Italian Wine Dinner

Ahoy there mateys!

Last Wednesday me and my crew put on a four course prix fixe dinner at work, each course being paired with an Italian wine. We’ve been wanting to do one of these for a while as they used to be done successfully in the past, and we really never get the opportunity to work together at the same time like this. It was refreshing. The evening went really smooth and we were all very happy with it.

winedinner_4

For those of you who don’t know, I actually work at a gourmet food bar located inside of a Whole Foods Market. It’s quite quirky and casual, but we can really throw down some high quality upscale cuisine. Since we aren’t a traditional restaurant setting, the prices are on the low end. This wine dinner was an amazing value! Only $30 a head for 4 courses each one paired with wine. Granted we undercharged on purpose to draw a big crowd and build hype for the next event. Most restaurants an evening like this would’ve set you back at least $100, so keep an eye out for our next event; perfect date night! (if you can sacrifice intimate ambiance)

group_1

My crew from left to right: John, Me, Lauren, and Frank.

John is the face of The Kitchen Counter and deals with most customer interactions. I share chef responsibilities with Lauren and Frank. It’s a lot of work for 3 people so we just come together and work as at team. We create seasonal menus and operate a scratch-made kitchen in a very open environment. Our bosses Josh and Cara were also floating around and helping out, and being supportive. Josh even ate whole plates of food, which is a very rare site, as he usually just tastes things.

For the first course, we served a salad with grilled haloomi cheese and peaches topped with candied walnuts. I made a white peach balsamic vinaigrette to go with it, which made everyone happy. People go crazy over the house vinaigrettes that I make, but they haven’t been seen for awhile since we stopped serving salads off the menu. We have a huge organic salad bar already in the store with myriad options, but people do still miss the salads that we crafted.

course1_2_2

The second course was a pumpkin ravioli. Pretty standard fall fare, but delicious none the less. We tossed the ravioli in brown butter and sage, and Frank decided to top it with these crushed amaretto cookies. This was a delicious and surprising idea that I had never seen before, and I definitely enjoyed it as did our customers.

I love the flavors of fall and the smell of fresh sage.

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The third course was an Italian classic prepared by Frank called Braciole which consists of seared flank steak braised and rolled up with fillings like a maki roll! The filling is usually breadcrumbs, herbs, garlic and parmesan, but we added braised swiss chard as well. We served ours with creamy polenta and house marinara. Braciole is like an Italian grandmotherly home-cooked classic, but I think the pinwheel effect evokes some wow factor! Now I’m inspired to re-create my own version at home because I love anything that gets rolled up like a maki roll 🙂

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I was a little nervous for course four because I thought we would make it ahead of time, but Frank made this during service. It was a lot of pressure…for him anyway; I was really just there for plating design and taking pictures 🙂

Course four was a zabaglione, which is a sweet custard made from egg yolks, sugar, and usually a sweet wine (we used marsala) whipped over a double boiler. A LOT of eggs went into this! The zabaglione came out perfectly creamy and sweet with just the right amount of spirit. We served this with fresh berries and mint. In retrospect we should’ve served this in wine glasses to go with the wine theme, but oh well.

course4_2

Everyone seemed to have a good time. I really want to do another one next month, but I think it’s not going to happen until sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I don’t have the wine pairings handy, since I don’t drink;  I didn’t pay much attention to the wine. I was told they were good. Haha sorry about it.

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Cheers! (Landy, I see you, good job spotting me in the corner)

One of my customers suggested the other day that I create a prixe fixe menu of my own and only feature seafood. I would love that, but I wouldn’t want to alienate customers who don’t like seafood either. I would love to do something with some exotic flair though that’s less traditional than what we usually do.

Until next time,

May the fish be with you!

~Maki Zavelli

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Somewhere over the rainbow trout

Ahoy there mateys!

 

I recently went to another concert (crazy because I am not a concert-goer at all). I got to check out the ‘Straight Outta Oz’ show by Todrick Hall in Columbus, and it did not disappoint. It was truly amazing, to be honest. Todrick and his team are incredibly talented. At the end of the show he helped a man get engaged to his boyfriend, which was the cutest thing ever!  I’ve never witnessed a live proposal, let alone a gay one; it definitely got me right in the feels, man.

