Monday, April 21, 2008

4/19/08: Kyushu Party

My friend had a problem. She has more saké than she can drink. Naturally, Chie asked me to host a party to help reduce her inventory. Being a gentleman and a good friend, I agreed to help her out with this burden.

She offered two choices, both from Kyushu. Taking this cue, I decided to host a dinner party with Kyushu as a central theme. Designing menu and drink selection around Kyushu can be a challenge, but fortunately, my friend Masa has Kyushu roots.

Nothing screams "Kyushu" like pizza Margherita and 2006 Michel Chiralo Barbera D’Asti junmai red wine. Actually, home-made pizza is pretty much expected when visiting my chateau apartment. While many opt for Chianti to pair with pizza, my favorite choice is Barbera d'ASti.

The official Kyushu portion of the evening kicked off with Masa and Yuka's contribution, Game-Ni and miso-braised eggplants. According to legend, Game-Ni was initially called Kame-Ni, as the key ingredient in this pot dish was snapping turtle. Over time, the intonation changed from "Kame" to "Game," while the choice of meat began to shift from snapping turtle to chicken or pork (including this evening.) Masa and Yuka even took the painstaking measure of braising each ingredient (carrot, potato, bamboo shoot, shiitake, chicken) separately.

For the appetizers, we tried two sakés from Kyushu. First up was the elusive Azumaichi Junmai from Saga Prefecture. Made from Yamadanishiki rice, the saké was bold on the flavor but balanced with elements of rice and mild fruit. It was very well recieved by the attendees. Although it's priced like a Junmai Ginjo, its quality is very well worth the retail value of $32.

Azumaichi was followed by Kawazu Shuzo's "Akigeshiki" saké from Kumamoto Prefecture. I could find very little about this saké on the internet, except that it is made using a local rice called "Akigeshiki." Studying the bottle, it notes added alcohol, and cross referencing that fact with the pricing (in Japanese yen), I believe this to be a futsuu-shu. Compared to Azumaichi, its softness, mildness, and lack of mid-palate was noticeable. Flavor-wise, it had sense of rice, alcohol, and umami. The contrast between two sakés were very notable.

Between meals, we had a Kokuryu Junmai Ginjo interludfe. From Fukui prefecture in the mainland, Kokuryu featured Gohyakumangoku rice. With its balace fruitiness, earthiness, and long umami, Kokuryu seemed to be a consensus favorite of the evening. In fact, some guessed that they would expect to pay $65 per bottle, which is twice its retail price.

Although we were out of Kyushu saké, we had one more Kyushu dish left in Chiken Yuzu Kosho Yaki, which is chicken thighs panfried with a sauce featuring yuzu citrus and hot peppers. Think of it as chicken teriyaki with more citrus and some extra zing. For this dish, we opened Kaika Spring Nama from Tochigi Prefecture in the mainland. Using couple of local rice (Wakasui? and Tsuki No Hikari) made in muroka genshu style (undiluted and not charcoal filtered) with a polishing ratio of 59% this is a saké with deep fruity flavor. The fruitiness and depth paired well with the spicy dish, and pefect saké to be serving towards the end of the meal.

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