Our First Urban Sake Tasting Club!

Urban Sake Tasting Club

One of my big sake goals for this year was to start a tasting club in New York City. My idea was to create a monthly meeting where folks can come together and learn a little something about sake, taste something delicious and, of course, have some fun!

Well, as of Oct 8th, we’re wheels up on Urban Sake Tasting Club!

Tenzan, Narutotai, Born: All Genshu!

The Genshus for our tasting set were Jizake Tenzan Junmai Genshu, Narutotai Nama Genshu Ginjo and Born Muroka Nama Genshu Junmai Daiginjo.

Sakagura also provided us with a wonderful appetizer to enjoy with our Sake. This time it will be a delicious “Kinoko no Ohitashi” (Seasonal Mushroom seasoned with Bonito Infused Soy). This was a great mix of several fall mushrooms! yummy!

Check out our Urban Sake Tasting Club page for updates and info about our next meetings! Hope to see you there!

Mutual trading

NY Mutual Trading Show 2012

Mutual Trading Company has a wonderful trade show each year showcasing their food and sake products. It’s not open to the general public, but for industry folks, it’s something to look forward to each year.

Somehow, this year again, I managed to finagle my way in and enjoyed a lot of good sake. Check out the gallery below for snapshots and comments on the different sakes to discover at Mutual Trading! Kanpai for lots of good sake!

Sake Day 2012 at Sakagura

Sake Day Adventure at Sakagura

Sake Day!

Santa Claus has Christmas, Leprechauns have St. Patrick’s Day and I’ve got Sake Day. Designated as the official start day each year to the fall sake brewing season, it’s also a darn good reason to get out there and taste some sake.

Sakagura had an offer I couldn’t refuse. We’re talking about 7 Daiginjo sakes by the glass for a special price of $10.01 each (regular price $50 -23 per glass each). Mama mia, that’s the way to celebrate Sake day!

I started with Tedorigawa Mangekyo Daiginjo. This sake has the transcendent taste of a perfect daiginjo. Smooth, soft and silky, this beautiful sake is aged at a low temperature for two years for added depth. Production of this sake is limited to only 400 bottles per year. Clean, light, bright and seductive, drinking this sake at $10.01 a glass was virtual highway robbery, but I enjoyed very sip.

Tedorigawa Mangekyo Daiginjo

Next I tried the iconic Daishichi Horeki Junmai Daiginjo Kimoto. This is a pristine, perfect Kimoto Junmai Daiginjo as only Daishichi can do it. If you think Kimoto type sake is rough and tumble, you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted Daishichi. Elegant, effusive, beautiful and pure, this sake is a masterpiece!

Finally I ponied up for a fantastical Junmai daiginjo from Fukui. We’re talking of course about Born’s Yume Wa Masayume Junmai Daiginjo aka “Dreams Come True”. This aged sake is beautiful and rich with a clean palate that leaves you wanting more. It’s said that if you drink this sake, then you have dreams of our future that night. I think I clearly had dreams of drinking more Yume wa Masayume.

Grilled Ika

To wash down all this sake, I ordered a simple Sakagura appetizer of grilled squid. This was perfect to balance out all the fine flavors of sake with some clean grilled ika. delicious!!

Here’s hoping you had a wonderful, sake filled “Nihonshu no hi” or “Sake Day”! Sake production has stared in Japan and we’ve only got more and more wonderful sakes to look forward to in this brewing year! And here’s a big Kanpai to that! Thanks to Sakagura for the wonderful Sake Day celebration! Here’s to next year! Kanpai!!

2012 Joy of Sake

Joy to the World: The 2012 New York Joy of Sake Tasting

That’s a lot of sake

The Annual Joy of Sake Event is the largest sake tasting outside of Japan, featuring over 350 sakes to taste, study and enjoy in an action packed 3 hours. This year’s Joy of Sake was a fun whirlwind as usual with table, upon table, upon table of delicious sakes to explore and lots of great sake friends, old and new, to catch up with.

Separated over two levels, sake and food from several top restaurants, are well placed and easy to navigate. The sake was judged back in July at the U.S. National Sake Appraisal held in Honolulu.

The results of that blind tasting are discernible on the tables – The entries that receive the highest scores at the Appraisal are marked with gold and silver stars accordingly. These stars let you know what the team of 10 judges liked, but the true test for anyone is to sample for yourself!

Yoshida Family Pouring Tedorigawa

Going up against this many sakes is certainly overwhelming to mind, body and palate, so I try to keep it fun and enjoy myself along the way.

This event also gives you the chance to talk to Sake Brewers who fly in just for this tasting. If you didn’t make it this year, don’t miss your chance next September!

One thing is for sure, by attending this mega-tasting, you’re certain to befriend a new sake… and find a new sake friend! Here’s to both! Looking forward to seeing you next year, Joy!

JFC tasting in NYC

JFC Sake Expo 2012

Akiko Ohashi with Akira Sake

JFC is one of the premier importing companies that bring sakes into the U.S. and as such they have a yearly trade show which I was lucky enough to attend this year.

JFC has some wonderful sake brands in their portfolio and this year, I got to do one of my favorite things – to meet sake brewers from Japan and talk to them about their sakes. I got in a few questions in my broken Japanese, but in the end we all spoke the language of Nihonshu!

Let’s start with some of the brands that were new to me this time!

Takenosuke Yasufuku with Fukuju Sake

I really enjoyed trying this sake from Kobe – we’re talking about Fukuju sake from Kobe Shinshukan Brewery. This sake in the beautiful blue bottle was extremely balanced and elegant. Refined and pure – Loved it! Brewery President Takenosuke Yasufuku introduced me to this gem. Delicious!

Next I enjoyed a brew from Yamagata Prefecture. I’m talking about a delicious sake from Hatsumomidi Brewery: Harada Muroka Nama Junmai Ginjo. I enjoyed speaking with Brewery President Mr. Yasuhiro Harada. I think I surprised him when I mentioned I’ve been to Yamaguchi several times. This sake was rich and delicious. It’s a satisfying, full bodied, undiluted Muroka style sake.

Later, I got a chance to try some brands that I knew already and really enjoyed trying again, looking under the hood and kicking the tires.

Takakasu Nate with Kurosushi Sake

One recent favorite was Kuroushi Black Bull Junmai Ginjo from Nate Shuzoten Sake Brewery in Wakayama. This Junmai Ginjo is milled to 50% and is a fresh, smooth and citrus-y brew with a touch of richness. It’s instantly like-able and so easy to enjoy.

