Listing posts

Farewell to Masalisa

jason

I went to a farewell party for Masalisa, the little tea shop in Ballard that I’ve been going to occasionally for maybe a year and a half. They will turn over the tea shop to another couple in a few days and then focus full-time on the new business, which, of course, I’m participating in as their sales broker. Actually I came straight from an abbreviated matcha latte demo at Uwajimaya to Ballard.

I always liked that space and I hope the new owners retain some of the character.

At the party I ran into a former MSN colleague and his wife, who runs Pare*Umbrella, a company that imports contemporary Japanese-designed umbrellas. I also met an employee of a sake distributor who knows some of the other importers I do, which just goes to show the circle of Asian importers makes up a very small world.

Masa and Lisa’s son charmed the crowd by performing renditions of Queen songs on a children’s amp and guitar setup, and a 5–piece ensemble of attendees played Okinawan shamisen and sang folk songs. It was the last chance to eat Masa’s Matcha Roll Cake, though I think he changed it a bit on this last occasion. A few people brought snacks, and I felt like a slacker because I didn’t bring anything except some dragon beard candy samples… I would usually cook something for an occasion such as this.

Today the heat of the last few days finally subsided… on Friday I was stuck in a car most of the day in 90 degree (Fahrenheit) weather, and Saturday I served a tremendous amount of iced matcha latte samples (soy and regular) at Uwajimaya. Today I only made it hot… It cooled quite considerably.

A little work, a little distraction

jason

The day started off with a blast of heat and never quite cooled down.

I hit most of my planned tasks today, most of which were mundane: phone calls, a quick check on a customer of mine who had been out sick for a few days, packing internet orders, and making an Eastside delivery and a couple of follow-ups, and by the end of the day I handled a couple of less pressing things.

After everything I met up with Jennifer at Lake Union and went kayaking from Portage Bay to Gasworks park, then made a stop at Agua Verde for a margarita and something to nibble on. Service staff was a little distracted but the food was about the same level of quality that I remember from the last visit, a notch above standard Seattle-area Mexican restaurant fare but not dreamy. Oddly enough, both Jennifer and I had independently found ourselves eating tacos for lunch, so there was an element of redux to the whole event, but there’s not much that compares to paddling up some place for dinner.

It’s still a little too hot, even after 11 pm. I hope I can get some decent sleep tonight.

More blues, possibility of improvement

jason

I’m not feeling much better today, but I met a couple of customers for two different purposes today… one a dragon beard candy customer and the other is a customer for Japanese ceramics. I was a little behind schedule on everything I did today and I didn’t do any other sales calls.

I was hoping my mood would be improved by jogging around Greenlake in good weather. I haven’t slept enough recently and over the last few nights for various personal reasons I was sleeping even less. But it wasn’t a particularly successful distraction… My mind kept on dwelling on my little frustrations and I left the lake as moody as I started.

Anyway, I still have a bit of a unpleasant disposition but maybe I’ll be ok tomorrow. I guess on Friday I’ll go to Portland for a little while and tomorrow I must take care of some Eastside errands.

I need to get some better sleep tonight.

Tall Grass Baguette

jason

Most of today I was feeling a little blue and didn’t get much done today except filling an internet order and making a couple of phone calls.

As customary with a small number of internet orders, I drop off packages at a location in Ballard, so I had forgotten that Tall Grass Bakery in Ballard doesn’t open the retail part of its shop on Mondays, so I went there when they were busy baking breads for wholesale orders. They keep the front door open because it would probably otherwise be too hot, but the shelves were bare. Someone outside the shop confided that he had learned a new batch of bread would be ready in a few minutes, so I waited and took the first available loaves, which happened to be fat baguettes.

I stopped at Ballard Market and picked up butter, cheese, and greens, and took advantage of the bounty to make a hurried sandwich from a fresh-from-the-oven still warm-to-the-touch baguette. I’m not sure I’m feeling a whole lot better, but this sure didn’t hurt.

