*After my fantastic introduction to the production process at Dassai, Mr. Sakurai Sr. and Mr. Sakurai Jr took me out for a fantastic all-blowfish dinner. Known as “Fugu” in Japanese, yes… it is that deadly, poisonous fish. Yeah, that’s the fish you need to have two years of training and a special license to cut and serve. Wikipedia tells me that According to the Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, 14 people died of blowfish poisoning between 2002 and 2006. cats_love_fugu.jpgTo top it off – Fugu is a total prized and very expensive. If my hosts weren’t concerned, why should I be?

Well… at the restaurant, I did ask to see the fugu license of the nice lady cutting up our blowfish, but everyone just laughed. gulp.

The restaurant itself was totally quaint and very much that hidden type of place you would never know about unless you were recommended there by a friend of a friend. Not only to they run a restaurant, they also farm their own Fugu!

fugu_sashimi.jpgOur first course was a heaping plate of Blowfish sashimi. Mr. Sakurai showed me his preferred method of eating it. wrap each slice with a bit of chive and the shredded daikon-carrot like stuff. It was delicious. Since my limbs didn’t begin tingling, I quickly forgot about the possibility of poisoning and began to seriously chow down. The texture was quite firm, almost meaty, yet smooth and silky. Delicious!

with_mr_sakurai.jpgMr. Sakurai brought 2 bottles of Dassai along for our dinner. We had both a Dassai 39 Centrifuge and a Dassai 50 Sparkling Nigori. Both were fantastic. The Centrifuge sake is unique. that final production process adds “a little something extra” to the flavor and texture on the tongue. The Sparkling Nigori is Fantastic – it opens with a POP just like you get from champagne. Very festive and fun – perfect for celebration. The bottle comes with an extra hang tag to alert people to open the blowfish_tempura.jpgbottle like champagne. the stopper will fly out! I’m sure this has surprised a few Dassai Sparkling drinkers in the past – it’s not what you expect from a sake, but it is terrific fun.

Next we each got a plate of deep fried Fugu Tempura. The axiom that everything tastes better deep fried definitely holds true for Blowfish. It was crispy and offered a different angle on the flavor of fugu. The Nigori meshed with the tempura like and hand in glove. my favorite pairing of the night!

fugu_fear_factor.jpgThe next course was a bit of a “Lost in Translation” moment. We were each served a small square dish with white something or other in there. I asked what it was, and after a little back and forth and some confusion, I finally understood they were male fugu private parts! I actually can’t tell you how they taste. This fear factor moment pushed me to my limit. Fear was a factor for me! as I sat there staring at the fugu reproductive organs, chopsticks in hand… unsure how to proceed… time for another sip of sake.

blowfish_nabe.jpgLuckily, our hostess quickly arrived with a glorious, steaming pot of Fugu and vegetable stew called “Nabe”. This dish came with a bowl for the fugu bones. Nabe is now one of my new favorite things! It was warming and hearty and the fugu added a great depth of flavor to the broth. after all the fugu was fished out and picked clean, the hostess filled the bowl with rice. it was two, two, two dishes in one! and boy was I getting full!

dassai_sparkling.jpgDessert arrived in the form a cool and refreshing Japanese lime beverage, kinda like a homemade lime-aid. this unexpected treat cleansed the palate and was just about the only thing I had all night that didn’t have Blowfish in it somewhere. Our lovely hostess gave me a fugu tokkuri as a parting gift. I was really touched. On the way out, they also showed me the Fugu tanks and I got to see some live specimens up close and personal. Um, blowfish won’t be winning any beauty pageants. Fugu is kinda Fugly up close, but… it sure does taste good.

My sincere thank you to the delightful Sakurai family for this tremendous and delicious evening. A special “arigatogozaimasu!” to the hostess at the fugu restaurant for cutting up my fish in such a way that I won’t be landing on the Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry statistics for 2007. Kanpai!

from_left.jpgQuestion: What would you get if all the sake bloggers in the world had a tasting of the same sakes on the same night?

Answer: Why, you’d get the World’s First Cyber Sake Tasting, that’s what!

