Tuesday, August 29, 2006

blog day 2006

August 31st is Blog Day 2006.*

I came across this event on Chef Paz's blog. The rules are that you need to post about 5 blogs that are new to yourself and introduce them to the rest of the blogging world.

Sorry, I could only find 4:

Elke's blog: Quilterin2006, here she showcases her quilting (or so I think, I can't read German). Elke lives in Austria and we met through Postcrossing.

Mia's blog: Miaspostcrossing. Living in Finland, she also participates in Postcrossing and shows off all the cards she has received through trades.

Laura's blog: My Journey. A friend from Hawaii, who recently started blogging about her faith and different encounters.

Ellie's blog: Kitchen Wench, a Melbournian, whom I met through B.P.W., she has some delicious adventures and a cute Golden named Mr. Woofy.

*I'm posting this a couple of days early because I'll be on vacation (yes, we housewives need them too!) Satoshi and I will be heading up to Hokkaido, which is the North of Honshu--mainland Japan--it is also 10 degrees plus cooler! (woo hoo! and yes, it is STILL hot and humid here....) We'll be back in a week or so, then be heading out again over the next weekend to go to Kyushu, which is an island to the Southwest of Honshu and hopefully not too hot!

Be back soon with lots of food photos and adventures to tell!

Monday, August 28, 2006

running into "things"

This post is somewhat of a rant. Now, I have found "creatures" in my food in Japan--a stink bug, a moth....and what did those restaurants do? Well, nothing really, they apologized and re-made the same dish, and I still had to pay for my meal--but I have never gone back!

Last night, Satoshi and I went to eat some Italian food at a restaurant that we've gone to several times in the past. We ordered our usual--a salad, pizza and pasta, all to share. The salad came, Satoshi took a bite, then looked at his plate and on his salad--was a roach...dead...but blah!

He calmly called the waitress over and showed her the culprit and she apologized and took everything to the kitchen. Immediately, a guy from the kitchen came and apologized and said they would make a different salad. We were leery but ate it. Our pizza and pasta came and each time someone brought something out they apologized...we drank our glasses of wine, and Satoshi even had another glass.

We went to pay and another guy from the kitchen (probably the manager) told us that everything was taken cared of. Now this kind of "service" NEVER, ever happens in Japan (or at least I've never experienced it). Everything costs something and rarely is anything free or comped, they just apologize and forget about their mistakes or errors after you accept their apology. Even at the grocery store if they price items wrong, they will NEVER give you the lesser price!

So, I was impressed by this restaurant and was ready to accept their offer while Satoshi on the other hand kept refusing (a Japanese thingy). In the end, our meal was comped but we decided that we'd wait awhile before going back to that restaurant.

Not to leave this story on a semi-bad note...We did get to have some good desserts at Cafe Comme ca ism afterwards...

Satoshi had a really fluffy cheese cake with a raspberry filling in the middle.
I had the chocolate tart. This tart was made with dark chocolate and had all kinds of nuts on top. It went really nicely with the cappucino that I ordered....except that I couldn't sleep afterwards....

Hope you have a great week!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

foodie saturday

Since we didn't get to go during O-bon, we decided to visit the graves of Satoshi's mother's family and a friend of their family, today. (We'll probably visit Satoshi's father's family grave a little later.) We travelled to Shiga prefecture. It is about an hour and a half by train from Osaka.

Since we left kind of early in the morning, I made us some pastrami sandwiches (don't worry there IS pastrami in there!) for breakfast. (Yesterday, I was feeling ambitious and made more rolls, this time putting Italian seasoning as I kneaded the bread. It came out really good!)

It was a very nice SUNNY day and of course the humidity made it dreadful! The first grave that we went to was in Nagahama. The taxi driver was kind enough to turn off the meter while we went to clean the grave and say a prayer. There was even this cute little guy on the gravestone.

At the Nagahama station, we were able to check out the S.L. North Lake Biwa train, S.L. stands for steam locomotive. It was exciting to see a running coal fueled steam engine! (actually the first time for me!)