I got a chance to talk to Brewery President Takakazu Nate and he seemed quiet and reserved, but I think I know – he let’s his sake do the talking. Once sip and you’ll get it.

Next I enjoyed meeting Mareko Shinjo, Senior Managing Director at Suehiro Sake Brewery. This Fukushima brewery has a wide range of sakes being imported into the USA. The most well known may be the Suehiro Ken Daiginjo. It has a fruity aroma and a bit of a dry finish.

Kakutaro Kubo of Ippongi Sake Brewery with Yukie Hashimoto from Sakagura

Now JFC has lots of well known breweries, which made this event such a wonderful experience. In addition to the above, I also enjoyed talking to Akiko Ohashi representing Akira Organic Junmai Sake. I had the pleasure of visiting Kanazawa Daiichi and it was great to see Ohashi-san again! I also caught up with Kubo-san from Ippongi Kubo Honten Sake brewery and I got a taste of his secret Umeshu – Spicy! Plus they had their wonderful seasonal Nama selection on display – watch for it around town.

Shindo-san pouring Gasanryu Sake!

I also had the pleasure of seeing Mr. & Mrs. Murai from Asabiraki Sake Brewery. I’m still dreaming of my sip of Kyokusen Junmai Daiginjo. Last year I also visited Masunobu Shindo in Yamagata. He brews the outstanding Gasanryu Sakes. Always delicious!

Last but not least, I also tasted the wonderful sakes of Daishichi Sake Brewery in Fukushima. These sakes are wonderful and really transport you to another place and time. Really wonderful to enjoy these sakes and taste the full range again. They represent a true achievement in Kimoto sake brewing technique! give them a try!

The JFC event was so much fun, and I learned, and tasted a lot, too. It is always so eye opening to meet the brewers who make the sake happen. Always a thrill. Can’t wait to explore the JFC brews next year!!

Asabiraki Night at Sakagura.

Getting to Know Asabiraki at Sakagura

Mr & Mrs. Murai from Asabiraki Sake Brewery with Sakagura General Manager Yukie.

I didn’t know much about Asabiraki Sake Brewery in Iwate, but Sakagura gave me a chance to fix all that. They invited Brewery President Mr. Yoshitaka Murai to introduce his sakes at a special tasting event last week.

First things first. As soon as I got there I sat down and ordered the tasting set – it was an eclectic, engaging and ranged from Junmai Daiginjo to Honjozo to Umeshu. Here is a rundown of the Asabiraki tasting set I enjoyed at Sakagura:

Asabiraki Tasting Set:

The Kyokusen Junmai Daiginjo was dreamy and intricate. Hints of dark fruit on the palate with a light handed finish. This sake is expensive and extremely high quality. I chose to drink this sake first and as I was waiting for my food, I simply savored every sip. It’s wonderful as an aperitif.

Asabiraki Tasting Set

Next I tried the Honjozo Namachozo. Brewery President Mr. Murai told me that it’s been his longtime dream to bring this sake the the U.S. This sake is light and clean with a definite brightness. I really enjoyed this sake with my Sakagura tuskune Japanese chicken meatball. This Honjozo is almost tailor made for some yummy izakaya food. Another point is that this sake is delicious but made to be affordable. The bottle is also cool. Murai-san told me it was his custom design. It looks like a frozen ice, which reflects the recommendation to serve this sake a bit colder. delicious.

Asabiraki Honjozo Namachozo

Finally, I enjoyed the Ume Kanon Junmai Umeshu. This sake is made from pure junmai and has a nice balance between sweet and tart. I also enjoy plum sake like this that is lower in alcohol. the Ume Kanon clocking in at a light and breezy 12.5%. Enjoy this chilled, with dessert or even AS dessert!

Even though I didn’t know a lot about Asabiraki Brewery before, I’m sure glad I got a chance to acquaint myself with them last week. They import quite a few sakes, so I’m looking forward to learning even more. But the one thing I do know for sure – trying new sakes always leads to great, and delicious, discoveries!

Family_Recipe 1897

Sake Night at Family Recipe

It’s always fun to try a new restaurant, but it’s especially fun to try a new restaurant when they are having a big sake party! This was my recent experience with Family Recipe, a Japanese home style cooking place open since 2011 down on Eldridge Street.

On August 29th, they held their first Family Recipe’s Sake Social Night! Sakes were provided by KuramotoUS with a wonderful food menu made by Family Recipe.

One of my favorite dishes of the night was the delicious Heritage Pork Belly Buns. I wish I had a picture to show you, but I was so focused on actually eating them, there was absolutely no time for snapshots. There was time however for pairing with sake – and speaking of sake, here is an overview of the evening’s sakes:

Sake Selection at Family Recipe’s Sake Event!

As for pairing, The Chiyomusubi Ryo Junmai Ginjo was an excellent match for the pork bun – it had a great dry backbone that worked exceedingly well with the juicy heritage pork.

As for dessert, they served super cute mini ice cream cones with either sake kasu or green tea icecream. Again, I was eating too fast to take any pictures, but trust me – super cute and yummy. For the dessert-y beverages, I really enjoyed both the plum-y acidity of the Ippongi Ginkobai Umeshu and the refreshing bit of the Yuzu Omoi Junmai, which one guest described as “Sake Limoncello” – yup, that pretty well sums it up!

Thanks to Family Recipe for the great event – Can’t wait to try this place again for dinner. And I promise I’ll eat slowly enough to get pictures next time.

jos 1892

Joy of Sake Kick Off Party at Blue Ribbon Izakaya

Tasting at the Joy of Sake Kick Off Party

Sake Season is upon us! Things seemed to really get cooking with a recent event at Blue Ribbon izakaya. It was a lovely evening at the event was hosted out on the “kanpai garden” terrace – a really beautiful setting… with the backdrop of the setting sun!

Chris Pearce got things rolling with an introduction to the event, how we would be tasting and of course a mention for the main Joy of Sake event happening on September 20th. But, this event was like an appetizer… a sake amuse bouche, if you will, to get our palates in shape for the main event.

This was my first time to Blue Ribbon Izakaya and I have to say the space impressed. The Joy of Sake kickoff party was in the “kanpai garden” space – a beautiful outdoor terrace… and it was a perfect night to be outside – not to hot, not too humid – just perfect!