I had an absolute blast in Columbus and actually ran into Todrick later at a bar, and surprisingly hung out with him and his people for a little while! I got a really bad selfie with him (my phone sucks, I should’ve had it taken on someone else’s phone) so you’d have to check my Instagram for that. I have certain photo standards here.

(lol)

I left feeling inspired by all the colors of the rainbow! Upon returning to Kansas Cleveland, I cooked this dish which I am dubbing the double rainbow. (insert internet memes here) <-Go on youtube and search double rainbow if you don’t get that.

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It combines one of my favorite fishies, the rainbow trout, with one of my favorite summer/fall vegetables, rainbow chard. Originally I had some other components, but then decided to make it very simple and just feature the fish and the vegetable.

With chard, most people discard the stems and just cook with the leaves. I’ve always used the stems too, however. They’re perfectly edible, so that’s just wasteful. You have a few different options with using the stems. If you’re doing a high heat roast on the chard, the stems are actually delicious cooked this way, albeit a little bitter. I find red chard to be a little too bitter this way, but regular swiss chard and rainbow chard in particular tastes good roasted with high heat.

Another good use for the stems is to throw them in your juicer. They contain a great nutrient profile, especially rainbow chard, because more colors = more nutrient variety. So if you’re big into juices and smoothies, this a great way to re-purpose the stems. They’re bitter, but also a little sweet and earthy. The juice pairs well with apples, beets, and carrots; just make sure to balance out sweetness with enough green stuff!

What I did for my double rainbow dish, however, is something I don’t do very often…

Chard-rainbow1

Rainbow chard?

pKUR7VA

(>_<)

Yeah, I pickled them!

I’m not much of a pickle lover, but I like them more when they’re home made and haven’t been fermenting for ages; sorry that’s always creeped me out a little bit. These made beautiful pickles though!

I combined apple cider vinegar, coconut vinegar, coconut sugar, and various types of salt. I threw in some garlic and Thai chili peppers as well. If you don’t want a murky pickle brine, I’d suggest using probably white sugar and white vinegar or some better alternative. I don’t use those products so I just used what I had on hand. I used a ratio of about 2 (vinegar) to 1(sugar) to 1(salt). I’m no pickle expert though, so I’d recommend googling around if you want to experiment with DIY pickles. There are lots of pickle brine recipes out there.

DR_closeup

I cut them into finer strips and they added a really nice touch to the dish! Such colors!

The green leaves of the rainbow chard were simply sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and salt. You don’t need to cook them long like you would collards, mustard, or kale. These greens are more similar to spinach, and they cook and wilt down quickly.

The rainbow trout in this dish was awesome, and actually resembled unagi, or broiled BBQ eel. If you’re a fan of this sushi staple, you should give this trout a try! Rainbow trout is more affordable, available, and sustainable. I’m gonna have to try this style of trout in a sushi preparation.

Since rainbow trout fillets are usually quite thin (unless we’re talking steelhead trout), they take well to pan-searing or grilling both sides without the need for an oven. Sear the flesh side a few minutes until it yields when you try to flip it. A good long sear over med-high heat will get the skin nice and crispy. Brush the glaze on the flesh side when the fish is just about done. You could throw it in the oven for a minute after applying the glaze, but it’s not necessary.

DR_4

If you really want to replicate unagi here, you could glaze with an unagi sauce, or sweetened soy sauce. The glaze I made was a Korean BBQ sauce.

1 cup soy sauce

3/4 cup brown sugar or coconut/palm sugar

1 Tbsp Gochuchang (Korean red pepper paste) – substitute Sriracha or something more available if you don’t know where to find this (Asian markets typically)

1 Tbsp rice vinegar

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp white pepper

minced garlic and ginger to taste

Bring ingredients to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook on low until a bit thick and shiny. Should take about 5 minutes. You can add a little corn starch or other thickener, but it’s not totally necessary. If using corn starch, shake it in a container with water to create a slurry as this prevents clumping. I use this natural, healthy thickener called Irish sea moss. I plan to cover that in a later post.

