Tag Archives: cocktails

James & Presley’s Avocado Birthday Bash

This weekend we hosted a little joint birthday party for Presley and our friend James. They share a birthday week. I found an avocado dress on Amazon and avocados were “on trend” this summer at Paper Source, so we decided that was a perfect theme. Presley took to wearing the dress pretty well, but we didn’t leave it on her more than fifteen minutes, as I think dressing her up is cute but I also don’t believe in torture. Naoto made an avocado corn salad and Korean beef tacos. Karen made bruschetta and a key lime pie. I made yuzu sidecars. I borrowed the giant hanging avocado decorations from the Paper Source window and used a kit to make little avocado place cards.Naoto’s was my favorite…Presley’s too…Presley ate rotisserie chicken for her birthday meal since she’s not a fan of tacos and corn salad.She is, however, a fan of her new avocado catnip toy from James. I keep finding it in different places when I wake up in the morning.

It was a fun night. We haven’t really been hosting very much this year, and I kind of missed it. Maybe we’ll have a few more opportunities to have people over this fall.

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Man on the Moon Party

On Saturday, we had a little Man on the Moon celebration for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. It was a small, last minute affair but I still wanted to set the Party mood with decorations and a theme menu.I made a cheeseball that I left naked so it sort of resembled the moon and I put a little astronaut on top. We had other cheese and crackers and Naoto made cashew chicken, jello, and Karen brought deviled eggs so it was a retro menu. Oreo came out with a “marshmallow moon” version that had space scenes on the cookies. Easy dessert!We served Moonwalk Cocktails, which is the actual drink Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin drank when they returned to Earth. They were refreshing and fun, kind of like a mimosa.

Moonwalk Cocktail

1 oz orange liqueur

1 oz grapefruit juice

3 drops rosewater

top with sparkling wine

Add orange liqueur, grapefruit juice, and rosewater to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into glass and top with sparkling wine. Toast to the moon. In the living room I made star garlands out of shimmery papers and vellum and I made a weird looking moon out of a giant piece of cardstock and glitter. (Truthfully, it needs more glitter.) We watched a moon landing documentary while also listening to NPR’s moon landing playlist. (I added some songs because what is a moon themed playlist without Cat Stevens’ Moonshadow and Pink Floyd’s Eclipse?)Before we were married, Naoto and I threw a moon conspiracy theory party where we all watched a conspiracy documentary about how the moon landing was faked. I think that was our first theme party! So, this was a nice re-visiting of the moon theme…without the wild theories… (Just to be clear, we watched the documentary for fun, not because any of us are conspiracy theorists. Though if you’re into that kind of thing, the documentary we watched is available on Prime! I found it when I was looking for other documentaries to watch this time. It’s called What Happened on the Moon? An Investigation into Apollo and it’s more than three hours long.)I am kicking myself for not taking any pictures once everyone came because I had a little moon and stars skirt on and Brooke wore a retro patriotic outfit and Jessica and Karen came in 1960s dresses, but…we were having a good time.

Did you celebrate the moon landing anniversary? I haven’t bought my moon landing postage stamps yet, but I have been using up some of my vintage space themed stamps.

 

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Hasegawa Tanabata 2019

Hasegawa Tanabata was a low-key affair this year. We didn’t invite any guests and I didn’t decorate (gasp!) but it was such an amazing summer night for enjoying a light meal on the lanai. And of course Naoto is my favorite “guest” anyway! We had a busy day at the community garden so it all kind of fell together at the last minute, thanks to some Tensuke Market sushi and some easy Japanese recipes. I thought Naoto was going to get a sushi tray, but he really held back at the sushi counter, only bringing home two rolls and six pieces of sushi. (For the record, this is barely enough sushi for HIM!) Thankfully we had other things on the menu…Japanese potato salad and ham & egg salad sandwiches. We were going to make somen, but we ended up feeling full with what we had and some Japanese snacks.I made yuzu cocktails and they were so good, I think we need to share the recipe. We bought this yuzu liqueur at Mitsuwa a few weeks ago and we really like it! It’s good on its own and with soda water and it worked really nicely in the yuzu cocktail, too. The rest of the night, we shared some sparkling wine.It was so unseasonably chilly, we both ended up in jackets but no regrets at all…it was perfect…maybe not blog post perfect, but perfect for us. 🙂

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Cocktail Perfected: Tanabata Cocktail

Naoto and I have been working on our menu for our 4th annual Hasegawa Tanabata. We are going all out this year again with a sushi tray and lots of homemade recipes we’ve been perfecting all year. It really is my favorite night of the summer…well, next to fireworks…but the food is better. (Sorry, grilled American food.) Last year I made a batch of spumonis and we’ve also had yuzu liqueur and sake, but this year, I wanted a fancy cocktail and I found this one on Reddit. It tastes like something you’d drink at a suburban sushi restaurant, though it’s not Japanese. Still, I think the purple is fitting with the spirit of Tanabata and it’s very delicious.

Empress Cocktail 

2oz gin

0.75oz fresh lemon juice

0.75oz lychee liqueur

0.5oz creme de violette

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until very chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Serve on the lanai with some sushi and gyoza on a hot summer night.

