Monday night found The Professor and I running out of Grand Central Station towards East 47th St. for the Japan Society's Annual Sake Tasting. As always, we were running a bit late. Tearing over to 3rd and up to 47th St, then down a few blocks to the Society's location, we ran in the door about five minutes or so late. And true to the Japanese love of punctuality we missed the first five or so minutes of the presentation. I noticed the auditorium was completely packed with 100 or so people all listening with rapt attention as we slid into the back row.
The evening's program, co-organized by the Sake Export Association, featured John Gauntner as the speaker. He is known as the 'Sake Evangelist' in Japan. The program consisted of him discussing the many different types of sake and their characteristics as well as dispelling the untruths we Americans have of sake. After his 45-minute presentation and Q&A, we would be going into the other rooms to taste-test sakes from different breweries.
I have to say, I'm not a sake lover. I think it tastes like rubbing alcohol. And after the 45 minutes of him discussing the differences between how the rice is distilled, the different grades available, and how the top four grades are known collectively as Ginjo, I still wasn't too excited about tasting them--though he did pique my interest slightly when he said there is a sparkling sake (since I love champagne). Also, I learned that warm sake does not mean bad sake (a myth Americans believe). You're welcome.
There was Q&A followed by the speaker introducing the owners of the many sake breweries, who are members of the Sake Export Association. The association consists of thirty sake breweries throughout Japan, and out of the thirty, 12 breweries were represented that night; and between them, there were about 33 different types of sake being presented for tasting.
The owners went into the other room, the doors to our auditorium were opened and the packed house made a beeline for the sake tables. Then everyone snaked their way around the two rooms from table to table tasting the little shot glasses of the various sakes. By the time I made it to the second room, I was feeling a little buzzed. There were a lot of different sakes--along with a couple of sparkling ones--and I tasted most of the 33 types and so did The Professor (and part of the ones I didn't like).
By the end of the evening, I learned a few things and tasted quite a lot of various types of sakes. And I have to say: I still don't like sake. I think it tastes like rubbing alcohol.