Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Our Brand-new Donabe Collection...available soon!

I am so happy to announce that we are going to introduce the new products to our donabe website, toiro ( very soon. Besides the donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san" (far right in the back row) which is currently available, the donabe tagine (front right), soup & stew donabe (front left), and the classic donabe (back left) are scheduled to be added to our website very soon.

Donabe steamer (back center) will not be available for another couple of weeks or so, due to the delay in production.

Yes, they are all DONABE (clay pots) from Iga, Japan! I just love cooking with them every day. I also love staring at them, because they are so beautiful, too. Donabe from Iga are just so special, because of its "terroir". The clay is from the soil of Iga, where used to be the bed of Lake Biwa in the prehistorical time. The food cooked with Iga-yaki (Iga-style) donabe taste just so wonderful. You can not only cook delicious dishes with them, but also donabe products can make beautiful table presentations, too.

I cook so many things with the donabe. I would like to continue to introduce the healthy delicious cooking through Japanese donabe to people in the US and other countries. Thank you so much for all your support.

Please check back toiro's website and this blog frequently for new donabe recipes, etc.

Happy donabe life!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wines for Tea-smoked chicken

Tonight was a dinner at one of our friends house. Among the many wonderful dishes we had, my favorite was the tea-smoked chicken with the wild arugula salad. We tasted some interesting wines tonight.

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2007 Jean-Marc Brocard, Chablis Grand Cru, Valmur. Pure minerality with the great volume. Very terroir-oriented. Brocard don't use oak at all in the wine making, so the wine was packed with the young and pure richness.

2004 Domaine de la Grange des Peres, Vin de Pays de l'Herault. Someone was calling their red as "Romanee-Conti" of Languedoc. I learned this is a cult white from Languedoc. This white is made of 80% Rousanne, 10% Chardonnay, and 10% Marsanne. Extremely limited production. I read in one of the wine publications this wine was compared to Coche-Dury's. In terms of the richness, I can understand the remark, but this wine's acidity is much milder. The palate was so round and almost chewy. Very special wine!

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2002 Domaine A.-F. Gros, Pommard, 1er Cru, "Les Pezerolles". This was my "after-hangover" selection, as Anne-Francoise (Michel's sister) and her husband Francois makes such delicate wines even from the big Pommard vineyard! The wine had the berry and animal fur on the nose. The palate had the slight density like liver pate. It is Pommard, but definitely the style was more feminin. Les Pezerolles is located right next to Clos des Epenots on the western facing hill-side.

2006 Giornata, Nebbiolo, Luna Matta Vineyard, Paso Robles. Very interesting wine. The fruitiness was really "California", but it did have the texture of the tannins from Nebbiolo. Nicely balanced.

1997 Pertimali - Livio Sasetti, Brunello di Montalcino. One of the top producers of Brunello from the great vintage. His wines are all organic. Elegant nose of dry fruits, violet, and dust. The tannins were still kind of young and hard. I have his 2001 at home, so I should age it for several more years at least.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wine Dinner at Bistro 561

I had an opportunity to go back to Bistro 561 in Pasadena the other night. Four of us opened 4 wines and enjoyed with the tasting course specially created for us by great Chef Matthew Zboray.

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2005 Domaine Jean Collet, Chablis 1er Cru, Mont de Milieu. I always enjoy Collet's Chablis. It was really fresh and somewhat dense. Bright fruitiness.
2003 Siduri, Sonatera Vineyard, Pinot Noir. Decanted for 45 minutes. I purchased it when I visited their "garage" winery back in 2004 and waited until tonight. Sonatera is a vineyard in the south of Santa Rosa in Sonoma. Everybody went crazy for this wine tonight! It's rich, ripe, and had the sexy exotic fruity aroma. The palate was really smooth. It's a big wine but the balance was excellent. i was glad that I waited until now.

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1996 Chateau Beycheville, St-Julien. Decanted for about 1 hour. Slightly vegetal with the good amount of fruit (cassis) and earthiness. Well-balanced.
2003 Domaine Font de Michelle, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cuvee Etienne Gonnet. No decanting, because the wine had the full perfumy aroma in the Burgundy glass. The last time I had this wine was some months ago. It was their 1999 vintage and I thought it was excellent. Today's 2003 vintage was even better! The blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre and aged for 12 months (1-3 year old oak). The average age of the vines are over 80 years old and they make only 15,000 bottles of this wine. The aroma was really perfumy with dark cherry and rose. The palate is intense but the tannins were very smooth. It's a very elegant wine. This estate itself has been there since 19th century, and Etienne Gonnet started the domaine in 1950. Since 1974, his sons, Jean and Michelle, took over the domaine and make the organic wines.

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All the wines were really nice tonight, especially with the beautiful dishes by Chef Zboray! It was such a happy night.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

2006 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Chassagne Montrachet, Les Baudines, 1er Cru

I was excited to share this wine with friends tonight. Pierre-Yves is a son of the famed wine-maker/ domaine, Marc Colin. After making wine at his father's domaine for years, he started his own small negociant label in 2001 and starting 2006 vintage, he also took over some shares of his family's vineyards.

