I’ve gotta be honest with you: this post is going to be painful to write. I’m certain of it. I’ve already taken notes on what I need to say based on the pictures of the events that transpired (since it’s been a minute, and my memory leaves something to be desired), and looking at them made me feel terribly wistful!

And why? I just had one of the best Christmas vacations in a long, long time. 2012, a difficult year, ended in the most splendid way imaginable – except for the long drive through snow back to Atlanta – but more on that later.

After the festivities of Christmas, we headed to Millerton with Nate’s lovely mom. She took us on a lazy drive though brilliant snow-lit countryside to an official Harney & Sons tea shop where we each bought implements and Nate and I tried tea. He has a new favorite – the “soba” or roasted buckwheat tea. It’s toasty with a browned body like genmaicha, but without the grassy tea flavor, and much deeper.

Nate at Harney & Sons

There was a long wait in the crowded teashop cafe, so we tried the Japanese-Chinese-Thai restaurant next door. Nate & I placed orders for tofu, only to have the server come back several minutes later and say they were out. He suggested the eggplant, put in the order, and then returned to say they were out of eggplant. We sighed and got the heck out of there. Lunch was a filling plate of smothered spaghetti in a local chain restaurant called Four Brothers. I adored the tacky kitsch factor at that place. Nate’s mom got pizza, and I was only a teensy bit jealous we didn’t!

Inside Four Brothers

Later that night we went to see The Hobbit at the Regal in Kingston, a fair drive from Nate’s family home. We met up with his brother-in-law and sister.

The porch when we arrived home

Leaving the theatre, we were surprised to see that the area had been dumped on with snow while we were cozily tucked inside. It took us nearly two hours to get home at 25MPH, tops.

On Thursday December 27th we slept in because it was snowing, and then took a walk around the neighborhood. Some pictures from our walk:

Playing Nate’s “favorite childhood game”: Kick The Snow Through the Grate

Keeping warm with local whiskey!

We ventured out in the evening for dumplings at Palace Dumpling dim sum in Poughkeepsie. Our friend Mark has become good friends with the owner and chef, and so we get treated very well.

Lagusta said it best in her Yelp review: “Not only are their veggie dumplings vegan, but there is a big beautiful ‘salad’ section of the menu that is extremely vegan friendly and extremely fascinating. It’s not lettucey salads, it’s Northern Chinese specialities rich with spicy horseradish, vinegary dressings, crispy veggies, and beautiful noodles like flat mung bean sheets. This isn’t dumbed-down Americanized Chinese food. It’s just good food you’ll want every single day.” And I DO.

I didn’t get many pictures at dinner because I was so focused on my fascinating company, but here are two:

Horseradish tree fungus

Bean curd skin with vegetables

Mark, Nate, me, Maresa!

Friday December 28th we devoted to fun in New Paltz, our favorite area city. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know exactly what a New Paltz day entails: Lagusta’s, record shopping, and Gomen Kudsai.

“Gomen Kudasai!”

Weekday Lunch Menu, front and back

My lunch: “Kaki Ten” Udon made vegan with steamed spinach

Nate’s lunch: beloved natto

We also shared a large plate of noodles with organic tofu.

Vegan spice blends to add heat

Gomen Kudasai decor

After lunch we headed to Lagusta’s! It took Nate all week to get there, but boy was he happy when we arrived. He immediately bought a pound of white chocolate and peppermint swirl bark, ate a truffle, and ordered one of their divine drinking chocolates. A walk around the shop:

Reading Matthew Dickman’s poem devoted to Lagusta’s bonbons

Warmed with sweets, we took a detour through a local park on our way to record stores:

Delicate tracks in the snow

Excellent record store. Nate purchased Trudge by Controlled Bleeding and a biography of the Marquis de Sade. I found one of my favorite CDs for only four dollars: Eternal Youth by Future Bible Heroes.

