[Insert long explanation of why I haven’t been posting.]
There is really no excuse. Let’s just say “living through a pandemic and all of its uncertainty and chaos” and call it a day.
This week, Naoto and I are gearing up to have Thanksgiving at home with my parents over Zoom. We’ve adjusted our menu, only cooking a turkey breast and we’re going to try to cut our mashed potato and stuffing recipes in half. (I know there are those of you who could argue that you could never have too many mashed potatoes and stuffing but…I get bored easily. Leftovers are fine, once, maybe twice. After that, I’m ready for something different. Like pizza.)
Oh and with the new stay-at-home request here in Illinois, I’ve started up #spritzerswithpritzker again. It’s a little harder this time because, well, pandemic burn-out and I’m working at the office still (and therefore have to “cheat” with canned sparkling beverages during work days.)
I know a lot has happened since August. (Well, maybe not a LOT, but I do have a few things to share!) Hopefully, I’ll make some time to pop in again this week to share our tiny Thanksgiving and some Christmas preparations. I have my first long Thanksgiving weekend in years coming up (no retail job and no craft show this year) and I’m so looking forward to digging out the Christmas bins and doing a little decorating. But first…I need to clean.
In the meantime, I hope you are well and finding some joy in these strange times.
Back in May, we received a huge box of treats from Jaarsma Bakery in Oskaloosa, Iowa. My friend Tremaine grew up nearby and she sent us all of her favorites.
I sadly did not capture everything in pictures, but we enjoyed the cinnamon bread (which was amazing toasted,) the almond poppy seed creme cakes (melt-in-your-mouth delicious, pictured above) and the almond blanket (mmmmmm, pictured below) right away in May and June. It was so fun looking forward to opening new treats while we were still in the throes of staying at home!
The pastries freeze well, so we put a few things in the freezer to enjoy later. The Stroopwaffel (pictured at the top, warming on my mug of tea) were a favorite for sure! I’ve had prepackaged ones before that were fine, but homemade are amazing. The caramel hits the spot with a cup of strong tea!
We still have Apple Rings in the freezer, which I’m saving for September, which (in my opinion) is apple season (followed by pumpkin season, which is in October…not a moment sooner.)
And last night I opened the last mystery package and it was St. Nick cookies! I could have put them back in the freezer for December, but we’re going to eat them now and make another order later this year.
Have you received any food treats in the mail? I love that these were tastes of my friend’s childhood…I have such good food memories from growing up and I always love learning about these tiny hometown gems.
This weekend, I’ll be participating (from a distance!) in the Madison Street Art Stroll here in Forest Park. Because of Covid, Garage Galleries was canceled and the wonderful organizers decided to try this instead. Several local businesses opened their windows to artists who will be displaying their work over the next week. My work is in the window of Local Yoga at 7234 Madison, a yoga studio right down the block from us.
Saturday, Naoto and I will be walking along Madison (wearing our masks!) to see the art and to wave to some friends we haven’t seen all summer. It’s funny how “normal” it feels to make some plans, even though it won’t be normal.
I’ve been working on setting up an online shop for my cards, something that is long overdue… It’s been a slow project listing everything…it’s fun work though! And I’ve made some new cards that I’ll be sharing on Instagram (@adamihasegawa) over the weekend and all next week.
I’ll share my window set-up next week, too. It was fun to put some of my window display skills to work again…though my display is much simpler than some of the concoctions I had to hang at my old job!
For my birthday this year, I really wanted to drive up to Wisconsin to eat at a real supper club. I’ve eaten at a true Wisconsin supper club exactly once, but it is what my dining dreams are made of–many courses of delicious home-cooking without any pretension.
We were just starting to research the best options when the pandemic hit and everything shut down. It was really depressing. I didn’t give up on my supper club dinner–but there was no way I was going to Wisconsin in the middle of a pandemic. Soooo…once the library started opening back up again, I got this book and started planning a menu from home.
I should preface this with a disclaimer: supper club food is not for the weak of heart…there is a lot of cream and fat in many of the dishes. (Though there are a few tasty looking, lighter fish dishes in the book, in case that’s your thing!) So for us, this definitely isn’t a weekly thing, but it was really fun to make everything from scratch and to indulge a little bit–orrrr a lot!
