Omakase dining at Sen of Japan

It’s the way we dined in Tokyo. Hanging out with dad at his favorite sushi spots was like visiting friends, who just happened to be master sushi chefs that knew your palate. Like magic, they’d prepare stunning, one-bite dishes that were presented over the counter like a sacred ritual. Indeed, it was a gift of honor and respect was paid by savoring it.

Dining omakase (o ·ma·ka·se), a Japanese meal that consists of dishes selected and coursed entirely by the restaurant’s sushi chef, is the most traditional way to enjoy sushi. For the true sushi lover and adventurer of food, it’s like receiving a series of surprise gifts, which are hand-crafted with thoughtful care just for you.

After a hot hand towel (oshi·bori) is presented to cleanse your hands and dietary restrictions covered, then it’s time to relax and welcome a multi-course selection of deliciousness. With exacting precision, chef prepares the freshest fish of the moment, not to mention fish of the highest caliber. Each one requires a different mastery.

In Las Vegas, Chefs Hiromi Nakano and Shinji Shichiri of Sen of Japan deliver an experience that keeps the curious and adventurous coming back for more. The product of two masters from the Las Vegas strip – Nakano from Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s Nobu and Shichiri from Bellagio’s Shintaro (now Yellowtail) –  there is no denying their culinary talent and synergy. Sourcing only fish that exceeds their expectations translates to an unsurpassed dining experience.  And if you’re seeking to discover more about any of the fish they serve, ask anyone and they’ll be able to tell you where it was caught and when.

Here is a look at their recent offerings. Next time I go, it will be completely different.  That’s the beauty of omakase.

Kanpachi (amberjack) with roasted garlic slivers, sea bream with micro greens and kiwi vinaigrette.
Sashimi salad featuring four different fish: Suzuki sea bass, Big Eye tuna, Scottish salmon and fluke presented with garlic oil and capers.
Poached lobster from Maine with spicy lemongrass dressing and sun-dried beets.
A Sen of Japan signature dish – Alaskan black cod, topped with foie gras, flash-fried shishito pepper, wasabi aioli and crushed red peppercorns.
Succulent cuts of filet mignon served with Peruvian bell pepper sauce, asparagus and micro greens.
Assorted nigiri (L-R): Akami (lean blue fin tuna from Spain) brushed with wasabi soy; Japanese snapper, shiso leaf and sea salt; Shima ahi (striped jack), kombu and yuzu soy; fresh scallop with spicy lime dressing; seared Tasmanian ocean trout with spicy ponzu sauce; tekka maki (tuna roll)

 

Obento box with house-made chocolate soufflé and green tea ice cream to finish the evening.

Bocce & Bottles 2016

For a long time, the game of bocce was purely for old Italian men. They wanted to get away from the wives and kids so they could smoke, cuss, scratch themselves when they wanted to … you know, the court was where they could do this all freely.   After all, women would just take the fun out of everything, right?

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These days the game of bocce has evolved to gather all ages, all genders, all abilities, making it one of the most social games, and it has truly become a personal favorite of ours. With a glass of wine in one hand, a ball in the other, it’s a symbiotic relationship that fosters hours of entertainment and laughter.

marisa

Finally, this year, we hosted our first annual “Bocce & Bottles” tournament.  The games got quite exciting!  Those with even the most minimal experience were able to get right next to the pallino. More vengeful players strategically knocked their friends’ balls out of the way. And when two balls were in question, we’d unravel the string from the copper cup to determine whose ball was closer. Yes, so much fun!  We are so fortunate to have such wonderful friends. Times like this is worth capturing and sharing. Here are photos (taken by Shawna Quenneville) to re-cap the event…

THE PLAYERS:group-shot

(L-R): Ada Feliciano, Craig Finetti, Eduard Ajdini, Marisa Finetti, Lisa Ajdini, Alison Bradley, Bill Bradley, Michelle Tenazas, Jared Cooper, Corinne Leo,  Liz Davar, Henry Davar, Kirk Peterson and Allison Bernhardt (George Chambers and Mini not pictured)

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dinner

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craig

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“Cup the ball” with our homemade measuring device.

