November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Savory, juicy turkey by my mom. I look forward to this bird all year long.

November 22, 2009

Pizza Party

It's my good friend R's birthday today! To celebrate, we had a pizza making party yesterday. Everyone was asked to bring a (secret) ingredient or two and some cheese. As a double-hitter, I brought three containers of my special Japanese BBQ chicken, which has now been deemed as "The JD" by my friends. JD = Julie's Delight. I deboned and tore up one container of the chicken to use as a topping and offered the rest up to anyone who needed something (ridiculously delicious) to snack on while the pizzas baked.

November 20, 2009

An Ostreaphile's Journey

I have decided to take on a new challenge: to become an oyster connoisseur. I have enjoyed these delicacies for too long without understanding. It's time to get to know them on a deeper level. I suppose my curiosity started to bubble up when the subject arose during brunch with my college buddies, D and R. D also loves oysters, but she's afraid of the health consequences. Don't they have a lot of cholesterol? Aren't they kind of bad for you? I thought about the 24 Malpeques that I gobbled up a few days prior and wondered the same. So I decided to do a bit of research (aka Google).

November 15, 2009

Banana Bread

Today, I decided to make some banana bread, as practice for my Thanksgiving contribution this year. My first attempt was pretty good. The aroma that filled the apartment was delightful. B was very eager to try it. After taking a bite, we discovered that it was incredibly moist, just like the recipe had promised. I really liked the cinnamon that was swirled in too.

November 12, 2009

Popovers, Popunder



"Popunder" w/ Strawberry Jelly

I came across a recipe from Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn for these dreamy and fluffy popovers the other day and thought that they looked easy enough to make. I was planning on making banana bread that night, but was obviously sidetracked.

November 7, 2009

Sake + Cheese

A few weeks ago, Groupon promoted the New York Vintners pairing classes. While there was a nice range of courses to select from, one really caught my eye— sake and cheese!... Sake and cheese? When I think of obvious pairings, sake and cheese doesn't come across my mind. But I love both on their own, so why not together?

I quickly enrolled online in the 40 person course once the registration period began. Then B and I traveled to Tribeca one Saturday afternoon to be educated on this *odd couple.

On the outside, New York Vintners seemed like any other wine shop. But once we walked in, we quickly realized that there was something interesting going on here. The front of the store was a wine shop, and the back was a kitchen/event space. The wall between the two sections was on tracks (mobile), so both sections could contract and expand. A gigantic European map stretched along the side wall. Each table setting had an information packet about the sakes and cheeses, but would be mainly paying attention to the instructors. 

Monica Samuels was our sake sommelier for the night, which was a great treat since she is one of the finest in the country. She is currently the Sake Ambassador for Southern Wine & Spirits of New York and was SUSHISAMBA's first national sake sommelier. Monica also learned from globally renowned sake guru John Gauntner. She even recalled her own painstaking experience of making sake in Japan. I won't go into details, but during one phase of production, you have to tend to the koji (sake rice that has been treated with starch-converting mold) once every 2 hours for 48 hours straight. Yeah, that's hardcore legit.

Monica took time at the beginning of the class (when we were all still stone-sober) to demystify some false perceptions of sake, which was a great approach to teaching the basics. We learned about how sake is made, the different types of premium sake, and various other interesting facts. For example, did you know that...
  • Sake is the only alcohol that doesn't produce sulfites, which would be a great alternative beverage to those who are allergic
  • An opened bottle of sake can be left for a couple of weeks before it changes flavor, unlike wine
  • The only way to identify the locality of a sake is by the water used in the production process
  • Sake does not get better with age and should be consumed within 2 years of production
Once the basics were locked down, we moved onto the fun part–the tasting! Monica had selected five very different premium sakes for the flight. Actually, let me rewind! Before we even began the class, we also received a glass of sparkling sake called Gekkeikan Sparkling. I've never had a sparkling sake before and bubbles were quite refreshing. It was almost like having a light sparkling wine, but the flavors were much more subtle and clean. The aftertaste didn't linger in my mouth as much either.

As we experienced each of the sakes one by one, Monica informed us about the production and flavor profiles. We had the following (in order): Kasumi Tsuru Kimoto Extra Dry Honjozo, G Joy Genshu, Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo, Momokawa Pearl Nigori Genshu, and the Gekkeikan Plum. I'll go through them in greater detail a bit later.

By the forth or fifth sake, everyone was eyeing the cheeses. Some impatient folks at our table even started to nibble on them! (Their inhibitions might have been lessened by the alcohol.) Fortunately, the tasting chef, Chris Meeker, came back on the scene to explain the assortment of cheeses on the plate.

From the instant that Chris entered the room at the beginning of the class, I thought he'd be a fantastic Top Chef contestant. I can only imagine how comical his interactions would be during the competitions and "private interviews." He most recently worked as the private chef for the Wrigley family. Anyway, the cheeses that he included were: Cheddar, Feta, Gorgonzola, Piave, and Gruyere.

So the idea behind the pairing part of the class was to try each sake against each cheese and explore for ourselves what works and what didn't. To best facilitate the tasting pairing, Monica suggested to first take a sip of one sake, then eat a bite of cheese, followed by another sip of the same sake. It took me awhile to get this habit down (I always wanted to just eat the cheese and wash it down with the sake), though I found this technique worked very well in identifying which pairings were successful.

Here's the breakdown of all the sakes and my favorite cheese pairings:
  • Kasumi Tsuru Kimoto Extra Dry Honjozo: Made in Hyogo, Japan. The sweet, yet subtly musky flavors made this sake easily enjoyable. I'd definitely introduce my friends who are sake newbies to this. Perhaps my favorite of the flight. I thought it paired very nicely with the Gorgonzola and Piave.
  • G Joy Genshu: Made in Oregon. Definitely the coolest bottle, by far (see below). All black with a golden lowercase "g" makes a bold and modern statement about sake. Flavors were similar to that of the Kasumi Tsuru Kimoto, but a tad less sweet. Tasted great with Cheddar and Gorgonzola.
  • Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo: Made in Oregon. From past experience (although ignorant of the types of sake), I have found that I prefer Junmai Ginjo over other types. This was no different. I very much enjoyed the smooth and clean taste of this sake, which is also the first and only sake to carry a USDA seal (there are very few organic sakes out there). Fantastic with the Cheddar and Guryere.
  • Momokawa Pearl Nigori Genshu: Made in Oregon. The only sake that was cloudy, which is due to the rougher filtration methods. It is definitely quite a bit "heavier" to drink than the others, but left a very satisfying feeling. I actually prefer to have this sake independent of all cheeses, as it can easily stand on its own.
  • Gekkeikan Plum: Made in Wakayama, Japan. It's very sweet and would do well as a dessert wine. The sweetness of the sake easily drowned out the finer tastes of most cheeses, although I did think that it matched the Feta quite nicely.
By the end of the class, the room was warm and noisy. I was left happy, better informed, buzzed and definitely asian glowing. We bought six bottles of our favorites and ducked out to grab some dollar oysters at Lelabar in the West Village.

I recommend this particular course to anyone who is curious about sakes and loves cheese. I would love to try some other New York Vintner classes in the future. Most courses at NY Vintners are $45 per person (although we scored them for $20 each on Groupon!!!)

For more information about sake, visit:

SakeOne - Sake 101 videos

* * * * *
New York Vintners
21 Warren Street between Church St. and Broadway
New York, NY
(212) 812-3999

*The class was called The Odd Couple: Sake and Cheese.