The sake selection was perfect, too! There were over 40 sakes in all to try and about 18 of those were not for sale in the U.S. Of the 40 sakes on offer tonight, a full 50% were Daiginjo grade – not bad! One of my favorites was a non-imported “shizuku” or drip sake from Tochigi prefecture called Saran Daiginjo Shizukuzake. It was light, delicate with the slightest hint of minerality on the palate. Imminently drinkable and a smooth operator.

On the Ginjo table, I loved a favorite of mine, the Dewazakura “Omachi” Junmai Ginjo. Wonderful Omachi Rice flavor with that signature Dewazakura fruity-melon component. Like all their sakes this one is an absolute pleasure.

This event left me wanting more and excited for the main Joy of Sake event on Sept 20th. Get your tickets now, if you haven’t already. The Joy of Sake is the big event of the year and you DON’T want to miss it! See you there and check the Urban Sake Events Calendar for all upcoming sake events. Here is to the utter joy of the Joy of Sake! See you in September! Kanpai!

Tatenokawa night at Sakaya and Robataya

Tatenokawa Times Two!

Kurosu-san with Tatenokawa

Who doesn’t love a twofer?! You know, a good old fashioned two-for-one deal? I recently enjoyed two times the fun in one night exploring consecutive sake events both dedicated to Yamagata’s fantastic Tatenokawa Brewery.

The evening started at a free tasting of Tatenokawa 33 Junmai Daiginjo at Sakaya. Doling out the goods was Brewery Rep Kurosu-san. It was great to taste this elegant sake again. With an insane milling rate of 33%, this luxurious treatment of the rice ensures a smooth as silk and easy drinking sake experience. Well priced and well received, this is a sake to savor.

Grilled white asparagus

The next stop was just down the block from Sakaya – we’re talking Robataya. Oh, ya ya ya! Robataya was offering a special tasting set on this night – a tasting of Tatenokawa 33 Junmai Daiginjo and Tatenokawa 50 Junmai Daiginjo. Priced at only $10, this tasting set was the steal of the century – incredible sake quality for a song.

At Robataya, I paired my sake with some grilled dishes. The summer white asparagus and purple Japanese imo potato caught my attention and we really enjoyed them with the delicate sake. This left me as one happy sake camper. Made me wish once again, every night could be a sake twofer.


Holy Cow: Tedorigawa Sake at Takashi Yakiniku

As a frequent traveler to Japan, when it comes to “challenging” food items I’ve come across (think fish eye collagen, fermented squid intestine, slimy natto soybeans) I own up to my limits and know when to wave the white flag and admit defeat. Raised on the standard American diet, sometimes my palate just goes on strike when faced with an exotic Japanese delicacy worthy of Fear Factor.

As I learned on a recent visit to Takashi Yakiniku Restaurant for an outstanding Tedorigawa Sake event, I don’t have to travel all the way to Japan to have my gastronomical limits tested. The event was hosted by World Sake Imports and featured special guest Yasuyuki Yoshida, the 6th Genergation Kuramoto from Yoshida Sake Brewery, makers of Tedorigawa brand sake.

The Sake

Sakes served at this event:

Yasuyuki Yoshida

The event description for this evening promised “four fantastic sakes plus a special surprise sake”. Now, when a sake brewer says he’s bringing a “special surprise sake”, you pretty much have to go. (Spoiler Alert: I kinda fell in love with the special surprise sake.)

Yoshida-san did a sake brewing internship at Dewazakura Sake Brewery, so he included the delicious Dewazakura Tobiroku Sparkling Gingo in his sake selection. It was a genius choice – the clean and dry sparkle and bubble tasted great with the steak!

The highlight of this group of really, really good sake was the surprise Tedorigawa “Kokoshu” Daiginjo. Aged for 3 years at very cold temperatures, this Koshu/aged sake was a dream. The body of this sake was ultra smooth and the palate had a ‘loft’ to it that was truly remarkable… it was akin to drinking clouds, if they were made of sake, of course. Needless to day, I heart Tedorigawa “Kokoshu” Daiginjo! From start to finish, all the sake was flawless and flowed generously!

Shock and Eeeew

I give you Testicargot with a side of lemon

On to the food. I stumbled a bit with a few of the “Horumon” dishes served at Takashi. Horumon literally means “discarded goods” and refers to serving organs, guts and offal. (I PROMISE no offal/awful jokes!!!).

The first dish that caused me pause was Nama-Senmai: Flash boiled cow third stomach with spciy miso sauce. This didn’t get better when I was presented Takashi’s Testicargot: Cow testicles served escargot style. The final stumbling block was the Horumon Moriawase: Chef’s selection of offal including cow first stomach, cow fourth stomach, heart, sweetbreads (thymus gland), and liver, all to be grilled at the table yakiniku style. I didn’t touch any of the above with a ten foot pole. But did I go hungry? Not on your life!

Other Meats
Where Takashi really shines for me is in the standard cuts of beef, dressed in delicious marinades and grilled right in front of you at the table. These cuts included beef belly, kobe short rib, harami skirt steak and thinly sliced beef tongue. Followed by a nori wrapped rice ball and some fantastic salty caramel soft serve, I was set!

Hands Across the River

Hands Across the River

As the event was winding down, Yoshida-san thanked all the guests for coming and said a few parting remarks. He explained the meaning of his brand name “Te-Dori-Gawa” which roughly translates to “Hands bridging across the river”. This is a reference to they way people used to cross the river before a bridge was there – people would join hands and form a human chain to span the water.

Then suddenly, without prompting, all the guests at Takashi spontaneously clasped hands down the length of the restaurant and cheered for Te-dori-gawa! Ladies and Gentlemen, that is sake magic at work!

This was a delightful, really fun and gastronomically adventurous event, even if I skipped the really scary stuff. And, seriously, you can’t beat that delicious Tedorigawa Sake. I’d stare down a whole corral of Testicargot for just one more sip of Kokoshu!

FIsh heads, Fish heads...

Ten-Qoo Tuna and Sawanotsuru at Inakaya

FIsh heads, Fish heads…

Thanks to my friend Chiz over at Sake Discoveries, I was recently able to get a front row seat to something unusual – a bluefin tuna butchering at Inakaya Restaurant. Now, I know the mere mention of bluefin tuna sets off all kinds of eco alarm bells for those of us rightly worried about overfishing and depleted oceans, but this was tuna with a twist. A product of Ten-Qoo Maguro, this tuna was billed as the first farm raised, environmentally friendly and sustainable bluefin tuna production in the world.

