Bullet Train Bento

Aah, the train bento. I don’t think I’d ever done it before, on my other trips to Japan. This time, I intended to get a proper bento, especially since I’d be traveling in the Green Car of the Shinkansen. I found some really great bento packages in a Kyoto Station grocery shop, so we bought a whole bunch of stuff and set off for our next destination: Atami.

Pictured above is lemon tea, which I actually get at the Japanese grocery store in Maryland if I’m lucky. It’s so sweet but oh so good.

Corn salad, apple juice (sort of), and chawan-mushi (a savory egg custard). Yum!

The rest:

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Cake & Akkun

So back to my Japan trip … where were we?

My brother really loves Kyoto. The last time he went, he strolled around his hotel one morning until he found a cute hole-in-the-wall type cafe for breakfast. Wishing to revisit that quaint little restaurant, he decided to go look for it again when we went to Kyoto with him last year. Of course, he had no idea what the address was, or the name of the place. We ended up walking aimlessly for many many blocks until we finally stumbled into a smallish cafe called “Cake & Akkun,” hungry and exhausted. It wasn’t quite the place he was looking for, but it was close enough, and I frankly didn’t care.

Thick pieces of toast and a side of egg seems to be a common breakfast ‘set’ all over Japan, and this place was no different. The “morning service” set consisted of butter toast, egg (boiled only: you cannot choose), and ‘etc.’ The etc. turned out to be coffee jello (mmm!) and potato salad. The set also came with your choice of drink:

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Starbucks: Shinagawa Station

I feel like there were a lot more Starbucks in Japan than the last time I was here. The menu is pretty much the same except pricier. I got a tall cappuccino for 380 yen, or about $3.82. But unlike the cappuccinos I’ve been getting at the Starbucks in DC, it actually tasted more espresso-like. In the US, don’t usually get Starbucks espresso drinks without ordering an extra shot because it otherwise tastes like milk, not coffee.

You can supposedly get free Wifi service at Starbucks stores in Japan, but I wasn’t about to connect to it, myself. The Starbucks in Shinagawa also had some food items like this quiche – which I didn’t try – and a baum cake, which is pretty ubiquitous in Japan.

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29 May 2011, 6:28pm
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Pacific Place Tea Garden

After shopping around the numerous shops at the Ala Moana Shopping Center in Honolulu, my friend and I stopped at the Pacific Place Tea Garden kiosk for a drink.

I got the matcha (green tea) latte, pictured above. I’m not sure why I got the hot version – it was pretty warm that day, and Ala Moana is an outdoor mall. Still, it was tasty enough, and I always enjoy the calming flavor of matcha. It wasn’t overly sweetened, which was nice.

My friend got something called a pink bamboo float:

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Bogart’s Café

Aloha!! You’ll have to excuse my long absence, as I’ve been living it up on the beaches of Hawaii for the last week and a half! I reluctantly left the sunny shores behind a few days ago, and I’m back at my computer ready to report on my foodie adventures in Oahu and Kauai. I tried quite a range of things during my trip, from local fare and classic Hawaiian comfort food to sushi and high tea. There were a few unfortunate low lights, but for the most part the food was excellent, and a delicious time was had by all.

I begin with Bogart’s Café, a cute little coffee shop not far from my friend’s apartment. We stopped in here on the morning after my arrival to get a pick-me-up before hitting the road to tour around Oahu.

My friends got a breakfast quesadilla to share, pictured above. You could pick the ingredients for the quesadilla, and I think my friends chose wisely with the mushroom and spinach combo. I had a bite, and it was quite tasty! A side of toast came with it.

I just got a coffee:

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Le Pain Quotidien

My first encounter with Le Pain Quotidien was in Bryant Park, New York, a couple years ago. I loved it! Even the pesto sauce in my sandwich, which was unusual for me, since I had an inexplicable aversion to pesto. I was pretty excited when the chain finally made its way to the D.C. area, and I believe the first of their local branches was the Bethesda store. I’ve popped over there several times since it opened, but this would be my first time blogging them. (^__^)v This post combines a couple visits that I made there in the last few weeks.

The decor: I like the interior quite a bit. There are high ceilings throughout and a shiny counter filled with delicious looking pastries in the front. And of course, there has to be the signature communal table, a colossal slab of reclaimed wood that dominates the center of the room. The Bethesda store has two dining areas, each one with its own communal table. I like sitting at the communal table, as it’s more spacious and comfortable.

