Sake Pairings with Sommelier Chizuko Niikawa-Helton
Meeting friends at the local izakaya (tapas bar) at the end of a long week and bonding over great sake and food were some of my fondest memories from living in Japan. I loved to experiment with different seasonal dishes which were paired with sake to elevate the food’s flavor.
So where did I go to get pairing advice for my pickled carrots? One of New York’s few elite Sake Samurais—Chizuko Niikawa-Helton!
A bit about Chizuko: Originally from Akita Japan, Chizuko made her way to the big apple and ultimately founded her own consulting company, Sake Discoveries in 2008. She is focused on increasing sake fans in the US. As part of her job, she consults with restaurants across the country to develop unique Sake lists and staff training programs.
She was awarded with the very prestigious title of Sake Samurai in 2012. She is today, one of New York’s top sake sommelier. She is a certified sake sommelier from the Sake Service Institute (SSI), WSET Level 3 instructor and a board member as well as a teacher of the SSI International which has the mission to educate and promote Sake as a globally recognized product.
According to Chizuko, sake pairs perfectly with many items on the charcuterie board; prosciutto, cheese and pickled vegetables. It’s an honor to have Chizuko taste and pair Last of Seven pickles.
Here are Chizuko’s expert recommendations for the Last of Seven original and spicy flavored pickled carrots. Your welcome!
Junmai Daiginjo for the LO7 original flavor. “This sake has a juicy texture with gentle sweetness and well-balanced fruity notes with acidy like green apples. The pickles don’t have the sugary sweetness so the sake’s gentle sweetness with the vinegar from the pickles match perfectly” said Chizuko.
For our Spicy Flavor, she recommends Nanbu Bijin (no sugar) umeshu—plum sake. “This is a perfect combination for Last of Seven spicy pickles. “Plum sake usually has lots of sugar added but Nanbu Bijin sake is sugar free. The gentle sweetness and umami comes from koji rice, and the tartness from Japanese green ume plum. The spiciness and sourness are paired well with the umami sweetness of the sake“ said Chizuko.
As you prepare to host your next gathering with friends, a well curated charcuterie board with superb Last of Seven pickles and a delicate Sake is sure to impress.
More information about Sake Sommelier Chizuko Niikawa-Helton and sake can be found: http://sakediscoveries.com/