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JasonTrue

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  1. JasonTrue

    Help ID'ing this dried Oriental Fungus

    They are certainly similar and probably a related species if not identical to what you're looking for; moki beoseot is, according to my cursory search based on the words on the packaging, tree ear mushroom, and it looks just like I'd expect wood ear mushrooms (or kikurage in Japanese) to look.
  2. JasonTrue

    Using a tea bag twice

    Assuming a quality tea, the main problem with resteeping is that there's barely enough tea in most teabags to properly brew a typical cup. Most teabags have at most about 2 grams of tea, which is probably fine for the 100-150ml size teacups of a Victorian past, but barely provides adequate results for the typical 12 ounce coffee mug. The cheaper teas used in mass market teabags mask this effect a bit because they are usually broken leaves, which shortens the infusion time at the cost of flavor complexity thanks to the larger surface area. As a result, if you're brewing in a mug, black teas on a second steeping will probably run a little astringent. Japanese green teas will usually be pretty weak and flavorless, because you'll need a much longer steeping time than you'd need with a proper amount of loose tea on the first infusion. Oolongs will probably not be at their best, either, though some oolongs hold up better to long, weak infusions than others. One of the Japanese teas that I used to sell when I operated my small web store had the same quality tea in teabags as they used for loose leaf teas. I would frequently resteep teas that I brewed in a small Japanese teapot with a large amount of leaves, usually for two or three short infusions. However, the very same tea in 2 or 3 gram teabags would usually provide just enough flavor for a single, somewhat long steeping in one of my mugs, and infusing a second time was usually disappointing. Same tea, different quantity, and therefore different results.
  3. JasonTrue

    Yuzu juice

    Yuzu juice works nicely in salad dressings; I usually do a simple dressing with a little mustard for emulsification, honey, and olive oil. An alternative involves shallots or onions, mustard, honey, a little soy sauce, and a neutral oil. It also works in cocktails in place of lemon, if it isn't full of preservatives or salt. (If it's 100%, it shouldn't be). I use it when making ponzu, but the zest is actually more important than the juice in a good ponzu, so I usually end up zesting a meyer lemon when in the US, since fresh yuzu are only rarely available and are very expensive in the Northwest. A mix of citrus is actually fairly nice in a ponzu, though, so you have a lot of wiggle room. It makes a nice curd or custard, but the result is better when you can add fresh zest.
  4. As for the regionality of this bread, I don't think it's particularly specific. I lived in Hessen, quite central, and the pumpkin seed bread was quite common. I'm pretty sure I saw similar items when visiting Hannover this year. I didn't really spend much time in the Southern part of Germany, other than short trips many years ago, so I'm not sure whether it would be more or less common there. There are some shops that have more multigrain options than others, though.
  5. There's a place in Lynnwood that a friend of mine likes called Sea Salt Superstore. I haven't been there yet. I buy a few types of salt at World Spice Merchants on Western under the Pike Place Market (alderwood smoked, Himalayan and several others were available). PFI, Metropolitan Market, and on occasion, Whole Foods or PCC will do the trick, too.
  6. Yep, that's the one. Del Cook Cuisine de Nose. (It may also be their house, if I'm not mistaken). There's an old-school Japanese restaurant right next door, also in a house, and the obaachan who runs it has been known to dive for abalone for the night's dinner, or to go hunting for matsutake in the woods (which she traded for beer the time I was there). When I went there, it was also quite interesting to see a difference in perspective on what's important when building out a restaurant. Del Cook's kitchen is really, really small... I think my home kitchen may be roughly the same size, though I have a little less counter space for prep work. His wife's family said not to put too much money into the kitchen; spend that on the rest of the place. In the US, it seems like chef-operated restaurants tend to have fairly large, extravagant kitchens.
  7. I suspect the more traditional and the more high-level, the more difficult a barrier it will be to crack. However, I did meet a Canadian guy who runs a French restaurant in the rural outskirts of Osaka once who said that if I ever wanted to stage in Japan he could introduce me to the family that was financing his restaurant, as they also owned some more conventional Kyoto-area Japanese restaurants. This was on little more than a connection from an acquaintance of mine, a couple of email exchanges ahead of time, and after speaking to the chef and his wife after dining at his restaurant. It wasn't a promise of anything happening, but it was an open door. If you have reasonable social skills, and passable kitchen skills, some doors will probably open for you if you find your way to Japan by other means. My wife worked in various izakaya serving drinks and waitressing during high school and college, and learned a lot from the chefs she worked around, including techniques for slicing fish. If you aren't set on the very high end, this may be a good start; it's not unusual for some of the chefs at an izakaya to have fairly impressive resumes, even though it's a much more casual style of cuisine than kaiseki and the like. One of my American friends spent a few weeks working in an izakaya after he became a regular there, so it's not even impossible as a foreigner, as long as your expectations are modest. I haven't worked in Japan, but have done some business there on a very small scale, and some work there on business trips when I worked for a large software company. If you set your expectations carefully, and keep an open mind, there are plenty of possibilities. My own challenges in moving come from attachment to a particular salary range expectation based on what I can attain as a software developer in the US (the pay tends to be lower in Japan for similar levels of work, and my Japanese skills are unremarkable and my technical skills inadequately esoteric, so I'd probably go down a couple of notches on that ladder by moving). A bit more flexibility and far more options would be available to me. Keep in mind that JET is quite competitive these days, and getting in is far from a sure thing.
  8. JasonTrue

