As I continue my sandwich revisits since my TMJ has calmed down.
I'd been meaning to return since my first couple of visits over a year ago. I thought the food had promise and the concept was interesting.
The place looks basically the same; the prices have edged up a notch, though are still quite reasonable.
I went with the "Midnight Calorie Bomb" the Cubano/Medianoche ($6.75).
I previously thought this a decent sandwich. It has now risen to "good". I thought the weak link previously was the pulled pork, which was very dry and ice cold in my sandwich. That has been remedied. The pork was warm, nicely seasoned, perhaps on the edge of being too salty, and was adequately moist. The ham added even more of a sodium kick and the swiss cheese provided a nice milky level of flavor. The bread was quite nice, pressed, crisp, and yeasty. And while the sandwich doesn't look very big, it's quite filling and more than enough for me.
Man, if this place was in the Gaslamp and open when the clubs got out....they'd do a killing.....
Nice to see the place is doing well.
Embargo Grill 3960 W Point Loma Blvd San Diego, CA 92110 Hours: Mon-Thurs11am - 9pm Fri-Sat 11am - 10pm Sunday 11am - 9pm
Yeah, I know, Cathy and I have done a number of posts on Bristol Farms. I'd mentioned the Tri-Tip Sandwich in a previous post. Several key things have to be in place for me to get the sandwich. There are a couple of folks, often from the deli area that I know make a good sandwich. One of the guys really takes his time, but whenever he makes my sandwich, it comes out like this:
Also, I check out the tri-tip, or the turkey to make sure it doesn't look old and tired. For the turkey sandwich; I go dark meat all the way. After having this through the years, I know how I like mine; toasted roll, horseradish sauce (on one side) in place of the BBQ sauce, grilled mushroom and onions, regular onions, tomato and lettuce. When it comes out well.....it's quite a sandwich.
Of course, one of the main reasons I was a Bristol Farms was to pick stuff up for a "light" dinner on the porch.
Bristol Farms 8510 Genessee Ave San Diego, CA 92122
Antwerp was proving to be quite interesting.....relaxed, laid back, even more so than Brussels. There were less tourists, it had more of a urban-local feel, even though we were staying close to the Grote Markt, there were businesses like a meat market, bakery, produce stands, that served the locals.
The Missus wanted to take a nice walk on our full day in Antwerp....to the train station, which I wanted to see anyway, then back. So we set off from Grote Markt, taking some of the back streets.
We stopped at places the interested us along the way, like the very Baroque looking St Charles Borromeo Church. The most popular local citizen, the famous Baroque Painter, Peter Paul Rubens, was raised in Antwerp and spent a good part of his career in Antwerpen. Even this Jesuit Church displays the influence of Rubens who supposedly designed the decorative façade. In fact, there were 39 ceiling paintings by Rubens that were destroyed in 1718 when the church was struck by lightning.
There are wisps of Rubens everywhere, even on this plate. From what I can find, Dr Lazarus Marcquis was on of the physicians who treated Rubens, who died of heart failure due in part to chronic gout.
We eventually found ourselves in front of the beautiful train station....but first, I was distracted by this.
I have a thing about Chinatown's, whether in Lima, SF, Portland, Toronto, Kobe, or even pseudo-Chinatown's like Brussels, I just can't help myself. So I just had to check it out.
And of course, I could not resist the temptation to check out the at least one Asian Market....just to see what was being sold. Markets like this one stocked everything from Sriracha to Datu Puti and Silver Swan. And some of the prices were no joke....sheesh.
We also checked out the various menus; here are a few in case you're interested.
Chinatown is barely a street or two in Antwerp, but it's all interesting to me.
We took a turn and walked back toward the train station. At one of the streets parallel to those of Chinatown I saw one of my favorite signs. Folks, don't even think about "wildplassen" here, ok?
The Antwerpen-Centraal railway station itself is probably the grandest, most impressive train station I've ever seen. Hard to believe that this structure, finished in 1905 was once considered for demolition.
A look inside and it's quite easy to see why they call this structure the "Railway Cathedral". The restoration job on the place was completed in 2007 at a cost of 2.7 billions dollars. The glass ceilings, intricate work, marble, and stone makes a truly impressive sight.
