Thursday, January 21, 2010


So for Christmas, Biscuit and I agreed to celebrate together in our favorite way – Going out to eat. Because she is in the restaurant industry, December, her busy season, was out of the question. We agreed to go in January.

I pushed for earlier in January so I could get my binging out of the way, making way for a diet. 2010’s goal is to be a 'littlebit' svelte. What better way to start a diet than by eating so much that you never want to eat again. Am I right people?

There was no discussion about where we would go. It was the one place we’d both heard about in all the foodie circles, read about in all the foodie blogs and feared would soon become too mainstream. That fear has almost been realized due to a famous “No Reservations” author who made it his restaurant of choice when stopping through.

The restaurant is a small Japanese place called Kihachi. It is one of those places that is inconspicuous because it is right under your nose, in the middle of a bustling strip mall.

Biscuit, with her life long desire to be Korean (a far stretch for my blond/blue eyed sibling) has always been my culinary guide through such cuisine. When she said we should do “Omakase”,I said OK. Then I had to ask, “what is omakase?” Literally translated, it means “It’s up to you.” In the dinning world, it means the Chef would set your menu.

It was a wonderful dinner on a cold Tuesday night. Biscuit was waiting at the sushi bar. We said hello and got straight to ordering Kirin and Sake. There is nothing that will warm you through faster on a bitter cold day than warm sake.

The whole evening felt warm and fuzzy. Good company, good conversation, wonderful food, copious amounts of sake and a cozy atmosphere. The evening was so fuzzy, I had to document each course so I could recall the simple complexity of each dish.

The first course was a trio of delights, the most memorable being the uni. I’ve had uni before but never liked it. It has always been presented to me in an almost gelatinous state. This was denser with a fine grain texture. The other two players in the trio were mere accompaniments.

The second course was plate of small bites, including herring roe that was packed together like a pieces of sushi. It was all one solid pieces so you could bite into it but maintained the texture of a millions tiny bubbles bursting in your mouth as you chew.

The third course was a sushi course, tuna and jackfish with fresh wasabi. This wasn’t the neon green, burn your mouth stuff we get in the Midwest, this was the real stuff. Worth dipping your finger in and trying on its own. It was a flash of spicy hot. And just as quickly the heat was gone.

The fourth course was the only thing that was too strange and exotic for me, it was
a sticky/chewy rice cake in a stew. The rice cake looked solid but when biting into it, the cake was soft and slightly gelatenous. You had to tug at it with your teeth to get it to break apart. How could something be so soft yet hold together so strongly? The taste was like salty paste. I know Biscuit loved it, but I can’t figure out WHY.

The fifth course was my favorite. It took us a couple times to understand what they were saying. It was a cod roe custard. The warmth and texture reminded me of a hearty potato soup, except this was richer and more flavorful. It had the thick custard for the richness, backed by the clean flavor of broth. I know someone more eloquent than myself could better describe the experience.

The sixth course was a miso glazed pork cheek. Do I have to say any more? YUM.
The seventh course was a tempura stuffed lotus root. Mind you all of these course were no more than a couple of bites. This just left you wanting more. As I’m writing about it now, I want more tempura stuffed lotus root.

The final course (I guess nine is just to much) was an Asian pear with compote. This was exactly how I expected the meal to end, fresh, clean and simple.

EXCEPT, I wasn’t ready for our night to be over. And to be honest, I wasn’t ready to start a diet without some chocolate. I know what you are thinking, 8 courses and I still have room for more? Yep.

So biscuit and I went for a nightcap and some chocolate. And now, as I’m writing this, two weeks into a diet, there is saliva dripping down my chin.
Thank you Biscuit. I can’t wait to go back.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The system

Well I know you are all savvy enough to know I am not STILL stuck at the store. I believe I left off with my oh so daring decision to get behind the people with the overflowing cart.

I wheeled my cart behind their's and made a comment about how others were too intimidated to do the same. The owner of the cart was a Father/Daughter team. The father just smiled at me and said, “We are fast. We have a system”.

“I knew it!” I thought, rewarding myself. “My powers of deduction are fierce!”

Oh, but not so fast. The Dynamic Duo, had the same challenge as everyone else in line, waiting for the fools in front of them to get through the checkout process in a reasonable amount of time. By the time the people in front of Dad and Daughter pair were unloading their cart, I had used up every patient molecule in my body.

