What a dreary past couple of days. It's either been raining or cloudy..."Sun! come out, come out wherever you are!!"
Remember those pralines that I got on my last Foodie kind of weekend? I was a bit surprised because these were sugar coated almonds then covered with dark chocolate. I had always thought that pralines were pecans covered with a sugary coating. I then went to Wikipedia to find out what pralines actually were and was surprised. Here's the definition: Wikipedia's definition. These pralines are good! The sugary coat isn't so sticky so that it sticks all over your teeth. And because they used dark chocolate they weren't too sweet, just right.
Since this year's anniversary was sort of put on hold because of an emergency with Satoshi's work, we decided to celebrate it today. Every year on our wedding anniversary (or there abouts) we've been staying at different hotels in Osaka and having dinner at their restaurants.
This year, we stayed at the Westin Osaka. This hotel is kind of out of the way in Umeda. We enjoyed a very leisurely dinner at a restaurant called "Stella Maris". According to our waiter, who was from Poland, he said that "Stella Maris" is a place in Europe. (I looked on the web and I think it is in Spain.) This restaurant serves food from countries along the Meditteranean Sea coast such as South France, Italy and Spain. The interior was recently renovated was made to look like the insides of a ruin in Pompei. There is an open kitchen, so you can see, hear and smell your food being cooked.
The first course was an "amuse-bouche" ("tsukidashi" in Japanese), this is an appetizer which you don't order...it is just "served" to you. Ours was beef tongue on a bed of minced cucumber & onion salad. (Thank goodness it was a small piece of tongue...)(When you go to Japanese bars (izakaya) you'll notice that you are served these "tsukidashi" and it will also appear on your bill! I guess you could look at it like a cover charge...)
The real appetizer: warm vegetables with "bagna cauda" sauce. The vegetables were sauteed in the bagna cauda sauce and served with an olive tapenade and a basil sauce.
The chef's present (actually to kill time for the main dishes because Satoshi had a dish more than Kat): porcini risotto. This dish was great and a nice surprise.
The soup before the main dish: demitasse sized-corn & pumpkin potage
The main dish: grilled duck breast with spiced honey sauce and watercress. I was a bit disappointed with this dish. I thought the sauce would be a bit more sweet and spicy.
The first dessert (another type of "amuse-bouche"): a tiny wine glass filled with rhubarb gelatin layered with a vanilla ice cream sauce. This dessert was a bit tart but really tasty.
The real dessert: lavender flavored chocolate mousse with pistachio ice cream. This dessert was awesome! The lavender flavor was strong but didn't over power the chocolate flavor. I didn't care too much for the ice cream though, it didn't have much flavor, too much lavender, maybe??
The third dessert: (another type of amuse-bouche): a little plate of cookies and chocolates
The fourth dessert: (another amuse-bouche) the wagon came around and asked if we wanted a slice of either strawberry cheesecake, pear tart or chocolate cake....Satoshi had a little slice of strawberry cheesecake. I was SO stuffed after all the little extras, but my waiter COAXED me into having something from his cart, so I just had the garnishing fruits, macerated strawberry and blueberries.
I was surprised at how many extras and desserts were served (not that I'm complaining!) I guess when you order the prix fixe menu that's the extras you get...
A neat thing that you should know about when you stay at hotels or ryokan (traditional inns) in Japan. The ammenities they usually provide you with are a "yukata" (light cotton kimono) or some form of pajama to sleep in, toothbrush/toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner. But be careful because in recent years, some places have been cutting costs which means ammenities aren't always provided....be sure to ask when you make your reservations or check their website!