Best Saké while watching the New England Patriots

Posted by bmountain | Posted in Sports | Posted on 07-09-2014

The term I’ve heard most for New England sports fans is insufferable, but if you live here you probably know how lucky we’ve been Patsover the past 14 years.  3 NFL Superbowl wins by our New England Patriots, 3 World Series championships by our Boston Red Sox, 1 Stanley Cup by our Bruins and 1 NBA championship by our Boston Celtics.  That’s 8 championships since the year 2000 and we only have 1 team in each sport.  Compared with NYC with two teams per sport and only 3 championships during that same period.  Few cities have experienced a run like this in sports.   Sorry New York, I’m sure it’s hard to be second tier.  We wouldn’t know.

At the top of the class for Boston Sports is the New England Patriots.  In a league striving for competitive balance, a hard salary cap, and no minor league where talent can be stockpiled, the Patriots are competitive year-in and year-out.  And the Patriots do it the right way.  While Ben Roethlisberger avoids jail time by paying 7-figure out of court settlements, Ray Rice practices his right cross on his wife in an elevator, Michael Vick runs illegal dogfights in his mansion, and former Patriot Wes Welker gets suspended for using Molly, our Patriots keep their noses clean and keep winning.  Well there is the Aaron Hernandez thing but that’s yet to be proven and there are lots of potential reasons why you would walk back into your house and destroy your own home video surveillance system while open-carrying a handgun.  I just can’t think of any at the moment.

Our Patriots have made the playoffs 11 seasons out of the past 13.  Compare that with poor suffering Cleveland fans who have made the playoffs once in that same period with only a 1st round exit to show for their efforts.  Our mad genius Bill Belichick has the personality of a hemlock tree but year in and year out, with a range of players, manages to put together a winning team 100% of the time.  Yes we are blessed.  Insufferable maybe, but definitely blessed.

Choosing saké for a sporting event is always tricky and for a sport like football where Budweiser is the beverage of choice the bar is that much higher.  Our choice today was Cup Saké.  Launched in Japan, One Cup sake was initially made available to spectators of the 1964 Olympics and has since become a cultural icon.  Cup Saké was for decades associated with heavy student drinking and as an after-work beverage for day laborers.  In recent years high-end premium brewers have released cup saké versions often in a glass cup which can be reused around the house as vases, beer mugs, or holders for screws and nuts.  Sort of the Japanese equivalent of the old fashioned coffee can.  Ozeki markets a cup saké complete with a tiny bag of salt and sesame seeds to go with is as a snack.

Our saké of choice was Kikusui Funaguchi from the Nigata prefrecture of Japan, 200 ml size aluminum can.  Nigata is ski country and Kikusi cup saké was originally targeted at young skiers who were advised to chill it in the snow.  Served cold poured into glasses to share it is a rich, medium sweet sake with hints of cantaloupe.  At 19% alcohol Kikusui packs a kick which may have helped soften the blow from our opening game loss to Miami.  But it’s early in the season and in Tom and Bill we trust!


And now we’re on to this week’s mailbag.


Dear Yama-san, what is Tom Brady’s favorite sake?
B. Dover, Lowell MA

YS: I actually have never asked Tom that question since he’s usually too busy rescuing people from burning buildings or building schools in impoverished 3rd world countries but I have heard that he’s a big sushi fan.  According to the folks at Douzo, 131 Dartmouth St in Back Bay Boston which has one of the better saké lists in Boston, Tom’s been known to drop by there.


Dear Yama-san, what is sake drinking protocol at a football game?
Gabrielle M, Burlington VT

YS: Hot Sake is an excellent choice for later in the season, serve piping hot (131 F)  in a thermos and served in small cups.  Don’t go high-end if serving hot, rather choose Hakushika or a (domestic) Momokawa, both affordable and very drinkable.  If you’re going to the big leagues you may need to use a flask in which case I’d recommend going with a cold sake, stick to a full bodied junmai to stand up to the irresistible pizza/pretzel/popcorn fare we’re all surrounded by.


Deal Yama-san, how does the alcohol content of saké compare with beer and wine?
Maria M, Dunstable MA

YS:  Sake alcohol content is quite strong, it varies between 14% and 20%, compared with Heineken for example at 5% or 14% for your average Cabernet-Sauvignon.  Honjouzo saké has alcohol-added and is noticeably stronger so be aware if that’s the beverage on the table and you’re meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time.


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