Tag Archives: food

Tuna & Watercress with Wasabi Ponzu Dressing 

tuna and watercress with wasabi ponzu dressingAs promised, I’m going to share some of the food we made for the hanami party. The first is this spicy salad that we found on Cookpad. (Thanks to Jess for all of the hanami tips!) It is so fresh and delicious and I even think it would be tasty without the fresh fish. The wasabi-ponzu dressing is the highlight.

Tuna & Watercress with Wasabi Ponzu Dressing

Salad:

1 bunch of watercress

3-4 radishes, sliced paper-thin, cut into half-moons (A mandolin is handy here.)

1/4 red onion, sliced paper thin (The mandolin is already out. Use it again.)

6oz fresh sushi grade tuna or salmon, sliced into bite sized pieces (You can also use smoked salmon, but fresh is best!)

Dressing:

1 tablespoon ponzu sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons wasabi paste

Whisk the ponzu, oil, and wasabi together until smooth. Toss the vegetables, fish, and dressing together. Sprinkle with a bit of salt, if needed. Serve immediately. Feel the burn.

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Rio Olympics Party 

Olympics Party Rio 2016, viewing area decorations, flag bannerIt’s Olympics time again! Last Friday I hosted a few friends for an Opening Ceremonies viewing party. Just like in 2014 and in 2012, I made a few decorations to get into the Olympics spirit. I had my flag banner left over from last time. (Yes, I saved it. No regrets.) This time, I added some tissue poufs in Olympics colors and a little torch. tissue and paper olympic torch, Olympics decorationsI may have taken a few laps around the apartment with the torch before I sat it by the TV. (I got the idea here in case you want to make one of your own. I used super sticky tape instead of pins and it’s still holding quite nicely.)Olympic rings fruit platterKaren and I chopped up fruit to make up the easiest Olympic centerpiece ever. BrigadeirosI made sausage, beans, and rice and brigadeiros, little chocolatey truffles made with condensed milk.  (They are so easy to make! I highly recommend them as an easy treat while you watch swimming or gymnastics!) Olympics party food spread, Rio 2016Karen made Brazilian cheese bread and Jackie made little shrimp and mango tostadas and James made two kinds of guacamole. We had quite a feast! CaipirinhaAnd of course we had to drink caipirinhas, the National Drink of Brazil. They were delicious (topped off with a bit of sparkling water to dilute the booze just a little bit!)

I had so much fun getting the party ready and of course so much fun celebrating with friends. We tested each other’s geography skills and did our own commentary about the uniforms and cheered extra hard for the countries with small delegations. Go athletes!

 

 

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Plot #6 for 2016 

plot 6, 2016 first planting, community garden, forest park community gardenIn between jet lag naps and unwrapping all of my stationery from Japan, I started our garden for the summer! I planted almost everything mid-May and then added a couple of things last week. So far, so good, but I really do need to cut back my chive plant before it takes over! plot 6, 2016 first planting, community garden, forest park community garden, Juliet tomatoI clearly didn’t learn my tomato jungle lesson from last year…I planted six tomato plants! I just kept seeing new varieties I wanted to try! I planted both pink and red Brandywines, a Juliet, a Golden Girl, a Cherokee Purple, and a Mr. Stripey. The Juliet already has a couple of tomatoes growing! plot 6, 2016 first planting, community garden, forest park community garden, Brandwine tomato, sweet banana pepper, rosemaryIn between the tomatoes, I planted peas, lima beans, edamame, bush beans, Japanese scallions, lettuce, parsley, thyme, and basil all from seed. And then on impulse, I added a rosemary plant and a sweet banana pepper plant. I wanted to try a couple of cutting flowers from seed, but I haven’t gotten my act together, so those might have to wait until next year. As it is, things are looking pretty full. All of the seeds are coming up and it really is just a matter of time before the tomatoes are taking over.

I love this time of year when everything is all tidy in its place. (At least in the garden it is…my apartment is a whole different story!)

How is your garden growing?