Except, look at all that pollution coming out! eew!

From Nagahama, we caught the train and went a couple of stations over to Hikone. There we visited a couple more graves and said a few more prayers.

There was a REALLY old fire "engine" in the entryway of the temple!

After saying our prayers, we walked to a cafe called Club Harie, they belong to the same company as Taneya which I posted about here and are known for their baum kuchen (a round cake that looks like the rings of a tree.

As soon as you are seated they bring you these lovely truffles.

I ordered the "cake set"--two cakes of my choice from the showcase plus a drink of my choice. Here's what I chose: Tropique--a chocolate mousse with a yellow spong cake layer and lots of tropical fruits on top. Cassis and Tea--A black currant mousse with a thin layer of cake and an earl grey flavored truffle in the center. The hot pink color was nice too! Amazingly, both of these weren't too sweet!

Satoshi had the mango ice cream, which came with these thin butter cookies.

It was a long day, but we enjoyed ourselves and did our part to uphold family traditions.

Hope you are having a great weekend!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

odds & ends

Every 24th of August is the Gangara Fire Festival (Gangara Himatsuri or Gangarabi)--Ikeda's most traditional annual event. Ikeda is a city in Osaka prefecture and is one train station away from us.

A torchlight procession goes up to Atago Shrine on Mt. Satsuki. There are also 2 fires that are lit called Daimonji and Dai-ichimonji. The Daimonji is lit on the west side and the Dai-ichimonji is lit on the south side of Mt. Satsuki. These fires are considered sacred and are the symbols of prayers for inner satisfaction and world peace. I could see the Daimonji from the entryway of our apartment.

Today was beads class, this was a necklace that I finished using the netting stitch.

You know that grape flavoring that is used for candies and sodas?

That's what these grapes, called Delaware, taste like.

In Japan, most people do not eat the skins of fruits because it is thought that many farms use a LOT of pesticides in order to perfect their fruits. If you ask me, a lot of times the skins are very bitter and hard.

This 99% cacao is made by Vernost Kachestvu, a Russian confectionery. I bought it to try 99% dark chocolate. I'm glad there are only 6 pieces, it is very chalky in taste, really salty and doesn't taste anything like the chocolate I love!

5 things to eat before you die

After seeing BBC's list of 50 things to eat before you die, Melissa of The Travelers Lunchbox said that she had tried 44 of the things on their list. I looked at the list and haven't had 10 of the things on their list. She challenged all bloggers to think of at least 5 things they would like to eat before they die.

Instead of "things" to eat, I think I am going to choose 5 countries, after all, I've heard that you have to spend at least a year somewhere to get the full experience of the seasons--the different fruits, veggies and food.

My picks are: 1) Italy--While I love pasta and pizza, I want to explore the cuisine more in depth in places such as Florence, Sicily, Naples & Piedmont.

2)France--I have tried French cuisine outside of France but would like to taste the sweets in Paris, spend time at their outside cafes, try some Alsatian wines, French cheeses and see the lavender in Provence.

3)Spain--I have also tried paella and tapas outside of Spain but I would like to try some of Seville's tapas bars and see the sunflowers of Andalusia.

4)New Zealand & Australia--although I have been to Sydney (and never been to NZ), I don't think I tried much of what Australia had to offer when I was there, I'm interested in exploring their cuisines and also their wines.

5)San Francisco--I have a whole list of places to eat at (like Chez Panisse) and chocolates to try (like Recchiuti), plus it is near wine country (and French Laundry).

What would you pick?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Yesterday I had a dentist appointment. Since I was in Umeda and since Satoshi had a drinking get-together and didn't need dinner, I decided to buy my lunch, dinner and a little dessert.

The little dessert were macarons by Wittamer. Wittamer is a Belgian confectionery who happens to have a counter at the Hanshin Department store. :)

I was never into macarons before moving to Japan, but now that I have tried several "brands", I think I may be hooked!

