Christmas cake

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about 3 hours ago
With a release date set for December 28th, sneakerheads will see the return of the “Bred” Air Jordan 1. Flush with the infamous black/red color scheme, this retro will surely have a lot of sneakerheads spending their Christma...
With a release date set for December 28th, sneakerheads will see the return of the “Bred” Air Jordan 1. Flush with the infamous black/red color scheme, this retro will surely have a lot of sneakerheads spending their Christmas cake to cop these. Throw in the vintage Nike Air tongue tags and you have a revitalized classic that will surely disappear as soon as it is released. Lucky for all of you sneakerheads, we have your first detailed shot of what you ca expect to see this December. Check out the pic above and be sure to keep it locked to SneakerFiles for more. Black/Varsity Red-White 12/28/13 $140 555088-023 via KicksorDie
14 days ago
Among Cadenhead’s Small Batch releases, this Highland Park 1988 was probably most talked about. After Serge’s 92/100, they sold like hotcakes. The Cadenhead shop also sold smaller 20cl ‘cask ends’ bottles of this whisky. Highland Park ...
Among Cadenhead’s Small Batch releases, this Highland Park 1988 was probably most talked about. After Serge’s 92/100, they sold like hotcakes. The Cadenhead shop also sold smaller 20cl ‘cask ends’ bottles of this whisky. Highland Park 25 yo 1988 (55,7%, Cadenhead Small Batch 2013, sherry butts, 1086 btl.) Nose: alright then. Really excellent. Blackberry jam, cherries, heather honey and quite some smoke for starters. Spanish fig bread. Roasted nuts and hints of coffee beans. Leather. A little library dust. Very light coastal touches too. Water brings out cigar leaves and hints of cedar oak. Especially the juiciness of the red fruits and the subtle smoke are really beautiful. Mouth: quite powerful. The fruits are still there, Christmas cake and Mon Cherie. Rum & raisins. Soon taken over by spices (pepper, clove) and a little resin. Gets herbal before calming down on caramelized nuts and a leathery dryness. Overall quite dry, but water helps and amplifies tobacco, coffee and honey. Finish: long, with all the sherry goodness fading slowly. A lovely nose full of juicy sherry – no one will deny that. Some will find the palate too dry, but for me it’s not out of bounds. I hesitated to go beyond 90 points, eventually I did it because it takes water pretty well. Originally around € 110, now sold out. Score: 91/100
15 days ago
Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo A few weeks ago, after spending a fortnight exploring the calvados and whisky distilleries of Normandy and Bretagne respectively, I made a little excursion to the city of Ghent in Belgium to host a Jap...
Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo A few weeks ago, after spending a fortnight exploring the calvados and whisky distilleries of Normandy and Bretagne respectively, I made a little excursion to the city of Ghent in Belgium to host a Japanese whisky tasting. The organizer – importer/retailer The Bonding Dram – wanted to offer a sort of panorama of Japanese whisky and the decision was made to limit the selection to single malts (but no single casks). To cater to both well-seasoned Japanese whisky drinkers and newcomers, there was a selection of drams only available in Japan (brought over by yours truly) in addition to malts generally available in Europe (supplied by the organizer). As part of an effort to try and compile a flavour map of Japanese whiskies – based on the model developed by Dave Broom for the Classic Malts – I thought it would be interesting to get some feedback from whisky enthusiasts in Europe and so it was decided to do the entire tasting blind, with no hints whatsoever as to what was in the glass. Just out of curiosity, to see what the collective preference was, we also asked the attendees (32 in total) to score the whiskies. The line up was as follows: Miyagikyo 12 (45%abv) Miyagikyo NAS (43%abv) Yoichi 10 (43%abv) Karuizawa 12yo (an original bottling from the 90s, 40%abv) Ichiro’s Wine Wood Reserve (leaf label, only available in Japan, 46%abv) Yamazaki 18 (43%abv) Hakushu Heavily Peated (first release, 48%abv) Eigashima ‘Akashi’ 12yo Private Bottling (59%abv) During the first half of the tasting I said very little, not wanting the influence people’s evaluation of the whiskies. When scores were tallied and the top 3 drams of