A Super-Size Sake Selection at Spec's

Okay, so maybe I spend a lot of time at Spec's on Smith. But can you blame me? The place is a palace of fine foods with interesting finds waiting on every shelf.

Until recently, however, the sake selection here was somewhat limited. So it was with great relish that I rounded the corner to my favorite aisle and found it much expanded. The refrigerated section with some pre-chillled bottles of sake was my favorite touch in the new area, as I'd always lamented not being able to pick up a cold bottle of sake as one could with beer or wine.

My sake journey began last year when I finally had excellent sake at Kubo's -- not the hot stuff that's been scorched within an inch of its life in those giant containment units at so many Japanese restaurants -- and started branching out into sparkling sakes and then nigorizake, or unfiltered sake. The latter is still my favorite beverage in the rice wine genre.

I picked up an inexpensive bottle of sake to celebrate the new section. At just under $8, this cobalt blue Pearl Junmai is a great choice for dinner or dessert. The creamy sweetness will calm down a spicy dish like curry (especially considering its strong, pleasant undertone of coconut), or can be served as an after-dinner treat. And at 18 percent ABV, it's probably best when shared.

The price point is just one of the things I like best about sake. It's a lot easier on your wallet to bring a great bottle of sake to dinner than it is a truly great bottle of wine, unless you're a proficient bargain shopper. And a chilled bottle of sake is a refreshing change, especially with summer on its way. Who doesn't like having something a little different with their meal every now and then?

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Katharine Shilcutt