Friday, October 31, 2014

LUXURY TRAVEL MAGAZINE

The latest issue of Luxury Travel Magazine says "DO THIS" referring to my Zenbu Nigeru - Kyoto Cuisine and Culture Tour!
Only bookings for Zenbu Nigeru have now closed! 
Apologies for those who missed out. 
Maybe next time!

However there are still a couple of places available on my
But please don't delay!  Bookings close soon. 

In the meantime - take a look at this blurb just in case you are a glutton for punishment or fancy putting your name down for next year....

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Yoshikawa Inn and Tempura

A rather special venue for Tempura in Kyoto. 
But Yoshikawa offers much more than finely fried morsels. 

I haven't stayed at this ryokan (traditional inn) but I have been taken through some of the rooms and they were most inviting!  If you are seeking a less publicised, better-priced-than-most ryokan right in the heart of town, with delicious tempura at hand - then I'd recommend giving Yoshikawa a look in. At the very least - go for tempura and take a wander through to the garden at the back - and if you end up staying... well, lucky you. 
I love the hearth in the foyer area where you can sit around and have tea in winter, again looking onto one of the garden vistas. It is such a treat. Take a walk through the pics below - I'm sure you will agree that the atmosphere is most attractive. Even the very serious chef adds to the occasion!

 
For everyday punters - tempura can be eaten at the counter at the small restaurant at the front of the building and ordered by the piece or as a set course. You can also choose to book one of the tatami dining rooms with views to the stunning garden to experience a Tempura Kaiseki course in formal stye.   The larger back area hosts small weddings and other private events. The tempura is good and made from the freshest seasonal ingredients so the menu will be different each time you go. In summer for example you might enjoy less obvious tempura  ingredients such as tomato or corn. 
Tempura bubbling away in soy bean oil
Small  private dining room below

Large private dining room surrounded by the magnificent garden

If you are interested in joining one of my Kyoto Cuisine and Culture Tours please take a look HERE

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Lobby Bar. Royal Park Hotel THE Kyoto.

Yes that is the actual name of the hotel 'Royal Park Hotel THE Kyoto'. I can rarely remember the full name for this reason - it looks like an error does it not? I always feel compelled to switch the words around in my head and drop the capitals.. but that might just be me.  

Let me assure you the hotel, and its bar,  is indeed worth remembering AND you'd also be best to remember that it isn't The Royal Hotel and Spa which is in fact situated around the corner on Kawaramachi Street.   Apparently the two hotels are commonly mistaken for one another - the good thing is that if you get out of the taxi with your luggage at the wrong place - it's only a few minutes of dragging your suitcase!

I was reviewing a handful of hotels for an article I was writing for Delicious Magazine about 18 months ago and whilst staying here I took myself down to check out the bar. As you do. And proceeded to order myself a seriously good G&T. 

 I like the bar - it is a little oasis in the midst of a very busy part of town. Well busy for Kyoto, it ain't Tokyo or Osaka.  And there is a fabulous giant photo on the wall of a mown grass field with a boy playing with his football - and I believe it was taken in Australia (don't ask me why -either someone told me or I read it somewhere or... I made it up) which makes the place feel a little familiar - and that  isn't a bad thing in a bar. Or is it?

The hotel is slap bang in the heart of town - on Sanjo Street very close to the Kawaramachi/Sanjo intersection and a very convenient base. The rooms are rather compact - as is common in Japan - but elegant and comfortable. The beds are particularly snuggly. Put two people with suitcases and a need for hanging room in the same room and things can get a little squeasy. But when you are this close to shops, restaurants, cafes and sightseeing you might easily overlook all that. 

Which brings me back to the bar - let it be a little extra space for you to relax in during your stay. Or make it a retreat from the street, especially in the summer heat when you need to rest your feet and yes I was aware I was rhyming as I typed. And no I am not going to change it. It is so bad it's kinda good.


Zenbu Nigeru (Escape) Tour 2015




Dear All, 

Bookings have now closed for my Zenbu Nigeru - escape Xmas and New Year Tour. Thank you !! 

There is, however, still space on my other 2 tours - but just a quiet heads-up that the Zenbu Zen Ladies only tour is almost full. Please don't delay if you don't want to miss out!

See my KYOTO CUISINE & CULTURE TOUR PAGE 

Cheers, Jane 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Escape's Top Food Tours for 2015



Er... more than happy to be included in the Daily Telegraph's Escape travel section's top FOOD TOURS FOR 2015!!!! woo hoo!

Thank you Angela Saurine for including me. 
You can see the top destinations article HERE

And the TOP FOOD TOURS HERE!!!!!


And for details on my Kyoto Cuisine and Culture Tours - either take a peek at my TOUR PAGE or email me for e-brochures
janelawsonfood@bigpond.com.au 

But please hurry as bookings close soon!




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

ORGANUM by Peter Gilmore.


                              Nature. Texture. Intensity. Purity.



