TokyoTerrace: The Japanese Fusion wine dinner event

Tokyo, a city known for its fireworks and seafood, came to White Bear Lake On August 4th. Food blogging extraordinaire, Rachael White, creator of the blog, Tokyo Terrace, combined with wine genius Kurt Hegland, owner of Ursula’s Wine bar and Café, to produce a Japanese fusion wine dinner, an event sparking taste buds of both timid and adventuresome guests.

Ursula’s Wine Bar, cozy enough for strangers to sit at tables face to face, was filled with curious foodies and Rachael admirers. Curiosity triumphed expertise as sparkling HouHou Shu sake  was served with delicate Lotus Root chips as small talk began.

“Your sake bubbles more than mine, are they different?”

“Are the lotus root chips really shaped like this, or are they cut into this design?”

Guests admired pictures–rows of ornate rice wine barrows, tightly shelved Buddha statues,  as they waited in line for samples dried squid and edamame, a Japanese soybean.

Seated at the table with me and my boyfriend, Ben Murray, was a married couple, Andrew and Jessica. Ben and I were visiting Ursula’s for the first time; Jessica and Andrew were regulars.

The four of us gawked and pulled out our Iphones and Cybershots to snap a shot of a full dried squid (see below). Of the four of us, Andrew was the only one who had been in Japan. He was fascinated by the tiny dried suction cups and pointy head of the squid. Instead of eating it, he gawked, naming it “insect of the sea.”

Brad White, Rachael’s husband is a tall and friendly man. He and Rachael moved to Tokyo two years ago, knowing very little about Japan. To  share their experience, Rachael began food blogging in while also substitute teaching as Brad taught full-time. Having admired the elegant prose and the glamorous photos of Tokyo Terrace, I recognized the bright-eyed cook as soon as she appeared in her chef’s uniform. Rachael’s smile never broke as she apologized for the daring choice of squid and reassured us that following courses would not be as “scary.”

Going on six years as a couple, Brad appeared enamored with his wife as she spoke, as though they were still newlyweds. Rachael directed our attention to the back of our menus where she’d included mini “blog-type explanations” of her food choices–perfect for curious foodies.

Then she hurried back to the kitchen, but not before her husband–the teacher—taught us  Bon appetite in Japanese: Itadakimasu.

The first course had the edamame doing double duty, this time it was a spread for a crostini. It was served with Meyer lemon and Shiso, a Japanese basil. A rice wine, much like the sake, but with a vodka base, was served alongside it: Yuki No Bosha Junmai Ginjo.

The second course was a staple in Rachael’s menu—Gyoza,  a Japanese pot sticker that Rachael filled with corn kernels  and scallop. It left everyone hungry for more! The gyoza sat in a creamy yogurt sauce, its parameter marked by four red dots of a very hot dipping sauce–Sriracha.

Ben and I laugh with Jessica and Andrew as  we swirl our HB picpoule Pinet and dare one another to try more  Sriracha.

The third course introduced the first red wine of the evening: Ramon Bilbao Crianza Rioja 2005. This wine was rich and crisp, drawing out the fresh, clean flavors of Rachael’s Asian slaw: raw cabbage with herbs found in many Vietnamese and Thai dishes.

Atop the slaw was a combination of meat and leek on a skewer. In Tokyo, this combination is a popular way to serve chicken, pork, or fish. However, on this special night, the leeks framed a juicy pork belly laced with a light sesame glaze.

The miso butter, served beside a milky-smooth salmon. Miso paste is a mesh of fermented soybeans. Miso butter is a delicious version of miso paste, and it enhanced not only the salmon but the snap peas beneath it and the quail egg topping the salmon.

This course was served with another red wine, DeuxAmis Zinfandel 2007, which was nearly as smooth as the salmon.

The Japanese fusion experience was wrapped up neatly with a dessert: peaches with whiskey sabayon. This was a light, sweet dish—it tasted like homeade whipped cream whiskey. The Pacific Rim Vin de Glaciere Riesling served with it was perfect for such a light dessert.

Ben and I felt that Rachael’s first TokyoTerrace event was a success. She told us that she had never cooked for 41 people, and wasn’t sure it would go over well–but it did. She left Minnesota, knowing nothing about Japan to bring to her table but she came back knowing just how to bring Japan to our tables. Her food remains an inspiration for both food bloggers and adventuresome foodies.

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Why workouts are better without the gym.

Don’t get me wrong—I love the gym. The gym is where I taught myself to work hard, to work consistently, and to pick up more techniques. It’s full of people who make me look fat or wimpy. It’s available in all types of weather and typically full of people who try new things and display the results by just being in the room.

Gym workouts are easily drawn out longer than outdoor workouts, at least for me. The personal televisions allow time to speed by as I ask myself questions: “How much weight did the blue team loose this week?” “Will he choose the cool girl or the annoying one?” and “Will Richard get the cop to like him?” Plus, as an English major, I’ve found that it is much easier to read while on the treadmill than it is on a walk along a lake path. From a spectator’s perspective, reading while walking a trail is as close as I am to running a marathon right now; some people see me and think I’m crazy, and other people admire my courage and ambition.

Some people are gym members for life. That’s great—if you can truly afford it. I tend to doubt gym goers, though. Many gym goers believe that they should invest where there heart is and therefore the money commitment will reflect the value ranking. However, there are many who workout outside the gym, more often than gym goers, and simply pay for tennis shoes a couple times a year (or, if they are like me, they budget in ITunes songs as well).

The reason I dropped the gym (besides the fact that I’m broke) is because I love to be independent. I would love to say that I got fit all by myself. I want to get out there to prove to myself– and not other gym members or insurance companies– that I could do it. I love gravel beneath my feet. I love fog. I love sunshine and clouds. I love cobble. I love the lake. I even love toads. Also, the occasional mouthful of gnats is sometimes better placed than some television commercials.

