Jason Truesdell : Pursuing My Passions
A life in flux. Soon to be immigrant to Japan. Recently migrated this blog from another platform after many years of neglect (about March 6, 2017). Sorry for the styling and functionality potholes; I am working on cleaning things up and making it usable again.

Taco salad

August 19, 2005, 10:05 PM

Somehow I’ve been in a salad kind of mode at dinner lately.

The weather’s been a bit hot and I guess I’ve got only a summer appetite… I seem to be more interested in big lunches, or small lunches and little afternoon snacks.

Normally I don’t eat salads as a meal… I tend to make little, simple, refreshing salads as a contrast to something heavier, or to balance pasta.

But I was kind of in the mood for something a little more dramatic, and a little spicy. At the same time, I wanted some kind of crunch… so I made a kind of taco salad. I made a simple guacamole, with only some chopped tomatoes added to my usual basic crushed avocado with lime juice. I used a Trader Joe’s salsa only because I was a bit lazy tonight, and some pinto beans cooked with a bit of garlic. I grated a mild cheese that I had handy, and served with some more chopped tomatoes and some mixed greens—mostly romaine—which I mostly obscured with the toppings.

Taco saladTaco salad

I stopped at PFI and Trader Joes to get some supplies for some matcha cookies I will be baking tomorrow for an event at the Japanese garden. Now I have an insane amount of white chocolate, butter, and pine nuts. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much butter in my possession at one time.

Grilled tofu, umeboshi and tomato salad, and plotting a last minute contribution

August 18, 2005, 10:26 PM

Standard operating procedure for Americans confronted with tofu is to cover it up as much as possible. People think it “absorbs” flavors of things around it. This isn’t really true, though because water in tofu keeps the flavor mostly at the surface, unless the tofu is freeze-dried or otherwise altered in texture.

I usually don’t do much to tofu… I love yudoufu (湯豆腐), which is simmered tofu with sometimes as little as a sliver of dried kelp, served with a dipping sauce; hiya-yakko (冷やっこ), which is really just some good tofu with some garnish, such as grated ginger and soy sauce, occasionally some oroshi-daikon, and for many, shaved katsuo, is also perfectly simple and wonderful. With suitably fresh tofu, the whole point is to make the custardy, or sometimes slightly chewy texture stand out, accented by the hint of bitterness that the soybean origin contributes.

Today, though, I was craving some grill marks. I had just a bit left of a medium-firm or momen-style tofu from a local Vietnamese tofu maker. Normally I’m happy to just grill some slices on my little grill pan and maybe use a dipping sauce. Today, I decided to grill until some nice marks were established, then I brushed a little bit of shouyu, grilled a bit more, and finally brushed a slight wash of mirin.

I had a bit of a yuzu-shouyu dressing that I made a while back, so I used that to dress my salad, and I sliced some nice tomatoes and sprinkled a bit of coarse gray salt atop.


Yesterday I noticed an email that was apparently trapped by a spam filter. It came from someone at Seattle’s Japanese Garden, located in the Washington Park arboretum. I got a return phone call tonight, and I signed up to bring some things for the reception of this weekend’s moon viewing event. I hope I can squeeze as much work as I need to into Saturday.


August 17, 2005, 3:19 PM

Whenever possible, I’m inclined to write about something I’ve been doing or eating outside of work, but there hasn’t been much of that this week. I’m a little overwhelmed.

I’m not getting much sleep. I’m eating awkwardly, although I had an excellent lunch at home on Tuesday. I’m behind schedule on everything, both related to work and social life. I felt it was a great victory to fix a leaky toilet today.

YuzuMura.com has kept me busy lately, and it seems like it’s increasingly being used by customers looking for business gifts, based on the nature of several recent orders. I hope I can keep a handle on the sometimes conflicting attention required between the small very hands-on approach of YuzuMura.com to the more volume-oriented, repeat business of Yuzu Trading Co.’s wholesale end of the business. It’s getting harder, but that’s because both ends are getting busier.

I ate a bagel sandwich for dinner… poppy seed bagel, cream cheese, lettuce, tomato, mozzarella, basil. It was a common theme this week. I had an insalata caprese for Tuesday’s lunch along with a bit of pasta. Dinner involved scrounging a bit. Lately I’ve been seriously craving some protein-heavy soups, which is awfully strange for the middle of summer. The weather has cooled down a bit, but I think I’ve just been eating too much cheese, egg and tofu and need something more fiber-heavy to satiate my unseasonal cravings.

Short sweet demo before a politically significant birthday

August 14, 2005, 10:47 PM

As customary I did another supermarket demo today, this time at Uwajimaya. No disasters on my part this time, but a young guy, roughly mid-to-late teens, managed to drop a matcha latte sample. His parents must have trained him well, because he not only used the cloth I handed him for the intended purpose of wiping his hands, he also cleaned up after the spill on the counter and floor. I would have done it myself, but I appreciated that I didn’t need to.

