Friday, September 30, 2011

the reason why

Not sure if I've ever told you why I'm taking French...

Actually when I was going to school, I thought that I might be able to work at the U.N. after college. I found out that you needed to know 5 languages. So, I signed up for German at a community college, but that class was always cancelled because I was the only one who signed up for it.

Then, in college I majored in Japanese, and when my conversation teacher told me in the 3rd year that I should change my major because I'd never speak the language, I studied in Japan for a year.

Anyway, none of that has to do with French but one year when Satoshi and I travelled to Montreal, we had dinner at a restaurant.

I can't remember what cuisine the restaurant was, I don't even remember what we ate.

I do remember being seated in a really teeny corner. And being brought warm beer then having to wait almost 30 minutes for our food.

I remember noticing that all the people who spoke French were being seated in nicer areas and receiving their food faster.

At the end of the meal, the waiter demanded a 20% tip thinking we didn't understand English because we had been chatting away in Japanese. I told him in English that tips were for "good service", but he wouldn't back down, until I asked to speak to the manager.

And then he "shooed" us away.

So, I've always wanted to take French, to be able communicate with people in their own language. I've still got a long ways to go until I can actually carry on a conversation with someone.

Hopefully I'll pick up more with my French class coming up next week.

September has come and gone...hope you had a nice month, Autumn is kinda here, though Summer seems to be putting up a fight!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

odds & ends

I know you thought I was done talking about France, but I thought I'd share some random things that I noticed or found convenient on our trip:

If you get one app on your iPhone (not sure if they have this app for other types of smartphones), get this one...MetrO.

It is free and it works for 400 cities (though I only tried it for Paris) and you can use it while you have your phone on "airplane mode" (not roaming).

The 400 cities it works for have mainly train/subway type of transportation systems.

Choose the city you want to use it for.

Put in the station you want to start at (green flag) and the station you want to end at (red flag) then hit the "running man".

It will give you the shortest route to get to your destination. We used this along with a tourist map and got around pretty quickly.

If you hit the "back arrow" it will give you information for the reverse direction of what you just entered.

A ride on the Paris metro is 1.70 euros, this includes transfers as long as you don't step outside the station. (Unlike Japan's system which charges by distance and for most transfers to other modes of transportation.)

We bought a carnet (book of tickets) 10 tickets for 12.50 euros and shared it. It can be used on the Metro, RER (some areas), Bus (some areas), Tram & Montmartre Funicular.

So, you can transfer from Metro to Bus, and all sorts of combinations.

TIP: A lady at a shop told us that if you use a ticket to ride from point A to B, do your shopping and then get back on within an hour, you can use the ticket longer than you are supposed to (for 2 rides than just 1).

We tried this several times and were able to use our metro tickets longer than they are intended for.

Not too sure but I think there is a one day pass for the metro too.

I used a shoulder type bag while traveling. It was really convenient to keep an eye on my things, to have them right in front of me.

Never have your bag resting on your backside.

TIP: our tour escort gave us long twist ties to "lock" our zippers. Stick the twist tie into the eye of the zipper handle and wrap the twist tie around your bag straps. It is good for when you are at sight-seeing spots, where you may be "busy" taking photos and not paying much attention to your bag. It isn't too good if you are out shopping, p.i.t.a. to take your wallet out frequently.

In my purse I had these items...a folding umbrella, my passport holder, a wallet, pocket tissue (just in case the bathroom didn't have t.p.), sunglasses, mints (by the way, those VerMints are spicy! plus I think with the addition of ginger they help with motion sickness), iPhone, a moleskine Paris notebook (with maps and places to write addresses and notes down), a pen.

Oh and my digital camera.

Also handy were a set of utensils, this was good when we ate in our room and on our picnic.

I also brought these sachets, for my shoes. I didn't bring more than one pair of shoes, so these sachets were necessary.

If you have your own shopping bags, they are convenient too, not all markets give bags.

Ooh and bubble wrap is good to have too, especially if you buy wine or jam (or both).

Some places we picked up foods for dinner are Daily Monop', Monop', Franprix, Carrefour City, these are a combination convenience store and supermarket and sell toiletries, pre-packaged foods, alcohol, fruits and veggies. We didn't have a way to heat up food so most of the foods we bought were ready to eat.

I bought these mini-dressings by A l'Olivier at La Grande Epicerie...6.30 euros. They come in a box of 12, 4-olive oil + balsamic vinegar, 4-olive oil + citron + balsamic vinegar and 4-olive oil + basil + balsamic vinegar.

They are about 1 tablespoon (20 ml) each and I think they would be perfect if you are staying in an apartment while in Paris. I used one on roasted veggies when we came back from our trip and it was delicious.

On a side note: I noticed that all the clocks in the Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport were Rolex.

And on a funny note: This was our first time to Schiphol Airport (AMS). We had gone to Amsterdam for our honeymoon but had not gone through the airport. It is beautiful and if you have some time you should check out Rijksmuseum, it is free and a nice way to see what the museum has to offer.

The thing I really enjoyed listening to were the airlines call late passengers... "Mr. (insert name here), you are delaying the flight. Please proceed to gate (insert number) or we will proceed to off-load your luggage. Thank you".

Hope these tips were helpful, are there any specific items you travel with?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

we're 6!

I can't believe another year has passed. Even though I think the amount of my days in the kitchen this year have been kind of sparse, I'm still glad you've been a part of it.

Here's a little mosaic of some of my favorite photos of the year so far.

I hope the next year will be filled with even more travels, new recipes, good health and happiness!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011


The last time we were in Paris was on our honeymoon and it was for less than a day!

This time around, I was excited to see more of the city and more of the food of the city.

So, after a light hotel breakfast on our last full day in Paris, we started at Poilâne.

Even though this place mainly makes bread, I had wanted to try their tarte aux pommes (apple tart). This was very flaky and had just the right amount of apples.

The lady who was passing out samples of the punitions happily allowed us to take some photos inside the shop.

We also got some punitions (300 grams) but I'll talk about them a little later in this post.

Kinda around the corner from Poilâne is Le Grande Epicerie, which translates to me as gourmet supermarket heaven.

Pretty much every food item you can think of is sold here.

We picked up some items for lunch as well as some items I had been wanting to try.

I was really impressed with the cashier, she put everything carefully into our shopping bags, trying not to smash anything. This was unlike the other cashiers at places we picked up our dinner from which were similar to convenience store/market types, some would just throw everything in the bag!

Since what I bought ended up to be quite heavy, we zipped back on the metro to our hotel, dropped things off then zipped back out to Montparnasse.

There is a huge tower called Tour Montparnasse, the elevator takes you 196 meters (643 feet) up in 38 seconds.

Great view of the city! especially since the weather was so nice.

From Montparnasse, we then headed to Pont d'Alma, where I'd heard it was a nice place to take photos of the Eiffel Tower from.

It was a great spot!

We then walked toward the Parc du Champ de Mars and happened to turn up rue de Monttessuy and wow!

Another awesome view of the Eiffel Tower.

At Parc du Champs de Mars, we found a spot on the grass to picnic on, "no alcohol" say the signs though I spotted some "hiding" their stash.

We did have some wine with us but saved it for later that day and drank sodas with lunch instead.

Lunch was bread, mine was a mini-ficelle topped with poppy seeds...yum!

And our main dishes were a grilled vegetable salad and a marinated seafood salad, which we shared.

I really liked these items and Satoshi liked them even more because he kept talking about it for the rest of the day.

One thing you have to keep an eye out for while picnicking are the crows and the pick-pocketers. All were out in full force and we ate leisurely but also while clutching our bags and lids for our food.

For dessert, a little of the punitions we had purchased earlier.

I first learned about them awhile ago here, these cookies are buttery, a little sweet, yet very sturdy, we packed some for our picnic and not one crumbled.

(I also packed the rest in my suitcase to bring back to Japan and again, not one crumbled, and my suitcase was pretty stuffed!)

