Friday, July 3, 2015

Sake News

Kanpai! Here is another short list of some of the interesting Sake articles that have been published lately. It is great to see more and more coverage for Sake, though I recommend that anyone seeking to publish a Sake article check it at least a few times for accuracy. A few basic errors continue showing up in introductory Sake articles, and those errors would be easy to eliminate if you had a knowledgeable Sake person check your facts. Let us also hope that we see more than just introductory Sake articles in the future. Sake has many depths and all those varied facets make great material for articles.

1) It is the Cabernet Sauvignon of Sake rice, considered the King of Sake rice. And Nippon presents the reasons why it is so popular in the article,. "Yamadanishiki Reigns Supreme Among Sake-Brewing Rice Varieties." The article begins with a short explanation of the role of rice in Sake production, noting some of the reasons why Yamandanishiki is such a favored rice, from its large kernels to its prominent shinpaku. Yamandanishiki, a crossbreed, was created in 1923 in the Hyōgo Prefecture, and most of that rice, about 71%, is still grown there. In recent National Sake Tasting Competitions, over 80% of the entries were made from Yamandanishiki.  Check out this article and learn more about this famed Sake rice.

2) Sake labels can be daunting as many Americans can't read kanji. However, The Japan Times recently reported that METI plans bilingual app that scans sake labels, The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is developing a smartphone app which will scan Sake label and provide a wealth of info about that bottle. The initial release of the app will be in October and is should be free. Initially, it will only cover about 10 brands, making it of limited use, but it will expand over time, starting around April 2016. The goal is to provide info for over 1000 brands, but that is probably around a couple years away. This could be a valuable app but it will rake time before it is truly beneficial.

3) Italian Sake?The Asahi Shimbun is reporting about Tiny Japanese brewery links up with Italian town to make unique sake. Shintani Shuzo, said to be Japan's smallest Sake brewery, is collaborating with the Italian city of Biella, in the Piedmont. The brewery is using rice from Biella to make a special Sake, called  Il Sake. This Italian rice is not too conducive to Sake brewing as koji has difficulty penetrating into the rice kernel. However, the Sake is supposed to be easy to drink, something to drink casually at room temperature. It is an intriguing experiment, and could lead to more collaborations, with other countries, in the future.

4) Sake brewing is traditionally a male-dominated profession though that is starting to change. Saveur recently highighted three of Japan's Female Sake Brewers, including  Miho Imada of Imada Brewery, Yoshiko Sato of Kaetsu Brewery, and Miho Fujita of Mioya Brewery. There are only about 20 female Toji,  master brewers, in Japan and it is great to see Saveur showcasing some of the achievements of women in the Sake industry. Check out the brief info about each of these three women, and I'll note that some of the Sakes they produce are available in the U.S. so you can support these women by buying andd enjoying their Sake.

5) I just want to highlight two of my own recent Sake posts, which both deal with the same subject. In Rant: The Legal Protection of Sake, I discuss Japan's plans to try to garner legal protection for "Japanese Sake." The plans are still tentative and I offer some of my own suggestions. In Protecting Japanese Sake & Rice, I offer a theory as to why Japan is only now moving to try to protect Japanese Sake. It might not be a fear of foreign breweries but more a fear of foreign rice, which could become very cheap if a new international trade treaty comes to pass.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.. **********************************************************
1) Tonite, at 10pm, turn your television to Food Network to watch an epic grill battle. Chef/Owner Matt O’Neil of The Blue Ox in Lynn, is making his in a special grilling-themed episode of Beat Bobby Flay. Season Five, Episode Five, entitled "Stars and Stripes", will pit our local chef against Bobby Flay. This should be a fun way to start the July 4th holiday, and maybe you'll even pick up a few grilling tips.

I'm a big fan of what Chef O'Neil is doing at The Blue Ox, and he is also a two-time reigning Champion of Boston magazine’s ‘Battle of the Burger,’ with his Sin Burger. What will he prepare for this grilling episode? Will his food be good enough to defeat Bobby Flay? Catch the episode tonite and see what happens.