I’m going to share two recipes from our feast in case you want to create a little Wisconsin supper club happy hour at home.
We started out with the Wisconsin classic, brandy old fashioneds. Did you know that 1/3 of Korbel’s brandy is sold in Wisconsin? (I didn’t know until I read the book.) If you like a sweeter cocktail, this might be for you. It was fun to try, but I’ll stick with a regular Old Fashioned. (Or I’ll at least skip the 7-Up and make it with club soda!)
Brandy Old Fashioned (from the Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook)
1 sugar cube
2 dashes of bitters
2 orange slices
1.5oz brandy (Apparently Korbel is the official brandy of Wisconsin, but we used something from Trader Joe’s!)
lemon lime soda (We used 7-Up.)
Muddle the sugar, bitters, and orange slices in the bottom of a glass until the sugar has dissolved. Add the brandy, soda, and ice. Stir to mix and garnish with an orange wedge and a maraschino cherry.
I’m glad we tried it for the full experience and when we can finally (safely) dine out again, I’m totally going to order one at a real supper club in Wisconsin.
Along with the old fashioneds, we had two appetizers. The first, pictured at the top, was beer cheese from Kavanaugh’s Esquire Club in Madison, Wisconsin. This place has been around since 1947 and it’s a top 5 contender for our supper club road trip.
The beer cheese is so easy to make and I found it perfect on Club crackers (because they’re a classic!)
Beer & Cheese Spread
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
2 cups shredded swiss cheese (Sargento makes this, but you can also shred your own for better texture.)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
0.5 tsp dry mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced
0.5-0.66 cups beer (We used Heineken.)
Add everything but the beer in a large mixing bowl. Beat in enough beer to make a spreadable cheese…add it slowly because you can always add more but it’s hard to take it away…(says the person who had to add more cheese to soak up the extra beer!) I used my stand mixer and beat everything on high to get it to combine. I don’t think my execution was perfect but man, was it tasty! And easy!
Naoto was in charge of the second appetizer–bacon wrapped water chestnuts. This recipe is from The Packing House in Milwaukee. The Packing House is at the top of my must-see list. They have a famous fish fry that is so popular, they built a drive-thru for it. And they have a piano player who has been performing there for forty years. And apparently their banana cream pie is not to be missed…
The bacon-wrapped water chestnuts were soooo good–I love water chestnuts and they were the perfect vehicle for the crisp bacon and the sweet and salty sauce.
For our salad, I made homemade blue cheese dressing from The House of Embers at the Wisconsin Dells. Named because they smoke ribs over embers of charcoal, The House of Embers has been around since 1959. I love the dark and moody feel of the place! The blue cheese dressing was excellent, but we did skip the recommended bacon on our salads. (Sad!) I chilled our plates in the freezer before adding the lettuce (iceberg!) and tomatoes and we served the dressing at the table. I highly recommend chilling your salad plates! It made everything feel so fresh!
For our entree, we went with the classic, Steak Diane. The recipe is from Joey Gerard’s: A Bartolotta Supper Club. Joey Gerard’s is a newcomer–they’ve only been around since 2012 though they are part of a restaurant group that’s been active since 1993. Friends, this Steak Diane recipe was incredible. I don’t want to oversell it here, but…I finished the whole steak. (That never happens…I usually take the sides much too seriously to bother with the steak!) Honestly, I kind of want Naoto to make it again this weekend. If you don’t know Steak Diane, it’s a classic dish, popular in the 40s and 50s, made with mushrooms and cream and so much more. Back in the day, it was often flambéed tableside. This recipe used a magical mix of butter, shallot, garlic, brandy, white wine, beef stock, dijon, cream, soy sauce, and worcestershire sauce. It was an orchestra of flavor!
For dessert, we did stray from the cookbook. We planned to make the Buck-a-Neer Supper Club‘s peanut butter pie, but we couldn’t justify an entire pie for the two of us! It is a recipe we want to try…maybe someday when we can have people over again!
