I've found my happy place tonight.
It's all krinndnz's fault. Way back when Krinn suggested a visit, the original idea was a joint viewing of The Usual Suspects. That didn't come about, but one element of the original plan survived: Sushi for dinner. And so it was that on Saturday night, kadyg, Krinn and I trekked down to Sushi Q in downtown Nevada City and managed to sneak in to the last three spots at the counter before they completely filled up for the evening.
Dinner was an absolute experience. Portions were generous beyond any of our expectations, the meat was top quality and presentation was delightful. Among the more memorable dishes was an item known merely as the "Ninja Roll" (sum total of its menu text: "Red or White"). The red ninja roll ("Which color should we get?" "Red. White ninja clan's kung fu is weak.") ended up being a tasty concoction built around spicy tempura shrimp. My only complaint was that some of the sushi meat arrived a little overchilled, almost iced; while disappointing, it was at least understandable, as we were among the first customers of the night.
Damages for the meal totalled $100 for the three of us. Kady and I have been on a tight budget lately, and this is going to be one of the only luxuries we can allow ourselves this season. But even if the sushi hadn't been so memorable, just one aspect of the meal would have justified the expense:
They make the best damn tea in the world.*
Imagine that you're in a small Japanese village. It's late afternoon in early summer; the temperature is balmy but not yet miserably hot, and flowers have given way to agricultural greens and browning grasses. Around you, the laughter of children wheels through the streets, weaving in among the chatter of the outdoor market's last customers. The crackle and heat of cooking fires peeks through doorways like a cat, then scampers after the scent of cooking rice that flutters madly for the safety of the skies. Meanwhile, a gentle breeze blows up the valley, carrying the distant scents of the ocean -- minus the salt and the stink of fish, filtered out by miles of bamboo, leaving only a smooth and cleansing moisture and the slight tang of endless depth, innumerate bounty.
This tea is that scene**, condensed into a simple ceramic mug.
I drank at least three full cups -- probably more like five when you count the half-refills. We all did. And we only stopped because we were all ready to go, and stuffed with tasty raw fish.
It is, of course, a house recipe, and I've got no chance of replicating it elsewhere. But I did pry out of our waitress that it was a blend based on genmaicha, a green tea made with toasted brown rice. Now that I can get my hands on, since one of my jobs is working at an organic grocery store.
Today, when I went in to work, I bought some genmaicha. Swiped a tea mug from the back room of the restaurant, got some hot water, and brewed a cuppa.
Then spent about five minutes just inhaling the steam and the sublime aroma of toasted brown rice.
It's not hit-you-between-the-eyes awesome. It's got a slight aftertaste and not quite the same depth as Sushi Q's.
But it'll do.
Oh, yeah, it'll do.
* Results may vary depending on world inhabited by reader and/or whether reader has an allergy to AWESOME.
** Years ago, I wrote up this exact phenomenon in a short story about really good lemonade. But that's set in an urban fantasy universe. I never expected that magical realism to drift out into real life.