more traditional White ones. Not sure on this - a Google search sent me to Texas and nothing on any French version - all the cows photos showed them white in color. Have to delve a bit fruther on this, but nothing about Charolais Noir or Blanc cows came to light. 

Beef and Ravioli. Or maybe Wonton.
The meat was initially tough on the outer edges but seemed to get better through the cut. Good taste, aided by orange slices with fresh cream and creamy garlic mash (presumably for vitamin C and thinning the blood). The jus was great, helping the mash provide a good carbo whack in the chest. Was not initially sure about the orange slices - it kind of turned the dish into Beef A L'Orange - but it did give a pleasant citrus kick to the thing. I didn't quite get the Ravioli - texturally it fought with pretty much everything on the plate and tastewise I didn't get a lot. It also looked like the shrivelled up wonton we get with our noodles on Petaling Street - somewhat sad. 

Dessert. Yum.
The 2011 Chateau Pibarnon Bandol was lovely. Dear Leader said it was 100% Mourvedre from Provence and which came on like a Barolo - full fruit upfront with smoke and whack on the finish. It made for an excellent choice to match with the medium done meat, facing down the salt and pepper sear and giving supple sleek mouth juices full of fire and taste to the dish. Absolute Belter of a match. Seems that some of the pilgrims opined that the dish was perhaps a shade rustic rather than refined in taste terms and perhaps a bit below expectation of a one star establishment. Well, and perhaps - I'll agree that a one star Michelin should maybe lean more toward transcendence in taste rather than simply offer what can be got two doors down the road at a shade of the price. But I think I'll leave this one open - I enjoyed the dish and the wine. 

The Birthday Boy. Allegedly.
And the dessert that followed was wicked brilliant. Visually it was spectacular - colour, position, and the light dusting of powder (possibly chives) played nicely with the whiteness of the plate. In the middle was (what I guess was the) Sabayon cream shaped into a piston cylinder on top of some fruit and sponge in gelatin base and surrounded with poached peach slices and some amazing syrup in which the ensemble appeared in danger of drowning. Added zing was goven by a spring of mint and (so my notes say) tarragon sorbet which set the whole thing off like a box of rockets in the mouth. Belter belter belter. Alsace surely does know how to do desserts. Phooo...

Someone had brought a bottle of whiskey for the occasion, but Dear Leader warned that corkage by the restaurant might be insisted upon. The owner of the whiskey bluffed the Maitre D' into believing that it was Whiskey Owner's Birthday and that it would be sad not to celebrate royally with all the friends and by the way there's a glass for your goodself for waiving the corkage. Very Malaysian, non? We all wished Whiskey Owner a very Happy Birthday!

And then it was out and into the nippy Colmar night for a bracing stroll (better make that a boozy stagger) back to the hotel and into bed. In all, a most pleasant evening, with good memories of the walk back along the river and past some terrace buildings and shops. Good night Colmar, see you in the morning. 

L'atelier du peintre Menu

Minardises. Yum.

Fraicheur de Tomate Ananas, BonBon de Burrata, Eau de Tomate au Basilic, Sorbet Tomate et Lard Collonata

Dos de Cabillaud Cuit a Basse Temperature, Confit de Poivrons, Petits Pois et Pates Safranees aux Poulpes, Jus de Crevettes a la Diable

Filet de Boeuf de Salers Mature, Raviole en Tricorne, Oignon, Orange et Jus d'une Daube

Douceur de Peche Pochee, Tartare de Peche a L'Estragon et Sabayon au Cremant D'Alsace

Selection de Cave

Alsace, Cremant Brut Zero, Barmes Buecher, 2013
Alsace, Riesling Le Dragon, Josmeyer, 2013
Provence, Bandol, Chateau Pibarnon, 2011

All prices include service and taxes and all the meats are originated in France. Yes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Torres Wine Dinner at Stoked - good, not great...

Part of a desktop clearing exercise December 2016. More a report for posterity than a review. Some good photos of IWFS friends. Be a few more like this over the next couple of weeks.

