Thursday, July 31, 2008

keeping cool

It is the last day of July. There were so many things I wanted to post about, but didn't get around to, so here is a round-up of what we have been eating/drinking this summer:

There was spam fried rice.

Fanta puru puru shaker: this gelatinous soda is the only type of soda that you need to shake before drinking. I wasn't too impressed with these. The orange one tasted like Airborne and the grape one was grape-y, but wasn't even purple!

Salads: orzo with cashews, wheatberry with pumpkin seeds & chinese chicken salad.

Starbuck's shaken lemon passion tea--a tart and refreshing way to cool off.

Dean & Deluca's Super Premium Ice Cream--I actually tried these before summer. Sicilian Pistachio & Californian Strawberry. Both were good, smooth, but I wish there was "stuff" in it.

Ciao Bella's hazelnut gelato--delicious.

Fauchon's cafe latte, milk tea, earl grey ice cream & millefeuille tea. I really liked the cafe latte (black) and milk tea (pink). The earl grey ice cream and millefeuille (gold) tea were just too sweet.

Even though the Fanta shakers were a bomb, A & W root beer wasn't...I hadn't had this in ages! With the heat, I have been craving for fizz and sugar.

These two new beverages from Kirin: Confiture au lait (Milk jam espresso)--creamy delicious and Caramel au lait (salt butter caramel)--if you like salted butter caramels this drink is an interesting, but delicious approach to it.

We've also been eating spicy foods: curry and mabo nasu tofu. When I make mabo tofu, I usually also add some nasu (eggplant) in there. Instant keema curry with ground cashews. 2-curry lunch from Cafe Ata, a cafe in our shopping arcade.

There was also some matcha...bouchee by Kobe Fugetsudo, warabi mochi by Chikujian, matcha yokan by Sasayaiori & matcha latte by Fred's Cafe., what have you been eating/drinking to keep cool?

p.s. The house right across our lanai is finished. I was shocked to see someone looking out the window one day. The other week, the man of the house and his son came to introduce themselves. They brought a small gift. In Japan, you are supposed to go over to introduce yourself when you are new, but this custom is near obsolete and most people do not know their neighbors.

p.p.s. Oh, remember I sent in my passport for re-newal? Well, I got the new one yesterday, talk about speedy...I think it may rain because my passport was so speedy, but I'm secretly hoping it will snow....

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

summer = ratatouille

Is there a dish that reminds you of summer? Somehow ratatouille reminds me of summer. Different veggies combined into something delicious, dipping crusty bread into the soupy part.

Last year, I posted about making ratatouille here and since then, I realized that I didn't add water to the ratatouille the first time which is why it looks thick in that previous photo.

Another thing that changed is the supermarket that I had been loyal to for 6 years has done away with their 10% off all their veggie coupons, as well as other money saving opportunities.

Actually, when they were a smaller operation, I think they catered to the customer more. Now that they have joined up with a big name, they have brought in more of the big name's private brand items and done away with a lot of money saving opportunities for the customer. (insert pouty face)

It is true that with the cost of food rising, it is hard for supermarkets to make ends meet. But the money saving opportunites are what kept me giving them my business. And now that they have chosen to do away with these opportunities, I have also chosen not to be so loyal to them. In fact, I now shop where I am at the time, I don't make a special trip to shop at their store.

Not being loyal, lead me to find this huge zucchini yesterday (about 2 inches in diameter) at another supermarket for 198 yen (about US$1.98). (I felt like I had found buried treasure! It was under to the puny ones which were also 198 yen. The puny ones which are normally seen in the markets here are not even big enough to stuff and are only about an inch in diameter.) I also found a can of Italian diced tomato for 100 yen (about US$1).

Not being loyal, lead me to another supermarket next door to the one with the zucchini and canned tomato, where I found 3 small eggplant for 99 yen (about US$.99).

Since I had carrots, red bell peppers, okra & onion at home, I only purchased these 3 items. Not bad for a day's shopping...I was kind of proud of myself.

I used to shop everyday (at my supermarket), but now purchase several days worth of foods, depending on what's on sale at the market I am in. Most times I spend 1500 yen to 2000 yen (about US$15-20) for a day or two's worth of food, depending on what I need, so if there are day's when I can get away with spending less than that, I'm happy.

So, I want to thank "my supermarket" for abandoning me, you sent me out to check out other stores to find that you weren't the cheapest after all.

Anyway, now that I got that out of my system...Is there a dish that reminds you of summer?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

foodie monday

Monday started off blazing hot. Satoshi had the day off, so we headed to Umeda for some errands.

It actually took us several years to visit this soba shop. Makino is located near Nishi-Umeda in an area called Fukushima.

If you took a look at this shop from the outside you might just walk right past it. You can't tell it was a soba shop.

Inside the interior was clean. There were 3 tables of 4 and 3 counter seats. There was no smell of re-used oil and most of all, no smell of tobacco.

Someone once told me that you can tell a true soba shop, if the owner doesn't allow smoking. The same goes for sushi shops. (I know of one soba place that won't even allow his customers to wear perfume!)

Anyway, this place is known for their cold sudachi (lime) soba. When we got there, it seemed as though everyone ordered the same thing.

After ordering though, we were a bit disappointed....The bowl was so small!

The noodles were nice, a bit chewy and the broth ice cold. Perfect for a hot day. But at 1100 yen (about US$11) a bowl, it was expensive.

Satoshi could have order an oomori (larger portion), but wasn't willing to add 400 yen (about US$4). He was so hungry, he even ate his sudachi (limes), rinds and all, and immediately said, "we need to have something afterwards".

