Friday, September 16, 2022

Coffee Plant Surgery

Some of you may remember my coffee plant? I first got it in 2016, from the UCC Coffee Museum in Kobe. It came with us to Okinawa, where it thrived in the hot, humid climate. A few years ago it even gave me enough coffee cherries that I could brew a cup of my own homegrown coffee.

But as I noted above, the regular typhoons and other weather have been a bit harsh on it. Over time it's become decidedly lanky, with long branches and sparse foliage. This is what it looked like yesterday:

Life's been a bit rough for it lately. Long branches that catch the wind so it loses leaves every time we get a typhoon coming through. When most leaves are lost the branch dies. You get a ball of foliage at the top of a janky, unstable trunk.

Sorry about the picture, by the way; it's a cellphone, and we have another plant right behind it (that we also cut at the same time, for much the same reasons).

Actual coffee farms cut down their plants every five years or so. And they do it in part to avoid the plant growing too tall and lanky; a shorter, denser plant produces more coffee and is easier to harvest. So, this is what my plant looks like now:

The coffee plant cut down. It already had this new "side branch" coming out of the base, so I cut it above that point. Hopefully this will let it handle the Okinawan weather better, and grow a thicker, more stable trunk this time around.

I know it's the right thing to do, but it's still nerve-wracking. I have no idea if it will survive this. So, to give it a bit more of a chance I took some cuttings as well:

Six cuttings. Let's see if any of them survive. If all of them do, I have no idea what to actually do with all of them; our new balcony is large, but not so large we can keep half a dozen coffee plants around.

If we're unlucky, they will all die. If we're lucky, the main plant will survive, and perhaps one or two of the cuttings will take root. If we're too lucky, they will all thrive and I'll have more plants than I need or want. Not a bad problem to have; by next spring we'll know.

Friday, September 2, 2022

A tale of a single-dish restaurant

In November last year me and Ritsuko are out on a walk in Naha on a rainy Saturday when we run across an Italian restaurant called Pastida. We're looking for a place to have lunch, so we go inside.

It's an interesting place. They serve lunch only — in fact, they're renting the space from an izakaya that opens at night. And they serve only one single dish, pasta Bolognese. No side dishes, no salads; if you don't feel like Bolognese, you need to go somewhere else.

It was very tasty; a real Bolognese with bits of meat simmered in a wine sauce, fresh pasta and topped with lots of Parmesan cheese. This was my lunch:


Spaghetti Bolognese

I've been back in Osaka for my summer holidays, and Ritsuko happened to see a magazine article about a pasta place in Kansai run by a young couple. It was a small place serving only lunch, and serving only a single dish: Spaghetti Bolognese. Not just the concept, but the picture looked very familiar. 

And when you search online there's a lot of these restaurants around. Here's a picture from Google Maps:

Spaghetti Bolognese


The pasta, the cheese, the plating, and yes, even the plate is almost exactly the same. Hmmm. 

It turns out these restaurants are way cooler than I thought. They are not chain restaurants, but they all obviously get their pasta from the same place. That place is Bigoli (also a name for the type of pasta they use). This company makes a single thing: fresh pasta and Bolognese sauce. But what they sell is a restaurant in a box.

You buy a license from them, and you get everything you need: the food, the plates and cutlery, printed menus, promotional material and so on. Yes, you still need to find a good location and come up with a name, and you still need a license to serve food and learn how to prepare this properly. 


This seems to me to be a pretty good way for somebody to dip their toes in the food service business; to figure out if they really want to do this sort of thing long term. Starting any kind of business is a big financial risk and lot of work; at least here you start out without having to figure out what to serve on top of all the rest.

If you look at the list of shops they have, there's single-dish restaurants like above. But there's also cafes and bars that add this as their one proper food dish. A low-workload way to add a proper food item to their menu.

Two reasons I don't feel cheated: First, they don't hide this. When you actually look a the menu, they clearly print that the food comes from Bigoli. In fact, they make it a point of pride. Second, the Bolognese really is quite delicious. They make this one dish and they really do make it well. You can even order online if you want to try it at home.

Chain restaurants — fast food, especially — get a bad reputation because they serve low quality or unhealthy food, not because the food has been prepared beforehand. "Ghost kitchens" (multiple online order-only "restaurants" all served from one physical kitchen) try to fool you and trick you into thinking you're getting something you really are not. 

This is doing neither. It is a healthy amount of good quality food. And they're open about it having originally been prepared elsewhere. This is fine by me.