So after lunch, we walked under the Eiffel Tower towards Trocadero, another great view of the tower and then we zipped on the metro to the Arc de Triomphe.

We found out that you can climb to the top of the Arc, so we did...284 steps later we were at the top...eep!

It's a spiral staircase, so go slow, or you may get dizzy. And there aren't many places for you to stop and catch your breath on the way up. (no one said you needed to be in shape for sight-seeing?!)

But, the view was spectacular, especially since the weather was nice.

After all that stair climbing, we checked out Publicis Drugstore, a place for sweets as well as other items.

Then at this point, we were feeling a little hungry, so we stopped in at the McDonald's on Champs-Élysées.

I had heard they served Ladurée macarons in the McCafes and Satoshi was in the mood for a burger.

As soon as we walked in, Satoshi excitedly says..."Kat, they serve beer here!"

So, I ordered him a burger and beer and I ordered myself some macarons (caramel, citron & pistache (pistachio)) and unfortunately a very sickly sweet iced tea.

I was impressed that they had sidewalk seating for customers.

The macarons were delicious, I liked them all--caramel had a caramel center, citron had a lemony cream & pistache had a pistache cream. All were very well flavored.

After a nice snack and time to rest our feet, we then headed to Blanche, to check out A l'Etoile d'Or, a not to be missed candy shop, but sadly they were closed.

I had missed an important piece of info when I looked up this call on a Monday, because sometimes they are closed.

A little bummed, we then went on to Montmartre to see the Sacré-Coeur Basilica.

As we walked up the steep cobblestone path to the basilica, I found a little shop, La Cure Gourmande, selling nougat, calisson and other treats.

At this point, our feet weren't happy, but the basilica was beautiful. We rested twice in the pews.

We had wanted to go up to the dome area, but saw that it was 300-something steps up, looked at each other and said, "forget it".

So we headed back to the hotel, picked up some items for dinner and then readied our bags for our early departure the next day.

Even though most of our time in France was spent with a tour group and our trip was short, I think we got to see and do quite a lot.

The weather had been forecast to be rainy for most of our trip, but we were lucky to see more sunny days.

And even if the temperature was almost 20 degrees less than Osaka's (sometimes it was colder than that, brr!), I was just happy to be away from the awful humidity.

I shot a couple videos on our last day in Paris, here and here.

I hope you had as much fun as we did....Thanks for bearing with my rambles and "merci" Satoshi for taking me to Paris!

8 rue du Cherche-Midi
75006 Paris, France

La Grande Epicerie de Paris
38 rue de Sèvres
75007 Paris, France

Tour Montparnasse
33 avenue du Maine
75755 Paris, France

Publicis Drugstore
133 avenue des Champs-Élysées
75008 Paris, France

A l'Etoile d'Or (2022: out of business)
30 rue Fontaine
75009 Paris, France

La Cure Gourmande
8 rue Steinkerque
75018 Paris, France

Monday, September 26, 2011


The Palace of Versailles is yet another UNESCO World Heritage site and is about 30 minutes from Paris (if there is no traffic).

The design of the town is thought to have inspired Washington D.C. to design its city like a wagon wheel too.

Groups entering the site needed reservations and every group had either earpieces or walkie talkies to hear their tour guide speak.

Still there were tons of people all trying to photograph the same things.

We were lucky to be able to see the fountains in the garden, since apparently they aren't always on.

I was amazed that there was a Ladurée shop near the gift shop area and I purchased some tea and their rose nougat.

Right next door to the Palace was a tiny brasserie called Brasserie du Musée.

This is where we got to try galette, a savory crepe made from buckwheat flour.

Our meal started off with a slice of terrine de campagne, which sort of reminded me of SPAM.

Then the galette which was filled with ham and cheese came and it was different from the type I've tried in Japan. The buckwheat flour seemed lighter in France than in Japan.

Dessert was a cup of sliced fruits.

After lunch, we headed back to Paris for a quick city tour and then they "corralled" us all into a duty-free shop...

