blog

A short personal update...

This just a short update on what is going on with my health and things. continue reading...

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Ugh, ugh, ugh.

I really hate having to post things like this, but I should explain my lack of posts here... I've been in a lot of pain for the past couple of weeks, and it seems I have a very bad infection, which may or may not be related to the cancer situation. It is painful even to sit up straight, which means I cannot do much typing on my computer. I can type lying down on my iPad but...that doesn't work that well for longer texts. And to be honest, food is about the furthest thing from my mind right now...So posts will be a bit sparse until I feel better.

Thanks for your understanding. T_T I really hope this clears up soon so I can get back on my feet...or at least. my butt.

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Technical note: The RSS feed and newsletter system has been switched to another service

A little technical note for people who read this site via Google Reader or another RSS reader, or subscribe to post updates via email:

I’ve switched over from Feedburner to another service called URI.LV. The reason I switched over is that Feedburner has kind of been neglected by Google (who owns the service) for a while now, and with their announcement that Google Reader is being shut down soon, it’s kind of logical to assume that Feedburner will fade away too.

  • If you are an email subscriber: You shouldn’t see much of a change at all, but there is a chance you may need to re-add the sender of the mail (thechef@justhungry.com) to your address book if the emails end up in your spam folder.
  • If you are an RSS reader subscriber: You should not see any change at all. If you want to be doubly sure you’ll continue to receive updates, subscribe to this link or click on the RSS button in the side bar and delete your Feedburner subscription.

(Incidentally, if you’re looking for a replacement for Google Reader and are Mac or iOS based, I’ve been using NetNewsWire for ever, even before there was a Google Reader. I highly recommend it. Otherwise if you’re looking for a web based solution Feedly looks pretty nice.)

This notice applies to both JustBento and JustHungry - it’s posted on both since not everyone subscribes to both. (AND WHY NOT??? (just kidding))

So that’s it for the techincal stuff. Going back to talking about food next time. ^_^

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How do you manage your social media?

Pondering on the use of social media (a bit off-topic). continue reading...

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Almost there....

An update. Finally, right? continue reading...

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When it rains it really, really pours

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You'd think that having gone through major surgery, radiation therapy, a burglary, my father's death, and all that kind of thing, my life would be so much easier by now.

But, noooo. It's actually sort of worse. It's now the Attack Of The House. continue reading...

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My sister Meg's amazing pastry skills

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My sister is a pretty amazing pastry chef. continue reading...

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They even took the freaking toilet paper!

I am back home from New York now, after my father’s memorial service last Sunday and an all-too-short Itoh sisters’ reunion. We got home late last afternoon, glad to be back, very tired after a long flight followed by a short one and a 2 plus hour drive.

And then…disaster. During our absence, our house had been broken into. continue reading...

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Hiatus

Hozuki (physalis), Naraijuku, Japan

I'll be offline for a while (not sure how long), to take care of the health issues. There will be updates over on JustBento hopefully, as The Guy Does Bento series continues, but over here the lights will be dimmed until I get back. continue reading...

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Japan earthquake

I know many people who follow this blog are interested in Japan. I’ve been translating Japanese news reports on my Twitter account for some hours now, and will try to do so for at least the rest of the day. If you’d like to follow along please follow @makiwi.

Update: I am still updating the news on my Twitter stream. If you want to do something, please consider donating to the Red Cross. In the U.S., you can text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to the international relief fund for Japan. Elsewhere or if you want to donate another way, try the International Red Cross site at IRFC.ORG.

(All of my family/friends are ok. Thank you for asking.)

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Hinamatsuri (Girl's Festival) article in the Japan Times, plus my aunt's antique hina dolls

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A new article and recipe for Hinamatsuri (Girl’s Festival) in the Japan Times. continue reading...

One of these doesn't belong...? (Weekend contest!)

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It’s been another rather hectic week around here. So I’d like to loosen up a bit by closing the week out with a fun giveaway, just for the heck of it. I’m giving away a $25 gift certificate from our friends over at J-list/JBox, where you can find all kinds of cool, cute, and wacky stuff from Japan. continue reading...

Toshikoshi Soba (year-end soba) article in The Japan Times, plus a bit about my niece and nephew

img: a hot and steamy bowl of soba noodles to end the year

A new article in The Japan Times about toshikoshi soba. Plus, a little about my favorite food-eating model, Lena-chan, and her brother Lyoh. continue reading...

Winter fish article in the Japan Times and an evening meal at my mom's

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A new article in The Japan Times about winter fish, and how fish fits into a typical Japanese meal. continue reading...

Shinmai (new harvest rice) and onigiri article in the Japan Times

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I have a new article in today’s edition of The Japan Times, available online here, or in the print edition. continue reading...

To RSS subscribers to the "Recipes only" feed

A message to people who are subscribed to the "Recipes only" RSS feed. It's come to my attention that that feed has been broken since mid-March. I don't have the time to troubleshoot it properly at the moment, so you'll be getting the 'everything' feed (recipes and articles) for the time being. Sorry for the inconvenience! continue reading...

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Crafts vs. cooking: different markets (or, would you pay for a downloadable recipe?)

We pay for single craft patterns. Why don’t we do the same for single recipes? continue reading...

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Eggplant article and eggplant-beef-miso recipe in The Japan Times

A new article and recipe by yours truly is now available on The Japan Times web site, as well as in its print edition if you’re in Japan. The subject this time is eggplants (aubergines). It also includes a recipe of course! The recipe combines delicious fall eggplants with a miso-meat sauce or sorts.

Incidentally, although the original recipe calls for thinly sliced beef, it works well with ground beef too. This is a shot of a version I made using ground beef.

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This dish is great hot or cold, so make some for dinner and save a little for your bento the next day. Really yum!

Major site maintenance coming up this week

This week, both JustHungry and JustBento will be making a long overdue move to another server, undergoing major background maintenance/repairs and other things, so you may see some disruptions in service. Please bear with me on these. Everything should be back to normal by the end of the week (fingers crossed). Thank you for your patience. I'll update this post when everything is back to normal. continue reading...

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MasterChef deja vu

A mini-rant of sorts, about MasterChef, the show I used to love. continue reading...

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3 posts about Satoshi Kon

Pointing to something non-food on my personal site. continue reading...

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Combatting Summer Fatigue article in The Japan Times

Chicken and shrimp soba salad with sesame sauce

There’s a new recipe from me, on another site - take a look! And a bit about the, uh, photo shoot… continue reading...

News from Maki

Maki had to undergo emergency surgery yesterday, July 6. Everything went well, and she is recovering now, although she may well have to stay at the hospital for a week or so.

We keep the site up and running as good as possible, but it will take some time until new articles will be possible.

In the meantime "Get well soon, Maki!"

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News about The Just Bento Cookbook, and no I'm not abandoning Japanese food!

As if the excitement, or stress, depending on how you look at it, of the move to France and the new/old house wasn’t enough, on Monday I got word from my publisher that my bento cookbook was sent off to the printers finally! I have lots more news about it over on Just Bento, in case you don’t follow things over there. continue reading...

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Instant ramen and cup noodles are very, very bad for you

Ramen!

(Edit note, May 2010. I have revived this piece from the deep archives. I wrote this originally written back in 2007, and since then the popularity of instant ramen has continued to grow.

To reiterate: Although it’s often marketed as a quick and easy meal, instant ramen is junk food It should be regarded on the same level, nutritionally speaking, as a bag of potato chips. I’m not saying you should totally avoid instant ramen, or for that matter potato chips. I indulge in both myself. However, making cheap instant ramen an everyday staple, as some college kids and low-income families do, is about the equivalent nutritionally speaking of serving corn chips as your staple carb with meals. (Hmm, I guess there are people who do that…)

Incidentally, I’ve gotten a fair number of angry emails and comments to this post over the years, as though I’m attacking a fundamental right of people or something. I find this very interesting.) continue reading...

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Happy Valentine's Day from Japan!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you from Japan!

kobato2 continue reading...

Menu For Hope winner, please get in touch!

Just a quick note here: If you are the Kristina Johnson who won the Just Hungry Menu For Hope prize EU25 (check the winners' list) please get in touch via the contact form :)

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In Japan!

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I’m in Japan! I’ll be here for the next three months. I am here primarily for two reasons: My mother is in hospital; and the bento cookbook photoshoot will commence next month. But of course I’ll be filing plenty of reports on what I’ve done, not to mention eaten, here! I’ll be taking and uploading photos every day, which you can follow here on flickr.

The photo above is of dinner last night with family - a seafood nabe and a sashimi assortment. Delicious and so simple, and not at all easy (or inexpensive) to recreate properly outside of Japan!

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It really has been quite a year....with more to come

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How has the year been for you? 2009 has been a year of change and turmoil for me. It looks like 2010 is going to be just as exciting and turbulent as 2009 was. There’s a lot to look forward to though!

For New Year’s Eve, we are just going to have a quiet evening in, with some sparkling cider from our old home town. Tomorrow we’ll be having ozouni. We still don’t know where we are settling yet — it may be France, it may be Switzerland, or…somewhere else. I still have a lot of work to do, on the bento book and other things, and I am leaving for 3 month stay in Japan in 2 weeks. That will be the longest time I’ve spent there in ages, and I’ll have lots to report on from there.

In any case, thank you so much for your continued support of Just Hungry and Just Bento this year. :) Happy New Year!

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MasterChef U.S. version casting call

Longtime readers of Just Hungry may know that I am a big fan of the UK cooking-competition show MasterChef. I’ve written about it here several times, and even did my own ingredient challenge for six weeks one year. I also watched most of the Australian version, and commented on it a bit too. Well now there is going to be a U.S. version of MasterChef. continue reading...

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Per Se: Jackets required, huh?

I’m in the New York area at the moment, doing some family things, required government-oriented paperwork and so on. Whenever I’m here I do like to treat myself to at least one interesting restaurant meal. So, this time around I thought of going to Per Se, the famed Thomas Keller establishment. I’ve never been to a Thomas Keller establishment.

I went to their pretty but so user-unfriendly Flash-only website (see my rant against this deplorable practice) and, after having to reload the site because it was coming up blank a few times, was dismayed to find that they require jackets (though not ties) and ‘no tennis shoes’ (I guess they mean sneakers…tennis shoes, how quaint) for lunch and dinner. I am travelling light and only have shoes of the ‘tennis’ variety, and my planned dining partner (who is a much more exacting and well-travelled gourmet than I am) is rather firmly anti-jacket, so it looks like Per Se is out for us. Bummer. continue reading...

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More on the new theme

Thank you for all of your comments about the new theme/event! I have been mulling over it, and I while I still haven’t decided on the name yet, I have more or less decided on what it will be: continue reading...

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An idea for a new theme/event

I know that I have sadly neglected this blog for some weeks now, as I struggle with completing the first draft of my book. (My main problem is I keep revising the recipes…but that’s another story.) I know that digging up things from the archives does not really constitute true updating! Anyway, I do have an idea for a regular theme or event of sorts, to commence probably in the new year (or when the book is further along in the birthing process).

The tentative title of the theme/event is Japanese Ingredient Focus Seminar (too formal?). I know that many Japanese ingredients are unfamiliar to non-Japanese readers. So the goal will be to become as familiar as possible with it, in a specific time period, say 2-3 weeks. I’ll announce the ingredient beforehand, so people have time to get a hold of it. Then we will try various recipes using that ingredient, from simple to not-so-simple.

How does this sound? Let me know if this sounds interesting to you. I’ll also accept suggestions for ingredients to tackle. continue reading...

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I am only what I am. I hope it's enough.

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My niece Rena tucks into teuchi udon (handmade udon).

I am occasionally asked via email or Twitter or even in person, to post a recipe that is Asian but not Japanese. In most cases, I have to say that I have no idea how to make it. Well that wouldn’t be exactly true: I could look it up online or in cookbooks and replicate a recipe here. But then, so could you. So could anyone. continue reading...

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Shopper's Guide to Pesticides iPhone App

3 years ago, I mentioned a handy list of produce ranked by how much pesticide is used to grow them. The higher (=more pesticides) the ranking, the better it would be to stick to organically grown.

I recently got a new iPhone (yes…I’m the very opposite of an Early Adopter of tech gadgets) and discovered that the same list is available as a free iPhone app called DirtyProduce. Here’s a screenshot of the opening page:

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It doesn’t do much beyond list the Dirty Dozen (the most heavily pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables), the Clean 15 (the last pesticide-used) and the full list of 47 produce items, but it’s handy to have around with you. Who knew for instance that peaches were the most pesticide-laden fruit or vegetable? I tend not to peel my peaches, and I ate, oh I don’t know, a few tons of them over the summer. I may start peeling them next season, or look for non-treated ones.

Anyway, if you do have an iPhone, take a look. And if you don’t, there is still the PDF list to print out and carry in your wallet.

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iSnack 2.0 (Vegemite 2.0) and other bad product names

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iSnack 2.0? Really? Were they serious? continue reading...

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And the winner of the Izakaya book is....(and a small update)

The winner of the Izakaya Cookbook is… Mireia! Congratulations to Mireia, and thank you to everyone who entered. Look for more great giveaways on Just Hungry in the future!

A small update

I’m in the throes of frantic ‘must-meet-deadline’ mode for my own book. If I meet my first deadline (in less than 2 weeks!!!), I should at least be able to take a shower…I mean, pull my head above water for a bit and update here. Until then, please bear with me!

(Incidentally, doesn’t it bug you when people say ‘please bare with me’? No I don’t want to take my clothes off with you. Geez.

I’m going off on a tangent. Back to work.) continue reading...

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Yep I'm working on a book

So, I’m writing a book, and a deadline looms. continue reading...

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Roar! The Hungry Tiger is back!

One of my favorite food blogs is back! continue reading...

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The earlobe in Japanese cooking

earlobe.jpgDuring a bout of procrastination, I came across this post on Serious Eats about making udon from an translated-to-English Japanese cookbook classic, Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji. You know this is a classic, since the original forward for it was written by M.F.K. Fisher! Anyway, the author of the Serious Eats post gets quite excited about the instructions in the recipe (which apparently calls for egg yolks…more about this later) saying to knead the dough until it’s the texture of an earlobe.

Actually, the earlobe (mimitabu 耳たぶ) is used quite commonly in Japanese cooking. What? you say? Well…here’s how. continue reading...

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The book giveaway winner is announced, plus some more news

The winner of The Enlightened Kitchen book is… emalie from Australia!

If you didn’t win this time, stay tuned, because I have a couple more books to give away in the next couple of weeks which I am sure will be of interest to Just Hungry readers. continue reading...

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Maki on the radio!

I was interviewed on WRS Geneva, an English-language radio station in Geneva (Genève), Switzerland, this past Tuesday, on their food programme called Stir It Up. The MP3 is up now for download (link now corrected!), so if you want to know how I sound, with a stuffed nose (from allergies...agh!) complete with my totally mixed up accent, my segment starts after the rhubarb at around 9:45. It might be of interest to people who want to know why I started blogging about Japanese food after moving to Switzerland of all places. (Cross-posted to Just Hungry and Just Bento.)

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Survey: What Japanese ingredients can you get where you live?

(The survey is now closed. Thank you for everyone who took the time to comment/answer!)

In connection with a project I’m working on at the moment, I’d like to take a short 5-question survey of Just Bento and Just Hungry readers.

I assume you are here because you have at least some interest in Japanese food and cooking. My questions are as follows. continue reading...

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Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes

Scene from a market. continue reading...

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American kitchens: Why cups, and not weight? Where's the kitchen scale?

Where I ponder the question: Why do American cooks do things with cups, not weight? continue reading...

Happy Easter!

Easter bunny bread

A bit too late already for many people I know...but I just wanted to share this bunny bread from my favorite patisserie in Zürich. :)

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A followup report on being vegan in Japan

Asha, the reader who sent me the question that inspired me to write Japan: A Survival Guide for Vegans has sent in a great follow-up comment. I’ve posted it here so you won’t miss it. She found it a lot easier to follow her vegan regime in Tokyo than in Nagasaki, where she has been living. That makes sense I thin: any major metropolitan area these days is likely to have many people who are vegan or at least interested in a vegan way of eating, while the same might not hold true for more regional towns (Nagasaki has a long history of being a very international city, but is much smaller than Tokyo of course.)

What follows are Asha’s words. continue reading...

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I'm moving! I'm moving! But where to go?

Let’s pretend that there are no tiresome restrictions like visas and such. If eating well were the only criteria, where in the world would you move to? continue reading...

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My Japanese language blog and Twitter

I know that quite a lot of people who follow Just Bento and/or Just Hungry are interested in Japanese culture in general. So, this is a very-infrequent plug for my Japanese language mini-lesson blog and Twitter account. The Twitter account is separate from my main chatty Twitter (@bentotips, where I actually rarely tweet any bento tips…); it’s at @mainichinihongo. There is also a companion blog, Hungry For Words, which has longer lessons on occasion. The lessons are not very structured or anything - I just talk about words or phrases that pop into my mind.

So, if you are studying Japanese, or just interested in nihongo, take a look! It’s all part of my mission to spread Japanese culture over the world, like gomashio on rice ^_^.

(Cross-posted to Just Hungry and Just Bento.) continue reading...

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Are you a Menu For Hope winner?

Did you win prize EU01 of Menu For Hope V? If so, you still haven't gotten in touch! Please do so via here.

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Name That Food! Mystery food identification flickr group

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Because I have sooo much to do right now, I’ve started yet another small project. continue reading...

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A forum for non-bento people too

I really have no idea anymore how many people follow this site but don’t follow Just Bento, and vice versa, but in case that is you, I just wanted to let you know that the brand new forum is now open. I’ve made sections to discuss non-bento food, or anything else that strikes your fancy too. continue reading...

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Registering on the site is a good thing!

You may have noticed over on Just Bento that I've now made the user login form much more visible. I'll be doing the same on Just Hungry, but for now the login/register links are at the top left of every page. This is to encourage you to register on the site. I have stopped short of requiring registration in order to comment and so on for now, but I have turned back on comment moderation for any unregistered commenters. continue reading...

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Mochitsuki in your neighborhood?

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Mochitsuki photo by Ivva continue reading...

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Two more days left for Menu For Hope V!

[Update:] Menu For Hope has been extended to December 31st!

menuforhope2008sm.jpgI’ve been sick with a cold since Friday. You know the usual stuff - headache, feverish, coughing, and above all that overwhelming grumpiness and desire to make the lives of everyone in my immediate vicinity (or, ‘meatspace’ as the hip kids call it) as miserable as I feel. In this kind of mood, the last thing I want to do is to go out and do any last-minute holiday shopping.

Maybe you feel the same way (about the shopping, hopefully not the cold part). The last couple of days before Christmas should be spent in your cozy home, decorating your kids, hugging your presents, and wrapping your tree. Or do I have that confused… Anywho, to take care of those last, difficult-to-shop-for people on your list, how about giving them a raffle ticket or two for Menu For Hope? continue reading...

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Acquired tastes, and the pleasures of acquiring them

Olives

When I posted my recipe for poppy seed encrusted green pea mini-burgers over on Just Bento this week, I was a bit surprised that a few people had a problem with the inclusion of a small amount of chopped olives or olive paste. My first thought was, “How can anyone object to olives?” But then I remembered that I, too, used to have a problem with olives. continue reading...

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Christmas oranges and personal holiday traditions

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A Christmas post from 5 years ago, during Just Hungry: The Early Years. continue reading...

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Menu For Hope V: It's on!

[Update:] Menu For Hope has been extended to December 31st!

menuforhope2008sm.jpgMenu For Hope is an annual fundraising event, now in its 5th year, contributed to by food bloggers around the world. Last year, nearly US $100,000.00 was raised for the United Nations World Food Programme, to benefit the school lunch programme in Lesotho, Africa.

Menu For Hope’s creator and head organizer is Pim of Chez Pim, and this year’s regional Europe host is Sara of Ms. Adventures In Italy.

I’m happy to announce that Just Hungry is once again offering raffle prizes for Menu For Hope V. This year, we have two! continue reading...

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Just to get you in a holiday mood...

Sweet Christmas ornaments

Some spun-sugar candy Christmas ornaments being sold at the Christmas market in Zürich.

Have a great weekend! I’ll be off exploring more Christmas markets over the weekend.

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Just Hungry 5th Anniversary Giveaway - The Winners!

The winners are announced! continue reading...

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Sunday Survey: Your most memorable 'famous person' restaurant encounter?

I’m sitting here sorting through the giveaway entries, checking out the overnight Twitters, and doing laundry. Typical Sunday morning for me. @macratlove tweeted (twittered?) this, which is inspiring this question:

What’s the most memorable famous-person encounter you’ve ever had in a restaurant?

Here’s mine! continue reading...

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5th Anniversary Giveway Day 5: It's Just Me

This is the final day of the 5th Anniversay Giveaway week. I hope you’ve enjoyed it! continue reading...

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5th Anniversary Giveway Day 4: Regrets, I've had a few

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For a few months in 2006, I changed the banner graphic of the site every month to reflect the season.

There are a couple of things that I wish I had done differently during the last five years as far as Just Hungry was concerned. If you are a newish food blogger, or any kind of blogger, perhaps this will help you avoid these mistakes.

(This giveaway is now closed. Thank you for participating! The winner will be announced next week!) continue reading...

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5th Anniversary Giveway Day 3: The Meandering Path of Just Hungry

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The header graphic of the 2nd design of Just Hungry displayed one of these 4 illustrations at random.

As I wrote yesterday, when I started Just Hungry I had no plans at all about the theme of the site, other than it would be about food. I think that you could get away with that back then, when the number of actual food blogs was probably still in the low hundreds.

__( This giveaway is now closed. Thank you for participating! continue reading...

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5th Anniversary Giveway Day 2, with some reminiscences

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The image that I used in my first page design banner. I still love it.

During this giveaway week, I thought I’d indulge myself by sharing some reminiscences about the past five years of Just Hungry. Today: Why I started the site.

__ This giveaway is now closed. Thank you for participating! continue reading...

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Just Hungry 5th Anniversary / Just Bento 1st Anniversary Giveaway!

birthdaycupcake.jpg from iStockPhoto

I’m giving away goodies all this week!

This giveaway is now closed. Thank you for participating! continue reading...

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This was me, yesterday.

I am mostly a plan-ahead, cautious type of person. But once in a while I like to do something just on a whim. Usually these whims turn out to be wonderful. (Sometimes not.)

Anyway, a couple of days ago, near the end of a rather difficult business trip, with my wrist/hand/arm still feeling stiff and wonky and feeling rather sorry for myself, I logged onto my [insert frequent flier miles program name] account and saw that I had a whole bunch of miles nearly expiring. And I decided I needed to spend them. Now. continue reading...

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Quick update

I’ve managed to sprain my left hand and wrist, so it’s very hard for me to type long articles. So I’m afraid the continuation of the Japanese budgeting series and other planned articles are on hold for a bit.

If you want to know what I am doing, you can always follow me on Twitter. One-handed typing is easier when it’s limited to 140 characters.

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Zurich shopping news: Best of British store opening

(This item is only of interest if you live in Switzerland, specifically in the Zürich area. Everyone else, just move along.) continue reading...

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Sustainable sushi guides and the National Sushi Party

Today, three ocean conservation groups in the United States - the Blue Ocean Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium - will each be releasing sushi fish selection guides. They all seem to be printed guides that you have to order (small quibbles: Why not a downloadable PDF so people can start using it immediately? Also, why 3 separate guides?) but if you are a sushi afficionado and are concerned about the sustainability of safety of the fish used as sushi neta, you may want to give one of them a look. See the press release here. continue reading...

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Oh noes, dashi is trendy now

In the past few years, the popularity of Japanese food has exploded, with sushi leading the way. You might think that as the owner of a blog that is mainly dedicated to Japanese cooking, I’d be ecstatic about that.

I am happy, sure. It’s gratifying to gradually see the cuisine of my birthplace being recognized as something special. But on the other hand, I’m more than a bit skeptical. I wonder if, in a few years, hipster ‘foodies’ are going to turn their noses up at Japanese cuisine. “That was so naughties” they might be saying sometime in 2015, as they tuck into the latest craze for - I don’t know what. continue reading...