2) As part of Legal Sea Foods’ “Endless Summer” at the Charles Square location in Cambridge, their outdoor Terrace Bar will feature an “All American Hot Dog Bar” during the month of July.

Legal Sea Foods will dish out a single specialty hot dog or a three-dog sampler board. There are five loaded varieties to choose from, including:

· Sonora “Bacon Wrapped a la Plancha” - grilled onions, tomatoes, jalapeño relish
· Chicago Vienna Beef Dog “Dragged Through the Garden” - tomato wedge, piccalilli, pepperoncini, dill pickle, mustard
· New Jersey Thuman’s Dog "Ripper Style" - crispy fried "rutts style" relish, steamed bun
· NY Sabrett All Beef Hot Dog - sauerkraut, sweet onions in tomato, brown mustard
· Rhode Island Little Rhody Brand "Hot Weiner" - diced onions, meat sauce, yellow mustard, steamed bun

Cost: One Dog ($5); Three Dog Sampler Board ($15)

3) On July 21, at 7:15pm, Legal Sea Foods in Park Square will host a wine dinner with Jordan Vineyard & Winery. Established in 1972, the winery was inspired by the great wine estates of France and the timeless connection between food, wine and hospitality. Located in Sonoma's Alexander Valley, the home for their wine is an extraordinary chateau combining winemaking facilities, guest suites and dining areas under one roof. Founders Tom and Sally Jordan set a standard for a Bordeaux-style California Cabernet Sauvignon and wine country hospitality, a top standard that is still held at Jordan today.

Legal Sea Foods will team up with Jordan’s National Sales Director, Chris Avery, to host a four-plus-course dinner paired with selections from the Jordan vine. The menu will be presented as follows:

HORS D’OEUVRES
Maine Crabmeat Salad, Yuzu, Cucumber Cups
Pan-Seared Scallop Tartlet, Vanilla Infused Leeks
Charred Shrimp & Roasted Tomato Bruschetta
Jordan Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 2013
FIRST COURSE
Pecan Wood Grilled Tuna Steak (Shiitake Creamed Orzo, Cavolo Nero, Local Blueberry Gastrique)
Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, 1995
SECOND COURSE
Herb Crusted Lamb Loin (Grilled Eggplant Caponata, Agrodolce)
Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, 2006
THIRD COURSE
Bacon-Pepper Wrapped Beef Tournedos (Boursin Smashed Potato, Crispy Leeks, Bordelaise)
Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, 2009
CHEESE COURSE
Aged Vermont Dandy, Grafton Three-Year Aged Cheddar
Chili Chocolate Truffle, Apricot Chutney, Brioche Toast Points
Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, 2011

COST: $125 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservation required by calling 617-530-9397

4) Akinto, which debuted in March., is the current culinary residency at the South End speakeasy Wink & Nod. Executive Chef Patrick Enage has created a tasting menu to give guests the opportunity to try the many flavors of Akinto, inspired by Southeast Asian street food from Chef Enage’s native Philippines as well as India, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan and Laos.

I've been to Akinto, though I'm behind in my review. I will say that the food rocks! It  is delicious, with a great depth of flavor, and we need more of this cuisine in the Boston area. Chef Engage earns my highest recommendation and he needs to have his own restaurant in the Boston area. Thus, I heartily recommend you check out this new tasting menu.

The five-course tasting menu will be available Monday – Thursday beginning at 5pm. The tasting menu, which features popular dishes and highlights from Akinto’s dinner menu will allow guests to try a variety of dishes, served family style, for only $65 / person.

