What I Miss The Most

Yesterday, in the basement of the welfare office, meeting a couple of what gramps, had I ever met him, would have called, “bad apples,” I made do on air and water.  Sustained by recent memories of beef, I succeeded in getting through the day.

Just to be clear about the fruit: We’re talking not just about incarcerations, which is kind of like being an Eagle Scout where I was, but a core lack or very limited supply of empathy.  Havoc having been wreaked upon the person, the person then wreaks havoc on others.

Reaching home, barely, I wolfed down two big pieces of Syrian pita with the house made hummus.  How, you might well ask, do you make house made hummus?  Put about a cup of dried chick peas and eight cups of water in a pressure cooker.  Add a smudge of salt.  High pressure for about 22 minutes.  Drain.  Place chickpeas in a food processor with about a half cup of tahini, juice of one lemon, 1/2 teaspoon of pulverized cumin seeds, a little salt, and 1/2 cup of water.  Turn processor on and add water to desired thickness.  Remove into a bowl, sprinkle with paprika.

This dish satisfied me until a good summer dinner of ricotta and spinach ravioli, six p.p., from Russo’s, with an easy tomato sauce of Pomi, 1/2 onion, two garlic cloves, and grated parmigiano and black pepper.


72 Hours in Boston

It’s another madcap weekend in Boston!

After a late morning arrival on Friday from Narita via Detroit, it was a couple of slices followed by many walks with dogs and then veal Bolognese.  The next two days, dawn heralded the Festival of the Starting of the Car.

Saturday A.M.: A locked psychiatric hospital to evaluate two people who were not on the bus.  (As in, “Are you on the bus or off the bus?”)  One of them, clearly an extra in life, looked as spooked and angry as a kid lost hiking.

Sunday A.M.: Locked hospital #2, and two more outliers.  No sex and no rock and roll.  Well, one out of three isn’t bad.  Right?  Right?

The merriment was punctuated by a three mile run, and the traditional end of the Festival: Jerk chicken made from scratch with homemade backed beans and collards.  First, you take three whole chickens and cut them into small pieces.  Then you marinade them in a mix of fresh ginger, thyme, an onion, dried allspice, black pepper, soy, vinegar, and a pinch of ground red pepper.  Let them soak overnight or a few hours.  Get a fire going.  Five minutes on each side.  Heat an oven to 250 F.  Place chickens in oven for 25 minutes.  Shout out to my Jamaican grandmother, Sunny.

Stand back.



Post Eel Holiday Blues

With Doyo no Ushi no Hi behind us, it’s back to normal, just another typical day, and only 364 more days to go until the next Doyo no Ushi no Hi rolls around.  The celebrations ended early, what with the big eel parade on Newbury Street curtailed due to the downturn in the economy, and I was in bed by ten P.M.

Lunch in Boston featured the city’s signature dish: Two slices of good pizza.  Say what you like about the ad revenue from restaurants generating copy on how good their food is, let’s be honest: This town excels at slices and bread.  Carb city. Goes well with the ETOH.

Dinner was a good, simple veal Bolognese enhanced with freshly chopped parsley, parmigiano, and black pepper all tossed with penne from Naples.

Meanwhile, in Manhattan, the news, as reported on today’s NYT front page, is that 11 Madison, having acquired three Michelin stars, is tossing out the celestial menu and replacing it, after Labor Day, with, “flashes of Broadway dazzle,” that will include, “Card tricks, a glass dome full of smoke, a blast of sea mist from a tabletop clambake, and a cheese course that emerges from a picnic basket placed on the table.”  The fun comes after you drop $195 per person, exclusive of tax, drinks, and tip, which means, really, that we’re talking ballpark $600 a couple at a minimum.  I don’t know.  Wouldn’t it be easier just to give guests hand jobs while they eat the food?


24 Hours, 24 Hours: Doyo no Ushi no Hi

I’ve been mostly conscious for about 24 hours and I feel like Liston in the 7th round.  Still, woozy is good, it beats alert, and brings you closer to nature.

As it is National Eel Day–Doyo no Ushi no Hi–in Japan, 7/27/12, we brought bento boxes of unagi on board, and before you know it, chopsticks and cold beer aided in the eating.

Not much looked flavorful once we landed nor in the air, except that unagi, and hunger was only sated by two big, square sides.

Tonight: Pasta of course with a veal Bolognese.  Must…stay…conscious.


Haneda, Crack of Dawn

It is the ungodly hour of 5:00 A.M. here at Haneda where, after a 4;15 start at the Conrad in Tokyo, we await boarding time for the flight to Detroit.  Four hours of intermittent sleep were compensated by a view of the sun rising of the harbor.  Chump change, exhausted.

