L1010053.JPGScott and I had plans for a long time to see Michael and Joseph for a long overdue double date. Scott and I went to great lengths to find a unique place that was new to us all and we picked a new Japanese restaurant on east 6th street Chiyono. well, apparently, it was new to a lot of other people too… we couldn’t get a table for 4… I didn’t make a reservation… the waitress was just so darn NICE saying that there was no way we could get a table. all that bowing and all those apologies did make me feel better about getting kicked out. Our friends quickly came to the rescue and suggested Bao 111 on adventurous ave C! The food was great and I got the honor of picking the saké! Ok, SIZE is not everything. no really. really!!! When the waiter brought around my pick – a bottle of Dewasansan Daigingo, i was a little shocked the bottle was a little um… vertically challenged. not what you want to see when you’re paying $50 for a bottle! To make matters worse, the waiter kept pouring rounds as we sipped and shwooop – he whisked the bottle away the second it was empty. I wanted to stick the bottle in my bag and take it home so I could post it for you, readers!
You know you’re devoted when you ask your waiter to pick your bottle back out of the garbage so you can take it home to post in your blog. How does it taste? it’s yummy. Some noted a ‘juicy fruit’ – ‘starburst’ finish. in the end I think we agreed that it was a green apple taste. clean, crisp & crunchy.
Here is a description of this particular sake I found somewhere on line:

Dewazakura “Dewasansan” Yamagatata Prefecture Green Ridge Sake With its floral nose and mellow fruity flavor, “Dewasansan” is a rewarding choice for wine drinkers new to the world of sake. It has a wholesome freshness, a green apple tartness and a refreshing finish.

Here are the pictures that caused the dumpster diving:

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My SAKÉ Rating:
Dewasansan earns 4 out of 5 Saké Bottles:
  [rate 4.0]

I was invited to a thanksgiving Dinner in Jersey City. The dinner itself was delicious! everything a turkey dinner should be. The crowd was mostly friends from a fire Island share. SO, I didn’t exactly fit into that mold, but it was a lovely evening – except the look on everyone’s face as they sipped their first Nigori! I don’t know how it happened, but S. told the host that I was a fan of Saké and working on a saké blog etc, etc… well it was suggested S. and I bring a Saké to thanksgiving dinner. oh boy. I should have put a stop to it right there… there were 6 plus me and S. Somehow, somehow – S. and I got the idea that a Nigori would be a fun choice! So we bought Dassai Nigori at Landmark It s a -10 on the Sake Meter Value. This was a sake I had at the Landmark Tasting on Nov. 11, ’05. The cutest thing about Dassai is the cute little cork that comes in the top. never seen that before. S.’s theory was that this special little cap was needed so that you can sake up the Nigori saké after the bottle has been opened. I just think it is another cute Japanese invention.
you can see a close up here:

When dessert time came around I already started getting anxious! 6 non-sake drinkers were about to be exposed to wierdo-nigori and If they hated it, it would be all on my shoulders. dessert was all set out on the table and everyone was waiting for this drink. So we poured it out and everyone took a sip. Everyone made a face of some sort! No one said YUMMM! two guests even made an obvious yuck face. I was surprised when the boys called out for another round. I soon realized why. They felt the 18% ALC in the nigori and said they were going to do a shot. a shot? you only do shots of things that taste disgusting! well, they did their shot and Scott and I tried to savor a little bit. The Saké began to taste quite good when it warmed slightly to about 50 degrees. it is really amazing how the temp. can affect the taste and flavor.

Even I must admit, that the Dassai – and Nigori in general – is not my favorite. S. seems to love it for it’s exotic appeal which sealed our fate on turkey day. The “chucks” in Nigori kinda turn me off and there is that after taste that takes a little getting used to. In any case, it’s something different and a nice change of pace that makes me marvel at the variety of Saké and appreciate the crystal clear Daiginjo-shu when i get back to it.

Dassai Nigori bottle and Label:

Oh Lordy… I’ve been at this a couple months and already I’m facing my first big moral dilemma. For the whole rest of my career with rice wine which is it? Do I go with…

Sake or Saké?!

well I kinda know the answer… saké WITH the áccént is the way that that the real studs who literally ‘wrote the book’ on Sake do it. but i’m going to type the word S-A-K-E….É alot! not to mention the embarressment of keeping a blog for two months spelling the object of my affection’s name wrong.

Ok, i better just Suck it up and admit my mistake Saké it is! (from now on.)