Serve with a side of rice for a more complete meal. The seared and glazed rainbow trout has an amazing depth of flavor and texture and pairs really well with the garlicky greens, and bright, crisp pickles.

You never know what you’ll find over the rainbows…

 

Until next time,

May the fish be with you!

~Maki Zavelli

 

 

Brazilian Flair: Batuqui

Ahoy there mateys!

I’m planning on starting a restaurant spotlight feature on the blog. This post is more impromptu and informal, but I’ll probably set some criteria moving forward like restaurants primarily known for seafood. These are going to be Cleveland-based restaurants. I’m thinking of calling the feature Making Waves, but I’ll save that for the first official one if I’m still feeling the name. I’ve got a solid list forming already, but I would also  love some suggestions.

So I was recently thinking about different ethnic foods, and couldn’t really think of anything that I haven’t tried before, and then I did think of one. (I’m sure there is plenty more though)

Brazilian.

Almost nothing came to mind when I thought of Brazilian food. Well, that’s not entirely true, I thought of something but it was Argentinian food I was thinking of. I’m not sure why I thought they were so similar, though interestingly enough, it turns out they are in fact quite similar. They both have a reputation for steak, known in both cultures as Churrasco. They also tend to use a lot of the same flavor profiles, ingredients, and staples.

So there’s a fairly new Brazilian place in my old neighborhood of Larchmere that I had heard about, and there’s also one opening up soon in Eton.  The one on Larchmere is called Batuqui (pronounced something like “Ba-too-key”) and it’s in the same building that used to be occupied by Bon Vivant, a French bistro styled place that I once had brunch at.

 

If you’ve never been to the Larchmere area, it’s pretty unique and quite charming. A lot of the restaurants and small businesses are inside of old houses. Batuqui is no exception. They had a pretty big patio which seated almost all of the diners this evening as it was beautiful out and not too crowded. It kind of feels like you’re at a really cool house party.

Batuqui_patio

These features are meant to be more of a spotlight rather than a review. I always think people should go try things for themselves. If a spot sounds intriguing to you, go form your own opinion; not everyone has the same tastes. Also I don’t like to be thought of as a food snob just because I’m a chef and food blogger — I’m actually incredibly casual, and not incredibly picky.

That said. I do have a very good palette, high quality standards and an eye for detail. I try not to be overly critical, but when things can clearly use improvement, I have no problem voicing my opinion. Constructive criticism is a good thing, and you can always take it or leave it.

I meant to take a picture of the menu, but forgot. However, I just discovered that they have a very professional looking website with the menu listed here. I like the size and selection, it seemed perfectly well-rounded. They have a good selection of drinks, which my roommate enjoyed. (I almost never drink) They also had some good specials, and our server, Misty, did a great job explaining them. Honestly, she was one of the most knowledgeable servers I’ve come across in a while, and her Portuguese pronunciation was amazingly on-point especially for being American.

We started with Linguica with Mandioca Frita ($9.50). This is a simple appetizer of Brazilian sausage and fried yucca. I was really looking forward to this as I love me some fried yucca.

Batuqui_yucca_sausage

I must say, however, that this was the worst dish of the evening and it was disappointing. You can even tell from looking at the photo (if you’re familiar with yucca) that something is off with the yucca. Either it wasn’t very fresh, it’s been fried too hard, or the fryer oil was old; or several of those. What you can’t tell from the photo was that it also was completely unseasoned. It was bearable if you ate it together with the sausage, but the sausage was nothing to write home about either. Overall, this dish was honestly bad and made me nervous for the meal to come.

What followed was a mix of highs and lows.

Batuqui_friedbananas

We had a side of fried bananas as well, which were ok, but a little sweet for my liking; I would’ve preferred plantains.

Although I was most excited for our fish entree which was this fancy sounding ancient fish I had never heard of before, the stand-out of the evening was definitely the steak.

Batuqui_churrasco

Churrasco de Picanha: The traditional Brazilian steak house cut — tri-tip sirloin.  Seasoned with sea salt and grilled to perfection.  Served with rice, pinto beans, farofa and tomato relish. ($28)

This steak single-handedly saved the experience because it was THAT good. I’d say it was easily the best steak I’ve had all year. Perfectly seasoned and cooked, with great presentation. I may suggest ordering it one temperature under what you want or taking it off the sizzler though because the residual heat continues to cook it.

