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.

Call me Mr. Delivery Man

After an unexpectedly long delay in releasing my most recent shipment of dragon beard candy, I finally got notification around 5pm on Saturday that my shipment had cleared FDA document review. The FDA held the shipment for only a couple of days, but after a week and a half of disastrously long sluggishness in passing documents from one agent to another, the government hurdles only added the slightest bit of insult to injury.

More painful, perhaps, was that because my need for inventory had been transformed over the two weeks from “pressing” to “desperate”, I really needed to get the shipment to retailers in the Pacific Northwest region as quickly as possible. I also had a number of internet orders to fill.

So, I decided it was best if I personally picked up the shipment myself in my little Camry. After attending an event featuring a self-deprecating Korean potter at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, I headed straight to the airport to pick up my shipment myself.

A 1998 Toyota Camry is not a tiny car. However, it turns out not to be terribly suitable for carrying nearly 2 cubic meters of stuff. I can, however, for future reference, say that the maximum capacity of my car, including driver, is 26 cartons of dragon beard candy. For maximum sanity and safety, I'd say that 20 cartons is a little bit more realistic. Alas, I needed to move 31 cartons. Fortunately, the amused warehouse workers of Aeroground said it would be ok for me to make a second trip as long as I returned before 11 pm.

After making an initial hasty dropoff at my apartment, sure to annoy my neighbors in the morning, I went to pick up the remainder, and managed even to restock my display at Seattle's Uwajimaya around 11pm at night. I thought this was the only sane thing to do, as I knew I would be filling internet orders and making a Bellevue delivery on Saturday... and with the relative paucity of smaller sizes on display at the Seattle Uwajimaya, I knew it was essential to have some supplies there throughout the first weekend of the Chinese New Year season.

I don't remember exactly how I finished Saturday, but I know that I went to bed earlier than I have in weeks. Sunday, of course, I made off to Beaverton, both for restocking and a bit of a demo. Sales there were not stellar, but certainly more than if I had not been there. It's still taking some work to get Beaverton customers familiar with the product. Since all of the December publicity in the Seattle area, my sales in Bellevue have finally been beating the results in Beaverton.

My apartment, of course, is now an unpardonable disaster area. Recent laptop failures set me on a mission to get a functional modern machine at home (still unsuccessful) using recycled desktop components that I haven't used in a year plus a new motherboard and CD drive. Inventory from the new candy shipment, some tetsubin I recently ordered, and bulky but light cushions, as well as some tea packs from Bamboo Garden, have contributed to a special kind of chaos. I am hoping I can make enough sales in the next month or two to cost-justify some storage space, if not a full-blown office. My home is exploding.

My car was returned on Wednesday, looking better than it did before my accident. But the first two nights it was back, the car alarm seemed to be a bit paranoid, choosing 3am as a nice time of day to wake me, not to mention my neighbors, even with the vibration sensor off. The Car Toys folks first tried to extort money out of me to investigate the problem, but then decided that my extended warranty entitled me to a free exam, and everything seemed to be fixed Saturday morning.

I should perhaps be a little more reflective and less self-involved... but no, this is not the time for that. The time for reflection is after chaos has somewhat resided. Maybe Wordworth once said something along the lines that poetry is emotion reflected in tranquility. The rest, I suppose, is merely a diary.

Civic obligations, yuzu, photos from Japan

Post-jetlag insomnia has set in over the last few days, but I woke up and started some of the necessary housecleaning I've neglected since returning from Japan.

I managed to get myself to the polling station near my home... it's just a short walk. I was expecting it to be crowded, but there were no lines out the door... it was busy around 3pm, but nobody had to wait.

This afternoon I made a surprising discovery... In one of my carry-on bags, I discovered three yuzu and another deteriorating citrus fruit from Mashiko inside another plastic bag.

The yuzu are still in good shape, but I need to use them fast because there is some hint of deterioration. The other fruit, whose name I forget, was already in bad shape when it came off the tree, but it had a nice aroma.

Mr. Minowa, a ceramic artist I met in Mashiko whose work I have been importing, drove me to the train station after I met him on the last Friday of my Japan trip. Somewhere on the way toward Kasama, he noticed a big yuzu tree in someone's front yard and started reaching over the fence to acquire a few fruit, still mostly green. He wasn't terribly concerned about the owner of the house; he said they wouldn't be missed because there are a lot of yuzu.