Ok, never ever ever ever buy sake based on low price alone. I made this mistake this past weekend. I was at my favorite Sake shop Landmark with S. on sunday and I picked up a Nigori for thanksgiving. I wanted something else to sip on during the week after work, and I didn’t want to spend a ton. um, big mistake. Now, the guys at Landmark are great! They did not try and sell me this stuff, it was totally 100% my own choice. I’m seeing more and more you really get what you pay for. I got 500 ML for about $23. It’s a junmai. I feel my headache from tomorrow already pounding. So far I only have gotten hang overs from Junmai sake. I really think I’m safe here tho… look at the ALC content.

here are the stats:

Ichinokura “himenzen” sake: Junmai
8% ALC by volume

Ok, I’ll cut to the chase. this sake ain’t my bag. It takes like grape juice. Ok, I’ll give it some props… It is utterly amazing to me that rice can be made into something that tastes like $2 white wine that comes out of a cardboard box, but someone made it happen! The aroma of this sake is much better than the taste. the bottle says “rich type” “Citrus Flavor” ok, i don’t taste any citrus. I get grapes. no finish. Welch’s !
SO, I do have something to sip on after work this week… but I won’t be happy. You gotta kiss a lotta frogs before you find that prince of sakes

WANTED dead or alive in 7 states:
for impersonating Welch’s grape juice

My Saké Rating:
A lowly 1.5 saké bottles
[rate 1.5]

I picked up this sake at my trip to Mitsua on Nov 12. What caught by eye about this one was the big “Jizaki” sticker on the front of the label. I’ve learned this means a regional or local sake. What this really means is sake produced in small-ish traditional breweries.

What are the chances that this imported sake with English on the import label was really a hand crafted small production Sake from a traditional sake microrbrewery? I guess it all boils down to how you define Jizake, eh?

Well, upon closer inspection, Jizake Inc is the name of the IMPORTING company. Kaori is the name of the sake as best I can tell and it is a Junmai Ginjo. The producer of this sake is Yamagata Honten CO. in Yamaguchi. Sake Meter Value is +3 Alc. content is 14.5% A suggested food paring is “Squid and celery salad” … Oh shoot, I just had that last night! 😉 The label aslo says “Smooth type” just like that mystery sake that started my obsession. BUT, this one isn’t anywhere near the same.

BUT – how does it taste? Kaori has a very round smooth taste but it had a finish that tasted a little “frement-y” to me. not entirely unpleasant but I don’t think this will be one of my all time favorites. still on the hunt for a real jizake… I’ll probably have to hit Japan first. Hey – what about a trip to Japan. when money allows, I’d love to. stay tuned…

S. alerted me to an article in the New York Times about Nigori Sake. It’s still not my favorite kind of Sake, but there is a lot there to be explored. I’ve had it about 3 times. it tastes a little “fermented” to me right now, but I may have had some inferior quality. S. of course says he love Nigori – so as usual, he’s ahead of the curve of a foodie trend.

Here is the gist of the article…

(c) New York Times
ONLINE SHOPPER
For Sake’s Sweet Sake

By MICHELLE SLATALLA
Published: November 17, 2005
OVER the years my husband has tinkered with many exotic drinks. We survived his zombie phase, the summer of mangrove smashes and what I now think of as a dark period he devoted entirely to mixing the ingredients of a Manhattan in unnatural proportions.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
THE BIG POUR As a sign of generosity, the nigori sake overflows the glass.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
RICE LIQUOR Sho Chiku Bai is made from melted Sierra Nevada snow and Sacramento Valley rice.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
MADE IN THE U.S.A. Momokawa Pearl, says the Web site, is “wonderful with chocolate or as a dessert.”

