Sumo Orange = Tangerine + Navel Orange, 30 years in the making

When these oranges showed up at Whole Foods, they looked so interesting that I had to give them a shot, and wow, you can really experience the tangerine and navel orange pedigree when you eat them. The segments are large, juicy and tasty. Nice. The texture of the peel may look weird, but the bumpy feel works for me.

Finding out and trying out this new citrus fruit reminded me of the Fresh Air discussion of fruit breeding with Russ Parsons, but in the case of the Sumo, I really can’t tell what compromises have been made, if any.

Perfect! Well, almost… Ramen at Yume Wo Katare

Can't believe I finished it all...
If you don’t know what was in the bowl shown above 20 minutes before I took this picture, you can find out by visiting Yume Wo Katare or by checking out their Yelp! review photos. I can’t believe I packed just about everything that was in there into my stomach. That earned me a “Perfect!” from that ramen shop’s staff and fellow customers. Admittedly, this cheer of affirmation did feel good, but it’s not a feeling I’m inclined to seek out again since it came with some discomfort…

I love the idea the staff of Yume Wo Katare regularly declare while you dine there: harness the same gusto it takes to devour a monster bowl of ramen to accomplish your dreams. And I love the culture too; it’s a cozy, friendly place where you’re encouraged to announce to your fellow customers who you are and what your dream is after you’ve eaten what you can of the massive serving of broth, noodles and pork. You’re also given hearty encouragement on what you’ve shared (often applause) and on your ramen-scarfing abilities—if you can’t make it to the bottom of the bowl, you’ll be awarded with “Good Job!” or “Next Time!” depending on how far you got.

But while the noodles are wide and chewy, the broth is really oily and a little too salty for my taste. The bits of fat in the soup, though tasty, also make the soup less appealing to quaff, let alone drink in its entirety. At first, the bowl of ramen set before me looked manageable, but once I made my way through 70% of the noodles and 20% of the broth, I found myself fighting the feeling of extreme fullness to continue on the rest of the way.

I really wanted to hear the guys say “Perfect!” and not waste food, so I struggled to and did finish my order of ぶたラーメン, but next time I have a hankering for ramen, I’ll likely settle for “Good Job!” or go to Sapporo Ramen down the street instead.

Here’s recent NPR’s story on Yume Wo Katare which gives an auditory glimpse into the atmosphere of this unique ramen spot.

Summer 2014 in Retrospect: figs

Almost every time I’d see them on sale, I’d buy figs. They’ve been such a delicious treat with cheese, ice cream, scones or mac & cheese.

Figs being washed

A couple months ago, I learned that what we think of as the fig fruit contains lots of little flowers (that stuff inside that has a sort of grainy texture)—weird to think that I’ve been eating a bunch of tiny flowers all summer long…

Then again, I also enjoy capers.

Summer 2014 in Retrospect: cold brew coffee

A few more hours and this will be ready to be poured out and refrigerated.

A few more hours and this will be ready to be poured out and refrigerated.

How do you enjoy coffee in 90 or even 100-degree weather comfortably? One way is to drink cold brew coffee, which is what I’ve been doing for much of the summer. Sure, you could buy the stuff from a cafe or even a grocery store, but it’s simple to make, and it’s fun to see what your favorite beans taste like with a different flavor extraction process. The way I’ve been preparing this refreshing coffee drink is by

  1. putting ground coffee in a French press with filtered tap water, and
  2. letting it “brew” at room temperature for about twelve hours, then
  3. pouring the resulting coffee in a container to be stored in the refrigerator.

From there, it’s just a matter of pouring the cold brew into a chilled glass or over ice to enjoy on hot afternoon or warm evening…

Keeping It Fresh: the real value of Blue Apron

my first blue apron boxIt still blows my mind that Blue Apron figured out to how send out fresh ingredients for delicious, low-fuss recipes for just $9.99 per meal per person (I roll with the weekly box containing three meals for two at $59.94 per box).

But the real boon to me (as an occasionally lapsing health-conscious quasi-foodie) isn’t the convenience, it’s the variety Blue Apron regularly provides—ingredients I’ve never heard of and ways to prepare ingredients I almost always have on hand. And that’s why I’ll be a Blue Apron chef for a while—Blue Apron is a fantastic resource for culinary neophiles, in resonance with our omnivoracious heritage, nicely described in Go Wild as follows…

Because we are omnivores and because we range over the entire planet, it is in our interests to exploit as many food sources as possible. This means that an important characteristic of omnivores is bred to the bone in humans: we are neophiliacs. We have to be. We have an innate love of novelty, of variety, a need to sample new things.

