Monday, July 16, 2007

6/23 and 6/24: Shichiken Brewery Tasting

6/23: Saké Hana

I was asked by Toshi at Saké Hana to help with a tasting event. This happened to be for Shichiken Brewery, a saké that I was introduced to at Sakagura tasting. One big attraction about this tasting is that it is educational in its approach, educating enthusiasts on the basics of saké production in a show-and-tell format, all within one hour.

The education began with covering the basics of saké, mainly ingredients. The first lecture was on the production of yeast starter. To make “kobo,” Mr. Kitahara used steamed Yamadanishiki rice and sprinkled yeast through women’s stockings- an actual method used by the brewery- while carefully explaining the proper growing conditions. This was followed by production of “shubo,” which involved the production method by mashing the rice and mixing with “kobo” and water in several carefully measured stages.

After “shubo” was prepared, he went through the brewing process, followed by two different stages of filtrations: the separation of the lees from the mash, and carbon filtration. It is important to note that while first filtration sets the difference between clear “seishu” to the cloudy “nigori,” second charcoal filtration determines the difference between filtered and unfiltered “muroka” saké. For Shichiken Brewery, they are heavy on charcoal, resulting in less aromatic, more “traditional” styled flavor with good depth and acidity.

Last section of the lecture concluded with blending, pasteurization, and bottling. Of course, the best part of the evening was the tasting saké after fully understanding the process involved.

6:24: Chanto

Shortly after Saké Hana tasting was finalized, I was asked by Kitahara-san to assist in another tasting event held a day later. This time, the event was held at Chanto Japanese Restaurant by Christopher Street in the West Village. This was not only a saké education event, it also included Maiko-style dance and Tuna Feast, with Chefs demonstrating sashimi making using the one and onl Masamoto yanagi knives.

The event started with the reception featuring Shichiken saké, before Maiko-style dancing took stage. I have to say that this was the first time I got to witness Maiko-style dancing and it turned out to be the highlight of the evening. Combining elegance and athleticism in tune with Japanese shamisen music, to say that the contrasting dynamics of grace and adrenaline rush was awe-inspiring would be a huge understatement. (NOTE: picture of the dancers are not from the event.)

On the side, the chefs started their demonstration, and the feast soon followed. In the mean time, Mr. Kitahara and I began preparation for the presentation which of course, included tasting the products. One of the saké was the featured bottle of the evening, the "Kinu No Aji" 1998 vintage which was spectacular, a clear, pure, and elegant version of the aged Koshu.

This session was to be completed in 1/2 the time as the night before; therefore, our game plan was to conduct same-time translation. This went very well, and audience were engaged.

After the session, it was time for round two of... everything. (Hey, nobody told me that!) This, of course, included saké presentation by which time has become second nature.