Core of Sea, Core of Grain: Oyster & Sake

Unaware, I’ve been listening to sakes’ stories, through their mystical names written in beautiful calligraphy: what’s the taste of a Shivering Pine Well? My mouth would water…

And oysters: what about a Widow’s Hole or Naked Cowboy’s raw glory wouldn’t excite the animal satisfaction in a deep and profound way.

More to the point, how would these two old souls pair? Thanks to Maison Premierea wonderful new oyster bar on Bedford that accommodated us – we got to bring seven varieties from Toshi’s Sake Story portfolio, and four very curious hearts, to explore the mystical pairs.

In most of the raw bars, you have beers, muscadet or sparkling wines to brighten, reset and prepare the palates for the next oyster. Sake, I imagined, might do a very different magic and potentially intensify the oyster’s effect. Made of fermented rice grain cores from varying degrees of rice polishing, sakes are generally earthy, elegantly fragrant, with light fruit aroma. Sometimes they can also be smoky, mushroomy. Sometimes, like oysters, they are just a beautiful, indescribable being.

The purity and characters of water gives the soul to a sake

Left: unpolished rice. Right: milled down to 35% (photos: Sakaya NYC)

We started with Midnight Moon shining on the Naked Cowboy. What followed, was two hours of un-interrupted, umami. Mmmmmmmm.

Walked out of the door, it was a fluffy, balmy, peaceful kind of buzz that made me forget – this was still deep in a very long winter.

NOTES:  Sakes w/ Oysters

Midnight Moon (Iwate Prefecture) w/ Naked Cowboy (Long Island Sound, NY)
Brewed in the purest of the Nanbu tradition which began in the 1100′, this very delicate Daiginjo is smooth, vibrant with a hint of melon-sweetness by itself. Then Naked Cowboy’s strongly briny, sweet and mineral takes over – a bolder sake would have been a great match.

Fragrant Water (Tokushima Prefecture) w/ Salt Pond (Point Judith, RI)
This sake is a sour mash blend coupled with a bold grainy sweetness that makes it both pleasant and hardy. Briny and mineral, a very harmonious match with Salt Pond’s full-bodied and metallic characters.

Colt (Fukushima Prefecture) w/ Matunuck (Matucket, RI)
Colt is sensational: Yamahai style, the bright acidity fill the mouth for a few second, then fall on the palate with rich mushroom, malty sweetness, and a long, dry finish. Matunuck oyster’s lime-stone minerality concludes altogether an intense and long satisfaction. Feels like I just ate 10 oysters in a row!

Pure Grain (Tottori Prefecture) w/ Penn Cove Select (Samish Bay, WA)
Using only rice stalks bred for sake making. It delivers a solid, full-bodied flavor with a distinct Moromi aroma and a hint of spicy sweetness. Great compliment to the firm, briny and cucumbery oyster.

Rice Baby (Iwate Prefecture) w/ Blue Pool (Hama Hama River, WA)
Brewed with “Mochi Rice” or “sticky rice”, this sake is medium-bodied and offers a sweet coating to the palate; completed with Blue Pool’s savory, meaty yet uplifting cucumber finish. One of my favorite matches tonight.

White Sun (Fukushima Prefecture) w/ Olympia (Yaquina Bay, OR)
Subtle aromas of refined rice and alcohol gravity, it’s razor-sharp dry finish is followed by a deep, spicy warmth; nice with the sweet, metallic, celery-saltish Olympia.

Blue River (Niigata Prefecture) w/ Stellar Bay (British Columbia, CA)
Niigata is known for producing Japan’s highest quality rice grain, translating into this prefecture’s renowned sake: soft, lightly fruity and fluffy. A very beautiful pair with Stellar Bay’s salty, mild sweetness and a melon aftertaste.

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