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.

Slammed

The weekend internet orders that had accumulated since Friday almost spiraled out of control. It’s relatively rare for me to get a lot of internet orders over a weekend, but last week had the advantage of coinciding with a new month. Over time, I’ve learned that I get a higher number of orders in the first half of each month than the last half. I’m not quite sure why that is.

Anyway, the car complications distracted me from filling orders, so I didn’t get any of the weekend orders out until today. I still have a few orders that date back more than 48 hours, which is my usual service standard. But I should be able to get everything under control by tomorrow, unless something insane happens.

I’m really happy with the upswing in traffic and orders on YuzuMura.com. I’m still not exactly sure what’s responsible for the upswing, but I hope it keeps working. I need it to roughly double to make it really pay for itself, though. And it’s already getting hard to keep up with, considering all of the other things I should be working on outside of YuzuMura.

If I knew that absolutely every day would be as busy as the last 7 days, I could actually hire some help. But I’m not quite there yet.

The damage

I mentioned maybe a week or so that my car’s brakes had become a bit noisy. I got it in to have it checked out today at Meineke, not far from my office.

It turned out that this problem was not just brake pads… apparently two of the pads had worn to non-existence, and the brake was riding right against the rotor. And along with it came a $600 repair bill…

It distracted me most of the day so I didn’t make much of a dent on an insane number of internet orders that came in during the weekend. I wish I had some help right now, though I don’t have any money to pay for it.

The financial pain of demo travel; last night's dinner

I do a lot of demos of my products at grocery stores where my products are carried. If I’m the broker, my client usually pays for the cost of sampling materials. But for things I import, I pay for the samples I give out. The cost of sampling is by itself quite painful.

The theory of doing demos is not that you will sell a lot of product the day of the event. Demos are a way of introducing products, getting feedback, and hopefully, getting such products in the mind of the customer. A few people buy something right away, and some people buy on their next trip to the store, and some people will remember the item when just the right occasion comes up. And, of course, quite a lot of people won’t take any action at all, but this is true of any promotional method.

The advantage of conducting a demo is the immediate feedback, the rapport you can establish with at least a few customers, and the potential for building long-term repeat customers. It’s very hands-on, and very much a way of telling the story of a product.

Alas, thanks to the ever-increasing gas prices, my occasional trips to Portland are never very financially rewarding. I’ve averaged about two trips per month to the Beaverton Uwajimaya, at a cost of about $30–35 per trip in gas, without considering any additional impact on my car’s lifespan or maintenance needs. Yesterday, when I fueled up in anticipation of this trip, I spent almost exactly $45 for 16 gallons of gas. When I got home tonight, I had to fill it up again, and away went another $42 or so.

On the one hand, this is a very difficult way to build product recognition. On the other hand, if I don’t do these demos, my products may not move at all, because people don’t get to know anything about them.

Of late, I have substantially increased my portfolio of products that I sell at wholesale, so I believe that these challenges are really just a matter of scale. But it’s still very frustrating to look at money disappearing so rapidly.

Last night I made a late bit simple dinner for three. It included a vaguely greek salad (feta, kalamata olives, tomatoes, cucumber, atop lettuce) with a garlic-citrus dressing, some hummus which I adorned with some olive oil and mild chili powder, some grilled mushrooms with garlic, some roasted red peppers, and some decent pita I found that is made in Seattle without the use of any scary additives or unpronounceable ingredients, and still happens to be moderately pillowy for something obtained at a supermarket. I also did some nice roasted potatoes again.

PitaAlittlegriechisch-mushroomsAlittlegriechisch roasted peppersHummus etc. Alittlegriechisch-saladAlittlegriechisch-potatoes

Spicy lentil-potato patty on flatbread

I like piadina, the lard-enhanced soft, cracker-like flatbread of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. But I don’t use a lot of pork lard in my vegetarian kitchen. On the other hand, the toasted ghee I made last week stands in just fine; in German clarified butter is actually known as Butterschmalz, and other kinds of rendered fats are known as (Animal-)schmalz. So I always thought it would work as a fair alternative if I decided to make a piadina- or crespelle-like flatbread at home. The ingredients are functionally equivalent, though the flavors are certainly not the same. It's definitely a respectable fat.

