Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This year's Ume-shu (plum liqueur)...with rice shochu

It was the season again. Season to make a new batch of Ume-shu (plum liqueur).

This time, instead of using a neutral kind of shochu (Japanese spirit), we decided to use kome-shochu (made from rice).

Ao-ume (under-ripe green plum) are rinsed, cleaned, and air-dried.

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Plums and rock sugar are put in a jar in layers.

Then, all 3 bottles of kome-shochu was poured in.

The mixture will be stored in a cool storage. Ume-shu will be ready in 1 year, but I would like to age it for 2 years for the nice deep flavor. Here's the ingredients list: 2.5 pounds of ao-ume (plums), 1kg (2.2 lbs.) rock sugar, and 3 x 750ml bottles of kome (rice) shochu. It's going to be a little more extracted version than last year's batch.

Can't wait.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Back in Japan (May 2011)...Camille Giroud in disguise?

I encountered this “rare” 1996 Volnay by Camille Giroud while I was back in Japan. The producer’s name is labeled as Guerin et Blois, but when you pull the cork, it’s Camille Groud’s cork! This is because Camille Giroud sold the remaining 1996 Volnay in their cellar to a Japanese merchant through a courtier (middleman) under the condition that they are re-labeled under a different name and would be sold only by the same merchant. But none of them wre re-corked. It was a very nicely matured Volnay with the classic minerally aroma, and hint of tobacco. The palate was very smooth.

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Among other wines I had at home are…
2002 Vigneron Kientzheim Kayesersberg (Anne Boecklin), Alsace Grand Cru Riesling “Furstentum”…Very ripe and rich. Supported by a lots of minerals and acidity.
2010 Terre Degli Svevi, Re Manfredi Rosato di Basilicata…100% Aglianico. Super juicy with a lot of berry flavors. Wonderful aperitif.
2008 Domaine Yvon et Pascal Tabordet, Pouilly Fume, Cuvee L’Autre Rive…Only 3,000 bottles are made every year. Herb, dry fruit, minerals. Reminding serious Chablis.
2005 Nino Negri, Valtellina Superiore Riserva…By one of the most reputed producers of Lombardia. Ni no Negri owns vineyards in all 4 crus of Valtellina. Aged for 42 months (36 months in Slovenian oak + 6 months in bottle). Dry herb, raspberry, spice, rich and smooth palate. Complex and long finish. Very nice.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Back in Japan (May 2011)...Some more leftover pics

As always, I ate so much during my stay in Tokyo. These are just some of the rest.

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Sundubu, and pulkogi dolsot bibimbop at a local Korean restaurant, called Ongi Jongi. Very high standard.

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I liked the place so much that I requested we go there for dinner one night. I love Korean food in Japan also!

Hand-made “Ju-wari”(100%) soba. Finished with super-rich soba-yu (cooking water).

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Sushi lunch at our to-go spot, Kyubei in Ginza. I can eat their sushi every day. Grilled eel sushi was served 2-way. One with the salt was especially memorable.

Back in Japan (May 2011)...Veneto Wine Tasting

I had an opportunity to participate in another Italian wine study group gathering one night during my stay in Tokyo. It’s a monthly study group hosted by Etsuko Tsukamoto, who was my first wine teacher at Academie du Vin back in 1998 and I continued to take her courses for the next few years. She is a highly-respected wine critic/ writer in Japan, and she is always my teacher!

It’s a small private setting tasting group takes place at CarneVino (formerly Enoteca Norio)’s private room. I wish I could come every month…

The night’s theme was “Red wines from Veneto”. After Etsuko’s in-depth lecture about the region and wine characteristics, we blind-tasted the following wines.

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2008 Monte dall’Ora, Valpolicella Classico Saseti (12% al.)…Very natural style, organic. Cold maceration, fermented only with wild yeast. Aged in inox for 6-8 months.
2004 L’Arco, Valpolicella Classico Superiore (14%)…Established by Luca Fedrigo (used to be a winemaker for Quintarelli). Ripasso. Aged in Slovenian oak for 6 months.
2005 Ca’la Bionda, Corvina Veronese (14%)…Corvina 100%, unique-style. Average 50-year-old vines. Some are over 70 years old. Fermented for 30 days in wild east. Aged for 30 months in 500L tonneau. Only one barrel made. This wine is categorized under IGT Veronese, yet more premium (expensive) than their Amarone.
2003 Monte dall’Ora, Amarone della Valpolicella (15.5%)…After the grapes are dried in the shade, fermentation process started in February of the following year. Aged for 4 years in French oak, followed by 12 months in bottle. I found this more modern-style Amarone so that the wine can pair better with food compared to classic (old school) style Amarone.