The full tasting menu is as follows:

To Begin
Roti Paratha, Red Curry Dipping Sauce
Cucumber Salad, Bean Sprouts, Toasted Sesame
Marinated Shiitake Mushrooms
First
Spicy Pork “Drop Wontons”, Anise BBQ, Toasted Sesame-Rice Wine, Peanut Paste
Pork Hash “Sisig”, Quail Egg Yolk, Calamansi, Soy*
Head On Chili Shrimp, House Sambal, Patola*
Second
Kabayaki Glazed Swordfish Belly, Taiwan Lettuce, Salted Duck Egg Vinaigrette
Braised Oxtail, Black Bean-Water Spinach, Jasmine Rice
Roasted Duck Bao Bun, Hoisin-Ginger Sauce, Green Onion
Third
Vegetable-Pineapple Fried Rice, Fried Egg, Cilantro
Chicken Tom Kha Gai, Thai Coconut Broth, Lemongrass, Lime
Teapot Fish Stew, Lemongrass-Clam Broth
Kalbi, XO-Coconut Glaze, Calamansi, Cilantro, Flowering Chives, Peanuts
Fourth
Mango Sorbet, Lychee Boba, Chili Essence
Turon, Banana Fritter, Jack Fruit, Smoky Caramel

Reservations recommended so please call 617-482-0117

5) On Monday, July 13, at 6:30pm, guests will take a virtual culinary wine tour of the Italian countryside at Fiorella’s Restaurant’s summer wine dinner. Designed to both educate and entertain, Fiorella’s wine dinner features a five-course prix fixe meal, paired with Italian wines from Martignetti Companies.

Inspired by homemade and authentic Italian cuisine, Fiorella’s all-inclusive meal ($85 per person + tax and gratuity) offers seasonal dishes. Each course will be accompanied by a paired wine. In addition, Len Presutti, the corporate wine educator from Martignetti Companies will guide guests through the wines, expanding on the history, curiosities and nuances of each selection.

Summer Wine Dinner
--Chilled and marinated Spanish octopus served with seared Yukon gold potato, green olives, evoo and arugula
Wine: Batasiolo Gavi di Gavi Granee
--Roasted fig stuffed with gorgonzola with prosciutto and balsamic glaze
Wine: Roagna Dolcetto
--Corn, chanterelle mushroom, and mixed heirloom tomato risotto with rock shrimp sautéed with meyer lemon and chives
Wine: Ascheri Arneis
--Honey, orange, soy and ginger marinated duck breast served with sweet fingerling potatoes with golden raisins and pancetta served with a frisee salad
Wine: Sperino Lessona
--Native bing cherry and blueberry crisp with a dark chocolate sauce and mascarpone gelato
Wine: Brachetto

For Reservations, please call 617-969-9990

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Osteria Nino: A Touch Of Rome In Burlington

Love at first bite?

My first experience at this new restaurant began with a dish of Meatballs that thoroughly impressed me, being tender and flavorful, a delicious melange of taste and texture. First impressions make a significant difference, and the meatballs well set the stage for the rest of the culinary delights at this restaurant.

Curiously, I've heard almost nothing about this restaurant from my food loving friends. I don't know anyone else who has dined here. Despite being open for about seven weeks, it seems to have remained under the radar but it's time to spread the word, to give some deserved attention to Osteria Nino., a new Roman-inspired restaurant in Burlington.

Burlington has become a suburban mecca for restaurants, and plenty of new spots have opened during the last few years, with more to come in the near future. Though you'll find plenty of chain restaurants there, you'll also find a number of independents as well, such as Osteria Nino. This new restaurant, which opened on May 9, is located in the new 3rd Avenue Burlington complex, which is also home to Wegmans, The Bancroft, Kings, Tony C's, and others. It's easy to get to Osteria Nino and there is plenty of available free parking.

Nino is open for lunch and dinner, as well as brunch on Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant is medium-sized, with a bar, dining room and outside patio (pictured above). It has a casual and comfortable ambiance, and would be good for a date, a family gathering or a group of friends after work. I've dined there six times so far, mostly for lunch though I have had dinner there once as well as attended one of their wine tasting events.

Outside, they even have a pizza oven. You can enjoy a pie on the outside patio.