There's actually a level which links the place to the "Diamond District" and 30 diamond shops.
It's easily my favorite site in Antwerp. I've never seen anything quite like it. When looking at my photos I still stop at the one's we took at the train station.....
We walked down the Boulevard named De Keyserlei, arriving at a large street named Frankrijklei. This was where the city walls of Antwerp once stood. Across the way you could see the beginning of the "Meir", the major shopping street of Antwerp. Here you'll run into a statue of another of Antwerp's favorite son's, the Artist Anthony van Dyck, who was a favorite of England's Charles I.
You'll pass many....well, let's just say shops we know quite well on the Meir...... H&M, Forever 21.....H&M and Zara are everywhere in case you need something in a pinch.
But it's this ornate, but rather discreet portal that caught our attention. Through this passageway is Stadsfeestzaal, which is one heck of shopping mall.....let's just say it makes South Coast Plaza look like a trailer park.... Tons of gold inlay....there's actually a champagne bar! Yikes. I understand that this was originally built as an exhibition hall completed in 1906. It was destroyed by fire in 2000. Being a historic monument, it was rebuilt using the original plans and reopened in 2007. It is something to behold.....not sure about the shops in the place, the Missus wasn't moved; but with a grand staircase and such you can't help but admire the beauty of the place.
We our way through the place until the Missus became bored (I was already there) and walked back out into the sunshine of the Meir.
Back out on the street we quickly noticed a place whose name I recalled. Dominique Persoone is a Belgian Chocolatier, whose rather audacious approach to chocolate, along with his self coined handle as the "Shock-o-latier" has earned him quite a following and reputation. He owns The Chocolate Line with shops in Bruge and Antwerp.
You really couldn't help but be impressed with the upscale boutique look of the place....my goodness.
And when the Missus saw the play on upscale shoes....well we just had to take our time in the place.
And while it's easy enough for me to dismiss the rather seemingly kitschy chocolate lipstick and edible chocolate facepaint, along with his nomme de guerre. The chocolate "snort" made me stop and reassess.
And while some of the creations like the various chocolate sculptures and such, were obviously done to impress in the name of commerce.
A snort of chocolate, hmmmm.....what would that do to my already ravaged grey matter? Perhaps I'd change my name to Cadbury? Or perhaps start a campaign to save the "chocolate bunnies"? Who knows, as my train of thought was interrupted with the Missus telling me; "ok, I've got some chocolate, let's get going. Aaaand, I didn't buy any of those chocolate shoes.......can you imagine, shoes of chocolate, like feet and eat them, ick...." And so my Chocolate Gandhi moment was permanently interrupted.
We had bought some to add to the collection for my MIL and had a few that seemed interesting ourselves.
Interesting, but we enjoyed what we got from Pierre Marcolini and Yuzu in Ghent more...... But not being a "sweets person" who's to say, right?
Kirk, Ed(from Yuma) and Cathy are the usual writers here on mmm-yoso!!!, a food blog. Today, Cathy is writing.
The rush of a multitude of holidays with corresponding activities is winding down, with individuals cleaning up, rearranging and perhaps following some new patterns. Businesses are 'clearing out' holiday-centric food and decorating items. The Mister and I have been out and about, looking for some bargains, and, as always, manage to squeeze a meal into the midst of the shopping. Yes, both Kirk and I have writtena few posts aboutBristol Farms, an upscale market (the parent company is Albertsons) located in La Jolla.There is both a self serve area (salad bar, soup, hot foods) where you can select, package and then pay for your items and find a seat here in the Bristol Cafe (or just outside), or you can walk up and order items 'to go' or you can seat yourself and a friendly waiter/waitress will bring you a menu and you'll have table service. This Wednesday, the special was a cup of any Soup and Sandwich of the day for $7.49. The Mister chose the carrot ginger soup- which was fascinating in its complimentary flavors and excellent.The 'sandwich of the day' was a "Malibu Melt"...and the description made us simultaneously fearful and curious. Toasted sourdough, the top with soft grilled red onion, Monterey Jack cheese, tuna salad...on top of grilled honey ham and a basil aioli spread. Yeah, we ordered it, ate it and liked it (except for the onion; a bit too many flavors there and it was removed after a bite). The tuna salad alone was excellent, as was the grilled honey ham. No idea who concocted this in their brain, but it works.Playing it safe, I ordered the quiche of the day with a salad ($8.49). The simple salad was accompanied by the most wonderful Thousand Island dressing. The quiche (which you can purchase unbaked in the store) had melange of (at least three types) of roasted mushrooms and spinach baked into a wonderfully flavored custard which was all baked in a crispy, flaky shell.
Yet another day of trying something new, and it worked.
Bristol Farms 8510 Genessee Avenue San Diego 92122 (858) 558-4180 Website
I hope 2014 was a great year for you all. And we send our best wishes for a great 2015 as well.
I worked a bit early on NYE, then headed off to complete was has become a tradition for me. On every New Year's Eve since 2005, I go to the various Japanese markets to check out the Osechi offerings.
Things have changed over the years, it's more of a pre-order kind of thing nowadays and there aren't too many extravagant items for sale on NYE anymore.
In fact, Marukai had almost nothing.
Mitsuwa had some interesting items, but nothing too interesting.
What I really did enjoy about my visit to Mitsuwa was a young couple, the girl, Japanese, the young man, blue-eyed, blond haired. The young lady went down the shelves explaining the significance of each of the osechi ryori items....stuff that I didn't even know! I just stood there and watched, quite taken with the moment.... At the end, she turned to me and gave me a smile and a wave. Nice job!
As usual, Nijiya had the biggest and best selection.......
It has been quite a year for us; Belgium, the Czech Republic, Japan, Seattle....... I have a feeling the this year will be just as interesting.
We'd like to thank you for reading, commenting, and just being part of our little food blog!
Just for fun, I actually drove by Costco this past weekend. Here's what it looked like at 10 past nine, a full 20 minutes before they opened.
I was actually dragging my feet, because I had to go into work.
I worked for a couple of hours then decided I should get some ramen, so I headed off to Santouka and ran into this.....
So, I just went to Nijiya, picked this up, and headed back to the office.
I lucked out as I love natto maki....yes, while I'd never buy any prepared sushi or sashimi with raw fish in/on it kappa and natto maki is fair game. I grew up eating natto so I really love this stuff. I usually get a bento at least once a week and have rarely seen this. They probably don't make it very often.......it could very well be that I'm the only person who evers buys this.......
Nijiya Market 3860 Convoy St Ste 109 San Diego, CA 92111
The Missus had made some plans for our third day in Kyoto. Unfortunately, the impending arrival of Typhoon Vongfong made us change our plans a bit. Masae, the owner of our Machiya kept us apprised of the Typhoon situation, as did Kat. So instead of doing the Philosopher's Walk, we headed off to Shijo-dori to wander around and do some shopping.
Strangely, most things seemed like business as usual. We walked through the Gion and over the bridge, first heading to Nishiki Market, which, unlike the mass of humanity we encountered on our first day in Kyoto was quite sedate at this time of the day.
A handful of businesses were closed, but for most it was just another day it seemed. Like these two who were out scrubbing the walkway in fornt of their shop.......right before a Typhoon?
My favorite stop was the knife shop....with all the handmade scissors and knives.
At the east end of Nishiki Market on Teramachi street is Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine.
The lanterns are quite stunning.
The water that comes from the deep well in the shrine is supposed to be so pure and clean that it has no odor and the temperature is usually at a steady 65 degrees.
The shopping arcades were quite empty at this time of the morning......in startk contrast to our previous visit to the area.
We couldn't help but notice all the "Kyoto drip" gear in a shop called Holly's Cafe as we walked past.
The Missus, who's become a bit of a coffee nerd over the last year just had to stop. So I had a nice Kyoto cold brew....which was very cheap compared to the states....like about $2.50 or so!
It was a nice and relaxing break.......sitting and watching the folks walk by on a slightly wet Sunday morning.
Refreshed we headed off, across the Kamo River for the umpteenth time.
On the corner of Hanamikoji and Shijo streets the Missus found a bustling shop.....full of make-up and other stuffs. One of the objectives of this trip was to stock up on various brands and products, so the Missus was in heaven.
The store was a outpost of Yojiya a time honored Kyoto brand known for their facial blotting paper. The Missus had a blast and purchased a good number of gifts.