Baguette from Tall Grass Bakery

Matcha-Kinako waffles, soba waffles, soba okonomiyaki

jason

I was too much a slacker to photograph either endeavor, but yesterday morning I made some buckwheat waffles, and at night I realized that I still had a bit of batter left. I thinned the batter a bit and added some chopped pickled takana and leeks, a tiny bit more salt, and produced something along the lines of pajeon or okonomiyaki, dressable with Japanese mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce. The buckwheat or soba flour added a nice nuttiness.

This morning, however, I was resourceful enough to get my camera ready. I made a matcha-kinako waffle batter (powdered green tea and toasted soybean powder waffle batter) dressed up with a little bit of matcha whipped cream and kuromitsu (black sugar honey syrup). I’m a little bit low on kuromitsu, so I substituted a bit of buckwheat honey when I ran out of kuromitsu, but the effect was similar.

The green tea of course is more visible in the cross section. By the time I got this far, I was too hungry to photograph it.

Waffle1-320w

Matcha-Kinako Waffles

1 tsp. Matcha for Cooking
1 tbsp. Sugar
2 tbsp. (20g) kinako (toasted soybean flour)
1/2 cup flour
1 level tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. butter, melted
1 egg
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. milk

Sift dry ingredients into bowl, whisk egg, melted butter, and milk in separate bowl. Mix wet and dry ingredients briefly with a fork until mostly consistent. Bake in a waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions. In my small waffle iron, this makes a bit more than 2-7” diameter thin waffles. The recipe can readily be doubled or otherwise multipled..

You can substitute about 4 teaspoons “Matcha latte mix” for the sugar and matcha. I used about 1 teaspoon matcha latte mix for 3 tbsp. of cream to make the whipped cream topping. Dust with powdered sugar and straight matcha.

A week of new accounts

jason

I don’t think I’ve been so optimistic in a long time.

With only a few days of active sales efforts, I’ve had pretty good luck getting new accounts this week. Central Market in Shoreline took delivery of the Matcha Latte today and the Mill Creek location will start carrying it soon as well. A gift shop in Redmond called Wagamama (selfishness?) started selling it as well.

Cafe Zoe in U-District and Aruba in Fremont started serving the Matcha Latte as well.

I faced another set of irritations with a shipping vendor for the new shipment of dragon beard candy. It was frustrating, but it worked out more quickly than the last time we used them. I think I’m likely to dump that vendor because they don’t file papers with the right people when needed and it causes no end of headaches. Fortunately my customs broker has been on top of things and fixes them quickly whenever possible.

I’m not getting enough sleep this week, alas.

If I can keep this momentum...

jason

Today I got two new wholesale accounts for the green tea latte and filled one re-order for Uwajimaya Bellevue, and took care of a couple of decent weekend internet orders. Small victories, all, but if every day of the month was like this I’d be in respectable financial shape. I’m spending the whole week being a salesman whenever I’m not filling or delivering orders.

Overall this was a pretty productive day. I am having fun, feeling motivated, and relatively at ease.

On the other hand, when I sell the green tea latte at coffee shops I feel obligated to order something so that I’m not just another annoying salesman. At the end of the day on Friday I was full of caffeine.

Cheese, green tea, connections

jason

I went to the Pike Place Market cheese event today and tried to jockey for position to taste samples from various unfamiliar dairies, and a couple of familiar ones.

A woman with very good pitching skills from Ritrovo introduced a truffle salt, which I thought was quite nice; hydrated in some olive oil, the taste was at least as nice as a decent truffle-infused olive oil. They sampled the salt dressing some cheese curds and olive oil. I was sold… tonight’s dinner included some blanched broccoli with olive oil and this very salt. Very simple, very earthy.

I also acquired some fennel-studded soft aged chevre cheese from Rollingstone Chevre in Parma, Idaho, and some “Camellia” fleur de Chevre from Redwood Hill Farm of Sonoma County, California. I had a bit of buffalo mozzarella acquired recently at PFI, so that was the mild end of the spectrum. Accompanied with a very nice fig jam and some quince paste. We had a bit of a Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot, which was moderately complex and nice, a gift from Kaori’s boyfriend.