    Suggested substitutions that are total BS

    One of my favorite phenomena of all time was a recipe on something like AllRecipes.com for boiled water, featuring all sorts of commentary from people who complained that it was tasteless, or the best recipe for boiled water ever, and included obligatory commentary from the "I'll substitute anything for anything and rate your recipe as if my substitutions are exactly the same" crowd... "Yeah, I really like this recipe, except that I substituted chicken stock for the water and added salt and pepper and some fresh herbs for seasoning. It's great! 5 stars!" As for me, I'm pretty idiosyncratic. There are certain substitutions which I just can't appreciate or accept. I don't understand substituting mirin with sugar. I can't replace butter with margarine. I can't replace fresh September tomatoes with the similarly shaped things by the same name that supermarkets sell in February. On the other hand, I'm quite happy to improvise based on unique needs or available ingredients. When I knew I had a Muslim guest coming who wanted to avoid foods made with any sort of alcoholic beverage, I substituted wine that I was accustomed to using in a German fruit compote called "Rote Grütze" with some verjuice, with results that a friend of mine who once studied in the same town as me pronounced "better than the German version." It turns out there are probably as many variations of that dish as families (and further variations that depend greatly on which red fruits are in season), and some versions use lemon juice rather than wine, but it was at least a "new" substitution for me. I often find that I'm not that clever with substitutions... I started making a miso caramel ice cream a while back, as an experimental variation of salted caramel ice cream, only to learn that miso caramel was a trend being popularized by people with far better marketing skills than me. Some substitutions that were based on things that were available have produced some truly great food, if the function of the ingredient was at least compatible. For example, my friend bought some fresh basil to make tomato-basil-mozzarella spring rolls, but ran out and started using shiso, which was available in abundance in Japan. Certainly not the same, but really nice, and completely in spirit with the combination behind caprese, if not the ingredients. I finally believed the advice of a Japanese teacher I had in Germany, who said that one could substitute shiso with basil when shiso wasn't available. It wasn't the same dish, but it worked as well. When the function of an ingredient is compatible, you can certainly make some very nice discoveries, though you certainly won't have the same product. But considering that even an ingredient by the same name isn't always the same quality (Gallo Burgundy from the late 1960s instead of France's version, anyone?), it's an understandable impulse to make do with what's available. I will use yuzu instead of lemons in Japan (and I usually like the results better than the same dish made with lemons). In the US if I can't find yuzu for something that prefers it I'll try to make do with Meyer lemon and maybe seville oranges.
  9. I can't imagine pistachio seeds, but there are a lot of pumpkin seed roll variations. Kürbiskern-Brötchen would likely be the proper search term. It's often a whole wheat and rye base (probably 50-50 or so) blended with a sourdough culture of rye and ordinary yeast. Although it's possible to buy prepared sourdough in Germany, you can make the rye culture yourself much as you'd prepare a wheat sourdough, but it's typically not used for leavening as much as it is for relaxing the rye from the resulting acidity, and improving the flavor. Most German breads other than the cheap poppy seed refined wheat rolls are made with slow fermentation and relatively low yeast, if memory serves me correctly. The peeled pumpkin seeds sold as "raw pepitas" are probably what you want to top the bread with.
  10. JasonTrue

    Fresh Shiitake Mushrooms

    My favorite preparation of good-quality fresh shiitake is simply to grill them, either over a small charcoal grill, or in a cast iron pan, until they're lightly charred and slightly sweaty. I serve them with freshly grated ginger and good quality soy sauce. When I stayed in a hot spring in Gero, they served each table a log with shiitake growing out of them, and we grilled them ourselves. It was simple and perfect. A mustard-based sauce can also work well. If you can spare the effort, it's nice to facet them with a knife, usually in 3 facets. I made just 2 facets in this version: Shishito to Shiitake no kushiyaki
  11. JasonTrue

    Chevre

    I'm far from skilled in presentation, but for improving the honey presentation, drizzle it from far higher than you would normally be inclined to and move slightly faster than you think is comfortable. You should be able to create a thin cross-hatch like pattern with a little practice. Try it on an empty plate a couple of times before doing the real thing.
  12. JasonTrue

    Keeping Tofu

    I recommend changing water daily, but I'm usually too lazy to do that. It can extend the life a couple of days. But basically, tofu realistically only has a week or two of "good" life before you open it, and is usually only in nice condition for three or four days after opening. If it's not airtight and not in water, it will go bad sooner. In my area, tofu blocks vary from 200g (1/2 lb) to 700g (about 18 oz, or 1 1/8 lb) depending on which company makes it, and whether it's soft, momen, or that obnoxious extra-firm stuff that seems to sell best in the US. When I have too much tofu, I sometimes freeze it in smaller pieces and defrost it with boiling water. Then I squeeze out remaining liquid to get something reminiscent of koya-doufu, a freeze-dried variety named after Mount Koya. Slightly over-the-hill tofu has a sour taste and aroma. I don't use it at that point, although it used to be hard to find tofu that wasn't already slightly soured in the US. It certainly gets more smelly as it goes past that stage.
  13. JasonTrue