The Executive Chef at Nino is Walace Benica, who is an Italian citizen though he grew up in Brazil. He came to Boston in 2002, starting his culinary career, and has worked in restaurants including Papa Razzi, Prince Pizza and Tuscan Kitchen. Their Culinary Director is Chris Boswell. who has an impressive resume, including have worked at Chez Panisse.  In addition, he spent 8 years in Rome, helping to found the Rome Sustainable Food Project and even became its chef for three years. He spends about one week a month working at Nino.

The General Manager is Sam Alberts, who also spent time working and cooking in Rome, eventually becoming part of the  Rome Sustainable Food Project.  Back in the U.S., Sam has worked at Italian restaurants in New York and Boston. I've spent some time chatting with Sam about Osteria Nino and found him to be personable and passionate, as well as very knowledgeable in Italian wines.

There is a glassed-in room which would be fine for a small group, though they do sit diners in there during lunch too..

Pull up a chair in front of the pizza ovens and watch the action as you drink and dine.

You might want to start your visit to Nino with a drink. They have a fully stocked bar, as well as a menu of Italian inspired cocktails ($10-$12), from an Aperol Spritz to a Jack Rose. There are also weekly specials, such as the Smoke n' Berries ($12), pictured above, which is made from Mezcal, strawberries, and house made sour mix. I enjoyed its smoky fruit flavors, finding it refreshing and perfect for the summer. On their menu,you'll also find 10 Vermouths, 5 Grappas, and 15 Amaro.

There are eight beers on draft, all by New England producers, and plenty of other choices available by the bottle, including many other local, artisan favorites. Peroni, a popular Italian beer, is only $4, their least expensive beet on the list.

To be true to their Italian focus, their wine list contains only Italian wines, and as I've said multiple times before, I respect restaurants willing to restrict their wine lists in such a fashion. Sam mentioned that there hasn't been much push back from their customers about their wine list, noting that their servers are well trained to handle common customer objections, and to lead them to wines which should appeal to their preferences. Italian wine is so diverse, there certainly are wines that will please any palate.

There are about 16 wines available by the glass, from $7-$19, and over 90 wines by the bottle, with plenty under $50. There is a nice diversity on the list, from Lambrusco to Franciacorta, Chardonnay to Arneis, Primitivo to Dolcetto. Mark-ups on some of the wines can be about three times retail so seek out the more unusual wines as those are generally the better values. Sam Alberts told me that two of the best values on the list include the Pigato Maje ($44), a white made from Vermentino, and the Lamezia Rosso Statti ($38), a blend of Greco Nero, Gaglioppo and Nerello Cappuccio.

The cuisine at Nino is inspired by Rome, and they want to replicate those flavor profiles, through simple preparations that use local ingredients. The menu may not contain some common dishes you find at other Italian-American restaurants but that shouldn't stop you from trying the interesting dishes you find here. There is something which will appeal to any preferences and it is also worth some experimentation, expanding your palate to try some new dishes. Some of the  most popular items on their menu include Meatballs, Chicken Saltimbocca, Cavatelli Amatriciana, Fried Squash Blossoms, and Eggplant Alla Parmigiana.

The Lunch Menu has Salads & Soups, Panini & Plates, Pasta, Mozzarella, Pizza, and Sides, with most items priced from $8-$13, making it very affordable. The Dinner Menu has Snacks, Salads & Small Plates, Large, Pasta, and Sides, and most items are also priced from $8-$13 except for the Large dishes which range from $18-$35, with a couple outliers. Every day, about 5-6 items on the menus will change, dependent on seasonality and availability. Every time I've eaten here, I've had to think about what to choose, as several dishes appealed to me.  As I've dined here six times, I've been able to sample many different dishes.

Sourcing is very important to them, and they never order more than two day's supply of any item. Most everything they source is local, and they firmly believe that local usually tastes better, For example, they order some bread from the Nashoba Brook Bakery in West Concord and other bread from LaVallee's Bakery in Waltham. All of their meat is from Massachusetts farms, and one of their primary suppliers is Andy Carbone, who raises grass fed cattle. Carbone winters his animals twice, unless many others who only do it once. As such. the cattle are about 26-28 months old when they are slaughtered, which means the meat is likely to taste better. They also use two different seafood purveyors, including Sea To Table and North Coast Seafoods, purchasing fish from the waters off New England and New York. This is the type of sourcing that appeals to me, and should appeal to you as well.

