I really have to say, I never ever thought this would happen. But over the last year or so, the Missus has come to enjoy a nice cold one. Like my good friend Candice, She's partial to sours....though a nice clean witte is always welcomed with a nice meal. And while I'm still kind of a "Bud Light - bucket ice" kind of guy when "back home". I've come to really respect and enjoy beer in San Diego (and Belgium of course).
Still, I never thought my best beer buddy would ever be the Missus!
It's not strange for us to try a couple of different beer with various foods out side when the weather is warmer.
The Missus has the beer She loves; Monk's Cafe, Duchess, La Fun du Monde, White Rascal, Rueuze (The Bruery), Anderson Valley Brewing's Gose.
We've also been checking out beers we really enjoyed in Belgium; Hop-ruiter was especially memorable, as was the Karmeliet Tripel I had in Antwerp. Unfortunately, it seems that something is really lost when these bottles have to travel all the way here.
My taste varies depending on the day and how I feel.
I do enjoy the Nut Brown from Rip Current and Alesmith. I do like Indra Kunindra and Sculpin (with Blue Cheese!). I too enjoy La Fin du Monde and Blanche de Chambly....if I'm just having beer with no food, I love my dubbels and tripels.....
There seems to be something for every mood and preference......
One thing I did notice about beer.........I often approach it like a restaurant. In spite of what folks will tell me, it's an open book....I'll give it a shot, with an open mind...sometimes more than once. Also, like food, I understand the Missus's taste and mood on specific days...... she'll defer the ordering of beer to me. When tasting a beer, I automatically know if She'll like it or not.... I guess it's called being married for so long.
I don't always take photos of what we're having at home, but I think it's a bit more realistic than saving bottles....which I'm sure would drive the Missus crazy.
We've had more than our share of beer we don't care for. But much like how we approach restaurants and food; it's the journey that makes it worthwhile. And once in a while you find a winner. And all is good in the world.
I hope 2014 was a great year for you all. And we send our best wishes for a great 2015 as well.
I worked a bit early on NYE, then headed off to complete was has become a tradition for me. On every New Year's Eve since 2005, I go to the various Japanese markets to check out the Osechi offerings.
Things have changed over the years, it's more of a pre-order kind of thing nowadays and there aren't too many extravagant items for sale on NYE anymore.
In fact, Marukai had almost nothing.
Mitsuwa had some interesting items, but nothing too interesting.
What I really did enjoy about my visit to Mitsuwa was a young couple, the girl, Japanese, the young man, blue-eyed, blond haired. The young lady went down the shelves explaining the significance of each of the osechi ryori items....stuff that I didn't even know! I just stood there and watched, quite taken with the moment.... At the end, she turned to me and gave me a smile and a wave. Nice job!
As usual, Nijiya had the biggest and best selection.......
It has been quite a year for us; Belgium, the Czech Republic, Japan, Seattle....... I have a feeling the this year will be just as interesting.
We'd like to thank you for reading, commenting, and just being part of our little food blog!
Just for fun, I actually drove by Costco this past weekend. Here's what it looked like at 10 past nine, a full 20 minutes before they opened.
I was actually dragging my feet, because I had to go into work.
I worked for a couple of hours then decided I should get some ramen, so I headed off to Santouka and ran into this.....
So, I just went to Nijiya, picked this up, and headed back to the office.
I lucked out as I love natto maki....yes, while I'd never buy any prepared sushi or sashimi with raw fish in/on it kappa and natto maki is fair game. I grew up eating natto so I really love this stuff. I usually get a bento at least once a week and have rarely seen this. They probably don't make it very often.......it could very well be that I'm the only person who evers buys this.......
Nijiya Market 3860 Convoy St Ste 109 San Diego, CA 92111
During this time of the year, folks are usually quite busy, so here's something short and sweet for Monday.
Jin's Pot appears empty:
Slight pun intended, though I'm not quite sure what to make of the Notice of Non Responsibility....I'm guessing there's a possibility of a lien against the business that the property owner is protecting themselves from. Doesn't sounds good.
