Monday, January 29, 2007

1/27/07: Japanese "Nabe" Dinner Party

I was very excited for this party, as it was my first time to try "kiritanpo nabé," a hot pot dish famous in the northern prefecture of Akita. What separates this nabé dish from the others is the kiritanpo, which is made using "mochi" rice of Akita Komachi. I have to say that this was the second best use of Akita Komachi after this.

The event was held at Hiroki and Megumi's place on Upper East Side, and was attended by Haruka, Namiko, Yuki, and Taira. While the ladies were in charge of prepapring nabe and making pear tart, I was in charge of selecting beverages for the evening. The beverages, including white wines, red wines, dessert wines, shochu, and of course, sakés, were as follows:

White Wines
* 2004 Rudera Chenin Blanc, South Africa (exotic tropical fruits and quince on nose, medium-bodied, fruity, with dry minerality on the finish.)
* Non Vintage Sokol Blosser Evolution 9, Oregon (blend of Alsatian varietals, fuller, richer, and juicier, with depth, not as dry.)

Red Wines
* 2003 Duca San Felice Reserva Ciro, Italy (light red with floral/cherry nose, cherry, spices, and violet on the palate, dry)
* 2002 Marc Brocot Marsannay "Les Echezeaux," Burgundy (clean raspberry/cherry fruit on the nose and palate, slight minerals on the finish, very light body.)

* Ozeki "Kaikouzu" Aged Imo Shochu (mellow and smooth on the body, yet intense and balanced on the palate.)

* Shirataki "Jōzen Mizu No Gotoshi" Junmai Ginjo (SMV: +3, Acidity: 1.4, Rice: Gohyakumangoku/Miyama Nishiki, Seimaibuai: 55%, Yeast: N/A)
* Sudo Honké "Sato No Homaré" Junmai Ginjo (SMV: +3, Acidity: 1.3, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 50%, Yeast: Sudo)

Dessert Wines
* 2005 Vajra Moscato d'Asti, Italy (floral, honey, tropical fruits, lightly sparkling white)
* 2005 Selak's Ice Wine, New Zealand (intense white raisin, tropical fruits, medium/full-bodied)

Well, the food was incredible, perfect antidote to a cold winter's day. The complex flavors and various textures of the nabé dish lived up to my expectations, and I could've overdosed on chimaki roll, a steamed flavored mochi rice ball (pic right). Both the wines and sakes were great match for the kiritanpo nabé and chimaki rice roll, complementing the flavors without competing. For the wines, Evolution was top notch for the whites, and spice elements of the Ciro was ideal for the kiritanpo. In terms of saké, the umami of Sato No Homaré matched perfectly with umami from the nabé, and at the same time, I was surprised at how much fruitier and sweeter Shirataki tasted when drank side-by-side with Sato No Homaré. Naturally, the pear tart was perfect finisher to the evening.

What I will be doing for sure is to study the recipe for both kiritanpo nabé and chimaki, as it was so good. This means that I will have to seek out mochi rice, preferably Akita Komachi, and worl on the assumption that I don't make saké out of it instead. Either way, it's a win-win proposition.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

1/18/07: Tasting for Daily Candy, Part Deux

Shortly before the New Year's, I heard from my friends at Daily Candy (NYC), for another round of saké tasting. This event was held near my office, and right by the Ed Sullivan Theatre.

The event was similar in format to the last Daily Candy event in November, with few changes in the selection. The featured sakés include the following (click on the picture on the right to enlarge the labels):

Bandai Junmai: From Fukushima. Aged one year in tank, resulting in a slightly oxidized style. Full- bodied with dried fruits and nuts on the nose, followed by dried fruits and hints of soy sauce on the palate. Pair with earthy dishes or red meat. Serve warmed or chilled.