Working with my sake blogging friends Valerie of The Sake Diaries in Minneapolis, Melinda of Tokyo Through the Drinking glass and Etsuko of TokyoFoodcast we agreed to each host a tasting on the same night with the same 4 sakes plus one “wildcard” of our choosing. The sakes would get tasted and reviewed across time, space and international borders and then afterwards, everyone would post their results.

atsuko-and-timothy_1.jpgHere is how things shaped up at Urban Sake Headquarters:

  • Rihaku Junmai Ginjo (“Wandering Poet”, SMV +3, Acidity 1.6, ALC 15.2%)
    Average Rating: 6.3 out of 10. I paired this will some wasabi rice cracker mix. Comment: “Fragrant Nose” “Flavor expands as the sake warms”
  • Urakasumi Zen Junmai Ginjo (“Misty Bay”, SMV +1, Acidity 1.3, ALC 15.5%)
    Average Rating: 6.3 out of 10. This was paired with delicious Seaweed salad that Atsuko brought. Comment: “Nice & Drinkable” “Slightly citrus”
  • cream_puff.jpgShirakawago Sansannigori (“Bamboo Leaf”, SMV 0, Acidity 1.5, ALC 15.3%)
    Average Rating: 5 out of 10. Paired with fried japanese chicken wings.
    Comment: “Slightly Funky aftertaste.” “Tastes better at room temp” “My favorite pairing!”
  • Tamano Hikari Junmai Daiginjo (“Brilliant Jade”, SMV +3.5, Acidity 1.7, ALC 16.2) Average Rating 8.6 out of 10. Paired with Dried Squid. (don’t ask)
    Comment: “Clean & Complex” “Outstanding!”
  • the_whole_gang.jpgKubota Hekiju ( SMV +2, Acidity 1.5, ALC 15.5%)
    Paired with Choux Factory Cream Puffs.
    Comment: “Barely there” “Delicious” “smooooth”

The clear winner at the NYC tasting was the Tamano Hikari. It was fresh and clean and complex enough to inspire a lot of interest. It is also interesting that Zen and Wandering Poet averaged out to the exact same score among the New York City crowd.

Special thanks to Chao-I, Atsuko, Jesse, Stephen and Scott for being a part of sake history. I know I had a lot of fun and I hope you guys did too!
Check out these blogs for other views of the trans-pacific super cyber sake tasting:
Tokyo Through the Drinking Glass
The Sake Diaries
TokyoFoodCast

Rihaku_Urakasumi_shirakawag.jpg

Azia_bar.jpgRecently, Scott invited me to travel with him to Minnesota for his college reunion. I know… Minnesota is out there, but I knew deep down there would be some sake adventure somewhere to be had, so off I went – and I’m glad I did. After a little research and a few emails with our friend Valerie of the sake diaries blog, I found out about a restaurant called Azia in Minneapolis. This place caught my eye in particular as their website boasts the “Biggest Sake List in Minnesota”. Just how big is the biggest sake list in Minnesota? Is it any good? Can Minneapolis put some ‘Urban’ in their sake? Inquiring minds want to know! So, we made a reservation and I hoped for the best.
We arrived at Azia and we were promptly seated. The decor was pan-asian. The menu was pan-asian and the sake list was, luckily, all japanese.

Rihaku_wandering_poet.jpgWhen I got my hands on the “Biggest Sake list in Minnesota”, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. They offered 21 sakes ranging from $10 – $34 for a 5 oz serving. The menu had a great explanation of basic sake terms and it seemed this place really put some thought into the way they present their nihon-shu.

Azia lists most of the sakes they serve on their website. All the brands are well known and solid. Included among them are: Onikoroshi, Ichinokura, Otokoyama, Tentaka, Mukune and more. I decided to keep focused for the evening and centered my attention on Rihaku. My first glass of the evening was Rihaku “Wandering Poet” (Junmai Ginjo, shimane Prefecture, SMV +3, ALC 15.2%, Seimaibuai 55%, Acidity 1.6). This junmai Ginjo is delicious and a wonderful warmup for the food of the evening. I actually ended up drinking the Rihaku Ginjo with a selection of Oysters that we ordered for appetizers. This was actually perfect because the sake did such a good job of ‘resetting’ my palate after each briny swig of oyster, it really added to my enjoyment.

Rihaku_Nigori.jpgWith my sushi main course, I stuck with Rihaku and ordered the Rihaku Nigori “Cloudy Dreams” (Tokubetsu Junmai, Shimane Prefecture, SMV: +3, ALC: 15.6%, Seimaibuai: 59%, Acidity: 1.6) With a little extra Wasabi mixed into my soy sauce, nigori goes well with sushi. I really enjoyed the Nigori from Rihaku. It was surprisingly light and smooth. Even a touch fruity, which you don’t usually get from nigori. Above all it was so food friendly and enjoyable. I will be looking for this one again!

