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Our Osechi Ryori おせち料理 (Japanese New Year’s Food), Other New Year's Eve Traditions, + Recent Saké Explorations #WinePW


For our kick-off 2021 Wine Pairing Weekend event, I asked the #WinePW to look at Saké & Other Pairings for Asian Foods. You can read my invitation here. It's a little bit different than our usual focus on traditional grape wines, but I've long been curious about learning and exploring more about Japanese rice wines. Thankfully a group of the bloggers decided to join me in my madness.

If you are reading this early enough, feel free to join in on our live Twitter chat on Saturday, January 9th at 8 am Pacific time. Follow the hashtag #WinePW and be sure to add that to any tweets you post so we can see it. All of these posts will be live by Saturday morning. Here's what we are sharing...

One of the many things I love about participating in these group events is learning from bloggers who are much more experienced and knowledgeable about a subject than I. Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog shared some previously posted articles to get us in the right frame of mind for this theme. Check out his Saké 101 and Saké One Tastings and Saké and Cheese Pairings – A Revelation. And from Martin's article, it appears that I am incorrectly calling it a 'rice wine' and drinking it out of the wrong glasses. Whoops. Fascinating!

Osechi Ryori おせち料理 
Japanese New Year’s Food

During one of our hikes last week, the boys decided that we need to do all of the good luck new year's traditions and foods because...yeah...2020. There are many, many different traditions from all around the world but the reasoning behind their lucky foods are oddly similar. Here are some of the overlapping auspicious attributes: food that’s round (the shape of coins), food that's yellow or orange (the color of gold), food that's green (the color of spring leaves and paper money), fish (symbol of bounty), pork (prosperity and an animal that roots forward), legumes (coin-like seeds that expand like wealth) and cakes (sweetness is richness).

But, since D is in his third year of studying Japanese in high school, when he asked if we could make Osechi Ryori おせち料理 (Japanese New Year’s Food) for our actual dinner, I readily agreed. So, we had the pork, lentils, collard greens, and other foods spread out over several days. And he and I prepared a late dinner of Japanese New Year's foods on December 31st.

Other New Year's Eve Traditions

Tossing water like they do in Puerto Rico. Leaping off chairs and making marzipan pigs like the Danes. Embracing my Filipino side with polkadots. Eating 12 grapes at midnight like the Spaniards. We had fun with good luck traditions from around the world last night.

My favorite tradition, however, has always been the Año Viejo, an Ecuadorian tradition a friend introduced to us many years ago. 

We symbolically burn up the failures, regrets, and frustrations and anger of the old year - yeah, 2020! - to usher in the hopes and resolutions of the new one after we stuff all the bad words and ill sentiments into his body. That was much needed this year.

Speaking of frustrations, this was just another holiday meal of 2020 that we didn't get to share with my parents. Even though they only live half a mile from us, we haven't shared a table with them since March. 

So, as we've been doing for almost all of the year, we packed up and delivered the meal to my parents so they could enjoy the food in the socially-distance safety of their own home.

This is the box he packed for Nonno and Nonna. 

Back to D's menu and the meanings behind the dishes. Click on the dish name, if it's bolded, to go to our recipe post.

  • Sweet Rolled Omelette (Datemaki) 伊達巻 represents scholarship. We substituted Tamagoyaki, Japanese Rolled Omelet).
  • Candied Chestnut and Sweet Potatoes (Kuri Kinton)  栗きんとん represents wealth.
  • Candied Sardines (Tazukuri) 田作り represents bounty.
  • Sweet Black Soybeans (Kuromame) 黒豆 represents health.
  • Herring Roe (Kazunoko) 数の子 represents fertility. I half-joked that no one at our table needed that in 2021! And we substituted smoked caviar because that's all we could find.
  • Daikon & Carrot Salad (Namasu) 紅白なます
  • Pickled Lotus Root (Su Renkon) 酢れんこん represents good fortune.
  • Simmered Shrimp (Ebi no Umani) えびのうま煮 represents longevity.
  • Decorative Fish Cakes (Kamaboko) かまぼこ飾り切り represents sunrise.
  • Fresh Homemade Mochi お餅の作り方

I don't know why I didn't expect to be stuffed from this dinner. It was a lot of food!

Recent Saké Explorations

To go along with our Osechi Ryori, Jake and I poured the Gekkeikan Black and Gold Sake. Gekkeikan Black & Gold is a Junmai-shu style which means that it contains pure unadulterated saké and has no brewer’s alcohol is added to it.  Also there is no additional starch or sugar is added to the alcohol. This  saké  is, uniquely, a blend of two different sakés made with rice milled to 60% and 70 % by their sake master and is 

Rich and complex this was a full-bodied sip with 15.6% alcohol by volume. On the front end, there were hints of sweet fruits such as melon and papaya. But hints of nuts and spices presented themselves towards the finish. This was well-balanced and nuanced and paired beautifully with the varied tastes and textures of our dinner.

And, in the weeks running up  to this event, we tried...

Dewazakura Oka "Cherry Bouquet" Ginjo Sake + Sesame Noodles

Kizakura "Bushido Way of the Warrior" Ginjo Genshu Sake 
Tantanmen Ramen (similar to this one)

Nihon Sakari Nama Genshu Honjozo 
+ Pork Katsu Over Chicken Curry

Dewazakura Tobiroku "Festival of Stars" Sparkling Sake
+  Hong Kong-Style Noodles

I haven't a chance to post recipes or tasting notes for those. Soon! 

And because my boys always object to - and I quote - "not getting any special beverages to try", D picked up some ramune for our New Year's Eve dinner. I just averted my eyes to the amount of sugar and food coloring in these drinks!

Well, that's a wrap for the January 2021 Wine Pairing Weekend event. We will be back next month with BIPOC Winemakers/ Owners with Nicole from Somm's Table leading the discussion. Stay tuned...


  1. I am first and foremost flabbergasted that you son's high school has Japanese! That aside, these sound so much nicer than any sake I've ever encountered. I'm so curious now to see what I can find here and try some

    1. They used to teach Italian, too. He is the first class to get Japanese at the high school and he LOVES it. But as it's not certified as a DP (diplomma programme) class, he had to add Spanish back into his schedule.

  2. I am sooo hungry after this post! I'm going to live all of these traditions vicariously through you this year. I learned from Lori of the Irish tradition of opening the front door to usher out the old year. We are usually working on New Years, so we don't have traditions. We did head to the roof to watch the fireworks, one hotel downtown was shooting them off and as usual, there were illegal fireworks across the valley.
    While I didn't do sake for this pairing, I am getting inspired to try to find a few. Maybe I'll do a cheese pairing, inspired by Martin!

  3. It is so cool that he made the meal! Kudos!! I love those little marzipan pigs!! They are adorable. As an added tradition. Irish open the door at midnight to let the last year out and welcome the new year in.

  4. This was a fun theme! I like the way you observed your New Year's! Food wise, I've been doing black eyed peas for New Year's recently but skipped this year as I had some other things to use up.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing my posts! I'm glad you found them informative! In fact, it looks like you learned the best way, by having several. Of all the traditions you mentioned I especially like that Ecuadorian one

  6. I love what you've done here in putting together all of the New Year's traditions and foods! I've long had an idea that someday (when parties are a things again) I'd put together a NYE obstacle course combining lots of different traditions. You've added a few here I'd never seen before, including the Ecuadorian Año Viejo which seems soooo appropriate and cathartic!Happy New Year!

  7. So cool that D has studied Japanese for three years! Looks like your family had a lot of fun with these traditions.


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