Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Georgian Caravan Arrived This Month

Earlier this month a Georgian Caravan from Smith Teamaker arrived. I was going to write about this sooner but having bronchitis has put me down and out for a bit. So rectifying that now.

Second in their Maker's Series this was a limited run of tea created by Head Teamaker Tony Tellin and Chef Vitaly Paley. The first of the series was the wonderful green tea created by Top Chef Mei Lin. I really like the Mei Lin tea so I decided to order this new creation.

Inside this box was not only the sachets of tea but also a special wild huckleberry jam made to go with this tea.

 One of Chef Paley's creations is the monthly DaNet dinners which I wrote about here. Tea is served at the end so I was excited to try what Smith Teamaker and he had created.

From Smith Teamaker this tea is a blend of "Ceylon Dimbulla black tea, house-smoked with hickory wood and blended with Assam, Keemun and Darjeeling black teas and hibiscus." The idea was to create a tea with the taste and smell of a tea has traveled in a Russian caravan. I've never experienced being in a Russian caravan but this tea has a nice balance and taste. Not too bitter there is a bit of smokiness and roundness with the floral and fruit. Very good on it's own, I was looking forward to how the flavor would change with the jam.

The color of the wild huckleberry jam is amazing. The taste is great too. Smith Teamaker created this jam at their facilities. Smith Teamaker does a better job explaining how the tea and jam were created on their website here.

I added a spoonful of the jam to my first cup. It darkened the color and added fruitiness to the scent. Sipping it I noted while it didn't make the tea too sweet it added a nice tart taste reminiscent of a thin slice of lemon yet not as sour as that. I don't usually add things to my tea so this was a special treat for me. I enjoyed the tea both with and without the jam. I need to try this again and make sure to get a few of the wild huckleberries in my cup.

For me it was definitely worth getting a box. At the time I am writing this there are still a few available at the Smith Teamaker website here.

As for Smith Teamaker, looks like their next Maker's Tea will be in conjunction with another popular Portland Chef, Gregory Gourdet. I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Moonstruck Chocolate Does Beer

When Moonstruck Chocolate announced they were going to do beer truffles and not just any beer but local Oregon craft beer I knew I wanted to try them. Then I had this idea. Why not try each one with it's respective beer?

So after getting one of each of the four chocolates I set off trying to find a bottle of each beer. Easier said than done. Two were very easy since they are extremely popular. However the Full Sail Session IPA was not happening. Four stores with not a bottle to be seen. I ended up tasting the chocolate without the beer. I can say that it's definitely has India Pale Ale flavor. If that is your thing and you like sweet chocolate with it, this may be a truffle for you. I don't think I would have liked this even with the beer however. The cap is white chocolate and the sweet with the IPA flavor did not mesh for me. Luckily this was the last not the first truffle I tried so on to the other three.

How I did the tasting was to eat a bit of the truffle without anything else. Since they are slightly larger than other Moonstruck Chocolates this wasn't a problem. I made notes and then later enjoyed the rest of each one with the beer. The truffles are made with beer from each line along with other flavors to bring out the essence of each one. I tried each one on separate days so I was not influenced by the flavor of the others. So how did the other three work out?

The easiest to find was Widmer Brother's Brewing Hefeweizen. I don't know if it's the most popular beer in Oregon but you can find it almost everywhere beer is sold and served. I've had a few myself over time so I'm familiar with the taste. The truffle not only has their logo nicely done but does well in representing the flavor of their Hefeweizen. I could taste wheat and hops, almost a grassy taste but it was good. There is a lot of lemon going on which on afterthought reminded me even more of their Shandy Hefeweizen. I'd say this truffle was the second best in catching the flavor of the beer and making the chocolate taste good.

The second one I tried was the Rogue Ales Hazelnut Brown Nectar truffle. I've also tried this beer before. I had hopes for this because hazelnut and chocolate is a delicious combination. With this one I could taste hazelnut liqueur and malt along with a slight coffee flavor. I tried it with the beer and I have to say the flavor of the truffle was much more hazelnut than the beer. I really liked the chocolate even though it had more flavor than the beer.

The one I was most looking forward to trying was the Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter truffle. I had not tried this porter before but I do like a good porter and I figured they would translate that well with a bitter chocolate. I had trouble trying to find a bottle and ended up getting the smaller six pack size. I was told at one store that I probably would not find a bomber.

Well I might not have found Full Sails Session IPA but I did later find bomber bottles of Deschutes Black Butte Porter. Which meant I needed another chocolate to celebrate. Because this one was my favorite of the truffles and I felt best captured the flavor of the beer. The chocolate had a little flavor of coffee along with being creamy and sweet and not very bitter. There definitely was a bit of the stout taste during and afterwards. I had not had Black Butte Porter before but I'm definitely sold on it which also has that nice creamy flavor and not overwhelming bitterness. Both very balanced.

So these chocolates are available in the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafes and I'm sure they will get more for sale on their website which is here. Says something about how popular these are. I usually get mine at the Beaverton Town Square because they also have goods from Farina Bakery which are also excellent.