Daishichi Kimoto Honjozo: From Fukushima. SMV: +1, Acidity: 1.4. Made in a labor-intensive Kimoto method to enhance fermentation (=richer flavor.) Mildly fruity nose followed by refreshing notes of mild fruit and grain on the palate. Pair with fish, lighter meats, or well-seasoned vegetables. Best served chilled but can be warmed.

Hiraizumi Yamahai Tokubetsu Junmai: From Akita. SMV: +4, Acidity: 1.9. Made in a time-consuming Yamahai method to enhance fermentation (=earthier flavor). Aromas of cream and hints of floral elements followed by balanced bitterness/sweetness of the palate leading to a long finish. Complex and dynamic. Pair with earthy dishes or red meat. Can be chilled or warmed.

Itami Onigoroshi Junmai: From Hyogo. Nose of dried fruit/steamed rice. Full-bodied style with mellow fruit on the palate and firm dry finish. Good all-purpose house saké for parties. Can be chilled or warmed, or even used in saké bombs.

Kuromatsu Hakushika Junmai Chokara: From Hyogo. SMV: +12. Earthy, nutty aroma leading to initially sweet flavor that evolves to a very clean, spicy, and dry finish. (“Chokara” means extra dry.) Pair with non-spicy richer dishes. Best served chilled, and also good as a mixer (saketini, saké bombs)

Kaori Junmai Ginjo: From Yamaguchi. SMV: +3, Acidity: 1.5. Features flavor of sharp, fruity, and juicy Muscat grapes. Medium-bodied with medium dry finish. Pair with fish, lighter meats, well-seasoned vegetables, creamy sauces, and tomato sauces. Serve chilled only.

Sawanotsuru Zuicho Junmai Daiginjo: From Hyogo. SMV: +0, Acidity: 1.7. Richer style of daiginjo. This particular one has a very low fruit in the palate, instead featuring sweetness of the rice. Versatile pairing with food, ideal with appetizers. Serve chilled only.

The tasting began with the brief description of each selection, highlighting different grades, ideal serving temperature, and production method where applicable. This was followed by Q & A session, all the while enjoying the flavors. One thing I can say about this group, based on excellent questions and display of curiosity, is that they were a very enthusiastic bunch. Furthermore, nothing was music to my ears than when Abby (left) confessed that all she has been drinking since I last saw her was saké, and Jane (right)told me exactly the same thing later!

The hour and half went by quickly, and I want to thank the Daily Candy for giving me the forum to discuss the subject that I am very fond of. Hope to see you again in the near future!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

1/16/07: NY Saké Meetup Event at Satsko's

Tonight was one of those unexpected evenings (translation: "I did not have my camera") where I ended up going to an event where I didn't really planned to go. Sometimes, those have the best outcome, and tonight was no exception.

Lefty let me know that there were spaces available for the NY Saké Meetup Event at Saké Bar Satsko's, located at the foot of Tompkin's Square Park at 7th St bet. Ave B and C.

Speaking of foot, one of the first faces I saw was Ryan Foote (yellow hat) and his friend Josh (blue hat) from the New Year's Eve. Good to see they were alive and doing well! I also met John, Haru, Danielle, and Hilary from the group. Since I was working, I got there around 9:30 pm and needed to catch up quickly. There was no better way than to jump into the saké flight, where you can select six sakés from list of 16 selections in addition to on appetizer off the menu. For those who are interested, here is their entire saké list.

For my six, I started with the ever-so-reliable Masumi Okuden Kanzukuri Junmai, Hōyō Masamune Junmai and Tengumai Yamahai Junmai which I haven't had in a while, Bishōnen which I haven't had in about two years, the ubiquitous Wakatake Onigoroshi Junmai Daigingjo, and the complex Kubota Hekijyu Yamahai Junmai Daiginjo. Of the bunch, I liked Kubota Hekijyu (SMV: +2, Acidity: 1.3, Rice: Gohyakumangoku, Seimaibuai: N/A, Yeast: N/A), which was intense, complex, and balanced. Sakés receiving accolades from other participants were Masumi Okuden and Tengumai.

