look up!

Was flipping through our photo book today and remembering our time in Japan. This picture was taken from the sidewalk in Kyoto – looking up into the sky. The Japanese Maple Trees (momiji) are really spectacular in the fall.

Wishing all of the best to our family and friends over there…

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On our visit to Kyoto was took the train to Kitayama for a look around the more historic area. Malebranche, one of Kyoto’s best known pastry shops, was born here in 1982.

Koji took this awesome shot of a tree they’d constructed out of Okoicha Langue de Chat – beautiful biscuits made of chocolate and Shirakawa tea. Malebranche is another great example of how japanese flavors/packaging aesthetics come together with the more western idea of sweets.

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kanji in a can

Every morning in Tokyo and Kyoto, Koji, Mere and I took part in a canned kanji ritual in the lobby of our hotel. In Japan, ready-to-drink canned coffee is available in just about every lobby – and street corner:

The vending machines themselves are pretty high tech… hot and cold distribution; liquid into a cup distribution, etc. The hot canned coffee always came out at the perfect temperature.

According to some of our guide readings – and even Japanese Wikipedia – the big canned coffee fad kicked off in the early 1970s and was really booming by the early 80s. In addition to some names we hadn’t seen before (Pokka, Dydo) – a lot of the big Japanese beverage companies (Suntory, Kirin, Coca-Cola, Nescafe, Asahi) have their own brands/labels in the canned coffee market, too.

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the goods – straight from japan

Just the other day Thrillist.com shared an awesome website – “The Japan Goods Finder.”

It’s an sick source for new products – culinary, design, etc. and it even auto-translates the sites so you don’t have to visit them individually through google’s translation. Among the list: Mitsukoshi Department Store where we found amazing food products.

Check it out here: http://www.japangoodsfinder.com/

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kyoto bars

After our dinners in Kyoto we’d walk the streets that parallel the Kamo River (Kamogawa). Many of the bars require you to climb stairs or head down long passageways so that you end up sitting right alongside the river – or looking over it. It’s a great way to experience the city.

Like restaurants, the bars are small and intimate. Koji often found himself in conversation with neighboring tables… Mere and I are still working on our Japanese.

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We’re back in NYC now and I’m looking through the pictures from our Japan trip – there’s so much to share! Some of the dinners (most of them 5-7 courses) included interesting ingredients and cooking techniques that can be broken down into some great sub-topics.

We ate gyūtan (grilled beef tongue; gyu = cow / tan = tongue) at a yakiniku restaurant in Kyoto. According to our reading, gyūtan as a dish was born in Sendai (there’s an entire restaurant street dedicated to it there) and has since gained popularity across Japan. For this dinner it arrived thinly sliced with salt, pepper and oil to season and cook. So good.

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octopus lollipops

To satisfy your afternoon craving:

Baby Octopus Lollipops stuffed with Quail Egg at Nishiki Market (aka Kyoto’s Kitchen); Kyoto, Japan

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yuzu xl

At the Nishiki Food Market in Kyoto we discovered one of the largest yuzu fruits we’d ever seen. They’re typically the size of of a lemon/lime but this one was more like a grapefruit.

Yuzu is an East Asian citrus fruit with a tart, fresh flavor. Once I start posting some of the photos from our dinners in Tokyo and Kyoto you’ll see it used frequently as a garnish. At SUSHISAMBA we use it to make ponzu and yuzu vinegar sauces.

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mainichi san ju hinmoku

At the CIA Japan Flavors of Culture conference a few weeks ago, Larry Kushi, Sc.D. (Associate Director for etiology and prevention research at Kaiser Permanenete), Yoshihiro Murata (Chef and Owner of Kikunoi Honten, a three-Michelin star kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto), and Yukio Hattori, M.D. (President and Chairman of  Ecole de Cuisine et Nutrition Hattori) presented “Balance, Long Life and the Japanese Diet: Ideas for American Menus.”

Here are some of the traditional Japanese eating guidelines that we took away:

hara hachi bu = eat until you’re 80% full

yoku kamu = chew your food well

shizen ni kansha suru = appreciate nature

mainichi san ju hinmoku = eat 30 different varieties of food each day

This ‘Spinning Top’ represents the Japanese guidelines for health and diet – it’s always balanced and in motion. As you’ll notice – there’s a lot more vegetables and grains and a lot less dairy and sweets.

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It’s official – the flights are booked! Koji, Mere and I are headed to Japan (Tokyo > Kyoto > Osaka) for some serious ingredient research. Stay tuned…

The Tokyo Subway Map (above) is from www.picturetokyo.com.

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