Event goers sip on sake. Photo by Azix.
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Japanese Sake Blooms in New York

Meryle Evans / February 21st, 2013

Sake: It’s healthy, umami-rich, it brings out the flavors of other ingredients, and…it makes people happy, suggested Ambassador Shigeyuki Hiroki, Consul General of Japan in New York City, welcoming guests last week to his elegant residence just off Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The occasion was a tasting of 20 sakes, each paired with a dish created by Fred Sabo, executive chef at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who has lived in Japan and studied its cuisine. After a presentation on the history and brewing process of this ancient national beverage, made with rice, water, yeast, and koji (mold spores), the participants trooped up the sweeping staircase of the 110 year old Renaissance-style mansion to sample sakes from different geographical regions and a variety of processing techniques. With an amazingly diverse flavor profile, the sakes ranged from sweet to dry, robust to delicate, simple to complex, some with the addition of other ingredients. Among the more intriguing pairings: Yamagata’s Kaori Mikan infused with mandarin orange/oyster on the half shell with pomegranate verjus gelée; Suehiro’s Poochi-Poochi, one of several semi-sparkling sakes with pickled shrimp with gingko nut; Yamamoto Honke’s Yuzu Omoi with unagi apple strudel; Masuda Tokubee’s Tsukinokatsura low alcohol (8 percent) suggested for first-timers with green tea fudge; Ippongi’s Ginkoubai with sweet-and-spicy hot peppers and chicken satay with peanuts; and rich, mellow Kitaya’s Kitaya with sirloin steak with truffled spinach. Kitaya was named for the characters joy and abundance to “spread abundant joy through sake,” which indeed it did.