Those people, THOSE PEOPLE, the ones in front of the Dynamic Duo, DID NOT have a system. I watched as they sat their child on the belt (reminiscent of Maggie on the Simpsons intro). His mom then handed him each item, which he would place gingerly in front of him, ONE BY ONE. At first they were all rainbows and kisses. It would've been cute if the rest of the population hadn’t been in line with me for two weeks already. Eventually, the mom and the grandma started fighting over whether or not they should buy sour cream. REALLY!?! You waited in line all this time only to realize you don’t agree on the items to purchase once you are AT the register, with your child ON THE belt having already handed it to him for his delicate placement.

This is when the Dad of the dynamic duo looked back at me and said, “Well, not everyone has a system”.

It was then that I decided I love them.

When the crazy people finally left, I got to see “the system”. It was as quick and coordinated as you could imagine. Not only did they have their own bags, the cart was already organized for bagging. The Dad scanned his credit card and headed to the bagging area. The daughter, obviously a skilled accomplice, started unloading the cart onto the belt in a pre-determined order: Boxes, bags, canned items, other, eggs and bread. Once the daughter was done unloading the cart, they switched places. She started bagging and the Dad came back to take care of the bill. The millisecond the last item was rung through, the stack of coupons was handed to the cashier. She swiped through all of them in what felt like one motion.

He signed for the purchase and looked at me to say “I told you we’d be fast, and she (nodding to the cashier) is the fastest there is”.

Of COURSE they picked the lane with the fastest cashier! I’m sure it’s part of the system. After they left, the cashier looked at me and said, “I love when they come through my line”.

That, my friends, is what I call grocery store love.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Stuck at the grocery store...

The holidays, a new job, excuse a, excuse b, and etc. Yes I know it has been a while. The good news is that I got a moleskin from Biscuit for Christmas so I can keep track of story ideas even if I don’t have time to publish.

This is one of those stories.

If are one of the million people that leave in my metropolitan area, chances are you were at the grocery store with me between 3 and 6PM on New Year’s Eve. I don’t know if it was because it was NYE or because the Rose bowl game was the next day, but the grocery store was beyond approved capacity. The parking lot should have been my first clue as I scoured each lane for a parking spot, finally stalking person walking to their car. Once I found someone loading their car, I waiting patiently with my blinker on, effectively marking my territory.

Once in the store, there were no carts. No biggie, I could settle for a basket. Nope, none of those either. There were about ten of us wandering around looking for baskets. Once the guy with all the carts brought some more in, we descended on him like hungry vultures.

I walked in through the produce section, glancing to my right at the checkout counters. There were so many people waiting, it gave me an early indication of what I was in for. I weaved in and out of each aisle, dodging carts, children and grumpy shoppers.

Finally, I had collected the items I needed, and a couple others I picked up as I avoided the checkout madness. By this time, the lines for the checkout lanes extended back into the aisles. The only way to pick a line was to go back by the dairy section and walk down the aisle. So I did, resigned to wait a long time. I know better than to pick a self checkout lane. I know what happens there...

Those lanes are for the people that think they are fast. Instead, in those lanes, you find yourself behind people buying only the items that actually need a cashier, like gift cards or alcohol. They always have produce that needs looked up. So it rang up your peeled white onion as a Vidalia onion, WHO CARES! Just when you think that slow-as-molasses person is ready to checkout, out come the coupons. They scan each coupon individually, pausing to confirm that each coupon registered for the correct amount. Inevitably, one coupon is expired. You are waiting once again first for the cashier to first NOTICE the blinking light, second while they discuss WHY the expired coupon will not register......

So there I was in line, about 8 carts back, where an experience cashier could check me out. I waited, observing the madness around me. Eventually, I noticed the line next to me was considerably shorter. I checked out the contents of the last cart in line. I can see why no one was behind them. The cart was literally overflowing. Perched precariously atop the groceries was a clipboard with a list. That clipboard gave me an idea. "These people know what they are doing, I bet I’m going to get through this madness faster if I get in that line. One big cart HAS to be better than a lot of small carts, each going through a long process of unloading, scanning, paying and bagging." I decisevly whip my cart over into the other lane.

Was my logic sound? Was it a good choice? Did I ever see the end of that grocery line? Did I get a smartphone from Christmas allowing me to blogging all this right now from the same grocery line where I’ve been stuck ever since NYE? Come back tomorrow to find out my fate…..