    Yelp

    Only a few. But more importantly, nobody's publicly released anything remotely incriminating so far. No contract language that substantiates these claims, no names of representatives, no recordings of conversations. The lack of any supporting evidence aside from paraphrasing of mostly second-hand accounts makes me deeply suspicious.
  14. JasonTrue

    Yelp

    I'm fairly convinced that the lawsuit claims are very close to baseless, but there's certainly the possibility that a few ad sales people misrepresented what ads can do; it's far more likely, considering the contract that you have to sign before cutting a deal explicitly says you can't have things deleted because they disappoint you, that potential advertisers interpreted the pitch the way they wanted to. Any sort of Bayesian filtering mechanism that prunes content for any reason is open to claims of bias; I recall a spam filter was once accused of intentionally being designed to block an electronic greeting card company, and the suit may have actually won, even though most of the "bias" came from user categorization. The claims about deleted reviews strike me as questionable. A number of companies that have a bunch of reviews from people with no other history, and those tend to be removed from the review list if they have no future activity, but they still exist under that user's profile. If those users start to become more active, generally those one-time drive-by users start to be perceived by the statistical model as real people, and the reviews show up again. For review quality, on Yelp things are all over the map. I'm a frequent contributor, and I admit that I now use it more than Urbanspoon, which I generally find a better indicator of restaurant quality because of differences in the people who frequent it, and the simple binary "thumbs up/thumbs down" participation requirement. Urbanspoon tends to have more people who are passionate about food and have fairly broad experience. Yelp still tends to have lots of people who just like expressing their opinion about anything, so, like "professional" restaurant reviews, to get much value out of the site you must gradually become familiar with reviewers whose tastes and biases are somewhat compatible with your own. Fortunately, there are pretty good tools for adding reviewers to your favorites, or associating people with you as "friends", so it's pretty easy to set up your Yelp account to show you the most relevant reviews to you first. Yelp is no more anonymous than eGullet is. Professional reviewers tend to have their own flaws; I've seen some pretty embarrassingly wrong things written about food/restaurants in local papers by reviewers with more limited experience than I have. At Yelp, you build your identity over time by posting more reviews and participating in the site. That's true for professional reviews as well, just as it's true for bloggers or, realistically, even chefs. It's just a very contemporary model of identity. The first time you go to Yelp, you'll have no idea who to trust. But realistically, I had the same problem when reading reviews in the local papers. I found that one or two professional reviewers had enough in common with my taste that I could trust them on most reviews without reservation, and others I had to look for hints; for example, I tended to ignore professional reviewers that were impressed by portion size or focused on price/value a lot, because mostly they weren't eating out for the same reasons as me and their expectations for food quality were quite different than mine. I have to build the same filters on Yelp or Urbanspoon. For restaurant owners, reading Yelp should help them identify patterns of problems that they can respond to. A few bad reviews from people who don't really appreciate your concept don't matter, unless your concept is failing. Witness Yelp reviews for a nifty cocktail bar Zig Zag in Seattle: I saw someone complain about the quality of a Long Island Iced Tea that the received there. Who the hell wants to order a Long Island Iced Tea anywhere other than a college bar? When was that drink ever a good idea? But on average, most of the positive reviews come from people who seem to like quality crafted cocktails, or were surprised/delighted that there was something more interesting than a Vodka Cranberry and had a small moment of cocktail enlightenment. Most of the legitimate (to me, of course) complaints about the place are about the food quality; if they felt that it would contribute to their bottom line to improve food quality, such comments might tell Zig Zag something useful. But if that's not what Zig Zag's about, so be it, they still serve a great cocktail list. Owners and chefs can also make small failings right; some have offered negative reviewers a coupon for a future visit or some sort of comp, which is probably nice for some people, but to me a little unnecessary. Now that owners can respond to reviews directly rather than needing to send a private message, a polite recognition of a weakness or a bad night and an explanation of what corrective action has been done will often go a long way to improve a shop's reputation. Some owners have contacted me because of my reviews, so far all appreciative and either soliciting feedback for improvement, or proud of some small thing that I happened to notice. One pizza shop owner said, "to be compared with my child-hood fun palace is awesome!" because I compared his shop to a place I had also grown up with.
  15. I'm not sure why coconut oil is healthier than cream or cocoa butter, but I'll leave that aside for the moment. The white chocolate ganaches bring out more matcha flavor, since the bitterness of the cocoa mass is replaced with matcha. I've had dark and milk chocolate infused with matcha, and they are usually very, very subtle. I'm not a huge fan of heavily cooked matcha, because once you add heat the matcha starts to age quickly in an unflattering way (the "fishy" taste one poster mentioned). In my experiments, and with one of my vendors products, we tried to add matcha to our white chocolates as late as practical in the tempering process. Matcha works pretty well with rum, whiskey, and gin (gin might not work so well for truffles though).
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