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What are your basic go-to dishes?

What are your basic everyday go-to recipes? continue reading...

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The Japanese 100 list finally complete, and other things

The 100 Japanese foods list is done. Plus, you know, Swiss breast milk. continue reading...

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From the $1500 dinner to Russell Baker's Francs and Beans

Being pleasantly reminded of a classic piece of food writing. continue reading...

Bite-sized Japanese lessons on Twitter @mainichinihongo

I know that a lot of readers come to Just Hungry because they are interested in Japanese culture. You may have even taken a look at my language blog. At the moment I don’t have the time to maintain the language blog, so I’ve just started a Japanese language Twitter account, @mainichinihongo (which means ‘Japanese every day’. My plan is to introduce one or more words per day-ish, around a theme. If you are on Twitter, and interested in Japanese, give it a try! (I still have my other Twitter account, @bentotips, where I tend to blather on about everything and anything.)

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Some food TV news: Supersizers Go repeats, The Restaurant is back, more

Some food TV news for you if you live in the UK or regions of Europe that get British TV. The Supersizers Go is being repeated, The Restaurant is back for another round, and more. continue reading...

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The Omnivore's Hundred - Just Hungry version

If you follow me on Twitter you may know that today was not a good day (nor was it a particularly good week). So, this little distraction via @nandita comes at a great time. It is a meme, but is a good one! It is called…

The Omnivore’s Hundred

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions. 2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten. 3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. 4) Optional extra: Post a comment at Very Good Taste linking to your results.

So, here I present… continue reading...

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Some links and random thoughts

Here are a bunch of unrelated-to-each-other links and thoughts that have accumulated recently.

Product linkage, edible

For UK and Europe readers: Japan Centre has a sale on this week for Yamamotoyama Soy Rappu, colorful soy based wrappers that are an interesting substitute for nori seaweed when making sushi rolls. I haven’t really tried them myself yet, so I placed and order and will see how they work. continue reading...

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Quick tip: Making the most of wasabi powder

Please forgive the lack of photos - in the middle of packing, I’ve somehow misplaced my camera. I’m sure it will come out soon, but in the meantime here is a handy tip for bring out the best flavor in wasabi powder. continue reading...

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Update on the book situation and ruminating on cookbooks

A month ago, I asked how I should get rid of cookbooks and craft books. There were lots of great suggestions in the comments - thank you! Here’s an update…plus some ruminations on cookbooks.

I posed that question a month ago, when I was just starting the packing-and-purging process. At that time I thought I’d just have say, one box of books to get rid of. But as we went through the zillion books that have accumulated, we realized that there were far, far more. continue reading...

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In Shojo Beat Magazine

I was interviewed recently for Shojo Beat Magazine, an English magazine published in the U.S. dedicated to shojo manga (manga for girls), and the results of whatever I said are in the most recent issue. Unfortunately the articles isn’t online, so I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but the whole issue is dedicated to Japanese food and manga - sounds like fun!

Update: Here is the link to the article (an excerpt I think). (Thanks heatherbug!) continue reading...

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What instead of the tomato?

tomato inside1

Is there anything that can step in for a ripe, juicy tomato? continue reading...

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Alimentum Summer 2008

alimentum_summer2008.gifThe Summer 2008 issue of Alimentum is out. This quarterly journal of food writing which includes non-fiction, short stories and poetry, is one of my favorite magazines of any genre, let alone food. In my current purge-decluttering mood, it’s one of the few magazines that I am keeping all issues of. See my first review of it here. The summer issue is as wonderful as usual. Did I mention that the illustrations (proper illustrations, no photography) are as great as the writing?

If you’re in the New York area, they are having an issue launch party this Sunday, June 29th. There will be a reading, wine, cupcakes(!) and maybe even omelettes. Details here. (This kind of event makes me almost with I still lived in New York, except for the July weather…)

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How to get rid of craft and cooking books?

This is a mostly non-food related question. I have hinted around about this a bit, but I’m in the process of moving (not sure where yet, but that’s another story!) and I’m taking this as a good opportunity to seriously declutter. I have a bunch of cookbooks and craft books in Japanese and English that I want to part with.

Most of the books I want to find homes for are in new or very good condition. No splattered books with stuck-together pages! There are a few that are a bit worn, but are out of print so may have a rarity value. continue reading...

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Cold noodle time!

I am sort of the road this week, so it’s hard to cook much. When I get settled back at home, the first thing I want to make is cold noodles. What I’m craving most right now:

hiyashichuuka2.jpg

That is hiyashi chuuka, or Chinese style cold noodles. It’s a meal in one, as refreshing as a salad. I love the salty-tangy sauce. continue reading...

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Rice defines me as a Japanese person

2 or 3 times a year, my mother sends me a big care package from Japan. She sends it by seamail, which takes forever, but that’s because she always includes a bag of rice. continue reading...

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2 penny sausages

Asda, a UK supermarket chain (and a wholly owned division of Wal-Mart), spurred no doubt by recent news about scarily rising food prices, has launched an attention grabbing product: the 2 p sausage. You do have to buy it in packs of 8, but a pack is still just 16p. In US cents that’s about 4 cents a sausage.

The sausages have been reduced, from 56p per package of 8. Even at that price the thought of what might go into such a cheap sausage makes me shudder. At 2p per sausage, it makes my stomach take a queasy flop.

Surely there are better ways of eating frugally than stuffing yourself with lumps of dubious chopped up mystery meat? (I love a really good sausage, but bad sausages are a very different matter.) If you’re in the UK, have you tried the 2p sausages, or would you consider trying them?

Elsewhere in the world, you can have a $175 burger topped with gold leaf and foie gras, which may not even be that good. Something’s off kilter somewhere.

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The original Iron Chef Japan is back on the air in the US

Fans of the original Japanese Iron Chef (ryouri no tetsujin 料理の鉄人) in the U.S. have cause for celebration, because the series is back on the air starting tonight at 11pm Eastern on the Fine Living channel. I think it’s been off the air on the Food Network for a while now. In my opinion, while the American version is fine, there’s nothing to match the sheer craziness and fun of the original. continue reading...

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Reflections on the food prices poll results

The food prices poll has just concluded, and the results show that 43% of the people who votes are ‘very concerned’ and 45% are ‘a little concerned’ about rising food prices. That is quite a lot indeed.

I’ve been thinking of ways in which our household food budget can go on a diet. Given that we are rather passionate about good food around here, there are compromises we are not willing to make. But there are lots we can do without feeling like we are depriving ourselves too. continue reading...

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Wagashi are not some sort of magic Japanese diet food

Someone alerted me to this entry on the Health.com blog which quotes me. (Health.com is a Time Inc. property.) I just wanted to set some things straight, because a couple of the statements there are just not right. continue reading...

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A bit of Swiss milk chocolate

A tall stack of Swiss chocolate bars

I spent the last couple of weeks surrounded by chocolate bars. Oh, the temptation. continue reading...

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Meat and the environment

Today is Green Day, and we’re being bombarded with Green Day Sales, reminders as to how Green this company or the other is, and so on. It’s a big topic nowadays.

I feel that the things that we can do as individuals is getting increasingly muddy. For a while it seemed like biofuels were a solution, but now the huge demand for plant-based fuels may be causing serious food shortages. Food miles and locavorism may not be as clear cut a solution either. Michael Pollan says we should start growing our own vegetables, but that’s not possible for a lot of people, for space or time reasons.

Is there something relatively easy we can do? Sort of. continue reading...

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New poll: Rising food prices and you

(Skip the rambling and go directly to the poll)

The news is quite disturbing these days. Soaring food prices, food riots in Haiti, rice hoarding by some exporters of rice. Do you worry about rising food prices?

We eat a lot of rice at our house as you might expect, so news like rice prices hitting an all-time high today are a bit disturbing. We’ve already seen bread getting more expensive. continue reading...

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Going Out For An English, the greatest restaurant sketch ever

Oh no, two YouTube posts in a row! Well on Saturday we went to an Indian restaurant in town, and invariably our favorite restaurant related video was brought up. Goodness Gracious Me (Wikipedia entry) was a half hour comedy sketch show that ran on BBC One and Two from 1998 to 2001. In case you have never heard of it and you’re in the U.S., it was a little bit like the ’90s comedy show In Living Color, except that the cast in GGM was almost all Asian (as in South Asian, or Indian), who also wrote all the sketches. It poked fun at many British and British-Asian things. One of the best routines was one that made fun of a typical outing to an Indian restaurant. This sketch is called Going Out for an English. I don’t think you have to be Asian (as in South Asian) or British to find it funny…it’s how a lot of people still behave, at any ‘ethnic’ restaurant!

“What is the Blandest Thing you have on the menu?”

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Mayo, shiso and tiny little fish sandwich

Browsing around YouTube instead of working, as you do, today I found this little gem. It’s a commercial for Ajinomoto Mayonnaise, by Juzo Itami, the late, great director of the best food movie ever, Tampopo:

The actor (not sure if it’s Itami himself) is talking on the phone to a friend, when he gets hungry. Still remaining on the phone (and inexplicably on his back), he scoots over to the kitchen to get white bread, mayo and chirimenjako, little semi-dried fish. He tops it off with a fresh shiso leaf, and is in heaven. The dialogue is just like the dense, obsessive dialogue in Tampopo. I’ll have to give that sandwich a try one day…it is odd enough that it has to appeal only to a really curious food person.

(The second commercial is cute yet odd, like many of the best Japanese commercials.) continue reading...

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April will be lighter around here

Incidentally, I plan to do a lot more vegetable-oriented/lighter cooking, so you’ll most likely see the results of that on Just Hungry and Just Bento. This means I’m going to give the yohshoku series a rest for awhile (breaded and deep fried hamburgers tend to stick to the waistline and all.) Besides, we’re finally starting to see reasonably locally grown vegetables that aren’t cabbage or broccoli! This kind of thing over on Just Bento is what I’ll be eating more of. I lost a bunch of weight when I couldn’t eat after my surgery, but almost all of it has come right back since my appetite returned! Must. Stem. Belly rebound.

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Whatever lame April Fools' jokes you may encounter today, there is none better than the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest

Today, you will be encountering many lame (and perhaps a handful of not-lame) April Fools’ Day jokes. But there really is none better, than the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest.

I know I keep bringing it up every year on this day, but it really is that good.

Here’s a fairly acceptable YouTube version:

continue reading...

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Pondering the new Delia Smith, plus acceptable cooking shortcuts

While I was mostly lounging around for the past week, I did get to catch up on a lot of TV. One of the shows I’ve cleared from my DVR is the new one from Delia Smith on BBC Two. continue reading...

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Hi, still alive

Hi everyone. I am alive and getting better. I actually had a tonsillectomy (hi Yoko I got it done finally); this winter I had two very bad bouts with tonsillitis and thought those things best be gone. At the moment I am feeling quite blah (probably the meds), and somehow quite depressed for some reason I can’t put a finger on. I’m not supposed to be doing anything too stressful for a while, and surfing the internets right now really gets me down even more - can’t explain that either. My throat is too uncomfortable yet to eat anything (even ice cream is sort of irritating, so I’m mainly drinking fluids…) - I don’t have much of an appetite, though I keep on thinking about the smell of butter melting in a hot pan. And bacon. But not bacon in butter. Weird.

Anyway, I’ll return to duty around here when I’m back to my own self. Thank you for all your good wishes! continue reading...

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Break down on two fronts

I love my Macs in a way that is hard to explain, unless you’re like me and have been using Macs since the ’80s. Well, my trusty 12 inch Powerbook suddenly decided to die. Thank god for backups. So the last 36 hours or so have been spent transferring, backing up and other things to a brand new Macbook Pro. It’s a bittersweet feeling; while a new Mac is always nice, that little Powerbook was a true workhorse, a perfect fit for me in so many ways. I’d resisted upgrading it for a while, but all good Macs must go to heaven some time.

At the same time that the Powerbook decided to die, it was decided that I would be going through with some elective surgery that I needed to get but was holding off on too. So, updates here and on Just Bento will be a bit slower. I have some things already written up which I hope will be postable by me or a helpful elf, but replying to comments and things will have to wait.

I didn’t know I had so much synergy with my Powerbook! I hope I can revive her as a media server or something, and I hope I can revive my body parts too.

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Silly product warning labels

I was just opening a new pack of umeboshi (pickled plums) today, when I noticed this warning on the lid in Japanese:

WARNING: Umeboshi have seeds, and sometimes the seeds can be pointed.
So please be careful.

Here’s the label, with two pointy seeds.

umeboshi_label.jpg

(Edit: I could understand the umeboshi warning if it was in English (or language of the country in which the pack was being sold), since people may be unfamiliar with umeboshi. But this was a pack imported from Japan, with Japanese writing, so they are warning Japanese people, who are, or should be, familiar with umeboshi and their pointy seeds. Ume are related to apricots, so maybe apricots should have pointy-seed labels too.)

WTF? So…has it come to this now? We have to have warning labels on natural foods?

I can understand warning labels on manufactured products, say a pesto sauce, to warn about the existence of finely ground nuts. A small percentage of the population is very allergic to nuts.

But, surely the nut-allergic shopper knows to stay away from whole peanuts for example. Or will we have to have labels on those too? “Warning: This bag contains peanuts.” ….

What about warning labels on bags of beans? “Warning: This bag contains beans, which may cause flatulence and socially awkward situations.” Meat? “Warning: This pack contains meat, which comes from an animal. Vegetarians are known to have an aversion to meat.” A bunch of bananas? “Warning: Bananas have slippery skins. If dropped on the ground, they may cause an accident, or a horde of circus clowns to show up.”

Is this labelling gone too far? (Japan is not as litigious as the U.S. for example, but it’s slowly getting there.) Are there any other nanny-state labels you’ve seen?

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The winner of MasterChef 2008 is....

The three finalists of the BBC’s MasterChef 2008 wait anxiously for the winner to be proclaimed…

mc2008-contestants.jpg continue reading...

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Restaurant authenticity verifier poll results

Here are the results of the latest poll, which asked the question: Should there be more restaurant authenticity verifiers? The poll results with comments and nifty graphics are here. continue reading...

  • Yes, I want to know if the food I’m eating is authentic. = 43% (80 votes)
  • No, it’s a bad idea - 49% (91 votes)
  • Other - 6% (12 votes)
  • Don’t know - 2% (3 votes)
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A Marmite Valentine

marmite-champagne1.jpg

Look what came in the mail today! continue reading...

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Japanese Valentine's Day chocolate giving customs in miniature

re-ment-girichoco.jpgAs I wrote about last year, Valentine’s Day in Japan is fraught with social stress. Somehow, the chocolate manufacturers have managed to convince the whole society that a girl or woman can’t just give chocolates to the ones they love. (And it’s only the women who give chocolates in Japan on the 14th, not men, unlike other countries.) She must also give giri choco, or ‘obligation chocolates’, to people she ‘owes’; bosses, teachers, and fathers-in-law.

Now you can see this kind of social giving in miniature! Re-ment, the maker of amazingly detailed diecast miniatures which I’ve also written about before, has this set of two types of chocolates: Honmei or giri?! (Your real target, or obligation?!) The caption says this: continue reading...

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Taking a little inventory

Just like it’s a good idea to take inventory of your pantry sometimes, I find it useful to take a look back at my sites occasionally and take stock of what I’m doing. continue reading...

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New poll: Should there be more restaurant cuisine authenticity verifiers?

Here’s a new poll to chew over this Monday. The Japanese government has been ruffling some feathers in the restaurant world with their attempts to set up a program to certify the authenticity of ‘Japanese’ restaurants around the world (read about it here). Should more countries start such schemes, government-sponsored or not? Should a Spanish group be going around the world verifying if a paella is properly Spanish? Should the Germans inspect the quality of wurst? Or, what about the Americans - should they go around the world inspecting bagels? (You can get some mighty unusual bagels in Japan for instance, I can tell you.)

What do you think? Have your say! continue reading...

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Hungry links: food pyramid for athletes, Duesseldorf, and more

I’ve decided to be more selective about the links I post here, so instead of relying on del.icio.us auto-posting, I’ll be doing it manually and less frequently. This allows me to be more verbose in my comments than 255 characters, and you all to comment if you want too.

So, here we go for this snowy Saturday morning: continue reading...

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The Japanese restaurant authentifiers start moving

Early last year, a movement to set up an authentification program for Japanese restaurant was proposed, to mixed reactions. Now it seems the people behind it are getting going: the inspectors are already in Bangkok, Shanghai and Taipei, and this year they’ll be invading, er researching London, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Paris. continue reading...

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Uh..uh...beetle larvae shaped chocolates

Chocolate. It’s such a lovely, malleable substance. It can be shaped into anything really. Anything.

But, one wonders what kind of twisted mind came up with this idea…chocolate truffles shaped like kabutomushi (rhinocerous beetle) larvae!

Avert your eyes if you are squeamish. You may not want to read this while you’re eating.

(If you’re getting here from the front page, pause and breathe in deeply before clicking that ‘continue reading’. continue reading...

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Hold the tuna and the food guilt, please

Tuna with a side of mercury, and all that. continue reading...

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Help me to assemble a comprehensive Japanese grocery store list!

I should have done this a long time ago, but hey, better late than ever. I’m going to try to assemble a list of Japanese grocery stores worldwide, that people can refer to. Obviously I cannot do this without your help! I can list info for places I’ve lived, and there have been some great comment posts in the past here that have included such info, but I’ll try to put it all in one place.

So, please head on over to to this constantly updated page and add any information you have about in the comments!

I’ve added the categories Food related shopping places you shouldn’t miss in Japan and Places that ship Japanese food-related things worldwide.

[Update:] Of course this turned out to be a way bigger job than I thought :) But I’ll try to add as much as possible over the weekend. I’ve found that there are quite a lot of Japanese pages that list stores and so on, for expats obviously. I’m collecting those and adding them, together with your suggestions in the comments. continue reading...

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Did you learn to cook in school?

The UK government is instituting an interesting school policy. Starting in September, cooking courses will be compulsory at schools in England. (I guess it’s not for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland yet?) It’s part of their campaign against childhood obesity. (Read more about it on the Guardian Word Of Mouth blog.) It’s a very appealing idea, though I’m not sure if it will accomplish their goals, if they aren’t eating right elsewhere. But we shall see.

I had to take what were called kateika (domestic science) courses in Japan, in the 5th and 6th grades in elementary school and the first 2 years of junior high school. (In junior high it was for girls only; the boys got to do gijutsuka, which meant mostly building fun things. I wanted to do that more than the cooking and sewing!) I don’t think we did a whole lot of cooking (I remember doing more sewing for some reason) but I do remember some of the things we made.

  • A basic vegetable soup - though bacon was used for the “dashi”.
  • Rice with green peas (mame gohan)
  • Sweet potato paste with chestnuts (kuri kinton), a standard osechi (New Year’s feast) item…except that the teacher couldn’t get a hold of chestnuts so we had to use apples instead…so that was actually ringo kinton
  • Some sort of freeform rock cakes or such
  • Pork and ginger buta no sho-ga yaki
  • For some reason, a fancy sole meunière
  • Sandwiches, the Japanese way - with soft white bread, mustard butter, the crusts cut off neatly, and the whole thing kept nice and moist (shittori) with moist kitchen towels!

I’m not sure if any of that was very useful - we never learned fundamental skills like how to wash rice, how to make a dashi, and so on. The only one that was useful was the sandwich class, so if I want to hold a tea party I’m all set! There were time constraints of course, which prevented the teacher from doing anything too complicated. I do remember that the classes were always chaotic - and we’re talking about fairly well-behaved Japanese schoolkids! I wonder how the British teachers will fare.

Did you take cooking classes in school? If so, what did you learn? Do you think cooking classes are a good idea?

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Cloned meat and animal products poll results

Thank you to everyone to participated in the cloned meat poll! Here are the somewhat surprising results. continue reading...

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Going back to your culinary roots: does it make you healthier?

To my post about why Japanese people in Japan don’t get that fat, Kim left this terrific comment:

I’m not Japanese (I’m Korean). I was adopted and grew up in America. I didn’t have a weight problem growing up, my weight happened when I hit high school and beyond. When I was in college, I had a chance to go back to Korea for 3 months. I was just a little overweight, maybe around 10-15 pounds. While there, I ate everything in sight, but I also walked everywhere. I also ate more veggies, and more rice, and again, I walked everywhere…usually in atypical day I was walking close to 3-5 miles. When I came back to the states, my Mom automatically thought that I had been starving because I was so slim. Sure enough,1 month later I had gained back all my weight.

There was a big diet trend a little while back that spoke to that. It had people focusing on what their heritage is and then eating and being like the people from their heritage. Now whenever i feel the need to drop some weight, I heavily go back to my Korean roots and the weight just seems to come off. I usually have more energy and just feel more at peace. But it takes so much time, and that is a premium these days.

I must have missed that diet trend Kim mentioned somehow, but it resonates a lot with me. I do enjoy eating a wide variety of cuisines, but when I want to get back into balance and feel good physically and mentally, I always go back to Japanese cooking. I know that Japanese food is generally held to be quite healthy and things like that, but maybe there is more to that.

What do you think? Does going back to your own food heritage help you to feel better and healthier? continue reading...

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Some admin stuff

You may have noticed that you can now comment here and on Just Bento without moderation. I’m seeing if it works out - so far the anti-spam measures seem to be holding up. (You do still have to pass at terribly difficult math test…) I hate comment spam - to me it’s the interweb equivalent of someone walking their dog on your lawn and leaving a poop. But on the other hand I know it can be a bit frustrating to see your comment not be displayed immediately. So, we’ll see how it goes…if problems arise I’ll turn moderation back on. continue reading...

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A new poll: Would you eat food from cloned animals?

The first poll about chickens (the original question, the actual poll, and the results summarized) was so interesting to me, that I’d like to make polls a semi-regular feature on Just Hungry. I think that polls and the answers to them on difficult issues can help qualify one’s thinking on the subject. So, here is another one for you about on the subject of the ethics of eating. The subject is cloned animals.

Yesterday the The U.S. government approved the sale of food from cloned animals. Here is the Food and Drug Administration’s report. The European Union issued a public call for consultation on the scientific issues regarding food derived from cloned animals. The draft opinion of the agency (link, PDF) is that such food is safe for human consumption.

How do you feel about this? Remember that food from cloned animals would include eggs, milk and milk products as well as meat. Please include your opinions in the comments to the poll too.

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My take on why Japanese people in Japan don't get that fat

Here are some rambling thoughts on why, to paraphrase the title of a book, Japanese People Aren’t That Fat. continue reading...

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Saturday morning thoughts no. 2: My take on online diet programs

Around this time last year I immersed myself in studying the subject of losing weight. I read a lot of related sites and blogs, bought a few books, and joined some online programs. Since you may be in that situation right now, still flushed with the determination to carry out your New Year’s resolutions, here are some of my thoughts about online diet programs. continue reading...

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Saturday morning thoughts no. 1: Chicken poll results

The results of the Chicken Poll posted earlier this week continue reading...

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Swiss restaurant news: blindekuh "blind eating" restaurant group owner honored

A couple of years ago, I wrote about our visit to a most unusual Zürich restaurant, the blindekuh, where sighted people can experience what it’s like to dine in total darkness. Yesterday it was announced that the founder of the chain Stefan Zappa, was honored as the Swiss Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

According to the story, “The “Blind-Liecht” charitable foundation was set up in December 1998 by Zappa, a partially sighted psychologist, with help from three other blind people.”

It’s still the most unusual restaurant experience I’ve ever had. If you have a chance to visit Zürich, I’d highly recommend a visit there if you want a dinner you’ll never forget. There is a blindekuh restaurant (it seems it’s officially spelled in lowercase) in Basel also.

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Menu For Hope raffle results

The raffle results for Menu For Hope have been announced on Chez Pim. This year, $91,188.00 was raised. Wow. Thank you to everyone who bought raffle tickets, and to my fellow food bloggers who offered such a great variety of prizes - a collective pat on our well padded backs!

