June 26, Chef Nakahigashi from Miyamasou visited Stonemill Matcha for our first ever cafe event. For those who could not come to the event, we would like to share a little bit about what we learned from Chef Nakahigashi.
Chef Nakahigashi is famous for his unique foraging style, which allows him to prepare cuisine that co-exists with nature by being conscious of his natural environment. He has trained across Europe for six years, working for chefs like Michel Guerard and Alain Ducasse, as well as in Japan for Eiichi Takahashi (Hyotei 14th-generation owner) and Yoshihiro Murata (Kikunoi third-generation owner). Chef Nakahigashi is the fourth-generation owner of Miyamasou. He forages each morning to prepare dinner with ingredients that grow wild on the mountain or can be sourced from within ten miles of his kitchen.
You can read here about the beautiful experience of staying at the two-michelin star ryokan, as well as the examples of dishes that Chef Nakahigashi created.
We were honored to host Chef Nakahigashi for the evening. The theme of the event was to understand what umami is. Unlike other tastes, such as sweetness or bitterness, it is said that umami can be felt all over our taste buds. Umami is increased when different types of amino acids are combined to bring out even more flavor, a process known as the umami synergy. Participants of the seminar tasted two distinct broths: one made of bonito and the other kombu (seaweed). After noting the qualities of each, participants tasted a kombu-bonito combination--a mixture that presented a unique taste while deepening the flavors of each broth
Chef Nakahigashi tasted our matcha drinks, as well. Just like bonito and kombu, high-quality matcha contains a lot of L-theanine and umami. We prepare our drinks, such as our sparkling matcha and lattes, from the same philosophy used to prepare quality Japanese kaiseki cuisine. In showcasing the high umami content of quality matcha, we reduce the need for excessive fat and sweeteners popularly used in most matcha drinks. This lets the matcha flavor remain in the foreground rather than masking it behind sugar and cream. Needles to say, this results in a much healthier drink.
To understand how much umami is contained in matcha, we served guests a special tea made from tencha and ice. Tencha, the non-powdered form of matcha, was slowly brewed with ice cubes five hours prior to this event. The lower the liquid's temperature, the more emboldened the umami becomes. This is a secret method of brewing tea known only to tea farmers in Japan. Chef Nakahigashi, as well as our guests, were surprised at how much depth of taste a tea can hold.
Like our food at Stonemill Matcha, the the first owan (soup dish) featured fresh San Francisco ingredients prepared with Japanese techniques. As a result of the quality ingredients and careful craft, mentioned Chef Nakahigashi, the food not only tastes good, but the guest can feel the fulfillment travel to the heart as the dish soothes the soul. The second owan, in traditional Miyamasou fashion, was the culmination of the event.
At the end of the event, Chef Mikiko prepared a special matcha canelé for the guests. Chef Nakahigashi received numerous questions, such as where to get the kombu that he used for the event, or his impression working with Lazy Bear chefs the day before. We were happy to see many guests mingling and asking questions to Chef Nakahigashi even after the event.
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