27 Apr 2013, 11:24am
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Kyosendo

The first day in Kyoto was a busy one with tons of walking. After we stashed our stuff at the hotel and had a bite (or several) of tempura for lunch, we hopped on a bus to Yonjo street. I had a bit of an incident on the bus… I dunno about most buses in Japan, but in Kyoto, you have to pay upon exiting. The fare is 220 yen, and you pay exact change. If you don’t have exact change, you can convert your money at a machine on the bus. Now, the conversion machine is the same machine as the one where you pay. I inadvertently threw a 100 yen piece into the conversion machine, and it immediately spit out a bunch of 10 yen coins, much to the dismay of the driver lady. Hahaha…. But hey, it was confusing! The slot was right there, next to the payment bit! But now I know, I guess…

We got off the stop and walked across a river, past the kabuki-za theater and onward towards the sites. We hit Yasaka Shrine before ambling toward Koudai Temple. (By the way, it’s either Koudai Temple or Koudaiji. It’s a bit redundant to call it Koudaiji Temple). Everything was beautiful. There were a ton people there, including quite a few school groups… Maybe it’s that season of the year. We attempted to see Kiyomizu Temple but it was already evening and closing up for the day. Instead, we stopped in at a dessert shop called Kyosendo for a much needed respite. My feet were killing me at this point.

Kyosendo had a shop in the front to buy dessert gift packages and a cafe in the back for dining in. The colorful menu had all kinds of Japanese desserts listed, mostly in “sets.” A set basically meant it came with a drink. You could also order something “tanpin” or “individually” if you wanted an item by itself. There was some confusion when my brother ordered one set and one other thing individually, because the second thing wasn’t “individual” at all. It took a moment to realize that even the solo items come with a complimentary tea.

Pictured above is the sakura-mochi set, which came with a bowl of matcha – very thick green tea. It was just near the end of cherry blossom season, so a lot of places still had their sakura specials on the menu. :)

All of these pictures were taken on my brother’s Fuji X100, which means he probably took most of them.. I might’ve taken a few as well, but I don’t remember exactly which.

The rest:

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Tea House Lipton

After crashing in Tokyo for one night, I was off to Kyoto the next morning on the Shinkansen (bullet train). The Green Car was very nice, indeed. It was roomy and comfortable, and I was feeling very relaxed after a long journey. The train I was on had no Wifi or power outlets, however. I’m not entirely sure I’d splurge on Green Car next time.

Kyoto Station is a behemoth, and it took me several days to get oriented on where things were. There’s the Isetan department store (11 floors of shopping), cafes, restaurants, book shops, food stores, souvenir shops…you could spend a whole day inside the station alone. There’s also the Porta underground mall adjacent to the station. We only ventured in briefly one morning, but almost everything was still closed. The Tea House Lipton was open, however, and my brother bought a few pretty looking pastries for the road.

…by the way, not all restaurants do takeaway in Japan. Most cafes do, I think, but it’s always safe to ask ahead.

Pictured above is the strawberry “candle” cake made with custard cream. We had this with a cup of Cafe du Monde coffee in Kyoto Station.

Also:

A cream puff! I think cream puffs need to catch on and be the next cupcake donut of the local fads. I propose a Beard Papa cream puffs branch for DC, pronto!

Photos in this post taken by my brother

Pinkberry

I love Pinkberry. I think the froyo trend is kind of overrated, but I have to make an exception for this place, because their frozen yogurt is the bomb. It’s not too mouth puckeringly tart, and it still tastes like it’s not a thousand calories. (I don’t actually know though – I’ve never checked the data). I work near one, which is pretty dangerous. Thankfully it’s been a little too cold lately so I haven’t been showing up there every week.

My favorite is the mango, and though they always have an ample selection of toppings to choose from, I usually only get two items: the mochi and the homemade gummy bears. The mochi doesn’t really taste like much but I love the chewy texture of it. The gummy bears are quite possibly the best I’ve ever had, and they’re coated in a crust of sugar.