The winner of the Just Hungry prize of a box of 53 bars of Swiss chocolate is Sonja. Sonja please get in touch with me at maki at makikoitoh dot com so we can discuss the where, how and whats of your prize. (I will not, however, be responsible for Sonja’s dental bills at the end of the year :))

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The question of food ethics: What's your chicken policy?

thechoiceswemake.jpg

It may well be that 2008 is the year when questions of ethics and choice really come to the fore. In the UK, coincidentally or not three major TV programmes on the subject have been airing this week. As I mentioned earlier the BBC is airing a second season (series) of Kill It, Cook It, Eat It, a program about the slaughtering of animals for human consumption. On Channel 4, two heavyweights of the TV cooking world, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver, are tackling the issue of battery raised chickens. In the U.S. Michael Pollan, author of the seminal The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has a new book out, In Defense Of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (I haven’t read this yet). Here in Switzerland, the leading supermarket chain stopped selling traditionally raised fois gras, at least in the German speaking parts of the country.

I don’t really have hard-and-fast rules on food. I’m not a diehard locavore, I’m not a ethically-motivated vegan, I buy conventionally farmed produce as well as organic. One food I do have a firm line on is chicken. Ever since I found out in what conditions factory farmed chickens are raised, I have only bought organically raised ‘happy’ chickens and eggs, as I wrote about two years ago. I think that chicken is a sort of bottom line type of food. A lot of people nowadays may be avoiding red meat and pork (is pork a red or white meat? I’m never sure), but they do eat chicken. And even if you don’t eat chicken, you may eat eggs.

So, I’m curious. What are your personal policies when it comes to chicken? I’ ve put up a poll about it - please vote, and tell me your opinion in the comments there.

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Kill It, Cook It, Eat It is back too

I just realised that Kill It, Cook It, Eat It, the BBC Three show that brings you into a real working abattoir, is also back for another series (season) starting tonight at 10:30PM BT/11:30PM CET (also repeated at 12:45AM/1:45AM). I mentioned it yesterday as one of my top food TV shows of last year. It will be shown every night for this week, and the lineup looks interesting, to say the least. They are going for the baby animals…

  • Monday (today): Suckling Pig
  • Tuesday: Kid Goat
  • Wednesday: Veal
  • Thursday: Milk Fed Lamb
  • Friday: Omnibus (recap of the week I guess)

For more information, see the BBC Three site.

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The return of MasterChef, plus the best food TV shows of 2007

My favorite food tv show is back! Plus, a look back at the best and worst of food television in 2007. continue reading...

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What I'm writing on my other blogs

I have yet another cold, and am not in a food mood. So I’m writing elsewhere, about language and Wii. continue reading...

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Best wishes for 2008

Thank you so much for your kind words of condolence. 2007 has certainly been a year of ups and downs, but I feel that 2008 will be a big year somehow, and I’m feeling quite excited about it.

We were in the habit of toasting the arrival of the new year every year with Martha with a little champagne or local sparkling apple wine (Blauacher Chlöpfmoscht, with a few nibbles (apero) to go along. We’ll be keeping up that tradition by ourselves now. continue reading...

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Martha

 Martha's rose window

A little about Martha Wyss-Gerber, who passed away in the early dawn of December 26th. continue reading...

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passing

Martha, Max’s mother, passed away quietly in her sleep last night.

We were prepared for it, I suppose, but you can’t really be fully prepared for the passing of a parent either.

There are a few articles that I’ve already written, which will be posted here and on Just Bento over the next few days but replying to emails and comments etc. will be slow. Thanks for your understanding.

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Last day for Menu For Hope, and Happy Holidays

Cross stitch Christmas Advent wallhanging

This is the very last day you can donate to Menu For Hope! And a nice bonus - take a look at the beautiful poem about Lesotho here by Rethabile. (Yes, if you also read Just Bento you’re getting this in double…but it’s a poem worth visiting more than once!)

Just Bento and Just Hungry (which is mostly me anyway) are taking a few days off to take care of a ton of offline duties. (Thank you for your nice emails…we’re hanging in around here.)

We decided not to get a tree this year, so the only Christmas decoration of sorts we have up is this wallhanging/advent calendar, that I finally finished last week.

Cross stitch Christmas Advent wallhanging

In this day and age when things I have made or worked on exist only in digital form, it’s really grounding and satisfying to create something that has a physical form and presence, that I can touch and hold. That includes food too. There’s nothing better than the warm feeling you get when your friends and family’s faces light up when you present them with delicious food that you made with your own hands. Especially around the holidays.

Happy Holidays everyone!

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Swiss shopping news: Get used to happy foie gras

nomorefoisgras.jpgWe received a PR release the other day from LeShop, Migros’ home food delivery web site, that they are no longer going to be selling traditionally raised (with the gavage method of force-feeding) foie gras to German speaking Switzerland. This didn’t come about because of government legislation, but apparently was a decision made by Migros, following the results of customer surveys which were overwhelmingly against gavage. continue reading...

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Heston Blumethal's wacky Christmas

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The nuttiest TV food show I’ve ever seen aired last night. Despite the rather somber mood around here these days, we were laughing out loud several times as we watched it. If you missed it you’ll want to catch a rerun. continue reading...

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Nourishing food writing and music

Some time ago, I realized that I was often using food to deal with anxiety and stress. I can’t say I’ve gotten out of that habit totally, but I know the symptoms now and can deal with them a bit better. One way is to read about food instead. I’m sure I’m not the only one who takes cookbooks to read in bed. continue reading...

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Plastic fantastic New Years feasts

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A look at preorder New Year’s feasts in Japan. continue reading...

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It will be a muted Christmas

I realize that compared to a lot of other food blogs, I don’t get that personal on this blog most of the time. I just wanted to mention though that posting may slow down a bit for a while. I know that I’ve promised some articles such as one on pressure cooking, and I had planned some festive Christmas-y recipes and such. However, yesterday we heard that Max’s mother Martha, who is in a nursing home, has suddenly taken a turn for the worse. So, it will be a rather somber Christmas around here.

My pressure cooker actually used to belong to Martha, until she went into the home a couple of years ago. Except for replacing the rubber gasket, it’s as good as the day she bought it more than 20 years ago. She used it all the time, mainly for steaming potatoes, but for a few other things too. I hope to put those recipes up here in due course.

In the meantime, here is her authentic Swiss cheese fondue recipe, which is the absolute best I’ve ever had. A cheese fondue with crusty bread was always one of our favorite meals to have together.

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Do you think about the carbon footprint of your holiday feasts?

As I’ve mentioned her before several times, I’m not a diehard locavore. But I do try to keep an eye on how far my food has travelled to get to me. Admittedly, many of my seasonings and such have travelled a long way, because I need my Japanese food and I’m here in the middle of Europe. For fresh produce and meats and things like that I do try to buy things that haven’t travelled too far as much as I can. I think I’ve fairly typical in that respect these days. continue reading...

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The pickled leeks of human kindness

I’ve been following a certain story in the UK with interest. A rich old lady died recently there, and in her will, she left her £10 million estate to the owners of her favorite Chinese restaurant. The family (actually her nieces and nephews) contested the will, as you might expect. On Friday, the High Court upheld the will. continue reading...

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Menu for Hope IV: Think Chocolate

Just Hungry is happy to announce that once again, we’re donating a prize for Menu For Hope, now in its 4th year. Menu for Hope is an annual charity event contributed to by food bloggers around the world. It was instigated by Pim of Chez Pim, and this year’s regional European host is Fanny of foodbeam.

Menu For Hope IV will benefit the United National World Food Programme; this year’s donations have been earmarked for the school lunch programme in Lesotho, Africa.

And what is Just Hungry donating? Just Think Chocolate… continue reading...

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Swiss food shopping news: The Cheese Club has British cheese

wensleydale-sm.jpegHere’s another bit of food related shopping news for my fellow Swiss residents, expat or not. I recently got an email about a new site called The Cheese Club. They are still in pre-launch mode - the official launch is scheduled for February. One thing that makes they quite interesting is that they are run by an English and Swiss couple and will be selling British cheeses, as well as Swiss and Spanish cheeses. As far as I know, British cheeses aren’t that widely available here in Switzerland (Jelmoli has a limited selection, at least in Zürich) so this could be good news for a lot of people. (There really is no substitute for a good Stilton, for example.)

Although they haven’t officially opened yet, they are already selling a cheese tasting pack, which includes wedges of blue Stilton and Wensleydale, for 69 CHF. They guarantee delivery by December 21st. Could be a great gift for your favorite homesick Brit!

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Do you have cook's hands?

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At the moment I am reading a book called The Kitchen. It’s been reissued with another book by the same author, Nicolas Freeling, as The Kitchen and The Cook, both of which were written in the post-World War II period. I’m reading it as slowly as I can, because it is a book to savor.

One of the early passages in The Kitchen caught my eye, where the author describes the hands of a cook. continue reading...

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Book giveaway ends today

Just a poke to remind everyone that the 4th anniversary book giveaway / “Food Memories” mini-contest ends today, at 1 minute before midnight CET. That’s 11pm GMT, 6pm Eastern, 5pm Central, 3pm Pacific, 9am Saturday in Tokyo, etc. There are already many wonderful personal stories…add your own! The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

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A very special current season olive oil from Siracusa, Sicily via Zurich

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A very special limited edition olive oil which comes from Siracusa, Sicily via Zürich, Switzerland. continue reading...

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I have whisk elbow

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This hasn’t been a good couple of weeks for me health wise. First there was the ‘acute tonsilitis’ thing (that is much better, thanks for your nice notes!) Now I have a self-inflicted case of Whisk Elbow. That’s where you 1) forget to charge your cordless electric whisk, 2) have an uncontrollable urge to make some little almond cakes which use the classic French method of whipping the eggs with sugar over a hot-water bath until they become a foamy, lemony-yellow mass of heaven, and 3) do it by hand with a wonky whisk. Now I have shooting pains from my elbow running down my forearm.

The moral of this story: When you have a cake urge, and your electric equipment is kaput, don’t be a hero. Go to the store and buy one. Something to remember if you’ll be doing a lot of holiday baking and your muscles are not trained up for heavy-duty whipping. (eh…)

(And by the way, no I do not own a KitchenAid. Whenever I look at one, I see the price - they cost more than 650CHF (about US $580) here - and think: For that I could go away for a nice weekend in, say, Aix-en-Provence, or Florence, or Strasbourg, or even Paris. I’d rather do that anytime! And so I do. Whenever I feel the urge for a quick getaway, I go look at a KitchenAid mixer, and make do with my cheap electric whisk.)

On a much happier note, there are already some great responses to the book giveaway mini-contest. Come and share your own food memories too, for a chance at a great book!

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Hundreds of squash and pumpkins: A great seed source in Switzerland

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A Swiss company that sells hundreds of squash and pumpkin seed varieties. continue reading...

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Christmas livery

I originally intended to tweak the innards of the site a bit to improve performance and readability - the front page was getting rather (very) unwieldly. That somehow escalated more and more, as they do if you are a web geek taking a busman’s holiday*, and now the site has had a complete makeover. (Yet again. It’s the 5th re-design in 4 years.) For good measure I have given it a Christmas look, to stay in place for the next month. Ho ho ho.

Things should work properly, but if they don’t, please let me know.

(And yes, that new Swiss chocolate sponsor on the right does ship internationally.) continue reading...

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Reader question: Canadian mailorder sources for Japanese food?

I’m still not officially back :) but a reader from Canada had a question in the comments here, which I cannot answer. So, I ask any Canadian residents out there. Do you know of any Canadian sources (or places that will ship food items to Canada) for Japanese food, specifically umeboshi?

I am going to try to compile a worldwide Japanese shopping source list soon, since this type of question does come up all the time.

(For umeboshi specifically, if you can’t find it locally at an Asian or Japanese grocery, I’d also try health stores since umeboshi is a highly revered food amongst the macrobiotic set.)

OK, let me shuffle back to the inert/letting the antibiotics do their job state now….

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200 recipes!

I just realized that the kuri squash and apple maple pudding recipe is actually the 200th recipe posted on Just Hungry. 200 spread out over almost 4 years may not seem like that much, but every one of them has been tried and tested, in most cases repeatedly, so…it actually is quite a lot for me! Judging from the comments and email I get, most of them seem to work fairly well for people, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

(I also realized that ‘pudding’ may not be the right name for it…it’s more like a pie, without the crust. Though if you chill it before eating, it does sort of become a squash-cream pudding. I’ll leave the name as is though - whatever it may be called, it’s really delicious!) continue reading...

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House & Garden archives

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Many people who are interested in cooking and food are probably interested in the whole ‘shelter’ area - home design, architecture, crafts, gardening, and all kinds of domestic subjects. At least, I am. So it was very sad news indeed to hear that House & Garden will cease publication as of the December 2007 issue - even though I haven’t picked up an issue for longer than I can remember. (I guess there were lots of people like me in that respect, which is a reason why they did fold.) The web site is still up, though there’s no indication of how long it will be there. For people interested in the past history of this venerable publication, The Online Books Page has a list of links to archived editions from 1911 to 1922. Browsing through those old pages makes for some fascinating reading. continue reading...

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A plea to all restaurant web site creators

Please stop with the Flash-only sites. If you must have a Flash site, please provide a plain HTML alternative, for those of us who might want to visit your site in a hurry, or on our Plain Jane cell phones.

For goodness sake, please get rid of those annoying, meaningless, splash pages. That is so 1998.

You want a useful front page that your customers would really appreciate? Put your address, your reservation phone number, and hours of operation there.

Please take a little time to convert your menu to HTML. Stop with the PDF-only menus! If you must, provide a ‘typical’ menu in HTML and then a link to your current PDF menu. But PDF-only menus? I’m not even going to bother. And this is coming from someone who makes their living from PDF programming.

AND FOR CRYING OUT LOUD STOP WITH THE AUTOMATICALLY PLAYING MUSIC!

Thank you. Have a great day.

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Swiss food shopping news: OEM Dolfin chocolate spotted at Coop

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Coop seems to have OEM’ed the famous Dolfin spicy Masala chocolate bar! All evidence points to this…. continue reading...

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The refrigerator knows

We had a major spillage accident in our refrigerator today, which required removal of all shelves and drawers. So I took the opportunity to give everything a wipe and wash and re-organize.

The end result was rather enlightening. continue reading...

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Site news: Cross-site search

A little site news: I’ve added a new search function to the site that will search both Just Hungry and Just Bento for your convenience. It’s using Google Custom Search, which is a very easy way of setting up multi-site searches. (The results do show ads on occasion, but there’s not much you can do about that in Googleland.) continue reading...

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A special welcome to CalorieLab visitors, about having my pork belly and eating it too

My post about losing 30 pounds using bento lunches as a tool is featured as a guest article on CalorieLab, a great weight loss related news site.

For people who’ve clicked through here from there, welcome! If you take the time to look around, you might wonder why this woman is saying she’s on a weight loss plan (notice the avoidance of the word ‘diet’) while writing about things like braised pork belly and spaghetti Bolognese. Earlier this year, I wrote a series of articles about my plans and thoughts for losing weight, but the one that stuck to me the most these many months later is the one about reconciling my food obsession with trying to lose weight. continue reading...

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Just Hungry and Just Bento, now with tasty full RSS feeds

For the longest time (like forever) RSS subscribers to Just Hungry have only gotten the excerpts. There was no deep reason for this…except that I was afraid that my often long-winded posts would annoy you if you wanted to skim, or something. Well, due to approximately 3.5 people mentioning they’d prefer full feeds…from now on all Just Hungry and Just Bento feeds will have the full shebang, so you’ll never have to visit the site again*! Banzai!

Not subscribed yet? Then here they are: the Just Hungry newsfeed and Just Bento newsfeed. (What is a newsfeed?)

*Though I hope you do, I like visitors. I’ll even put out the Chex mix.

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Onigiri galore, and shooting them

In case you don’t follow Just Bento, but read Just Hungry for the Japanese stuff, be sure to check out my onigiri magnum opus. In case you are wondering, yes I made all those onigiri and shot them over the weekend. It took 8 cups of rice! Some are stored in the freezer, but regrettably, many were consumed on the spot by the photographer and me.

Shooting white rice against a white background, especially on a cloudy day, is not easy. But the other weekend project we managed to finish finally really came in handy - the shoestring ‘studio’ box. continue reading...

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Saturday thoughts: Donna Hay, Just Bento, food blogging events

The sister site to Just Hungry got discovered by several sites overnight (while I was not at the computer, as always happens in such cases) and the traffic went up about 100 x, mainly thanks to it being on the del.icio.us popular page for a while. I haven’t even ‘officially’ launched it in my mind, since I am occasionally breaking it by fiddling with the engine (Drupal, for the technically inclined) in the background, but it’s very gratifying to know that people are interested in the subject. I think it must be timely. continue reading...

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Daiso is coming to Europe!

Great news for fans of things Japanese who live in Europe, the UK in particular: Daiso, the 100 yen store chain, is opening a branch in London on November 17th. They are teaming up with Japan Centre, one of my favorite sources for Japanese food and other things. (Disclaimer: Japan Centre advertises on this site, but I’m also a happy customer.) It will be at 213 Piccadilly.

If you’re not familiar with the awesomeness of 100 yen shops, you owe yourself a visit if you go to London. I am hoping that they will carry plenty of cute goods for the fans of cute. I think I need to go to London soon! I’m rather curious as to how they’ll price things at the London store…will everything be a pound? We’ll see.

Daiso also has several stores in North America.
An excerpt from the press release follows after the jump. continue reading...

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just beta

I am almost ready to give birth to a project that’s been incubating for ages. It’s still rather sparse (or, as they say in Web 2.0 speak, ‘beta’). If you take a look let me know what you think….

[Update:] Thank you for all of the positive comments! (If you have any criticism that’s welcome too.) As you can probably see already, the site will be quite tutorial-heavy, especially since there are already a growing number of bento blogs. As I’ve written in Bento Basics, the focus of most of the bentos (I’m sure there will be some exceptions) I’ll be writing about are 1) brown-rice based with a large portion of vegetables, 2) made in 20 minutes or under (with some prep work) and 2) 600 calories or under (a bit more for bigger guys). They won’t be that cute - at least inside the bento box. I don’t have a lot of patience for cute-fiddling in the morning. You can of course add cuteness with the bento box itself or the wrapper for the bento box.

The site is still ‘beta’ because I’m still ironing out some background kinks, but you can already subscribe to it and things.

Incidentally, I started to make a concerted effort to make bento earlier this year, as part of an overall ‘eat healthier, dammit’ thing. It’s been a really positive experience health-wise and taste-wise, and as one side effect I’ve lost about 30 lbs (15 kg or so) since the beginning of the year. Does that give you an incentive to start making bento too? :) continue reading...

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Briefly: For Japanese food lovers in Switzerland

The French-language blog sooshi has pictures of Uchitomi, a Japanese grocery with stores in Genève and Lausanne. The selection looks very nice!

I have also spotted real yuzu recently at the Bürkliplatz market in Zürich. In the summer I have seen live shiso plants there, both red and green too, Japanese-style sweet potatoes at Barkat, and satoimo (taro roots) at the Indian grocery store next the Hooter’s at Helvetiaplatz. It’s really great to see more ‘exotic’ Japanese and Asian produce more easily available here. When I first came to visit Switzerland back in the mid-’90s, you had to buy fresh ginger in the exotic food department at Globus! How times have changed. .

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The stressful act of supermarket shopping

Yesterday, the Soil Association in Britain, a highly inflluential charitable organization, announced that in a year, they will only certify food that is air shipped into the country as organic if it also met fair trade standards. Since some thought that they should stop certifying any imported fresh food as organic, this looks like a compromise on their part. Even if on the surface organic and fair trade don’t have much to do with each other, in the realm of fuzzy good-feeling consumerism they are certainly related.

I don’t think that enough study has been done yet on just how greener locally produced food is though. As I’ve written about here before, food produced in cold to temperate climates with short growing seasons requires a lot of energy. It’s probably beyond the scope of organizations like the Soil Association at this point in time to try to address complicated issues like that though. Far easier to place restrictions and requirements on far-flung producers with little or no political power.

Buy organic, support fair trade. Avoid trans-fats and simple sugars. Avoid additives and chemicals and extraneous packaging. Hope there are no harmful bacteria. Oh yes, and worry about the rising cost of food too. I used to love going to the supermarket. I still do mostly, but these days that enjoyment is tinged with a lot of stress.

(See also: should the supermarkets pre-edit our choices? Personally, even with all the thinking and decision-making that’s required I’d rather make my own choices.)

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2008 will be the International Year of the Potato

Next year, the United Nations wants us to celebrate the humble potato for an entire year. I’m not certain how the UN makes its decisions about such things (why not the Year of the Tomato or the Year of the Turnip?), but I have no objections against the humble potato, one of my favorite foods. Unless you are an avowed anti-carb person, how could you not love the potato? continue reading...

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Eating local in winter - followup

Forgive me for neglecting Just Hungry a bit this week - I’ve been spending all of my free waking time in Knightsbridge. I did want to follow up on the thoughtful comments left on my post about eating local in winter, in areas without 4-season growing conditions. Perhaps because I’ve been immersed in the 14th century has helped, but I’m increasingly intrigued by the idea of trying to experience how it would have been like to survive the winter in an age when fresh foods were not shipped in from far parts.

So I am going to try it out for at least a week in a few weeks - I think the end of January/beginning of February would be a good time. I don’t think I will go back as far as the Middle Ages, but something prior to the 19th century anyway - prior to fast trading ships as well as the advent of refrigeration. (I’m not sure if I will aim for pre-canning days as well). I’m also a bit undecided as to if I’ll try to emulate how it would have been in Switzerland, or something more generic, as well as what class in society I’d put myself (since rich people would have eaten a lot better then poor people, of course). When I’ve done more research into this I’ll post what I’m going to do.

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I'm rather tired of the cult of the celebrity chef

Celebrity chefs have been around for some time now, but they seem to have exploded all over the place in the last decade, mainly through food related TV shows.

The restaurant food world is becoming similar to the world of fashion. There are the actual restaurants, most of which are too expensive for the majority of the population - people without generous expense accounts or oodles of money - other than for a rare treat. These are the couture studios (as in real couture, not ‘couture’ as it’s used to describe anything that’s not a plain t-shirt these days) of the food world. Then you have all the merchandising, from cookbooks to dodgy cookware to frozen dinners bearing a chef’s name. Those are the perfumes and bags and H & M special-designer label lines of the food world. continue reading...

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A few words about Top Chef 3

As long time readers of Just Hungry may know, I used to recap every single episode of the Bravo TV reality show Top Chef. The first season had me glued to my…er, computer screen. However for various reasons I did not do so for the third season that just concluded. I did watch it though, and have just a few thoughts. continue reading...

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Surviving on sauerkraut and kimchee: Eating local in winter

Fall (or autumn) is really a wonderful time for local produce in temperate climates. The grapes in our garden are crying out to be picked every day, we still have a couple of late zucchini, and the markets are overflowing with winter squash, heirloom apples, pears, and more. In a couple of months though most of that will be gone, and we’ll be very limited in what we can eat that’s grown locally. Unless it comes from greenhouses of course, and, while there may be exceptions commercial greenhouses aren’t usually that energy efficient.

I am a moderate in most things, including eating, so am not a dedicated locavore. If I were though, and I did not live in a four-season growing area like most of California, my winter choices would be severely limited.

If we truly ate like our ancestors, who were limited to locally grown foodstuffs, we’d be eating a lot of preserved foods in the winter months. A lot of those foods have disappeared from modern pantries, but a few do survive: jams, pickles, preserves; dried or salted meats like sausages and hams and corned beef; salt cod. (In Japan there are lots of salt-cured and dried foodstuffs ranging from fish to seaweed to vegetables.) Two of the best examples are both cabbage based: sauerkraut, and kimchee. The lactic-acid fermented cabbage retains quite a lot of its nutrition, and probably kept legions of people from dying of malnutrition.

I’d really like to see those dedicated, evangelical locavores to try living on a diet based on these traditional preserved foods in the winter months, because that would show a true dedication to the cause. No cheating on tropical imported fruits. I’m thinking of trying it out on a short term basis (like a week) myself, just to see if it’s possible.