I was so excited about the Rihaku Nigori that I wanted to get the perfect picture to include in the blog. It turns out that my picture taking (without the flash!) caught the eye of the owner who came over to our table and asked how we were enjoying the sake. I later discovered he thought I was trying to steal the sake list! That’s a very cold-war east-german-spy way of making off with a sake list, eh? Luckily our waitress figured out that I was just a sake obsessed blogger and she quickly smoothed things over. By the end of the evening I’d even been given a copy of the sake list to take home!

If you’re ever in Minnesota and looking for a little (or big) tipple of sake, Azia is hands down THE place to go. They take their nihon-shu seriously and it shows. Go thirsty and leave happy, but be sure to practice your covert secret-spy undercover camera operation before you go.

Tomoe_sushi.gif“Japanese Roulette” is a dangerous game. This is what I call the act of blindly picking unkown sakes off the menu just to “try something new”. The highest risks can have the best rewards, but sometimes things don’t quite go your way.

Manzairaku_junigo.jpgScott and I have been to Tomoe several times, and it’s our open little secret that it’s the best sushi at any price in NYC. The line starts outside half an hour before the doors open… and it’s worth the wait. Normally, I order the best sake on the menu that I know – our dear old friend Hakkaisan. However, I noticed a name on the sake menu that I had never heard of – and with Scott’s permission, I ordered a carafe of this unknown.

What I ordered was Manzairaku “Junigo” No. 12 (Junmai, ALC 15%, Ishikawa prefecture). The carafe arrived and with the first sniff, my sake-spidey sense told me something was wrong. The smell was flat and a tad unwelcoming. Well, you can’t judge a sake by the nose alone,right? Well, then I noticed as I poured, this sake had an unmistakable yellow cast. This was particularly alarming as the Tomeo sake menu described this Junmai using only one word…”clear”. Ok, I’m starting to panic a bit now.

shirakawago.jpgMy first sip of this Junigo and it tasted off. flat. reminded me of somthing like mothballs or tree bark. But, being the optimists we are, Scott and I agreed that the sake perhaps needed to simply warm up ten degrees or so. Ice cold sake direct from the fridge sometimes affects the flavor. Once it warmed a bit, we sipped again. Oi. still no improvement. Now denial started to set in.

“Maybe it will taste better with food?” I suggested. Our amazing sushi deluxes arrive and we dig in. Well, even the best sushi in New York, was not camouflaging those mothballs. As a lame last ditch effort to figure out what the heck was up with this train wreck, I hypothesized… Maybe it’s a taru? A heavy handed Cedar-tinged taru can taste weird, right? A quick check in with the waiter and he confirmed it’s not a taru.

At this point I just give up. It most likely was just old sake past it’s prime. I wasn’t man enough to complain and send it back. Maybe Junigo Junmai was supposed to taste like mothballs? Screw it! I’m not gonna waste all this amazing sushi on some sucky sake.

Then in the back of my mind I hear Bonnie Tyler singing…

I need a hero!
I’m holding out for a hero til the morning light
It’s gotta be strong
And it’s gotta be fast
And it’s gotta be larger than life
I need a hero!

There must be a sake here that can swoop in, save the day and restore my faith in Japanese Roulette!

super_nigori.jpgSo with nothing left to lose, I grab the waiter and we order a nigori i’d never tried before. Scott loves those funky nigoris, but if this one sucked, the whole evening, sake-wise, was down the tubes! no pressure. I got a 300ml bottle of Shirakawago Sasanigori (Junmai Ginjo Nigori, SMV +1, ALC 15.5%, Gifu Prefecture). The moment the Shirakawago hit the table, I knew things were going to be OK!

First off, the little shot glasses that came with the nigori were beautiful and gave me hope the sake would be too. The nose and texture of this nigori was really great. it went down smooth and worked perfectly with the amazing sushi we were having. The mouthfeel was creamy, but lightly so. The well balanced Nigori was there to support the sushi, not demand center stage. delicious! Not only was the evening saved from disaster, but I discovered a nigori I actually really dig! More than that, I learned that it’s OK to take risks out there in Nihon-shu Land. You can’t win them all, but chances are high you’ll come out ahead.

