Monday, April 27, 2009

Sake with 50 percent fewer calories debuts

RIKUZENTAKATA, Iwate -- A Japanese sake maker here has released a sake with 50 percent fewer calories than standard rice wine.

Respected sake brewer Suisen Shuzo is aiming the new brand, called Hana no Yoi, at calorie-counting women and middle-aged to older customers worried about their weight.

Click here for the entire article at The Mainichi Daily News, along with the Japanese version of the article.

So how many calories are in a glass of regular sake? From

What is the sugar content of sake, and how many calories are there in a typical serving of sake? There are between 180 and 240 calories, or 20 to 27 grams of carbohydrates, in 5.5 oz glass of sake. Protein and fat are negligible. During the brewing of sake, the yeast cells eat the natural sugar created by the starches in the rice and give off alcohol and carbon dioxide. The starch-to-sugar conversion, and the fermentation of that sugar, take place simultaneously in the same tank. This makes sake unique; in other beverages the conversion to sugar occurs first, and fermentation later. Also, another important parameter to be aware of is the Nihonshu-do . Also called the Sake Meter Value (abbreviated SMV) in English, this is the specific gravity of a sake. It indicates how much of the sugars created from the starches in the rice were converted to alcohol, and how much remained to contribute to sweetness. By ancient convention, the higher the number, the drier the sake. What is the range? In theory, it is open-ended. In practice, + 10 or so is quite dry, -4 or so is quite sweet, and +3 or so is neutral. Keep in mind this parameter is affected by acidity, temperature, accompanying food, and a host of other factors so that it is limited in its usefulness.

Friday, April 24, 2009 is a new online source for premium sake, information about sake, and more. They have joined forces with Beau Timken of True Sake in San Francisco to offer an enticing selection of sake available individually or through two Sake of the Month clubs:

Samurai Select: This group of sakes will focus on Junmai, Honjozo, and some Ginjo brews that speak to folks who like everyday drinking sakes rich in body and feeling. As these brews are a little less milled and pampered they bring out more rice tones and backbone, which translate to a wider spectrum of food pairing opportunities. This selection also lends itself to more temperature plays from chilled to heated.


Emperor Exclusive:
This group of sakes will focus on Daiginjo and Ginjo sakes that speak to those drinkers who like the royal treatment in their brews. These sakes are the best of the best – the ultimate in hand-crafted brews that celebrate the nuances and subtleties of sakes that have been milled to insanely low polishing rates. This selection represents great sipping brews that lend themselves to gentle and subtle food pairings with an emphasis on clean.

You can also order sets based on Timken's "TasteMatch system" (see his book, Sake A Modern Guide), including sets put together for those who like red wine and those who like white wine.

Education is a large part of and so is the social aspect; Timken maintains a blog at the site and there are forums for the community to ask questions and to post their ideas on tastings, pairings and anything else sake related.

I really like the site; it's thoughtfully put together, visually appealing and full of content. Check it out, join the community and order some sake!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

WD-50 tasting menu

I had the tasting menu at WD-50 and, while I didn't have any sake, they do include a sake in the wine pairing , so I'll list it here.

Fluke, milk skin, black chickpea, barberry
'Ode Panos' Brut Domaine Spiropoulos NV (Peloponissos, Greece)

Everything bagel, smoked salmon threads, crispy cream cheese
'Ode Panos' Brut Domaine Spiropoulos NV (Peloponissos, Greece)

Foie gras, passionfruit, chinese celery
Miyasaka Yawaraka 'Sake Matinee' Junmai (Nagano-Prefecture, Japan)

Scallops, tendon, endive, parsley, hazelnut oil
Tokaji Furmint Tokaj Classic 1999 (Tokaj, Hungary)

Cold fried chicken, buttermilk-ricotta, tabasco, caviar
Verduno Pelaverga Fratelli Alessandria 2006 (Piedmont, Italy)

Snails, red lentils, juniper, orange
Verduno Pelaverga Fratelli Alessandria 2006 (Piedmont, Italy)

Rabbit, wild rice polenta, cassis, kale, black olive
Pinotage Kanonkop 2006 (Stellenbosch, South Africa)

Squab, butternut noodles, cream soda, carob
Pinotage Kanonkop 2006 (Stellenbosch, South Africa)

Vanilla ice cream, balsamic, raspberry

Hazelnut tart, coconut, chocolate, chicory
Chenin Blanc "Off the Rack" Plantagenet 2006 (Western Australia)