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cooper

gathering

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alison
Looks like victory!

michelle

group

THE BOTTLES:

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the-bottles

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glasses

Egly-Ouriet, Brut Tradition, Grand Cru NV
Wind Gap Trousseau Gris 2013
Giovanni Rosso, Barbera, Donna Margherita 2014
Contratto For England Rosé 2008
Contratto Millesimato Extra Brut 2010
Jean Foillard, Morgon, Cuvée Corcelette 2013
Chateau Tourans Saint-Émilion 2010
Nigl Grüner Veltliner 2005
Unanime Gran Vino Tinto 2012
The Prisoner 2014
Contadi Castaldi Rosé Franciacorta
Chateau Touran Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2010
Portal Reserva Douro 2010
Leeuwin Estate Riesling 2010

THE FOOD:
An array of delicious food brought by friends, plus local restaurant favorites, like Daily Kitchen’s family meal, which included Brussels sprouts, macaroni & cheese, Mary’s all-natural rotisserie chicken, Certified Angus tri-tip beef, kale salad and flourless chocolate cake.

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eating

Chicharonnes from China Poblano
Chicharonnes from China Poblano

THE WINNERS:

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1st Place – Liz & Henry Davarimg_1586

2nd Place – Lisa and Eduard Ajdini
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3rd Place  – Yours truly – Marisa & Craig Finetti

 

Photos:  Shawna Quenneville

Unearthing amphora wines in Las Vegas

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In Georgia, old kvevri are stacked next to the monastery where the wine is made.

Archeologists have traced the origins of wine-making back to 8,000 years ago to the country of Georgia.  Wine was produced – and continues to be produced today – using clay vessels called kvevri. Essentially, fermentation of red and white wine in clay involves prolonged contact with the skins.  In wine circles, the term “amphora” is commonly used to describe this style of wine.

It goes something like this: perfectly mature grape bunches are placed into kvevri that are sunken into the ground, a stone lid secures the top, then it’s opened the next spring or summer to skim the finished wine from the grape bunches that have accumulated at the bottom.

Georgia has been producing natural wines like this, without the use of chemicals, foreign yeasts, or filtration long before it became a stylistic trend. In the last decade, however, winemakers in other parts of the world, especially Italy and Slovenia, have embraced this ancient way to making wine, and they deserve some attention.

Jars in the wine cellar at Azienda Agricola Cos,Acate
Jars in the wine cellar at Azienda Agricola Cos, Sicily, Italy.
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Josh Gravner, of Friuli, Italy, opens a Ribolla 2014 amphorae at the end of the whole skin contact period.
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Graver’s Ribolla 2014 direct from the amphorae.

While amphora wines can be made with red or white grapes, the wines made with white grapes end up with an attractive orange hue.  Typically, these wines have more body and structure than a normal white wine, and may even have noticeable tannins, due to the time spent with the skins.  When in Las Vegas, try them at the following places listed below.  The sommeliers  have provided the dish they’d pair with each one:

Josko Gravner Ribolla Anfora,  Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Italy  2003
Taste at:  Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, Manadrin Oriental
Pair with: Roasted Tomato “Provencal”Ratatouille of  Vegetables, Diced Baby Squid, Saffron Fish Soup

Sommelier’s Notes: “This is a super complex dish with the earthful flavors from the ratatouille, the “sweetness” of the squid, the saffron brings the lightly aromatic flowery thing. All of these you would find in something like Gravner’s wines. Just a whole lot going on.” – Will Costello, Master Sommelier/Wine Director,  Twist by Pierre Gagnaire @ Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas

COS Pithos Bianco, Vittoria, Sicily, Italy 2012
Taste at: B&B Ristorante, The Venetian
Pair with: Grilled Octopus with Fagioli Marianati and Spicy Limoncello

Sommelier’s Notes: “The COS Pithos Bianco has the delicacy to compliment seafood while offering the power to stand up to the flavorful char on the octopus, as well as the spice of the limoncello vinaigrette.” – Kirk Peterson, Beverage Director, B&B Hospitality Group, Las Vegas

Josko Gravner, Ribolla Anfora, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Italy 2005
Taste at
: Bazaar Meat, SLS
Pair with: Whole Turbot, Josper-Roasted with Olive Oil and Salt from La Coruna, Spain
Sommelier’s Notes: “The Turbot is a large flat fish found primarily in shallow waters close to shore, it has bright white flesh, a delicate flavor and can have a slightly oily texture.  The texture of the fish provides contrast while the simplicity of preparation of the Turbot compliments the flavors of the seafood and wine pairing.”  – Chloe Helfand, Lead Sommelier, SLS Las Vegas

A few more producers:

Luigi Tecce, Campania, Italy
Frank Cornelissen, Etna, Sicily
Adega José de Sousa, Alentejo, Portugal

Summertime Rosé Wines at Marché Bacchus

Rosés are a masterful match for almost any dish. These wines are versatile because they fall in between the extremes of red and white — less intense than a big, tannic, mouth-busting red, but with a little more depth than a super-light white.

