The gal has quickly become aware that the Japanese are more than ever besotted by food that is fresh, organic and real. Consumers want to know where produce is grown, and by whom. Hokkaido seems to be the centre of dairy farming – see Hokkaido cows, above.
According to Japan Dairy Council, milk production throughout the whole of the country is second only to rice in agricultural output, and 40% of all raw milk is processed into butter, cheese and the clotted cream used for afternoon tea. At the luxury Shangri-La Tokyo hotel, Executive Chef Andrea Ferrero is one of the most passionate exponents of ‘real food‘ that one can find.
He seems to spend every waking moment either cooking – say producing his delightfully al dente spaghetti carbonara – or sourcing products for his dishes. He recounts tales of finding a baker, in a quiet rural backwater, who went to Italy to study pizza dough making and now produces loaves using half-Italian, and half-Japanese water. He has made contact with a Kagoshima farmer who has such a limited supply of his own-made prosciutto that there is a waitlist of six months for it. He wants the freshest organic salad leaves, and fruits that are in season, not forced. These artisanal producers will be filmed, with Chef Andrea, and the results posted on YouTube.
His newly-arrived GM, Marcus Bauder, tells a story of washing just-bought strawberries back in Europe to find that the red came off in the water, to leave white fruit underneath. We all laugh, ruefully. Now in fact white strawberries in Japan are just that, ripe white strawberries with red seeds, but no other colour – they are called Hatsukoi no kaori, scent of first love. Japan seems to like strawberry variety: apparently there are now over 253 different types available, with over 50 new varieties registered in the last five years. These white strawberries, popular gift items, for births, birthdays and weddings, sell for about ¥500 per one single strawberry.
The ladies-who-lunch in this luxury hotel‘s Piacere – pleasure – restaurant appreciate the fine taste of what Andrea Ferraro sources. Hotel guests also have the added pleasure of really healthy breakfasts, and cocktail snacks, in the 37th floor Horizon Club, where a cabinet opens up to become a display station. Even the coffee here, which tastes superb, is organic (it is Shangri-La Original). Yes, feel good eating here. See the video, below, on picking apples.