I took a rather short day, because I was invited to a birthday party for a local politician at a steel-and-glass house on Lake Washington. Clear, warm weather against wide open doors made for a beautiful afternoon… I didn’t know many people at the party, since my connection with the campaign is one or two low-commitment events. Since I’m fairly inexperienced at political schmoozing it was a bit awkward at first, but eventually I settled in and chatted a bit with quite a few interesting people.

I did nibble a bit at the party, and I brought some dragon beard candy to sample, but at home I made a simple insalata caprese. I had gotten some nice tomatoes yesterday at Central Market at a fairly decent price. But it turns out I’m now out of olive oil…

A bit of a klutz

August 13, 2005, 8:48 PM

It’s no secret that I am sometimes prone to distracting mishaps.

Today I went to Central Market to do a matcha latte demo, and due to a slightly larger than normal number of vendors doing demos this weekend, I needed to bring my own small table. The most appropriate one I have for such an occasion is a small outdoor Ikea table designed to be semi-foldable, and therefore slightly more readily transported or stored away, save for the unwieldy feet.

Previous experience with this table had taught me that it snaps and locks into position when the table is set up to be the conventionally horizontal. So I didn’t think to verify that it had in fact snapped into place.

Twice today someone asked me something that led me to rest my hand on the table. The first time this happened, only one small cup of iced matcha latte was on the table and the only disaster was a bit of spilled ice and product in disarray. The next time, of course, I had a good five or six cups set out to be served, and my container of ice was fairly well melted, so I made a far bigger mess.

After the second more dramatic mishap, I remembered I could visually inspect the hinge lock and in fact manually close it, in case it were not cooperating, as indeed turned out to be the case. No more trouble occurred thereafter…

Matcha white chocolate enrobed fortune cookies

August 10, 2005, 10:28 PM

If you’ve never tried it before, you probably don’t know this… photographing chocolate is hard. I almost always take photographs using extra-bright halogen lamps, and these generate a lot of heat.

They’re perfect for most of my products because they create a nice warm glow. Nearly every photo on YuzuMura.com is bathed in halogen light. In some cases, there’s some combination of ambient fluorescent or incandescent light, or else I’ll use available outdoor light plus my trusty halogen. Sometimes I white balance properly, using a white card, and sometimes I rely on the automatic mode, which casts everything a bit more yellow or red than it really is.

Well, my matcha chocolate fortune cookies arrived yesterday early in the evening, and so I thought I’d try to take photographs today. One session I got half-decent shots of the cookies by themselves, but there was something wrong with all of the box shots. Usually something was too dark, and something was too bright. Alas, my cookies didn’t like the lighting at all… they were crying. I came back about an hour later and their color had slightly shifted, so I had to start again with a different box of cookies.

I knew that matcha doesn’t like to be exposed to a lot of light, but I was a little surprised at how rapid my shift in color was… although I have seen this occur before in a matcha cake stored in a pastry display case on a very sunny day… In my case, the color shift wasn’t as dramatic, but it made me a little worried.

Anyway, I tried one more time, adding another source of fluorescent light, and this improved things somewhat on the product box shots. Most still had some overexposed spots though.

Someday I’m going to have to reshoot this, maybe with some soft fluorescent lighting. But it’ll work for now.

They tasted good, anyway, even when the heat from the light melted them a bit...


New stuff coming

August 9, 2005, 11:59 PM

I just got a delivery of some nifty fortune cookies, dipped in matcha-flavored white chocolate, made by Chocolati of Seattle for YuzuMura.com.

I got them just before something I had planned for this evening, so I don’t have any decent photos… though Hiromi threatened to post some badly out-of-focus and imprecisely-hued photos on her blog.

The most carefully done meal of the day was breakfast… I used up the very last of my leftover seeded baguette to make french toast with five spice powder. I think I’m out of ordinary cinnamon…

When I was younger my father used to mix up the egg and milk and cinnamon in the same bowl and soak supermarket mushy sliced bread in the batter. I grew up loving that stuff, but now I pretty much make french toast exclusively to use up dry bread. Accordingly, I first place thick slices of dry bread into a bowl with milk to soak briefly, then I flip, coat with beaten egg, and start “toasting” in a buttered pan. I add some cinnamon or, well, aged pantry five spice powder.

Around 4pm I ate veggie pho at the Thanh Bros. neighboring Chocolati. By that time I definitely needed something. I never got around to eating anything more dinner-like.

I launched an updated home page for YuzuMura.com today… this has kept me up late a few nights, even though it wasn’t always the home page itself I was working on. I’m always skittish about sending out marketing-ish email, but I haven’t sent a thing in two months and so much was changed that it would probably be irresponsible not to say anything.

Transforming ingredients, again

August 8, 2005, 11:34 PM

I’m afraid, after a late night updating my online store, my body was not in great form today… I got through most of the daytime hours, but I couldn’t even convince myself to go jogging this evening. Fortunately, I instead eventually worked up the energy for a brief walk around Greenlake.

