Gastronomic Destinations: Ishigaki Island

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There are better places to visit in Okinawa than the main island and its trappings.
One is Ishigaki Island (direct flight from main Japanese airports possible) away from the noisy main island and a real spot to discover!
I would suggest English readers to check the following HOMEPAGE for more details!

We had arrived on a rainy mid-March day (the only rain of our whole stay) with a temperature that belied the heat that welcomed us the following days.
We had followed the Missus’ advice and searched for a “great” place we found closed under pouring rain. A bit disgruntled, I decided to take things in hand and try a local izakaya I had noticed along the way.
Bacchus must have been looking over my shoulder as it proved the perfect destination for the day!
Not only “Kurashita” is patronized by locals (the place was full by 20:00), but the food too is very, very local!

Of course we tried one of the local “awamori” spirit (there are 7 breweries on that particular island), although it was a bit tough on our tired bodies.

There is one local fish in Okinawa called “sugi” and I can’t tell you what name it would be known by in English, but it was succulent served as “carpaccio”. The texture was halfway between cuttlefish and cod, very easy to bite and chew. I certainly remember the taste!

Now, Ishigaki is famous all over the country for its beef, and deservedly so. Served as (true) “carpaccio”, it is simply sublime. Very lean, tender and reminiscent of high quality venison!
They do it in all kind of manners, but I reckon raw is still the best!

Wherever you go in Japan expect tempura made with local vegetables. Ishigaki is no exception, but the names of their vegetables can turn out pretty exotic! We had “adan” (white on the pic) and “ootaniwari” (green on the pic), both actual young shoots of local trees! What can I say? A truly gastronomic experience!

Any izakaya worth its salt has good fried food on offer. I wonder if Foodhoe has ever heard of “jinamidoofu”. It is not tofu, but a curd made with locally grown peanuts. This is made in balls with cheese inside and envelopped in “shiso/perilla” leaves before being dipped in batter and breadcrumbs. Served wit a “dip sauce” or soy sauce, it simply makes for great “tsumami/snacks”!.

We did have more, but I felt I had to introduce these particular tidbits!
Can’t wait to go back there!

Okinawa Prefecture, Ishigaki Shi, Ishigaki, 12-2
(1 minute walk from City hall)
TEL 0980-82-7856
Business hours: 18:00~24:00
Closed on Sundays

Italian Cuisine: Aquavite’s 10th Anniversary Dinner

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2008 saw the 10th Anniversary of Aquavite Restaurant and I just could not resist their “invitation” to their Special Dinner Course!

They still had that favourite wine of mine in their “cellar”, so choosing this Mastremilio 2003 was easy. A high quality red wine from Toscana, it a great spicy character with lots of red berries and does need to be aerated first. But it will open quickly and become a great friend of your food!

The starters were certainly a bit of a surprise: Carpaccio (raw, yes) of ostrich raised in Ibaraki Prefecture abundantly served with parmeggiano and luccola. The serving was comparatively big for a Japanese restaurant and the wine proved the best choice for it!

The pasta dish was a beautiful marriage of spaghetti with home-made “botarga/dried mullet roe”, “shirasu/whiting” (from Shizuoka), French dandelion, and shark fin/”fukahire” from Miyagi perfecture (Kyushu). Talk of a truly international dish!

The main dish (sorry for the fuzzy pic!) consisted of a sauteed cut of “sawara/large mackerel variety” cooked to perfection with new potatoes, Brussels sprouts (Shizuoka). carrots (Shizuoka) and a sweet red pimento puree/coulis. I can garantee you I wiped/swept all the sauce away with the home-made bread!

The dessert was an original combination of panacotta, Shizuoka “Benihoppe/Red Cheek” strawberries, “Tama Konnyaku” from Yamagata Prefecture and at least three kinds of fruit coulis.

Were we full by then? Yes, but we could not have called this dinner complete without a glass of a great Grappa Sgnappe del Checo from Friuli region to accompany our expresso!

I’m sure Rowena would have been the first to compliment the chefs!
But I’m certainly not going to wait ten more years until my next visit! LOL

Address: 420-0034 Shizuoka Shi, Tokiwa-cho, 1-2-7, Tomii Bldg. 3F
Tel. & fax: 054-2740777
Opening hours: 11:30~14:00, 18:00~22:00 (Closed on Sundays)
Homepage (Japanese)
Credit Cards OK

Shizuoka Cocktail Bar: BAR NO’AGE

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After a grand dinner at Aquavite, the best Italian restaurant in Shizuoka City, I just could not resist my good friend, Mr. Naohiro Momose’s invitation to his favourite Cocktail Bar, NO’AGE.
As the name indicates, all customers of all ages are welcome. I’m sure that a certain Roaf in Yokohama would make it his personal lair as it is not only a great place with grand drinks, but is also very reasonable!

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For our first round Naohiro opted for Fennel Gin Fizz, our friend Mika chose a more feminine drink, Karien (Greek for chestnut Liqueur) including plenty of cream, while I went for a NO’AGE creation called Kinkan (small ornages) Vodka Gimlet.
To tell you the truth, these went down a bit too quickly!