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Washi Weekend: Handsome Man Bartender

We were shopping in the fancy department store, Takashimaya, when I found this hilarious “Handsome Bartender” washi tape. Naoto made me buy it because “it’s so you!” and it made me laugh. There are several other Handsome Man tapes: a teacher, a high school student, a host, a doctor, and a freelancer. (You can see the others below the Handsome Bartender link.) Really, there’s a handsome man for everyone. Right now I’m using him on my cocktail notebook (a gift from April who purchased it at an old school stationery store in Massachusetts.) I also put him in my planner for July because he just fits. I think I need to find a way to use him on some mail this month. I can’t keep him all to myself!

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Japan Does It Better 25: Karaoke

In college, we took over a local bar every Tuesday night and sang bad karaoke songs and had a great time. Of course, I was young, drinking, and among friends, so it didn’t matter that I can’t carry a tune. I didn’t really care what the rest of the bar thought of me because I was a college kid out to have a good time. That’s the last time I enjoyed karaoke until I started going on our visits to Japan. Karaoke in Japan doesn’t happen in a dive bar among strangers; it happens in a tiny booth reserved for just you and your friends. Right upstairs from the train station by our hotel is a Big Echo, a karaoke chain in Japan. A couple years ago, we went karaokeing for the first time, just the two of us, which is kind of hilarious but also totally perfect.  Inside the Big Echo, you check in at the desk and tell them how many people are in your party and how long you’d like to sing. Then, they assign you a room based on your size. We’ve only ever gone with just the two of us, but even the smallest room is big enough for a cozy small crowd. Inside the booth, there’s a big screen, a couch, a table, microphones, menus, a device to run the karaoke, and a device for ordering food and drinks. The picture above it pretty much the room from the doorway…pretty small (as is everything in Japan) but big enough to sit and sing for awhile. Here’s Naoto, demonstrating the extensive sour menu. There’s also beer (obviously…it’s Japan) and non-alcoholic options. The food is mostly fried bar stuff, but there are healthier options too. We usually just go for late-night drinking snacks. Naoto loves singing old Japanese pop songs, so while I’m eating and drinking my sour, he warms up with a few of those. I have no idea what he’s singing about but the screen always has a fun little scene that may or may not go with the lyrics. It’s fun to see him getting all serious and nostalgic about the old music.  Once he warms up with Japanese songs, we perform duets of Cat Stevens, James Taylor, and Elvis. So, it’s pretty much like singing in our car on a road trip, except with a better sound system. There is a pretty extensive list of American pop music from all eras, so there’s never a shortage of songs. Once the time is almost up, the front desk calls to see if you want to add minutes. We usually add minutes because an hour goes so fast! I think by the time it’s all said and done, we usually end of paying ¥7000 ($65ish) for our food and experience. Not too bad for a late-night date.

As someone who doesn’t have great singing abilities, I love the private room so I can have fun with Naoto (or a bigger group of friends…someday we’d like to go with his sisters or our friends) without feeling self-conscious about picking a weird song or singing badly in front of strangers. So, to me, karaoke rooms are another example where Japan Does It Better! See how fun it is…

P.S. I haven’t done a JDIB post in so long! If you’d like to see more, go here.

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13th Anniversary

Naoto and I celebrated our 13th anniversary on Sunday. It was such a perfect weather day–60s and sunny. spent the morning on the balcony opening our gifts and drinking coffee and then we went to the West Loop for brunch. Three cheers for our gift wrapping this year! Naoto’s gift came in a huge box, so I had to use roll wrap for it. I was able to fold some tucks into the wrapping so I had a little pocket for the wooden card I gave him. And Naoto used this lovely gold and yellow handmade paper for my gifts. He’s come a long way in his wrapping skills. The thirteenth anniversary gifts are textile and lace. I gave Naoto a pillow made with Japanese sashiko fabric. I think he really liked it. And he gave me an Irish table runner and some Irish tea, Barry’s Black, (which Presley’s head is conveniently blocking above.) We went to Saint Lou’s Assembly for brunch. We got there just as the kitchen was closing, so we were able to squeeze in our order and then enjoy leisurely cocktails and peanut butter & jelly soft serve after our meal. The cocktails were amazing, and the atmosphere was very casual and fun. We are looking forward to going back for dinner and frosé outside once the weather warms up again. After brunch, we stopped in Open Books right across the street. (Naoto was very into this Edward Hopper book.)Since we ate such a late lunch and didn’t want to venture out again, we made a mini cheese platter for ourselves and had a little happy hour on the newly lit balcony instead of going out to dinner. We drank yuzu & soda cocktails and finished out the day wrapped in blankets. I’m so thankful for such a gorgeous day, and for thirteen years with this guy.

 

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The Darling

In March, Naoto took me to The Darling for Sunday night birthday cocktails. (I’m very behind on blogging!) It came highly recommended for the drinks and the experience. We had a fabulous time.

There’s very much a speakeasy vibe here. When you go in, it looks like you’re in a weird flower shop, until the host breaks open the wall so you can enter the bar area. There are cozy leather couches and lounge-seating, and that night, there was a fire crackling in the fireplace.

