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Darren Damonte's restaurant was designed and built by American architect William Merrell Vories, who built over 1,000 homes and offices throughout Shiga Prefecture in the early 20th Century.
Darren makes fresh pasta regularly for his own restaurant, so it was no sweat for him to sheet some of Stacey's barley pasta for our local winter squash and ricotta filled agnolotti.
Kara Gilbert and Elaine Walker
All of us pitched in to form over 600 agnolotti for the two meals we prepared. The filling included local chrysamthemum and goose neck squashes.
Fresh Spanish mackerel arrived the morning of our meal. Darren scaled and fillets each fish.
We cold smoked first sun chokes and later local sweet potatoes to serve with porchetta.
A quick-porchetta (baked several hours) anchored the final course of each meal.
Darren Damonte and his wife Miwa
Darren Damonte and Stacey Givens
We served every course in Darren's pottery, carefully chosen by Stacey to bring out the best in the dish.
From left: Lola Milholland, Kara Gilbert, Darren Damonte, Stacey Givens, Elaine Walker, and Corey Schuster. We cooked for days!
Since Darren's restaurant is a home with tatami mats, everyone left their shoes at the door.
We started the meal with quick-pickled lotus root (which we harvested) and hakurei turnip and a fresh arugula pesto. The amazing Yahei peppers gave bright spice to the pickles, along with sancho peppercorns for tingly heat and yuzu citrus for brightness.
A stunning demin kimono wowed us all, especially indigo-loving Kara and Elaine!
The self-proclaimed original woman farmer of Shiga, Makoto, who grew the cabbages we seared, came to introduce herself and share delicious Sekihan (sticky rice with adzuki beans) with the cooks.
Mise en place
Our fish course featuring a scattering of brightly colored radishes, wasabi leaves, carrots, apples, yuzu juice, pickled coriander seeds, and lemongrass crema.
Plating the first course
Stacey, Kara and I worked as a coordinated assembly line, traveling past each plate to deliver the next layer. Stacey builds her dishes as layers of flavor, color, and texture. The farmers loved seeing first-hand her creativity with their produce.
Shiori, our mascot
Kyoko's daughter Shiori was our frequent companion and favorite commentator.
Stacey Givens and Kara Gilbert
Browned butter with reduced Commons beers was the base layer for the fresh agnolotti.
Second course: Fresh pasta
Our hundreds of agnolotti got bathed in browned butter, parmesan, and marigold leaves. I am, of course, a noodle lover, and this was my favorite course
Members of the Shiga 100 Young Women Farmers Project pitched in as cooks, cleaners, and waiters for the meal. Megumi grew the sweet potatoes we cold smoked for our pork course.
Shiga 100 Young Women Farmers
Here is the amazing team of women farmers, feasting after the meal was served.