the evening were announced a shockwave went through the room: in third place was Ichiro’s Wine Wood Reserve; runner up was Yamazaki 18 and the top dram of the evening was… the Eigashima 12yo private bottling. The fact that it managed to win – and win by quite a large margin! – was even more surprising given the fact that this particular whisky had received the lowest score from a small group of people, indicating that those who had given it their highest score liked it quite a bit. The Eigashima 12yo was bottled in 2010 – together with a 5yo – in a limited edition of 102 (for more information, see this post). About half of the outturn went to Sweden, the other half stayed here, in Japan. On the nose, the initial impressions are Christmas cake, dates, figs, candied orange peel, breakfast cake (spice cake), lots of wood smoke, peat, charcoal, cigar boxes – also freshly roast coffee beans, vegetal notes (turnip, jacket potatoes), a hint of motor oil, nail polish, rubber and traces of sulphur. It was clear that the latter was responsible for the polarizing response: some couldn’t get past it; most people felt it worked in the context of the other aromas. On the palate, you get candied fruit, toffee, burnt toast with orange marmalade, tobacco, burnt marshmallows, beef jerky, barbeque smoke (pumpkin), goya and a hint of cointreau. Water smoothens the rough edges but makes it a bit more bitter. The finish is long and bittersweet on dried fruit, chicory and goya. At the end of the evening, I got quite a lot of requests from people who wanted a bottle or two of the Eigashima. When I put my bottle (actually two, because they’re only 500ml) in my suitcase, I couldn’t imagine it would topple the Yamazaki 18, but such are the wonders of blind tasting… a Suntory brand ambassador’s nightmare if ever there was one, this little Akashi 12yo private bottling. A pity or good fortune – whichever side of the divide you fall on – that there’s nothing like this in the warehouses at Eigashima anymore and that there were only 102 bottles to start with. Read more about Eigashima Distillery here.
26 days ago
Jon Paul Fiorentino is the author of eight books, including the brand new poetry collection, Needs Improvement, which launches September 8th in Montreal at Sparrow Bar. He will be guest editing The Afterword all this week. What follows a...
Jon Paul Fiorentino is the author of eight books, including the brand new poetry collection, Needs Improvement, which launches September 8th in Montreal at Sparrow Bar. He will be guest editing The Afterword all this week. What follows are appreciations of four Montreal bookstores by, according to Fiorentino, “four of the most exciting young Anglophone writers in Montreal.” Darren Bifford on The Word About the size of a decently spacious living room, plus a reading chair which faces the back wall. A gas stove burns through the winter. The clicking sound it makes is the only sound you’ll usually hear. Maybe someone is talking quietly with Adrian, the proprietor, who sits beneath a dangerously narrow set of stairs. Still, there’s no way that conversation doesn’t seem way too loud, even out of place. If The Word lacks size, it does so like a Philip Larkin collection lacks pages: its austerity is like a moral stance against the chaff of the crappy old books which exist in other bookshops. The Strand in New York, for example, may be huge but it can breed despair. At The Word one finds instead necessary books. For example, I bought Samuel Charter’s translation of Transtormer’s Baltics, its first translated edition, published in 1975 by Oyez Press, for 8.50$. Live in Montreal for ten years and The Word will turn the small box of books you lugged with you, from wherever you came from, into your own small library. Later you could write a nostalgic essay called Unpacking the Books I Bought at The Word. Every winter, three or four weeks before Christmas, Adrian holds his annual Gluck party. A few weeks before that you pop in more often in expectation of an invitation. Regardless, if you happen on that day walk in from the cold you might, like I did in my first winter in the city, be surprised to see Adrian transform from stoic reticence of his first impression into a festive host who welcomes you as he pours you cup of that hot liquor. It’s the smallness of the shop again that becomes evident, so crammed with the warmth of friendship and the right traditions. You eat some Christmas cake, line up for a second drink before you’ve finished your first, and in all likelihood find a few books to put aside for later.  