Last monday night I had a wonderful opportunity to attend a stellar Sake pairing dinner at 15 East Restaurant. This evening was unique for me at 15 East, as I’m usually there for sushi. While there was plenty of great raw fish and a sashimi plate to die for, the evening’s courses focused more on the food from the kitchen as prepared by Chef Shigeru Sugano in a kaiseki style.

In addition, all the courses were paired with Urakasumi sakes and we had the distinct honor of having the brewery President Mr. Saura with us in person which made the evening that much more special. There were several delicious Urakasumi Sakes presented with the food including the luxurious Urakasumi Junmai Daiginjo and the standard bearer Urakasumi Junmai Ginjo Zen.

Check out the Gallery below to view the foods, sakes and sights from this great evening.

When I first heard about the UK-based Japan Affairs Forum working on organizing a volunteer project focused on helping sake breweries, I knew I had to be involved. I think this will be an amazing opportunity to help Japan while we are there, but also learn about sake and the current challenges being faced in Tohoku. If you might be interested in joining this sake-focused volunteer action, contact Alex at [email protected] for more information and an application.

—September 2011 Sake Volunteer Project—

This September members of Action For Japan UK and the Japan Affairs Forum will be traveling to Miyagi and Iwate prefectures in Japan to work at the famous Nizawa Jozoten and Suisen sake breweries! What’s more, we are looking for people to join us!

For two weeks students will work alongside the experts, helping brew delicious rice wine, whilst aiding communities affected by the recent Tohoku earthquake. Although local infrastructure has been repaired the economic costs of the tsunami and earthquake continue to make life difficult for locals. Volunteers will provide invaluable relief through both cultural exchange and volunteer work itself.

The trip promises to be both a fun and rewarding experience and an outstanding chance to show your solidarity with the Japanese people. Furthermore, after the two weeks of work volunteers will have the chance to explore other areas of Japan with the help our Japanese student companions who will be volunteering alongside us, providing language and cultural assistance to those who have come to Japan for the first time. On the weekends we will be holding day trips, excursions to Japanese hot springs and visits to local schools.

The trip will be held from the 11th to 25th September, with an optional week afterwards. Volunteers will have to cover personal costs though we have secured cheap (yet comfortable) accommodation and will be able to advise on insurance and flight options. Moreover, there is chance that we will be able to subsides certain costs at a later date, hopefully through corporate sponsorship.

For information on the brewery itself visit: http://eatpumpkin-pim.blogspot.com/2011/05/sake-journey-niizawa-jozoten.html

If you are interested in joining us and want to hear more about sake itself, the fine details of the trip or anything else at all please contact Alex at [email protected]

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Junko Igarashi who is a sake sommelier at Jewel Bako restaurant in New York City’s East Village. I wanted to ask Junko, from her unique perspective as a sake sommelier, regarding her feelings about all things sake.

Junko Igarashi

Timothy Sullivan: how did you first get interested in sake?

Junko Igarashi:

My grandfather owned a small sake shop in Japan. It’s not existing anymore but when I was young I visited my grandparents in the countryside and I liked to hang out in his store watching the bottles and the beautiful labels with all their different colors. I also enjoyed the smells of sake when the adults did tastings. I didn’t have any relationship to sake until I started working in restaurants when I moved to the USA. Now, as an adult, when I see some sakes, it is kind of a flashback experience for me. I look at some bottles or labels and I think – Hey, I know this! It takes me back to my childhood.

Timothy Sullivan: Tell me about your sake work at Jewel Bako. What is a typical evening like for you here? What are your duties?

Junko Igarashi: I recommend sake of course! A lot of people here know a little bit about sake, but not much. Other people say, “Oh I’ve tried this and I want something similar”. And let’s say they tried Wakatake at some other place and wanted something similar. I would try to recommend something like that.

Timothy Sullivan: Would you say most of the customers you’re serving have had exposure to sake before?

