Monday, June 30, 2014

imbibing

IMG_6663 It's definitely beer season here. Here are just a handful of beers I tried recently...

I tried the hyuganatsu version earlier this year.

I liked this one too. A fruity beer with kinkan (kumquat).

IMG_7262 Brew Dog's Hardcore IPA (super bitter with a kick), 5AM Saint (hoppy red ale, fruity with a bitter aftertaste) and Punk IPA (super fruity).

IMG_7303 Tokyo Waiwai, a Belgian White, was fruity.

Lots of fruity beers of late, what have you been drinking these days?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

oh em gee

IMG_7394 So, the other day, I happened to check on the plants on the lanai...and noticed all the kale had holes in it...

I found one inchworm and threw it off the lanai. And then I found another and threw that one off the lanai too.

And when I looked closely, I could see all these guys...

IMG_7395 And then after going through all the three pots of kale...I came up with all these guys...

I didn't kill these, I thought maybe some birds would come get them and left them in a planter dish.

Instead, they are back in the kale and roaming the lanai for something to eat.

I'm heading to Hawaii in a couple of weeks and usually while I'm away, the substitute farmer (Satoshi) kills everything...so I think I'll let these guys eat their fill so they can turn into moths or butterflies or whatever nature-ish things they need to do...

Hope better things are happening in your garden.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

boulangerie goût

IMG_7376 After eating at Grill Stereo, I picked up some things at Boulangerie Goût...like this lemon lime tart.

Super puckery but the custard is really thick and rich, the pastry really flaky.

IMG_7386 Their gorgonzola, walnut & pastrami.

This wasn't a big sandwich, in fact the baguette was about 5 or 6 inches long and 1 inch in diameter.

The sandwich also had a berry jam which matched perfectly with the whole combination. Toasted, this was even better.

IMG_7388 An-butter...sweet bean paste is whipped with butter and cream.

The baguette "top" is dotted with lots of sunflower seeds.

One bite and the filling oozes...so nice with iced coffee.

Enjoy your weekend! It's been hot in Osaka. There was a hail storm in Tokyo, which also included flooding...crazy summer!

Friday, June 27, 2014

grill stereo

IMG_7374 Awhile back, I was walking to my appointment after eating at Boulangerie Goût and saw this long line out in front of a shop.

When I got home, I searched for the place with the line on Tabelog (Japan's Yelp) and found Grill Stereo.

A tiny shop, they are only open for lunch during the weekdays.

No wonder all the salarymen (businessmen) and OL (office ladies (business women)) in the area were lined up to eat there.

They have 4 items for their lunch menu...a daily special, hamburger plate, menchi katsu(deep fried hamburger) and hayashi rice (hashed beef) plate.

After 13:00, you can order other things from their menu.

The thing about these small yoshoku-ya (restaurants that serve Japanese style western foods), or any eatery in a business district, is that they are driven to serve as many people as they can in a small amount of time..."time is money".

After walking in, the chef rattled off something which I didn't quite catch, unconsciously I replied with a "yes", and wham!...I had ordered myself the daily special...

The food came out rather quickly and I started to eat.

The daily special was ebi fry (fried shrimp) with a homemade tartar sauce (more mayo than pickles) and unlike the standard tartar sauce you find in Japan with egg (like egg salad). There was also a hamburger patty..750 yen (tax included).

With the meal came shredded cabbage, and a little dollop of potato salad. The potato salad was more like mashed potatoes with lots of onions in it.

You should know that potato salad in Japan often tends to be like whipped mashed potatoes.

Anyway, the shrimp were cooked perfectly and the hamburger was moist too. The demi-glace sauce was a bit thin, but had lots of flavor.

I appreciated how they gave me just enough rice, sometimes shops give way too much rice.

I'm glad I was able to try this place without having to stand in line....I'll be back.

Grill Stereo
3-4-9 Tanimachi
Chuo, Osaka
Phone: 06.6942.6433
Hours: 11:00-15:00
Closed Saturdays, Sundays & Holidays

Thursday, June 26, 2014

coke x world cup

DSC06758 Coke is a sponser of the World Cup, which is happening now in Brazil.