The Word is located on 469 Milton Street; Darren Bifford’s most recent book is called Wedding in Fire Country. Julie Mannell on Argo Bookstore Sainte Catherine Street is a capitalist switchboard. During the day the streets are swarming with loud tourist families venturing through novel cuisines or fashion-hungry teenagers trying to renegotiate their identity with the purchase of a gaudy new wardrobe. At night the scent of Axe body-spray permeates the sidewalk as men and women drunkenly struggle to be accepted into Montreal’s hottest nightclubs. Squeezed between bright neon signs, the humble Argo bookstore is a site of permanence amongst ambitious boutiques that change names as fast as people press buttons. Argo’s founder, the late John George, originally opened his bookshop in 1965 on the south side of Sainte Catherine, making it the oldest retail English bookstore in Montreal. The story of the shop’s beginnings is a familiar Montreal small business tale: the store found great success but caught fire and burned down within the year. In 1966 John George reopened Argo in what was once a hat maker’s shop and is still its current location. At 200 square feet, the store resembles a moderately sized walk-in closet. Staying true to Argo’s original vision as a haven for local lesser-known authors, the store’s current owners have been vigilant about selling works difficult or impossible to find in chain retailers. This includes self-published writers, international authors, and a broad collection of Canadian literature. In the backroom there is a drawer full of keys, “John George was so respected in the community that everyone gave him their spare keys,” says Argo’s current co-owner J.P. Karwacki. Argo has maintained its deep
30 days ago
“Simplicity Is The Ultimate Sophistication -- Leonardo da Vinci Promoting the simple and responsible enjoyment of whiskey/whisky is a core activity of the Irish Whiskey Society of America and my related company, All About The Craic...
“Simplicity Is The Ultimate Sophistication -- Leonardo da Vinci Promoting the simple and responsible enjoyment of whiskey/whisky is a core activity of the Irish Whiskey Society of America and my related company, All About The Craic, Inc. We’ve done that with hundreds of people at dozens of tastings in the past few years. By “simple,” I don't mean uninteresting whiskeys or cute, bland or dumbed-down information. Attendees actually learn that whiskey is less about which is the “smoothest” or “best” and much more about variety and complexity. They also get a good idea of the myriad permutations in style and flavor that come from grains, stills and wood. We welcome whiskey newcomers as well as experienced whiskey/whisky drinkers and even non-drinkers (as "Pioneers"). We can get into phenol counts, still reflux, warehouse rotations all sorts of other ephemera for whiskey wonks when relevant. But we’re also relaxed about the things that can make the whiskey world confusing, confounding or intimidating to would-be whiskey drinkers. Our Ireland v. Scotland duel matched Black Bush against Johnnie Walker Black Label (blends), Connemara against Bowmore 12-year-old (peated single malts) and Green Spot against Glenlivet 12-year-old. Ireland came out the winner that night.Tasting notes and ratings are a good example. Either can be a helpful guide or they can be a distracting barrier. Nobody wants to spend money on what might be a “bad” or “not-as-good” whiskey. And they don’t want to look foolish just because they can't smell or taste toasted almonds, cardamom, sultanas, pixie dust or Cú Chulainn’s wet dog in any given whiskey. Aside from variations in individual tastes, your sense of taste can shift with time, place, mood, body chemistry and drinking companions. Geography matters too. For example, most Americans think of “Christmas cake” not as the tasty treat common in the UK and Ireland but as a dry, dense, unsatisfyingly sweet bread riddled with walnuts and candied fruit. Accounting For Taste At the tastings we’ll give a combination of notes from distillers, reviewers and our own experience when introducing a whiskey, describing nose, taste and finish. Each attendee has their own sheet on which we encourage them to make notes that mean something to them instead of following a specific form. Sometimes they leave their notes behind so we save them to study the