Instead, we made Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Budino. (No regrets!) They’re kind of like really rich chocolate puddings and I’ve been wanting to make them for awhile. A tiny portion is just the right amount to end the meal.
If I had been eating at a restaurant, I may have indulged in a grasshopper.
I can’t wait to share a real supper club dining experience here someday…but in the meantime, I give the Hasegawa Supper Club five stars!
Since August 6 marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, I thought this week might be a nice time to talk about our trip to Hiroshima back in 2016. I fell off blogging when we returned and never got around to writing about this trip. (I missed telling you about so many things!) We spent a few days in the city and visited the major World War II sites, including the A-Bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum. Hiroshima had been on our list for a few years before we went, but we put it off because, well, we knew it would be depressing. Naoto visited the city when he was in grade school and we both knew it was going to be a sobering experience. Boy was it ever. But, Hiroshima is so much more than the bomb sites. We found it to be a vibrant city with a lot of beauty tucked among the sober sites of war. I can’t imagine living in a place where most of the world only knows you for something tragic.
It was pouring on the day we decided to visit the Peace Park and Museum…fitting for the mood of the day. The first thing we saw when we got off the streetcar was the A-Bomb Dome, the remains of a building that was near the epicenter of the bomb. Originally, this was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The bomb exploded about 1600 feet away from the building, but about 1900 feet overhead. The interior of the building was completely destroyed by fire and everyone inside died instantly, but the walls and the steel dome frame remained after the fires.
When we went, the azaleas were blooming so beautifully and the contradiction between the vibrant, lively color and this battered building that has stood pretty much unchanged* since 1945 was quite jarring. And, while the area was pretty busy with people milling about, around the A-Bomb Dome, it was practically silent. No one spoke above a whisper.
*Japan is working to preserve the site to the exact “state of destruction” after the bombing. It is a challenge because age and weather are causing deterioration of the building and they need to discreetly protect it from earthquakes.
The Aioi Bridge connects the A-Bomb Dome to the Peace Park (pictured above.)
Here is the view of the A-Bomb Dome from the other side.
In the Peace Park, there are special memorials to the many victims of the bombing and the war and a couple museums. Here’s Naoto ringing the peace bell.
This is the Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students. The Japanese government “mobilized” students to take part in the war efforts, especially once Japan was facing defeat. Students were “drafted” to work in factories making uniforms and bullets and to work in fields to help with food production. Over 10,000 students were killed by the bombings (atomic and otherwise) during the war.
These huge plaques by the memorial show students working in the field and in a factory contributing to war efforts.
This is the Children’s Peace Monument. Did you ever read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes? Sadako’s classmates and children all over Japan raised money for this monument in honor of her and all the children who died because of the atomic bomb and its aftermath. That is Sadako at the top, holding a wire crane.
A perfect bronze crane hangs from a bell on the underside of the monument.
Surrounding the monument are booths that house paper cranes and artwork sent by children from all over the world. Folding 1000 paper cranes feels like a hopeful classroom project, doesn’t it?
This is the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall. This was incredibly somber place, meant to memorialize all of the souls lost that day and to share the personal stories of the victims and the survivors. On the roof (which is ground level, as the memorial in underground) there is a clock that is frozen at 8:15, the time of the bomb. In the Hall of Rememberance, there is a panoramic recreation of Hiroshima, made with 140,000 tiles, the number of people who died in the attack. Audio recordings of stories from survivors brought me to tears here.
This is the main memorial to the victims. The saddle is meant to shelter the victims’ souls in the empty tomb below. On it reads, “please rest in peace, for [we/they] shall not repeat the error.” (The language is left ambiguous so the victims could be memorialized without making the issue political/blaming the US for the bomb or blaming Japan for pushing the war to the brink of destruction.)
The memorial was designed so it frames the Peace Flame and the A-Bomb Dome.
You can see the Peace Flame a bit better here. The flame was lit in 1964 and will be lit until the threat of nuclear war is eliminated.
Lastly, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Here we saw the history of Hiroshima from before the war and after, as well as the massive destruction caused by the bomb. I didn’t take many pictures inside–just the one below–because it was so somber and there was so much to learn. It was honestly overwhelming. (I haven’t felt so overwhelmed in a museum since I went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in college…) This model was so shocking…to see how far the reach of the bomb was.
