Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Im retiring my chopsticks and heading to San Fransisco!

After 2 amazing months in Asia, RENT- The Broadway Tour will be playing the Curran Theatre in San Fransisco for 2 weeks starting October 6, 2009.

I have so much to share with all of you...Tokyo and Seoul blew our senses away! I'll be spending the next 2 weeks we have off laying by the pool, editing videos and uploading posts from our culinary adventures through Asia. And,To kick off the next leg of RENT- The Broadway Tour, the first of many "La Vie Boh...mmm" episodes from Tokyo will be premiering on opening night in San Fransisco. I am so excited about these new LAVBM episodes! I'll take you on my expedition to Mt Fuji, Cast weekend trips to Kyoto, Disney, and Okinawa, wandering through markets in Tokyo and Seoul and lots of backstage footage from our amazing stay in Asia.

In the meantime, a little research...San Fran! Where are all the good eats??? Where should we go!? We have 2 weeks to explore the tastiest recommendations you may have....

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Deadly Delicatessen: Eating Scorpions!

Written by RENT-The Broadway Tour company members Greg Bober (Sound) and Tracy McDowell (Ms. Cohen)

Our second battle of the Deadly Delicatessen was an impromptu event on a rainy day off in Tokyo. We began our night with raw eggs and anchovies served over Caesar salads, and plenty of drinks with friends at the Mermaid bar in Akasaka. Then we moved back to the hotel for Mario Kart and Chu Hi, a delicious and potent blend of soju, soda water, and a citrus of your choice.
Late that night a group of us reconvened at our favorite sketchy soul nightclub near the hotel in Akasaka. It isn’t so much a nightclub as it is some Japanese guy’s living room. But there is a small bar, records on the walls and ceiling, low lights, and a great dj spinning records from the 70’s and 80’s. After a couple hours there, Joe Parker, Tracy McDowell, and myself left the club with the intention of going back to the hotel when the bright red lights of the underground, 24 hr Chinese restaurant down the street caught our eyes. We had heard from someone earlier in the week that you can order scorpions there, so down we went!
Once inside we sat down and ordered Asahi’s, Bok Choy, and a double order of scorpions. If we were gonna die from scorpions, at least we were going to get a healthy dose of vegetables and garlic first. First came the beers, followed by the garlic drenched Bok Choy, and finally an impressive serving of scorpions atop a mound of fried rice noodles. We are not sure why it is okay to eat these, the scorpion is completely intact from its legs to the little stinger on the tip of the tail. The beers were cold, the Bok Choy was delicious, and the scorpions were the saltiest thing on earth! Crunchy salt bombs! They literally had no other distinguishing flavors or textures. But none the less we ate them all, took plenty of pictures and drank lots of beer to get them down. Next!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Deadly Delicatessen: Fugu! Can Eating Blowfish Kill You??

Written by RENT the Broadway Tour Company Members: Greg Bober (Sound) and Tracy McDowell (Ms. Cohen)
While in Tokyo my epicurean equal and I discovered a new food fetish. Deadly Delicatessen. Foods that if not prepared properly could kill you.
First we decided to tackle the poisonous blowfish Fugu! While Tracy first learned about Fugu from Anthony Bordain on the travel channel, I first learned about it from Homer Simpson, and if its good enough for Homer, its good enough for me. Lucky for us there was a restaurant specializing in this deadly fish between our hotel and the theatre. “Fugu me!” We kicked off our shoes and slipped into our private Fugu chamber, not really sure how to make this happen. We hoped the chef was in a good mood and not hungover like the rest of us, and presented our coupon for a 4 course plus all-you-can drink meal.
First we had Fugu fin hot sake. The Waitress brought it out in a square cup inside a square coaster covered by a small lid. She lit a match, lifted the cover and set the sake ablaze! After a few minutes we took off the lid and out poured the stench of hot feet in seal tank! If the smell wasn’t bad enough, the taste was even worse, plus there was a grilled fin in our sake. But we drank it fast and moved on to the skin and scallion salad. The blowfish skin was chewy, almost the texture of a stale gummy worm, but tasted really good. Tracy swears her mouth started tingling from the salad, which we had heard could happen, so we ordered cold sake. Next was the Fugu sashimi, super thin sliced blowfish meat accompanied by scallions, radish, and a vinegar soy sauce. Umi! More sake.Next heaven on a plate was served; beautiful golden brown southern fried side of blowfish. It was the most amazing, perfectly fried piece of fish we had ever had. Sake and beer. Then the main course! A hot pot was placed on the burner in the middle of the table and a brine was set to boil. Served on a platter with tofu and various vegetables came meaty chunks of the body, mouth and cheeks topped off by a piece that was still fluttering! Tracy asked if the pulsing piece was the heart still pumping and the waitress replied “No, it’s the brain.” She added all of the ingredients into the pot and Tracy said that if anything was still moving when it came out of the pot that I had to eat it. We ate the contents of the pot, cheeks and all, with a sweet soy sauce and of course more sake and beer.
Finally when the waitress came to clear the table she also said that she would bring us dessert. We asked what blowfish dessert consisted of and she said “marrow.” We briefly tried to figure out how they were going to serve marrow, but were surprised when she returned with two plates of melon. Damn language barrier! While we sat and continued on our seemingly endless supply of sake and beer, we were pretty sure we heard someone whispering Tracy’s name. Are we hallucinating? Is this the first step in losing our battle with the Fugu? No. We are winners. Then the door opened and in walked Justin Johnston. Turns out we weren’t the only ones interested in tempting fate that night. So we ordered him the sashimi and fried fish. He loved it! And as quickly and mysteriously as he had arrived, like a ninja, he snuck away into the night. More sake and beer.In the end we left with full stomachs, a good buzz, and a win in our first battle with deadly delicatessen.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

