Wednesday, September 30, 2009

italia

When I first came to Japan, I realized that they pronounced names of countries different from the US. For example, in the US we say "Italy" but here they say "Italia". Germany is "Doitsu" meaning Deutsch.

Takes some getting used to but definitely good to know.

Anyway, recently Hanshin Department store had an Italia Fair (Italian Fair).

Last Wednesday, I had some time to spend before meeting Satoshi for dinner, so I went to check it out. They had Italian pottery, cameos, rugs, a huge Italian wine and market area.

I came across these chocolates in the market area.

Barratti & Milano--I've tried some of their chocolates before. They are from Torino. The guy at the counter was nice enough to give me a sample, so I bought 3 types of chocolates.

Pinguino--a cream filling covered with dark chocolate. Pistachio--pistachio cream sandwiched with gianduja. Gianduja--hazelnut milk chocolate. The chocolates were 126 yen for 10 grams, my bill came out to 433 yen (about US$4.33)

My favorite was the Pinguino, I liked the contrast of sweet cream and dark chocolate.

Just a couple of counters over was Silvio Bessone--This chocolatier was from a town outside of Torino.

I got the Marron Glace--a chestnut paste with meringue bottom covered with 70% dark chocolate.

And Nej--a dark chocolate mixed with gianduja. Both were good but on the bitter side, I think these might have gone better with red wine or a malt whisky instead of coffee. 210 yen for Nej (about US$2.10) and 315 yen (about US$3.15) for the Marron Glace.

The lady in line before me bought 10 Marron Glace and 10 Nej, I was actually kind of embarrassed to buy something after her.

After more browsing, I met Satoshi for dinner at E-ma. There is an Italian restaurant that we like called La Botte Piccola.

Whenever we eat at Italian restaurants, we always order a salad, pizza and pasta to share.

I had a glass of Bellenda Contrada di Conceniqo, a full body red made with cabernet, merlot & marzemino grapes...800 yen (about US$8) a glass. I really liked this wine and hope to find it online or at the gourmet shop.

Satoshi had a glass of 2008 Rivera Terra al Monte Sauvignon, a crisp white...700 yen (about US$7).

We chose the seasonal salad...endive, baby greens, proscuitto and ricotta...1080 yen (about US$10.80). I loved the light texture of the ricotta.

Satoshi chose the seafood pasta...1400 yen (about US$14), this had clams, shrimp, scallops with a garlic butter sauce.

I chose the 4-cheese pizza...1400 yen (about US$14). This place always had a nice thin crust, which I love. They used mozzarella, gorgonzola, ricotta and parmesan. A little olive oil and parsley. Really simple yet oh so good!

After all those days off, Satoshi was kinda bummed that he had to go back to a full week.

La Botte Piccola
E-ma 6F
1-12-6 Umeda
Kita, Osaka
Phone: 06.4795.7510
Hours: 11:00-23:00
Open when E-ma is.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

trying new recipes

After all that feasting the other day...Sunday's dinner was simple...salmon with sweet and spicy rub. To go along with the salmon, I tried Ellie's oven baked onion ring recipe.

This recipe was easy to put together. I didn't have baked potato chips, so I didn't put the cooking spray on the rings before baking like the recipe says to do.

If you make these, you have to eat them straight out of the oven. They are crisp, delicious and you won't miss that they aren't deep fried.

We had this with some leftover spiced mixed nuts, a salad and Monteith's Hearty Black Beer, a smoky, smooth dark beer from New Zealand. 330 mililiters, 5.2% alcohol, 430 yen (about US$4.30).

It was a great way to end the weekend.

Monday, September 28, 2009

happy 4th birthday!

Today is the 4th birthday of this blog...I cannot believe how fast time flies.

I cherish the friendships made through this blog.

The vast amounts of information learned and shared from blog to blog.

Drooling over photos on other blogs, inspires me to take photos just as delicious.

Thank you for reading my blog, it is the first journal I have kept going (for so long).