reactions. The observations range from basic, to more-standard wording, to colorful and inventive, to what is best described as “unique.”' By the way, we give each attendee a pipette and distilled water to explore how a whiskey/whisky changes with just a few drops. Here are some of the more interesting examples: -- At a 2011 Irish whiskey tasting, one person described Bushmill’s 10-year-old single malt as “smooth overall” while another noted that it “opens up with water, creamier with water.” At a 2012 tasting, one person said that the Cooley-made private-label Kellan Irish whiskey was “better without water” while another wrote “like with H2O.” -- Not everyone takes notes while others are sparse in their observations. At a February 2013 Irish whiskey and chocolate pairing, one person managed to do both. They wrote “good” in their notes for the pairing of Jameson and Mo’s Dark Chocolate with Bacon (the favorite combo of the night). Next to the other five pairings they simply wrote the word “notes.” -- Some combine notes with their own rating system. At a tasting of Island single malt Scotches earlier this year, one person described 4 of the 6 age-statement whiskys as “good,” (Arran 10, Jura 10, Talisker 10, Tobermory 10) one as “shit” (Laphroig 10 Cask Strength) and another as “best” (Scapa 16, which was the overall favorite of the evening). Another used a system reminiscent of a 80s-era men’s magazine that ranked pornographic videos using graphical representations of male genitalia. I’m not sure but I think he had Laphroig Cask Strength and Scapa 16 tied for first.
10 4 months ago
Cressida's acrylic nails. Very Hackney! Cake decorating has, for a long time, been a bit too fussy, sugary and, quite simply, naff. But now the textile designer Cressida Bell, has brought out a book of her cake décor and it's st...
Cressida's acrylic nails. Very Hackney! Cake decorating has, for a long time, been a bit too fussy, sugary and, quite simply, naff. But now the textile designer Cressida Bell, has brought out a book of her cake décor and it's stunningly original. Her designs have the beauty and meticulous detail of mosaic. I went to visit her in her spacious studio behind Pogo's vegan restaurant in Clapton, round the corner from murder mile. Cressida is a descendant of The Bloomsbury Set, who were a group of writers and artists in the 1920s, who were ahead of their time. They led bohemian lifestyles, were atheists, anti-war, sexually adventurous. Their art was figurative and decorative rather than abstract. Cressida's textile work is in a similar vein, I watched her use paint (house paint!) to brush colour onto intricately patterned drawings. She inherited her pattern making ability from her father, Quentin Bell, the potter and artist, (son of Vanessa Bell, the artist) who used to turn the annual family Christmas cake into a decorative work of art. Now Cressida does the Christmas cake. Cressida is a keen cook but not a baker. She doesn't even like cake all that much. But cakes do offer an opportunity for design that savoury food does not. Although she has decorated whole salmon, chaud froid work. Her tips: No skills are needed. Just patience. Creating these designs is meditative, lovely while listening to the radio. You can buy edible ink patterns to make your own cake from Cressida's web site Google circular patterns as a starting point if you want to create your own design. If you aren't very confident about baking, buy the cake. Rose Prince created the cake recipes in the book. I've made Rose's Victoria Sponge recipe, one of the best! Cover the cake with marzipan and ready rolled sugar paste. Cakes were originally covered with marzipan and icing to preserve them. You also want a smooth flat surface for decorating. Generally each cake takes about three hours. Although the leopard skin one took more like two days! Beware, you can find yourself becoming addicted, Cressida's designs became increasingly complex and time consuming. You can use any sweets for the design, my favourite is probably the sugared almond/dragee cake. Glacé fruits are also very effective and don't go off as they are, by nature, preserved. You can buy her book here. Comments appreciated...thanks
about 1 month ago
Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will know that I'm not the biggest fan of flying.Despite a large proportion of our time spent in Scotland on business, I would always rather take the four hour train ride to Edinburgh, th...
Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will know that I'm not the biggest fan of flying.Despite a large proportion of our time spent in Scotland on business, I would always rather take the four hour train ride to Edinburgh, than the 60 min flight. In my eyes rail is the greatest way to travel, but it does have its drawbacks.Lengthier than flying (I wouldn't want to train it to Aberdeen or Inverness, unless on the sleeper) it can be hot, cramped and smelly. But at least, unlike flying, you get it sit in one place for an extended period of time; valuable writing time for me.Somehow, and I'm never sure of the exact economics of this, flying can actually work out cheaper than taking the train and when we're organising our own trips up, which happens a lot, this is a vital consideration. It is also more exciting and more contemporary; the modern way to travel.However, if one has a long lead time on a visit, the greatest travel of all can be achieved by booking early: first class rail travel.Just that little step up from the norm, travelling first class to Scotland from London (or vice versa) gives you what basically amounts to a serviced office for 4/5 hours: internet, unlimited tea and coffee, beers or wine and two good meals. For £65 (very much in advance), it isn’t half bad.The Famous Grouse is the most popular Scotch whisky in Scotland. Ubiquitous in both the local bar and supermarket, it tends to be consumed as a mixer (mostly) spawning off-shoots such as Ginger Grouse (mixed with ginger ale and available on tap in some outlets) which have seen the brand capitalise on its brand awareness, to take on the long drink market as well winning the race in the short drink field. So well loved and so well priced, it is interesting to find this Famous bird releasing a very old, ultra-premium blended Scotch whisky. A far hoot (is that the noise a grouse makes?) from on tap ‘pints over ice’, they’ve gone and added a First Class carriage, in the form of a 40 year old blend, to their express train.276 decanters of the stuff have been produced at 47.3% and fall under the banner of a ‘blended malt’, so no grain whisky in the mix. It carries an RRP of £2,000 a bottle.The Famous Grouse – 40 Years Old – Blended Malt Scotch Whisky – 70cl – 47.3% abv – RRP £2,000Nose: The first thing to say about this whisky is that the aromas are incredibly vibrant for a liquid carrying this age statement. And we don't mean 'young’ by this, just jam-packed with flavours which dance around in a really great way. Everything you'd want from an old blend here: black cherry, antique furniture, rose-hip, slight cassia bark and some liquorice (blue liquorice allsorts). Aniseed, too. A hint of very old, lightly peated whisky.Palate: it's up there in terms of strength for a 40 year old, so you get some excellent, moist Christmas cake at the start, then the delicate aniseed balls followed by the dark cherry and hints of Dr. Pepper and some very well aged peat.Finish: Real liquorice comes to the fore and some oak spices appear as the flavour starts to dissipate.Overall: Famous Grouse is a whisky which doesn't usually play this game- the biggest selling Scotch in Scotland, it tends to be a high volume, supermarket blend. However, this whisky is (and we're going to say it) exceptional. Like the Tam O'Shanter from the same stable, the very old blends leaving the Edrington blending room at the moment seem to be unstoppable.A quite remarkable dram, but the big question is: will anyone travel first class, when they can fly? Let’s hope the typical Famous Grouse drinker isn’t Dr Richard Beeching and embraces this for the quality drink that it is. Otherwise we could be left with a ‘what if’ situation on our hands, a generation later, as we were with the railways.
about 1 month ago
Christmas time will soon be here and you'll need a cake to celebrate the Mass of the birth of Baby Jesus. Nothing would be more appropriate for this holy of holies than a cake from a series that has taken its religious inspiration with g...
