November 10, 2012: Sayanora Tokyo! Dai San Harumi!

There are a grand total of three possible sleeping positions on an airplane seat and I exhausted all three today.

I quite like the timing of the flights both to and from Tokyo.  On the way there, the flight departs in the mid-afternoon, giving you plenty of time to sleep in and do your last minute checks and cross-checks before jetting off. By the time you get in, you’re thoroughly exhausted so that, once you’ve touched down, completed the 90 minute ride from Narita airport, checked in, and had a late meal, you’ll be read for bed – at about 9:30 – 10:00 p.m. local time – which is about 4:00 a.m. or 5:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.  If you keep to this schedule, you’ll be waking up at 6:00 in the morning every day, ready for a sushi breakfast at Tsukiji Market, followed by a nice full day and early night.

The return flight is not quite as great.  It leaves at about 7:00 p.m. local time and, after about nine hours of flying, gets in to Vancouver at approximately 11:00 a.m. The game plan is to sleep through the flight as much as possible and then stay up as late as possible on the longest day back to force your body back into a sleep rhythm. Taking a couple of melatonin pills before bedtime helps but, all the same, you’re going to come up against certain nights (actually early mornings) where you’ll find yourself, wide awake, at 4:00 a.m., wrestling with a powerful craving for sushi.

Speaking of which – for our last meal in Japan, I thought it would only be appropriate to go out for sushi.  We ended up at Dai San Harumi, a tiny, friendly little place in Shinbashi.  Some of the highlights –

Welcome to Dai San Harumi
The bonito (tuna) is seared over an open flame so that its exterior attains a certain smokiness while its interior maintains that mouth-melting high-grade tuna texture.
According to our chef, the restaurant only sources the best of these very best fresh, organic Japanese tiger prawn – about 1% of each catch.
Saba (chub mackerel), lightly cured with salt and vinegar.
Plump anago (conger eel).
And, for dessert, the tamago.
Thanks for coming!

An excellent final meal that made me kind of sad as a reminder of exactly what I’d be missing.

After lunch, we stopped by Akemi’s old workplace, the Pierre Marcolini Cafe, so that she could say goodbye to her old friends and co-workers – oh, and grab a dessert while we were there.

A role reversal for Akemi who finds herself being waited on instead of the other way around.

I had a marron (chestnut) parfait while Akemi had this terrific new addition to the menu –

It’s described as a dark chocolate drink.  It’s cold, bittersweet, and so thick and rich you have to eat it with a spoon.

Afterwards, we made one final trip to the Mitsukoshi department store and picked up some Christmas gifts, then walked back along one of Ginza’s main streets that is always closed to traffic on weekends.  On the way, we were stopped by a camera crew and asked to identify a couple of mysterious dollar store items.  We failed miserably as both of my guesses, cucumber zester and dog hammock proved incorrect.

It seems like there’s a camera crew parked every ten feet down Ginza dori.  Last time I was in town with Ivon, we were stopped and interviewed about the grand Japanese tradition of the Christmas sock.

The return trip was uneventful.  And this is what greeted us upon our return:

It’s funny but, by the end of our time in Tokyo, Akemi told me that she was actually happy to be leaving and returning to Vancouver.  Surprisingly, there was little wistfulness at our departure, just happy memories of our trip, the hope to return for an equally short visit some time next year, and an overwhelming desire to see Bubba again.

Soooo tired.

November 9, 2012: Last full day in Tokyo! Restaurant Esquisse! Chez Tomo!

The familiar face of Chef Lionel Beccat

My friend Moro-san suggested we go to lunch at Restaurant Esquisse, a relatively new addition to the Ginza dining scene.  It has only been open for about four months now and yet, in that short time, garnered some great word of mouth. Always up to trying something new, I booked us a table.

I arrived early and had just taken a seat at the table when I was greeted by a familiar smile.  It was none other than Chef Lionel Beccat, the culinary magician who had crafted one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had the pleasure to sit down to in Tokyo – which also happened to be my very first date with Akemi (all the details in pictures here: November 30, 2009: Tokyo Travel Day $6 – Ginza La Tour, Michel Troisgros).  Back then he was at Cuisine Michel Troisgros.  Today, he heads the kitchen at Restaurant Esquisse and, judging by the meal we enjoyed, he is still firing on all creative cylinders.

Our set lunch course included…

Apple soufflé.  Incredibly delicate, airy, but with a lovely pronounced apple bite.
Lobster with caviar, mushrooms, lobster brain and mustard cream.  Like all Chef Beccat’s dishes, it balances delicacy with complexity of flavors.  
Mussels with trumpet mushrooms, apricot, and lemongrass foam.
Foie gras with grilled anago, mandarin orange, and maitake mushrooms.  Loved the creme brûlée preparation of the foie. 
The wild duck
Scallops with truffles and almond-hazelnut foam.I know some aren’t fans of foams but when done right (like in this dish) they had a whole other level of scent and flavor.
Monkfish prepped in konbu, then yogurt, wrapped in black olive and sepia accompanied by its spinach-wrapped liver with raisins.  A stronger, meatier fish that marries well to the black olive and squid ink.
Japanese oysters with apple and daikon horseradish emulsion topped with lemon caviar.  A refreshing palate cleanser to break up the robust flavors of the bracketing dishes.
The lemon caviar in its natural state.  They go for about $10 a pop.
Wild duck with a (not) celeriac puree, beet, white carrot, red radish, and Cyprus salt – accompanied by its date-covered leg.  Duck is tricky.  Undercooked, it’s chewy.  Overcooked, it’s inedible.  Here, the preparation is perfect, crispy-skinned and tender.
I say the duck was served with (not) celeriac puree above because, although that’s what I assumed it was, our helpful waiter explained it was actually cerfeuil.  And, when I expressed confusion, he popped back into the kitchen and returned with a sample.  Chervil!  Really?
Sorry.  By the time I finished it, I realized I’d forgotten to snap a pic.  I toyed with the idea of hanging around and getting a photo of our neighbor’s plate but ultimately decided to go with this.  What you missed: Grape sorbet from Kyojo with whipped grape champagne creme brulee and a confit Porto, topped with an anise treat.
Tarte tain with vanilla ice cream, creme anglaise, roast pear, rusk, and sugar caramel.  Another triumph of taste, temperature and textural contrasts – sweet, salty, sour, warm, cold, crispy, crunchy, soft, and chewy. 
Our guide on this culinary odyssey: Chiba Tadashi who painstakingly explained every dish and, whenever I expressed confusion, ducked back into the kitchen to retrieve the ingredients to hopefully help clarify.
Les mignardaises
Chef Beccat

A wonderful lunch.  Much thanks to Chiba-san for going above and beyond the call to make our lunch as informative as possible (even though, I’m sure, I’ve missed plenty of the details in attempting to jot them down, shorthand, on my iphone notepad).  And, of course, many thanks to Chef Beccat for yet another memorable meal.  I’ll definitely be back on my return visit to Tokyo.