Batuqui_sidedish

The sides that came with the steak were all bland though, however. I’m not sure why they were so under-seasoned, but I would suggest that Batuqui not fear hitting their diners with some real flavor. This is the kind of “off the beaten path” kind of place that will mostly be frequented by more adventurous diners; They’re not afraid of flavor, so the chefs shouldn’t be either.

Farofa was something new to me, but it wasn’t very exciting. It’s toasted cassava/yuca flour; it just tasted like plain breadcrumbs and wasn’t very appealing on its own. That’s the one on the west side of the above dish.

Batuqui_pirarucu

As this was a special for the evening, I don’t have the description or price, but I did get the name of the fish right: Pirarucu. This was described as a pre-historic fish, and upon looking it up I see it is similar to the arapaima, which is a gargantuan Amazonian fish I’ve seen before. The name and description is where the excitement ended, as the dish itself was highly generic and lacking in flavor. It was completely covered up by a weak coconut curry sauce. The fish didn’t get a chance to sing. Looking at the plate, you can’t even tell what it is. The pirarucu could’ve been any other mild, white fish, so this dish was very blah, unfortunately.

Oh and when I said these are things are gargantuan, I’m not exaggerating. Here’s a photo of a pirarucu (not taken by me).pirarucuhuge

Yeah, holy cow fish.

We were very stuffed, but decided to try one of the lighter dessert options as it was something neither of us have tried much of before.

Batuqui_passionfruit

Mousse de Maracuja ($6) was a delicious passion fruit mousse. It was more of a pudding, but either way it was really delicious. I’ll have to try more passion fruit; I’ve never managed to find a fresh one at a market — they’re always past their prime.

It was funny because it was dark at this point, so I didn’t have much of a chance to get a shot of the dessert. I pulled out a few tricks though having my roomate hold a phone light and something as a reflector, so I ended up with one usable shot. We were fussing for awhile to get a picture, until eventually Misty told us to “Eat it, don’t tweet it!” which made me laugh. I think she thought she offended me, but I can appreciate some good sass.

I don’t know if I’ll be implementing any kind of rating system, but if I can think of something clever I just might. Like I said I’m more just showcasing the restaurant and giving my opinion. Unless a place is really bad, I will usually recommend you at least go check a place out once. I would definitely suggest giving Batuqui a try. It has a unique charm, unique cuisine, and amazing steak. I will definitely dine there again in the future and hope they can bring up the seasoning and some of the execution.

Until next time,

May the fish be with you!

~Maki Zavelli

Go Fish: Sockeye Salmon

Ahoy there mateys!

We had sockeye salmon on sale last week for $8.99/lb. and I think it’s continuing this week even. I had it for dinner 3 times last week, and I’m not mad about it. Although I am mad that I don’t have a grill. It has been way too hot in here in our lovely Cleveland Heights house with no A/C and no ventilation… yeah time to invest in a grill.

When I was buying my fish last week, I ended up talking to a customer about the best way to cook Sockeye Salmon, and he seemed genuinely enthused to have learned some new things; so I decided to post about it on the blog. It only recently occurred to me just how different this fish is from other types of salmon. Mainly in how it cooks, but also how it looks. These fish have a bright red body with a greenish head and tail. They have this hook-shaped mouth that almost resembles a beak.

sockeyephoto

I mean just look at these guys; they’re quite strange! They’re like birds of paradise in fish form! Interesting to note, their name has nothing to do with the appearance or structure of their eyes. The name is an anglicized version of an indigenous word (something like suk-kai) which simply meant “red fish”. They are indeed red, especially during their spawning cycle. Now they don’t always look like this, as they go through different life cycles; too bad by the time they reach the consumer, the skin isn’t red like this anymore.

Their flesh, however, is quite red. As they are almost always wild caught, you can be assured that this isn’t added color. Sockeye is also one of the most, if not most, sustainable species of salmon you can buy. Their primary harvest comes from Bristol Bay, Alaska which has a very well managed fishery. Alaskan Sockeye is generally going to be green-lit on seafood sustainability scales.

