June 30, 2004

porcini risotto to die for

back to normal *island* life...

Tuesday, June 29

It has been a few days since we got home on this island back from Colorado, and I still miss that dry air over there. Well, we have been slowly settling down again to our normal life, which means I started cooking again on a daily basis.

I made porcini risotto for dinner today. I mean, fresh porcini risotto! (Don't ask me "why fresh porcini now, in the early summer in stead of autumn?") This was my first time cooking those fresh mushrooms myself (and possibly first time eating one, as well - I am pretty sure I had had some before, but I couldn't tell whether those were fresh or frozen). When it comes to mushrooms, dried kinds usually give out a lot more flavors and aroma than their fresh form, for sure, and porcini is not an exception. But dried mushrooms often have lost the texture of a meaty flesh, and that is what only fresh ones can offer. For this reason I used both fresh and dried porcini in my resotto - fresh ones for the texture, and dried ones for the aroma. I also added regular white button mushrooms.
Another better part of today's risotto was rice. I have always heard that the best kind of rice suitable to authentic Italian risotto is Arborio, but I had never had a chance to buy and use them - until now. Ha-ha.
The risotto (recipe based on here) came out absolutely lovely. Well, if you've got good porcini, the appropriate kind of rice, and quality Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, it's very hard to fail. All you need is a bit of time and attention not to overcook rice.

yakiniku feast

goodbye, Boulder

Friday, June 25

I had been a bit sick for the last few days of my stay in Colorado and did not get to do much, which was a real shame. And today was the day we were leaving Boulder for Hawaii - from a hot and dry world to a hot and humid one. Oh well.
On our way to the airport, we dropped by a store to do some last-minute shopping, and I also called at Starbucks to buy a Dolce de Leche bar; usually their cakes and pastries taste either way too sweet or rather bland, but those bars of cream-cheese-like filling with a swirl of Dolce de Leche (aka confiture de lait or milk jam) were really good - so good I would like to try to copycat it myself.

After a 7-hour flight, we got to Honolulu where we were staying one night at his friend's apartment in downtown. For dinner we went to a Korean BBQ restaurant; he was so excited to dine at a table that have built-in bbq grills again (he had seen one of those in Japan for the first time). But what was more exciting to me was, well, the amount of "side" small dishes that came along with the meat plates; it was seriously a lot. Even surprisingly, there came a lot more! It was because, well, one of our company this evening was a girl who was a friend of his friend's girlfriend (got it?) who happened to be a Korean-American, and she knew that they could serve us better dishes as a side. So she said something to our waitress in Korean, and there came such dishes as spicy tofu soup, green onion pancakes, and so and so and so, which was basically way too much stuff for us to finish.

One good thing I thought that evening was the fact that we didn't have to take a subway home after the dinner, like we would have had to if it had been in Tokyo; one of the arguably most disgusting things about riding a Tokyo train towards midnight is standing close by someone who apparently just had yakiniku (Korean BBQ) and releases smells of meat and garlic and bbq smokes. Ugh.

disney land???

coconut milk ice cream w/ baked banana "summer rolls"

a 15-minute drive to a different world

Tuesday, June 22
After several unusually wet days, we had a gorgeous day today. He, his mother, and I went for a short hike in the morning. We took some 15-minute drive from home and got to Eldorado Canyon State Park. Names and natures often agree, or the name was named after the nature - there was an impressive rocky canyon. First thing it reminded me of was Big Thunder Mountain of Disney Land - I know it's a silly idea, because the railroad must have been inspired by some canyon like this, not the other way (obviously). Anyways, I was really amazed and impressed by the whole thing there - I had never seen anything real like that, and moreover, it was just a 15-minute ride from home! Isn't that cool or what?

