Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Night Out on 4/29/06

It's been quite some time since my wife and I last went to a fancy restaurant just the two of us. When she was 5 months pregnant, my beautiful wife was diagnosed with temporary gestational diabetes. This did not go well at all for her since she is as much a food epicurean as I am. So she had to say goodbye to Lady Godiva, farewell to pear tart tatin, and au revoir to monsieur soufflé. For the nine months after our Sophia was born, her routine breast feeding schedule virtually meant she also had to say auf wiederschauen to Joh Jos Prum and ta ta to Laurent Perrier!

Until last evening...

Last evening could be the beginning of a more "normal" life ahead, as far as dining out goes. We spent the evening dining at our favorite restaurant, Max on Ventura Boulevard, which is a mere 5 minutes away from home. By recommendations of some wine forum friends, particularly that of CMAC (short for call me a cab...don't ask) and Gambetti, I decided to bring along with us a bottle of 1996 Duval-Leroy Brut, Champagne, from our collection.

The wine was wonderful! It paired very well with the appetizer of crispy calamari with green papaya and chili-lime dressing. This delish dish was practically a mélange of Thai and Italian cuisine concepts on one plate.

1996 Duval-Leroy Brut Champagne
Purchased at The Wine Exchange

A golden liquid with very fine mousse and bubbles. Nose of quince, lillies, honeysuckle, and citrus. Mighty fine bubblies in the mouth with a well rounded feel. It's almost creamy. A quite mature bottle of 1996 Champagne, which by any account a young vintage Champagne. Medium finish. A very satisfying ready-to-drink 1996 Champagne. ===+/5 (good - very good)

What we had at Max:

Appetizer: crispy calamari with green papaya, shredded vegetables, roasted peanuts and chili-lime dressing ===/5 (good)

Soup: pureed criminy mushrooms topped with white truffle oil, parsley and garlic bread crumbs =====/5 (YUM!)

Entree: aged New York peppercorn beef steak with creamed spinach and potato au gratin ===+/5 (good - very good)

Entree: Buffalo steak topped with crisped crumbled rocquefort cheese, placed on top of baby vegies with rice risotto soaked in melted arugula cheese ====/5 (very good)

A glass of red wine: (vintage unknown) Chateau Souverain cabernet sauvignon, Napa Valley. Just a simple quaffing red with ample fruits and oak, but not focused enough. Decent enough with the buffalo steak. ==/5 (average)

Desert: Pear tart tatin. A great closer to a fabulous relaxing dinner. ===+/5 (good - very good)

TN: 2003 Chunming Spring Sharp Pu-Erh

Saturday morning 4/29/2006. Sophia, our nine-month young little princess, woke us up at 7:30am. Another hour of shut eyes would have been nice, but little Sophia wanted to play and be paid attention to. Such a sweet little girl.


So I decided to break a young green pu-erh tea beeng (cake) that I got from 广州 (Guangzhou) a month ago. It's still too young, perhaps, to drink this, but I was curious and wanted to remind myself of how the tea tasted a month ago when the 17-year old seller brewed a few cups for me.

2003 Chunming Tea Factory, Spring Sharp Raw Pu-Erh
From: Yunnan
Purchased at: China Plaza, Zhong Shan San Rd. (中山三路), Guangzhou, China
Price: RMB 130 ~ USD $16 per 357gr cake

Dry appearance: mostly made up of silvery. light green. and dark green spring sharps. The silver sharps are hairy. Beautiful! Break off quite easily, indicating that the cake was not pressed tightly by the "factory", which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Brewing parameters: 99-100 Celsius filtered water. 2 rinses, 5 secs each time. Then 10s, 10s, 15s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 30s, 1min.

1st - 2nd: Light to medium amber-brown. Smoky and woody, with a hint of citrus-y nose. Slightly astringent/tannic on the palate, typical of a too-young pu-erh. Full bodied. Very vibrant with a strong cha chi (concentration/power/taste), thus hinting that it is a cake for long term keeping.

3rd - 6th: The life of the tea emerged in the form of added dimensionality. medium amber-brown. Smoke and wood take the back seat, while fruit, floral, forest floor, and a citrus-like aroma say ‘Hello, we're here!’ We (my wife and I) decided that the fruity nose and taste was that of apricot. Tannin is present, yet it is not pucker-y. Very nice potential!

7th-8th: Flavors started to dissipate a little by the 7th brew. A mellower and more balanced liquor that, in my opinion, more pleasant that the first five brews.

====/5 (Very good, with good potential to evolve nicely).

Will probably keep for a few more years. Only a periodical tasting will be able to tell for sure. The fact that the tea cake is made almost entirely of spring shoots/sharp will, perhaps, not be a good candidate for long term keeping. I was told by a seller in Guangzhou that spring shoots, although generally regarded as a higher grade tea leaves, tend to be great when younger than older. Perhaps because they do not have a more mature chemical components that a fully developed leaves have?

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Wisdom and knowledge
In a cup of pu-erh cha
And a flute of Krug

So there you go, an opening haiku to begin this blog space. East meets West: the exploration of Asian and European traditions and cultures via the consumption of Eastern teas and Western wines. Here is to furthering my knowledge of the two worlds that I'm intrigued about, and also to hoping that it will be a source of reference to others. 干杯 and Salut!