If you wanted to stay and shop in the duty-free store you could, but Satoshi and I went in search of a shop called Komikku, in J-town.

They sell Japanese comics in French. I wanted to get these two books because the author (who is French) drew about his adventures in Japan.

And then we were off to Rue Montorgueil to Løv Organic.

I bought a tiny tea sampler with Ginger-Lemon, Rose, Mint and 4 citrus teas, I hope they are good.

A couple of doors up is Stohrer, a beautiful but tiny shop that sells prepared foods and pastries.

Satoshi and I tried their chocolate eclair and a dark chocolate nougat...yum.

We also bought an espresso at a Daily Monop' up the street from Stohrer and had a short but much needed rest off our feet.

Satoshi then said he wanted to see the Louvre, so we got security checked and walked the shopping floor of the museum, what a massive shopping and dining area it was!

To get into the museum itself would cost about 8 euros and you'd need a lot of time to explore (at least a day or two), since we didn't have a lot of time to do this I'm glad we got to see the glass pyramid and shopping area.

After the Louvre, Satoshi wanted to go back to see the Notre-Dame Cathedral, which we had whizzed past on our city tour, so we did that too.

Then, we had the crazy idea to walk back to our hotel and got caught in a small passing shower.

It was cold, but I was happy when we stumbled on Berthillion without a long line in front, so we stopped to share a cup of melon sorbet and praline aux pignons (pine nut ice cream).

Lots of walking and eating but we only had one more full day in France...stay tuned!

Ladurée Versailles
Château de Versailles
78000 Versailles, France

Brasserie du Musée
2 place Gambetta
78000 Versailles, France

61 rue des Petits-Champs
75001 Paris, France

Løv Organic
15 rue Montorgueil
75001 Paris, France

51 rue Montorgueil
75002 Paris, France

31 rue saint Louis en l'ile
75004 Paris, France

Sunday, September 25, 2011


About two hours from Mont Saint Michel is the maritime town of Honfleur.

Between passing showers, we explored the Saint Catherine's church as well as many tiny shops.

I bought a sample of soaps from Le Comptoir des Savonniers.

They actually have several shops around France.

The owner was impressed that I knew about his shop through a Japanese magazine and that I could speak a little French, a lot of English, and Japanese.

The different fragrances of the soaps: chèvrefeuille (honeysuckle), havane vanille (a musky vanilla-tobacco fragrance), lait de figue (fig milk), huile d'argan (argan oil), rose pétales (rose petals)...they smell wonderful, I love to find new kinds of soaps!

A few steps from the soap shop, was a tiny chocolate shop, Maison La Goulue--bon-bons, biscuits, chocolates, and caramels. Put your items by type into different glassine bags and get it weighed.

We got a little bag with chocolates and my favorite were these dark chocolate covered caramels.

And we also found a Bretagne caramel creme with dark chocolate in it.

While walking near the waterfront, we enjoyed seeing everyone dig into big bowls of moules (mussels).

We only had an hour to roam around but we really liked this town.

Then it was back on the bus for a two hour plus ride to Paris.

Our dinners weren't too fancy on this trip, mainly because we were so tired from walking during the day that we didn't want to fuss looking for a place to eat at and also we really enjoyed trying different things at the tiny markets near our hotel, like this beet salad.

The next day we visited the Palace at Versailles...stay tuned (hope you aren't getting bored).

Les Comptoir des Savonniers (UPDATE:2017 no longer have a shop here)
21 rue des Logettes
14600 Honfleur, France

Maison La Goulue (UPDATE: 2017 no longer have a shop here)
29 Rue des Logettes
14600 Honfleur, France

Mercure Gare de Lyon
2 Place Louis Armand
75012 Paris, France

Saturday, September 24, 2011

mont saint michel

We arrived at Mont Saint Michel, another UNESCO World Heritage site, a little before 16:00, to get to the cathedral you need to climb up 190 stairs (I think).

Even if you make it up to the cathedral, there are many areas through out where there are stairs, so you are constantly climbing up and down.

