Category Archives: Tasting

Umeshu by Shidaizumi Brewery

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I already the occasion to taste this new umeshu (“Japanese plum liqueur”) when I visited Shidaizumi Brewery in Fujieda City last August before it was put on sale. But due to a hectic schedule before leaving fro France, I did not have the time to make any report.
To amend for the hiatus, I bought and tasted a bottlelast night!

This umeshu is made with sake and ume/Japanese local plum extract, making it quite extravagant in comparison to what is usually marketed as “umeshu”)
The alcohol contenet is not so high at only 11 degrees.

Clarity: very clear

Colour: light orang-pink

Aroma: dry plums, drier than expected.

Body: light and smooth.

Taste: Complex and elegant. Drier than expected. Easy to drink and calling for a second and a third sip. Welcome acidity lingering over the palate

Overall: a great aperitif or refreshing drink on a hot summer day/night. Elegant. Adult. Deserves to stand beside European first-class fruit alcohols. Best drunk chilled or on the rocks.

Shizuoka Beer 2-1: Bayern Meister Beer-Prinz

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Bayern Maeister Beer Co. Ltd. is based in Fujinomiya City and has employed for some while a Master Brewer from Southern Germany called Stefan Rage who is deservedly making his own name in the Shizuoka microbrewery world.

“Prinz” is the first brew I had the pleasure to taste.

Product name: Prinz Draught beer
Contents volume: 330 ml
Alcohol: 5.5%
Ingredients: malt, hops and live yeast all imported from Southern Germany.

Clarity: clear and clean
Colour: Golden
Foam: solid and regular
Aroma: both light and sharpish/grapefruit-Oranges
Taste: Light, easy to drink. Welcome acidity/light oranges and grapefruit. Lingers on the palate.

Comments: Refreshing and reassuringly solid.Goes very well with food. A good summer drink.

Bayern Meister Beer Co. Ltd.
Shizuoka Prefecture, Fujinomiya City, Kami-Ideji, Kawaharatan, 1254-1
Tel.: 0544-443311

Shizuoka Beer 1-1: Tenjingura Weizen

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Since we are in the middle of an extraordinarily hot summer, it is about time we delve in the local beers! And there are more than you might think! Considering the abundance of great water in Shizuoka Prefecture, we should wonder why we are not afloat lakes of beers put out by local breweries!

The first of a (hopefuly) long series shall start with a brew by Tenjingura Brewery in Hamamtsu City:

Name: Tenjingura Beer-Weizen
Yeast: German Weizen yeast
Ingredients: More than 50% Wheat malt
Volume: 330 ml
Alcohol: 5%

Colour: Nice darkish amber
Clarity: Clear
Foam: fine and disappearing quickly
Aroma: Bread, yeast
Body: Velvety on the palate
Taste: Fruity, Yeasty, bread

Comments: Both refreshing and nourishing. Almsot sweet with very little acidity. A beer for all seasons.

Tenjingura/Hamamatsu Brewery-Distillery
420-0808 Shizuoka Ken, Hamamatsu City, Tenjin Machi, 3-57
Tel.: 053-4616145
Fax: 053-4633851
Homepage

