First Post in More Than Ten Thousand Miles...

15 June 2007

Apologies for being negligent in keeping this place up to date and thank you so much for all the kind messages while I was AWOL (Speaking of being negligent – I’ve just added quite a few pictures on my photo blog too). I’ve been back from my trips, but being a rather disorganised person, have spent too long catching up with work (as well as doing some photo work, I’ve also started working for some great food photographers – which has made me realise that how little I know about photography, but I’ve been enjoying learning and hopefully I can write about it some time). Since I got back to the UK the weather hasn’t been that great – but in a brief sunny spell, I managed to make a few batches of elderflower cordial so hopefully I can share an interesting recipe with it soon.

As I briefly wrote here, I was in Italy for a week then shortly afterwards spent three weeks in the States. Both trips were for photo work for these folks in LA – I had such a wonderful time meeting with lots of lovely people throughout the trips so I wanted to share some of the stories here.

The Italian owner of Cube, Alex, wanted me to visit his pizza factory in a town called Visso in Marche region – he wanted me to take pictures of the factory as well as some of their products. During my stay, I was well looked after by a lovely Italian man called Mauro, Alex’s brother-in-law who works with him :)

Alex (from LA) and I (from London) flew into Rome on the same day and headed for Visso – Visso is a lovely little town surrounded by beautiful mountains (which were snowy when we were there) – Roger, who is a consultant chef for Cube and flew with Alex this time, told me that he fell in love with this little town when he first visited, and I felt the same way.

Having lived in and based his business in the US, Alex could have had a factory near him – I asked him why he hasn’t done so and he told me that it’s because of the water that makes all the difference in the pizza dough.

As soon as I stepped into the factory, I was welcomed by the lovely smell of baking. Mauro took me on a tour – watching how the machines work was really interesting, but I particularly loved the stage where the ladies who work there give the dough a finishing touch by hand before they go into the oven – Alex explained to me that this is to give the pizzas their wonderful handmade texture and taste. Of course I had to try some of the freshly baked pizzas, they were absolutely delicious. I liked the way Alex is very hands-on at the factory and in touch with everyone who works there. At the end of the trip there, I couldn’t help smiling when I saw my tripod was covered in flour :)

Later, Alex took us to dinner with some people from the factory. A charming trattoria in Visso called Richetta (Piazza Garibaldi 7), run by two brothers Orazio and Uccio – they are normally closed on the days we were there but they were happy to open for Alex. The walls were covered with Orazio’s beautiful photos of Visso – I tried to tell him (in my extremely limited Italian) how much I liked them and he kindly gave me one of his favourite pictures, which has pride of place in my room :) We enjoyed the lovely food, including the most amazing black truffle pasta and braised rabbit (and endless tasting of gorgeous local wines).

Alex told me that he wanted to show me his passion for good food on the trip, and I could certainly tell that he meant it :) (and when you are in a place like Italy, you can tell that eating well is not a big deal – it is normal for them and it certainly leads to good living too)

Before heading back to Rome, we visited Mauro’s parents in Orvieto (in Umbria) – we enjoyed a lovely lunch which Mauro’s father cooked for us. I always wanted to visit this town and I’m glad I finally did – it truly is a beautiful place. Mauro’s parents’ gorgeous house (it was a palazzo to be precise – I nearly got lost in there) is located just front of the big duomo and has a magnificent view from the roof garden. Equally fascinating is their amazing cellar, which houses literally thousands of bottles, and adjoins ancient remains which apparently date back thousands years ago!

Alex didn’t have time to stay in Rome this time, but I had a few days to spare and he kindly let me stay at his lovely flat just by the Trevi fountain – I was happy to meet a beautiful cat (pictured above) who kept me company during my stay (found out she was called Tigrotta (baby tiger) later on… she was such a sweetie).

It wasn’t my first visit to this ancient city, but I always find something fascinating about it and I love the ‘down to earth’ feel of the city (oh and I love Joycelyn’s beautifully written comprehensive guide to Rome).