Yesterday it was plenty of wandering the hot streets of Ginza.  A very cool coffee cafe playing Bechet.  Purchases of yuba, wasabi, Nikka whisky, and unagi bento for home and the ride home.  Then last night, after drinks at the Conrad, in the bar on the 28th Floor, it was a wild, long ride to way too much delicious yakitori.

No wonder Congress here is called The Diet.

24 Hours in Tokyo

It’s about 24 hours before boarding, and the sun is rising over the vast harbor, illuminating it all, though I wouldn’t know, in the darkness of this room, as my sleeping companion prefers caves to open fields.

Yesterday, it was meetings, one after the other, and some sushi in a fine hotel before a desperately needed nap in the dense summer heat.

Relatively revived, a friend came by and we took the JR to a tiny place below street level in Nihonbashi.  A small room, lots of cooks, and plates of beef from near Kyoto.  was it the best steak I have ever eaten?  Probably.  Perfect fat, perfectly cooked, perfect thickness, all about the meat and not the fat, as noted.  Very interesting: Sort of between Waygu and prime.  Later, the mischievous looking chef came over and we talked about food.

Today?  In search of wasabi.

Sushi, Yakitori

After a brief ride down the magic mountains, it was Tokyo, the octopus city, where you had better know what you are doing.  Or else.

So it was a quick swim at my favorite hotel in the world, Park Hyatt, and then a beer with Karina, and then a beer with Rumiko, and then yakitori with Shinji and the family.  All good.

Today we met up with the very estimable Takeshi preceded by a wonderful round of sushi at Mandarin Oriental.

What time is it?  Nap time, of course.

The Hoshinoya Experience

I’m up before most things here except the ducks, which they call kamo.  Taking the Shinkansen to Tokyo before noon, and then a string of appointments in Shinjuku and Ginza.
Last night we were invited to Hoshinoya’s French restaurant.  The chef is Japan’s nominee for the Bocuse d’Or competition in January, which is a huge deal, even just to be nominated, and it was all delicious, from a root vegetable custard to trout to local chicken.  The country is working on local wines, and is not quite there yet, but hints of greatness are evident.  Plus, 28-year old sake, a kind of radical concept, but it works.  The result tastes like sherry.
Some cities, starting with then letter “B,” the chefs use second rate ingredients, stuff I wouldn’t have at home–Bell & Evans chickens, DeCecco pasta, Captain Marden fish, etc–and then trumpet their creativity.  Who needs creativity?  I’m in Japan now: The focus is on ingredients.
Prior to the dining, it was hot baths, books, and dozing.  It all takes getting used to, and before you know it you forget what it was like before.

Hamo to Kamo

No mountains to fall off here in Nagano prefecture.  Just black bears in the forest.  We scare them off with little bells.  Do the bells work?  No bears.
A lunch of cold soba and hot duck (kamo) broth for dipping, a long walk, hot baths in dark rooms, and I get to wear a yukata 24/7.
I’m here as (mostly) a guest of Hoshinoya resort; this gorgeous place is stretched out by a river with a big library and lovely houses.
Last night: Corn “tofu,” kamo, all sorts of beautiful mountain vegetables, grilled beef, and sake.
Today it’s a visit to the onsen, walks, noodles, and more reading about Fukushima.
Shifting contexts, shifting meanings, Meiji to Shinto, and back again.

Into the Mountains!

After a swift run as guests at the Hyatt in Kyoto, a sumptuous breakfast that included the apt named, “crispy bacon,” we were whisked to the train station by a kind man in a white shirt, pressed black slacks, a tie, and a cap, and placed on the Hikari to Tokyo.

What was the train picnic?  Well you might ask.  Wait, I’m getting there.

As I read the lovely, evocative, “The Old Capital,” by Kawabata, racing through Shizuoka and the pale green rice fields, the Pacific within reach, we waited.

It wasn’t until changing trains in Tokyo to Karuizawa that we broken out the grilled chicken, baby tomatoes, and cold Asahi.

Minutes before arriving, tall pines appeared in clouds.  The train stopped.  We got out.  It continued on to Nagano.

Our little ryokan, Tsuruya, is a small, 25-room inn that resembles an English hotel in the north except it’s spotless, serene, super quiet, and has hot natural baths you dip into constantly.  That’s the thing to do here: Take many hot baths, nap, try to be quiet, and eat beautiful food.

Beautiful food served in a broad tatami room.  We’re talking fugu, tofu, ikuru, meguru, sea bream, pork shabu shabu.  I had my doubts prior; I’d been to small inns in Japan where ambition trumped skill, but this was all oiishi!

Then it was back to the room for mugi shochu–clear as water, the low kick barley alcohol drink–and “The Old Capital.”  Ten o’ clock: Lights out.