To promote this event, they have many bottles with "names" on them circulating in Japan.

There are family names as well as first names. They ask you to "look for your name" when buying a Coke.

Well, since they only have Japanese names, they didn't have "Kat".

IMG_6756 I tried looking for Satoshi's name but couldn't find it.

You can also go to their shop in Osaka and "make" your own labels with your name on it. I think you need to show ID to prove that that is your name, though...

IMG_6952 Anyway, I'm not paying too much attention to the World Cup, are you?

Is the country you are living in participating in the World Cup?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

aunty marian's quinoa salad

IMG_7368 After posting about quinoa, my Aunty Marian sent me her favorite quinoa salad recipe.

She subbed some ingredients which are noted in the parentheses.

QUINOA – PARSLEY SALAD

3 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup craisins
2 cups edamame (peas, instead)
1/2 cup chopped almonds
2 cups chopped parsley
1/4 large red onion

Dressing:
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon (Used 2 lemons)
garlic (couple cloves, finely chopped)
1/2 tsp red pepper
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 salt to taste

1. Rinse quinoa until the water is clear. Add water, bring to boil, reduce to a low simmer for 10 -15 minutes*. (If you want cranberries soft and plump cook with quinoa.) When done, fluff with fork and cool. (I put the cranberries while cooling the quinoa.)

2. Finely chop the parsley, onion, and garlic (couple cloves- finely chopped) and zest the lemon. Make sure edamame is not frozen. (cook peas as usual)

3. In a separate bowl, mix the garlic, lemon juice and zest, pepper, salt and olive oil. Add to cooled quinoa. Mix well.

4. When cooled completely, mix in cranberries, edamame, almonds, and onions. Lastly, add parsley and mix it all together.

*Pkg directions said 2 c. water to 1 c. quinoa

NOTES: I cooked 1/4 cup of quinoa and added a handful of dried cherries. Since I had leftover cooked edamame, I took off the shells and put the beans into the salad. I also added 1 carrot and 3 okra.
Instead of a red onion, I used part of a yellow one.
The nuts, I added just before eating. I didn't have parsley, so I left it out.
I used the zest and juice of 1 lemon but found it too puckery, so I added 1 teaspoon of honey.
I also left out the salt.

Super refreshing salad, I hope to make this one again! Thanks for sharing your recipe Aunty.

p.s. Satoshi wanted to know what we were eating and I told him "keen-wah" and he says..."gold ring"...in Japanese "kin" means gold and "wa" means ring...sigh.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

mori no ohagi

IMG_7351 I've been wanting to try Mori no Ohagi for some time now but their hours were kind of inconvenient for me.

So, I was happy to find them being sold at Hankyu Department store in Umeda.

Ohagi is rice that is covered with sweet bean paste. If you are interested in more details, I've written about this before here.

Anyway, these ohagi were tiny. 6 for 900-something yen...a bit pricey.

But, they had unique flavors.

The top row was walnut, edamame (soy bean), kinako (soy bean powder). Bottom row was hoji-cha (roasted green tea), roasted corn and sweet bean paste.

Roasted corn was interesting, but totally matched because the corn is naturally sweet.

I wouldn't mind trying their other flavors. And I notice their hours have been changed to more convenient times...I'll be back.

Mori no Ohagi
2-25-10 Naka-sakurazuka
Toyonaka, Osaka
Phone: 06.6845.1250
Hours: 10:00-13:00, 14:00-19:00 (or until they sell out)
Closed Sundays & Mondays

Monday, June 23, 2014

entrata

IMG_7348 The other day for lunch Satoshi and I tried Entrata.

They have 3 different sets for lunch...pasta, secondo or their course.

We went with the secondo...1200 yen each.

This started off with 3 starters (frittata, marinated mushrooms & broccoli sauteed in garlic) and a salad.

There is also warm baguette that comes along with this lunch too.

IMG_7349 The main dish that day was a grilled pork with basil sauce.

Simple flavors but really tasty.

We also liked that you could have more salad and baguette if you wanted.

We'll be back.

