Yugawara Sekitei

We headed out of Kyoto to Yugawara, which is a smallish spa town in Kanagawa between Kyoto and Tokyo. A hot springs stay is a bit of an indulgence but well worth it after so many days of slogging around. Traveling can be such exhausting business! I was looking forward to a long soak and just sitting around doing nothing for a while. I think the problem with traveling is that you always feel like you have to be doing something. It’s too much pressure!

For our hot springs inn, my dad picked Sekitei, which has a few branches in various spa towns. This one was their Yugawara inn. My brother kept whining about how the inn we stayed at in Hakone a few years back was far superior, but whatever. I think every time he goes back to Japan, he just wants to revisit all the same places he loved over and over.

I will say that the food was less to my palate this time, but I’m not sure if it was just the selection of the ingredients or the culinary skill. Everything was gorgeous, at least. The package included a one night stay in their Japanese style tatami suite, 24-hour access to their hot springs (indoor and outdoor), one kaiseki style dinner and breakfast. Pictured above is the first course from the dinner. You’ll have to forgive my lack of commentary on the food, since I don’t remember a lot of the specifics! (^__^);;

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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Jun Coffee

Day 2 in Kyoto started with breakfast in some coffee shop inside Kyoto Station called “Jun.” It was a tiny little shop and one of the only ones open so early in the morning. The service there was utter crap. I’m sorry they don’t have a Yelp page so I can properly rant at the incompetence of its staff and how slow and excruciating the service was. I suppose this blog will have to do.

At least the food was okay. The salad dressing was especially yummy. That being said, why is it that a western style breakfast set is always the same wherever you go in Japan? Buttered Texas toast. Egg (usually boiled, sometimes sunny side up). Side of salad. Coffee. Not much imagination at work. Good thing I usually skip breakfast…

Pictured above is their toast with egg and bacon set. It came with a small cup of coffee.

And some places have the Japanese style breakfast sets. Fish, rice and miso soup usually make an entrance… Healthier than bacon and eggs, at least! :)

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.

More after the cut:

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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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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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Happy New Year!

new year cake

Happy New Year, everyone! \(^O^)/ Hope you had a great start to 2010, and a lovely winter holiday. I apologize for neglecting this blog for the past few weeks. I kept meaning to update, but it’s been a bit of a lazy Christmas season for me. I’m resolving to be more active hereon for the new year, and to catch up on my backlog of posts I’ve been meaning to get to for a while.

New Year happens to be the biggest holiday of the year for Japanese people, and like most celebrations, it centers around the food. Wiki has an article about the traditional “osechi” food here, which is served on New Year’s Day. My mom prepares it every year, though this year’s spread was much more scaled back than usual.

But first, we must have the “toshi-koshi” noodles on New Year’s eve:

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Tartine

tartine breakfast bun

The first of my San Francisco posts! Tartine is a lovely bakery/cafe that is every bit worth the 1.6 miles I plodded to get there. (Long story). After foolishly forgoing the bus and hauling myself a good distance on foot – something that I recommend for everyone to do first thing in the morning =D – I treated myself to yummy pastries and a hot cup of cappuccino.

It’s a lovely little shop, very quaint, though bustling. My only complaint is that that cappuccino was tiny!

Pictured above is the fabulous morning bun, sugary with a hint of citrus. I took one home, and it kept for a few days. X)

More under the cut:

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Japanese Breakfast

breakfast

I’m usually not very hungry in the mornings, and a hot cup of java is all I need. So you can say that my morning meal at the Hakone inn was an atypical one for me. Look at this spread! All this for breakfast!

In my mind, a typical Japanese breakfast is just a simple rice and miso soup pairing with maybe a small helping of pickled cucumber. Not so at the full service inn, where they pulled out all the stops. Before the food, there was green tea with pickled plum to cleanse the palate. Next came fresh tofu, heated up and solidified right at the table on a single-serve burner. The food kept coming: grilled fish, several different kinds of pickled veggies, raw shirasu fish with shiso leaf and grated ginger, slices of kamaboko fish cake with pickled wasabi, sauteed burdock, Japanese style rolled omelet with ground daikon radish. And of course, rice and miso soup (with fresh clams!). So many lovely dishes, it was almost too pretty to eat. o(^__^)o

The highlight for me was definitely the fresh tofu, which actually reminded me of a similar dish I had at Morimoto in Philadelphia. Fresh tofu is just no comparison to the blocks of tofu you’ll find in your grocer’s fridge. There’s a subtle soy flavor that you can really taste and appreciate in freshly made tofu. Love it.

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