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.

Waking up is hard to do

My jetlag seemed to affect me in the opposite way today… I had fallen asleep well before 10pm last night and I first awoke at 3:30 am; I was able to get back to sleep but didn’t return to consciousness until almost 9am. I was a bit surprised when I looked at my clock the second time.

I spent the next hour or so trying to finalize a bank transfer that had complications. This is all money intended to pay for the ceramics I bought in Japan on this trip.

Unlike the other days so far, I didn't end up at work until 10:30 or so... Usually I had been arriving sometime around 9 or so, since I've been getting out of bed at what I would normally consider unpleasantly early.

Not sure if it's rest

It wasn’t a very restful weekend, perhaps, but I did skip my usual demo routine. Today, I had a slow-paced afternoon, a relative lack of productivity.

I didn’t really have lunch today, but I made some mochi-mochi an pan in the morning, which I ate around 11am or so. It was just a milk-based yeast dough with a bit of mochi-ko in it, and I made small balls filled with anko, sweetened red bean paste. I made two flat savory rolls also: gomashio, black sesame and coarse salt.

Somehow I was craving a savory, quichelike tart today, but I didn’t want to have a meal mostly composed of butter, cheese and eggs, especially since I’ve been slightly dairy-heavy this week.

So I made a little salad, and I roasted halves of delicata squash stuffed with shredded satsumaimo. The satsumaimo was still tossed with a modest amount of melted butter, and a little black sugar and salt. It allowed me to serve a lighter portion of the tart.

I made the tart with a half-wholemeal crust, a lot of butter, and a little mace. I caramelized some shallots with some thyme, and I sauteed some incredibly cheap chanterelles with garlic. For the cheese, I used a cheap, unremarkable raclette from Trader Joe’s. I usually expect raclette to be a bit more aromatic, but this was a pretty bland one; that turned out to be just fine for the purpose of making a quiche, but I would have been disappointed if I actually made raclette.

My crust turned out to be fairly crumbly. I think my beads were a bit too fine to produce a very flaky result, but the texture worked out to be pleasant enough.

Chantart-delicata

 

It started off with humble expectations

Lacking sufficient motivation to cook and lacking sufficient inspiration on where to eat a simple, inexpensive dinner, I somehow found myself conspiring with Jennifer to come up with something entertaining for the evening, already well into the dinner hour.

Suddenly I had the idea to find something in Columbia City, a frequently neglected possibility for dining in Seattle. I noticed a little Ethiopian place that sounded inexpensive and tasty, and made my way southward, picking up my friend along the way.

We arrived slightly circuitously, but something caught my eye which had previously sounded less exciting in the particular set of restaurant summaries I had been perusing. It was La Medusa, a cute little Italian restaurant with an appealing menu. I mentioned something about how much I had been enjoying making roasted cauliflower at home recently, and we made our way across the street to sneak a peek at the Ethiopian place. It looked like a good Tuesday night place, but was a little noisy due to their Friday night musicial guest and wasn’t exactly what either Jennifer or I needed, so we trusted our impulse and returned to La Medusa.

La Medusa on Urbanspoon We wandered around for a few minutes while waiting for a table to open up, but we settled on some chickpea fritters, roasted cauliflower with pine nuts, and some grilled asparagus with a fried egg and some hint of truffle salt. I ordered a glass of a Sangiovese and Jennifer got some Pinot Grigio. Somehow, in spite of eating too much pizza recently, I was still drawn to a fig, fennel and ricotta pizza. We skipped any other mains or pastas since it was already late and no longer particularly needed, but found ourselves more than satiated… still, we felt the need to indulge in a little chocolate espresso torte.

Everything was spot-on. Simple preparations, good ingredients, humble but reverential staff, and very attentive service made the whole experience very pleasant. The interior is spare yet attractive. Prices were commensurate with the quality of ingredients, but still a little less extravagant than less impressive options downtown or Capitol Hill. This is exactly the kind of Italian dining Seattle needs.