This was fun and I should do a photo post on Moonstruck Chocolate's Autumn and Halloween offerings some time. I did one previously which is here but I know I have tried chocolates than just the ones in that post.

Also wanted to note that I'm still around but not posting as much right now due to not feeling well and taking care of my cat Kenji. Over a month ago he developed ketoacidosis and almost died. Turned out he has diabetes even though he has never been overweight. He is doing well on insulin and I hope continues to do so.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Harajuku by Way of Nodoguro

Let me try to write something. About the latest incarnation of Nodoguro's theme dinners. This time Chef Ryan Roadhouse takes us to Harajuku.

Harajuku is known for a lot of things but it's most famous for now is fashion.

In the 1970's fashion shops began catering to younger people in the Harajuku area, especially near Takeshita Street. Harajuku fashions took off and are now known world wide.

  So with that in mind, Elena Roadhouse decorated Nodoguro in a style that brings to mind the color and flash of Harajuku with lights, parasols and fabric draped across the ceiling.

Part of the decor were fashion photos reminiscent of street snaps in Japanese fashion magazines.

Along with fashion related books like the Fresh Fruits look book and little Pullip dolls.

I decided to check out what drinks Beverage Director Paul Willenberg selected. I couldn't help but notice the James Beard Foundation Award 2015 Semifinalist Award. Congrats to Chef Roadhouse for this! I think it would be okay for them to splurge on a proper frame for it.

Wines and sake for the pairings with the Harajuku dinner.

The sake which I will post a bit about with the food since I was able to taste these three.

Along with the 2013 "Idiot's Grace" Memloose Riesling.

First up though everyone was given a glass of Johan Vineyards 2014 Pinot Noir Petillant Naturel. According to Paul this is naturally fermented in the bottle. I found it light and fruity with a well rounded aftertaste. It was a nice start to the meal since the first course was sashimi. Also pink and sparkly goes with the Harajuku theme.

I sipped the effervescent pinot noir while looking over the night's menu. One thing that isn't mentioned when people talk about Nodoguro's theme dinners is that in Japan, theme restaurants are popular. From ninjas to prisons, butler cafes and Alice in Wonderland, to the new Kawaii Monster Cafe, theme dining is very Japanese. So it's fun to see it happening here with Nodoguro which has turned their themes back to Japan with Harajuku. The menu showed even more hints of that.

First up was this lovely Sea Bream sashimi with Citrus and Wasabi.

The sea bream was lightly poached to soften the skin and dressed with yuzu and aged shoyu. A nice start to the dinner and the fruit of the sparkling pinot noir meshed well with it.

This was quickly followed by Akimo Tofu with Ground Cherry salsa. Topped with ikura, water pepper blossoms and halved ground cherries. Very smooth and the akimo did not overwhelm the tofu. I understand some of the dinners will have Uni Tofu which is also delicious. Chef Roadhouse makes this tofu himself.

The drink chosen to pair with this and the next dish was the 2013 Memloose Riesling "Idiot's Grace". Paul notes that this is an off dry and slightly sweet wine with long yet bright apple notes. I found it to be sweet and felt it was a nice contrast to the curry flavor of the third serving.

While diners debated whether to use chopsticks or spoons to eat their tofu. Chef Roadhouse and Sous Chef Colin Yoshimoto plated up our next course.

Which was Curry Mackerel Sunomono. Curry is popular in Harajuku like all parts of Japan. One of the more popular restaurants in Harajuku is Curry Up, owned by Nigo, the founder of A Bathing Ape which is a popular Japanese fashion line. The mackerel was salt cured and air dried then grilled. it was dressed in a clarified curry vinegar and topped with kewie berries, kabocha Japanese pumpkin and carrot. The people sitting next to me loved this dish. I have to say Chef Roadhouse makes the best mackerel I have had the pleasure to eat. Something to note, last year he made another curry vinegar which was amazing. Comparing that to this, the curry flavor stood out even more as if it was another style of curry. I'm impressed.

This was followed by the Winter Squash Chanko Cup. Chanko is a type of hot pot popularized by sumo wrestlers. Nodoguro's version was more of a miso soup. Made with organic white miso, grilled Japanese nagi and winter squash from Phantom Rabbit Farm. The winter squash was below the nagi and was very pretty. I forgot to take a photo of it.

The drink pairs moved into sake. The choice for this and the next dish was Yonetsuru Junmai Daiginjo "Long Life" from Yamagata Prefecture. Diners commented this was a nicely rounded sake. I found it balanced with a touch of sweet fruit. A good choice for the milder flavors of these dishes.

Also nicely paired with the Banana Fish with Walnut. Banana Fish was an older pop Japanese clothing line with kawaii character-based clothing designs so the name was a reference to that. The fish was Amberjack dressed with hyssop, walnutes and dehydrated bananas which were rehydrated and miso. A fun dish with surprising flavor. Very youthful feeling to this but not overly sweet which one would think would happen with bananas as an ingredient. I felt with dishes like this and the akimo tofu Chef Roadhouse was stretching his culinary repertoire and we were the lucky recipients of that.