6th April 2016

Muzzy. Bleugghh. Didn't sleep too good. It was that last fricking Muscat at the end after the Brandy, sicky sweet and full of alcohol that did it. All the booze racing through the system and keeping the heart thumping and stimulated. Bastard. No self discipline to say no to the final glass. Not many notes on the food or wine. But got some great photos which were worth the post. 

We have always enjoyed the Torres we have seen in the Supermarkets, especially the Santa Esmeralda - lovely sweet and prickly juice, wonderful when ice cold on a burning sun kind of day ahead of a sit down slightly chili-fied sumptuous Chinese spread. Todays wines were new to us so would be interesting to see how they fared.

First thoughts. Brilliant presentations of the food on the plates. The food outshone the wines completely. Wonderful prawn and bread. Getting regaled upon by the staff and table to suck the head - used a spoon instead. It was huge taste. Sucky sucky yum. 

Excellent pork and olive dirt salt, and the use of lightly seared Zucchini (courgettes?) as vegetal crunch was wonderful. Dessert was most pleasant and frisky fresh. Downside was that the Steak was a bit tough - Lenglui had to leave it on the plate. I regret to say that I did too - not sure why it was so tough but I did find it difficult to chew. Should have asked.

Wines were good. The Chard was full firm and tropical in the mouth and the Reds were equally characterful, but somewhat stiff in price terms even after the most generous discounts being offered. Not easy to fork out RM200 for a Chard or RM300 for a red. Sorry. Rather hold out for Yin-How's excellent sales in January and snap up the bargains. Brandy was pleasant but not enough to warrant a purchase. But we bought a case of the Albarino cos we liked it. Bit more oily and full and makes an occasional change from the usual Oyster Bay SB we drink. Great when cold - going to have it with Paella at some place called Fat Olive tonight. Texas says the place is good. We shall see...

Trio of Canapes
Torres Pazo das Bruxas Albarino 2014

Carabineros Prawn
Ice Plant, Cherry Tomato on Vine, Black Olive Soil
Torres Milmanda Chardonnay 2012

Wood Roasted Iberico Abanico
Portobello Mushroom, Lemon Garlic Zucchini, Ardoino Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Torres Perpetual 2012

Cantabrian Chuleton Steak
Kipfler Potato, Capsicum, Penja Pepper Sabayon
Torres Gran Murales 2005

Passionfruit Curd
Fresh Fig, Chocolate Soil. Vanilla Ice Cream
Torres Moscatel d'Oro NV

Coffee or Tea
Torres Brandy 10 Years NV

May Peng and Lenglui

Dato Jeremy and Datin Kalsom

Doc Stephen and Dato Jeremy

Vanessa and Doc Su Kim

Carabineros Prawn

Wood Roasted Iberico Abanico

Cantabrian Chuleton Steak

Passionfruit Curd

Sunday, December 18, 2016

IWFS Kuala Lumpur Visit to Champagne, Burgundy and Alsace September 2016 - Day Five

Wednesday, 28th September 2016

1. Drive to Alsace
2. Lunch at Taverne Alsacienne
3. Tasting at Domaine Weinbach
4. Dinner at L'Auberge De L'Ill

Woke up to a beautiful bright and blazing morning in Beaune. Little bit of a restless one, but at least the orchestra had become more pastoral than the 1812 overture-like cannons of the previous nights. Lazed about in the bed dozing and catching up on lost sleep time. Very pleasant. Someone once said that the key to longer life is to sleep in and let the body recharge. Definitely got a believer in that one here.

