Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Back in Japan (July 2012)...Last soba and drinking wine with family

I ate a lot of cold noodles during this trip.

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Another tiny soba house in a residential area in Urawa.

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I had a very nice cold soba with "tororo" (grated mountain yam with raw quail egg dipping sauce) dish.  My sister liked her simple cold soba with nori (roasted seaweed) topping.  Mom's "Okame" udon was a cute presentation of okame (classic female character) face.

In this stay, we had a few dinners at home...and drank a lot of wines.

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Francoise Bedel, Champagne “Origin’Elle” ...78% Pinot Meunier, 13% Chardonnay, 9% Pinot Noir.  From average 40-year-old vines.  4 years sur-lie was followed by  5 years of bottle aging.  Dosage 11.65g/L.  It’s N.V., but it’s actually Millesime 2004.  Really mellow and elegant.  Aroma of honey, caramel, brioche, and spice.  Fine mousse and minerality.  Unlike most of Bedel’s wines, this wine wan’t fermented or aged in oak.  Gorgeous.

2009 Domaine Cachat Ocquidant, Ladoix…small family-owned domaine.  From average 50-60 year-old vines.  Cherry, earth, subtle spice.  Smooth tannin and nicely balanced.

2008 Littorai, Pinot Noir, Platt Vineyard (Sonoma Coast)…Natural wine.  Deep berry and spice aroma.  Dense texture.  Complex.  Very elegant.

2008 Tenuta Sella & Mosca, Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva…Shiny garnet color.  Aged for 2 years in oak.  Rich aroma of dark berry and black pepper.  Smooth tannin.  Nicely balanced.

2008 Littorai, Chardonnay, Charles Heinz Vineyard (Sonoma Coast)…Shiny light golden color.  Tropical fruit with spice and minerals.  Luscious texture and long finish.  Well-balanced oak fruit and oak.

2010 Domaine Maurice Gavignet Pere & Fils, Gevrey-Chambertin…Very charming village class Gevrey with 18 month of aging in oak.  Non-filtered.  Dark cherry, tea smoke, spice, medium tannins.

2010 Vigneau-Chevreau, Vouvray, Cuvee Silex…Small biodynamic producer.  Average 55-year-old vines.  Fermented for 2 months in 600L barrel.  Ged for 12 months in 600L barrel.  Very clean and crisp vouvray with lots of minerals, apple, honey, and herb nuance.  Balanced acid and fruit.

2007 La Cave de Gigondas, Gigondas, Le Brut du Foudre 56…Grenache 75%, Syrah 15%, Mourvedre & Cinsault 10%.  Traditional style Gigondas, aged for 15 month in foudre, unfiltered.  Round and dense tannins, aromatic spice and berries.  Long finish.  Nice.

Pretty nice selection for hot summer.

As always, time flew really fast and it was already time to go back to LA.  This time, instead of flying out of Narita, I decided to try a late-night flight from Haneda Airport.  My family came to the airport with me to see me off.  Because it was already after 10pm, most restaurants were closed except some izakaya-style places.  So, we had a quick meal at an "Oden" (type of stew) restaurant...I had egg, wakame, yuba (tofu skin)-wrapped mizuna, konnyaku, and sardine tsumire (dumplings).  Very good.

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My flight departed past midnight, so I just took a small bite amuse with Champagne Jacquart, Brut Mosaique - 50% Ch, 35%PN, and 15%PM), followed by 2008 Flie a Deux, Russian Valley Chardonnay, and 2008 Dios Ares, Rioja Crianza.  Dios Ares was quite deep and nice...which let me fall asleep nicely.  After I woke up, I had just a salad (yuzu vinaigrette) and cheese plate...I didn't want to eat too much because I knew Jason wanted to go somewhere after he was picking me up at LAX:-)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Back in Japan (July 2012)...Trip to Hakone Day 3

I woke up early in the morning, because I was already hungry.

My appetite feels like getting bigger and bigger as I become older.

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For breakfast, we got the table in the wine room.  Walls of all the sides are filled with wine bottles in this room and it was such a nice feeling to be physically surrounded by nice wines in the morning.  I only wanted to drink them all.  I had another shiny & colorful vegetable dishes again.  Very nice.

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We took another onset bath after breakfast, and checked out the hotel in the afternoon.  On our way back, we stopped by at a famous kamaboko (traditional fish cake) company, Suzuhiro, in Odawara.  They have a big kamaboko museum there and also a shop.  Their shop is really big and sell all different kinds of fish cakes as well as himono (semi-dried fish), marinated fish, and many different things.

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I enjoyed Hakone Beer on the tap with premium kamaboko sampler at their Kamaboko Bar.  We picked up many fish cakes to take home.
From Odawara, we made a detour and made another stop near Shonan city.  We wanted to visit grandma (my mom's mother) at a senior home there.  She turned 97 this year!  We gave a surprise visit and grandma was really happy to see us.  I was so glad she was doing well, even though she was much weaker than before.

After a couple of hours at the senior home, we hit the traffic all the way back home.  So, we had to squash our plan to do a fish cake and himono dinner party at home.  It was already getting late, so we stopped by at a family restaurant to take a quick supper break on the way.  I actually enjoyed my wa-fu hamburg ("Japanese-style hamburger patty with grated daikon, shiso and soy-based sauce).

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Next day, we got to try some of the fish cakes for dinner, with the shiny rice made with the double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san".  Donabe rice was perfect with the fish dinner.

Happy donabe life.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Back in Japan (July 2012)...Trip to Hakone Day 2

We slept like babies and woke up hungry...even though we had such a big sushi dinner the previous night.

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I was so looking forward to the breakfast, because their breakfast buffet has a lot of local vegetables in the menu.  Their bread and pastries are really nice, too.  My sister had a Japanese breakfast set.

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During the day, we had many activities.  after paying a visit to Hakone Shrine, we did a swam pedal  boat.  It was a good exercise for me, because I kept pedaling non-stop for 30 minutes!  We also visited Hakone "Sekisho" checkpoint, which is a historic site from Edo Period.

After coming back to the hotel, we had nice relaxation both in the room, onset, and lounge...many more glasses of Champagne.

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Dinner was a Western-style tonight.  Wataru's cheeseburger was one of the best I'd ever tasted.  And, wow...Kujo Negi Genovese pasta was a very nice and inspiring dish.  The sauce is made Genovese (pesto) style by blending kujo negi (regional leek/ green onion from Kyoto), pine nuts, olive oil, etc.  My Gotenba Jidori Chicken was excellent, too.  Fantastic night.