I think my only regret was not picking up a supply of the Rollingstone brandy-aged chevre or any blues, but I don’t want to go completely broke.

I chatted a bit with Ilyse of Ritrovo and exchanged cards. She spent a few years in Japan and said some of her customers have been requesting yuzu, so perhaps there’s some potential mutual assistance in the future. 

Cheeseplate-320w

I did have a demo scheduled today, but I didn’t get started until almost 2pm. I needed a bit of lunch so I stopped for a quick bite on the way. I was kind of feeling frustrated by the idea of encountering more slow traffic at the Bellevue Uwajimaya store, so I didn’t really feel like rushing over. But actually Bellevue Uwajimaya was busier than the most recent Sunday demos I’ve done there, perhaps due to dreary drizzly weather. Sales weren’t bad at all; the matcha latte in particular moved fairly fast. Beaverton yesterday, by contrast, was incredibly quiet, due perhaps to relatively pleasant weather and a new nearby supermarket’s grand opening.

Friday afternoon I did a little afternoon demo at Seattle Uwajimaya, where the traffic was fairly light as well. Apparently I ended up at the least busy stores on Friday and Saturday, alas… It’s hard to predict.

My new shipment of dragon beard candy probably departed on Sunday but the shipper probably messed up FDA prior notice, so I guess it will be delayed as it was last time.

Godoufu memories

jason

On eGullet, someone asked about what to eat in Fukuoka, but most of what I could think of was not particularly special to the city, alas. But it triggered a memory of godoufu (ごどうふ, more likely to be rendered in English as godofu), of which I’m a huge fan.

When I visited Arita on an outing in March 2000, I tried this mochi-like soymilk-based “tofu” in a little restaurant on my way to go ceramics hunting. Served three ways in the picture below: in the center is godoufu with ginger, soy sauce, and possibly some daikon oroshi. On the upper right is a bowl with godoufu, some sea vegetables, and dengaku-miso type topping but still served cold. This might have had some ginger or some ground sesame seeds in it… My memory has subsequently faded. The suimono in the bottom right has a smaller cubes of godoufu, some tamago-yaki, and some fu. The rest is standard teishoku fare; tsukemono on the upper left, chawanmushi below that,  rice, and some mostly vegetable tempura. (Ah, and shiso… mmm).

Godoufu has a nice chewy texture and could easily find its way into both sweet and savory dishes. I think you could serve it with some kuromitsu and kinako to get something approximating soy milk warabi-mochi (豆乳のわらびもち). You could have it replace siratama or mochi in an oshiroko/zenzai (sweet red bean “soup”). It might even be an alternative to the jellies often found at the bottom of cream anmitsu or mitsumame… As is usually best with Japanese foods, simple preparations are likely to be the most impressive.

If you ask the average Japanese person about godoufu, they’ve probably never heard of it. It’s fairly specific to Saga prefecture, though like most regional specialties, through the magic of mail order and perhaps the mura-kara-machi-kara-kan type places, you may have a chance to get this in other parts of Japan. It is completely nonexistent, to my knowledge, in the US.

I have attempted to describe the process to make godoufu. I’ve probably made it about four times successfully, with usually very nice results, save one time when I scorched the bottom of my pan.

I think I have a weekend project ahead of me sometime soon.

Matcha-Matsu-White-Choko Cookies

jason

Continuing my Matcha theme, I made these cookies with cooking matcha, white chocolate and pine nuts.

Matcha Pine Nut White Chocolate cookie

Jason's Matcha-Matsu-White Choko Cookies

½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter
¼ tsp salt
½ cup unprocessed cane sugar (blond) (roughly 80g)
1 egg
½ tsp. pure vanilla essence (some may want to reduce this to avoid competition with green tea flavor)
1 tsp. Matcha for Cooking by Three Tree Tea
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup flour (roughly 150 g)
3.5 oz. (100g) white chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp. raw pine nuts (matsu-no-mi in Japanese)

Cream butter with salt and sugar. Add matcha, egg and vanilla and mix until consistent. Stir in baking powder and flour. Stir in pine nuts and white chocolate.

