Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Interview in the Garden

Haksai in bloom.
Linda Gould, friend and fellow writer, came down to my garden the other day for a chat. The resulting interview is the first in a series of videos she plans to do about ordinary people doing interesting or extraordinary things. I don't feel like I'm either of those, but I'm always glad to talk about food and farming, and even happier to talk with Linda. Hope you enjoy it!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sotto.com: A Little Fresh Veg Everyday in Shimokitazawa


Welcome to Sotto Co!
Somewhere between coffee shops I stumbled on a brand new yaoya (vegetable store), and the vegetable geek in me couldn't resist. Ruby red tomatoes and bright red cucumbers dazzled my eyes, while some purple-stemmed mizuna and emerald green pea pods shimmered nearby. All laid out with an attention to detail usually only found in high-end boutiques, Akemi and Fumihiko Inagaki, aim to inspire their Shimokitazawa neighbors with some of their own passion for good, fresh food.

"We can hardly keep them in stock," Akemi tells me when she sees me admiring the tomatoes. I'm not a big fan of tomatoes out of season, but when she tells me the grower uses natural farming techniques, I give in. I pick up two for dinner that night. (For the record, I was not disappointed.)

Some of the fresh veg on offer.
The Inagaki's moved to Kyoto with their young child in 2011, and stayed for about a year. While there, they discovered a number of organic farmers, shops, and groceries. When the Inagaki's decided to move back north, they wanted to bring some of the good things they found in Kyoto back to share. The vegetables, rice, oils, and other products come primarily from Kyoto and other parts of the Kansai region.

Rice, cooking oil, salt and more can be found.
"We hope to turn this part into a gallery someday," says Akemi and gestures toward the back half of the first floor shop while Fumihiko helps their neighbor, the owner of a local fish shop, carry his potatoes and other vegetables to the counter. "He comes every day," she tells me with a smile.

Dazzling.
Opened in March, 2016, Sottoco remains a work in progress, although the fresh, seasonal vegetables are perfect. Shoppers will also find a small but wonderful collection of tenugui along with bags and headbands hand sewn by a friend of Akemi's.

"There are many obaachan living around here, and it's nice for them to come and be able to just buy one or two of something," she adds. I always say those older ladies know where to find the best of everything.

Sotto Co
Open Tuesday through Saturday
11am - 6pm
Nearest Station: Shimo-kitazawa
Head out the south exit and turn right. Follow the main road to an intersection and turn right. (You'll see Coffee Ex Libris across the street and later a Starbucks.) Sotto Co will be on the right.



Friday, April 29, 2016

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, April 30th and Sunday, May 1st

Delightful baked goods at Kathmandu's 1905 Organic Farmers Market.
As things get greener and lusher every day, Spring is clearly making it's presence known. Gardens and fields are filling up with seedlings that get a little fatter everyday, and the potatoes are working themselves up to a good bloom any day now. All of that and the start of the Golden Week holidays make this a perfect weekend to wander off to one of these great regular markets and see what delectables are available.

Every day
A small local affair featuring Kamakura heirloom fruits and vegetables raised in yet another former capital city, the Kamakura Market is a small but wonderful venue. Head in early to get the best selection and pick up a loaf of Paradise Alley's charcoal infused bread while you're there.
7am until sold out
Map

Ebisu Market
Every Sunday
Ebisu Market management are going all-out this month and hosting a market every Sunday. They've been recruiting more staff and hunting up vendors, so head on out to be part of the action. A recent visit showed this always lovely market remains charming as ever with an excellent selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables, scrumptious looking snacks, and crafty items. I'd also recommend a trip to Afuri Ramen when you're done for some of the best yuzu tsukemen in town.
11am to 5pm
Map

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

Every Saturday and Sunday
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel!
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

My Tsukemono article up at Metropolis

Umeboshi, one of the classic tsukemono, ready to dry.

Tsukemono are one of my most favorite things in Japan. They come in such a wide variety of textures and flavors that reflect not just the season but also the region. Hida Takayama is famous for their red kabu pickles while Chichibu is famous for their shakushina pickles. A recent article of mine in Metropolis covers the basic types of tsukemono and how they are made. 

For those interested in going deep into pickle culture, I'd recommend Quick and Easy Tsukemono by Ikuko Hisamatsu or one of Elizabeth Andoh's great cookbooks. (Andoh also regularly offers a tsukemono class that looks fantastically comprehensive and fun.) For those searching for online recipes, check out Just Bento. Makiko Itoh writes wonderfully about Japanese food and offers terrific recipes. Her cookbooks also look tantalizing. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Markets: Saturday, April 23rd and Sunday, April 24th

Cheese and ceramics - a perfect combination at Kathmandu's 1905 Farmers Market.