From the top, counter clockwise, brown (chocolate with a dark chocolate ganache), pink (raspberry ganache), yellow (mango ganache), light green with red specks (pistachio with strawberry ganache), in the center, beige with brown specks (hazelnut ganache) and another chocolate one. These were very delicious and good sized too.

Luckily, I came home when I did too, the afternoon brought over 100mm/hr of rain, along with lightning and thunder--shaking our apartment at times! Scary!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

recently eaten

There are just not enough days to post all my foodie experiences....

Meiji's horoniga series. Horoniga means slightly bitter.

Usumaki (a thin crepe like cookie covering an almond then covered in bitter chocolate).

Kinokonoyama (literally mountain mushrooms, the cap is a bitter chocolate and the bottom a crispy chocolaty pretzel.

Taneya's Go-ro, a gelatin-type dessert, that kind of look like noodles.

There are these cute directions to show you how to get it into your bowl.

It comes out into the bowl like this and tastes great on a summery day. A lot of Japanese sweets are seasonal, so be careful when travelling to Japan, you may not be able to get the sweets that you want.

Cemoi's Biologique, a 60% cacao with orange flavoring and 60% cacao with quinoa. I like the quinoa one better. The orange one seemed kind of fake in flavor and the quinoa one was quite crunchy.

Dagoba's Conacado and Xocolatl. The Conacado was a forest grown organic 73% cacao from the Conacado Cooperative in the Dominican Republic and fair trade certified. This one was nice and had a smoky flavor. The Xocolatl was a 74% caco with chilies and nibs. The nibs gave it a nice crunch and the chilies a nice kick!

Lastly, Maxim's de Paris' Les Fines Dentelles, a thin crepe-like cookie covered with dark chocolate. This one was found at an import shop at half price! There are 24 individually wrapped packages with 2 cookies in it. Unfortunately, the heat got the best of it and melded the two cookies in each package together, still, it was delicious!

Monday, August 21, 2006

reisei pasta (part 2)

Well, the repairman came at 3pm--at the point where I was almost melting. Thanks for all your well wishes...somehow I survived.

It turned out to be the freon--or whatever gas they are using these days in air conditioners.

Anyway, if we have problems, we're to call them again and they'll probably change the unit.

Since I was feeling overheated, I decided to make "reisei pasta" for dinner. I've eaten it before which I posted about here, but never made it myself, so I decided to make my first batch of "reisei pasta".

It was relatively easy to make.

Here is the recipe translated from Japanese and adapted from Yahoo Japan's recipes
320 g spaghetti (cappellini)
32 g salt
4 small tomatoes
15-20 leaves of basil
1 clove of garlic
2-3 Tbsp of powdered cheese
1 tsp of salt
pepper to taste
2 Tbsp EVOO
olives (optional)
powdered cheese (optional to garnish)

First take the skins off the tomatoes by putting them in hot water. Dig out the seeds and cut into bite size pieces. Next chiffonade the basil. Mince the garlic.

In a bowl, put the tomatoes, garlic, powdered cheese, EVOO, salt and pepper. Mix well and chill.

In a boiling pot, add the 32g of salt and prepare the spaghetti as directed on the package.

After boiling the noodles, put the noodles into a sieve and rinse. Shake out as much water as you can. Then put the noodles into an ice bath. Shake out the water.

Mix the noodle with the bowl of tomatoes and other ingredients. Garnish with basil, olives and more cheese.


Notes: I used "real" parmesan instead of the powdered stuff and also added more veggies like peppers, onions, okra and asparagus. I also added capers and a little more pepper before serving. I couldn't find fresh basil, so I sprinkled some dry basil to the bowl of tomatoes. It was really refreshing and tasty.

p.s. I switched this blog over to the beta version of Blogger, hopefully it won't affect anyone from accessing this blog.

autumn, wherefore art thou?

Yesterday, one of our air conditioners went to air conditioner heaven...of course, it had to be the one that came with the apartment and is in the living room area. The temperature inside the apartment is now a "lovely" 33C (91.4F)--and this is with all the windows open!