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Cold remedies

I was hoping that I would avoid my usual bout with a cold/flu around this time of the year with healthier eating and regular exercise and all that, but no such luck. Once again I’m enduring the stuffed head, sore throat, and achy body. My favorite home remedy to combat a cold, besides Ricola tea, is lemon-honey water: the juice of one lemon in a big mug with hot water and a spoonful of honey. My grandmother’s favorite remedy was umeboshi, though I’m not sure why (she believed in umeboshi for a variety of ailments). What are your favorite homemade cold remedies?

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Alessi Mr. Chin kitchen gadgets - or, what were they thinking?

I am a usually a big fan of the Italian design firm Alessi, who make, besides other things, all kinds of cool, funky and expensive kitchen gadgets. However, this Mr. Chin line of kitchen timers and other gadgets made me wonder, what were they thinking.

alessi_mr_chin.jpg continue reading...

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Paddington Bear eats Marmite!

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There’s quite a lot of slightly matted plush fur flying in Britain this week over the new Marmite TV ad, which features the lovable Paddington Bear, devotee of marmelade sandwiches, tucking into a Marmite sandwich. It made so much of a furor that it even made the evening news on the BBC yesterday. Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond has been accused of selling out and for supplying the script for the commercial (he has denied both). There have been dozens of news stories and editorials devoted to it (my favorite headline is What Next, Rupert Bear in Burberry?). continue reading...

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More Japanese wieners

Following up on my previous post, here are some more recipes that use wiener sausages on Cookpad: continue reading...

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Why do Japanese people like wieners so much?

I often like to peruse the excellent Japanese cooking site Cookpad. Cookpad is a unique cooking community site. The bulk of it consists of cooking blogs, where people post recipes and pictures. People can post short responses to the recipes called tsukurepo, where they show a photo of their attempt making the recipe. A lot of recipes also note which other recipe on the site inspired the poster to come up with theirs. This is what makes the site unique - you can follow a complete genealogy of a recipe, and keep on discovering new variations on themes. continue reading...

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Hmm, low-fat artisanal local cheese

I finally succumbed to the inevitable and went to the dentist yesterday, to have a back molar that has been twinging with pain for months looked at. And, as to be expected when you hold off that dreaded dentist visit for too long, my options weren’t good: root canal surgery, or get the tooth pulled. I pondered my choices for, oh, about 5 seconds before settling on the tooth extraction option. (I’ve had root canal surgery once before…never, ever again will I go through that agony).

While it was my lesser-pain option, and Herr Dentist was as efficient as can be, I was still in pain as I got back to Zürich. (Herr Dentist is in Winterthur.) But my spirits lifted when I saw that the Wednesday Speciality Market (Spezialitätenmarkt im Hauptbahnhof) was back after a monthlong summer vacation. I headed straight for my favorite cheese vendor, which sells cheeses made by farmers/cheesemakers in the Züri Oberland region - in other words, very local, all artisanally made and so on. continue reading...

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Quechup is not ketchup, or kosher

A little non-food business. I have been getting tons of invites from people I don’t know (and a couple I actually do) for yet another social networking site called Quechup. It seems that sometime during the signup process, this site makes it possible for people to send invites to all the people in the GMail and other online mail service address books. It’s kind of interesting to see who has my address in their address books, but nevertheless…if you want to avoid this annoyance, just avoid Quechup. continue reading...

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Some great UK Food TV shows

At the moment there are so many UK TV food shows that are compelling enough to watch that it’s hard to find time for them all. Thank goodness for DVRs and torrents. Here’s a rundown, in no particular order of preference - all of them are worth watching for different reasons, and most are far better than almost anything that U.S. TV has to offer at the moment. continue reading...

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Happy Labor Day

Happy Labor Day to everyone in the U.S.! Labor Day is sort of the unofficial end of summer, which makes me a little sad, but it’s also the start of the best season for foodies - fall/autumn. Fall is known as the season of the appetite in Japan - as the hot weather recedes and the fruits of the harvest start to come in, the tummy gets hungrier. In Switzerland we have the hunting season to look forward to, not to mention wild mushrooms in the markets. And the old grape vines in our garden are already yielding dark, small, sweet fruits.

I know things have been a little quiet around Just Hungry lately, but it will get busier as I get out of tomato-salad and cold cucumber soup mode…stay tuned!

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Swiss supermarket news: Carrefour sells up to Coop

This news item is probably of no interest to anyone who doesn’t live in Switzerland, but French supermarket giant Carrefour has apparently given up on the Swiss market and sold their stores to Coop (news in German).

Now I am not really surprised. I’ve only been to the Carrefour store near here a few times, but each time I’ve wondered why it was so popular. Okay, they did often have some loss-leader type sales on staple items, a wider variety of cuts of packaged meat, and so on. continue reading...

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I like real food

Periodically I like to step back a bit and take a look at why this site exists, and what it’s about. The current masthead says it’s about Japanese cooking (especially for people who do not live in Japan or a region with easy access to Japanese ingredients), expat food issues in general, and healthy cooking.

But what I’m really about when it comes to food is real food, and that’s what this site is about. I don’t claim to be a purist who never lets an artificial food pass my lips - I do live in the real world. But in general, fake food just does not taste right to me.

I like real fruits and vegetables. I like meat from animals or birds who lived a happy life when they were alive, and eggs that come from contented hens. I like cheese that has been produced in time tested, traditional ways rather than the kind that differs little from the plastic that’s wrapped around them. I prefer fish that swam around freely.

Not just because they are ‘good for me’ or ‘good for the environment’ or ‘better for trade’ or whatever, though these can be - and often are - side benefits. I like real food because it tastes better. I’m selfish that way.

Now I realize that ‘real food’ does not taste better to everyone. Our tastebuds are conditioned by habits and environment, and a lot of people eat tons of fake food all the time. I used to do that too, especially in my teens and 20s . As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve grown away from that. Given a choice between a fresh, ripe peach and peach flavored candy, I’ll take the real peach every time.

Real food takes a commitment in terms of priorities. Time is one thing you have to allocate in many cases. Money is too, unfortunately. To me and to my family, these commitments are worthwhile.

Welcome to Just Hungry, where we prefer real food. continue reading...

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Dashi powder? Use sparingly, if at all

I was recently sent a book about Japanese cooking for review. I wasn’t too impressed by the book for a variety of reasons, but one thing that really bothered me was that it used dashi stock powder for practically every recipe. (What made it worse is that the book’s title proclaimed the recipes therein to be “Healthy”.)

Dashi stock powder is akin to soup stock cubes in Western cooking. Like soup stock cubes, they are a very convenient way to add a concentrated dose of umami to a dish. I do have a box of the stuff in my kitchen which I use on occasion.

But keep in mind that dashi stock powder contains quite a lot of MSG. The good or bad of MSG may be a debatable subject, but when it comes to food additives I always like to be on the cautious side. Besides, with the right ingredients making dashi stock from real ingredients, even a vegan version, doesn’t take that much time - and tastes a whole lot better too. This is different from the time and effort, not to mention the mess, needed to make a good chicken stock, for example. On my list of Japanese pantry essentials, I have put MSG or Ajinomoto as something that’s optional, and I regard dashi powder in the same light.

In Japan, more and more households are turning away from dashi stock powder for health reasons, especially in families with small children. I don’t see any reason for people new to Japanese cooking to start out on the wrong leg by relying on an iffy convenience product. continue reading...

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The World Food Programme's new head

I rarely get political on this blog, because…well this is a blog about food, and I hate all the strife that surrounds political discussions. However, this article about the new head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP link) made me pause - especially since this is the organization for which the Menu For Hope III event raised money.

I’m not saying that the WFP won’t continue to do good work under this new head - but, her background makes me want to pound my head on my desk. Hard.

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Tomato water is trendy

After reading my instructions for tomato water yesterday, a reader in the UK told me that Jamie Oliver had also made tomato water on his new show, Jamie At Home. (We can see BBC and ITV here in Switzerland, but not Channel 4.) Through nefarious means I was able to get hold of a copy of the show - it was dedicated to tomato recipes, which all looked delicious. I guess they didn’t film it this year though, because this hasn’t been a good year for tomato growing at all, with lots of rain and cold temperatures. (Unless they cheated and took their ‘home grown tomatoes’ from a greenhouse…) In any case, Jamie made his tomato water by straining the tomato pulp with cheesecloth, which would work as well as my method of using a sieve and paper towels. He iced his water down by adding ice cubes (I don’t think I’d do that since it would dilute the intense flavor) and sprinkled it with basil, celery and extra virgin olive oil, and spiked it with vodka. I hope you do try making tomato water at least once this tomato season - it’s really something worth doing! Serve it to your friends without telling them what it is and watch their faces! continue reading...

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Maybe some day I will tackle ramen

Periodically I get emails and comments asking me to post a recipe for one thing or another, usually something Japanese. I try to do so (eventually) with most things, though it may take a while between request and actual writeup since I try to make sure that if I do write it up, it will actually work. One of the things I’ve been asked about a lot is ramen, probably because it’s so ubiquitous in Japan, and so tasty. Since it’s usually served as a sort of fast food, and because the instant and cup-noodle varieties are well, so instant, people may assume that it’s not hard to make. continue reading...

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And my last supper would be...

This seems to be the week of appearing on other great food blogs! I was asked, amongst other more illustrious food bloggers, what my last meal would be by Chew On That. Check out the great answers!

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Interview on Culinate

Liz Crain of Culinate interviewed me recently, and the result is now up on their site. I always feel funny reading interviews of me, but nevertheless Liz did a great job. (I didn’t realize I average 15 posts a month… is that too little or too much?) You get to find out about my dad’s infamous restaurant business card collection! Food obsession must be inherited. continue reading...

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Happy August 1st!

A Happy August 1st to everyone in Switzerland! Judging from what was on sale at Migros yesterday you all will be waving Swiss flags and gorging on wurst, wurst, grilled steaks and wurst. Not the worst way to spend a day :) continue reading...

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Reducing shopping bag usage - the Swiss way

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Reading this post on Serious Eats about the different ways in which municipalities in the U.S. are trying to reduce shopping bag usage, I couldn’t help comparing it to the way Switzerland copes with the issue. Here there is no banning of plastic bags or anything aggressive like that. Instead, shoppers are given two choices of disposable containers for their groceries at the checkout counter: free but really flimsy and small plastic bags, which are barely big enough to hold a packet of sandwiches and a drink; or a sturdy paper bag - that costs 30 Rappen each, which is about 25 US cents. I think this is a really smart solution, because having to pay even that small amount for a shopping bag really discourages people from using them. (The supermarket shopping bags are so attractive it seems to Japanese people that they are even sold for more than 10 times what they cost as accessories!)

In Zürich, everyone carries cloth shopping bags, backpacks, and so on to do their shopping as a matter of course, and people with just a little to buy will stuff their purchases wherever they can - I’ve seen elegant women with vegetables peeking out of their expensive handbags, and businessmen putting groceries into their briefcases. That may be the key really: who says that we need to put groceries, most of which are packed in various forms of plastic anyway, into separate, special bags? (Granted, I would have never thought of this when I lived in the U.S.)

They do things similarly in France too, though there they have plastic disposable bags instead of paper ones. French supermarkets also carry canvas bags, which aren’t that widely seen in Switzerland, as well as sturdy plastic bags of Ikea bag quality. continue reading...

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Fear of Sushi

There were not one but two Op-Ed articles in the New York Times yesterday about sushi. Two! It always amazes me how fast sushi has become mainstream in the U.S. in particular and ‘the West’ in general, but I guess this is some sort of proof.

The two articles are Chicken of the Sea by Stephen Shaw (the author of a dining guide to restaurants in Asia) and Sushi for Two by Trevor Corson (author of a book about sushi). While I agree in the spirit of their arguments (Americans or eh, ‘Westerners’ should be more adventurous with their selection of fish at a sushi place, and that some people are overly scared of the raw fish used for sushi), I sort of wonder what planet they are living on. continue reading...

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What do you do when you have a bad restaurant experience?

I may either have a short memory, or have been lucky, but I can count the number of bad experiences I’ve had at restaurants, and still remember, on one hand. Unless the offense has been quite obvious - say, a big green caterpillar in my salad (happened once!), or a hair in my soup - I’ve never felt like lodging a direct complaint. The most I do is to call it a ‘three-time experience’ (an in-house joke) - the first, last and only time I’ll go there.

I do wonder though if complaining would have done anything. I tend to shy away from confrontation, but eating out, especially at a high end restaurant, is a very special, not to mention expensive, occasion. When such an experience is screwed up, as it was for this commenter, it can be very frustrating to say the least.

What do you do when you have a bad restaurant experience? In this case I’m not talking about merely mediocre or bad food, but something really off-putting in some way, such as exceptionally bad service, or something amiss with the food, or anything that really makes you angry. Do you simply go away or complain about it, and if you have complained, has it made any difference? continue reading...

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Svenska LantChips (Ikea chips) - the universal Good Chip

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Following up to the potato chip post: the availability of any kind of packaged food around the world is iffy, with the exception of a handful of really global brands, and even they (e.g. Coke) change their formulas from place to place sometimes. But as Roanne’s comment reminded me, there is one kind of good potato chip that is available all around the world - Svenska Lantchips, aka Ikea chips. If you have an Ikea near you, next time you’re there pick up a bag of these - a trifle on the greasy side, but these are tasty, sturdy chips, the type I really like. When I was at Ikea Spreitenbach a few days ago they had plain salted and unsalted; previously I’ve seen sour cream flavored ones too. Don’t you just love Ikea?

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A potato chip rant

If I had to pick just one snack food (to bring to me on that proverbial desert island) it would be potato chips. I love chips but I’m very picky about them too. The New York Times has a feature on chips in today’s Dining section, in which they list their top 10 chips (in the Multimedia feature). Sadly they don’t mention my favorite brand, Terra Chips.

I love Terra Chips so much that I used to carry home bags of them in an otherwise empty suitcase, every time I went to New York. (I haven’t found Terra Chips outside of the NYC area…though maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough.) But for the last 2 years or so I haven’t had to do this - because, joy of joys, Migros, the no. 1 supermarket chain in Switzerland, licensed the Terra Chip name and the technology. I danced for joy when this happened because the standard chip in Switzerland really, horribly, sucks. The Migros Terra Chips cost twice as much as the awful Zwiefel brand, but are worth every single rappen. continue reading...

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7 non-food things

Some time ago, when there were blog memes galore, I vowed never to do another meme again. Then I got tagged by Mei from mei eats, a really fun food blog from Taipei. So since this gives me a good excuse to link to Mei, here are some non-food facts about your humble author, other than what’s on my about page. continue reading...

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Konbini in the U.S.? Why not?

As anyone who has been to Japan knows, Japanese convenience stores, aka konbini, are nothing like convenience stores elsewhere. Insted of being rather sad places with ersatz food and overpriced groceries, they are like small fun palaces for foodies with loads of interesting goodies, many services, and so on. It’s a very competitive area of retail.

Seven Eleven recently made a splash by making over 12 of its stores (11 in the U.S., one in Canada) to Kwik-E Marts a la The Simpsons. Here’s a list of all the U.S. remade stores; the Canadian one is in Vancouver. Judging from the photos of one of them, the attention to detail is terrific. As a matter of fact, it’s about as much as is lavished on a typical konbini in Japan. Seven Eleven Japan actually owns Seven Eleven U.S. (there was an NHK docudrama a while back that showed how this happened…it was quite dramatic in a payback kind of way, since originally Seven Eleven had rejected the Japanese request for franchise rights.) Anyway, they recently announced that they are planning to spend $2.4 billion in a big U.S. expansion. I can’t help but wonder if they’d make at least some of those new stores konbini-like in terms of selection, attention to detail, and just the ‘fun’ factor. I’m sure that Americans would love it.

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Recent comments

In case you left a comment here in the past few days and wondered where why it wasn’t approved - I suddenly stopped getting comment notifications, which is why I didn’t even know they were there. My apologies as I try to figure out if Drupal, Gmail or another interweb gremlin is at fault.

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For your 4th of July party

If youre in the U.S. or anywhere in the world celebrating the 4th of July tomorrow, I hope you’re having better weather than we’re having here, where it’s cold and rainy! If you’re having a party, here are some useful recipes from the archives: Japanese potato salad, which in my opinion is the best kind of potato salad - rich tasting, not too vinegary. With homemade mayonnaise it’s heaven - though be careful to refrigerate it properly before serving, and to eat the leftovers (if there are any) as soon as possible. For a much lighter salad (no fat added!), Scandinavian cucumber salad goes very well with the rich flavors of grilled meats. It’s sort of like a fresh relish. By saving calories with the salad you can then splurge on the Red, white and blue mess for dessert, which looks quite spectacular and even feels sort of virtuously healthy because of all the fruit. Happy 4th! continue reading...

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Some thoughts on the vegetarian experiment in Provence

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For the last two weeks I was in the Provence, I tried a short term experiment of cooking vegetarian dishes only. Here are some thoughts on that experiment.

As I’ve stated here before, I’m not a vegetarian though proportionately I don’t eat much meat. Therefore, I thought that the experiment should go quite easily. It was easy in some respects, due to the easy availability of an abundance of fresh produce. continue reading...

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I will be watching Top Chef but...

I am gradually catching up on the Daily Grind, which includes some recorded or downloaded TV shows (yay Lee won Joseph! OMG Katie really got her just desserts, the biatch! (only UK readers will know what I’m talking about)). I’ve watched the first two episodes of Top Chef 3 (aka Top Chef: Miami), plus the Season 1 vs. Season 2 smackdown. I enjoyed the smackdown episode a lot - it was fun to see old favorites again. Wasn’t Stephen’s new maturity impressive? Dave hasn’t changed at all! Tiffani looks sort of like a female version of Mario Batali. And god, Ilan was awful. Etc. etc.

It’s fun and all that still, and the season 3 contestants look varied and interesting, but I just can’t bring myself to recap and analyze each episode of this show any more as I did with seasons 1 and 2. (Judging from the email, I guess a few people will be disappointed…sorry!) It’s a bit of work to assemble screen shots and things, and analyzing TV cooking shows isn’t really a focus of this blog after all. And to be honest, Top Chef is nowhere near being the best or most interesting food-related TV show any more. Plus, the constant, in your face product placement that I complained about during last season is even worse now! It’s really hard to bear. (I also got an email from some PR person wanting to ‘work with me’ on ‘promoting Top Chef’, and well, I’m really not interested.)

When I started doing recaps and reviews of each episode back in season 1, I was one of the few doing it - I thought the show had a lot of potential, coming as it did from the producers of Project Runway. Now there are a zillion blogs and forums doing this - Bravo TV’s site alone has about a thousand of them. The best, by far, in my opinion is from Season 1 favorite Lee Anne Wong, who also cooks the winning recipe for each ep in The Wong Way To Cook, still a horrible title but the video itself is nice. So there are plenty of places to get your Top Chef fixes.

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Summer 2007 issue of Alimentum

While I was away, the new Summer 2007 issue of Alimentum arrived in my mailbox. I’ve written about this little quarterly journal previously; it’s dedicated to “The Literature Of Food”, and it’s a pure delight for anyone who is interested in reading and food, especially when they go together. The web site has some samples from the current and past issues - be sure to check them out.

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Back! Apologies, and a mystery

I’m back home from Provence, both in the physical sense and the interweb sense. I actually lost Net access for the past two weeks (we thought we had something more convenient but it turned out we needed to drive 30 minutes one way to get to a WiFi spot, and well…other things sort of took priority). What I need to get into my head is that in this day and age, being offline for so long is not a good thing. It’s sort of like being MIA, for a lot of people that know me. Yes, I confess I didn’t even check my email for two weeks. So…if this affected you in relation to your food related questions and so on, I apologize. Next time I go away I’ll make sure I can at least get online once a day.

I’ll have a lot, lot more to say about my trip later on, but in the meantime, here is a little mystery. Can you identify these? (Click on the image to get a bigger view. RSS readers will have to go to the site to do this.) I’d never seen them in this state before.

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While the food in Provence is glorious - the freshest vegetables and fruit ever, tons of fresh garlic, and delicious cheeses, fragrant herbs - I really, really missed Japanese food. I did bring a (very small) bottle of soy sauce with me, but no rice or any other ingredients. (Curiously I found nori and soy sauce at the local hypermarché, but no Japonica rice, or most other needed ingredients. So I’m not sure what rice the people of Provence make sushi with.)

Last summer, I had to make an emergency stop at a small Japanese-Korean restaurant in Aix-en-Provence to take care of the withdrawal symptoms, but this year I toughed it out for three whole weeks. But anyway, the first thing I did when we got home last night? Make a potful of rice and have a bowlful with an umeboshi. I think the older I get, the more Japanese I’m getting. If my long term plans to Get A Place In Provence work out, I’m definitely going to have to sort out the Japanese food supply situation. continue reading...

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The vegetarian experiment

The comments on the post about whether vegetarian restaurants should only be reviewed by vegetarians have been really interesting - if you haven’t read them yet, please take a look here. This has made me decide to do a small experiment. I’m here in Provence for three weeks, and I’ll be cooking most of our meals (that’s why we like to rent a place with a kitchen whenever we come here, as I wrote about last year). So, I’m going to make all of our meals in-house vegetarian. Lacto-vegetarian to be precise, since not having any of the delicious cheeses here would be too much of a sacrifice and the self-proclaimed ‘bovo-vegetarian’ in house will rebel before we’ve even started. We will be giving up eggs though (a hardship in itself since I love eggs), and meat and fish. (We might have a bouillabaise once at a restaurant.) I’ll also try to stick as much as possible to locally produced food, though I’m not going to be as strict there. (E.g. I will use spices and things like lemons from elsewhere.)

Admittedly, here with all of the glorious locally produced fresh produce it should be a breeze. I doubt it will change my palette much but it will help me concentrate on coming up with different and tasty vegetarian dishes. The better results will be posted here of course!

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From a place in the sun

We drove all day on Saturday and arrived late at night to a place that is quite close to my idea of Paradise.

We’re in Cassis, a small jewel of a town on the Mediterranean coast of France. Quite close to Marseilles, but worlds away in all other ways. Chic yet a lot more laid back than the Cote d’Azur.

(warning: big photos below) continue reading...

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Should vegetarian restaurants only be reviewed by vegetarians?

The Guardian, one of Britain’s finest newspapers, recently installed several blogs to which their staff writers contribute, including a food blog. Last week one of their restaurant reviewers, Jay Rayner, wrote a negative review of a well known London vegetarian restaurant - which upset quite a lot of vegetarian readers. He defended his review, and several commenters bit back. One opinion expressed was that, since the critic is not a vegetarian himself, that he did not have the palate to judge vegetarian food, and that only committed vegetarian or vegans should be reviewing vegetarian restaurants.

That’s an interesting point of view. While I doubt that main stream media outlets instituting such food-specific critics and such, in the wide world of blogs it is theoretically possible - so someone might choose to only trust restaurant reviews from a vegetarian blogger. Is it plausible though? Is an omnivore disqualified from judging what’s good vegetarian food because his or her tastebuds are tainted by a fondness for meat? Should vegetarian food only appeal to non-meat eaters?

As someone who has gradually increased the percentage of vegetable based food in my diet in the last few years, but is not a vegetarian, I’m really curious about this. I do like the taste of meat. but I love the taste of fresh vegetables too. If I gave up meat products totally though, would my palate change that much, so that I enter a magical realm which is reserved only for vegetarians? Will meat become totally inedible? I’m a bit skeptical about this, since so many vegetarians seem to at least occasionally crave a ‘meaty’ taste.

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Fresh is really best- a 'doh' moment

Everyone knows in theory that the fresher the vegetables, the better they are. But I think that many of us fall into the habit of buying a bit too many vegetables, storing them in the fridge, and using them as long as they haven’t rotted away or become science experiments in some form. You know, things like carrots and celery, apples and other rather indestructible produce.

But once you see how produce does deteriorate, you start to wonder. Case in point I had some rhubarb stalks left over, and stored in the fridge for about a week after I bought them. (Normally I cook rhubarb right away, but it was cheap at the market so we’d bought more than we needed.) So, yesterday I took them out - they looked crisp and perfectly fine - and turned them into rhubarb crumble pie. continue reading...