Izakaya: Nanase

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It was the turn of Mr. Kawashima, a member of our “Monthly Monday Eatout Group” to choose our meting place in August, and he elected for our ever-growing group (we accounted for 7 participants this time!) an original izakaya called Nanasei.
The restaurant was created 6 years ago by Mrs. Junko Sunada on the first floor of the large house she lives in with her family.
Actually the first floor consists of a counter (see picture above, sitting 6) and a Japanese tatami room (sitting 6~7).
The place is very comfortable and easy-going but sophisticated at the same time, all that for comparatively reasonable price. You have more the impression to eat at home than in izakaya/restaurant. It makes the place all the more attractive for small groups searching relative peace and quiet in an intimate environment.
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Mrs. Sunada makes a great use of local products, especially vegetables, with an accent on lightness and familiar (as of family) tastes, all the while creating original cuisine for all to enjoy, whatever the age or gender. A vegetarian (that I am not) could very well order or reserve a full meal there!
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The more you eat, the more you feel like drinking, and I have a suspicion that Mrs. Sunada has mastered the art to induce a customer into sampling her drinking menu!
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Now, the last is the real reason behind our friend’s choice!
As he is a fervent lover of sake, the menu gives him ample cause for rejoicing apart of the beer and wine:
I will cite only the truly local sake among the long list:
Kaiun (Doi Brewery, Kakegawa City)
Shosetsu (Kanzawagawa Brewery, Yui City)
Hatsukame (Okabe-cho, Sida Gun)
Karakkaze (Hana No Mai Brewery, Hamamatsu City)

I would recommend Nanasei both to couples and groups who wish to share a gastronomic adventure away from the tussle of the town.
Set menus and a la carte are available. I would suggest both for value and interest to choose the set menu of the day and eventually add one or two more dishes if you are still hungry!

Nanase
Address: 420-0833 Shizuoka City, Higashi Takajo 2-40 (Go up Kitakaido from Shin Shizuoka Center, turn right at Casino Pachinko, second corner)
Tel.: 054-2495551
Fax: 054-2486644
Business hours: 17:30~22:30
Closed on Sundays and 2nd and 3rd Mondays
Reservations advised

Shizuoka Agricultural Products: Nashi Pear

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The Nashi pear, Pyrus pyrifolia, is sometimes called the Asian pear . It has also been called Japanese pear or Taiwan Pear, as well as sand pear, apple pear, bapple, papple, and bae, from the Korean 배. In India is it called nashipati. Nashi pears are widely grown for their sweet fruit, a popular food in East Asia. They are sweet on the tree and are eaten crisp or else bletted.
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Nashi pears generally are not baked in pies or made into jams because they have a high water content and a crisp, grainy texture, very different from the buttery European varieties. Also, Nashi pears are not as intensely sweet, having a more refreshing, light taste.

They are grown in various areas in Japan under different cultivar and brand names.
I have the luck to be offered every summer a full box of them coming from Yaizu City where their brand name is “Shinsui”/新水. They are the perfect fruit for a hot summer and have far more value than a whole bottle of soda!

Shizuoka Izakaya: Taisaku

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It certainly took me a long time, but I finally paid a visit to Taisaku, the third oldest Izakaya in Shizuoka City! It has entered it sixty-ninth year of existence and is still going solid thanks to a strong sense of tradition nurtured by the family down to the present 3rd and 4th generations.
It has alway enjoyed a great reputation and certainly deserves it!
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Taisaku prides itself in serving, whenever possible, products from the local seas and lands. The sashimi are true delicacies, especially raw sakura shrimp (large pic above), not easy to serve so fresh unless you have a direct contact in Yui City, or katsuo/bonito thanks to Yaizu City fishermen. The aji/horsemackerel was a beauty, too. I had to limit myself to those three raw servings this time and will have to come regularly to sample the whole menu changing every day (impossible!). I had time and stomach space left to sample their “kisu to anago no satsumaage”, a fish paste made from two fish caught in Suruga Bay and cooked to perfection.

Now, if you know me well, there need be another reason for my introducing an Izakaya: the local sake!
I gave up on posting the labels for the simple reason that the list is too long! Here you are:
Garyubai Dai Ginjo (Sanwa Brewery, Shimizu Ku)
Isojiman Junmai Ginjo + Hionjozo (Yaizu City)
Hatsukame (Shida Gun)
Kaiun (Doi Brewery, Kakegawa City)
Matsu Ichi, including Taruzake/sake from the cask and “kan”/warm (Shizuoka City)
Shosetsu Junmai (Yui City)
Kokkou (Fukuroi City)
Karakkaze (Hana no Mai Brewery, Hamamatsu City)
8 Breweries for 11 types of sake, all from Shizuoka Prefecture!

