Archive for ‘American Size’

January 7th, 2012

When size meets taste…

A friend of my husband’s sent him this photo.

It’s a hammered pork sandwich from a restaurant in Las Vegas called Hash House a go go.  What made a mere sandwich so noteworthy?  The plate is as big as 3 adult faces!  On a recent trip to Japan, this one picture helped bridge the language gap as my non-Japanese speaking husband was able to ‘wow’ my Japanese friends and family with it, as they marveled at the sandwich’s size.   Both amused and appalled, Japanese people already think American portion sizes are huge, but this picture was beyond their imaginations.  Immediately, they asked if this was something we ate in the States everyday.  I knew the answer they wanted to hear, was ‘yes’, as that pretty much goes in line with how they already picture America–huge EVERYTHING, but the answer, as you could guess is a realistic ‘no’.  Sure, compared to Japanese food, American portions are usually twice as big, but to find truly huge portions like that, you have to do a bit of searching.

When we were in Las Vegas, my husband suggested we go to Hash House a go go, for breakfast.  I was reluctant because usually the best part of a big portioned meal is its size and not its flavor.  Also, call me a snob, but who’d believe a restaurant found in a dingy casino on the strip would be good?  As we walked over, I was thinking, “There are many, many great places to eat in Vegas, but marriage is a give and take.”  Since he took me to a four star restaurant the day before, I should let the next meal choice be his, right?  My stomach clenched in horror as I realized that my next stop would be home to something I’m still learning to appreciate, big portioned, hearty American food.

Talk about surprises!  Oh my goodness.  Fried Chicken with bacon (!!) waffles, where the waffles and chicken were bigger than an adult male’s enlarged heart.  But what about the taste?  The waffles were delicious; very dense, yet fluffy, and not airy at all.  It tasted great with the fried leek garish that came with it.  The fried chicken was delicious, with a moist inside and crispy outside, and as an added plus, it was kindly de-boned!!  Sure, having actual strips of bacon instead of bits, baked into their waffles and preparing well seasoned fried chicken shows that the chefs cook with care, but serving de-boned chicken demonstrates that bit of extra love that’s so often lacking.  Without a doubt, I can say that this is possibly some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.  I’d never thought I’d say this, but I’m so glad my husband took me to that diner in that run-down casino!    Since we got back, I’ve semi-seriously suggested several times, that we drive to Vegas just for one more taste.  I found there’s the original location in San Diego, which is shorter drive from Los Angeles… totally doable.

Sure, they might laugh at a picture of what I’ve just described, but would Japanese people actually like this dish?  The one hurdle to overcome is the combination of sweet and savory, which Japanese people usually don’t like.  In this case, serving fried chicken alongside maple syrup might seem scary at first, but with a dish like this, I’m confident that this huge plate of food will please their senses of taste as much as it dazzles their senses of sight.  Viva America!

October 11th, 2011

Reasons to eat salad (not a lecture to eat healthy)

Eating salad isn’t always about health.  Actually, to be honest, sometimes it’s about the complete opposite of health.  No, I’m not talking about one of those ‘salads‘ loaded with cheese and bacon masquerading as health food…After a nice lunch at our new favorite cafe, Natas Pastries, we brought home this delectable dessert.  It has a really nice flaky shortbread-like crust with a tasty custard AND whipped cream inside.  You’d think from looking at it, that it would be on the sweet side, but it wasn’t overly sugared at all and its big plus: it tasted fresh!  Have you ever noticed that some pastry shops have great looking stuff, but after one bite, all you taste is the refrigerator that it was stored in?  That’s one of my biggest pet peeves, and sadly, there’s almost no way to predict its occurrence when trying a new place.  When my husband first surprised me with something sweet from Nata’s, I was worried about the potential for ‘fridge contamination’.  After my first bite, I didn’t care that I was wrong…all I could concentrate on was, ‘mmmmmmm’.  Somehow, the pastries at Natas’ always taste as if they were just made an hour ago.  It’s some sort of restaurant ‘magic’ that they can consistently produce that fresh taste, considering that Nata’s is a small cafe with a large pastry case!  Could you pass a place like that without picking up a couple of treats?  If you can, you’re better than I am!

When you know you’re going to eat sweets, you have to plan ahead.  So, I ordered Delicias do Mar, a seafood salad for lunch.  I consider this ‘spending calories consciously’.  Save a few by eating a salad, and then you can splurge those savings on dessert! The Delicias do Mar salad comes with big shrimp and includes crab salad.  Unfortunately, the “Crab” in “Crab salad” should have been spelled “Krab”, but the big shrimp and fresh and crispy romaine lettuce made up for it.