Of course, when we called the building maintenance guy, it worked perfectly, and after he left, it died again! (I hate when that happens...)

The repairman should be coming sometime in the afternoon (they can't specify, sigh...)

I guess I could coop myself up into the room that has a working a/c, but of course, the computer and television wouldn't be there...

Hopefully I don't melt before then...wish me luck!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

la festa al fresco-updated

I was so excited when my friend, Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice invited me to her wonderful pot-luck party called La Festa al Fresco.

Since the party is celebrating the summer's bounty, everyone needs to bring a dish featuring a fresh summer ingredient. Although, Toronto is already starting to have cooler weather (lucky guys!), it is still very hot & humid here in Japan.

I thought about what to make and I decided to make somen salad. Somen is an ingredient which I posted about recently here. This salad is really easy to make and can often be found at pot-luck parties in Hawaii.

Here's the recipe: Somen Salad, serves 6-8 adapted from "80 years of 4-H cooking in Hawaii" pages 30 & 31.
1 pkg. somen
1 head lettuce, chopped fine
1 cucumber, slivered
2 eggs, scrambled
1/4 lb. char siu, slivered
1/2 pkg. kamaboko (7 oz.), slivered
1/4 lb. ham, slivered
3 stalks green onion, chopped

1 T. sesame seeds
1/2 c. shoyu
1/4c. sugar
1/4c. vinegar
1/4c. sesame oil

Cook noodles according to package directions, rinse and drain. Mix sauce ingredients together. Chill. To serve, place somen on a large platter. Garnish with remaining ingredients. Pour sauce over salad just before serving.

Notes: Char siu, is a chinese roasted pork. If you can't get this ingredient, just use ham or shredded chicken. I didn't have either, so didn't put any into the salad.

Sometimes somen comes bound in little bundles, like this. When you buy your somen, you can either make the whole package or a couple of bundles depending on how many people you are feeding. For 2 people, I only used 1 bundle.

Kamaboko, is a fish cake paste that is steamed onto a board or bamboo rod. If you have ever had a hard time taking the kamaboko off of the board, run the back-side of your knife (the dull side) down in between of the kamaboko and the board and it will come off the board really clean!

You can use whatever veggies are available in your area--or like! I added more types of veggies than what the recipe called for.


p.s. check out Cream Puffs' site on September 5, when she posts all the foods brought to the party! I can't wait!

Update: I forgot to mention that the party is being hosted by Ivonne and Lis of La Mia Cucina (sorry Lis!)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


I am really glad I signed up with Postcrossing. It is a nice way to receive "snail mail" from different countries and a nice way to make new friends.

Today, was especially nice, 4 postcards came at one time!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

wheatberry and orzo veggie salad

Dinner last night was inspired by a recipe read on the internet by Ina Garten for a wheatberry salad.
Here's the original recipe:
1 cup hard winter wheatberries
Kosher salt
1 cup finely diced red onion (1 onion)
6 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 scallions, minced, white and green parts
1/2 red bell pepper, small diced
1 carrot, small diced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the wheatberries and 3 cups of boiling salted water in a saucepan and cook, uncovered, over low heat for approximately 45 minutes, or until they are soft. Drain.
Saute the red onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the remaining 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar.

In a large bowl, combine the warm wheatberries, sauteed onions, scallions, red bell pepper, carrot, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes for the wheatberries to absorb the sauce. Season, to taste, and serve at room temperature.

Notes: I added about 1/4 cup of cooked orzo and lessened the wheatberry amount to 1/2 a cup. I also added more veggies like lettuce, okra, colored bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, sliced salami, capers and grated parmesan. The dressing I used was the lemon-oregano vinaigrette which I made before (here). Instead of soaking the wheatberries in the dressing, I put a little onto the salad and tossed it before eating. This salad had a chewy texture from the wheatberries and really went well with the rolls I made earlier today.