After all this sake Sturm und Drang, I needed to end the meal with an unmitigated sure thing. Green tea ice cream, please… two scoops.

Douzo signMy Boston Sake Geek adventure continues! IF you missed part one of my sake adventure you can read it here.Maddie picked out a new Japanese restaurant called Douzo (131 Dartmouth St Boston, MA 02116 (617) 859-8886)
to try for our sake-centric dinner. This was a great call on her part as this place is new and stylish. Well, stylish on a beige-on-beige, taupe-on-taupe kind of way. The first thing you notice are the soaring 20 foot ceilings.

Looking over the sake menu, there were not a lot of surprises or things I hadn’t had. So, I went with my old “Japanese roulette” technique and ordered what I wasn’t familiar with and… Let’s put it this way – you can’t win every time.

Crazy Milk
The two Sakes I selected were: Crazy Milk Nigori (Oimatsu Brewery) and what they called Osakaya-Chobei Daiginjo (Ozeki Corp).This is alcoholic beverageNow, it should be obvious why I picked this Nigori to try. First, off Scott loves Nigoris. and second of all… Come on! “Crazy Milk”?!?! That is the most amazing name ever. My favorite part of the Crazy milk bottle was the little English disclaimer: “This is alcoholic beverage”. Um, yeah. I don’t think cafeteria’s across America will be serving crazy milk to increase calcium intake among young people.
The taste? The Nigori was rough around the edges and a little bit thick. I think they was going for ‘very creamy’ but it ended up with a slightly unwelcoming texture… I guess it’s what you could call a “crazy” texture.

Ozeki DaiginjoI selected the second sake thinking that the most expensive and only Daiginjo on the menu ($25 for 300ml) had to be worth looking into. When the dark bottle arrived at the table, I was a little deflated to recognized it immediately as a Ozeki product. well, I told me self – it was still a daiginjo and could very well be worth trying. So we poured and I took a sip. I’m not a huge fan of this sake. The best way to describe it was off balance / unharmonious. It wasn’t the subtle, elegant Daiginjo I am used to from other breweries.So there I was, trying to impress my family and friends with my vast sake knowledge and I ended up ordering two duds. We had each sipped about as much from each as we could from the two bottles and there was about a third of a bottle left of each. People – I was seriously thinking about just leaving the sake there – VERY unlike me to leave sake leftovers of any kind. That’s when my sister Maddie had a Stroke Of Genius.

Douzo windwoShe said: “You could try and mix them together.”Huh?! Wha? errr? I mean, Maddie was valedictorian of our high school, so I knew she was smart, but this takes the cake. Well, what do I have to lose? So I took the Ozeki and poured it into the Crazy milk bottle. gave it a shake and we all took a sip. The results were unanimous. These Sakes were better together! The daiginjo thinned out the unpleasant texture of the nigori and the Nigori somehow brought more balance to the taste of the rough daiginjo. Kanpai, indeed!

Not only that, but we invented a new kind of drink!! Not a Sake cocktail, where you mix Sake with juice or another alcohol. This was a sake-on-sake mixture which I’m calling a “Sake-Smashup”! We quickly realized the possibilities were endless. And why not?

Sake Glass at Douzo I see wines all the time that are mixed. for example wines made up of: 70 % merlot, 25 % cabernet franc and 5 % cabernet sauvignon . Why not try a blended sake? something to think about…As a final bon mot, Maddie noted that is was fitting that these sake-sake smashup unions were invented in Massachusetts, the one state in the country where ALL types of Marriages are legal! I’ll drink to that.

The Sake Cru saddles up to the barThe Sake Meetup group, well, ‘met up’ last night at Landmark for a private tasting. It was quite fun as usual. This night was a study in old friends and new friends… this goes for both the sake AND the people!

I knew two of the sakes that were served on sight. (see, I am learning!) These familiar friends were Mineno Hakubai and Otokoyama We started with an old standby Otokoyama “Man’s Mountain”. Check out my last review of Man’s Mountain here. It tasted quite dry.

Paul preps the tasting and chills the sakeI actually think this Junmai may be a little softer and rounder if you drink it the day after it’s been opened.

Another familiar standby was Mineno Hakubai. Check out my review of this sake here. Old Mineno has been dubbed the “smooth operator” and it didn’t disappoint.

If you see this on the sake menu your next time out, it’s a solid choice if you’re not sure what to try.

