Across the world, it is almost always true that the locally made beverage is a natural match with the local cuisine. Burgundy, for example, is the perfect companion to Burgundy’s foods, and this is so for the wines and foods of nearly every wine-producing region. It is also true for sake and Japanese cuisine: a meeting and melding of flavors and tastes.
But sake with Western cuisines? We drink sake hot, cold, in mixed drinks and in Japanese restaurants — not with a typical American meal. Yet as more sophisticated premium sakes arrive in the United States, it has become an intriguing question: Not simply, will sake go with this Western dish, but, as with wine, which sake will go with this dish?
Enter a group of Japanese farmers of Hokkaido Muumin Village and the sake brewery Takasago Shuzo, both on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. The farmers grew a rice called ginpuu, and from it the brewery made a traditional sake. They then invited an American chef, Christopher Lee, to come to Hokkaido to advise on how to adjust the sake to make it compatible with American foods. Among the changes Lee suggested: “Bring down the alcohol and give it familiar flavors, such as citrus.”
They named the new sake Iki, which in Japanese means a cool, chic, stylish lifestyle. And the taste? A fragrant, floral aroma; a whiff of citrus fruit; soft on the palate; relatively light in body; its 15.5 percent alcohol well integrated; a sake that does not fight the food. Indeed, it welcomed Chef Lee’s dishes.
Among those dishes were marinated salmon, scallop with black truffle, and braised beef with jalapeño and sesame aioli. The braised beef dish was a surprisingly good match with Iki. My favorite, though, was Iki with crispy pork belly, wasabi peas and sweet potato cakes. Who would have thought?
This is Iki’s introductory year. In each following year, a different American chef will be invited to adapt Iki to American cuisine and the American palate.
As the song from Fiddler on the Roof goes, “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find …”. The farmers and brewers of Hokkaido, with Christopher Lee’s help, have found us a match in cool, chic Iki.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group announced plans to take over an existing hotel in Switzerland. The property is undergoing extensive renovations in preparation to open at the end of next year as Mandarin Oriental Palace, Luzern. The property was previously Hotel Palace Luzern, on the shores of Lake Lucerne and in the heart of the city; it originally opened in 1906.
United Airlines’ environmentally friendly efforts lessen the impact on local U.S. communities.
As part of Germany’s climate package, a plan to reduce emissions, the country will raise departure taxes at German airports. Taxes will go up as much as 60 percent, and are expected to raise up to €740 million. The funds will then be used to lower VAT on rail fares from 19 percent to 7 percent.
Norwegian Cruise Line took delivery of its newest ship, Norwegian Encore, ahead of its naming ceremony Nov. 21. The 1,100-foot-long ship boasts a guest capacity of nearly 4,000. Since Norwegian Cruise Line took delivery of the shi, Oct. 30, Norwegian Encore sailed from Germany to England before making its way to New York City, then Miami, where the christening ceremony takes place next week.
Swiss-Belhotel International boasts an impressive portfolio throughout 22 countries, including 10 ASEAN member countries. This growth is continuing with the group’s new plans to debut four properties in Thailand.
One of Palm Desert, California’s, signature hotel properties recently finalized its biggest-ever redesign. The JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa is home to 884 guestrooms and nearly 250,000 square feet of event space. Every facet of the property has been redesigned ahead of the property’s grand re-opening in January.