Wine Tasting at La Vigne

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Service: Excellent and very friendly
Facilities: great washroom, great cleanliness overall
Prices: reasonable, good value
no-smoking-logo!

As I found myself not busy with cricket due to heavy rain the night before I took the opportunity to visit la Vigne, the new French wine shop in Shizuoka which is conveniently equipped with a standing bar.
As usual I had the opportunity of making new from vastly different regions and ways of life as I tasted one of the dozen wines on offer:

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Region: Alsace
Grapes: Pinot d’Alsace
Year: 2007
Producer/owner: Laurent Barth at Bennwihr

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Clarity: Very clear and clean
Colour: Golden hue
Aroma: Light and fruity. Muscat. Elegant
Taste: Light, fruity, well balanced by pleasant acidity. Shortish tail. Light impression lingering at the back of the plalate. Muscat, memories of sweet raisins. Fleeting.

Overall: Would do well as an aperitif. Would marry well with light vegetables hors d’oeuvres and white flesh fish.
On the other hand, was subdued by the cheese I ate with it,
Probably best drunk on its own, very slightly chilled.

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The “cheese tray” included (from top left around the clock):
Laguiole, Brie de Meaux, Bleu de Gex and 25-month Gouda.

LA VIGNE
420-0852 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Gofuku-Cho, 17-2, 1F (within walking distance for Shizuoka JR Station in front of Fugetsuro!)
Tel. & Fax: 054-2054181
Business hours: 10:00~22:00
HOMEPAGE (Japanese)

Must-see tasting websites:
-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery
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English Sake Brewer Master in Japan: Phillip Harper (1)

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A lot has been written and will be written both here in Japan and abroad on Phillip Harper as he has, with the likes of John Gauntner, Timothy Sullivan and Melinda Joe, established himself as one of the references proving once for all that Japanese sake has at last expanded beyond the confines of this island for the good of all.
It is only a question of time when sake breweries will become a part of life like wine and beer abroad as demonstrated by the five existing branches of large Japanese breweries in the United States employing a full American staff and Moto I, the entirely owned and run American Sake Brewery.

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What makes the difference is that Phillip has gone as far as becoming the only foreign sake “toji”/master brewer in a Japanese brewery, namely Ki no Shita Brewery in Kyoto Prefecture!
An Oxford graduate hailing from Cornwall, it took him 18 years of sheer courage and guts to break into the closely guarded world of Japanese sake to gain recognition and earn his master brewer status in 2001.
The media (including The Los Angeles Times) finally take good note of his achievements when he was formally asked by Owner Yoshito Kinoshita to become his new Master Brewer (incidentally Phillip had already held that position in Osaka for two years).

I have always been intrigued by this fellow sake-loving foreigner, and when Melinda Joe and Etsuko Nakamura started sending me some of his bottles, I decided it was grand time that I atoned for my ignorance and tasted his sake which has won so many fans in Japan and abroad!

Before I continue with this first of three (and hopefully more) bottles tasting report, I would like to point out that some will not agree with my heavily Shizuoka sake influenced palate and my “wine” tasting methods (just can’t get rid of my Burgundian origin!). I will just invite them to drink, taste and compare notes!

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Ki No shita Brewery (kyoto Fu)
Tamagawa (Brand name), Junmai, Nama Genshu (unaltered original pressed sake), Muroka (unfiltered), Kimoto (traditional brewing method)
Rice: Gohyakumangoku
Rice milled down to 77%
Alcohol contents: 19~20 degrees

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Almost transparent
Aroma: fruity, banana
Body: Velvety
Taste: Strong attack backed by alcohol.
Dry. Complex. Shortish tail. Fruity: Musk Melon. Coffee beans and cherries appearing later.
Hold its own well with food with a light mellow turn.

Overall: A sake devised for food, especially heavy food.
Strong, almost aggressive sake with an uncompromising character.
Turns more complex with the second glass. Elusive at times, but always with a fruity note so remiscent of Musk Melon.
For strong sake officionados!

PHILLIP’S NOTES:

Like all the kimoto and yamahai sakes we do here, this was made without the use of anything but water, rice and koji. We do not
add cultured yeast or anything else to the mash. It is pre-Meiji brewing, and the kimoto under question is precisely the kind of sake that we read about in Meiji Period texts – SMV well into double figures on the plus side, junmai of course, acidity well over two, and comfortably at modern levels of alcohol.

