Although I may sometimes pretend otherwise, I am not a food critic nor a movie reviewer. And though I have traveled a lot this year, I’m not a travel writer. So I can’t exactly compile a list of 10 best meals, or 10 favorite places. So, instead of a single theme, I am making a list of the 10 most awesome things in 2012, in my opinion.
We will be collaborating with chefs Sean Brock of McCrady’s and Husk Restaurants and Brad McDonald of Governor Restaurant to do a Japanese themed dinner at Governor Restaurant in Brooklyn on October 25th. The dinner will be held to celebrate the launch of The Perennial Plate’s Season Three; ‘Real Food World Tour’. The evening will also feature the premiere of the first video of the season, a focus on The Perennial Plate’s travel through Japan.
In order to bring you this next series of videos, we have surrendered to becoming something I hate – the people who take pictures of everything. I’ve always wondered why people take so many pictures or video on their trips abroad. No one wants to look at 20 pictures of one church or sunset, and another 10 of the food (one will suffice) or group photos. And If you’ve ever had a picture viewing party after you return, thinking your friends would enjoy sitting through 3 hours of photos from your recent vacation, you are wrong. Never do it again. Yet as we finish up our first trip on the road, I’m finding myself to be worse than even the most thorough tourist. And it’s not just views that we take pictures of, it’s … everything. I have especially fallen hard into the instagram cliche of taking pictures of my food. Not only that, but because we do video, it’s worse. Let me share the scenario. Walk into a restaurant, ask the the waiter if we can take pictures, walk back out of the restaurant and film walking in. Sit down, order. Try to take some sneaky shots of people eating their food. When our’s comes – try to capture the waiter delivering it. Then, reenact the setting down of the plate with a closeup. Take a picture or two of it with our fancy camera. Take a picture with our phones (tweet it). Then eat — oh God I want to kill myself!! Or rather, i just want to eat my food, or look at that sunset without the need to time lapse it.
For years, I’ve had a recurring dream where I attend some sort of social gathering, naked. I go into the event rationally thinking through the whole thing and convincing myself that it’s totally cool and normal. And it isn’t until I’m there that I realize being the only non-clothed person in a room is awkward and everyone is starting at your junk. Well, that dream became a reality in Japan. Before arriving in the country, everyone excitedly suggested I try a certain dish, visit a certain area of town, or get naked in a pool with a bunch of older Japanese women (aka: the famous japanese baths). Essentially, everyone disrobes, hangs out in a really hot tub and doesn’t make the other people feel uncomfortable about it. As I’ve heard, the beauty is in the ritual, it’s a very traditional and important experience and no one cares that you aren’t wearing anything. In fact, I’ve been told the only way you would feel awkward would be in you WERE wearing something, because you would be the only one. Now this wouldn’t be my first choice of activity as I typically try to be clothed when not in an REM state. But after weeks of peer pressure and brainwashing, I was considering giving it a try.
On my third night in Tokyo, I went out to dinner by myself. It was one of the best meals of my life. Sushi is better in Japan. You go out to a restaurant at the famous fish market (Tsukiji) or a local place, and chances are the guy behind the counter has been cutting fish for 15 years. He buys the best fish available for the price point of the restaurant. But the experience that I had the other night was not the same as what I have experienced several times on this trip. It was at another level. Really, another level to every meal I’ve ever had. I’ve had the good fortune of eating (and cooking) at quite a few of the world’s “top restaurants”. In those temples of gastronomy, a team of cooks, stagiers and chefs make your food. At Sushiso Masa, the master himself, cut and cooked every piece of fish I ate. A few days later, I ate at a three michelin star restaurant (the second of my two splurges in Japan), and the attention to detail, the direction connection to the food and the chef had nothing to do with what I had experienced at Masa. Really what I’m trying to tell you is if you like to eat, and if you have the chance to go to Japan, you need to try food at this level.
Its difficult to pack for a trip overseas, especially when you will be travelling for a month. I checked the weather reports and asked people on the ground, but it wasnt until I arrived at the Harajuku part of Tokyo (where teenagers dress in crazy/outlandish and awesome outfits — complete with fake eyelashes, colored contacts and blonde hair — and young girls dress in adorable uniformed skirts and pigtails) that I realiized I was completely underdressed. My uniform these days is typically whatever doesnt clash too much with my hiking boots, or rather whatever is the most comfortable and makes me look the most like an american tourist.
We have a family tradition of trying to watch as many movies on an airplane as possible. From the moment the entertainment system goes on till the flight touches down, you can find any of my 2 brothers and dad glued to a shitty movie. After a long plane ride, the questioning usually goes, “how was the flight… what did you watch?” Recent answers have included such greats as “The Island 2″ and “Pirranha 3D.” I blame this surrender to intense movie watching had something to do with the fact that we weren’t allowed to watch much TV as kids (only after 5 on Fridays and Saturdays). So it was with little pain that I embarked on the 10 hour flight from Seattle to Tokyo.
We get asked pretty frequently what gear we use for our videos. Overtime, we’ve been updating and upgrading. Right now we are packing for our first World Tour trip to Japan and China, so what to bring is on my mind. And also i’m procrastinating getting it all put into bags. So I thought y’all might be interested in a list of the film and video equipment that we’re bringing along in order to make these videos happen. I’m not mentioning clothes, that’s sort of an afterthought.
My dad and I have been talking a lot about tuna lately. It has to do with me going to Japan in a few days… but not in the way that you think. See, my dad is trying to convince me to pack my suitcase full of canned tuna. to eat. while travelling through Japan and China. He’s also a strong proponent of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, dried fruit and nuts — pretty much anything that will load my suitcase down with food from my homeland, so that I wont have to eat anything particularly foreign. Some may think this an odd predicament to find myself since the whole purpose of my travelling to these countries is to document food. But this is no surprise to me, as this is my father… and Ive known him a long time.
If you had to choose 12 places in the world that you would want to visit in the next year and a half, where would they be? That was the question posed to us by Intrepid Travel when we began discussing plans for Season 3 of The Perennial Plate. It is insane. And I’ve been spending every moment since then trying to figure how we got so lucky.