Saturday, January 2, 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone was able to enjoy the end-of-year season, bringing the events and memories of the past year to a close and celebrating the beginnings of this brand new year.  We literally set sail on a new adventure to close out the year at the Boxes and Booze household, with a journey filled with sunshine, happiness, beauty, a little nourishing rain and so many rainbows we lost count.  I’d like to ring in this new year’s box and booze post with a New Year’s nod to my love of the Japanese puzzle box.  In many parts of Japan the New Year’s Eve celebration includes a very traditional dish of soba noodles, called “toshikoshi”, which translates as “climbing” or “jumping” from the old year to the new.  There are many theories about how the tradition of enjoying these noodles may have begun, dating back to the 13th or 14th century.  Soba noodles are made from buckwheat grain, which has a triangular shape.  Mikado, the word for triangular, also refers to the Emperor (mikado), suggesting the noodles embody his ancient power and may have been consumed in his honor.  A warm bowl of tasty, nourishing noodles seems like a comforting way to welcome the new year, no explanation needed.

Soba (Buckwheat noodle) by Hideto Satou

The Japanese puzzle box artist Hideto Satou of the KarakuriCreation Group embraced this theme with his “Soba” puzzle box, which recreates the traditional New Year’s dish on a bamboo plate (zaru).  The curls of noodles look good enough to eat and the strong bamboo box will deter your attempts to unlock it.  You’ll have to be as supple as the noodles to bend this box to your will.  

Use your noodle to open this puzzle box

The noodles symbolize many wishes for the new year.  The buckwheat plant is resilient and strong.  The soba noodle is long and “thin” (untroubled, peaceful), like an ideal life.  Buckwheat flour was even once used by Japanese goldsmiths to gather up gold dust – eating them will surely fill you with good fortune.  And like all good puzzle boxes, to open this one you’ll need to use your noodle.

The Auld Lang by Bobby Huegel

For a New Year’s toast I turned to the talented Houstonian responsible for putting our town on the mixology map.  Bobby Huegel, 2013’s “bartender of the year” along with his partner Alba Huerta, is a cocktail “celebrity chef” here is Houston, responsible for opening Anvil Bar and Refuge in 2009 which has spawned numerous other award winning spots and garnered national acclaim.  His “Auld Lang” is a festive New Year’s drink which ups the ante on the concept of a champagne cocktail.  It combines the refreshing grapefruit aperitif Aperol with St.-Germain (an elderflower liqeuer), lime juice and rosemary infused simple syrup before topping it all off with champagne.  The result is rich, layered, earthy, sweet and celebratory.  Here’s hoping for a lovely year ahead filled with those same sentiments, along with strength, resiliency, longevity, health, peace and love.  Cheers!

Here's to a spirited New Year full of solvable puzzles

For the Auld Lang recipe:

For more about Hideto Satou:

For more about the Japanese tradition of New Year’s soba noodles:

For more about Bobby Huegel:


  1. Nice post to bring in the New Year! Let's hope it's a good one full of health, happiness and, of course, puzzles!

    Well done in 'not blog-fading' - you've lasted 8 months. Keep it up; I look forward to your weekly post.


    1. Thanks Kevin. Your support has been essential and motivating. Happy New Year!