Last night, we dined at Chez Tomo in Ginza with Akemi’s friend, Megumi.  Akemi was particularly looking forward to the restaurant’s signature vegetable plate.  I was dubious – but ended up pleasantly surprised.  You’ll see why in a moment…

If there are two things I’ve eaten A LOT of on this trip, it’s foie gras and sea urchin.  And that’s been perfectly fine by me.  In this dish, the sea urchin is served with lobster in a bisque-like preparation served in the uni’s shell.
Interesting.  Flounder-wrapped around Japanese pear accompanied by a Japanese pear ravioli, beets, seawater gelatin cubes, and black olive tapenade.  Quite a few acidic notes.
A mosaic of between 28-30 organic vegetables from Yamanashi.  This dish was a blast to eat, offering up an incredible variety of tastes and textures.
A soup duo: chilled chestnut on the left and a warm beet-laced vegetable medley on the right.
Roasted Hokkaido wild Yezo deer roast, patty and heart sauté, served with black pepper sauce.  The presentation left a little something to be desired but the dish was delicious nevertheless.  Surprisingly sweet and lacking in black pepper kick given the black pepper in the description.
Instead of trotting out finished desserts for us to select from, we were presented with the main ingredients that went into each of the four desserts of the day (ie. the fresh egg and vanilla beans that go into the creme brûlée).  We all decided to go with –
The chocolate trio.  A so-so cold chocolate drink accompanied by a delightfully dense chocolate ganache and bittersweet chocolate ice cream.

Homeward-bound today and Akemi and I are really looking forward to seeing the dogs.

See you in Van and thanks for tagging along!

November 8, 2012: The return of The Weird Food Purchase of the Day! Gyoza Stadium! Ice Cream City! Nodaiwa!

Today, Akemi and I headed over to Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City Mall, home to Namco Namja Town’s Gyoza Stadium and Ice Cream City.  It’s been some five years since my last visit to Ice Cream City (I still flashback to the aftertaste of that squid ice cream) and I was looking forward to the return trip.  This would be Akemi’s first time and she was incredibly excited.

So, did it live up to the hype?  In two words: You bet!

We started off by hitting Gyoza Stadium, home to about a dozen stands specializing in about a dozen preparations of the Japanese-style dumplings.  It’s less a stadium and really more of a theme area, lantern light-lined narrow alleyways and faux watering holes harkening back to a 1920’s Shanghai.

Walking the alleyways of Gyoza Stadium.
Akemi discovers, of all things: Bar Akemi.  ova

We wound our way through the various gyoza stands, taking in the dizzying array of preparations.  In addition to the menu itemizing the various choices, a general rundown of each stand’s gyoza philosophy – thin vs. thicker wrapper, use of garlic, etc. – offered some help in the decision-making process.  All the same, it wasn’t easy.

I liked the look of these snowmen-looking gyoza.

Eventually, we settled on three stands and placed our orders.

Who’s hungry?
Round #1

From left to right: Garlic gyoza – tiny, but they packed a significant garlic kick.  Our favorite.    Beside them, a gyoza medley.  From bottom to top: regular pork, kimchee, and charcoal.  I liked them although Akemi found the wrapper too thick. And, finally, on the far right, mentaiko (cod roe)-mayo gyoza topped with lotus root. Great.

I contemplate my charcoal gyoza.

We were done – but not DONE.

Round #2

From left to right: Mapo tofu gyoza – I figured they would be stuffed with tofu but they were actually stuffed with pork.  And a lot of it.  It was topped with mapo tofu which is comprised of bean curd and a spicy chili sauce.  I liked it but thought it was a bit too meat heavy.  Next to it, the spicy gyoza that, after the mouth-blasting ramen I had at Ippudo the other day, tasted downright tame.

According to Akemi, both gyoza were “for men”:

We were pretty done.

Round #3

I couldn’t resist sampling Gyoza Stadium’s version of the Siu Long Bao.  More of a dumpling than a gyoza, I found the skin a little too thick.

We were stuffed.  We couldn’t eat another bite.

Of gyoza.  So we headed over to Ice Cream City to peruse the some 300 flavors available.

Just some of the selection at Ice Cream City.
Hmmmm. Decisions, decisions…

Because I know you guys would have been disappointed if I didn’t, I selected about a half-dozen weird flavors and sampled them with Akemi, recording the results for your amusement:

I sample eel ice cream:

Sea urchin ice cream:

Wasabi ice cream:

Akemi tries the wasabi ice cream:

Sake ice cream:

Squid ink ice cream:

Akemi hazards a taste:

You like chicken wings?  You like ice cream?

Kasu ice cream:

Finally, I wish I could have tried all of them but, with easily over 300+ ice creams to choose from, there’s no way I could have even come close.  Sadly, here are some of the more interesting flavors I’ll have to come back for…

Cow tongue
Shrimp
Chinese herbal medicine flavor! A Carl Binder favorite!
And viper. Yes, the snake and not the car.

We worked off gyoza and ice cream by taking a walk through Namco Namja Town’s meandering corridors, bizarre open courtyards, recessed alcoves, and dead-ends…

Akemi tests her skin age.  There were also machines that tested your “body age”, stress level, and blood pressure.  What fun!

Finally, on the way back to the subway station, we came across THIS tiny park frequented by a bunch of laid-back cats.

I assume they’re wild but they didn’t seem to mind human company in the least, either ignoring passersby or sauntering over for attention.

Tons o’ fun!  If any of you get to Ice Cream City before my return visit next year, please sample the snake ice cream and post the results.

November 8, 2012: The Osaka wrap-up! Back in Tokyo! Family dinner! Honkogetsu! Killer ramen!

On our final night in Osaka, I was invited to join Akemi’s family for a grand kaiseki dinner at Honkogetsu.  It was a magnificent meal, due in large part to the food and company, but also in some small part because I made it through the meal without fumbling anything with my chopsticks or unwittingly saying something inappropriately hilarious.

The Aota clan

We were also joined by Akemi’s aunt and uncle, bringing our total number to eight. It was quite the dining party.