I was bummed out because I knew I'd have to leave most of them in Japan, but I did use one of the yuzu to keep some apples from browning when I made a cheese fondue. It turns out that the yuzu found themselves in my luggage after all. I don't know if I unconsciously grabbed them or if Hiromi slipped them into one of the bags, or if something else happened. But it's an excellent excuse to make yudoufu.

Last night I finally bulk-resized photos that I should have posted while still in Japan, but I got a little bit busy. The first few photos shown below are from my visit to Mr. Minowa, who lives in Mashiko, close to Kasama. The last time I was here with Hiromi, it was completely dark. So Minowa-san was happy to give me a tour of his home in daylight, and his wife served really nice apples and English tea.

 

Minowa-san is showing me the flora in his backyard.
Sansho fruit pods on the tree This is a citrus plant called sansho. The seed pods are very aromatic; rubbing the skin reveals hints of citrus with some cinnamon-like base notes. The leaves are also edible and make a nice garnish, although Minowa-san says this variety of sansho has better fruit than leaves.
Sansho detail photo Mr. Minowa gave me some sansho to take home.
Sansho detail with extracted seeds The black seedpods in here can be used in cooking, and will be similar to the Chinese sichuan pepper; they might have a slight numbing effect on the tongue. Minowa-san said this variety's seeds are better when green; fall is a little late for harvesting for culinary purposes.
Japanese flowers A few close-in shots of flowers from Minowa's backyard.
Japanese flowers I don't know anything about flowers, but this isn't a daisy.
Japanese flowers Minowa-san was telling me the Japanese names of each of the flowers, but I promptly forgot because I only caught each name once or twice, and he showed me a lot.
Japanese flowers Regardless of the name, this is a really nifty flower.
Yakimono from Mashiko-Tanaka Saori At one of the galleries I work with, I saw this work. Tanaka Saori does a lot with interesting abstract motifs; they feel a little rustic but have sort of modern appeal.
Yakimono from Mashiko with momiji Another artist I like had a lot of momiji (Japanese maple) motifs.
Yakimono from Mashiko, toruko (Turkish) blue The gallery where I found Minowa-san's work last time was highlighting a Mashiko artist who does lots of work with Turkish Blue glazes.
Hanamaki meal at Oosawa onsen OK, it's a little late, but here's the spread from the hot springs resort called Oosawa Onsen in Hanamaki (near Morioka) where I stayed on my second night of this trip. This is the vegetarian meal. I was impressed because rather than just provide fish-less or meatless versions of the same things they served to my friend, they changed a number of side dishes for balance purposes. This was one of the nicest meals on the trip.
Edamame Yuba, tofu, and shiso with shredded vegetables Proof that some of the nicest dishes are also the simplest. Some tofu and I believe edamame-yuba is served with shredded vegetables, a little wasabi, shiso, and a dipping sauce (not pictured).
Persimmon (kaki) stuffed with aemono Another one of the side dishes. I'm a pushover for things presented in sweet, crisp hollowed-out persimmons, ever since I had a little ohitashi presented in a persimmon at Yuu-an (Nishi-shinjuku) a few years ago. This is a kind of ae-mono, lightly dressed vegetables.
small sweet Japanese kabocha stuffed with kinoko and takenoko A warm side dish brought after we started eating, this small sweet squash half is filled with various mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and tiny eggplant. It's a very clean flavor, and the broth poured over is slightly thickened, probably with katakuriko.
Hiromi and another cheerleader in Tokyo, Japan Hiromi's (center/top) hobby is cheerleading, so she invited me to watch her team perform at a football game, along with my friend and sometimes assistant Kazue, who returned to Japan during my own business trip.

A bit of a klutz

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…

Appointment missed, opportunity gained

Yesterday I completed my trip booking to Chicago. I have never flown into Midway and I've never flown a discount airline like ATA, so I have two new experiences this weekend.

The importer who was supposed to meet me today was unreachable, but I went to the meeting place anyway and waited. I studied Korean a bit, and then made a couple of other phone calls. After 45 minutes or so I didn't hear anything so I prepared to take off.

At the cake shop where I was waiting, I gave the baker and his business partner a sample of my Hong Kong confection and they responded positively... It looks like they are interested in making a small order after talking it over with their other partner. So that's a good thing... I hope there's more of that to come. I had another conversation at a little pearl tea shop in Bellevue just before Korean class, and the owner there was in disbelief that the product could even be imported (he knows it normally has a very short life after being made). So there's some definite untapped potential.