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Itoya & Cafe Stylo

Itoya big red paperclip signOn our first full day in Japan, we went to Itoya, one of my favorite shops in the ritzy Ginza district of Tokyo. (I’ve blogged about Itoya a little bit before, here and here.) Itoya has been building a new store since 2011 or 2012, so for the past few years, we’ve been visiting the temporary location. On this trip, I was most looking forward to seeing their shiny new store. Itoya buildingThe new twelve floor building is very sleek and it sits between Tiffany’s and Bvlgari (just to give you an idea of what kind of neighborhood we are talking about.) The lower floors are all devoted to retail space selling stationery, pens, paper, craft supplies, and high-end travel and home goods. On the seventh floor, there is a “paper bar” filled with hundreds of papers that you can use for personalized stationery, business cards, or wedding invitations. (I didn’t take any pictures inside the store, but you can see part of the wall of paper at the bottom of this page.) What I’ve always loved about Itoya is that you can find very expensive things there, you can also find plenty of special gifts at reasonable prices. And they’ve always had a huge selection, especially of the things I love: origami paper, stamps, stationery, pens…I used to spend hours in the store narrowing down my choices. Itoya spring windows, flower pensThe new Itoya, though, is much more pared down. They still sell amazing things, but they just don’t carry the same wide-ranging selection that they used to. Truthfully, I hardly bought anything during my visit. And we didn’t stay all day like I thought we would. It was kind of a bummer at first, but honestly, I had more money to spend at the other stationery shops all over Tokyo. (There was no shortage of things to buy!) It was just an unexpected change. Cafe Stylo lettuce, ItoyaBut, one really cool thing about New Itoya is that they have a full-service restaurant, Cafe Stylo, on the top floor. (The old cafe had a very limited snack menu.) And in Cafe Stylo, they serve Itoya-grown lettuce grown in a hydroponic farm on the twelfth floor! We visited the farm and got a peek at the lettuces growing at various stages. Cafe Stylo smoked salmon, ItoyaCafe Stylo chef salad, ItoyaNaoto had the Smoked Salmon Sandwich, which he loved. Because I wanted to try the Itoya lettuces, I ordered the “Cobber Salad” (Cobb salad). It was crisp and fresh and delicious! And we both enjoyed Campari cocktails with our lunch.Cafe Stylo floor sign I highly recommend checking out the restaurant if you go! It’s the perfect spot to write postcards and enjoy your new stationery!

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Japan Does It Better 24: Gari Gari Kun

garigarikun kiwi I do love a good Bomb Pop in the summer. Three distinct tasty flavors, the creamy consistency (only the Original Bomb Pop. Accept no imposters!)…a perfect summer treat. But, my love for the Bomb Pop has been eclipsed since I was introduced to Japan’s favorite popscicle, the GariGarikun. Naoto brought a box of original ramune flavor GariGarikun pops home from Mitsuwa last summer and I fell in love. garigarikun insideOn the outside, they look like regular ice pops, but once you bite into one, you see that the “regular” ice pop part is just a shell holding tiny slushie-like ice crystals on the inside. They are so tasty and so fun to eat! garigarikun insideOn our first night in Japan, we got to our hotel after 10PM and I was exhausted. But Naoto went downstairs to Lawson’s conbini (convenience store) and got himself a beer and brought me a Sicilian Lemon GariGarikun. I had no idea there were special and limited flavors of the treat so I was super-excited to try it. Sooooo tart and lemony!! I slept well after that midnight snack and the next day, I started my mission to pop into every conbini to check their supply of GariGarikun to see what other flavors I could try. (Doesn’t traveling with me sound like fun?!) garigarikun lycheeSo I tried lychee…garigarikun aceola …and acerola, which is like a cherry, but somehow more delicious. IMG_0833I tried Shiroi Sour, which is like Calpico, a Japanese soft drink.

And, pictured at the top, I also tried kiwi. I can’t tell you which one was the best because I loved each and every one at the moment I was eating it. They were all really refreshing, not too sweet, and packed with flavor.

Recently the makers of GariGarikun increased the price from ¥60 to ¥70 (~ $0.54 to $0.63). It’s the first price increase for the frozen treat in twenty-five years and also the second reason the GariGarikun is a JDIB. Where in the US can you find a summer treat at a convenience store for sixty-three cents??!! But even better, the company made a commercial apologizing for the unfortunate price increase. Can you imagine? (If you want to read more about this, go here.) You can (hopefully) watch the commercial below to see the sincerity in the apology. Oh Japan…you’re the best.

And GariGarikun, a summer treat where Japan Does It Better!

 

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Kyoto Part 3: Our Anniversary Lunch

IMG_3181Would it be weird to start blogging about my 2015 trip again? Maybe? I’m going to write anyway. I’ve been going through my pictures and reminiscing about all of the fun we had last spring and I realized that I’ve never really closed the book on that trip. I have a few last things to mention about Kyoto and some new editions of Spending the Yen.

