by Kaitlyn Goalenphotographs by Jillian ClarkWhen it comes to Valentine’s Day, the last thing I want is the crowded, stressed-out environment of a completely booked restaurant. I much prefer to cook at home, with or for the object of my affection.While the majority of this year’s meal will likely come down to a game-day decision, I knew months beforehand what I want this year’s dessert to be: chocolate mousse.This basic dessert has everything going for it in the romance department. For starters, it’s French. What’s more, it features chocolate, the consumption of which on Valentine’s Day is something of an unwritten rule.And while I don’t expect to find any chocolate that is truly local – the cacao bean needs a tropical climate to flourish – Raleigh does have exceptional bean-to-bar producers within its city limits (for a story about them, see Walter’s August 2013 issue or waltermagazine.com).Escazu, which launched in 2006, was the first to offer the city a chocolate where producers were involved in the production process from start to finish, giving them complete control over the result. More recently, Videri Chocolate Factory has opened its doors, offering even more transparency into the process of making chocolate at their beautiful glass-encased factory.For my mousse, I chose Videri’s classic dark bar, because I wanted an intensely rich depth to my dessert. Then I sought out my two mousse ninjas, one close to home and one further afield.The first is Jody Williams, chef of Buvette, a tiny French boite in New York City’s West Village neighborhood. The mousse on that menu is the Platonic ideal, in my opinion, of what all mousse should be – crazy-dense, but somehow fluffy at the same time; so rich that you must cap it with some fresh whipped cream just to keep going. Furthermore, Williams is a romantic about the process, sweetly but firmly insisting that it comes out best when you whip the egg whites and egg yolks in separate copper bowls, as the French would do. It’s the type of ludicrous (copper bowls? are you kidding me?) but charming detail that adds to the allure of this dessert.My second reference is in Durham, at Vin Rouge Bistro. Chef Matthew Kelly has had chocolate mousse on the menu since the beginning, and it has become the most frequently ordered dessert by a long shot. He scoffed when I told him about Jody’s copper bowl technique – “that’s ridiculous,” he said – but Kelly has his own romantic ideas about the dessert. For one, his love for mousse is rooted in childhood nostalgia, born of a deep love for mousse’s American step-sister, chocolate pudding. Secondly, he serves the chocolate mousse at Vin Rouge tableside – a waiter comes over with a giant ceramic vessel of the stuff and scoops spoonfuls on to your plate. It’s a retro touch that adds an intimate whimsy to the meal.I pulled from both recipes in coming to my own. The resulting mousse makes way more than two people would ever need, and it’s a splurge to use Videri, which runs at $8 for two bars, but the luxuriousness of the finished product is as romantic as it gets.Chocolate Mousse Serves 8 to 10 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into cubes14 ounces Videri dark chocolate (or another high quality dark or bittersweet chocolate), chopped6 large eggs, separated, plus 3 egg whitesSalt6 teaspoons superfine sugarFreshly whipped cream, for servingIn a bowl set over a small pot of simmering water, add the butter and the chocolate and stir until melted and combined. Transfer to a large bowl.In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with a pinch of salt until they turn a pale yellow color.In a second large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form.Whisk a few tablespoons of the warm chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture to temper it, then add the egg yolk mixture to the chocolate mixture in small additions, whisking each time to thoroughly incorporate before adding more. **Carefully fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.**Transfer the mousse to a large ceramic serving vessel, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.Serve by scooping out helpings of the mousse into ramekins and topping each with a dollop of fresh cream. Or, if you’re eating with your loved one, eat the mousse directly from the dish with spoons like it’s a pint of ice cream.*Note: If your mixture breaks — that is, if the fat from the chocolate separates and the whole thing looks like an oily mess — quickly heat about 1 cup of skim or lowfat milk in a microwave until warm. Then, with an electric mixer running, add the milk in a slow drizzle to the chocolate-egg yolk mixture until it re-emulsifies and becomes smooth again (you may not need to use the whole cup). Then proceed with adding your egg whites.