When I arrived, we were greeted with a wooden masu full of Sawanotsuru Junmai Genshu as a welcome sake. The 70 lb tuna was laid out on the table and I snagged a front row seat to catch all the Kill Bill action close up. If you’ve ever filleted a whole fish at home, it’s just like that, but just a whole lot bigger.

Sawanotsuru Genshu Junmai

The first step was to remove the head, which was held aloft triumphantly, once it was finally separated from the body. Next the fins and then the top flank were removed to essentially cut the fish horizontally in half and expose the backbone. Next, the other flank was removed and the tail and backbone finally removed.

The big hunks of tuna were then quickly processed down into smaller uniform slabs and removed to the kitchen. Before I knew it, there was very fresh o-toro sushi in front of me ready to eat! Now I know why sushi is considered the original fast food! The taste? it was delicious. And great to enjoy with the Junmai Genshu from Sawanotsuru Brewery.

If you want to see the spectacle of a huge tuna fillet for yourself, Inakaya is offering two more shows on August 17 and 24th, 2012. Check the Urban Sake Event Calendar for details.

Yasunobu Tomita

Ice, Ice Baby: Enjoying Shichihonyari On the Rocks

Yasunobu Tomita

The good folks at Sakagura have put on another fun and exciting sake brewer event! This time it was Mr. Yasunobu Tomita, executive director of Tomita Shuzo from Shiga. I visited this brewery waaaay back in 2008.

Tomita-san arrived with a trick up his sleeve… he brought with him a new kid on the block: Shichihonyari Junmai Ginjo Nigori sake. I asked him about the profile for this new sake and he told me his goal was to create a nigori with a thick body that was not sweet but more dry and clean. Next, Tomita-san kinda shocked me. He recommended I try his nigori Junmai Ginjo on the rocks. I’d had Nama Genshu sake on the rocks, but not really a nigori.

Chillax! Shichihonyari Nigori on the rocks.

Well, I gave it a try and wowza, was it good. I actually tried on the rocks side by side with the identical nigori with no ice. There really was a difference. I think it effected the temperature, chilling the nigori a bit more and also bringing down the alcohol just a touch with the melting of the ice. Whatever it was, it works! I might have ordered a second carafe of Tomita’s nigori to experiment more with temperature – all in the name of sake science mind you.

Shichihonyari Tasting Set

The Shichihonyari tasting set was rounded out with their elegant but strapping Shichihonyari Shizuku Junmai Daiginjo and the classic, robust and beloved junmai for serving warm, the Shichihonyari Junmai. Everything was delicious and truly indicative of their artisanal nature – hand crafted, solid and elegant.

As a young sake brewer, Tomita-san is part of the new generation of Kuramoto leading us to find unique and fresh ways to enjoy their sake. On the rocks, gently warmed, room temp, chilled in a wine glass – sake can do it all. Now let’s get out there and start experimenting with temperature! I’ll bring the ice.


Tenryo Night at Sakagura

Yummy Tenryo Sakes

Last night was another fun sake tasting event at Sakagura! This time, we were enjoying the sakes from Tenryo Sake Brewery. On hand to introduce the sakes was Mr. Matasuke Uenoda, marketing director of Tenryo Brewery. Tenryo is in Gifu Prefecture – a place I’ve never been and honestly don’t know much about. Uenoda-san brought some brochures showing the beauty of Gifu Prefecture – beautiful landscapes, Japanese hot springs and cultural heritage sites… it all looked very intriguing. I think I have to make a plan to visit Gifu soon!

The Tenryo tasting consisted of 3 sakes:

Tenryo Tasting Set:

Sakagura’s GM Yukie-san with Uenoda-san from Tenryo

Each sake had it’s own unique character. The Tenryo Tobikiri Tokubetsu Junmai doesn’t appear to be sold in the U.S. and uses the special Hidahomare sake rice from Gifu. The second sake, the Tenryo Hidahomare Junmai Ginjo is a beautiful sake that goes well with izakaya food. this sake was so good, I ordered a carafe for myself after my tasting set was long gone. Last but not least I enjoyed the Tenryo Junmai Daiginjo Koshu. This smooth operator of a sake uses pink nadeshiko flower sake yeast and a three year aging process in the bottle in cold temperatures to deepen and round out the flavors. It’s very easy drinking and just plain delicious.

Well, the Olympics may be going on in London right now, but I feel like I won a gold medal in sake appreciation right here in New York City. All those years of training paid off! Thanks to Tenryo and Sakagura for making my Olympic dream come true!


New Video Series: Sake Q&A Tuesday!

Do you have questions about Japanese Sake?! Well I’m serving up sake answers! Today we’re launching a new sake web video series called “Sake Q&A Tuesday!” You can send me your sake questions and each Tuesday I’ll answer one reader’s question in a web video. To submit your question, you can email me at Questions@UrbanSake.com or visit UrbanSake.com/Questions and fill out the form to submit your question!

Here is our first question and video, a great question about how to store sake. You can see all videos in the series here. Thanks for watching!

Yukie-san and Yoshida-san

Tedorigawa Glitters at Sakagura

Tedorigawa Tasting set

The event packed schedule at Sakagura rolls on! Last night’s event centered around a beautiful Tedorigawa sake tasting set featuring three standout Tedorigawa Sakes. Each set was presented by Yasuyuki Yoshida, the 6th Genergation Kuramoto from Ishikawa Prefecture’s Yoshida Sake Brewery, makers of Tedorigawa brand sake. Yoshida-san visited every table that ordered the tasting set and introduced his sake and his brewery to the guests. Here is the skinny on the tasting set:

Tedorigawa Tasting Set:

Yukie-san and Yoshida-san

The three Tedorigawa sakes were standouts. The Tedorigawa Kinka Daiginjo Nama is a wonderful summer unpasteurized sake, fresh and juicy. Next, the Tedorigawa Yamahai Junmai was a classic yamahai style sake that is a real winner for the lovers of dry sake. Last but not least is the super luxurious Tedorigawa Mangekyo Daiginjo. Yoshida-san told me that they only produce a mere 400 bottles of the beautiful sake every year, making it exceedingly rare. It’s an ephemeral daiginjo with a smooth, silky and elegant body. It’s expensive and worth it.