Drop in 1 tbsp. portions on a baking sheet with room for 3" diameters. Bake at 375F (190C) 12-15 minutes until edges are lightly browned. Rest before removing from sheet. Yields 16-20 cookies.

Because of the potential for oxidation of the matcha I don't recommend storing a supply of the dough, but you may consider freezing in an airtight container. I have made similar cookies without the white chocolate before, but with a touch more sugar.

If it’s more convenient, you can use Three Tree Tea’s Matcha Latte mix instead of the cooking matcha. Use 4 teaspoons of the matcha latte mix and only use 3 level tablespoons sugar. In the pictured version, I used Grade A or “gold” Three Tree Tea cooking matcha, but with something crispy and low-moisture like a cookie, you should get good results from the Grade B.

First attempt at Matcha Mousse

jason

I’m not completely happy with the results, but this is my first attempt at Matcha Mousse since about 1996. The texture is light, but the white chocolate I used turned out to be a bit sweet.

Matcha-mousse-320w

I started with about 300g of white chocolate (2/3 lb), a couple of eggs, Grade A Cooking Matcha by Three Tree Tea, and a tablespoon of sugar, a tablespoon of gin, and a hint of vanilla. I whisked the yolks, gin and a tablespoon of water together, melted the chocolate in a makeshift double boiler, and started whisking the cream with the matcha (1 level tablespooon), for what turns out to be roughly 12–15 fl oz. of mousse. I added a tablespoon of sugar to egg whites and beat them to stiff peaks. The rest was standard mousse fare; fold in the egg yolks to the chocolate, allow to cool to something close to room temp. Fold in the cream carefully. Fold in the egg white meringue carefully. I might have collapsed a little too much of the mousse or it might not have been cold enough; every cup that I put it into settled quickly into a flat top. I was hoping to get some elevation out of this mousse, but this might be hard to pull off without resorting to gelatin.

This is garnished with a bit of sweetened whipped cream near serving time, and dusted with some sweetened matcha. It could be done with more cooking matcha.

The white chocolate was a bit too sweet for my taste. The result is a completely edible dessert, but I think I need to be pickier about the level of sugar in the white chocolate source. I also think I could get away with less matcha, but with the level of sugar was too high. Needs to be served in roughly 3 fl. oz. portions or the sugar becomes overwhelming; the pictured serving is about 4 fl. oz. It would be best with some bitter accompaniment like some additional tea.

I don’t think it was the source of the problem, but the small amount sugar added to stabilize the egg white foam might have contributed to pushing the sugar level a little beyond the desirable amount. I will attempt to repeat this with a better quality white chocolate and maybe skip the sugar when beating the egg whites.

Recovering from Mother's day

jason

The weekday demos last week weren’t terribly productive, in spite of an imminently approaching holiday, but I managed to sell a modest amount. However, it did seem that some people started picking up products on Saturday and Sunday, both with and without demos.

I’ve been sampling almost constantly recently, just because there’s no other way to get rid of inventory… Sampling will at least increase awareness, even if it doesn’t produce immediate results.

After May 16 or so, I’ll need to revert to a sales rather than promotion focus. Since I have a new product, I’ll be emphasizing them more than the candy, but I’ll try my best to get placement for everything.

The Matcha Latte mix from Three Tree Tea has been well-received. I’m quite happy with the customer reception so far, and sales are about what I expected. Pulling off simultaneous demos is a bit tricky, but I’m starting to get a bit of a rhythm.

The most difficult thing so far is anticipating customer traffic. The dragon beard candy needs to be brought out of my cooler just as customers approach, and that’s tricky. If I let the dragon beard candy stand at room temperature too long, the “icy” aspect of the icy-crispy texture disappears, and the experience isn’t quite as impressive.