Here's to another year of travels, adventures and food! Kanpai! (Cheers!)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

the day after

The party started at 13:00 and didn't finish until 18:30...I think the party went well.

The dishes I served didn't come out as well as I would have liked.

Oh, I forgot to include one more item on the menu...I also served Fragrant Tuna & Chickpeas Salad.

There was a lot of laughter, lots of chatter, and lots of alcohol.

We received these flowers along with lots of snacks and some wine from Satoshi's staff (Thank you!)

I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

foodie staff party

First off, I want to thank everyone who left a message cheering me up over the crappy "no aloha" days I had.

I took some of your advice and got into the kitchen. It did help take my mind off of things.

Plus, it is that time again, when we invite Satoshi's staff members over for lunch.

This is our 4th year doing this. Usually we have this party during the summer, but I went home, then we went to Palau...I guess the dates I gave Satoshi conflicted with their company trip, so this year we are only hosting one party. (Usually we do 2 parties because Satoshi has so many staff members.)

Most of the items on the menu have been "Satoshi tested"--he's tasted and liked them.

Here's the menu:
Ellie Krieger's Spiced Nuts
Smoked Salmon Dip
Apple Gorgonzola Salad
Shrimp with Mayo & Walnuts (easy version)
Beef Roll with Japanese Tartar Sauce
Rafute
No Bake Oreo Cheesecake

I was happy with the sale of shrimp...10 yen (about US$.10) a shrimp...I bought 50 for 500 yen (about US$5), though I am not looking forward to cleaning them.

The only recipe that wasn't "Satoshi tested" was the "no bake cheesecake", there is no "cool whip" here, I had to make whipped cream from scratch, so I hope it comes out okay...

Friday, I made the rafute...since I had some leftover sauce, I poured it over a bowl of rice and had it for lunch (no protein, just sauce and rice)...not the healthiest, but super comforting food.

Hope everyone coming over enjoys themselves and has enough to eat.

Friday, September 25, 2009

no aloha days

Sometimes daily episodes make me homesick. I like to call them "no aloha" episodes.

Whenever I run into "no aloha" episodes here, it makes me crave "the little stuffs" of home...the smiles from people you don't know, gestures of courtesy like holding the door open for the person behind you, saying "thank you" or "excuse me".

Take for example the other day, I was in a bookstore, looking at a shelf of books. Mind you, I wasn't right up with my face to the shelf, I think I had some space (maybe a foot, maybe more) between me and the shelf.

Along comes a woman, she is looking at the books on the same shelf but further down, she moves closer to me and stops right in front of me! Like I was invisible! WT!

I tsked and moved to the side of her but she didn't look at me. Talk about being unconscious to the world around her.

And then there were two of the same type of episodes in one day...

I was walking home from the market. I'd like to think I was going at a rather good pace. A girl comes around on the right side of me walking in the same direction, I thought she was going to overtake me, but instead she takes a left and cuts me off! I had to stop in my tracks or else slam into her. (You know, if we were both in cars there would have been impact!)

And then a few minutes later a guy does the same thing! Unreal!

No aloha here...feeling a bit homesick. (Trying to think good thoughts...kinda failing though)

It is Friday here...let's hope next week will be better.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

starbucks

Starbucks' short creme brulee macchiato (410 yen about US$4.10) and almond brownie (240 yen about US$2.40).

The creme brulee macchiato is similar to the caramel macchiato except they use a darker, slightly bitter caramel on top.

The brownie is moist and there are lots of almonds on top...while these two items are delicious, they are not good together (sugar rush!).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

hele katsu musubi

The other day, I needed some rice for some leftovers I planned to have for lunch, so I stopped into Lawson (a convenience store), to pick up a musubi (rice ball).

What I found was a sale of their musubi...

I picked up this musubi...hele katsu (pork filet cutlet), normally 139 yen (about US$1.39)....everything was 100 yen (about US$1).

A nice sized piece of pork filet, fried then doused with a sweet-salty tonkatsu (pork cutlet) sauce.

