Sunday, September 12, 2010

HM:Back to School

The alarm is going off. But something is dreadfully wrong. I open my eyes but I cannot see a thing. There is a terrible, crushing pressure on my abdomen. I open my mouth to scream and hair.

This is how I know the seasons are changing and fall will soon be here. The cats come back. The mornings are cool again and so they make their seasonal migration from living room to bedroom. This morning they have decided to park themselves strategically on my belly and directly in front of my face.

For many of our customers and staff, 'tis the season for back to school. Students are usually happy to get back to their studies and friends. Some parents (particularly those with mulitiple offspring in the 5 to 10 year range) can scarcely contain their excitement. I giggle everytime I see the Walmart commercial with the Dad hauling his less than enthusiastic brood across the floor on the couch-sled. "They're going back...."

Sanbiki usually slows down for a bit whenever there's a change in season or a big schedule shift. Back to school; end of school; Christmas vacation and the like. Now is no different. Last week was fairly slow. But it gave Masato and the team in the kitchen an opportunity to start thinking about seasonal specials and any changes we may want to make to our menu.

Freshness and seasonality of ingredients are central ideas in Japanese cuisine. What can be hunted, gathered or harvested locally heavily influences an area's culinary traditions. What you'll find at a Japanese sushi bar often depends on where you are and when you visit. The first question many diners ask their Itamae (sushi Chef) is "What's in season?" Based on the Chef's recommendations, diners can then enjoy a meal that makes the best use of the available ingredients.

Customers tastes also change with the season. Summer time is not high time for tempura udon; a big bowl of steaming home made broth filled with crispy tempura veggies and shrimp. But as the weather cools, the udon orders begin pouring into the kichen. Guests begin asking for nabemono (Japanese style hot pots) and other warming comfort foods. Sushi is always popular but more so in the hot summer months. A toasty summer day in Kamloops can hit 40 degrees. Who wants to cook?

Paula and Mendel from the Farmers Market have warned us their lovely, organic lettuce may only be available for another week. But there should be lots of carrots, beets and other root veggies for a while longer. We have been spoiled with fresh plums, melon and apricots but the days of fresh, local fruit are perhaps numbered. Sorrento-based Crannog Ales' delicious Seasonal Cherry Ale (all organic!!) has long since sold out...or was it me that drank most of it? All in the name of quality control, of course....

Anyway, a new season brings new ingredients and we always have new recipes to experiment with. Kishino is back in the kitchen this week and we are working on some seasonal dinner specials. She's playing with a recipe for "Kata Yakisoba", crispy noodles piled high with mixed seafood and a light sauce. Soon Ja is spicing things up with a Korean style Kim Chi with stirfried pork. Me, I'm watching and learning (and sampling!). I help doing dishes but I'm not allowed to cook. "No knives and nothing that involves fire"'s safer that way....

Have a great week...more later...

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