Friday, March 31, 2006

Sweet Seasons/March 2006 - Cherry Blossom -

I know. I’ve been lazy about posting. There’s another post that is still in progress. And I almost forgot about this monthly project. But see? At least I took this photo. ;P

This is a type of rice cake called habutae mochi, and the petals represent, of course, cherry blossom.

I’ll write more about habutae mochi sometime soon. Sorry, I’m going to be extremely busy this week…
For now, please enjoy this photo!


Kaiseki Chronicles #2

March 30th (Thu) The official opening day of the kaiseki place.

I wonder if this is the same in other countries, but anyway in Japan, when a new shop/restaurant opens, this kind of huge bouquets(?) are sent from the owners’ friends and business partners, etc.

I’ll post more about the day 1 soon. :)
OK. It’s been 2 weeks already. And I don’t remember exactly what I did and how it was like on the day 1 any more ;P Sorry.

Anyway, we -- all kitchen staff, the head chef, waitresses and the owner – were all a little nervous on the first day. The kitchen looked a little different from before with all those new (more expensive) cooking/eating utensils. The new kitchen staff (one young guy and one elder man) were obviously having a hard time; the kitchen is small with the sinks and dishwasher at rather strange locations, and there is not enough counter space… The head chef looked so busy cooking and at the same time having to give instructions to the waitresses which dishes have to go to which tables.

Obviously, the waitresses were having the hardest time. I think most – or could be all – of them did not know the correct order of serving each dish of kaiseki course meal in the past. I heard them apologizing to the head chef many times for some things they didn’t do properly.

On the other hand, to tell you the truth, I was the only one who was having an easier time than before. When working at the izakaya, I had to cook some easy dishes and/or prepare plates with some sides in addition to all the dishwashing work. Now, since kaiseki is such a sophisticated meal, I am of course not allowed to cook anything. I can just keep washing. And although we use more cups/bowls/plates for the traditional course meal, they’ll come back in a certain order, so it’s quite predictable, which really makes things easier for me. AND NO MORE SCRUBBING HEAVY AND DIRTY JINGISUKAN PLATES!  So other than the inconvenience I felt from not having enough counter space, I was quite happy about the change in my work environment.

Unfortunately there is not going to be a chance for me to learn how to cook kaiseki dishes. Almost everything seems to be prepared in the daytime before I come to work in the evening, so I will never see them actually cutting and seasoning foods. But maybe I can learn a lot about how they arrange foods on plates and in bowls --- that is something I can see a lot while I work there. So I’m very much looking forward to new discoveries. :)


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Kaiseki Chronicles #1

Maybe some of you have noticed the small change in the “about me” section on my sidebar. Yes, I’m no longer an izakaya worker. After the izakaya was closed, they decided to start a kaiseki (traditional Japanese full-course meal) place there. As this is my very first time to experience what it is like when starting a new restaurant, I’d like to post about it as much as possible and share with the whole world.

Last night, all the staff (the owner, new manager, new cooks, waitresses and dishwashers who are ex-izakaya employees) got together at our workplace. We talked about the work shift and tried new uniform on, then went to a yakiniku place together to mingle. :D

For a couple of days, all staff members are coming to work to prepare for the opening day which is the 30th (I think). Tonight we are going to do some “practice,” having the owner’s friends only as clients.

As some of you might know, I’m interested in kaiseki, and I have tried making “quasi-kaiseki” myself twice before. So I’m very glad to be able to see and learn about real kaiseki at work from now on. On the other hand, I would have to be real careful when doing dishes… Izakaya is a kind of down-to-earth place, but kaiseki is a real classy thing, and eating utensils used in kaiseki course are often terribly expensive. I'm a bit nervous about that.

The practice day (29th) went OK… I think. The preparation kept everyone so busy. I had to wash new dishes for a couple of hours in the morning, and went to my daytime work at another office in the afternoon, then came back to wash more dishes in the evening. But once we started serving kaiseki, we didn’t get too busy because we only had limited number of clients who are the owners’ friends. We finished everything at around 10:30 pm, IIRC.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Garden Report - March 2006 #2 -

My blueberry (Sunshine blue) is blooming, too :D


Saturday, March 25, 2006

It's My B-Day

Yep, it's my birthday today

And looks like it's going to be one of my busiest days. I already baked my b-day cake yesterday, but haven't taken a photo yet. Hopefully, sometime today -- before my last work at the izakaya starts -- I can find time to buy myself flowers and take a photo of the cake with them.

