Sake School

Sake is slowly growing on me. Initially I found the taste to be bitter and strange, but the more I try, the more I am able to find pleasure in it. Here is a run down on various types of sake and their flavor. The following text and images are courtesy of Time Out New York and the article can be seen here.

Sake school: Six sake types for wine drinkers, Scotch sluggers and more

Master sommelier Roger Dagorn (15 East) gives us a 101 on the fermented-rice hooch. From oenophile-baiting junmai to kimoto for Scotch sluggers, there’s a variety for every type of drinker.

By Christina IzzoTue Apr 23 2013

Sushi Of Seki

Sushi Of Seki – Photograph: Filip Wolak

You know if you’re a merlot fan or a champagne sipper, if you’re a sherry devotee or a Scotchaficionado. But do you know junmai from honjozoGinjo from nigori? Before you step into another sakebar, get schooled on six different types of the Japanese fermented-rice beverage and find out which variety will tickle your boozing fancy best.

If you like full-bodied cabs, try a junmai
Heavier and fuller than its delicate sake brethren, the concentrated, acidic junmai grade—pure sake made from rice, koji (starter enzyme) and water—boasts a bold, rich earthiness similar to a robust cabernet sauvignon.

If you like Scotch, try a kimoto or yamahai
Love the peaty malt of good Scotch? Brews crafted in the kimoto or yamahai technique—made without adding lactic acid to the yeast, resulting in more wild bacteria—have that smoky, savory funk that single-malt drinkers crave. This variety is sometimes aged in cedar barrels, which can imbue these labor-intensive sakes—the starter mash is hand-churned over a period of at least four weeks—with a Scotch-like peppery finish.

If you like dry sherry, try a ginjo
The difference between hearty junmai and the lighter ginjo grade is its polishing rate (in layman’s terms: the amount of rice remaining after the husk has been milled) and, with a 60 percent polishing rate, ginjo is leagues more refined than rustic junmai. The superpremium brew is dry, fruity and aromatic, à la Spanish sherry. Sip it chilled for optimum smoothness.

If you like champagne, try sparkling sake
A Japanese twist on bubbly, sparkling sake is distinctive due to its in-bottle secondary fermentation, which produces the fizz and soft sweetness that bottle-poppers look for. Bonus: Unlike the blinding champagne-induced hangover you get every New Year’s Day, carbonated sake’s alcohol content clocks in at under 8 percent, making for easy, breezy tippling.

If you like classic merlot, try honjozo
The medium-bodied cousin of bold junmai, the everyday honjozo-grade sake adds a touch of distilled alcohol to the mash, lending it a soft, easy-to-drink quality in line with a milder merlot. Like that grape varietal, honjozo commonly gives off a cherry flavor and touch of spicy clove.

If you like dessert wine, try nigori
The sweetest of the bunch, milky, creamy nigori caps many Japanese meals as a digestif. The cloudy sip (unfermented rice solids produce the brew’s signature murkiness) is unfiltered and low in alcohol, with light fruit notes. It’s best served cool to bring out its complex sweetness, so chill the brew in an ice bucket as you would dessert wine.

CHEAT SHEET

Warm or chilled?
Sake’s traditionally served warm, but the higher the quality of the sake, the more it should be chilled—warming sake can mask the subtle flavors of premium brews.

Wooden box or stemware?
Wood tampers with the nose of high-end sake (sip delicate ginjos in glassware), though it can actually help smooth out cheaper, harsher varieties.

To pour or not to pour?
Pour for your fellow boozers but not yourself—tejaku (pouring your own sake) is considered very rude in Japanese culture.

What to pair?
A common misconception is that sake should be paired with sushi. Avoid rice-on-rice overkill by soaking up your brew with soba noodles, braised pork belly, miso-glazed Chinese sausage or sashimi.

Sake bomb: yay or nay?
Just say no to sake bombs. They are an American invention and, if ordered at a real-deal sake den, will betray your rookie status.

What’s the difference between junmai and daiginjo?
There are four main grades of sake: junmai (pure rice sake, at least 30 percent polished), honjozo (a tad of distilled alcohol added, at least 30 percent polished), ginjo (highly milled rice—at least 40 percent polished—with or without added alcohol) and daiginjo (even more highly milled rice—at least 50 percent polished—with or without added alcohol).

Burning Man

MiraBella plays host to a wonderful fall party to conclude the summer season and start anew. Running wild with the Burning Man theme, it is a chance to rid yourself of the past, events, negative feelings, or items and allow for new growth. It’s all very symbolic.

VK set a bonfire at the base of a wooden man and we watched as he erupted in smoke and flame. The fire slowly disintegrated him from the feet up. As smoke and sparks rose from the man, guests approached dropping items into the fire.

With a cast of characters in attendance and all the youngins gone home to bed, the party erupted with shot after shot of coconut tequila, heaven sent 1800. The bottle was soon empty.

Lots of rowdy behavior ensued. Then VK had a brilliant idea: Grass tubing! This fun sport consists of tying a snow tube to the back of an F450, hopping on and being dragged through the fields. It was awesome!! We flew across the grass, up and down slopes, over bumps. Somehow only one among us fell off. It was a wonderful night!