Similarly, the green tea latte has a short lifespan, especially in small paper demo cups. As the temperature cools, the matcha oxidizes, and after 5 minutes or so, the taste can become a bit vegetal. Reheating will actually make this more pronounced. I never noticed this when I was serving the matcha latte at home, even if it was consumed over about 10 minutes. But in larger cups—especially preheated ones—the cooling process doesn’t happen as fast, I think, and perhaps proportionally less surface area is exposed to air.

So I’ve found I have to make no more than 4 fl. oz. at a time, which produces 6–8 demo servings (about 1 fl. oz. each after the milk foams up). If traffic is more slow, I make as little as 2 fl. oz. at a time. If any samples are left after 5 minutes, I now offer it to store staff or discard it. The same would be true with a coffee sample; coffee loses its best characteristics when it’s been sitting around for 5 or 10 minutes. The problem, of course, is that if I run out of samples and a customer doesn’t see the green tea, they often walk on by, and an opportunity is missed. I don’t know whether it’s better to overproduce and waste perfectly good tea, and always serve everyone instantly, or lose the occasional impatient customer. Sometimes a customer can be pulled in with the candy and held for the tea, and vice versa, though.

I found this to be less problematic with the iced version. There must be some difference in the oxidation, or maybe less shock from temperature changes.

At the end of the weekend, with inadequate sleep and some long days driving, sampling, and beyond, I felt completely exhausted. And I still didn’t sleep when I should have.

Lamps and Yakimono

jason

I kept promising myself to photograph more ceramics for YuzuMura, but I’ve only been making small dents in the work… there’s just too much to keep up with. But I really need to do it, because there are still a hundred or so pieces in my inventory. So I’m slowly catching up...

Yakimono 001-240wYakimono 111-240wYakimono 061-240wYakimono 071-240wYakimono 093-240w

Most of these are Senda’s work, but I got a few Akutsu and Minowa pieces also.

And I succeeded in taking photos of a dozen or so lamps, most of which will be on YuzuMura by tomorrow or so. These are all made in Thailand from sustainable or recycled woods.

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Tonight’s dinner was a simple, potentially very bland soup made of a puree of mirepoix, some cannelini beans, and some broccoli. At the last minute, I added a splash of sesame oil and I snuck a little bit of chili oil from an olive-oil marinated piquin chili batch I made about a month or two ago, and it worked wonders.

One of those good day/braindead day kind of days

jason

I was filling a number of orders today with moderate efficiency… and then, of course, it came time to take care of one other errand that required my digital camera and an extra light source… I was planning to shoot pictures of some other products I’ll be featuring on YuzuMura.com shortly, and wanted to do it while the vendor’s shop was still open.

It was probably a good idea to combine this errand with the errand of dropping off the packages for FedEx.

However, my brain was not entirely functional when planning to step out. I remembered the extra light and my camera. I didn’t remember to bring any extra batteries. By the time I noticed the low battery indicator, I also noticed a missing compact flash card, which was still in my laptop.

This was, of course, after I started cleaning some space and styling one of the objects to shoot. I apologized for the distraction and I think I’ll be back tomorrow…

A series of small repairs

jason

My nifty MPX-220 cell phone took a unusually painful journey to be repaired after a problem with the power conversion. Friday it came back, though I was told it was supposed to ship out last Friday via FedEx 2–day.

I really, really appreciate ActivSync. My previous cell phone, a Sony Ericsson T616, could arguably be syncronized with my Outlook address book, but it was usually painfully slow and most often resulted in a huge number of duplicate records being created. ActivSync is much speedier and has only rarely produced an odd duplicate.

More importantly, in this case, it meant my replacement phone could be put into service almost instantly. Within a few seconds of plugging my phone into my PC, it had all my contacts except for the two or three I failed to syncronize before the AC power failed.

I can’t say I’m any more thrilled with Motorola’s customer service than I was when I sent the phone off for repairs, but at least the work is done. And my backup phone had a cracked screen, which meant that for about 2 or 3 weeks I couldn’t tell who was calling me, and I couldn’t dial anyone unless I remembered their phone number. I’m glad that’s over.