Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Pairing Feta & Sake: Greece Meets Japan

Greek Feta Cheese paired with Japanese Sake?

It's certainly not a common pairing, and generally isn't suggested in the articles which discuss drink pairings with Feta. Sake and cheese is also not a traditional pairing in Japanese cuisine. However, experimenting with food and drink pairings is fun, and can sometimes lead to some intriguing pairings that you might not otherwise consider.

In my prior article, The Science of Sake & Food Pairings, I discussed some of the scientific reasons why Sake is such a versatile drink that pairs well with all types of foods. It has more than twenty amino acids, more than any other alcohol, and those amino acids help in various ways with food pairings. Sake also possesses an umami element, much more than wine, and that umami element also assists with food pairings. 

I also wrote another, more specific, article, Pairing Cheese & Sake. In that article, I stated, "Both Sake and cheese contain lactic acid, which means they can possess complementary flavors and aromas. As I mentioned before, Sake is usually rich in umami and that works well with other umami foods, including cheeses." I also suggested a number of Sake and cheese pairings. So, the question isn't really whether Sake pairs with Feta Cheese or not, but rather which Sake best pairs with it. 

Feta, a term that means "slice," likely originated during the 17th century, though its ancestry may extend back many more centuries. I purchased three different Fetas from the Greek International Food Market, as they have an excellent selection of Feta, including some barrel aged varieties. The three Fetas included the Dodoni (a sheep's milk, from the southern region of Greece), Arahova Barrel (a sheep's milk, barrel aged), and the Olympus (also sheep's milk). 

All three were delicious, and though they might all look similar, they each have their own unique flavor profile, although they also share some similarities, including a briny aspect. The Olympus was the creamiest of the three, and the Arahova had the most complex melange of flavors. Feta is a versatile cheese, which can be easily added to a myriad of recipes, or simply enjoyed atop a salad. 

The Koshi No Kanbai Sai "Blue River" Junmai Ginjo is a typical Niigata Sake, with a crisp, clean and dry profile, as well as an Acidity of 1.4. It was silky smooth, with more subtle aromatics and flavors, and was a sheer pleasure to drink. Definitely the type of Sake I enjoy. With the Feta Cheeses, it was a good pairing, able to handle the strong flavor of the Feta, as well as its briny character. However, it wasn't a compelling pairing, one which would especially excite your palate. It was just a solid pairing, one which would bring pleasure to many people.

On the other hand, the Fukucho "Seaside" Junmai Sparkling Sake, which I've previously reviewed, was a far more compelling pairing, a match that elevated the experience. First, this Sake has lots of acidity, which is an excellent match for the creamy feta. Second, the Sparkling nature of the Sake also helped to cleanse your plate between tastes of the Feta. Third, the fruitiness of the Sake complemented the more herbal and earthy tastes of the Feta. Fourth, the briny aspect of the Feta was accented by the briny element of the Sake. This Sake would work very well with any Feta heavy dish. And this Sake also earns my hearty recommendation.

I only paired two Sakes with the Feta so there are plenty of additional Sake styles which you can experiment with as a pairing. The Fukucho was certainly an excellent pairing, indicating Sake can pair very well with Feta. Now, it's just a matter of finding all of the Sake types which work well with Feta. 

Feta & Sake: A fine marriage of Greece and Japan.

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