We were happy that the sun was shining, as the weather forecast had predicted rain.

The garden area on the upper area of the cathedral was beautiful.

One thing we learned is that they are building a monorail to get from the mainland to Mont Saint Michel. I think this is to limit the amount of cars travelling to the island and also to make the island truly "an island".

I know it is to preserve the area, but somehow it seems a bit too "commercial" to me. If you want to see Mont Saint Michel "au naturel", go soon!

After all that step climbing, we were definitely ready for dinner.

Satoshi tried the cidre (cider) which is made of apples, a popular item in the area.

If you are envisioning a sweet apple cider, you will be very disappointed, this is close to a sour beer.

Dinner started with a vegetable soup, a piece of sea bass with a butter sauce on a bed of carrots, zucchini and maybe some parsnips.

Dessert was a chocolate cake that was supposed to be molten but came out awhile after it had come out of the oven.

After dinner we went out to take one more look at Mont Saint Michel at dusk.

It was so windy and cold that we wanted to take a warm bath to break the chill but the hot water in our building had run out.

I ended up taking a very quick "cold" bath then tried warming up with the hair dryer.

The bummer part of this was that the front had closed for the night.

I remembered someone blogging about having water tanks in France, so if a lot of people use the showers at the same time, the hot water runs out quickly.

Other than that and all the stair climbing, it was a fabulous day.

The next day, breakfast was an assortment of charcuterie, and an introduction to tomme noire (a uncooked, half-pressed cheese which is salted then covered with a black wax film), and saint paulin (a semi-soft cow's milk cheese similar to havarti) cheeses. To drink Dammann Freres' Ceylon tea.

After more exploring of the island, we checked out and had lunch at a hotel restaurant just off of Mont Saint Michel called La Digue.

They serve the fluffy "omelette" called the Mont Saint Michel omelette. Apparently it is similar to the one served at La Mere Poulard which I think is called La Mere Poulard omelette, but this one is just a little more reasonably priced.

We arrived there a little early than our reservation (10 minutes) and the staff were not too happy as they were in the midst of their family meal and chatting.

One waitress was so not paying attention to what she was doing that she knocked over Satoshi's glass of wine which came flying across the table and onto my coat...luckily it was a rosé, can you imagine if it were rouge (red)?!

No apologies and all she did was give me napkins so that I could wipe up my place for her to put my food down on...eep!

Anyway, the omelette was more like eating a foamy bisque. We also had some roast chicken, another omelette of sorts and some potatoes. Dessert was a piece of apple tarte.

Would I order this omelette again? Probably not, but at least we tried it.

I have a little video of the guys whipping the eggs at La Mere Poulard for the "omelette". Just click on the link here.

After lunch we were off to Honfleur, but I'll continue with that tomorrow so stay tuned...

La Mere Poulard
Grande Rue - BP18
50170 Le Mont Saint Michel, France

La Digue
BP 18
50170 Le Mont Saint Michel, France

Friday, September 23, 2011


The next morning, we woke up bright and early and had breakfast from the hotel's buffet.

Cheese with cherry jam, ham, pain au chocolat (croissant w/chocolat) and crepes with nutella.

To drink, a cup of Dammann Freres Breakfast tea.

Groggily we set out to see Chartres.

Chartres is a quaint town about an hour from Paris.

What I noticed while we rode the bus was that there were many farm fields, then towns with clusters of homes around a church, then many farm fields.

Actually the scenery, minus the big churches, kind of reminded me of Hokkaido.

Just before entering the town, the bus stopped at Jardin de Sakurai, a park located on a hillside with a sakura (cherry) tree from Japan. It was actually a good place to get a picture of most of the church.

On the day that we visited the cathedral, they were having meditation.

All the chairs are moved and a maze or labyrinth is located on the floor of the church, you walk the maze and pray, to be cleansed for your sins.

It was amazing to see so many people participating in this and apparently they only allow this on Fridays.

Another thing that was amazing were the stained glass windows.

