Tuesday, April 10, 2012

it was waiting for me






2009 Kuehn Florimont Riesling | AC Alsace Grand Cru


2004 Prinz Von Hessen Riesling Spätlese | QmP Winkeler Hasensprung | Rheingau

One of those days, just one of those days when you want to think only about happy things. I remember the first time I ate sushi and sashimi. Just a child, and at the age of 10, raw fish isn't food; it's a novelty, like Kinder Surprise eggs. Everyone knows you don't eat them because of the milk chocolate.

I first visited Tokyo when I was 12. What a great experience. What a great summer, in fact. My aunt and cousin visited us first, spending a few weeks in Toronto, before we all flew to Vancouver to stay with a family friend. Then, I flew back with them, spending about 6 weeks in Japan. I learned so many new things that summer, but my strongest memories are of the food. Everything was so new, so different . . . I was a pretty bad eater, picky and a bit squeamish, but I learned to try everything there. All kinds of fish, the most amazing hairy crabs - even the peaches and pears we ate get me worked up again. It was a summer of adventure, and I grew up a lot during those 2 months; truth to the Chinese proverb that One would rather travel 10,000 miles than read 10,000 books.

The novelty of raw fish has certainly worn off, and I've come to (grudgingly) respect it. If the purpose of cuisine is to concentrate and present the very essence of the ingredient, then in some cases, sushi is the pinnacle. For the Chinese, raw hardly seems like the proper way to eat a beautiful fish, but if we look outside the tunnel vision that familiarity sometimes gives us, we often find inspiration. I was hungry for seafood. Hungry for shellfish, something like abalone or geoduck - feeling adventurous. But the fishmongers weren't cooperating, and I was about to return home empty-handed when I saw the most amazingly pinkish red hunk of tuna. It was meant to be. Diana's Seafood, pulls through in the clutch again, and with a sense of humour too: man behind the counter says Beautiful huh? It was waiting here for you this whole time!

You skin it, section it, and slice it. Thick and even. Look at the colour, the beautiful grain of the meat, the way it almost seems translucent. Incredibly fresh, considering where we are. Absolutely divine in flavour and texture. What to drink? I had a few chardonnays, but I was tired, and wanted an energetic wine to pick me up. Riesling, you're up.

An Alsace, from the Grand Cru of Florimont, along with a Rheingau riesling, from the Winkeler Hasensprung vineyard. I've been becoming more skeptical of these Alsatian wines - all flash no substance. Slightly disappointed in the Kuehn, all awkwardly handled residual sugar, little texture or extract. But that's why the German was on the table. Perfect isn't a term which should be used lightly in wine, but my god, the Rheingau riesling was perfect. Mineral and tension, still wound up and tight but with so much energy. Beautifully managed texture, on a long and extracted finish. Stunning wine for a stunning piece of fish.

Is this the best way to eat tuna? I don't know. Cuisine is about presenting food in the best way possible, but it's also about respecting it. A part of that means not overworking it. Eating in this way almost demands something out of the person eating. It's when you quiet down and really focus on the subtleties, that you really begin noticing why sashimi is a really special way of eating tuna. For one night at least, I was a believer.


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