Saturday, January 31, 2015

foodie thursday in maiko

Thursday, I got together with my host-mom and my host-brother's wife for lunch. It's that time of year for our birthdays, so my host-mom took us to a buffet at the Maiko Villa hotel.

The last time we came here was when my host-brother and his family moved from Tokyo to Hyogo...some 10 years ago?!

This buffet was good! You don't have to stand up and go through a buffet line, instead, you order what you want from their menu.

I think we ordered "almost" everything on the menu...

After lunch, we went for coffee on the 14th floor.

It looks out at the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge...amazing views! Too bad the weather was overcast.

Oh, the bouquet up top is what I gave to my host-mom for her birthday, she said she really liked the colors.

It was a nice day, lots of good food and good conversation.

Thank you!

Maiko Villa
Umihotaru (Chinese restaurant)
Key West (14F lounge)
18-11 Higashi Maiko-cho
Tarumi-ku, Kobe

p.s. today is the start of the Chinese New Year...Kung Hee Fat Choy!

Friday, January 30, 2015

just in case...

Just in case you're planning to come to see the cherry blossoms this is a forecast that came out on January 23rd. (click on the photo to see a bigger version)

I subtitled the cities and the dates are written underneath. For Sapporo, Niigata and Sendai, they haven't come up with a date yet.

Even though the days are still quite cold, Spring is coming...whoo!

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

le bois

Yesterday I had an errand to run so I was in the Kitahama area. I stopped into Le Bois for lunch.

It had been nearly a year since my last visit.

I really like this cafe, super quiet. (well, until a group of chatty women came in...)

I ordered their pâté lunch...1080 yen (tax included).

This came with a piece of their cake salé (savory cake) with olives, hazelnuts and a little ham.

The plate came filled with a tiny cup of their cream soup, some pickles, their potato salad, three large slices of sourdough bread and two slabs of their pâté.

I was quite full after the first slab of pâté, so I asked the waitress if I could take the rest home. She wrapped up my leftover pâté, a slice of bread and the potato salad.

To end the meal they gave me a hazelnut cookie with my espresso.

I froze the pâté and will use it in bánh mì another day.

This place definitely doesn't disappoint.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Recently the fruit/vegetable stand I go to had beautiful avocados from Mexico. Usually at the big supermarkets we pay 100 yen or so for a teeny orb, but this time the fruit/veggie stand was selling 2 for 250 yen and they were at least 2 times bigger!

I got this idea from Rachel's blog, La Fuji Mama.

Take a piece of bread and toast it.

Mash up an avocado with some lemon juice.

Top it with an egg cooked to your liking.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner is served.

NOTES: so simple but so delicious! I mashed my avocado with some lemon juice and a little balsamic vinaigrette. I also added a little ground black pepper. I topped my toast with an over-easy egg. And the bread I used was a walnut raisin. I have to admit I added a little too much lemon juice, so it was puckery, but for breakfast, it really woke me up!

What have you been eating?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

pop gourmet popcorn

I wrote about Pop! Gourmet popcorn previously here and here.

Since Valentine's is coming up, some stores brought in a new flavor, their infused chocolate caramel with sea salt.

Love this one!

The chocolate coating is infused with caramel (or is it the other way around?!) making it more like a toffee coating. And there is just the right of sea salt sprinkled on each piece.

Like I said when I posted this on Instagram..."I'm glad it was a single serving, after tasting a couple, I wasn't about to share"

I'm really glad I got to try this one.

How is your week going?

Monday, January 26, 2015


After coming back from Shimabara, I mentioned that besides the mikan-zuke there was also zabon-zuke made from pomelo.

During January and part of February, the train line that we ride, Hankyu, is having a Nagasaki fair inside of the Umeda station.

Last week was Shimabara and it gave us a chance to pick up the zabon-zuke.

This one was made by a different confectioner called Buntando.

The texture of the zabon-zuke reminded me of tong guo, the candied fruits and veggies for Chinese New Year, but boy was this bitter!

I'm glad we got to try this but will stick to buying mikan-zuke.

