gurdymonkey: (pretties)
Met [profile] layla_lilah  last night for sushi at Mijori (always a line out the door, good food, reasonably priced) and District 9 at the Grand Lake, a movie palace I'd rather patronize than the usual umptyplexes, particularly as they are at the forefront of the merchants protesting the city of Oakland's decision to raise parking meter fees and ticket aggressively. Not going to post any movie spoilers except to say that I thought D9 was inventive, well done, and definitely needs to be seen on the big screen unless you're the squeamish sort.

It being unseasonably warm for Alameda - meaning it's like summer in other parts of the world - I spent part of the morning answering email from an enthusiastic newbie who had stumbled onto Samurai Eye, part of it IMing with [ profile] danabren who is perpetrating An Ebil Kostooming Projekt (TM), and stopped long enough to drop a rock in the cess pool that can be SCA-Waste. (So sorry you're not fitting in in your new kingdom and you miss the West, but is dissing your new group by perpetuating regional stereotypes the way to go? Nope, didn't think so.) A bit of Duerr's Coarse Cut 1881 marmalade (this must be what "awesome sauce" actually tastes like) on toast and a mug of cold water and I decided it was time to venture out of the apartment and run a couple of errands.

I don't have a problem with building a Target store that has two floors, but why would you put all the large, heavy merchandise (electronics, furniture) upstairs? Just sayin'. I did accomplish my mission to acquire some socks and underwear and not get kneecapped by a single stroller or shopping cart despite Saturday crowds.

The Berkeley Target is on this access road parallel to the freeway and I haven't figured out the easiest way to get out once in. So I figured, what the hey, I'll cut through town. Better yet, I'll cut through town and check out the Takara sake brewery I've been driving past forever and never visited. It being Berkeley on a Saturday and an unfamiliar neighborhood of Berkeley at that, I cruised up and down the side streets around Takara until I was sure I'd found a legal parking spot.

As I opened the door at the front of the building, I I was hit in the face by the moist smell of Quite A Lot Of Rice Fermenting. I'm not sure if it's always this strong or it was being magnified by the unusual-for-this-area temperatures. Up the stairs I went, peering down through a window at the top into a room full of fermentation vats and other equipment. The tasting room/museum is one large industrial space that has been fitted out with cool tile floors and golden Douglas fir woodwork. I opted to skip the video on sake brewing and went straight to the tasting bar. They offer several tasting flights at a very reasonable $5.00 per flight. The "A" flight consisted of a number of Takara sake that I'm already familiar with, so I told the young lady behind the counter who was serving another couple that I wanted to try the Ginjo/Junmai Combo flight ("B"), which included several sake from Takara Japan that I haven't tried before. 

Immediately a rather distinguished looking Japanese gentleman appeared, seemingly out of nowhere and poured out a cup of their Sho Chiku Bai Premium Ginjo (made in Berkeley). It's a +5 for dryness, but not too dry, quite smooth and clean with fruity notes, very pleasant and refreshing on a hot afternoon. Next was the Antique. Definitely an OMG! sake, subtle aroma, and dances around the tastebuds doing all sorts of lovely, indescribable things. By this time Distinguished Japanese Gentleman has discerned that I Get It (TM) and we're chatting away happily about the wonderful things he keeps putting in my cup.

Onto the Organic Nama, another one brewed locally which I've had before and liked (at Hakone Gardens), very smooth and another +5 dry with a very refreshing vegetal quality. The Shirakabegura Tokubetsu Junmai is another I've had before and didn't realize it was a Takara product. DJG served it at room temperature instead of chilled, the way I've been doing. Another very nice sippin' sake, not too sweet or too dry. On to the big bottle of Sho Chiku Bai Kinpaku, which my host turns upside down before opening to show me the drift of gold flakes floating inside. Kinpaku are traditionally made this way because they are often presented as gifts or enjoyed at celebrations, rather like champagne in the West. The gold is inert and does nothing flavor wise - it was basically a very smooth, good quality sake.

The last, DSG told me, is something of an acquired taste, like bleu cheese, their ShirakabeGura Kimoto. As he described it, kimoto is the way brewers were making sake up until about 100 years ago with a slower fermentation process. (Aha, a more detailed description of the differences between kimoto and modern sake fermentation can be found here!) He made the analogy of the difference between farmed salmon vs. wild and then he poured. I tasted. The kimoto marched onto my tongue and planted a flag of Robustness. It was as complex as the Antique, but in a very different way. The tasting card says "gamy," but that's not right. More like a bold, hearty red after you've been drinking whites. DSG also said it was one of those sake that shows different qualities at different tasting temperatures.

When I inquired as to the price of the Antique, DSG mercifully informed me, "That one's $55 a bottle" without embarrassing me by reaching for one before I had a chance to say yea or nay. Ouch, but so worth it. I wrote the price down on my tasting card for future reference - you never know, there could be an occasion that calls for it. The Kimoto is $28, which puts it in the range of the Jinyu I sometimes splurge on. However, I had such a lovely time talking to this man and I'd just had six sake ranging from quite nice to a-freaking-mazing (for the princely sum of $5, no less!) that he said I should come back again soon and try the connosieur flight, accent on SOON as it includes some limited run sake that they may not have again any time soon.  I did come home with a bottle of the Shirakabegura Tokubetsu and the Organic Nama. I think the Nama would be nice to take up to Silver Desert Championship and share. 


gurdymonkey: (pissed)
I took the long way home via Jack London Square so I could pick up a nice bottle of sake, as I have been invited to visit A Certain Japanese Clan at Pennsic.

To my utter horror and disgust, the JLS branch of BevMo had (a) moved its sake shelf over next to a window - showing ignorance or indifference to the fact that sake is light and heat sensitive and (b) did not have a single bottle of Rihaku Wandering Poet. (Which begs the question, what is my boss going to end up giving me for Christmas when he walks into HIS local BevMo this December.)

No, I cannot call myself a connoisseur of sake or even a sake snob. I am still educating myself and my tastebuds - but I know what I like and I know what I don't like and I know that Wandering Poet is bottled heaven.

There were a bunch of Momokawa sake (but only the Asian pear flavor of the fruit infused Momokawa Moonstone line), a few Takara products (gotta have Takara, they brew in Berkeley) and a few other varieties I am not familiar with. Considerable shelf space was wasted on fourpacks of something called Sake2me. Dammit, I cannot present a bushi daimyou and his people with fruity girly wine-coolerish sake for trendaholic Silicon Valley yuppies that comes in a frickin' four pack! It is Just Not Done.

I finally found something that I knew was good because it was served to me at Estrella - Murai's Nebuta Honjozo. It also has a wonderfully ferocious ukiyo-e samurai with beetling black eyebrows on the label, which may amuse The Daimyou. A friend is driving out to Pennsic and has agreed to transport it for me so it doesn't get smashed in my checked luggage. BevMo has been duly emailed with a plea to bring back Wandering Poet, even if it's only the 300 ML bottles. If they don't, I'm just going to have to make special trips up to El Cerrito or into San Francisco to buy sake I know I like - because BevMo's promotions never ever seem to apply to sake anyway!


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