December 13, 2010

christmas lights and soups: mid-december ramblings

Well Hello December, I thought you'd just arrived and now you're already half gone? I have no idea how that happened, but here we are, left with just about ten days until Christmas and a little over two weeks before the end of 2010.

As far as this December goes, it started while I was sick in bed with a nasty cold, but things picked up soon and I even gate-crashed made it to a Christmas party. Weatherwise, it was mostly sunny and mild up until a few days ago - temperatures seemed to drop quite a bit and we were hurriedly grabbing gloves and scarves and thick coats. Admittedly, to many of you elsewhere, it may perhaps not count as being "cold" at 50-60F/10-15C, but the dip was big enough for most of us in Tokyo to recognize the arrival of winter - and crave something hot to eat and drink.

When the chilly air makes us shudder and gives us cold hands, it's time for soups. A lot of soups, I should say, as I have already made a large pot of soup for the third time in the past week. And considering how you normally end up eating leftovers on the second day, it means that I have been eating soups pretty much every day of this past week. Nobody complains around here, perhaps because I'm the one making it and they could eat something else outside, and I for one certainly don't mind eating them every day. No, really.

This was the soup I made last week, a seafood chowder - except there wasn't much seafood in sight with the massive amount of vegetables and mushrooms dominating the scene. This is more or less the kind of soups I usually throw together; I'd fry up whatever veggies I have around in olive oil, add stock or maybe just water along with a lot of herbs, and let it simmer away. Sometimes I make it a clear broth, sometimes thick, cream soup. For today, for instance, I added some miso paste and soy milk at the end to make a rich, bold soup.

It went down pretty well with the folks, particularly with toasted slices of caramelized onion bread, which by itself has been a huge hit. I made it first with the soup pictured above, using this recipe. It was a stroke of genius that I made a double-batch of caramelized onions so I could bake another loaf of bread in a snap, which I did today. (Now I think about it, though, it may have been wiser to do a triple-batch so I could bake a third loaf....) I replaced some of the plain bread flour with wholewheat bread flour, and added a handful of toasted sesame seeds. It was delicious, and I'm convinced that the recipe must have been created to accompany soups.

At any rate, well, at the rate I'm going, I'd soon be all souped out? I don't think so, really, as I said last winter, everyday can be a soup day. Well, almost.

So, between my soup-laden days, one day I went out in the city and had a late lunch of... guess what? Soup.

I had been anxious to visit the first Tokyo outlet of English organic farm shop/cafe/deli/restaurant Daylesford Organic, which opened its doors this past November, ever since I heard the news of their entry to Japan early this year.

I have been to their shops in London a number of times, and even made it to their "headquarters" farm shop in Cotswold. I've been a fan of their products and brand, and I must say I was both excited and anxious when I learned that they would hit Tokyo, wondering how they'd do on this end of the world.

It was one sunny afternoon last week that I finally stood in front of the place on Aoyama-dori street between Shibuya and Omotesando (next to Pierre Herme, by the way). Since it was still relatively warm, I decided to grab an outside table for myself. And since it was not THAT warm, I went for a large mag of soup rather than, say, a bowl of green salad. I also picked up a chicken & basil sandwich, as well as a cup of tea.

The soup was packed with large chunks of root vegetables and full of flavor, and nicely warmed both my stomach and hands, which was a good thing as the sun was now rapidly going down and the air was starting to cool down.

When I was done, I went inside and browsed around in the shop to check out what's on offer. And I must say I was a little disappointed to see a very few of their great products that I'd enjoyed from their UK shops - with rather steep price tags (which was, after all, totally expected, but still).

The place is decently spacious, and I'd think they could fill it up with more of the Daylesford brand products as well as other things, especially more sweet stuff (cookies, chocolates, and pastries). And oh, I'm most partial to their Cheddar - apparently it's included in some of their menu at the restaurant, but I didn't see it available for purchase at the store. It would definitely be one thing that I'd most love to see there, if that's possible.

I've also had a chance to sit down at a table in their restaurant on the second floor, but only for a coffee and cake (chocolate-orange pound cake with ice cream and caramel sauce). I'd like to go back for a proper meal, either lunch or dinner, but all the same I really do hope they'll have a wider variety of products for us to take home.

The area (Omotesando/Aoyama) is home to a number of natural/organic food stores and restaurants, from the old names such as Natural House and Crayon House to new(er) and stylish places like Brown Rice (behind which is anther English establishment, Neal's Yard Remedies). If Daylesford can establish a presence with a strong brand to back it up, it'd help make the entire area even more exciting and attractive a place for the supporters of organic products and the likes. I don't hang around much in Aoyama these days, but I used to and I still like the area - and would love to pop round to see how things are going. We'll see.

Now I leave you with a few snapshots of the Omotesando in the evening, after I stopped by Daylesford and some other places. The street was lit up for Christmas, and it was certainly pretty - the whole street was glowing, and so were the faces of people walking down the street. I can't say I'm truly in the Christmas spirit, really, but it was nice to get the feeling of it a bit - Christmas is around the corner, after all.

You all have a wonderful week! -cx


Arudhi said...

miso and soy milk for soup?? wow, that`s new to me!

Anonymous said...

That soup looks so scrumptious and healthy. I'll definitely try the miso and soy milk idea!

Catherine said...

Omotesando street is very pretty! Soups are definitely appropriate for this time of year; they take a little longer to eat than, say, a sandwich and really warm you up. I just can't believe that 50-60 degrees F is considered cold anywhere-- that is spring/early summer weather here in Minnesota, where it has reached -20 windchill already this year. Sometimes the actual temperature is -20 and then the windchill is even worse!

I love all your photos, by the way.

Shalum said...

Happy Holidays!