For they are far bigger than my stomach. Unfortunately, that didn't stop me from stuffing my face with everything that came into my line of sight.
I had barely finished reading this week's Talk of the Town in the New Yorker when I realized that I'd already passed through the epic tunnel in Kawabata's contemplative novel Snow Country. So much for savoring the moment, but, before I knew it I was in Yuzawa, a quiet town surrounded by mountains that remain covered in snow until May. It's only 80 minutes away from Tokyo, but it feels a world away.
The day started with a tour of Shirataki Shuzo, the makers of Jozen Mizuno Gotoshi sake. Having woken up at 4am, still suffering from jet lag, I was not 100% sure that I'd be up for a preprandial sake tasting, but I didn't let myself down. I've long been a fan of Jozen Mizuno Gotoshi's clean, crisp Junmai Ginjo and Jukusei Junmai Ginjo, so it was real treat to try their other products, including a sprightly Usunigori with a pretty pink sakura-motif label.
Moments later, I'm being carried 2000 meters up a mountain at Yuzawa Kogen, toward lunch at a quaint little restaurant called Alpinathat looks like a cross between a Mediterranean cottage and a snow lodge, and specializes in wood-fired oven pizzas. Famished after our morning of sake tasting, we gobbled down chewy-crusted pies topped with anchovies and cheeze, salami and peppers, and garlic and chilies. I chased mine with a glass (but just one) of Vigna Paronza Chianti.
Little did I suspect, however, that we'd be whisked away for a soba-making lesson and a second lunch. Although I ususally object to more than one lunch per day, the tempura of shrimp and vegetables -- pumpkin, sweet potatoes, maitake mushrooms, and mildly bitter fukinoto -- looked too good to pass up. And, for once, the soba I'd make was actually pretty tasty. I am, of course, using the word "I" loosely here.
For someone to whom getting a haircut means the death of an entire day, this is quite a lot of action. Keep in mind that this all happened before sundown -- and our second big sake tasting of the day. But that, my friends, is a story that will have to wait until tomorrow.