Junko Igarashi: Most of them are beginners and they have a little bit of knowledge about sake, but they sometimes need some help. More than half of the people don’t know what they want to order so, I try to recommend the sake for them. Sometimes I give them a small taste to make sure what I’m recommending suits their palate. Everybody has different tastes so I think having a taste is the best way to ensure a good recommendation

Jewel Bako

Timothy Sullivan: what are your goals for the sake program at Jewel Bako?

Junko Igarashi:

A lot of customers who come into the restaurant know a lot about wine and fish, so they have good palates, but I want to help our customers develop their knowledge of sake. I want those people to understand how wonderful sake can be. If people understand wine, then I think they can understand sake. For example, there are people who know about daiginjo sake, and I want to introduce them to yamahai or to a new style like sparkling sake. I want show people that sake has many different styles and varieties.

Timothy Sullivan: Have you noticed any sake trends with your customers?

Junko Igarashi: Yes. When I started here about six years ago, Niigata style of sake was very popular. Such as Kubota or Hakkaisan. But now seasonal nama sake is very popular. People are asking me – do you have seasonal Nama? Currently we have 95% American clients, and usually 5% Japanese clients. Their tastes are different. American people tend to want to start the meal with something sparkling so more and more they are asking me about sparkling sake.

Timothy Sullivan: What do you do when you get people who come in and say “I’m a total beginner don’t know where to start… what you recommend?”

Junko Igarashi: I will give them two styles of sake to taste; one perhaps a very floral daiginjo and another such as a full-bodied junmai style sake. A lot of people ask me for dry but then they pick a sweeter sake. I think it’s important to taste. I give them a taste of two different styles such as honjozo and daiginjo. I explain the sakes that they are tasting and then let them decide.

Timothy Sullivan: what are some of the core food pairings that you recommend here at Jewel Bako?

Junko Igarashi: We have a fresh octopus sashimi with green tea salt and yuzu. I recommend pairing this with a clean ginjo sake. We also have fatty tuna or a yellowtail belly. Those I pair with a sake with more acidity. For example Kagatobi Junmai Ginjo. When the chef makes Omakase, he always makes seared anago and I want to pair that with a high-quality daiginjo such as Dassai 23. Of course, we aslo have some misoyaki which is very rich and I recommend a pairing with naraman muroka junmai. It’s delicious!

Timothy Sullivan: Thank you very much for taking the time today!

*******

Sake Basics at Kappa Sake House

Similar to ordering wine – when unsure, choosing a Sake is often the result of liking the label, price or your host’s recommendation. But armed with a little knowledge, you can easily start ordering Sake with confidence that will pair with your mood as well as your food.

This introduction to appreciating Sake will provide attendees with the basics of how to read a Sake label in a store or from a menu. The night provides a tasting of 5 distinct styles of Sake, each with an appropriate food pairing, so that customers can taste the differences between a brash and bold Nama, a delicate and silky Junmai Dai-Gingo, and others in between.

By the end of the pairing, they’ll have tasted some terrific Sake paired with delicious Japanese tapas, and will leave with a new appreciation for Sake as well as a little cultural and brewing history.

Sake Basics

Thursday, June, 30th 7-8:30pm
with Brian Murray
Enjoy 5 dishes with different accompanying sakes
Learn the basics of sake including food pairing
Learn how to read a sake label and order with confidence.
Learn necessary classification terms including Junmai, Honjozo, Ginjo and Daiginjo.
$55 per person

Please call Fumiko Akiyama at 718-832-2970 for more information


Kappa Sake House
388 5th Ave, Park Slope, Brooklyn (between 6th & 7th Sts)
718-832-2970
[email protected]

15 EAST is hosting “The Early Summer Kaiseki Dinner with Urakasumi Brewery”

Event Organizer’s Description:
collaborated with Japan Prestige Sake Association.
The president of the brewery, Mr. Saura will join us from Miyagi, Japan to spend a memorable night with our guests.
It features 8 courses of meal paired with 7 artisanal sakes (includes Ichinokura, Tsukasabotan, Hanahato).
Menu showcases all the seasonal ingredients from Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna, Ainame/Greenling, Hamo/Pike Eel, Handcut Soba, Market Vegetables in classic KAISEKI presentation.