Dinnerwise, we went out with his brother and his wife. We went to "the best Thai restaurant in town" claimed by one of his friends - even though I wonder how many Thai restaurants are there in the town. Well the place was pretty good in fact, and we all were very pleased with their coconut-milk ice cream with baked banana; the banana was rolled with a filo-like thin dough into a tiny spring-roll like form. I have always liked sweet, caramelized banana, and it was a real hit. Only downside was: there was't enough (which, I think, is a very rare problem observed in this country, as everything comes in a huge portion)!

very berry cheesecake!

my treat

Monday, June 21
I had long noticed that I had not been cooking anything for the past few weeks and kept eating other people's food, which I didn't feel very right. Of course I was not told to cook something for them in return, but I did think I should and he said that everyone would be happy to sample some of my dishes. And today happened to be a good day as we did not have any plan to go out for dinner.
It's always a bit hard to decide what to make for someone you have never cooked something for and you don't know what they like or, more critically, what they don't. But in this case, he decided today's menu - "orange chicken". He wanted his families to try my orange chicken that he likes so much, and people usually like Chinese orange-flavored chicken over here. So I gave it a go.
We began with shopping, and faced a fundamental question: how many people would be there for dinner? We knew there would be his family, but currently their relatives were staying at their place, and other cousins might just drop by - our best guess fell in the region of 6-8 people. The next question: how much chicken we would need to feed 6-8 people? What about vegetable?? I'm not used to cooking for more than four people, so it was a kind of hard process. So was preparing process - just a lot of vegetable to cut up, although the cooking itself was very simple (it was all left to the oven, basically).
After a while of struggling with a lot of foodstuff, we got to serve the chicken, roasted vegetable, and my signature kabocha pumpkin salad, along with home-made sangria, followed by cheesecake as a dessert. There ended up with being 8 people, and to my great relief, everyone seemed happy and gave me a lot of compliment.
A bit note about cheesecake: I baked mixed-berry white chocolate cheesecake the previous night, and cooled it overnight in the fridge. I made a few changes to the original recipe of Irish Cream Cheesecake from my cookbook in Japanese, which I am sure I will mention sometime in the future; graham biscuit and pecan nut crust at the bottom, sprinkled with fresh raspberries and blackberries, filled with white chocolate cheese cake batter, topped with four-berry spread & liquor mixture that gave a marbled effect, and served with fresh berries including blackberries, raspberries as well as "golden raspberries". I knew the white chocolate cheesecake filling was delicious, but the combination with the "classic" raspberries (and other berries) was just so perfect - we all loved it.

the big, shiny, white box... (along with a "better-than-reese's"? Neiman's Own peanut butter cups)

on Father's day

Sunday, June 20
Yes, it was Father's day. On Father's day, we have to treat fathers right, right? Well it was a busy day, having his mother's mother and father-in-law over brunch, and went to one of his brothers' house to treat their father with dinner.
So I ate a lot a whole day, but today's winner wasn't either lunch or dinner (sorry!) - it was a box of Reese's white chocolate peanut butter cups. I am addicted to Reese's peanut butter cups, so much that I restricted myself even buying one myself, but their white-choc version is even better, too good to resist.... and today, when I was at COSTCO with his mother buying candies for dads, those white boxes caught my eyes and I could not move from there as if I had been thunderstruck! I mean, how could I have possible ignore a 24-pack box for $9? Impossible. There was no choice. (Well, I did share them with others by the way, as I still had reasonably sane judgment.)