Nino makes their own Focaccia, which is usually served warm, and has a nice consistency, perfect for dipping in sauce. The only issue is that not all the servers bring it automatically, so you might need to ask for some. That is something the restaurant needs to work on.

I've tried a couple of their salads and found both to contain very fresh ingredients, and knowing much of the produce is local makes a difference too. Above is the Nicoise Salad, with tuna from Montauk, which presents a colorful dish, with fresh, clean flavors and plenty of tender tuna.

 he Greek Salad ($9) has cucumbers, tomatoes, farro, and mint yogurt. Again, fresh and clean flavors, with the added nuttiness of the farro. Both of these were good-sized salads, a nice summery treat while you dine on the patio.

They make their Mozzarella in-house, and the basic dish comes with tomatoes ($8). You can also add Argulua or Prosciutto, The mozzarella is firm yet creamy, with a subtle dressing. Another bright , summery dish for patio dining.

One of the Sides is the Fried Polenta ($3), crispy triangles with a creamy, corn center. You could even dip them in a sauce. An excellent blend of textures, they were consistent both times I ordered them.

The Fried Squash Blossom ($3) is stuffed with ricotta, and has proven to be very popular. With a clean, crunchy batter, leading to the creamy center, this can be a decadent treat.

The first dish I enjoyed from Nino was their 6 Hour Meatball ($10), made from pork, beef, and grana. The meatballs were tender and flavorful, a delicious melange of taste and texture. Forget those tough and dry meatballs you might find elsewhere, these are going to please. On a subsequent visit, the meatballs were still as delicious as the first time I enjoyed them. My highest recommendation.

There are usually four different Pizzas ($10-$12) on their menu. They make their own pizza dough, looking to create a pizza somewhere between a Neapolitan and Roman. As a weekday special in their Bar, from 4pm-7pm, you can get a Pizza for only $2 if you purchase a drink. That is an excellent deal. I enjoyed the Potato, Pesto & Guanciale Pizza, which plenty of thinly sliced potatos, salty and tender guanciale and a pleasing pesto sauce. The crust was on the thinner side, which I prefer, and had a good consistency to it. And their wood fired ovens put just the right amount of char on the crust.

Even the simple Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil Pizza ($10) will satisfy, especially with its intriguing cheese taste. Order a pizza as an appetizer and share slices with the rest of your group.

The Pasta! These are dishes which truly shine, from their perfectly cooked pasta to the intriguing and tasty blend of ingredients.The Cacio e Pepe ($12), which is only house-made guitar string pasta, pecorino cheese, and black pepper, is the essence of simplicity but impresses with its taste and texture. The creaminess of the cheese, with mild black pepper accents, doesn't conceal the taste of the pasta. This is a famous Roman dish, and Osteria Nino does justice to that tradition.

Another of my favorite pasta dishes is their Fettucine Al Ragu ($12), a traditional southern beef and pork ragu with tomato and grana. A heartier dish, it may not be on the menu for long with summer here, but grab it if you see it on the menu. The ragu bursts with flavor, pleasing any carnivore, and the pasta is the canvas for this meat masterpiece. I've also enjoyed this dish a couple times, and it was consistently excellent. My highest recommendation.

They have two different Lasagnas ($13-$15), one with meat and one without, and the photo above is the Meat Lasagna. It will remind you much of the ragu, combined with ricotta and thin sheets of pasta. The pasta was tender, slicing easily with even just a fork, without being mushy. The flavors were well balanced, and you receive an ample portion.  Another excellent option.

The Short Rib Ravioli ($12), with tomato confit, marjoram, and grana is another hearty meal you might not find on their summer menus, but it shows the potential of their ravioli dishes. The pasta is just the right thickness and tenderness, and contain a flavorful pocket of meat, spices and other ingredients.