I think the Yum Yum Yummy Pork was one of my favorites of the dinner. It's Chef Roadhouse's nod to gyoza. Harajuku has a very popular gyoza restaurant called Gyozaro so it's no surprise a dish like this showed up on the menu. Kakuni Pork belly roasted and then rested in sake and shoyu circled by a special gyoza sauce along with mustard blossoms, sesame paste, garlic chips and green onion. The gyoza sauce was the best I have had. Really brought the delicious pork to a new level and if I could have that instead of bbq sauce from now on I'd be happy. Amazing umami flavor with this dish.

With the stronger flavors of course the sake choice had to have more going for it. The choice was Ohyama Junmai Ginjo "Fu-In", also from Yamagata Prefecture. Both this and the first sake are from older well established breweries. I found this sake to have a bolder flavor than the first with a bite of pepper when it was first served. I later had a small cup of it that had been out for a little bit and found it had mellowed and I could taste more of fruit. It was a very pleasant sake to sip.

We were then treated to Takoyaki with Tomato and Avocado. This looks like a simple dish but trust me it was more complex than it appears. The octopus was massaged with salt, pouched 18 hours then grilled. Underneath is the avocado along with cherry tomatoes from Phantom Rabbit Farm, coriander seeds and everything was dressed wtih vinegar and yuzu. I rarely eat octopus not just out of concern for the species but also because most of the time it's not well prepared and is tough. Not this time. Nodoguro achieved extreme tenderness with their Takoyaki. Another first rate creation.

Paired with this was a Johan Pinot Noir Nils Reserve from 2008. I did not get to taste this which I regret now since I enjoy a good Pinot Noir. The notes from Paul for this wine are that it is 100% organic and biodynamic and has notes of cool mint and blackberry.

Meanwhile Master Sushi Chef Ryan Roadhouse was preparing the futomaki rolls for our Moshi Moshi Box Bento.

While not actually in a box, it was a play on a bento box meal with pickled red radish and myoga ginger, futomaki, and chantrelles in miso butter. There were suppose to be matsutake mushrooms but somehow chantrelles ended up on our plates. I did not complain at all. They were delicious.

The pickles were fresh and sour. Inside the futomaki was parsnip, mizuna and I thought I heard pressed kombujima which would be island kombu kelp. No matter what, this was another fun playful dish as reflected in it's name Moshi Moshi. Which is how people say "hello" on the phone in Japan.

A fun sake was the last drink pairing for the night. From another older sake brewer in Tosa, Kochi Prefecture, Tsukasabotan Yamayuzu Shibori "King of the Peony" sake. Yamayuza is mountain yuzu, a citrus fruit like a sweet lemon. While not as sweet as say a Mike's Hard Lemonade, this is reminiscent of that style of drink. It's a lighter sake with less alcohol and I would not be surprised if this was created with younger people in mind. 

I found it a refreshing palate cleanser and a nice way to end the evening. It went nicely with the sweet Eggs & Things Omelet (also known as Tamagoyaki) which you can see in my prior Nodoguro posts. Would you believe there is an Eggs N Things pancake restaurant in Harajuku? It's a branch of the Hawaii Eggs N Things and very popular there.

Last but not least was dessert and I would have felt a little sad if there wasn't a nod to Japanese Crepes on the menu. For me they rank as one of the best sweet tooth treats and can be found in Harajuku at places like the colorful Angel Heart Creperie and Marion Crepes. Nodoguro's spin on this was Toasted Corn Crepe and Apricot Frozen Cream. Freshly made apricot ice cream sprinkled with kinako floated in black sugar syrup. Swooping on top was a crepe made from spina rossa corn which was ground by Mark Wooten of Phantom Rabbit Farm. A rather adventurous twist which worked deliciously creating a sweet nod to dessert crepes.

While dinners sipped a cup of tea I caught this young man looking like he had a bit much to drink. Thankfully none of the dinners appeared to be in a similar state.

Another delicious Japanese meal created by Chef Ryan Roadhouse and crew. For me it was a little over a year ago I started attending Nodoguro and it's interesting to see how it's progressed. Besides the deserved accolades, Nodoguro is growing not just in popularity but in the complexity of the dishes. It will be interesting to see how things progress from here.

Nodoguro is a small creative Japanese restaurant at 3735 SE Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland, Oregon. To attend just make a reservation at their ticket page here. This is also where they put up tickets for their Hardcore Sushi dinners. To find out when those and new dinner tickets are listed you can sign up for their news letter here.


「のどぐろ」は3735 SE Hawthorne ブルバードにあり、皆様のお越しをお待ちしております。座席数が限られております。ご予約はhttp://nodoguropdx.com/からどうぞ。皆様のお越しをお待ち申し上げます。
 Thank you for reading my blog. Pardon any typos or misspellings since it took me a bit of time to write this and now it is late once again.