I recently enjoyed a special lunch prepared by Chef Luciano Pelligrini at the quaint Marché Bacchus French Bistro in Las Vegas.  The luncheon was accompanied by a sampling of rosé wines  presented by John Matthew Smith, a well-known wine authority of Wirtz Beverage Nevada. All the wines were rosés – dry, refreshing, absolutely riveting – from places that beautifully express their terroirs.

In addition to the line-up was a sweet surprise, which wasn’t a rosé at all.  It was a German riesling that paired nicely with dessert.

Marché Bacchus luncheon feature summer wines.
Marché Bacchus luncheon featuring summertime wines.
Lettuce Wedge Salad, heirloom tomatoes, red onion, bacon and blue cheese dressing.
Lettuce wedge salad, heirloom tomatoes, red onion, bacon and blue cheese dressing.
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Pan-seared Scottish salmon with roasted tomato sauce and ratatouille.
Creme Brulee_Marche_Bacchus
Crème Brulée

 

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Reuling Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2013 is enticed with passion fruit, strawberry compote, earth and slight mineral edge.

Below is a list of wines that were poured during the luncheon. What’s truly special about Marché Bacchus, besides the waterfront patio setting, is the wine shop, which boasts over 950 different labels of American and International wines.  Any of these wines are available for purchase, to be taken home, or enjoyed with your dining experience at Marché Bacchus.

While rosés are great suggestion for warm weather, don’t let temperature dictate what you enjoy; they are perfect year-round.  Enjoy!

Champagne Ayala Rosé Majeur
Le Grand Courtâge Brut Rosé
Pierre Boniface Les Rocailles Apremont 2013 (Savoie)
Chateau de Calavon, Coteaux d Aix-en-Province Rosé 2013
Domaine De La Bastide Blanche, Bandol Rose 2013
Chateau Beaubois Costieres des Nimes Expression Rose 2013
Domaine Collotte, Marsannay Rosé 2013
Reuling Vineyard, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, 2013
Albert Bichot, Savigny Les Beaune Rouge AOC 2011
Chateau du Donjon, Grande Tradition, Minervois 2011
Dr. F. Weins-Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett 2013

San Francisco designer Tawnya Falkner moved to Nuit St. Georges in Burgundy to follow her passion relating to travel, food and winemaking. The result in Le Grand Courtage, a new gold-medal winning French sparkling wine.
San Francisco designer Tawnya Falkner moved to Nuit-Saint-Georges in Burgundy to follow her passion relating to travel, food and winemaking. The result – Le Grand Courtâge, a new gold-medal winning French sparkling wine.

 

Marche_Bacchus_wine_shop_las_vegas The wine shop at Marché Bacchus French Bistro.

Orange Wines are Deliciously Gorgeous

Yet here’s another reason why orange continues to be my favorite color – orange wines. I recently had a chance to try this gorgeous copper-hued wine, the 2011 Paolo Bea “Santa Chiara” Umbria Bianco.

Why is it so special? This one hails from Umbria, Italy. Often referred to as the “green heart of Italy,” it’s the only Italian region without access to the sea or international borders. Wines from here are not exactly famous, but they are interesting, delicious and definitely worth seeking. Next, orange wines are generally not widely available. In other words, they are rare treasures. Such is the case of this wine producer – Bea’s wine-making practices focus on high quality artisanal wines, however, their production is low.

Paolo Bea’s “Santa Chiara” 2011 is a fascinating orange wine with a unique field blend of Grechetto, Malvasia, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, and Garganega. If these are all white grapes, then what makes the wine orange? To clarify, it has nothing to do with orange fruit. Orange wines are white wines produced more like reds, with prolonged contact of crushed grape skins and seeds. This contact produces the distinctly beautiful hue. Ranging in color from butterscotch to tawny brown, they can also vary from vintage to vintage.

Often made in clay vessels or wooden barrels, this is an ancient wine making style that has recently been revitalized by Italians and Slovenians, and are produced today by enterprising winemakers worldwide.

It’s not easy to describe the “Santa Chiara.” It has a very different and unique aroma and quite generous in flavor – with spice, cantaloupe-like, rustic, earthy good funk going on in the glass.

Generally speaking orange wines often possess the body and tannins of red wines and the fruit and minerality of white wines, which it probably why I like it so much.  They are stylistically unique, and many offer earthy savoriness, with a richly textured mouth-feel.

Some claim orange wines to be a fad, but I think they offer a wealth of virtues. They are quite hard to find, however.

As for trying one out, look for a restaurant with a solid Italian wine list. In Las Vegas that would be none other than B&B Ristorante (The Venetian) and Carnevino Italian Steakhouse (The Palazzo).