When I first came to Japan and saw "hele" (hay-lay) in Japanese (katakana) I was like WT? It isn't a word we learned in school. When I looked it up I realized it meant "filet".

Apparently the Kanto area (East Japan) calls it "hire" (he-lay) and the Kansai area calls it "hele" (hay-lay), both meaning "filet".

This musubi could definitely be a meal in itself.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

uji

Sunday we spent the morning at church for their Autumn service. It was basically the same service as the one during Obon except this time they had chairs for everyone to sit on.

After the service, Satoshi, my MIL and I went to Uji. It is about 40 minutes from the Higashiyama area by train.

I have visited Uji with my Aunty Merle and with Satoshi during various times of the year. This was the first time to visit the Tale of Genji Museum. This museum showcases "The Tale of Genji" and the culture of the Heian period in Japan.

I studied this in college but to tell you the truth, I don't really remember much about the story (guess I should go back and read the book I have stored away...somewhere...)

Anyway, my MIL had been wanting to visit this museum for some time now. Last year was the 1000 year anniversary of the tale being written by Murasaki Shikibu.

Most of the displays were in Japanese, so I couldn't understand most of them, but did find the display on incense intriguing. The display had different items like clove, sandalwood and other items which were combined to make different fragrances for incense.
After walking around the museum and the Ujigami Shrine (the shrine is a UNESCO world heritage), we walked across the river to the Uji shopping arcade.

My MIL was interested in checking out the sweets at Nakamura-Tokichi, a famous green tea shop in Uji.

We found the shop and a VERY L-O-N-G line waiting to get into the cafe. Instead of waiting for a table, we went across the street to Yamakawa, a patisserie.

This tiny patisserie also had a cafe, so we signed our name to their waiting list and after about 15 minutes, had a table.

If you are going to eat anything in Uji, get something made from green tea because Uji is known for their matcha (powdered green tea).

Satoshi got their sencha (roasted green tea) roll. My MIL got the matcha ice cream and a slice of baked cheesecake (she found the ice cream too strong and made Satoshi eat most of the ice cream). I got their matcha vanilla (matcha cake with matcha mousse, a layer of vanilla mousse and adzuki bean and a layer of vanilla whipped cream). This dessert was really light, and the sweetness of the vanilla layers balanced out the bitter matcha layers.

It was a beautiful day and we were glad to get my MIL out of the house.

Tale of Genji Museum
45-26 Uji Higashiuchi
Uji, Kyoto
Phone: 0774.39.9300
Admission: 500 yen (about US$5)
Open: 9:00-17:00, Closed on Mondays

Patisserie Yamakawa : UPDATE: 2/2014: this shop is now called Patisserie Yuji
70 Uji
Uji, Kyoto
Phone: 0774.66.1102
Closed Tuesdays and every 3rd Wednesday

Saturday, September 19, 2009

things I'm liking (and disliking)

A little round-up of things I'm liking and disliking...

Starting with the disliking...Muji.

Well, to be specific, the lady working at Muji.

Awhile back, I went in to buy a replacement ink cartridge for my ball point pen. I found one but didn't know if it would fit the particular Muji pen I had.

I saw the same pen in the store and brought the pen and the replacement ink cartridge to her and asked her, "will this cartridge fit in this pen?"

She replied quite smugly, "if it is a Muji pen, it will fit". So, I bought the ink cartridge and went home.

Well, as I tried changing the cartridge, I realized that no, it did not fit the pen. In fact, it was L-O-N-G-E-R than the pen...Since I had opened the package, I figured that I probably couldn't return it, so with some extra strength tape, I am making do with it.

Lesson learned...next time bring the empty ink cartridge.

Moving on to liking...

Muji's foldable beds. We had been looking for a box mattress or bed for awhile now, but with our limited space, something foldable is the most practical for us.

The foldable bed by another company, that I originally had my eye on, had wheels, could fold up easily and you could lift up your head and feet with a remote. When Satoshi saw it, he said it reminded him of hospital beds, so, that was out.

