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  • Michael Krakovskiy 9:47 pm on January 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , dealer, Japanese pottery, Kintsugi, Maintenance, metal staples, modern craftsman, Tea, ,   

    Kintsugi: Beautiful Repair 

    The legend goes like this: a Japanese shogun broke his favorite Chinese tea bowl, and sent it back to the same artisans who made it for repair. The bowl came back properly repaired with glue and metal staples. The shogun could not believe his eyes: ugly staples connecting delicate pieces of porcelain – surely that was not the right way to do it. In response Japanese artisans invented kintsugi: a technique of repairing broken pottery with special gold-containing laquer resin. Pieces repaired in that way became even more beautiful and valuable than when they were whole. After seeing a few repaired pieces in museums I have no doubdt that the story about wealthy Japanese breaking their favorite tea bowls on purpose just to have them repaired is true.

    These two bowls were on display in a museum somewhere in Washington.

    kintsugi-museum-1

    kintsugi-museum-2

    I recently purchased this Karatsu tea bowl. It was excavated from an old kiln and is estimated to be of the 1570-1620 vintage. It was repaired by a modern craftsman using a similar technique called doutsugi which uses a gold-copper alloy. It cost me about $180. Is it authentic? Probably – the dealer seems to be reasonably reputable. I’ll greatly enjoy drinking tea out of it.

    This (as it’s often the case) made me think of my own craft. A huge part of my job is putting software Humpty Dumpties back together. Is any of my work this elegant? Of course not, but I can think of some examples. Apache – or “a patchy” comes to mind. It’s a beautiful piece of code glued together with other beautiful pieces of code. Then there’s Pressflow – a fork of Drupal that glued it back in many places where the original was cracking.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 1:10 am on March 15, 2006 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 212-387-8882, 212-420-6370, 212-866-4780, AM 34, Bet Park, , Canned coffee, , , , genius science fiction writer, Iced tea, , , junk food, late genius science fiction writer, , , , , , SAM BOK store, skincare products, , Tea, , Unagi   

    Japanese Convinience 

    In one of the stories of the late genius science fiction writer Robert Sheckley, the main character needs crazy and exotic items to cast a spell. Bat wings, eyes of newt, etc, etc. Seemingly hard to find items, yet the character did not have any problems finding them. Why? Because he lived in Manhattan. You can find the most obscure, impossible to locate items in New York. Dried parasitic fungus that feeds on caterpillars? I had no trouble finding it.

    A couple of days ago I made a happy discovery. It looks like Manhattan has it’s own chain of authentic Japanese “konbini” – convenience stores. When I visited Japan, I really liked konbinis. They have 7-Eleven, just like we do, but also Ministop, Lawson, Sunkus and FamilyMart.

    So, what’s different in a Japanese konbini? The variety and quality of junk food that they sell is a lot better. They are stocked with a humongous variety of snacks. Dozens of types of dried squid and fish for beer, Japanese sweets, nuts, edamame, sashimi quality fish, japanese pickles like umeboshi. The variety of soft drinks and genki drinks. They also have Japanese shampoos and skincare products. In short, they are stuffed with Japanese goodness of overpowering variety.

    I’ve been to SAM BOK store at 127 West 43rd Street before. It was nice but not the same as the real Japanese kombini. Also there’s a big Chinese supermarket in my are which has a lot of Japanese stuff. Not the same either. But then I found JAS MART. It even has 3 locations!

    35 St. Marks Place, (Bet 2nd & 3rd Ave), NYC
    212-420-6370
    Sun – Thur: 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
    Fri & Sat: 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM

    34 East 23rd Street, (Bet Park & Madison Ave), NYC
    212-387-8882
    Mon – Fri: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM
    Sat & Sun: 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM

    2847 Broadway, (Bet 110th & 111th St), NYC
    212-866-4780
    Mon – Sun: 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM

    They even have genki drinks and Coffee Boss coffe! I’ve been to the one on 23rd street and promptly loaded myself up with goodies. Unagi eel, unagi sauce, roasted rice tea, sencha tea, several types of dried ika and fish, umeboshi, edamame. It’s a little expensive, but hey – beats buying tickets to Japan.

    Coffee Boss is a brand of Japanese canned coffee drinks with a J. R. “Bob” Dobbs-look alike mascot. They are sold in Japanese style soda machines which look rather different from the US Coke/Pepsi machines. They can serve the cans hot or cold. I wonder why somebody doesn’t bring some of these to Manhattan – it looks like the design of soda machines hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years!

    Pocari Sweat is a brand of Japanese sports drink, and despite the name rather tasty I might add. Notice the recycling can next to the machine – apparently the Japanese etiquette requires you to finish drinking your soft drinks next to the machine and not walking around with them. Almost every machine sold unsweetened green tea, in many cases Coke or Pepsi-branded.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 3:41 am on April 27, 2005 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , beverage, , , , , , , , , , , , Japanese tea ceremony, , , Tea, Thailand,   

    Caffeinated Bubble Trouble 

    It’s a proven fact : bubbles make caffeinated beverages better. Take a crappy tonic drink from Thailand, add carbonation, introduce it in Europe and the US and bam – you are a billionaire. Introduce espresso (simplistically speaking a very concentrated coffee with a foam of sugars, proteins and oils on top) and cappuccinos (add foamed milk to an espresso) in America on industrial basis – and bam – you almost a billionaire.

    Seems like the next logical step is tea. You see, Japanese have this tea ceremony thing. Never being a big fan of tea, but being a Japanophile at heart, I always wanted to try that. Unfortunately to this day I haven’t, but I definitely tried some tea that is used in the ceremony. They were selling it in a booth in Kyoto alongside with ice cream.

    Japanese tea ceremony involves two kinds of tea, “thick” and “thin”. From what I understand the difference mainly in the dilution and the quality of tea. I like stronger flavors, like espresso and scotch, so I prefer to make thick tea. Making is very simple. You take some high quality powdered tea called Matcha and put it into a bowl. You pour some hot water on top (I use the water from my espresso machine’s hot water spigot). Then you take a special whisk called chasen that is made by splitting a single piece of bamboo and whip your beverage up, kind of like making shaving lather with those old fashined shaving whisks.

    You get a radioactive green liquid that is absolutely loaded with green tea flavor, caffeine and and antioxidants. I already went through a package of medium cheaper Matcha, I think I’ll order some of the higher quality stuff as well.

    Here’s how Matcha is served in Japan, with regular tea and sweets. The one on the right is wrapped in a pickled leaf of sakura.

    Here’s what I just made for myself:

     
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