Tag Archives: drinking

Taster’s Choice

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Take Five

Upwards of forty downtown Tajimi establishments are teaming up for this first annual upcoming event, similar to a barhopping “machi-kon,” called “Yume Machi.” Over the course of two days, for the ¥3500 price of one ticket (¥4000 the starting day of the event), you can eat, drink, shop or otherwise partake of services at any five participating shops, restaurants, cafes or bars at no extra cost. You get a map of all the stops and a special hand fan to encourage walking from place to place and identify you as a participant.

It’s a good value, a way to try out some places you thought were out of your price range, and maybe even a chance to make some new friends. Event menus for each spot are here. Tickets are available at participating stores and through the website.

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The event flyer and website are also touting a smartphone app that seems to feature coupons and information on area events and businesses. It seems to be a web app and is called “Tono App.”

Huddle Under the Umbrella

After a long time of saying I should go, I finally got to this place – one they say every foreigner in Tajimi should visit at least once.

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Yaburegasa, meaning torn umbrella, is a cozy izakaya nestled among the alleys across from Tajimi Station, serving Japanese home-cooking type dishes, and beer and spirits. Look for the, yep, traditional folding parasol outside the shop, and head down the little hallway for a typical Japanese after-work drinking and dining experience.

The dugout seating in a U-shape around the counter (which in turn surrounds a floor-to-ceiling central cooking/cupboard island, which itself has a walkway through the center, seen above) is nearly directly against the outer walls, meaning getting in and out and passing behind other customers can be an intimate (or knee-spraining) affair. It’s that kind of place. I was thankful to be treated as just another customer, with no fuss, even though I was a foreigner going for the first time. Now that that hurdle is crossed, I can go without care.

I especially liked the kaku-ni (cube-cut pork), boiled turnips and mojiri (chicken rump on a skewer). I have a feeling what’s cooking depends on when you go.

Somewhere Under the Rainbow

A scene from the live jazz beer garden this year at the Sakazuki Art Museum in Ichinokura, framed by umbrellas hanging on tent poles. From left to right in the distance, that’s a sax, stand-up bass, keyboards and guitar. Clear enough to me, but then again I was there. Never forget the end user, yeah?

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Intermittent rain couldn’t dampen spirits, as cups of beer and sake were raised and good cheer grew by candlelight in this annual garden of rhythm and cool, just minutes south of daily care and strife, right off route routine.

Summer Snacktime

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Summer is in full gear, and besides eel and cold noodles to fortify yourself, there’s always kakigouri, shaved ice, among traditional Japanese ways to eat the heat. Here, green tea and strawberry milk mountains of ice, simple yet straight to the jugular, are attacked from the peak down at Lamp Cafe. It was agreed about half this size is really enough.

In other summer refreshment news, pomelo is now available for a limited time as a shochu flavoring. Try this and the shiikuwasa and plum flavors of Suntory’s Strong Zero offerings. Soft on the carbs, but tasty and refreshing.

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And once again, with a best supporting actor award to my tatami, kudos to these genuinely different and recommendable potato chips, (lightly salted) Kata Age chips from Calbee.

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Now, I’m not a potato chip fan by any measure. But, slow-fried in oil approximately equivalent to the national petroleum reserves of Norway, these thick-sliced, “chewably delicious” golden guys are truly coronary inducing crisp. Raditional, indeed.

Sorry for the decadence. It’s a little habit I’ve picked up (plug alert) doing radio at FM Pipi, where they often test out different snacks on the air, letting listeners hear every lick, crunch, slurp and chew. Besides the eating noise factor, I also have never understood the blatant commercial product advocacy/criticism on this tax-funded public station. No complaints at all, just puzzling.

Hard to Swallow

And speaking of baffling, blatant eating sounds (if not sound eating) on the air, have I aired my supreme annoyance and flabbergasted flummoxedness at the incessant, heavy-handed use of gulping, swallowing sounds in Japanese TV commercials for beer and other drinks? I get it that it’s visceral and supposed to make the drinks more appetizing, but enough already. I’m nonplussed. Is it any accident that American TV ads don’t do that?

