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Try Sake at Granville Island

By Angela Murrills
  It's not Japan. A Granville Island master concocts some of the world's most intriguing, flavourful Japanese rice wine in British Columbia. Tucked away on Vancouver, BC's Granville Island, quaint little Railspur Alley houses jewelers, painters, potters-and Canada's only maker of fresh, premium sake.
     With two employees and a scant 90 square m (1,000 sq ft) of production space, Masa Shiroki crafts six versions of the traditional Japanese drink, including a sparkling variety. His initial batch sold out so fast that, months after opening in early 2007, he doubled his capacity-to two fermentation tanks.
     The two-month process begins with growing live Japanese sake yeasts in progressively larger pots. The rest of the recipe? Steamed, top-quality sake rice "and good Vancouver double-filtered water." After 25 days, the opaque moromi (rice mash) is packed into cloth bags and pressed in stainless steel fune (literally "boat," looks like a box), a centuries-old technique that has Shiroki staying overnight to keep an eye on the three-day process.
     This is natural sake, which means no filtration or pasteurization. The result is an eye-opening depth of flavour. Happy to walk visitors through the process, the affable Shiroki is also keen to see his sakes take their place alongside wines (his operation is classified as a commercial/boutique winery). Several Vancouver chefs who showcase regional cuisine have already added the Osake label to their lists.
     Freshness does make a difference. These sakes explode with complexity. Pear, melon and citrus notes in the light, crisp Junmai Nama make it a match for seafood and acidic cheeses (like goat cheese.) Cloudy with more body, the creamy Junmai Nama Nigori, is terrific with chicken, pork, spicy food or creamier cheeses (like gouda.)
     Either way, as they say in Japan : "Kampai!" (Cheers!)

Angela Murrills is a freelance journalist who writes weekly on food, restaurants and lifestyle for The Georgia Straight. A keen amateur cook and an enthusiastic traveller, she specializes in feature stories that combine the two: modern cuisine in Australia for Western Living; elegant low-cal fare at Canyon Ranch spa for Travel Etc.; a chateau-based cooking school in the Limousin for Going Places. Her travel stories have been syndicated in Canada, the U.S. and New Zealand. Murrills is the author of four non-fiction books on food and travel. She is based in Vancouver, BC. Click for Vancouver, British Columbia Forecast

Photo Credit & Article:
courtesy, Canadian Tourism Commission

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