Harukhiko – Akemi’s younger brother works the phones.
Hiromi – Akemi’s big sister.  She took assiduous notes of every dish as we were presented so I’ll link to her blog at the end of this entry for all the details.  Hope you’ve been brushing up on your Japanese.
Akemi’s father is a lot of fun.
Akemi. Flashing gang signs?
Akemi’s mother is a tea ceremony teacher

A special thanks to Akemi’s sister, Hiromi, for sending me photos and accompanying explanations of the various dishes we enjoyed.  Most of the pictures I’ve posted compliments of her.

Special mention should be made of the serving dishes.  This one resembles a gift box.  Apparently it’s called ogento-musubi.  Gento is boar in Japanese and a symbol of happiness.

Inside: persimmon, daikon, carrots, nori, shredded lobster and ebi-miso jelly.

Mochi-wrapped karasumi (aka bottarga, aka salted mullet roe).  The roe is preserved in salt and sun-dried, then wrapped in the glutinous rice cake.

My favorite dish of the evening (matsuba-gani no wan mono): crab (with a texture akin to pudding), sea urchin and kani miso (guts) topped with yuzu in a seasonal broth.  The yuzu is sliced to resemble a matuba (pine needle).

Plate: Kounyu(弘入), 12th Raku Kichizaemon(樂 吉左衛門), 1857-1932.

An elegant sashimi duo of snapper and toro.

Plate: Rosanjin, Japanese artist, 1883-1959.  Painter, ceramic art, calligrapher, cook, etc.

Nobody was able to offer up the name of this fish in English but it was delicious, grilled and topped with shaved white leek.  It was reminiscent of a firmer, meatier seabass.  According to Hiromi, it’s called kue in Japanese.  The white leek is called shiraga negi.  Shiragi is white hair and symbolic of long life.

Kue no nikogori – a jellied reduction of the aforementioned kue fish.

Persimmon leaves give the dish a Fall feel.

Smoked scallop and oysters, deep fried gingko nuts, fresh ikura (salmon roe) with egg yolk and daikon, mushroom, tofu, mukago no natto, and sweet shrimp (ama-ebi) with “koji mold”.

Daikon served atop goma-dofu (sesame tofu) stuffed with fresh sea urchin.

Soba topped with mountain potato.

Thought we were done?  Not so fast.  Simmered Japanese root vegetable (shade-grown zuiki) and quail meatballs with sansho.

Snapper rice.

For dessert: fresh persimmon, pear and kiwi, calpico sorbet, and delightfully fizzy Mitsuya soda jelly.

Marron and millet in azuki soup.

I’m a big fan of matcha (green tea) so when Mr. Aota slid his bowl across the table, I couldn’t believe my good fortunate.  “You’re not going to drink it?”I asked.  As it turns out, he just wanted me to take a photo.  I came THAT close to helping myself to his matcha.

An amazing meal.

For further details and more on Hiromi, head on over here to check out her blog: http://ameblo.jp/chado-kyutotsuan/.  How’s your Japanese?

We woke up early to pack, check out, leave our bags with the concierge, and then meet up with Akemi’s father for a final lunch before boarding the shinkansen back to Tokyo.  I had expressed an interest in ramen so Akemi’s suggested, Ippudo, a place near his office.  I was feeling daring so I decided to go with the spicy tonkotsu soup. I had a choice between 3, 5, and super spicy (3 or 5 what?) and selected the latter. After all, how hot could it be?  As it turned out, pretty damn hot.  The endorphin rush hit me so hard I feared I would pass out.  I wound up transferring my noodles to Mr. Aota’s unfinished soup base – and still could only manage to finish half of it. In retrospect, it was the wrong choice given the fact that we’d already checked out of the hotel and I had another two hours to kill before boarding a train for the two and a half hour trip back to Tokyo.  As it turned out, however, I felt great and experienced no ill effects of the molten ramen.

Until about 2:00 a.m.

Akemi and her dad.
Me and my beer.
The ramen that nearly killed me.

Thankfully, the return trip to Tokyo was uneventful.  We checked back into The Imperial Hotel, relaxed, then went out for some casual Korean at –

THIS place: Hatejiya.  Great!

Whew.  All caught up.  I leave you with a final few images of my trip to Osaka…

Recycle-Bear. Your plastic bottle caps go in his belly and suitcase.
Gimme a pitcher of dessert.
Glico

November 5, 2012: What day is it? Oh, let’s call it Osaka Day #1! And the tail end of Tokyo Day #7! L’Effervescence! And dogs eating ice cream!

Osaka

Today, we took the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Osaka, riding (and eating) in comfort as the scenery whizzed by.

All aboard!

It was quite comfortable (surprisingly roomier than any airline I’ve ever flown), with reserve seating and food vendors who stroll up and down the various cars, offering up everything from ice cream and coffee to katsu (pork cutlet) sandwiches. 

The view from my seat.

I’m thinking that, in the future, this might be the way to see more of the country.  I could start in Hokkaido, Japan’s most northern area, and wind my way south by train, getting off to explore some of the cities along the way.  I could spend a couple of nights in Kyoto, Nara, Okinawa, Kobe, Kyushu…

Before boarding, we loaded up on supplies – in the form of snackables.  Since we arrived at Tokyo Station early, we had to wait some ten minutes for the shops to open.  And, at exactly 8:00 a.m., they did – right on schedule.  Check it out:

I picked up three of those mini pork burgers (they come in both lean and not-so-lean), a bento box, and some macarons for dessert:

My travel bento – a little bit of everything.

I also had some of the chocolates my friend Tomomi gifted me the previous night:

These wicked little morsels of chocolate decadence are highly addictive. They’re like super-dense/moist/rich brownies laced with just a touch of salt. They’re from a place called Chocolat Chic in Minato-ku

Speaking of Tomomi, I promised to provide the details of the incredible meal we enjoyed…

L’Effervesence

It was a spectacular dinner and the culinary highpoint of this trip so far.  The restaurant, L’Effervescence, is located in a quiet side street steps away from the Chokokuji Temple.  It has only been open about two years but has already earned itself a Michelin star thanks to its young, innovate Chef Shinobu Namae.

I arrived early (because I assumed I’d get lost – and did), and relaxed in the sleek lounge while I awaited my dining companion.  Tomomi arrived right on time, looking as gorgeous as ever, and we were escorted to our table, tucked away in a cozy, semi-private section.

In the mad scramble to pack for Osaka, I misplaced the menu, so bear with me as I attempt to tap my spotty memory and recall what, exactly, we ate:

First up were six imported olives.  Three were regular, and no less delicious, olives while another three had been laced with a hint of blood orange.