A BEHIND THE SCENES PEEK INTO THE MAKING OF ORGANUM


Now that Organum is about to launch  - meaning there's been a gap in time large enough for me to step back and look at this incredible project from a distance - it has reminded me once again what a wonderful experience and great honour it has been, and will always be, to work with talented individuals who inspire and challenge you to grow as a creative.

Working closely with chef Peter Gilmore over the last 5 or 6 years on both Quay books has cemented our friendship and my respect for him as a person, a loving husband and father, and an abnormally creative talent. But Peter's curiosity for what makes things tick and subsequent ability to link seemingly random aspects of an idea - gently encouraging them into a harmoniously expressive state - is some kind of freaky.

And I don't mean to gush in a silly I have a 'foodie guru' kinda way - I'm all too aware of the current trend to deify certain food 'personalities'. My life, for good or bad, is fairly food centric and I've spent more than enough time around 'celebrity chef' wankery  - which is mostly encouraged by a few irresponsible media types rather than the chefs themselves (although there can be a knock on effect..).

Where I was leading to is this.. sure food is Pete's medium - but one has to wonder - if Peter's mind and intuition were invested in another field what other applications might his talents be suited to? I'm not implying world peace here... but then again - who knows.

Pete possesses a special kind of something which is hard to put a finger on. Mainly because he's quite simply a truly lovely, decent human being who doesn't live to toot his own trumpet. Who also just happens to have an ability to focus,  analyse and create in a way most people cannot. He has just enough ego to allow him to absorb some energy from his fans and utilise it in moving forward and enough gratitude to keep him humble, grounded, fair and realistic.

Peter knows what he wants and does whatever it takes to achieve it (as long a it is not to the detriment of others - he's just not that guy) but at the same time is open to adjusting his perspective should new information, concepts or possibilities come his way. He is constantly evolving his information bank and craft  -and not necessarily seeking it in the way the rest of us might, rather it seems to find him;  often while he meditates on a tiny dew drop balanced on a blossom of an edible flower growing in his impressive home garden - more accurately - a mini food farm. From which I have tasted the buds, leaves and grass of numerous exotic species and even nicked the odd yuzu and Japanese turnip for my own culinary purposes ! Yes, it is pretty fantastic.

It is without a doubt that I have edged my way a little deeper into Peter's world and mind through the process of making Organum.  I needed to make sure that together we got down on paper exactly what he wanted to say about every aspect of the contents in a way that the everyday punter would understand. Did we lock horns from time to time? Sure you could call it that I guess - but only in the  nicest possible, bendiest-plush-toy kinda way - as you can imagine of someone of Peter's character. We are both stubborn in our own special way, which is often required in our respective lines of work and related responsibilities - but without a doubt there was a healthy give and take from both sides. A good dose of respect and trust goes a long way in this kind of working relationship and we are fortunate to share that.

Regardless, you try being the person to tell one of the world's most highly acclaimed, respected and liked chefs 'no you can't say it like that because it doesn't really make sense....' or 'the marketing team isn't into that idea...' . Of course certain things make sense to Peter in a way that they might not to other people - that's what makes him so brilliant at what he does - but it was my job to make sure that 'the masses' could connect to his thoughts and feelings throughout the text. Peter communicates so sublimely through his cuisine that it sets off a complex range of emotions in most diners  - much like a unique artwork or piece of writing might - so there was no pressure at all....

One of the beautiful things about working together with a person you regard highly as a craft person and a human is that it allows you to have a little rethink about your own ideas from time to time and develop your abilities in ways you might never have anticipated. Throughout the process we certainly inspired each other to work in ways differently than we might have if we'd been working on our own. I'm grateful for the opportunity on so many levels.

But Peter isn't the only person I am honoured to have worked with on this title. Peter himself works with a great team at Quay, from his brilliant chefs and front of house lovelies to GM Kylie Ball and owners - The Fink Group. They have all made me feel like family for the entire time I've been lurking around Quay as we pulled these two books together. They know me well enough to know what I look like in the morning when I haven't had enough sleep and how I take my coffee. It often turns up before I've had a chance to think about it. (Thank you Robert x). They'll give me a good strong 'welcome back' hug when they haven't seen me for a week, they know when to feed me something they've been testing in the kitchen that I am gonna LOVE (Sam and Rob I'm looking at you - and the pastry crew!!)  and a plate will land in front of me when staff meal is up if I'm STILL hanging (sniffing) around. Occasionally I've been known to accept a glass of champers. Not complaining. The service team also developed a knack for politely-but-urgently tell me to piss off because they really need the green room to set up for a function.. But I would expect no less from the team at Quay. Culture is top down after all.

When it comes to a book project, especially one of this calibre, depth and size,  there are a whole lot of  behind the scenes people  involved at various stages of production who are rarely acknowledged.  Having worked for many years on both sides of the fence in book publishing I know it only too well. Thank you in particular to publisher Diana Hill,  for asking me to be involved in this project and trusting me to just get on with it.  I also want to give a shout out to the various editors on the book - especially the gorgeous Melody Lord who whipped things into shape at the 12th hour and to Christine Osmond for her work on the recipe testing - again, not a job for the average recipe tester ! And she ain't no average anything!