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Making your own sushi? Proceed with caution.

While I’ve posted recipes for several different kinds of sushi on this site, I have never published a recipe for making nigiri zushi, the kind of sushi most people think of is the sushi, in spite of several requests to do so. There are a couple reasons for this, which you may want to consider before embarking on your own nigiri sushi making experiments. One reason, as I’ve written about before, is that it’s quite difficult to get the nigiri part (the forming of the rice ball and placing of the neta or topping) right. Of course you can practice this, or use a sushi former, or even - if you get fanatical about it - a sushi robot. But the more serious reason is that raw fish is something to be very, very wary of at all times. continue reading...

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The hoarding habit

The disaster zone kitchen has been largely cleared up now. The kitchen table is still piled up with foodstuffs that need to be re-housed, but otherwise things are mostly back to normal. Except that is for my general will to do some serious cooking. There is something about throwing away bags of ruined flour, sugar, and formerly dry pasta that damages ones will to live, er, that is cook with a light heart.

What I did discover though is that I am a hoarder. With a small household, there’s no need at all to have so many things stockpiled. Why did we even have 6 bags of sugar and buy flour by the ten-pack anyway, when it’s not even cheaper to do so? I don’t bake that much, and I only need sugar in large amounts during jam and preserve making time, which is still weeks down the road. Likewise, we have still 10 cans of tuna when we barely eat the stuff at all. continue reading...

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The kitchen as disaster zone

We’ve had a bit of a Plumbing Disaster in the kitchen, which has necessiated the removal of everything from shelves and such up onto higher ground (not to mention the disposal of many ruined food items). This has meant cooking activities have had to take a short pause. Hopefully the kitchen, my sanity, and cooking (and posting thereof on this blog) should be back shortly.

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My no frills kitchen was nothing like this

I’m a week late in reading this, but last week’s article in the NY Times by Mark Bittman about a low frills kitchen for $200 really reminded me how our cooking choices are influenced by our culinary heritage. In other words, I would not have made the choices he did in a lot of cases.

For instance he says that you need some expensive burner kit to ‘properly’ use a wok, so you might as well forget it. A decent wok was the first thing I bought for myself when I was starting out on my own was a decent wok from a local Chinese kitchen supply shop, and it worked fine on my regular issue gas range. Another thing I also got was an inexpensive rice cooker like this one (which you may note costs less than his totally extraneous vegetable cutter gadget). I may not have made rice ‘twice daily’, which he says is your criteria for purchasing a rice cooker, but I relied on it all the time, especially for making my own bento lunches which saved me tons of money in the long run.

Three steel bowls? One that’s big enough to handle most tasks is fine. If you need to lay out ingredients or something you can use your dinnerware (which I still do when I run out of bowls and such.) 3 different frying pans? I just had a small one, and the wok, which is much more useful than multiple frying pans. I still only own three frying pans and a large flat-bottomed wok, and the last gets much more use.

I think when you are equipping a kitchen, regardless of budget, you have to really ask yourself how you will use it.

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Food Stamp Budget post followup

Following up to my previous post about food stamp budget experiments:

Rebecca has left a comment, where she points out she is following the USDA Thrifty Meal Plan, on which food stamp benefits are based. This is where her budget figure of $74 per week for 2 people (not $74 per day as I erroneously typed…that’s sort of generous!) comes from, which comes out to $5.30 per day per person.

Actually another blogger did a month-long Thrifty Meal Plan experiment 2 years ago, though she did not stipulate organic/local as Rebecca is doing. Half Changed World ate on the Thrifty Food plan for a month (followup posts are here, here, here, here and the final wrapup.) She had the additional challenge of feeding her two small children, including one who was (is) a picky eater, as well as her husband.

(It seems quite illogical to me that the food budget or food stamp allocation is the same for all people, whether it’s a tiny baby or a growing hungry teenager. But I guess that’s government for you.) continue reading...

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Food Stamp Budget experimenters

[The following has been edited to correct some things from the original posting and add a couple of links. Serious Eats lists some more congresspeople participating.]

Last year the most popular food plan experiment was “eating local”. This year so far it seems to be “eating on a food stamp budget”. The main reason for this is upcoming debate on the 2007 farm bill. Bush administration is proposing to make big cuts in food assistance for the poor, a large part of which would mean cuts to the food stamp program. [Edit: as an anonymous commenter pointed out, that was a link to an article about the 2005 farm bill cuts.] (A NY Times editorial about the subject [Edit: this actually is about the 2007 Farm Bill :)].) So a number of politicians are doing the Food Stamp Budget Experiment at least in part to protest against this.

Here are the ones I’ve found so far (Note, some of these links were already posted to my del.icio.us, so my apologies for the duplicates if you follow that also.) continue reading...

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How far do you go for food knowledge?

After writing my previous entry about The Sushi FAQ site, I received a very nice email from Warren, the site owner (which I especially appreciated since I wasn’t totally positive in my review). One question he raised which got me thinking is where he should go from here to get more information and knowledge about sushi. I think this question can be extended to all areas of life, but keeping it in the food realm: how far should you, and do you, go to gain knowledge and experience, especially about food and cuisines you didn’t grow up with?

Let’s say you fall in love with Thai food as it’s served at your local restaurant. You might search out for other Thai restaurants. You might buy some cookbooks. That far I think almost anyone remotely interested in food will do. The next step might be to take a class in Thai cooking. So far, so good. A trip to Thailand? Maybe, if budget allows.

What beyond that though? Would you move to Thailand for an extended period (more than a few months) to immerse yourself in the food, language and culture? Would you learn Tagalog? Would you apprentice with a Thai cook? How far would you go?

I’ve gotten to to the trying various restaurants and buying cookbooks stage on numerous cuisines, and the travel level on a few more. I’ve gone to the learning-language and living there level too. I didn’t do this just for the food, but my decision to take French for three years in college certainly had a lot to do with the fact that I fell absolutely in love with the food I ate at small, inexpensive restaurants around Paris the first time I went there by myself.

Years later I ended up living here in Switzerland, which wasn’t a food based decision, but there’s no denying that living here gives me great access to great cuisines around Europe. And there’s the great cheese and chocolate of course…two of my favorite foods in the world.

I have a feeling that I am much more obsessive than the average person in this way, but surely I’m not alone…

The place and cuisine I’m most interested in immersing myself in at the moment is Hawaii. Spam musubi, here I come! (One day, soon I hope.) continue reading...

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Rebecca Blood: Eating Organic On A Food Stamp Budget

Rebecca Blood, one of my favorite (non-food/general) bloggers, has started an interesting challenge: eating for a month organically on a U.S. Food Stamp budget. Naturally she is blogging the experience. Given the current ongoing discussions in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere about the cost of eating ethically, let alone organically, it’s a very timely experiment. Rebecca’s budget for 2 is “$74.00/week or 320.80/month, the USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] ‘Thrifty’ standard for a family of 2 adults, aged 20-50 years.”

(My only very minor nitpick would be that Rebecca lives in the Bay Area, which has to be one of the easiest places in the world to conduct such an experiment. :) Now I’d like to see a similar one by a blogger in say, Iceland. Any takers? )

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Top Chef Season 3 starts June 6 with an all-star competition

It only seems like yesterday (actually it was in January) that season 2 of Top Chef ended, leaving many of us baffled and rather disillusioned at the Ilan over Marcel decision. Nevertheless, season 3 is already looming on the horizon. It’s set to kick off on June 6, with a season 1 vs. season 2 All-Star Clash. It’ll be the final four of season 2 vs. the final four, minus LeeAnne Wong (who is presumably not included since she’s on the show’s staff, so to speak) but with everyone’s love-to-hate-him target Stephen Asprinio. Marcel vs. Stephen! I have to admit I am looking forward to that at least.

Some more highlights according to the press release after the fold: continue reading...

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Okonomiyaki ingredients sale (UK/Europe only)

Update: Want to make okonomiyaki from scratch? Try this detailed recipe! continue reading...

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Zürich Culinary Snapshot up on thepassionatecook

Johanna of the passionate cook has been running a series called Culinary Snapshots, of cities around the world. The Culinary Snapshot of Zürich that I wrote is now up there. (The pictures there were taken in late March by the way, when it was warm enough for t-shirts!) Re-reading it now I think I may need some armor against proprietors of Asian-Fusion restaurants in town. :) continue reading...

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Baskin Robbins 31 cent scoop night today

A shoutout to all U.S. readers who have a Baskin Robbins store nearby: tonight (May 2nd) they are holding a 31 cent scoop promotion from 5 pm to 10 pm. It’s been a long time since I’ve had one of the 31 flavors, seduced as I’ve been by richer ice creams, but for 31 cents…why not? Spread the word!

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A slightly slower pace for the next couple of months

Things may be just a bit slower on Just Hungry for the next couple of months, since I’ll be on the road a lot. I do have several articles piled up on the back burner though, so you shouldn’t miss much (hopefully) in the way of new stuff to read. What may be slower is my comment and new user registration approval rate, as well as replying to comments, but I’ll try to get to them when I can.

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A way to log in finally

A number of people have created accounts here to avoid the necessary evil to reduce spammers that is the CAPTCHA thingy. But you may have noticed that there was no way to actually log in. Oops. Now there is - on every page you should now see a login / register link. I’m still trying to figure out what additional benefits I can bring to registered and logged in users…but for now, if you are logged in, you’ll no longer have to solve the math question.

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A lonely way to die

Yesterday, I found out that one of the most talented sushi chefs I’ve ever known had died. He was still relatively young (in his 50s). He was at one time one of the itamae at the late, lamented Sushisay in New York.

The authorities are investigating the cause of his death. They have to do this, because his body was found in his bath, at least a month after he had died. continue reading...

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Swiss Chocolate junk mail

Normally, all the junk mail we get goes straight to the trash. Not these things we got in our mailbox yesterday though.

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These are two full-size bars of Cailler (Nestlé) milk chocolate. No messing about with tiny sample sizes here. continue reading...

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Hosting a green tea tasting party in May

Reader Nanette has posted a great question here, about hosting a fund-raising green tea tasting party for a large group (50 people). I had to think about this for a bit, and here are some of the ideas I have come up with. continue reading...

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Keys to bunny bao success

I’ve gotten a couple of emails from readers who had some trouble with the bunny bao. Just in case you plan to try these tomorrow or any time (why limit bunnies to just Easter?), here are a few key points to watch out for. continue reading...

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Swiss food bloggers?

I received a lovely email from Myriam of Once Upon A Tart, a beautiful food blog unknown to me up until now. I should have, since she is a food blogger in Zürich - just a few kilometers (or miles, whatever) away from where I sit now. This did get me thinking though about Swiss food bloggers - or to be strict about it, food bloggers who write from Switzerland. (The very popular 1x umrühen bitte is written from Andalusia, Spain I think.) continue reading...

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The New Jersey Spaghetti Harvest

I couldn’t let Sunday pass by without posting this: the New Jersey Spaghetti Harvest. Oh, the pathos, the corporate evil, the…. Just go watch. Now.

[via raincoaster]

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Enjoy the Swiss spaghetti harvest

This Sunday is April Fool’s Day. Too bad it’s on a weekend, since that reduces the opportunities for good old office fun. I am going to take the weekend off again from the online world, but in the meantime enjoy the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest from the archives. The weather’s been so nice, maybe I’ll go down to the Ticino to check out this year’s crop…

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Tune in to the Big (Cheddar) Cheese

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Don’t forget to tune in to Cheddarvision.tv (previously mentioned on Just Hungry here) today! They are going to turn the Big Cheese over, take a core sample, and see how it’s doing! If they haven’t already…I’m not sure. Was that label on the other end before? (thanks Mimi!) continue reading...

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The sushi that knocked me out with a vicious punch, and the perils of food blogging

Yesterday, I had some takeout sushi that was so terrible that I still shudder, more than 24 hours later, thinking about it.

No it didn’t make me physically sick. I did not get food poisoning. But it was bloody awful. It was sold as ‘fresh’ sushi (and it certainly hadn’t been frozen), but it had been refrigerated for some time, for who knows how long. (It had a ‘sell-by date’ but not a ‘made-on date’. Sushi must, must, be eaten the same day it’s made.) The rice was mealy, the grains hard. The neta (the fish) on the nigiri, salmon and tuna, was mushy and utterly tasteless. The rolls, filled with cucumber and some sort of tuna mix, were no better. continue reading...

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Encore Provence

Speaking of travel…we’ve paid in our house-rental deposits now, so once again we are going to be spending the better part of a month of our summer in Provence. We’ve been there at least once a year for the last few years, and no matter where else we go I just have to go there or I don’t feel my year has been complete. Last year we even went twice, for a total of six weeks. (Thank goodness for broadband or our clients would just fire our asses. :) ) I’m not sure we can manage that again this year but at least I will have my Provence fix.

To see my way of experiencing Provence, start with A Food Lover’s Way of Exploring Provence. This year I plan to do a bit more around the coastal area to the east of Marseilles - I fell in love with the small resort town of Cassis in November, and want to see it in its summer glory. Otherwise it’s going to be markets, vineyards, and as many visits as we can squeeze in to my favorite bakery in the world. Ah, heaven.

Are you making your summer travel plans already? Where are you going? Do you let your tastebuds and stomach guide where you go as much as I do?

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Two food travel related links

People email me about their food sites and blogs all the time. I don’t mention those that I don’t find interesting or think would interest any Just Hungry readers, but here are a couple that came in recently that did catch my eye.

  • Foodtripper is a new site that reviews restaurants and food shops. What makes it stand out in this very crowded category is that they seem to have a European outlook on things, that aren’t limited to the usual places. I found several unusual and intriguing places listed, such as a restaurant in Pompeii that takes its inspiration from ancient Roman cuisine (though hopefully they don’t have authentic garum) and a chestnut factory in southwestern France.
  • If you’re visiting a major food-obsessed city where you don’t know anyone, finding your way around can be a bit daunting. A culinary tour may be one way to get your bearings. Zerve.com offers walking and noshing tours of New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and New Orleans. If anyone’s gone on one of their tours I’d be interested to hear your impressions.

Let Them Eat EU Cakes!

This year is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community (EEC), which lead to the formation of the European Union. Over the weekend they had a big party in Berlin, where among other things they sampled two traditional cakes from all EU member countries. Here is the official list of cakes. continue reading...

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Cute yet modern Swiss Easter bunny bread

Swiss people love cutely formed bread, just as much if not more than Japanese people. Behold, this masterpiece of adorable yet modern design, in the form of an Easter Bunny bread. (click on the image from the web page to see it larger).

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The almond slices scattered on top were a bit misleading. I was rather anticipating some kind of sugar-almondy filling, but it was just slightly sweetened white bread all the way through. Perhaps the cuteness is enough sugariness for one small bread.

For more Swiss Easter Bunny goodness, read about the chocolate Easter Bunny making class I took last year. continue reading...

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Oh no! A chocolate shortage?

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My friends Alan and Mimi from Cornwall alerted me to this alarming article in the Independent. Could we be facing a global chocolate shortage? continue reading...

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Food Destinations #5 roundup is up

Natalia has the roundup for Food Destinations #5 up on her blog now - go and check it out!

Dashi stock granules, Ajinomoto, MSG and health considerations

Seamaiden, who has a lovely gluten-free blog called Book of Yum, asked in the comments here whether Ajinomoto is gluten-free. Since I know that a lot of people become interested in rice-centric Asian cuisines, including Japanese, because of the wide variety of wheat-free dishes, I thought I’d post some of my findings here about Ajinomoto and dashi stock granules rather than bury them in the comments.

Monosodium glutamate or MSG is a concentrated and manufactured form of umami. It is a flavor enhancer with a lot of controversy. I won’t get into that at the moment, since reactions to MSG really vary widely depending on the individual. The reality is that MSG is present in many manufactured food products. continue reading...

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Out of love with silicon for baking

Some years ago, when silicon baking wares came out, I jumped on them with glee. No more scraping off baked on crud from the baking sheets! Muffins that popped right up with no greasing of the cups required! Easy washing up!

But these days I’ve definitely fallen out of love with silicon sheets and silicon muffin pans and the like.

About those muffin pans first: while muffins do brown on the outsides, they don’t get as crispy-brown as I’d like. They also seem to rise a bit less than I’d like.

Also, they are totallly useless for popovers and Yorkshire puddings. You can’t really heat them up, so you can’t make them piping hot and pour in hot batter. The alternative method for making popovers ‘pop’ is to start them in a cold oven, but that doesn’t work either. So I end up with flat, boring muffins of a sort, rather than high and airy pockets of trapped air and eggy, moist insides. Yes, I know I could just get separate pans for the popover and Yorkshire puddings, but I don’t have that much storage space in my not-too-large kitchen, and I like to avoid ‘single-use’ type equipment as much as possible.

As for silicon baking sheets, used to line heavy baking sheets, they do okay on the browning front. But what I dislike about them is that, after a few uses they take on an unpleasantly ‘greasy’ feel to them. No amount of washing or soaking in soapy water seems to cure that. I don’t know if I’m over-sensitive to this, but it drives me nuts. So I end up throwing them out over maybe 3 uses. This doesn’t seem too economicalor environmentally friendly to me. (Do those things disintegrate at all in landfills?)

So, I’m back to good old metal baking tins and lining my baking sheets with kitchen parchment paper. My old metal muffin pans tend to stick a bit on the bottoms, so for delicate cupcakes and such I just use paper cupcake liners. (Which means of course I avoid those individual silicon cupcake cups.) Paper, at least, does disintegrate after a while.

How do you feel about those silicon baking products? Do you love them or hate them? continue reading...

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Coming up next week: a week of sokuseki zuke (quick Japanese pickles)

I am going to take the weekend off from the computer because I have a Mountain Of Things to Do away from it. Next week, I’ll have a series of posts about quick Japanese pickles, or sokuseki zuke. Sokuseki zuke pickles are the busy cook’s alternative to ‘real’ pickles like nukazuke (rice brain pickles), of the kind that require nursing a pickling bed, long resting periods, and such complicated procedures. The word sokuseki means instant, and these pickles are usually ready to eat in a short period, anywhere from overnight to about an hour. continue reading...

A feast of genuine Irish recipes

If you are planning a St. Patrick’s Day feast but still haven’t decided what to make, European Cuisines has been posting a new real Irish recipe every day since the beginning of the month. There’s everything from colcannon to Irish Stew to boxty (potato pancakes) to crubeens, which are “crunchy Irish pig’s trotters”, and a whole lot more. They also have a rant about how corned beef is definitely not the Irish national dish. I wasn’t planning on anything Irish myself this weekend, but those, um, crunchy pig’s trotters sound interesting…. [via Diane].

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The Winner of Masterchef 2007 is...

[Update: Steven has a very gracious post about his win on his blog.]

The winner of Masterchef 2007 is Steven Wallis, a trend analyst from London. Here’s how he looked when he was proclaimed the victor.

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As with previous seasons the final three-course original menu test was the one deciding factor for determining the winner. While both Ben and Hannah tripped up a bit on at least one of their courses, Steven really excelled with all three of his dishes.

Unlike last season, where the perceived failings of eventual winner Peter in tasks leading up to that final three-course test lead to some dissatisfaction about his being declared the winner over crowd favorite (and hottie) Dean, this season’s finalists were fairly even in the tasks during the final week. For me at least there was no clear favorite going into the final episode. continue reading...

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Masterchef Goes Large 2007 finale is tonight!

A quick reminder to everyone within viewing range of BBC Two: the one hour finale of Masterchef Goes Large 2007 is on tonight at 21:00 CET / 20:00 BT! Will it be artistic but palate-deficient Ben, passionate but nervous Hannah, or the man with a fine palate who has a problem with time management, Steven? It’s too close to call…and besides last year we all thought Dean was going to win and Peter won instead, so who knows what will happen? Although I haven’t written much about this season, it’s been a great one, with some amazing challenges. I’m really looking forward to tonight!

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A Taste Of My Life is yet another great BBC food show

A Taste Of My Life, currently airing daily at 19:30 CET / 18:30 BT on BBC Two and repeated the next afternoon, is a show that’s almost perfect. The show ran originally on BBC One last year, but I missed most of it since it aired on Saturday afternoons, not a good time slot for any TV program.

Hosted by well known food writer Nigel Slater, A Taste Of My Life is a warm, comforting show with lots of food porn, that traces the life of a featured celebrity through his or her relationship with food. continue reading...

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Irish stout cake for St. Patrick's Day

If you will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, and are looking for a great dessert to serve, try this one out from the archives: Irish Stout Cake with Whiskey Sour Icing.

It’s a light yet very assertive chocolate cake with beer undertones, topped with whiskey flavored lemon icing. How can you go wrong with that? :)

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Expat food blogroll update

I haven’t updated the expat food blogroll for a while, but I’ve just added three new ones: please check out the original expat food blogroll post, as well as the right sidebar on the front page.

Remember, if you are an expat food blogger and you want to be added to the blogroll please just leave a comment on that post or contact me.

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Fake strawberries

It smells like spring, and it feels like spring. It was so warm today that we left the windows open all day, and the garden is covered with snowdrops and wild pansies. And, there were strawberries! on sale! at the supermarket. They looked so red and tempting, I bought two boxes. By the time they got home though, some were already bruised beyond repair. The rest? Hard and sour, or tasting moldy in an odd way.

I guess I have to wait a couple more months for the real thing.

On a brighter note though, this felt strawberry cake from etsy seller kenshop looks nearly good enough to eat:

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I wonder if I am alone in finding comfort in imitation food when the real thing doesn’t satisfy… continue reading...

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Kill It, Cook It, Eat It, Part 4: Traditional butchery in Spain, and chickens

In the fourth and final episode of Kill It, Cook It, Eat It, they reviewed and summarized the previous 3 episodes, visited a small poultry ‘processing’ plant, and showed how a pig is butchered in the traditional way - no stun guns - in Spain.

(Warning: potentially disturbing details follow) continue reading...

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Certification for restaurant critics?

David Rosengarten, former Food Network host (his show Taste is still my all-time favorite Food Network show), former Gourmet writer, etc. sells a subscription service called the Rosengarten Report, but also has an interesting free newsletter called Tastings. In a recent issue, he steps into the recent restaurant vs. critic fur-flying incidents and proposes a certification program for restaurant critics. I guess certification fever is in the air at the moment. continue reading...

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Kill It, Cook It, Eat It, Part 3: Pigs

Last night I finally watched the third episode of Kill It, Cook It, Eat It, as it aired instead of recording it for later viewing, fast-forward button at the ready. (My reviews of Part 1 and Part 2.) In this episode, it was the turn of pigs to be slaughtered. (Warning: some gory details follow…warning put here since a reader complained about a previous entry. When animals get slaughtered, it is gory.) continue reading...

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Chef Morimoto disses the "authentic" Japanse certification plan

On the New York Tiimes Diners Journal blog, which is no longer just written by Frank Bruni, Julia Moskin writes about a Japanese food symposium held at the Japan Society. She reports that “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto called the Japanese government’s plans to certify “authentic” Japanese restaurants “nonsense”. Now, fans of the original (and best) Japanese version of Iron Chef may remember Chef Morimoto’s ongoing “battles” with chefs who cooked “authentic Japanese”; while a lot of it seemed like fake drama for the cameras, perhaps there was some truth in it after all. He did make some pretty outrageous, not to mention downright odd, things under the guise of “nouvelle Japanese” on occasion, which seemed to get some more “authentic” Japanese chefs rather upset. If we assume that the standards of ‘authenticity’ might be dictated by such chefs, people like Chef Morimoto, not to mention Nobu Matsuhisa, may not pass muster. Not to say they don’t produce good, even great, food. (Though I must admit I’m not a big Nobu fan. To be fair I’ve only been there once, years ago, and had a ‘server problem’ which clouded things. And I’ve never been to a Morimoto restaurant.)

