Thursday, July 31, 2008

Japan: Snapshots

I still have a ton of photos that I took in Japan to share with you all, so here's a random selection of some of the better ones. Enjoy!

A bird's eye view of the busiest intersection in the world. Shibuya, Tokyo Japan.

Some delicious peppered pork yakitori in Sapporo, Japan.

The delciousness pictured above was made by this man in his tiny yet efficient kitchen, Sapporo, Japan.

Fountain in the city center of Nagoya, Japan.

A gaggle of bike riding girls in Nagoya, Japan.

A beautiful eki-ben (means an obento purchased at the train station) on the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagoya from Osaka, Japan.

The Mama-san of a hostess bar gives me her best pose, Osaka, Japan.

A plate of absolutely divine anago sushi at our favorite restaurant, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan.

Sushi no moriawase- a mixed selection- at the same sushi restaurant, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan.

The view from our room at the Excel Hotel, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo girls always look good but it takes a lot of work to keep it up! Coffee shop, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan.

Piping hot kani kureemu korokke , maybe the best I've ever had, at an izakaya, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Farmer’s Market Dinner

Taking a mini break from my Japan posts to share with you my dinner from last night.

I’d been wanting to make Heidi’s Sprouted Garbanzo Burgers ever since I saw the recipe in her book, Super Natural Cooking. I finally had the chance, although the sprouts lady at the Pasadena Farmer’s Market had run out of sprouted garbanzos by the time I arrived. Luckily she had some yummy smelling onion sprouts so I bought those to put in the mixture of regular, canned garbanzo beans, chopped onion, egg and a few additional ingredients which came together quickly. It was very easy to form the patties and after about 5 minutes on each side in a lightly oiled pan, they were done.

I didn’t use them as the bun part of a veggie burger (Heidi makes a good point that a beany burger isn’t exactly the best thing to put between two slices of bread and suggests putting avocado, tomato and other fillings between the two veggie patties) but served them alongside some gorgeous vegetables I purchased at the same market. A salad of spicy arugula and other baby greens, sweet corn cut from the cob, red onion, chopped chives and sweet basil went so nicely with the gigantic heirloom tomato which didn’t need much more than a drizzle of good olive oil and Maldon sea salt. The unfortunately looking avocado was actually good but got a little bruised when it found itself at the bottom of my very full market bag!

Speaking of Maldon, yes, I, too, jumped on the NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookie bandwagon and made a batch of what they call the “consummate chocolate chip cookie.” The ingredients aren’t that different from your standard chocolate chip cookie recipe minus the use of both cake flour and bread flour, plus letting your dough rest for 36 hours before baking. I made myself a small one and found it to be delicious- particularly due to the addition of a light sprinkling of Maldon salt on top. Was it the best chocolate chip cookie I’d ever had? I can’t be sure since I just haven’t eaten enough cookies in my life to really know (ask me about tuna sandwiches though, and I can be of some help!). Judging by the “MMMMMMMMMMMMMMs!” I’m hearing from my co-workers, I’m guessing this cookie does come close to being one of the best.

Ok, back to Japan posts now!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Japan: Otaru, Hokkaido

I am finally back with another Japan entry. Boy- I really am disappointed that I haven’t been able to blog lately and it’s always gnawing at the back of my mind that poor Tuna Toast is growing moldy. Thanks to the Brangelina twins’ arrival, a home remodeling project and a lot of changes at work, my life has been quite hectic lately. I’m hoping to get back on the blogging bandwagon soon!

So, as with the previous post, I would like to post a series of photos with little captions to give you a photo essay of our trip to Otaru, near Sapporo, in Hokkaido. Otaru is a port town very popular with tourists, and although we normally avoid those types of places we couldn’t travel too far due to J’s ankle injury and it was an easy train ride from our hotel in Sapporo. We actually enjoyed it quite a bit- it was a lovely day, the ocean smelled wonderful and it wasn’t too crowded. Of course there were the usual touristy restaurants and shops but overall it was a great experience and completely different from anywhere I’d been during my seven years living in Tokyo.

The 35 minute train ride from Sapporo was very scenic – with the last 10 or so minutes being right on the coast:

We arrived at Otaru station and one of the first things I noticed were these beautiful glass lanterns:

Otaru is known for their glassmaking. With the decline of the herring fishing industry in the 1950’s, the makers of glass buoys decided to get into the fine glassware business. There were many glass shops and even a place where tourists can make their own glass:

Another famous landmark in Otaru is the Kitakaro sweets shop. J and I walked in and were happy to see that many of their yummy confections available to sample, and sample we did! Kitakaro is best known for their version of Baumkuchen, a German cake made of many layers, or rings.

Kitakaro store

Also known as “The King of Cakes,” Baumkuchen, literally translated means “tree cake” and is sweet, moist and delicious with tea. You can see the pre-cut Baumkuchen here:

We also had a soft-serve ice cream cone since Hokkaido is famous for their fresh dairy products. A lot of sweets come in milk flavor, unlike the States where vanilla is the predominate ice cream of choice. The freshness of Hokkaido cream doesn’t need to be masked by any flavorings and the soft serve was so good that J and I ate it before I could even whip out my camera!

Although we didn’t stop to sit and eat a meal during our day trip, we sampled enough food to keep our tummies really happy. There we many seafood markets offering freshly grilled scallops topped with a dollop of fresh, Hokkaido butter (YUM) and a splash of sake:

We also walked into a few small historical stores like one that sells konbu, or dried seaweed, and sampled some konbu tea while looking at their vintage housewares:

….and then bumped into what seemed to be a tiny museum filled with old knives, typewriters, magazines and other tools:

After we were finished window shopping we walked off of the main shopping street toward the famous canals. Though the canals used to be bustling with small ships that had to unload the larger ships coming into the harbor, modern facilities made them obsolete and they’ve since been restored and have become one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions.

We saw a few more things, including this cool sake shop where, of course, they let us sample some of their goods. The old, wooden floorboard creaked beneath our feet as we walked through and looked at the gorgeous bottles covering the shelves:

J and I really enjoyed our time in Otaru and were glad that we decided, in spite of J’s twisted ankle, to make a go at it. It really is a beautiful little town and I’d recommend it for a half-day trip if you ever find yourself in Sapporo. Definitely go hungry- with almost all of the shops offering samples of their food, it's easy to feel satisfied even if you don't stop for a sitdown meal. In addition to the cake, scallops and sake we tried some amazing Darjeeling tea chocolates- J loved them so much that we walked by each of their three locations (all on the same street!) and got samples at each. Unfortunately they had to be refrigirated so we couldn't bring any home, but they were absolutely divine and unlike any chocolates we'd ever eaten.

More Japan reports to come, I promise!

Otaru - More Info