Apparently FedEx decided not to ring me this morning when they brought a shipment by, or else they came when I was in the shower, so I didn't get the rest of the product samples I expected today... I hope the same thing doesn't repeat itself tomorrow because I want to carry some along to Chicago this weekend in case I can find some shopkeeper who might be interested.

OK, time to do some real work

I tried to sort through piles of brochures and business cards today and I sent out a few follow-up inquiries to some companies that I have the most interest in. I think I got far less done than I should have, but it was at least an acceptable start. I have piles of companies to contact in order to establish an initial relationship.

For dinner, I picked up some “u no hana”, also known as “okara” and mixed with some onions, water, oil, and an egg to prepare a kind of okara burger/croquette type thing with some expensive brie and I also made a little salad with an improvised Japanese-ish dressing. One of the things I probably should have figured out a week ago is where the nearest grocery store is, as I keep on doing my vegetable and grocery shopping at Odakyu and Keio department stores, which is far from the most cost-effective solution to my dinner requirements.

Late at night, I realized a friend of mine who stayed in Seattle was on MSN Messenger, so I invited her join another friend of mine with whom I had already made plans. The three of us knew each other in Seattle, and in spite of relative proximity, they haven’t seen each other for about a year.

Somehow I managed to work relatively efficiently

This afternoon I processed all of my internet orders without too much chaos or distraction, which was a bit surprising, since I often run around a bit. I noticed today that I missed delivery of a bunch of cardboard boxes and packing materials, which probably came yesterday when I was busy debugging SQL code.

Before noon and actually again in the evening, I met up with some other folks who participate in eGullet and Mouthfuls, which are food-focused community sites. It was nice to see some faces associated previously only with online personas. I also got to try Zigzag, is below the Pike Place Market near Procopio Gelato. They have a lot of interesting signature cocktails. I think Sambar remains my favorite drink spot in town, but the peach bitters-enhanced “Trident” was very nice.

This weekend my demo schedule is a little lighter, so I’m going to try to take advantage of that. I am dropping in to a matcha class at Blue Dog in U-District tomorrow, and Sunday I’ll be at Uwajimaya in Bellevue.

Planning and plotting revisions, Aki Matsuri

I had a slight change in plans for my departure to San Francisco, due to the fact that two key clients I want to meet with are on vacation this week and I don't want to go down to meet them without an appointment... accordingly, I'm now planning to head out to SF on September 20.

Fortunately, as I was starting to call for appointments, I found one customer who was willing to make a buy... apparently, it was a good fit for an upcoming event... I didn't expect such a quick commitment. That particular customer has some interest in the ceramics I've imported, as well.

Late in the week, my sales broker alerted me to some customer interest from a very large company... If that works out, it would be very favorable to long term revenue for my company. It will take a few months before I really know what's happening, but the possibility is very encouraging.

Today I dropped by the Aki Matsuri at Bellevue Community College, presented by an Eastside Japanese group. It was kind of surprising how many familiar faces I ran into. Even my attorney was there. I also did a little networking with some less familiar faces... Hopefully I didn't annoy anyone too much.

I think I didn't get enough sleep the last few days... I'm so tired tonight. I think I'll just be mellow and sleep early...

Wasted demo day

I set out to Portland to do an in-store demo this morning, but neglected to check a weather or traffic report. Accordingly, about 15 minutes before hitting Portland I started driving through tremendous amounts of slush and sleet. Once I reached the bridge over the Columbia River I started to have second thoughts, and as I slid onto the I-405 ramp I decided I should probably make a quick call to Uwajimaya.

They said almost no one was in the store, and I told them I'd be turning back. When I saw the ice-covered junction for Highway 26, I realized why nobody wanted to be in Beaverton, so I continued along I-405 until it re-joined I-5. I stopped around the Portland Convention Center to grab some quick lunch, but many restaurants were shut, presumably due to the ice.

I headed back to Seattle after getting an extra dose of coffee. My day, and about a tank of gas, was mostly wasted. Next time I'll check the weather conditions before heading out of town.

The last few days I've been busy, but I wouldn't go so far as to say I've always been spending my time well. I have a lot of work to accomplish, including some tasks that should have been settled last month.