OK, I took a couple of shots of my cake. This is my favorite cherry pound cake (but again, the top and sides didn't turn out brown...)

Yes, I bought flowers :)

Now I'm back from my last work at the izakaya. It's been a long day, but finally I can relax and enjoy the cake and some drinks. I know... it's already past midnight, but today I give myself a permission to indulge in something unhealthy -- unhealthy eating habits.
It's my birthday :D


Friday, March 24, 2006

Izakaya Menu #4 - Beef Tongue Stew -

Beef Tongue Stew

I’d never expected to post an entry like this, but here it is… This was one of our Izakaya menu: Beef tongue stew. It was served with these toppings and heavy cream like this (but not with the bread and wine -- these were my additions).

Now that our izakaya is closing in 2 days, they stopped serving this dish last night and gave me all the leftover beef tongue stew (frozen). So I had this HEAVY late-night supper last night. ;P And I still have some in my freezer.

They also gave me some leftover frozen lamb chops and I’m wondering what I can make with them. Suggestions?

Anyway, I’m soooooo happy that I have this nice, new refrigerator with a bigger freezer at the bottom in my kitchen now. If my old fridge had to break, it certainly broke in a good timing. ;)


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Just to Cheer Myself Up ...

No, I didn't make this, of course. I just needed something to cheer myself up, so I spent 300 yen on this today.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Matcha Marble Cake

Matcha Marble Cake... with holes.

My pound cakes often have holes. What are possible causes?
* If you want this recipe, please email me at the address in my profile. Thanks.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sawachi Dishes at a Local Food-Related Event

OK, I guess I’m still a bit feeling down from my previous post, so let's cheer up! These photos were taken at a local food-related event last Sunday. The dishes are called Sawachi (often pronounced "saachi" ), which are our local famous dishes. Basically they are bunch of local foods served, arranged in a gorgeous, decorative way, on big, often expensive plates. Among traditional Sawachi dishes, there were several modern versions with a Western or Chinese touch.
Enjoy! :D (Click photos to enlarge.)

The castle was made using apx. 1000 koya-dofu (frozen tofu)! :O

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Izakaya Chronicles #3- Biggest Change -

March 25th is my birthday. And that day is going to be the last day of the izakaya pub where I work at.

We knew this was coming. It was only a matter of time. Ever since the BSE issue became widely known, we’ve been ready for this ... for years.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to lose my job. The izakaya will be closed once, and after a makeover, re-open with a new name, new manager and new cooks. Most of the waitresses and dishwashers are staying, and I'm one of them.

We all had complicated feelings at work tonight. I don’t know how many times I sighed. I heard that one of the waitresses cried when she first heard this news. Somehow, I didn’t feel like crying … but yes, I think I was sad, but at the same time, relieved. No more wondering.

Maybe it’s not a bad idea to have some kind of closure on my birthday.

Monday, March 13, 2006

4 x 10 Meme

Spots and tokyoastrogirl tagged me for 4 x 10 meme (well, actually, I did 4 x 8). I guess some of the questions are similar to the meme I already did a while ago, but oh well, I’ll give this a try, too. :)

Four Jobs I’ve Had In My Life:
1. Secretary to a German boss
2. Clerical worker at an office
3. Data input operator at many companies
4. Dishwasher at a hotel in Osaka

Four Movies I Could Watch Over And Over:
1. Fried Green Tomatoes
2. The Hustler
3. A Chorus Line
4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Four Places I’ve Lived (With Food Memories From Each):
1. Muroto city, Kochi Japan (my hometown) --- New Year’s Feast
2. Huntingdon Pennsylvania --- “moldy cake”
3. Mississippi --- Long John Silver’s, boiled peanuts, grits, Applebee’s ...
4. Phoenix AZ --- Chili’s Grill & Bar

Four Shows I Love(d) To Watch:
1. Married with Children
2. Saturday Night Live
3. ER
4. Dae Jang Geum 大長今

Four Places I've vacationed:
1. Biloxi Beach
2. Connecticut and New York city
3. Sedona, Oak creek canyon and Grand Canyon
4. Kyoto, Japan

Four Websites I Visit Daily:
1. Most of the foodblogs on my sidebar
2. Google
3. Blogger Dashboard
4. Online dictionary

Four Of My Favorite Foods :
1. Good quality cooked rice with good miso soup
2. Unagi donburi
3. Takoyaki
4. Lindt chocolate with hazel nut filling (Maybe they don’t make this any more?? I can’t find this on their website.)

