Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chocolate Lovers' Manual -- Get yours now!

A couple years ago, I created a small “user’s manual” about chocolate. I prepared and then photographed several classic chocolate confections, plus some of my favorites. The “CHOCOLATE LOVERS’ MANUAL” was born with the help of a few chocolate-loving friends, and a lot of chocolate.

It took me over two years to make this manual, starting with the concept, then learning everything I could about chocolate, then trying to fit all that irresistible information onto one 12”x18” page, and then learning enough about professional food photography to create fine-quality photos for the other side of the page. And then the paper search! Finding the right quality of paper – smooth and velvety like a fine chocolate – was a monumental project in itself. Each step was full of discovery, and fully enjoyable. 

I recall the most difficult part of the project was taking good photographs. I read a couple books on professional food photography and took a short course in San Francisco on studio lighting and how to find affordable equipment. However, the most important result was developing a great collaboration and friendship with Rahul Parikh, a chocolate lover and amateur photographer like me. He indulged in a lot of chocolate after each shooting (in fact, it was always more than we should have indulged), but it was really hard work! I have still not thanked him enough for his help.

Since publishing the manual, I’ve received many compliments for both the photography and the amazingly-portable chocolate story that accompanies it. As I continued to melt into the world of chocolate, my brain became more addicted… not only to chocolate as a food and beverage, but to the whole idea of its impact on health, fashion, art, (music?) and more! So I decided to create a new blog dedicated to you – all the Chocolate Lovers whose hearts beat for chocolate.

CocoBeat Blog will be about recipes, of course, along with more tasty photography and chocolate-inspired stories/insights to enjoy. Meanwhile, follow this link to the “Cocobeat

Stay tuned, and addicted, to CocoBeat! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

May 5th in Japan -- Boys' Day

Today is May 5th. It is a national holiday in Japan and also Boys’ Day there. We put out huge colorful carp fish banners (Koinobori) on tall bamboo poles and let them “swim” in the blue sky, we display an impressive samurai warrior’s helmet (Kabuto) in the living room, and of course we eat the traditional Boys’ Day feast to celebrate the best season of the year.

I still have many memories of Boys’ Day from my childhood. The most special food of the day is called “Chimaki” – sweet red beans in the center of sweet sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed. It looks a little bit like Mexican tamales, but the taste and flavor is very unique and different. It is said that warriors carried it onto the battle field in ancient China.

My life has been here in California for a long time, and nobody makes Chimaki for me anymore. Plus I became quite westernized. Nowadays fresh strawberries, dark chocolate and Sauternes are my favorites, and go very well together. Their taste, flavor and aromas are fantastic if you get the best quality, which won’t set you back too much. And the memory of them on your palate will last forever!

Sauternes is a very delicious dessert wine made from Semillon grapes in Bordeaux, France. It is one of the finest dessert wines in the world, and known for its taste, flavor and aroma.

 So, indulge and celebrate the best day of spring with three simple, memorable ingredients.

This is my wonderful kitchen assistant Masumi san. She always executes everything exactly as I ask.