Lentilflat 019-640w

I wasn’t really trying to make something particularly Italian, though; I just wanted a nice thin crispy-soft flatbread. Given my tendency to cook vaguely Indian food over the last few days, I actually thought something with the nuttiness of chapati would actually be nice, but I wanted something closer to the texture of piadina to hold up to my filling. So I balanced the two concepts by using a 50–50 ratio of whole wheat to white flour, as would be fairly typical for chapati, I blended in my toasted ghee, then added some water until I had a stiff dough.

My lentil cravings haven’t quite disappeared, but I didn’t want something as dense as my koftas, so this time I made a big lentil-potato pancake. I incorporated parboiled potatoes into a spiced ground lentil mixture. I made patties and cooked them in a substantial amount of oil. I browned it on both sides. The patty took a fair amount of time to cook, along the lines of a Rösti, but had a nice texture, flavor and color. Even with the lengthy cooking time, I’d definitely recommend finely grinding lentils for this kind of application rather than using cooked lentils.

I placed this lentil-potato “patty” between two layers of the flatbread with some sliced tomatoes, sweet onions, and raclette cheese.

Lentilflat 002-640w

I served this with a signature salad of mine, mixed greens with a yuzu-honey vinaigrette.

In the morning I made buttermilk waffles with some Hawaiian coconut syrup I got at the Beaverton Uwajimaya. It’s full of saturated and trans fats and has a very nice coconut flavor. It doesn’t look like it would photograph well when plated, so I didn’t try.

I got a late start doing business-like things. I should have worked harder today, but Monday seems to be the one day I give myself the luxury of working a little slowly… But I didn’t come home to make dinner until about 8pm, so I ate fairly late. But I sent off oustanding orders.

My car’s brakes have been making disturbing noises recently, so I am afraid I’ll have to get them checked… another irritating expenditure.

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…

Monday downtime

I did make a delivery and take care of some orders today, but I worked at a relatively slow pace today.

One of my wholesale customers called and dramatically increased their reorder size, so that makes me happy. They used to take a cautious 2 cases per order, but they bumped that up to 5 cases this time. It shows a lot of confidence in our ability to sell, and indicates they are more worried about running out of items than having too much of it.

I started building out my community site, MoriAwase.com, which I’m hoping will be a attractive forum to discuss contemporary Asian food, craft and lifestyles. Alas, it’s pretty skeletal now.

Dinner was very late… I had an egg sandwich on a soft Essential Bakery dinner roll, a little lettuce and provolone. It was already 11 pm.

Milchreis mit Himbeeren

In Germany, I remember buying a short-grain rice called Milchreis as an awful substitute for japonica. It was the cheapest possible rice we could buy and available in mainstream supermarkets. It tasted adequate and the price was right for a starving student’s budget, so I frequently used it even when I cooked Chinese-style or Japanese-style dishes. On rare occasions I was able to get some decent basmati or Jasmine rice for a slight premium from Asian markets, but Japanese-style rice required a bit more difficult a journey from our little university town, Marburg.

The typical German way of making use of this rice involved cooking it with milk, sugar, and maybe a bit of vanilla, sometimes with a knob of butter. It was always cooked with substantially more liquid than if you meant to cook rice for eating with savory foods, so it is almost the texture of okayu. Essentially, it’s a rice pudding. It works best simmered at a low temperature with about 4 milk to 1 rice, by volume.

I think I can count the times I ate Milchreis in this manner in Germany on one or two fingers, but somehow I craved the idea last night, and I prepared some in anticipation of this morning’s breakfast.

It turns out that I have more ready access to California-grown Japanese-style rice than “Milchreis,” so I just used that. I made a quick raspberry sauce with a medium-heavy syrup and raspberries, and topped my molded milchreis with some more fresh raspberries.

Milchreis mit Himbeeren

Raspberries were incredibly cheap yesterday…

Taco salad

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.

Short sweet demo before a politically significant birthday

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…

New stuff coming

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.

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