Tag Archives: fruits

Cherry Blossoms and Salad Days

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“American cherries” and sakurambo cherries we’ve been seeing plenty of in supermarkets lately, but I think this was the first time I ever saw “cherry mint” flowers, growing at Neu Cafe. The leaves will find their way into something good, I’m sure.

Speaking of leaves, this coming Saturday night, Neu will have a “Salad Day Night” (their pun) event, featuring a salad smorgasboard cooked up by special guest “Necco,” who was formerly a chef at Cafe Ondo. A DJ will be providing the music.

Update: As of June 21st, the event is all booked up. Over 40 guests are expected.

Celebrating Summer Stalk

Yahoo! The sweet & sour stalk of American pie and jam legend lives and breathes in the archipelago!

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Someone gave me this fresh rhubarb today that I’m thinking to pie-ify soon. My main concern now is the oven. I’ve baked cookies in these cubby-hole contraptions that double as real ovens besides being toasters and microwaves (very tedious, involving temperature conversion, adjustment and re-preheating every four cookies, juggling sheets and cooling racks), but never a whole pie, which at least is one piece instead of a few dozen. I’ll have to find out exactly where, but I do know it was bought locally.

Silly Stalks: A Little Background

Writing this blog often leads to serendipitous learning, and this time was no exception. Out of curiosity, I checked Wikipedia, and found out that although rhubarb is normally considered a vegetable, since 1947 in New York State it’s legally a fruit since it’s mostly used as one.

Beyond that, Wikipedia reports that

In British theatre and early radio drama, the words “rhubarb rhubarb” were repeated for the effect of unintelligible conversation on the background.

“Rhubarb” was [also] a 1969 British short film written and directed by Eric Sykes, starring Sykes and Harry Secombe. The dialogue consisted entirely of repetitions of the word “rhubarb”, all the characters last names were “Rhubarb”, and even the license plates on vehicles were “RHU BAR B.”

As I’ve been becoming a bit of a connoisseur of background chatter, it’s a bit of a letdown to think that a bunch of nothing but rhubarb could have been just as effective as the real thing. I wonder if they used varied intonation. It’s no surprise Sykes was a cohort of the Goon Show gang, predecessors of Monty Python.

Fruit Loops

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One popular cherry blossom viewing spot for many Nagoyans is Shinrin Togokusan Fruit Park. Yesterday, row after row of drooping shidarezakura waved in full bloom there.

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There are myriad labeled cherry trees, including this one whose name I can’t remember. It felt like a shower of blossoms, or alternatively, a long, pink automatic carwash. It was easy to get intoxicated with the color and natural softness.

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I also visited the fruit museum, where you can compare models of all kinds of fruits. After that, I toured the “greenhouse of tropical fruits” (small admission required), where I could see many strange trees (and not trees – did you know bananas are a grass?), as well as less exotic date, coffee, coconut, tamarind, macadamia, and other trees I’d heretofore only read about. There’s also a popular fruit market, where strawberries are currently a hot item.

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The day started off rainy and cloudy, but gray skies later gave way to blue, and though it was still cold and windy, large numbers of families and couples made their way out to enjoy meandering walks along the many looping, crisscrossing paths. With today’s warmer tenperatures, many were no doubt picnicking on the broad hills the park boasts.

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Other fruit trees on view include quince, walnut, kiwi, fig, and kumquat. The park is located in Moriyama-ku, Nagoya. Parking and general admission are free.

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Juiced for Now

And now for a little commercial interruption/carb-charged refrigerator run. Nothing fancy, just some seasonal rarities showing up in regular stores. Maybe something to have in the car on a nice fall drive.

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Tropicana always has limited edition specials among its handy juice boxes, this “Autumn Blend” featuring pomegranate and western pear. Seiyu has it quite cheap.

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The western pear juice above tastes just like pears, which you might not expect to make a good drink, but this one works. This and the pomegranate soda below from Chinese maker Chung Jung (not bad at all) have been available at Sun Mall in Toki this fall.

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Turning

The fall colors are starting to show, and a day off combined with yesterday’s typically fall weather made for good leaf-peeping.

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Missed

These emptied chestnut husks were the only things parked in the sloping lot outside a bakery and cafe in Yamaoka known as Hoyara. I was disappointed to find they closed for good in August. Too bad. It couldn’t have been for lack of popularity. They must still sell bread somewhere (either that or it’s the beginning of a true Japanese-style ghost story), because several loaves were visible through the window, and their fresh-baked aroma was seeping out.

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Mist

Next stop was the nearby Obaachan Ichi, a Michi no Eki-style farmer’s market featuring a huge antique waterwheel. Here, a mini-rainbow arcs through its radial spokes and droplets. Among the rarer items at the market were quince for ¥250 for a bag of six or eight.