Their version of kinpira (burdock and carrot) with a touch of yuzu, topped with a foam confrere and accompanied by some yuzu ice.  Apparently, very natsukashii.

Next up was the apple pie which – hey, check it out! – looks a lot like the hot apple pie I used to get at McDonalds when I was a kid.  Chef Namae’s version is made with braised beef cheeks and Japanese sweet potato.  And, yes, kind of tasted like apple pie.

This dish was a masterful marriage of subtle flavors, highlighted by some beautiful Spanish mackerel.

The restaurant’s signature dish is a daikon (Japanese turnip) that has been slow-cooked for some four hours – yet, surprisingly, still retains its firmness and a certain crunch.  No idea how they pull it off but it’s damn impressive. 

The sea bass was perfectly cooked and easily the best I’ve had.  Our waiter described the arduous preparation process that involved switching the fish off from varied heated environments to achieve that perfect textural balance.

Foie gras with fresh chestnuts, chestnut puree, and black truffles.    The foie gras chestnut combination has been a revelation on this trip.

Interesting.  Sipped on the left, the oolong tea is cold.  Sipped on the right, it is piping hot.  Sipped from the middle and you are treated to a swirling combination of the two.  The most unique palate cleanser I’ve ever had. 

The main course was a perfectly prepared piece of pork (Yes, they can serve it pink in Japan because of the type of pork they source) accompanied by some outstanding mushrooms.

I had the cheese course but should have joined Tomomi on the salad instead – made up of 27 different vegetables (out of the 40 in season). 

A pear dessert featuring cauliflower ice cream.  Hmmmm.  Interesting, but I actually think the ice cream would have been far more successful as an added element to a savory course.

Chef Namae’s take on tiramisu.  We were instructed to eat the coffee capsule on the spoon first, then crack the crunchy chocolate top and scoop out the cream and cake to complete the experience. 

We ended our meal with various small sweet bites, among them some pop rock chocolate pops – 

And lemon curd in a tube.  We were also gifted a take-away treat that, frankly, I was to full to eat – which Akemi likened to an incredibly moist caramel pound cake.

Akemi’s breakfast.

Once we were done, Chef Namae came by to introduce himself.  I told him how much I enjoyed the meal and greatly appreciated, not only the execution of the various dishes in terms of the complexity of textures and tastes, but also the amount of creativity and hard work that no doubt gone into their conception.  At some point, Chef Namae had to come up with the inspired idea, then he had to figure out a way to achieve it on the plate, coming up with a game plan followed by a trial and error approach that eventually yielded the sought-after results.  And all I did was show up and eat it!

Highly recommended.

Whew.  Got the first full day of Osaka under my belt.  It’s, uh, quite the unique city. Tomorrow, I’ll take you all on the guided tour.  Make sure to wear your comfy shoes!

And, finally – a some heartening news from sis who has decided to hold off on the difficult decision.  Although he’s not going to get better, Aspen appears to have bounced back and is in much better spirits.  Great to hear!

November 4, 2012: Tokyo Day #7! On the home front! L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon! Pieces of the Puzzle!

Here I’ve been wracking my brain, wondering how I could make a living if moved to Japan – when, suddenly, opportunity comes a-knocking: Japan suffers sumo wrestler shortage.  The way I’ve been eating of late, I figure I should be ready for action in about two months.

As much as I’m enjoying myself here in Tokyo, I do miss the dogs back home.  Fortunately, I’m receiving daily updates on the gang from our dog-sitter, Christine – daily updates in the form of email, texts, and, best of all, the occasional pictures…

Jelly. In there somewhere!  Apparently, she’ll head out, rain or shine – provided there are treats involved.
According to Christine, Lulu’s initial enthusiasm for walks has waned as the rain has gotten heavier.
Bubba is apparently just happy to tag along wherever they go.
Hanging out.

We’re slowly adjusting to Tokyo time here, sleeping through most of the night and waking up at a not ungodly hour.  One more week and we should be perfectly synced – just in time to head back home to Vancouver.  Anyway, we went for another morning walk through Ginza.  We had lunch reservations in Roppogni at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (Akemi likes it for it’s “cost performance” – in other words, it’s a great deal) for noon.  Rather than walk around for two hours on an empty stomach, decided to pick up a little breakfast.  And by little, I do mean little – specifically a little katsu burger:

Taaasty! I could have eaten a dozen of these. Hey, I’ve still go time.

I picked it up in the basement of the Mitsukoshi department store.  If you’ve never been, you have got to check it out.  The entire floor is packed with sweet and savory ready-to-eat food items, from the casual aforementioned mini katsu burger to high-end pastries.  Just grab your take-out and head up to the ninth floor snacking area.  It’s incredibly child-friendly as well.  Kids even get their own bathroom:

We headed over to Roppongi Hills for another fabulous meal.  Some of the highlights:

My sea urchin gelee/panna cotta.
The sanma (Spanish mackerel) mille-feuille.
My salmon tartare. Akemi changed her mind and proclaimed THIS the best dish of the trip so far.
Foie and fig.
Akemi’s outstanding white fish and mushroom main.
Sea urchin spaghetti with egg yolk and cream.

Foie, double sea urchin, cream – Akemi expressed concern about my high cholesterol meal.  I explained that I actually suffer from low cholesterol and actually need to eat like this to stay healthy.

The chocolate souffle with mint ice cream (that nobody ate. It was so minty, I felt like I was brushing my teeth.)
This super-chocoatey chocolate dessert even outdid the soufflé!
Our lunch guest on this day, Akemi’s friend, Nihei, who graduated from University in Oklahoma.  Oklahoma?

As I familiarize myself with more areas of the city, the pieces of the puzzle slowly fall into place, giving me a fuller picture of Tokyo.  Last night, for instance, I accompanied Akemi to Daikanyama (I call it Dogkanyama because it seems to be pooch central) and happened across Tableaux, one of the very first restaurants I visited on my very first trip to Tokyo some five years ago.  Back then, I had no idea where the place was located – and neither did our cab driver who had to stop and consult a map.  As it turns out, it’s just a few blocks around the corner from the subway station.