by Stacy Chandlerphotographs by Lissa GotwalsDance has taken Michelle Pearson all over the world – as a professional performer, a state department cultural envoy, and a William C. Friday fellow – but she has always had a home at Raleigh’s Arts Together.“It’s kind of like grandma’s house,” she says, “where I come and I’m accepted for exactly who I am.”She grew up dancing with Arts Together, a nonprofit community school just west of downtown that offers classes in dance, art, drama and more for children and adults. And these days Pearson, 42, is back, teaching what she calls a “hard-core technique” class and doing contemporary choreography for the multigenerational Rainbow Dance Company. She danced with it as a child, and now her daughter does, too.Pearson’s roots at Arts Together, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, run deep. But the branches she has put out into the world since her first days there reach even farther.Pearson started taking dance classes at 8, when she moved to Raleigh, and admits it wasn’t exactly love at first plié. But when she started taking classes from Lemma Mackie, who soon thereafter founded Arts Together, something clicked.Pearson’s involvement with dance grew, and by high school she was dancing five or six days a week. She earned a dance scholarship to East Carolina University, but even then she wasn’t completely sold on dance as a career.“I went to school still not thinking I was going to major in dance,” she says. “I was planning on math or something like that.”But she found that dance had crept into every corner of her life, including math. “I figured calculus out through movement back in high school,” she says. “I was one of these kids, as soon as I could get up and see the different revolutions and the lines and stuff, it made sense.”After college, she headed to New York City, dancing with two companies and waiting tables until her big break, a full-time gig with Liz Lerman’s Dance Exchange in Washington, D.C. There, she found that contemporary dance was more than just a way to express herself; it was also a way help others let movement tell their stories, no matter their age, their experience, or their physical or mental limitations.With Dance Exchange, Pearson created dances with children and senior citizens, with shipyard workers, nuns, politicians and the football team from California State University, Chico.The power she can harness from dance to communicate and heal caught the attention of the state department in 2011, when the U.S. embassy in Sierra Leone requested an artist who could help promote healing in a culture dealing with difficult social issues and the aftermath of a brutal war. The war wasn’t something people in Sierra Leone talked much about, Pearson recalls. Slowly, as she worked with artists and citizens in the country, their stories came out.“I realized in my cast (of performers), half of them had been child soldiers. And the other half had hidden in fear from child soldiers,” she said.Pearson with drummers, dancers, and artists in Sierra Leone.Closer to home, Pearson was invited in 2006 to be part of the William C. Friday Fellowship, a program that brings together the brightest leaders in a range of fields to work toward improving human relations in North Carolina. She thinks she was chosen because of her proven success at turning a challenging situation into a creative opportunity: “Being in the room when incredibly difficult conversations are being had, and creating with that. Not dispelling it, not trying to fix it or change someone else’s story, but just bringing it to a place where it can be heard or understood new.”In two years of meetings and brainstorming sessions, Pearson participated alongside the other fellows. But when a particularly thorny issue arose at a weekend retreat and progress was grinding to a halt, she was called upon to lead. She headed up a 30-minute “movement experience” that resulted in clearer heads and forward progress, and dance since has become a regular part of the fellows’ intensive work.Tall and lean, Pearson moves when she’s talking, and even when she’s not – a habit that earned her some good-natured teasing from the more staid lawyers and bankers at Friday fellowship events, she said. She speaks with intensity, in a voice that has retained a subtle Southern lilt amid all her travels. All the while, she locks eyes with a listener, not as a challenge, but as an invitation to engage fully, as she does, with the topic at hand.Beyond the stageSo much of Pearson’s work these days makes dance reach far beyond the stage, past the seats of the theater, out of its doors, and into the wide world.She has stayed connected with Dance Exchange as an artistic associate and leader of the MetLife Healthy Living Initiative, and she is the “artistic curator” for Black Box Dance Theater, a Raleigh group formerly known as Even Exchange. She travels the state and beyond as a guest artist for universities and elementary schools and for sessions with wounded warriors, the elderly – anyone for whom dance can provide healing.But don’t call her a dance therapist.“I’m a dancer,” she says. “It’s dance that’s therapeutic. It’s dance that builds community. It’s dance that’s educational. It’s dance that’s healing. I’m just a dancer. And I have this skill to invite participation and craft what is elicited into something that is recognized as powerful, beautiful.”When she’s applying those skills at Arts Together, she works to cultivate the power of dance over the mind as well as the body.“When I teach my class, I want the material to be hard and to be fun and to be challenging. I want people to sweat. I want them to hurt a little bit tomorrow,” she says. “But I also want them to feel like it mattered that they were here. It mattered that they felt like more than just their body was dancing. More than just their muscles and bones were moving.”She adds: “There’s something uniquely human that is part of their dancing. And I think that’s my mission here at Arts Together. I feel like maybe that’s what I received as a child, that I mattered, and it’s the thing that I want to carry on.”