Entrata
Hankyu Kappa Yokocho
Kita-ku, Osaka
Phone: 06.6374.3066
Lunch 11:30-15:00, Dinner 17:00-24:00
Closed when Hankyu Kappa Yokocho is

Sunday, June 22, 2014

peaches

IMG_7327 Found decently priced peaches at the market recently...350 yen for 2.

You should've seen the prices a couple of weeks before 800 yen or something ridiculous like that.

Even though the peaches were a little greenish in color, when I sliced them, the knife went smoothly in and the outer skin came off without having to use a knife.

Anyway, these are super sweet...whoo!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

beware

IMG_7310 The other day, I went walking and saw a television crew in our area.

I wondered what all the commotion was about, but didn't ask them.

Then I took a detour through Suigetsu Park.

Everyone was sitting around enjoying the hanashobu (iris).

It was there that I saw warnings about araiguma (raccoon) sightings in the area.

Apparently someone got bitten by a wild raccoon over the weekend...

When I told Satoshi about it, he laughed it off...and said "but they are supposed to be cute right?!"....

Um, not if they jump out and bite you on the leg...sigh.

Anyway, lots of wild animal sightings in many areas of Japan over the past week.

The scariest sightings were the wild boars in Kobe...be safe everyone!

Friday, June 20, 2014

cute

IMG_7324 Love wandering around in Tokyu Hands.

It was there that I came across this super cute idea for a baby shower gift.

A box of "sushi"...rolled up diapers and towels are used for the "rice" and sponges and other towels are used as the "fish/toppings" for the "sushi".

Definitely unique!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

eat this

IMG_7325 I saw this done on an episode of "Avec Eric" and have been wanting to try it.

He made a batch of ratatouille and then he added an egg to it and threw it under the broiler.

We had this for breakfast yesterday.

It was rainy and a bit dreary, so this was nice comfort food.

I should've toasted the bread "sticks"...this was still a fun way to eat ratatouille.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

meijitei

IMG_7281 Satoshi and I were searching for something for dinner one day and found this sauce katsu by Meijitei, an eatery in Komagane, Nagano.

(Hankyu Department Store in Umeda was featuring various vendors from the Nagano area.)

Sauce katsu is when they pour their special tonkatsu sauce onto the cutlet.

Satoshi chose their assorted bento...fried shrimp & pork filets...1470 yen plus tax.

They weren't playing around with this bento, it was pretty stuffed!

IMG_7279 I went with their pork filet sandwich...584 yen plus tax.

Even though this sandwich had a thin amount of shredded cabbage, I jazzed mine up with lettuce.

The sauce was a little sweet but also had a nice tang to it.

The pork filets were very moist and tender...yum!

Satoshi said that his shrimp was delicious too, not dried out as sometimes fried shrimp can be.

I'm glad the department stores bring in different items from around Japan as well as from the rest of the world, so we get a chance to try them.

What are you enjoying these days?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

hotaru

genjibotaru It's hotaru (firefly) season here.

I've heard that the trail to the Minoo Falls has hotaru, but we've never had a chance to check it out...until this past Saturday.

Tons of families on the trail.

There weren't as many hotaru as when we first saw them in Oita (Kyushu), but we were still in awe to see them in our area.

By the way, the photo above is of a genjibotaru, a type of hotaru that we have in our area, that I took a couple years back.

The weather has been weird, hot some days, really rainy during others. In some parts of Japan they even had hail!

Be well everyone.

Monday, June 16, 2014

peanut butter chicken summer rolls

IMG_7302 With the 2 remaining pieces of peanut butter chicken, I thought I would make sandwiches with them.

Then I remembered I had some rice paper in my pantry and made summer rolls instead.

I added some lettuce and some julienned carrots.

The size of the rice paper was small, so I cut the chicken into 3 strips each and made 3 for each of us.

Simple and so good.

No extra sauces were needed as the chicken was really flavorful.

I'd definitely make this again!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

peanut butter chicken salad

IMG_7265 I saw this on Jalna's blog and scribbled down the recipe to try.

Anyway, this recipe was so easy to do, I just marinated it the night before and popped it in the oven before dinner.

IMG_7266 I turned this into a salad. Was so good.

