Sommelier Talk: Episode 5 – Embracing New Flavors

Last time, I used my visit to Florida as an example to talk about the regional differences in terms of local cuisine and preference of alcoholic beverages.

This time, I will talk about the food preferences associated with changes in living environment, using my stay in Europe as an example.

Whilst in Europe, I ate many meat-based dishes compared to when I was living in Japan. Interestingly, I began to notice my food preference gradually changing. I started to enjoy unfamiliar foods, such as sourdough bread and carbonated water that matched really well with the local cuisine. This change in food preference, I believe, applies to alcoholic beverages as well.

The quality and flavor of Jizake is built upon the harmony of the local environment (climate, soil, and geography), sake ingredients (rice, water, koji, yeast) and the skill of the brewer (toji and kurabito). As the words “Ji” (“local” or the “region”) and “zake” (another way of saying “sake”) indicate, each Jizake reflects the characteristics of the region, including the local food culture, geography, as well as the flavor preference of the brewer.

Whether it is a region known for fresh seafood from the coastal area, or the pickled and fermented products from the mountainous areas, food preparation methods differ by the ingredients used. So, it is natural for each region to have its own food culture and flavor preferences.

Today’s advanced distribution system allows us to obtain fresh products anywhere, especially in developed countries. Unfortunately, many of us choose the comfort food we grew up with over “new” food, because our brain does not respond as quickly to new flavors as our body adapts to the new environment.

But, what if we eat out? Do we not want to try something different? Our curiosity towards new flavor sensation motivates us to try something new, right?

Quickly detecting small changes in your customers’ food preferences, and suggesting different types of sake for pairing, will not only increase customer spending, but also increase the chance of some customers returning to your restaurant.