Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July Update

It's well and truly summer now. We're had several days above 90 degrees, and last week the cicadas came out. If the last couple weeks are any indication it's shaping up to be a brutally hot summer too. Everyone I've talked to agrees, it's already hotter than the last two summers at least.

Perversely, my mind keep daydreaming of fall - grapes and pears and fall leaves and hiking (for some reason hiking seems like a fall activity). Then I have to remind myself it's only the middle of July.

But, July is my birth month, and it's been fun celebrating. There's been lots of good food and fun with friends.

This guy knows how to do summer

Summer Cooking - Corn Tacos with Zucchini  Radish Slaw  

Pre-birthday lunch (delicious Greek food not pictured)

Pre-birthday Desserts with Raku
Just look at the detail - tiny sugar dew drops!
Just as pretty as all the desserts
Birthday Flowers
Birthday Gelato

Godzilla Spotted at a Beer Garden

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Afternoon Tea at the Aman Tokyo

It's been ages since I've posted an afternoon tea review, hasn't it? Luckily there's a new player in town - the Aman Hotel, and Raku and I were able to go a few weeks ago.

The Aman is a new hotel in Marunouchi, and it has a really unique atmosphere. Definitely no generic hotel lobby feeling here. Much of the lounge is black stone, and they've selected a black theme for their afternoon tea as well. Sandwiches and cream puffs are made black with bamboo charcoal, and even the tea cups and plates are black. The rest of the accents in the room are pale wood, and rice paper creating a really elegant but modern feel.

We had a window seat, which we were initially exited about, but I have to say in warmer weather I don't recommend it. We were so hot from the sun pouring in, and had to move our food to the other side of the table to keep all the chocolates from melting!

The food itself was really delicious and creative. Top marks to the chef for that. But I have to say there was too much chocolate. I know that sounds crazy, but just trust me. From the photos you can see that there are a number of fashion themed chocolates - shoes, purses, a jewel with more chocolates inside. Early on we noticed that a lot of people were leaving most of their chocolate behind, and we were scandalized. How wasteful! But we ended up doing exactly the same thing. There's simply too much to be enjoyed.

They have a nice selection of teas. Iced comes by the glass and hot comes by the pot, and you're welcome to change flavors with each order. But, they won't allow you to place your next order until you've finished your current glass/pot which does lead to an annoying wait at times. Our particular favorites were the Peach Bergamot iced tea and the Irish Whiskey Cream tea.

As far as I know, this is the most expensive afternoon tea in Tokyo, but it's a really creative and delicious menu in a unique atmosphere. If you're looking for an indulgent and out of the ordinary tea, this is it.

The Aman Afternoon Tea
Afternoon Tea Hours: 11:30-9:30
Phone: 03-5224-3339

Peach Bergamot Iced Tea

Fashion Themed Chocolates

Excellent scones

Banana Caramel Chou

Tokyo Tea Lovers

Read about other afternoon teas:
The Palace Hotel Tokyo
The Metropole Hanoi
The Ritz Carlton Tokyo
Tokyo Shangri-la
Peninsula Hotel Tokyo
The Mandarin Oriental (second time)
Park Hyatt Shinjuku
The Four Seasons Marunouchi
Hotel Chinzanso
The Mandarin Oriental

Friday, June 23, 2017

What I've Been Cooking Lately

It's been a while since I've posted about my cooking, but I feel like lately it's been worth mentioning. With the warmer weather there's so much summer produce already available - peaches, cherries, corn on the cob. I enjoy those all so much more now that they're only available during a specific season. I've also been trying out a few Japanese recipes here and there. It might be a terrible excuse, but I rarely cooking Japanese food because it's so readily available, and I always think that nothing I could make would taste as good or be as authentic. But the last three recipes I tried all came out really well!

Oyakodon - Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl

Fancy Brunch - Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Gyudon - Beef and Sweet Onion Rice Bowl

Shiso Pasta - Shiso is a Japanese herb with a flavor similar to mint and basil

Prosciutto and Cherry Salad - Recipe from My Little Expat Kitchen
The Japanese dishes come from Japanese Soul Cooking.

See other JSC recipes:

Mabo Dofu
Sapporo Soup Curry
Sesame Karaage
Tan Tan Men
Pork Gyoza
Ebi Chili
Japanese Soul Cooking Review

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Korean Beauty Products (and food) in Shinokubo

Korean beauty seems to be blowing up, both in Japan and in the US right now. Have you heard about it? A few months ago I jumped on the bandwagon, and I've been absolutely loving it. (And I'm super low maintenance) Korean beauty dictates a ten-step skin care process (and I'll be honest, I'm doing about half that) and involves all sorts of fun and interesting products that are usually packaged very adorably.

Raku and I decided to try this out together, so a couple of months ago, we did some research, made our shopping lists, and headed out to Shinokubo, the biggest Korean neighborhood in Tokyo, to do some shopping. 

The two big stores we hit were Skinholic and Skin Garden which carry a wide variety of brands but there are tons and tons of cosmetic stores that you can wander into. If you make the trip to Shinokubo, it's not complete without some delicious Korean food. We highly recommend Ondoru. Even on a rainy weekday we had to wait twenty minutes to get in, but it's always worth the wait. Later, for dessert we bought cinnamon honey hotcakes at a stall across the street from Skinholic.