And so we did, we walked to nearby Herbis, a shopping area in Nishi-Umeda, to their food court.

We popped into a shop called Harbs. Harbs is a Japanese chain, so you can probably find something close to you. The slices of cake at Harbs are humongous by Japanese standards.

I remember when we first moved to Japan and found this place. I felt at home with their "American sized" pieces of cake. We hadn't been here for several years and were shocked at the prices. Most of the cakes run from 600 yen (about US$6) a slice to 1200 yen (about US$12)! And coffee is 600 yen (about US$6) a cup!

After our "soba appetizers" though, we were ready to eat anything! I ordered the blueberry tarte (900 yen a slice! US$9) and iced coffee (600 yen--about US$6) and Satoshi went for the lunch set (1400 yen...about US$14).

Satoshi's lunch set came with his choice of pasta, a salad, a half slice of cake (he chose marron (chestnut)) and a drink (coffee/tea).

He says he got the best deal (although tons of food!) My tarte was whipped so it was very light. I also loved all the fresh blueberries on top.

After our second "lunch", we walked around Herbis. This shopping area is very high end. Most of the shops look like this.

One of the funny things I always see are "salarymen" (salesmen/businessmen) sitting anywhere and everywhere, papers spread out, on the cell phone, doing business. This guy was lucky, at least he had a seat to sit on, most of the guys are crouched down with their papers on the ground.

As we walked back to the Hankyu Station, we noticed it was really dark! We could smell rain coming. And sure enough, it came down in buckets with thunder and lightning.

Apparently, all of Japan was raining and flooding...scary stuff!

Despite everything that day, it was still a great foodie Monday.

6-11-13 Fukushima
Fukushima, Osaka
Phone: 06.6453.2828
Open 11:30-14:00 (or until things run out)
18:00-22:00 (or until things run out)
Closed Wednesdays

Herbis Plaza B2
Nishi-Umeda, Osaka
Phone: 06.6341.0901

Monday, July 28, 2008

rolled beef with japanese-style tartar sauce

Last Sunday, while we were at my MIL's, we saw this program. On the program, the television family cooks together with a guest.

The recipe looked so good that I printed it out and tried it for our Sunday dinner.

Here is the adapted recipe: Serves 2
250g thinly sliced beef
salt and pepper to taste

5 leaves of lettuce
10 leaves of shiso (perilla)

5 slices dried garlic
30 ml sake

1 tablespoon minced rakkyo
1 tablespoon minced takuan
1 tablespoon minced shibazuke
1 tablespoon mayonnaise

After mincing all the different tsukemono, mix in the mayo and put into the refrig to chill.

Lay out your pieces of beef vertically, overlapping them a little.
Sprinkle some salt and pepper.
Place the lettuce, across the beef.
Then add the shiso in the same manner.
Roll your beef vertically, as tight as possible.

Use toothpicks to mark the place where you will cut in between, try to make the slices about 3 or 4 cm wide.
Slice the rolled beef.
In a pan, heat some oil and the garlic.
Add the sliced beef with the lettuce innards facing the pan.
Leave for about 3 minutes.
Turn the roll over, add the sake and don't touch it for another 3 minutes.
When done, remove the toothpicks and dollop some tartar sauce either on the side or on top.
Serve with your favorite salad.

NOTES: I forgot to sprinkle some salt and pepper, but it had enough flavor for me with the tartar sauce. I also think I could have rolled this tighter. I think it would be perfect for a bento (boxed lunch). If you cannot find the different types of tsukemono (pickled veggies) where you are, use what you have on hand like sweet pickle relish or your favorite pickles.

If you aren't a meat-person, you may want to try making just the tartar sauce and using it on fish.

The salad I served this dish with was a mixture of all kinds of veggies--okra, onion, carrots, red bell pepper, corn & some beans.

This recipe was good. If you use thinly sliced beef, they cook quickly and the rolls turn out quite tender. I think I will try this again with different types of tsukemono, green leaf lettuce and freshly sliced garlic.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

boulangerie takeuchi

I had been wanting to check out this bakery for some time now. Couple of years to be exact. It is not in an area which I normally go to.

But, the first time, I couldn't find it.

The second time, they were closed.

The third time...well, the third time I got lucky. It just so happened that my Friday appointment got cancelled at the last minute, so I had some time on my hands.

This tiny bakery was packed with people, filling up their trays with breads, all sorts of breads! I was kind of shocked at how much people were buying. Like there was a shortage or something.

But, when you take a look at the selection, you'll realize why....they all look so good! You want to buy them all!

I couldn't decide and I couldn't decipher the French words written in katakana, and I didn't want to cause a back-up with the flow of people behind me.

So, I got a smoked salmon sandwich on a soft baguette (this had dill cream cheese and some dill pickles in it). A mini pastrami sandwich on ciabatta with a dill pickle in it.

Spicy chorizo baked into a chewy tomato kind of "pig in a blanket"!

A blueberry danish...flaky puff pastry filled with custard and topped with fresh blueberries...delicious.

And cinnamon pecan bagels...different from the blueberry and plain that are always about. The bagels were chewy with lots of pecans throughout, I loved the sugar topping too. With cream cheese it was a great breakfast on Saturday.

I think the next time I want to try their cafe--which I found out about as I was leaving.

Boulangerie Takeuchi
1-16-14 Utsubohonmachi
Chuo-ku, Osaka
Phone: 06.6444.2118
Open 8:00-18:30
Closed on Sundays and Mondays (if Monday is a holiday then they are open)
UPDATE: as of Feb 2013, they are moving to another location