And a last bit of indulgence: I had some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for the first time in ages today. Now I realize why they were on sale: They melt like the Dickens in this heat (will people similarly abuse my surname in years to come? Sorry, Charlie; Hopeful me… (check out that link – credits to McCarthy-era-blacklisted Herschel Bernardi (I remember Arnie and the lunchbox/briefcase intro à la 2001), though this “alternate opening” I definitely remember in some form, and George Carlin)). I had to scrape the amorphous contents off the brown paper cup with my two front teeth.

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Yes, that Pennsylvania zip code leads you to Hershey, the now Surrey, UK-based never-say-melt competitor to Nestlé. It’s 8:45. Do you know where your fave Co is HQ’d??

And what of that “cocoa mass” ingredient? Was this written presumptively before the Higgs Boson virtual discovery announcement? As opposed to “dark matter,” “milk matter,” “cocoa antimatter,” or my midriff. Someone please end this murky matter and send the chemical makeup of cocoa mass.

Color Me Jazz, Or The Basses Behind the Cuban Missile Crisis

Good live jazz last weekend at “Live the Palette,” the after-hours alter ego of Cafe La Palette in Hirai-cho, Tajimi.

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Working for the first time as one group, the Satoko Nakagawa (alto sax) Quartet performed two sets, everyone playing within their ability to lend a relaxed, mellow sound to a quiet Saturday night beside the almost toylike trains trundling by on the Taita Line. Taking the train to Koizumi Station means you can drink worry-free.

Besides a variety of standards, the four did an original number called, I think, “Loop,” some moments of whose melody reminded me of a Coltrane piece, either Equinox or To/For Her Ladyship. When I tried to say as much to Ms. Nakagawa, she seemed at a loss for words, but she may have been thinking I was referring to playing style.

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One great thing for me about Live the Palette: it’s non-smoking all the time! Who says jazz can’t live without smoke? Just for kicks, I rationalized an inadvertent lens smudge finagled a crosstar effect, and did a minimal bit of post-processing to roll my own smoke into the scene below.

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Another welcome feature: No amped-up blaring of instruments through a superfluous sound system. The only microphone was for between-song announcing titles and credits. It’s always like The Emperor’s New Clothes when you hear live (especially acoustic) music amplified in an intimate setting: Any normal person’s very first reaction to this aural assault is, “Why the heck is it so loud? It’s fine out of the horn as it is.” But thereafter everyone comes to accept the overkill as normal, as their hearing goes to pot. Be the little girl who doesn’t know any better than to speak the truth: If the hall is small, pull the plug!

I got to talk with the band members and managed to stump them with an obscure request, which I searched for on the net and played on my iPhone for them. They seemed intrigued, so it may be coming soon to a set near you. With slightly different personnel, the quartet will be appearing at La Palette a couple of times next month.

Bands of Brothers

Most of the members are Nagoya-based, playing the Nagoya scene at the usual places. Ryouta Asada was on top of his game on drums, though taking a solo only on the final song. The night’s hot bassist went by the last name of Kimata. Sorry to say, I can’t transliterate his first name. The pianist, Yuichi Hayashi, has released CDs with his trio Trispace, which includes bassist Morihiro Ohmura. Ohmura has played with the Sakake Brothers With The Acoustic Band (sic) (AKA SBAB), whose guitarist I often used to cross paths with in Chikusa. I’ve also helped a younger Sakake brother with lyrics for his own indie band. Small world. No, not those lyrics. For that unfortunately unforgettable unending gem, we are indebted to the Sherman Brothers, who also kept Mary Poppins musically afloat, among work on many other family classics. Older bro Robert B. Sherman passed away in March.

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One thing I learned today: It’s a Small World was written in the wake of and as a reaction to the Cuban Missile Crisis, that nasty bit of history that nearly ruined my first birthday ended the world, and that happened fifty years ago this October. Thank you, President Kennedy, for your gift of determined diplomacy in the face of imminent Armageddon.

The takeaway: Giving provocative superpower premiers a face-saving way out of sticky situations can prevent panic attacks and significantly reduce the risk of nuclear planetary annihilation. Use as directed. Side effects may include dizziness, prolonged or chronic ringing of cloying songs in the head, and inexplicable aversity to theme parks. Peace has a price, after all.