Gold leaf on Kinka Daiginjo

Yoshida-san treated me to a Ishikawa specialty. Ishikawa prefecture is world famous for it’s production of gold leaf. The Japanese believe that consuming gold leaf is good for your health. I received a sprinkling of gold leaf to top off my cup of Tedorigawa Kinka Daiginjo Nama. You can’t taste the gold when you drink it down, but I couldn’t help feeling like a million bucks on the inside.

As Yoshida-san explained to me, creating the Tedorigawa Kinka Daiginjo Nama was a way to try to express the beauty of Ishikawa Prefecture in a sake. “Kinka” means golden blossom and represents two things Ishikawa is famous for, the plum blossom and gold leaf. The taste is fresh, elegant and evocative, just like beautiful Ishikawa Prefecture. This sense of place and depth of meaning in their sake is one thing that makes Tedorigawa so special. Remember, all that glitters is not gold – it may be your sake!

UrbanSake.com In The Press

Click on a year below to explore the UrbanSake.com Press Archive.


January 1 2014 | Japan Airlines AGORA Magazine (Japanese)


Nov 18, 2013 | Asahi Shinbun, Tokyo
My Point of View (Japanese) [PDF]

July 2, 2013 | eatTO.ca

May 23, 2013 | ScoutMagazine.ca
GOODS: Yaletown’s Minami To Host Event With “Sake Samurai” & Hakkaisan Brewery

April 26, 2013 | Daily Sun New York
大七酒造 (Japanese)

April 2, 2013 | TheDailyMeal.com
Hot or Cold Sake?” on TheDailyMeal.com


March 12, 2013 | VillageVoice.com
New York’s Sake Culture Is the Best Outside of Japan

Feb 27, 2013 | TheDailyMeal.com
How to Understand a Sake Menu” on TheDailyMeal.com


Jan 23, 2013 | NBC 4 New York News


March 2012 | Chopsticks NY
Sneak Peek into Tatenokawa 18 and 50 [PDF]


September 30, 2011 | The Japan Times
Foreign volunteer group helps brewers to rebuild [PDF]


October 2010 | Chopsticks NY
Special Sake Talk


October 1, 2009 | The Japan Times
Sake Day Special: ‘Sake Samurai’ spreads the ‘nihonshu’ word [PDF]



December 2007 | Chopsticks NY
Voice from Dassai 23 Enthusiast [PDF]

Kinoshitas with GM Yukie at Sakagura

Kitaya Night at Sakagura

Kinoshitas with GM Yukie at Sakagura

Fukuoka Prefecture may not be the most famous for sake, but it could be the most fun. Fukuoka’s own Kitaya Sake Brewery, recently had a tasting at sake mecca Sakagura Restaurant and proved they know how to have a good time. In addition to some fantastic Kitaya Sake, The company President Mr. Kinoshita was there to introduce his sakes to everyone. Based on what I saw, everyone was into it. Mr. Kinoshita’s enthusiasm to introduce his sake was contagious!

The sake set on this night consisted of three Kitaya Sakes. One of them, not for sale in the U.S. Here is a look at the sakes:

Kitaya Tasting Set:

Three Kitaya Sakes!

The Kansansui Junmai Daiginjo is one of the first premium sakes I ever had back in the day at Sake Bar Decibel. It’s a classic example of a Junmai Daiginjo, it’s delicious, fruity and elegant. The Kitaya Kansansui Kasumizake Junmai Daiginjo Nigori has been imported for a while now, but this is my first chance to try it. Verdict is: Loved it! I loved it so much I ordered a carafe for myself after my tasting set was done. Lastly, I got to try the rare Kitaya Souden Yamahai Junmai, which is not for sake in the States. This sake was hand carried from Japan, just for this night! It’s a rice-y yamahai that is great for pairing with food.

Speaking of food, I had some very, very delicious sashimi and some great tsukune chicken meatballs. Both were excellent and I fell in love with Sakagura yet again. This was a great night that I really enjoyed. If you don’t know Fukuoka sake, it’s time to say hello.

Dassai Sparkling!

Dassai Lecture at The Brooklyn Kitchen

Dassai Sparkling!

Last night I spoke at a fun and unique Dassai Sake Brewery Tasting. The event was held at The Brooklyn Kitchen and featured four kinds of Dassai Sake, food cooked to prefection with Dassai Sake Lees by Chef Mori of Kyoya and outrageously awesome artisanal meats and cheeses.

I did a short lecture and slideshow featuring a sake 101 and showed some pictures from my visit to Dassai in Yamaguchi, so that all the guests could get a feel for the place that Dassai is made. Mr. Sakurai, 4th Generation Kuramoto from Dassai also spoke about his brewery’s policy on quality and wonderful ingredients.

Dassai Sakes served at this event:

This event was outrageously fun! There were so many unique tastes (Hello, hand-crafted Lamb Bacon!) that I felt as if I learned something new with each bite and sip. The class was split on their favorite Dassai! Some Loved the Dassai 23 while others swore allegiance to Dassai 50 and some were on my team – team Dassai 39! It’s all in good fun and I think everyone really enjoyed. Can’t wait for the next Dassai event! Check out the gallery below to see more pictures from the event.

Mr. Uenoda from Tenryo

Tasting Tenryo at Sakaya

Mr. Uenoda from Tenryo

I found myself in the east Village this past weekend and made it in time to stop by Sakaya for a nice tasting! This day, Rick and Hiroko were featuring a sake from the Tenryo Sake Brewery in Gifu, Japan. Mr. Matasuke Uenoda, Marketing Director from the Brewery was there to pour and introduce their delicious Tenryo Hidahomare Junmai Ginjo.

The sake catches your eye on the shelf. Each and every bottle comes swaddled in a cool bamboo sheath that you can certainly reuse as a neat catch-all when your sake is gone. The taste of this junmai ginjo is bold and has a nice flavor of rice on the mid palate. Overall smooth and very versatile. I imagine pairing this sake with many different foods!

Tenryo Junmai Ginjo

Again, I think here that versatility is the name of the game. The rice used here is also special – it’s a Gifu specialty known as “hidahomare” sake rice. Unique and only from Gifu.

If you haven’t had a chance to try Tenryo yourself, join me for a Tenryo Sake Tasting at Sakagura on July 31st 2012. Mr Uenoda promised me there would be delicious and exciting sake to try! Can’t wait to see what surprises await.