biking in the rain

Saturday, June 19
I had a pleasure of having ripe fresh fruits for breakfast today. I found small white peaches at Wild Oats yesterday, and wondered for a few moments whether they really were like those white peaches I love so much in Japan; last summer at a local natural food store I bought what looked like white peaches which turned out to be yellow ones and very hard to eat fresh. I mean, I do like yellow peaches, but they simply can't beat tender, juicy white ones... in Japan, the really good kinds are adored as if they were precious germs (and sold at a price to match). Anyways, as the tag read "white peaches" "juicy" and "sweet", I decided to give it a try. And they passed the test! Not as big as the ones we usually see in Japan, but as sweet and juicy, and tasty for sure. I had missed the season last summer, I was so glad I got to have some fresh white peaches this year.
Another delight I had for breakfast was fresh black mission figs. I like figs, either fresh or dried, but like peaches they are also a jewel of the season - if you miss it, you have to wait till the next year when they are in season again. Mission figs had been typically a kind for dried figs to me, and I had never seen them fresh in the store - so I had to try them too, even if they were a sort of expensive. Like in their dried form, those black figs were very sweet and aromatic - and of course, very fragile.

In the afternoon he and I went biking in the town. It was rainy when we left home, but soon it cleared up and got pretty sunny and hot (and got stormy and rainy again just before we got home and, our cloth which had been nice and dry by then, got all soaking wet again). I found the town really beautiful and charming - I wish I had brought my camera with me.

i'm dancing, too!

a rainy day is a shopping day...

Friday, June 18
The weather had overall been pretty nice since I came here, but it suddenly became wet, almost like my town back in Hawaii. As it was another wet day today, even though I was having a work-free weekend for the first time over the last several weeks, I decided to go check out stores. Boulder isn't a very big city, but has a satisfying choice of food stores, including Whole Foods or Wild Oats. It was supposed to be just for "research" today, just browsing the stores to see what they've got you know, but I ended up buying bags of food - he seemed to have known it was happening, though.
One of the great buy of today: Dancing Deer Baking's molasses clove cookies. I first came to know about this shop more than a year ago, and even considered buying some cookies online, but I didn't because of the ridiculous shipping price they charge on the deliveries to Hawaii (and yes, it wasn't the only time that I gave up buying things online because of the delivery charges). I was so excited when I found those cookies at the Whole Foods, and did not think twice to pick one up and threw it in the basket. Well, I did think twice, to be precise - I had to decide which flavor to buy, out of such choices as cane sugar & lime, almond & cherry with ginger, and chocolate tangerine (of course, it was just a matter of which one to choose now, as I was so sure that I would come back and try other kinds later!). One interesting finding to note: they don't use butter or margarine in the cookies - and instead use canola oil, which might explain why those cookies were so soft and moist.

snow in the summer

chinese platter (store-bought, man)

"a blief stop at a park"

Thursday, June 17
Well I had thought that the reunion was a four-day event, starting from sunday and wednesday. It was, however, a four-night event, which meant to me more like a five-day thing. Whatever, today was the last day and we hugged and kissed goodbye ach other, and one family after another left.
Yesterday he suggested that we could stop at the Rocky Mountain National Park on the way back, and I thought it was a nice idea. Soon it turned out that I was having a wrong idea - not that a short stop at the park wasn't a good idea, but that I had had a wrong picture about the "park". It wasn't anything like those small parks in downtown Tokyo, not even close (what was I thinking?) - it was a huge area surrounding mountains and layered by thick forests. There we saw a lot of wild animals, pretty mountain flowers, and thick snow/ice covering the rocks - it even snowed when we were up at some 120,000 feet high! It really was an amazing, unique experience.

We were all pretty tired by the time we made it to home back in Boulder, but I was notified that we were having dinner with their friends from long time ago. Since they were also pretty tired (just got back from the holiday in Ireland), we just had Chinese takeaway at their house and had a couple of nice bottles of wine (one of them was the best Sauvignon Blanc I had ever had - well, I usually don't care for those young white wines tasting like grass, but that one from Marlborough, New Zealand was very refreshing and fruity). And then some of us went out for drink in downtown Boulder and drank till midnight - weren't we tired??