I also love that these come in a ‘mini’ size, which is usually just the right amount for me when I need a quick sugar fix!

Merry Christmas!

WOW. Okay, so I’m an utter blog failure. After being away for so long, it gets harder and harder to come back, haha. However, I do have a whole lot of stuff on my computer that I can post, if only I remember the meals themselves. And with the year coming to an end and all, it seems as good a time as any to start again. Hopefully I’ll be posting more regularly for 2012…or at least that’s the plan. ♥

Meanwhile, I hope everyone has been having a great holiday and Christmas! It always feels a bit anti-climatic when Christmas falls on a weekend. It’s a day off ANYWAY so it doesn’t feel special at all. And tomorrow is back to the grind, which is no fun at all. The week between Christmas and New Year is kind of a drag, too. I didn’t really do anything too special this year. Being Japanese means Christmas is just about presents, more or less. (We’re more New Year’s people, and even that has been more and more low-key in my family in recent years). But I always try to get a log cake since it’s any excuse for seasonal sweets is a good one.

I got it from Les Delices bakery again this year. Last year’s Bûche de Noël was from there as well, and I had been a bit disappointed by the mildness of the praline cake. I decided to go with the classic chocolate this year, and it was definitely much better! The vanilla cake was very moist and soft, and the chocolate mousse icing whipped and wonderful. Not too sweet, which seems to be a pretty consistent trait with the bakery items at Les Delices.

More pics under the cut, including a poached pear tart, also from the same bakery:

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28 Aug 2011, 11:25pm
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Kaz Sushi Bistro

Hey everyone! Hope you all survived Hurricane Irene this weekend! I lost power for about three hours early this morning, but other than that, things are pretty much back to normal. I’m quite shocked that the outage didn’t last longer. Pepco is either stepping up at last, or things weren’t as bad as expected around here. I’m accustomed to being out of power for days in such situations, though “accustomed” doesn’t mean it’s any less annoying…

In any case, hello again! I figured it would be quite remiss of me to end August without having blogged once during this month, so here I am. (^__^)/

Today I’m posting about Kaz Sushi Bistro, a place that I actually went to a few years ago and just had a so-so impression of at the time. I’m not sure why that was. Maybe it had something to do with high expectations. I went there shortly after a presentation I’d seen at the Smithsonian on Japanese cuisine, where Chef Kazuhiro Okochi and the illustrious Chef Masaharu Morimoto both did presentations. (This included an awe-inspiring demo of Morimoto breaking down a large fish with masterful knifing skills. It’s not the same watching him on TV vs live-action. I was in the presence of greatness). I am a huge fan of Morimoto, so when I heard that he’d sat down with Kaz at his restaurant and talked shop with him, my expectations just skyrocketed. Perhaps this was somewhat unfair. Regardless, I just never had a chance to try Kaz’s for a second go, so I went back again about a month ago, with optimism.

It probably helped that I was with an equally enthusiastic food-lover (the “Digital Nomad” Drew). I find that when you dine with other food aficionados, the meal just ends up tasting better. Such was the case this time.

Pictured above is the sushi we ordered a la carte. They were all quite fabulous, though my particular favorites were the sweet shrimp and the Walu (Hawaiian white toro). Everything was fresh and tasty. The rolls could have been a little more tightly bound, as some were falling open at the seam, but the flavors were spot on, at least.

The rest after the jump:

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Les Delices Bakery

A friend of mine highly recommended a bakery in Rockville called Les Delices a while back. (I did a post on their Christmas cookies a few months ago). I love this place! It’s off of Gude Drive in Rockville, in a rather smallish strip mall. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but once you walk in and the buttery aroma wafts around you, you know you’ve come to the right place. ♥

I’ve only tried their mango and black currant cakes so far, and they’re both quite delicious! Pictured above is the black currant cake. It was a great balance of tart and sweet. I loved that it wasn’t too heavy or cloying!

Remember to bring cash, as they don’t take credit cards there.

