Monday, October 02, 2006

Saké Day Part One

A day full of saké plus something from yesterday that I forgot.

Well, I didn't really forget, I merely neglected to mention because it wasn't in my saké notebook. True Sake! First of all, either tales of parking woes are exaggerated or we were very lucky to get a spot within a couple blocks. The storefront is narrow, so it might be easy to miss if driving by, but we found our way and I was not dissapointed. There were several customers in the store and the workers were so friendly. I had a list of a few specific sakés that I needed to find and they led me right to them. Then I spent time just looking at every bottle and every description. I bought several bottles and might have bought more if not for the current restrictions on liquids in carryon bags for air trips. Also not to be missed is the gorgeous collection of saké-related glassware. I was happy to find the hammered glass cups that I saw in Beau's book "Sake: A Modern Guide."

Thanks to my friend Rick, later in the afternoon I was able to get to Berkeley and to Takara Sake USA. The highlight of the visit, besides the generous, free tasting, was the museum. It was a great opportunity to put good visual images to alot of the things I've read about the history of saké making.

Takara's web site says:
The Museum features items and displays of interest to both experts and the general public. It includes an exhibit of the historical saké-making process, saké artifacts and implements collected by Takara Sake USA, and a history of saké-making in America. The collection is the only one of its kind in the U.S.A.

They have a very useful diagram illustrating the process of saké making in the 19th century with items which the museum owns an example of conveniently labeled. They also have a similar example of this on their site.

I was excited when I saw several old books. Unfortunately, they mainly consisted of old brewery ledgers with no illustrations.

As for the tasting, they have a menu for the day listing the daily available choices. I lost track of how many sakés I tried because when the friendly lady behind the counter found out that I was very interested in saké "just for fun," she became very generous and let me try the majority of the items on the menu plus a few other things.

Some things that I tried with a few comments:

Sho Chiku Bai nama
Sho Chiku Bai organic nama (superfresh, alive, green)
Sho Chiku Bai nigori creme de sake (creamy, white chocolate liqueur, thick)
Sho Chiku Bai nigori (thinner than creme de sake, sweet, pina colada)
Sho Chiku Bai Tokubetsu Junmai (sharp but smooth, prominant alcohol taste)
Shirakabe Gura (tokubetsu junmai, imported)
Sho Chiku Bai Ginjo
Takara Sierra Cold
Plus a plum wine and several flavored sakes (fuji apple, lychee, raspberry, and plum)

Sake Day Part Two (a description of the True Sake Nihonshu no Hi festival!) will follow shortly.


Etsuko said...

True Sake is such a great shop. What was in their window display at this time of the year? They have such hip twist to their whole store, AND carry really good sake.

Valerie Urban said...

I'm sad to say that I can't remember the window display, I was too distracted by the sake. They really do have an amazing selection, nicely displayed.