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Poor Mika being left behind, Naohiro ordered a very classical (very) Dry martini, while I chose to check the Chestnut Liqueur (French) they used for our poor lass’ brew.

While we nibbled on a welcome snack, we engaged into a serious conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Itani, the young owners who opened this cozy bar on the 21st of June 2007. Being a Monday, I noticed taht the place was quite busy for the beginning of the week, a sure sign of its popularity. Ladies and gents were equally represented, while I was the only old geezer on hand.

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Poor little Mika was still struggling finishing her own glass while the “men” were asking the one for the road:
Naohiro obtained “up to date”, a Bourbon based concoction while I asked something based on Mirabelle. I was served a succulent “Allegro” containing Mirabelle, Apricot and lemon juice (shaken).

It was about time to leave then as work was in wait for all of us the next morning.
But the place was undoubtedly too welcoming and knowledgeable to forget easily!
Especially when you consider we hadn’t been able to even scratch the menu, which by the way includes plenty for teetals!
Problem is that I will have to wait at least a week before my next visit as I promised my (???) half I would cook all week!

Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Shichiken-cho, 3-6, ACT-7, 2F
Tel. & Fax: 054-2536615
Business Hours: 18:00~02.00
HOMEPAGE (Japanese)

Gastronomic Destinations: New Caledonia (3)

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Drinking Local Beer In New Caledonia


New Caledonia is not only blessed with sun, sea and great food, but it also offers some of the best natural water in the Pacific Ocean!
No wonder this island has been settled for millennia as the water is slowly filtered through rocks before to gush out at the feet of pretty high (over 2,000 metres in some cases) for such a small island!
A benediction for beer Brewers and beer lovers!

There are two distinct microbreweries in New Caledonia:
The first one, 3 Brasseurs, is actually a branch of a great microbrewery in France, which uses only local water.
It not only offers a range of four different beers, all made from pure malt and hops, unpasteurized and unfiltered:
Blonde (lager), Ambree (red ale), Scotch (porter) and Blanche (weizen)
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but they also include a restaurant where you can eat all typical Alsatian Cuisine.

3 Brasseurs
Centre Commercial de la Baie des Citrons, Noumea, Nouvelle Caledonie
Tel.: (687)241510

The other Brewery is the Grande Brasserie Neo-Caledonienne, a 100% local micro-brewery:

Their main label is Number One.
It is a very refreshing lager, especially popular with Ozzies and Kiwis, and quite reasonably priced at that.

But I have a little weak spot for their red ale, Havannah!
Also reasonably priced, it should please Europeans especiallY!

Great beer in a great hot spot in the Pacific! What else could you need?

Sushi Ko Revisited

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Last Thursday, it was back to Sushi Ko in Shizuoka City on my wife’s orders. Not that I complain at all, but I was wondering what we would order this time we hadn’t eaten last time!

I finally managed to get my hands on the “Sushi Ko” label pasted on their Fujinishiki Brewery Junami Ginjo Nama bottle which will join my ever-growing collection. Not only it has the merit to become a collection item, but it is a great sake perfect for sushi!

Among the day’s orders, we sampled the seasonal “Madai/Seabream Carpaccio” (I’ve always wondered why people call everything “carpaccio” since it applies to red meat only in Italy… I would have to ask Chuckeats!)
Talking of seasonal seafood, we could resist asking for the “Yari Ika Somen/Spear Cuttle Fish cut in very thin strips”. Simple but very artful, it disappeared within a blink of the eye!
The Missus has always had a love affair with raw scallops. Notice that the edible flowers (Rowena, that’s for you!) are “shiso/perilla” buds, a great addition for decoration, too!
When we ordered the inevitable “Sushi Millefeuille”, the chefs had to prepare a couple more variations for other customers who couldn’t helping ogling! I wished Evelyn were with us!
Allison would have wished to be with us to taste another Sushi KoSpecial, namely the “Spicy Scallops Roll”!
I had my fill by then (the sake contained more calories than my wife’s Chardonnay!), but my better (…) half had to sample their succulent “Anago/Conger Eel”,
and “Ikura Mini Donburi”!

Chuck, you know what’s in wait fro you when you come to Japan! Simple, Succulent and So So Satisfying!

Izakaya: Kodarumatei

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(Mr. Takateru Kodama)

Shizuoka City can be a dangerous place at times.
That is, if you accept an invitation to dining and drinking by a notorious band of Shizuoka Izakaya owners and their staff!
I’ve had the great luck to get to know this particular of jolly men (a lady was supposed to join us but I will have to wait until next time!) through Mr. Ohshiro, the enregetic owner of Odakkui:
Mr. Tozaki and his assistant Mr. Sugiyama of Hanaoto Izakaya and Mr. Mori Katayurimo Izakaya.

Kodarumatei moved to its new location last Autumn and is a very busy place. Needing to reserve a table on a Monday night is certainly a proof of the establishment’s popularity!