A large part of the familiarization process requires me to walk everywhere.  And such was the case later in the night when, after dropping Akemi off for her dinner with the gals, I headed to Omotesando for dinner with my friend Tomomi.  She suggested I take a cab but I decided to hoof it instead, relying on the seemingly crystal clear directions offered up in a Japan Times review of the restaurant.  Use the B1 Exit out of Omotesando station and walk down Aoyama dori, then hang your first left at the lights on Kotti Dori and walk for ten minutes until you hit Roppongi dori.  Take a left at the Fuji Building then wind right down the side street and L’Effervesence will be on your right.  Great.  Except that, in Tokyo, you’ll be lucky to find a street sign, much less an actual address.  Which way was “down” Aoyama dori?  Was that first street actually Kotto dori?  Which street was Roppongi dori?  Miraculously, I managed alright (although, to be precise, the turn is “before” Fujifilm rather than the more nebulous “at”).  I soon found myself walking down a dark alley.  Headed toward me was a middle-aged woman pushing a baby stroller.  If I was writing the horror movie, she would approach me and ask me to help her baby.  Then, the second I approached, a small man who leap up out of the stroller and pierce my eye with a knitting needle.  End scene.

Fortunately, my night was much less harrowing.  I dare say, it was downright amazing.  But the details will have to wait as I’m off to catch the bullet train to Osaka.  Wonder what they’ll serve?

Finally, my sis makes the hard decision for her sweet dog, Aspen, soon.  Sending positive thoughts their way:

November 3, 2012: Tokyo Day #6! Pizza Seirinkan! The Molecular Tapas Bar!

I’d been thinking about it since my last trip here and, finally, yesterday, I finally got a chance to pay a return visit to Pizza Seirinkan.  Joining me this time were Akemi and her friend Yukina…

The place is surprisingly easy to find, a mere two minute walk from the Naka-Meguro subway station.  It opens at 11:3o but, on this day, we got in early at approximately 11:26 a.m.
Yukina (the strawberry princess) and Akemi.
We did the octopus starter.  Tasty but a tad chewy.  Mogu-mogu as Akemi put it.
There are only two types of pizza on the menu at Seirinkan.  But, really, you don’t need anymore.  Why mess with perfection?  The Margherita is my favorite.
While Akemi preferred the more garlicky Marinara.  It’s all in the dough.

After lunch, we headed over to Electric Town, Akihabara, so I could track down a new Evangelion iPhone case and, of course, one of my favorite desserts –

I had the matcha coming and the custard going.  They’re sweet, cream-filled pillows from heaven.

Akemi and I kept the subsequent snacking to a minimum because we had a 6:00 p.m. dinner reservation at The Molecular Tapas Bar.  This would make my fourth visit, but we really went because Akemi was dying to try it.  It’s always an experience…

The view from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel lounge. Akemi called it beautiful. I’d lean toward terrifying.
The Sparkling Muscat. Like eating sweet, carbonated jelly.
Autumn Forest Snacks

From left to right: A porcini puff, mushroom cappuccino, crispy gingko, truffled potato, hunting pig (a bacon biscuit), matsutake gohan (a matsutake mushroom rice cracker), and an apple-manchego cigar.

Please, don’t eat. The dry ice is just for show.
An incredibly aromatic shitake mushroom soup. Akemi says it was the best thing she’s eaten so far on this trip. Totemo natsukashii!
Passion fruit caviar.  They burst in your mouth like fruity salmon eggs.

On to the mains…

Smoke (and smokey) tuna.
Akemi usually isn’t a fan of smoked foods so I thought I’d get to finish hers off.  Unfortunately for me, she loved it.
Langoustine Suquet – scampi in a Catalan broth.
Braised Iberico pork cheek. Guess what the cauliflower-looking stuff is. If you guessed cauliflower, you’re right.
Siu long bao. Actually, a reverse take on the Chinese soup dumpling. The lamb chop holds a pocket of the hot broth that has been injected directly into the meat. You’re cautioned to eat it all in one bite at the risk of making a mess. Accompanying the chop is a yogurt dipping sauce and some baby peach.
Wagyu cooked sous-vide for six hours.
Dobinmushi. Their take on the class soup sees its main ingredients encapsulated in a translucent globule created by dropping the soup in calcium water.

And then it was on to dessert.  We started with the “puff”, liquid nitrogen-dipped meringues that literally puffed in your mouth when chewed, venting its smokey self out of the nose’s of unsuspecting diners.

Leaf Littered

An intricate and beautiful dish.  Those maple leaves are painstakingly constructed from wonton wrappers.  But the highlight for me was the acorn ice cream.

Clockwise from the top: Buttery-great popcorn cotton candy, a lemon-olive oil gummy, szechuan meringue, uber-tart raspberry soda (in wafer for), and chocolate pumice.

And we finished with the restaurant’s trademark miracle fruit closer.

We were instructed to sample the various fruit – sweet orange, tart lemon and lime – then told to pop the little red miracle fruit into our mouths.  We chewed the fruit around the stone, moved it around our mouths and then, when a minute was up, we spat out the stone and tasted the fruit again.  The lemon and limes were miraculously sweet.  How is this possible?  Oh, you can read all about it here: Miracle fruit – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I’ve got to find a source so I can throw my own miracle fruit party where I can serve lemon wedges and vinegar shots.

Another day in Tokyo, then hopping on the bullet train and heading over to Osaka for a couple of days.

What have you all been up to?

November 1, 2012: Tokyo Day #4! Pierre Gagnaire!

Okay, I said late blog entry but I’ve got a window of opportunity here so it’ll be an early blog post instead.  Last night, I got together with my friend, Sachi, for dinner at Pierre Gagnaire in the ANA Continental Hotel.

Sachi

We spent much of the meal catching up on our respective lives.  Sachi is quite the adventurous traveler, having spent time in places all over the world – many of which I’d probably never dare visit in my lifetime.  Whenever we start talking about these various locations, my progression of questions is so predictable.  Question #1: “How was it?”  Question #2: “How was the food?”.  Since the last time I saw her, Sachi has settled down in Rome – which she likes just fine although it’s apparently lacking in ethnic cuisine.

Well, on this night, we were dining at Pierre Gagnaire and, while not exactly ethnic, it did offer a variety of plates she’d be hard-pressed to find back in Rome – or, frankly, anywhere for that matter.  The dinner was a succession of detailed dishes ranging from the breathtaking to the bizarre, the stylistically spectacular to the substantially short.  But, damnit, they were all very entertaining.

The amuse bouches.

Unfortunately, these weren’t listed on the menu so I can’t recall the details.  I do, however, remember being blown away by the chorizo chip that was bursting with intense, chorizo flavor.  If they sold these at my local 7-11, I’d be snacking on them all night.

Scallop roasted and marinated with Amontillado, NOLPI, sea urchin, and Brussel sprouts.

