By Chef Virginia Monaco
Sake is an ancient—and often misunderstood—Japanese drink that is quickly gaining in popularity in the United States. To learn more about this traditional drink, ICE was thrilled to host a tasting led by Roger Dagorn, a Master Sommelier and one of only eight people outside of Japan to hold the coveted title of “Sake Samurai”. The opportunity to learn from such an esteemed expert is an extremely rare opportunity, and we were thrilled to have so many students take advantage of this tasting with a true master.
Although commonly thought of as “rice wine” by Westerners, sake is actually produced by brewing, making it far more similar to beer than wine. The very best sakes are made by milling rice down to the very small, starchy heart of the grain, which refines both the quality and flavor, but also increases the price (since most of the outer portion of the grain goes unused). The rice is then cooked and allowed to ferment. Despite this relatively simple process, everything from the type of rice to the mineral content of the water, to the temperature of the fermentation can create vastly different sakes.
Dagorn had students taste seven sakes, which offered a remarkable range of color, flavor and mouthfeel. Among them were unfiltered sakes—cloudy, with a complex flavor—while other, filtered sakes were clean and bright. We also tasted carbonated, sweet and even a rare aged sake, which was shockingly reminiscent of sherry. Over the course of the tasting, Dagorn did an excellent job of opening up our eyes to the wide variety of sakes available and encouraged students to continue to explore on their own and find new favorites.
If you missed the sake tasting, be sure to check out our next visiting guest, Chef Rob Bleifer, the Executive Chef of Culinary Productions at Food Networks, on August 20th. Both events are part of an ongoing series of cooking demos and tastings that we offer to students, free of charge. Members of the public can also purchase tickets to all of our professional demonstrations and lectures.