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.

Carbohydrates and other booty

This week was somehow maddening… I just had an insane amount of stuff to do. Last weekend we ate out with people Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, which sounds a bit like leisure, but mostly contributed to waistline expansion and lighter wallets. Beyond that, with a fair number of days when we have been underway at the dinner hour, we’ve just eaten rather haphazardly.

We did have a fun dinner a week ago Friday night, since when I’ve been too distracted to post about, but Hiromi described the menu in Japanese. It basically involved an eclectic mix of dishes that I frequently make for parties, with a few variations and minor innovations. We had some visitors mostly attended by people connected to the International English program at the University of Washington. Probably the most interesting dish is the one dessert I made, which I adapted from a smart, elegant cookbook by a Jewish French Moroccan woman, Nadine Abensur, called Secrets from a Vegetarian Kitchen. That beautiful book is now out of print, but the essence of the dish is grilled, caramelized figs and kumquats, with a light sauce based on wine that, in my variation, I thicken slightly with katakuriko, and then garnish with mascarpone mixed with a small amount of finely chopped candied ginger.

We did have a bit of home cooking midweek and on the weekend, but nothing terribly spectacular… some penne with pesto made from slightly sad basil, and various repurposed ingredients or leftovers from the party, such as a minestrone with mustard greens.

Penne pesto

This weekend I had a bit of a reunion with some former colleagues, as Hiromi was invited to a dinner in Redmond featuring various members of MSN’s international products group, including several visitors from the Japan office. Yesterday she went snowboarding with a few of them while I ran business and home-related errands, and we ate out again at Seven Stars Pepper in the International District, after some abortive attempts to get a table at some more Northwesty restaurants.

Tonight we ate at home, but kept things simple. I made quinoa with asparagus, onions, a bit of rosemary, and a topping of heavy cream…

Quinoa-aspara

One of our guests from a few weeks ago, who visited us on SuperBowl weekend, sent a care package with nifty snacks back with her visiting coworkers…

Booty

Matcha mousse pocky, Cha-dango (tea-flavored dango or small dumplings), Girl’s Day sugar coated dried peas, and spring-themed Sakura Kit Kat… the Kit Kat bar has a taste vaguely resembling salt-preserved cherry blossoms or cherry leaves.

From fireworks to summer festivals

This has been a very different Chinatown International District Summer Festival than last year. I don’t know if it was the advance publicity, the relative novelty, or the great support from JACL and co., but last year was much busier at the summer festival than this year. I sold a lot more candy last year, even on the relatively challenging first day I had this time last year.

But I have a few things going for me this year… I have been directing people to YuzuMura.com more aggressively, with a promotional coupon, and I had additional products from Three Tree Tea to offer, and those have been doing well. I just wish we had one (still secret, sorry) product that isn’t going to be ready until about 2 weeks from now. It would be very tempting at an event like this.

I had help from Kaori (my roommate) and a woman I hired for the event who speaks Cantonese. But I didn’t do as much advance “training” as last time, so it was more seat-of-the-pants.

Afterward, two of us went to a cheap, decent Ethiopian restaurant in Columbia City. It was not bad, though I think I’ve been happier in other places… but the best Ethiopian meals I’ve had were probably in Chicago.

Hiromi just posted this photo from when we were headed to watch fireworks on July 4, in yukata (summer kimono, roughly). I wonder if I can ever find a less touristy yukata with a height suitable for me…

Have you seen the owner of this license plate?

This has not been a banner 12 months for me when it comes to cars.

This morning, around 10:30 am, I was driving southbound on 2nd Ave in downtown Seattle, on my way to pick up something from one of my vendors. Nobody was at the office yet when I came earlier in the morning, but I continued to another errand in West Seattle and made my way back.

I stopped at Cherry Street, and after the signal changed to green I crossed. The next several lights quickly followed in sequence, so, by the time I was fairly close to James (Google Map), the light had been in my favor for a while… Anyway, someone sped through the intersection going Westbound on James, and clipped the rear left fender and bumper on my car. I pulled off into a loading zone just before Yesler, and inspected the damage.

A witness who had been about to cross the street confirmed that the driver ran the red light, also saw the license plate (Washington State, 491–THC) from the other car fall off, and after checking to see I was ok, he picked it up and brought it to me. He identified the other driver as female, but I think he was running off to work and didn’t provide a lot of details. The other driver never stopped… not even to exchange information.

Hit and run

Another witness noticed the same driver speeding off past the scene. A few minutes later, someone else came down from his office and said he recorded the license plate number as the driver ran off. It matched, of course.

