Awesome write up on FS Taste about Sake Month

Celebrate International Sake Day with Four Seasons Baltimore’s PABU

October 1, 2013 in News

Sake at Four Seasons Baltimore's Pabu

Tiffany Dawn Soto wants to talk sake. A master sake sommelier or kikzake-shi, she is a leading sake expert in North America, consulting for a variety of companies and leading “sake safaris” several times a year in Japan. Fortunately for us, Soto’s also the part of the team at Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, home to PABU Izakaya, where she regularly helps diners choose from more than 100 premium sakes and leads seminars on demystifying this often-misunderstood fermented rice beverage (for starters, it’s not actually rice wine).

In honour of International Sake Day (October 1) and Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore’s month of sake events, here’s the Taste Q&A about all things sake.


What’s your favourite, surprisingly amazing, food and sake pairing?

Dawn Soto: My absolute favorite food to pair with sake is a pulled pork sandwich with a rich tangy sauce (I usually make mine from a sake base). There are dozens of sakes that would pair well with this, but personally, I like Wataribune Junmai Ginjo.

What are some of the more common misconceptions about sake, and how do you address them?

DS: When I’m speaking with guests that are dining at PABU for the first time, I spend about 60% of my time clearing up misconceptions. The most common is that sake should be served hot, because previously they have been served something called sanzoushu (sake cut with grain alcohol). The alcohol content of sanzoushu is higher and does not taste good, and heating it masks the flavour and reduces the alcohol content. Premium sakes, on the other hand, are much lower in alcohol content than people think (another big misconception), actually only 15-16% on average, so if we heated it up, there wouldn’t really be any alcohol left.

Another misconception about sake is that it will give you a bad hangover, which is true for sanzoushu, but not for sake. In reality, premium and super premium sakes are sulfite-free, low in residual sugar, and lacking the impurities that give you a bad hangover.

What would be your dream way to celebrate International Sake Day?

DS: Ideally, I would spend a whole month in Japan. October is the end of rice harvest, and with all of the Japanese maple trees changing colour, it is a magnificent sight to see. I would love to work my way through four prefectures (regions) throughout the month, maybe attend the autumn festivals and enjoy as much kubocha (Japanese pumpkin) tempura as I could get my hands on.

What kind of glass do you recommend and why?

DS: Every premium and super premium sake calls for a different glass. When a sake has more nuanced aromatics, I prefer a glass with a larger bowl like a bordeaux or burgundy glass, which helps increase the evaporative surface, thus releasing more aromatics. When a sake has aromatics that are more overt (typical of futsuushus and junmais), I tend to gravitate towards a small stemless glass with little surface area. When a sake is clean in style with a lighter delicate nose, I prefer a stemmed glass with a small bowl (Spieglau port or sherry glass). When I don’t have the luxury of many options, I recommend a stemmed glass with a bowl that isn’t too large or small.

What’s your best piece of advice for people wishing to learn more about sake?

DS: Try as many labels as you can! I’m a firm believer that every sake is not for every palate, but with about 18,000 labels produced each year, spread out over 48 prefectures, there is a sake for everyone. Decide if you like a new sake on your second sip because most people aren’t used to rice alcohol, so you’ll taste more alcohol than is really there on your first sip. If you aren’t sure where to start, begin with Niigata because that region produces a style of sake that is incredibly clean, light, elegant, and food-friendly, which tends to be approachable. And of course, come visit me in Baltimore! -Bonnie Schiedel

Sake at Pabu, Four Seasons Baltimore

Follow Master Sake Sommelier Tiffany Dawn Soto on Twitter @HeySakeLady or visit her website,

Learn about wine from another friendly, expert Four Seasons sommelier, Dana Farner on Taste or get the inside scoop on a night out in Tokyo from Four Seasons Magazine.

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