Here's the recipe if you want to try.

Costco's Peanut Butter Marinated Chicken Thighs : 4 servings
4 chicken thighs
1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon crushed chili flakes (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water

Wash and dry chicken, then score to ensure the marinade penetrates the chicken
Pour all the condiments into a re-sealable bag and massage.
Marinate for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours
Preheat oven to 350F (180C), bake on parchment paper for 30 minutes (boneless skinless), 40 minutes for bone-in (or until meat thermometer reads 165F)

NOTES: I used 1 boneless skinless breast instead of thighs and sliced it into 6 pieces (I didn't score the meat).

I also cut this marinade back using 1 clove garlic, grated.

My peanut butter doesn't have sugar in it, I used 1/4 cup.

And since this recipe calls for brown sugar I just put in 2 tablespoons brown sugar (packed).

I used 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons water.

The crushed chili, I just measured by cupping my hand.

I also used a whole lime because it didn't have that much juice or zest...boo!

I mixed the marinade before putting the chicken in. The recipe says to massage, but I had put my chicken into a ziploc container, so I flipped the chicken over in the marinade every time I opened the refrigerator door and remembered.

For the salad, I used lettuce, carrot, zucchini, red bell pepper & onion...oh, and some curly parsley.

I sauteed the zucchini, red bell & onion in some olive oil.

I left the carrots raw for crunch.

I drizzled some of the drippings from the baked chicken onto the salad then topped it with the chicken (I used 2 pieces for each person).

With the remaining 2 pieces of chicken, I'm thinking of shredding it to making sandwiches with it.

This was easy and delicious. Kinda like satay chicken sticks.

I think the next time I make this again, I will bake it in a dish, so that I can keep more of the sauce, to pour on rice!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

it works

With the heat and humidity here, the bananas I buy turn brown so quickly.

Then, I saw this video on FB recently...

IMG_7250 So, the next time I bought some bananas I tried it out.

They still turn brown, but not as fast...whoo!

Friday, June 13, 2014

hakone-odawara-tokyo-osaka

One thing we learned on this trip, was that Mt Fuji shows herself when the air is crisp (little to no humidity).

One of the gondola workers told us to visit in February, "you can see Mt Fuji every day!".

With that in mind, I decided that since she showed up at sunset, she would greet us in the morning...so we I woke up at sunrise...4-ish.

IMG_7181 I was amazed at how quickly Satoshi woke up, when I whispered to him that I could see Mt Fuji, because he is definitely not a morning person.

It was so serene. We were pretty much up before the birds (literally!)

Still it was nice to be able to gaze at Mt Fuji as the sun rose.

The open air bath opens at 5:00 so we rushed down and there were already tons of people in the bath gazing at Mt Fuji!

We also checked out the hotel terrace, here you can also see Mt Fuji.

Breakfast service started at 7:00 so we decided that we would eat and then check-out as soon as we had finished breakfast.

Everyone else had the same idea and we had to wait to be seated.

The breakfast buffet had so many choices. Again, Satoshi went overboard with the eating...I don't think I feed him enough at home...ahem!

IMG_7191 By the time we had finished eating, Mt Fuji went into hiding...boo!

The weather for the rest of the day in Hakone was forecast for rain, so we checked out and then had to wait about 15 minutes for the ropeway to start up at 8:45.

We headed down to Lake Ashi, just to see what we missed.

IMG_7199 Then we headed back up to Owakudani to see what the fog had been covering...

And then we made our way back towards Tokyo...

It was nice travelling on a weekday, there was definitely a less amount of people.

The tozan train which I mentioned is a switch-back type, has a connection with the one in Bernina, Switzerland.

IMG_7208 When we took a curve, it kind of reminded me of the train shots I've seen of the Bernina line on television.

We got off the train at Hakone-Yumoto and decided to explore a bit.

This area has many onsen (hot springs), other than that, there are many souvenir shops and places to eat.

IMG_7213 We shared a coffee milk soft serve from Hakone Baisen Coffee...super sweet but perfect for the heat!

IMG_7215 And then we shared a curry pan from Fujiya Hotel...spicy!