rocky mountains in the summer

family buffet (mexican)

an activity day

Tuesday, June 15
On monday I slept a whole day, I mean, literally the whole day. I didn't go out anywhere, not even our bedroom except once or twice - I had been staying up all night to finish the work the night before. Anyways, I got up at a reasonable time this morning, had a worm breakfast (pancakes, bacon and sausages), socialized with people, and went out for a short hike.
It was supposedly an easy, 3-mile trail leading to a small waterfall. It was very hot and dry out there, but fun to enjoy the beautiful nature around us. The waterfall, to tell you the truth, was a bit disappointing as it was very small, but the view up from one of the peaks was gorgeous - looking over the range of mountains covered with snow, contrasted by the clear blue sky and deep green trees was just breathtaking.
In the afternoon I went out to play basketball and roller-skate (what a busy day!), and was pretty exhausted by the time for dinner. We had a Mexican buffet this evening - tortillas with a lot of vegetable and chili con carne, but what excited me the most was chips with guacamole, salsa, and sour cream; I love avocados, did I ever mention that? :-)

(expanded) family buffet

the day has come

Sunday, June 13
The day has come. Yes, this was the whole reason why I came here in Colorado - family reunion. Lots of people. Lots of events and activities. Up in the mountains. Uhhhh.
We arrived at the site in the evening, and there were already a lot of folks hanging around, while moms were busy cooking dinner for what seemed like 30 people. The dinner was served in a buffet-style; everyone made a line, helped themselves food from big pots and pans. We had herbed chicken, beef brisket, chili beans, fruit salad and corn on the cob. It somehow reminded me of those summer training camps back in the day when I played volleyball or basketball for school team... staying at a lodge in the mountains and eating food at a big table with a big group of people. Weird.

"original" cheesecake

the other Cheesecake Factory

Saturday, June 12
Today I had my very first slice of The Cheesecake Factory's cheesecake that his mother had bought to home. Last time I ate at the restaurant in Boulder, food was too big for me to even look at their extensive dessert menu; so it is a really good idea indeed to just eat the cake, skipping salad (yes, even salads were insanely huge there) or the main dish. Their "original" cheesecake was very rich and appropriately cheesy, but somehow the texture was light - even a bit fluffy, I would say. It was not a New York-style, thick and dense cheesecake that I love, but good nevertheless.

We are to have a four-day family reunion of his father's side kins, starting from sunday. It was not until just a few days before when I was told that they were having a "pre-family reunion" event on this saturday. So, they had given me a chance to meet some of the family members in advance of the reunion itself....

mexican plattar

nice leftover

Friday, June 11
As I had stayed up all night working the night before, I had skipped dinner, which became my lunch today. His mother had arranged everything on a big plate, hence a Mexican platter for one (supposedly, though, as there was enough to serve two); enchiladas pie, beans & cheese burrito, rice salad, and beef flautas. In fact, I was so glad that I had those for lunch instead of dinner; I like eating light in the evening and would rather enjoy a big, heavy meal during the day.

family buffet

just a *small* family gathering (to be followed by bigger ones)

Wednesday, June 9
He, his mother and I were invited to dinner by her mother this evening, along with his mother's brother and his wife. Everyone brought a couple of dishes (well, I didn't - I have really been away from cooking life for so long now), and that made us a good big selection of food to choose from. Everything tasted really good, indeed, but one of the most exciting experience - for me at least - was, having a corn bread. Or should I call them corn muffin? Either way, I had heard of it for quite a while but never encountered a chance to actually had it. Those were his grandmother's hand-made, and were very tasty - perfectly golden yellow and subtly sweet, those were a kind of things that I would like to try to make by my own.
I had been pretty stuffed when the dessert time came; grandma made a pan of key-lime square, which was truly lime-y and tangy, and delicious, but teeth-squirkingly sweeeeeeet... it's always amazing to see how people eat those supersweet stuff over here; a lot. I barely managed to finish one 2-inch square of the bar, whereas others had a slice of angel food cake and a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream... mere looking at them eating that much could make me feel stuffed. Seriously.

devil's thumb (left)

humus & black olive sandwich

exloring the neighborhood

Sunday, June 6
On the day I arrived here, his mother served us sandwiches for lunch, and one of the fillings was a pair of humus and black olive, which hooked me up instantly. For lunch today, I made my own sandwiches with those again - the humus I used was a kind with chopped roasted red peppers, adding a nice mellow accent to the humus. This will definitely be my staple.
Towards the sunset time we went for a short walk. Boulder has an excellent neighborhood in terms of the nature - today we walked up to a nearby trail, for about one hour or so. We had a great view of the city from up there, watching pretty clouds.

major league debut?