A few more pics:

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Easter

Happy May Day everybody! I’m veering off my slowly trickling Hawaii posts to write about last week’s tour de force of culinary mastery known as the Easter Pot-luck Dinner of Epicness. Hosted by my friends who also brought you their Christmas Dinner (where, if you recall, we couldn’t congratulate ourselves enough for a job well done), the event was filled to the brim with so much food and fabulosity that the guests hardly knew what to do with it all. And to make matters even more intense, we had a rowdy game of Taboo afterward that I don’t think I’ve recovered from yet. (Ever notice that when you’re playing this game, your voice keeps rising and rising until you realize you’re screaming at the top of your lungs? I think somehow this contributes to the effectiveness of your strategy, because everyone gets so crazed that they shout back anything, everything that comes to mind, and ONE of those things has to be the right answer!!)

Pictured above is the ham, which our lovely hostess made using Alton Brown’s City Ham recipe. Alton is always a good bet, and it certainly was the case here. The ham actually came out quite late in the evening, but I still scarfed down a few succulent slices despite the fact that I’d already eaten enough food for 3 people. The crust was wondrous and crispy, and the meat perfectly cooked.

The rest:

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Panya

After dinner, we headed into Waikiki to meet up with my friend B, who – quite coincidentally – happened to be vacationing in Honolulu at the same time as myself! o(^__^)o We met up at the Panya in the Royal Hawaiian Center. This Panya is a relatively new branch and is small – it’s just bakery items and coffee. The Panya branch in Ala Moana is more like a restaurant. (I had lunch there on my last day, which I’ll be posting about later).

[I have to say, it makes me LOL a little that some websites are even worse than I am re: updating. The Panya website’s monthly feature is catering for Thanksgiving! Ahahaha. XD]

I got the bread pudding (pictured above). It wasn’t so bad, but it was a bit dense and a little cold to boot, which made it difficult to enjoy. It came with a lovely creamy sauce, which I made the mistake of pouring all over the pudding. The sauce flooded over the tiny container and onto the table, making a big mess of things. I ended up taking most of it home. I warmed it up the next day, and it was much, much better. Bread pudding should always be served warm, in my view! It had soaked up all the sweet sauce from the night before, and the heating managed to soften up the pudding and bring out its flavors.

There was also tiramisu:

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Holiday Cakes

What’s any holiday without a tasty cake to celebrate it? Every Christmas for the last few years, I’ve gotten a Bûche de Noël – Christmas log cake – and each year I try to get them from different bakeries.

This year I decided to try one from the aforementioned Les Delices bakery in Rockville. They had a choice of praline or chocolate, and I went with the former (pictured above). I thought it was okay…maybe a little subdued in flavor? At least the icing wasn’t too oily or thick, but it left me feeling like it could’ve been a little sweeter. Perhaps the chocolate was the way I should’ve gone.

More after the jump:

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19 Oct 2010, 8:00am
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Point Chaud

I dropped in to Point Chaud Café & Crêpes (website under construction) on 14th Street a few weeks ago. Places like this make me wonder why there aren’t more crêperies in this area! The crêpe is the perfect café food. It’s fast, it’s sweet, it’s savory…and it can be eaten on the go or savored slowly over a hot cup of your favorite beverage.

The menu at Point Chaud is just a long list of suggested combinations. Customers are welcome to pick and choose whatever ingredients they want. I would take forever if left to my devices, so on my visit here, I went ahead and picked something straight off the menu – the honey and almond powder crêpe.

It was absolutely lovely. The crêpe was airy and light, the honey was just sweet enough, and bits of crushed almonds added a nice bite. I had a frothy cup of cappuccino with it. My only wish is that there was more, but the “to stay” portion of cappuccino only came in one size.