Seems the original plan was to leave early for a leisurely drive to get to our lunch date in Colmar around 1pm. In this, Dear Leader presumably got persuaded by the earnest entreaties of those needing to indulge the shopping instinct to delay so as to give some time in town to sate the cravings. So it was that we lounged and lazed in the room with our instant coffee and gently packed before heading down to the usual breakfast. At this time in the trip I had not yet learned to refuse the orange juice and wolfed down two of the deliciously refreshing and freshly squeezed ahead of the cappuccino and cheese and ham baguette. The Ibis Styles breakfast is solid and filling - bit basic in offerings, but no complaints in quality terms.  And OJ is so good for kick-sparking the system into some level of alertness. It even occasionally allows me to engage in some semblance of breakfast conversation which is generally quite abnormal for me - the neurons don't quite fire as well when the brain is muzzy and bleuggh after a previous evening's skinful (which seems to be pretty much most of the time).

There was lots of excited chatter as we got on to the bus, with people comparing their purchases and prices and the winners in bargaining terms being loudly lauded. Very fast check out (though we had to fill out some residence form for the local gendarmerie which consumed an observedly five pointless minutes) and roll the cases across the road to a pretty sullen Napoleon for loading on the bus. I guess some people just can't see the sunshine and celebrate another day of life. It truly was a glorious morning. 10.30 saw us saying farewell to Ibis, though not before (I think) Bachan had to run back into the hotel to retrieve some booty. Or go for a pee. A three hour drive lay ahead of us, so we settled into the seats and dozed or whatsapped. Lenglui slept most of the way as normal - amazing that she can just zap out on anything that moves. I stare out of the window at the passing landscape, which also can be quite relaxing. But sleep on a bus or train totally eludes me.

Side note - Dear Leader had splurged for a mobile Broadband package whereby we all could log on to his mini Hub thingy and remain in contact with the world to check and see whether it still loved us. Only problem seemed to be that it could not handle all the love at any one time and was a bit slow in connecting a lot of the time. Not to worry - the world would hopefully still be there when it did. 

An hour into the ride I began wishing I had followed Bachan to the Ibis toilet for that last go before the off. That freaking OJ. My entire second hour on the bus was focused on restraining the need for relief. Which thankfully came sooner as a result (I guess) of OJ's effect on everyone else. Napoleon pulled into a large-ish petrol station cum restaurant shop and everyone ran to the restrooms. Ahhh....   Total exquisite bliss. Lesson - no more OJ ahead of a bus ride.

I picked up some extra bottled water at the station and a few of the pilgrims bought snacks to share on the bus for the last hop into Alsace. The landscape had been slowly changing from pretty flat to slightly rolling and the sight of vines always heralds that we are getting close to where we need to be. 

The Alsace region is pretty, not unlike Beaune but a bit more lush green and higher slopes and peaks dotted with the occasional fortress. We were coming to it in blazing sunshine and blue cloudless skies - about as picture perfect as you could get. The Autoroute gave way to smaller roads, one of which brought us through impossibly pretty flower festooned houses and restaurants to the town of Ingersheim and our lunch at La Taverne Alsacienne. Dear Leader had billed it as "leaning towards seafood dishes (and) with an immaculate wine list" thanks to the owner being a judge at Decanter World awards. 

Something to study whilst, er....   
Notwithstanding our arriving a shade past the lunch hour closing time, we got sat at two tables with a separate one on which to park the bottles and glasses. The Tavern is a very pretty place, lots of paintings, and quite cool in the shade - most pleasant indeed. The bathroom was downstairs and the ledge going down was decorated with high-end bottles of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Alsace. As was the boy's room itself. All empty. Of course. 

