Cheese and Sake, A Delicious Pairing
We started the event with Banzai Bunny sparkling sake, not something I would ever have thought I might enjoy but it has a nice effervescent fizz courtesy of a secondary fermentation. It's not really like a Champagne, I found its slightly citrusy sparkle to be more like a Vinho Verde.
As with any fermented grain beverage the making of the mash forms key importance for sake. Although sake is called rice wine it is really more akin to a beer or a whisky. One thing that makes sake, which is made from rice, different from other beverages is the focus on not just the type of rice but on how much of it is polished away. Before processing into mash for sake, the rice is polished to remove the protein and oils from the exterior of the rice grains leaving a starchy core. The finer sakes have more of the rice polished away, in fact a new ultra premium sake promises to remove a full 91 percent of the rice, making the sake from the remaining nine percent. As you might expect, it has a hefty price tag, $2,000 a bottle, earning it a someday space on my drinking "bucket list."
As for the sake and cheese connection? It's an interesting idea. Unlike wine there isn't a natural affinity for the two, no history of connection. But that's no reason not to try it and some cheese shops and wine stores have held similar classes over the past couple of years. The Cheese Impresario created some interesting taste connections to try. She paired the Euphoria, a Junmai Ginjo sake, with the Dunbarton Blue, a cheese from the Roelli Cheese Haus in Wisconsin. The Dunbarton is a cheddar blue, combining a cheddar's sharpness with the richness of a blue. The Euphoria, which has a clean, classic taste with a vodka-like smooth finish, provided a nice counterpoint for the cheese's extravagant richness.
In my true liquor confessions one of the entries would have to be that I like plum wine. I first had the sticky sweet cough syrup-like drink when I was a teenager and although my palate has expanded since then I still enjoy it from time to time. So imagine my delight at Juiced Plum Nectar Sake. The sake contains plum nectar and has a naturally pulpy sweetness. The Cheese Impresario paired it with the Hook's 10-year aged cheddar, a cheese I usually go absolutely mad for. For me this pairing didn't work, I wanted the two flavors to live separately in my mouth, to savor juicy sweetness all on its own. My plum sake tastes I suspect are a bit more conventional, I'd drink it after dinner with ginger ice cream or I can see having it as a refreshing cocktail on a warm afternoon. Hell, just leave the bottle, I'll find some way to make happy use of it.