 Aug. 15th Addendum: Here are the Blue Apron recipes I’ll be cooking this apron meals, aug 15 2014

Good As New: Re-sharpened Kyocera Knife

kyocera knife before and after sharpeningRecently, I packed up the worn Kyocera ceramic knife I’ve been using and shipped it to Kyocera’s re-sharpening facility. A week and a half and $10 later (this re-sharpening fee includes return shipping), the chip in it is gone, and it swiftly and smoothly slices through fruits and vegetables just like it did when it was new. Awesome.

I love preparing ingredients for meals with this knife. It cuts well, and its light weight and nicely molded handle make it comfortable to use, so long as I’m careful about my knife skills.

My Faves in Portland, OR

The Hoyt Arboretum: an extensive network of trails through an impressive collection of tree specimens; the redwoods are spectacular (take a moment to feel the bark of giant sequoia).

The Portland Japanese Garden: a soothing, meticulously designed and maintained set of horticultural mini-landscapes.

Blue Star Donuts: delicious donuts served up in a crisply minimalist space of glass, metal and wood; it’s like the Apple Store of donut shops.

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Chef Naoko Bento Cafe: palate-exhilarating Japanese cuisine prepared with organic ingredients.  Continue reading

Catbug at Clover KND

Ah, another intersection of Internet culture and everyday life. It was delightful to see this drawing at Clover KND, which has become one of my favorite Kendall Square hangout spots since it opened in recent months—hip minimalist atmosphere with satisfying food, great coffee and delicious sodas.

Catbug drawing at Clover KND

Clover KND

Sandwiches, Soup and Satomi Kobayashi: パンとスープとネコ日和

Just slightly more eventful than Kana Matsumoto’s earlier work Mother Water and with more of a plot trajectory, brightness and slightly faster pacing than her last feature film Tokyo Oasis, パンとスープとネコ日和 (Bread and Soup and Cat Weather) is an immersive, relaxing, short Japanese drama series that’s quietly beautiful and delightful. With characters drawn from the casts of めがねプールかもめ食堂 (Glasses, Pool, Seagull Diner)、Mother Water and Tokyo Oasis (like Ryo Kase), along with settings and relationships similar to those films, there’s a familiar, airy atmospheric quality to this 4-episode j-drama.

episode 4 title scene

I love how the series brings you into the kinds of cozy places you’ll find in Japan—cafés with simple yet stylistic decor and good, unique food, little side streets of shops and restaurants. It’s also great how there’s time for relationships to be revealed and developed in ways that couldn’t in the movies mentioned above. And the sandwiches and soups look delicious, reminding me of some of the menu items at the Hi-Rise Bread Company in Cambridge, MA and at Soup Stock Tokyo.

If you’re interested in watching the series, the DVD set will be released in just a couple days on January 15th and can be purchased via CD Japan or Amazon Japan.

There are only a few clips from this series on YouTube. Here’s a fun one from the ending of the series (no spoilers) featuring all the characters めがね メルシー体操-style. This part is much quirkier than the rest of the film which is highly quotidian and may border on understated for some viewers—I prefer to think of the film’s ambiance as unhurried, leisurely and thoughtful.

Sandwiches at Bon Me!

Chicken sandwich from Bon MeJust don’t think of them as banh mi—think of them as banh mi inspired, a sandwich with Vietnamese roots that’s a fresh fast food wonder in its own utterly delectable way. It doesn’t matter that they aren’t authentic—they’re amazing. Every one of them I’ve had has been absolutely satisfying with crispy bread, crunchy daikon and carrots, fresh cilantro and of course savory fillings of flavorfully seasoned meat or tofu. And don’t call it fusion either; as far as I can tell, the sandwich is not fused with anything except insanely good flavor and mouthfeel.

Whenever I’m near Harvard Yard or in Kendall Square, I have to get one of these from the Bon Me truck or restaurant. Prepared fresh in mere minutes, these sandwiches always delight me at first bite and thoroughly satiate me with the last. The one I was holding in this picture—the Szechuan peppercorn chicken sandwich—it was so good that although I only meant to take a bite, then be on my way, I could not stop myself from devouring it in minutes while standing in the middle of the Harvard campus as snow fell, not noticing how cold my hands were until I had consumed 3/4ths of the awesomeness.

If you want something true(r) to the original, there are plenty of places around Boston where you can get one (Pho Viet’s is my fave), but if you’re looking for a tasty, well textured sandwich/meal/substantial snack, give the Bon Me sandwich a try.

Bon Me truck in Harvard Yard