takasawa_san_introduces.jpgSakaya has started the new year off right with weekly free sake tastings! On a recent evening, Representatives from Kikusui Brewery were on hand to explain about there sakes and sample some special sakes just for the occasion.

Kikusui is a very well known brewery, in a Prefecture already world famous for it’s sake: Niigata. The Kikusui website has an extensive explanation of the company and the brewing process all in English. Not to be missed!

Visiting from the Brewery were Kikusui President Mr. Takasawa and Export Sales Manager Mr. Endo. They were both incredibly enthusiastic and gave us the low down on what they were pouring. We tasted:

last_bottle.jpg*Kikusui Junmai Ginjo: Clean, clear and a fantastic representative of that renowned Niigata water. Everyone comments on the beautiful Blue bottle. Drinkable and enjoyable everyday with great versatility.

*Kikusui Funaguchi Nama Genshu Honjozo in a can: This sake is well known to me and I have had enjoyed it many times. This sake deserves a guest spot on “The Bold and the Beautiful” because it’s just that. And come on, people! The can is just fun. Full, juicy and quite a handful (in a good way).

*Kikusui Daiginjo Genshu Competition Sake in a can: ok, if the Nama Genshu Honjozo was bold and beautiful, this puppy is bold and beautiful and a Ph.D. Gorgeous, with_takasawa_san.jpgfull flavor and a deep complexity. Not a sake to drink everyday, but this was an amazing opportunity to taste something so well crafted.

Rick and Hiroko had quite a crowd at the event and there was a run on Kikusui Junmai Ginjo which was sold out by the end of the evening. Mr. Takasawa was a fantastic representative for his Brewery and helped every one to enjoy their introduction to Kikusui. I can’t wait to try more from this brewery next chance I get!

Explaining_masu.jpgOne of the more exciting opportunities I’ve had recently to preach the gospel of sake is teaching the first of several “Elements of Sake” classes at the brand new Astor Center in New York’s East Village. What a thrill!

First, a word about the new Astor Center Facility. “The Study” is one tricked out classroom folks! It’s really a fantastic, state-of-the-art facility… a dream for both students and teachers alike! Each student gets a workstation with individual sink, and an individual lightbox for judging color. place_setting.jpgAlso included are stadium seating, three overhead widescreen TVs, so everyone gets a perfect view.

Last but not least, the slideshow system comes equipped with a dynamic student response system. If you put a multiple choice question or rating on a slide, the students can reply using a handheld remote and the computer gives an instant view of the replies. it’s cool!

The class itself was 36 people strong. urakasumi_title.jpgHere is a quick overview of what we covered in class:

  • what is sake
  • sake ingredients
  • sake production process
  • tips for serving and tasting

In addition we also tasted 5 fantastic sakes. they are:

Urakasumi Junmai: This is a classic example of a Junmaishu. wakatake_nama_title.jpgFirm, full bodied and full rice in the nose.

Hakkaisan Ginjo: One of my very favorites! This sake is the poster child for a Niigata Ginjo. aggressively clean and balanced.

Rihaku Nigori: The sake that launched a 1,000 nigori fans. dassai_title.jpgThis sake has the perfect texture to show students what Nigori is all about.

Wakatake Nama: Spring Namas have yet to hit the shore, so fall namas are our fall-back til spring. I like this nama by Wakatake in Shizuoka Prefecture. Full forward flavor with a touch of zing and full fruit.

Dassai 23: What can I say. I just didn’t feel right having a sake class without letting students taste a masterpiece. Dassai 23 was a hit and understandably so. complex and layered with hints of fruit and a touch of a dry finish. A true show stopper.

sake_flowchart_tim.jpgThis class was a load of fun for me to teach. If this sounds like fun to you and you would like to attend a Sake Samurai “Elements of Sake” class you can sign up on the Astor Center website.

Important Note: As a bonus for Urban Sake readers, you can get two tickets for the price of one for the February class. please use Promo code “ACWelcome” when buying your tickets!!

hair.jpgI got an email out of the blue from a gentleman asking me if I would be interested in holding a lecture on Sake at the December 2007 NYC Anime Convention at the Javits Center. What does sake have to do with Anime? Well the organizers of the Anime Festival were also wisely holding Japanese “culture panels” on subject such as “Kabuki Theater”, “Japanese Woodblock Prints”, “Samurai and Feudal Japan” and of course my favorite cultural topic: “Sake!”