Please let me know if you would be able to join us.
Reservation can be made between 6PM-8:30PM to start on Monday June 27th.
$145 per guest for food and sake (excludes tax and tips).
You can contact me through FACEBOOK if it is more convenient.
Look forward to seeing you!

Sincerely,
Yasuyuki Suzuki / Sake Sommelier

15 EAST Restaurant
15 E15th Street
New York, NY 11104
212-647-0015

The Sake Shop

Okunomatsu Sake

Event Organizer’s Description:

We’re holding a special Okunomatsu Sake Tasting this Saturday at the shop. Joining us to pour his delicious sake is Mr. Takeshi Tsushima, General Manager of Okunomatsu. We’ll be sampling four different sake from Okunomatsu including a single pastuerized “Namachozo” and a special Sakura Daiginjo.

And just for good measure we’ll also be sampling a fifth sake from Kurosawa brewery. Kurosawa Junmai Kimoto is brewed using an “old school” traditional method that produces an earthy full bodied flavor.

So join us this Saturday (06/25) for a special Okunomatsu Sake Tasting. Come meet Mr. Tsushima and continue to support the Tohoku region by sampling some Okunomatsu sake from Fukushima prefecture.

OKUNOMATSU
COMPLIMENTARY
SAKE TASTING & SALE
Saturday, June 25, 2011
4:00 pm to 7:00 pm

The Sake Shop
1461 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96814
Phone: (808) 947-7253
Fax: (808) 947-7254
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.sakeshophawaii.com

Hours
Monday – Saturday 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
Sunday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

sakaya.gifMizubasho Ginjo Tasting

Event Description:
Mr. Shinichi Kanai, the Sake Master from JFC Imports will pour this clean drinking brew from the mountains of Gunma prefecture.

SAKAYA
324 E. 9th Street (btwn 1st & 2nd Ave.)
NYC 10003
212.505.7253 (SAKE)
www.sakayanyc.com

sakaya.gifKamoizumi Summer Snow Nigori (Hiroshima) Tasting

Event Description: Kamoizumi Summer Snow Nigori (Hiroshima)

SAKAYA
324 E. 9th Street (btwn 1st & 2nd Ave.)
NYC 10003
212.505.7253 (SAKE)
www.sakayanyc.com

Since the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11th, everyone in Japan, New York and all over the world has wanted to do their part to support the Breweries from the Tohoku Region in Northern Japan. It’s common sense that one concrete way I can make a small step towards standing with Tohoku Breweries is to put my money where my mouth is and simply buy more Tohoku sake. I most recently had a chance to focus again on a brewery I love, Miyagi’s Urakasumi.

Sakaya recently held a tasting to feature Urakasumi sake and I stopped in to taste and pick up some bottles. (see pics below) I subsequently enjoyed drinking two of my favorite Urakasumi Brews: Urakasumi Zen Junmai Ginjo and Urakasumi Junmai. Both of these sakes are insanely well-crafted and delicious. The Zen is one of my go-to sakes for finding true north in my eternal search for Junmai Ginjo nirvana.

I’ve visited the Urakasumi Brewery once in 2009 where I spent a delightful afternoon as the guest of it’s gracious President, Mr. Saura. I saw first hand what dedication and devotion the entire team at Urakasumi has to making delicious, world class sake.

I can’t wait to visit Tohoku again someday. But, until that day comes, I’ll keep these sakes near and dear to my heart – and in my shopping cart!

Nishimoto Sake Importers recently held their annual sake tasting blowout at EN Japanese Brasserie. I’ve attended this event several years in a row and it’s always very fun – and very delicious.

