The idea of this blog is to share ideas for using hand-made pots to serve good food.

Eating with friends and family is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I hope to show how the warmth and character of hand made ceramics can really enhance the pleasure of cooking, serving and eating food.

This blog will include pots from other potters as well as my own and recipes for the food which I enjoy, hoping that you will like it too.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Eating at 'Zero' in Fukuoka, Japan

One of the greatest pleasures about exhibiting at the Gallery Shozando in Fukuoka recently was the chance to eat at the wonderful ‘Zero’ restaurant next door.  Zero is run by an exciting young chef, Ryota Takenouchi and his wife, Rie. They serve Japanese food, based around seasonal ingredients.  He grows some of the vegetables himself and has been busy planting for the coming season.

At lunchtime they serve a ‘Zero Platter’ which changes monthly, according to what is in season. The food is served on a hand-made slab-dish made by a potter in Shigaraki. The dish, although it was not specially commissioned for the ‘Zero Platter’ is the ideal backdrop for this combination of food.  Mr. Takenouchi told me that when he is putting together a plate of food like this, he approaches it rather like a painter trying to work out a satisfying combination of shapes and colours on the background he has chosen. 

The platter is served with a bowl of clear soup and a bowl of salad on the side.  Japanese tea is served before and during the meal, and a cup of coffee afterwards.

The combination of pots and food worked perfectly and, of course, it was delicious.  The slightly rough texture and earthy tones of the pots contrasted with the vibrant colours and soft textures of the food.  The bamboo chopsticks invited you to select dainty morsels of the food and try combinations of the delicate flavours.  It is the kind of food which leaves you feeling completely satisfied without feeling that you have over-indulged.  

Talking with chef, Takenouchi, about how he selects the pots for his restaurant was fascinating.  He says that the food comes first, but without an appropriate pot for a certain dish, he will not serve it.  He sometimes gets inspiration from pots to prepare certain foods in a particular way.  He believes that presentation of the food contributes about 30 per cent of the overall enjoyment of a dish.

He has a very good relationship with the gallery, Shozando, next door.  They share many of their customers and he sources many of his pots through them as well.  Ideally, he would like to make the pots as well, in the tradition of Kitaoji Rosanjin, but with a restaurant to run and vegetables to grow, he seems to have plenty to do at the moment.  The day I interviewed him, he had just finished making 50 lunch boxes for people who were cherry blossom viewing.

These are my pots on show at Shozando gallery, with pots by Ruthanne Tudball on the shelves behind.

These are pots by Masahiro Kumagae, beautifully displayed with glassware at Shozando gallery.  The gallery owner, Rie Arimitsu, has a great talent for displaying pots in a way which invites you to use them - and tempts you to buy more than one item, as they look so good together.   My trip to Japan has left me with a wealth of inspiration for pots, food and ideas about how to run a gallery - food for thought for a long time to come.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Cherry blossoms in Japan

It was wonderful to be in Japan for the cherry blossoms, though we had to wait until the last week of our stay, as this spring has been rather cold and they are flowering late.  People make special trips to stroll under the trees.  In the parks, mats are laid out under the trees for people to have picnics and drink beer and sake whilst viewing the blossoms.  Our favourite restaurant made fifty lunch-boxes last Saturday for people to enjoy whilst flower viewing.  It is in all the newspapers and on TV so people know which region is in full bloom.

The gallery Shozando, where I was exhibiting in Fukuoka, had a special cherry-blossom display and customers would bring in sticky rice cakes like this one, wrapped in an edible cherry leaf, for us to enjoy.  When we ate in the neighbouring restaurant, Zero, there was a dish of white rice noodles garnished with a single cherry flower as part of a delicious evening banquet.

This awareness and celebration of the seasons is reflected in the food and the pots in which it is served. Seasonality really means something in Japan, where the foods of each season are anticipated and enjoyed as they come into season.

Another seasonal speciality which we enjoyed on several occasions was take-no-ko - bamboo shoots - and we even dug some up ourselves, which was a first for me.  They were delicious cooked with rice or simmered in a broth with shiitake and other vegetables. 

The countryside was splashed with the vibrant yellow of oil-seed rape flowers.  They are also eaten served, lightly steamed, whilst still in bud, as a seasonal speciality.

Here they were served with a piece of octopus and a deliciously tangy sauce made with white miso, yuzu (a citrus fruit, similar to lime, but with a distinctive flavour of its own) and mustard.  The combination of colours, textures and tastes in this dish was heavenly!

There were so many wonderful meals and pots.  I will be posting again soon as I want to share more of these inspiring experiences, while they are still fresh in my mind.