I took a picture of Sadako’s cranes, which are preserved in a climate controlled dome inside the Peace Memorial Museum. The cranes are so, so tiny…the largest ones are about the size of a quarter. It’s so hard to imagine a real little girl folding these tiny cranes, knowing she was dying.
My blog post does not do the city and the memorials justice, but I am so thankful to have witnessed it and I wish I had shared it here sooner. President Obama visited Hiroshima the month after we did. He was the first sitting President to visit the city. I understand that the relationship between the United States and Japan regarding the atomic bombs is fraught with challenges, but man, those challenges aren’t going away without a hard look at history and the destruction of war. I remember that there was so much controversy around whether Obama would apologize or not…the risks of offending American veterans, the risks of offending Japan.
Obama’s speech at Hiroshima was, to me, one of his best. (You can read the transcript here on the New York Times site.) I’ll leave you with his words.
That is why we come to this place. We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow.
Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.
And then a bit later…
That is why we come to Hiroshima. So that we might think of people we love. The first smile from our children in the morning. The gentle touch from a spouse over the kitchen table. The comforting embrace of a parent. We can think of those things and know that those same precious moments took place here, 71 years ago.
Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.
The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.
Naoto and I went to the garden on Sunday to fix a broken hose splitter and to check on our tomatoes’ progress. We had a good rain right before we went so it made pulling weeds easy and the temperatures cooled down a lot, which was a nice break from the heat we had been having.
On the north end of our plot, the Bells of Ireland are taking over! I can’t believe how out of control it’s gotten! It’s kind of crowding out the chamomile, but I’m all about the strongest surviving this summer in the garden.
Naoto’s edamame is coming along nicely…there are tons of little pods that need a little bit more time before they are ready to be picked.
On the south side of the plot, our herbs are flourishing and yes, we need to cut some parsley and rosemary. The tomatoes are all a jungle in the middle of the plot (one of these days I will plan this better!) I can’t find any white flies on our tomato plants this year (hurray!) but our tomatoes so far aren’t looking great. We picked four, but they definitely aren’t picturesque. We’ll have to wait and taste them to see…
In other news, NOW is the time to plant some radishes or some kale or something to fill in that bare hole of wasted dirt. I’ll report back soon with what we decide to plant from our seed tin.
Our basil is still going strong…we’ve had quite a few harvests from it so far this summer…just waiting on the tomatoes to catch up…
I told him to smile three times before he yelled, “I am smiling!” #maskproblems
Japan really knows how to bathe. Their bathtubs are so dreamy, deep enough to sit in and have the water come above your shoulders for a nice, hot soak. And they have tons of bathing accessories from little stools to sit on in the shower (hello, shaving!) to buckets for rinsing off specific places.
This body towel is one of my favorite shower accessories. It’s like one 3-foot long scrubbie. The body towels are made of nylon and unlike the “American” poufs, they can be hung to dry between showers without getting gross. They can also be washed and disinfected with your regular towels. There are different versions–this one produces extra lather without using a lot of soap, hence the name “bubble rich.”
The body towel is long–about three feet–so you can scrub all of those impossible-to-reach parts of your back. And they are so good for exfoliating. The Bubbrich is a gentle scrub, but Naoto uses a rugged body towel that is extra exfoliating. (I like this kind in the winter when I’m battling dry, itchy skin.)
Delightfully exfoliating body towels…just another example of how Japan Does It Better! (For the rest of them, go here!)
If you go to Japan, you can find all kinds of these towels in touristy areas, but I’d recommend shopping in regular drugstores for one. There is more variety and much cheaper prices.
This is really just a post about celery toast. It’s not pretty, but it has become my favorite snack over the past few months.
2 slices white bread (We like Pepperidge Farm for this because it’s nice and square and toasts up well.)
4 ounces Cambozola blue cheese
1 cup celery from the center (Don’t use the outer stalks, you want the inner, tender stuff.)