Atlantic City

The big AC, true Boardwalk Empire. My friends have been pushing a trip here for ages, but due to financial reasons and schedule differences plans kept shifting, canceling and getting delayed.

Kyle, being home from Afghanistan for about a month before heading down to GA for Ranger school, insisted on testing out his latest obsession, poker, during a long weekend in Nucky Thompson’s town. His eagerness drove us to finally pick a date and make it happen.

We headed down on Friday afternoon, Chantra, her boyfriend Luc, Kyle and myself, all packed into Kyle’s F150 with our luggage stowed in the tool box. We made a pit stop at a podunk town about 5 miles out of AC to stock up on some alcohol – Jack Daniels of course. Being so close to AC we did not expect to see a town equivalent to The Hills Have Eyes, but between run down abandoned homes, overgrown lawns, and a very, very old gas station, we were not far off.

Our casino and hotel of choice – the Borgata (Kyle’s decision due to quality of the poker tables). We began our night with dinner at Bobby Flay’s Steakhouse and a round of Long Island Iced Teas. Chantra and I ordered a salad that caused the table to erupt with laughs upon arrival earning us a sideways glance from the server and some concerned words. For a pricey salad, a tiny little baseball sized portion was gingerly placed in the center of a plate about 10 times the size of the salad, dwarfing it. The flavors were delicious and I did feel full and content afterwards, but presentation was severely lacking. We ended the meal with a spectacular baked Alaska. Yum!

Chantra and I headed upstairs to change into our evening getups and the men headed over to the poker tables to gamble their lives away. Being two lovely ladies, we sexed it up quite a bit and enjoyed a few more drinks. Later in the evening we headed to the club MurMur for some serious dancing. When drinking, there is nothing better to do then head to a club, dance, watch the ladies in the cages. and make out on the dance floor.

Chantra and Luc woke up Saturday for a swim, Kyle for the poker table, and me for a very large cup of black coffee and a lounge. Today’s destination – the Boardwalk.

We strolled up and down the Boardwalk, taking in the sights and enjoying the atmosphere while searching for a place to get a bite of some local flair. Without even thinking about it, I made the mistake of wearing stiletto heels. I was forced to purchase a cheap pair of flip flops after getting my heels stuck between the wooden boards about 20 times. Lesson learned.

Chantra located Phillip’s Seafood, located right on the water with gorgeous views of the Atlantic and of the extent of the Boardwalk. The food was tasty, fish and chips a bit over breaded, but fresh and drinks were outstanding. After some more strolling around, milkshakes at Johnny Rockets and loading up on salt water taffy from a local candy store, we escaped the cold wind by slipping into the Tropicana and wandering the casino floor. Our intention was not to gamble, but to seek out a Soviet Union themed bar called Red Square.

Ice bar. Actual ice on the bar. So cool.

The tiny bit of Polish in me always comes out when surrounded with vodka. We had a round of drinks, all vodka. Natasha’s Peach was my drink of choice. It was delicious. Very sweet, but the peach flavor was luscious. Kyle enjoyed something with coconut rum and lime vodka. However, the main event and center of attention was a 48oz beast known as the Communist Martini.

With a pleasant buzz, we made our way back to the Borgata for another evening of merriment, or so was the intention. Some more poker was played, then buffet style dinner. As the night was still young, we headed up to the hotel room to digest and relax, maybe have another few drinks before hitting the clubs again. Alas, as we all relaxed in bed and quickly fell asleep.

Sunday began bright and refreshed with more gambling. As checkout was pretty early, we gathered our things and packed the truck before hitting the casino – Kyle and Luc to the poker tables and Chantra and I to wander the floor and try our luck. We began with slots. Of course a big mistake, but they look so fun and inviting with the flashy lights, noises and crank handles. After losing every penny we put in, Chantra and I sought out a roulette table. On a side note, the evening before, while wandering through the Tropicana, Kyle and I passed a roulette table. I immediately said “31” without thinking. Kyle pushed me to bet on it, but not being the gambling type I chose not to and we walked on. Kyle, wondering the outcome, soon dragged me back to the table to see it fall on 13. We stayed for the next roll to watch it land right on 31. Clairvoyant? I think not. But from that moment on Kyle insisted if I ever had the notion again, to bet on whatever number I felt.

Well as we hit the roulette table Chantra and I took it pretty slow, not understanding the rules or odds. Two people were already playing at out table of choice, throwing chips every which way, betting on nearly all the tiles. I went in with $20. Began by putting $5 on red – won. Next I placed $10 on red and $5 on 14. I was feeling it.

I won.

The ball landed on 14, which happened to be red and I closed out with $200 of winnings. Beginners luck? Maybe. Probably. Definitely.

Chantra and I soon met up with Kyle and Luc. Kyle’s interest in poker really paid off as he walked out after nearly doubling his money. At the start of the trip, his talk of poker made me nervous, but I guess he can hold his own.

Overpriced and filled with trashy hoes and old people gambling away their Social security, AC is a place of debauchery and fun. Can’t wait to be welcomed back.