Ultimately, we didn't end up buying that much that day because we couldn't find some of the products we were looking for, and prices in the shops were generally higher than we found on Amazon or Iherb (but the shipping from Korea took close to two weeks, so it's a trade off). But it's still fun to walk around the neighborhood, enjoy the food, and check out the latest products. If you're looking to do your own research SoKo Glam has a wealth of reviews and information. And wherever you are, have an idea of what the prices should be before you walk into a store.

We've been going for a couple months now with our products, and really enjoying it. I've noticed a lot of improvement in my complexion, and hoping that continues.

My photography skills don't do this deliciousness justice

Ondoru - always worth the wait

Skinholic, a little smaller but a little nicer than Skin Garden

Hotteok (Hotcake) Stand

Honey Flavored Hotteok - there are lots of sweet and savory options

My Korean Products

Hours: 10:00-8:00
Phone: 03-5272-0909
Location: 1-12-15 Okubo, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Skin Garden
Hours: 10:00-10:00
Phone: 03-5291-1808
Location: 212 Kyakunincho, Shinkuku-ku, Tokyo

Hours: 11:00 am-1:00 am
Phone: 03-3205-5679
Location: 1-3-20 Hyakunincho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sister Visit

I'm terribly late writing about this, but a couple months ago my sister came out to visit (for the fourth time!) for her spring break. It was her shortest trip by far, but still lots of fun.

We discovered that the Yokohama Ramen museum now has two shops that offer gluten free ramen, so we made a point of going out there to binge on ramen. (She enjoyed both, but says that Muku Zweite is better than Komurasaki if you have to choose one or the other.)

In other food adventures we went to Enoshima, an island a little over an hour from Tokyo, and during a picnic a hawk stole her entire lunch! Luckily we were able to find more gluten free food (and ice cream) relatively quickly.

The cherry blossoms were supposed to be opening during her visit, but they were very slow this year. We got a few sightings in, but nothing nearing peak blooms. In spite of that we still did lots of other fun things like seeing a Yayoi Kusama show, finding a baby mango (the size of an egg) at a gift fruit store, and just generally enjoying each other's company.

Gluten Free Ramen

The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum - so much more crowded than a few years ago!

Mini Mango!

The Yayoi Kusama Show
She's so werid, but I LOVE her

Sister Love

Travel themed chu-hais

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Time Is Flying

It's hard to believe it's already the middle of May. Somehow I completely missed writing about the sakura this year, and my sister visiting during her spring break. The cold weather has left, and warm sunny days are coming back, at least for a little while. Rainy season only about three weeks away!

But in the meantime I've been enjoying as much time as I can outdoors. I bought a picnic blanket, and have already put it to use a number of times. A few weeks ago Raku and I went on an overnight to Yokohama, just for an adventure. And while we didn't go anywhere for Golden Week, John and I made a point of going somewhere fun everyday so that it actually felt like a vacation.

Cherry blossoms with a friend
It's the best time of year


The flowers were fantastic

And so was the company!

Cherry Pie Frappuccino - surprisingly delicious

Apple galette for Raku's birthday
Pretty enough for a restaurant, but made by Raku

Coffee Set at the Hotel Chinzanso

Monday, April 17, 2017

Weekend Getaway to Hakone

Last month John and I went to Hakone for a weekend to celebrate our anniversary. Hakone is a little mountain hot spring resort town south of Tokyo, and it seems silly that we'd never gone before considering it's only 35 minutes away by shinkansen.

Like most vacation destinations in Japan, there seems to be a standard itinerary that allows you to see all the sights in a day - it involves different types of trains, chair lifts and even a pirate ship, and goes in a loop through the area. Passes are sold that significantly discount the cost of doing everything, but we decided to take it slower and only do a few things.

Hakone is most known for the many hot springs and the views of Mt. Fuji. We weren't sure if the weather would be clear enough, but we lucked out and had excellent views both day. And there was never any doubt about the onsen being good. We went every morning and evening at our hotel. If you're a little shy or just looking for some solitude, I highly recommend hotel onsen in the morning. Japanese people generally bathe at night, as do tourists that are dirty/tired/achy from their daily adventures. So both mornings I had the onsen entirely to myself (and snuck my phone in for a few quick shots).

Another huge highlight for me was taking a cable car up to Owakudani, an area with lots of sulfur vents. From the air we had a great glimpse of Mt. Fuji before clouds rolled in, and then started to see the sulfur billowing up from the mountains.

If you enjoy cable cars (or ropeways as they're called in Japan) there is another cable car that runs to the top of Mt. Komagatake. It's all steel and cement and looks straight out of the Soviet era, but the views from the top were the best views we had of Mt. Fuji all weekend.

Onsen at the Prince Ashinoko Hotel

Sulfur vents at Owakudani

The original Tokaido road - lined with cedar trees

Hakone Shrine and Mt. Fuji sighting from Lake Ashi

View of Mt. Fuji from Mt. Komagatake

Mt. Komagatake Ropeway - seriously ugly, but worth the view