Saturday, April 30, 2011

Daruma doll

“The Japanese have a custom that they employ when making a wish or setting a goal. For each new goal, a daruma doll is acquired. This doll, really a large wooden head, comes with no eyes. When a goal is set, the first eye is painted on. The second eye is added after the goal has been reached. Along the way, the daruma doll stands as a constant reminder of what its owner is working to achieve.” – Barbara J. Winter

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Suntory Time!

Photo © MAK
Whisky and I did not agree for a long time. I swore, and still swear, it’s an acquired taste. Couldn’t get beyond the initial sting of my tongue that overwhelmed anything that this libation had to offer – that something that appeared to titillate others enough to produce a very satisfied wink and a hum. Till one day, as the whisky bite was wearing off, a glimmer of epiphany struck me. The aftertaste gently coated the back of my tongue and a taste made itself know. Aha! Eureka! This must be the secret! Still, I kept on hesitating when it came to choosing whisky as the drink for the moment. Know this, my homeschooling was very clear about drinking something like whiskey. It has to be straight up, as not to mess with the selection of the exquisite ingredients, the fine skill and the hard labor of the distillation. A major affront otherwise. Period. Then one day, I was introduced to the ‘shameless’ concept of opening the whisky flavor by adding tiny amounts of water till the bite goes away. One. Sip. Two. Sip. Three. Sip. Getting there, but it’s messing with my homeschooling… Either way, I need more practice to find a nice middle ground. And here comes the next challenge. In my book, scotch is the way to go with a potential branching out into the adjacent territories. Traditional, I know, but why mess with a good thing, or so I am told. Japanese whisky?! OK, thank you ‘Lost in Translation’. Suntory it is. In fact, Suntory Yamazaki 12 Year Old Single Malt (no need to get crazy with the Hibiki Blended Whisky, 18 Year Old Single Malt or 1984 Vintage Single Malt at this point, it’s not like I am a connoisseur or something). So here we go. Straight up. Smells nice. Fruity. Sting with a fruity flavor and warmth at the back. OK. OK. Smooth for me. Wait, there is something else there. Spice? Ever so slight. Sip, sip, sip. Well, for relaxing times… you know how the rest goes. Kampai!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Here Kitty Kitty

Photo © MAK
Maneki Neko – you’ve seen them in many a restaurant. Welcoming Cat, Lucky Cat, Money Cat, or Fortune Cat, whichever it ain’t Chinese cat.  Supposedly from the later part of the Edo period in Japan, the earliest documented evidence of Maneki Neko comes from the 1870s.  These Japanese bob tails beckon with a paw or maybe even two.  Left to attract and right to protect. Then there are the colors: white for purity, positive things to come, gold for intense wealth and prosperity, black for good health and to ward off evil and a stalker, red - a protective color to keep away evil spirits and illness and for love, marriage and personal matters, pink for love, relationships and romance, and green sometimes for health or education or studies.  The calico is the luckiest cat of all, but supposedly a white Maneki Neko is a calico coming to life from under lazy hands that did not want to give it its tricolor spots, so take your pick if the whitey is the luckiest of all. Might be. Either way, they are SO cute! If I could just get my hands on a jade or real gold one! For that I need my ceramic gold kitty to work overtime. Here Kitty Kitty! Beckon!

Monday, April 18, 2011


What do you think of when it comes to wine with bubbles? Champagne? Sparkling white? Either way, chances are it’s white. Alas, you didn’t think of color. OK, maybe rose crossed your mind, but something dark? Not so much. Ah, my dear, you are missing out! Check out some sparkling Shiraz, for example. Peter Lehmann’s ‘Black Queen’ was my first foray. And a memorable one, too. So next time you go to pop the cork for anyone you see, consider a bubbly with color.  This gem is named “in honour of the most hauntingly famous Black Queen of all, The Queen of Sheba, who describes herself in the book of Solomon “I am black, (and) comely.” There can be no better description of this wine. A truely indulgent pleasure.” Word! Bottoms up mates!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sushi Rice Recipe

Photo © MAK
Till I cracked the code, this is the only rice I could get right.

1 cup short grain sushi rice
1 ¼ cups cold water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon caster sugar
Pour the rice and water into a pot, cover and bring to boil over high heat.
Reduce the heat to low and cook the rice covered for 15 minutes or until tender.
Try not to stir the rice or lift the lid during cooking. Dissolve the sugar and a little salt in the vinegar then add the mix to the rice. Transfer the rice to a bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave to cool.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Green Mill

There is a place in Chicago called the Green Mill.  It’s a cocktail lounge proudly featuring jazz.  The story has it that it was one of Capone’s favorite nightspots. The joint is surely serious about its jazz. I cannot exactly remember how I ended up there the first time round, although I am sure it was during my ever so brief first visit to the Working Horse of a city, but the image of the place has stuck in my brain.  Seriously serious about THE JAZZ. As I discovered later, except for the swing nights when the Big Band sound takes over and some of the floor is made clear for dancing, one just does not, I repeat DOES NOT, speak when the jazz in on.  If it isn’t the proprietors and ever so quick mixologists, the frequenters can get militant on your arse if you speak when the artists perform.  Sure, the place posts a warning… sorry, a polite request not to speak during the performance, but unless you have been in a situation like that before, it can be a bit eerie.  I have wondered about that more than once. It’s about the respect for the art.  It’s like being at a symphony that if it wasn’t for the music you would hear the pin drop. Take that any way you want – positive or negative – but you will respect. Then again, it’s where Capone presided (!!!). Not exactly someone I think of as an I-need-quiet kind of a man. I might be wrong… even Capone might’ve needed to chill. Don’t get me wrong, I like the place.  It challenges me. And they make a mean Sidecar.  But Sidecar is mean.  This is not some Beat place, too. Snapping in lieu of clapping wasn’t practiced whenever I was there.  This is different.  This is reverent.  Reverent to the musicians and the quiet imbibing of whatever lubrication you choose. After all, jazz is classic. Cheers to that!
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