As a lunch entree, the Fried Meatloaf ($13), with mashed potatoes and tomato sauce, continues the line of hearty dishes. The meatloaf was tender and moist, with a crispy coating, and though I'm not usually a meatloaf fan, I enjoyed this.

Of the various sandwiches available, I tried the Meatball Sub ($13), which is topped with provolone,and the bread is from the Nashoba Brook Bakery. The bread has been toasted, has a great texture, and the savory meatballs really please. A great choice for a sandwich, and it comes with house-made potato chips.

For dessert, there are a number of Italian specialties, from granita to house-made gelato. Of course, there is Tiramisu ($7), an ample dish of creamy layers, with a nice balance of flavors, where the alcohol does not overwhelm. Chocolate and coffee elements please the palate.

Every Tuesday evening, from 5pm-7pm, the restaurant holds a Wine Tasting in the bar area. For $20,you get to sample three wines and enjoy some appetizers. Each week has a different wine theme and you can check their Facebook page to see the next event. Sam leads the tasting, bringing his extensive knowledge of Italian wines.

I attended their "A Taste of Tuscany", where we sampled the 2012 Valdipiatta Rosso di Montepulciano, 2011 Campi Nuovi Montecucco and 2012 Sesta di Sopra Rosso di Montalcino. Though I liked all three wines, my favorite was clearly the third wine, which impressed with its complexity and depth of flavor. There was plenty of tasty snacks to accompany the wine, and I think these events are a great way to expand your experience and knowledge of Italian wines. I'm sure I'll be stopping by at future events.

Overall, the restaurant scores very high marks from me. I like their philosophy on sourcing, cuisine, and their drinks program, The quality and taste of their food is high, and I believe it's reasonably priced too. It has a fun, casual ambiance and should appeal to a broad range of people. My only quibble at this time is there have been a few, minor service issues, such as failing to offer foccacia. However, as they are still a relatively new restaurant, such minor issues are likely to shake out in the near future. I should give some kudos to Makenize, who has been my server several times, and I've found her to be an enthusiastic and conscientious server.  

I heartily recommend that you check out Osteria Nino and enjoy their pizza to pasta with a glass of Italian wine or an Italian-inspired cocktail. Sit on the patio or grab a seat in front of the pizza ovens. I'm sure you'll enjoy the experience. For now, it's more of a hidden treasure but the word will get out soon enough. Maybe I will see you there as I plan on dining there regularly.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Local Vermouth Favorites: Papa Razzi Metro to Bistro du Midi

Last week, I discussed The Most Ignored Wine:Vermouth. It's a wine that many wine lovers don't seem to write about, and some might not even realize that it is a wine. Vermouth can be delicious and complex, intriguing and diverse. We 're fortunate in the Boston area that some restaurants understand the wonders of Vermouth and showcase it on their menus. Let me bring your attention to two examples, to give you a glimpse into what you can find.

I recently attended a media dinner at the new Papa Razzi Metro in Burlington, which has undergone a radical renovation, from its interior to its menus. One of their most interesting cocktails on their list is the Tempo Triplo ($11), a blend of three Vermouths with some bitters (pictured above). Unlike many other cocktails, where Vermouth is almost an afterthought, this is a cocktail where Vermouth takes place front and center. It is a love letter to Vermouth, a concoction that displays the full wonders of Vermouth. The three Vermouths are all from Contratto, an Italian producer who has been making Vermouth since the 1890s.

The cocktail is a,blend of their Bianco, Rosso, and Americano Rosso, and I also got the opportunity to taste each on their own. The Bianco was more herbal in nature with only a hint of sweet, while the Rosso was sweeter, with the herbal notes more in the background. The Americano was more savory in nature. In the Tempo Triplo, equal amounts of these three Vermouths are mixed together and then topped with some Orange Bitters. I found the cocktail to be delicious, an intriguing blend that was lightly sweet, with plenty of herbal notes and a slight bitter edge to the finish. It was refreshing and interesting, a fine drink for the summer, and one which would pair well with food too, such as a spicy sausage pizza or a cheese plate.

