Monday, May 25, 2009

New Gift Shop!

I've added a second gift shop on Zazzle, called Ann's Ukrainian Gifts Too! It'll feature even more unique Ukrainian designs, on some of Zazzle's more interesting product lines.

Just in time for Father's Day, I've released a line of Ukrainian Neck Ties! Perfect for Dad on his special day, these ties feature Ukrainian folk embroidery inspired designs he's sure to love.

For American customers, the url is*

But if you're in Canada, you can shop Zazzle's local url @*

They have local urls for Australia and Great Britain, too, just click on the appropriate flag at the bottom of the page.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Finally, a trip to Hamachi!

Finally, after a whole year of dashed plans, my family and I got to go to Hamachi. There are 4 Hamachi restaurants with different themes in the Halifax area - we went to the one on Portland Street, Hamachi Grill & Sushi House.

The atmosphere was really nice in there. The staff were super friendly. The decor was very nice - very traditional, formal Japanese, not plastered with tons of stuff on the walls, but just a few well-chosen art pieces. There was a lovely Japanese water fountain, and a very cute sushi bar surrounded by a moat, where your sushi is delivered to you via "boat" (have to try that next time)!

But on to the food! I told my parents it wouldn't be a proper Japanese meal unless they had miso soup, so we all had some. It was really lovely, and my parents were pleasantly surprised by the taste (they heard the words "seaweed" and "tofu" and weren't expecting much good to come of it). But there's so much more to a good miso soup, of course, and all the wonderful flavors came together perfectly.

Pork Gyoza. The pork gyoza was spectacular. MAN, that stuff is good! I heard James Barber once say that every culture has a dumpling, it's basically only a slight change in dough, and whatever the culture chooses to stuff it with. Ukrainians and Poles are best known for perogies, of course, but Japan has its gyoza (delicious recipe @ Lovely with Hamachi's delicate vinegary/soya dip-in sauce.

Shrimp Tempura. Their tempura was above reproach. As I've often heard, proper tempura is really an art form, made in small batches with freezing cold water, leaving a few lumps of flour in so that upon frying, the batter puffs up light with extra crispy bits. We had shrimp, and it was lovely. Beautiful coloring, deliciously crispy.

Unagi Kabayaki. I had wanted to try eel for several years now. There's a day (the traditional "hottest day of the year" in Japan) that everyone eats eel on, as it's oiliness is believed to help you "beat the heat". So I finally ordered it. And wow, what an unexpected flavor! (But unfortunately, not in a good way, this time). I thought it would be rather chewy, but the inside really rather melted away, which was nice. Now, this is freshwater eel, mind - but it tasted like the sea! I can think of nothing that has ever elicited such a strong memory connection with the sea other than actually being there, breathing in sea air. It was astonishing! It tasted like ocean, it's the only way I can describe it. Not unpleasant like drinking sea water or anything like that, but as if you were actually able to eat ocean, and all the minerally, saltiness of it in a physical form. Dave had promised to eat whatever I ate, and so dutifully had some. Even my dad tried some. My dad and I also tried it in honour of our German ancestors, who came to Nova Scotia a few hundred years ago, and had to spend many a winter eating eel, as it was in abundance in the Lunenburg area. I applaud them for their courage. Or their desperation. I tried to like it. I really, really did. But it was such an extreme flavor, and it just didn't "chime" with me. Or my dad, or Dave. So we had to leave this beautifully prepared (I mean, it was gorgeous, and lovingly done, you could tell) food alone. We took it home to share with our furry family.

Beef Sashimi. The true treat of the night was the beef sashimi. Sashimi usually refers to raw fish, served with a dipping sauce, so I assumed (correctly) that this would be beef seared on the outside, but completely rare (or blue, as the server called it) on the inside. It was served super-thinly sliced, in a ponzu sauce. What an amazing experience. Holy moley! I put it in my mouth, and as I was experiencing this incredible taste sensation for the first time, I looked over at Dave and could see the range of emotions he was going through as he was hit with it. My parents were asking us eagerly how it tasted, but we both couldn't talk - I could tell he loved it as much as I did though! When we finally could speak, we both just oohed and ahhed, we couldn't even really put it into words. It was so delicate and tender, the meat just melted in your mouth, it was truly amazing, amazing. WOW. SO GOOD! The sauce complimented it wonderfully, and the whole thing together was the most incredible taste sensation. WOW.

My parents had sesame seed salmon, with a very unJapanese portion size. It was HUGE! BIG salmon, lots of sake grilled veggies and fried rice (traditional Japanese meals usually have MUCH smaller portions, but we're used to bigger here in the West, so I guess that's what they serve).

Dave and I had a couple different kinds of sushi, all impeccably prepared, of course! As I've said before, I don't think sushi will ever be my all-time favorite, but it is nice to have a little on a special occasion.

So, all in all, we had a lovely time, and will definitely go back again. My parents were nervous about trying a totally new cuisine, but I think they were pleasantly surprised. And there's tons more on the menu, so we'll have lots to try next time, too! So if you're ever in Dartmouth, be sure to check out the Hamachi Grill and Sushi House - you'll be glad you did!