IMG_7227 And then we got back onto the train and headed to Odawara.

It was so hot and sticky. Still we went to check out Odawara castle.

We were lucky because they were having their hanashobu (iris) and ajisai (hydrangea) festival.

That hillside in the background is all hydrangea...beautiful!

IMG_7232 If you decide to visit Odawara Castle, be prepared to climb stairs. Lots of stairs.

They don't have air-condition, so I was standing in front of their fans at all 4 floors...

We then went to seek out lunch at Sakana Cuisine Ryo.

IMG_7234 Satoshi chose their daily fish special. Of the 4 choices, a couple were already sold out, so he chose a fried inada (amberjack). His lunch also came with a fish bone stew, salad, miso soup, pickles & rice...980 yen(tax included).

IMG_7233 I went with their seafood chirashi...980 yen (tax included).

All sorts of seafood and thickly sliced. I appreciated that there was more fish than rice.

By the time we finished lunch we had to make our way to Haneda airport.

IMG_7240 Once at the airport we decided to have something for snack...Jiichiro's Baum Kuchen & coffee.

This baum kuchen was so moist and buttery (though they also use margarine...boo!)

IMG_7242 For dinner, I bought a pork loin katsu sandwich from Yoshoku Yoshikami at the Soraben (air-bento) counter to take back to Osaka.

(by the way, ekiben means train/station bento)

Yoshoku Yoshikami is quite well-known. In fact, Dennis just wrote up about eating there.

I enjoyed this sandwich, there was a nice balance of cabbage, tonkatsu sauce and a little Japanese mustard.

The katsu coating was still a little crisp.

Satoshi bought a beef bento which used beef from Ishigaki, Okinawa. He said it was a little sweet but really tender and tasty!

IMG_7243 As for omiyage, I bought a Mt Fuji note pad, Mt Fuji sticker & some face masks from Owakudani.

It was a quick trip, the weather wasn't the greatest, but we were happy that we got to see Mt Fuji.

If you are interested, I shot some videos of Mt Fuji and at Lake Ashi...here, here, and here.

Oh, and if you are planning to check out Hakone, be sure to get the Hakone Free Pass, it lets you get on and off the various modes of transportation in the area.

The pass isn't exactly "free" but it does give you a nice discount at some attractions.

You can also check out the Hakone Tourism page as well.

I hope you enjoyed this adventure. We're already thinking about going again...in February...

Hakone Baisen Coffee
702 Yumoto Ashigara-shimo-gun
Hakone-machi, Kanagawa
Phone: 0460.85.5139

Picot (Fujiya Hotel)
256-1 Yumoto Ashigara-shimo-gun
Hakone-machi, Kanagawa
Phone: 0460.85.6111

Sakana Cuisine Ryo
1-14-57 Sakae-cho
Odawara, Kanagawa
Phone: 0465.20.0077
Lunch 11:30-14:30, Dinner: 17:00-22:00



Thursday, June 12, 2014

tokyo-hakone

IMG_7058 Sunday, we woke up to rain...drizzly, cold rain.

We took the Romancecar from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto and then transferred to the Hakone Tozan Train.

The tozan train is a switch-back type, it takes awhile to get from Hakone Yumoto to Gora. (Tozan means to "climb the mountain", by the way, Gezan means to "come down the mountain")

The hydrangeas were just starting to bloom along the route.

IMG_7064 From Gora, we again transferred to the Hakone Tozan Cablecar to get to Sounzan.

This cablecar was kinda like those finicular types which ascend/descend at an angle.

IMG_7065 At Sounzan, we again transferred to the Hakone Ropeway which would take us to Togendai-ko.

It is along this route that we saw this.

Talk about scary! Gondolas coming out of the fog from the opposite direction...

IMG_7069 At Togendai-ko, we again transferred to the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise....

Obviously with all that fog, there was nothing to see, so we kept ourselves entertained chatting and playing with the trompe l'oeil(trick art) that they had on board.

Since the fog was unpredictable the cruise schedule was iffy, so we nixed exploring the other two ports and returned back to Togendai-ko and had lunch at their View Restaurant.

This is what the view should have looked like.

