Based in Toronto and New York City

, Nancy Matsumoto is a writer and editor who covers sustainable agriculture, food, sake, arts and culture.

Archival posts from my former blog, Walking and Talking

It’s not often that I meet someone whose love for Japanese confections rivals my own. So I was tickled when I arrived at chef Anita Lo’s West Village restaurant Annisa last month to take a picture of her for this profile I wrote for WestView.

The restaurant was not yet open, and two adorable little shih tzu dogs were in varying stages of relaxation close by the chef. I leaned over to pet one of them and asked Chef Lo what their names were. “Adzuki and Mochi,” she replied, adding, “If I had a third dog it would be named Kinako.”

Here was someone truly after my own heart! Adzuki (sometimes spelled “azuki”) are the little round, reddish-brown beans that are so beloved in Japan. They can be steamed whole with sweet rice to make the celebratory dish sekihan, or boiled, sweetened and either mashed and sieved into a smooth paste (koshi an), or left lumpy (tsubu an). The an is used to fill pounded sweet rice cakes (daifuku mochi, see photo below, left) or used as the base for the dessert soup shiruko. Kinako is a light brown powder made from toasted soybeans, often slightly sweetened and used to coat mochi (see photo below, right). If I had only these three ingredients to live on I would be as contented as Chef Lo's chrysanthemum-faced shih tzu looked.

As my article describes, Lo is a talented chef who has, with quiet determination, made a name for herself in the competitive world of New York fine dining. Although she did a brief turn on last season’s Bravo reality show "Top Chef Masters" (a highly rewarding yet grueling experience, she says, which makes "Iron Chef" seem like “a walk in the park”) she has not garnered the kind of attention that would be accorded a male chef of her stature.

For more on the relative lack of high-profile women chefs in New York and across America, take a look at this article from Laura Shapiro, Where Are the Women? Then go out and sample some of the fantastic cooking that is being done in the city by the likes of Lo, Alexandra Guarnaschelli (Butter), Gabrielle Hamilton (Prune) and Missy Robbins (A Voce).

Bonsignour, for a latte and the World Cup

World Cup fever at Myers of Keswick