I took the high speed boat early yesterday morning from Niigata City to Sado Island, about eighty miles off the coast and in the Sea of Japan, accompanied by my friend T. We had a day planned of visits to agricultural producers and people involved in food.
The boat took an hour. Our seats were assigned. It was quiet the whole way. Passengers slept or read.
The day included a visit to a dairy plant where milk, cheese, and yoghurt are produced. The products were first rate. We tried milk that had a nutty taste. The yoghurt was thick and sweet. The two cheeses were mozzarella style and Gouda style: Young and delicious and tough to tell apart from their European inspiration.
We met an older baker and his wife in their sixties. Both were delighted with life and the wife curtsied and made jokes while the husband couldn’t stop smiling. The wife would not stop feeding us, and what we had was better than anything baked I’ve had in a long time. The style was French in terms of crust and interior and salt and butter. And there were Japanese touches like a baguette layered with stewed burdock and a light sesame paste.
Lunch was at a wonderful, large, hidden restaurant near a rice field where the kitchen served sashimi, noodles, tempura, and…pizza. The udon was delicious. In season briefly is buri: This yellowtail couldn’t be fresher. The pizza had mozzarella from the dairy plant. Have you ever eaten pizza with chopsticks? Well, I have.
From there it was a stop at my friend Rumiko’s sake brewery MANOTSURU: I’ve known her nine years, and it’s always a pleasure to see her. Her sake is stellar. Afterwards, we went to the brewer who sells his sake to NOBU. Stunning.
We took the two and a half hour ferry back to Niigata. Passengers can choose between seats and tatami rooms. We chose the latter. Can you imagine the pleasure of napping on a futon with a clean wool blanket as you ride on the Sea of Japan?