Umamimart Writers Dinner Party 2011 (NYC)
All photos by Yoko Kumano and Vanessa Bahmani,
I've been running Umamimart for over four years now (since February 2007), bringing together people from all over the world to share their personal experiences through food and drinks. It has gone through several manifestations, and has seen many writers come and go.
Umamimart now consists of ten core writers, many of whom have been here from the very beginning (Yoko, Yamahomo and Erin). Paystyle started Happy Hour in 2008. Although I live in the Bay Area now, New York City remains as an essential part of Umamimart. It is where it was born, and most of the writers live there.
So when Anders (Umamimart writer since 2009) announced he was coming to the States to visit Yoko, it was then decided that we all meet up in NYC. Yamahomo graciously offered to host a dinner party for all the present Umamimart writers while we were in town. This would be an epic Umamimart event--to all meet over a Yamahomo meal in REAL LIFE!! As the editor of this blog, it has always been a dream of mine for everyone to meet someday. We all have such distinct personalities, but I always knew we would get along. We are Umamimart, afterall.
Menu by Yamahomo.
Duck sous-vide with pickled ramps and rhubarb jam.
Nate + Anders.
Chez Yamahomo rooftop. It was a gorgeous evening.
Yamahomo + Anders.
Washi loved the New York life.
Yamahomo had asked Paystyle to come up with a cocktail pairing for each course. And he did. INCREDIBLE!
Paystyle + me.
Course 1: DA BOMB: Natto, uni, tuna, okura, mountain yam, wrapped in nori.
The uni was hand-shucked by Yamahomo!!! From this:
Until the mixing begins. This was actually a little painful to watch--I should have grabbed that uni and eaten it in the corner.
Yamahomo + Nate.
Imagine the flavors of the sea, with the crunch from the mountain potato, and all the slime, in one bite. It really is unlike anything you will ever eat--so pillowy and luxurious.
We had the Bouncing with Bud cocktail and Adonis: Shochu, Amontillado sherry, celery-lovage bitters and Sweet vermouth, Amontillado sherry, orange bitters (respectively).
The cocktails were light and sprightly. A perfect beginning.
Course 2: WICKED WITCH SOUP: Pea, basil and potato vichyssoise with leaks and onions.
Excellent! A chilled soup was perfect for the warm evening and the flavors were all so subtle. It was like riding a wave.
Cocktail pairing: The Artist's Special: Bourbon, Amontillado sherry, lemon, creme de cassis.
Course 3: STINKY P.: Grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, balsamic reduction.
It was Derby Day, so we went with a Mint Julep to pair with the Stinky P.
The mint added a refreshing dimension to this dish.
Stinky P. get it?? Get it???
Course 4: PINKEYE: Salmon tartare with mango red onion and cucumber, sesame vinaigrette in a crispy potato cup.
This was absolutely GENIUS. Yamahomo sliced potatoes and then simply baked them in little tin cups. It was the perfect crisp against the salmon tartare. Brilliant.
Cocktail pairing: Italian Be-Bop: Bubbly with a dash of Campari.
Course 5: RA(M)P'N SCALLOP: Pickled ramp, scallop with Japanese mustard, miso and vinegar sauce.
Paired with a simple California Chardonnay that Washi and Yoko brought.
This may have been everyone's favorite dish. It was so simple and to the point. The pickles balanced the mustard, which all enhanced the sea flavors of the scallop. The wine, which was crisp and on the lighter side (for a California Chard) was an excellent pairing.
Course 6: PIG IN JAPAN: Sous-vide pork loin with braised red cabbage.
To go with this final dish, Paystyle and I made the Sherry Cobbler: Amontillado sherry, raspberries, lemon, sugar.
Yamahomo's famous faglicious glasses.
A fun, lively pairing to the pork.
Looking back, the pork might have been my favorite, actually--it was so full of flavor, and tender, yet the lightness really surprised me. Another brilliant dish, and a fantastic way to end the meal.
Yamahomo is indeed reMARTHABLE. The dishes were all gorgeously plated, and timed perfectly. And as the hostess with the mostess, he was calm and collected throughout the dinner, never harried. The portions were spot-on as well--we all left feeling great, not too full, not hungry. He's a pro.
And Paystyle's cocktail wizardry cannot go unignored. He came up with drinks that not only paired well with each dish, but enhanced it all without ever interfering with Yamahomo's flavors. The sherry cocktails were crisp, while the bourbon more substantial, adding weight to the dishes. The dinner was like an Umamimart orchestra--we all added our spunky personalities to the mix, but it all came out finely-tuned and perfectly balanced.
Desserts were Yamahomo's Greatest Hits.
As we continued to get drunk throughout the meal and onto dessert, we had racous conversations about Umamimart, its evolution through the years, and our all-time favorite posts. It all made me want to cry from happiness.
Washi + Anders.
Yamahomo + Anders + Creepy Bunny.
I cut myself, mandolin style.
Yamahomo + Me!
Vanessa + Paystyle.
Me + Yamahomo.
This was truly a special evening, and I would say one of the most meaningful dinners of my life. This is my Umamimart Family!!! To have us all sitting at a table, eating real Yamahomo food, with drinks customized by Paystyle--well, it was a dream come true.
One key person was missing, however: Erin. Sadly, she could not make it, as her fiance had just been ordained as a rabbi (!!!). But I do hope that there will be another chance for us to all meet again. Umamimart Five Year Anniversary Party, anyone??? Maybe this time, in California.
Funny story--Yamahomo, who is a fanatical vodka martini drinker, did not have any vodka all night. In my heart of hearts, I hope we turned him into a bourbon drinker. Hooray!