Shichida Sake Night at Kirakuya

Shichida Junmai Ginjo

Sing it with me: “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens and Shichida Sake are a few of my favorite things!” Well… that being the case, I would never miss a Shichida Sake Brewery tasting! Brewery President Shichida was in town and a festive night at Sake Bar Kirakuya was planned… It’s on!

When I arrived, the place was packed! It was one of those steamy Manhattan summer nights and it felt like half of midtown was finding shelter and chilled sake at Kirakuya. After snagging a spot at the bar, I didn’t waste any time in getting my hands on the tasting set. On this night, the Shichida tasting set consisted of:

Shichida Tasting Set:

Iuchi-san and Yukie-san

What is it about the Shichida Sakes that I love so much? Well, the best I can describe it is that their sakes live on the crossroads of smoothness avenue and depth-of-flavor street.

Last year I awarded their Shichida Junmai a 2011 Golden Masu Award for this very reason. As I said then, whatever you’re doing down there in Saga, it’s working!

Akaboshi-san pours my tasting set

President Shichida also has a great sense of humor and really has fun in the sake business. Also in attendance were some sake all stars! Yukie-san from Sakagura, KC from NihonshudoNYC, Hiromi Iuchi from Kuramoto US, Yoshida-san from Tedorigawa and Akaboshi-san, in house Sake Sommelier at Kirakuya. It was a lot of fun!

On this night, for anyone who ordered a bottle of sake, he had a box where you could draw a ticket for a chance to win one of three prizes like a shichida t-shirt or a shichida sake cup. Unfortunately, I drew the “sorry, better luck next time” ticket… twice! But, even though I didn’t win, I felt like a winner just drinking the sake. If you haven’t yet, give some Shichida Sake a try, and I know you’ll feel like a winner, too.

Kagatobi Night at Shinbashi

Kagatobi Night at Shinbashi Restaurant

Another Night, Another Kagatobi! The good folks from Fukumitsuya Brewery have been in town and hosting events all over the city. Last Thursday was a special night with Kagatobi sake flowing freely, all poured by Mr. Yageta vising all the way from the brewery! They were offering a special price on the bottle of Kagatobi Junmai Ginjo with appetizers included. Who could resist?

I enjoyed myself a lot on this trip to Shinbashi. Chef Nakajima commands the sushi bar and is the very image of what you expect in a sushi chef. White coat and hat? Check. Deadly serious knife skills? Check. Encyclopedic knowledge of fish? Check. Funny wit and unexpected joke to keep you laughing? Check!!

The fish I enjoyed this night at Shinbashi was delicious! Kagatobi Junmai Ginjo is a wonderful sake for pairing with the best fish. It’s clean, smooth and round with a whisper of rice essence on the palate. You should also know that Fukumitsuya Brewery is located in kanazawa City, Ishikawa Japan. Kanazawa is world famous for it’s high quality fish… so these brewers know good fish and good sake. IN addtion to the Junmai Ginjo, We also enjoyed the refreshing and creamy Kagatobi Junmai Nigori Sparkling.

As Yageta-san continued to pour delicious Kagatobi, Chef Nakajima also wowed our palates with delicious fiddlehead fern tempura and clam miso soup – just yum! If you missed Kagatobi Night at Shinbashi – check out these pics to see what went down. Hope to see you at the next sake event! Kanpai!

nishimoto 1822

Nishimoto Premium Sake Event 2012

Shoji-san with Naraman Sake

Nishimoto Sake Importers hosted it’s annual big sake blowout on June 3rd at the Astor Center in NYC. The tasting this year was a big deal because the event marked the 100th anniversary of Nishimoto in the U.S.

This Nishimoto event was open to businesses only, but I was able to get inside to take some photos to share with you!

First, if you’re interested in learning about these breweries, check out this list below. You can get an overview of their companies and see the sakes they are importing now:

Learn more about Select Breweries at this event:

The Nishimoto Event was packed and popular with folks from many restaurants, bars and lounges tasting all kinds of sake. But it wasn’t just drinks – There were three great chefs doing live cooking demos as well: Greg McCarty from Tribeca Grill, Christopher Lee from Huntington Social and Katsutaka Iimori from Blue Ribbon Sushi.

Sawanotsuru Sake

The sake being served was in a wide range of styles and I can honestly say there was something for everyone. In addition, some new and interesting brews were on the scene! I enjoyed a new Shirataki Jozen Mizunogotoshi Junmai sake which was sturdy and quite dry, a delicious new direction from the clean and light Niigata style they are known for. I also had fun tasting a very unique sake, the new low alcohol Homare Strawberry Nigori… a smoothie-like confection that will convince you Jamba Juice has gotten into the sake game. Another sake I went back to again and again to sample was the Kagatobi Ai Junmai Daiginjo Shiboritate Nama – rich and smooth with a fresh edge that woke up my palate and always left me wanting one more sip!

Exploring the well-edited selection of breweries represented at this event was such a great way to spend the afternoon. So be sure to ask for sakes from all these breweries at your local bar or restaurant. There is truly something for everyone. Congratulations Nishimoto on the first 100 years in the U.S. – here’s a toast to the next 100! Kanpai!

Nishimoto sake tasting at Brooklyn Kitchen

Sake Tasting at the Brooklyn Kitchen

This past Saturday, the Brooklyn Kitchen hosted a sake tasting. The 3 hour tasting cost a mere $25 and was sincerely an amazing opportunity to meet some sake brewers live and in person and immerse yourself the intoxicating world of Nihonshu. So, as you can well imagine, this Manhattanite I got out his passport and headed across the river to Williamsburg.

Brooklyn Kitchen is an amazing place – consider it a grocery store/artisanal butcher/cooking school/event space. When I arrived, the space was packed to the rafters with Brewers… and hipsters! But all joking aside, it was wonderful to see so many younger folks literally lining up to try sake. The brewers pouring on this day came from all over Japan and there were a lot of diverse styles to taste.

I enjoyed all the sakes I got to try, but it was a special treat to re-visit some of my tried and true favorites! Of course, just the day before this event in Brooklyn, I had a blast at Sakagura’s Kagatobi Night, and lo and behold, they were here again serving their delicious Kagatobi Ai Junmai Daiginjo. I also always enjoy seeing Mr. Shoji from Yumegokoro Brewery, makers of Naraman, serving his delicious Naraman Bin Hiire Muroka Junmai.