I did not make any notes on lunch, though I remember it as bright and easy breezy and some lovely wines to pair with the food. The aim was for a light lunch ahead of our upcoming 3 star dinner that evening. But I have learnt that "light" is a term of degree and relativity, and that my concept of light does not seem to align with that of either the Alsace or the IWFS. There is nothing "light" about IWFS lunches.  The photos show an egg custard soup with bread to start, followed by a large salmon terrine salad and a huge helping of some fish in white sauce with potato and asparagus. I seem to remember big hunks of bread and lovely butter. There may have been dessert but I have no memory or record. As said, so much for light. I had to get up and take a walk outside to ease the bloat and take some snaps of the Taverne. Phooo…..   Wines were 2012 Domaine Zind Humbrecht Rotenberg Pinot Gris, 2013 Albert Boxler Grand Cru Sommerberg Riesling, and a 2013 Albert Mann Les Saintes Claires Pinot Noir. All wonderfully textured and full of character and perfect foils for the hearty Alsacienne food on the table. I seem to remember enjoying the Pinot Gris very much - light crisp honey, bit of smoke and a hit of longan fruit. I was also keen to try the Albert Mann since my mate Julian in Singapore is due to bring it in there. It didn't seem to stun - pleasant enough, but couldn't quite find the heart of the thing on this occasion. Will try to blag a bottle when next I see him. He is my good friend. Yes.

Interior of Restaurant Taverne Alsacienne

Salmon Terrine

Cod, potato, asparagus, parsley sauce. This is a light lunch. Yes. 

Lunchtime wines

Restaurant Taverne Alsacienne
Restaurant Taverne Alsacienne
99, rue de la République
68040 Ingersheim, France
Tel +3 (03) 89 27 08 41
Closed Sunday to Thursday evenings, closed all day Monday

Domaine Weinbach frontage against the Schlossberg Hill
Lunch ended about 3.30pm, and notwithstanding our lateness we decided to follow the plan and make a visit to Domaine Weinbach. Following a few more squeezingly tight left and right turns, we came to the gate and driveway into the place. It was very narrow, so Napoleon dropped us just outside the gate rather than going in. No explanation forthcoming, though clearly he could not have got out "wizzout beeg scratching of my boos, madame." At least that is what he might have said had he opened his mouth. I guess he would sit and wait and talk to his handphone to his heart's content. At least his phone spoke French.

Pliss, do not eat ze grapes madame... zey maight
maike you make ze noize laike ze trombone...
The Domaine Weinbach is a large property lying in the shadow of the Schlossberg Mountain. It was founded by the Capucin monks in 1612 and so named because of the small stream (wine brook) running through the estate. Located just outside Kayserberg, the main property is situated within the walls of the original 9th Century monastic vineyard (the 5 hectare Clos du Capucins) with which title all the wines of the estate are named. In total Domaine Weinbach owns 26 hectares of vineyards in the Kaysersberg valley in the Haut-Rhin of Alsace at between 200 to 400 metres above sea level.  Our guide pointed pretty much all around and said these were his grapes. Wow. One of the Pilgrims wondered to me whether the place was for sale. I said "Of course M'sieur - ten million Euro, but seeing as you are Malaysian... I sell to you for fifteen."
"Deal." he said. "Will you accept 1MDB Bonds?" I said I would check with the owner. Smartass.

Some of these hectares are on the slopes of the Schlossberg hill (one of the oldest recorded vineyard sites in Alsace) whose granite and sand soils make it perfect for Riesling. Grapes from the upper slopes go to make the Cuvée Sainte-Catherine while the middle slope goes to make Grand Cru (which is also called Sainte-Catherine - bloody French). Gewurtztraminer comes from a small plot on the Mambourg of Sigolsheim whilst their pinot gris comes from somewhere called the Altenbourg site. 

Domaine Weinbach
Domaine Weinbach wines are "heady, exuberant and full-bodied yet also racy, whistle-clean and always achingly beautiful and refined. Traditionally the style has often veered towards the sweet but under Laurence's guidance rieslings tended more to dryness. Her uncanny precision is also felt in the estate's ethereal muscat, sumptuous pinot gris and luscious, sensuous gewurztraminers." http://www.thewinesociety.com/grower-profile-domaine-weinbach

The winery came to the Faller family in 1898 (Theo and Colette) and after Theo passed in 1979 it was run by Mme Colette and daughters Catherine and Laurence. Sadly, Laurence suddenly passed in 2014 at age 47 and Mme Colette in 2015 aged 85. It is now run by Catherine with sons Theo and Eddy with wines made by Ghislain Berthiot. The estate is certified biodynamic and grapes are grown organically and hand picked for passive ageing in oak.  