He is still in his mid 30's but his wines are already receiving some cult status. I read that he often uses 350-litre oak barrel, instead of the traditional 288-litre. During the maturation, he doesn't do batonnage, so the wine rests on the lees for 15-18 months without stirring at all.

Since it's still a young wine, the first impression on the nose was the toasty vanilla, but after 15-20 minutes in the air, the clean citrus and mineral character stood out more. The palate was dense but very smooth and elegant. I thought this wine has the very nice potential to age.
I was wondering why his last name is Colin-Morey and wondering of his any relationship to the Morey clan. From Jancis Robinson's website, I learned that his wife is a daughter of Jean-Marc Morey. So, that makes her a niece of Bernard Morey and grand-daughter of Albert Morey!

Barbrix in Silverlake is finally open!

I held my breath almost too long for this, but finally (yes, FINALLY), my dear friends Adria and Claudio's Barbrix is officially open!!

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It's like a cute little house off Hyperion Ave. I like the open kitchen and also the u-shape bar counter.
The restaurant got completely full very quickly and the whole ambience was so exciting. The wine and beer list include many reasonably-priced boutique producers'.
The food was really amazing.

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Most items are under $10! They are Mediterranean-style small dishes and beautifully prepared.
These are only some of the dishes we had...many dishes were so quickly gone that I couldn't take the pictures.
Barbrix is becoming my new hangout, for sure!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fiddlehead Fern with Mustard Miso Vinegar Sauce

At the mushroom and specialty vendor at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, I found them selling fiddlehead ferns (we call it "KOGOMI" in Japanese). I was so happy to find it, because it's such a seasonal ingredient and I can't find such a fresh quality kind in LA (I didn't even find it at Hollywood Farmers' Market). So I brought back a bunch of them back to LA and made one of the very simple traditional style appetizers with them.
This is another shojin-style dish (vegan).

Kogomi no Karashi Sumiso-kake (Fiddlehead Ferm with Mustard Miso Vinegar Sauce)

1/4 lbs. fiddlehead ferns
1/2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsps. white miso
4 teaspoons vinegar
3 tbsps. dashi stock (use kombu and dry shiitake to make the strict vegan style)
2 teaspoons wagarashi (Japanese mustard)
1-2 teaspoons juice from grated ginger

Boil the water in a pot, add a little amount of salt and blanch the fiddlehead ferns for 1-2 minutes (you want to keep the slight crunchiness). Drain and cool down.

Make the sauce. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, miso, vinegar, dashi stock, wagarashi, and ginger juice.

Divide the fiddlehead ferns into plates and pour the sauce over them.

Because we've been eating and drinking so much last few days in SF/ Napa, tonight's dinner was a very light-style typical Japanese with all non-meat ingredients. Brown rice, daikon and carrot soup, seaweed salad, fiddlehead fern, and broccoli salad. Home is good.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

San Francisco: Lunch at Slanted Door

We drove back from Napa to San Francisco later in the morning. Before going back to LA in the afternoon, we had a reservation at Slanted Door at the Ferry Building.

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This is an extremely popular restaurant. Before noon, its spacious dining room was already packed. The menu is modern Vietnamese and it's really huge. There were so many dishes I wanted to try, but I had to make decisions and picked a few dishes for our lunch.

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Chilled New Zealand Greenlip Mussels were steamed in white wine and lemongrass, and served with roasted chili aioli. This was my favorite. We also had Grilled Lemongrass Pork over rice noodles with imperial rolls, Caramelized Catfish Claypot, and Zuckerman Farm Asparagus with nameko mushrooms. Everything was delicious. All the seafood are delivered to the restaurant every morning, so the catfish was really fresh taste, too.

After the lunch, we headed to SFO.

Napa: Awesome Veal Flat Iron at Ad Hoc restaurant

The dinner tonight was at Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc in Yountville with Powell and Jackie. This is their hangout and they know everybody at the restaurant.

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Our reservation was at 7.30pm. The setting is casual, but it's Thomas Keller, so the food here is serious. They offer 4-course family-style dinner and the menu changes every day.

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Spring Vegetable Garbure...tfl garden fava beans, pardina lentils, baby carrots, snap peas, fingerling potatoes, pickled red cabbage. They used 3 kinds of stocks (chicken, beef, and I forgot what the 3rd kind was). This humble looking soup had the seriously sophisticated flavor. I was blown away.

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Roasted Veal Flat Iron Steak...warm garden leek & broccolini salad, oven-dried tomato vinaigrette, creamy anson mills grits with green garlic butter. This was the best meat dish I had in a long while! The meat was cooked sous-vide. Then, the chef brought it back to the pan, held the pan in angle and kept pouring the oil with a spoon as it's seared. Every bite had the layers of juicy flavor. Amazing. The grits with the butter was visciously rich and delicious, too!!

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The last two courses...The Cheese Board with poached golden raisins and spiced walnuts, and Rum Pompinettes with whipped vanilla cream, rum syrup, sicilian pistachio sauce.

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We had such a great time together. We stayed until well after its closing time and even got to hear some behind-the-scene stories of the restaurant and its people. One of their homemade beer was very nice, too.