Markets abound this weekend despite predictions of inclement weather. Don’t be shy about venturing out in search of early spring delights. Look for fresh sansai like warabi, fuki, and even udo may be on offer, so snap them up while you can. These usually appear in their wonderful pickled forms, but it grand to sample them freshly harvested and in season. In lieu of that check out early greens and late season citrus. I might suggest making a version of amanatsu shu (same recipe as umeshu, just sub in amanatsu) or experimenting with mixing them in salad. Science never tasted so good.

Kamakura Farmers Market
Every day
A small local affair featuring Kamakura heirloom fruits and vegetables raised in yet another former capital city, the Kamakura Market is a small but wonderful venue. Head in early to get the best selection and pick up a loaf of Paradise Alley's charcoal infused bread while you're there.
7am until sold out
Map

Ebisu Market
Every Sunday
Ebisu Market management are going all-out this month and hosting a market every Sunday. They've been recruiting more staff and hunting up vendors, so head on out to be part of the action. A recent visit showed this always lovely market remains charming as ever with an excellent selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables, scrumptious looking snacks, and crafty items. I'd also recommend a trip to Afuri Ramen when you're done for some of the best yuzu tsukemen in town.
11am to 5pm
Map

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

Every Saturday and Sunday
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel!
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thursday Snapshot: Night Fruit Seller in Kathmandu

Night fruit seller in Kathmandu.
Photo by R. Bailey

We spotted this fruit vendor on a walk back to Sunrise Farm from Swayambhunath (the Monkey Temple). What was most impressive about these vendors was their ability to turn a simple bicycle or cart into a full-fledged fresh fruit stand complete with scales, lights, and a lovely display. We couldn’t eat much, but they never failed to dazzle our eyes and tempt our tastebuds.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, April 16th and Sunday, April 17th

Organic farmer at Kathmandu's 1905 Farmers Market with heirloom pumpkin. 

This weekend promises a healthy mix of Spring sunshine and rain, but don’t let that be a deterrent from heading out to one of the lovely markets listed below. Seedlings of summer vegetables and herbs will be available along with a nice variety of early greens, the first onions (enterprising growers got them in quite early), and more of the first true-season strawberries. Thankfully, the usual round of pickles, jams, grains and breads will be on hand, too. Gather all the ingredients you need for a rainy evening or afternoon feast!

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, April 16th
A new market I spotted while riding the train a few years ago on a Saturday morning into the city center is still going strong. That circle of red awnings in front of the Za-Koenji Public Theatre could only mean one thing! Sure enough, I found a small group of area growers and producers, and the bounty surely continues!
11am - 5pm
Map

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, April 16th and Sunday, April 17th
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. A small but lively market, particularly on Saturday, it is well worth the trip. Plus, Tohoku growers are on hand sharing their best-of-the-best, so come on out to be part of the recovery and get something good to eat.
No map, but just head out the east exit and look for the green awnings!
10am to 5pm

Yokohama Kitanaka Marche
Saturday, April 16th and Sunday, April 17th
A brand new market opening this month in Yokohama that looks quite promising. Their Facebook page says the Market of the Sun folks decided to start it up, so it could be good. I'll be visiting to check it out!
10am to 4pm
Bashamichi Station, Exit 2

Oiso Farmers Market
Sunday, April 17th
This little gem of a community shindig is one of the best things going outside of the Earth Day Market, and I don't say that lightly. A nice little community affair started a handful of years ago, it blossomed into a full-on monthly festival that just happens to feature Shonan area produce in its fresh, seasonal form as well as pickled, dried, and prepared-hot-in-a-bowl. In summer it turns into a night market, but in fall it will swing back to regular daylight hours. More than worth the trek down to see what's going on!
10am to 3pm
Oiso Port Building

Kamakura Farmers Market
Every day
A small local affair featuring Kamakura heirloom fruits and vegetables raised in yet another former capital city, the Kamakura Market is a small but wonderful venue. Head in early to get the best selection and pick up a loaf of Paradise Alley's charcoal infused bread while you're there.
7am until sold out
Map

Ebisu Market
Every Sunday
Ebisu Market management are going all-out this month and hosting a market every Sunday. They've been recruiting more staff and hunting up vendors, so head on out to be part of the action. A recent visit showed this always lovely market remains charming as ever with an excellent selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables, scrumptious looking snacks, and crafty items. I'd also recommend a trip to Afuri Ramen when you're done for some of the best yuzu tsukemen in town.
11am to 5pm
Map

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

Every Saturday and Sunday
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel!
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!