Then I saw these beds at Muji. When not in use, you can fold them up into a sofa. Each one is about the size of a love seat. It can fold out flat to sleep or prop up your legs and back, kind of like those lounge chairs at the hotel pool.

When we first got them, we sat with our feet propped up, I read and Satoshi watched tv. It was kind of a resort-like mood, then Satoshi says to me, "where's the remote to move our feet up and down?"...sigh.

Durance's home fragrance reed difuser, this is a French company which makes soaps and other items. I bought white tea--a musky, yet clean fragrance.

Es.Koyama's paprika & framboise macaron...I recently went to view some pieces from the Louvre with Tamakikat, she brought some macarons from Es.Koyama for our snack. You can read about our day here. (Thanks again!)

Daiei's chinese bento. I've written about this before, and the price apparently went down on Thursdays. It used to be 320 yen (about US$3.20), and is now 299 yen (about US$2.99). On this particular Thursday, I chose stir fried egg and chive, mabo eggplant & sweet sour chicken.

I have also been liking Daiei's Thursday sales...most veggies are 100 yen (about US$1) or less! I find I look forward to Thursday's grocery shopping.

Nissin's mini-chicken ramen...these are perfect for a lunch side dish---like along side a sandwich.

Put one into your mug/cup and fill with water...steep for 2 minutes and eat.

I like my noodles on the harder side, so I usually steep for less than a minute.

And lastly, the sunsets...have been really orangey and beautiful. When I see them lighting up our other room, it has a warm and fuzzy glow.

What are you liking/disliking?

Friday, September 18, 2009

lemon chocolate nib muffins

Sorry for so many muffins this week, I had some butter that I wanted to use up.

Anyway, before we went to Palau, I also had some lemons that needed using, since I knew I wouldn't get around to using them before we left, I zested, squeezed and froze them.

Then yesterday, I prepared the batter according to the following recipe (it is similar to the muffin recipe I just posted with a few changes)...

Lemon Chocolate Nib Muffins--makes 6

150 grams flour
6 grams baking powder
1 medium egg
80 grams sugar
50 grams butter, measured then melted
50 mililiters lemon juice
20 mililiters milk
zest of lemon
60 grams chocolate chips
handful of cacao nibs

Sift the baking powder, flour and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350F (180C).
In another bowl, beat the egg and sugar for about 2 minutes.
Add the milk and melted butter, beat for another 10-15 seconds.
Add the lemon juice, zest, nibs and chocolate to the the sifted dry ingredients and add to the egg mixture.

Stir with a spatula and mix until just incorporated.
Fill 6 muffin papers as evenly as possible.
Bake for 25 minutes.

NOTES: The original lemon muffin recipe says "juice of one lemon". I didn't know if I should add the lemon juice plus the full amount of milk in the basic recipe or even out the liquid to match the amount of liquid in the basic muffin recipe. In the end, I decided to even out the liquid, for fear of having too much liquid in the batter. These were puckery. The chocolate I used was 60%. I think if I used a chocolate closer to milk chocolate, it may have balanced things out. Still, I liked these---really moist, chocolatey and very lemony.

It is Friday...Saturday starts a 5-day weekend here...hope you have a good weekend!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

tandoori chicken and couscous

The weather has been getting cooler. Some days are beautiful and sunny while others are kind of gloomy and rainy.

I think Autumn is almost here. At the market, they have started bringing in the chestnuts and pears.

Not sure why I was craving tandoori chicken, but I was.

The last time I made this, there was a slight "problem" in the kitchen.

This time around everything went okay, except that my lack of counter space made for balancing things here and there.

I bought chicken breasts with the skins on this time and marinated them lunch. (since they should marinate for about 4 hours)

The market had an awesome sale on chicken, 48 yen for 100 grams, so I only paid 172 yen (about US$1.72) for 358 grams.

Then at about 15:00 (snack time), I flipped them over in the marinade.

Previously, the pieces I had were smaller with no skin, so I cooked them for only 10 minutes then under the broiler for 17.

