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Sake: A Modern Guide    by Beau Timken, Sara Deseran & Scott Peterson order for
by Beau Timken
Order:  USA  Can
Chronicle, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In his Introduction to this modern guide to Sake, Beau Timken mentions thinking that 'slurping this lava-hot substance that resembled a cross between rubbing alcohol and straight butane was the way they did it in Japan.' He discovered differently from Japanese fishermen in a Cape Town sushi bar and now has a master sommelier sake license and owns the San Francisco retail store, True Sake. The book is enhanced by Scott Peterson's enticing color photographs.

The author tells us that Sake pairs well with all kinds of cuisine and makes uniquely flavored cocktails - both food and cocktail recipes are included in this book. It starts with the history of Sake in Japan (it originated in mainland China), telling us that by 1698, there were over 27,000 sake breweries in Japan. Apparently there has been a recent trend to produce more premium and artisanal sakes, and it has now become a global beverage. Timken shares with readers Japanese terms for Sake Lingo 101 including the popular toast, kanpai (empty cup).

Timken covers Sake's roles in Japanese rituals - from weddings to housewarmings, and of course the tea ceremony - and explains the brewing process in which different kinds of rice and water are made into sake. He tells us that the more the rice is milled, the more expensive the sake. Just like wines, sake is categorized for quality (in this case, by milling rates and ingredients), and the author advises on how to interpret Sake labels (which are in Japanese kanji characters) based on the numbers. He provides tasting tips - including how to handle a home tasting - and discusses which types to serve chilled or hot, and choices of Sake drinking sets, from stoneware to glassware.

Next comes a chapter on Fifty Sakes to Try, giving an inkling of the range available. To help readers make their choices, the author notes comparable wines and beers, and suggests food pairings for each Sake. This chapter is followed by recipes for foods, with paired Sake suggestions - from Lotus Root Chips to Risotto with Sake, Hazelnuts, and Lemon (sounds delicious!) Finally, we're offered Sake Cocktails from Infusions like Pineapple- and Ginger-Infused Sake to Sake Sangria, Geisha's Delight (with Limoncello di Capri) and a Tokyo ELevator (a potent coffee).

If you've ever wondered if there was more to Sake than the hot drink we've all enjoyed with sushi, then be enlightened by this modern guide, which will tempt you to explore different types, and to pair them with some of the many delicious recipes listed here.

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