Monday, June 2, 2008

Spin the Bottle--Saké: A Modern Guide

Are you still stumped about Saké? Would you like more advice about which Saké you might like? Well I may have an answer for you.

It is time for the next edition of Spin the Bottle, a part of the Wine Book Club. Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20 founded the Wine Book Club as a reason for wine bloggers to catch up on their reading and to share their insights on the books they have read. Every other month a book is chosen by a wine blogger for review.

The book for Wine Book Club: Edition #3 was recently announced. Lenn of Lenndevours chose To Cork or Not to Cork: Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle by George Taber. Reviews will be posted on June 24.

But until that date, we have something to help tide you over. In between each edition of Wine Book Club, there is a segment called Spin the Bottle where an individual blogger is chosen to post a review of a wine book of their choosing. It is my turn this time for Spin the Bottle and I have chosen a book on a topic that is near and dear to my palate, a book on Saké.

There are actually only a limited amount of books on Saké available in English. So my options were limited. Though the decision of which book to review was not that difficult. I selected Saké: A Modern Guide by Beau Timken and Sara Deseran.

Beau Timken is the owner of True Sake, the first all-Saké store in the United States. It is located in San Francisco and I was fortunate enough to visit it a few years ago when I was out there on vacation. It is an excellent store with over 150 different types of Saké, all imported from Japan. They hold free tastings and other special events. They have a good website and they even ship to much of the country. Beau holds two professional Saké-tasting licenses and also has a master Saké sommelier license.

Saké: A Modern Guide is an excellent primer to the world of Saké. It is a small hardcover with only 120 pages, though it is loaded with information. The first portion of the book gives you a brief history of Saké, describes how it is made and talks about some Saké rituals. It also discusses how to taste and serve Saké. All of this information is provided in an easily understandable format and is perfect for the newcomer to Saké though almost everyone is bound to learn something from it.

Then, Beau provides tasting notes for fifty Sakés that he personally recommends. He does not provide numerical ratings for the Saké. He simply describes how they taste and gives some notes on how they are made. The tasting notes also give a rough comparison of each Saké to a particular type of wine. So, if you like a dry Chardonnay, you can easily find a Saké which will be similar in style. Or if you prefer full-bodied red, there is a Saké to match to that as well. Such comparisons are an excellent way to help wine lovers find Saké that might appeal to them. It can be intimidating to see dozens of different Saké and not be sure which might appeal to you. This helps makes that process easier.

Next, the book presents some recipes for dishes that would pair well with Saké, including some recipes that require Saké as an ingredient. Maybe you would enjoy some Sweet Potato Fries with a Soy-Sugar Glaze or Sake-Steamed Clams with Ginger. Yet the recipes do not end there as the final section of the book provides recipes for Saké cocktails. Try a Persimmon Passion, Cucumber Zinger, or even some Saké Sangria. This also shows the versatility of Saké, how it can be used like wine in cooking or to make intriguing cocktails.

The book is also attractive, containing numerous photographs by Scott Peterson. The photos are very elegant and well composed. You can see pictures of various Saké bottles, Saké rice, the prepared recipes, Saké cocktails and much more. The photos definitely enhance the value of this book.

This is an excellent introductory book about Saké and it covers so much territory in a small space. Even those who are more familiar with Saké will find items of benefit. Anyone seeking to learn more about Saké should definitely check out this book.

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