Carmelized brioche, gala apple, sage, brown butter
Commandaria St. John Keo NV (Lemesos, Cyprus)

Cocoa packets. Chocolate shortbread, milk ice cream

Tasting menu $140, wine pairing $75


So, props for the fois gras/Miyasaka Yawaraka pairing! The meal was quite an experience. I loved when two men sat down at the table next to mine, went into shock when they looked at the menu, asked if they could get salads, and then left - not because of the prices, I'm pretty sure, but because the menu was too adventurous. I enjoyed it all because I love crazy food, although I could live happily without ever having the rabbit sausage again. The most INSANELY delicious thing was the fried chicken. Of course it sounds so ordinary, but it was like no other fried chicken. The foie gras with sweet passionfruit sauce, the vanilla ice cream with the balsamic hiding inside, and the unexpected everything bagel were pretty awesome too.

Oh, they also offer a bottle of aged sake with the dessert wine list
"Darume Masamune Junmai Koshu
Gifu Prefecture, Japan ~ aged junmai sake
aroma of roast nuts, dried fruits and spices
290.00 bottle (720 ml)

Kaseki at Rosanjin

While in New York, I had one of the most memorable meals of my life at Kaiseki restaurant Rosanjin.

“Delicious food requires plates of a comparable level of beauty”
Rosanjin Kitaoji 1883 ~ 1959

Rosanjin is inspired by the artist and food critic Rosanjin Kitaoji and his lifetime quest for beauty and art through cuisine. The kaiseki meal with sake pairing really is an extraordinary experience. It's available at 3 price levels, $120, $150, and $200 and I tried the $150 menu with the sake pairing for an additional $98. I knew that, while I was in for a memorable evening, I would probably need help with the remembering and they kindly agreed to email a copy of my menu. The sake pours were really beyond generous. Do you know those glass bottles with small "pockets" for ice? Well, for each sake selection they first poured (from a 720 ml bottle) a small glass and then they half-filled the glass bottle! After about the 3rd pour I asked them to just fill the glass and forgo the bottle.

Kaiseki meal with sake pairing, the menu, April 1, 2009

Zatsuki: Shimmered spring vegetables with ise shrimp on top
Sake: Dassai Nigori - Yamaguch

Tsunagi: Mackerel sushi

Owan: Giant clam in sake based soup

Tsukuri: Toro & fluke sashimi, simmered octopus in sweet soy sauce
Sake: Ugo-no-tsuki - Hiroshima

Yakimono: Grilled black cod marinated in saikyo miso sauce
Sake: Square one - Nagano

Shiizakana: Abalone steamed with sake
Sake: Shimerhari tsuru Jun - Niigata

Takiwase: Deep fried butterfish with tofu skin, golden sauce on top
Sake: Kubota manjyu - Niigata

Syokuji: Japanese premium beef steak, rice & miso soup
Sake: Kanchiku - Nagano

Dessert: Gelato, rice cake with red bean paste

Rosanjin also offers an a la carte menu.


Rosanjin also has a delivery menu with the most beautiful looking bento boxes I've ever seen. Seriously, go to their delivery page and you will cry because you are not it their delivery area!

Tempura and sake for lunch at Kai, shopping at Ito-en

I had lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Kai, which is only a few blocks away from the book fair. Usually I have dinner there when I'm in New York, but I had limited time so decided to visit for lunch and, really, lunch was as special an occasion as dinner at Kai.

First I was brought a welcome cup of green tea which was refilled throughout the meal. I decided on the large prawn and vegetable tempura set which included tempura, miso soup, assorted vegetables, housemade oshinko, white rice and, for dessert, fruit, yazu cheesecake and jasmine creme brulee. I asked for advice on a sake to drink with lunch and went with the Hakkaisan ginjo ($17/glass). I think it was the best tempura that I've had in the U.S.!

Here are the stats for the sake:

Brewery: Hakkai-Jyozo Sake Brewery
Prefecture: Niigata
Rice: Yamada-Nishiki, etc.
Polishing rare: 50%
Alcohol: 15.6%
SMV: +6
Acidity: 1.2

After lunch I went downstairs to Ito-en tea shop and bought some tea and cups and also this glass pot and warmer that was marketed as a sake heater. It seems more like something you would use to keep tea warm - the little candle is not hot enough to warm sake that was stored in the refrigerator.

I also got this incredibly cute masu with a "saucer."

A bit of Japan in New York

I had a nice trip to New York for the ABAA book fair that took place April 3-5 at the Park Armory and while I was pretty busy with books, I got to visit a few of my old and new favorite places.