Since I became a “Sake Samurai” last October, one of my vows was to educate about sake, precisely: “Spread the word about Japanese sake around the world with pride and passion”. I knew this lecture opportunity was a chance to do just that! Now, I’ve never been to a Convention before, Star Trek, Sci Fi, Anime or otherwise… so I didn’t know really what to expect. When the day of my lecture arrived, I packed up my laptop and powerpoint and headed off.

swordplay.pngI arrived at the Javits Center on the big day and was immediately overwhelmed by the crowds and costumes. I mean… this Anime Festival was ginormus! I saw lots of kids dressed up in lots of crazy costumes. Oh… and lots and lots of spike-y anime hair. Oh… and lots of maid uniforms. Oh… and lots of samurai swords. …and that was just in the lobby.

I found my way to the check in counter for Presenters and got my badge and then I waded into the crowd. Walking to the room where my lecture was being held, i was truly bewildered by the roaming gangs of various Anime characters, many of them chasing and “sword fighting” each other. I couldn’t help feeling like I was the odd man out on the playground. The lecture before mine was cancelled, so I had plenty of time to set up for my sake lecture. lecture_room.jpgEach presentation has tech support provided by the Javits Center – they seemed like old school union guys who were just as bewildered with the parade of costumes as I was.

The lecture room itself was a 200 seat auditorium with a microphone, raised stage and a gigantic movie theater sized projection system. I really wasn’t sure what to expect giving the mildly rowdy shenanigans going on outside the lecture room. I had some time to peek in on some of the other panels and found some of the anime panels overflowing their rooms. My lecture however, was a “panel” of one – Me!

podium.jpgWhen the time came I called the room to order and began my lecture and slide show. I had about 75 people show up which I thought was a really good turn out! The crowd was mostly professionals in their 30s and 40s with a smattering of young people.

I started by talking about Sake ingredients and then the sake production process. At the request of the organizers I also took some time to make recommendations about where to go to experience sake in New York City for the out of town visitors to the convention. sake_set.jpgMy favorite part of the lecture was opening up the floor to questions from the audience. The crowd asked some fantastic questions and I really enjoyed answering them! All in all it was a great success.

About a month after the lecture, I got a “thank you” package from the organizers of the Festival. It included a couple of T-shirts, a mascot doll and a very special memento of the day… an engraved NYC Anime Festival Sake set! Pretty darn cool if you ask me.

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Anime hair photo © 2007 Flicker user A. Seraphin.
Licensed under CC 2.0 Generic

I’ve been lucky enough to get a few mentions in the press and on other blogs of late. I even got interviewed! And you know it’s really me…. who else would match Sake and Turkey Burgers. sheesh! Take a looksee the links below to see where Urban Sake has been popping up!

chopsticks_logo.pngChopsticks Magazine, December 2007 issue:
Chopsticks asked for my comments on one of my favorite topics… Dassai 23! See the “Voice from Dassai 23 Enthusiast” sidebar on this full page spread.
>View PDF

japanup_logo.jpg Japan-Up! Magazine, January 2008 issue:
Japan Up! Magazine asked me to do a full page interview. It’s called a “Special Interview with a BIG sake lover!”. Here I admit, in print, to my Sake and Turkey Burger fetish.
>View PDF

NYTimes_logo.png New York Times, January 9th 2008:
The New York Times Dining Section Calendar featured a blurb on my Sake Class at Astor Center. It is a thrill to see your name in the Times and a relief it’s not in the obituary column or police blotter. Kanpai to that.
>View PDF

guardian_logo.pngThe Guardian Online, January 18th 2008:
Blog by Blog Guide to… Tokyo.
Ok, ok, I know that my blog is not directly related to Tokyo, per se, but the folks at the Guardian were kind enough to include my blog in the sake section! The Golden Masu Awards are gaining traction! Move over Oscar!
>View PDF

Thrillist_logo.pngThrillist
Being included in the Thrillist was indeed a thrill for me, if not for others. They took note of my Urban Sake Google Map to New York City. I’m happy that they found this map to be useful and I hope to expand the maps more and more as time allows.
>View PDF