13 Shimokawajiri-machi
Shimabara, Nagasaki
Phone: 0957.62.2088 (toll free number: 0120.62.2085)

Friday, January 23, 2015

chicken (meatball) soup for the soul

It's been quite rainy and gloomy the past couple of days.

I usually plan ahead and stock up beforehand so that I don't have to go out in the bad weather, but didn't get a chance to do so this time around.

So I walked in the rain to the market, thinking about what to make for dinner.

It had to be soup I thought...then meatballs popped into my head.

I picked up some chicken breast and used the veggies that were in my fridge.

I whizzed the chicken with a nub of ginger and an egg.

Then I diced half a carrot, part of a red bell pepper, and some maitake.

I also chopped up a couple leaves of cabbage.

In a pot, I added 4 cups of water and a bouillon cube.

Then on medium heat, I cooked everything for about 5 minutes.

I then scooped out chicken meatballs into the pot and let them cook with the veggies, scraping the scum that formed on top.

After another 5 minutes, I checked to make sure that the meatballs were cooked and added a couple drops of chili oil and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.

Then, just before serving I threw in some chopped frozen green onion.

Dinner was fast, easy and really comforting.

The addition of ginger to the chicken meatballs gave it a nice zing.

Hope the sun comes back soon and hope you have a nice weekend!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

foodie wednesday in osaka

Got to meet up with Fiona yesterday for a late lunch.

It's been about a year since we last met, so there was lots to catch up on.

There's something about the cold weather that makes me crave spicy foods especially curry.

Bindu caught our eye so we tried their lunch.

We both got the B-set...1050 yen (tax included)

This comes with your choice of curry (I chose keema egg while Fiona chose their prawn curry)

You can also choose the amount of heat for your curry (I chose the regular amount while Fiona chose medium)

Lunch also comes with a salad, a piece of chicken tikka (super moist) and their kebab (nice flavors).

There was also some rice and a dollop of chutney/salsa that was really nice, not spicy but really fresh and flavorful.

The naan was HUGE, I liked the crisp parts and the airy-ness to it.

This was our first time here and everything was delicious!

After lunch, we took a little walk around to see what other restaurants were on the floor and then we went into Eikokuya for something sweet.

I've been to Eikokuya before but this one was nice because it looks out onto Osaka. Too bad the weather wasn't a little nicer, it was quite overcast.

We shared this waffle and had warm beverages (I had coffee while Fiona had ginger milk tea)...1950 yen (tax included)

Despite the weather, it was a great day, lots of good food and lots of chatting.

It had been awhile since I've been to the Grand Building, so it was nice re-connecting with it.

Thanks for a great day Fiona!

Hankyu Grand Building 30F
Phone: 06.4709.0021
Open when Grand Building is

Hankyu Grand Building 30F
Phone: 06.6315.9213
Open when Grand Building i

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

tower of babil

Tried a curry place yesterday called Tower of Babil.

Tiny shop located in the Tanimachi area.

Actually my first choice for lunch was closed, so I scrambled to find a place the sign!

They have 2 types of curry...a meat curry and a bean curry.

I chose the meat curry which was lamb kalbi...850 yen (tax included).

Lots of spices and the meat was super tender.

I appreciated that the owner/chef took our orders in the order that we entered the shop and also served us in that order too!

Next time I want to try their spice rice which is Thai rice flavored with spices.

You can also get half and half (half bean and half meat) though it will cost a little more.

Pickled cabbage and water are self-serve.

Share your table, since seats are limited...only 10 or 11 in the whole shop! Also, it's a "one-man" operation, so be prepared to wait for your lunch.

Cozy on a wintry day, I'll be back!

Tower of Babil
2-4-5 Tokui-cho, Excel Uchihonmachi Heights 1F
Chuo, Osaka
Phone: 090.6234.8264
Lunch only: 11:30-15:00 (sometimes they close earlier if they run out)
Closed Sundays & Holidays

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

world wine museum

The weekend before our anniversary, we had lunch at the World Wine Museum (WWM).

If you remember we checked out the World Beer Museum.

