Sunday, July 25, 2010

From 1746 to Lady Pickles

A Pint, 2010

It does not seem to be the place to procure the perfect bowl of ramen, but isn't ramen becoming a little overrated these days? If you would like to sit in a sun filled cafe and drink a creamy delicious matcha latte, browse bonsai, or shop in a market that sells fresh shishito peppers, nifty little Japanese white cucumbers, and bitter almond Kit Kats, San Francisco's Japantown is your place.

1746 Post Street is where to begin. Cinema Cafe serves a fine matcha latte. I always order mine in a small cup. The large is just too large, but they only have one button on the cash register for this beverage, so you'll have to pay for a large. It's worth it. It is the most beautiful latte I've ever seen, a calming pale green.

Bring a book or browse the Kinokuniya Bookstore (1581 Webster Street) before you head to the cafe. Kinokuniya has the most inspiring collection of Japanese books. I'm always drawn to their various craft and design books. Don't worry if you don't read Japanese, it is the imagery that will capture your attention. They carry some English books as well.

Currently, Kinokuniya has some darling little tote bags in stock. The bags are printed by a local artist, and selling for only $4.95. They come in a variety of colors and I really have to practice restraint to keep myself from purchasing a new tote each time I enter the store.

There is always the option of forgetting books altogether and simply drinking your latte while gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows of the Cinema Cafe and people watching.

Before you go, visit the best ladies room in the city of San Francisco. I'm sure the men's room is nice too, but I cannot say for sure. The ladies room is located on the level beneath the cafe, near the small box office. Yes, they show films here--the focus is on "the latest and hottest films from Japan". Once inside the ladies room, you will find an array of tiny glass vases filled with fresh flowers. Best of all, you will sit on a high-tech heated toilet seat. The entire space is immaculate.


Even if you don't require any Japanese pantry items, the Nijiya Market is worth the trip (1737 Post Street). It's just across the street from the cafe. Peruse the aisles and note all of the interesting ingredients you will not likely find in an average American supermarket. Don't miss the Kewpie Mayonnaise.

If you are in the mood to wander, there's a cute little bonsai shop, Katsura Garden, just steps away (1825 Post Street). If you require rest, stop by Robert Redford's Sundance Kabuki Cinema (1881 Post Street). I'm sure there will be something that suits your mood.

I left Japantown with a new tote (I now own 2) and some nice pickle ingredients.

Once home, I made these deceptively feisty pickles. As I prepared the thinly sliced petite vegetables, all so delicate, and decided on the additional spicy and sweet ingredients, I thought...these are going to be called Lady Pickles.

Lady Pickles
1 pint

1 small chunk of ginger = to the top of your thumb, above the first knuckle
3 small carrots
3 shishito peppers
2 small Japanese white cucumbers
3 ooba (aojiso) leaves

1/2 stick cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1 star anise

3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Peel ginger and place in the bottom of a clean 1 pint jar. Top, tail, and slice carrots, peppers, and cucumbers very thin. I used a Kyocera adjustable mandoline slicer for the carrots and cucumbers and a knife for the peppers. Chiffonade the aojiso leaves. Toss together and add to jar. Over low heat, toast cinnamon, red pepper, mustard, and star anise in a small sauce pan for a few minutes. Add vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to sauce pan and simmer for a few minutes while gently stirring. Pour liquid into jar, over vegetables. Allow contents of jar to cool before sealing jar and placing it in the refrigerator. Wait 24 hours or so.

Eat Lady Pickles beside grilled sandwiches, grain salads, or platters of cured meats and cheeses.


  1. Sweetpea was just saying the other day that it was about time for another Japantown visit so we could pick up another "My Neighbor Totoro" themed toy. And I need some sushi.

    And I have never pickled anything - you've inspired me to try. Sounds like you had a splendid day.

  2. mosey, I think you and Sweatpea are going to have a fun mother-daughter adventure.

  3. Groan... Now I gotta go to Japantown.
    This is not a problem.

  4. Lady Pickles, how beautifully coined.

  5. i love japantown.

    this pickle recipe made my day. can't wait to try it.