For the Dogs, Or Bone Appétit

Cafe La Palette is popular with dog owners as it caters to canine customers as well as their human hopalongs (Daytime only; Fido must find his own means of enjoying jazz after the sun goes down). The clip you’ll see on the floor by your table is for fastening leashes to. Just so there’s no mistaking, dogs are welcome, but it’s not a dog cafe. The food is only for people.

The nighttime “master” is an interesting man who speaks pretty good English, but not annoyingly so, as in, “Ahh, here comes another foreigner I can accost, show off my English to, and commiserate with.” The live dates are pretty numerous and varied, so you’re sure to find a day, time and artist to take advantage of this special live jazz venue right here in Tajimi. There are regular jam sessions as well. The cover charge varies. It was ¥1500 this night. Doors open at 7 pm for live gigs, with sets at 8 and 9.

Chase the Clouds Away

As we awake to Typhoon Number Four’s swift passing, I invoke a nostalgic song title from, for me, something of a local hero, Chuck Mangione, as the lead-in for this dubious subject:

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If you have occasion to try these low-end pepperoni-type chasers, let me know if you don’t think they taste like the makers had exceptionally good access to and/or an extraordinary affinity, as sausage-making goes, for… nutmeg.

As for what the title has to do with the price of pepperoni in Chubu, well, the hard salami sausage is, you know, a Chaser.

Local long-time loyal Toyotans will fondly recall the long-running car model of the same name that was phased out around the turn of the century. But you younger car fans, knot yourself up not: You can take solace in my recent solar Corona pics. Tajimi.mobi is an equal opportunity groaner donor. Indeed, our very icon is modelled on a hunched-over mikan orange unable to contain its nauseation at our ad nauseum acerbity. Note subtle shifting of responsibility from individual to organization with the royal “we.”

Speaking of our icon, you can put a shiny new one on your smartphone or tablet’s homescreen just by pressing (on iPhone) the middle icon along the bottom bar of Safari and selecting “Add to Home Screen.”

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It’s not an app; Just a shortcut to open a new tab in your browser. It’ll look like this:

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The object of the chase was the gin and tonic below, almost a gin rickey though not a lime rickey. The lime is much more appreciative than the mandarin of the sense of limerickiness to which I’m a-panderin’. Hey, that’s a lime….

Gin Grin

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Sorry, folks. This wordplay on the brain is adversely affected by the Coriolis effect and its spinoffs. Like all good storms, hangovers and kidney stones, it will pass.

Normally we get crisp, clear skies in the wake of a typhoon, but the forecast this time is showing clouds and, tomorrow night, even rain. I guess that’s typhoon no. 5, now off China. Talk about a storm chaser…

I’m adding this late afternoon shot as an update. The sunny skies finally came after the tail end of the typhoon passed. Might be a good sunset in an hour.

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UFO Chaser

I do have to say, at about 11:40 last night, shortly after the calm of the typhoon’s center had passed and the rain started up again, I stepped outside and saw quite a strange sight. Through the clouds, a light moved fast, like that of a meteor, but with a definite curved motion, basically headed from northeast to south-southwest. As a matter of opinion, I don’t think it was a bird or insect below cloud level. But could there be a meteor that a) shines through clouds, and b) has a markedly curved motion?? It was far too fast to be a plane, especially with no sound. I don’t think it was some kind of reflection or illusion from the ground. That was weird. Not making this up. Some strange electrical charge? But why the curved motion? It appeared to be an object as opposed to just light. The whole event lasted maybe seven seconds or so, happening roughly overhead, not near the horizon. Anybody hear of this kind of thing? And no, I assure you it wasn’t the gin.

Yes, We Can

Now is the time for all good ume to come to the ade of their country.

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That’s right, besides the latter end of rice seedling planting time again, it’s rabid plum-pickling and plum wine-fermenting season in Japan. Passels of innocent plums the archipelago over, along with garden variety ginger and sundry soon-to-be-sweet shallots, are being scarfed up and salted or otherwise pickled away in an all-out effort to distill each household’s next twelve months’ worth of curry condiments, cheek-pucker-uppers, and sweet, aromatic liqueurs to warm up cold nights and chilled bones, give a piquant kick and crunch to needy dishes, and preserve bento box lunches until their best-by times. Salty sour pickled plums are also known for their disease-fighting effects. Shiso leaves are also used. Stock up now.