In regards to cooking, the important thing to note though is that they are not as fatty as their Atlantic cousins or Pacific brethren. Even though they have this amazingly rich color, the fish itself is not as rich as you may think. Sockeye do have a great pure salmon flavor though, the trick is just to not overcook it. They cook much faster and can easily dry out.

Sockeye_salmon_1

Love that color!

The best cooking method I have found is to pan-sear it on both sides and that’s it. You don’t need the oven to cook it all the way through, in fact that will dry it out. Alternatively you could grill it, but you would want to place it skin side down and never flip it.

Also for those of you who don’t know how to eat salmon properly. GET THE SKIN CRISPY AND EAT IT! High direct heat on the skin and make sure it’s salted. I have many customers that don’t eat the skin because they’re conditioned not to, but they haven’t actually TRIED properly cooked salmon skin. I try not to be pushy, but sometimes I tell them to make sure they try the skin, and I’ve managed to convert some people. Sorry, it’s one of my pet peeves…. that and when people really emphasize the A and the L when they say sal-mon…

Anyhoo.

Pat your fillets dry with a paper towel and let them come to room temperature. Season the fillets simply; salt, pepper, fresh squeeze of lemon or lime at the end. Get a pan really hot with some oil and place the fish in, then turn the heat down to medium. Traditional chef wisdom says to go skin-side down first, however there is a caveat to this. Your pan and oil have to be hot first, this is crucial because if not, it will stick. I hold my hand over the pan until it feels hot enough that I want to take my hand away, or you can wait for smoke and then turn the heat down to medium. If you want to be safe, just do the flesh side down first. Sear both sides about 5 minutes each, but this could vary depending on thickness.

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Sockeye takes really good to a glaze at the end. You can get creative here combining different spicy, sweet, salty, and bright flavors. I used a Korean BBQ glaze, but you can try like a maple mustard glaze, miso honey, chipotle lime, or simply herb butter and lemon, just to give a few ideas.

For my multiple weeknight Sockeye Salmon dinners, I just kept it simple. Nothing fancy here, so there’s no recipe for this post.

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Korean BBQ glazed Sockeye Salmon with snow peas and confetti orzo

I don’t recall specifically which type of orzo this is since it’s been in my pantry for some time, but I picked it up in the bulk section of Whole Foods.

If you’ve had a bad experience with sockeye because it was dry, please do give it another try! The main thing to remember is that it has a shorter cooking time than other fattier salmons. Sockeye are really delicious though when prepared properly, they’re highly nutritious; rich in protein and omega-3s, they’re sustainable, and they’re affordable.

Until next time,

May the fish be with you!

~Maki Zavelli

What’s that on the horizon there?

*blub*

*splash*

*gasp*

“What’s that coming out of the water…?”

*ahem*

I don’t even know what to say. But I guess I’ll just get it all out there…

I’ve been lost at sea for a while… um…hmm has it really been… uh 4 years?!

I’m sure you never thought I’d return. I’m sure I never thought I would either.

But alas, here I am, finally re-surfacing after all this time. Well maybe, or at least, temporarily.

ChefAdam_portrait_10

I haven’t changed a bit have I? Actually, no I’ve changed so much, it’s kind of ridiculous.

You see, life has been kind of up and down for a while. Well not so much up and down, as it has been back and forth. I’ve spent my 20s really trying to figure myself out and just learn as many things as possible, and create! I love creating things. If there’s one thing I’ve learned overall is that it doesn’t really matter what it is, at the end of the day I just love to create.

Early in my 20s I wanted to be a chef. I started this blog. I loved it. It loved me. It was a beautiful thing. It was a lot of work.

It was a lot of work. I thought maybe the timing wasn’t right; it shouldn’t be this hard, should it?

It ended quite abruptly when I picked up and moved to a new area with no plan, friends, money,  or resources. Boy was that ever silly. I mean I learned so much and grew so much, but it sucked the momentum out of my sails in regards to the food blog.  I never even had food in my fridge, let alone have amazing food to experiment with and photograph. Maybe that’s why most food bloggers are bored housewives. I dared to be different, but couldn’t keep afloat and so I abandoned ship.