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:
1. Beautiful beach somewhere outside Japan (with my laptop)
2. Beautiful beach somewhere outside Japan (with a nice drink)
3. Beautiful beach somewhere outside Japan (with someone’s credit card, not mine)
4. Beautiful beach somewhere outside Japan (with a hunk)

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Guess What These Are

Combination with this particular dipping sauce is available for limited time only ... :) Can you guess what this dipping sauce is?

Thanks everyone for guessing! Almost everyone guessed right.
Yes, Ume (plum) sauce is the correct answer.
I expected more "sweet & sour" kind of taste, but this is much more sour than sweet, so I can't call this my favorite.
Oh well, at least my curiosity was satisfied. :)


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Lime Bar??

Lime Bar?? My second attempt

I don’t know if this can be called a “bar” when baked and cut into this kind of shape, but the recipe is for “creamy key lime bars” Yes! I tried out the recipe I found on Joe’s site again, and look how I did this time!!

Well, to be perfectly honest, this was still just a bit overbaked, because the middle didn’t have any jiggle to it when I shook the pan after taking it out of the oven. So this isn't as creamy as I expected. But I love this taste so much. I mixed in some whole wheat flour into the regular flour for the crust, and I think it didn’t do any harm.

The lime I used was a regular lime, not key lime, so the slice on top looks so big on this small piece, doesn't it? ;P

Thanks Joe for sharing this recipe! And I also thank all of you who helped me with the amount of sweetened condensed milk. :D


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Garden Report - March 2006 -

Getting Ready for Spring

After I took these shots, I found one of my neighbors looking at me with a puzzled look on her face. ;P


Friday, March 03, 2006

Doll Festival

Hamaguri no Ushiojiru (Clear Clam Soup)

We celebrate hinamatsuri (doll festival) in Japan today, and I thought about making some special dishes for that. I was almost going for these doll-shaped onigiri (rice balls) that many Japanese moms make for their daughters on hinamatsuri day. But I was tired after my izakaya work, and one of my colleagues gave me leftover sushi, so my enthusiasm for cooking just faded out on my way back from work. The only hinamatsuri-related dish I made was this clear clam soup. Why clams are associated with girls’ festival? Well, I heard that clams symbolize things like virtue and marital fidelity. (Why should these qualities required only for women?)

BTW, there was one thing that I didn’t know until today. In my childhood, when my parents took out the special dolls to celebrate hinamatsuri for me and my sister, they always argued about the position of the obina (emperor doll) and mebina (empress doll) --- about which should be on the right and which should be on the left. I thought there was only one right answer, and my family was pretty stupid not being able to memorize it, but there was a good reason for the confusion: there was more than one answer.

What I found out today was that in most areas in Japan, the emperor doll is displayed on the left (our left = the doll’s right) and the empress on the right (our right = doll’s left). But in Kyoto, they are displayed the other way around, and it is the traditional way.

According to several Japanese websites I’ve read, in our ancient belief, the left side was considered superior, thus, about 1000 years ago, when the emperor and empress sat side-by-side, the emperor was always on the left side with empress being on his right. Hina ningyo (dolls for hinamatsuri) followed the same rule, so the emperor doll was on our right (doll's left) and empress on our left (doll's right). However in the modern era, when Japan adopted “international protocol” and the photos of the emperor and empress conformed to it, the hinamatsuri custom was altered accordingly throughout Japan, EXCEPT Kyoto.

So today, in most of the TV commercials of hina ningyo, we see the modern way of displaying them, but when we see photos of very traditional hinamatsuri customs in Kyoto, often introduced in books about Japanese traditions, we see it the other way around. No wonder many of us are confused. I’m glad --- It was not that our family was exceptionally stupid. :)


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Help Me, Please...

Lime Bars ... Overbaked

These were supposed to be creamy lime bars, but since I overbaked them and the bottom crust turned out rock-hard and the top almost caramelized, I shouldn't call them “creamy.” I’m just lucky that they are still edible. Mmm... I'll do better next time.

I need your help here, dear readers. I made these inspired by the post (with the tempting photos!!) on Joe's site. In the recipe there, the amount of sweetened condensed milk is mentioned as “1 can.” Well, they don't sell canned sweetened condensed milk at the supermarket I shop at, so I want to know how much the “1 can” in the recipe is to figure out how many sweetened condensed milk tubes I should buy. Can you tell me the quantity of “1 can”sweetened condensed milk in the U.S? For this test batch (I decided to call it so), I just used up the amount I had left, but next time I would like to follow the recipe precisely.