A Saga Worth Telling, and Visiting

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We love locavore stories, but for our travel issue we go father afield—sometimes much farther. In fact our writer Nancy Matsumoto just returned from Japan, where she was reporting a story about Union Square Café’s Tokyo outpost. She also spent a few days in Saga City, the capital of Saga prefecture, on Japan’s southernmost island of Kyushu, visiting people who make ingredients both traditional and innovative. She reports:

“I toured the production facilities of seven artisanal producers, from the most high-tech, beautifully designed homes and factories to the most rustic, which bore the patina of age and tradition. I sampled among the best nori and yuzukosho (yuzu-chili) products in Japan and dropped by the distillery of the oldest sake maker in Saga, run by a 13th-generation brewer. I met a man who makes noodles out of nori and asparagus, tried some subtly delicious sesame shortbread cookies, and beautiful seafood suspended in umami-rich saké lees and shiokoji (fermented koji mold, salt and water).

“I also learned about the 18th-century Saga-born monk-turned green tea peddler Baisao, who is credited with popularizing sencha over the powdered matcha that was more common back then. Oh, and along the way, I dined on super-fatty and (in Japan) famous Saga beef, and slurped on fresh rice noodles at the outdoor restaurant of a woman in a tiny rural hamlet who forages for her own mugwort, rapeseed blossoms and mountain vegetables.”

Stay tuned for Nancy’s full story, which will appear in the September/October issue of Edible Manhattan!

Betsy Bradley

Elizabeth L. Bradley writes about New York City history and culture. She hopes to find Tiffany blue dragees in her Christmas stocking this year.

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