We are celebrating 10 years of Umami Mart's blog this year. I get verklempt thinking about it. People often ask, "Did you ever expect that Umami Mart would become what it is today?" Some people think it was all in the plan from the beginning. HA! We started, and continued, the blog for pure FUN. We were a tight-knit group of 20-somethings, spanning continents, sharing stories about diarrhea-inducing fish, Faggy Foods, Barbie Doll cake recipes, subpar visits to the Maid Cafe, and much, much more.
Launched in February 2007 as umamimart dot blogspot dot com, the blog amassed a loyal following who enjoyed our honest voices and irreverent ways. This was during an exciting time for the food world – Momofuku had just opened in New York and Tokyo was not nearly as much of a bucket-list destination as it is today. I'd like to think we gave all the burgeoning foodies a unique, unapologetic perspective. Far before Pete Wells gave Per Se a two star review in the NYT (fake news), we were giving Le Bernardin 2.5 stars – in one of our most controversial, real news posts in Umami Mart history.
Everyone who has written for the blog is hysterical, yet serious, and was always destined for great things. What are we all doing 10 years later? Anders, our resident Skank Master, founded Studio Arhoj, his own design company in Copenhagen. Aya is a brilliant playwright and Irwin still sends us entries for the UM Reader -- they are raising two awesome boys in Brooklyn. Payman, who started writing on here as a lawyer-by-day/cocktail-enthusiast-by-night, has become a well-regarded bartender in Asia, LA, and NYC. Erin was a photographer living in NYC, trying to break into the food world, and contributed here from the beginning with her Culinography column. Today, she is the maiden of the Forest Feast empire. MOTO is a popular cooking instructor in New York who comes up with elaborate menus for his loyal clientele. And he's getting married this year! Yoko's Japanify column, started when she moved back to Berkeley from Tokyo, is widely read for its simple recipe and warm photos, which inspired our first print publication, Japanify All Day.
I'm in the Bay Area, where Yoko and I run a little shop... called Umami Mart!!!
The blog is continued today, mostly thanks to renewed life infused by our very own Sarah. There are nearly 3000 articles on here and most are still worth revisiting. There is nothing that brings me greater joy than our blog – we are all family and this is our home.
For kicks, I leave you with Yoko and my very first blog posts for Umami Mart, written during a time when I never capitalized words and the photos were very miniscule.
food fight in my first post! By Kayoko February 25, 2007 after years of talking about my elusive food blog, here it is! and while i’m not sure how this blog will manifest itself–how i will organize it, how often i will post, when i will figure out how to post pictures (help!), etc.– it will always be about food in one capacity or another. and what fun! a food fight in my very first post! the curtain went up on wednesday on Theater Chodorow, when he took up a full page ad in the NY Times (upwards of $30k!) to throw a hissy fit like small whiny child about Bruni’s zero star rating for his joke of a new restaurant, Kobe Club. read the letter for yourself here (article by former NYT Dining alum Mimi Sheraton). my big questions is will Bruni respond? the sissy that he is, my guess is probably not. and while i couldn’t help but agree with Chodorow on a few points, mainly about Bruni’s consistency, all in all, we’re talking about about a man who renamed one of his defunct restaurants “Caviar and Bananas” and who thinks that having 2000 samurai swords dangling above you while you wait for your $200 steak would be a thrilling experience. and with the birth of his new blog, to review and rate every restaurant that Bruni reviews, calling it “Following Frank”. it seems that Chodorow is already onto his next gimmick– maybe i can ride that by starting a section, “Kayoko following Jeff following Frank”. whaddya think?
Why I can't write a review on Matsuya By Yoko March 3, 2007
Maybe it’s an ominous sign that my first blog entry as the Tokyo correspondent for Umami Mart is about being unsuccessful on my first assignment – write a review on Matsuya. There are a slew of other teishoku (set meal) chain stores like Matsuya – i.e. Yoshinoya, すき家, etc. These are establishments that serve set meals and a la cart (see Menu picture) dishes. Lots of beef bowls, curry, rice with condiments, etc.
As an American girl, I find it hard to find these places inviting. They are usually lit excessively by rows and rows of fluorescent lights where under them sit rows and rows of stag diners – all male. This is definitely not a place to enjoy a meal – in fact, I think enjoyment is restricted. Meals run very, very cheap – a curry meal or a beef bowl for 300-400yen (about $2.50-3.50). With these prices, one must assume that ingredients come shipped in bags, prepackaged with preservatives.
I don’t consider myself a food snob, but it’ll take me a little more convincing to visit a Matsuya or Yoshinoya. Besides, I’d rather go to the local fish market and eat this (a hefty portion of shimesaba and fresh salmon sashimi) for 700yen (about $6) in the comfort of my own home.