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Friday, October 31, 2014

A tale of three "gargouillou" salads, and one of them has too many things in it for my taste



This week in Japan, living a Travelife, I had two very similar salads -- one at a Michelin three-star restaurant in Hokkaido several days ago, and the other at a Michelin two-star restaurant in Tokyo last night.

I also remembered the salad that started this trend in salads -- the gargouillou of Michel Bras, which I first tasted about 15 years ago, already living a Travelife.

I still can recall how this truly blew my mind away.

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THE SALAD THAT INSPIRED
A THOUSAND VERSIONS AROUND THE WORLD

The gargouillou salad of Michel Bras spawned a thousand inspirations all over the world, as many enamoured chefs tried to create their own versions.

Some with great success and others with more flat results.

A TRULY ENJOYABLE SALAD IN HOKKAIDO

Out of the two Michel Bras-inspired salads this week, I truly enjoyed the one in Hokkaido.

It had less ingredients, and this is maybe why I was able to enjoy every taste and crunch. It really isn't about quantity but quality -- but some people just never get that.



This Hokkaido salad also was accompanied by three different pastes or sauces dabbed on the side of the plate, that we were asked to mix in before eating.

This gave the salad lots of depth, in my opinion.

It was truly refreshing in every way. How really wonderful this was, now that I think about it.

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TOO MANY THINGS IN A SALAD

Last night, I had my second Michel Bras-inspired salad for the week.

It was a pretty salad at this trendy two-star restaurant that everyone is saying is the next new best restaurant in Tokyo.

Indeed, it came beautifully arranged -- but perhaps it had just way too many things in it for my taste, so that I left the restaurant with a bit of a distaste in my mouth, regretting why I ever ordered it in the first place.



The overall impression was a diluted and poor version of the salad in Hokkaido, as the Hokkaido salad had less things competing for my attention and it was an overall superior salad in spite of having fewer ingredients.

Each ingredient in the Hokkaido salad was chosen with care.

I never thought I would ever say this, but some salads are really just way too crowded for my taste, even in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful and usually delicious Travelife. 





Thursday, October 30, 2014

Climbing Mount Everest and the Matterhorn, and a Tuscan dinner after a Hokkaido holiday



Last night, we arrived from Sapporo's Chitose Airport after a short but happy holiday in Hokkaido, living a Travelife.

There's never enough time for anything and everything in a never-ending Travelife, and there certainly wasn't enough time for us in Hokkaido.

But it was better than nothing, and we had a very good time enjoying good food, wonderful scenery and some very nice Japanese inns.



GETTING AWAY FROM IT ALL

It was really nice, actually, and I especially liked being able to get away from almost everything for some hot springs time.

Noboribetsu, which is one of the hot springs towns we stayed in, is supposed to have some of the most "powerful" geothermal waters in Japan, and it's reportedly excellent for regaining vitality.


But after our trip it was back to reality, and almost straight from landing at Tokyo's Haneda Airport, we headed to our respective dinner appointments.

MEETING UP WITH MY FRIEND S

I was set to meet my neighbour S, who I have been so remiss about catching up with.

The last time we'd had a really good talk was about two years ago, when I was a guest at her beautiful weekend home by the sea in Chiba.




But last weekend, I bumped into her at the neighbourhood Halloween festivities, and we arranged to have dinner last night.

Initially we were going to go somewhere fancy.

But after non-stop eating, especially in Hokkaido where every single meal was the equivalent of at least eight courses, I couldn't think of any more food and would have been happy to just have a glass of water for dinner.



PASTA AND
TUSCAN-STYLE STEAKS FOR DINNER

So at the last minute, we ended up going to a neighbourhood Italian restaurant famous for its Tuscan cuisine.

We ordered the steak Florentine to share and a couple of salads and pastas and exchanged updates.

Talk about an update. 

CLIMBING MOUNT EVEREST



My friend S is planning to climb Mount Everest.

Apparently she's climbed almost all the major mountains in the world, save for Mount Everest and one other mountain.

She's climbed most of the ones in Europe, Asia and Africa, including Mount Kilimanjaro, which I only saw from an airplane.

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THE MOST ENJOYABLE CLIMB

I asked her: "So which is the most enjoyable mountain to climb?"

She replied: "Probably the Matterhorn. Because you can climb it and then get a helicopter to pick you up at the top and take you down. Then there's a spa when you're done."

She added: "Climbing up isn't really a problem. It's the going down that's so hard on the knees."

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PREPARING FOR A CLIMB
UP MOUNT EVEREST

Then I asked her: "And how on earth do you prepare for a climb up Mount Everest?"

She seems like such a regular girl, after all. She runs a company in Tokyo, grows organic vegetables in her weekend home, and likes holidaying at the Aman resorts.


Halloween festivities in Tokyo

When I saw her over the weekend, she and her husband were putting up Halloween decor all over the front of their house.

S shrugged and said: "Climbing isn't really very difficult, especially if you're not heavy. It's really a matter of luck with the weather and getting a very good guide. And hiring someone to carry your gear if you don't want to do so on your back, although I always carry my own."

How's that for an entirely different kind of never-endingly eventful Travelife?

Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening in Hokkaido. And a poem by Robert Frost.


Earlier this week, in Hokkaido living a Travelife, we drove to a lovely lake in the middle of nowhere with a luxury Japanese inn by the edge of it.

We were in Hokkaido for a hot spring and foodie holiday, and I'd chosen this inn because it's supposed to be very beautiful and the food is excellent.

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LIKE AT FIRST SIGHT

The Travel Companion and I were not disappointed at all by this inn I had chosen.

It was simple but stylish in a very contemporary way. We liked it at first sight, with its interesting art work and decor.

We also had a very nice hot spring pool on the terrace with a view of the mountains and the forests. 




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STROLLING BY THE LAKE
ON A SNOWY EVENING

So just before a very big dinner of delicious Hokkaido specialties, we decided to take a stroll at sunset by the edge of the lake.



Hokkaido is about the same latitude as Europe so it's very cold, and at least 10 degrees colder than Tokyo. Fortunately we were well prepared for the cold, so we headed out into the forest and walked down to the lake.

How beautiful and peaceful it was to be amidst all this nature, especially as there was no one else around.


AUTUMN IN HOKKAIDO

We saw snow on the nearby mountains, and some of the trees were dramatically lit up to showcase their flaming autumn colours.

And then, as we walked around the lake, towards a footbridge at one end, it began to snow ever so lightly, making everything so pretty, and reminding me of a poem by Robert Frost.



Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening 

Whose woods these are I think I know. 
His house is in the village though; 
He will not see me stopping here 
To watch his woods fill up with snow. 

My little horse must think it queer 
To stop without a farmhouse near 
Between the woods and frozen lake 
The darkest evening of the year. 

He gives his harness bells a shake 
To ask if there is some mistake. 
The only other sound’s the sweep 
Of easy wind and downy flake. 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep, 
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep.