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TIP OF THE DAY: Pair Saké With Cheese

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Buy the cheese, open the saké. Photo courtesy CheeseNerds.com.

 

Recently, we were invited to a cheese and saké tasting at the French Cheese Board in New York City. Think you should sip saké only with Japanese food? Think again.

While it doesn’t seem intuitive, the the traditional Japanese drink, brewed by fermenting rice, has a broad range of flavors and styles that pairs with various foods. Like wine, it’s a global beverage.

Saké is made from four ingredients: rice, water, yeast and koji, an enzyme. Saké is fermented and brewed like beer, but served like wine. It is also characterized as a wine because of its alcohol content is similar.

Think of saké as you’d think of white wine. A bolder saké can stand up to spicy cuisine, like Indian food. It can also pair well with French dishes. A milder sake is better with delicate flavors like sushi and sashimi.

Now for the cheeses: Another reason saké pairs well with cheese is that both contain lactic acid. Most aged cheeses go better with bolder sakés, fresh cheeses (like chèvre) with milder ones. With aged cheeses, we personally like:

 

  • Genshu saké, a style that’s stronger because it is not diluted with water.
  • Nigori saké, cloudy because it is roughly filtered old-style, which leaves microscopic particles of rice in the liquid. We also like its hint of sweetness with stronger cheeses.
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    As with white wine, serve saké semi-chilled, around 60°F.

    The journey to knowledge includes trying what you can get, and seeing how you like it. That goes with both sakés and cheeses.

     
    WHAT CHEESES SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

    Your favorites! We’re serving saké and cheese today, for Mother’s Day, with Truffle Tremor, a truffle cheese; Point Reyes Blue Cheese; Red Hawk, a strong, Muenster*-style cheese from Cowgirl Creamery; and a Brie. The first three cheeses are from Marin County, north of San Francisco; Brie is imported from France.

    If you want to see what pairings others have done, check out the website TrueSake.com, written by a sommelier who recommends his top three cheese pairings with particular sakés; and look for similar content online.

    If you’re not sure about taking this on by yourself, ask your local cheese store to set up a tasting. Here’s a report from CurdNerds on a tasting at Murray’s Cheese in New York City.

    More to discover:

  • Sake 101, an overview
  • Saké terms, a glossary
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    *That’s Alsatian Muenster, not the mild American “munster.”

      




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