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Deep-fried and super light

I must admit that I rarely do much deep frying these days, since it tends to adversely affect the waistline. Still I do love crispy, light fried things on occasion. Deep-frying in batter is a rather tricky thing though, since it’s so easy to get it all wrong and turn out a soggy, heavy mess. The always interesting Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking and other must-have books, has a new article in the New York Times about two deep-frying techniques that yield crispy crusts. For one, you need a fish with its skin intact - not too practical for most of us who must buy fish from a supermarket or so. The other method is one I saw in last year’s Heston Blumenthal BBC series - making a beer batter for the fish part of fish and chips with half beer, half vodka. He also uses some rice flour, and (the don’t-dare-call-it-molecular-gastronomy part) a syphon to foam it up with carbon dioxide. continue reading...

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Tiny kaiten sushi-ya

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I normally stay away from kaiten-zushi (kaiten sushi) or conveyor-belt sushi restaurants, since the quality can be iffy. But I could really go for this adorable miniature kaiten-zushi miniature set! (I’m not sure why the itamae-san (sushi chef) has Angelina Jolie lips though….) It’s a new themed set from Re-Ment (US site) (Japanese site), a Japanese company that makes amazingly detailed die-cast miniatures called Puchi Petites, mostly of food and related items like cooking equipment, but of other things too. The miniatures started out as omake, or free gifts that came with the purchase of candy, but the miniatures have become so popular that the candy, while it’s still included, is now a mere afterthought. continue reading...

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Kill It, Cook It, Eat It, Part 2: Lamb

I’ve just watched the second episode of Kill It, Cook It, Eat It. If anything it was more intense than the first. I just couldn’t watch it live, just in case I needed to fast-forward some spots, so I recorded it on my DVR and watched it a bit later. As it happens I didn’t fast forward anything, though I was very tempted to at times. I made myself sit still and watch. continue reading...

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Kill It, Cook it, Eat It: a BBC series that shows exactly how meat gets to our plates

Last night the first episode of a TV series called Kill It, Cook It, Eat It aired on BBC Three. The premise of the program(me) is to show exactly how meat gets to our plates.

The first episode jumped right in, by showing, in an actual working abattoir, the slaughter and butchering of real live cows. This was witnessed by several members of the public through glass windows in a special observation area built around the abatoir. Later on, the same people ate meat cut from the cows they had just witnessed being slaughtered and prepared on the spot by a chef. continue reading...

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Authentically Japanese?

Recently there was an article in the Washington Post about some attempts by the Japanese government to set up some kind of authenticity certification for Japanese cuisine served abroad. continue reading...

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An about page, please

I often find blogs that are new to me via my referer logs. If I see an unfamiliar URL, I will usually go and check it out. (I’m much less likely to go check out a site that’s just emailed to me, so the best way to get my attention is just to link to this site somewhere.) I’ve discovered quite a lot of great food blogs that aren’t that well known yet that way.

One thing that isn’t always on some new blogs is an about page. I would really love to know even a little about who is behind the blog. It doesn’t have to be as long as the one on this site but - just a little bit. Like, where do you live? Where are you from? Who do you cook for, and why? What do you like to cook or eat? Why did you start a food blog? What’s the objective of your site? Just a couple from that list would really bring your blog to life for readers.

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A tofu making kit on eBay

A question I get asked a lot is where to find the stainless steel tofu mold/press shown in action in my tofu making article. While I don’t have a ready online source for something like that yet, I have seen plastic molds, which should be just as handy.

For example here’s one sold as part of a tofu press kit on eBay. You can also search on “tofu kit” on eBay for other results.

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Pig Pig Pig

Apparently, yesterday (March 1) was National Pig Day in the U.S. Who knew that such a day existed? In any case, Serious Eats outdid themselves with a whole slew of fun posts of a porcine nature. My favorite out of all the bacon homages and so on was actually the one about Paul Gauguin’s ham painting. continue reading...

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Pop-up images

If you visit this site using a browser (this won’t work if you’re using a newsreader), and click on an image, in most cases you’ll be able to see a larger version of the image in popup “window” (it won’t open a separate browser window, but pop up right in your current window.) For all recipe step-by-steps for example, you can click on the small image thumbnail to bring up a better view. Note, this only works for the more recent articles posted since early February , but I’ll be using this feature in all future posts. continue reading...

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Free advice for PR people

Hi there, intrepid PR person who wants to get in on this new “blog marketing” and “viral marketing” thing. I have some free advice for you, especially if you are trying to sell some kind of packaged, manufactured thing that only vaguely resembles real food.

Don’t try to get food bloggers to try your stuff. Or let’s put it this way: the owners of any food blog with a following, a reasonable backlog of articles, and enough traffic and Alexa ranking etc. to matter for you, is likely to be a Food Snob. That’s the kind that your clients dread: they use real food, worry about seasonality (tomatoes in February make them gag), and, worst of all, actually cook. Or if they don’t cook they eat out at places that serve real food. continue reading...

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Everyone's favorite steakhouse is at the Penthouse Executive Club?

Frank Bruni gives the steakhouse at the Penthouse Executive Club a pretty entertaining one star review. “Hmm, where have I heard of this place before” I thought, and rummaged through my stacks of recorded food shows. Ah, celebrated don’t-call-it-molecular-gastronomy chef Heston Blumenthal paid it a special visit on his TV show last year, to show his drooling mostly British viewers er, great looking meat. I mean the aged sides of beef, of course. continue reading...

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Japanese cookbooks in English by a great teacher

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I don’t know how this escaped me until now, but there are actually two cookbooks available in English by one of the best teachers of traditional washoku or Japanese cooking, Tokiko Suzuki. Japanese Homestyle Cooking, published in 2000, is the more recent one, and The Essentials of Japanese Cooking is the other, published in 1995. continue reading...

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Almond Poodle

Japanese people have a long standing tradition of adapting words from other languages when a Japanese word or term doesn’t exist for something. The language most often borrowed from is English, but other languages are freely raided too. Often, the original meaning of the word changes quite a bit (see this post on my personal blog about the use of one such word, “mansion”) which can be confusing for the non-Japanese speaker. continue reading...

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Tips for shopping for Japanese books and magazines

Since there seems to be interest in Japanese cookbook reviews, I will be posting some here periodically!

The question is, where is the best place to shop for Japanese books, magazines, DVDs and such? If you have a Japanese bookstore near you, that’s the best place. One tip for buying magazines: the most recent issue of any magazine has been airmailed to the store, so the price you’ll be charged is for the cost of the magazine plus that airmail cost. However, if there are any issues left after a month, the stores may sell them for a discount. (Kinokuniya in New York and San Francisco both do this.) Since most food magazines are not that timely, this works out well.

If you don’t have a Japanese bookstore near you, the two biggest and most user-friendly online bookstores for Japanese language material are Yes Asia and Amazon Japan. I’ve bought stuff from both, and in terms of customer service and so on both are pretty good. continue reading...

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Non-English cookbook reviews?

Recently, I haven’t been reading a lot of English cookbooks - I haven’t really been inspired by any new ones for some reason. Instead, I have been reading a lot of Japanese cookbooks and food magazines. I’ve discovered a few that are new to me, and re-discovered some old favorites.

I’m not sure if it’s worthwhile to talk about them here since…well, they are Japanese. So I guess I will ask - would you like to read about cookbooks and magazines that aren’t in English? If there’s interest I’ll talk about some of my favorites from time to time.

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Counteracting the bitterness in greens

February is not really a great month for local fresh produce around here, but there is one category of vegetables that is quite abundant around this time - greens. There’s endive, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, chicory, and some less common greens like puntarelle. One problem with many winter or early-spring greens is that they have a bitter flavor.

There are various ways of reducing or counteracting the bitterness; the method you use depends on the kind of greens you are using and how concerned you are about retaining nutrients and such. continue reading...

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Guinness Marmite!

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Wow, look at the gorgeous black and white special edition Guinness Marmite jar! Limited to a run of 300,000 jars, this special blend of Guinness and Marmite is on sale in the U.K. right now. I’m not too sure how different it would be in taste from regular Marmite, which is after all a yeast spread. I’m speculating it might taste like the slightly beer-y Cenovis. Now how to get my hands on one… (link via Coolest Gadgets and The Guinness Blog - yes, Guinness has a blog. The portal is a bugger…just say you are from England, and old enough.) continue reading...

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Food Destinations #5 is on!

Food Destinations is back for round 5! This time it’s hosted by Natalia of From Our Kitchen, and the theme is Where Everybody Knows Your Name. Details are here! The deadline is March 18th.

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Video in the kitchen: a critique of video food sites

Recently I’ve been getting several P.R. type emails from new sites that feature videos that they think appeal to food lovers. I do take a look at them, and with very few exceptions I must say that most of them are not worth my time.

I think the people who run all-video sites need to really understand two things before anything else. First is the difference between passive video viewing, i.e. on TV the way many of us still watch TV, and voluntary video viewing. Voluntary viewing means stuff that I must make a conscious effort to choose to view. DVDs fall into this category, as does online video. When I go to YouTube for instance, I need to search, click and then wait a bit to download the video. If the video is crap then I will never view it again, and chances are I’ll try to avoid anything uploaded by that user if I remember to. continue reading...

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Bittersweet Valentine memories, mostly sweet

Happy Valentine’s Day! February the 14th may mean flowers, a romantic dinner, or promises you don’t intend to keep for other people, but to me it will always the Day Of Chocolate.

Valentine’s Day is a very odd and overly commercialized day in Japan, where the giving and receiving of chocolate doesn’t have that much to do with romance. Females are made to feel obligated to hand out chocolates to people they don’t care about, such as teachers and bosses, while males anxiously wait to see if they get ‘enough’ chocolates to satisfy their egos. There are whole lines of inexpensive chocolate products suitable for giving, called giri choco (obligation chocolate). Unlike in the Western world, it’s not a day for men to give something to their female love interests. (March 14th, called “White Day”, has been sort of artificially designated as the males-give-back-to-females day.) continue reading...

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If you're eating or drinking yogurt, you're trendy

According to a recently published study by ACNielsen called What’s Hot Around the World – Insights on Growth in Food & Beverage Products, yogurt (or yoghurt if you’re the Queen of England), especially the drinkable kind, was the fastest growing food product worldwide in 2006. “Spoonable” or regular yogurt didn’t do too bad either. (Coincidentally, we just bought a very cute R2-D2 shaped yogurt maker. I plan to make yogurt in it of course, but I did buy it for another reason…which shall be revealed later. (Hint: it’s very sticky.))

Other findings in the report include: in Europe people wanted more “cooking basics” like oils; North Americans wanted more fresh and/or ‘healthy’ products like pre-prepared salads (I guess at least before the spinach scare); the best selling alcoholic beverage is beer; and in China and some other countries in Asia, baby formula sales increased dramatically. Link to report (PDF). continue reading...

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Flying toasters!

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Not quite food related, but, uhm, it’s about toasters. And toast. This has been around for a few months but what the heck, I just found it today. Retro Toast is a free (Creative Commons) version of the classic early ’90s screensaver, Flying Toasters! Flying toasters, and other After Dark products like their awesome Star Trek themed desktops, were what converted young bratty “but everyone uses Peecees” spouting self permanently to the light (the world of Macs) forever. That was….7 Macs ago. I feel old now. Retro Toast is available for the dark..I mean, Windows, as well as OS X. continue reading...

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Why is health quackery alive and well?

Unless you live in the UK, you probably don’t know who Gillian McKeith is. I didn’t know much about her even though I do watch British television, since she has a show on Channel 4, which I don’t get here. Apparently she is famous as the host of a diet show called “You Are What You Eat”, bestselling author of diet books, and hawker of herbal pills. She puts a Doctor in front of her name, and she’s regarded as a Health Authority. Yet, she is not a medical doctor or even a properly trained and certified nutritionist. Her only health related degree may or may not come via a correspondence course from a non-accredited American college. continue reading...

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Sugar high, really

Since I started my whole get fitter/lighter process last month, I haven’t ingested much sugar. I didn’t avoid it entirely, but was using quite small quantities - a spoonful of jam here, a bit of honey there, that sort of thing. (It’s also hard to avoid all sugar in Japanese cooking - a bit is often added to enhance the flavor.)

I never had a big sweet tooth to start with, so I didn’t really miss sugary snacks that much in a physical sense. But I did miss the whole idea and process of making something sweet, of the house filling up with those smells. Besides, Valentine’s Day is coming up this week and that means chocolate!

So an afternoon of experimentation followed, which resulted in the spiced chocolate cupcakes. The cupcakes were divine, and I overindulged and had three in a row. continue reading...

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Upcoming list

More site housekeeping: I get quite a lot of emails that request certain recipes or ask questions of a general nature. Rather than reply in an email, which helps one person, I usually prefer to reply in the form of an entry here. So (though I may live to regret this!) I’ve made my list of upcoming planned recipes and other articles public. You can take a look there to see what I am working on or planning to write up. (There’s a permanent link to the page from the contact form as well as in the footer about area of every page. continue reading...

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The Flying Spaghetti Monster!

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Not quite edible, but how can one resist an animated paper model of that august diety, The Flying Spaghetti Monster? This is the newest paper model by Rob Ives of Flying Pig, a UK company that makes paper animation and other fun paper model kits. This one is available for download/purchase. I have a few of their models and they are a bit fiddly to make, but once they’re done they make adorable accessories for around the desk or cubicle. (Just be sure you put them in a place where someone won’t sit on it…as happened to my Schoedinger’s Cat.) continue reading...

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Mac and cheese from a box? Not even with cute bunnies

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Rebecca Blood has a great post summing up the recent minor brouhaha about a popular ‘quality’ mac and cheese brand that originated with article in Salon magazine, vs. the standard of the genre that comes in a blue box. Rebecca focuses on the actions of the CEO, specifically his comments on a post on megnut, which are funny in the way he assumes that people will just take his marketspeak at face value. continue reading...

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Gobble, gobble, or maybe not

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The BBC News web site’s Magazine section has an article today about the history of how turkey became fast food. While it’s about turkey production in the UK, it’s probably applicable to any nation that has large scale consumption, and production, of turkey meat. continue reading...

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Space-age indoor gardening kit

In my quest for hydroponics growing options for growing potentially salty tomatoes, I stumbled upon this thing that looks like it belongs on the Jetsons: an Aerogrow Aerogarden Kit. Instead of hydroponics, it uses an aeroponic system, where the roots dangle in moist air. It looks great for growing fresh herb plants through the winter months and things like that…and the web site says it only uses the equivalent electricity of a 60 watt light bulb. I just love that futuristic-retro design too! If anyone has this, I’d love to hear about your experiences with it. continue reading...

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Y or I?

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I was browsing in the kitchenware department of one of the department stores in town today, looking at the huge Zyliss display. Zyliss, as you probably know if you are into your kitchen gadgets, is a Swiss company that makes a lot of useful things. I have a number of Zyliss products in my kitchen, but my favorite one at the moment is the Soft Skin Peeler, aka the Tomato Peeler. This wonderful thing can take the skin off of any soft fruit like tomatoes and peaches with amazing ease. It even shaves truffles very thin! continue reading...

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Pre-salted tomatoes?

I love tomatoes, and I love salt. So this post about growing hydroponic tomatoes with a weak sodium chloride solution on one of my new must-read blogs, News for Curious Cooks authored by Harold McGee, definitely caught my eye.

According to the post, continue reading...

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Lunch, lunch and more lunch

Google’s fancy and free cafeteria has been buzzing the blogs recently, but here are some more lunch links. Mari - Diary has links to some Japanese web pages about shashoku, or company cafeteria food. Some examples: Montblanc in Hamburg, Germany serves what looks like a Dampfnudel (steamed dumpling) filled with cherries and served with custard and cream - as a main course! Softbank, a tech company in Japan, has a cafeteria that looks either terribly kitschy or very chic, depending on your point of view. continue reading...

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Site changes

Just Hungry has had yet another site makeover. This is the fourth incarnation of the site in 3 years, and I think by far the biggest one. Besides a cosmetic facelift, it's been converted to a new backend engine, Drupal. Although Drupal is tad more complicated (for me, not you I hope!) than the blogging platform the site was running on previously, Movable Type (or the version before that which was on Movable Type's sister Typepad), I think it's going to make the site even better. Here are some of the changes that are in place right now. continue reading...

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Top Chef Season 2, Episode 13: Finale

I don't have much to say about the finale of Top Chef. Just this:

WTH??? continue reading...

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Eat Food/Not too much/Mostly Plants in action

Anyone who has any interest in food, nutrition, where our food comes from, and most importantly, how to eat at all, should read the massive (12 pages) article by Michael Pollan in the New York Times, Unhappy Meals. continue reading...

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Top Chef Season 2 Episode 12 (Finale part 1)

I am mildly surprised that Marcel and Ilan won this round, to go through to the final head to head. Though I must admit that at this point I don't really care much about the outcome since I don't care much about any of the four semi-finalists. The whole Elia accusing Marcel of 'cheating' sequence (with zero shown support from Ilan or Sam) was so awkward I'd rather forget it. continue reading...

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The Great Natto Diet turns into the Great Natto Scandal

Following up on the Great Natto Diet story: continue reading...

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MasterChef Goes Large 2007 (Season 3) starts today

Update: The season is over and the winner is announced.

masterchef_presenters_300x193.jpgMasterChef Goes Large, the best competitive cooking show on television today*, starts its third round today. If you live in the U.K. continue reading...

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The Great Natto Diet Rush: The sticky road to weight loss (maybe) (OJFTMHYLW extra)

I was not going to talk about natto as part of my Odd Japanese food that may help you lose weight(OJFTMHYLW) series this week. But coincidentally, natto as a diet aid has been in the news big time in Japan, with claims that a 'magical' substance in this sticky food helps people to effortlessly lose weight. continue reading...

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Easy unit conversions with Google

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I own a lot of cookbooks that are published in the world of pounds, ounces and farenheit (mostly the U.S....British cookbooks nowadays have metric or both metric and imperial) and the rest of the world, which uses metric. I also read various web sites and food blogs from all over the world. Converting units from one and the other can be a bit of a bother, so I try to include both in my recipes. I am guilty of using American cup measurements sometimes, but I try to limit that to recipes were the amount doesn't have to be totally exact, such as for bread.

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Top Chef Season 2 Episode 11...should we care?

The recap of this episode is brief, because I want to discuss something else about the show itself. But the recap and review first.

  • Cliff was probably going to get booted anyway. Lentils and beef sounds good as combo, but he didn't execute it right. He was playing it too safe.
  • I did feel really bad for Marcel, and Cliff and the others were incredibly stupid in what they did - especially Cliff, obviously, and he deserved to get kicked off the show. Still...seeing him with a shaved head would have been funny...
  • Why was it up to Padma to yell "you idiots" to the contestant? She has that much authority? If it came from Tom Colicchio fine...but from..Mrs. Rushdie? (I have admitted already that I dislike her more and more, which is why I probably noticed it.)
  • Elia looks great with a shaved head! So does Ilan. They should both keep the look - there's a precedent for sexy bald top chefs.

topchef_baldmontage.jpgI think Chef was bald...

  • Ilan's chocolate truffle with a chicken liver center is a close second to last week's watermelon and 'gnocchi' with gorgonzola sauce by Sam for the "what were you thinking" wacky food award. I do dimly see his logic though, because of the texture of the liver when cooked...but still. Liver. Chocolate.

  • Geez, how did they get Eric Ripert (of a Super Serious New York Restaurant (Le Bernadin) on this mess show? 15 minutes of fame blabla...
  • I always wonder in these situations - did the Romantic Dinner couples have to pay for their dinners? I wonder if I'd pay for a Top Chef dinner myself...there's always the risk of Chocolate Covered Livers...
  • .
  • Apparently (though it was sort of lost in the confusion) Ilan's dish was the winner...demonstrated here by Lee Anne. Looks nice!

So anyway, after the totally unnecessary and condescending tease about which chefs would be eliminated (which was obviously going to be 'none' since Cliff was disqualified for manhandling Marcel), all four remaining chefs jet off to Hawaii for the final rounds.

But there's a bigger question to be asked... continue reading...

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Calling Menu For Hope winner "johanna"!

Quick note: The winners of the Menu For Hope prizes have been announced! If you're the "johanna" that won EU07 (the hamper) please contact me so we can arrange things. :)

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Where I shop for Japanese/Asian ingredients in Zurich

I have always meant to post about this but haven't gotten around to it. This is not an in-depth report with pictures and everything, but just a quick post, since Julie asked :) If you don't live in the Zürich area go ahead and skip to other posts... continue reading...

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A week of (odd) Japanese food that (may) help you lose weight

Dieting is just as popular in Japan as it is in other countries, despite the low obesity rates and things there. Fad diets are very prevalent, as are a lot of dubious diet supplements (sapurimento). But if you look at traditional Japanese food, there are a lot of items that are naturally low in calories, carbs and glycemic indeces, high in fiber, and in some cases even have a lot of beneficial nutrients. These items are being looked at anew as weight loss aids in Japan, which is a great thing I think. continue reading...

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Food Destinations #4 roundup is up!

The roundup for Food Destinations #4: My Favorite Gourmet Shopping Spot is now up on Mango and Lime. Be sure to check it out for some great descriptions of mouthwatering stores. Food and shopping, a great combination!

Top Chef Season 2 Episode 10

Oh, Mikey, we feel bad for you. After your triumphs last week, you are judged to be the worst of the remaining six, all of whom did a mediocre to bad job, and you are jettisoned. We hope that you will open your own gastropub some day. Or at least run your own TGIFriday's.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

To be honest, this season of Top Chef is wearing thin on me. I no longer look forward eagerly to next week's episode. There is no single cause for this, there are several. continue reading...

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De-lurk and tell me about you, and what you want!

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I had meant to do something like this earlier but - well I forgot :). But a post on Roger Johansson's web development blog 456 Berea Street (one of the best out there, I might add, for any budding or not-so-budding web developers) which was in turn inspired by web designer Veerle Pieters (her blog is one of the prettiest on the interweb!) prompted me to do this once and for all.

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Final weight loss thoughts: what I'm doing

To wrap up my week long series on weight loss, these are the things that I'm doing, and plan to continue doing, to achieve my goals - as well as some things I am not doing.

  • Tell everyone

    These weight loss posts are part of my plan: I'm telling everyone, friends, family, and even you out there in the anonymous interweb, what I'm doing. In the past I've tried losing weight in secret, and it just does not work because if I give up no one knows either. continue reading...

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Reading in brief: Mindless Eating, plus Black Dresses

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (book site) is a scholary yet very entertaining look at why we eat the way we do. I've already incorporated a few ideas from the Mindless Eating book into my plan, such as using smaller plates and cutting down on desktop dining, a major problem for me. We'll see how it works... continue reading...

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Weight loss and eating out

Continuing my week of weight loss related posts, this time it's about eating out.

When I lived in New York, about 80% of my meals came from outside - restaurants, fast-food places and takeout. Coupled with that and 80-100 hour work weeks, I basically ran myself into the ground. Nowadays I don't eat out nearly as much. This has a lot to do with a change in lifestyle of course, but it I also consciously made the decision to try to cook for myself as much as possible. continue reading...

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Top Chef Season 2, episode 9: Love and Hate

After a two week hiatus, the show returns to our screens big and small, with an extra-longish episode. The theme of the show can be summed up in two sentences:

Everyone loves Michael - even, this week, the judges.

Everyone hates Marcel. continue reading...

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Reconciling being a 'gourmet' and trying to lose weight

Continuing my week of posts about weight loss, some reflections on how to go about losing weight but still retaining my interest (or..obsession even) in food.

There was an interesting article recently to which I linked in my daily links, about a woman who went on a diet, and a different world. continue reading...

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Blogs and websites about weight loss and exercise

I don't have any plans to turn Just Hungry into a site dedicated just to diets and weight loss. There are however many, many sites that do just this.Here are just a few that I've found interesting. continue reading...

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The first 100 days

Happy New Year! continue reading...

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Food-oriented goals and plans for 2007

In 2006 most of my food-oriented goals were external in nature, oriented towards restaurants and such. This year my goals are quite different. continue reading...

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Looking back at 2006

At the tail end of 2005, I set myself a list of food related things I wanted to accomplish. I didn't get to do all of these things but nevertheless, it was a very good year. continue reading...

