Monday, February 29, 2016

Our Movie, "CRAFTED" Won TASTE Awards!

The movie, "Crafted", directed by Morgan Spurlock, featuring the Iga-yaki donabe producer family Nagatani-en has won the Best Documentary/ Short Film at this years The Taste Awards!! It was my honor to be part of the project; I coordinated the filming at Nagatani-en in Iga, Japan. You can now watch the film on Amazon Prime. (Photo by Kyle Connaughton)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Naoko's Donabe Article on FOOD52!

I wrote a  story about donabe smoker, “Ibushi Gin” and it is on a popular gourmet & recipe website, FOOD52, along with a donabe smoked duck recipe from my DONABE Cookbook! As soon as the article came out, Ibushi Gin got sold out (again!), but it’s expected to restocked in April. Please email us from toiro kitchen's website if you would like to be on a waiting list. Thank you!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

DONABE Tasting Dinner at Otium

I had another fantastic night at Otium in Downtown LA!
I had friends visiting LA from Japan, and it was their first time to come to LA, so I really wanted them to experience Otium.

Chef Tim created a special tasting course menu including multiple donabe dishes for us!

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Beautiful cured salmon dish, followed by chawanmushi, topped with uni, caviar, and ikura. I loved the nuance of vinegar in the sauce for chawanmushi. So unique and delicate.

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First donabe course was buri kama (collard of grown-up yellowtail), grilled, then smoked in donabe smoker, Ibushi Gin. The skin was perfectly crisp, and the meat was so delicate and juicy with a nice oily texture. With every bite, the aroma of smoke delighted my palate. Beautiful.

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The rice course was made with double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san". It was black cod with very light potato sauce and charred spring onion, dusted seaweed, etc.

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The rice was Mori-san's short grain rice from Uruguay. What a unique combination of flavors and it was so delicious. My friends are from Niigata, the premium rice growing region of Japan, so they are true rice snobs. And, they were raving about how the rice was cooked perfectly in Kamado-san by Chef!

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Here comes donabe steamer, "Mushi Nabe"! Chef Tim slowly steam-roasted a whole chicken for almost 2 hours in the donabe. There was generous amount of shaved black truffles stuffed under the thin skin. Under the chicken was a variety of California vegetables including colorful carrots, potatoes, savoy cabbage, etc. with the jus.

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The chicken was carved so skillfully tableside by Christian. The dish was outstanding. The chicken was so tender and packed with umami flavors. The aroma of the truffles were so elegant. Wow, I was really happy.

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Dessert was donabe s'more, made in donabe smoker, Ibushi Gin. So pretty.

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Because I just returned from Australia, I ordered 2011 de iuliis, Shiraz (Hunter Valey, NSW) for the main course. It was not a overpowering big red but rather elegant and worked wonderfully with the chicken.

My friends were really blown away by the whole dinner. I want to thank chef Tim and the team for the amazing night!

Happy donabe life.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Trip to Australia (Gold Coast - January 2016)...Final day adventure

Rainbow over the canyon in Springbrook National Park, World Heritage Site

It was the second Sunday since I came to Gold Coast and the final full day there.

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We drove to Springbrook National Park, which is about 45 minutes from Surfers Paradise. It's a World Heritage Site. This area maintains ancient rainforest and ecosystem. We were excited to hike there.

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After walking through long winding trail, there was a river in the bottom of the valley.

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Magnificent waterfall.

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After about 3-hour hike, we were starving. We walked a nearby cafe for lunch.

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We enjoyed very Australian treats of scones, toasties, and chicken wrap.

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We walked more after lunch, then also drove to different spots in the park.

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We returned to Surfers Paradise in early evening, so didn't have much time to rest until dinner. For dinner, we drove a short distance to Main Beach, which is right north of Surfers Paradise. It's a popular tapas bar/ restaurant called, Bar Chico, in the neighborhood. There was live music going on when we got there.

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The place was packed with locals. I loved the ambience.

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We enjoyed different small plates. It was a fun night but made me sentimental, because I was going to leave very early morning the next day. I won't see Jason for another couple of months until he returns to LA... I will miss him for a while.

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And, of course, I got a lot of Tim Tam to take back to LA.

Trip to Australia (Gold Coast - January 2016)...More burger

Aussie Grass-fed Wagyu 100%

I found there was going to be Gold Coast Food & Wine Expo in the convention center in Broadbeach for the weekend, so I went to check out on their first day on Friday.

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It wasn't exactly the kind of event I expected...I thought there would be more local artisan food vendors, but there were not very many. However, I was pretty happy to see many local wineries (many of them are not exported to the US) there, so I got to taste some.

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I left the event in less than 2 hours, then I was hungry. Back in Surfers Paradise, I decided to check out a very popular burger place called, Brooklyn Depot. I ordered Brooklyn classic burger and it was so good!

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Brooklyn Dept is located within a cool market place called The 4217 in Surfers Paradise. There were different artisan vendors (coffee roaster, deli, tea shop, bakery, etc.). I would love to try the bread from the bakery sometime.

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For dinner, I went back to 4217 with Jason and his colleagues! We had dinner at Salt Meats Cheese there. It's a gourmet Italian cafe restaurant/ shop. We ordered a bunch of dishes to share. Their pizzas from wood-fire oven were outstanding!