He has filled our liquor cabinet with parrot-colored liquors like Midori, and he has served dinner guests large choke-provoking quantities of muddled mint. It was only a matter of time before he discovered nigori sake.
Soon after we moved to Northern California he got a tip that Sushi Ran, a well-known Japanese restaurant in Sausalito, served 30 kinds of sake. So we rushed over, waited an hour for a table and then settled in to do some serious research. My husband scanned the list of fermented rice liquors, pointed to his choice, and within minutes the waiter returned bearing two small glasses that sat inside open square boxes.
He poured from a large bottle. Milky white liquid overflowed the glasses into the boxes in a Japanese gesture of generosity. We took a sip – it tasted like chilled pineapple – and then another, which reminded me of coconut.
There was a look in my husband’s eye that was familiar. It was the look he gave me the night we met. I realized that all I had to do to forestall a return of the mangrove smashes was to keep a steady supply of nigori sake in the refrigerator.
The only problem was finding it in a store. Although cloudy unfiltered sake has been steadily growing in popularity in the United States over the last 10 years, it still accounts for only a small percentage of the sake market, manufacturers say. Nigori sake, whose sweetness is a good foil for spicy food, remains unfamiliar to many who are used to drinking warm filtered sake.
Since nigori sake has a shorter shelf life than filtered sake – the rice sediment at the bottom spoils quickly if bottles are not properly stored at cool temperatures – I wondered whether I would even be able to find it for sale online.
Once again I had underestimated the Internet. A key word search for nigori sake turned up sites like 00sake.com, which sells imported Nikko Kirifuri (described as “soft and mild taste, very thick nigori sake compared to others”) for $18 a bottle, and Winespecialist.com, which sells imported Ozeki nigori sake (“preserves the fresh flavor of the moromi – the fermenting mixture of rice, water, koji and yeast – for a crisp, vibrant presence”) for $7.99 a bottle.
And Bevmo.com, the Internet arm of a bricks-and-mortar retail chain called Beverages & More, sells imported Rihaku nigori sake Dreamy Clouds (“superb with halibut over a toss of fresh spinach and mild sweet red onions”) for $14.99 a bottle and Tozai nigori sake Voices in the Mist (“a hint of anise”) for $21.99 a bottle.
My choices were many. To get advice on how to narrow the field I phoned Sushi Ran’s owner, Yoshi Tome, who is also the president of the Northern California Japanese Restaurant Association.
“I heard you are the top expert in California,” I said just to be cordial and not because I was hoping to get a table faster the next time I go to Sushi Ran.
“If somebody is recommending me, maybe I should take the credit,” Mr. Tome said courteously, but he did not ask me to repeat my last name for future reference.
“When buying nigori sake, what should a shopper look for?” I asked.
“Be very careful to ask first about how it is stored,” he said. “In Japan a good sake brewery puts a date on the bottles. Ask if it is kept refrigerated. It tends to sour very quickly.”
“How do you avoid that problem at your restaurant?” I asked.
“I’ve had many occasions, more than one or two, when I tasted it, and the sake was bad,” he said. “Occasionally we do bring in a premium imported nigori sake from Japan, but right now on the menu we have two kinds, both made nearby in the United States.”
The two locally brewed brands Mr. Tome serves are SakeOne’s Momokawa Pearl nigori sake (“wonderful with chocolate or as a dessert,” according to sakeone.com, where it costs $10 a bottle) and Takara’s Sho Chiku Bai nigori sake (available at Winespecialist.com for $4.95 for a small bottle and at 00sake.com for $18 for the much larger bottle, which you will wish you had bought if you don’t).
Takara Sake USA Inc., an offshoot of the parent company in Japan, has since 1984 made nigori sake at its plant in Berkeley, Calif., near where I live. It seemed necessary to visit.
There I was met by Masatoshi Ohata, the general manager for marketing, who gave me a tour of the company’s historical sake museum, where 10,000 visitors a year view exhibits that explain traditional 19th-century methods of fermenting, pressing (which in those days required huge boulders) and filtering rice to make sake.
Mr. Ohata said that in the last decade the popularity of Takara’s nigori sake has steadily grown and now accounts for about 8 percent of the 600,000 cases the company sells each year in this country.
“But in Japan it is not as popular because they like sake that is dry, not so sweet or rich,” he said. “In Japan they are surprised that we can sell nigori sake in the big bottles here.”
“What makes your nigori sake taste like tropical fruit?” I asked.
“The fermented rice is very important for the taste,” Mr. Ohata said. “We make it with water from the snow in the Sierra Nevada and very good rice from the Sacramento Valley.”
I went home excited to face a future that did not include zombies, long-handled glass stirrers or maraschino cherries.
My husband said he was excited too about working out the kinks in a new cocktail he was developing.
With a sinking feeling I asked what it was called.
“A nigori colada,” he said.

(c) New York Times

Tonight i’m trying my first Organic Sake. It’s also one of the first domestic sakes i’ve ever had. I picked this up on my trip to Mitsuwa last weekend.

It’s Sho Chiku Bai Junmai-Shu / Nama Sake. Produced by Takara Sake of berkely CA. Made with Organic rice. I got the 300 ML bottle. the first thing you notice about this lable is the big word Organic in orange letters. I had to try this since I’d seen it both at Landmark and Mitsuwa. So, it’s easy to get. let’s see how it tastes.

Well, it tasted good! My first foray into domestic, organic sake didn’t disappoint. The flavor was clean, sooth and a little robust with slight, but not unpleasant burnt undertones. quite smooth and drinkable. I enjoyed it. It’s a +5 on the Sake Scale, which is where I tend to like things – no wonder this appeals to me.

Here is what the website has to say:

ho Chiku Bai Organic Nama
It’s totally natural, using OCIA certified rice harvested from the Sacramento Valley with absolutely no preservatives, no brewers alcohol added, no sulfites. It is brewed under the direction of Takara’s master brewer combining the most traditional methods with modern technology to arrive at the Ginjo grade.

Type: Junmai Nama/ Draft(Organic)
Character:
Full, dry and balanced flavor with fruity and fresh taste
Dry/Sweet: +5 (dry)
Texture: Soft and smooth
Aroma: Pleasant ginjo aroma
Suggestions:
Serving: Chilled
Pairing food: Cold or vinegar-marinated
Alcohol: 15%

I give this organic Saké 3.5 saké bottles
[rate 3.5] 

Descrip. of Nov 11 Landmark Saké tasting goes here.