Archive for the ‘Sake’ Category
It has been a long time coming, but Toronto has a brewery producing high-quality sake likely to impress even the most discerning of critics. The Ontario Spring Water Sake Company currently offers six regular and four limited items.
On a cold winter afternoon I attended a tasting tour of the brewery which is appropriately located in a nineteenth century distillery. Following an explanation of how sake is made and a look at the brewery floor, which was surprisingly compact, I tasted five of the current offerings. Generally, the brewing style is sweet and fragrant and each has its own distinct flavour and character. Choosing a favorite is difficult; each one was excellent. Some would be a perfect accompaniment for food and some best enjoyed on their own.
The nigori zake was smooth and flavourful, but the real treat was the slightly cloudy shiboritate from batch 33. I looked at the snow blowing outside the window an thought this is the perfect way to celebrate winter.
Spring weather does not get any better than this. Cloudless sky, cool breeze and green rice fields with blue mountains in the distance. Naoko’s day off so we went to Osaka in the afternoon. Spent the time walking and sight-seeing.
Listened to a very good local punk rock band playing in front of JR Osaka Umeda station. Jeff, my God Son, a serious punk rocker, would approve.
In the evening we went to one of my favourite restaurants in Namba, 三間堂、 San Gen Dou. Take a look at the attached; it may appear to be a slushie in a box, but it is really Yuki Doke Zake, (melting snow sake.) Presented with a small dish of black sesame tofu (left), don’t believe what you learned in medical school about low temperatures slowing reactions, this innocent-looking treat will hit one like a Shinkansen on the fast track. A frozen glass is filled with very cold sake such that it overflows, filling the box which is also frozen. Almost instantly the sake — take your pick, dry or fruity — turns to ice. The challenge is to consume it without getting any on one’s kimono.
Wherever this note finds you, I hope it finds you well, J
Original note written April 25, 2010.
When the summer is hot, as it is at the moment, I usually keep a melon seeded and cut into ready-to-eat-pieces in the Frigidaire.
I arrived home from the gym hungry and craving something cold, and filling. There was not much cold in the house at the time but I did have cantaloupe and bocconcini. I made my own variation of a Caprese salad by putting a little balsamic glaze on top; a healthy instant cool-down.
For those concerned that this is insufficient to restore one after a heavy workout I recommend a cheeseburger for dessert.
In August 2009 I bought a guinomi (ぐい吞； sake cup) in Seto, Aichi made by a local potter named Yamaguchi Masato (山口真人). Masato is the sixth generation of a family of potters. Their pottery is named Western Kiln and is located in Akazu, just outside the town of Seto. The cup, named Summer and shown in Fig. 2, below, is glazed with abstract oribe colours of green, orange and beige. The surface texture is rough and the colours are bright. It was the first in a small collection inspired by Steve Naegele. I returned in December and bought a second piece, Autumn.
The morning of December 5th was cool and cloudy as we boarded the Kintetsu train for Nagoya at Saidiaji. I enjoyed a decadent breakfast of curry donut and coffee; my treat as this was my last full day in Japan of this visit.
The train has a camera at the front and screens in the carriages so one could enjoy the views both from the front and windows at the same time. The scenery in the mountains between Yagi and Haibara was spectacular: muted autumn colours and mist-shrouded peaks.
At Nagoya I bought an umbrella for Naoko while transferring trains and we continued the journey to Seto, arriving in the early afternoon. Gone was the eye-burning sunshine of August, replaced with rain which alternated between drizzle and downpour. Calling Western Kiln we found it would be necessary to take a taxi from the train station to their studio. My plans for a photographic essay of the numerous Art Deco bridges of central Seto would have to wait until next time.
Western Kiln consists of three buildings: a cafe and showroom, a Meiji-era house used as a showroom and a studio. We were greeted by Mrs. Yamaguchi (mother of Masato) and taken into the cafe for coffee, conversation and a look at some of the wares. On a table just inside the door I saw a guinomi very similar in style and form, however much more subtly coloured to the one I had purchased last August. I instinctively knew this was the one. The notion of the artist struggling in adversity vanished in the rain as Mrs. Yamaguchi informed us that her son was in the studio watching surfing videos in preparation for an upcoming trip to Hawaii.
After viewing the entire selection, as expected, I settled on the first piece, the subtle oribe guinomi. Naoko gave it to me as a present. Mrs. Yamaguchi drove us back to the train station, showing us the clay quarry which has supplied the region’s potters for hundreds of years along the way.
It was not my intention to acquire a matching set, but when placed beside the original, one could quickly see the similarities and truly appreciate the subtle beauty of the form and colour of the new piece. The green and orange, so prominent in the first are found only in small patches close to the foot; it had captured the colours of a rainy autumn day in Japan.
Despite the differences between the cups I can attest that sake consumed from either is delicious. Kampai!
Had a an incredibly hectic afternoon in Kyoto browsing bookshops and drinking coffee. Since the afternoon had become quite warm I decided to pick up a cool drink for the train ride home to Nara.
It is clear that the Kyoto Prefecture authorities don’t share the Ontario attitude toward the sale of alcohol. Witness the attached; chilled individual servings of wine, shochu, coolers, whiskey, beer and sake. Yes, its all booze; that entire display is ready-to-consume alcohol, and that’s only the small cold stuff. And, its in a department store, so one can also conveniently pick up a designer bag or pair of socks.
Naoko is on the overnight shift at the hospice tonight so I am wandering aimlessly around the local supermarket waiting for the the sushi to go on final offer.
More over dinner (once I get it,) and hyperactive animation on TV.