Before I took on this rather enormous and detailed gig I knew I'd be working with a treasured mate  -the enormously talented designer Reuben Crossman - who is just as stubborn and anal as me (but in an annoyingly brilliant way).  We've worked together on many projects including the first Quay book, Ben Shewry's Origin, most of Frank Camorra and co-writer Richard Cornish's MoVida books,  Matthew Evans' Real Food Companion and several of Pete Evans' books to name a few - and he's even designed a couple of my own titles too - Snowflakes and Schnapps and Zenbu Zen - finding food, culture and balance in Kyoto. He cannot help but go above and beyond and speaks a  different language to many people, even other creatives - that's why he works so damn well with Chef Gilmore.

Add to this heady cocktail of creative juices - one of the most technically superb photographers I have had the pleasure of working with (he also shot my books Snowflakes and Schnapps and made snowy villages appear in a north shore suburb of Sydney). There was no way on earth I could NOT work on this book. At the end of every recipe shoot day for Organum we'd gather around photographer Brett Stevens' screen at the resulting collection of images and literally go 'wow' - our lower jaws hanging slack. Actually there was sometimes a little bit of sweary excitement.

When working for an extended period (about 18 months) with a bunch of perfectionists with strong ideas you could be forgiven for thinking there might have been regular clashes - but honestly - if anything there was mild frustration from one party or another for mere minutes on the odd day and that's about it!. And what we collectively understand with much experience behind us all  - is that it is absolutely part of the process in a collaborative work and what it does do, alongside all the other queries and checks,  is help to produce a result much more layered and enigmatic than the sum of its parts - which is what Organum is all about... You'll have to read the book to find out more on that ;).

Even if you don't read it - you simply must fondle its textural cover, sniff its pages and wonder at the amazing imagery. But of course you should do that in the privacy of your own home.

Yesterday the Peter Gilmore App  for i-pad went LIVE - and it, like Organum, is a thing of beauty. Yet another layer of the Peter Gilmore and Organum story with stunning food porny video to boot!. A magnificent collaboration between Peter, Reuben, Brett and the exceptional Pollen Digital   





Sunday, October 5, 2014

Gion Abbesses. Kyoto.

I had wondered about this place for some time but it wasn't until one of the readers of my blog said they'd had a great meal here that I actually decided to give it a shot. 

The restaurant space itself is on the second floor of an old machiya in Gion and holds only a small number of tables, which is fairly typical in Kyoto. Immediately I felt the restaurateur's attempt to achieve a quaintly French ambiance only made it feel pokey and more claustrophobic than it could have been. It felt a little run down and not in a good, wabi sabi kinda way.  I really didn't dig the vibe at all....But had I been on a romantic date, staring into the eyes of my beloved, I probably wouldn't have noticed. 

It is possible that I was being overly picky as I was dining with a friend who seemed to be annoyed by the service as soon as we stepped through the door and was offended by their music choice and  requested it to be changed, which it wasn't.  I would never think to ask for such a thing and thought she was pretty brave... but I had anticipated the response we might receive... 

She'd kindly booked the restaurant for us and felt there was a bit of an anti foreigner sentiment at the other end of the line so I think she was on the lookout for faults -  however I felt our hosts were pleasant enough and the food was also, for the most part, well executed, delicious and pretty good value (around $90 AUD for 8 courses including a palate refresher, bread and coffee).

I'm actually keen to return and experience Gion Abbesses again with fresh eyes as I have heard really good things from more than one source and I feel that my opinion that night might have been inadvertently tainted. 
As I did, despite a few little settling in issues with the staff,  have a great time catching up with my friend I sadly neglected to write down what we ate. I used to be able to remember every detail of every meal and I still kid myself that I can get away without jotting down the details but truth is I can't... call it menopause memory if you will.  Apologies in advance -I will do  my best to recall what I can. 

Above was a rather pleasant fish and beetroot mousse with caviar and consomme jelly.
Below is a salad including seasonal fried seafood, petals and leaves. This seems to be a signature dish that changes slightly with each season. 
Chawan mushi - steamed savoury custard with Hamo - conger eel below
A choice of donburi with roasted foie gras and seasonal mushrooms OR Lobster and eggplant with a vinegar jelly and shiso flowers
Shiso sorbet/palate refresher
                                      Local pork with apples and seasonal vegetables
Apple mille feuille with yoghurt ice cream
Petits Fours
Mini floating island, candied sweet potato, chestnut, chocolate truffles etc

By the by.... Very full, and sparkling with bubbly, we toddled off to collect my friends car. I was surprised to be shown to a waiting room with a viewing window where it took a whole two minutes for her car to emerge from the underground car park by electronic hoist and then be moved sideways to enable us to drive out of the exit. Only in Japan.