Sips & Bites: End of Kai Club, plus Beer Mania grows, The Volunteer does Thai, Great Leap hosts party

Kai Club: This late-night Sanlitun legend is on its last legs and DJ Blackie and DJ El-Mar Bengel will be on the decks this Saturday for what they call their “last stand.”

Beer Mania: I ran into manager Thierry De Dobbeleer earlier this week and he says the expansion into SPR will be complete in three weeks and include a pool table.

The Irish Volunteer: First, there was the Big Breakfast. Then, there was pizza. Now, there is… Thai food? As of today, IV will offer spring rolls, red beef curry and the like by chef Joy, says Rob Korfage. Most dishes will be RMB40 to RMB50, with rice.

And a heads up to fans of Great Leap Brewery: this place will be close on May 28, from 3 PM to 9 PM, for a private party, says Nathalie Johnston, who handles marketing. You will have to get your home-brew fix later in the evening…

Spice up your life? The Buffalo Wing Martini Experiment

One drop or two?

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I learned many things in my recent quest to make a Buffalo Wing Martini. Here are two of them:

  1. Infusing vodka with Buffalo wing meat and then “washing” out the fat in order to create a martini garnished with blue cheese stuffed olives — well, the end product didn’t taste very good. At least not the one we tried yesterday.
  2. Infusing vodka with Buffalo wing meat upsets people. Several people that I assume consider themselves to be open-minded seemed genuinely annoyed and/or angry not that I thought a Buffalo Wing Martini would be good, because I figured the odds of success were low, but that I would even attempt to make it. Chill out, little buddies. Methinks such outrage might best be directed at issues such as global poverty, pollution, and people who try to get into the elevator before those inside can get out.

Anyway, Andy Bright at Union kindly provided Buffalo wings that I infused in vodka at home last week. I guess I included too much meat because when I put the concoction in the freezer, to help the fat, it froze solid. I have since added more vodka to hopefully resolves this issue. In the meantime, Paul Mathew at Flamme used more Union wings to do an infusion and, not surprisingly, experienced no such problems. Here is a shot of him straining the ice-cold solids from the infusion:

Out, damn fat!

And a shot of a greasy coffee filter after the fifth strain:

In case you want wing-flavored coffee.

 

I found the resulting liquid fairly “chicken-y” but lacking the spicy edge of Buffalo wings. The ensuring martini, with blue-cheese stuffed olives, might best be described as “interesting” though one person who tried it – and who is perhaps honest to a fault – called it “horrible”. A splash of Tabasco helped but did not get it to the “I’d like another one of those” zone.

It looks like it is back to the drawing board with the Buffalo wings. Perhaps I can do a Bourbon infusion next time. Or, maybe it is time for a smoothie.

Double hat tips to Paul Mathew and Andy Bright for making the effort, for taking the chance, for trying to help one person’s dream come true.

Well, it *looks* okay...

Zejia: Drinks and dumplings in the Gulou area

I went to Contempio last night for the finale of the Spanish Tapas Tour but arrived late, couldn’t get a glass, and felt like the last thing I needed after one of my busiest weeks in memory was to squeeze through crowds all night. This venue – based in a temple complex – is impressive and I will write more about it later. But on this night I needed to chill out. So I headed next door to Zajia.

This place has been open for about a month and feels a bit like a workshop converted to a bar. The décor includes gray and orange brick, sloped ceilings with exposed beams, a loft area, and an eclectic collection of chairs, tables and items that range from flower pots to a mannequin. Images are beamed onto a misshaped white screen that dangles from the ceiling.

Most importantly, it offers a relaxed vibe. I plunked down, popped open my laptop to check some emails, and had a Leffe Blonde (RMB35) and a plate of beef and celery dumplings that Xiao Bo, one of three co-owners, says are made by his aunt. That took the blood pressure down a few notches.

By the way, Zejia also offers cocktails and about a dozen whiskeys, starting at RMB35 for the Talisker ten-year-old and Caol Ila 12-year-old.

The murky depths: I ate this thing and I liked it

Never been a fan of sea cucumbers. Nope. Not one deep down bottom of the murky sea bit. Not as a pet, a food or a topic of conversation. I realize beauty is in the eye of the beholder and taster but these things not only look shiny and slimy, like some organ our ancestors once needed but we no longer do, even like something I would produce after a meal rather than eat during it, but also have a weird texture. But the one I had at Da Dong last night was… good. I didn’t end up taking the usual two nibbles and then hiding the rest under the napkin but ate the entire braised thin.

(Hat tip to Ricardo for the dinner invite)

Dope wine: Do I drink Irvine Albarino or smoke it?

I recently tried the Australian wine Irvine Albarino and agreed with a fellow taster that it smelled like marijuana. It didn’t only smell like marijuana. The first smell was petrol and made me think of a Riesling. The second smell was a cupboard of herbs and that included a sticky hint of marijuana. (It also led to inevitable remarks like “I don’t know if I should drink it or smoke it” and “This bottle should come with rolling papers”.) The wine eventually mellowed to lighter herb, grass and fruit aromas atop a fairly balanced body that had a slightly sweet initial taste and a lemony finish. I liked it.

Anyway, Irvine Albarino is among the more intriguing wines I have tried this year so I decided to see what other people smelled. I didn’t find anything about it in the guidebooks by Australian wine writers Jeremy Oliver and James Halliday, though they both cite the Merlot from Irvine as good. I found tasting notes on the Internet that didn’t note petrol or marijuana but peaches (huh?), pears (really?) as major smells. It seems that either those tasters were smoking up or, as is more likely, other factors were at play, perhaps the age of the wine (we tried a 2007), the peculiarities of this particular bottle or, according to several people in the wine industry, the impact of the screw top on the initial smell. To be fair, those fruity smells did come through later.

I tried this wine at The Loop, at a tasting organized by manager Weiley Lu with Philip Osenton of Wine Culture. Ostenton says that while the label says this wine is made from Albarino grapes, originally from Spain, testing has shown that it is actually made from Savagnin grapes, originally from France. This will be indicated on later vintages. It retails for RMB218 and is available from philip.osenton (at) wineculture.com.cn. Some other wines from the tasting:

Chateau Mas Neuf Les Conviviales Cabernet Sauvignon (2008: RMB122): Given the price, this is a decently round and deep fruity wine with a mildly spicy finish.

Bogle Petite Syrah (2006: RMB174): If I could pick one bottle to finish on this night, it would be this Bogle. A pleasing aroma, especially of blackberries, and a round body with a pleasant fruity finish.

Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel (2007: RMB191): Ample fruit, though it took a while to reveal, with a hint of cracked black pepper. This one is juicy, and at times borders on jammy, with a dry finish. Osenton said he picked up the smell of cranberry (I didn’t) and strawberry jam (I did).

Casa Gualda Unico Sauvignon Blanc/Muscat (2009: RMB82): If you seek something slightly sweet, floral, easy to drink and inexpensive, this blend might fit your needs.

Altor Las Hormigas Malbec (2008: RMB134): I’m including this partly because of the name, which means “the ants”. It has a lot of dark fruit, one person called it “stalky”, and it seems like a wine that would be best with a nice steak.

Wine Culture also has a sparkling red wine, from Malvasian grapes, at RMB226. You don’t see those every day…