We were in Kyoto for our anniversary last year and Hisae (my sister-in-law) took us out to lunch at Yuzu-ya, a restaurant and ryokan near the Yasaka Shrine. At street level, it looks like a black storefront (pictured above) but once you go through the doorway, you see that you walk up a rocky stairway to get up to the restaurant. IMG_3174IMG_3173Once you’re there, you forget that there’s a busy street below. It’s surrounded by lush greenery and trees and feels so removed and peaceful. ambiance, Yuzuya Ryokan, Kyoto, JapanThere is traditional seating near the windows where you can appreciate the trees and fountains outside. We sat at a regular table, but we still had amazing views. IMG_3158The meal was very traditional, using locally-sourced ingredients and lots of yuzu, hence the name Yuzu-ya. (Yuzu is a Japanese citrus, in case you don’t remember me talking about it before.)  Our first course was an appetizer of traditional Kyoto-fare. As you can see, it was presented beautifully on a tray of tiny plates adorned with leaves. Each bite was so different in taste and texture but it all worked together perfectly. IMG_3161Next, we had smelt grilled alongside bamboo leaves on a tiny table-top grill. IMG_3162(It was looking at me.) On the side was a yuzu sauce. I picked off as much meat as I could, but Naoto finished it off for me. (He ate every last bit, including the eye and the bones!)Then we had porridge with rice and fish and egg and chives, again cooked table-side and finished with a squeeze of yuzu. IMG_3167It was incredible. dessert, mochi, Yuzuya Ryokan, Kyoto, JapanThe dessert course was green tea and a brown sugar mochi. A simple but delicious way to end the meal.

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Walnut Cheese Shop

Walnut Cheese Shop, Walnut, ILMy dad has been talking about this cheese shop in Walnut, IL since last year when he went and stocked up on several varieties of cheese. He gave us a hunk of tomato basil cheddar, which was delicious, so we made plans to drive up to the shop together while I visiting earlier this month. cow, Walnut Cheese Shop, Walnut, ILWalnut, Illinois is a tiny town of 1400 so it’s very impressive that Avanti Foods has set up shop there. They have a distribution facility across the street from the quaint little shop where they produce and distribute cheese and frozen pizzas. The shop looks like a Swiss chalet and offers gift items, kitchen gadgets, and of course a wide variety of cheeses. Walnut cheese shop cheese, Walnut, IL, Avanti FoodsHere’s what I picked to try: Garden Cheddar, Blueberry Cheddar, Pesto Gouda, and their “special” Swiss, which a) was SO cheap, and b) is between a baby Swiss and a regular Swiss and the woman at the shop told us it is amazing. I figured, for $3.48, it was worth the risk. I’m looking forward to cracking a couple open this weekend. Walnut, IL post office, USPS, 61376Oh! And for fans of the USPS, here’s Walnut’s cute post office. Looking good, 61376!

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Ginger Raspberry Bellini

Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, sparkling rosé ginger raspberry belliniWe really enjoyed the cocktail at Jackie’s tea. It was fresh, and ginger-y, and bubbly and the perfect color for a plaid celebration that happened to occur on Valentine’s weekend.

We found the recipe on Driscoll’s website and god only knows how they got theirs so perfectly red…but, our pale version was delicious enough that we hardly noticed. We used a bottle of Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Rosé ($12 at your friendly Trader Joes) and it was really delicious, but if rosé isn’t your thing, I think the ginger and raspberry are powerful enough that you’ll get the same idea with any sparkling wine.

It’s so much easier to make the liqueur mix in batches, so I’ve adjusted the original recipe to serve 4.

Ginger Raspberry Bellini

(makes 4 cocktails)

4 oz ginger liqueur

2 oz lemon juice (freshly squeezed!)

2 oz simple syrup

16 fresh raspberries

bottle of sparkling rosé or sparkling wine of your choice

4 raspberries and 4 pieces of candied ginger for garnish

Add ginger liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, and raspberries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle the raspberries into the liquid. Add ice and shake until fully chilled. Strain mixture into each cocktail glass, about 2 oz per glass. (It’s ok to eyeball.) Top each glass with about 3 oz of sparkling rosé and garnish with a raspberry and candied ginger on a cocktail pick. Toast your friend going on an amazing adventure.