As Taisaku is located in Central Shizuoka just behind Shin Shizuoka Center, expect it to be full with patrons of all ages, genders and status!
If you wish to talk about local history, you will find the master of the house quite amenable indeed. Not only did he took out old books for me, but he also gave me the name of another Brewery that existed before WWII!

Taisaku
420-0858 Shizuoka City, Aoi-Ku, Tenmacho, 1-10 (entry on 1F, restaurant on 2F)
Tel.: 054-2531639
Business hours: 17:30~?
Closed on Sundays
Parties up to 20 possible on 3F

Soba/Buckwheat Restaurant: Yoshino

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I love soba, and many Japanese and expats do too!
It is not only great for health (vegetarians, listen carefully), it is tasty and satisfying!
Unfortunately there is soba and soba. Meaning: a lot of places do have to be avoided…
What makes Yoshino special is that they are very exactting about their quality and serve only soba on the day. If they run out, they simply close the place!
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For the connoisseurs hey serve both ni-hachi (80%) and ju-wari (100% which tend to run out quickly!)
Although Mr. Hiromichi Yoshino opened his restaurant only in 1999 after serving his time in another famous soba restaurant, Kuromugi in Shizuoka, the place has become so popular you do have to choose your time of the day to enjoy the food. Actually, you ought to take your time as this is a real “slow-food” soba restaurant. As it sits only 22 plus a few at the counter, you will understand it could become a scramble sometimes.
The more for its side dishes (“tsumami”):
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The “tamagoyaki” (fine, some vegetarians might not agree!) and the:
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“yakimiso” (soba/buckwheat powder mixed with miso and cooked under the grill), a must in any good soba restaurant.
But people who really know me would not be convinced if I fail to mention that also serve Shizuoka sake!
They serve no less than 8 kinds!:
Fujinishiki/Arabashiri (Shibakawa Cho)
Hatsukame/junmai + Kame dai ginjo 3 year-old koshu (Okabe cho)
Isojiman/ dai ginjo + junmai ginjo (Yaizu City)
Kikuyoi/daiginjo (Fujieda City)
Onnanakase/Oomuraya-Wakatake daiginjo (Shimada City)
Kokkou/junmai ginjo (Fukuroi City)
Now, a little secret for the sake lovers, these high-quality sake certainly come cheaper than anywhere else!

Apart of the whole gamut of cold and hot soba, they serve exquisite tempura, satsumaage, oniage, yakimiso,and so on.

Last but not least it becomes a no-moking place at lunch!

Yoshino
420-0839 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Takajo Machi, 1-7-10 (just behind Shin Shizuoka Center)
Tel.: 054-2553277
Business hours: 11:00~22:00 (or until run out soba)
“Kaiseki course” on reservations

Simple Recipes: Ratatouille

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Ratatouille as accompaniment to Stuffed Tomato and Grilled Goat Cheese

In Summer Ratatouille will please both omnivores and vegetarians as it can be served on its own as it is or as an accompaniment to other foods (see pic above).
It can be made in almost any country in the world, but particularly here in Shizuoka Prefecture due to the abundance of great vegetables!

Ingredients (for 4 to 6 people):
Onions: 3 large
Aubergines (egg-plants): 4
Courgettes (zucchini): 4
Tomatoes: 500g
Peppers (pimento): 2 to 4 (mix colours)
Garlic: 2 cloves
Olive oil: 1 cup (extra virgin oil PLEASE!)
Bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, laurel)
Salt & pepper to taste
Soft spices to taste (clove, nutmeg, sage, etc.)

