A motto around Umami Mart is that, "We only work with our friends." We cherish our community and Yoko and I love being able to source products for the shop by artisans that we know personally, and throw fun parties with them too. I worked as a bartender at Camino restaurant for several years and owe them for my knowledge of spirits and the art of the cocktail. Our relationship has grown over the years and we are happy to have them as friends (and Sake Gumi members!).
Owner and Chef Russ Moore has been a long-time drinker of sake and we had talked about collaborating on a sake dinner together for a long while now. We all finally pulled the trigger -- finalized a date and put tickets on sale -- for a night of sakes chosen by us, to be paired with three dishes by Russ.
Here is Russ' awesome menu for the evening and our sake pairings:
Grilled artichokes and asparagus with endive, herb, and preserved lime salad
Paired with Born Gold Junmai Daiginjo by Katoukichibee Brewery (Fukui)
Spring lamb leg a la ficelle, grilled loin and slow cooked shoulder with snap peas, english peas, wild fennel, hominy, and grilled flatbread
Paired with Yukiotoko Junmai by Aoki Brewery (Niigata)
First-of-the-season grilled fig leaf ice milk with wood-oven- roasted rhubarb and benne seed wafers
Paired with Inemankai Junmai by Mukai Brewery (Kyoto)
Yoko made an announcement at the beginning of the evening and mentioned the Golden Rule of Sake Enjoyment: never pour for yourself; always pour for others. This is very important in Japanese culture with any drink -- beer or sake or even water. It is an honorific gesture meant to convey that you are paying attention, and that everyone's enjoyment at the table is important, not just your own.
Thus kick-started the evening of friends and strangers pouring sake from the carafes, for their neighbors. What a lovely sight! Everyone all followed Yoko's instructions and we did not see empty glasses the entire night.
Russ tying the lamb legs for the main course
The traditional sake cask for the kagamiwari, for a celebratory occasion
Our little Umami Mart pop-up table
The breath-taking Camino communal dining table
Prepping for the evening
The Camino book alongside cards for Sake Gumi. What an honor! FYI, many Camino staff members are members
Lamb alla ficelle. A dish that denotes a sign of spring at Camino
Glassware for the evening was generously donated by Toyo-Sasaki Glass Co. Everyone got to take home their Diamond Cut Sake Flute at the end of the night. Thank you TSG!
At 6pm we opened the doors. The bartenders made two sake cocktails.
Grilled artichokes for the first course
Guests included Umami Mart customers and Camino regulars. Everyone enjoyed the sake pairings!
Middle of the madness
Preparing the lamb course
Isshobin or 1.8 liter bottles of Yukiotoko
Our Wavy Carafes were passed around and being filled to the brim for the evening.
Diamond Cut Sake Flutes being prepared for the dessert course
Lamb course with fresh English peas!
The dining room was abuzz with conversation, laughter and clinking glasses
Me with Richard Engle, founder of Solstice Press and Sake Gumi Level II member
A pour of the Inemankai, a special, smoky sake that blew everyone away!
Signing up a new Sake Gumi member!
With Natsumi Iimura, Maya Shiroyama and Jim Ryugo (of Kitazawa Seed)
Me, Yoko and our friend Seri, Sake Gumi member
Sake, not water
The night was superbly fun for us and all of our 100 guests. The last guests didn't leave until nearly midnight -- a sign of truly a fabulous party. Camino was packed with sake novices and connoisseurs and we all gathered around the table to enjoy the dishes with the sakes and make new friends.
We're going to do this every year so stay tuned! A huge thank you to Russ and Allison of Camino for hosting this event with us. And THANK YOU to Toyo-Sasaki Glass Co. for your generosity in donating the glassware for the event. Everyone went home with a glass, a happy stomach, in a sake haze. Success!
Photos by Yoko Kumano