At Takashiyama I had the East/West Afternoon Tea (see bad photo) which included 4 small sandwiches (spring roll, cucumber on rice, smoked salmon on rice and turkey and horseradish on white bread), vegetable chips, fruit (strawberries, melon, pineapple, blueberries, blackberries, and grapes), candied nuts, custard, chocolates, cookies and cake. Something was seriously wrong with the service - there were several servers and they must all have assumed that someone else was helping me. Don't go there if you are in a hurry. The tea and treats made up for it and I can't stay mad at them. Right outside the the cafe they sell tea, cups and pots, incense, cookies, etc. I bought a teacup, some incense and a few other things and the customer service in that department was outstanding.

I had only about 5 minutes to visit sake shop Sakaya, so I just ran in and asked if they had any nama sake. That is how I ended up with a bottle of Masumi Arabashiri "First Run." I can't wait to spend more time looking at all the sake and maybe attending one of Sakaya's many tastings on my next trip to New York.

Down the street was Cha-an Japanese Tea House where I had an order of green tea truffles on reserve. They were packaged in a lovely bamboo gift "bag," and were a beautiful pale green color. I shared them with some friends after I got home and the opinion that they were delicious was unanimous. While at Cha-an I ordered the 3 item dessert kaiseki which included mixed berry ice cream with a sesame crunch cookie, orange chocolate mousse and creme brulee, and a cookie and poundcake, along with several cups of genmaicha tea.

I also made a quick stop at Kyoto-fu where I had several boxes of sweets on reserve. While there I tried the ginger-infused soymilk rice okayu with apple-cranberry compote, seven spiced tuile, and shiso cream. They have a nice sake list with over 30 different kinds of junmai, junmai ginjo, daiginjo, nigori, aged, and sparkling sake and several sake flights if you want to experiment. Also, they currently have a great sake promotion, Sake Sundays with half off all bottles and glasses (check the website for more details).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Serenading a Hong Kong saké shop

Elvis! I can't read most of this blog, but I know it's another reason to get back to Hong Kong!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Notes from the saké and cheese tasting

*The Japan Meteorological Agency reported that cherry blossoms will open earlier than usual this year. Check here for the forecast.*

The saké and cheese tasting at Cooks of Crocus Hill was a great success. Ken Liss of Premier Cheese Market and Mark Hamer of Vino Source led the group through the tasting with 6 cheeses and 5 sakés. I thought that we would try each saké with one of the cheeses, but we tried each saké with each cheese. Of course, that made a lot more sense and it was amazing to try all the combinations.

1. Greek Kiss, Alabama, goat's milk
2. Brie de Meaux, France, cow's milk
3. Patacabra, Spain, goat's milk
4. Prairie Breeze, Iowa, cow's milk
5. Cereta alt Urgell, Spain, cow's milk
6. Shropshire Blue, England, cow's milk
Bonus cheese: Ewephoria, Sheepsmilk gouda

Sakés with some notes on the pairings
1. Nanbu Bijin (Southern Beauty), junmai ginjo
No notes...was this the last saké we tasted???

2. Mukune (Shadows of Katano), nigori junmai ginjo
People tasted mushrooms with the Brie de Meaux, a candy taste with the Prairie Breeze and "turned butter" with the Cereta alt Urgell. I actually liked the Cereta alt Urgell pairing.

3. Mukune (Root of Innocence), junmai ginjo
Chocolate was noted with the Greek Kiss. The class favorite seemed to be the Shropshire Blue. Again, I liked the Cereta alt Urgell. Do I have bad taste? Others found it bitter.

4. Sato no Homare (Pride of the Village), junmai ginjo
This saké, when combined with the Certa alt Urgell, made for a strong chocolate taste. My favorite pairing with this was the Patacabbra.

5. Chiyonosono (Sacred Power), junmai ginjo
I liked the Greek Kiss with this. Interestingly, it cut the aftertaste of the saké.

The differences in the pairings were pretty amazing, especially considering that all the saké were junmai ginjo. It would be fun to try pairing cheese with other saké, such as a koshu, honjozo, even a junmai daiginjo (would the cheese overpower the most delicate saké?) I guess that's a homework project!

I want to mention that Ken Liss knows cheese...I'm really looking forward to visiting the shop. They are taking part in "Ladies' night out" on March 12th at 50th and France and offering 10% off all purchases from 4-9 pm and men can get in on the deal too.