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Menu For Hope III: Last day, last chance

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Just a short reminder: Menu For Hope III bidding ends at 6 PM PST, which translates to 3 AM tomorrow morning (the 23rd) for those of us in the CET, midnight EST, 2 AM in Britain, 4 AM in Eastern Europe, etc. More than $46,000 has been raised already for the World Food Programme - sure to go over $50,000 don't you think?

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Menu For Hope III: Still time to donate!

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Wow. As of right now, more than $24,000 has been donated to the World Food Programme through Menu for Hope III. If you haven't send in your donation yet, there's still time!

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Top Chef Season 2, Episode 8: Let's party under fake snow

topchef_mia.jpgAll stressed out Mia continue reading...

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Top Chef Season 2, Episode 7: Role Reversals

I almost forgot that there was a new Top Chef episode last week, and since I was away from home I didn't get to watch it until tonight. Therefore this is a very brief recap.

The theme of this episode seems to be role reversals: much maligned Marcel wins the Quickfire challenge and gets immunity. Then the women end up as top three and the boys who are usually on top - Sam, Cliff and Frank - end up as the bottom three in the Elimination challenge. continue reading...

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Food Destinations #4 is announced!

Food Destinations #4 has been announced. The theme is My Favorite Gourmet Gift Shopping Spot, and the host is Paula of Mango and Lime. Go over to check out the details here. Paula is offering a great prize too!

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Is it possible to have bad food in France? Of course it is.

I think I'm guilty of waxing too lyrical about the food in France sometimes, and I'm certainly not alone in that. If you believe some people (many of whom have a vested interest in upholding the myth) you may think that French people eat delicious, fresh, well-prepared gourmet food and heavenly pastries all the time. That's just not true, of course. I'm just back from a two week stay in Provence, and while most of the food was wonderful as usual, there were some definite low lights. continue reading...

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Menu For Hope III

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[Update 2:] The auction is now over! Thank you everyone who donated! continue reading...

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The original Bunmeido Kasutera commercial

Via a comment from Ned (Thanks, Ned!) , here is the video of the original Bunmeido Kasutera commercial from the 1960s that I mentioned in my kasutera article:

continue reading...

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Three years of Just Hungry

Three years ago, I decided on a whim to branch off a bit from my main blog, which was mostly about web development and other matters, and start a blog about food, just food - and Just Hungry was born. On November 29, 2003, I posted my first entry. 450 or so entries later it's still here! It's now become a much more visited site than I ever imagined, and I am constantly amazed and surprised at how many people take the time to write me great emails or leave comments. continue reading...

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Top Chef Season 2, Episode 6

I hope everyone in the U.S. had a great Thanksgiving! Jumping into another Top Chef episode recap. continue reading...

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Surviving Thanksgiving, a Don't Panic! list for new cooks

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I've been living off and on in Switzerland since 1995, but I think this is the first year that I've actually not been in the U.S. for Thanksgiving. I usually made an effort to go there around that time, even if I didn't always spend it with my family. Of course there is no Thanksgiving celebration in Switzerland. We've already moved directly to Christmas season (which also encompasses St. Nicolas Day on December 6th). There are several Christmas markets on already in the area.

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Food Destinations #3 roundup is up

Emily of Chocolate in Context has posted her roundup of Food Destinations #3: My Favorite Chocolate Shop [edit: URL corrected now]. Be sure to check out the drool-worthy entries. Mmm, chocolate...

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75% vegetarian: meat is just a side dish

After reading my post yesterday about, among other things, the offal challenge on Top Chef, someone emailed me expressing surprise that I was not a vegetarian. I have been asked before by readers of this blog whether I was a vegetarian. I'm not, but let me qualify that. continue reading...

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Top Chef Season 2, Episode 5: Offal and bits

(This is an abbreviated recap/review of episode 5, since I'm up to my eyebrows in work at the moment with not much time to spare for blog-related stuff, reading as well as writing.)

One thing about Top Chef: if they suddenly feature someone they've been practically ignoring up to that point, like Josie in this episode, you can be sure that that person is going to get kicked off. continue reading...

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Top Chef Season 2, Episode 4: Cheating! Or is it?

So...let's get right to the end first. Were they right in eliminating no one? Was it a cop-out by the judges? Don't they have the cameras on all the time in the kitchen to check what people are doing? Was Sam right to bring up the 'cheating' issue before the judges - and then wimp out when asked to name names? Should Mia have pushed the issue on? continue reading...

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A site about molecular gastronomy, and a video about sake

Here are a couple of links that I wanted to get into a bit more detail than I can in the del.icio.us hosted daily links. continue reading...

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TV: Heston Blumenthal: In Search of Perfection

heston1.jpgHeston Blumenthal makes aerated chocolate with a vacuum cleaner, among other things continue reading...

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Top Chef Season 2, episode 3: Cravable!

topchef2_tomrestrained.jpgFor some reason Tom Colicchio has to be held down by both Gail and Padma when Betty wins.

Compared to episode 2 this was a lot more entertaining. Team challenges are usually exercises in boring drama, while individual challenges focus a lot more on the food.

And I love that word they used, Cravable. Food should be cravable. continue reading...

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Top Chef Season 2, Episode 2: Don't take the lichees if you're on a reality TV show

This recap of episode 2 is brief since it's a week late due to my absence, and there really isn't that much to say about it. continue reading...

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Yahoo! Food launches

I am on ten gazillion mailing lists about food, and one of those that drifted in this past week was about the launch of Yahoo! Food. My first impression is that it looks great - clean design, not cluttered with moving bits like the Food TV site. It's similar to BBC Food, my current favorite non-blog food site. I particularly like the huge search box on the Yahoo! page, as well as the food related quotes. continue reading...

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Impressions of England, strictly food-related

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tavistock_bobscafesign.jpgI am back from England. As is usual when I go there, in a food sense it was a mixed bag. On the positive side, I got to experience two real, unique - and very different - highlights in The Pudding Club and The Fat Duck.

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Off to England

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I am off to England for about a week. While it's supposed to be partly for work, somehow I've managed to schedule an awful lot of food-related things in there. One of them will be my first molecular biology..I mean.. gastronomy... experience, at The Fat Duck, on Hallowe'en. Concidentally, BBC 2 is going to be showing part 1 of a two-part documentary about Heston Blumenthal that very evening. We're going to lunch so it should be fun to see that after having experienced the restaurant.

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TV: Fear of Fanny - resurrecting Fanny Cradock

Mark Gatiss as Johnnie and Julia Davis as Fanny Cradock on Fear of Fanny

Fear of Fanny is the second in a series of biopics being aired by BBC Four this month. This time, the subject is Fanny Cradock, who ruled as a TV chef in the U.K. in the '60s to the '70s. continue reading...

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The U.S. (allegedly) bans Vegemite...can Marmite be far behind?

I really had to look twice at the calendar to make sure I hadn't suddenly skipped ahead a few months to April 1st when I read this news story: continue reading...

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Off topic: my other site is up again

I know some people who follow Just Hungry also used to read my makikoitoh.com site, where I mostly talk about things like design in general, web design and development in particular, and so on. It's been dormant for a long time but I've just re-designed and revived it so please give it a visit!

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Top Chef Season 2, Episode 1: Flames, snails and frogs

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Well well, so season 2 is upon us.

15 contestants is way too many to start with, so I can barely remember half of them. The new host? I will reserve my judgement (more on the hosting position a bit later). Let us jump straight into the challenges. continue reading...

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TV: The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton

mrsbeeton.jpg Mrs. Beeton attempts to hack off the head of a turtle, one of the skills required of a homemaker in Victorian times, as her maid looks on anxiously. (don't worry, she couldn't go through with it) continue reading...

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Truly hungry

Today, October 16th, is World Food Day, a day designated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations since 1945 as a day for promoting awareness of issues related to hunger, agriculture and food production.

While much of the time this site, like most food blogs, talk about indulging personal hunger and food cravings, there's a lot to think about on this subject these days, much of it rather sobering. continue reading...

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How to behave in a European restaurant, a guide for American (or Japanese) tourists

(Related to my previous post - this is something I was originally going to submit to the How To... event held by ProBlogger, but I ended up posting something else. To be taken it with a big grain of salt.) continue reading...

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There's a different pace in Europe

This month, Frank Bruni of the New York Times is writing about his experiences eating in Rome on his Diner's Journal blog. One of things he mentions is what he perceives as the inferior level of service in most Rome restaurants. A number of commenters chime in, some claiming variations of "it's because Europeans hate Americans". continue reading...

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A week of foodie inserts in The Guardian

If you live in the U.K., (or elsewhere where they sell U.K. newspapers complete with inserts) get ready for a week of food-related inserts starting tomorrow in The Guardian.

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The refrigerator report

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I've been living with my new refrigerator for about a month now, and I love it. What I particularly like about it are the "Biofresh" compartments - the sealed drawers with adjustable humidity for storing fresh food. (Biofresh is term used by the manufacturer, Liebherr, but other manufacturers use other terms for it.) The humidity can be set to low for meats, fish and cheeses, and high for fruit and vegetables. And, there are three big drawers - way more than a regular refrigerator.

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Top Chef Season 2 starts next week

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Set your TiVos or iTunes Music Store reminders. The second season of our favorite American cooking competition show is just a week away! New host, more contestants, change of venue to Los Angeles -- could be exciting! (Or, a disaster. We'll find out.) continue reading...

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Isabella Beeton, Fanny Cradock, and Elizabeth David on the BBC

fannycradock_bbc.jpg Julia Davis as Fanny Cradock in Fear of Fanny continue reading...

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Food Destinations no. 3: All about chocolate!

Food Destinations is back for round 3! This time, it's hosted by Emily of Chocolate in Context, and the theme is My Favorite Chocolate Shop. Mmm, chocolate. Go over to Emily's site and read up on the details! The deadline is October 30th.

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Pesticides, cabbages, and onion sandwiches

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Yesterday's musings on the priciness of at least some organic produce reminded me of a very useful guide to pesticides on popular fruits and vegetables, published by the Environmental Working Group. I've listed it before in my Daily Links, but I'm repeating it here in case you missed it. It's a wallet-sized guide to the produce that has the most pesticides (so worth buying organic) down to the ones that have the least (so perhaps worth buying conventional.

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The $9 organic burger at Farm Aid

I am old enough to recall the '80s rather clearly (and, isn't it a bit scary how '80s fashion like humongous oversized sweaters seem to be making a comeback now? What's next, the return of footballer-sized Dynasty shoulder pads?), so I remember when the first Farm Aid concert took place. At that time, family farms in the U.S. were in dire straights, so a bunch of musical artists, inspired by the massive Live Aid concert, got together to raise money and awareness for the plight of the American farmer. continue reading...

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Reading: Heat

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Heat book coverIt has actually been a while since I last put down Heat - or to give its full title, Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.

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Produce: Grapes

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Let's start this with an important question. When you eat grapes, do you: continue reading...

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My new energy efficient refrigerator and freezer

My new refrigerator finally got installed on Friday. After some long hours of procrastination and drooling over appliance porn, I eventually went with a smaller, less-feature-rich, yet much "greener" model. (Actually two models, since we got a separate small freezer to go with the fridge.) It's not as sexy as the glamorous models in those appliance centerfolds, but it has a lot of features that suit the way I cook and shop for food. continue reading...

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Other food blogs: Tigers and Strawberries

Most people who familiar with the world of food blogs know Tigers and Strawberries already, but for those of you who don't, now is as good a time as any to introduce you to Barbara and her vigorous writing. Why? Because she's just had a beautiful baby girl. You can see a picture of tiny Kat. continue reading...

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Wine Blogging Wednesday #25: Champagne Fleury

(Posted by Max: Maki is out of commission since her Powerbook's system disk went belly up yesterday.)

When Sam from Becks & Posh announced the Wine Blogging Wednesday #25 to be about Champagne, it gave me a reason to dig a bit through the cellar, where I found a long-forgotten bottle of a Champagne Fleury which must be almost 10 years old.

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Food and being green on the BBC

I am eternally grateful that the BBC broadcasts free-to-air on satellite, and that I live within reception range. I feel a bit guilty that I don't have to pay anything to view the Beeb as UK residents do, and believe me if they started to bill me something I'd pay it without question. The BBC has the best programming, bar none, of any network I've ever seen in any country. (I'm even a closet East Enders watcher, but don't tell anyone.) continue reading...

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Miso soup wrapup, and choosing and caring for lacquered soup bowls

misosoupbowls.jpg The top black bowl is resin; the bottom two are real lacquered bowls. continue reading...

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Food Destinations #2 roundup coming very soon

Just a quick note to say, first of all, a big thanks to everyone who participated in this second round of Food Destinations. The roundup will be posted very soon (hopefully today...just waiting for a couple of promised late entries... :))

Food Destinations #2: Lebensmittel Markt am Helvetiaplatz, Zurich, Switzerland

Everything looks so good

This is my entry for Food Destinations #2: My Local Market.

There are several fresh food markets in Zürich. I was actually going to talk about another one, but someone else had covered it already (as you'll see in the roundup!), so I decided to head to the market at Helvetiaplatz. continue reading...

BlogDay linking to non-food sites

Today, August 31st, is Blogday 2006, the idea of which is to link to 5 blogs that you would normally not link to on your blog. (The site seems to be having some issues right now, hopefully they will recover before the day is done.) One of my other major passions besides food and cooking is design, and there are a number of great blogs that concentrate on what's new in the design world, from various angles.

It was really hard to pick just five out of many great design blogs, but here are some of the best out there. continue reading...

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Food Destinations sneak peek

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fdshinybuttonblue.jpgOne of the best things about hosting, or participating in, a food blogging event that it can lead you to blogs that you've never encountered before. Such an entry came in just this morning, from Hungary via Belgium. Chili & Vanilla is written by Zsofi, who is from Hungary but currently lives in Belgium.

Review: ThisNext

thisnextlogo.gifThisNext is a brand new social shopping site that just officially opened last week. I have been using it for a little while now - it powers the Japanese Snacks feature you see on the sidebar of this site. continue reading...

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Food Destinations #2 deadline is Saturday!

fdshinybuttonblue.jpgA reminder that the deadline for Food Destinations 2: My Local Greenmarket is this Saturday, September 2nd. I haven't gone out to my local market yet myself, and I sure hope that the miserable grey weather we are having will clear up by the end of of the week!

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Why Hell's Kitchen is not a real food show

It's a lazy Sunday afternoon (mainly because I'm avoiding the task of Defrosting the Freezer...more about that later) and I'm sitting here contemplating TV Reality Cooking Shows.

Someone who had read my rather detailed reviews of Top Chef, as well as my adventures following the BBC Masterchef challenges, asked me recently why I didn't do similar reviews of Hell's Kitchen. continue reading...

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Let there be butter

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Over on my GenevaLunch blog, I've written about the wonderful taste and smell of Swiss butter. If you have a chance to come here please make an effort to try some, and if you can, melt some in a hot pan. continue reading...

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Some thoughts on food and photographs, and food photography

The Observer Food Monthly, one of the best food-related publications available online, recently held a food photography competition. The results have been posted, and all the winning and runner-up photos are terrific. The winner of the "Food Glorious Food" category, a very humorous arrangement of some jelly babies, made me laugh out loud, but the one that struck me the most is the overall winner, a beautiful black and white photo by Ikuko Tsuchiya titled "The Widow in her kitchen". continue reading...

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Food Destinations reminder

Just a quick reminder that the deadline for Food Destinations #2: My Local Greenmarket is September 2nd, a bit less than 2 weeks away. Please remember to send me an email at maki at makikoitoh dot_com OR fooddestinations at gmail dot_com after you have posted your article, pointing to the permalink. Thanks!
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New location and new design, moving pains

I have moved Just Hungry to a new server. Because of DNS issues for the next day or so you may not be going to the right location. You will know if you're at the right place if you see a new site design, without the gigantic fennel top. (Edit: oddly enough, justhungry.com seems to be resolving all over, so if www.justhungry.com takes you to Giant Fennel, please try clicking on plain justhungry.com.) continue reading...

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From the other side of the restaurant front desk

In his blog post Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, Frank Bruni of the NY Times recounts a long and unpleasant wait for a table, where he says the front desk person didn't handle the situation well. I worked for a while as one of those hapless front desk persons, or FDP as I'll call them here, at a very busy NYC restaurant. Here's my take from the other side of that front desk. continue reading...

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Produce: Pluots and donut peaches

Pluots and donut peaches Pluots in the foreground, and donut peaches to the right. In the back are a white nectarine and a white peach. continue reading...

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Food Destinations is coming back!

I had originally intended for Food Destinations to be a one-off event. But since it got such a great response, I've decided to bring it back, and make it a recurring one. For those of you who had been asking for this, please excuse my delay...I was too busy/disorganized to deal with it for a couple months! continue reading...

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The Refrigerator Buyer's Dilemma

subzero.jpg Ooh, baby. This is the Sub Zero Pro 48, aka Fridge Porn.

Our old refrigerator is dying.

It's about 15 years old, so I suppose it has a right to die. Still, it depresses me to think about it. On a list of indispensable appliances in the modern household, fridges have to be near the top. When it malfunctions, it's like your heart beating irregularly. It's really stressful. continue reading...

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Animals need ice treats too

You may have already seen this story about the animals in the Zürich Zoo being fed frozen meat and fruit "alternative ice cream" to cool them down. It seems that this isn't so uncommon. 20 Minuten, a free paper that's distributed in Zürich and other Swiss cities, has a great slide show on their web site of animals cooling down, using ice treats and other ways. continue reading...

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More about soy, manufactured food, and food trends

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Just in case you missed it, this article about soy that plume linked to in the comments to the previous entry about the anti-soy article in the Guardian is excellent.

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A problematic report on the 'dangers' of soy

There was a report in yesterday's Guardian about the supposed dangers of soy products. I am rather dubious about the claims, simply because some of the 'facts' stated about the use of soy beans in Asian cuisine, or Japanese cuisine in particular, are just plain wrong. The implication made in the article is that all soy products are fermented for a long time in Japanese cuisines, but this is simply not true. Only miso and soy sauce and like products - which are only consumed in very small quantities, since they are quite salty - fit that description. continue reading...

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What does that mean? Food terms that make me go "huh?"

Since I started this site almost three years ago, there have been a plethora of food related terms cropping up that I have no idea of the meaning of. This worries me a bit since I'm supposed to be a Serious Foodie. Thankfully, the interweb allows all of us to fake being an expert. Here are a few phrases that have entered my consciousness lately. continue reading...

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Final New York notes

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Dim Sum

I understand that there are supposedly better-quality places for dim sum in New York nowadays, but those gringo-run and/or uptown restaurants require bothersome things like reservations, and personally, making reservations for dim sum just seems wrong. Waiting for a table at a garishly lit noisy restaurant with cafeteria atmosphere is part of the fun. Besides, what non-Chinese-run dim sum palace would serve stewed tripe? continue reading...

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New York food shopping fun: Trader Joe's

trader_joes.jpg OMG, the line... continue reading...

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New York food shopping fun: Japanese groceries

[Update:] See this more up-to-date and comprehensive listing of Japanese groceries and other related stores in the New York area.

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Pondering infomercials and other TV ads

I try to do various things to minimize jetlag, but my body clock is still slightly screwed up whenever I fly over the Atlantic. After all it is a 6 hour time difference. So I've found myself waking up faithfully at 4:30am every day since I got to New York. This isn't all bad...it means I can deal with all the emails waiting and so on while it's still quiet, though it does mean that by 10pm I'm already nodding off. continue reading...

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Papaya King: the best hot dog / juice joint in New York

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There is one food pilgrimage that I make without fail every time I'm in New York. It's not a visit to a famous, expensive restaurant. It's not even a bagel stop at my favorite bagel place (Ess-a-Bagel) or a trot around my favorite gourmet mega-mart (Fairway). It's a stop at the best hot dog joint in the city, if not the world, Papaya King. continue reading...

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A Celebration of Life's Simple Pleasures at the 92nd Street Y

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This evening I went to a panel discussion about food writing at the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side of New York. The title of the program was "A Celebration of Life's Simple Pleasures: Good Food and Good Writing".

My restaurant review philosophy

I'm about to post a couple of restaurant reviews, but before I do that I thought I might as well put down my thoughts on how, and when, I do restaurant reviews.

I don't post a lot of restaurant reviews here. That's not to say I don't eat out - I do! Though I guess when I am at home, I don't really eat out that much, since I made a conscious effort to cook at home as much as possible. When I'm on the road as I am now, I do eat out a lot. I always make it a point to try at least one 'top' restaurant in whatever region I find myself in. continue reading...

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New York, New York - and where's the domestic olive oil?

My great plans for attacking the NYC food scene haven't gone that well, due to work and family commitments. I didn't make it to the Fancy Food Show after all (today is the last day but I had meetings...) So far my exploring has been limited to evening forays to local eateries, but since this is, after all, New York, that's no hardship at all. continue reading...

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Weekend Project: sweets from the archives

I hate to do this just after starting it, but I won't be able to post new Weekend Projects (where I suggest a food project that takes a bit of time to accomplish) for a couple of weeks, since I'm on the road. (I have a kitchen to use...but I can only find a couple of battered pots here.) There are several Just Hungry articles from the past that are great for trying out over a weekend though. Since the weekend always seems like a great time to have something sweet, here are just a few suggestions. continue reading...

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The real taste of food

I found this New York Times article article about the "bad rap" of high fructose corn syrup, aka HFCS, very interesting. Before I proceed though, here are two other opinions you may want to read: continue reading...

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Chicken karaage, the urawaza challenge!

There's a popular program on Nippon Television in Japan called Ito-ke no shokutaku (The Ito Family's Dining Table). It's a how-to / household hints type of show, which tests out viewer-submitted tips and tricks, which they call urawaza. continue reading...

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Going to New York for...sushi!

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I found out this week that I will have to go to New York in a week for about 10 days for work reasons. As much as I love New York I am sort of dreading the hot weather. But on the brighter side of course, New York is nirvana for a foodie and I plan to enjoy that side of the city as much as time and budget allow. continue reading...

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Let's hear it for ugly fruit

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A common complaint that food lovers and cooks have with supermarkets is that they sell smooth, perfect looking fruits that are hard and tasteless. Tomatoes and peaches come to mind as the top offenders. continue reading...

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World Cup Food!

I'd like to interrupt my long-winded Provence musing with a World Cup food moment. Here in Switzerland, people are going World Cup crazy (well, as crazy as the super-cool Swiss get). Most people are rooting for the Swiss team of course, especially since they are doing very well.

The stores have gotten into the act by offering all kinds of World Cup themed products. Migros, the largest supermarket chain in Switzerland, is selling boiled eggs dyed and decorated with stickers representing the World Cup participating nations. Yes, gold-colored boiled eggs. continue reading...

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Back Home, and the Essence of June

I'm back home after spending an amazing two weeks in Provence, not to mention the three days before that in the Bourgogne (Burgundy). My sunburned skin feels a wee bit tender and is about the color of milk tea - brown with a decided reddish undertone. My head is bursting with ideas and thoughts and recipes, and I have more than 4,000 photos to sort through (not all of them of food, but a good amount are!) Chances are, you'll be reading a lot of these beautiful areas of France in the next few days around here. continue reading...

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Fantasy Strawberries

Although we can get mediocre strawberries now year-round, and even decent ones from warmer climates starting in late April or so, around these parts and in many of the chillier areas of the northern hemisphere, June marks the real start of the season. continue reading...

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Konnyaku Day

I am about to leave for a short trip to the Bourgogne (Burgundy) region of France, though via the magic of delayed postings you should see a couple of new articles while I am gone. In the meantime though, you may want to take a look at konnyaku day, hosted by Jason of Pursuing My Passions. continue reading...

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Top Chef Episode 12: The Finale

Watching the final episode of Top Chef was like reading a reverse-murder mystery, where you know who the murderer and/or the victim is already (think Sunset Boulevard), but you want to know exactly how it happened. All the conventions of reality television pointed to Good Guy Harold winning, with Bad Girl Tiffani getting her just desserts, pardon the pun. It did in fact happen that way, but nevertheless it was an entertaining ending to the season. continue reading...

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Late Spring Makeover

smallfennel.jpgIt’s been more than a year since the last design for this site was implemented, so it’s about time for a new one. I managed to break the whole site horribly earlier today, especially in Internet Explorer, but it should be fine now. If the pages look wonky please try clearing your browser cache. It should look rather green, since at the moment I am really into green, especially of the vegetable variety. continue reading...