Checking out the “Avant-Ghetto”

In the upstairs bookshop, I found a first edition Gorey collaboration.

We also found good things at Jack’s Rhythms. Nate purchased an album by Dead Machines, and we bought books by Haruki Murakami, Yukio Mishima, and Jonathan Ames. I have already finished The Extra Man.

The candy shop at the bottom of the hill

We got ginger shots at Karma Road to fortify ourselves after a day in the cold. Then we drove to Poughkeepsie to watch a movie and get dinner after. But first, a stop at Mother Earth – the big natural foods store – to buy some of their ridiculous chocolate-covered Leapin’ Lemurs treats:

 I swear, these things are made by the devil. They are too delicious.

We ended the day with a movie – Brave! - at the $3 theatre, and dinner afterwards at… where else when you’re in Poughkeepsie (and Twisted Soul is closed)? Palace Dumpling, of course!

It was a double-feature kind of night. After dinner we watched The Secret of Kells with Nate’s mom. Such a good movie!

Saturday began with a trip through heavy snow to Tuthilltown Spirits in Gardiner NY, not far from New Paltz. We took a tour of the facility and then had a tasting. Some of our pictures:

Saturday morning, or, The Conditions

The roads were… okay…

A strange new symbol

Arrival at Tuthilltown

Nate with one of the giant distillery cats

The tour begins. Click here to download a virtual tour by .pdf.

Heading back out…

The drive to Gomen Kudasai from Gardiner

I’m not much of a drinker, but I still had a good time and learned a lot. Afterwards we went back to Gomen Kudasai for a late lunch and their fifth annual mochitsuki, rice cake pounding!

We arrive to find the mochi-pounding, or karma-dispersal, well under way.

Removing prepared rice for a new batch

To start, Kazuma places fresh rice into the usu.

They circle several times, mashing the fresh rice gently, before the pounding begins

Pounding with kine, traditional wooden mallets

This rice is just about finished.

It is taken inside and shaped. Even little ones can help!

the radiant Youko Yamamoto, head chef and proprietor

My sweet bowl

Nate’s savory bowl, with more natto!

Welcome to Gomen-Kudasai 

Growing up in Japan in the 1970s I had the best times of my life. I went through many, many changes and always there was food. I ate my way through my teen years from French Catholic schoolgirl to happy hippy chick to professional designer, all the while tasting the best that Japan has to offer. These experiences are what brought me here to America to open Gomen-Kudasai restaurant.

This restaurant is my way to share with you those times in these times and the spirit of Japan. But it’s also more. In Japan we believe; E-Shoku-Doh-Gen: Food is the best medicine. Our genuine Japanese food embodies this wisdom, providing for you, our customers, a healthy, long, and joyful life.

I’ve missed you, welcome back! Youko Yamamato

Gomen-Kudasai restaurant is dedicated to my father Zenkuro Yamamoto

agedashi dofu

We had planned to stay through the night and attend a show in Poughkeepsie with one of Nate’s best friends, but the weather had turned so fearsome we decided to go ahead and leave as early as possible. We got on the road at 5:30pm and did not arrive back in Atlanta til 1:30pm the next day! We took shifts driving – Nate did the first 13 hours, and I did the last seven.

Our cats were thrilled to see us.

Sadly, Unix smelled like she’d gotten into something highly unpleasant while we were gone, and we had to bathe her immediately. :( It made no one happy, nope, not a one.

I made a big root vegetable soup for dinner:

And opened a Secret Santa gift of homemade goodies!!

Pretty Nate on New Year’s Eve

Dads are for biting

We spent New Year’s night at a friend’s house variably listening to the Flaming Lips’ Zaireeka and sitting around a fire. Johnny and Nate performed for us just after midnight:

We did all of the requisite New Year things and went home a few hours later feeling happy and hopeful. It was a good start to what is hopefully going to be a great year.

With best wishes for 2013,

Adrienne, Nate, Unix, Perl, and Lua