Archive for October, 2014

28th October
written by Arthur

I’m exhausted and energized in that way you only feel in Las Vegas: the feeling of a untold number of hours without sleep away from the sun or any other indication of the true time. I’m tiered from the near sleepless thirteen and a half hour flight from New York to Tokyo, but as I emerge into the Narita airport I’m vitalized. I’m in Japan. It’s just a short layover extended an hour or so by my connecting flight’s delay–still I’m at least partially in Japan.

I’m not hungry, but it would be a crime against myself to not eat something. The first place I pass is a McDonalds. I’m always curious to see what this sandwich franchise chooses to put forward abroad. The most interesting here is a (from what I could gather with no English as a guide) a double quarter pounder on black/gray bun with a black sea weed sauce. Japan really gets into Halloween by changing up its sandwiches. Seriously, this a Halloween thing. The picture of the burger on the board is next to a grinning jack-o-lantern and above a witch fly a broom. Still, I pass McDonalds. I consider a noodle place or a spot offering something called a spicy hamburger and potatoes (which is depicted as a burger patty, mashed potatoes and what looks like gravy) or some curry. My unhungry stomach is not persuaded. I keep walking until I stumble on a sushi restaurant. I’m skeptical of the sushi spot. Wouldn’t ramen be a better airport food? But ramen just seems like too much food so I grab a seat at Sushi Kyotatsu. I made the right choice.

Sushi Kyotatsu

Sushi Kyotatsu

I ordered a beer an look over the menu. I decide on a sampler and a side order of sea urchin. The food arrives fast. I mean really fast. Before my sleep deprived brain can fully take in the restaurant or the half dozen or so men behind the sushi bar. The plate looks great. Everything in a neat little place. I notice that there is not wasabi to be seen. (Legit sushi establishments pack as much wasabi as they think a given bite needs onto the nigiri  or into the roll and don’t let the diner mess up the meal with their own seasoning.) There is soy sauce at the table which I pour, but, after trying a few virginal bites, I decide to go without.

The meal is amazing. Hands down without a doubt the best tuna roll I’ve ever eaten. Flavor (tuna, small bit of wasabi, a little hit of rice wine) is all there. And the texture is perfect. The salmon nigiri is among the best I’ve had. The high quality cut of fish nearly melts in my mouth. The sea urchin is more of a choped solid than the goo I’m use to–a wholly different texture– and of course the flavor hits the mark. The other fish, the roe, and the egg don’t disappoint. At this point I’m full. I don’t need another bite. But I scan the menu for something else to try. Tragically, they are out of octopus so I adventure and order the sardine which is also incredible. The sardine tastes like nothing out of a can has a perfectly prepared amount of wasabi and soy sauce on the nigiri.

This country takes their fish seriously. I can’t wait for the day that I can venture out of the airport and see what Japan really has to offer.

6th October
written by Arthur

IMG_1323The best feeling in the kitchen is when something comes out so well it’s surprising. I had that feeling while unscrewing the cap on my first bottle of homemade ginger beer. Before I had even taken a sip, I could see the tiny bubbles filtering up through the opaque liquid. Even if it didn’t taste right I had carbonated a beverage using only the power of yeast, sugar, and water. Lucky it also tasted good–maybe not as strong in flavor as I would have liked but the burn grew the lower down in the bottle I went.

A few months back I was doing a road trip through the Midwest with some friends. When we stayed with a couple in Chicago the lovely lady of the house was in the process of starting to brew some ginger beer. I had never thought of doing that but it sounded cool. After talking to her about it she kindly sent me on my way with some champagne yeast to help do the job. The yeast sat about in my kitchen for a good while until I started reading Proof: The Science of Booze (a must read for any one who is at interested in science and drinking). The description in the first few chapters of the magic and history of fermentation made me need to try it myself.


I had misplace the printed instructions my friend and given me and so took to the internet and found this:


2 1/2 cups (600 milliliters) warm, filtered (or pre-boiled) water
1 1/2 teaspoons champagne yeast (the everything store has it)
Freshly grated ginger
Granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
1 jalapeño, sliced (optional–I didn’t use, but will on a next go)
1 large glass jar
2 to 3 clean plastic soda bottle

Directions (with my own take):


Drink Up

The first step is making a “plant” for the ginger beer. In a glass jar stir the yeast into the water until dissolved. Add in 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger, 1 tablespoon sugar, the lemon juice, and the sliced jalapeño, if you’re using it. Stir to combine. (The jalapeño supposedly gives the ginger the burn–I didn’t use it and got some burn, but not as much as I would have liked). Cover the jar with a cheese cloth a rubber band. Place the jar in a warm place.

Every day for the next week you’ll have to feed the plant. Each day add a tablespoon of grated ginger and a tablespoon of sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then replace the cloth and put back in a warm place. Don’t worry about being exact at this phase. After week there should be bubbles of a foam on top of the liquid. If you want a stronger flavor keep the plant going longer. The next step is bottling. I used a two liter bottle and a one liter bottle.

Use plastic bottles. Again: use plastic bottles. The pressure can really build up from the fermentation. If you use glass it could explode.

Using a cheesecloth, strain the plant out into a large measuring cup or bowl.

Fill the bottles two thirds of the way with water, use a funnel to add sugar, and shake to dissolve the sugar into the water. Add about a cup of the plant liquid to each clean, dry soda bottle — more if you want your ginger beer stronger, less if you want it less intense. Stir with a chopstick to combine. In adding half the mixture to a one liter and half to a two liter I could taste the extra strength in additional plant in the bottle.

Seal the bottles tightly with their caps and put them back in the a warm place. Every 24 hours, squeeze the bottles to test how they’re carbonating. When they feel like a rock and are impossible to squeeze at all, slowly start to unscrew the cap just until you hear hissing, but do not open it all the way. Let out some of the carbonation, then seal it back tightly.

After about two weeks of bottle time the magic of fermentation should have happened–that sugar will now be booze and it’s time to enjoy. Add more sugar or lemon juice if the ginger beer needs it. Then drink it on the rocks or make your self a Moscow Mule or Dark N’ Stormy. Just make sure you finish the bottle in a few hours–it goes flat fast.