We'd done a pretty good job of passing the time and the Missus was getting hungry. She was still craving that karaage from Karako, so we headed up Higashishoji-dori, first stopping off to unload our purchases.
Unfortunately, Karako was closed due to the impending storm. I recalled a couple of shops across the street and we found one of them open. We decided on eating here based on the plastic food display.
No English spoken, but not a big deal..... I had the Tempura Soba, which was nice and hot.
The Missus had been wanting to have a Katsudon, one of Her favorite dishes since we got to Japan, so She got Her wish...though what She really wanted was a Chicken Katsudon, which seemed to be pretty rare.....anyway, She finally got a katsudon.
She actually enjoyed the miso soup the most. As for the katsudon? I think it did the job, though She did tell me; "you know what....you make a pretty good katsudon."
Usually, when we travel, I get some aches and pains from all the walking......with the Missus making fun of all the "grandpa" noises I make. On this trip, I could tell that all the walking was taking a toll on the Missus as well. Somehow, it just made all my aches feel that much better....I guess sharing the wealth does that to you.
Heading back for a post lunch nap we passed this shop.
This place specialized in Yatsuhashi, one of the most well known confections of Kyoto.
We decided to get a few nama yatsuhashi....the soft, unbaked version to try.
I'm not big on sweets and the Missus doesn't care for cinnamon flavored confections, so while it was nice to try these, I don't think we'll be racing back to buy any.
We headed back in a rather roundabout way, taking our time. It had started to rain intermittently, the sky was getting pretty dark, and the wind was starting to pick up.
Even the ducks in Shirakawa Canal seemed to think something was up as they all faced the same direction....upstream.
We headed back to the machiya, the Missus took a nice long bath, and I worked on a post. We'd been going at a pretty good pace so an easy day was a nice treat and just what we needed.
After a short nap we awoke and decided to take a walk around. It was starting to rain pretty hard and the wind was blowing pretty good.....but there were still quite a few people and cars out and about.
We wandered around a bit, then headed back....
Meanwhile, many of the shops in the shopping arcade started closing up early. Even with all of this; things just seemed to happen at a very relaxed pace. Before leaving Tokyo, we chatted with Reiko about the Typhoon. She said, "yes Kirk-san, there will be some rain, maybe some wind......." Some rain? Maybe some wind?
Darkness seemed to fall quickly, like someone pulling a shade down. The big question was, "what are we going to eat?" There was always picking something up at Family Mart....you could basically live out of convenience stores in Japan....though I'm not quite sure what your sodium levels would be after a couple of weeks.
We'd noticed a gyoza shop right around the corner from the shopping arcade the previous day. This seemed like a simple, light meal.
Just one of the many shops you see everywhere.... Serving basically one thing; here it's gyoza, with a few small "salads" on the menu. And cold beer......nice, cold, and refreshing beer.
The gyoza was as good a gyoza can be; crisp on the bottom, the filling nice and light....nothing like a good guotie, mind you, but still good.
We actually enjoyed the onion salad more.
Earlier in the evening, Kat sent me a text, reminding me to pick up some snacks since we wouldn't be going out and about this evening. Thanks Kat! So on the way back, we dropped by the market, which was pretty busy........ I guess everyone was buying some snacks on typhoon night!
So that's what we did as typhoon Vongfong passed. The Missus was upstairs reading....while I turned on a television for the first time during this whole trip and watched storm reports....
While having a couple of beers and some snacks.
Sometime before drifting off to sleep the Missus said, "you owe me......another trip to Kyoto". I told Her, "no problem, we can come back anytime you want." We have unfinished business here. Which I'm hoping to take care of in the near future.
A fairly large collection for a SoCal winter Wednesday.
Pho DaKao and Grill Closes:
I drove by and noticed the parking lot was totally empty so I drove in. The Eviction Restoration Notice was posted on the door. Man, this place didn't last very long. I think I visited soon after they opened....so they pulled the plug pretty fast.
I'd driven past a couple of times and the place looked closed so I stopped by earlier in the week.
This former Balboa Avenue institution moved to this location back in the summer of 2013. It's too bad that the renovation and creation of chain restaurant hell drove them from their old location and it seems that they barely made it past a year here. Though never a destination for me, I'd eaten at the old location a couple of times and thought it decent.......