The food is better at the WWM, but the wine portions, yikes!...they need to have the mandatory fill lines on the glasses like Germany apparently has.

Satoshi had a glass of German white while I went with an Italian sparkling.

We had the snapper carpaccio.

Duck with a mustard sauce.

Crab, tuna & avocado salad.

Shrimp Ajillo (shrimp cooked in olive oil)...we had to pay extra (250 yen) to get bread with this...

and a basket of fries (these could've been crispier).

My favorite dish was the ajillo but am still in shock about having to "buy" bread to go with it, shouldn't it come with?!...

Satoshi also had a glass of German damage was 9000-something yen.

Pricey for lunch, but it was before our anniversary, so...

We're glad we tried this place, dunno that we'll be back soon though.

World Wine Museum
Grand Front Osaka North Building B1F
Umeda, Osaka
Phone: 06.6371.6978
Hours: 11:00-23:00, Open when Grand Front Osaka is

Monday, January 19, 2015

sunday dinner

Awhile back, I made mille feuille in my frying pan with a cover.

On a recent trip to visit MIL, I asked Satoshi to look for a donabe (clay pot) amongst her "stash".

She had several and Satoshi brought home this one made by Ginpo. These are made in Japan and are very sturdy (and heavy!). They hold heat well.

Last night we had mille feuille for our Sunday dinner, made in the donabe.

I had to adjust my recipe because this pot holds more liquid.

Instead of 1.5 cups of water, I used 6 cups. The flavors were a lot lighter but since Satoshi is watching his sodium, it was just right.

We had this with beer.

And at the end, I re-heated the soup, added some rice and egg to make a dish called Ojiya (which is also known as Zosui--a porridge of rice and veggies).

You might be wondering what the difference between zosui/ojiya and okayu is? Well, Okayu is just the porridge of rice (plain, if you will). Zosui/ojiya is a rice porridge that is seasoned with condiments like miso, shoyu or salt.

Dinner was easy to put together and I can see why lots of families like to make this during the winter.

I think we'll try other dishes in this donabe (clay pot) for our Sunday dinners in the coming weeks.

Have a nice week!

Sunday, January 18, 2015


They were having a masking tape fair at Hankyu Department store the other day...

How cute was the MINI all dressed up in the tape?!

I didn't buy any this time around, but my "stash" has grown a bit since the last time I wrote about it.

Have you tried the different masking tapes?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

virtual hugs

Remembering this day.

It's been 20 years since that horrific earthquake.

Sending virtual hugs to Kobe and their surrounding areas today.

Friday, January 16, 2015


Phil is in town. He contacted me to have lunch the other day.

After waiting for a table, we had a nice lunch at Cercle in Nakazaki-cho...950 yen (tax included)

Starters were their sweet potato soup, a pâté with pickles, broccoli terrine and some kind of mousse.

We both chose the chicken roti. This was served with a porcini and assorted mushroom sauce.

The tables all have these cute drawers for you to get your utensils and other things like plates and napkins from.

The shop is tiny and the portions of food are kinda tiny too.

Even if the food was good, guys (and maybe some gals), I think you may be hungry after eating here...

We then went for coffee at Utena...400 yen (tax included)

This cafe is very laid back and quiet, with jazz playing in the background.

Loved the interior, really retro.

Omiyage (souvenirs) from Phil.

Since we last met, he's been working in Lyon, France, he was so sweet to bring me a foodie French magazine and some chocolates by Chocolat des Princes (a local chocolatier).

I've been using google translate to read the magazine...

I couldn't believe how many chocolates fit inside that box! I shared with Satoshi, they were delicious! (click on the photo to see what each one was)

It was a great day, lots of catching up, lots of good food!

Thanks for a great day Phil! Enjoy the rest of your stay in Japan.

Lots of re-connecting this week, have a nice weekend everyone!

3-1-8 Nakazaki
Kita, Osaka
Phone: 06.6373.6232
Lunch: 11:30-15:00, Dinner: 18:00-22:00
Closed Tuesdays

1-8-23 Nakazaki-nishi
Kita, Osaka
Phone: 06.6372.1612
Hours: 13:00-22:00
Closed Mondays & Tuesdays

Chocolat des Princes
49, rue Franklin
69002 LYON

Thursday, January 15, 2015

15 years

(photo taken at Keukenhof Gardens on our honeymoon) 15 years together...