Monday, August 14, 2006

fresh out of the oven

I'm so excited! This is the first time for me to make bread using yeast. Sure, I've made quick breads which had all the ingredients in their mixes and all I had to do was add water.

Making bread with yeast was a bit of a challenge, since I'd never used it before. Add to that, all the instructions were in Japanese. I followed the recipe that the packaged yeast came with to make butter rolls.

I've got to say that kneading the dough is quite fun! I used my surrounding elements--the heat and humidity to let the dough rise. An hour later was what the instructions called "the finger test"--sticking my finger in the middle to see if the dough was ready. Since the dough didn't bounce back up--it was ready!

Next was to press out the air and divide the dough into 12 pieces. Then let the pieces rest for 10 minutes, they called this "bench time". Then I rolled the pieces out and formed the rolls. Another 40 minutes and the rolls doubled in size and were ready to bake. I brushed each one with an egg wash and into the oven they went.

13 minutes later....mmm, delicious!

Now to clean up the mess in the kitchen.


Right now in Japan, many companies have days off (Satoshi does not). This is to participate in the O-bon Festival. It isn't the usual festival celebrations that occur around Japan.

O-bon is usually between August 13 and August 15. It is a time to return to your hometown, hold Buddhist services for your ancestors, visit their graves, thank them for watching over you over the past year. At the beginning, a sacred fire welcomes the ancestors' souls and at the end, a bonfire is used to see them off. In Kyoto, there is a big event called Daimonji where they burn different symbols into 5 different mountains surrounding Kyoto's town. This is the okuri-bi (the fire to see off ancestors and marks the end of O-bon)

When visiting the graves, offerings are given such as flowers, some of their favorite sweets, or sometimes even sake (rice wine) and are placed at the foot of the graves. A lot of cemetaries do not allow food or drink items to be left at the graves because of all the crows and rodents.

On Sunday, we didn't get a chance to visit Satoshi's family grave but we did go to visit his parents instead. It was nice chance to visit with them.

Hope you all have a nice week.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

"perfect" fruit

Sorry, I need to vent a little...remember yesterday how I was talking about how fruits and vegetables are wrapped and most of the time perfect? (here)

Well, these "perfect" peaches weren't :( I cut one of them for breakfast this morning and as soon my knife went in, I realized that it was really hard and not even ripe, so I re-wrapped it in hopes that it will ripen soon...

That's what I don't like about this pre-packaging method. You can't hold it in your hands to feel the fruit, or even smell it. Most times all you can do is turn the package upside down to see if the other side is bruised or moldy. Sometimes they fool you into thinking that they are perfect, but when you open them up at home, they hid all the bruised areas (perfectly) with the packing materials...

The tape they use to wrap the package with is so strong sometimes that a lot of times you end up bruising the fruit or veggie yourself by trying to take off the plastic wrap and the tape!

And these babies cost a pretty penny too...almost $5 for the two!

Sigh...I hope they ripen soon....thanks for listening!

Friday, August 11, 2006

pomodori alle zucchine

Buying produce in Japan can make a person very spoiled. Why? Because in most supermarkets they only sell PERFECT items. Everything is wrapped, and perfectly packed. This means you will almost never run into something with mold or something that is squishy. Even the shape of the fruit or vegetable is perfect. To me, as long as the fruit or vegetable isn't rotten, I'd be willing to take the imperfect ones at a lesser price.

So as a result of the flooding last month, the price of veggies here is still very high, but I've been reading so many posts by my blogging friends where they use tomatoes as a main ingredient to create something wonderful. I had to join in and decided to try a new recipe for tonight's dinner from "The Silver Spoon".

When I went to pick up the ingredients, there were 2 zucchini with half price tags on them. I looked carefully at them, felt them, they were still in good condition. After purchasing them, I opened the saran wrap--which was so tight around them, I almost couldn't get it off! They were perfect except for a couple of fingernail marks dug in at the ends! I felt lucky to get them so cheap!