We started with a Buds of May (me) and a Paddington’s Marmalade Negroni (Naoto.) Both were really delicious, and mine was served at the table from a teapot and the presentation was everything. The next round, I got the Mary Poppins, which had strawberry-flavored boba bubbles in it that popped when you bit into them. It was a fun drink, a little on the sweeter side. Naoto got the Curious George because I was curious (for lack of a better word) about it with the chocolate and banana and whiskey, and we both really liked it.

Naoto was in an especially goofy mood and made me laugh the whole night. The video is a little hard to hear, but he’s channeling Bob Harris in Lost in Translation.
Our last round was something I can’t remember and a Secret Garden (the one with the pretty flower on top.) All of the cocktails were well-crafted and interesting. We did get a few small bites but nothing was super memorable or mind-blowing. The drinks and special touches around the place make The Darling and must-return for us, probably for before or after dinner drinks.The check is presented in an old book with two tiny glasses of Last Words. We’re planning on visiting the West Loop this weekend for our anniversary, so maybe we’ll pop in again before dinner…

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Ramen Takeya

The day we went to the taping of the Very Serious Crafts Podcast was cold and snowy, so we decided to stop in the West Loop for some ramen. We went to Ramen Takeya, a sister restaurant of one of the best rated ramen shops in the city, Wasabi. We haven’t been able to get up to Wasabi yet, but Ramen Takeya specializes in chicken broth ramen, which seemed interesting. Plus we have quite a few friends who don’t eat pork, so we figured we’d do some ramen research for them!

We got to the restaurant a little before they opened, so we had a chance to scope out the menu outside in the snow. When we got inside, we were barely greeted and I just had a bad feeling about the whole thing. (Basically, the host–who also was our server–tossed our menus on a table and walked away while we were still at the front of the restaurant.) The shop was decorated with old metal Japanese signs and advertisements, including an old Japan Post sign. I just loved the “old Japan” feeling of the place! We ordered drinks, a beer for Naoto and a lychee cocktail for me. The drinks were good, and so were the buns (pictured above.) But the service continued to be…cold. I got the Osaka Shio ramen, which has both pork and chicken broth. It was good. I enjoyed most of the toppings and the noodles, but I felt like the pork was extra fatty (which I know some people love, I’m just not one of them.) I also got buttered corn as an add-on, which would have been delicious if it didn’t come freezing cold. Naoto ordered the Chicken Paitan Ramen with fried garlic as an add-on topping. He really enjoyed his bowl (and half of mine!)

At the end of our meal, we weren’t offered another cocktail, or water, or dessert, or any sort of friendliness, so we just paid our check and left…which seems like all they wanted anyway. I feel bad writing a negative post, but man, customer service is important…especially when there are so many ramen restaurants in Chicago. And I think our experience was just so shocking for us because the West Loop has so many great places to eat and we’ve always had stellar service in that neighborhood.  On the way home, I checked Yelp and all of the negative reviews mentioned the service and most of those people had our server, so…apparently no one at Ramen Takeya cares enough to give this dude some feedback. So, all-in-all, we’re glad we tried it, but a second visit isn’t in our plans. (Sorry to be a Debbie Downer today!)

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Ramen-San

I’ve been fighting a losing battle with a cold since the new year, so Naoto’s birthday was a little bit neglected this year. But I think I made up for it by making reservations at Ramen-San, a ramen shop in Chicago. It was a pretty warm night in Chicago (for January) and it felt good to get out of the house for awhile and a hot, salty ramen was very good for my cold. First things first…the drinks! Naoto had a very cold Asahi in a frosty mug. He actually had three of them. The draft beer is run though a specialized chiller to make it extra cold. A super-cold beer is the perfect thing to drink with ramen, (or so they tell me…I don’t drink beer.) I had the Cilantro-Lime Margarita, which also has yuzu in it and you know how much I love yuzu! It was amazing, and also really nice with the ramen. Ramen-San also offers a yuzu lemonade which I will have to try next time.For our starter, we ordered the raw tuna on sesame crisps which were just enough to enjoy without spoiling our giant ramen dinner. I ordered their special for the night: a roasted garlic ramen. I have to say, this is the least photogenic bowl of ramen I’ve ever had, but it was so, so tasty. (I know it would have been more photogenic with more add-on toppings, but I can never finish an entire bowl of ramen, and really, I’m just here for the broth and the noodles.) It came with an egg, scallions, and shredded pork. The pork was so tender and flavorful. The broth was made with a garlic and miso and it would have made your Italian grandmother cry tears of joy. It was so garlicky, I honestly felt like it could have cured my cold right then and there…but really, that’s asking a lot from a bowl of ramen.Naoto ordered the kimchi and fried chicken ramen, which again, sorry for the terrible food photography, but he loved it. He even got a second helping of noodles to finish off his broth. For dessert, we shared this giant bun filled with matcha cream and coated in matcha sugar. It was incredible.

We’re already planning our next ramen outing so hopefully I’ll have another Noodle Tour update for you soon. In the meantime, catch up on previous Naoberly Noodle Tour adventures here.

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