Our two nigoris: Hitoimusume and RihakuPaul and Lefty did the organizing for tonight. Thanks guys!! They picked up some great sake snacks – crackers, cheese, mochi as well as Paul’s secret ingredient – banana chips – who knew?

I was so glad to see Amanda on hand as well. We always have fun. Great to get her perspective on what we were tasting and an update on Fiasco, too.

There were some sakes that were new to me as well. It’s always a treat to try something new – you’ll always learn something.

Masumi Arabashiri Name Sake just chillin' outThe new sake kids on the block were Nama Masumi Arabashiri, Rehaku Ginjo Nigori and Hitorimusume Junmai Nigori.

Personally, I really enjoyed the Nama Masumi Arabashiri (ALC 17.5%, SMV=0). It’s a classic nama. If you looked up Nama in the dictionary, you’d find a picture of this sake. It’s Nama-ness was hard to miss: young, fresh taste, super fragrant, floral and fruity.

Both Nigoris were creamy and went down smooth. it was a marked contrast to the somewhat sharp and dry Otokoyama. To my palate the Rehaku had the upper hand.

I think it’s fun to compare nigoris. Seems to me that nigori appreciation is an acquired taste. I disliked them at first, but now I’ve really come to enjoy them.

Mimi Checks out OtokoyamaThere were also some really nice new folks at the meeting – Scott, Nick and Mimi. Great to meet you guys and I hope to see you again.

See? You get the best of both worlds when you try new sakes with new friends and familiar sakes with familiar friends… or is that vise versa? um… Kanpai!






Yukiwatari NigoriI got taken out for my birthday last night by Scott and we went to EN, a wonderful Japanese restaurant down on Hudson at Leroy street. The evening started off right with my friend Scott B. arranging to have a bottle of Yukiwatari Nigori sent to the table. Now, Nigori was not traditionally my favorite, but this Nigori really turned my head. Produced by Asabiraki Brewery, this is everything a Nigori should be. It’s creamy and full and totally unique without having that fermenty-ricey flavor I’ve tasted in Nigori before. The food was a dream as well, but I just needed a little something more this being my birthday and all, so I ordered a DaiGinjo off the menu called “Koshi Hikari” only to later learn this is really known as Kirin. Yes, just like the beer. So, they can’t compete with the brand recognition of Kirin beer, so they re-invent themselves as Koshi Hikari, which is really the name of some kind of rice, I think. Hey, it’s cool to have a secret identity – kinda the Bruce Wayne of Sake. Well, it was crisp, granny-smithy and delightful. subtle and elegant. everything a daigino should be.

Kirin DaiGinjoPresented in a stemless sake glass which I think was Riedel. It was a great cap off for a great birthday. Thanks Scott B for the Nigori. Thank you Scott H. for the wonderful dinner and everything else.

Momoya Chop Stick SleeveWe have all been there…Whether it’s being passed over for that promotion, getting splashed by a cab on a rainy day or finding that one-of-a-kind prized collectible you got on Ebay was smashed to bits by the post office, life can suck sometimes. Lucky for me, i’ve found that a few sips of sake is quite a magic tonic that can pull me back from the brink of dispair on those poopy days and, of course it reminds me that there are are things of beauty, complexity and refinement left to explore in the world. Well, 17% ALC content doesn’t hurt either.

Recently, I had to put my magic tonic to work to *eventually* help save a date night with my boyfriend that was quickly degrading into a disappointing evening for the both of us. It all started when we tried a new restaurant that was the worst ever. I mean ever… that’s saying a lot! Ok, It’s Tono Sushi on 7th ave and 20th. STAY AWAY! it’s bad. (Ok,OK! of course it was my suggestion to go there to try someplace “new”! geesh). After such a yucky dinner, scott and I both agreed that some sake would hit the spot and save the evening from total gastonomic ruin. we ran across the street the the wonderful Momoya japanese restaurant. One look inside and it was clear that we would be out of luck. The line waiting for tables was out the door and every table was taken. damn! well, ever the optimists, we set out across chesea looking for a cozy yummy place to have some sake and save the evening…
Veloce wine bar across from Momoya and next to yucky tono sushi has 3 kinds of sake on the menu (who knew?!) but the jam packed scene inside was not inspiring the ‘cozy yummy’ feel we were after. Neither did the tres tragique 20 year old chick outside taking a cigarette break from her merlot wearing a trucker hat that had the word “whatever” printed on it in a colorful faux-urban-graffiti style font. whatever indeed! onward.

our sake wanderings brought us to some other japanese place on 23rd and 8th…. but that place had a problem, too. The bar had these interesting hanging sake bottle lamps but the bottoms of the bottle were cut jagged to let the light flow down and seemed quite disquieting overhead. not my idea of cozy yummy, ( however, I do love the sake bottle lamp idea, minus the jagged edge) onward!