IMG_7101 After lunch the rain stopped but there was some fog lingering.

We headed back up to Owakudani. There are many sulfur pits here and I think the water that comes from their drilling is what the onsen (hot springs) in the area use.

You can buy 5 black eggs if you wish, it is basically a hard boiled egg that turns black when boiled in the sulfuric waters.

If you eat one, it is said to add 7 years to your life. The bummer part though is that you need to buy 5, too bad we weren't travelling with a larger group.

Instead we shared black soft serve. Vanilla soft serve made black with some edible bamboo charcoal.

We then headed back down to Ubako to check-in at the Green Plaza Hakone.

Our room was located in a prime part of the hotel and we were "supposed" to be able to see Mt Fuji from it.

But of course, it was clouded over.

IMG_7165 A bit discouraged, we decided to take a bath in their rotenburo (open air bath) and then go to dinner.

(click on their website and you'll see what the view is supposed to be like from the open air bath).

Oh, a nice perk in the women's open air bath is the tiny cups of sake to drink while in the bath while viewing Mt Fuji. It isn't served on the men's side...as Satoshi said, "probably because the guys would go crazy with free sake..."

Dinner was a fabulous array of things, check out my photos on Flickr, tagged "green plaza" to see what we had.

I was intrigued with their toothpick holder. When you slide open the lid, the container of toothpicks pops up.

The woodwork on the holder is called Yosegizaiku, a type of parquetry in this area, you can read more about it if you are interested, here.

IMG_7172 After dinner, we checked on Mt Fuji once again...she finally decided to show herself, even if it was after the sun had set...it was better late than never...

Green Plaza Hakone
1244-2 Sengokuhara Hakone-machi
Ashigarashimo-gun Kanagawa-ken
Reservation Center: Tel.81-03-5272-3111

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

osaka-tokyo

IMG_7053 Saturday after Satoshi's German class we flew to Tokyo.

Up above the clouds the weather was pretty wonderful, sunny and blue skies.

Down below though it was pretty grey and gloomy.

Luckily, our hotel was only a "hop" from the subway station.

After checking in, we walked in the drizzle to Shinjuku, which was about a 10 minute walk.

Dinner was at a Chinese restaurant, nothing fancy.

We both had cold noodles. Satoshi is the type to eat temperature hot foods even when it is hot, so I thought it was a bit strange that he wanted something cold.

After dinner we walked in the underground to get this...croissant taiyaki.

This is brilliant! Flaky buttery croissant pastry filled with sweet bean paste and glazed with something to give it a crunchy caramel crust...210 yen (tax included).

We agreed this was good and that it would've been even better if we had had it right when we bought it, when it was piping hot.

The rain was still coming down but we hoped that it would stop for the next leg of our trip to Hakone...

A nice ammenity at this hotel is that there is wi-fi throughout the property, the bad part of this hotel is that it is located near the bar and club district (Kabuki-cho) so you hear emergency vehicle sirens...all.night.long...

E-hotel
Higashi Shinjuku
2-3-15 Kabuki-cho
Shinjuku, Tokyo
Phone: 03.5287.3588

Xian Gyoza
Shinjuku Center Building B1F
Shinjuku, Tokyo
Phone: 03.5339.1935
Closed Sundays & Holidays: Lunch 11:30-15:30, Dinner 17:30-22:00

Gin no An
Shinjuku Alta 1F
Shinjuku, Tokyo
Phone: 03.5312.7708
Hours: 11:00-22:00, Open when Shinjuku Alta is

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

we're back

IMG_7066 We just got back from a mini-travel weekend...here's a preview of how our weekend went (sort of)...

Will sort through photos and write something up a.s.a.p.

Have a great day!

Monday, June 09, 2014

hanashobu

IMG_7020 It's that time of year for Hanashobu (Iris).

I walked through Suigetsu Park on Friday and despite it being very overcast, there were many people having their lunches there.

IMG_7021 They were setting up tents too, I think they were preparing for their Hanashobu Matsuri.

The weather didn't look too good for the weekend though...

IMG_7023 Oh and the hydrangea is also blooming.

Hope you have a nice week!