I have no idea what NOLPI is but I did like this dish as a fresh, savory and slightly sweet start to the meal.

Lobster with cepe mushrooms, pear, and grappa leaves topped with a caramel sheet.

This one was very interesting.  The lobster was excellent; the caramel sheet a curious textural addition.

Foie gras with anago fritta and pomengranates

Probably my least favorite dish of the night.  Perhaps due to its small size, the foie gras was a little overcooked.  Also overcooked – but intentionally so given the “fritta” designation – was the sea eel that lost any of its original flavor in the preparation and simply ended up tasting like a crispy fried thing.

Afonsino seized with brown butter, beetroot syrup, avocado brûlée, and sticky potato Alexia.

I’m amused by the description, the fish (aka Kinmedai) “seized” in brown butter.  It was a perfectly little piece of fish and that beetroot syrup was outstanding.  I felt a little let down by another description, the “avocado bruleee”, that turned out to be a few slices of slightly torched avocado.

Roasted rackof lamb, braised Jerusalem artichokes with saffron, fried squid and lemon paste mascarpone.
Lamb sweetbreads with almond, chestnut bursts.

A very good dish, especially that lemon paste mascarpone.  The squid were tiny but had a lot of flavor.

Normally, the cheese course wouldn’t excite me but I was delighted with Pierre Gagnaire’s version.

Roquefort cream, Banyuls reduction, slices of crispy bread.
Brillat Savarin-gren tea, milk jelly with cardamom.

And, not pictured: Brie de Meaux, persimmon and fresh pear.

I was pleasantly surprised by all three marvellous preparations.  A highlight of the night.

Speaking of highlights…

I had no idea what to expect when it came time for dessert.  All the menu said was: “Desserts inspired by traditional French pastries” and “Created using fruits, seasonal vegetables, low sugar confectionary and chocolate”.

So, what to expect?  Oh, anything and everything.  What follows are some snaps of the myriad of tiny sweets we were presented with:

Sachi asked for an alternate to chocolate and the kitchen presumably whipped up this substitute!
And this one!

All in all, a pretty remarkable meal.

By the time I got back to the hotel, I was exhausted and looking forward to a good night’s sleep.  Apparently, so was Akemi who had locked the door and drifted off.Unable to gain key access to the room, I knocked and rang and emailed – to no avail.  I ended up having to phone the room, rousing Akemi from her deep slumber. For a while there, I was entertaining the notion of just booking another room for the night.

As mentioned in yesterday’s entry, I’m off to Yokohama to meet up with my friend Moro-san.  No idea what she has in mind but I’m hoping it includes a trip to the famed Curry Museum – which will be a terrific substitute for the Mori Arts Museum which is closed during my visit. sad

Today’s breakfast/snack:

Lookit the says of dem grapes!

Today’s entry is dedicated to my sis, and her boy Aspen who, sadly, isn’t doing too well.

October 31, 2012: Tokyo Day #3! Sawada! Shinjuku! Butagumi!

Last night, Akemi and I returned to our favorite sushi restaurant in Tokyo: Sawada. It’s always more than dinner, it’s a show, with Master Sawada-san presenting a feast of varied sushis and sashimis, from sweet Hokkaido uni to grilled sea eel, all expertly prepared and utterly delicious.  The restaurant itself is small, seating six at its modest counter, but this, says Sawada, is ideal as it allows him to give each diner his fullest attention.  The meal isn’t cheap, but it is always one of the culinary highlights of my year.

On this visit, we were seated beside a solo diner, Jeff, who was in town from London for two days of business.  We chatted film, television, and, of course, food.  The remaining counter seats were occupied by three 50-something Japanese women whose conversation grew more raucous, their laughter louder, as the evening progressed – no doubt owing to the amount of sake they knocked back.  At one point, one of them got up to use the bathroom, stumbled and almost ate tatami – but found much-needed support in the form of the opposing closet door that almost buckled under her weight.  Once our dinner had ended, I made sure they left first. The last thing I needed was an inebriated avalanche of drunken older women tumbling down the stairs toward me.

Anyway, no photos of the meal itself (Sawada-san enforces a strict no-photo policy – unless you get there early and there are no fellow diners to offend), but I did snap a pic of our new friend, Jeff with Akemi:

Today, we did a little shopping in Shinjuku…

The streets of Shinjuku

I touched and got “Make a mountain out of a molehill”.

Then to Nishi-Azabu for tonkatsu lunch…

Our walk from the metro station takes us by Aoyama Park.
Lunch at Butagumi with our friend, Masa.
The menu offers a wide variety of pork (breaded and fried to golden-tender perfection).
Let the pig-out begin!
This appetizer was the surprise star of the meal and probably the most delicious thing I’ve eaten all year. The pork is braised for eight hours, then cooked with garlic, green onions, soy, and shichimi (a Japanese spice made up of some seven other ingredients). I ended up ordering a second dish – and then a third. Unbelievably tasty.
We ordered three different tonkatsu’s. This one was the thickly sliced, medium-rich pork sirloin from Kagoshima prefecture.
This one was the Imo Buta from Chiba prefecture and was our favorite. Surprising since it was a filet and the leanest of the three.
The super rich Meishan-Ton from Ibakari prefecture. Akemi and I were expecting the marbling to be more evenly distributed. It was a tad queasifying. Is queasifying a word?

We worked off lunch with a walk down to Roppongi Midtown and stopped by Jean-Paul Hevin for macarons before heading back to Roppongi Hills – only to discover that the Mori Arts Museum is closed until mid-November.  WTF?!

Tonight, it’s dinner with my friend, Sachi, at Pierre Gagnaire and then tomorrow, it’s a LATE blog update as I spend the day (and early evening) with my friend, Moro-san, in Yokohama!

How are our friends on the east coast?  Hope you’ve all ridden out the storm and things are returning to normalcy.

October 29, 2012: Tokyo Day #2! Roppongi! Faro! Yasai-ya Me!

Just stop by the convenience store and pick up a carton of milk – oh, and one of those individually-wrapped bananas or ears of corn.

Akemi is so adorable.  She’s apparently been in Canada so long that she’s forgotten what it’s like to live in Tokyo.

“Tell me when you see a garbage can,”she said, waving the empty can she was holding.

A garbage can?  On the streets of Ginza?  You’re more likely to come across Godzilla.

The plan was to catch the metro to Roppongi so that we could check out the always entertaining Mori Art Museum.  Unfortunately, it turned out the museum was closed – so we had to entertain ourselves through alternate means:

A visit to the fantastic Le Chocolat de H for their terrific banana chocolates.
Then, a visit to the Ritz Carleton Cafe for a drink – oh, and this massive green tea choux topped with adzuki beans.