Great lineup! It was kind of a surprise that all four wines were from Valpolicella (Etsuko tricked us!). I nailed that the second wine was ripasso style from 2004 and the last wine was modern-style Amarone. But, I thought the third wine was also Amarone. Wow, it was a unique Corvina 100% wine.

After the tasting and discussion, dinner and more wines were served.

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La Jara, Prosecco Spumante Brut (11.5%)…Grera 100%. Organic (partly biodynamic).
2008 Erbaluna di Oberto Severino e Andrea, Barbera d’Alba Superiore La Rosina

Thank you, Etsuko sensei!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Back in Japan (May 2011)..."A prayer and the light" - Dinner at L'Effervescence

I had a very special night with a friend at L’Effervescence in Nishi-Azabu.
It’s a beautiful restaurant, run by Executive Chef Shinobu Namae.

This is the super-talented chef, Namae-san. We found out that we had (at least) three different friends in common. What a small world! The cuisine he creates is quite unique of his own, so it’s almost not appropriate to put it under a single category (although L’Effervescence normally categorized as French). Namae-san has an extensive background as a chef. In the recent years, he spent many years at Michel Bras and most recently at Fat Duck together.

We were very excited to try his tasting course. Tonight’s course was titled, “Un souhait et la lumiere – A prayer and the light” . Let’s begin.

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Hose olives…there were a couple of blood orange flavored kinds. Caviar and trout, sansho peppercorn & kinome leaves, smoked. A glass cover over the fish was lifted at the table and the beautiful smoke aroma billowed in the air. Great start.

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My nostalgia - cinnamon flavor, veal ragout & foie gras. What a shockingly lovely presentation! The paper under the red package explains about Chef’s childhood memory of his first apple pie experience at a “fast food” restaurant. Inside of the package was a piping hot apple pie, which we were suggested to eat in three bites. I loved his playful mind, and I loved the taste of it even better.

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Bitter flavor from spring time РBamboo shoot saut̩, bitter fuki bud & broccoli puree, firefly squid, prawn caramel
Flavor of greens – Slow-cooked Ainame fish, rutabaga puree & vinaigrette viande, black olive, mustard leaves

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Whole-cooked Japanese turnip, parsley oil emulsion, dried Spanish ham, brioche
Foie gras cooked naturally & katakuri leaves, pink grapefruit chutney and pink pepper, olive oil flavored milk jelly
Right & left – Taiwanese tea
...forgot to take a picture. Half cold and half hot version of tea in the same cup! I had my "fat duck" moment.

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Jump into the spring time – Iwate beef from the mountain sirloin roast and its juice, parsnip puree and spring cabbage, leaves and stem of wasabi...I liked that I could choose a knife from different desings presented in front of me. The meat was perfectly cooked and its marbled fat was packed with almost extracted umami flavors.

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Cheese selection and vegetables selection...salad after cheese course totally worked. It was so refreshing and sharpened my palate again.

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Desire of destruction – Chocolate shell with rhubarb, yoghurt ice cream, coriander, dense chocolate streusel
Air-light mont-blanc...one of the best mont-blancs I've ever tasted.

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Wines…2007 Les Arums de Lagrange (Bordeaux)…Chateau Lagrange’s rare white (since the 1996 vintage). 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Semillon, 10% Muscadelle. Very aromatic with white flower, oranige peel, and herbs. Round body, with extremely ripe fruit. Categorized as sec, but hint of RS.
2005 Westwood, Pinot Noir (Sonoma Valley)…I brought this wine from California. Rich spice, berry and smoke in the nose. Dense yet smooth texture.

Our dinner lasted 4.5 hours – the dreamy time which I wished never end! I loved every detail and every moment of the dinner. Namae-san’s dishes were so natural, artistic, and progressive, and they are so organically personal. It made me feel like I was interacting with each dish by using all 5+1 senses of me.

Honestly, I can’t wait to come back to experience his dishes again next time.