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Scottish Lighthouse Tea

Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, the partyMy friend Jackie is off to spend a month in Shetland as the artist-in-residence at a lighthouse! She will be spending the month of March working on her art and living in the keeper’s flat. I am crazy excited for her adventure. Last weekend, Peggy, Karen, and I threw her a little going-away party, a Scottish Lighthouse Tea. Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, the sideboard displayWe started planning the tea back in November and we went a little crazy with the plaid. Peggy has an amazing collection of plaid tablecloths, napkins, and runners that she brought over, along with loads of dishes, a Scottie dog, a lighthouse light, and many more additions to the table. Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, the tableWe set the table with Peggy’s dishes and a collection of lighthouse statues from my mom’s house. I also made a little banner from twine and plaid triangles and strung it up with two gold garlands I’ve used for a few parties. (All three fell down during the party–womp, womp.) Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse tea, placecardKaren made lighthouse place cards and we added a little Scottie dog shortbread cookie for each setting. Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, the place settings, vintage green depression glassWe tried to be really careful not to make the table look too Christmasy and I think we succeeded thanks to the addition of the blue plates and glasses and the black place mats. Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse tea, cocktail makingI mixed up a cocktail that was bubbly and tasty. (I’ll share the recipe later this week!) Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, the toast, sparkling rosé ginger raspberry cocktailWe drank cocktails and ate a cucumber appetizer before we sat down for the tea. Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, the foodWe enjoyed Waldorf Salad, bacon shortbread cookies, Meyer lemon & almond scones with clementine curd and Meyer lemon curd and Devonshire cream, and two types of tea sandwiches, ham with apricot cream cheese and chicken salad with grapes, thyme, and toasted almonds. (Thanks, Marissa, for the suggestion!) And of course, we drank tea! So much tea that we could have floated away. (We drank Barry’s, which has been my favorite lately.) Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, the cream puffsFor dessert, Karen made Scottish cream puffs, which were so delicious and really a perfect way to end our feast. It was so much fun and I love that I got to share the party with friends who appreciate all of the tiny details in the planning.

Cheers to Jackie! And if you’d like to follow along with her lighthouse adventures, she’ll be blogging about it here.

P.S. Thanks to Karen for sharing some pictures from the party!

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Coffee Talk: Sawada Coffee

IMG_8463Naoto and I loved experiencing Japanese coffee culture during our last trip to Japan and now, we can enjoy a bit of it here in Chicago! Sawada Coffee opened in the West Loop and we went to try it out a few weekends ago.Sawada Coffee, CHicago, pourover coffeeHiroshi Sawada is an award-winning Japanese barista and latte artist who owns a shop, Steamer Coffee Co, in Tokyo. This is Sawada’s first coffee shop outside of Japan. (You can read a little bit about it here. The relationship between Sawada and the Chicago hospitality group who opened the shop in Chicago started with letter writing!) Sawada Coffee, West Loop, ChicagoThe place feels very “hipster,” but there are some very Japanese aspects, too. The coffee presentation is lovely, the service is impeccable, and the atmosphere is very industrial and modern. The coffee shop is connected to Green Street Meats, so there’s a lot of restaurant and bar action just steps below the coffee shop in this big open space. Sawada serves the typical range of coffee drinks, but also has some one-of-a-kind offerings, including alcoholic coffee and tea drinks.  Sawada Cold BrewNaoto ordered the Sawada Style Cold Brew, an iced coffee mixed with Japanese shochu. It came in a pot and was poured into a glass sitting in a box, similar to the way sake is sometimes served in Japan. (I was stifling a tiny laugh as our server earnestly explained the sake overflow tradition to Naoto.)Sawada style cold brew, Benedictine Chai I had a Benedictine Chai Steamer, a chai latte with Benedictine liqueur added. Both were amazing. Naoto drinking a Sawada Cold BrewWe found a seat at the windows, in spite of the place being crazy busy. Naoto at Sawada Coffee, ChicagoKimberlyAH at Sawada Coffee, Chicago, postcardsNaoto stood and texted while I wrote out a few Sawada postcards. (I love places that have free postcards!) Sawada Coffee, matcha latteI couldn’t resist trying a matcha latte, too…it was the perfect mix of strong matcha with a tiny bit of sweetness. Sawada Cold BrewWe can’t wait to go back again soon…for the coffee and the postcards. Sawada postcards, USPS blue box, West Loop

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