I managed to meet a lovely fellow blogger this time – in spite of her elegant blog and being elegant herself, I was quite amazed by her driving skills as we made our way round the city after she picked me up in her pale blue Punto at Piazza Venezia :)

She gave me a grand tour of her work place, Gambero Rosso, a company with many food related facets including publishing, broadcasting, education and restaurants. I can’t think of a better place to work if you are a real foodie! Then she took me to a place called Da Felice in Testaccio – a lovely trattoria always packed with local people. Sigrid recommended a pasta dish called cacio & pepe – but not being a big matured cheese fan I went for one with fresh ricotta instead and I loved it. I was harassing her to give me the recipe for a while :) and she recently posted it here – I can’t wait to try it myself, thanks again, Sigrid!

Rachael and Matt in Santa Monica

After returning home to enjoy the goodies from Italy for a while, I flew into the sunny city of Los Angeles – I was happy to see the people at Cube again, especially the gourmet buyer Rachael (pictured above with hydrangea), who isn’t just a passionate food lover but also a really sweet girl. She asked me to come back to report on the second of their exciting Makers Night events in association with Slow Food in Schools. They invited these four makers this time:

Armandino Batali (yes he is Mario’s dad), Salumi Artisan Cured Meats
Jeremy & Jessica Little, Sweet Grass Dairy
Mandy Pedrozo, Pedrozo Dairy (tel: 530-865-9548)
Alex Weiser, Weiser Family Farms

as well as Cecily Upton, National Programme Coordinator from Slow Food in Schools.

Like last time, the event was on for two nights and they had a tantalising menu starting with Maker’s flight followed by:

Pedrozo Northern Gold and Weiser Family Farm heirloom carrot soup with chive oil and crostini

Braised fennel, radicchio and endive ravioli with mascarpone – served with Salumi Guanciale, brown butter, sage and red cow parmesan

Braised duck with plum and port, Sweet Grass Dairy Lumiere and champagne risotto

Trio of desserts – Mini Weiser Farm heirloom carrot cake, Butterscotch pots de creme, Dark chocolate almond tart

The event was sold out well in advance – I could recognise some of the guests from last time and it was even more successful. The food was gorgeous too – I especially loved the radicchio ravioli with guanciale, and the butterscotch pots de creme, which everyone agreed were insanely delicious :) I can’t explain it very well, but it’s such a lovely feeling when you have so many real food lovers together in one place. Cube is planning more exciting events in the future, so be sure to watch this space.

Oh and I must include this picture of the gorgeous guys in LA – (from left) Adam, Matt, Kevin and Ed. I’ve been a huge fan of their blogs since I first visited, and I was lucky to meet them on my last visit too. Kevin and Ed kindly invited us to their gorgeous place this time (I have no doubt that their house has the most spectacular view of LA, including Catalina Island, of anywhere in the Hollywood hills!) Kevin made such a lovely brunch for us (it was so delicious and Ed did the washing up of course :)) – I couldn’t think of any better way of spending Sunday morning than enjoying such lovely food in such great company!

I was happy to be joined by Matt & Adam at the Santa Monica farmer’s market a few days later. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s definitely my favourite market anywhere – not just the fantastic produce, but the people that make me want to come back again. Oh and while I was in LA, these über-stylish couple from Singapore were in the city too and we were hoping to meet up somehow, but sadly we couldn’t make it as I was too busy working most of the time (well, I just have to ask them to come to Tokyo next time I go back to Japan :))

Before I flew back to the UK, I managed to spend a few days in New York too – my last visit was nearly six years ago so I could tell a lot of things have changed since then. I stayed in Brooklyn this time where Kelli & Andrew kindly let me stay with them – as I wrote here, I’ve known them since I started my blog but I’ve never met them before so I was really looking forward to getting together with them. They are the most adorable couple you could ever imagine and they work wonderfully together as the driving force behind the ever expanding Amai Tea & Bake House.

Kelli & Andrew (top right), the first Amai store is coming soon (middle left)

I was so happy when I heard the news about them opening their first store in Manhattan this autumn (they are hoping to open in early August) – I just had to visit the space on this trip! The store is located in the chic Gramercy area (3rd Ave, between 16th & 17th St) – it was quite a bit bigger than I had thought, and I couldn’t help getting excited as Kelli told me about the layout, their plans for the interior and their menus. They will have a kitchen downstairs so everything will be freshly made on site and they will be serving tea with some brand new sweets, I can’t wait to visit it next time I’m there.

