I'm pretty sure that the term "Sakqueso" started out as a joke between Yoko and me, when we were trying to come up with a clever way to express the genius pairing of cheese and sake. Likely, we thought it was silly but hilarious, and the name stuck. That's generally how it goes around here at Umami Mart.
Our first Sakqueso! event was two years ago at Sequoia Diner, a ticketed dinner where my brother Keisuke (@CasaDeKei) created a cheese-themed tasting menu to go along with sakes by Hakkaisan Brewery. That was fun!
To follow up on this raucous time, we held our second Sakqueso event last week at Ramen Shop. This time around, it was more casual and straight-forward: no tasting menu, just a glass of sake paired with a slice of cheese. We had a blast, and hope that all of the guests did too! Thank you to Ramen Shop for hosting the event with us! And a special thank you to Kevin Corcoran who consulted with us on the cheeses!
Siew-Chinn helped us tremendously to prep the plates of cheese. Thank you Siew-Chinn!
Cabs welcomed guests.
Why sake and cheese, you ask? They make an ideal pairing because they share a common ingredient: lactic acid. I think all our guests would agree that the particular sakes and the cheeses went splendidly when enjoyed side-by-side.
Here's the line-up:
Kinokunia Bunzaemon Junmai
with Lou Bergier cheese by Fattorie Fiandino
About the sake: Out of all of the sakes this month, this is the easiest to drink because it is not a diva-like sake. Don’t let the the musty basement or cheese rind aroma turn you off; the flavor is actually quite light and smooth, with hints of caramel and mushroom. Try this sake at room temperature and warm.
About the cheese: This semi-firm natural rind cheese produced by Fattorie Fiandino fits into the general Italian style of “toma” which vary slightly in style and size by region. You can think of this style as regional “table cheese” for everyday eating and cooking. What distinguishes Lou Bergier from the many other Italian toma is its use of thistle flower to coagulate milk in the first steps of cheesemaking. The purple pistils of the thistle flower are ground and soaked in water before being strained into the milk. While still common in Portugal, it is rare to find Italian cheese produced in this method. Made from raw cows’ milk in the northern Italian province of Piemonte, Lou Bergier is aged until the cheese develops a thin stony looking rind and earthy and nutty flavors develop to complement the floral and milky notes of the paste.
Tatenokawa 50 Nakadori Junmai Daiginjo
with 802 Blue cheese by Consider Bardwell Farm
West Pawlett, Vermont
About the sake: Yoko didn’t know about nakadori sakes until she watched an episode of Moyasimon, an anime series about agriculture and fermentation (highly recommended!). During the pressing process, there are three runs. The first is arabashiri, when there is little pressure and the sake is slightly cloudy. For the second run, or nakadori, more pressure is added and the sake starts to run clear. The last run, or seme is when more pressure is added and the sake tends to be higher in alcohol. Out of the three runs, nakadori is known to be the most well-balanced. This junmai daiginjo is like biting into a Fuji apple – sweet, bold and juicy. It was stunning chilled.
About the cheese: Vermont has long been a focal point for cheese lovers for its wide variety of styles and long history of turning milk into cheese. Consider Bardwell has operated as a farm in West Pawlet, Vermont since 1864 and was Vermont’s first dairy cooperative. In recent years Consider Bardwell have been making cheeses gracing the best cheese shops in the country and gaining something of a cult following among cheesemongers now reaching into west coast distribution. Practicing rotational grazing, pesticide free farming and being mindful of animal welfare demonstrates their commitment to sustainability while raw milk cheesemaking by hand and cave aging demonstrates a commitment to old world quality. 802 Blue is the newcomer from Consider Bardwell, a raw cows’ milk blue made with vegetarian rennet, the first batches of which came into California just weeks ago. While not a copy of Stilton by any means, the natural rind, earthy flavor and dense, fudgy texture do seem to call on that classic British blue for inspiration. Plus, this cheese serves up a complexity which should satisfy turophiles while remaining approachable for those who tend to shy away from blue cheese as a general category with its many layers of flavor and more aged-out texture.
Sempuku Shinriki Junmai 85
with Good Thunder by Alemar Cheese Company
About the sake: This is a Junmai Muroka Genshu Kimoto (pure rice, un-charcoal filtered, tank strength, and traditionally brewed in the kimoto style)! The 85 in the name is also something to note. The rice (Shinriki) has hardly been polished (just 15% was removed) yielding a bold, in-your-face sake that is umami rich, with notes of honey and bourbon. It’s tank strength, so no water was added after pressing. This means that you will feel the high 19% ABV warming your throat as it goes down. Recommended chilled.
About the cheese: Made from pasteurized milk of grassfed cows in Mankato, Minnesota and named for a nearby town, Good Thunder is washed in a brine mixed with Surly Bender beer. The cheese is washed once a week for three weeks so that its orange rind develops and the beer flavors integrate in a subtle way. While at first appearing similar to pungent washed rind cheeses like Taleggio or Pont l’Eveque, Good Thunder is surprisingly mellow with its emphasis on bright, lactic and floral flavors with just enough meaty character in the rind to maintain good pairings with a variety of beverages like the sake you sip it with now.
We hope to see you at our next event!