Monthly Archives: October 2015

Devils, Cellars, and Wine (The 2shotsandapint #Halloween2015 Special)

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I have a confession to make: Second to Christmas, Halloween is my favorite holiday. The costumes, the candy, the parties… Our home is notorious for throwing geeky Halloween parties full of board games, our friend Paul’s cooking, lots of booze, and horror movie marathons.

Speaking of booze, here is one wine that comes to mind that fits the Halloween concept: Casillero del Diablo. Roughly translated, it means “cellar of the devil”. Made by arguably the best wine house in Chile, Concha Y Toro (seriously, if you ask a Chilean which of their wine brands is the best, they would point you to Concha Y Toro), this powerhouse brand has an amazing narrative behind the label that’s worthy of a Halloween campfire story.

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The hair-raising entrance to the casillero

Legend has it that back in the old days (before high tech security systems, and during a time when people easily believed “spiritual” stories), the founder of Concha Y Toro, Don Melchor Concha Y Toro had a problem: his wines were so phenomenal that people kept stealing them from his cellar.

To solve this, he spread word that there was a devil (diablo in Spanish) that lurked in his cellar (casillero). To further substantiate the rumors, he made noises late at night, which got people to believe the tales.

When I first heard about this story, I made it a mission to check out the cellar myself (and made it a part of my bucket list). ProChile, during my press tour last year, made it happen for me.

Upon inspection, my first thought was, man… Those thieves had serious skills. The cellar was 45 feet below the ground, awfully dark, one door, and several tiny vents.

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Even with a high-powered flash, I couldn’t seem to take photos in certain parts of the cellar. Hmmmm….

Here’s the creepy part, though: When I started to take photos, my camera malfunctioned in certain parts of the cellar.

Was it the work of a devil?

Whether or not an evil spirit actually skulked around in the cellar, one thing is certain: Concha Y Toro wines are legendary.

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A perfect glass of Sauvignon Blanc for a sunny day

In my trip, I was treated to a glass Trio Sauvignon Blanc. The Trio line is never a single varietal, but a masterful blend of three different grapes combined together to make gorgeous easy drinking wines.

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Beautiful bottles of Casillero del Diablo Reserva Privada and Gran Reserva

I also had the Reserva Privada version of Casillero del Diablo, and their Gran Reserva Carmenere (a respected wine critic once told me that the ultimate benchmark for a proper Carmenere will definitely come from Concha Y Toro).

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Epic wine tasting with the Marques de Casa Concha line

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Marques wines with beautiful cheese to match

The house was also kind enough to treat me to a wine tasting of their slightly upscale line of Marques de Casa Concha wines (Chad can only drink a Marques Chardonnay or a proper Chablis), with the supervision of their sommelier, Soledad Manríquez León.

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Boxes of the celebrated Don Melchior wines

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I think collectively all these bottles of Almaviva would have amounted to my life savings

It was amazing to have a wine tasting in the presence of their top of the line wines, Don Melchor and Almaviva (a multi-awarded collaboration between Concha Y Toro and famous Bordeaux wine house Baron Philippe de Rothschild).

If you want to experience the thrilling cellar for yourself, you can book a tour through their website (and since you’re halfway around the world from Manila, do go around Chile, it’s BREATHTAKING). On a budget? Concha Y Toro wines are available in most leading supermarkets and theyr’e pretty affordable.

What are you drinking this #halloween2015? Does it come with a horror story too? Cheers!

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Sommelier Ms. Soledad Manríquez León (officially one of my idols in the wine business), and Marketing & Export Coordinator Mr. Jose Tomas Cancino

*If I haven’t said it enough, Muchos Gracias to ProChile (Mr. Patricio Fainberg and Ms. Maria Jose Hernandez Alcaino), you were so amazing to let me check off one thing in my life’s bucket list. Ms. Soledad Manríquez León, thank you for making the experience even more fantastic. Mr. Jose Tomas Cancino, thank you for going to work on a Saturday to accommodate me (we still owe you a tour in one of our beaches).