Additional note from Julian at Julian's Eating who left a very useful comment - "the Cuvee Ste Catherine from the upper slopes of the Schlossberg has now been renamed Cuvee Colette, so you have GC Schlossberg from the lower, Colette from the higher, and Schlossberg GC Ste Catherine from the middle. But they are all superb without exception, regardless of name." 
The new owners of the Domaine after I had sold it to them. They are very happy.
We got taken on a very brief tour and got taken straight to the booze. Dear Leader has a great gift in communicating our time constraints without incurring the disdain of the owners. We started with the ordinary and quickly moved on to the extraordinary. Some wonderful expressions of Riesling and Pinot Gris (which we bought) and the sweeties were delightful. Lots of spitting but lots of swallow too - sometimes the wine is just too good to spit. Actually, better make that most times…  More so on this occasion, the wines were stellar. We fell for the Pinot Gris and bought two for home. We learned that Alsace is blessed with magnificent climat and drainage. It sits in the rainshadow of the Vosges Mountains and tracks the Rhine for its eastern waterway. The land was truly beautiful, easy meandering slopes leading up a mountainside covered with vines and dotted with properties. Very Sound Of Music. someone should make a film - The Sound of Boozing. Yes. 

Tasting the Weinbach wines

Round One...

...and Round Two. Total yum wines.

Ze waine maike me want to dance wiz ze flowers. Oui.
Domaine Weinbach
Colette, Catherine et Laurence Faller
Clos des Capucins
F 68240 Kayserberg
Tel 33 (0)3 89 47 13 21

With our purchases duly made and bubble wrapped we were all back on the bus to go to our hotel in Colmar for a quick check in, shower and change and then back on the bus to dinner. Well, that was the plan. However, when we got to the hotel the nice lady at the desk informed Dear Leader that we were not due at the Columbier Hotel until the following night. Bugger. But they also said that they would help in locating us somewhere to stay though naturally this would take some time. Which was nice of them. We had a dilemma - wait for the hotel or go straight to dinner? It was quickly and communally seen that to wait would mean a large delay in getting to our highlight dinner, so without anyone arguing we got Napoleon to help reload all the bags back on the bus and went straight to the Auberge de L'Ill for our 3 star dinner. Again, not a word from Napoleon, though I think I might have got a grunt from him as I said a "Merci" for his help. Then again, it might have been his phone. Or something else. Oui.

What was actually a standout memory was that everyone just took this blip in their stride - not one voice of whinge did I hear from anyone. It was as if everyone just gave a Gallic shrug and said "C'est la guerre" - one of those things that happens, you just had to roll with it. Something would get done and all would be well so best to just keep drinking the champagne and let whatever happen happen. Que Sera Sera. Absolutely. Top quality character shown by all.

Auberge de L'Ill
So it was that, somewhat scaggy and unwashed and way way underdressed, we pitched up at the Michelin 3 Star Auberge De L'Ill. The staff welcomed us graciously and moved us through to the verandahs and the cold booze that was waiting for us. Here we spent 30 wonderful minutes chilling out in the Auberge gardens with glasses of well cooled Muscat in the nippy evening sunset air. The gardens and property were absolutely idyllic, all trees and bushes and river and sun setting over it all. Table and seating areas were dotted all around and other guests of the Inn were equally enjoying the vibe. Completely wiped away the stress of the loading/unloading. I figured the worst that could happen was we could camp out in the Auberge gardens. Or all of us book a room at the Auberge and crash for the night. Totally relaxing in the autumn evening air. Memory for a lifetime. 