I had so much fun with them, including a day out to the Noguchi museum and a chocolate/desserts tour (yes, we all have super sweet tooth) – I was looking forward to tasting some desserts at ChikaLicious, but there was a big queue when we were there and had to give up (not quite, as we enjoyed some lovely Japanese-inspired desserts here instead :))

Oh and I just had to go here after hearing Andrew’s enthusiastic recommendation (and we spotted Heston Blumenthal biting into their burger for the BBC (pictured above)). I managed to enjoy a Yankees game too which was good fun, the first time I have been to a baseball game since I lived in Tokyo (we don’t really have baseball in Europe!).

I was lucky to meet some fellow food bloggers too – Celia, the author of a fabulous site Cravings, organised a small get-together for me (I’ve known her since she did a feature about food blogs on her site – I love her jet-setter life style, she even managed to come to San Francisco when I was there last November and met up with Sam & Fred, Shuna, Elise and Brett & N at Zuni)

We met at a lovely Italian place called Il BucoJosh, Cecily & Winnie (from Slow Food) and Kelli could make it so it was great to see them all. The food was gorgeous and it was interesting to know about the food scene in NY too (and Josh showed us some lovely pictures of his princess Anya – how lucky she is to have a dad who takes such beautiful pictures :))

I can’t possibly include all the lovely people I met (and all the food I had) throughout these trips in this post – but I would like to send a big thank you to all of them. Hopefully I can go back to see them again soon, and I’m already looking forward to it…

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  • Waoow!! What an agenda :) I am so glad that you’re back in front of your computer, now I can see some more amazing photos again:)

    Welcome back!

    Posted by Zeynep Seda | 15 June 2007 #
  • K –

    Your absence is so utterly worth the wait when you give us such amazing, thorough updates. I feel as if I’ve been to Italy, the UK, New York and Santa Monica. Wait, I WAS in Santa Monica.

    You are a joy and a pleasure and such a talented woman and I’m glad to call you my friend.

    Please come back and visit!

    What a phenomenal post!

    (and man my face is fat)

    Posted by matt | 15 June 2007 #
  • Wow…PLEASE move to Italy, your pictures are amazing – since I live here they really speak to me (I could get used to that). Sounds like you’ve had a busy time. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

    Posted by Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy | 15 June 2007 #
  • Wow, it’s so nice to have some news from you. There’s so much packed into this one post I am dazzled.

    Posted by Mary | 15 June 2007 #
  • sighhhh. I love this post. The pictures are amazing (as always). I love the one at the top of Alison with the flower in her hair. Timeless. I miss you. There isn’t nearly enough giggling when you’re not here. We need to plan more events just so you can visit. I feel so lucky to have met you! Let’s convince Alex he needs more pictures of Italy and this time I can come and will eat and eat and eat. xxoo rachael

    Posted by rachael | 15 June 2007 #
  • Welcome back Keiko. It was worth the wait now you have posted such a comprehensive report of your trip. I will read it when I have more time to enjoy every word. Congratulations on being offered work in a field you have a natural talent for. You should be very proud of your achievements. I’m sure all your blogger friends are pleased for your success.I certainly am.

    Posted by Barbara | 15 June 2007 #
  • Welcome back Keiko! What a trip! Thanks for the long write-up, I really missed reading your posts. Amazing photos, as always!

    Posted by Cenk | 15 June 2007 #
  • Keiko, thanks for sharing a wonderful story and extraodinary beautiful photos, I am a big fan of your blog but never post a comment before.

    Posted by kaewlery | 15 June 2007 #
  • Hi Keiko. It’s a bit similar experience to opening up a new copy of Waitrose magazine! I mean, I really looking at your images and reading texts on your updates every time. Lovely.

    Posted by Seiko | 16 June 2007 #
  • Wow, you sure have been busy! I love your photos! Welcome back!

    Posted by Kat | 16 June 2007 #
  • Does Matthew get jealous seeing photos of you in L.A. with all those dashingly handsome young men? Oh wait, probably not.
    It’s evident that you have found your calling and I for one am delighted that we get to see the results of your work! Beautiful entry!
    xoxoxo Kevin & Ed

    Posted by Kevin | 16 June 2007 #
  • Keiko, I had missed your lovely posts and lovely to hear from you.busy bee that you have become! It is truly wonderful that you are busy doing things that you love.lots of love, valentina

    Posted by valentina | 16 June 2007 #
  • Hi Keiko,
    been a huge fan of your blog for a while but this is the first time I’m leaving a comment. What a beautiful post… and gorgeous pictures as always. Your blog is such an inspiration for me. I feel I’ve been to all the places you mentioned in your post. I’m so envious of your trips… I live in LA so I go to the Santa Monica farmers market once in a while and I agree with you – it’s the best farmers market anywhere! Like everybody else said, you are so fortunate to work in a field that you love and have a natural talent for. I’m happy for you. Looking forward to more amazing posts…

    Posted by Sally | 16 June 2007 #
  • Gosh your back, finally!