"Pocky? You never call me Pocky!"

Throughout our month in Tokyo, the Japanese fans made it a rare thing for us to leave the stage door empty handed. It was endless...candy, rice crackers, chopsticks, mochi, t-shirts, hats, handkerchiefs, fans, beautiful handcrafted cards and origami to name some...even 5 fingered socks. One of my favorites, a personalized bottle of Soju. Most of the cast would join me in saying that they absolutely love the Japanese fans. Sure...it's easy to win us over with candy and gifts, but it was their spirit and genuine enthusiasm that stole our hearts. They asked very little, which made us want to give more and more. Not a dis to our U.S. fans, we appreciate you as well...you bake us elaborate cakes after all!! I just want to confirm the well known rumor that Japanese fans are amazing.

We kept a table right by our dressing rooms were we would drop off our edible gifts and share them with the rest of the company. I don't know how many different things I tried, and most of them so delicious. Sometimes, in between scenes, I'd run to the table and grab a pocky stick and run back for an entrance. What's Pocky? Pocky is basically a very thin pretzel like cracker stick that is dipped in chocolate or other flavors. Haneefah Wood who plays Joanne received countless boxes of Pocky, well known by the rest of the cast. One night, Nicolette Hart, who plays Maureen, almost called her "Pocky" instead of "Pookie"! Watch the video below.

I particularly loved Galbo Chips...crisp, chocolate rice chips that would melt in your mouth with every bite. So good! I hope they have them in the states.
I also loved this little mound of rich yumminess (pictured on the right) that I have no idea what it was. Can anyone tell me? I want a whole cake made out of that!

It was also really great to see so many faces I recognized from doing RENT over the years. Thank you for welcoming us so warmly to your wonderful country. We really feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to perform in Japan. Arigato Gozaimasu! We miss you!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ninja, Tokyo, Japan

Eel Sushi with Camembert Cheese
Hello all!! This is John Watson! I play Mr. Jefferson and others on the Broadway tour of RENT! I know I’m not a regular, but Andy asked me to come on this blog and tell you about one of the most amazing food experiences of my life. As you may know, Rent just finished a month-long run in Tokyo, Japan. This country will open your eyes to a completely new way of eating, but none of the hot spots I went to were as fun as Ninja.

After hearing about it from a friend, my fiancee, Amanda, and I decided to give this fantastic restaurant a try. I say restaurant, but it was really more of an experience. The idea is to immerse it’s customers completely in the ancient Ninja culture.

To start off, even if you know where the restaurant is located it’s still hard to find. The Ninja of Japan used to put great importance on invisibility and misdirection making them appear magical. Once you walk in there is someone to guide you through dark corridors and secret passages until you reach an old ninja village hidden inside the building. This is where you eat! Amanda and I were lead to a room inside an old house where we were shown menus made out of scrolls for our drinks and food courses. I have to say that everything we ordered had flawless presentation and tasted great!

Amanda ordered a spicy sake that was served in a large, bowl-shaped glass garnished with what looked like chile peppers. For dinner she ordered a “floating” sashimi that came in a bowl that you had to see to believe. I ordered a steak tenderloin that was stacked on top of potatoes and topped with an excellent Foie Gras, which I had never tasted before. It was a great way to be introduced.

The icing on the cake for me, however, was the Eel Sushi with Camembert Cheese. I have never tasted sushi that good. We ordered it twice. For dessert we shared an apple gelatin with vanilla ice cream on top. Again, something I had never tasted before, but quite good.

Everything was delivered by a man dressed in a full ninja outfit who would appear suddenly with our orders. As we ate he would visit our table and show us a magic trick. During dessert he presented the “Master Ninja” who came with a case of coins and cards. For the next ten minutes he proceeded to blow our minds with card tricks and coin tricks, even allowing us to help him with a few. We were amazed!
After paying for the meal we were lead through a “short cut” which brought us to the front of the restaurant and were met with a fond farewell from the staff. Amanda and I have not stopped talking about our experience ever since. I’ve heard this restaurant also exists in New York City, but if you want the most authentic experience you must visit Tokyo, Japan and take a subway to Akasaka. Only there will you experience the magic, mystery, and delicacies of Ninja.