Auberge de L'Ill gardens
I had circulated foodie friend Julian's report (http://julianteoh.blogspot.my/2016/06/review-of-auberge-de-lill-illhauesern.html) on the Auberge in advance to the pilgrims, and I think some of them had indeed read it. They seemed quite knowledgeable about the restaurant and the food and stars. The brochure tells that the Haeberlin family have been operating an eaterie in Illhaeusern for 150 years - "they work the land, cook with artistry and serve with their heart" and this is the Haeberlin spirit now being perpetuated by the present generation of Marc and Danielle. It has held its 3 Michelin stars since 1976, which Dear Leader advised is only bettered by the Paul Bocuse in Lyon. 

As good as it gets - chilling at Auberge de L'Ill
We got scuttled into our room (two tables, twelve and ten seats) and relaxed in to finish off the remains of the light and charmingly more-ish Muscat. Despite its heritage, the place felt quite modern, with new artistic touches around the walls. Lots of earth tones (burgundy and beige) with modern touches of lighting and soft furnishing. And lots of wood panel and branches as decorations, which gave a cosy log cabin in the forest feel. We sat and perused the menu, which had been printed on a charming Haeberlin watercolour card - and all in French. Mais naturellement madame. Where's that Google Translate again?

Sunset in the gardens of Auberge de L'Ill
One of the first things noticed was the wonderful standard and choreography of the service. Waters and wines got served in timely and decanted fashion, yet still with enough time and attention by staff to give answers to the occasional questions raised. Most excellent. Also got a fresh serviette served on a warm plate on return from the bathroom which was a most pleasant touch.

Wine One was a 2010 Grand Cru Alsatian Riesling by Rene Mure in Vorbourg which was all crisp, fresh and crunchy apple and racy acidity which got a nice salt hit from the bread. Full in body, bit of a tartish finish, but enough sweet in the wine to give balance. Nicely elegant, though not so that it demanded too much of the attention. Hint of oil with a medium to firm body.

Auberge de L'Ill table setting and menu
The bread is superb, as is the butter. Got fresh, got gluten, got creamy salt. Yum. Always a good sign.

Our amuse bouche was a combo of fish and what felt like a fried onion ring, all in a brilliant smooth and creamy mushroom broth which deftly checked the acidity in the Mure. Very nice mouthfeel on this wine. 

Amuse Bouche
Dish one was Spice Crusted Red Tuna Tartare (I think) from which I seemed to get a lot of immediate salt. I liked the low impact wasabi which contrasted well with the yuzu style salty lemon. Hit of mustard cress gave a lively jolt on the tongue. Also some (what felt like) crunchy pig fat croutons gave a good meaty taste and useful texture, and making for a good tuna melt in the mouthful chew. It seemed to bring out a pear note in the wine, which was pleasant.

Spice Crusted Red Tuna
Wine Two was also a Riesling, and from the same producer as one that we'd had earlier at lunch though one year earlier in vintage. It was brilliant with the bread and butter which disintegrated the wine's light acidity and let some sleek acacia honey of this cheeky cheek pincher to burst through. Though there seemed to be a tending toward the sucky side of things as it slid across the back of the tongue to a medium large finish.

Non, M'sieur, yooo cannot do ze Mossie in mai place.
Ai weel spank you bigtime. Oui.
It was being paired with the Saint Pierre fish, which apparently is the French equivalent of a John Dory. A fillet of St Peter's best had been laid across an island of beans and chopped vegetables in a light bistro style broth and topped with what reminded of a curry puff we can get from the little Malay lady in next door's hawker stall in KL but filled with (I think) Ricotta mushroom rather than sardine. Okay. The fish was lightly seared and made for an excellent match with the beans and celeriac, all of which got eased along nicely by the brown umami-ish broth. Which got me thinking that Brown for me is not only a colour - it is also a taste, reminiscent of Bistro style salt and fat gravy. And this broth tasted brown. Ish. Well, light brown. Kind of. Hmmm....  finding the right word can be a pain.

