Sunday, July 25, 2010

Free Your Mind

The Tea Drinker & I truly enjoyed our vacation to Japan. We needed a break from our routine, and craved taking an adventure together. This getaway got me thinking- the Wife of a Tea Drinker needs a break, too. Therefore, I plan to put up my feet, give my fingers a rest, let my mind run wild, and enjoy the rest of the lazy days of summer.

I will return to blogging on Sunday, September 12th. The hope is to resume with a new look and lots of fresh ideas. I am giddy just thinking about the prospect of taking this break (after nearly two and half years of sharing glimpses of our lives). I trust you will also welcome this break! Reading and living tea, wine, and food each week can take a toll on anyone's psyche and waistline.

In my absence, please remember to drink copious amounts of Drink the Leaf loose leaf teas...and spread the word. Or else, I will come back sooner.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Farmer's Market Bounty

Last Sunday, I blogged (complained) about the effects of jet lag, I had no idea what was in store for us! Five more sleepless nights pushed us to the brink of insanity. The Tea Drinker and the Wife on lack of sleep is not a pretty sight. Stay away. No amount of caffeinated loose leaf tea in the world could cure what ailed us, except a night of uninterrupted sleep! This weekend so far has been restful and we are back in the swing of things: laundry, cleaning, yard work, farmer’s market, grilling, and sorting through our pictures from Japan.

Yesterday's romp through the Napa Valley's Farmer’s Market was great. As the Tea Drinker was at his booth waxing on about Japan, genmaicha and the like, I was out spending his hard earned money. I picked up a variety of fresh veggies and fruit for the week ahead. In Japan, we enjoyed lots of vegetables, most were pickled or preserved. The Japanese term is Tsukemono, meaning “pickled things”. They are served as a side or a snack. Vegetables typically are pickled in any of the following: soy sauce, miso, vinegar, salt, or even sake! We had plenty of pickled things in Japan, ranging from Takuan(daikon), cucumber, cabbage to ginger. My favorite pickled vegetable was Japanese Ginger (Myoga Ginger). It looks like a spring onion, with a slight red hue (photo pictured right). We had it mostly with sashimi. First time we have ever seen it, and will be on the lookout for this treat at Sushi Ran or Morimoto restaurants. Very flavorful, and not as spicy or pungent as the ginger we are used to. A popular belief in Japanese culture is eating too much of Myoga Ginger can make one forgetful—not to worry because you will forget this concern before your next meal, anyways.

With loads of fresh Farmer Market vegetables on hand, we decided to not pickle them this time around (much to the Tea Drinker’s dismay). Obviously, my sense of sarcasm has not waned from eating too much raw fish and pickled things. So, I laid out my bounty before me and selected a variety of treats: yellow squash, zucchini, grape tomatoes, red onions, basil, fennel, orange, red, and green bell peppers. Its summer, so we lit the gas grill, tossed our bounty (minus the tomatoes and basil) in olive oil, sprinkled a bit of salt and pepper, and charred them slightly. My mind wandered to my Dad’s garden (many moons ago) and to summer months of chopping fresh vegetables(cucumbers, peppers, onions and tomatoes) tossing them in apple cider vinegar, with a bit of olive oil, lots of salt and pepper. Tearing off a big slice of Italian bread to dip, soak, and slurp up the juices. Your mouth waters just thinking about it. Bingo! Perfectly charred vegetables came off the grill, chopped into bite size pieces, tossed with red wine vinegar, olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Crumbled feta, sliced tomatoes, chopped basil were mixed in as a finishing touch. The freshly baked rosemary bread that I bought at the market came out of its bag and we settled into a lovely afternoon at home on our back patio. A tall glass of Drink the Leaf Citrus Rooibos Iced Tea was served. Simply blissful.

Farmer’s Market Salad
Variety of Organic Fresh Vegetables, Grilled or Raw, chopped into bite size pieces
Red Wine Vinegar
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt & Pepper
Favorite Crumbly Cheese
Crusty Bread
Drink the Leaf Iced Tea

Make it a blissful day, too!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Jet Lag & Japanese Green Tea

We returned home to Napa yesterday after two glorious weeks of vacation in Japan. Our nine and half hour flight on ANA airlines went smoothly. Tokyo to San Francisco, non-stop. Unfortunately, we were not upgraded this time around, and subsequently wecwere squished into coach seats. We suffered through by watching movies (The Hurt Locker, and Invictus), playing a fierce game of Scrabble (I won), and eating Japanese rice snacks. We tried stretching our aching legs under the seats in front of us, to no avail. We both agreed that we got way more exercise then we expected on this trip. Let’s just say that the Tea Drinker has plenty of footage of me limping up and down the maze of stairs in every subway and train station in Japan.

We started to doze off as we descended to SFO airport. Just our luck! Upon arrival, we were able to whiz through immigration, and make it to our car in less than 30 minutes. The beauty of carry-on luggage! The immigration agent looked at us strangely after inquiring about our length of stay in Japan, and wondered if we indeed had all of our luggage. Yes, sir! We are efficient, and super travelers (see photo above). And, yes we are bit punchy from a combination of little sleep, a serious omega-3 overdose and lack of American junk food.