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Top Chef Episode 11: Cooking in Vegas

The challenges for the penultimate episode were to make dishes for particular types of customers that are typically Las Vegas: high rollers, poker players and circus performers. Unlike previous challenges, the contestants had a kitchen stuffed full of all kinds of luscious looking ingredients. It was rather funny when Harold complained that it was "a little too abundant". continue reading...

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Food Destinations: The Roundup!

Update: Food Destinations is back! Click here for details on FD #2.

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Food Destinations: Restaurants in Zürich

Posted by Max continue reading...

Food Destinations: Today is the deadline!

Just a quick reminder - today is positively the deadline for Food Destinations - whenever it stops being May 17th around the world! (I still have to post mine too...!!) If you're a bit late though and still wrote about it please send me your link anyway though.

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Top Chef Episode 10: The Reunion

Since this episode didn't have any actual cooking, there is no need for me to review it totally. So here are some short observations about the reunion show, plus my overall opinion of the show now that we are nearing the finale.

First, about the reunion episode itself: continue reading...

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Another Reminder About Food Destinations, and Summer Travel Plans

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The picture above is of the World's Best Baguette (I swear, it is the best baguette I have ever had) perched on top of a map on top of the dashboard of our rental car last summer. continue reading...

Top Chef Episode 9: Truffles and Wine

topchef_daveandtruffle.jpg Dave sniffs out the challenge

Despite the fact that my girl Lee Anne was eliminated in this round, the show redeemed itself in some respects from the debacle of the last episode. One big reason for this is that the judges for the main elimination round, a group of chefs from Napa Valley restaurants, had some good and fair comments. continue reading...

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Food Destinations Update

A quick update on the Food Destinations event: I've extended the deadline by a week, to the 17th, but by all means if yours is done by the 10th please send it in! The reason I'm extending the deadline is simply that I'm unexpectedly busy beyond words and I don't think I can reasonably summarize the entries soon after the 10th. continue reading...

Introducing a new author

I would like to introduce a guest author to Just Hungry. Some of you know him and love him.. he is The Max. Max will bring some Authentic Swiss Flavor to Just Hungry, plus his vast knowledge of wine and spirits.

He’s jumped into the Hungry Pool with both feet by making his first entry an IMBB one!

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Top Chef Episode 8: Disillusioned

Let me state this right off the bat: I absolutely hated this episode.

There is a tendency to lump together all unscripted television shows as 'reality'. This isn't quite right. A true reality show has these characteristics: continue reading...

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Food Destinations reminder plus news

I wanted to remind everyone that we have about 2 weeks to go for the Food Destinations event. A few entries have already come in. By the way, a few people have mentioned that they already have several existing review-type entries on their blogs. If that fits you, what about a re-review/index that points to your past reviews? If you do put together an article like that (or already have), please send me the link! The main objective here is to have a listing of reviews from foodies around the world, after all. continue reading...

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The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra

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Veggies are good for you. They are also pretty to look at. But did you know you can also listen to them?

The First Vienna Vegetable Orchestra (Das Erste Wiener Gemüseorchester) is an Austrian group that makes music with vegetables. continue reading...

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Top Chef Episode 7: Don't educate me, feed me!

As the weaker contestants are eliminated and the field becomes less crowded, it's getting clearer that there are two stong contestants on Top Chef: the girls, Tiffani and Lee Anne. Sure, Harold is a very talented chef, but he seems to lack that leadership quality and spark. A showdown between the two equally tough, outspoken and talented - yet very different - women would be really fun to watch. continue reading...

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Advertising and promotion policy

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Other food blogs: We Must Eat, The Old Foodie

Since I barely have time at the moment to write properly here at the moment, here are two newish food blogs that I have been happy to discover, for your reading enjoyment:

We Must Eat is a 4 months old blog by Motoko in L.A. Motoko-san is a Japanese-American who used to live in Europe for a while and whose husband is European (French). She also loves M.F.K. Fisher. Hmm...is she my long-lost cousin? :) She writes with an elegant style which is very appealing. continue reading...

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Do you care what "celebrities" cook?

I am still buried in work and I haven’t surfaced yet. But anyway! It seems that there is yet another cooking show starting tonight in the U.S. on NBC, called Celebrity Cooking Showdown. It features your usual array of D-list “celebrities”, working with some of your usual gang of Chefs That Like To Appear On TV.

I ask the question though…do you care at to see “celebrities” cooking? Do you care if they can even cook or not? I don’t, in the slightest. continue reading...

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Top Chef Episode 6: Ted Allen likes chi-chi food, boo

This is a slightly shorter review than usual because I am buried in work. However, that doesn't mean this wasn't a very good episode. As a matter of fact, for me it was the best episode of the series so far. We finally got to see the contestants create food that really looked exciting and delicious and top-quality-restaurant-ish, as a collective. And, my girl Lee Anne won the elimination challenge, finally! continue reading...

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In Season in April

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I've been so busy these past few days with work, that I haven't had a chance to write up the essays and recipes in the queue for this site. So, this is just a short note. continue reading...

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2006 James Beard Foundation Cookbook Award Nominees

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The James Beard Foundation Cookbook Award nominee list is out now. I've only read a couple of these, but can recommend them highly. The first, Hungry Planet, is not a cookbook, but rather a fascinating book about food and the way people around the world consume it and buy it. I wrote an in-depth review of it previously.

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Top Chef Episode 5: Weird Food and Street Food

This week's episode had an overall theme of fusion cuisine...I think. The main elimination challenge was about making street food, but more on that later. Let's review the blind taste testing challenge first. continue reading...

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Answering some Food Destinations questions

Some people have emailed me about the Food Destinations event, so I wanted to answer them here in case other people had the same questions. continue reading...

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The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest

spaghetti_harvest1.jpg Today is April Fool's Day of course. Every year this day rolls around I remember the best food-related April Fool's hoax ever: the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest documentary broadcast by the BBC. continue reading...

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Top Chef Episode 4: Convenience

This week's Top Chef was about convenience foods. As much as I'd like to make food from scratch using the freshest of fresh ingredients all the time, the reality is that during the week at least I just whip up stuff that I can make quickly. I'm sure this is the case for a lot of people, especially if you work full time and/or have kids. And sometimes, we don't even have the time to go shopping, and have to fall back on whatever we have stashed in the pantry or freezer. continue reading...

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Do you do dessert?

Reading the IMBB 24 "Make It In 30 Minutes" entries hosted by Too Many Chefs, it struck me that a lot of the participants were sure to include a dessert in their meal. When I was ruminating over what to make it never even entered my mind that I should make a dessert, because I'm not a dessert person. continue reading...

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Top Chef Episode 3: Kids, Monkfish and Hoity Toity Chefs

The theme for this week's Top Chef episode titled Nasty Delights, was making food that looks disgusting into something delicious. But the other theme, which seems to be developing as a major emphasis in this series, was the importance of the chef as a marketer and promoter of his goods. continue reading...

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MasterChef wrapup

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MasterChef is the BBC cooking contest program to find the "best amateur chef in the UK", ended last Friday. The winner was Peter Bayless, a 60 year old former advertising executive. His selection was quite a surprise to a lot of people, and the discussion about this on the BBC Food message boards has been quite heated, to put it mildly.

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Ricola Instant Herbal Tea (Ricolatee)

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Well, I had managed to avoid getting a cold all winter, but the recent wild temperature swings here brought on a full-blast case of coughing, fever and other unpleasant things, which came to a climax over the weekend. Thankfully I had my cans of Ricolatee (Ricola Tea). continue reading...

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Top Chef Episode 2

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First off, an apology to regular readers...I've had a pretty bad cold this week, which meant mainly staying in bed with a box of tissues, drinking gallons of herb tea and feeling sorry for myself. But even though I don't have much of an appetite I still enjoy watching food shows. So here is my episode 2 review of Top Chef. (This is the cooking contest show that airs on Bravo TV in the U.S., and is also available for purchase/download from the iTunes Music Store.

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Cima di Rapa, or something else?

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[Update: As many people have pointed out in the comments I now know that it's puntarelle or catalogna. So no more need to comment or email me about it - thanks!]

I'm starting out the week with a mystery. What is this vegetable? continue reading...

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Top Chef

Warning: this entry contains major spoilers for the first episode of Top Chef.

Top Chef is a new reality show that airs on Bravo TV in the US. It's a cooking contest show where contestants vie for the privilege of being crowned Top Chef. (And some prize money too.) The first episode is being offered for free on the iTunes Music Store. (Note, it's free but you still need a U.S. credit card to download it.) continue reading...

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Closing thoughts on my MasterChef challenge

Seven weeks ago, when the second season of the UK food contest show MasterChef Goes Large started, I set myself a personal challenge: to play along and make a dish (or for the last week, 2 dishes) with the list of ingredients provided in the Invention Test that was the first part of the preliminary rounds. I've made 26 different dishes, based on 23 different ingredient lists (I skipped one day). continue reading...

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The choices we make

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Masterchef challenge day 22: Stumped

I've been plugging along at the Masterchef Ingredient Challenge mostly without hitch, but this list of ingredients just stumped me: continue reading...

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Heidi's hard goat cheese, perhaps

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Masterchef - can you help?

Ack! Because of the schedule changes brought on by the Olympics, I totally missed tonight’s episode of MasterChef (for Thursday, Feb. 22nd - the 4th day of the preliminaries).

If anyone watched and/or taped it, and has the ingredient list, can you let me know, either here in the comments, or by email to maki at makikoitoh dot com. I would really appreciate it - thanks!!

[Update:] I have the list now- thanks!

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Aged Cheddar Cheese

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Some thoughts on food blogging

The latest brouhaha to hit the world of food blogs is this article in Food and Wine Magazine in which Pete Wells criticizes what he calls "cheese-sandwich meanderings". While it's easy to dismiss the entire article, which is not the best example of journalism to ever exist, I think there are some things to be learned from his off-hand comments about food blogs.

My comments here are, of course, my opinion only, and my focus is on personal food blogs rather than food blog aggregators and the like. continue reading...

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Happy Valentine's Day!

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Will you be staying in or going out for dinner tonight? If you are staying in, the best Valentine's Day present may be a meal cooked by the partner in your relationship that doesn't normally do the cooking.

Here are some easy to prepare yet impressing looking - and of course, delicious - dishes from the archives of Just Hungry: continue reading...

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Edelweiss cheese

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Isn't this one of the prettiest cheese labels you have ever seen? I found this cheese being sold at one of the many cheese stands that set up at the Wednesday market here in Zürich continue reading...

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Yes, the pot did survive

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Yes my friends - Swiss stainless steel triumphs over food disaster! Here is a picture of the pot that got a little bit singed a few days ago.

It had to be soaked for about 4 days, and scrubbed a few times to get all the black bits off, but it's as good as new now and back in regular rotation.

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MasterChef challenge, day 3: A plate of nibbles

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The ingredients for Day 3 of the MasterChef preliminaries were: continue reading...

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Heissi Marroni (hot roasted chestnuts)

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What's it like to work in a restaurant?

If you don't normally read my personal site, and you're interested in an account of when I worked at a New York restaurant, you may want to take a look at my most recent entry over there:

Link: Working as a host in a New York restaurant.

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Oops

I'd like to interrupt my usual flow of posts about mostly edible food, to bring you a small culinary disaster.

Badly_burned_pot continue reading...

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Playing along with MasterChef Goes Large

Recipes and copyright - followup

Some very thoughtful responses were left to my previous post, about recipes and copyright. Rather than trying to squeeze all my responses in a comment, here is a folow-up:

Rachel, who was quoted in the Washington Post article, says: continue reading...

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Euro Blogging By Post 3

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Other food blogs: The Foppish Baker

As much as I enjoy reading other food blogs, I don't often review them in depth. Actually, I've only reviewed 2 so far, at a rate of one per year! My aim really isn't be to be comprehensive, so I like to sort of draw your attention to blogs that aren't so well known but are so well written, or so beautiful, that they deserve to get a bigger readership. (Of course now delicious.days for instance has become quite famous, and deservedly so.) continue reading...

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Recipes and copyright

The Washington Post has an interesting article titled Can a Recipe Be Stolen?. It addresses the question of copyright and recipes. Can recipes be copyrighted? If you take an existed recipe, and change around a couple of ingredients, does it make it your own? How much change is enough? continue reading...

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I'm just being very me

I Was Just Really Very Hungry got a mention in the L.A. Times (registration required), alongside such illustrious company such as two of my favorite food blogs, The Accidental Hedonist and SliceNY. continue reading...

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New rice and pickled plum

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My mother recently sent me a huge bag of shinmai from Japan. Shinmai is literally new rice, rice that was harvested this season. It really tastes wonderful; there is very little nuka (rice powder) around it, and when it's cooked, each grain seems to glisten. continue reading...

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Food P*rn

Happy New Year!

There is an interesting article in Salon today, where a former food writer relates how she got disenchanted with the food world (though she did not actually quit, she was replaced by someone cheaper.) continue reading...

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What do (food) bloggers want for 2006?

Inspired by this Zagats Survey article about what cooking pros want to see more or less of, in 2006, I would like to close out the old year and kickstart the new, by starting this meme or sorts for food or any other bloggers. The questions: continue reading...

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Cookbook meme (months late)

Talk about being behind. I was offline for much of June and July, and didn't even realize I had been tagged by Helen of Grab Your Fork for this way back then, until I was looking up something and stumbled on it. If someone else tagged me also I apologize. I have been tagged for other memes but being perpetually behind on my reading, I've decided to give most of them a miss. This one I couldn't pass up though.

So here we go: continue reading...

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Using del.icio.us to track online recipes

If you're not familiar with del.icio.us, it's a great, very easy way to keep track of bookmarks regardless of your location, and to share them with other people. I've been using del.icio.us to keep track of mostly geeky bookmarks (as in my working life I am a geek), but it just came to me that it's a great way to keep track of recipes too. continue reading...

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Reading: Hungry Planet

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Reading: Michelin Red Guide New York

The Michelin Red Guides are considered to be bibles for dining and hotels throughout many European countries - France in particular of course, but also in the U.K., Germany, and other places. Their first North American edition is out now, for - where else - New York City. I picked it up a couple of weeks ago when I was in New York, and I've had a chance finally to peruse it thoroughly.

I have to say I'm quite disappointed. continue reading...

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The expanding crêpe waistline

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Ever since my last posting about crêpes, I have been sadly overindulging on the round, flat buttery goodness of them. My downfall was when I found a frozen stack of them tucked away in the corner of the freezer. Crêpes do freeze well (heavily wrapped to protect them against the dreaded effects of frostbite) and heat up nicely in a dry pan or, if you are in a hurry, the microwave. continue reading...

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Take care of your tummy

Well it has been a while since my last post... I have just been occupied with other things (trying to catch up with work, reading, taking care of family, enjoying the summer, etc etc.)

It's not that I haven't been eating of course. That is one thing about having a food blog: you rarely run out of things to talk about. That is of course, unless you get too sick to enjoy eating. continue reading...

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Reading: Feast and Toast

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I've recently re-read two books about food, that are not cookbooks. One of them is a book that I must have picked up some years ago, probably during one of my bargain bin raids at Barnes & Noble or a similar store. It's called Feast Here Awhile: Adventures in American Eating, by Jo Brans.

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Graziella soup?

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I have been in search of the recipe for a soup that is sold by Knorr in dried soup form as Graziella. I've never seen this outside of Switzerland, though to be honest I haven't spent much time looking at dried soup packets when I travel!

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Strawberry, strawberry

This monster strawberry, that looks like - and was the size of - 3 regular strawberries all fused together, showed up in a batch bought some days ago, and since then I haven't been able to look at any strawberries at the store without a twinge of fear.

Scary_strawberry continue reading...

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Other food blogs: delicious:days

One of the best aspects of IMBB is that I always discover food sites that I've never seen before. One new food blog that really stood out is delicious: days, which hails from München (Munich), Germany. continue reading...

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Update: the cupcakes and muffins are pouring in!

A quick note: the entries for IMBB 13 are coming in in waves! So far there are well over 50 entries, and the deadline isn't past yet. I'll try to post them all as soon as possible. Oh..and write up my entry too. Stay tuned for a deluge of cupcakes and muffins!

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A week to go...

Just a reminder that there is a week to go until the deadline for IMBB 13. Already a few entries are in, and I'm looking forward to seeing more. I'm not sure myself what I am going to do...I'm torn between one amazing, over-the-top, or a cupcake and a muffin. We'll see! Some experimenting to do this weekend.

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Wild garlic ravioli

Baerlauchravioli

(Yes, more round food!)

Last April I wrote about a local speciality of sorts, wild garlic, or bärlauch, pesto. It's a type of garlic that only appears in the forests in the spring. We still have about 15 cm / 6 inches of snow on the ground here, which isn't really that usual for mid-March. So spring still feels rather distant. continue reading...

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IMBB 13: My Little Cupcake (or muffin)

imbb13

I was just really very hungry (the site you are reading right now) is proud to host the lucky 13th edition of Is My Blog Burning, the mother (father?) of blogging food events originated by Alberto of Il Forno. The theme for this month is: My Little Cupcake (or muffin). continue reading...

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Excess and fixations

My favorite television program at the moment is The Amazing Race. In case you have never watched this U.S. program, it's a reality/adventure show where 11 teams of 2 (the combinations vary from married or dating couples to parent and child, roommates, best friends, and so on) race around the world and try to end up being the first at each leg's destination. The final winner wins $1 million. It's really a fun show that even many reality genre haters like. continue reading...

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New York roundup

I never finished my musings on food during my summer trip to England, and in the meantime I spent a month last November in the U.S., partly in New York. Before it totally disappears from memory, here is a brief roundup, from a foodie perspective of course.

Before we proceed, you should know that I am an ex-New Yorker, and had a fairly specific food agenda this time around, which included the following: continue reading...

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I was just very busy.

Hi everyone! Well it has been a while since I posted, and I've gotten many comments, emails and IMs wondering if I'd stopped updating this site. Well, I haven't. I've just been very busy with other stuff.

I've also been wanting to update the design for some time, and this past week I finally got around to that task too. The new design is a bit less busy than the old one (I think anyway), and it feels ready to accept fresh new entries now! continue reading...

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Introducing *lighter

At the moment, I’m trying to lose some of that weight I put on during my vacation where I indulged in the delights of suet pastry and other things (And well, there’s some pre-vacation gain there to lose too.) This means of course that dreaded word, dieting. I do prefer to use the term “food intake adjustment” though. It sort of sounds more scientific. continue reading...

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Swiss National Holiday

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England, England

I am off to England via France (we are driving there...) early tomorrow morning. I will be totally offline during that time (I really need a break from the computer, since I work with it all the time, so I'm not even bringing my laptop...), but I'm hoping to gather some good food tales while I am there. continue reading...

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Out of commission

Just a quick note: I haven't been posting lately here because I hurt my left arm recently (and I am left handed), and doing any kind of serious cooking with one arm is sort of difficult. :) I hope to be cooking and posting more as soon as I can though.

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Standing on the buffet line

The appeal of a buffet is rather obvious. It’s that notion of having no limits. No limits, unlimited, all you want—all you can eat. Human beings respond to the notion of no limits very positively.

And yet…about 99% of the buffets I’ve encountered are pretty bad. Food is either dried out horribly (such as chicken, or the surface of sushi rolls), is overcooked (such as…chicken again, or fish), or smothered in an insulating blanket of sauce that effectively chokes out any kind of real flavor. continue reading...

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Chocolate May (June) bug

maier

People in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states of the U.S. are now experiencing an assault of cicadas, that only occurs once every 17 years or so. No such insect attack here in Switzerland fortunately, but one sort of "bug" we see a lot of around this time are chocolate Maierhäfer, or May (June) bugs. They come in all sizes, from tiny foil-wrapped ones to monster bugs up to around 30cm long with bristling legs, which frankly look way too scary to eat to me. continue reading...

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Masala chocolate

hot_masala_choco

Being a chocoholic and living in Switzerland can be a dangerous thing. Just going to the supermarket, one is confronted with row upon row of high quality chocolate, the type that you'd have to pay a premium for in the U.S. Aside from perhaps the cheapest brands, most Swiss chocolate bars in the US $1-2 range are delicious. continue reading...

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Amour de pomme de terre

restaurant sign in Rennes, France, ©Ciprian Tutu

This great picture of a restaurant sign in Rennes, France was taken by my friend Ciprian. It naturally inspired me to contemplate that amour de pomme de terre —love of the potato. continue reading...

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Wild garlic pesto

baerlauchpesto2.jpg

I've mentioned our local organic farm where we buy our eggs several times before. They also sometimes sell some locally produced food items. We spotted this wild garlic, or bärlauch pesto the other day and had to try it. (Ironically it turns out it's made by one of our neighbors who lives across the street.) continue reading...

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The creative balance

There are two types of cooking for me. One is the type you do for sustenance, since we do have to eat every day. The other type of cooking I do for the creativity and the relaxation. Putting together a delicious, pretty, or ideally both delicious and pretty dish is a challenge, and a lot of fun. And that's the type of cooking that I write about mainly here. continue reading...

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Other food blogs: The Hungry Tiger

I wrote this review way back in March 2004. The Hungry Tiger disappeared from public view for a while, but it's now back in a new home, so here's my original review again, with updated links.

The Hungry Tiger is named after a character from from Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum, and has a charming quote from that book as its subtitle: continue reading...

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Cultural heritage in your tummy

Most of the time I think we just go along without thinking much about such big themes as Our Cultural Heritage. But these days I've been contemplating more and more on this. One reason for this has been the movie Lost in Translation. For various reasons, this movie has brought up a lot of debate and thinking about what it is to be Japanese. (Some of the conversations about the movie are on my other blog.) continue reading...

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Natto

natto on rice

Japanese people like to consume soy beans in many forms. The most well known soy bean product outside of the country is tofu, and edamame (green soy beans) is gaining in popularity too. There is one Japanese soy bean product that probably will never become very popular in other countries though, and that's natto. continue reading...

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Spring is just a few weeks away

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Cooking disasters

I had been eyeing an interesting looking recipe in the weekly paper / advertising rag from Coop, one of the two big supermarket chains in Switzerland, for several days. The recipe was for a lentil loaf, with potatoes, leek, dried mushrooms, cheese and cream, held together with eggs. Since I have been on a sort of sort of lentil kick recently, it was something I really wanted to try. continue reading...

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Does food make you feel sexy?

bananlips.jpg

It hasn't been a good cooking week for me, since I've been very busy. Saturday is my birthday though, and we have been wondering whether or not to go out for dinner, or to cook something (well, for Max to cook something) at home. continue reading...

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Travelling food memories

window of a boulanger (bakery) in Beaune, France
The window of a boulanger (bakery) in Beaune, France continue reading...

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Japanese Basics: SaShiSuSeSo

sashisuseso.gif
Top row: Sa (satoh=sugar), Shi (shio=salt); Middle row: Su (su=vinegar), Se (shoyu=soy sauce); Bottom row: So (miso=fermented soy bean paste)

Besides dashi stock, the basic flavors of traditional Japanese cuisine are sugar, salt, soy vinegar, soy sauce and miso. While not many sauces uses all of these ingredients, many use at least 3. continue reading...

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Chestnut cream cup

chestnut_cream.jpg
I'm afraid the photo came out with a slight yellowish cast to it since I took it in the afternoon sun. continue reading...

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Gina the pasta spoon

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ramen, ramen

shio ramen
Two German guys are trying to eat their way through all sorts of "Asian style" noodles, and they are blogging their taste reviews (German site). I've tried some of the ones they've blogged so far though...and they are pretty bad. continue reading...

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Fusion, be gone.

In case this looks familiar, this is an entry that was originally posted to my main site. Since it's food related it's been moved here. continue reading...

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The obsession started early

One of my earliest conscious memories is food related.

It is of a vast sea of shiitake mushrooms, stretching out forever and ever before my eyes. I think I must have been around 2 years old when I saw this, and the bounty of shiitake caps was probably just a boxful of them. continue reading...

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