We were looking at an 8:00 p.m. dinner reservation at Faro and I needed something to tide me over.  Beside the chocolates and choux.  Curiously, I was in the mood for – of all things – fruit!  I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise given that, despite my eating habits when I’m away, I eat fairly sensibly on the home front.  For instance, my post morning work-out lunch always consists of a shake comprised of one banana, half a cup of blueberries, another miscellaneous fruit (half a papaya, a whole pear, a couple of figs), almond milk, and oatmeal.  Apparently, my body NEEDS fruit.

Sigh.  I must be getting old.

Last night, we took in a late dinner at one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Ginza: Faro.  Joining us for the unsurprisingly excellent meal was Akemi’s good friend, Harumi.

Akemi and Harumi catch up.
The amuse-bouce was a thick and creamy cauliflower soup with cauliflower consomme gelee topped with salmon roe.
My starter: a fabulous foie gras with marron (chestnut) cream.  Upon on top, some roasted chestnut topped with a coffee gelee.
Also to start, the Sea Urchin Royale.
We split two pasta plates: veal-stuffed agnolotti with porcini mushrooms on the left (my favourite) and tagliatelle with lobster on the right (Akemi’s favourite)
We followed up with an earthy truffle risotto.
They wheeled out the dessert cart at the end of the meal.  I was so stuffed, I could only manage one: the Savarin topped with Brandy.
And, just to be sure we weren’t going home hungry, they presented us with a selection of sweet small bites – with extra mango-passion fruit gimauve (marshmallows) for Akemi.

This morning, Akemi had the most interesting breakfast…

Fresh orange and orange jelly she picked up from Ginza Sembikya, a shop specializing in fresh fruit, fruit sandwiches, and mangoes the size of your head.

Not to be outdone…

I had the desserts Harumi gifted us last night from Pierre Herme: Ispahan (rose, lychee and raspberry) macaron on the left and a match with adzuki bean macaron on the right.

Akemi had an appointment this morning and, once she finished up, I ended up meeting her in Omotedsando where we had lunch at Yasai-Ya Me, a restaurant specializing in vegetarian cuisine (although, curiously, I found pork and chicken on the menu as well).  I noticed that clientele was overwhelmingly women.  I was the only guy in the restaurant with the exception of some poor sap no doubt dragged in by his girlfriend.

Yasai (vegetables), not to be confused with yasui (cheap) or yasashii (easy).

Akemi ordered a carbonated vinegar soda that is apparently a great antioxidant.  I went with an anti-aging tea (and feel younger already!).

Fried lotus root dusted with black pepper and garlic.  Highly addictive!
My main was a culinary tableau of tastes and textures: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, crispy, creamy, dense and airy.  Some of the items were amazing, others less so, but it was an experience all the same.
Akemi had a kasu (lees left over from the sake making process) rice with baked pumpkin.  It was surprisingly subtle.  I would have preferred a more pronounced kasu flavor.

I was also served two soups, one of which boasted an intense yuzu (Japanese citrus similar to a lemon) flavor.

We worked off lunch by taking a stroll through Omotesando and hitting all the cultural hotspots (ie. Pierre Herme, Jean-Paul Hevin, and La Maison du Chocolat).

This mini-cheesebuger-sized macaron should give us the energy we need to finish our tour of the neighborhood!

Tonight, dinner with our old friend (and sushi master) Sawada-san.

Watching the updates on the storm hitting the east coast.  For those of you in the impact area, stay safe and let us know how you’re doing.

August 8, 2009: My Ballooning Tokyo Restaurant List. News of Note. Mailbag.

Okay. Almost there. Today, I finally trimmed both scripts down to a manageable 51 pages. Next up is the “Print and Pace” stage in which I have Lawren print me up a copy so that I can walk up and down the halls of the production office, script in hand, reading and revising, looking very much like an actor preparing for an audition. I might give both scripts another once-over before Monday but, until then…

I spent a good part of the day going over my prospective restaurant list for the upcoming Tokyo visit. Some of you may think I’m nuts researching so early given that I don’t hit Nihon until this winter, but there’s a lot to get through and you have to reserve early. In some cases, very early – three months in advance! Anyway, between Chowhound, Egullet, Bento Box, SunnyPages, and assorted foodie blogs, I think I’m in a position to make a somewhat informed decision. When I last reported on my progress, I had trimmed the restaurant list from an unwieldy 96 to a much more doable 51. Alas, between then and now, I’ve ended up adding a few, so that number has ballooned to 74. Sadly, even with double lunches AND double dinners, I wouldn’t make it so I’m going to have to pare down the roster yet again. But it’s tough. They all sound so good and/or intriguing and/or so bizarrely outlandish it’s near impossible to decide. Don’t believe me? Check out some of the restaurants in the running along with the accompanying descriptions that had me taking notice…

Akarichitei: “The habanero chicken is so hot that customers must don surgical gloves to handle it”.

Argent Aso: “Smoked Iberico pork with garlic infused cream”.

Birdland: “…one of Tokyo’s most famous yakitori restaurants, has chicken so fresh that it can be eaten rare. Bonbochi is the fatty bits near the tail, grilled up to juicy, savory bombs. Liver is rich and tender, sunagimo (gizzard) is chewy, hatsu (heart) has a nice mouthfeel, while nankotsu (cartilage; below) gives your jaws a workout”.

Chez Matuso: “Stewed baby boar with white bean puree”.

Ginza La Tour: “Foie Gras Royale slow-cooked for 4 hours then infused with Sauterne”

Gordon Ramsay: “”Oven-roasted pigeon wrapped in prosciutto with foie gras, confit of legs, mushroom ragout, prune puree and almond foam”.

Hiramatsu: “Roast lamb and onion compote with truffle sauce”

Kamiya Nokizaka: “Pork belly cooked in black vinegar and duck slow cooked in its own fat with wine”.

Kimukatsu: “Their unique concept is tonkatsu done more ways than you ever thought possible egg, garlic, miso, plum, black sesame, negi, cheese and, of course, plain. The meat itself is different to the classic tonkatsu, being made up of layers of pork like a millefeuille, crumbed and then deep fried and is quite delicious”.

Kodama: “Matsutake ice cream”.

La Bisboccia: “The parmigiano risotto, served in a bowl made of cheese, is unforgettable”.

L’Alliance: “Foie gras from Landes cooked over low heat and wrapped in a duck consomme and port jelly then served with 20 year old balsamic vinegar and vanilla aroma”.

