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20 July 2005

Gewurz, Sushi, and Neurotoxin

Saturday night is often sushi night.  This past sushi night will forever be remembered as, "great Alsatian Gewurztraminer followed by pufferfish fin in sake" -sushi night.

When my foxy lady and I arrived at the sushi bar, we both looked around and immediately felt as if we were in a Left Behind novel.  The bar was almost completely empty - at 8:30pm.  Eerie.  Ok; granted we're talking Salt Lake City here; and New York it aint.  Still, an empty sushi bar on a Saturday night was indeed odd.  We strode over to the bar and plopped down across from the executive sushi chef. 

After enjoying an exceedingly fine bottle of Domaine Weinbach Cuvee Laurence Gewurztraminer (details below), we got to speaking with the chef.  We bantered on about sushi grades, fish freshness, Japanese culture, and sake.  Once the topic turned to sake (of which I am a complete novice) he told us about a unique sake cocktail:  Dried, grilled pufferfish fin in warm sake.

TetraodonhispidusWe were intrigued, and, as luck would have it, the chef had some dried fins.  He grilled them, warmed the sake and handed us a couple of ceramic cups.  I must admit, aside from the sake flavors, I detected only fishiness and saltwater.  Yet about 15 minutes later something odd began to happen.  My extremities began to feel as if I had slept on them all night - causing that buzzy/sleeping/numb sensation.  It was subtle, yet a little disconcerting. 

Sunday morning was even stranger.  I awoke and felt like my brain was stuck in first gear all day long.  I couldn't process thoughts as usual.  It reminded me of Elaine's abstinence-onset stupidity on Seinfeld.

I decided to do a little further research on pufferfish.  Pufferfish posses a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin, which is oh, only about 1200 times deadlier than cyanide.  The toxin is mostly concentrated in some of the internal organs, yet it is also present in the skin.

I'm not sure if my 'episode' was the result of hefty gewurztraminer + sake, or sake + neurotoxin, or all of the above.  Needless to say, I'll steer away from any pufferfish delicacies in the future.

The one thing still clear about Saturday night is the Alsatian:

The Skinny
Cuveelaurencejpg_2 Domaine Weinbach Cuvee Laurence Gewurztraminer, '00 ($40)

  • Deep gold in color and heavily viscous.  An almost syrup-like appearance
  • Extremely pungent scents of lychee, apricot, blossoms, almond, and cream.  Complex and enticing
  • One of the heaviest dry wines I've tasted.  Full-bodied, and viscous with a high alcohol (13.5%) content.  My brain translated this combination of texture and scents as, "sweet."  The wine, however, is not sweet - just big and pungent.  In spite of its heavy character, Cuvee Laurence maintains balance and offers a long, complex finish.  One of the most unique wines I've had recently

**** (4 stars out of 5)

It did great by itself and with sashimi.  However, I found the competing flavors of the sushi rolls too distracting.  Keep its food-mates simple, or drink it solo.  And avoid neurotoxin..


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Have you not seen that episode of the Simpsons where Homer goes to a Sushi bar and orders everything on the menu including puffer fish - and then spends the rest of the episode thinking he is soon to die! It was just repeated here (in the UK) a day or so ago...


I do recall that Simpsons episode. I can most definitely identify with Homer. I half expected my lips to go numb, and drool begin to flow from my mouth!

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