Sunday, June 22, 2008


Happiness is running around in a park on a warm sunny day

We're off to the Swiss/French/Italian Alps for 2 weeks. Much to report when we're back, including photos from recent trips to Atlanta & England.

Winter & Spring

Weather has been CRAZY.

Snow in the mountains (Miss Crumpet in her pink snowsuit''

Nice in the city (sitting by Greenlake contemplating the meaning of it all)

Emerald City Con

Baby Crumpet took me to Emerald City Comic Con (here she is sitting with Jeremy from Dark Horse while eating a pocky)

Fun time. Scored lots of free plush. Saw tons of friends, including Jeremy & Dirk from Dark Horse, whose booth were next to The Suicide Girls. Unfortunately it seems they have sent the B team and it was more ''suicide'' and less ''girl''

Food in Japan

Eating fubu (blowfish) in Osaka.

While having an Omakase dinner in Osaka with my friend Mutsumi, I gave across this wonderfully grilled fish that is both delicate and intensly flavorful. I was told it was fubu. You know, the fish we hear about in the west that can kill you. I made Mustumi take a picture of me since it might be my last moment on earth. She laughed, as did the chef and waitress. What's so funny, I asked? ''We eat fubu all the time, what's the big deal'' said Mustumi. Oh well, yet another myth broken.

The other Osaka delicacy is Tako. Little grilled octopus balls with various sauces & mayo on top. I used to eat it all the time while living in the East Village, but nothing compared to the real deal. The little Octo balls melted in your mouth in a jumbo of flavors and bits of shellfish. Incredible.

While taking the train from Tokyo I happened to be reading a chapter about Kyoto cuisine in the book ''The Man Who Ate Everything''. The author talks about the cult of ''clear soup'' with a basis of ''dashi'' as the litmus test for the skills of a Japanese chef. Dashi is simply a broth made from kombu (giant seawood off the Hokkaido island) and bonito (dried, shaved bonito fish flakes). If done right the result is an aromatic broth that yields layers & layers of flavor. I immediately made Mustumi take me to a food store so I can buy bags of giant seawood leaves and dried fish shavings and I've been making it ever since.

In the Japanese cooking show Iron Chef they use to talk about the rigors of apprenticeship in Japanese cooking, how a young cook will spend the first 2 years of his working life just learning how to make rice, and how a tempura cook may spend up to 30 years perfecting that singular craft. I think I met one of those guy. While having a fabulous lunch with a client at an opulent hotel near the imperial gardens in Tokyo, I encountered the best tempura of my life. Fluffy yet meaty, light yet full of flavor. These tempura made the soggy stuff you get in the States taste like stale corndog. You don't even get t dip them in the ''tempura sauce'', instead you get a little plate of salt. Because the sauce makes the batter ''soggy'' (a-ha!) while the salt intensifies the sweetness of the shrimp meat. Knowing from experience that clean oil produces the best fried halibut, I asked how often do they change the oil. Every 15 minutes. Gulp. In the States it would be lucky if a restaurant changed their frying oil once a week. 15 minutes. That pretty much sums up Japanese cooking and their devotion to perfection.

Shift scenes to an Izakaya bar in Shibuya and we're dining with the affable head of Japanese Tower Records, a man with the improbable name of Ima-T. We seat in in the basement and work on the menu on an electronic touch-screen on the table, moments later waitress brings down the morsel along with Kirin beer in ''frosted'' mugs. I can get used to this.

Back to Kyoto. There is an entire street devoted to home-made sweets, usually rice cakes with black sesame fillings. I buy 6 boxes. There are also pickle shops that lure you in with the promise of free tea and a store that makes tofu skin (that's right, tofu ''skin'') by hand.

I can go on but I'm getting hungry, gotta go.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Baby Crumpet loves Bacon

Japan Ho!

Went to Japan for 2 days on a quick biz-ness jaunt (with a brief stop in Seoul, ate too much & drank too much, but did have a massage from a blind person for the first time)

Highlight was visiting Kyoto with my friend Mutsumi.
I took the bullet train down from Tokyo, in between got a clear-eyed view of Mt Fuji for the first time so that was great fun. In Kyoto she took to visit the various castles once occupied by the Shoguns. My favorite was the Nin Nin Castle (middle picture) where the Last Shogun presided. Aside from having extraordinary, original artwork, two facts really interested me: 1) only females were allowed in the inner court, including body guards; 2) the floor was engineered in a special way that nobody how lightly you walked it gave way to a sing-song noise thus it was called the Sparrow Floor (so you knew if an assassin was creeping in).

The food. The FOOD! It's so good I'm going to have to save it for another posting.

In Osaka I went to a public bath frequently visited by the Yakuza, and just like that, I'm sitting next to a buck-naked Japanese man with a single tattoo of the Buddha on his back and he was brushing his teeth.

One cool feature of this particular bath was the ''electric pool'' which is exactly what it sounds like, a pool with electric currents. It numbs your hand & feet and is really an unque sensation.

Portland ho!

Baby Crumpet took us & Grace/Justin down to Portland, OR for the weekend.

Our first stop was Seattle's int'l district where we got loaded with chinese food and Pocki, then a pleasant drive into the City of Roses.

The highlight was the weekend was easily The Saturday Market - a massive outdoor event with shops, food stalls and street performers. Crumpet got a balloon-rabbit that she later used it to play soccer. Mom got some ''survival'' kit fire starter. Dad got some west African grub. All is well.

The food experience in Portland just keeps getting better and better. Each meal we had was inventive and delicious with such choices as Halibut hash for breakfast and Korubuta pork belly braised with sour cabbage. Yum. Of course we couldn't leave Portland without sampling lots of Stumptown coffee and Jack & Zeke's corned beef.

On our way back we stopped by the Stumptown Comic Festival - a premiere event for indie & underground comics. Crumpet wowed the crowd with her knowledge of arcane insight to the works of Crumb and scored some plush toys in the process.

We love Portland, will be back soon.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Maya & Mia

Team Mia went over to Cathy & John's house for a post-chinese new year dinner.

The 2 ''hybrid'' girls got a lot of playing time together.