The sign says they are reopening this month...so we'll see. Notice how they kept the same color sign?
9330 Mira Mesa Blvd #A San Diego, CA 92126
The Missus current favorite coffee:
While doing a short Trolley Brewery crawl with Candice; we stopped at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in Little Italy. They had an interesting v60....with Haraaz Red Maraqaha. At almost $9, whew was it pricey.Though after tasting it; the smooth, berry flavors, the tongue coating richness with a nice clean finish. It's really a bit too smooth for me, but this is exactly what the Missus loves.....so I bought 8 ounces of beans - $21.95! Ouch!
That's ok though, since She really, really enjoyed, well I should say enjoys this as She's sent me back to pick up more. I'm sure She'll savor it while it lasts.
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters 2295 Kettner Blvd San Diego, CA 92101
A fairly large collection for a SoCal winter Wednesday.
Pho DaKao and Grill Closes:
I drove by and noticed the parking lot was totally empty so I drove in. The Eviction Restoration Notice was posted on the door. Man, this place didn't last very long. I think I visited soon after they opened....so they pulled the plug pretty fast.
I'd driven past a couple of times and the place looked closed so I stopped by earlier in the week.
This former Balboa Avenue institution moved to this location back in the summer of 2013. It's too bad that the renovation and creation of chain restaurant hell drove them from their old location and it seems that they barely made it past a year here. Though never a destination for me, I'd eaten at the old location a couple of times and thought it decent.......
So hopefully I'm mistaken? But it sure looks like they've shut down....
4344 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
So here comes the "New" Dumpling Inn and Shanghai Saloon:
While never great shakes, the place really "jumped the shark" in my opinion after the owner got involved with The Dragon's Den and Del Mar Rendezvous, both of which have been sold. So now we get this........ I'm told he has a taste for "fusion", which is great, remember, I'm from the home of Pacific Rim Cuisine, so I love fusion.....but it's a thin line between fusion and "con-fusion".
In the old First Korean Market location.
4625 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
We had some much needed rain over the last two weeks........and we're kind of enjoying the nice sleeping weather, which would be great if I wasn't working so many long hours.
Still, I actually saw a double rainbow while driving to Target on the way home yesterday. Pardon the bad photos.
Seeing a rainbow in San Diego is rare enough....a double rainbow, well I don't ever recall seeing one here.
So I took a photo....then took photos of other folks taking photos of the double rainbow.....like I said, this is like an event.
Or maybe a celebrity? This guy is having his picture taken "with" the rainbow! No selfies here....though I did pass two couple taking selfies with the rainbow.
We got back from Seattle fairly late in the evening. I had the following day off, but the Missus had to work some pretty long hours early the next morning. I'm the one that usually goes straight back to work.....we got home after midnight from Japan and I was off to sleep at 3am, then at the office at 6. So I guess I shouldn't have felt as bad for the Missus as I did....She did get a whole night's sleep and all; yet I still felt guilt to have the day off. The Missus had requested, "something good to eat for a change...." She wanted Smoked Shio Koji Chicken, just not wings. She also wanted me to try it prepped three different ways.
While out grocery shopping I had an idea; since the chicken would be a two step process; smoking then deep frying; why not start everything in the smoker, then prep/cook them in different ways....I had all afternoon......
Of course everything started off with the chicken, marinated for in my Shio Koji Marinade for three and a half hours; then smoked for 1 1/2 hours over cherry wood.
While the chicken was going, I sauteed some hickory smoked bacon lardons...removing the crisp bacon and setting my trusty cast iron pan aside. A half hour before the chicken was done, I started some baby white potatoes in a pot. These were done in about 15-20 minutes and immediately plunged into ice water for 5 then drained. I then used a skewer to prick several holes in each potato and set aside.
I removed the smoked chicken from the smoker; recharged some of the charcoal, added one piece of hickroy; I wanted a more assertive smoke flavor for what was up next.