I didn’t notice a lot of details, except for a dark, probably compact car hitting my tail end.

I waited around for about 45 minutes after making a 911 call, but when I called back, they said nobody had been dispatched, but I was welcome to make the report from home. So tonight, just as dinner was ready to eat, a police officer came and took a statement… and, of course, the license plate.

Ironically, yesterday Hiromi and I made a pilgrimage to Tsubaki Shrine near Granite Falls, Washington to do Hatsumode, or the first shrine visit of the New Year. Among others, we got a new omamori to provide protection while driving. It’s hard to say whether it provided any protection, since I had an accident just about 20 hours later, but as far as I know, I’m not seriously injured, and the accident is clearly not the result of any error of my part, short of expecting other people to obey their signals… the only serious damage was to my car.

Omamori

Yesterday I wasn’t clever enough to remember my digital camera, but Hiromi snapped these photos from the outer part of Tsubaki shrine. Interestingly, I ran into two peope I know at the shrine, including a former employee of Central Market, and Thomas of ENMA. We observed O-Harae.

Tsubaki America shrine

Tsubaki small shrine

Tsubaki ema

Stupidly overstuffed

It’s not been my habit to overeat for the last few years… I tend to indulge in things that, if eaten in excess, are not terribly healthy, but tonight, in spite of not feeling terribly hungry, I managed to eat a little bit more than I would normally consider natural when dining at Bamiyan in Gilman Village. We stayed firmly in the Afghan side of their dual Afghan/Persian menu, and the food was mostly quite well executed and tasty, but the portions were unnaturally large and we ordered too much for three and a half diners.

I kept eating, even though I wasn’t really hungry.

It’s not really my style. I tend to like eating more modest portions of things… six bites or so and I start to become bored of a dish, generally speaking, and would like to move on to something else.

Maybe it’s just stress or nerves, but I just kept nibbling. The food was, after all, still in front of me.

The primary impetus for this adventure was to see Once On This Island, a beautifully staged contemporary musical at the Village Theatre on Front Street in Issaquah, for which a friend of mine was running audio.

I overspent. This isn’t a good time to be self-indulgent. I think my entertainment budget for the next 4 weeks has been busted with today’s and yesterday’s excitement.

Maybe I need to be doing some more sales work…

Jack's Cafe and cassis sorbet

After exchanging a dozen or so email messages with my shipping vendor, a company that I’m meeting with on Monday, and a Taiwanese tea company, and a few others, I was able to contact a friend in San Francisco via MSN Messenger who may help me with sales and logistics a little bit. We talked a little bit about the Hong Kong confection I’m interested in.

          

There’s nothing in Japan untouched by foreign influence. This is perhaps even more true of Yokohama, as I was reminded today during the times that I was not focused on work.

Around lunchtime I walked over to World Porters near the Akarenga area in Yokohama, and I ended up eating at a sort of Indian-fusion type place. One of the Indian managers of the place came over and greeted me in English and took my order after the hostess up front seated me… Either my Japanese seemed hopeless when the hostess greeted me or they have a very involved manager. The food was elegantly presented and tasted good enough, but not terribly special; I think it suffered a little from being produced with a sort of factory/corporate restaurant mentality.

Afterward, I finally got around to buying a business card holder. My temporary solution of using an envelope was a little embarrassing. The one I picked up was black and gray leather and, in the realm of Japanese department stores, sold for a reasonable price.

At “Cake Mania” I had a nice yuzu cheesecake with a green tea flavored bundt-shaped cake around the filling. It was even decorated with broken green tea leaves and a little gold leaf. I drank a “maccha float”, which was maccha tea with cream (or possibly ice cream) blended like a shake.

I had a little snack after going back to the hotel to do some more work. Hiromi was planning to meet me around 10pm tonight, so I didn’t actually leave the hotel until almost that time, and we met in Sakuragicho.

We walked around in search of a late dinner, but all of the corporate owned options near Sakuragicho were already past their last order time, if open at all. After a long walk in fairly cold winds, we ended up at a place near the Oosanbashi pier named “Jack’s Café”, which was still open at 10pm and seemed to have a few potentially vegetarian items.

Entering Jack’s Café is a completely surreal experience. The interior transports you to Chicago to some 1930s Bohemian old-school café, apparently run by a middle aged woman who bought a better stereo system and decorated with some dried flowers. Lounge-style jazz standards are playing at a comfortable volume. A few cheesecakes, puddings, and cakes are shown in a small rectangular display case near the entrance. The menu could be found in a place run by Seattle or Chicago hipsters: a vaguely Indian spicy potato dish, cold tofu dish with lots of strip cut nori and a soy-based dressing, a semi-Japanese spaghetti dish with various mushrooms and asparagus, and a tomato-based spaghetti dish similarly adorned. I worked around the unexpected pieces of bacon. Although we didn’t have anything to drink, the menu offers coffee with sambuca, a negroni cocktail, and other interesting concoctions.