This year, the highlights include some new sakes! First and foremost, both Wakatake and Kagatobi are bringing in new Nigoris (yea!) Naraman was delicious as always and they also have a new Nigori in town. Last but not least, I have to say I kinda have a soft spot in my heart for the new bottle design from Sawanotsuru.

Check out this gallery to see some of the sights and sounds of this fun event. See you there next year – I’ll bring the nigori!

Shata Brewery and Sakagura present
Tengumai “Dancing Goblin” Red & Black Night
Friday, June 17th, 2011
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

We are very proud of announcing the arrival of early summer exclusive sake event!

Shata Brewery was established 1823 in Ishikawa Prefecture. Shata Brewery’s Tengumai brand is well-known in Japan for it’s yamahai style sake, which is full of umami flavors. As many connoisseurs know, the rich and complex umami taste found in Tengumai is one of the most food friendly sakes available. Also, if you are someone who enjoys warm sake, Tengumai is an excellent choice!

That night, we will serve 2 special varieties of Tengumai : Red label and Black label. The labels were designed by Alexander Gelman, who was listed as one of the “world’s most famous modern and contemporary artists in all media” by the Museum of Modern Art in 2001.

We hope you enjoy the combination of Tengumai’s traditional flavor alongside the stylish, modern artwork on the sake labels!

Super Limited “Tengumai Red & Black label Tasting Set” $15.00 (2 kinds/50 ml each)
Tengumai Tokubetsu Junmai (blended Junmai Daiginjo) Red Label
Tengumai Ko-koshu 3 year-aged Junmai Daiginjo Black Label
Both sake bottle labels were designed by Alexander Gelman

Prompt RSVPs are recommended for an evening not to be missed.
RSVP Hotlines : 212-953-SAKE (7253)
*RSVP will be taken on a first-come first-serve basis. We cannot hold orders in advance.

SAKAGURA
211 East 43rd Street B1F
New York, NY 10017
(Between 2nd and 3rd Avenue)
www.sakagura.com

Business Hours:
Lunch:  Mon-Fri      11:30 am  – 14:20 pm

Dinner:  Mon-Thu    18:00 pm –  23:45 pm
              Fri-Sat        18:00 pm  – 24:45 am
              Sun             18:00 pm  – 22:45 pm

NYC in May 2011 was chock-a-block full of sake events – just the way I like it! One of the highlights was a special Kaiseki dinner featuring Daishichi sakes held at the Kitano hotel’s Hakubai restaurant..

Daishichi Sake Brewery was established in 1752, and is based in Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Japan. Daishichi is world famous for making all of their sake using the most traditional KIMOTO method. All Daishichi products are superb examples of KIMOTO style sake.

On this trip, we had the extreme pleasure of getting the chance to meet Mr. Hideharu Ohta, the 10th generation owner of Daishichi Sake Brewery. Mr. Ohta is a soft spoken man with an air of refinement – and I could feel his passion to communicate with us about his sake. Also visiting from Daishichi was Mr. Ad Blankestijn, Daishichi Sake Brewery’s master sake sommelier.

Our pal Chizuko-san from Sake Discoveries helped arrange the event and spoke eloquently about her special relationship to Daishichi. Daishichi was one of the first sakes she tried as a sake sommelier in New York and it stoked her passion to teach the world about sake.

The Food was delicious as always and executive chef Sato-san really outdid himself this time. The sashimi course and dessert course were highlights for me. Dessert included matcha mochi and fresh fruit which was paired with the outstanding Daishichi Ume-shu (plum sake). The delicious Sashimi was paired with the wonderful Daishichi Minowamon Junmai Daiginjo Kimoto. A superstar sake.

Of course, Fukushima prefecture has been in the news a lot because of the troubles at the nuclear reactor. Ohta-san explained that his products had been checked and tested and didn’t receive any damage. The brewery is quite far away from the reactor and the brewery building is quite sturdy with thick concrete walls. I could tell that everyone in attendance was supportive of Fukushima!

What a great evening this was! If you’d like to support Fukushima, pick up some Daishichi sake for yourself!