    Posted by Jeremy | 17 June 2007 #
  • Keiko, you always brighten up my day with your beautiful photographs. Particulary at the moment when the city I live in (Sydney, Australia) has been experiencing unusually wet weather for weeks. I’m in the same category as Sally who left the previous message. Have been enjoying your site for ages without leaving comments. Am so grateful that you have updated us with such a fantastic, detailed post, that I am compelled to comment this time in order to say THANK YOU! Cheerio and all the best with your career going forward ….

    Posted by Doris | 17 June 2007 #
  • It’s the first time i read your blog and it impress me. I’m french and i live in south california since 9 months. I’ve got a blog about food and my new life in USA. I read that you borned in Japan… I dont know if you can read french, but i explain in my blog how i was suprise an happy to meet so many japanese people in california. I m fall in love of this people and their food. Well i have to read your blog more instead of knowing you more. Valerie

    Posted by valerie | 17 June 2007 #
  • Phew! A whirling whirlwind indeed. Zow.

    Great to have you back in the thick of things with photos and tales and comraderie. Gorgeous, all of it!

    What a pleasure it was to have brunch that day at Zuni—- so much has changed since that day you will have to come back soon.

    Here here for renewed energy and inspiration and learning more fully about photography! Welcome back, we’ve missed you but it’s been well worth the wait.


    Posted by shuna fish lydon | 17 June 2007 #
  • Beautiful photos, Keiko. Well worth the wait. Looks like you’ve been having great fun with lots of delicious things to taste…and meeting up with Kevin & Matt to boot.

    What more could a girl ask for? xo

    Posted by David | 17 June 2007 #
  • Hi, Keiko san

    I was with Misuzu yesterday visiting the antique village in SD and talking about you! We have such a s great memory spending time with you. You really have a natural talent for the photography and beautiful post! We love you and look forward to seeing you some more amazing posts!

    Posted by junko | 17 June 2007 #
  • great post! i’ve just come across your blog and absolutely love it. i’m off to italy in the end of next month and your photos have sparked excitement in me!

    Posted by pina | 17 June 2007 #
  • Hello Keiko,
    Pleased to hear from you again. Such a long trip, will certainly give back new recipe to share …So, you’ll be forgiven for your absence

    Posted by Gamelle | 18 June 2007 #
  • Hi Keiko ! Nice to read you again and to see your amasing photos !!! Italy, US your life is
    tremendous !! Good luck and bravo for all ! Great work

    Posted by mercotte | 18 June 2007 #
  • yeah… are back!! —-with such amazing photos! Keep working, keep growing!

    Posted by Melissa | 18 June 2007 #
  • Wow Keiko, what an unforgettable journey! Even though you’ve been busy, it sounds like you’ve had an amazing time – and the photos are just gorgeous!

    Posted by gilly | 18 June 2007 #
  • It was really, I mean REALLY a pleasure meeting you! It still makes me smile just to think about the sweet moment we had on the Sunday. Three girls with good food in the sunny Sunday afternoon, cannot have enough of it!
    Hopefully we will be able to see you in the near future again and thanks for sharing those intoxicating pictures, you are AWESOME! ;-) Love Misuzu

    Posted by Misuzu | 19 June 2007 #
  • hi keiko, welcome back! and what a journey that you had had… sounds wonderful and it’s also making me rather hungry this early in the morning ;)

    hope work is not too hectic now that you have a little time to catch up, and will check back for more great news and photos…

    Posted by Lil | 19 June 2007 #
  • hi Keiko, a complete WOW! to all the beautiful pictures. This is my first visit to your blog, I got here from Lynn’s blog. Your photos are really stunning! Thanks for sharing :)

    Would you mind sharing with me what camera you are using? Thanks much and keep up all the lovely posts!!!!

    Posted by karen y | 19 June 2007 #
  • I love your gorgeous photos – it’s like being there with you.