Satsko's was a fun place. Bartender was very friendly, and I felt very welcome the moment I stepped in (in fact, he confessed that he thought I had been there in the past...) Tuna tartare, seasoned with sesame oil and wasabi mayonnaise, was excellent, and $28 for that and flight of six sakés is a great value.

As the evening went on, Ryan and Josh just had to go to see Toshi at Saké Hana, so off we went. They asked me to make a selection, so I went with Bizen Maboroshi. It was good seeing Toshi, who told me I vanished on New Year's Eve without saying good bye, but we planned some future saké event. Josh and I headed home, while Ryan stayed behind to meet and initiate his friend to the way of Saké Hana...

Friday, January 05, 2007

12/31/06: New Year's Eve at Saké Hana

This is a momentous occasion, something I have been anticipating for about two months. Of course, I am talking about finally getting caught up in this blog.

Oh yes, and there is that New Year Eve thing. The last few weeks, between busy retail season and my college buddy's wedding, was extremely busy. As a matter of fact, said wedding took place on Friday (12/29) and Saturday (12/30) out of town, and I went straight to work at the wine store on the "busiest day of the year."

With incredible amount of alcohol consumption the night before, namely Rémy Martin Grand Cru (SMV: N/A, Acidity: N/A, Rice: no, 100% Petite Champagne, Seimaibuai: N/A, Yeast: N/A), I needed a mellow evening. Naturally, Saké Hana was on top of the short list of places to go. (Although the initial enticement of $45 all-you-can-drink-saké was very attractive couple of weeks ago, I was there for the décor and companionship, I swear.)

By the time I got there about 9:50 p.m., few minutes early as Toshi jokingly (I hope) pointed out, there were quite a few bottles laid out on the counter top. Since I didn't have the camera with me nor take notes this time, my memory will have to do: Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai, Ichinokura Junmai, Urakasumi Junmai, Sawanoi Junmai Ginjo, Shirataki Junmai, Harushika Chokara, Otokoyama Tokubetsu Junmai, Ōyama Tokubetsu Junmai, Fukinishiki Junmai, Hitorimusume "Sayaka" Junmai, and Nanawarai plus two other new sakés that I don't remember. Overall, there were about dozen 1.8L bottles lined up on the counter top, a beautiful sight to see for sure.

After I got started trying Nanawarai and one of the newer saké, I made couple of new friends, recent members of the NY Saké Meetup Group including Ryan and Josh. Soon thereafter, Ai-san and Tomo-chan arrived, and evening was well under way.

The evening was fun. The guys were new to saké, so Toshi and I got to talk and drink saké with them, trying Nanbu Bijin, Ichinokura, Otokoyama, and Sawanoi. Nanbu Bijin was well received by the guys, and I had several servings of Urakasumi (SMV: +2, Acidity: 1.5, Rice: Manamusumé, Seimaibuai: 65%, Yeast: N/A) one of my favorite Junmai for its light, balanced approach.

As the clock approached midnight, I decided to have my last glass be the epitome of tradition by ordering a round off the menu for Sudo Honké's "Sato No Homaré" Junmai Ginjo, one of my all-time favorites. I started the New Year with another round off the menu, going with my other all-time favorite, Dassai 50 Junmai Ginjo. The significance of those two sakés, aside from the fact that they were my favorites, is that I recommended them as two of the "6 Sakés Recommended by Professionals" article from "Shūkan NY Seikatsu" free paper in NY. Among the others in this saké-centric special edition were discussion of the industy by Sakagura's Kadoi-san as well as our host of the night, Toshi-san, introduction of kura featuring Sakurai-san and Kuji-san, and two more recommendations by Chizuko-san from Sakagura.

With the exhaution kicking in from the last few days, I didn't last much beyond 1 am. I do remember saying good night to Ai-san and Tomo-chan, who opted to stay longer, and also seeing Ryan knodding off at the bar on the way out.

Anyhow, Happy 2007!