1 garlic clove
olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper
Slice the celery and the scallion on the bias and as thinly as possible. Mix together in a bowl and grate the garlic into the mixture. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and until everything is dressed, but not soaked. Toast the bread until golden brown. While the bread is still warm, butter it generously. Slice the cheese into quarter inch wedges and divide on the bread. Top with the celery mixture and a grind of pepper. Cut the toast in half and serve.
Although I *may* have taken to eating this for my entire supper, it really is the perfect snack or appetizer. The acidity of the celery and scallion slaw are so perfect with the creamy blue cheese and butter. Plus it is so easy to double or triple the recipe for a crowd (when it’s safe to have a crowd again…) We’ve started keeping a little notebook of recipes we’ve tried that will be good for entertaining someday. It’s nice to have goals, right?
Over July 4th weekend, Naoto and I went all out for a fondue feast. I’ve been wanting to have fondue for awhile now, and at the beginning of the pandemic, I made it one of our stay-at-home goals…who knew at the time we’d have so much time to accomplish that list!
(Try to ignore Naoto’s hair here…it’s even longer and more epic now!) Randomly, we own three fondue pots. I received the metal one for a Christmas gift in college and then learned cheese works better in ceramic, so I bought the ceramic one at Marshall Fields (RIP) almost twenty years ago. And my parents found the burnt orange 70s model at a thrift shop. So we figured we’d break out alllll the pots for our three course fondue fest.
We started with traditional Swiss fondue. I have (had?) a fondue cookbook but I couldn’t find it in time for the fest, so we relied on Food & Wine for the recipe. (We halved the recipe since there were only two of us which was more than enough and included leftovers.) We made the fondue in the pot, adding the cheese slowly and stirring often. It worked like a charm! (We learned our lesson the last time we had fondue…seven years ago!)
We had bread, carrots, potatoes, and broccoli for dipping. I can’t believe we forgot apples and pretzels for this round!
After we’d had enough cheese (yes, there is such a thing!) we started preparing the main course–meat and vegetables.
For the main course, we used this recipe for a broth fondue. We built the broth in the pot and let it come to a boil slowly. We found this was a nice way to pace ourselves…
We were going to do a few kinds of meat and vegetables, but we ended up just going with steak…next time I would add shrimp or chicken for some variety. (We were afraid of having too much food!) With the steak, we had carrots, broccoli, zucchini, potatoes, and mushrooms.
We ended up making little shish-ka-bobs, mixing meat and vegetables together on the same fork.
My favorite combination was steak + carrot + zucchini dipped in ponzu sauce. Fondue sauces are a great part of the experience and next time we’d like to experiment with more. I have to say though…the ponzu was the perfect citrusy balance to the meats and vegetables.
For the dessert round, I mixed up some Brandy Alexanders while Naoto prepped the fondue ingredients. It was a very indulgent evening!
For the chocolate fondue, we used this recipe and we made it on the double broiler on the stove before we transferred it into the fondue pot. We dipped strawberries, bananas, brioche, marshmallows, and pretzels. I had to blow out the flame after a few minutes because the pot got too hot and the chocolate was burning, so we need to find a better heating element for the chocolate fondue next time! Maybe just a little tea light? It took three days of soaking to get the pot clean!
It was such a fun project to plan and to execute. I’m really missing hosting parties and it might seem silly to make a big to-do on a regular ol’ Sunday night, but I found it such a great distraction. I love a good theme party and why not throw one just for ourselves? Oh, and it was a perfect excuse to wear my kaftan and bask in the 1970s for the evening. (P.S. We used these forks from our coffee shop pal, Madonna.)
Nic replied to my Bread Mail with her own bread mail! Doesn’t it just make you want to eat a giant baguette? She included a postcard and some extra baguette paper so someone else is getting some #breadmail soon! (Also, how cute are those fabric “stamps”?)
Tucked in the little bag was a letter and some extra sheets of baguette paper. This reminds me that I have some donut cards that some in little waxed paper bags…I need to find them so I can send out some more carby mail!
I hope things are happy in your home and in your mailbox! We’ve been doing a lot, well, a lot of stay-at-home activities so I’ll be back this week to share some more! In the meantime, I encourage you to send some theme mail–bread or otherwise!