Unplanned Valentine's Day Dinner

We had a couple of expensive grocery shopping days at Whole Foods and PCC this weekend… on a whim, we made an extravagant cheese fondue on Sunday night, full of cave aged gruyere, good appenzeller cheese, and a less noteworthy but still essential emmentaler, built upon a Swiss white wine and kirsch. We served it with some rye bread, some Granny Smith apples, red bell pepper, and blanched asparagus and lotus root.

This would have been a nice Valentine’s Day dinner. But it was still Sunday.

On Monday we picked up a few more ingredients to put together a Japanese-style rice casserole called doria, and we gave some consideration to Valentine’s Day dinner but never really settled on anything in particular. We decided we would make a chocolate fondue with various fruits and some sugar cookies, but the savory course never quite rendered in our imaginations.

When I got home that night, I tried to think of something that would make sense without requiring another trip to the supermarket. Somehow, the thought of a calzone fritti popped into my mind, as unromantic as it might seem. I proposed a few alternate options to Hiromi, but that one seemed the most interesting to her. I incorporated marinated artichoke crowns, olives, cheese, and a quick marinara sauce into the filling; the outer layer was a simple wheat dough. The whole pastry is deep-fried, producing a crispy but thin exterior.

Calzone Fritti

Calzone fritti

When Hiromi woke up this morning, she prepared the dough for some green tea sugar cookies or shortbread, made with matcha, and when I got to work on dinner, she started rolling out the dough and cutting it into shapes. These would serve as one of the dippables for our chocolate fondue.

Matcha sugar cookies

Matcha sugar cookies

The chocolate fondue featured a fruit selection of blood oranges, Granny Smith Apples, banana, and kiwi. We meant to include some kinkan, or kumquat, but I became a bit distracted and forgot about them entirely.

Chocolate fondue-destined fruits

Fondue-fruit

The chocolate wasn’t completely melted in any of my photos, so I’m purposely avoiding highlighting it. Besides, it was Valentine’s Day, so I should leave some things to the imagination.

Gifts for Hiromi

Hiromistash

This was my little gift to Hiromi for Valentine’s Day: Her favorite shaved chocolate from Fran’s, for making hot chocolate; Fran’s decadent hazelnut and chocolate stuffed figs; and 5 raspberry heart truffles and one lavender truffle from the soon-to-be legendary Bellevue, WA based chocolatier, Fiori. The heart-emblazoned guilt-free-plastic duckie complements our large collection of devil ducks. Since the Japanese custom is for women to give chocolates to men rather than receiving gifts on Valentine’s Day, this is something of a first for her. Of course, there is a Japanese reciprocal custom a month later, but the couples-ness of Valentine’s Day isn’t quite practiced in Japan… That’s what Christmas is for.

As my 15–year old rotary coffee grinder turned spice grinder went to its final resting place about a week ago, Hiromi’s Valentines gift to me was a more pragmatic one: a well-componentized rotary coffee grinder destined for the same spice-grinding labor.

Kabocha korokke and winter comforts

Kabochakorokke 037-640w

I always crave kabocha croquettes in the fall and winter. I think I first experienced them at some chain izakaya in Japan, but even there they made an impression. I now seek them out anytime I am in Japan during in the cooler months. The sweet nuttiness of kabocha squash, mashed with potatoes, contrast nicely with the crunchiness of panko.

Unlike the usual Japanese croquette presentation, served with tonkatsu sauce or a similar fruity thickened worcestershire-enhanced sauce, I served mine with an apple-ginger chutney from a Washington apple orchard (Woodridge Farms, perhaps).

Hiromi and I collaborated on tonight’s meal, and she made this beautiful satoimo to gobo to ninjin no nimono (simmered baby taro root, burdock and carrot).

Gobo, satoimo, ninjin no nimono

Since we went through the trouble of frying foods, we also decided to make agedashi-doufu. I’ve made this occasionally, but usually I’m so intent on getting what little crispiness I can from the experience of eating it that I don’t want to distract myself by letting it absorb the soup stock while I’m trying to take a few pictures. Today, though, I caved in, even though this is not one of my best agedashi-doufu. It would have been a bit nicer with some daikon-oroshi; all I could find in my refrigerator was some negi and shouga (scallions and ginger). It was reasonably crispy, though.

Agedashi-doufu

We also had some dotori muk, a Korean dish made from acorns. I served it with nothing more than a little soy sauce blended with sesame oil, which is just about right to bring out the nuttiness of the starchy dotori.

Kabocha korokke in the fryerApple-ginger chutneyKabocha korokke with chutneyDotori Muk
 
 
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