Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Aged Sake & Chocolate

Chocolate & beer? Sake & cheese? Innovative pairings are all the rage. Today's foodie has no patience for rules that once gave us very little choice when dining. As in, if you're ordering fish, then only a glass of chardonnay will do. When I invited some neighbors over last week for sake and chocolate, they were intrigued. My objective was to gather reactions to a bottle of Hanahato Kijoshu, an aged dessert sake, that I picked up at True Sake on a recent Gourmet on Hayes Tour. (And make amends for the giant construction zone our street has become, thanks to our remodeling project.)

I had never tasted a dessert sake before, and neither had anyone at the party. When we poured it into mini sake glasses, we were surprised by the dark amber color. This can be explained by the fact that it is aged for 8 years, which is actually quite unusual for sake. According to sake expert John Gauntner in a recent SF Chronicle article, sake was commonly aged beginning in the 1600s in Japan but this changed in the Meiji era (1868) when brewers became taxed on what they brewed, not what they sold. It was to their advantage to sell quickly. He estimates that aged sakes are now less than 1% of the marketplace. Beau Timken, owner of True Sake, says "Look at the color. The darker the sake, the more expressive and full-bodied it will be."

At 17% alcohol, just a little of Hanahato Kijoshu will do. It can be served at room temperature or chilled, and I opted for chilled since as parties go on, a room temperature beverage becomes unpleasantly warm. I had an array of chocolates available for pairing from Recchiuti, Scharffen Berger and Christopher Elbow. (And for those who could stomach only a bit of the sake, I also offered a port and my favorite Dashe late harvest zinfandel.) As I always say on my tours, when you can get fine chocolate, putting a party together could not be simpler!

Many expected light floral or fruity notes to the sake, which would would have paired nicely with some of the lighter Recchiuti chocolates - like the lavender vanilla. But this sake is much more robust and complex, with a distinct caramel nutty taste that makes it an ideal match with dark, intense chocolates. It is sweet, but not anywhere near as sweet as the late harvest zinfandel. Some likened it more to a whiskey or a scotch. We thought it worked well with the Recchiuti burnt caramel, force noir, kona coffee and even the rose caramel. When paired with the Scharffen Berger single origin dark chocolate bars, like the 68% Camahogne from Grenada, this sake took on more of the dried fruit notes. writes that the Hanahato Kijoshu would be excellent served over vanilla ice cream. No takers here! Overall, the sake was well received but 3/4 of the bottle still remains in my refrigerator, while the other wines were emptied quickly.

Hanahato Kijoshu is available at True Sake, which will also ship anywhere in California. A 500 ML bottle sells for $34. Give them a call at 415-355-9555. Scharffen Berger single origin bars are available for a limited time only at the Ferry Building Store.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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