The rice for the kimoto you tasted is organic Gohyakumangoku grown 15 miles away near the haunt of the Oriental White Stork/コウノトリ (as depicted on the label). The methods are different from standard organic rice farming, as the prime intention is to provide a habitat for these
amazing birds. As you can see from the red sticker, some of the
price goes towards a support organization. This project is all about the
birds, so it would be great if you could give them a plug. FYI, the original artwork is by Sakane Katsuke, an eminent artist who happens to be the boss’s brother-in-law and is also the creator of our excellent Tamagawa logo.

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Must-see tasting websites:
-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery
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Please check the new postings at:
sake, shochu and sushi

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TAKY’S classic Cakes (7): Fedora

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I have just discovered his new creation by talented Takuya Hanai and shared with my students.
I have to keep a constant lookout as this talented and still young patissier has a habit to offer new cakes almost every week.

This cake, Fedora, although fairly simple in concept, is a small gem:
On a thin layer of chocolate chips studded chocolate sponge, he first lay a layer of chocolate bavarois/mousse, then again, but twice a thick, a caramel bavarois/mousse with a final layer of thick caramel syrup.
Breaking through the whole and tasting the combination of the various tastes all at the same time reveals the sublime qualities of this little marvel!

To appreciate with a great coffee or English tea!

TAKY’S
420-0839 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Takajo, 1-11-10
Tel.: 054-255-2829
Opening hours: 11:00~22:00
Closed on Sundays

Please check the new postings at:
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Japanese Seasonal Fish: Striped Horse mackerel/Shimaaji

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Shimaaji, or Striped Horsemackerel is one variety of Aji/Horsemackerel-Saurel.
Although the season is said to be in Summer, the taste varies little with the time of the year.
Striped Horsemackerel caught by anglers off the Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka Prefecture, are said to be the best in Japan.
It is known under the other names of Ookami, Kose and Katsuoaji.
It is very popular as sashimi:

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or as tataki (tartare), my favourite, with a dash of fresh grated ginger:
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Of course, as a sushi, it has many lovers:

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The best sushi restaurants will prepare the sashimi or sushi from live specimen swimming in their tanks and later serve the bones and head deep-fried. They will serve the whole fish deep-fried for the guests who are so keen on eating raw fish!

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Recently, breeding the fish from their eggs off Chichijima Island has been successful, meaning more on our plates in the future!

Please check the new postings at:
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Japanese Home-made Lunch of the Day

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With all the bentoes the Missus is (I was going to say “kindly” but don’t forget she eats the same lunch after all! LOL) preparing for me every Monday and Tuesday I have been asked what would be typical lunch at home.
Frankly speaking, it varies all the time, depending on the Missus’ mood and my own (rare) requests.
But today was a bit special. This morning, April Fool’s Day, I had to go through a stomach scan on my doctor’s orders (which revealed nothing serious, fortunately, apart of a big dent in this month budget!), which meant I hadn’t been allowed to eat for 18 hours (or drink for 58 hours!). As I was about to depart for the hospital, the Missus sent me off saying: “Don’t worry, I’ll prepare a nice healthy Japanese lunch as you like them!”
That could explain that for all the anaesthesics I had to ingurgitate, I stayed conscious during the whole operation!

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Because I did not have to sleep off all the medicine I managed to come home earlier than scheduled and take pictures of the meal as it came onto the table:
The salad was made with three types of potatoes: yellow sweet potato, violet sweet potato and regular potato to which was added cucumber cubes of the same size, “hijiki” sweet seaweed, lettuce with gomadare/sesame dressing.

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Naturally I had my tamagoyaki/Japanese omelette. The above picture shows it as it came out of the pan.

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It was then cut to bite size (half for each of us!) and served with “Kawaire Daikon” sprouts and a dash of ponzu.

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As for the meat, I had the Missus’ special: “motsu nikomi”/Japanese-style pork tripes stew with veg and tofu. (I had a second serving).

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As for the rice, I had rice steamed with shreds of sweet umeboshi/Japanese pickled plums. (I had a second serving of that, too!)

We had some small cakes for dessert.
I was so full that I had to sleep it off!

Tonight I ‘ll be able to open a bottle of sake at last! LOL

Please check the new postings at:
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