19 Aug 2010, 8:44pm
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sweetbites

I was pretty excited when I heard that there was going to be another sweets truck coming to DC, especially since this one served more than just cupcakes! Unfortunately, the Sweetbites Truck never came around to my part of the city. (-___-) Finally, I just had to seek it out myself! I took an extended lunch a few weeks ago and metro’d over to Farragut Square to snag myself some sweetness. X)

I ended up getting only cupcakes after all, since the non-cupcake items I had wanted to try had already been sold out. Pictured above is the cookies and cream cupcake, described as having “creamy Oreo-infused frosting swirled atop a rich Belgian chocolate cupcake.” It’s topped off with a half-Oreo. It looked so good I had to scarf it down right there in the park! The icing was oozing from the sweltering heat but still tasted fabulous.

I had to set the cupcake down on a flat surface to photograph, so I grabbed the only thing I had on me at the time. (Any guesses as to what book that is? Lol).

I got one more cupcake:

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3 Jun 2010, 8:20pm
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Warabi Mochi

Ah…muggy DC summer has arrived. I feel like we’ve hit the 90’s way too early this year. We’re barely into June, and we’ve already had several days where it’s so humid it’s hard to breathe! A cool, refreshing dessert is much needed and deserved in times like these. *nods* (^__^)

The Japanese dessert “warabi mochi” is technically not mochi (rice cake) at all, but made from konnyaku, a transparent jelly type thing. It’s a big Kansai (Western Japan) thing where my own folks are from. The konnyaku itself doesn’t really have much flavor on its own, so it’s usually served with kinako, a powdered soybean flour. Kinako has this vaguely sweet, nutty flavor to it that provides a strange but not really undesirable contrast to the wet and slinky konnyaku.

If you like very sweet desserts, this probably won’t be your thing. But it’s nice and light for a hot summer’s day.

A few more pics:

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25 Apr 2010, 11:07am
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Häagen-Dazs Amaretto Almond Crunch

Spotted this new “limited edition” Häagen-Dazs Amaretto Almond Crunch at the grocery store and I had to snap it up! Almond liqueur has a sweet and distinct flavor that I absolutely adore, so I was very excited to try it as an ice cream flavor.

They added almond brittle in this Häagen-Dazs version, which I actually enjoyed. I usually prefer ice cream without much thrown into it, which is why Ben & Jerry’s usually is not my thing. (Too much to chew on…it makes my teeth hurt). But the brittle wasn’t so overwhelming here, and the caramel and almonds added a nice layer of sweetness. In short, I loved it! ♥

Picture under the cut:

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8 Apr 2010, 10:38pm
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ACKC Chocolates

After dinner at Cork, my friend and I headed a few blocks down to ACKC (Artfully Chocolate Kingsbury Confections) to get (what else) chocolates! Part of their shop is a chocolate counter with an ever changing selection of various truffles. They’re $2 a piece, and of course, you can mix and match, which is all part of the fun. (The other half of the shop is a cafe, and they serve up some very rich and interesting hot chocolates!)

I got a box of six tuffles, and they were (clockwise from the bottom left) fleur de sel, honey ginger, amaretto marzipan, pomegranate, champagne, and white peach. I still haven’t tried the first two yet, believe it or not, but the rest were very tasty indeed. ♥ I expected a little more of that almondy flavor in the marzipan, and the pomegranate was just kind of tart and not really particular to pomegranate. I did think the chocolate was nice and smooth though, and not too sweet. The white peach was interesting, as it had a jelly-like center. (^__^)v

4 Apr 2010, 9:48am
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Häagen-Dazs Lemon Ice Cream

Aaah…Häagen-Dazs. Their ginger ice cream was my first ever blog post here. (^__^)v Last weekend, I discovered a new flavor from their “five” series…lemon. I was so excited to try this! I had seen lemon gelato or sorbet before, but never an ice cream.

This was heavenly! It was rich and creamy, as you can expect from their fabulous “five” series, and there was just the right amount of tartness from the lemon. It tasted a bit like a lemon curd dessert. The little bits of lemon peel added some nice texture. I hope this will be a permanent addition to their flavors!

A pic under the cut:

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