After dinner I had a cold crepe served over whipped cream and adorned with ribbons of cassis sorbet. Hiromi had a pumpkin pudding with a caramelized sugar sauce, possibly with a hint of Japanese black sugar. The food was all surprisingly decent for a late night haunt, and reasonably priced. I doubt the evening could have ended on a more satisfying note.

Cheese, green tea, connections

I went to the Pike Place Market cheese event today and tried to jockey for position to taste samples from various unfamiliar dairies, and a couple of familiar ones.

A woman with very good pitching skills from Ritrovo introduced a truffle salt, which I thought was quite nice; hydrated in some olive oil, the taste was at least as nice as a decent truffle-infused olive oil. They sampled the salt dressing some cheese curds and olive oil. I was sold… tonight’s dinner included some blanched broccoli with olive oil and this very salt. Very simple, very earthy.

I also acquired some fennel-studded soft aged chevre cheese from Rollingstone Chevre in Parma, Idaho, and some “Camellia” fleur de Chevre from Redwood Hill Farm of Sonoma County, California. I had a bit of buffalo mozzarella acquired recently at PFI, so that was the mild end of the spectrum. Accompanied with a very nice fig jam and some quince paste. We had a bit of a Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot, which was moderately complex and nice, a gift from Kaori’s boyfriend.

I think my only regret was not picking up a supply of the Rollingstone brandy-aged chevre or any blues, but I don’t want to go completely broke.

I chatted a bit with Ilyse of Ritrovo and exchanged cards. She spent a few years in Japan and said some of her customers have been requesting yuzu, so perhaps there’s some potential mutual assistance in the future. 

Cheeseplate-320w

I did have a demo scheduled today, but I didn’t get started until almost 2pm. I needed a bit of lunch so I stopped for a quick bite on the way. I was kind of feeling frustrated by the idea of encountering more slow traffic at the Bellevue Uwajimaya store, so I didn’t really feel like rushing over. But actually Bellevue Uwajimaya was busier than the most recent Sunday demos I’ve done there, perhaps due to dreary drizzly weather. Sales weren’t bad at all; the matcha latte in particular moved fairly fast. Beaverton yesterday, by contrast, was incredibly quiet, due perhaps to relatively pleasant weather and a new nearby supermarket’s grand opening.

Friday afternoon I did a little afternoon demo at Seattle Uwajimaya, where the traffic was fairly light as well. Apparently I ended up at the least busy stores on Friday and Saturday, alas… It’s hard to predict.

My new shipment of dragon beard candy probably departed on Sunday but the shipper probably messed up FDA prior notice, so I guess it will be delayed as it was last time.

Transforming ingredients, again

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…

Looking forward

Except for necessary moments of sleep, my first two full days back were all business. Jetlag has caused me more trouble than usual… two nights ago I slept less than three hours, and last night I unintentionally slept more than 10. I think what I really need is to find a way to do all of my work from Asia, so I never have to come back and recover from the East-bound jetlag that usually overpowers me when I return home.

I met with various folks this week, mostly looking to the future, but occasionally dealing with things that should have been settled a few weeks back.

I’ve been trying to work with a few local folks to expand my business without taking on so much inventory risk. So this week, I had arranged a meeting with one of my existing customers and a local restaurant owner, with whom I’ve been discussing a range of healthy ready-to-eat meals. Initially she was only talking about offering her vegetarian meat alternatives as standalone items, just seasoned enough to be incorporated into other dishes. But there is a bit of a surplus of vendors of such things, so I had recommended going a step further and offering something more in the ready-to-eat category that could be comfortably reheated; this meeting involved presenting some of the intended line-up to a customer and obtaining some feedback.

The meeting went fine, though for various reasons I’m sure it would not be smart to publicly reveal, I’m inclined to prefer a different customer as the first outlet to place the foods.

Thursday I took the keys to an office and storage facility just north of my home. It’s not terribly expensive. On one hand, I am very worried about cashflow right now, but I have essentially run out of room at home so I also have little choice. It turns out I also have a friend of a friend who will be coming to the US and renting one of my rooms, so most of the financial sting will be taken out.

I’m hoping I can successfully clear out all of the stuff that should actually be in the office space in time for my flatmate to arrive.

