MATSUNO MIDORI

As the cultural capital of Japan, Kyoto has a lot to offer by way of sights and experiences. There are beautiful parks, museums, restaurants and numerous temples (usually Buddhist) and shrines (usually Shinto) to visit. Regardless of your personal beliefs, the temples are a feast for your senses: the colors are vibrant and you can read about when the temple or shrine was founded (they are hundreds of years old!). You cannot miss the scent of burning incense.  You cannot escape the sounds of the wind blowing the chimes or the bells ringing.  And you cannot help but be in wonder of the nature and beauty of these tranquil and peaceful buildings.

Another very important part of Kyoto and Japanese culture is the tea ceremony. Tea ceremonies represent history and culture, and are used in formal and informal events. In addition to performing the rituals of preparing, purifying and serving the tea, which is usually green tea or Matcha, the host of the ceremony will offer food and sake to their guests. These dishes (kaiseki) can range from a few small courses to a larger feast that can last up to 3 hours. The sake that is served should compliment each dish nicely. The sake we are going to talk about today was made specifically for the Japanese tea ceremony school, Omotosenke that has direct ties to the OG Godfather of Japanese tea culture, Master Rikyu.

The sake is called Matsuno Midori Junmai Daiginjo. Midori simply translated means green (the color) or vegetation. But it has a deeper meaning too, one that speaks to vibrance, energy, life and freshness. The Yamamoto Honke Company in Kyoto was founded in 1677 by Genbee Yamamoto and his family is still in charge of the brewery today. Their Matsuno Midori Junmai Daiginjo at 15.8% alcohol is smooth, elegant and fragrant. Remember that Junmai means “pure rice,” so sakes in this category are going to be made using very high polished rice. Each grain of rice in this sake production is polished to 50% of its original size! The result is an almost crystal clear and highly aromatic sake. It is not sweet, but there are some beautiful florals, plum bud, dried apricots and black licorice on the nose. There are delicious tasting notes of Honeydew melon, vanilla cream, fennel, tangerine peel and salt water (minerality). It is so lovely, delicate and complex, but also perfectly balanced. The producer’s website says that it can be enjoyed warmed or chilled, but this Sommelier prefers it chilled, at 45 F.

Because it was made for multiple courses during a tea ceremony, this sake is versatile and can be paired with a wide assortment of dishes, from ceviches to heartier stews. Here is a recipe that is a cross between a Quiche Lorraine (pastry, cream, eggs and bacon) and a Spanish tortilla, which is like an opened-face potato omelet. It’s a crustless Potato Quiche, and like our sake, it is versatile. Feel free to add chopped cooked bacon, smoked salmon and asparagus or simple roasted vegetables for variety. Kanpai!

Crustless Potato Quiche

2-3 medium potatoes, peeled, cut lengthwise then thinly sliced
Olive oil
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Salt and ground black pepper
1/ tsp. dried parsley
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. paprika
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese (shredded Cheddar or Jack cheese is also OK)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 10-in round baking pan with olive oil or non-stick oil spray and set aside.

Potatoes: place the peeled and sliced in a medium pot and over with cold water. Season with salt and over high heat, bring the potatoes to a boil. Cook for about 7 minutes or until they are tender. When tender, drain potatoes and put in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, toss gently, then put the potatoes in the prepared baking pan. Spread the potatoes evenly, then season with 1 teaspoon of salt.

Egg mixture: Mix all ingredients plus 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper together in a medium bowl then carefully pour over the potatoes in the baking pan. If the baking pan is full, put it on a baking sheet before putting in the oven.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the eggs are set. Serve warm or cold. Complement the dish with a green salad on the side.

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