Other treats included meeting the Toji (Master Brewer) of Echigo Denemon Brewery Mr. Ozaki. He was very keen on practicing his English and I asked him about the long hours a Toji puts in on the job – It’s hard work, but – in any language – you can’t argue with the results!

I also enjoyed catching up with Ms. Funyu from Urakasumi Brewery. I had the pleasure of meeting her last year during our 2011 sake volunteer trip to support Tohoku. Urakasumi is always a wonderful treat… a delicious brew from Miyagi! Funyu-san updated me on the progress of reconstruction at the Brewery – the news was good and all construction and repairs are almost completely done! Great!

Before too long, it was time to head back into Manhattan after this fun afternoon of sake sipping, Billyburg-style. I hope Brooklyn Kitchen plans many more sake events in the future. Can’t wait to try more sake across the River!

Fukumitsuya Event At Sakagura

Kagatobi Night at Sakagura

Tasting Set

I recently attended a fun evening at Sakagura Restaurant featuring Kagatobi sakes. Kagatobi is one of the flagship brands of the Fukumitsuya Sake Brewery.

Visiting all the way from the Fukumitsuya Brewery were Mr. Fukumitsu and Mr. Yageta to introduce their sakes to Sakagura’s guests. This night there was a special sake tasting set featuring three unique and different kagatobi sakes, namely, Kagatobi Junmai Ginjo, Kagatobi Sparkling Junmai Nigori and Kagatobi Sennichi Kakoi Junmai Daiginjo Koshu.

Special Water

The tasting set was a lot of fun and the unique range of sakes (koshu, nigori, junmai ginjo…) served at once, allowed for a big range of pairing options – and I took full advantage! I tried some grilled squid, yellowtail sashimi, shrimp balls, white asparagus, tsukune grilled chicken… Oh, my, I was a little bit in hog heaven with these sakes to taste alongside the yummy food from Sakagura.

Fukumitsu-san and Yageta-san stopped by each table that ordered the tasting set and gave a wonderful thank you gift of a bottle of “shikomi mizu” or brewing water from the brewery along with a cute kagatobi ochoko sake cup. Neat – and I can tell you from having visited the Brewery in 2008, that the brewing water is off the hook fantastic. What a treat! I don’t think I’ve gotten this excited about bottled water in a while. Watch your back Perrier!

What a fun evening – Please check out the event the UrbanSake.com Events Calendar to keep an eye out for future events at Sakagura and around the City.

You can learn more about Kagatobi and Fukumitsuya here:

Fukumitsuya Sake Brewery
Kagatobi Sakes

Akita Friends!

Akita Sake Club Spring 2012 Tasting

Akita Friends!

Another spring, another Akita Sake Club tasting! And let me tell you, those Akita folks know how to enjoy their sake! This event is always a lot of fun and recently, has graciously included sake from other prefectures as well.

All the Akita sakes where on one table and allowed you to taste your way through Akita and go right down the line. I tasted such delicious sakes as Taiheizan Tenko Junmai Daiginjo, Kariho Namahage Junmai, and Akitabare Shunsetsu Honjozo Nama.

A wonderful tasting and fun for all… Next Akita event should be in the fall. Stay tuned to the UrbanSake.com Events Calendar for an announcement!

With Philip Harper

Joy of Sake Aftertaste with Philip Harper at EN

With Philip Harper

New York’s biggest nihonshu blowout, The Joy of Sake 2012, is heading our way soon. As a run up to the big day, there are some fun events taking place.

The first of these was an evening of sake sipping and a little bit of sake learning with Tamagawa Toji Mr. Philip Harper. After a nice intro from World Sake Import’s Chris Pierce, Philip addressed the group about the ins and out of Kimoto and Yamahai sake production as it compared to the modern Sokujo yeast starter method. This may sound complex, but Philip made it easy to understand. Loved it. It was a great event and it really made me look forward to the main Joy of Sake event coming on September 20th. EN Japanese Brasserie provided a beautiful backdrop for the event as usual with some yummy nibbles to boot.

Some of the great sakes featured in this aftertaste event Shichida Yamahai Junmai Ginjo, Urakasumi Zen and of course all the Tamagawa sakes that Philip brought from Kinoshita Brewery. Can’t wait for the other Aftertaste events in New York!

Philip Harper & Yukie

Tamagawa’s Philip Harper at Sakagura

Philip Harper & Sakagura's Manager Yukie

In Japan, a master sake brewer is known as a Toji. They train for years and it’s their job to manage the day to day operations of sake production. And it’s not everyday that a Toji superstar blows into town, so I wasn’t about to miss my chance to talk sake with the Kyoto toji who makes Tamagawa Sake. Besides making some kick-ass sake, this Toji is a little, well… different from his colleagues in the Toji Guild. I’m talking of course about Philip Harper, the only non-Japanese toji in Japan.

Hailing from Cornwall, England, Philip became a Master Sake Brewer the old fashioned way… he earned it. Arriving in Japan in 1988, Harper worked his way up the sake industry ladder, taking and passing the Nanbu Brewer’s Guild Exam in 2001, whereby he became the first and only non-Japanese person to earn the title of Toji. In 2007, he joined Kyoto’s Kinoshita Sake Brewery, makers of the Tamagawa brand and became their toji.

This week, Sakagura Restaurant hosted Philip Harper at a tasting event featuring four of his Tamagawa Sakes, two of which are not available in the U.S. All of the sakes served were very interesting – each in their own way. Two are currently imported, the delicious Tamagawa Kinsho Daiginjo and the loveable Tamagawa Tokubetsu Junmai.

The scene stealers, however, were the rowdy Tamagawa Junmai Yamahai Nama Genshu “White Label” and the outrageous Tamagawa “Time machine 1712” Junmai Kimoto. The Yamahai Nama Genshu is brewed letting the house yeast fermentation run pedal-to-the-metal until the alcohol tops out at a staggering 20-21.5%! This makes for a strong, seasoned and sneaky yamahai – sneaky because it is still so smooth, drinkable and enjoyable as such sky high alcohol percentages.

New Tamagawa Fans

The “Time Machine 1712” is brewed using a sake recipe from the year – you guessed it – 1712. This funky brew gives us a window into what sake lovers in Edo may have been enjoying. The taste is suprising – quite sweet with noticeably higher acidity. Pairing this sake with ice cream or blue cheese is a shogun slam dunk. Sakagura reserved the back room for the tasting with delicious appetizers served between generous pours of all the sakes in a socialble stand up style reception. Fun!