And now for the food: Pictured above is the grilled chicken and smoked mozzarella tartine “with arugula and basil pesto.” I’m not sure that I got any arugula, and I would know because I love arugula. There was definitely some kind of green leaf, but it might have been something else. Very tasty indeed, even the pesto. XD Although, I do feel like it’s a bit pricey for what you get.

More after the jump:

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sâuçá

Out of all the Twittering food trucks of late, I’ve been most impressed by the branding and marketing of sâuçá. Take a look at their awesome website and you’ll see what I mean! I was very excited about the launch of this truck o’ food, as their menu looked so diverse and intriguing. Their dishes are inspired by cuisines from several continents, with a minor twist in that they’re served as “sâuçá” – their term for a flatbread sandwich. Their multi-colored logo is a reflection of that global concept, with each color representing a different region of the world.

They’ve been coming by the Chinatown area for a while now, and last week I finally got the opportunity to check them out. And it was great timing too! Not only was the weather sunny and fabulous, but it also happened to be the same day that NPR (I think it was NPR, anyway) was out by the truck interviewing folks on their sâuçá experience. I got to chat with the owner of sâuçá, who was very enthusiastic and pleasant. I asked him how they came up with the name, and he explained that their concept was based around sauces and having a great variety thereof. Originally, they wanted to call themselves “Sauce,” but they were told that they couldn’t trademark a real word. Thus, they changed it to sâuçá, adding a few accent marks here and there for added flair. Their abundant sauces are incorporated into their dishes, but you can also add extra if you want (they have a small fixings area next to the pick up window).

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14 Feb 2010, 1:24pm
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Azuki Pepsi

Japan gets all the funky “limited edition” Pepsi flavors. Cucumber! Shiso! (this review is pretty funny). Azuki Pepsi was released last October, and I was intrigued enough to give it a try. (Azuki is of course, sweet red bean – ubiquitous in Japanese confections).

…ugh. SO SWEET. It tasted like syrupy cherry coke. I never would have guessed it was azuki in a blind taste test. But since I knew to expect the azuki, I might have imagined a vague hint of it somewhere in the aftertaste.

Verdict: never again.

Not that I drink much Pepsi anyway.

However: I do think cucumber soda or shiso soda is a brilliant idea, if you subtracted the “Pepsi” part of it. I had a fabulously refreshing cucumber soda at SEI last year that I think ought to be bottled for the masses.

9 Feb 2010, 11:51pm
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Royal Milk Tea

Hey everyone! Hope all you Washingtonians are staying warm and safe. The winter double whammy is underway at this very moment, just outside my frosted window. Happily, the power is on, so I can actually blog this from the warmth of my home. Let’s hope it stays that way. (My whole weekend was shot from electricity outage!)

Ah, but to combat the winter, there is this: Royal Milk Tea. A fabulously sweet milky concoction that tastes like Japan. It was the first thing I had when I vacationed there almost 10 years ago, and its flavor still takes me back to the chilly streets of Tokyo, where ubiquitous vending machines sold HOT cans of coffee and tea, right alongside the chilled variety. I was amazed and confused by this marvel of a concept. A hot can! It was genius! And the perfect thing to warm me up on a blustery day in early spring.

This particular variety is the powdered version, which is super easy to make. Just mix with hot water, and done! My brother discovered Royal Milk Tea on HIS maiden voyage to Japan last year, and couldn’t get enough of this stuff. After coming back to the states, I scoured the local Asian markets and online to find a vendor who sold it here, but came up empty handed. In the end, I had to get it shipped from Japan – at great expense – but it was well worth the efforts.

It’s just got that very unique sweetness that I can’t seem to fix up in my own cup of tea.

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21 Oct 2009, 11:39pm
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Ginger & Hibiscus Cider

ginger hibiscus

One of the best things about grocery shopping is of course, nibbling on free samples. XD A few weeks ago, on my almost-weekly trip out to the local Whole Foods, I happened upon a drink stand, where they were giving out cider. Five Star Foodies, as they call themselves, had two different ciders to sample that day: hibiscus and ginger.

The ginger is definitely not for the faint of heart, as it has a spicy flavor that might not be to everyone’ liking. I of course, love ginger, so this was my kind of drink! Though I think even I could only take a small portion at a time. Made from just the basic ingredients of apple, ginger and lime juice, it tastes simple and lovely.

Their hibiscus “cider with a twist” includes apples, hibiscus, water, herbs, and orange extract. It actually tasted like a mild non-alcoholic fruit punch, not too sweet.

Loved them both, but alas, I couldn’t find them again when I went back to the store the following week. (;___;)

 
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