Thank you for always being there during the good times and the not-so good times.

Looking forward to many more adventures together.

Love you!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Spent part of the day catching up with my friend, Aya today.

She recently moved back to Osaka. We've kept in touch through nengajo (New Years cards) as well as social media.

I hadn't realized it had been close to 10 years since we've seen each!

Lots of changes, lots of catching up and lots of good food.

Thanks for a great day Aya!

p.s. that tarte was from Qu'il Fait Bon

Monday, January 12, 2015

on the lanai

It's a holiday today (Coming of Age Day), so just a short post.

The ranunculus that I planted seems like it will start blooming soon...whoo!

Have a nice week!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

beef bourguignon

You ever have a bottle of wine that you didn't really like? That was me the other week. We visited MIL and she had a box of wine that was made in Japan.

So far, all the wine we've had that was made in Japan, was too young. Not enough body, not enough oomph.

She "made" us take the bottle home with us. I didn't want to drink anymore of I cooked with it.

I know you're supposed to cook with wine you'd want to drink, and yet couldn't see myself throwing it out.

I used a recipe I found on the internet by Sapporo Beer (their picture looks way more delicious!).

300 grams beef (for curry or stew), cubed
1/2 onion, sliced
6 mushrooms
1 clove garlic
flour, to coat meat
1 tablespoon oil
bouquet garni (parsley stems, celery, dried thyme)
2 cups wine
1/2 cup water
parsley to garnish
snow peas, blanched

Thickener: mix together into a paste
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon honey

Blanche the peas, get parsley ready for garnish (leaves only), use the stems for bouquet garni
Coat the meat with flour, salt and pepper
Slice the onion thin, set aside
In a pot, heat the oil, garlic and meat on medium heat and sear
Take the meat out.
Saute the onion and return the meat to the pot
Add the bouquet garni, wine and water
Turn the heat up to high and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes, scraping the scum
Put the cover on and turn the heat to low
Cook for about 10 minutes
Add the mushrooms
Cook for 30 minutes
Add the thickener and bring everything to a boil
When the sauce thickens, turn the heat off
Garnish dish with parsley and snow peas and serve

NOTES: In Japan, they label meats for what they could be used for, "stew, curry", "katsu". So, if I ever needed to cook this in Hawaii, I probably wouldn't know what cut of meat to buy...
This dish was crazy! I was so close to burning it and us not having anything for dinner.
Not only that but the whole thing turned purplish from the wine...ew! For the bouquet garni, I didn't have any fresh thyme, so I used dried, I put all the aromatics into a tea bag, so I could retrieve it after cooking.
In the end, it tasted okay, the meat was tender and we used up the "junk" wine.
Dunno that I would make this again, though.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

preserved lemon chicken

A couple of weeks back, I preserved a lemon in salt because I wasn't planning to use it any time soon and I didn't want it to rot before I had a chance to use it.

Actually preserved lemon is trending here. Growing up, my mom used have a huge jar of preserved lemons outside, she never cooked with it, instead we used to eat a little of it whenever our throats were sore.

I found a recipe to use the preserved lemons and adapted on it.

Preserved Lemon Chicken adapted from Dancyu makes 6 servings

2 huge chicken thighs (with skin, no bones), cut each thigh into 3 pieces
3 prunes
3 apricots
6 olives
6 wedges of preserved lemon
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons of the preserved lemon juice
4 tablespoons whiskey
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
olive oil

Put the first 8 ingredients together and marinate for at least half a day.
Put the thinly slice onions and mushrooms in a baking dish
Lay the chicken, fruit and olives on top of the onions and mushrooms
Drizzle some olive oil over the chicken
Bake the chicken (uncovered) in a 180C(350F) for 30 minutes. And then under the broiler for 7 minutes.