Tasting all these marvelous Tamagawa sakes, you can tell without a doubt that Philip is deeply devoted to his craft, and has a true love of creatively and deliciously pushing the sake envelope. But you know what? My sake spidey sense is telling me even more adventurous sakes from Harper are yet to come. What does the future hold? We’ll just have to wait and see where the Toji of Cornwall leads us next.

Deeply Dassai Night at Sake Bar Yopparai

Deeply Madly Truly Dassai… Yopparai Style

Sake Bar Yopparai kicked off May with a fun evening of yummy-sake-drinking and good-food-eating by partnering with Dassai Brewery for an event called “Deeply Dassai, Yopparai Style”. The event focused on a 5 course set menu, all paired with Dassai Sakes. Sounds good, but wait – there’s more… the little surprise is that many of the dishes were cooked using Dassai Sake Kasu (lees), the rice solids left over after pressing the sake. Dassai Sake Kasu is impossible to get here, but some was brought in especially for this one night.

Drumroll please – Here’s a glimpse at the menu:

Deeply Dassai Tasting Menu

Aperitif: Yopparai Cocktail w/ Dassai 50 Sparkling. Dassai 23 Sake Lees Wasabizuke.

1st Course: Daikon Radish Salad/Tomato Salad. Sashimi Assortment. Pairing: Dassai 50

2nd Course: Ebi Shinjo. Kurobuta Black pork Belly. Pairing: Dassai 39

3rd Course: Dassai 23 Sake Lees Marinated Grilled Fish. Pairing Dassai 23.

4th Course: Dassai 23 Sake Lees Kasu Jiru Miso Soup. Rice. Pickles.

Dessert: Dassai 23 Sake Lees soft serve ice cream.

If you’ve never tasted sake lees before, it’s important to know that not all lees are created equal. The Dassai 23 Junmai Daiginjo Lees are considered a rare and premium product. The taste is reminiscent of sake, but with hints of rice, a whiff of premium alcohol and light fermentation. Lees are used a lot in Japanese cooking and this menu allowed us to sample a wide range of uses for sake lees in one meal – from the Wasabi appetizer to the sake flavored ice cream – Genius! It’s a subtle taste that pairs so well with the sake, but doesn’t overwhelm. The folks at Sake Bar Yopparai got it right!

I think if I had to pick one, I most enjoyed the grilled fish that was marinated in Dassai 23 sake kasu and then served with Dassai 23 Junmai Daiginjo to drink. Simply delicious!

The Sakes themselves were served by Sakurai-san, 4th Generation Owner of Dassai Brewery as well as Dassai Sales Rep Asumi-san who came all the way from Japan for the event! The Dassai signature style is smooth, easy drinking, light fruit on the palate and delicious. You can read my interview with Saurai-san here.

The whole evening was a study in enjoying the essence of Dassai with a Yopparai twist. And, yes, I’ve think I’ve fallen again – you guessed it – Deeply, Madly, Truly for Dassai.

Lucky Rice grand feast 2012

Lucky Rice Grand Feast 2012

There’s one event each year you can rely on to provide some exotic food and sake, a dash of glamour and some killer views of the Park. We’re talking about the Lucky Rice Grand Feast. Held annually and benefiting City Harvest, the Grand Feast is a celebration of good food, good drink and SAKE! Some of the top producers donate their sake for this fun and exciting event. I was on hand this year to help pour and introduce the sake to the guests.

This event is fun and filled to the rafters with serious foodies wanting to sample everything the event had to offer. Most guests start off sampling the appetizers and then make their way to the sake table. The represented brands included Born, Dassai, Tatenokawa, Tengumai, Amabuki and several others.

Several quests came up to me and, pointing to the sakes said, “I’m an absolute beginner with sake. Walk me through what we’ve got here.” For me, this was the most fun – being able to introduce the various sake brands that I know and love to enthusiastic folks wanting to get on board the sake soul train.

Giving the guests their first taste of a premium sake is a great feeling – it always recalls my first “a-ha” moment with premium sake, too – good times!

If you want to experience Lucky Rice for yourself, get on their mailing list and get your tickets early for next year. It’s a great way to sample food from some star chefs and also drink you fill from some of the best sakes in the world – who can ask for more than that?! All aboard!!

tatenokawa 1680

Tatenokawa Launch Party at Kirakuya

Tatenokawa 33 Junmai Daiginjo

Tatenokawa Sake Brewery is one of those rare outfits that focuses exclusively on producing super-premium grade sake. That’s right, nothing but Junmai Daiginjo will do for the folks at this brewery. If you’re a fan of Junmai Daiginjo like I am, get to know the name Tatenokawa. Two of their sakes selected for import to the U.S. were recently approved for sale and the Brewery had a launch party of sorts with a tasting event at Kirayuya Sake Bar.

The two new sakes in question are Tatenokawa 33 Junmai Daiginjo and Tatenokawa 50 Junmai Daiginjo. The number in the name refers to the seimaibuai or rice milling percentage.

Mr. Kurosu with Tatenokawa 50

These are two wonderful sakes to taste together for the fun of a ‘contrast and compare’ milling rate experiment. Both sakes have a lot in common… same brewery, both Junmai Daiginjo, same Dewasansan sake rice, same water, same alcohol content and only extremely minor variations in SMV and acidity. The biggest difference is rice milling alone – 33% remaining vs. 50% remaining. The fun comes in when you realize how unique and different these sakes are from each other. Milling alone makes a big difference! I found the Tatenokawa 33% to be cleaner, quieter and super, duper stealthy smooth with enjoyable light juicy fruit flavors on the palate. The Tatenokawa 50% in comparison came across more full-bodied, rounder and heavier on the palate. Because of this, it also stood up better to the yummy grilled and fried izakaya food I was eating at the time. Both of these sakes shared the same Tatenokawa DNA, but each had a unique body. Now this is a scientific method I can really get behind.

Mr. Kurosu was the Tatenokawa representative who was on hand at Kirakuya and introducing these sakes to everyone. Those who bought a bottle received a Tatenokawa wooden masu as a gift – a wonderful way to celebrate the arrival of a new V.I.S. (Very Important Sake) to the American market. Can’t wait for the other Tatenokawa brews to debut!