Saturday, June 5
This was my first time going to an MLB game - even though I am not a huge baseball fan, it was still fun to watch the game - or more precisely, watch the people around me; excited self-appointed coaches (he and his father), a little girl who was bored of the game and wandering around, a young boy who kept yelling and cursing at the opponent, and alike. It was also nice to watch the sky and clouds changing their colors as the sun going down.

bubbly strawberry

a short day

Friday, June 4
When I got up, it was already 1:30 in the afternoon. I went to bed late, but this is way too late... I hate getting up late (which, apparently, does not mean that I have no problem in getting up early in the morning).
His mother's mother and her husband came over for dinner this evening, and we had salad, steak, and vegetable on the patio. As we had sparkling wine for aperitif and strawberries for dessert, I put a strawberry in my glass of wine - I like this combination (preferably with champagne); by the time you finish the glass of wine, the strawberry will have absorbed a bit of sparkling wine and smells and tastes wonderful.

here she is in Boulder

Thursday, June 3
Arriving at the Los Angeles airport 6:30 in the morning, I was exhausted as I did not get to sleep at all the night before (I usually sleep at least a couple of hours on a 4+ hour flight...). Anyways, one more flight and I will be done.
... And another one hour of driving from the Denver Airport, yes. It was my first time being in the mainland US in the summer, and Colorado was very hot, just as I had heard it would be. As soon as his car brought me to his parents' house where I was to stay for the coming three weeks, I meant to finish up the work - but instead, I passed out. Uh-oh.

airlinemeal (sort of sushi)

a day that lasts for two days

Wednesday, June 2

It was the day I left Tokyo for Hawaii, where I changed planes all the way to Denver, Colorado. It was seriously an exhausting day, not simply because I did June 2nd almost twice due to the time difference (leaving Narita in the evening of June 2 and arriving at Honolulu in the morning of June 2, again), but I had a 13-hour lay over at Honolulu, waiting for my flight to Los Angeles (my itinerary was two-leg flights, Honolulu-LA-Denver). It was a long day.

soba lunch (my real lunch for today)

from my favorite French cafe/bakery in Tokyo

lunch doubleheader

Tuesday, June 1
My last "free" day in Tokyo. I made a couple of appointments over lunch - first with my old fried at 12:00, and second with my sister at 13:10. When we met up near my friend's office at 12:03, we decided to walk to our favorite cafe called
Aux Baccanales in Akasaka. There used be one of their restaurant/cafe/bakery places in Harajuku, where I used to go to buy some bread, but ever since they closed down the place last summer I had not been able to have their bread. In their Akasaka shop, I was so excited as there were lots of handsome-looking french bread, sandwiches and pastries that I loved... but there are times that you have to make a choice, so I managed to restrict myself and limit the bread on my tray down to my real favorites; flaky and flavorful croissants aux amandes (this is THE best almond croissant of this kind I have ever had anywhere in the world, including several bakeries in France - if anyone knows somewhere to buy super-fine quality croissant aux amandes, please let me know), egg & soft salami sandwich Viennois, and sugary crispy rusks. As I was to have "real" lunch with my sister after that, I did not eat any of them at the cafe, but had a cup of coffee while chatting.

