*Photos by Maile Ogasawara
Earlier this year, during a trip to Tomales Bay, three creative girlfriends and I decided to create a special little group. Instead of a book club, why not a creative club?
At our first meeting, we caught up, discussed creativity and inspiration, and noshed on some snacks I had prepared. We took photos with our iPhones and thought, why not take it a notch up with the snacks and take photos with a real camera next time? That's exactly what we did earlier this month...
Sommelier and chef Nicole Ruiz Hudson (of Nibbling Gypsy and Somm's Table) and I decided our first photoshoot would be a saké pairing lunch. Jewelry designer and photographer Maile Ogasawara brought simple, classic, everyday pieces from her Batsu/Maru collection and photographed everything you see here. Oil on canvas painter Catherine Gutierrez brought an incredible piece of art to hang on the wall, created an ikebana arrangement (Japanese flower arranging) and helped with everything from hand modeling to food styling.
For months, I have been wanting to cook with the artisanal Japanese food products from the Japanese Pantry shop. A saké pairing lunch seemed like the perfect opportunity, so I ordered some fig vinegar and smoked soy sauce. They were kind enough to throw in sesame seeds from Wadaman Co., a 130 year old sesame manufacturer in Japan. The seeds were personally roasted by the fourth generation owner. How's that for a story?
The first course was a dish composed by me:
CRUDO OF SCALLOPS AND FIGS
8 raw scallops, thinly sliced into rounds
6 figs, stemmed and thinly sliced (purple and green)
1 very thinly chopped green onion (green part only)
finely chopped red pepper
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Drizzle of fig vinegar (champagne vinegar can be substituted)
Flaked sea salt, to taste
Plate scallops, then figs and sprinkle toppings in order listed above. Serve immediately.
The second dish was also one my creations: A Japanese-style caprese salad with golden beets , shiso and silken tofu. It was paired with a Genshu from my favorite American (and San Francisco-based) saké company, Sequoia Saké. The deep, complex flavors of the saké paired beautifully with the smokey, umami-rich flavor of the katsuobushi flakes (dried and fermented bonito fish), complimented even further with Japanese Pantry's smoked soy sauce.
3 thinly sliced heirloom tomatoes
3 golden beets, roasted, peeled and sliced
1 12 ounce package silken tofu, carefully scooped into balls with a melon baller
1/4 cup very thinly shaved katsuobushi flakes (itokezuri)
1 teaspoon salted black sesame seeds
4 shiso leaves, chiffonade
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Drizzle of smoked soy sauce
Plate tomatoes, then beets, then very gently plate tofu. Sprinkle with toppings in order listed above. Serve immediately.
For the final sake pairing, Nicole headed to Umami Mart in Oakland. During her first tasting, she sensed notes of guava and melon on the nose and enoki mushrooms and herbs on the palate. With those notes in mind, Nicole whipped up a beautiful soy poached cod with mixed mushrooms and butternut squash tempura. It was deeply savory, satisfying and the perfect dish for the first days of fall. Check out her post over on Somm's Table, along with the recipe for this dish and some links to helpful sake tasting tutorials.
It was an honor and a privilege to create with such a talented and inspiring group of ladies. I'm already dreaming of next time...