M-chan is the daughter of my schoolmate S-kun. She studied fermentation at a university and chose to work at a dairy manufacturer in Nagano prefecture: Atelier de Fromage.
Atelier de Fromage is one of the some 140 small scale cheese factories in Japan. It is unique, because it does not only produce cheese and yoghurt, but put much emphasis on the sales of its products directly to consumers together with healthy and fashionable life style and it is fairly successful in its endeavor. It has its own shops and restaurant in Karuizawa, the most exquisite resort town in Japan and opened a restaurant in Aoyama, the most fashionable district of Tokyo, two years ago.
M-chan is an employee of Atelier de Fromage and has of course dined at the restaurant in Aoyama before. However, her parents had not been there and we agreed to get together to celebrate the New Year 2011, though it was a bit late.
S-kun is a children’s doctor and we usually call him S-sensei. I really admire him, because he realized his original intention to become a medical doctor despite of handicap. S-kun and I are both partially color-blind. When we were to take entrance examinations for universities, this was fatal. Virtually no science faculties of state universities admitted the entrance of partially color-blind students. However, S-kun found that among more than 80 state universities two accepted color weak students for their medical faculties: Tottori and Hokkaido. He passed the entrance examination of Tottori University and became a medical doctor. On the other hand, I gave up studying my favorite subject physics and entered law faculty as remaining possibility.
As Tottori was not far from Kyoto where I studied, I could maintain regular contacts with S-kun rather easily during our student time. Thereafter we continuously keep our contact and our families meet occasionally. M-chan is three years senior to my daughter and I can clearly call up two little girls in diverse places. M-chan stayed with us for a year or so during her student time, as her university is near from my house. I am somewhat moved to see them again in their early twenties and working as grown up adults.
M-chan is of course well informed about the menus of the restaurant. We relished diverse dishes using cheese and other dairy products from the company’s workshop. Cheese risotto was appreciated by everyone. Pizza quattro formaggi and margherita and raclette were delicious. I find it strange that Japanese people order Italian dishes when they eat cheese, though France is equally or more famous as cheese producing country. "Atelier de Fromage" is a French name, but it offers Italian dishes. I think that it is because Italian cuisine uses cheese together with rice, spaghetti and other carbohydrate ingredients and vegetable. Japanese people in general prefer plant foods to animal foods and we may have difficulties to find among French main dishes something suitable for plant eaters.
The restaurant of Atelier de Fromage in Aoyama tries to make cheese menus acceptable to Japanese people, especially young women who are willing to try something new, stylish and healthy. Except for pizza and cheese cake, the trial to let Japanese people consume more cheese has failed so far. Japanese people consume averagely about only 2 kg cheese per year which is less than one tenth of the cheese consumption of French people.
Among the trials of Atelier de Fromage, the use of local ingredients is included as well. Vegetables from food-security and environment conscious farmers for example are indispensable ingredients of its dishes. Wines made in Japan are also included. However, I have a strong veto to the wine made in Japan. Japanese people are eager to introduce foreign things in their kitchen and culinary culture, however always with adaptation to the Japanese taste. Everything becomes softer, sweater, more creamy and tender. In many cases this is OK, but at least I refuse such an adaptation for wine.
Atelier de Fromage is located in a narrow side alley of the Route 246, the main street of Aoyama and one of the trendiest and tidiest streets in Tokyo. It has also an open-air wooden veranda. When the weather becomes milder, it will be the best place to enjoy the sweat air of the metropolis.