As soon as we hit Highway 101, we started planning our next American meal. Do not get me wrong- we absolutely loved the food in Japan. The fish is the freshest and most tastiest we have ever had. But, eating raw fish, miso soup and rice day in and day out, made us realize how much we love Mexican food, and cheese! The works, please. Sour cream and guacamole on top, too! We debated on whether or not we would need to make two stops: one for me at Villa Corona for the Taco Salad, and another for the Tea Drinker's favorite Tacos Laplayita's Pastor burrito. In the end, jet lag won, and we walked to the closest Mexican joint. It was delicious. First time we had ingested gooey cheese, salty tortilla chips, hot sauce, and refried beans in almost two weeks. That sets a record somewhere, I'm sure.

I must also admit that on our way home, I started plotting while the Tea Drinker snoozed in the passenger seat next to me. None other than The Wing Stop was on my list. You have heard me go on about this addiction of mine before; I just could not drive by without getting a combo chicken wing order (Original Hot and Parmesan Garlic). And, I wonder why the lovely people of Japan are all slim and trim?!

Jet lag is a strange thing. It's like altitude sickness- sometimes it renders you useless and another time you are left unscathed. We arrived home (5:00am Tokyo time), and felt like we could take on the day. We got right to work: played with the cat, started unpacking, put in a load of laundry, munched on chicken wings, called friends and family, and then hit the wall. We ran to our beds, and settled into a strange slumber for three hours where we dreamt of yen monies, sake, sushi, and subway schedules. I felt the sensation of being on a boat. A combination of a woozy and sinking feeling as I slipped deeper into some unknown bliss. Then, woke up craving Mexican food and a good bottle of wine. Mission accomplished. Then again, felt like I could take on the world only to crash a few hours later and sleep until nearly 1pm the next day.
Today, we are zoned out and fighting sleep at every turn. Trying our hardest not to look at our work inboxes as the email is mounting, and the schedule of next week is looming. Just one more day of rest, and then the sweet memories of Japan will reveal themselves as we settled back into our normal routine.

I am certain that drinking green tea can help minimize jet lag. I have read that of all the amino acids found in green tea (Genmaicha), the most prevalent is L-theanine, which induces relaxation. One should drink loads of green tea (Gyokuro)in the days leading up to flying across time zones, and avoid alcohol and sugary treats. Oops. And upon arrival, drinking green tea can help you stay awake, and focused, and at night can help you relax, and fall asleep. Again, avoid alcohol and fatty foods. Oops. L-theanine increases your serotonin levels, and can help you remain calm, and ease the jet lag jitters. Too bad, we are so darn tired that we can’t muster the energy to dig out our new Japanese green tea finds. It will have to wait until tomorrow or at least until after another nap.

Drink Drink the Leaf loose leaf green tea and reap the health benefits.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Reporting From The Beautiful, Lush Country of Japan

Today marks the half way point of our stay in Japan. We are looking forward to six more days in this beautiful country. There is much to digest: from our days in the bustling city of Tokyo, to a relaxing day in the countryside of Hakone, and then onto an unbelievable rewarding time spent with a Master Tea blender in Shizuoka ( a premier tea growing region). This morning, we awake excited with anticipation of embarking on another day in Kyoto, the home of  many world heritage sites.

Comments, musings, and experiences thus far:
~ Japan is a very clean country. The streets, subways, train stations, hotels, and restaurants are spotless. Someone is always wiping done one surface or another.
~ The Japanese people are extremely courteous, helpful, friendly, and QUIET.
~ Cha(tea) is served at every meal, and is complimentary in all restaurants. What a great concept!
~ Tea bushes line the valley and hillsides of Shizouka- it reminded us of the vineyards back home in Napa Valley. The community was busy with the second harvest. We were able to visit a tea factory, and experience the behind the scenes of production. We were giddy as we took in our surroundings. The smell of fresh picked tea leaves was intoxicating. 
~ If you love seafood, you will not be disappointed in this country. However, open your mind and palate to new delicacies. It's eel season, after all.
~ Udon noodles are delicious, and the process of preparing your own treasure bowl is enlightening. All the flavors really pop( Japanese ginger, radish, green onion, sesame seeds, snap peas, and etc). Be prepared to hear lots of loud slurping noises going on around- it's common and a sign of appreciation.
~ Sashimi, and sushi (not an avocado in sight). We have consumed the freshest fish possible. Melts in your mouth. Hamachi, fatty tuna, salmon roe, urchin, unagi, and our personal new discovery: horse mackerel. Stay away from raw octopus. Let's just leave it at that!   
~ Don't be afraid to navigate public transportation. Subways, trains, and buses are an adventure in themselves, and you will save money. 
- Visit shrines, temples, walk down  alleyways, and peer into nooks and crannies- Japan is a maze of culture and history at every turn.
- I love fried food, and Japanese tempura served with my second love(flavored salts) is the bomb.
- Try out the Japanese language.  You will be well received, despite a few giggles. Konnichiwa, arigato,  and sayonara will do just fine.
 - Sake,  sake, and sake. Refresh palate with beer. Repeat.

Upon our return, we will post photos, and give a more in- depth look into our experiences into this amazing country. Pour yourself a cup of Drink the Leaf tea- make it a sencha, gyokuro, or genmachia! 

** excuse typos- writing on Ipad.