Top Tidbits: Tokyo

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If I could identify a “patient-zero” destination for my travel obsession, Tokyo would probably be it. I first visited in the early 2000s after I had just finished high school. While I had already done a bit of traveling by then, I was mesmerized how foreign everything was. I couldn’t compare it to anywhere else I had been, and I loved it.

I returned to Tokyo for the first time a few months ago. Although I was bit more jaded with age and on a business trip, Tokyo’s allure held up. The mega-city feeling still makes my heart jump. The customs are still intriguing. The food is still unforgettable. There’s no way I could sum the place up in a blog post, but below are a few highlights (note: these are all very Ginza-centric since I spent most of my time there).

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Formulas and Farro Salad


One of the best pieces of cooking advice that I have come across was to have a recipe formula: three or four basic elements that you can build a meal around, changing the specific flavors based on your mood or what is in season. Pasta + meat+ cheese + greens;  rice + beans + veg; and salad greens + protein + cheese + vinaigrette, are just a few examples.

Using formulas has made me a more improvisational cook, saved me from surrendering to take-out when I’ve had no clue what to make, and solved the problem of what to do when some bizarre vegetable pops up in the CSA box.

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My favorite formula (farro + vegetables) comes from the Paupered Chef. Farro is a nutty-tasting grain that was fed to troops in ancient Rome. It’s very healthy and relatively easy to cook, making it the perfect base for a virtuous weeknight meal.

Farro’s origins mean I often fall back on some Italian riff on the formula (e.g. adding tomatoes and pesto). So, I was really excited when I came across  a recipe for wheat berries with swiss chard and pomegranate molasses in Yotam Ottelenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem. It was the perfect inspiration for a Middle Eastern take on the farro equation.

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The Art of Procrastination – May 5, 2013


Here’s what has been distracting me lately…

60 thoughts about turning 60: A charming and hilarious list. “People who ‘hate getting old’ are idiots. Every year is a privilege. Let me tell you, callow miserabilists: getting to 60 feels like a triumph.”

This is a really powerful and heartbreaking photo project on how society treats those that are different.

Food can always tell a story. This Outside article looks at how the Gulf region is still reeling from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill through locally sourced gumbo.

I am currently reading The Orphan Master’s Son an interesting novel about life in North Korea. For a great travel account of the DPRK check out Sophie in North Korea (she is the daughter of Google chairman Eric Schimdt who went on the company’s visit in January).

Interesting review on Smart Casual: The Transformation of Gourmet Restaurant Style  which focuses on how dining out has changed and it’s implications. Plenty of food for thought (sorry…I had to).

Bad French and “Amère” Herb Soup

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I have been trying to brush up on my dormant-since-college-French for work. Looking at the French in the title of this blog you can probably tell that I love it, but I am not very good at it (it should be “Bons Vivants” but let’s stick with the English bastardization).

I started off studious, reading the political and economic sections of Le Monde to remember vocabulary for talking about serious stuff. It did not take much time for me to wander over to the far more interesting Gastronomie section. I eventually fell into an Internet wormhole, spending the afternoon googling French recipes.

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French has a way of making ordinary things sound delightful and sometimes even triumphant. In the airport we take the trottoir roulant (moving sidewalk). Let’s go to Home Depot this weekend so we can bricoler (do DIY). You probably don’t want to date a prestidigitateur (magician). This makes French recipes pretty fun to read with directions like émincer (mince), faites chauffer (warm), and saupoudrer (sprinkle on top).

I came across this recipe for a “Veloute d’herbes-amères” which basically translates in to “bitter herb soup”. In English it sounds like it might taste like medicine, but in French it sounds sophisticated. It seemed like a great way to take advantage of the greens and herbs that are currently dominating the farmers markets. So, I made my best attempt to translate, and the results were a sharp, bright, satisfying soup with a wonderful emerald color. Et Violá! My French may not be up to writing a memo, but I’ve got dinner.

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Top Tidbits: Trinidad


The anticipation of traveling somewhere can almost be as good as taking the trip itself. While I am not a huge planner, I like to do a bit of homework before I go somewhere. But, the amount information can be overwhelming, making it hard to determine what really are the best things to see, do, eat, or avoid. So, “Top Tidbits” is my attempt to share about the places I love in a helpful way. I hope these top five tips are useful. Who knows maybe they can inspire your next trip!

We start with Trinidad, which I visited a few months ago. It had been on my list for a while thanks to a fantastic DC-area Trini restaurant called Tedi’s Roti Shop. I figured any place with food that good was worth visiting, and I was not disappointed!

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Meryl Streep and Asparagus

One of my favorite movie scenes is when Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson eat spaghetti carbonara in bed in the movie Heartburn (based on the Nora Ephron novel with the same name). Their indulgence is both cozy and decadent. Meryl’s ability to effortlessly whip up something so delicious in the middle of the night is sexy. Plus they share it out of the same bowl, which can make almost any food seem more seductive (well, perhaps not chili con carne).
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Ephemeral Weather and Radish Avocado Toasts


I live in places where the window for good weather is pretty small. Dublin was rainy and cold 359 days a year. New York has about two minutes of fall and one minute of spring. And, right now in DC we are in that fleeting time of year where you don’t need a coat, but you also won’t melt into the sidewalk.
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Let’s Begin…

Starting a writing project can always be a little daunting. So I might as well start by explaining why I am going on this little blogging adventure…

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