By the time I was making dinner tonight, I was too sleepy to take a photograph, and yesterday I was perhaps too distracted, but my feta/cucumber/tomato sandwich type lunch was revisited in the form of a salad… some romaine, a lemon-mustard-vinaigrette, parmesan, feta, olives, cucumbers, tomato. I buttered some thin slices of yesterday’s seeded baguette, and grilled them on my nifty All-Clad grill pan, and wiped a bit of garlic on them. Maybe not quite in that order. I was not in perfect form.

These ingredients were combined into a tasty but unimpressively-presented salad. I definitely think grilled bread belongs on more salads, though.

If I was willing to wait frustrated for a long time, I might have used my shichirin, but I am incredibly bad at getting my Japanese charcoal to burn. Sumibi-grilled bread… mmm…

Another Portland demo trip

August 6, 2005, 11:38 PM

I went to the Beaverton Uwajimaya today, but somehow I didn’t arrive until about 12:15 and I spent about 10 minutes wandering around trying to figure out where my demo table might be, then I found the staff member who runs the event, and settled in as quickly as possible. I think I didn’t do any sampling until about 12:45.

Actually I try to arrive by 11:30 to these events but somehow something goes wrong each time, and I get there later. This time the issue was fairly bland… I remembered the need to get cups for serving cold matcha samples, and had to stop at a Cash & Carry on the way out of town. I would have done this yesterday, but I had a long list of things to accomplish and it just fell off.

The weather was very warm today. I think I might have a bit of open-window sunburn.

Alas, I ate rather unimpressively on the way. The day started off well, because I had two halves of two nice muffins from Fresh Flours, and a yuzu marmalade window cookie (made with Korean yuja-cha, which I myself have been intending to import since February but faced a few unrelated inventory and payment obstacles that made me skittish). Along the way I stopped at a Mrs. Beesley’s for a fresh strawberry shake, so that beat my sugar quota. I had a slice of mushroom pizza at Pizzicato. These last two are, alas, frequent stops for me when I’m playing traveling supermarket product demo guy.

Surprisingly, the usual rule about sunny weather negatively impacting sales and store traffic at Beaverton didn’t seem to hold. I found I was sampling to a steady stream of customers most of the time, and the iced matcha latte in particular went over well… I think more people have recently tasted the (in my opinion scary) Starbucks green tea drinks that the idea seems less “foreign” when they try ours. Usually people who have tried both seem to prefer ours, which makes me happy, since we use better matcha and no melon flavoring.

Usually I’ve been at Beaverton on relatively cool days so I think today was the first time to do any iced matcha lattes there… it’s actually a little more convenient since the matcha flavor is more stable when served cold, so I can make more in advance and I never have to throw any away.

When I do hot matcha lattes, the samples get cool very quickly in small sample cups, and the exposure to air is not something that green tea appreciates; accordingly, to make sure everyone has the best possible experience, I usually make four samples at a time and discard any that remain after about 5 minutes. 5 minutes isn’t too much stress for a drink in a larger cup because it doesn’t cool as rapidly or have as much surface area exposed to air. I don’t want to drink a long-neglected cafe latte either, because coffee is about as temperamental when served hot as matcha is.

Anyway, iced is nice, because it seems more people have experience eating green tea ice cream than drinking matcha, and the taste is somehow familiar to them when we serve cold things. I didn’t track it very carefully, but I think we actually had a fairly high conversion rate today for Beaverton… in Seattle I do reasonably well whether doing hot drinks or cold. The smallest size ran out by the fourth hour.

Whenever I do demos at the Beaverton Uwajimaya I wish I had progressed further in studying Korean than I have so far… I have been using a little bit just to explain the name of the products in Korean, which some Koreans have heard of… yong su-yeom yeott saseyo! Nokcha late i-e-yo. But I can’t say anything else of interest.

Beaverton’s customer base has the heaviest percentage of Koreans of any store that I visit. So it seems like it would be a good think if I could say something more intelligent than “I’m selling dragon beard candy! This is a green tea latte.”

What am I doing right?

August 5, 2005, 11:59 PM

Yesterday I was surprised by a larger than usual number of internet orders for almost every product category I cover. I spent a good portion of the day taking care of them, although I also had a few other wholesale things to work on and a quick meeting, and some banking errands.

Today I got a smaller number of orders but fairly substantial ones. In the last couple of weeks my average internet sales per day seems to have nearly doubled. The strange thing is I haven’t really changed much, although about 6 weeks ago I increased my promotional budget on Google and Overture nee Yahoo Search Marketing. It had a noticeable but not completely direct impact. Only some of those customers seemed to have come from those ads anyway.

Someone ordered a bamboo tea tray only a few days after I put them online… I was really surprised because I did no promotion or even mention of it except in private places until after one had sold.

I don’t really know what I’ve done differently… It’s bewildering. I hope it’s a trend and not a fluke… And I better not stop whatever it is that caused whatever’s happening to happen…

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