I decided to take a back seat as far as ordering was concerned. After all those guys know their stuff!
Sashimi was quickly agreed upon and we were brought this grand plate that would attract Chuckeats‘ attention! simple, tasty and sublime! Shizuoka Prefecture is blessed with one of the richest sea in Japan, and all of the fish were caught the day before off our coast!
Kodarumatei is renown for its selection of sake, including some great brews from Shizuoka Prefecture: Kikuyoi, Suginishiki, Kaiun, and others depending on arrivals. one more reason to patronize this establishment!
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Now here is food that would have Foodhoe and Gaijin Tonic coming running! Apparently deep-fried minced chicken balls and pork brochettes are a must in this establishment and I totally agree!
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Vegetables are certainly not forgotten as demonstrated by some great tempura and salads that would please any vegetarians!
But my pick of the day was the grilled whalemeat steak presented cut on a simple dish. Simply crumptious!
We could not resist our carnivorous instincts and oredered an extra dish of sauteed beef.

As I was limited timewise on that first encounter, we agreed to call it a day (actually my new friends went “next door” after sending me off! I told you Shizuoka City could be a dangerous place, didn’t I?), But I can assure this newfound friendhip will lead to some memorable outings in the future!

Owner: Mr. Takateru Kodama
420-0835 Shizuoka Shi, Aoi Ku, Yokota Cho, 2-1, YY bldg., 2F
Tel.: 054-2728833
Reservations advised

Bryan Baird’s Newsletter

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Baird Beer & Taproom Events Bulletin 2008 #8

Topic: Nakameguro Taproom; Baird Brewing now hiring

Dear Taproom Friend & Baird Beer Enthusiast:

We are a few months shy of eight years in business at our Fishmarket Taproom in Numazu. A few of you might recall the first six months of operation when no Baird Beer was on tap (our brewing license had yet to be granted); instead, we were pouring Guinness and Hoegaarden White while selling various bottled beers for direct purchase from that rickety old showcase
refrigerator that was situated across from the cash register. Some of you probably remember the debut of Baird Beer in January, 2001, brewed in the small room behind the pub in tiny, homebrew-like 30 liter batches. Several more of you likely remember in 2003 when we moved into the downstairs location, formerly occupied by Monkey’s Bar, with our 2.5 hectoliter brewing
system purchased from a defunct brewery in Toledo, Ohio. This was our turning point as we launched bottle-conditioned Baird Beer and began to sell more broadly to fine pubs, restaurants and liquor stores in and around Tokyo. This growth made possible the construction of a new brewery within the fish market area of Numazu in 2006.

This brings us to today (early spring, 2008). Thanks to the continued and growing support of the beer enthusiast community, a community centered in Tokyo, our little beer company is now about to embark on a mission we had long hoped to undertake — the opening of our first Tokyo-area Taproom.
Sayuri and I are proud to announce that the Nakameguro Taproom (located in the GT Plaza building right next to Nakameguro station) will be under construction in April and open for business around May 10, 2008.

A new Taproom business, of course, brings with it the need for us to hire more passionate, dedicated and hard-working beer enthusiast employee-partners. We are now accepting applications for the following positions:

A) Tokyo (Start Date: May 1, 2008)
(1) Nakameguro Taproom Kitchen Staff — individual will work in kitchen directly with our manager-chef (experience required)
(2) Nakameguro Taproom Kitchen Staff — mainly, but not limited to, kitchen work; young and hungry (no experience required)
(3) Nakameguro Taproom Floor Staff — work directly with assistant manager in charge of beer dispense and customer service (experience preferred)
(4) Nakameguro Taproom Floor Staff — work focus beer dispense and customer service; young and hungry (no experience required)

B) Numazu (Start Date: April-May, 2008)
(1) Fishmarket Taproom Staff — individual will be involved in all aspects of the Fishmarket Taproom business and also will be required to work some in the brewery on administrative tasks, inventory management, labeling, etc. Great opportunity to learn the craft brewery and pub business from the ground up. (Experience not required but welcome).
(2) Baird Brewery Apprentice Brewer — Do you want to become a first-rate brewer? This is your chance. Warning: work is hard, pay low, expectations high. After successful completion of a 3-month apprenticeship, the individual will be promoted to Assistant Brewer and hired as a salaried full-time employee.

In hiring, our preference is for Japanese nationals. If you are a foreign resident of Japan, you will be considered if you meet the following criteria:
(1) possess proper work visa,
(2) speak some level of Japanese,
(3) have clearly demonstrated an affinity for and long-term commitment to
and (4) possess excessive amounts of passion for characterful beer.

If you are interested in any of these positions, please send us a resume and letter of interest. These can be sent by:

a) email:
b) fax: 055-952-6673
c) normal mail: Baird Brewing Company, 9-3 Tadewara-cho, Numazu 410-0841

If you are not interested yourself but know someone who might be, please pass along the word. All of our hires to date have been introduced via word-of-mouth.