My second reason for ordering a salad?  If I save my calories, I can also splurge on sampling my husband’s typically heartier selection.  I’m not alone on this, as I know women around the world fool themselves into thinking they’re eating healthy by ordering salad and then stealing half their dinner companion’s fries.  Men probably fear hearing “Can I have a fry?” as much as they dread a conversation that begins with, “We need to talk.” On this day, my husband too, lost his manly battle as the French panini with brie and caramelized onions just looked too good to resist.  My husband actually lost two battles that day, as my ‘taste’ of his sandwich, that I’m now obsessed with, turned out to be half of his portion, AND, his chance to have the favor returned by sharing my dish was canceled out by the fact that he hates seafood.  Sounds like I planned it out in advance, doesn’t it?  Shhhh…maybe he won’t figure it out!

 

August 7th, 2011

The greatest discovery of summer 2011

What is the most memorable food you’ve tasted this summer?  Did you finally try grilling a peach?  Did you get that perfectly cooked catch of the day at your favorite seaside restaurant?  Did you eat that burger so juicy that you were sad to see it go? Although I enjoy all the previous, the best food find of the summer of 2011 was purchased at the most unlikely place, and it’s somewhere, most of us have been……That place is Costco, and that dish, is the hand dipped ice cream bar ($1.50).  If you’ve been reading my blogs, you may remember me mentioning that ice cream is too heavy when it’s hot out.  But exceptions have to be made once in a while, right?  Try one and you’ll understand.  These bars are so good that Häagen-Dazs may have to move back to Denmark, Bronx.   What makes Costco’s ice cream bar so special…the two words: hand dipped.  Yes, a human hand actually dips your ice cream bar into milk chocolate sauce, and then has the nerve to coat that with a downpour of almonds.  It’s not for the faint-hearted dieter, as it is about twice the size of on an Iphone, but with better reception (at least from me!) .  I used to dread the crowds of Costco, but now I have a reason to join the herd.

The idea of Costco itself, is hard to comprehend.  A store on such a massive scale with an endless variety of everything seemed like a friend’s exaggeration. I’m from Tokyo, where land is scarce and from there, I moved to big American cities like Boston and New York where you don’t buy in bulk because you either don’t have the room for it, or you don’t have a car to haul it home.  So when my husband gave me a Costco membership card (along with an AAA card), I felt like I became an official American.  Sadly, our trips to Costco are only few in number, as we lack the storage space in our garage and in our ‘trunks’.But maybe, we should go there more often…

May 30th, 2011

Souvenir

My mother is a 5’2, 90 pound, typically skinny Japanese lady in her late 60s.  For as long as I can remember, the only things she loves to eat (and often times only things she actually are) are bacon and any kind of cured meat, Skippy Peanut Butter, Velveeta Cheese and endless varieties of salted nuts.  Whenever my dad took me to a Tokyo Giants baseball game, she didn’t ask for a souvenir hat or pennant; she asked us to bring home 5 hotdogs.  She would toss the buns and eat all 5 wieners.  Born at the end of World War II, she loves American food more than Japanese food.

When the war ended, America introduced many new ideas to Japan, from democracy and women’s rights to the western diet, which included lots of milk and meat.  My mother, who was born and raised in Yokohama, where many Americans resided at the time, was exposed to some of the best and worst of American culture–you be the judge. To this day, whenever I go home to Tokyo, I try to satisfy some of her cravings.  Her favorites: Wrigley’s Spearmint gum, Cheez Whiz, and Skippy Peanut Butter.

Sure, there are jars of peanut butter in Japan, too, but according to her, they are are too sweet, and Skippy  jar in Japan is a quarter of the size of the Costco giant found here in the states.   These big jars are still overwhelming for me as well.  I had never been to Costco until 5 years ago, which makes sense, because I’ve mostly lived by myself, and  had no use for a brick of toilet paper or surplus sized anything.. But for any Japanese person, who has lived without massive wholesale markets, these places are fascinating .  My husband gave me a Costco card when we got engaged and it was, sadly, a very exciting moment of my life.  My biggest discovery was that their fresh seafood tends to be better than that from Whole Foods.  In 1999, the first Costco opened in a suburb of Japan and now, there are 9 stores across Japan, but I haven’t seen one near the Tokyo metro area, where a lease probably costs quite a fortune, and quite frankly I haven’t seen a Costco-sized vacant lot in Tokyo in my whole life.  Which is probably a good thing. It’s hard enough buying gifts for parents– at least I have a few go-to souvenirs for my mother that she can’t find for herself!