Many of them date back to the 12th century and during the war, were removed from the church and protected in the surrounding countrysides.

Our local guide mentioned that it cost more to clean these windows than to make a new stained glass window.

I can see why it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Lunch was at L'Écume a little restaurant in Chartres.

We started off with escargot. This wasn't my first time to eat escargot but I thought these tasted kind of grassy.

Satoshi loved this because he could use french bread to soak up the sauce.

Next course was veal with a tarragon tomato sauce, very tender and the sauce delicious.

Another dish for Satoshi to mop up the sauce with more french bread.

We loved the fact that a glass of wine was only 2 euros and bread was unlimited.

Dessert was a huge scoop of cassis sorbet and a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I would've liked smaller scoops and didn't need the huge dollop of whipped cream, but really enjoyed the cassis sorbet.

After lunch, we didn't have any time to explore the town, instead we had a long drive to Mont Saint Michel...about 4 hours to be exact.

I'll continue our adventure tomorrow...

28 rue du Grand Faubourg
28000 Chartres

Thursday, September 22, 2011


From Osaka, Amsterdam was about 11 to 12 hours away.

Our flight from Osaka to Amsterdam had to be re-routed with heavy air traffic over Beijing, so I think we travelled the width of Russia...which is HUGE.

On flights this long, they fed us many many times...with lots of snacks and stuff in between too, Satoshi even had a cup of instant noodles.

Not only that but they had lots of things to watch on board too. I had seen a lot of the movies when I travelled back from Hawaii, but KLM showed many television shows too. I watched an episode of the new "Hawaii Five-O", "El Bulli (documentary)", and "Jamie's Food Escapes (Greece)".

From Amsterdam, Paris was only about 45 minutes...still, KLM gave us snacks and soft drinks.

We arrived in Paris at about 18:00 and it was drizzly, still we were able to see the tip of the Eiffel Tower from our hotel.

Around the corner from our hotel was Carrefour City, a mini-market which sold fresh fruits, veggies, prepared foods and drinks.

With all the eating we did on board, I wasn't too hungry, but apparently Satoshi was.

If you click on the photo, you can see all the descriptions of the foods we had.

I really liked the yaourt (yogurt) drink and the salad, was really big and had a lot of different "goodies" inside.

Satoshi also spotted a pastry shop, Cannelle, across of Carrefour, so we went to check it out.

He chose an ananas (pineapple) religieuse (two cream puffs filled with a pineapple filling) and I chose a caramel eclair. Both of these were very sweet and the cream puff outsides a little burnt.

It was a long day and we had to get up bright and early for a busy day of sight-seeing but I was excited to actually be in Paris.

Ibis Paris Berthier Porte de Clichy
163 Avenue de Clichy 75017 Paris

176 Avenue de Clichy 75017 Paris
Closed for lunch

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

we're back!

Bonjour! it was a short but great 5 days in France...gotta sort through photos and stuff...hope to post something soon and also catch up with everyone's blog posts and comments...à bientôt!

Friday, September 16, 2011


I think I'm hooked...The other night for dinner, I tried that recipe for kinpira again. This time using carrots, eggplant, red bell pepper and almonds.

I used the jakko again and since I didn't have cashews, topped the dish with the almonds, instead of cooking it with the veggies, this kept the nuts crunchy.

And on another night, I also tried this using pine nuts.

I really like these versions because of the addition of the nuts.

Not only that, but when you eat this with chopsticks, you need to eat kinda slowly, picking up the nuts with your chopsticks as you go along.

I didn't think Satoshi would be filled up after eating this and also served some tofu topped with kim chee, and a bowl of rice topped with some furikake...perfect dinner.

Anyway, we're off on a little vacation, I'll be off the grid and will moderate comments when I get back and since I don't have anything in my drafts, this site will be rather quiet.

Hope you have a great weekend and I look forward to seeing what you've been up to on your blogs when I get back.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I've been recycling this Oil of Olay wash cloth box for some time now.

I use it for packets of furikake.

It fits one package of assorted furikake perfectly (which is 20 packets).