They say you’re either an East Coast person or a West Coast person. Or, to put it another way, do you prefer to drink the best tap water in the country—the tap water that has made New York pizza and bagels internationally famous; or do you prefer to have a water sommelier curate a menu of gourmet bottled waters to pair with your meal?
Yes, apparently water sommeliers are the wave of the future. At least in Los Angeles. Ray’s and Stark, the farm-to-table restaurant serving the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The eatery launched its first water menu on Monday. Compiled by water sommelier Martin Riese, who was certified after taking a weeklong course at a school in Germany, the menu features 20 waters from 10 different countries.
“All waters have unique tastes, and a lot of Americans think water is just water, but I completely don’t believe in that,” said Riese in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “Water has so many interesting nuances.”
It’s no small wonder the idea for a gourmet H2O tasting has taken off on the West Coast.
“Smell this tap water. It smells like chlorine,” Riese confirmed, with a look of disgust. “As a restaurant person here in L.A., I can say I would never drink that water. When you have good food, good wine and good spirits, you don’t want to contaminate that with this water.”
It’s well known that New York and Long Island do not share L.A.’s chlorinated predicament. And the Suffolk County Water Authority was voted to have the best tasting water on Long Island back in May. But, not to be outdone by L.A., the Hamptons has recently seen its first water sommelier, H. Twooh, come to the area. Gourmet water menus have also been offered in Europe, most famously in Paris.
Though admittedly with less experience than Riese—Twooh only took a weekend-long training class offered at a spring in Poland—Twooh has found success with his menus. However, unlike their cosmopolitan counterparts, all menus include Long Island tap water, in addition to rarities like Antarctic glacial runoff and ostrich tears.
“Despite the overwhelming amount of bottled water option—with a number of distinctive flavors—Long Island tap water is by far the most requested item on my menu,” says Twooh. He is pleased with the response, as Twooh recently launched a “take back the tap” campaign in an effort to curtail the amount of waste generated from plastic bottles.
Twooh’s success is in line with Riese’s philosophy that the water should be easily accessible.
“The hardest thing is to get the different waters into the country,” said Riese in the Times. “For instance, I’m a huge fan of Tasmania rainwater, it’s completely cool, but I can’t get it here in the United States. So I had to find like waters that I can actually access.”