The Japan Series — Totoro, We’re Not In Hokkaido Anymore

Actually, we knew we would be going to Russia as part of the voyage we were on. But we weren’t totally prepared for the experience.

One day we are wandering around a small northern Japanese city — tidy, orderly, polite, clean. The next, after crossing a narrow channel of water, we have exchanged slender, scampering salarymen for buff, blonde, steely blue-eyed guys in tight t-shirts, standing around smoking cigarettes, eyeing you suspiciously. We are now in Russia.

You see, just above the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido is another island, part of the same chain, but this one belongs to Russia. It used to belong to Japan, so you’ll still spot the odd Japanese-style building sticking out like a sore thumb here or there. But Russia — claiming it was their’s originally — took it back after World War II (Crimea, anyone?). More

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The Best Salmon, the Best Way

As we prepare for our upcoming family trip to Alaska, I find myself thinking a lot about salmon. The beautiful filets of sockeye and king from the Copper and other pristine rivers I’m finding at the fishmarkets these days have my mind already north. I once saw a river in Sitka so choked with spawning salmon swimming upstream that it seemed as if you could’ve walked across their backs and never touched water. Another river near Juneau was littered with the skinless carcasses of salmon — in bumper years, the bears peel off and eat the skin, and discard the rest.

Spawning sockeye in Juneau.

Spawning sockeye in Juneau.

I’ve oft commented on this blog about how people tend to overcook salmon. And while it is still a delicious fish when cooked all the way through, it is so much better when left medium-rare to rare. Or, as I personally prefer, raw. More

Pontocho Road

Ever since I found a very cool cocktail shaker at a garage sale, I’ve been experimenting with my mixology — often motivated by given culinary circumstances (let us not forget our recent adventure into Campari on a warm night when Italian food was being served). Necessity or at the very least context being the mother of invention, I’ve been inspired to some lofty heights with spirits.

One recent evening, I was making Japanese food. My wife, having a rash that she was convinced was yeast related, was off beer. So the Sapporo that I was drinking got the stiff arm. Furthermore, she had spent much of the afternoon organizing the children’s reams of school artwork and bins of toys, and was in need of something stronger — something much stronger. All of which I took as a gauntlet being laid down. Was I mixologist enough to rise to the challenge? More