New York City
- The Joy of Sake returned to New York on September 23 for a magical evening of sake tastings and delicacies from New York's finest restaurants at the chic industrial loft 82 Mercer in SoHo. Over 330 labels from every region of Japan offered an almost dizzying array available for tasting at this ultimate celebration of the art of sake brewing. As well, there were signature dishes created by 13 of New York's top chefs to complement the sake tasting. Among the acclaimed restaurants participating were Bond Street, 15 East, Geisha, Sushi Samba, Sakagura, En Japanese Brasserie, oms/B, Matsugen, Hibino, 1 or 8, Tanuki Tavern, Zengo and Woo Lae Oak. The event benefitted Citymeals-on-Wheels.
Chris Pearce welcomes guests to Joy of Sake.
On the heels of their wildly successful tasting in Honolulu and San Francisco several weeks ago, Joy of Sake organizers were not surprised with the high demand for tickets. Reflecting the popularity of the event and the growing appreciation for premium sakes, the event has moved each year to a larger venue. This year over 600 devoted sake fans - and initiates - turned out for what was one of the most elegant and well organized tastings in New York.
, the organizer of Joy of Sake warmly welcomed guests to what has become an eagerly anticipated annual event. Not wanting to hold attendees from their serious "work" ahead he introduced several key figures in the Sake community - Mitch Werth
, Kokusai Sake Kai
, Ryuichi Yoshida
, Yoshida Brewing Co., Dewey Weddington
, Sake One, Mark Spitzer
of Bond Street and Chizuko Niikawa
of Sake Discoveries to partake in the "Kagami Biraki" - the traditional opening of the keg with wooden mallets. To the thunder of Japanese drummers, the group smashed their mallets onto the keg top, cracked it open and scooped out cups for the official toast to begin the evening. The crowd applauded wildly and then quickly moved on to the sakes!
A cadre of some 30 sake "guides," well trained in the provenance of the sakes and the nuances among them, took to the floor and immediately began expertly fielding questions. As well, guests began talking to their neighbors, comparing notes and making new friends. With their combined recommendations, we tried a wide variety of sakes in all three areas: Junmai, Ginjo and Daiginjo.
Geisha Chef Don Phom with his Tuna Truffle Sandwich.
Mixing it up with tastes of gold and silver star winners as well as those without stars that came highly touted, we sampled among many other awesome sakes: the gold star Taiheizan "Tenko" which was a delight; a lovely on the tongue Daiginjo Hokusetsu "Nobu
Daiginjo;" Sake One's stellar Momokawa "Ruby;" from the Murai Family a palate pleasing "Tanrei Junmai" and the six star, double gold winning (from the prestigious San Francisco Wine, no less) Ty-KU White Junmai DaiGinjo. Green River Sake's K. Mike Masuyama offered some knock-your-socks off sakes, and is starting to expand his distribution into more New York outlets which is great news for sake fans.
The Joy of Sake offered a rare opportunity to sample outstanding labels in peak condition (freshness and proper handling are key to sake quality once bottled), many of which are not otherwise available in the U.S. Attendees were able to sample the full spectrum of sake styles in the Junmai, Ginjo and Daiginjo categories, including recipients of silver and gold awards from the U.S. National Sake Appraisal, a rigorous blind tasting conducted by judges from the U.S. and Japan every year prior to the Joy of Sake events. The diversity and complexity of premium sake compares favorably with that of wine, and it pairs easily with a variety of cuisines, from Asian and Japanese to Contemporary American and French.
As interest in Japanese cuisine has exploded in this country with America's focus on healthier eating, Japanese restaurants have grown in number, and many of them make the annual top 10 lists in respected food and wine media. Joy of Sake gave 13 of New York's most respected eateries the opportunity to create special appetizers which would not only complement the fine sakes but dazzle the guests.
Over 3330 Sakes were on display.
, the top chef
at Geisha offered a sumptuous Tuna Truffle Sandwich which had lines of salivating diners returning again and again. Zengo Restaurant scored high marks, as well, with its densely marbled Wagyu Tiradito as did Brooklyn's famed Hibino with their roasted tender octopus skewers and Williamsburg favorite 1 or 8 with their homemade duck prosciutto and Squid Shiokara with cream cheese. Other special treats included Bond Street's smoked oysters with Wasabi Sake Bloody Mary; 15 East's house marinated salmon roe on seasoned rice; En Japanese Brasserie's Miso marinated gilled free range chicken with a real kick; Matsugen's Homemade tofu with white sesame sauce; Oms/b's rice balls with chopped
chicken; Sakagura's scallops with Ponzu jelly; SushiSamba's smoked duck sushi with sweet soy and Japanese pepper; Tanuki Tavern's egg tofu with sea urchin and the delectable Dungeness Crab with spinach crepes from Woo Lae Oak.
At the end of the evening, guests were able to take advantage of a rare treat. Trenton Scott Ulicny
of Ty-KU had responsibly provided a small fleet of Rickshaw Pedi-Cabs to take happy sake tasters to their next destination.
Mary Jane Kalin, TY Ku's Trenton Scott Ulnicy and Andrew T. Chrisomalis.
Sake continues to be one of the fastest growing segments of the beverage market, with imports of Japanese sake doubling roughly every seven years. The Joy of Sake anticipated and aided the awakening of interest in sake in America with its first public tasting in Honolulu in 2001, held in conjunction with the first U.S. National Sake Appraisal.
This extraordinary evening celebrating the world's finest sakes was presented by Kokusai Sake Kai with support from World of Sake Imports, Gekkeikan, Sake One, Green River Sake, TY-KU, Acqua Panna and San Pellegrino.
Ticket sales and sponsorships support the efforts of The Joy of Sake, a not for profit organization whose mission is to foster appreciation for the traditional art of sake-brewing. It provides opportunities for people outside Japan to obtain authentic knowledge about sake through seminars and tasting events.
As well, each year Joy of Sake also benefits a local charity. This year's beneficiary is Citymeals-on-Wheels. Founded by food world luminaries Gael Greene
and James Beard
, Citymeals-on- Wheels raises private funds to ensure no homebound elderly New Yorker will ever go a day without food or human company. Last year, contributors helped them bring over 2.1 million nutritious meals to 17,713 frail aged in every borough of New York City. In addition, over 1,500 volunteers collectively spent 62,000 hours visiting and delivering meals to New York's frail aged
For more information go to www.joyofsake.com
Woo Lae Oak's staff preps Dungeness crab with crepes.