    Posted by Sam | 20 June 2007 #
  • Hi Keiko, it was lovely meeting you when you were in New York! I’m glad you had such a great time here, and hopefully, we can try for Chikalicious with Kelli (and Andrew) the next time you’re back.

    Posted by Karen | 20 June 2007 #
  • What a whirlwind, and how great to get to meet and interact firsthand with other bloggers! Thanks for the gorgeous pictures (Almost) as good as being there!

    Posted by Deborah Dowd | 22 June 2007 #
  • This is my first time on your blog, but I’ll be back for sure. Quite a dazzling trip indeed, and the pictures are gorgeous.

    Posted by Christine | 22 June 2007 #
  • What a lovely post!
    Thanks for sharing all your terrific adventures.
    And for the link to Il Cavoletto di Bruxelle too!

    Posted by Paris Breakfasts | 24 June 2007 #
  • k-
    you are amazing. i feel like i just ate too much cake, all those amazing photographs (and memories i was lucky to be a part of) in one place. thanks for your unshakable passion and your beautiful eye. can’t wait to see you again soon. and i will send you slow food london info soon!!!!

    Posted by cecily | 26 June 2007 #
  • Welcome back! I would like to thank you for inspiring me once again with your beautiful words & pictures. I am having a bad time at the moment, and had (for the first time ever) been put off cooking..I was worried my passion had disappeared until I read your blog again, and I feel back to my old self! In fact, I feel even more inspired to cook, learn, and might even make a blog!! It would be nothing as amazing as yours..but still ;-)
    Thanks again, I can live vicariously through your adventures!

    Posted by videodrome | 27 June 2007 #
  • Glad to see you post again. Beautiful pictures. What wonderful travel destinations.

    Posted by veron | 27 June 2007 #
  • At last got to read your latest write up. Had been your great fan and you are such an ispiration to us and to our current work that we are pursuing. Thanks. Big Boys Oven

    Posted by big boys oven | 28 June 2007 #
  • As always…:-) Glad you’re back!

    Posted by Maya | 28 June 2007 #
  • you upset me. i mean, how do i categorize your site? do i put you under ‘dsgn [design]’ or ‘(put:) eats’? you have made me face a dilemma i would rather not confront. your product inspires and causes me to drool.

    Posted by chuckles the clown | 29 June 2007 #
  • Keiko!! How great to read you again!! From a reader’s point of vieuw, it’s been a wonderfull (and long!!!) post, and I’m still wondering where you get all the energy to do such trips around the globe :) Anyway, let know if you try Felice’s tonnarelli (I must say, actually, you’ve made me kind of… reconsiderate this dish and, indeed, it could be more interesting than cacio & pepe… Hope to hear from you soon! ;-)

    Posted by Sigrid | 2 July 2007 #
  • tes photos sont magnifiques, bravo !

    Posted by vanessa | 4 July 2007 #
  • I do not say English, but this blog is prettiest than I know. Congratulations!

    Posted by Michel Khodair | 4 July 2007 #
  • Hoowaw! Keiko-san you’re getting really jetset if I may say so! :)
    I glad that you enjoyed your trips and met these wonderful bloggers. But more so delighted at the upward movement of your career in photography. I’m really happy for you. :)))

    Posted by celiaK | 4 July 2007 #
  • Very glad to see you back! What wonderful stories and pictures…so worth the wait! :)

    Posted by joey | 5 July 2007 #
  • love your photography…

    Posted by thip | 19 July 2007 #
  • Hi all, sincere apologies for taking so long to get back to you, thank you so much for your kind notes!

    Karen y – I started with a Minolta A2, then Canon 350D (this post was shot with it) and I recently got a 5D.

    Posted by keiko | 22 January 2008 #
  • i love your blog! i just spent all my afternoon at Amai Tea and bakeshop and ate all the cookies while studying for my final exam to finish my culinary program- i tried one by one….loving the flavors!! !!
    very inspiring experience- i loved the earl grey currant cookie and the ginger lemongrass-

    Posted by natalia Gaviria | 12 October 2008 #
  • Hi Natalia – glad you enjoyed spending time at Kelli’s place, I’m so happy they’re doing great! I love the earl grey currant flavour too but it looks like they now have many more new creations, I can’t wait to go back and try them all :)

    Posted by keiko | 28 October 2008 #

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