It would be potatoes and cauliflower..... The cauliflower was simply seasoned with coarse Maldon Sea Salt, fresh ground pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.
These I smoked at a pretty high temp for an hour and a half. Meanwhile, I had some brussel sprouts on hand so I sliced a good number of them in half and finely shaved a couple.
I then divided the chicken into three "groups", the first got dredged in some potato starch.
I then removed the potatoes and cauliflower from the smoker....man, it really took on a nice smoky taste. I took a small piece and tried to match it with some flavors....I settled on mint and white balsamic....so I made a sauce.
I threw the sliced brussel sprouts into the smoker, I figured the Missus could use them in salads or other dishes.
I started the oil on my Big Kahuna, almost ten years old and a little worse for wear, but still going strong. First, I fried up the shaved brussel sprouts, it takes a few seconds; then the plain chicken, then the potato starch chicken. The last set was just plain.
I then removed the wok with the oil and put my cast iron pan on the fire to heat up that bacon grease. We'd just had some delicious smashed smoked potatoes at Sitka & Spruce and I wanted to get something close. I put a couple of potatoes in the pan, smashed them down and got both sides nice and crisp.
The rest was just plating. Chicken three ways, smoked cauliflower with a white balsamic-mint sauce, topped with fried shaved brussel sprouts, smoked, smashed potatoes with creme fraiche, bacon, and scallions. And a couple of smoked brussel sprouts and some Japanese pickles.
The Missus just loved the cauliflower and potatoes......
I keep looking at all these photos of Rome and thinking, well one of these days. There was so much we saw, but it also seemed so hectic. I usually will look at a set of photos and the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, pop out and just like that; I have a post. This one had to really pared down......in the end, I thought this would be a nice description of what a typical vacation day with the Missus is like. It makes a nice C(learing) O(ut the) M(emory) C(ard) post.
As is the norm, we woke quite early on our first full day in Rome. I actually got up at 5am and did a post from our room. The Missus woke a bit later and we were headed out before 7. The Missus had a basic list of places to check out and we'd be walking to them all.
So we headed off from Termini Station down the street.
Pst the Colosseum and the Forum......
Skirting Palatine Hill and the Victor Emmanuel Monument.....
And we ended up at Saint Andrea della Valle, Piazza Navona was just a short walk from there. It was pretty quiet at Piazza at that time.
The Missus was determined to get to the Pantheon when it opened. So we walked on over and found that we were still quite early. So we walked over a block to Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
First thing on my mind was....what's up with the Elephant Obelisk, what does it represent? Well, apparently, this obelisk was one of two brought to Rome by Emperor Diocletian from Egypt sometime during his reign between 284 - 305AD. The obelisks were built during the reign of Pharoah Apries around 570BC. The Elephant was designed by Bernini and sculpted by Ercole Ferrata, completed in 1667. The Missus has a thing about obelisks....I'm really afraid to ask really. I will say, this is my favorite one...though I'm still not sure what it all really means.
The church itself is built over the ruins of a temple to the Egyptian Goddess Isis.
As with many of the various churches in Rome, of which there are over 900, most with a rich history, and tons of relics. Santa Maria sopra Minerva was once the center of the Dominican Order, so it makes sense that Saint Catherine of Siena is buried here....well, not all of her. Her head is interred at the Basilica of San Domenico in Siena.
We returned to the Pantheon, which still wasn't open, and decided to just have a cup of coffee and chill. There seemed to be quite a few "locals" walking their dogs, chatting, and generally giving the place a very relaxed feeling.
And yes, that's a obelisk and fountain the front of the Pantheon. This one was built by Ramesses II and was taken from the Temple of Ra in the ancient city of Heliopolis.
Soon enough, folks started lining up in front of the huge doors......
Anyway, here we were, standing in front of the huge bronze doors of the Pantheon. A little gentleman comes out to open up...and can't budge the doors. He recruits a bunch of us to push open the doors. Which we do. Oh man, talk about a thrill....I helped to push open the doors of the Pantheon! I immediately asked the Missus if She got a photo; "oh, I was so excited for you....I forgot!"