I made that move so I could work in good restaurants, and I worked in several. They were kind of chewing me up and spitting me out though. I was losing fire to start my food truck business (which was loosely based on this food blog). Ultimately, I was seeing my passion for food die. After working in the industry for awhile, I decided it wasn’t for me…

Through the tide of those turbulent waters, I was discovering new interests and passions and developing new unrelated skills as well. Since this blog, I have gone through 2 other entrepreneurial ventures. One was a pet photography business. I took what I learned from blogging and got a job in a portrait studio. Then I segued that into my own freelance venture. I was proud of what I did, but it wasn’t successful as a business and decided that it wasn’t for me either. (I would share the link to it, but I just found out that my site host made a change which essentially left my site in ruins, and I don’t have time to deal with it.)

I had also started creating art. I had a growing curiosity for sculpture. I started making derpy little figures and charms. With time and much patience, they got better and far more advanced. This is my latest venture. It’s what makes me the most happy. I decided I want to make a living as a sculptor/artist/designer. I’ve been focusing on that for the last few years, without giving cooking much of a second thought.  If you didn’t gather just from the way my blog was written, I’m a huge geek. Keeping that in mind, I’ll link my art here: http://s-tier-studios.deviantart.com/gallery/?catpath=%2F&offset=0 

After finding out that working at a portrait studio was actually hell on earth, I landed back in the restaurant industry after a few months of a private chef gig. All along, I wasn’t focusing on food, it was just holding me over until I could make my plunge as a professional artist.

Something else amazing happened though…

It started creeping back in. Like a slow trickle, barely making itself known, but it was there. As I fell into a position that required the utmost confidence, and the ability to create constantly, I soon found that my passion for food didn’t die — no, it just got buried underneath a sea of self-doubt. Now I’m a chef, and my job is crazy and interesting. More on that later.

I’m at a bit of a crossroads at the moment, but do I really have to be? Maybe just maybe it’s possible to walk down both paths… I don’t know what I will do. Stay tuned to find out? If anyone is out there…

I have no idea who is going to read this. I shipwrecked myself on a deserted island for ages while my readers all went on with their lives. I’m sorry I left, and I’m sorry this post is long. I actually have more important matters to discuss, but alas, I must leave this hanging on a cliff. 4 years is a long time. I never thought I would come back to this blog, but I’ve secretly always wanted to. It’s amazing to think of what could’ve been. Instead of looking back though, its important to keep moving forward.

Who knows what could be on the horizon…

Now if only I could remember my old send-off…over and out … you ol’ … rainbow trout?

…hmm that doesn’t feel quite right <_<;;

Welcome to my world!

“Sushi = Happiness”

This is the makizavellian philosophy; where joy can be found in a spicy tuna roll; bliss can be achieved between fresh yellowtail and subtley sweet sushi rice; and harmony can be reached for and attained … with chopsticks. Come, explore my world. You will discover all this and more when you dive beneath the surface and discover the incredible depths of flavor that await you. Intrigued? Dive a little further…

Find your center.

Find your…inner piece.

So who am I, you may ask?

Well, I have many layers…

…like an artichoke

I am an open passport…

…fearless to go anywhere in search of deliciousity.

I am a sharp sashimi knife…

…on the cutting-edge of the culinary world.

I am a braised pork summer roll with Thai basil pesto…

…various cultures rolled into one — daring to be different …
…and daring to be dunked ^_^;;

I am a rainbow trout…

…a colorful character supporting sustainability and a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

I am an avocado…

…mmm….avocado.

I am chef Adam P Zavell…

aka Maki Zavelli, the seafood philosopher

And thanks to this little blog here, I am also a food stylist, photographer, and writer. (Or simply, a food blogger.)

I explore the world around us searching for inspiration through food. I channel these journies into my own brand of sushi-centric Asian fusion cuisine. I often swim off into uncharted waters as well. Don’t be afraid to swim along with me on this quest! My wish is to share the makizavellian philosophy with the world through this blog, and hopefully you can swim away with your own little piece of inspiration.

If you want to learn how to make sushi at home, this is the place for you. The pages of Makiology are before you to explore.

Itadakimasu!

~Maki Zavelli