I have frequently ranted to anyone who will listen that Seattle attempts at Italian restaurants tend to miss the mark: oversized portions of boring pasta that make it hard to order a taste of anything else on the menu, spectacular prices, overly complex dishes that obscure rather than highlight the ingredients used… It’s refreshing to see that there are other alternatives to this approach.

La Medusa is no budget dining experience… I think the total bill, before tip, was about $55 for two, about $15 of which was from wine. I had originally been seeking out something more modest, thus the inclination to come for the inexpensive Ethiopian place. But it is a beautiful little space, and does an excellent job bringing out the best in simple things. The lower rents in the area probably contributed to a roughly 10–20% lower cost than an equivalent meal, if such a thing were available, in Queen Anne, downtown, or Fremont.

The space is actually fairly friendly to the young families that seem to be populating Columbia City, and we saw several (non-disruptive) children around the dining room. It’s an excellent little neighborhood place, but it’s definitely a place with enough appeal to draw me out of my Woodland Park/Fremont environs.

Working and even networking

Taking care of this gallery sale has occupied most of my time the last few days, but everything is almost finished, so I'll report more tomorrow.

I made an appointment to meet with another ex-Microsoftee whose background has a few other interesting parallels with mine; he moved on to create a consulting company, and he has hopped back and forth between the Seattle area and Japan for the last few years.

Yesterday I got in touch with Tony, my uncle, and talked shop a bit. He had been in L.A. recently doing some work on a department store catalog. I also talked to Eugene, the green tea importer, and he pointed me in the right direction at Uwajimaya, and we talked about a couple of other ideas. I called up another Tony, a serial entrepreneur who is half Japanese and half German I met at a Starbucks a couple of years ago, and after talking a bit we made some plans to meet up and catch up over food.

The convoluted schedule of the last couple of days has left me eating irregularly, not jogging at all, and covered with newsprint stains from sorting through hundreds of ceramics pieces, but it's been pretty energizing.

Lamps and Yakimono

I kept promising myself to photograph more ceramics for YuzuMura, but I’ve only been making small dents in the work… there’s just too much to keep up with. But I really need to do it, because there are still a hundred or so pieces in my inventory. So I’m slowly catching up...

Yakimono 001-240wYakimono 111-240wYakimono 061-240wYakimono 071-240wYakimono 093-240w

Most of these are Senda’s work, but I got a few Akutsu and Minowa pieces also.

And I succeeded in taking photos of a dozen or so lamps, most of which will be on YuzuMura by tomorrow or so. These are all made in Thailand from sustainable or recycled woods.

Enbl03940-5-240wEnbl045-7-120wEnbl012-2-120wEnbl004-2-240wEnbl064-6-120wEnbl003-9-120w

Tonight’s dinner was a simple, potentially very bland soup made of a puree of mirepoix, some cannelini beans, and some broccoli. At the last minute, I added a splash of sesame oil and I snuck a little bit of chili oil from an olive-oil marinated piquin chili batch I made about a month or two ago, and it worked wonders.

Pre-Chinese New Year Demo and various harumaki

We kept ourselves busy the last few weeks, even though last weekend, for example, was a more leisurely kind of busy. I haven't scheduled any product demos since just before the Christmas season. This was our first weekend back in the routine, and we took it relatively easy, with just a four hour Sunday demo in the cards.

Yesterday we handled a fair number of internet orders, and took care of some necessary evils related to either home or office. In the process, we encountered this little made-in-China, post-holiday-clearance pillow creature:

Omocha-ushi

He found a new home. This doesn’t happen often. Several years ago, after a missed opportunity and a subsequent couple of trips of half-serious searching, I bought a (huge) stuffed dog from The Dog Club on a trip to Japan, which went on to become a huge licensed product with a worldwide presence. In spite of me being ahead of the trend curve on this one, this odd fisheye-perspective dog, along with the collection of teddy bears primarily inherited from my great-grandmother, nevertheless continues to inspire snickers and innuendo from non-Asian visitors. “Momo”, the litte round cow pictured above, was, however, Hiromi’s pick. My masculinity in this case cannot be questioned, although I can’t say that’s ever been a terribly important consideration for me.