Recipe:

Peel and slice the onions, aubergines and courgettes. Cut the tomatoes in pieces. Cit in strips the peppers after ridding them of their seeds.
Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan. Throw in the onions first and one minute later all the vegetables the garlic cloves , the bouquet garni, salt, peppers and spices.
Cover and let simmer on small fire for one hour and thirty minutes, mixing now and then to prevent the stew to stick on the bottom of the saucepan.
If too much water is rtill left in the stew, half cover halfway. Take garlic and bouquwr garni before serving.
NOTES: This the basic recipe. I usually add some tomato puree. The size of the cut vegetables depend on their purpose. The smaller they are cut, the shorter the cooking time. Can be served hot as accompaniment (side dish) or as main course for vegetarians (add chick peas!) or refrigerated as snacks for beer in summer.

Umeshu Season!

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This is Umeshu making season in Shizuoka!

I decided to make my own, even if I am breaking all the rules!

Here how I proceeded in the secrecy of my office (even my better-worse half does not know about it!):

Bought 1 kg of green “ume” (Japanese plums) from a local grocery, 1kg of “koorizato” (“Ice sugar”) at Tomitaya Saketen.
To which I added in the most extravaganta manner:

1 bottle (720ml) of Kumpai Meguriai Honjyozo (Kumpai Brewery/Shizuoka City)

1 bottle (720ml) of Sugii Shodai Saisuke Kome/Rice shochu.

I cleaned the ume/plums, dropped them in jar especially conceived for home-made shochu, added all the sugar and poured in the above two bottles.


I closed it tight, marked the date on the lid, put in a cool area away from the light and will wait until next winter!

Hana No Mai Brewery

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On May 14th, I finally managed to find the time to go to Hamamatsu and visit the largest Brewery in the Prefecture, namely Hana No Mai Brewery located in Miyakuchi, formerly part of Hamakita City, now merged into the new cosmopolitan City of Hamamatsu.
To reach the place you have to board the train to Komatsu on the Entetsu private railway line just outside Entetsu Department Store and then take a taxi or walk for a good hour like I did.
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The brewery seems small at first glance., but the facade is cleverly designed to hide the vast complex behind. Mr. Kazuhito Tsuchida, the young (48) Toji/Master Brewer was expecting me and I must say that for the whole time I spent in his company, I felt extremely welcome. Mr. Tsuchida was born but followed his father to Hamamatsu when he was still at Primary School. We almost spent the same time in Shizuoka Prefecture, and although he does visit his homeplace from time to time, I felt he was truly a man of Shizuoka. Actually, the only thing not from our Prefecture in the whole Brewery is the cedar ball “imported” from Gifu Prefecture!
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Hana No Mai was founded in 1864 and was called Inasa Brewery until December 1949.
The Sales Department is under the responsibility of the last generation of owners’ son, Kazuo Takada. Mr. Tsuchida, who became the resident Toji at the age of 32 is now in charge of the whole brewing, while the brewing of sake is being delegated in great part to Mr. Jun Aoki (32).
This is a Large brewery by Shizuoka standards as it numbers 65 employees with 10, including 2 ladies!, in charge of the brewing solely. Employees are of all ages, a sure sign of an assured future.
All ingredients used for the brewing of sake and distilling of shochu and liqueurs are from the Prefecture:
Rice strains are Shizuoka Yamada Nishiki, Homare Fuji, Shizuoka Goyakumangoku and Shizuoka Natsushizuka.
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Mr. Tsuchida develops his own HD-1 NEW 5 and K901 (Shizuoka) yeasts.
Alcohol is also made in our Prefecture.
Hana No Mai has been brewing premium sake only since 1995.
Thay have the license to distill kome/rice shochu of extravagant quality as well as umeshu from junmai sake.
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Hana No Mai Brewery is not only very open about their business but also generous in allowing everyone to take water from their well!
Mr. Tsuchida then took me to an extensive tour of the facilities where I could see the modern equipment inside buildings completely renovated and computerized,
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including hangars for the rice,
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enormous vats for all the sake where sake was brewing,
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the room where rice was fermenting (see above picture), the bottling system for a new product,
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all under the benevolent protection of a small shinto altar
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It was a long tour indeed, and all the time it was made all the more pleasurable by a truly enthusiastic master Brewer who made a point to present me with plenty of o-miyage/souvenirs to take home.