Since the pieces I had this time had the skin on them and were thicker, I put them into a 350F (180C) oven (skin side up) for 30 minutes then under the broiler for about 5 minutes.

The skin came out so crisp (of course I had to eat the one I had for dinner!), the meat was very moist.

I also made some carrot salad and couscous with dried fig, cranberries, apricots and nuts (pine nuts, pecan & cashew). I also roasted some red bell pepper and onion. Since I had some cucumber to use up, I cut it up and added it to the plate.

Not the most aesthetic plate, overall it was kind of labor intensive, it was a tasty dinner, which made it all worth it, plus we have leftovers so I don't have to cook tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

chocolate zucchini nib muffins

I saw this recipe on La Fuji Mama and had to try it...well, I used her idea but turned it into muffins instead of cake.

I thought, instead of making a whole cake, making 6 muffins would be somewhat "figure friendly".

So, I went to a basic muffin recipe that I normally use and added chocolate chips, cocoa powder, zucchini & some cacao nibs.

The results was a fairly moist muffin.

Chocolate Zucchini Nib Muffins--makes 6

6 grams baking powder
140 grams flour
10 grams unsweetened cocoa powder, I used Droste
1 egg
80 grams sugar
50 grams butter, measured then melted
70 mililiters milk
40 grams grated zucchini
20 grams chocolate chips
1 handful of cacao nibs

Sift the baking powder, flour and cocoa, set aside.
Preheat oven to 350F (180C).
In another bowl, beat the egg and sugar for about 2 minutes.
Add the milk and melted butter, beat for another 10-15 seconds.
Add the zucchini, nibs and chocolate to the the sifted dry ingredients and add to the egg mixture.

Stir with a spatula and mix until just incorporated.
Fill 6 muffin papers as evenly as possible.
Bake for 25 minutes.

NOTES: Maybe I should have added more zucchini because you can't taste the zucchini at all. (Or maybe you aren't supposed to be able to taste it?) It is a great way to get your veggies in and it makes a perfect snack or breakfast on the run. I would definitely make this again.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

100% vrai

I'm in love with these little cookies...I recently came across these at Sony Plaza, they are 100% vrai, which means 100% pure in French.

If you look at the back of the box, they only use "real" ingredients, no additives nor preservatives.

Michel et Augustin is a French company run by two friends, making sweet and savory cookies, yogurt and other items.

I think all their products are pure with no additives nor preservatives.

In each box, 6 cookies are divided into two packages of 3. Since Sony Plaza had 4 flavors, I bought one of each to try.

Vanilla poppy seed--were a little stale but I have a feeling it is because there are no preservatives.

Orange flower water--were nice, the orange flavor "blooms" in your mouth.

Caramel--didn't really have a caramel flavor but reminded me more of brown sugar.

Chocolate chip--didn't jump out at me and were just okay.

Out of all 4 flavors, I think I would pick orange flower water as my favorite. On their site, they have more flavors, I hope Sony Plaza brings more in.

The boxes are cute too....with the cow and photos of the staff. They even give the ingredient breakdown for the 6 cookies in the box: here are the measurements for the orange flower water cookies (per my French-English dictionary)

2 tablespoons of wheat flour
1 nob of fresh butter
1 teaspoon of blonde cane sugar
some drops of orange flower water (3%)
1 egg yolk
1 whole egg
1 pinch of sea salt

In French:
2 cuillerées à soupe de farine de blé
1 nob de beurre frais
1 cuillère à café sucre blond de canne
quelques gouttes de fleur d'oranger (3%)
1 larme de jaune d'oeuf
1 larme d'oeuf entier
1 pincee de sel marin

At 315 yen (about US$3.15) for a box of 6, they are a little pricey, but for no preservatives or additives, I think they are worth it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

roasted stuffed peppers

The other night I wanted to make something easy for dinner. I had looked online for a roasted stuffed bell pepper recipe, but most were kinda time consuming (roasting the peppers then stuffing them, then putting them back under the broiler).