Subsequent to accomplishing this very important mission, at a hardware store in South Seattle,  we found some suitable shelving to help bring sanity to my office. I like the shelves that I got, so I’m likely to expand that set to complete this office sanity effort.

Alas, this pilgrimage to South Seattle did not go as planned. We tried to drop a couple of items at a post office on the way to some other errands. Not only were we foiled by some awful stadium traffic starting at the downtown exit of Highway 99; I also discovered that this particular post office offers no Saturday collection, which meant that my decision to shorten my path worked out to be both fruitless and inefficient.

Somehow we lost all motivation to prepare food after our mission to South Downtown, and the traffic distracted us from our original goal of obtaining some very fresh tofu from Thanh Son’s factory shop. So we made our way to Maekawa, which, if you order from the relevant three pages of the menu, serves izakaya-style food.

Although we’ve been eating a fair amount of Japanese food lately, it’s all been homemade. This was Hiromi’s first-ever meal in a Japanese restaurant in Seattle, and it’s probably one of very few places that I would take anybody who is actuavlly Japanese. This isn’t because it’s spectacular food; it’s decent, but not pushing any boundaries. The thing that I dislike about most Seattle Japanese restaurants is the distortion of portion sizes and the bizarrely non-Japanese combinations and seasoning approaches. But this place is so familiar and ordinary, that it wouldn’t be terribly shocking to find similar food in a little neighborhood spot in Japan. Except for the strange “teishoku” section on the menu, which is out of place on an izakaya menu, it’s all standard izakaya fare, with a few interesting house specials and so on.

It was, of course, Hiromi’s chance to eat some non-vegetarian Japanese dishes she hasn’t been able to indulge in when I’m cooking. She was simultaneously curious about the place and skeptical, but pleasantly surprised by the comfortable familiarity of it all.

Tonight, on the other hand, we had a bit more initiative. We had some soup and rice, but most importantly, we made a few different kinds of spring rolls.

Harumaki no moriawase

I make a few unconventional spring rolls, but tonight we went over-the-top and made about five or six variations. We put some away in the freezer for later indulgence, but we alternated between heavy and light flavors.

One was nattou, camembert, negi (actual Japanese-style leeks in this case) and shiso, and an alternate version with nattou, negi, takenoko (bamboo shoots), and nori. We also made a simple one with takenoko, carrots, and rice noodles, as well as a version with cabbage standing in for the takenoko. We also made one with camembert, walnuts, umeboshi, and shiso, which is the only one that required no dipping sauce. For the others, especially the nattou spring rolls, we used some Japanese mustard (karashi) mixed with Japanese soy sauce.

Harumaki detail

Craving soup and lentils

Tonight I was craving some soup, and something hearty involving lentils… I think I have recently mentioned this strangely unseasonal craving. I decided I wanted something rich, something refreshing, and something comforting.

I’m far from expert on Indian cooking, but I’ve got a surplus of garam masala around right now, so I thought I’d go for something slightly Indian. I don’t have any ghee in the house, and Ballard Market didn’t seem to have any clarified butter where I looked, but I had an extra pound of butter from baking cookies on Saturday, so I decided to clarify some butter.

I made a little tomato soup, roughly inspired by the South Indian “rasam”, without really bothering to remind myself what goes in a rasam. This tomato has some amchur (mango) powder and lime juice, some good fresh tomatoes, and some onions. I cooked some mustard seeds in oil and drizzled on the soup upon serving.