Christmas time will soon be here and you'll need a cake to celebrate the Mass of the birth of Baby Jesus. Nothing would be more appropriate for this holy of holies than a cake from a series that has taken its religious inspiration with great research, Evangelion. Presented for you this Christmas is a new Evangelion cake from Premium Bandai, complete with a figure of Rei Ayanami and a giant scythe. Rei will stand by the side, conveniently holding the scythe as you await to slice into the Christmas cake. The scythe is of the Mark.09 as is Rei's plugsuit. She has a smile, which I assume is due to the fact there is a giant cake next to her. As for the scythe, you can use it to slice up other things, but I can't imagine it being that great of a table utensil. You can make your order for the Christmas Evangelion cake with Rei Ayanami figure if you have access to order through Premium Bandai. You'll more than likely have to make paths through middleman, who will be more than happy to eat the strawberry-raspberry cake and just send you the figure. The set will be shipped out this December for ¥4,410. Read more...
about 1 month ago
Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo A few weeks ago, the follow-up to the cask-strength NAS Karuizawa for the Taiwanese market (“1st Release”, a vatting of casks from the 1999/2000 vintages) went on sale. The extreme summer heat and humi...
Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo A few weeks ago, the follow-up to the cask-strength NAS Karuizawa for the Taiwanese market (“1st Release”, a vatting of casks from the 1999/2000 vintages) went on sale. The extreme summer heat and humidity of the past month has not been conducive to evaluating fine whiskies but the show must go on, so here are our impressions of the “2nd Release” (bottled at 61.7%abv)… finally. In theory, the difference between the 1st and the 2nd release is a few months. You’d expect the whisky to be very similar. In reality, though, they’re very different beasts. Maybe they come from a slightly different batch (when the original casks were vatted together). Maybe the influence of the cask(s) to which they were returned was stronger. (For some background on all this, check this post.) Maybe it’s just nature’s way. Who knows? On the nose, it’s immediately clear there’s a bigger sherry influence: sultana raisins, dried figs, also prune juice, porcini and polished leather – like in the 1st Release – but much more concentrated. Given time in the glass, the figs really jump out. If the 1st release was quite shy and subtle, the 2nd one is loud and extrovert. The earthy notes of the 1st are still there – potato skins and burdock – but the lighter, subtler secondary notes are gone. On the palate, the first thing you notice is that the mouthfeel itself is very different, the 2nd one much creamier and thicker than the 1st. There’s Christmas cake, rum-raisin butter tarts, prune jam, candied ginger and candied lemon peel, but the vegetal dimension that I enjoyed in the 1st is gone (or masked by the impact of the cask’s original contents). Water brings out a certain freshness on the palate: maraschino cherries, apricot jam and a hint of marzipan. The finish is long – considerably longer than the 1st – on dark (as opposed to milk) chocolate spiked with cointreau and berry jam. Most people seem to like the 2nd release, and I can certainly understand why, but I prefer the 1st. It wears its youth on its sleeve and revels in its contradictions. There’s something to be said for that. The 2nd release comes across as more ‘mature’ – and conforms more to our received notions of what a mature Karuizawa is like – but is lacking a bit in depth and complexity. There’s a 3rd release in the works, and hopefully more later, because whichever you prefer at this point – the 1st or the 2nd – having the chance to see how young Karuizawas of the same age can develop different personalities even with minimal changes (a bit of extra time and micro-variations in batch and slightly different ensembles of casks selected for each release) is a real treat. Karuizawa fans in Japan will have the chance to try their own – again, slightly different – Asama-version. As mentioned before, this will be bottled at 50.5%abv. The bottles have been printed and bottling is in progress, so it should be available soon. There will be an initial release through a well-known department store in Shinjuku (while you’re there, do yourself a favour and grab a bottle of their new exclusive Kilchoman single cask, too) and then a more general release throughout Japan. It’s shaping up to be quite a summer for Karuizawa… let’s enjoy it while we still can! Read more about Karuizawa Distillery here.
about 1 month ago