After we said good by to each other, I jumped in a metro and went to my next destination: Omotesando. There my sister and several people from her office took me to a soba (buckwheat noodles) restaurant called Fumotoya, where I had a lunch set consisting of a bowl of cold soba with batter-fried eggplants and myoga, a small bowl of salad, and a coconut cream custard as a dessert. My soba was pleasantly tasty, but the cream custard was divine - very coconut-milky, and admirably tender texture. I might try and make this one myself sometime....

June 5, 2004

colorfull as a candy box!

typical Japanese dish?

Monday, May 31

Yesterday was scorching hot, but today was steaming hot. I was to see my ex-boss over lunch today, and as I left home and walked my way to the local train station, I was already sweating.
My ex-boss, his ex-boss and one of the girls who used to be in the same division as I was were there to go out for lunch with me. Asked what I would like for lunch, I replied “Japanese” right away – I didn't have much time left to spend in Japan. So the ex-bosses took us to a nearby sushi restaurant. They ordered a nigiri set for every one of us (I didn't even look at the menu), and the plate that came in front of me was just so handsome; melt-in-your-mouth toro (fatty part of tuna), tender-but-not-overly-so tai (sea bream), pop-like-a-bubble ikura (salmon roe)... (and if you are not afraid to know, ika [squid] and anago [sea eel] were also more than good) each and every cake of sushi had a very fresh stuff, and although it wasn't one of those super fancy, expensive sushi bars that you can find all over in the town, they still served highly admirable, quality sushi at a reasonable price... or so I suspect; I don't know whether or not they were exactly reasonable, as the lunch was on my ex-boss! Thanks :-)

small jewels from Au Bon Vieux Temps

is it already summer?

Sunrday, May 30

My sister, her husband, one of our cousins, and I have been staying at our aunt's place since last night. Our other cousin (aunt's little son) and uncle went out for a baseball game, and the rest of us stayed at home more or less a whole day. It was really a sunny, hot, summery day.

As a tea-time treat, we had some petits fours that I bought at the French cake shop the other day. There were five of us at home, and as we just couldn't choose which one to eat, we just splitted every cake into five! Silly? It was well worthwhile. Just like the entremets I bought on the same day, those small jewels weren't mere a eye-candy; the twelve little cakes had different tastes and textures on their own, and they were in no way "light" - believe it or not, they were very filling. So filling that they almost made our lunch!

matcha frappuccino! (is it Japan-exclusive?)

a nice day out

Saturday, May 29

The weather has been gorgeous since I came back, and it was another lovely day out there. It might have been a little too hot, but very nice nevertheless. I went out for lunch with my sister near her office in Omotesando, where we had a nice, light lunch (salad, French toast, and yogurt with fresh berries). After that I had another appointment coming with an old friend of mine, with whom I went to Starbucks. I usually don't fancy ice cold drinks even if it's hot, but this time I found green-tea flavored Matcha Frappuccino on their menu, so I couldn't pass that up. Yum!

tuna, lettuce, and tomatoes (hiding behind the tuna)

bad hair day

Friday, May 28

Sometimes you just can't have anything go right. It happened to me today, as I had a bad luck in booking flights, making new glasses (I lost the last ones while I was in Venice a couple months ago), and seeing a friend for dinner. (On top of that, as I tried to post this, an error occurred and I lost all the text I had just written.) Everything just didn't go well. Oh well.

The only thing I could claim as "nice" was a sandwich I got from
a French bakery PAUL. I wouldn't go that far saying everything they have tastes wonderful, but still they have a lot of tasty french bread that I like. Since their first outlet in Tokyo happens to be close to the office I used to work at, I would drop by and buy some sandwich for breakfast or lunch (I heard that sandwiches are no-no for breakfast for the French, but I like them myself). My favorite kinds were chicken and tuna, both of which were there in the shop when I dropped by. I bought one and brought it back home. As I ate it, I could not help wishing there was a nice french bakery in my neighborhood in Hawaii; I wouldn't complain so much about living in that small town in the middle of nowhere, then.