Click on the photo above to enlarge....this is one of the few places that really impressed me more than what I had read.
A few minutes later the place started getting crowded. It was time to leave. Outside, all the locals had disappeared as tourists descended on the Pantheon. I'm glad we had arrived early.
We headed back to Piazza Navona which was starting to pick up.
There are three fountains which grace the square, this is the one on the North, the Fountain of Neptune.
We decided to back track and headed to Campo de Fiori, literally translated to "Field of Flowers". I read that in the Middle Ages, the area was actually a meadow. It now houses a daily flower and vegetable market....kind of touristy. pretty pricey, but still fun.
Right on Campo de Fiori resides a place that is pretty much legendary, Forno Campo de Fiori, a little bakery and shop.
The Pizza Bianca was good, initial crunch, a bit too chewy for my taste, very soft interior.....kind of bland though. The pizzas, were, well, kind of disappointing, hard, greasy....probably because they seemed to have been laying out for a while.
Forno Campo de' Fiori Campo de' Fiori 22 Rome, Italy
Since it was now my turn for the time being, we headed off down Via dei Giubbonari, one of the side street off of Campo de Fiori. A little street lined with shops and cafes. Along the way we passed a little cul de sac, which had....what else, a church.
This little church is Santa Barbara dei Librari - the church for booksellers!
I loved this little three panel wooden painting, called a triptych. I later read that it dates back to the 15th-16th century.
When we hit the cross street of Via dei Chiavari, I found the other place I wanted to try. My good buddy Candice told me that she preferred Antico Forno Marco Roscioli.
About this time I figured out that pizza bianca would make a perfect sandwich....which it did.
I did notice that the pizza bianca here was less oily and had a better crunch.
I thought the marinara pizza was pretty good as well.
Antico Forno Marco Roscioli Via dei Chiavari 34 Rome, Italy
As you notice....these were the days before the Missus really clamped down on carbs. And yet, with this walking, I still lost weight!
Bolstered by carbs and caffiene we headed off to find the Missus's next target....where was that darn Trevi Fountain?
Back in July, having just returned from Belgium and the Czech Republic, the Missus sent me a text. Something along the lines of "let's go to Japan." To which I replied, "great, so next year, we'll go to Japan". Her response? "No, I mean let's go to Japan in October, after seeing my parents." And so it came to pass....
For some strange reason; I'd never really been motivated to visit Japan. But now, the wheels set in motion, I just couldn't wait. Though busy at work and time was short, I did some research, and found things I needed to know; the somewhat confusing address system, making sure I had photos of the storefronts of the places we needed to be at. I got us apartments in Tokyo and Osaka, and even a Machiya in Kyoto. Had friends make reservations at two places in Tokyo. We don't really plan much in the way of activities; mostly just broad outlines. The Missus likes to do most of that when we reach our destination. This can be a challenge, but She does it based on where we need to be.
All in all, Japan turned out to be one of the easiest places we've ever visited. It's amazingly orderly, folks at the worst are polite and everyone we met was helpful. That the Missus could read Kanji proved to be a major plus as other than the hiragana and katagana, and Japanese pronunciations, She could cull out meaning. I know a handful of words though my phrasing is (sometimes hilariously) woeful. When it comes to food though, I understand much more.
Well, enough of that....I'll get more into it in future posts.
As things turned out, all you really need is a Japan Railpass, Suica Card, the Hyperdia App, addresses both in English and Japanese, the word "sumimasen", and a little patience and you'll do just fine.