Vermouth can shine as the dominant ingredient in a cocktail.

I've  previously wrote about the Summer Rosé Tour at Bistro du Midi, their summer-long specials showcasing Rosé wine. Last week, I spoke with Head Sommelier Todd Lipman who told me about another Rosé special they recently added, their House-Made Rosé Vermouth. You can choose to order a glass on its own ($9) or in a Rosé Negroni ($15). I'm sure they would be willing to use in other cocktails if you asked.

The House-Made Rosé Vermouth.starts with an unaged Grappa, fresh strawberries and dried cranberries, which are macerated for about three days. The solids are then removed, and they won't be tossed away but will be used in dishes like their foie gras. A dry Rosé and a Ruby Port are then added. Herbs and botanicals are steeped, including wormwood, gentian, bitter orange peel, dried oregano, thyme, sage,fresh rosemary,juniper berries and vanilla bean, All of this is eventually warmed and then finished with a fine, dry Rosé. It is obviously a laborious process, a labor of love, which highlights the marvels of finely crafted Vermouth.

I tasted the Rosé Vermouth and was impressed. Initially, the lightly sweet vermouth presents with bright red fruit up front, tasty strawberry and raspberry flavors, and then the herbal notes come forth, complementing the fruit, adding savory elements. On the finish, there is a tinge of bitterness, a satisfying ending to the roller-coaster of flavors within the vermouth. This too would pair well with certain foods, and I'm sure Todd can steer you to some intriguing pairings.

Which other restaurants either make their own Vermouth, or makes a tasty Vermouth cocktail?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Protecting Japanese Sake & Rice

It's probably not about foreign Sake breweries.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about Japanese efforts to legally define and protect "Japanese Sake." Legal protection apparently will be sought from the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the initial definition, which is still subject to change, indicates that "only sake made in Japan using domestically grown rice be sold as “Japanese sake.” Such efforts to protect "Japanese Sake" are akin to previous efforts to protect items like Champagne and Sherry, efforts I support.

However, I was curious as to why Japan decided to just now seek legal protection for Sake. What was the impetus for their decision? Were they concerned about the couple dozen of foreign Sake breweries which have arisen around the world, from the U.S. to Norway? None of the news articles seemed to indicate a rationale for Japan's actions.

I might now have an answer. An article I read yesterday in the Financial Times may just offer that rationale. You've probably heard about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a "free trade" agreement among 12 countries, including the U.S. President Obama has been trying to get approval for this controversail agreement, and has run into some opposition, especially from Democrats. It is also an agreement which has garnered plenty of attention in Japan, and I wrote a couple years ago how it could lead to lessened or eliminated Sake tariffs.

If TPP passes, it could lead to a significant reduction in Japan’s heavy tax on imported rice, currently about $1.30 per pound. Discussions on rice imports and tariff reductions have occupied plenty of negotiations between the U.S. and Japan. If the taxes on imported rice are drastically reduced, it could mean that some Japanese Sake producers might decide to purchase the less expensive rice from the U.S. rather than use more expensive domestic rice. The Sake industry may see such a scenario as a threat to their traditional product.

Would Japanese Sake breweries actually use U.S. rice? Consider that about 75% of all Sake is called futsu-shu, regular Sake which often is made from table rice, and not the more expensive Sake rice. Futsu-shu often is inexpensive and some producers try to make it as cheaply as possible. If they had access to cheap U.S. rice, cheaper than domestic rice, there probably is a good chance they would do so to save expenses.

It seems logical then that the Sake industry would want to protect itself from this eventually, If they require "Japanese Sake" to use domestically grown rice, that would probably stop most Sake breweries from considering using U.S. grown rice, no matter how inexpensive. The threat to the integrity and reputation of Japanese Sake is not from foreign breweries. It is more from the possibility of Japanese brewers no longer using Japanese rice.