Although, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of heat advisories.

I have been trying to jog/walk 25 miles a week. Last week I made it to 21, but there was 8 miles of rollerblading in there. One of the days I jogged 5 miles in humid 85 degree weather. Yuck! It was the first time running this year that I was literally dripping with sweat. But I did see a couple friends drive past me, so that was a bonus. Yes, I know that was a contradiction since I just told you I don’t like the gym because I don’t need accountability/familiar faces.

I know that 5-6 weeks of practicing something makes a habit. But I have been running consistently for three and I am already getting cravings. This week I am at 11 miles. Today I ran with sore legs in 85 degree weather after dinner at 9pm. I am looking forward to the day where I can spring out of bed in the morning with energy, ready to burn in my legs. The day I can spring out of bed at 7a.m. and jog three 9.5 minute miles in a blizzard will be the day I completed my goal with running. By then, I should be in love with it. But if that day never comes, hopefully I’ll have found another fascinating exercise hobby that keeps my mind and body sane.

But I am willing to try many different workouts. After all…everything’s good in moderation.

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My recent commitment to cooking.

I don’t want to live out on takeout. Not only is it expensive ($5-14/meal instead of $2), but I like being home and knowing exactly how my food came together (once in a while, anyway). I have recently made a commitment to cooking twice a week (hopefully enough for leftovers).  

So far, I have been unsuccessful.

BUT, I have picked up some good techniques.

Do let me explain.

The first recipe I tried out I found on the back of a mayo jar. Now, finding recipes on cans and jars is a FABULOUS way to cook. Why? You don’t need to plan ahead. Simply show up at the grocery store, find a can with a nice simple/yummy recipe on the back, buy ingredients, and make! These recipes are typically user friendly with simple ingredients.

SO. I found a recipe on a mayo jar. Am I a huge fan of mayo? No.

But I thought this recipe looked great. Healthy even. Until I was making it and realized it was SMOTHERED in mayonnaise. My boyfriends gagged it down, telling me that his mother would never eat it. Hurrah.

But I kept the recipe. Why? Because it would be excellent with hummus substituting 2/3 of the mayo used. Now that’s fresh thinking (I get hummus from Kowalski’s).

But I will still keep a little bit of mayo in the mix. After all, everything’s good in moderation.

Now I’ve got you curious. O.k. Here\’s the recipe:

CHICKEN OR TURKEY GYRO (serves 4)

¾ Cup coarsely grated seedless cucumber, squeezed well (I diced an unsqueezed seedy cucumber. What? I’m a newb at cooking.)

¾ Cup Hellman’s Light Mayonnaise

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp. fresh grated lemon zest

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Salt and ground black pepper (to taste)

Fresh spinach leaves, rinsed and patted dry

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 lb rotisserie chicken, or turkey, or grilled chicken or turkey                

4 whole wheat pita breads, split

  1. Stir mayo, cucumbers, garlic, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a small bowl with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minute before serving.
  2. Spread a few tablespoons dressing inside each pita; add some spinach leaves, tomatoes and meet and drizzle with additional dressing.
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Welcome to my life.

So I am an American, but I am not rolling in the dough; I am tiptoeing in it. A few years ago I took up a career as a hairstylist, built up a substantial clientele over a year, then went back for my four year degree. I moved out into an apartment by myself at age 19, never thinking I would be back home again. Well, I’ve been home for 13 months now–no immediate foresight of moving out. When I went back to college, my time was limited as to when I could work. It became even more limited when I attended a college 80 miles away for my sophomore year. That’s quite the cutback in commission. I thought I planned for it, by taking another job by my school, but I never planned on living on crutches for the fall semester (rollerblading accident).  So I am back at home, with the same amount of bills and one more year of college to pay for; all of this on 1/3 of what I was making two years ago.

Summer is fast, my goals are lofty, and as for my motivation…it was stolen by shiny objects. I am realizing that I still have to start that beach body routine I planned three months ago, even though I’ve worn my bikini 72 hours already. This summer, with my business down, I set big goals: I wanted to read 20 books, paint two large canvases, journal, and travel, cook, run half a marathon. But life goes a little quicker than I anticipated.

Realization: any accomplishment first starts with marking time off to work. When self-employed, or freelancing, you must tell your friends and family you are working full time. Because when you complain about only working 16 hours a week, they find ways to fill your time. Meanwhile, you think you have all the time in the world to tackle your to-do list, then BAM. Summer is halfway over.

My budget is strict… in the loosest sense. It mostly goes to bills, set costs that I expect to pay: insurance, gas, restaurants, a ticket to Eclipse, etc. I am living like everyone else but making less, or maybe the same amount?

But I realized this week that I don’t want to live on take-out the rest of my life.

I don’t want to miss Minnesota seasons by keeping workouts indoors.

I don’t want my checks to be torn apart by automatic withdraws from bills without knowing what percentage I spend where.

I am not one to cook. One to eat? Yes. Cooking? No. I am not picky with my food—I just like it to be made out of ingredients that I can pronounce and recognize.  I prefer for the meat to be attained in a humane way, too. I want to eat well, eat variety, but I also don’t want to go broke.

I like protein powder over peanut butter because it’s more versatile, less fatty.

I like overlapping ingredients so that nothing goes to waste.

I want to have excitement and intention with food because, hey, we have to eat the rest of our lives. I can’t think about how many meals I have to cook the rest of my life, or how many workouts it takes to keep me fit. I have to take one day at a time, learning slowly. This blog is about trying new things along the way. Figured you’d like to read this chunk of my life that might apply to yours. Cause hey, everything’s good in moderation.

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