I’m not sure just how prevalent actual plums for eating are in the stores right now. Last I saw they were still at a premium. I did hear this year’s crop isn’t as good as usual. These in the photo, one kilogram bought for ¥980, aren’t for eating.

Weather note: They say there’s a biggish typhoon headed this way, maybe as soon as tomorrow.

Treasured Encounters

First time for me earlier this week at Ichigo Ichie izakaya near Tajimi station.

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Superb creative cuisine at a sensible price from a cool, active young chef-owner eager to please. Seen here, a grapefruit prosciutto salad topped with pungent radish sprouts and drizzled with a yuzu-black pepper sauce, and an avocado spring (summer) roll. We also had egg roll and a chicken/acorn squash gratin. Hamburg dishes also come highly recommended. Yes, that’s Yebisu draft in the background.

Besides floor seating and a nook with comfortable seats around a table, there are a few roomy counter spaces, so customers on their own needn’t feel out of place. Jazz was playing this night. The restaurant’s name means, “Treasure every encounter, for it will never recur,” but my first time here won’t be my last.

On the subject of jazz, Wednesday night I went to hear the Yasushi Miyamoto Quintet at Hadows at Aeon Mall near Minami Odaka station in Nagoya. It’s not a typical jazz-lover’s venue – more for the general shopping public to catch a variety of music while finishing their steak dinner, but it was all right. Trumpeter Miyamoto was more like an introducer of jazz styles to the mixed audience, which included children. Standing out were a Gigi Gryce piece I can’t remember the name of, and a number called “Social Code.” I was especially looking forward to hearing pianist Koutaro Hiramitsu, though he was on keyboards this night, not piano. Well done. The charge was ¥2100. Patrons generally only stay for one set, so be sure to ask if you want to stay for both.

Mega Mixer

Take a walk or ride around Tajimi tonight and you couldn’t miss young guys and girls in hot pink shirts flagging down twenty-to-thirty-somethings to invite (update: guide) them to a machikon, a mega-konpa affair that blossomed this afternoon seemingly without warning. It’s a chance for you to meet a smorgasbord of potential mates in a quasi-arranged setting.

For all such shindigs’ shortcomings of shallow contrivance, you have to admit, among other things, everyone’s honest about what the heck they’re doing. No playing the field while affecting nonchalant disinterest. Not necessarily a bad idea in a town where I do hear people say (is that my voice I hear in there?) it’s hard to meet people of the opposite sex. The impromptu nature of this one is kind of refreshing, making it less stress-inducing than these things can sometimes be. Just a bit intimidating for those of us who prefer a more intimate setting.

¥6000 would get you a free pass to presumably eat and drink all you could while barhopping a slew of Tajimi’s coolest nightspots. Their goal was to gather up 150 girls and an equal number of guys, a project they’ve apparently pulled off in other nearby locales. As a result, I think many participating places are closed to regular business tonight to accommodate the extra flow of signer-uppers. I’ll have to ask some people who went just how it was.

Update: I guess it wasn’t impromptu – you needed prior booking. Sorry to be late to the 21st century.

It’s a Megaphone! It’s a Sombrero! It’s a UFO! It’s…

I made the rounds of the nearby Tajimi Ceramic Festival again yesterday, this time sampling the Turkish kebab sandwich cart as I always manage to do.

During another stop at the Casanova (Neu) stand at the Kappa Ichiba grounds on Nagase Dori, I had a cup of chai to the accompaniment of a raggedy, generation-spanning (probably from under 10 to over 70) band of percussionists, learning that some people add brandy to their chai. Interesting idea. My friend, meanwhile got punch-drunk on Casanova’s (Neu’s) Sangria. We discussed the pros and cons of the store name, and agreed it’s subject to change.

Mystery Mounds

Purification Rite?

Some stores had these dishes with cones of salt (sugar cones?!) on the ground in front, but my Japanese friend didn’t know what the custom was. Some kind of funereal or purification rite perhaps?

[Update: It is to ward off evil, and possibly related to a custom of offering salt to the horses of customers or wayfarers.]