NOTES: this was good, I would use slices of preserved lemon rather than wedges. I flipped the chicken around every time I opened the refrigerator door. The original recipe directs you to sear the chicken in a pan then bake-off. Next time, I would cook everything in a frying pan. I served this with quinoa and broccoli. I have a little more preserved lemon and will make this again.

Friday, January 09, 2015


The next morning, there was a haze, which seemed liked fog.

The breakfast buffet had slim pickings...mostly pre-packed stuff that was re-heated...

After walking the town a little, we caught the train to Minami-Shimabara.

This is apparently where Ryoma Sakamoto landed in 1864 to travel to Nagasaki City.

And then we walked to the port area because we wanted to check out the fish market, Funabito Tottoto.

We had intended on eating an early lunch, but they weren't serving anything until 11:00.

So, we just bought some frozen sardines roasted in olive oil & garlic.

These are good. We've had them with our New Years' foods and also in a pasta.

From Fujita Cherry Mame, we bought these seasoned fava beans, which they call "cherry mame".

I'm not too sure why they call them by this name.

There were sweet ones and savory ones in the sampler packet we bought...we liked the savory ones best because they were crunchy. The sweet ones were coated with sugar and were a bit stale.

Tatsumiya Sohonten makes a tora-maki.

A light sponge cake wraps smooth sweet bean paste. We agreed that they didn't need to coat the outside with granulated sugar.

and a mikan-zuke.

A whole mikan (tangerine) that is dried and covered with granulated sugar. This was similar to orange peel. They also make a zabon-zuke (pomelo), we should've bought some of that to try too.

From Shimabara it took us about an hour to get to Isahaya.

Most of our guide books had nothing written up about Isahaya, so we grabbed a couple of pamphlets at the train station and went in search of lunch.

We found a huge unagi restaurant up a steep hill called Uoso.

Satoshi had their sashimi.

I ordered their Isahaya sushi, which was seasoned shiitake and kanpyo (gourd) mixed into the rice. Shiso placed in the center and topped with Uoso's kabayaki unagi.

The sushi is a pressed type of sushi rather than a rolled or hand-molded sushi.

I really liked this, the flavors were balanced, not overpowering.

Satoshi also ordered their una-zen. (ooh-nah-zen)

This was served in a Kyoto raku style dish, the dish holds hot water in the base to keep the unagi hot all the way through the meal.

I also ordered the u-maki. (ooh-mah-key).

The unagi they use is prepared lightly (edo-mae style) and is put into their omelette. The photo in the menu looked small, but when this arrived at the table it was HUGE!

Since we had some time before our train, we walked along the river until we reached the Spectacle bridge.

This one was larger than the one we saw in Nagasaki City. We also realized that we didn't go across the one in Nagasaki city.

On the way back to the train station, we stopped in at Tsukasa to pick up some of their okoshi (puffed rice). Peanut (on the left) and Isahaya (black sugar) on the right.

Not as light as some I've tried before, these kinda stick to your teeth.

And then it was time to go back. From Isahaya, it took about and hour and 40 minutes to Hakata and then 3 hours back to Osaka.

We were happy that the weather turned out to be nice the whole time. We did lots of walking, lots of eating! I hope you enjoyed this adventure as much as we did.

Have a nice weekend!

Funabito Tottoto
451 Minato-shinchi-machi
Shimabara, Nagasaki
Phone: 0957.63.9911
Lunch: 11:00-15:00, Dinner: 17:30-20:00

Fujita Cherry Mame
1850-8 Imagawa-machi
Shimabara, Nagasaki
Phone: 0957.63.1100
Hours: 10:00-17:00

Tatsumiya Sohonten
275 Nakagumi-machi
Shimabara, Nagasaki
Phone: 0957.62.3127
Hours: 8:30-17:30

3-41 Uzu-machi
Isahaya, Nagasaki
Phone: 0957.22.0039
Hours: 11:00-21:00

Tsukasa Honten
5-5 Eisho-higashi-machi
Isahaya, Nagasaki
Phone: 0957.22.2380
Hours: 8:30-18:30
Closed 1st and 3rd Thursdays