A rough approximation of rassam

I had a bit of a lentil craving, and a stash of urid daal. I didn’t feel like boiling a lot of lentils, so I ground them up and mixed them with water, salt, and some spices, then hydrated a bit. I added some onions and cilantro. These were then deep-fried, as I prepared a tomato cream sauce; this time, I cooked mustard seeds and garam masala in ghee, and incorporated this into the cream. After the lentil croquettes, or, more loosely, koftas, were finished, I cooked them briefly in the cream sauce to coat.

Koftanasu 010-640w

I wanted something refreshing, too, so I grilled some eggplant on my All-Clad grill pan. I let them soak in some lime juice and chilies. On the plate I added some cilantro and Hermiston sweet onions.

Grilled eggplant marinated in lime juice, with chilies, cilantro and sweet onion

I served more rice than necessary; it was a way to abuse some saffron. I steeped some saffron in hot water before cooking the rice in it.

Koftanasu 030-640w

Dinner is served…

Internal conflict

I'm a little conflicted these days because I need to be focused on sales and promotion, but I also need to get the online shopping solution for my website up and running. It's kind of difficult to do both; in spite of my relatively technical background, I never particularly had much talent for writing code, so it takes me longer than it should.

Also, I discovered sort of fatal flaws with the shopping cart system offered by my web presence provider that make me not want to use it... problems with the shipping calculations, inability to distinguish between taxable and non-taxable goods (which affects my in-state customers when I sell food products), and some other problems like how to connect to a payment gateway. I think I will either need to pick some other system or roll my own sooner than I had hoped.

This morning I met with a furniture designer to discuss a retail display rack, or point-of-presence, for the dragon beard candy. He works with bamboo wood products, so it's a good fit for displaying products from the dragon beard candy company, whose brand name is Bamboo Garden. I think the racks will be a little bit expensive, but should be helpful for merchandising the products in many retail locations.

I made a dent in some of my web code, but I have a number of long nights ahead of me to make it functional. I hope it doesn't distract me from the work that's more important. I learned when I started thinking about making business cards and similar types of materials that it was much more cost-effective to hire a designer for that than to do it all myself, even though I once did a lot of graphic design and layout work. Changing my mindset, acquiring all the software, and tweaking and so on costs money, and keeps me from doing things that are probably more important. The same applies in this case, it just hits closer to home because I've been doing more closely related work more recently and I already have the tools I need... Still, I might have to decide whether to hire out the sales work or hire out the software work...

Tuesday as a weekend

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t ordinarily take weekends off, normally, and I take my rests when I can get them. Today I kept a relatively slow pace and I sent off just a few small packages today and had a little meeting in the morning. I did no sales calls at all, though I returned phone calls.

I guess a day off is when I take lots of really long breaks between tasks.

I had lunch at home, which was way bigger than it needed to be because I felt ravenous at 1pm. It was basically more quesadillas with remaining salsa, and some refried beans, but I served too much. I didn’t really feel a need for dinner at the customary time, but I had an orange at home, a cookie at Uptown, and some fried potatoes made at home, spread out as little nibbles between 6pm and 11pm.

I'm not MIA

While I was preparing to move office I got incredibly busy, and then one day my laptop decided not to start. So I sent it off for repairs on Tuesday. I expect it will be ready early next week.

I haven't gotten my desktop machine at the office fully functional yet, alas. The newly set up machine decided not to completely boot, and when I reinstalled Windows, the system freezes when I get the message "You need to activate Windows to log in. Do you want to activate windows?"

If the machine were only kind enough not to freeze and let me answer, I'd be happy to deal with it. In the meantime I'm borrowing my friend's laptop for a few minutes at a time.

It looks like one of my customers I've been waiting on for ages will finally pay their bill. That makes me happy, but I am still so cash-impaired that I'm probably going to have to take on some part-time work or a temp job in tech in order to sustain myself. I don't want to be in that position, but if it makes it possible for me to continue building my business it's a reasonable tradeoff.

 

 

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