London Called For A Pub Crawl

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Taking a bit of inspiration from Peter Ackroyd’s documentary about London, I decided to start off this article by talking about fire. I normally refrain from using something seemingly negative to begin an article, but I realized… The thing about modern-day London is that it has an undeniable relationship with fire. As Ackroyd mentioned, London seems to get stronger every time it burns.

Strong as it is today, much of modern-day London is the way it is because of the Great Fire of 1666, which leveled 4/5 of the city. In this regard, despite London being an ancient metropolis, it is almost impossible to find places that are authentically pre-1666.

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The Seven Stars pub, since 1602

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Eccentric interiors of The Seven Stars

During our trip, however, we were incredibly fortunate to find one of the few pubs that were spared during the Great Fire, The Seven Stars (Holborn). Quaint, eccentric, and teeming with lawyers, this pub is officially listed as a historical institution (it dates back to 1602). Like a true London local, I decided to have a pint of beer. The Bitburger Ale I had was big, crisp, and perfect while basking in the ancient ambiance.

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The lowest level of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub

As I’ve said, 4/5 of London had to be rebuilt. One of the pubs we went to did just that: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (Fleet Street). Initially built in 1538, this pub is legendary for having catered to literary greats: Oliver Goldsmith, Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens (although he did have a reputation for frequenting a TON of London pubs), W. B. Yeats, Ben Johnson… And a parrot named Polly (its death in 1926 was such a big deal, hundreds of newspapers wrote about its passing). The interiors are fascinating… We’ve had to go down three flights of stairs to get to our table. That being said, it was imperative to reward ourselves with yet another pint: A Double Four Lager. Named so because of its double fermentation, this seemingly light beer has interesting malty, herbal notes towards the end.

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Being a member of the House doesn’t excuse a person from having a pint (or two!)

Indeed, the relationship between pubs and London is so strong that it couldn’t even be taken away from the proximity of the house of parliament. A hop, skip, and a jump away from Westminster Abbey is a pub appropriately named Westminster Arms. Its clients are primarily MPs (it has a “division bell” so that MPs can run back to the House and vote), but given its distance with the Abbey, it’s not unusual to see tourists there.

Starving and in dire need of a pint before church service (yup, I had a beer before going to church), we decided to slip in for bangers and an Oranjeboom.

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Because #bear!

Our last pub-crawl stop was the Thirsty Bear (Stamford Street). It wasn’t a tourist destination (far away from historical spots and not built with any historical significance), but because #bear. Guests could order from a tablet on the tables.

During the night we were there, rowdy locals were all about the rugby game going on. It was a perfect last stop… And what better way to end it than with a Pilsner Urquell. It had notes of citrus, caramel, and malt.

“Pubs are what we’re good at”, remarked a friend of ours from London. Indeed, they are superb at it, and no visit to London is complete without sampling some of their finest.

What London pubs have you visited? Cheers!

Eurotrip 2015

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Just a little sneak peek into what Chad and I have been up to (tons of #beer were consumed in this trip)

I’ve been MIA the past two weeks because of the Eurotrip… Just catching up on a little jet lag, then I will post articles on our London Pub Crawl, Wholesome London, Sancerre (Castles, Wine, and Beer), and the ultimate Amsterdam booze adventure.

I will take a break from the Eurotrip series for a Halloween special that is close to my heart. 😉

See you this week!

Cocktails? Bring It!

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As you can probably see from my writing these days, I have been way too busy. I’m working with a couple of clients on French wines (one with a hardcore boutique selection, one that involves powerhouse Bordeaux classics), prepping for a trip to Europe (watch out for another #2shotsaway story arc!), and cramming French (enough to survive the French countryside, merci O!).

The few times I get over my introversion and enjoy the company of like-minded (read: occasionally crazy) people are fabulous (and much-needed)… This is why I truly looked forward to the BYOB (bring your own bottle) cocktail party that my friends in a culinary school held a week ago.

Being in the company of young (-ish), progressive, no-bulls*** culinary geniuses (naks, V, you owe me one) inspired me to create a timely story arc for the holiday season: What drink do I bring to a party I’m invited to?