Tomatoes with zucchini (Pomodori alle zucchine) Serves 4
Olive oil for brushing and drizzling
8 tomatoes
2 zucchini, trimmed
1 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprig, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
7 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Brush an ovenproof dish with oil. Thinly slice the tomatoes without cutting all the way through, leaving them joined at the base. Halve the zucchini lengthwise, then slice into thin strips. Slip the strips of zucchini between the slices of tomato. Place the tomatoes in the prepared dish, sprinkle with the parsley and garlic, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven but do not switch the oven off. Carefully slip slices of mozzarella between the slices of tomato and zucchini, sprinkle with the oregano and return to the oven for 10 minutes until the mozzarella starts to form strings. Transfer to a warm serving dish and serve immediately.

Notes: I totally ad-libbed and ended up making it lasagne style--I layered all the ingredients, added some baby shrimp then baked the whole thing for 30 minutes, and then put it under the broiler for another 10 minutes.
I also steamed some corn (which was really sweet!) This dish was really delicious!


in search of viognier

Do you know what Viognier is? I didn't at first. But after coming across it in the Australia Gourmet Traveller, then checking on the internet, I found out it was a type of grape. In the same magazine there was also a little ad for Yalumba wines. They are a South Australian wine maker which makes a Viognier wine and it had a very nice sounding review. I made a note of it in my foodie journal and pretty much forgot about it.

Then as I was surfing the net the other day, I checked the gourmet supermarket's site that I sometimes go to. They had the Yalumba wines on sale! and also had the Viognier advertised.

The next day, I rushed to the store that I sometimes go to nearby....no luck. The day after that, I went to another one in the same chain, a couple of stations away...again, no luck. Then yesterday, I went to a larger store in the same chain, yet farther away and they had it! (yeah!) I found out that these are in the Yalumba "Y" Series, which according to their site means that these are the ones they export.

I bought the 2005 Viognier and the 2004 Shiraz Viognier (a blend of Shiraz and Viognier). I hope these were worth the hunt!

Oh, and have you ever wanted something to remember the name of the wine you drank? Yalumba has a great thing on the back of their bottles. Not only does it tell the year and name of wine, but there is also the website address. Just peel this guy off and glue it into your foodie journal or schedule and your all set!

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

sweet treat

Since I was near Umeda for a lesson tonight, I stopped in Hanshin Department Store and picked up these truffles made by Mon Loire. This chocolate maker's main store is in Okamoto, Kobe. When I studied abroad, the university I studied at was in Okamoto. I've always wanted to try them, but never got around to until now. They are good!

Don't you love the packaging? They actually put it into an insulated bag with a little ice pack. Sometimes I think Japan overdoes it a bit with the packaging, but wouldn't this make you feel special?

I got the 5-piece assortment called "coffret". (I looked it up and "coffret" means jewelry box in French.) These "little jewels" were delicious.
From the left clockwise: "hazelnut" (hazelnut ganache with a cashew on top), "mocha" (a creamy coffee flavored ganache), "stardust" (shaped like the moon and filled with espresso ganache), "ananas" (a pineapple ganache with coconut flakes around the outside), and "black tea" (earl grey ganache). I actually wanted more dark chocolate ones, but those had alcohol in them :(

Hope your week is going well.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

b.p.w. (part 2)-updated

My postcard went into the mail on August 1st. I checked on Meeta's blog to see all the other cards being sent out. It was kind of like waiting for Christmas Day but being able to look into all the packages.

And then, my postcard came in the mail today! I was really happy. Too bad, something is wrong with Blogger, I can't upload my picture of the card. :(

Here's what the card looks like on my new blog friend, Ricky's Seventeen Tomatoes blog. His postcard is a picture of Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C. I've never been to this part of Canada and love to see flowers and botanical gardens, so, I'll definitely have to put this place on our list of places to travel to.

Thanks Meeta for coordinating this event! It was definitely fun.

UPDATE: I was finally able to upload the card that I received....
thanks Ricky for the pretty card and cheery message!