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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yoshi's Joy of Sake Aims to Demystify Rice Wine

Posted By on Tue, Sep 7, 2010 at 2:30 PM

click to enlarge Thursday's annual Joy of Sake event will offer tastes of 178 rice wines at Yoshi's San Francisco.
  • Thursday's annual Joy of Sake event will offer tastes of 178 rice wines at Yoshi's San Francisco.
Sake is one of those beverages with a ninja shroud of mystery for us. Maybe it's the striking kanji-script labels ― more art pieces than legible branding ― or the many styles and rules that make sake seem so unapproachable. Besides sake bombs and the occasional visit to Takara in Berkeley, we've failed to embrace the food-friendly rice wine.

Thankfully, to help educate consumers like us, the nonprofit Joy of Sake is hosting its annual San Francisco tasting this week. At Yoshi's on Fillmore, 178 different sakes will be available for exploring, divided up into sake's three major categories: junmai (minimum 70 percent polish on the rice grain), ginjo (60 percent polish minimum), and daiginjo (at least 50 percent).

Most sake of good quality is made in a comparable fashion: Rice is first polished by machine to strip away the outer layer of grain (it contains mostly proteins and fats), exposing the starch inside. The more polished the rice is, the more impurities (and harshness) are removed. The rice is then cooked and mixed with yeast and kōji, a special mold that converts the rice starch into sugars fermentable by yeast.

The results of such a simple process are staggering. With any luck, the appetizer menu from Yoshi's chef Sho Kamio will be just as nice, including soft-shell crab nuggets, kimchi asparagus, Japanese pizza (we're hoping that means okonomiyaki), and tidbits from a tuna carving station.

We know from past experience at Yoshi's that early is better to ensure a full selection of tastes. Otherwise, you could be forced to end up like some poor salaryman on Fillmore.

San Francisco Joy of Sake Soireé

When: Thurs. Sept. 9, 6-9 p.m.

Where: Yoshi's, 1330 Fillmore (at Eddy), 655-5600

Cost: $65

Tickets: Online via the Joy of Sake website, or call the Sake Hotline, 888-799-4242

Lou Bustamante tweets at @thevillagedrunk. Follow us at @sfoodie.

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