Image courtesy of Fujimi Development Public CorporationFujimi Panorama Resort is located in Nagano, two hours and 15 minutes away from Shinjuku if you take the limited express train Azusa. This resort is best known for its unique slopes such as a “heart shaped slope” which is very popular with couples. Read also Image courtesy of Norn Minakami Ski ResortNorn Minakami Ski Resort is accessible in one and a half hours from Tokyo by the Jōetsu bullet train. Norn Minakami Ski Resort is open until 22:00 from Sunday to Thursday and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Various types of discounted tickets are available depending on which time of the day you ski, such as the early morning pass, twilight pass and night pass. Norn Minakami Ski Resort has pretty steep slopes which are ideal for intermediate level skiers and above.Season: December 20, 2019, to April 5, 2020It takes around 20 minutes by free shuttle from Minakami Station. Norn Ski Resort View Informationamusement_parkstoreEnjoy a Day of Skiing Near Tokyo!How do you like the ski resorts we introduced here? Getting out of Tokyo and going to ski on a day trip is a fun and relaxing activity. The mountains in Japan offer an amazing landscape in the winter. We hope you enjoy skiing and winter sports. Top 5 Ski Resorts In Snowy Hokkaido For Winter 2019-2020 JR TOKYO Wide Pass – Travel Economically To GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort Image courtesy of Fujiyama Resort Co., LtdSnow Town Yeti is located two hours and 40 minutes away from Shinjuku by bus. In fact, direct buses from Tokyo to Snow Town Yeti are operated from 18 stations in total such as Hachioji, Shinagawa, Machida, Yokohama Station, and others. You can get on a bus at a station close to your place and you will soon be at the ski resort, which is really convenient, isn’t it? 2. Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Area in Nagano Prefecture Skiing and Winter Sports Near Tokyo – Enjoy the Snowy Season!Skiing is one of the most popular winter sports in Japan. If you visit Japan in the winter and have at least one or two days at your disposal to travel to a ski resort, we highly recommend you go skiing, snowboarding, and playing in Japan’s mountainous areas.We introduce here seasonal information and five ski resorts great for day trips from Tokyo. Located in Niigata, Nagano, and other nearby prefectures, all boast high-quality snow and easy access from the city.1. GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort in Niigata Prefecture Image courtesy of Fujiyama ResortSnow Town Yeti is the only place where you can ski with Mount Fuji in the background. Snow Town Yeti opens the earliest in Japan because it uses devices for making artificial snow. You can ski here even during the fall foliage season.Season: October 25, 2019, to April 5, 2020For those taking the train, it is about a 56-minute bus ride from JR Gotemba Station or a 5-minute bus ride from JR Susuno Station to the resort. Fujiyama Snow Resort Yeti View Information5. Norn Minakami Ski Resort in Gunma Prefecture Image courtesy of Prince Hotels, Inc.A one-hour bullet train ride brings you from Tokyo to Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Area or “KaruSki” for short. Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Area offers free lift ticket service for kids as well as a snow stadium where you can try sledding and snow tubing. These features make Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Area a very child-friendly ski resort. Snow, Hot Springs, And Exquisite Food! Enjoy Nagano’s Winter At KAI Alps The Beauty Of Kusatsu Onsen In Winter: Snowflakes And Hot Springs Read also Visiting Japan In Winter 2019-2020: Temperatures, Clothing, Travel Tips Image courtesy of GALA Yuzawa CorporationGALA Yuzawa Snow Resort is located right near a Shinkansen (bullet train) station, so it is a really convenient ski resort to go to. If you take the bullet train called Max Tanigawa which brings you directly to Gala-Yuzawa Station from Tokyo Station, you can reach it in only 75 minutes. At the exit from the ticket gate at the train station, a ticket counter of the ski resort will welcome you. You can change into your ski clothes and take a ski lift up to the top of the mountain right there. Image courtesy of GALA Yuzawa CorporationGALA Yuzawa Snow Resort has courses for all ability levels and a total of 17 ski trails are available. Gondolas for going down the mountain can become really crowded when people head home. It is possible to ski down the mountain but some of the paths might be difficult for beginners. If you are planning to ride a gondola on your way back, it is better to estimate that it would take a longer time than it usually takes.Season: December 14, 2019 to May 6, 2020 GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort View Informationlodgingrestaurant Sapporo Snow Festival 2020 – An Extravaganza Of Snow And Ice Image courtesy of Prince Hotels, Inc.Above is a preview of some of the courses you can try at the resort. The East High-speed Lift also runs as a sightseeing lift and even for night tours, allowing visitors to ride the lift even if they don’t ski at all.Season: November 2, 2019, to April 5, 2020 Karuizawa Princehotel Snow Resort View Information3. Fujimi Panorama Resort in Nagano Prefecture Image courtesy of Fujimi development public corporationThere is a saying that if you go to the Yatsugatake observation deck or to a fashionable restaurant on the top of the mountain then ski down the heart slope, you will live happily ever after.The closest station to the resort is Fujimi. It is around a 10-minute bus ride to reach Fujimi Panorama Resort from the station.Season: December 7, 2019, to April 5, 2020 Fujimi Panorama Resort View Information4. Snow Town Yeti in Shizuoka Prefecture