Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mood Swings and Comforting Sake

Not sure if its just me, but I feel like what I eat and drink has a major impact on my mood, and vice versa.  When I was a sushi chef, the customer would ask me "what do you recommend?" and I would say "what kind of mood are you in?"  I know, you shouldn't answer a question with a question.  But, to me and what I have learned about food is that it's a major player in who we are as individuals, whether you are conscious of it or not.  Vittles can be uplifting, or comforting, sometimes even an aphrodisiac.  

So when I tasted Taiheizan "Tenko" Kimoto Junmai Daiginjo from Akita prefecture, it put me exactly where I wanted to be.  A soft, silkiness on the palate, just melting.  Round, lush aromas of ripe fruits, with just a kiss of acidity on the finish to balance.  Wow.  Soothing and comforting.  

What is kimoto?  I'll start this story off in a round-about way.  Its somewhat surprising to learn how extremely difficult it is to brew sake.  Not only are there a myriad of steps involved, each completely specific and vitally important in their own right, but these guys (mostly guys, some girls) for six months of the year are waking up before dawn IN THE DEAD OF WINTER!!!  Its freezing cold out there and the passionate ones do it because well, they are passionate about it.  Having said this, back to kimoto.  Considering how arduous sake brewing is, kimoto style of brewing is incredible.  To make the yeast starter, the kurabito (brewery worker) mashes together the rice, water, koji and yeast in a big hangiri (shallow bamboo bowl).    This process sometimes would take hours to get to the right consistency, so traditionally the kurabito would sing songs (the likes of which I do not know, yet) and when the song was finished, so was the mash.

But why do they do this?  They want to take out all the pockets of air in the mash.  The natural lactic bacteria (that floats in from the ambient environment) will not produce the lactic acid in the presence of oxygen.  Lactic acid is very important in the brewing process because its strong and will sterilize the tank.  Ah, this is so very technical, and its only the first post! 

Ultimately, kimoto sakes, because of the way they are made, often exhibit full, round flavors, sometimes a gamey-ness that can be very nicely paired with savory dishes like lamb or roast.  Of course they can be enjoyed on their own and I think they are great for wine lovers.  

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