Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Long and Winding Road

One of the most beautiful things to see is the bright yellow leaves of the Ginkgo biloba set against the deep blue sky.  Its this time of year that I actually forget that the leaves of the Ginkgo tree are not always yellow and actually green.  For some strange reason the yellow looks right.  But as they hang on for dear life, subtle breezes pull them from their perch and they gracefully sway to the ground.  Out with the old, in with the new.  The Ginkgo tree, considered a living fossil, has been on the planet as far back as 5.3 million years ago.  Once thought to be extinct, I find myself delighted and lucky to be able to view these trees, even if it is the "lowly" street tree, somehow transporting myself back in time, captivated by its unique leaves and perfectly arranged little "pegs" on the branches.  
For many years, I searched out for the Denshu 'Migaki Yonwarigobu' Junmai Daiginjo from Nishda Brewing Company in Aomori Prefecture.  Once thought to be extinct except perhaps to the lucky few, I have finally come to the end of that road.  Having tasted the Denshu Tokubetsu Junmai, the Junmai Daiginjo was like an elusive snow leopard for the tired and cold photographer.  On the menu in many an izakaya, but never available.  Until yesterday!
As I sat in the window with the sun filtering through its bottle, the calligraphy of Denshu in its metallic green glory, I contemplated 4 years worth of waiting.  The anticipation was almost overwhelming.  I pondered over the kaori (aroma) for quite sometime.  Others must have seen the look on my face, as they asked what was so great.  What was so great?  Rich ripe green apples and butterscotch was so great.  As with most first tastings, I used a wine glass.  As I swirled this elixer, its legs clung close to the glass falling slowly towards the bottom.  Like all Denshu sake, the muroka (non-charcoal filtered) quality cast a soft amber tone, which only added to its depth.  Ahh, but I haven't yet tasted it...
Almost immediately, the velvety lines of "Migaki Yonwarigobu" enveloped the palate lusiously filling every crevice.  Just when I thought it could be too much, my good friend shibumi, astringency, kicked in, lightening the palate with a clean and refreshing touch.  This mid-palate experience was then followed by a most delightful tingling on the tip of the tongue as the sake's finish gracefully danced away.  
Beautifully exceeding my expectations, there's no wonder why California has been allocated just 60 of these glorious bottles.  When only 4,500 are produced each year, the good people of Aomori City are very lucky indeed.  Should you happen to be in San Francisco, I highly encourage you to seek out this brew.  You can definitely find it at Ozumo, but only until it lasts.  And if its gone, don't be put off if you are left with the Tokubestu Junmai, that in itself is quite a treat.  Itadakimasu!!

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year of Happiness and Hard Work

One more time around the sun.  Life is great and quite a bit of fun.  So it didn't surprise that I found myself working over the New Year, which just so happens to be the Year of the Ox.  Hard working, strong, committed and enduring.  Waking up the next day with more of a hangover than I would have like to have, New Years dinner had to be made and I was the one.

Recently, the creative gourmet bug came through and provided it's inspiration.  My dinner menu is set!

Roasted Pork Loin stuffed with herbs and roquefort cheese, with crushed hazelnuts
Cranberry and Apple Sauce
Cornbread Stuffing with apple, dried cherries and walnuts
Roasted purple potatoes, sweet potatoes and butternut squash
Fresh salad with grapefruit and blue cheese.

Seasonal and yummy.  Each dish finished wonderfully (thank goodness).  The friends arrived and we toasted to the New Year.  A bit of sparkling rose to start off the night.  At this point the hangover subsided which made room for a little bit of Hakkaisan!

Hakkaisan is one of those wonderful creations from Niigata.  Known for tanrei karakuchi style sakes this brew is light, dry and refined.  It definitely lived up to the reputation.  Hakkaisan is continually listed in the top 10 sakes of Japan.  Why?  This style of brewing makes for an approachable sake with easy drinkability.  Being in the seasonal spirit, we decided to warm this sake, ever so gently.  It's tight, clean appearance relaxed tremendously.  Now, its silky and supple sweetness danced on my palate and surprisingly the finish was quick and light.  Wow!  It was delicious.