Simultaneously I have to figure out a way to finish some business plan revisions and a proposal to one of my suppliers, who wants me to draft an additional business plan for a small retail project. Taking care of all of this, and sales and bookkeeping too, will be a pleasant source of stress for the next few weeks.

Limited resources and a job as a revenue stream

Not terribly long ago I noted here that I’ve been struggling with my revenue stream… my business is essentially breaking even, but with ever shrinking resources, because it doesn’t pay for me. So I’ve been seriously considering looking for some side work to bring in an income as I grow my business.

I’ve been torn because I know it will make my own business more stressful to operate, and it will change the nature of my business. Most likely, I’ll focus more on the web end of the business and less on the wholesale end.

Anyway, I’ve been quietly sending out my resume here and there, and I managed to get competing, substantially equivalent offers for a day job at two different companies this week.

Both are related to software internationalization, and both are closely related to projects I’ve done before… One’s a multitiered consumer-facing web app at a… familiar company… in, actually, a familiar division. It would involve implementing test coverage and test processes for a familiar product, initially for European markets.

It’s very seductive because I know I can successfully execute on all of the required tasks, and I’m familiar with all of the available resources and processes.

The other job is at a younger company with a focus on advertising technology, which is also familiar territory to me since I worked on such a project in my previous life. But it’s more focused on the Japanese market, at least initially, and I have a stronger personal interest in that region.

It might be a bit more technically challenging, but I don’t think it’s a huge leap from my previous work. It might also stretch my Japanese language skills a bit. It has some risks, because I never tried implementing an international test strategy in an organization without some established localization processes and resources.

On a more trivial note, the second job is about 7 miles closer to home than the other, which saves about 20 minutes a day in commute time with average Seattle-to-Eastside traffic. Considering I still plan to operate my business, that may add up to quite a difference.

Both are contract gigs, which is perfect for my current situation; I just want to pay bills and build some room for growing my business. But I have conflicting motivations: I’m driven, far more than I normally would be, by financial considerations. On the other hand, I’d like a bit of sense of adventure.

I guess I have a lot to think about overnight. I’ll try to sleep early.

I have to make some kind of decision by tomorrow, so it’s going to take some serious reflection.

Kimchi dubu mandu, Corn tortilla quesadillas, new demo venue, new ceramics

On Saturday I did my first demo at Central Market in Shoreline. It is definitely a different crowd than Uwajimaya… The area where I ran my demo was fairly quiet, but I did sample a fair amount. Yesterday the weather was cool, so I did all hot lattes, and today the weather was moderately warm, so I offered both hot and iced.

Sales were fair, but conversion was much lower than at Uwajimaya Seattle. I know there were a whole lot of demos going on, so that may be a factor; also, the ethnic makeup is a bit different and that quite probably contributes to a difference in what people are familiar with. Anyway, feedback was probably about 80% positive, 10% neutral, 10% negative… but I didn’t keep exact track. It seemed mostly positive, but slightly less accepting than the typical Uwajimaya audience, even  compared to more heavily Caucasian-frequented locations like Beaverton.

Customers tended to be a little bit more conversational, and told me all sorts of things ranging from advice to long personal stories unrelated to tea.

I missed the Fremont Solstice Parade and the Fair this year, preoccupied as I was by work.

To make up for that, when I came home I actually ate fairly well. Usually after demos I eat as simply and mindlessly as possible, but I did a bit more than usual. Saturday I drained some good fresh tofu I picked up at Central Market, chopped some crunchy vegetable matter and some kimchi. I stuffed gyouza skins and made kimchi dubu mandu, served with rice and a little dipping sauce of soy sauce and black vinegar. I actually made a little bit too much filling, but I even filled a few too many dumplings to eat for dinner, so the leftovers ended up as an improvised cold breakfast this morning.

I didn’t want to eat more dumplings tonight, so I got fixings to make some corn quesadilla-ike nibbles, salsa, guacamole, and salad. Unfortunately, the corn tortillas seemed all broken by the time I got home… I don’t know if I transported them badly or if they were that way when I got them. An avocado turned out to have some distracting hints of decay so I had to replenish both from my nearby small-scale supermarket. Anyway, dinner was simple, but a little bit more time consuming than it could have been. Jennifer came by after an early evening kayaking run, so we had three for dinner.

Since dinner became a party, I was inspired to make use of some fresh local strawberries in service of strawberry margaritas, which I served on the rocks.

Quesadilla, strawberry margarita, salsa, salad, guacamole

Hiromi made a trek to Mashiko to pick up some ceramics for me, some photos of which I’ll probably post tomorrow…

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