It made for a brilliant contrast of heat and sweet when paired with the wine. This was a great tumble of textures - soft ricotta, crunchy celeriac, sweet but sour ginger sauce. And all of these cutting the Riesling's acidity to release honey and toffee notes. I think I got a hit of garlic acetic somewhere in the broth which got a tad in the way of the wine. Best match was the Ricotta mushroom curry puff - again the mushroom eased the slight tartness to give the wine some good width and roundness. Delightful drinking. 

Fish with Mushroom Risotto, er, Curry Puff
Dish Three was an amazing lobster, all fresh and sweet and tender. Addition of (I think) barley gave the bisque a light bite texture, whilst the bisque itself was amazing. Chef had also added some lightly fried sage (I think) which was genius - fantastic taste and texture.

The Lobster in creamy bisque
Wine Three was the Pinot Gris which initially came out a bit cat pee on the nose and Turkish Delight in the mouth. Worked well with the food, though, with the Turkish giving way to deep rich raisins. I seemed to get an almost sherry wood barrel note, like the raisins had been infused with oak soaked in sherry. Odd, but nice. I think perhaps there was some milk or light cream in the sauce which helped to tame the wine's mildly frisky acidity and let its deep rich and wonderfully lovely raisins to come through. Naturally, the bisque was amazing with the bread and butter. Oily, sweet, salt and a mild spicy fire getting soaked up by the crusty gluten. Suck this all night. Belter.

Decanting the reds
Our wine servers were uncorking the reds and decanting the bottles over a candle so as to check when the sediment was due to come out and stop the pour. This is where the Mossie alert kicks in, as there can often be at least a decent glassful left in the bottle. Prudence normally demands such holy water should not suffer the fate of the sink hole without first checking it in a nearby glass. Yes indeed - The Moss would be gravely miffed by such a dereliction and I would incur the righteous wrath of the enraged. A later inspection showed indeed at least half a measure in the bottles. However, an abnormal discretion kicked in and I chickened out of chugging the remains. I think it was the gravitas of the occasion, the imposing history of the Auberge and the stern gaze of the Sommelier fazed me into meek submission and deference. One had to ask - what would the Governor do, sat there as he was at the table? Not sure, but he would definitely not grab the bottle and swig from it. Better to incur the mild admonition of the Moss rather than the intimidating  silence of the Governor or the incandescant rage of an almighty French Maitre D' on his own turf. 
The Pinot decanters were delightful, shaped like ducks with pewter style beaks and belts and other ornamentation. The staff were all generous in their pours and again we all felt well wine sated by the end of the night. 

The Duck Decanter. Hugely tempted to souvenir one. Took the photo instead.
The lamb was a well tasty piece of meat, full of tender feel and texture with just enough fibre to work the salivatory glands. Two full chops in the rack and done to perfection. The jus was very bistro, leaning toward the sweet in its reduction, whilst the potato and fennel was amazing - tending texturally toward the vegetal but not to any extent underdone.

The most excellent Lamb and crunchy Potato and Fennel
On first glug, the Faiveley was massively tannic and felt way too young. We had to be reminded that this was a 2002 - amazing power in this boy. 

Whilst lamb's traditional wine match is a Cabernet, it worked wonderfully well with the Faiveley, slashing the tannins into something less fierce and giving it a classy New Zealand kind of Pinot feel, all frisk and clean power. Though the terroir maintained its pedigree as a Burg (cue for discussion as to why a NZ Pinot will never be Burgundian…). Big wine. 

I guess we had the Montus as a palate cleanser and match with the cheeses though I have no note or photo of either.  

La "Peche Haeberlin"
There were to be four servings of dessert style dishes. First out were a selection of macaroon and biscuit style sugary carbo bites which charmed the tongue but killed the wine. Standout was what my notes called an "Excellent French biscuit wafer thingy" which in hindsight was the toffee tuile. Was like the Brandy Snap we get at Christmas. As ever, my notes on dessert are pretty non existent, though there is one noting a "sour sweet cold shock with ice cream and apricots and other sharp fruits" (presumably the "Peche Haeberlin"). Equally for the Tart where the combination of peach, caramel, crispy crunchy wafer plus apricot mousse made for a great belly busting finale. Julian was right - the Alsaciennes clearly love to end with a big bellybusting dessert bang. Phooo….