Hana No Mai Brewery presently exports to the U.S., Canada and Hong Kong.

Another piece of good news, for collectors, as Hana No Mai Brewery brews more than 200 private brands for local businesses!
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Last, but not least, two sake brewed by Hana No Mai will feature in an international virtual tasting in New York, Tokyo and Shizuoka whose results will be silmutaneously published on the 21st of May by Melinda, Etsuko, Valerie, Timothy, Hiroko & Eric and your servant!

Hana No Mai Brewery
434-0004 Hamamatsu City, Miyakuchi, 632
Tel.: 053-5822121
Hamamatsu City JR Station, Costa East Aisle
Te.: 053-5474855
420-0923 Shizuoka City, Kawai, 100-7
Te.: 054-2657210
140-0011 Tokyo, Shinagawa Ku, Todai, 6-4-3, Estomer Todai, 502
Tel.: 03-37657391
Homepage

Local fish: “Houbou”/Blue Fin Robin

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A couple days ago, my good friend Patrick Harrington rightly pointed out on the importance to eat “local” as much as possible. Consequently, I will endeavour whenever possible to introduce any vegetables, dairy products, meat and fish grown, made, raised or caught in Shizuoka Prefecture (and its waters)
As for today I would like to introduce a fairly cheap and tasty fish: houbou. Its English name is quite poetic: blue fin robin (“Chelidonichthys spinosus” for the purists)
Some call it grotesque, others beautiful. It earned its name because of it darkish red colour and bluish fins.
Most of them are found in Niigata Prefecture from in Winter (30~50 cm), but they are caught in early Spring in Suruga Bay (the Shizuoka variety is smaller, up to 20 cm).

It can be prepared in many ways:

Sashimi and sushi if just caught

In “nabe” (soup pot) or as “nimono” (simmered) in Japanese-style cuisine.

Steamed and served with a sweet and sour sauce in Chinese-style food.

My preferred way is Mediterranean style (one fish per person):
Cut the side fins and scrape the scales off. Clean the insides. Make a couple of shallow incisions over each flank.
Fill the stomach with a mixture of finely chopped vegetables and herbs (leave your imagination free!).
Put it on a large sheet of olive oil coated cooking foil paper, sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper. Place vegetables cut in long strings on both sides (plenty is fine), and one or two thin lemoon slices on top. Coat it with some (not too much) extra virgin oil. As a last touch, I add some white wine and a little anise spirit (Pernod, Ricard or Absinthe).
Lossely envelop the fish with the foil paper, close both ends by twisting them around.
Place the fish in its foil paer directly on the metal plate inside an preheated at 180 degrees Celsius and cook for about 15 minutes (longer for large fish).
If you do not have an oven, steam it the Chinese way!

Shimizu goes bananas!

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Article appeared in Shizuoka Shimbun on March 16th
First harvest of bananas grown in Shimizu City.
Mr. masao Yonezawa of Okitsu Higashi Machi, Shimisu Ku, Shizuoka City, has succeeded for the first time in our Prefecture in grrowing and harvesting the fruits of f the 3 “banana trees” ( a grass actually!) inside his green house (“vinyl house in Japlish). He first attempted the culure of bananas in November 2005. His crop was a total failure last year when the flowers refused to germinate. A JA member, he will exhibit the bananas at A Coop Freppie in Okitsu and hopes to start marketing them from next year.

Shizuoka Gourmet: The Purpose

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This blog will serve as an umbrella blog for already existing blogs for sake, shochu and sushi made and savoured in Shizuoka Prefecture, and all other aspects of Shizuoka Gastronomy, such as beer, liqueurs, wine (only one!), restaurants, bars, produce and so forth!