I really thought Tokyo was going to be a bear and was prepared to be overwhelmed, and in a way we were, but not exactly in the way we thought we'd be. First off, getting around in Tokyo was very easy for us. Finding exact locations weren't. Tokyo itself is made up of 23 wards.....think of it as 23 cities packed into one mega-city. Yes, it's busy, but also very quiet. The train/subway can be packed to the gills and yet, there's not a single word uttered in anything above a whisper! Folks line the stairs and escalators...all to the left in Tokyo, letting folks pass to the right. They walk...a lot...they eat tons of carbs and are very thin...folks do not eat while they walk, it's bad manners, even though there are very few public waste receptacles, the sidewalks are extremely clean.
We arrived in the neighborhood of Yotsuya and found the business of the person we were renting our apartment from with rather minimal problems. She was in the middle of teaching a class, so we dropped off our luggage, we travel super light, and set off to get something to drink, and to do some exploring. We walked down one of the side streets....
Seeing the sign above we walked down the alley like street and were totally over whelmed by all the restaurants and bars......which led to the big question. How does one actually make a choice here? There are so many places and options. I'm sure Tabelog and Gurunavi would help, but man, there's just so much. The Missus made the comment, "man, there are more restaurants in this little street than all of Clairemont Mesa!"
Luckily, I had reservations taken care of for the next night, had a plan for this evening, and had an outline of where to eat in the area for our last evening in Tokyo. In fact, we went looking for that Izakaya and actually found the place....using my really, really bad Japanese, I uttered one of the few phrases I know, "Yoyaku wo onegaishimasu".... actually getting reservations.
We finally got settled into our apartment, which ended up being in the Yotsuya Sanchome area. A bit more residential, busy main streets, but quiet side streets.
We were meeting an old friend of mine; Reiko for dinner. nothing major, I wanted some ramen, and it would be great seeing Reiko, who used to work for one of my friends several years (actually more than several) back. Reiko was born and raised on Tokyo, so I thought getting to where we wanted to go to would be a slam dunk...well, not quite. You see, first we had to get to Shinjuku Station, claimed to be the busiest in the world (according to Wikipedia, the station was used by over 3.6 million people a day and has 200 exits).
Shinjuku itself is a popular business, entertainment, and shopping area.... lets just say popular is an understatement. Tons of younger folks gather outside the station, just milling around, as it seems to be a popular meeting and socializing area.
The place I'd ask Reiko to find had several locations within Kabukichō, the red light district and the Golden Gai, so it goes to figure that Reiko isn't really familiar with the area. After passing the Robot Restaurant (if you really gotta know, you can read about it here.) and missing the photo op of a large group of business men taking a photo with one of the "Robot Warriors", she needed some help and got a bit of direction....
This was sensory overload....after a while, things started looking like this.
I was seeing blurred outlines by now...all the blinking lights, the neon..... the punk-goth Japanese girls, good god, I was ready to fade to black.
Just in time Reiko pointed and said, "there it is Kirk-san.... Nagi Ramen."
Yes, all this effort for ramen. Would you expect anything less from us? Of course, not just any ramen....
Then of course, there was navigating the ramen ticket machine. You enter in your money and press the buttons for the various options you want.
The tiny shop has a single counter with a few seats. Behind the counter, two guys do everything..... it's hot and hard work.
Nagi is famous for their hardcore niboshi broth. Vast quantities of dried anchovies are simmered for over 12 hours to come up with a heady broth.
The broth is hearty, thick, savory, packing a huge punch. Pungent and full of flavor, it's not eveyone's cup of tea. Indeed it was a bit too strong at first for the Missus. That first sip of the broth will do that to you. We both ordered the combination of noodles, the regular, kind of doughy-chewy noodles and the wide and flat "hirauchimen"noodles which the Missus preferred. The egg had that perfect bright orange orb of a yolk. I had ordered extra green onions which helped balance out the flavor of the broth. My only issue was with the chashu which looked medium rare and was very tough and chewy. Otherwise, this was love at first bite....though perhaps not for the Missus who was a bit overwhelmed by it all.
Leaving the restaurant, things seemed to slow down, everything felt like it was slowing down, all was right in the world, things were starting to make sense.... though I still didn't have an explanation for the Robot Restaurant!