Alfred NY- the quaintest little town I have ever been to. I think its the contrast from Mumbai that I love so much. The absolute opposite in every sense. Nestled in the mountains of the northern Appalachian, it is the home of the famous Alfred University. I have family up in Alfred. Hence, I have spent many a summers walking up the hilly country roads, along the farms and lakes, or the trees turn shades or yellow, orange and red in the fall and thanksgiving and Christmas meals staying warm eating wonderful goodness my aunt cooks while the world turns while outside.
This blog started in Alfred a few years ago when I nursing broken ankle. The first few recipes are from my aunt's kitchen.
I took a summer course of 3 months in 1998 to learn glass blowing at Alfred University. Now summers in Alfred are wonderful, it never gets very hot. It rains every couple of days and everything is lush green. On the weekends there are wonderful trails to discover, lovely little caves and waterfalls - Stonybrook and Watkins Glen. Niagara is a two hour drive and Corning (glass lovers) is an hour drive. Everytime I go to Alfred, its a home away from home. Its my safe haven in a country that was my home for 9 years.
Nana's Japanese Cafe was my go to lunch place while I was blowing glass in Alfred. It is a unique little cafe run by a Japanese lady called Nana. On a street of typical college restaurants and bars that serve sandwiches and pizzas, I found Nana's fascinating, healthy and not very expensive. Nana's was my first encounter with Japanese food. Here, I cried out in pain as wasabi burnt a hole in my nose like I had no idea what struck me. I was in love and totally fascinated by Sushi rolls, makis, inoris, the flavor of miso, udon noodles, ramen. Imagine - in this little Village of Alfred, I learnt to love the flavors of homestyle Japanese food. The cafe is simple and homey, with an eclectic mix of wooden tables and chairs, ceramic pots for decor.
So on my dad's birthday I decided to treat him and mom to one of my favourite places. It was such a sweet surprise to see Nana's smiling face behind the counter. I told her I used to come to her cafe 16 years ago. She gave me her biggest and warmest smile, came over to our table and chatted with my parents. We ordered her famous bento boxes that come piled high with salad slaw in a ginger soy sauce, teriyaki- chicken or tofu. Her tofu is perfectly crispy on the outside and soft inside. Rice in a sweet vinegar, beans in sesame, a California roll and slice of watermelon. I ordered my favourite miso with tofu soup, a mixed plate of sushi, an inori roll and steamed edemame. The food was wonderful, light and flavourful. It was mixture of color and texture plated on beautiful raku ceramics.
Sitting in Nana's on a rainy afternoon reminds me of the book Kafka on the Shore when the protagonist runs away to this little town to live in a library. Nana's is such a gem in the middle of nowhere Alfred.
I thought the song Runaway by Yeah Yeah Yeahs goes perfectly well with this meal.
Massive pine trees
The houses on Main Street
A little stream and a wooden heron
Quaint little Nana's Japanese Cafe
Blueberry soy smoothis & the deadly wasabi
Tofu and udon in a miso broth
Lovely to see Nana after all these years
Bento boxes- tofu and chicken
Noodle soup and 3 kinds of sushi
Our lovely meal
Dad's birthday lunch
Completely wiped out
My wonderful uncle & aunt, mom & dad
The age old Japanese Maple tree- almost 27 years old. And some places will always be magical. I love calling Alfred- my home away from home...