Cream Puff  says Next door on 23rd is the choux factory cream puff shop. by this point, I was quite tempted to discard my quest for sake and bury my sorrows in a gigantic japanese cream puff. ummm. creampuff… but… no… must escape…

Scott and I managed to break away from the gavatational pull of Choux factory
and were quite ready to give up and admit defeat. on the way home we walked one block out of our way to swing by Momoya once more. Lo and behold there was no line and OMG, there were tables free. as it turns out, we ended up walking around so much that it was now almost 10pm. magic!

So told the hostess we wanted to just order sake and the waitress was kind enough to give us a cozy table with a view. things were starting to look up! ok, so Scott and I had been here before and we’ve tried all the sakes they have by the glass. Scott ordered the $10 sake sampler and I got a small carafe of Wakatake Daigngo.

Momoya Sake SamplerFirst to Scott’s Sampler. This is an attractive selection of three unique sakes running from a Junmai to a nigori Ginjo.
First up is the junmai “Hoyo Manamusume” Momoya describes this as:

a welcome departure from harsh “dry” jumai sakes. Mild, soft and gently evocative. crafted from rare Manamusume rice grown only in miyagi prefecture.

This description fits the sake quite well. Scott and I both enjoyed it.

Next in the sampler is a Ginjo “Dewazakura Izumi Judan”. This is described as

a Martini-lover’s sake: dry clear and high octane with a hint of juniper reminiscent of tanquery. no other ginjo combines dryness and edginess to such exhilarating effect.

Yum, I enjoyed this ginjo quite a bit. Needless to say i’m a huge tanquery fan, so any sake with a hint of Gin is for me. This was my favorite of the 3.

Last is the unusual choice of a Nigori Ginjo.”Kamoizumi Nigori Ginjo”.

This premium unfiltered sake is rich creamy and brimming with exuberant flavor. Mildly sweet, yet surprisingly robust, it is an excellent introduction to the world of sake enjoyment

ok, unfiltered Nigori is not my favorite, but Scott is crazy for it and he loved the kamoisumi. for my taste, this nigori tasted a little ferment-y. but I enjoyed it more than my first time drinking it.

Wakatake Daiginjo - Small Carafe at Momoya. yumWhile scott was trying to enjoy his sampler as I was stealing sips from everything, I was enjoying my small carafe of Wakatake DaiGinjo. perfect! the presentation, color, aroma and taste are all wonderful. I was happy to sit back and relax and enjoy every sip of this redemptive carafe, like meeting up with an old friend. And before we knew it, the sake had worked it’s magic just as we’d hoped… our evening had gone from drab to fab and we polished it off with a little green tea mochi for good measure. nice way to end what became the cozy yummy perfect date night.

My last post was about the Brewing process we got to see at the sake meetup. Here is an overview of the Sakes we got to taste. yum. it was a really good selection and I left feeling very… happy! Thanks to Jeff, Paul, Sebastian and everyone for a great event.

Sakes we tasted from the left… Taihei-zan Kimoto Junmai, Sirakawago Sasanigori, Sawanotsuru Zuicho Dai Ginjo (1.8 L), Itami onigoroshi junmai (1.8 L)

Here is a snapshot of our 5th sake we tasted a Niwa No Uguishi Junmai – Daruma label. Here is a review of this sake I found in the Japan Times Online Authored by the revered John Gauntner

Niwa no Uguisu (The Nightingale of the Garden) is brewed at a tiny firm known for putting great care into their brewing. This “Daruma” sake, of which there is also a daiginjo version, bears the image of the founder of Zen. Daruma is dry and narrow in flavor, clean but with a soft pull to the recesses. There is a slight essence of dried autumnal fruit to the fragrance and flavor, backed and delivered by a nice standing acidity. Although it may be hard to find at just any old liquor shop, Niwa no Uguisu Daruma is comparatively easy to find at good sake pubs.

A close up of Taihei-zan Kimoto Junmai. This one was my favorite!

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: