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Aug 23

Mad Men Monday: Sake

There was so much to write about in this week’s episode. My first instinct was to actually write about Coca-Cola through the years. For some reason, they were drinking Coke and not alcohol at the partner’s lunch. I’ll hold on to that one though. You’ll probably see me write it at some point this season.

My next thought was aha! I’ll write about the history of Benihana, which I did. Then Julie posted her version of that post and I deleted my own (my apologies if you saw it then it disappeared). Next! I seriously thought about writing about Drinky Bird. As a kid, I never had a Drinky Bird, so I ordered one last night. I love how fascinated the copywriters were with this toy, and it may show up as a future post as well, as soon as I get a chance to play with one.

Drinky Bird!

That leaves me with sake, which I was actually avoiding. Funny, since sake is a rice wine, but I really don’t care for it. It’s not for lack of trying. In fact, last year, Kevin and I visted Osake, an artisan sake maker on Granville Island in Vancouver, CA.


Osake offered a several samples, plus a flight, for tasting. We started with the Ginjo Genshu. The use of Ginjo means that 40% of the rice was ground away and only the remaining center was used in the distilling of the sake. Genshu means the sake was undiluted and can pack a slight punch.

Osake on Granville Island, Vancouver

The Genshu was a filtered sake resulting in a clear drink that had a lot of plum sauce characteristics. This was awarded a spot in the top 100 wines of 2008 by the Vancouver Magazine International Wine Competition. Overall, Kevin liked the “well-rounded flavor and sweetness.” I tolerated this one and we actually bought a bottle to take home with us. At the end of the two-week trip, with a lot of purchases already made (and taking up suitcase space), this is a pretty big compliment. At $25 for a 375 mL bottle, this was expensive but worth the price and hassle of bringing it home with us.

Next in the flight was the Ginjo Nigori. Nigori implies cloudy due to no filtration once the sake is made. This has a chewier texture, as expected in a nigori sake, and a nice long bitter finish. In comparison to other nigori sake, Kevin thought this one had a touch more ripe melon flavors and less creaminess. Once again, he enjoyed the overall experience, while I was slightly less thrilled. At $25/ bottle, this is reasonable pricing for the small batch quailty sake. Both ginjos were aged for 1 year in bottle, while the junmai were aged 2 to 3 months.

We ended with a flight of the three entry level (junmai) sakes. For junmai, 30% of the rice is milled away and no alcohol is added in the creation process. We started this flight with Junmai Nama Genshu, which was a nice entry level sake. Coming in at $35 for a 750 mL bottle, it’s a nice value. There was a lot of papaya and graininess. Kevin thought the ginjo had a more vibrant plum flavor, but this junmai would have paired well with a lean steak or a rick meat like duck.

Junmai Flight

Second in the flight was Junmai Nama which seemed to have higher acid. The slight lime flavor and very little creaminess made me think grilled shrimp would be a very nice food pairing. In comparison to the others, this was probably our least favorite, but still ranks as a nice entry. At $27 for 750 mL, the quality/value ratio is there, but not at the same level as the other options.

Finally, we tried the Junmai Nama Nigori, which had a very nice melon flavor from start to finish. This one costs $29 for 750 mL and is again a nice value for sipping. This was the “ricey-est” of all the sakes due to the nigori style and was closest to what I have tried in the past.

I’m not sure if that helps clear up any mysteries of sake. If not, I believe we have several different types in the fridge. If you’re interested, let me know and we’ll write up some tasting notes.

As for the episode, I did a little research. Honda’s first entry into the U.S. automobile market was the ’69-’70 N600, which to me looks slightly like a less-cool Mini Cooper. It wasn’t exactly a hit. However, they did have a hit in 1973 with the new Honda Civic. So I guess they really were just flirting with other ad agencies, seeing what is out there.

I was also happy to see more of Betty. You know, up until this season, I really liked – and to a degree, felt sorry for – Betty. This season she’s straining my patience. I do, however, think Henry is very good for her, always full of common sense. Roger, on the other hand, reminded me how my grandparents came to a lot of their long-held (and politically incorrect) beliefs. It’s just a specific environment, fueled by a specific war. What are your thoughts on last night’s episode?

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Posted by Michelle at 12:32 pm in Mad Men Monday, Television | Permalink | Comments ()
Aug 09

Mad Men Monday: One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer

Don has always been a bourbon man and if you look closely in the background at Anna’s place, she has a bottle of Wild Turkey on her bar. Wild Turkey, the brand, was created in 1940 on a turkey hunt. The 80 proof version was introduced in 1974.

Don will drink anything in the whiskey spectrum, I swear. It doesn’t matter if it’s low-end whiskey or high-end scotch. I tried my best to get a good look at the bottle he drank with Lane. Across the Internets, speculation is that it’s a bottle of scotch, most likely 30-year old Macallan.

I don’t know the first thing about scotch, so I turned to my scotch-drinking husband. According to Kevin, Macallan is a Highland scotch, so there isn’t as much peat as a scotch from Islay. (Islay scotch makes my house smell like a swamp.) Macallan is a nice and smooth whiskey, still available today at a very high price point. Believe it or not, you can read more about scotch on our site: Jameson, Laphroaig, and Johnnie Walker.

Don also doesn’t discriminate against beer. Both in the comedy club and in the bar with Anna, beer was the libation of choice. I know Budweiser was the preferred beer on this show last season, but I’m not sure what they’re drinking this season – whatever is on draft, I suppose.

While Anheuser-Busch was still the number 1 brewer in the ’60s, there were a lot more regional beers. Locally, you could easily find things like Hudepohl, Schoenling, and Wiedemann. Schlitz was big in Indiana, National Bohemian in Baltimore, Narragansett in New England, and so on. Since then, it is more the craft beers that have become regional, although there are still a few (such as Yuengling and Fat Tire) that hold tight to their regions.

As for the show, well, I think they are seriously focusing on character development this season. It’s definitely darker and slower in season 4, but I’m okay with that. I would like to see a little more of what is happening with Betty, and a lot more of what is happening with Joan and Peggy. There were no creepy children in this episode. In fact, the thing I found the creepiest? As soon as they introduced Anna’s niece, I knew Don would hit on her.

What did you think of episode 3?

Top and bottom photos from the
AMC Mad Men Season 4 Photo Gallery

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Posted by Michelle at 1:49 pm in History, Mad Men Monday, Television | Permalink | Comments (2)
Aug 02

Mad Men Monday: Indulge Yourself

I had trouble coming up with a theme for this particular Mad Men Monday. Sure, there was a bar or two filled with alcohol and Roger had Smirnoff on his. (Did you catch the Smirnoff ad?) I even debated on offering up a recipe for eggnog, but I can’t really get into the holiday spirit just yet.

Really, what I saw going on in this episode was a series of overindulgences. Keeping in mind that I’m all for indulging yourself, but between the smoking and the drinking … wow. This episode took a couple of vices to a new level.

Always Choose the Jameson

Peggy herself summed up this episode when she was brainstorming copy for Pond’s, “Indulge yourself.”

Overindulging was everywhere. Even in the meeting with the good marketing doctor and the staff, Harry rather overindulged in the cookies. The counterbalance to the episode was the return of Freddy who is a bit of a caricature of himself, with all his comments to Peggy and the way he blatantly took over her desk. But he’s not drinking and is obviously very involved in AA.

Which brings us to Roger, doesn’t it? Roger took the Pond’s client out to lunch and apparently got the client hammered (as well as himself), not realizing the client was a recovering alcoholic. It makes you wonder about our cast a bit. Roger was hammered at lunch, and followed it up with drinking some Maalox. Hammered again at the holiday party and picked himself up the next morning with some hair-of-the-dog. Yep, the morning after the party, Roger was walking around with vodka on the rocks. Now, I suppose that could have been water, but what do you think? I like Peggy’s comment after Roger’s lunch: “Can you believe that’s his job?”

Maalox Afternoon

Then there is Don, who had to be helped into his apartment two nights in a row by two different lovely ladies. (I bet Phoebe plays a bigger role in his future, don’t you think?) But he was bordering on a bit pathetic in this episode.

Up we go!

Perhaps because of a YouTube video I came across this week (embedded below), I was also hyper-aware of the overindulging in cigarettes in this episode. Of course, Lucky Strike is 69% of their business (including Pond’s), but Lee showed up to the party drunk and proceeded to encourage the overindulgence, delivering everyone a giant box of Lucky Strikes for Christmas. The office party was literally a haze of cigarette smoke. And I have to worry that Don is eventually going to pass out cold with a cigarette in his hand and burn down the entire apartment complex.

In this episode the entire office overindulged, which is fine. Christmas parties tend to bring that out in people. 😉 We all know I’m fine  with overindulging a bit, and at least no one was driving in this episode. But wow … I really have to worry about some of the characters – Don, in particular, is obviously drinking himself into oblivion to forget. Roger is more subtle, sometimes, but still quite the drunk.

One final thought. Sally was a lot less creepy this episode, and a lot cuter. But goodness, Glenn the Uber-Creepy kid down the street is back and he’s taken his own brand of creepy to a whole new level. I get that they’re bonding over the divorce and things. I know it’s hard for them. But still … Glenn is going to undoubtedly end up in prison before he’s 18. *shudder*

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Posted by Michelle at 8:36 am in Mad Men Monday, Pop Culture, Television | Permalink | Comments (2)
Jul 26

Mad Men Mondays: On the Rocks

Appointment television began again for me last night with the return of Mad Men, and of course, Mad Men Mondays! If you’re new to the blog, I try to fill you in a little bit on whatever our favorite ad men had to drink on the most recent episode. Sometimes they disappoint me, and I never catch a name or a label. Sometimes, it’s an amazing selection of potential bottles and cocktails.

Last night fell somewhere in the middle. Everyone was drinking something on the rocks, but it was primarily Don. In the past, he’s definitely been a bourbon and whiskey guy. Last night, they very purposely let us see the bottle of Canadian Club. (Think, for a moment, how liquor brands must be lining up to get their label on this show …)

Don Draper and Canadian ClubWhen I think of Canadian Club, I think of my Grandma. She always had some sitting around (although she was more of a bourbon girl – I take after Grandma). But Canadian Club has been around forever. It was originally created in 1858 in Detroit by distiller Hiram Walker. But even in the 1850s, the winds of Prohibition were beginning to blow. Hiram moved his distillery across the border to Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Walker aged his whiskey in oak barrels for a minimum of five years, which was revolutionary at the time. By doing this, he was able to pitch his whiskey as a premium drink. It became quite the rage in Gentlemen’s Clubs across the US and Canada, thus becoming Club whiskey. American distillers insisted that the word “Canadian” be included on the label, in hopes to deter people (buy American!). It didn’t work out quite as planned, however, and Canadian Club became an exclusive and sought after beverage. During Prohibition, one of Walker’s biggest clients was Al Capone, who made a fortune smuggling Canadian Club into Chicago from Windsor.

I suppose it’s only appropriate that Don has a bottle of Canadian Club on his office bar.

Roger, on the other hand, is a vodka drinker. Last season he was pretty excited over a bottle of Stoli vodka, another bit of alcohol that’s been around a while. There is, of course, some Stoli on Don’s office bar, apparently just for Roger.

Stoli (or rather, Stolichnaya) was introduced to the world sometime in the mid-1940s, although the actual date is under debate. Produced in Russia, it is fermented with wheat and rye grains, as well as artesian water from the Kaliningrad area. Once fermentation is complete, the spirit is distilled four times before being diluted with more fancy water.

Stoli was pretty hard to get in the 1960s, so when Roger scored his bottle or so last season, it was quite a coup. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that Pepsi struck a bargain with the Russian government to export Stoli to the west on a regular basis.

On a final note about the show, am I the only one really creeped out by little Sally?

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Posted by Michelle at 8:00 am in Cocktails, Entertainment, Mad Men Monday, Television | Permalink | Comments (5)
Dec 03

Contest! A DVD for Your Holiday Stocking

I knew I needed to celebrate the launch of our awesome new design with a contest. I need to give back to you guys, but I’m not exactly allowed to give away alcohol. Then I received in the mail two (yes two!) screener copies of Mondovino the Series. I received these free of charge from DVD producers Kino International. One is for me to watch, but the other is for you!

Now, I just got these DVDs in hand. It’s  a newly released, four-DVD set containing 10 hours of video, so I haven’t had a chance to watch – or review – this yet. It’s going to take some time.

But you can beat me to it. If you’re interested, just leave a comment below with a message about why you’d like to get your hands on this screener set. I’ll use a random generator to pick the winner and announce next Thursday. Make sure you include your email address in the appropriate field of the comments. (Email addressses are not tracked, shared, or used for anything except to tell you that you won.)

So, what is this DVD anyway?
Mondovino was a documentary released in 2004 that was fairly controversial. It really pushes the “small is better” theory and is not kind to larger winemakers, including the Mondavis and Staglins. According to Decanter.com,

“Many feel that in his portraits of Michel Rolland, the de Montilles of Burgundy, the Frescobaldis, Mondavis and other great wine families he relies on sophisticated editing to get his point across.

Rolland in particular is singled out for demonisation. Using multiple replays of a single shot of the wine consultant laughing in his chauffeur-driven Mercedes, the director contrives to make him appear a malevolent presence.

Similarly, clever cutting canonises figures like Mas de Daumas Gassac’s Aime Guibert, or turns the Staglins of Napa into cliches of insensitive Californians.”

The original movie was one of only four documentaries nominated for the Palm d’Or at Cannes. The director, Jonathan Nossiter, turned that one film endeavor into a 10-part television series that supposedly is a more in-depth “investigation into the wine world, and more ‘intimate and detailed’ portraits of wine families” as compared to the original film. He covers everything from California to France. The series originally aired, from what I can find, on BBC Africa and BBC Food.

But I want you to keep in mind that this film raised the ire of many in the wine industry, as well as receiving a lot of praise. It’s often been called a one-sided documentary, and it does, in essence, charge Mondavi and Robert Parker with turning wine into a commodity such as coffee at Starbucks. This was filmed over four years at the beginning of the decade as well, and I’d like to think several things in the wine industry have changed over the last 5 years.

But the point of a documentary, even if you don’t agree with the filmmaker, is to make you think about, and consider, the subject.

If you’re interested in learning more, leave a comment telling me why. Maybe you’ll be the lucky random winner!

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Posted by Michelle at 8:37 am in Contests, Entertainment, Pop Culture, Television | Permalink | Comments (10)

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