Upon huddling for a bit of shelter from the chilly wind behind the goheimochi stand, the charbroiled smell of the grilled rice-on-a-stick snack proved irresistible. The seared sauce had at least walnuts and sesame, and probably some subtler secret ingredients. Nom nyom nyom, as they’ve come to say.

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Further on down the road (route 363 in this case), a different kind of rainbow stretched across the sky as Sogi Park gets ready for its Momiji Matsuri, at which food stalls will be set up to accommodate folks strolling through the illuminated maple leaf show amid reflecting ponds.

In the daytime, when viewing is less crowded but still nice, especially before they’ve set up the lighting, you can really see there is a wide variety of trees, some species dating way back in prehistory.

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Among them are ginkgo trees of very different sized leaves. Be careful of picking up their foul smell on you.

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Even among the momiji, there are trees with different sized leaves. These are some of the smaller ones.

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More Apple Teardowns

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More apple sampling while it’s in season: the one above, depending on the kanji reading, may be called Wasei. From Aomori prefecture, it seems to be closest (not to say close) in taste and texture among Japanese breeds to macintosh. I think cinnamon might complement it well, and can see it being used in pies. I just cut my apples into eight and peel, eating the sections as is.

A little research revealed apples were first grown in Japan in 1831. That explains a lot (slim pickings,etc.). Below, Shinano Sweet from Nagano is one of those I can’t glowingly recommend. This cross between Fuji and Tsugaru is actually closest in appearance to macintosh, though the green parts aren’t so visible in this picture.

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And a final fruit footnote – LaFrance pears have finally burst onto store shelves. I’m still waiting for my first ones to ripen at home.

Big, Red

I don’t recall seeing pears this big in the US (here with an apple-mirror-bearing iPhone4 and an early (tart but okay) mandarin orange for comparison), or even in Japan until this year, but they’re being sold as “western pears” at Sun Mall in Toki.

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The green hulks are quite similar to LaFrance, which ironically aren’t on shelves this year, but with a more buttery texture, and twice as much fruit.

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You Can’t Compare

Also briefly sold at Sun Mall were deep dark red Akibae apples, a hybrid of Senshu and Tsugaru, seen with regular oranges for reference. Leery as I am of any apple besides locally grown New York varieties like macintosh, my expectations weren’t high, but I gave in to curiousity and picked one up. It kind of made me think of a Snow White movie poster I saw recently. The result? Not poison, but not the fairest of them all. It might work with pineapple and other fruit in a fruit salad. Or as a movie prop [laughs sinisterly, echoing to fadeout].

Now We Are Two

This year I’m seeing Bartlett pears, from Yamagata, on store shelves. A welcome addition to the La France and Japanese varieties we always have. Comparitively tart, and they do take a while to ripen after buying, so beware.

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Large plums from Yamanashi are also good this year, better than smaller, early-season ones.

The pear below was a gift from Kanagawa. I don’t know the variety, but it has a subtle, succulent flavor, better than the types normally available here. Grapes seem good this year, too.

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Today the blog is two years old. Most personal milestones don’t seem to affect me much. What really hits me, though, is things like my old Japanese professor, who’s always in her sixties in my mind, being (I hope still) in her nineties…and a friend hitting 40 today.

Stalking the Wild Rhubarb

A Taste of the Old Country

Perhaps if I had to choose one food I miss from the US that I can hardly get in Japan, besides whole turkey, it would be rhubarb. Enter this rhubarb jam from Musée de Paris in Tsurugasawa, Midori-ku, Nagoya.

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I had some on toast and even with yogurt, in which it tasted especially like rhubarb pie. That’s a taste for sore buds, right at home in a midsummer night’s dessert. Yogurt (I prefer regular plain Bulgaria from Meiji) with jam for breakfast is also a good way to get a cool start on these sultry dog days. I just learned why they’re called that: It’s when Sirius, the Dog Star, rises and sets opposite the sun. So much for the lazy dog theory.

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While not unheard of, rhubarb is a rarity in any form in this country. I recall the Anna Miller’s family restaurant chain in the Kanto area (good Reuben sandwiches as well) used to serve the pie. And I remember seeing a recipe at a cafe in Nagoya for, I think, rhubarb lemonade. I’m still trying to find a place that actually sells fresh stalks. Don’t make the same mistake I made many years ago – promising to make rhubarb pie for my Japanese host family, only to find out that the fuki I bought shared nothing in common with rhubarb except similar looks. Unqualified fiasco.

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Below, pineapple and Paradis (amaou strawberry/passionfruit) varieties from Musée.

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A bowl of Grape-Nuts served by an Anna Miller’s waitress to anyone who gets today’s title. You’ll know if you lived consciously through the seventies in the States and had a TV.

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.