I also decided to deviate from the usual, clinical manner and talk about actual experiences.

Take this BYOB cocktail party I’m pertaining to. There were a few factors to consider:

  • I was going to be in the presence of awesome culinary people (seriously, V, you owe me one), so I couldn’t bring anything stupid
  • One of them has a predilection for French cuisine
  • They were only serving cocktail food (or as we Pinoys like to call it, pica-pica)
  • These people are known to think outside the box

These things taken into account, I decided to address each point this way:

  • Nothing stupid means I can’t go to the grocery for this one
  • Maybe I should pick a French wine
  • I shouldn’t do a red (a red would be too heavy for cocktail food), and I should pick a refreshing, dry white
  • I don’t need to go WAY over budget, nor do I have to bring a “powerhouse” wine from some exclusive château
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A Bottle of Crisp Sancerre

I went to Bacchus (because they have yet to disappoint me with their selection) and got a bottle of La Bourgeoise Sancerre 2008. It was almost past its peak (one more year would have turned that baby into vinegar), and was starting to reveal complex aromas and flavors beyond the usual acidic green fruits one would expect of a typical Sancerre. It was a blast figuring out the flavors with chefs, and it went wonderfully with the food (really complicated, extremely modern, and exquisitely delicious stuff).

Stay tuned for more topics like this, especially since the holidays are coming up.

Can’t figure out what to bring to an upcoming event? Let me know. Cheers!

Patriotism, Heneral Luna, and Philippine Mangoes

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We finally managed to catch the widely acclaimed film Heneral Luna. Brilliant film, and quite timely too: We Filipinos need a massive dose of patriotism.

As I thought about the movie and about what I normally do with the blog, I realized… Apart from occasional mentions of San Miguel Beer, I have barely written about interesting local stuff.

I need to make up for this.

Incidentally, I found a local product worth writing about: Zambalino.

Zambalino has a line of alcoholic beverages fermented from local Zambales (a region in Central Luzon) produce:

  • Coffee
  • Cashew
  • Mango
  • Duhat – A sweet but slightly sour and acidic fruit (eating too much of this will temporarily turn the tongue purple). Cultural trivia: Duhat is hailed by Hindus as the “fruit of the gods”, because Rama was said to live on it for 14 years during his exile from Ayodha
  • Seaweed – Zambalino uses a seaweed commonly referred to as “seabird’s nest”… The drink tastes like gin
  • Rosella (or Roselle in English) – Zambalino has cleverly found a way to turn this plant (which promises to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and liver damage) into a fermented beverage.
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Because the Philippine Mango is AH-MAY-ZING

I want to highlight the Mango variant because if there’s one thing we Pinoys can do right, it’s the mango. Our mangoes are succulent and saccharine, so much so that most foreigners who try it love it (and swear they couldn’t find the same ones anywhere else in the world).

Zambalino Mango smells rough, earthy, and a touch pungent. The taste is like having a sweet, ripe mango while inhaling the tropical sand. It reminded me of drinking lambanog (yet another hardcore Pinoy drink) by the seashore, while eating ripe mangoes in a beachfront cabana in one of Zambales’ beaches (the beaches of Zambales don’t require a plane ride from Metro Manila, BTW).

Zambales loves their mangoes so much that they have a yearly Mango festival in their municipality of Iba. It is a six-day celebration during March or April that traditionally allowed the people of Zambales to give thanks for a good harvest.

I am challenging myself to do research on more local beverages (alcoholic or otherwise), because hey… We have got to stop being our own enemies and love our own. As #HeneralLuna once said, “Kalaban ng kalaban. Kalaban ng kakampi. Nakakapagod (Enemy of the enemy. Enemy of allies. It’s tiring)*.”

I’d love for my readers to participate too. Let me know of local drinks you want to be featured. It’s about time we become proud of our own. Tagay!

For orders of Zambalino, please contact Cerana Farms at +63917-8882873/+63919-9992873/+63917-5603080

 

*please note that this was a loose translation and should no way be taken as the absolutely accurate “Tagalized” version