  6. I love the list of ingredients in your formidable (feisty!) Lady Pickles....takes the pickling in a direction I hadn't considered. This is serendipitous; tomorrow I am going to a friends home in the country, to make her "famous" refrigerator zucchini pickles. She has some okra and lemon cukes to pickle as well. Should be much fun!

  7. cookiecrumb, Come'll have fun. Don't you need a bonsai and some Kewpie Mayo?

    Tracy, : )

    shari, Fun, I love making days. If you like a pickle with a kick, this is your pickle.

    nancy, I was just reading one of M.F.K. Fisher's zucchini pickle recipes before bed last night. The recipe contained flour. I've never seen this before. I can't decide if it's just too odd or if I might have to give it a try. I used to grow lemon cucumbers and LOVE them, especially small. Have fun! I hope we see a report on your blog. Oh, and I can link you to a nice okra recipe, if you are seeking ideas.

  8. That is an incredibly special pickle. And I've made quite a few pickles lately.

    And I want to go everywhere you say, and do everything you did, because it just sounds like the perfect day. Alas, I can't, but that's why I enjoy visiting your blog so much!

  9. Julia, What an incredibly nice comment. Thank you! I'm sure you can substitute my stranger pickle veggies with treasures from your garden and put together something spectacular. My dad's friend is currently creating an Apache Junction, AZ version of the Lady Pickle.

  10. Denise--Flour seems Very odd--an unknown to me in pickling...hmmm...could be worth looking into; I wonder how it benefits?

    If you have time, I'd love your Okra link. Thanks!

  11. I will, I will. I most surely will. If ever I am there, I will. I am spending my days travelling through film (it is winter and time for the big annual film fest) and now my days travelling through beautiful blog posts full of temptation.

  12. nancy, I have yet to read more about that flour. Eventually... I made Jen's okra recipe and used Julie Sahn's notes to make paneer in place of tofu (see the bottom of this post for Julie's Indian Cheese recipe). I made the okra twice, once with tofu and once with paneer. The paneer version was much better.

    gracia, Spending your days traveling through film seems like a beautiful way to spend time. I've checked Yasujir┼Ź Ozu's Late Spring (1949 B&W) out from our library and have been trying to make time to watch it. It looks like a wonderful film.

  13. I love the way you measure your ginger. Charming. Thanks for visiting Summer Fest today, so I could find my way back here.

  14. Margaret, Thank you. Summer Fest is a great idea. I think it's going to take me a week to explore all of the cucumber and zucchini possibilities that have been shared.

  15. i love japan town. so much. you are making me want to go there very very soon [the 99 cent store alone is worth it besides all the other treats!]

  16. lisa, I've never been to the 99 cent store in Japantown. I can't visit my dad in Arizona without a trip to one of his local 99 cent stores (they are on every corner!). I'd love to compare what we have here in Japantown to his stores. Next visit to Japantown I will make a stop, for sure.

  17. I love to travel where you go with you. It is always such a treat.

    (Would it be terrible to say, someday for real? And mean it?)


  18. I have never heard of Japantown...that is really interesting.
    I love Japanese culture and cuisine- very inspiring.
    Your lovely pickles look like art- gorgeous in that lovely jar.I bet they taste as delish than they look.

  19. Maria! Hello! Yes, someday works sometimes, like this time.

    Camilla, I just touched on a couple things. Japantown has much more to offer. I'm sure you'd have fun. I did not follow Japanese tradition with my pickles, I just used a few Japanese ingredients, but they are still very tasty (and super simple).

  20. This looks like a wonderful recipe for pickles. I've wanted one like this that includes peppers. And why don't I own a mandoline slicer to use for cukes? I am going to fix that right away.

  21. I really love these pickles. I was piling them high on my lunch the other day, but I'm blanking on what that lunch was...hmmm. Anyway--yes, buy a slicer. I've never used a true mandoline and they may very well be far superior to my slicer, but this little guy works for my cucumbers and carrots (zucchini too).