Peach Tart
Dear Leader had gone with a 1989 Hugel VT Gewurtz to finish the evening ahead of our scheduled visit there the following day. O delightful - lots of sweet honey, caramel and toffee apples in the mouth. I found it a bit unctuous and syrupy, and leaving a bit of clag on the throat, but in the presence of greatness we should just shut up and sip. Yes. Om.

Lots of chocolate in the Minardises. So good. Kills the wine, though... did we have coffee? Can't remember...
President David gave a speech and said it had been a perfect night. Well and yes for the wines, service and ambience. And the aperitifs in the garden with the setting sun was truly magical and sublime. But the food…   overall, I was not as stunned as I thought I might be; nor as I have been at other places. Without the notes and photos I would not really remember much about the dishes. But the service and room were excellent, and the wine and the duck like decanters were delightful. To be frank, it all felt like a blur, and as my notes got increasingly scrawly to the point of massive unintelligible much of the evening is now fading into the mists. Maybe focusing too much on the 3 Star "event" and the felt need to record it rather than just enjoying the food and company and the place? Perhaps. Also maybe a bit tired from all the bus riding and the ongoing marathon of eating and drinking. I recall one of the Pilgrims asking why did I not dictate my thoughts into the phone and my response was that I felt to do so was a bit rude. To which the rejoinder was "well, isn't making notes at the table also rude?" To which my response was "well, not as…" But also the Pilgrim was not wrong - rude is rude, though sometimes maybe a matter of degree and needs must when posterity is at the stake. The readable notes do bring back some of the magic of the night that I am happy to translate for me and the world. But I do feel that I did miss something somewhere along the Auberge de L'Ill way…

Wines for the night. Wheeeeee!
So overall I give it a good to very good, but not food that I think I will remember years down the line. Hopefully one day down that line I can give it another try in a less intense context than an IWFS Pilgrimage. Maybe a Julian Alsace Pilgrimage. See how. 

We all crawled back on the bus for Colmar where it was shared that the Columbier had found two hotels to house us all for the night. Eight pilgrims in one hotel and the rest in The Mercure, I think it was, though it might have been an Ibis. Can't remember if Napoleon helped unload the bags, was too tired to think much beyond get checked in and into the room. Which we speedily did. So it was that at midnight we stumbled up to the rooms for a quick shower and crawled straight into bed. A good memorable day ended with a good solid sleep. Drunken dreams. No trombones. 

Auberge de L'Ill Petits Fours
L'Auberge de l'Ill
2, rue de Collonges au Mont d'Or
68970 Illerhaeusern, France
Tel +33 3 89 71 89 00
Closed Monday and Tuesday, closed for the month of February

Menu Auberge de l'Ill Illhaeusern

La Longe de Thon Rouge pane aux Epices,
Mousseline de chou-fleur au wasabi et get de citron

La Filet de St Pierre Poele, vierge de legumes et fritot a la ricotta

Le Bouillon de Homard Estival

Le Carre d'Agneau Roti accompagne d'un Croustillant de Pommes Boulangeres au Fenouil Safrane

Les Fromages

la "Peche Haeberlin"

La Tarte au Cotron et Mirabelles d'Alsace Pochees
Creme Citronelle, Petits Carres de Florentin
Glace au Lait de Brebis et Miel

Petits Fours, Mignardises et Chocolats


Muscat Josmeyer 2014
Riesling Rene Mure Alsace Grand Cru Vorbourg 2010
Riesling Boxler Alsace Grand Cru Sommerberg 2012
Pinot Gris Zind Humbrecht Alsace Grand Cru Rangen 1997
Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru Faiveley 2002
Madiran Cuvee Prestige Montus 1998
Gewurtztraminer Vendange Tardives Hugel 1989

The aperitif Josmeyer Muscat - surprisingly delightful