Umami Mart is all grown up. Although she’s only 3 years old, the lifespan of a business seems to whiz by and feels like it goes by in dog years. So it feels more like she actually just turned 21. It makes sense, as year 3 brought us our very own license to sell beer and wine in our Oakland shop. Being 21 also means that for our Matsuri, we had to be legit and apply with the city to throw the event. No more batting our eyelashes and getting away with it. (Not that I even have any eyelashes to bat.)
We decided to go all-out. We were turning 21 after all. So we wanted to celebrate big, and that meant utilizing half of the parking lot behind Umami Mart and inviting all of our favorite local rugrats to the party again. We reached out to UM party alums: Emeryville Taiko, DJ Chungtech, The Trappist, Casa de Kei, Tamarindo, Abura-ya, Skylight Snowballs and Team Print Shop; and local gems Hopscotch, J-shack, Workhorse Rye, Shades of Sugar and Eureka Coffee. But most importantly, we were inviting all of YOU! All of our loyal UM readers, friends and family. You’ve seen us come out of our diapers, start walking and get our license for booze. Thanks for sticking around even through the awkward teenage years. And boy did you guys show up!
This time around, reserving the back parking lot meant that we registered with the city and county to throw the event. The health department showed up a just a little before 6pm as all the vendors were getting ready to start serving up their goodies. Our health inspector was very thorough and checked each and every one of our vendors. Slowly, one by one, each of the vendors were given the “OK.”
At 6:30, Emeryville Taiko started banging their drums which seemed to signal the start of our Matsuri.
It was one of those perfect Oakland summer nights.
Kayoko and I think about joining Emeryville Taiko to get Michelle Obama arms.
Finally, by 7:30pm, all of our vendors were given the go-ahead by our health inspector Amy. Here we are to mark the occasion. This was the highlight of my evening.
Everything was in full swing now, with taiko playing and the food sizzling.
The Hopscotch Team including Jack and Kyle were shucking Yonsei Oysters all night.
UM’s own Chris and Kayoko with our Sake Gumi friends!
Aburu-ya's Adachi and Todd toast to get the party started.
Abura-ya’s fried chicken:
People will wait hours for Abura-ya's chicken. Here's the international “got our chicken” pose.
Casa de Kei’s mind-altering Tsukune Sub with home made purple potato chips!
Did you see people walking around with fresh coconuts? That was from the Tamarindo booth.
Meanwhile, inside, UM’s Sarah was holding it down.
Our shop looks the best with lots of people inside it. The bitters + sodas flowed all night thanks to Rob of Workhorse Rye Bitters.
More outside action with DJ Chungtech spinning J-tunes and other j-j-j-jams.
Next to the DJ booth was John of Team Print Shop, live printing limited edition UM t-shirts designed by none other than Studio Arhoj.
The Trappist’s beer garden was packed thanks to their 11 Japanese keg offering and special menu including onigiri and green tea panna cotta.
Congratulations to Jessica and her new Eureka Coffee truck. Thanks for slinging affogatos all night!
There were lots of dessert options including Shades of Sugar Bakeshop's macarons. Eric made some special Japanese inspired flavors just for Matsuri 2015 including: Black sesame, Shiso plum and Matcha Chocolate.
Skylight Snoballs also made a special Matcha syrup for the festivities.
I wanted to try something tart and refreshing so I opted for Pluot. Amazing flavors and color.
The party kept on going (apparently out of the J-Shack truck!) even as the sun started setting.
Before we knew it our birthday party was over and it was clean up time. As always, we could never do it without our staff!
A special thank you to Johnny and Washi! They are always there to hold our hair back when we puke (read: throwing a matsuri and then having to clean it up).
It has only been a week since the party, but I know that I will never forget our 3rd Matsuri. It was intense and our biggest yet. I am energized by the hard-working small businesses who joined us in the festivities and by everyone in the community who came out and rose a glass in our honor.
Although there have been trying moments to get us to "21," we've powered through, proving only one thing: We are Too Legit to Quit.