So instead, I threw several ingredients together raw, stuffed some red bell peppers and roasted them in a 350F (180C) oven for about 40 minutes.

Of course when I threw things together, I came out with more filling than needed.

So, I cooked the rest of the filling on the stove and served it on the side of the roasted peppers.

Here is what I put into my filling:
2 small chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
part of a zucchini, small dice
part of a carrot, small dice
part of an onion, small dice
some leftover cooked rice (about a handful)
some leftover iberico cheese (about a handful grated)
1 eringi mushroom, cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon EVOO
1/4 teaspoon herb de provence

Bake at 350F (180C) for about 40 minutes.

I also had forgotten to add the asparagus I had, so I chopped it up, cooked it on the stove and added it to the remaining filling.

Be careful when you cut the roasted bell peppers open to eat, all the juices from the chicken, and veggies will gush out.

It was delicious, simply seasoned--lots of veggies, some rice, some chicken and not too much work.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

things I'm liking (and disliking)

Some things I am liking and disliking...

Disliking...the new drink by Sekai no Kitchen...Maple and spices, sounded good...kinda tastes like chai but with a sickly sweet maple syrup flavor.

Husbands who come home from drinking at 2 a.m., make a ruckus while changing and showering, then fall asleep in a snap, snoring so loudly that their wives who had been sleeping peacefully are now rudely awakened and cannot go back to sleep...I won't name any names, you know who you are....

Quickly moving on to liking...

This bag by Elise Tran. My Aunty Marian had bought this bag for herself but after using it on a trip, didn't like it, so she gave it to me as an early Christmas present.

This bag holds everything I usually carry on trips...passport holder, hand towel, wallets, cell phone, organizer, train pass & foldable sun umbrella. (Thank you!)

Starbucks Milano Espresso...hints of chocolate...mmm! On the go, when I can't get a hot cup of coffee, I like this type of coffee drink instead of the canned coffees because the canned ones taste like...cans!

Plus, the canned ones have tons of sugar in them. It is cold, but at least I can get a shot of caffeine without all the sugar.

Duchy Originals Organic Orange Biscuits...this cookie is delicious with bits of candied orange peel in it.

Also they use organic wheat flour, and if I remember correctly a portion of sales goes to a charity in England.

Haagen Dazs' newest flavor, sweet potato pie...

Vanilla ice cream topped with a layer of sweet potato and walnuts. The sweet potato layer is a bit gritty/grainy, but overall a delicious combination.

Cleaning out the pantry, I found a really (really) old box of Jell-O....used it up with some canned mandarin oranges for a quick and easy dessert.

These tiny cups hold 3/4 cups of liquid, but were the perfect size for these desserts. I was able to make 4.

Kinda half liking and disliking this one...worms in the lettuce.

Disliking it because he made all the center ribs nasty looking, but liking it because if he is in there, it means this was grown without pesticides...

Diva Chocolate's Mocha Java Rub...after putting the rub on, the instructions suggest putting the protein into the refridge to meld for 30 minutes.

I cooked this on a grill pan and nearly freaked when I saw it all black, I used the tongs to scrape off the rub and realized that the steak wasn't burnt (whew!)

The meat was so tender, not sure if it was the grade of meat (black wagyu) or the spice combination in the rub or both.

This rub had some cinnamon as well as chocolate, it smells sweet when cooking but isn't when you eat it.

Disliking the fact that they are now out of business though--another business bites the dust due to the economy. (sad to see you go!)

Leftovers....now, I rarely say that I like leftovers, but a sandwich made from leftover steak, some mayo, leftover pistachio baguette and leftover veggie sticks made a great quick lunch.

My new 27 cm (10 inch) violet T-fal pan, 1468 yen (about US$14.68). I was recently looking for a new pan and wanted something "made in Japan", but almost everything Seiyu had was "made in China".

Luckily, I found this T-fal (made in France) on sale, another good thing about this store is that if you bring your own bag they knock off 2 yen, not much, but it is something.

The skies indicating that the season is changing and Autumn is coming....love it!

Is there something you are liking or disliking?