La Tour d’Argent: “Roast duckling from Vendee served with a heavy sauce made from consomme, duck blood, liver, and Madeira wine“.

Le Bouguignon: “Interesting use of blood and organ meats”.

L’Embellir: “Pig’s feet tonkatsu”.

Maison d’Umemoto Shanghai: “Fried rice with crab innards”.

Miravile: “Japanese beef tongue with foie gras, truffles and pie crust a specialty. Also baked Japanese ox tail, pig’s feet, and foie gras pie served with truffled red wine sauce.”

Monnalisa Marunouchi: “Roast lamb covered with an herb and salt pie dough served with basil-flavored cream.”

Muroi: “Wild mushroom set menu featuring some of the 70 varieties picked”.

O’Hara’s: “Yezo Sika deer terrine and a pie made with truffles, foie gras, and potatoes.”

Okina: “Specialty sobas include soba kneaded with black or white truffles and one with homemade caviar”.

Pierre Gagnaire: “Le Grand Dessert made up of 7 different French desserts”.

Quintessence: “Goat’s milk Bavarian cream with salt and olive oil, three hour roast pork, and meringue ice cream”.

Reikasai: “San Bu Nian – a dessert made of egg yolk, cornflour, sugar and lard in which the dough is kneaded 600 times”.

Ristorante Aso: “Miyazaki and Sedai beef are grilled on charcoal and served with black pepper-flavored mascarpone. Sauteed foie gras topped with zabaione and black truffle sauce”.

Ristorante Honda: “Tagliolini with sea urchin”.

Ristorante La Primula: “ Pasta stuffed with potato puree, cinnamon, mint and raisins topped with Parmesan. Paprika-stewed beef cheeks with polenta, roasted quail stuffed with foie gras”.

Sushi Nakamura: “Seared sea cucmber ovaries good with sake”.

Tateru Yoshina Shiba: “Pork head cuts roasted and served with soft-shelled turtle”.

Uchiyama: “Giant pacific octopus eggs, jellied ray fin broth”.

Yamariki: “This izakaya’s signature nikomi of cow intestines is slow-simmered until tender—the cooks have used the same broth continuously for close to 40 years. Yamariki is known for its yakiton, or grilled bits from pork, including juicy kashira (temples) and chewy teppo (rectum).”

I’m expecting some fabulous dinners! And various Weird Food Purchase of the Day opportunities!

 

From tasty to tasteless, check out the Time’s Top 10 Tasteless Ads: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1907218_1907236,00.html

From tasteless to terrifying.  This Swedish ad was designed to sell personal care products – but instead ended up creeping out many t.v. viewers: http://www.thelocal.se/21116/20090805/

I knew it! Yet another reason dogs are better than kids (http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/personal/08/07/smart.dogs/index.html?iref=mpstoryview). I think I’ll train Jelly to do my taxes.

Mailbag:

Mishmee writes: “Are they working on the SG1 movie now?
My brother and I are working our way through the SG1 series again. We are on season 2. I’ve forgotten many of these episodes and I remember falling asleep on the couch watching them. Can’t remember why I was tired back then.
When did you join the show as a writer?”

Answer: The SG-1 movie script is with Brad right now. Paul and I joined the SG-1 writing staff at the beginning of season four.

Shirt ‘n Tie writes: “I know it’s insanely early, but have any of the actors been approached about doing audio commentary for the eps?”

Answer: Way too early.

Major D. Davis writes: “I heard SGU’s budget was up by 1 million bucks from Atlantis’ budget. So is SGU’s budget 3 million US dollars???”

Answer: Sorry, I’m not about to discuss numbers. However, I will say this – many have erroneously assumed that this was in reference to Atlantis’s FINAL season. It wasn’t. The comparison was being made to Atlantis’s FIRST season. Two very different budgets.

dune knight writes: “ hey joe, since the other guys read your scripts roughly at the same time they are writing theirs; so how are all 22 episodes in-sync in terms of the development of story arc and characters. and how do all of you write for the same character without making them sound different in each script especially for a new show like this.”

Answer: The first three scripts – Air I, II, and III – written by Brad and Robert, are the templates for all future scripts. We attempted to follow through on the various elements (ie. Character voices) that the show’s creators established early on. Once the scripts are completed, Brad and Robert always do a pass to ensure they remain true to their original vision. Also, the more we hear the actors in character, the easier it is to capture their voices. As for the story arcs – we beat out the stories as a team, well aware of what has come and what is coming. It’s not as if one of us will go off and come back with a script in which, say, Eli gets married or one of our major characters is killed off. All of the overall arcs and in-story arcs are discussed prior to going to script. In small instances, Brad and Rob may also tweak and adjust later scripts to reflect earlier developments.

duneknight also writes: “you probably answered this one before, how do you get yourself into writing mode”

 

Answer: Easy. I force myself. If I have the luxury of time, I’ll take it. If, however, I’m facing a deadline, then I sit down in front of my laptop and force myself to get it done.

Ytimyona writes: “Have the puppies been waking you up that early, or did it just kind of happen?”

Answer: As outrageous as it sounds, I’m waking up even earlier than my dogs!

Ascended Tauri writes: “I have a question about script lengths. If I’m not mistaken, the Atlantis scripts would often come in at 60-70 pages, yes? So then, why would you say are the SGU scripts coming is as so much less at around 50 pages? (and with the ‘larger’ font, that would make the difference even greater, would it not?)”

Answer: Atlantis scripts would come in at approximately 60 pages. As for the difference in the SGU scripts – different font, different show.

Paloosa writes: “From what you’ve said, SGU is more character and relationship focused, which means that more script and thus screen time is spent in developing these relationships. Doesn’t that equal less action time and therefore less expense?”

Answer: It’s not as simple as saying more focus on relationships will yield less expensive episodes because something has to happen in these episodes – besides developing relationships. The show is more action-adventure than space opera.

RebeccaH writes: “I’d feel your pain, JM, but I’m currently battling swine flu.”

Answer: Hey, get better.

PG15 writes: “Speaking of which, she hasn’t been around the blog in a while. Is she still employed at Bridge Studios?”

Answer: Oh yeah. It’s really more the case of me no being around the office since I’ve been homing working on these scripts.

Grapesofwraith writes: “And a question about the script-font mix up – if you guys are using Courier now, shouldn’t you have realized it when writing Space a couple months ago?”

Answer: I did realize when writing Space. Then promptly forgot and realized again while writing these two scripts.