When it comes to breakfast treats like waffles and (American-styled) muffins, I rarely get them from cafés or coffee-shop chains. One big reason is that I can easily make them at home. Another bigger reason is that almost all of the time, the store-bought ones turn out to be quite bad.
When I worked in advertising, I was constantly back and forth from New York to Los Angeles for TV commercial shoots. The thing that was immediately apparent to me about this city was the amazing food culture, and particularly the love of burgers. Regardless of where we live, we have all been part of a ‘great burger debate.’ Who has the best burger? Best overall, best taste, best value, etc. When I was traveling there in the early 2000’s, I was told Father’s Office was un-challenged by the city’s denizens as the best burger in town. Today in 2013, Los Angeles is littered with “gastropubs” but Father’s Office is still heralded by many as the City of Angels’ best burger.
One of the most beautiful sites in Tohoku, Japan, has to be Hiraizumi. This UNESCO World Heritage Site in Iwate prefecture is home to Konjiki-do (Golden Hall) within Chusonji Temple, which attempts to recreate an ideal Buddhist world within our realm, and Motsuji Temple, famous for its Jodo (Pure Land) garden grounds.
My wife V, who’s almost as greedy as I am, loves dining at private kitchen dining concepts. Of course, I’m always delighted to discover them with her. Liberty Private Works in Hong Kong ups the ante by offering modern counter seating and a commanding view of the Central district. And the food was so artfully done and beautifully delicious. Enjoy.
Kinpira carrot, stir-fried grated carrot seasoned with soy and sugar, was one of the dishes I learnt to cook at the Haru Cooking Class on our last trip to Kyoto. I know it probably isn’t high on your list of dishes to master, but it’s a delicious, quintessentially Japanese vegetable side dish which has opened my eyes to how home cooked Japanese meals are actually put together. And I simply love it.
Root vegetables are a firm favourite with my kids. My son particularly loves parsnips and raw carrots, and the baby girl adores beetroot and sweet potatoes. I usually cut an assortment into batons, toss in olive oil and simply roast in the oven until crispy and crunchy (best with parsnips), and they really enjoy them that way. But with my little ones, it’s important to keep things interesting so they don’t get bored and start rejecting the food (as much as they liked it before). Cooking the humble but nutritious veggies this way is a fun and novel alternative, and my cheeky daughter thoroughly enjoys getting dirty and messy eating the patties with her hands.
Every trip to Japan, to me, means great eating. This recent trip to Tohoku was no exception. Tohoku is known (domestically at least) for having some of the best seafood and meat in the country. The earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, however, hurt the region’s food industry severely. The two natural disasters left many farms damaged and fisheries completely destroyed. And the latter incident created huge fears both locally and internationally of whether the region’s food would be safe to consume.
American chef Dan McGuirt moved to Australia to further his career within a fine dining kitchen. After a successful time cooking at Melbourne’s Vue De Monde, he decided to go back to his roots, and opened Jazz City Diner, a restaurant that would give Aussies the opportunity to taste the American South. Making his New Orleans grandmother proud, McGuirt set his mind on offering robust, comfort soul food. With the success of his first restaurant, he’s opened a second, more casual spot: Jazz City Milk Bar.
So far, most of the stories I have written for this site, and the few more I have planned, about Tohoku, are lifestyle pieces. They are travel and food related posts that hopefully will encourage you to consider this beautiful region when deciding where to go for your next vacation. But I also want to spend some time thinking about, and sharing with you, some challenges facing Tohoku as it tries to bounce back two years after the earthquake and tsunami (and nuclear reactor incident) that claimed lives, destroyed whole towns, wrecked whole industries, and left the region reeling from widespread damage. And I say “bounce back” because two years later, there is still so much more to do; so many homes to build; so many industries to restart; so many communities to rebuild; and so many problems to fix.