Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Month of Meals from the Atlantic to the Pacific: Part 2.2 – San Fran Continued!

It’s been almost a month since my last post and over 2 months since my time on the Pacific, so I think it’s about damn time I finish what I started and tell you about the rest of my San Francisco adventure!   Drum roll please…

I can’t even start this post without a little shoutout to the girl who introduced me to Berkeley.   Christina (the same one from Milwaukee) moved to Cali not too long ago and is always down for delicious fun, so emailing her seemed like the natural starting place for my Bay Area planning to begin.  Sure enough, she came through with not one, but two, awesome ideas. 
BART logo 
As soon as I was done with work on Monday, I (literally) ran from my hotel in Union Square to the Powell St BART station and boarded the next train to Ashby Station in Berkeley, where Christina was waiting curbside in her big black SUV.  We headed straight to the Takara Sake Brewery to learn about and to taste lots of Sake.  I’d never even had Sake before, so this was a whole new learning experience for me and I loved every minute of it!  Christina and I watched an informational video about the history and tradition that goes into brewing every batch of sake.  While it wasn’t the most captivating movie I’ve ever seen, it was pretty interesting.  Then it was time for Sake tasting! 

SHO CHIKU BAI NamaThere were a few different tasting menus available to choose from, but since this was my first time ever trying sake, I played it safe and went with Menu (A), aka the Variety Course.  Sierra Cold was up first.  It was a Ginjo type, which means that it’s made from premium ingredients using rice polished 40% or more.  This is, of course according to the handy “How to Enjoy Sake: Easy Guide to Sake Tasting” brochure I picked up at the brewery.  My notes say that Sierra Cold was fresh like water.  The handy info sheet that I took my notes on says that it’s 12% alcohol and a +5 on the sake meter, which indicates that it’s a dry sake.  #2 was ShoChikuBai NAMA.  This was my favorite of them all and go figure.  It was 15% alcohol and unpasteurized!  It’s a Junmai type, meaning it is composed of rice, water, and culture with no other ingredients or additives such as alcohol or sugar.  It’s also a +5 on the sake meter and the description says it’s bold and yeasty in front with a fruity and refreshing taste.  I thought it was very smooth.  Next up was the ShoChikuBai CLASSIC.  This one was served warm and was very acidic.  While the description says that it’s a well balanced and full bodied mild (+3) Junmai type, my taste buds revolted and I scrawled “YUCK” in big letters on my note sheet.  Then there was the ShoChikuBai NIGORI Sily Mild which was another Junmai type.  This one was 15% alcohol and -20 on the sake meter, which meant it was sweet.  I was indifferent towards this one and was told it goes well with spicy food.  Next we got to try a Hana Flavored Sake and I opted for the Lychee, which tasted good, but was artificially flavored (booo).  Then was the Koshu Plum which tasted like cough syrup.  Last, we got to choose one and I opted for the Shirakabe Gura Junmai Gingo, which was pretty good but a tad pricey. 

Christina bought a couple bottles of her favorites and we popped in the Sake museum before heading to dinner.   All in all, the sake brewery tour and tasting was a great experience.  I’d definitely recommend it to anyone living in or visiting the Bay Area.