Friday, September 25, 2009

Weekend Brunch

Bistro Luneta's new weekend brunch offers standard American fare, like pancakes and eggs benedict, alongside Filipino faves, like longaniza and tapsilog.

This east-west juxtaposition is common to eateries in Asia. However, Luneta's kitchen composes the Filipino dishes with a contemporary flair for a seamless fit with the American selections.

The house longaniza ($10.95) is made of very lean ground pork flavored with vinegar and garlic in the sour-tasting Vigan-style, as opposed to the sweet Pampanga version.

The iconic tapsilog ($10.95) originated in the early 1970s Martial Law days as a late-night street-food for famished jeepney drivers on their way home before curfew. It later became the king of Filipino brunch. Akin to breakfast steak and eggs, Luneta serves the air-dried beef in strips, while the classic is thin flat slices. Still irresistible, though.

Bottomless mimosa ($12, a calmansi juice/orange juice/prosecco concoction) is eagerly promoted for brunch. A terrific idea! But proprietor, Jon Guanzon, needs to work harder on the wine list. He recruited a Master Sommelier, yet I find the list dull at best--filled with selections from your neighborhood Safeway. C'mon, offer us a Spanish rosé, a Grüner, definitely Vouvrays, and some Sicilian wines!

Also, I appreciate the house-baked pan de sal, but on its own not terribly exciting. A huge improvement would be a side of queso de bola, as well, and with a cup of thick tsokolaté (hot chocolate) that would be a heck of a brunch!

Bistro Luneta
615 E. Third Avenue
San Mateo, CA
Weekend Brunch:
Sat & Sun 11am-2:30pm

Friday, September 18, 2009

Late Night at Little Shanghai

When I'm tired of bland food my fix is to head to Little Shanghai with friends to chow down on rich, fatty, oily dishes and drink a bagful of wines.

Usually, I bring a Riesling and a red Burgundy, but I find that Shanghainese dishes, with their sweet, oily tastes, are versatile with very ripe, powerful wines, like a Biale Zinfandel (particularly with tipang), Amarone or Barbaresco (which is the sweetest of the Piemonte Nebbiolos).

On the other hand, when it comes to the much-adored xiao long bao, a dash of black rice vinegar (Chinkiang) is sufficient pairing.

Little Shanghai Restaurant
17 E 25th Ave
San Mateo, CA

Friday, September 11, 2009

Porchetta Sandwich and a Glass of Pinot Noir

The weather has been so sunny and clear in San Francisco lately that one morning, on an impulse, I rushed to the Ferry Plaza farmers' market to get a Porchetta sandwich from Roli Roti.

I was in luck, a porchetta just got done cooking when I arrived and the Roli Roti guy himself, Thomas Odermatt, was to do the honors of preparing the first sandwich of the day for me. I excitedly told him that I've never had one of his sandwiches before. He smiled in delight and asked permission to do my porchetta sandwich his way, a sort of omakase option.

So off he went carefully slicing the porchetta, making sure it's cut down to the size of the ciabatta bread and there's good layering of the moist meat and crackly skin. He smeared his magic spread on the meat--what I would guess consists of caramelized onions, garlic, anise or fennel, and maybe a fruit jam--and put a pile of fresh rocket on top (I guess the Swiss love rocket) before closing the sandwich.

I munched the porchetta sandwich for lunch later that day with a glass or two of the elegantly fruity and spicy 2007 Pyramid Valley Eaton Family Vineyard Pinot Noir ($38 at Vineyard Gate), made by my friend Mike Weersing from a biodynamic vineyard in New Zealand's Marlborough region. Everything was yumm!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2009 Vintage Weather

Source: Chateau Palmer

If weather is the sole indicator of a vintage's quality, then I must say 2009 is looking very good at Chateau Palmer in Margaux!

The above chart shows temps and rainfall over the past 30 days (08-11 to 09-09) in the left bank averaging a mild 22 C (72 F) for most of August with minimal and well-spaced rainfall.

By the time September kicked in, there was a good amount of rainfall that watered the vines, which turned out to be timely as the weather has shifted to a sharp warming trend as harvest begins. Today, temperature hit 29 C (84 F) at 1300H (1pm).

If the warming trend continues temperatures would be higher over the next several days, ensuring good ripening of the Merlot and Cabernet, or so it seems.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tasting Coffee

I'm always on a quest for a great flavor experience. Food and wine, of course, provide endless flavor fascination, but tea and coffee also blow my mind.

I've heard enough local coffee fiends rave about a little-known Bay Area coffee roaster called Blue Bottle Coffee Co. And I've tried a cup of its coffee at a San Francisco resto and remembered liking it.

Finally, I got some of its best beans in my hands, ground them manually at home, and brewed the coffee my way. The Misty Valley, Blue Bottle's very limited, top-of-the-line bean these days from Ethiopia, cost me $8.75/half-pound and was roasted the day before. It has an intense bouquet of coffee cherry, and the flavors hint of chocolate and blueberry, with a winey, fruity aspect. I love it! Exotic, intense, and memorable.

For contrast, I purchased another type, the Bella Donovan, less expensive at $7.50/half-pound. I swear it's almost a ringer for my favorite Philippine coffee, the Barako, which unfortunately is not available in the States. However, the Bella is a Ethiopia/Sumatra blend. Like the Barako, it is intensely earthy and volcanic, and laced with fresh-ground spice. I loved it, too; not seductive as the Misty Valley, but quite masculine in character.