I used to think Sake was just for old people to drink. Even though I had been to Japanese restaurants many many times, it had never occurred to me to order any sake. Sake menus used to look intimidating to me. I knew wine, so I would order Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay to pair with my sushi, but no sake. I wouldn’t even try.
Tour of local sake brewery
My tour to a local sake brewery called Dovetail Sake totally changed the way that I look at sake. When I was working at Blue Ginger, Chef Ming Tsai’s fine fining establishment in Wellesley, the manager wanted to establish a solid sake program for the restaurant. At that time, the only sake we carried was all from TYKU. My manager Tom got to know Todd Bellomy, the co-founder of Dovetail Sake and arranged a tour for the staff at Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon. One of the benefit to work in the food industry is to visit many local brewery and try fresh brewed drinks.
So, I was in Waltham, Massachusetts. Yes! Waltham, Massachusetts! Isn’t it interesting that there is a local sake brewery that produces premium unpasteurized sake right here in Massachusetts? My GPS told me “you have arrived in your destination.” No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find the brewery. I was in a residential area in Waltham. I was looking for a flashy sign of Dovetail Sake. I couldn’t find any. Then….maybe a small logo? An arrow? Any hint? Nothing. Then I noticed a pretty girl waving her hands to me. Oh! She is the server at Blue Dragon. So, I guessed I was in the right place. She was as puzzled as I was. Later on, Todd came to greet us. He took us to the building behind us. So, this humble house blended in the residential area at Waltham was Dovetail Sake Brewery. It is just like many famous Japanese Sake Breweries are located in a mix of residential and industrial area in Japan.
Todd has lived in Japan for many years. He speaks fluent Japanese and is extremely knowledgeable about sake. I know! It all sounds a little bit quirky. A Sake brewery is located in Waltham Massachusetts and the co-founder/brewer is a Caucasian. Don’t be fooled by the location of the sake brewery or the appearance of the co-founder. Todd went to Japan to learn how to brew sake. The process of brewing sake is extremely labor intensive. Todd runs his one man show in the brewery. He showed us his Kochi room, the Kochi rice, the steamer of the rice, and so on. He also shared the fresh brewed Jumai Sake and Nigori Sake with us.
Dovetail Jumai Sake is Nama Sake, which means unpasteurized sake. The process of pasteurization of sake could eliminate some original aroma from the sake. The Jumai Sake from Dovetail Sake Brewery is Jumai Ginjo 純米吟釀. It means the rice is polished 40% and use the remaining 60% of rice to produce the sake. We usually describe the aroma of Jumai Ginjo as “Ginjoka”, which can be aroma of banana, apple, pear, melon, lychee, pineapple, cherry, strawberry, aniseed, bubblegum, blossom, lily and rose. The Jumai from Dovetail sake has distinctive aroma of melon and banana. The current limited sake is made by maple water from Maine has aroma of pear, lychee and pineapple. They are both very delicious! Since Nama Sake requires refrigeration, which makes it more difficult to transport it to USA. Sake, especially Nama Sake, is meant to be enjoyed while it is young. You can’t find any Nama Sake fresher than the one from Dovetail Sake!
How to pair sake with food
Many students asked me, “how to pair sake and food?” In Japan, there is a saying “sake doesn’t fight with food.” Since rice doesn’t have high acidity like grape, you don’t taste much acidity from sake compared to wine. For this reason, it is so much easier to pair sake and food. I recently taught a sushi and sake pairing class at Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. It is a hands-on class. The students learn how to make several kinds of sushi and pair sushi and ice cream with a variety of sake. Todd was the guest speaker for the class (see photos above). We made Inarizushi, egg cup smoke salmon sushi, Edo style Nigiri and miso ice cream. The students had so much fun making sushi and trying different kinds of sake. I’m going to teach another sushi and sake pairing class at Cambridge School of Culinary Arts on March 24th. If you’re a big fan of sake, I hope to see you soon! 乾杯！
If you’d like to book a more personalized, in-home sushi and sake pairing class, I would love to bring the world of sake to your home. Private, in-home bookings can be booked for individual, small and large groups. You can book an appointment online here.