So hopefully I'm mistaken? But it sure looks like they've shut down....
4344 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
So here comes the "New" Dumpling Inn and Shanghai Saloon:
While never great shakes, the place really "jumped the shark" in my opinion after the owner got involved with The Dragon's Den and Del Mar Rendezvous, both of which have been sold. So now we get this........ I'm told he has a taste for "fusion", which is great, remember, I'm from the home of Pacific Rim Cuisine, so I love fusion.....but it's a thin line between fusion and "con-fusion".
In the old First Korean Market location.
4625 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
We had some much needed rain over the last two weeks........and we're kind of enjoying the nice sleeping weather, which would be great if I wasn't working so many long hours.
Still, I actually saw a double rainbow while driving to Target on the way home yesterday. Pardon the bad photos.
Seeing a rainbow in San Diego is rare enough....a double rainbow, well I don't ever recall seeing one here.
So I took a photo....then took photos of other folks taking photos of the double rainbow.....like I said, this is like an event.
Or maybe a celebrity? This guy is having his picture taken "with" the rainbow! No selfies here....though I did pass two couple taking selfies with the rainbow.
It always makes me want to jump right back in bed...... We usually wake very early when travelling. Getting up at 4 or 5 am is the norm, whether in Hanoi, Prague, Antigua, or Istanbul. When in Seattle though, we usually get a great, long, night of sleep. And usually awake famished......
The Missus picked the spot for breakfast; Lola in Belltown. I was interested as well, since this is part of the Tom Douglas empire. In spite of all my visits to Seattle, I'd only eaten in one Tom Douglas restaurant; Dahlia Lounge back in 1994, when he won the James Beard award for Best Chef: Northwest.
It was 8am on a Friday morning and the place was packed!
The Missus ordered the "Lola Breakfast" ($15).....and for some reason ordered Her eggs boiled...6 minute eggs. One of the eggs that arrived had cracked and the albumen was oozing out sloppily. She asked about it and the Server grumpily removed the plate and it was brought back very quickly....so we knew they had just scrapped off the egg whites and dropped the plate back on the table.... the eggs, were also way past 6 minute territory.
Other than that, the smashed garlic potatoes were wonderful....I enjoyed the fingerling the best. We had potatoes this way twice in Seattle, something that I had done at home a while back, but now I've been inspired to do potatoes this way again. The bacon was very nice, great flavors, crisp around the edges, chewy in the center.
I ordered Tom's Favorite Breakfast ($19). I had read that Lola is Greek inspired and this "hash" of sorts featured octopus, which did not disappoint.
The octopus was among the best I've had in ages, perfectly tender, yet slight crisp from the griddle. The winter squash added a wonderful, mild sweetness to the dish, the bacon, salty-smoky flavors, and let's not forget the leek, which brought the entire dish together.
The poached egg was adequate, though I'm not a fan of the sourdough toast here....they are still into hard and chewy breads here.
We both enjoyed the coffee and instead of feeling weighed down by breakfast, both thought this hit the right balance in terms of portion size.
Lola 2000 4th Ave Seattle, WA 98121
We then headed off to this Seattle landmark and truly one of my favorite places in the world.
No matter how many times I've visited Seattle; I've never gotten tired of checking out Pike Place Market.
We have our favorite places; the Missus never gets tired of watching donuts being made at the Daily Dozen Doughnut Company and I enjoy checking out Beecher's Cheese.
Well, make that "used to be" a must stop. I got a Sauerkraut, Cabbage, and Carrot ($4.20) which seemed to be a shadow of its former self....did they change the recipe somewhere in the recent past? First, the filling was pretty cold and strangely bland, second, the pastry lacked the buttery-yeasty flavor that we both recall.
Kind of sad since this used to be a tradition for us.......
Piroshky Piroshky 1908 Pike Pl Seattle, WA 98101
Still, it's always grest to visit Pike Place Market and to check out places that weren't around the last time we visited......I did want to taste the shot of the brine at Britt's Pickles, but no one was around....so we'll just have to go next time.
We then started off to our next stop when it started to come down a bit. So we ducked into Seattle Coffee Works...the Missus had Her V60 pour over and I had some iced coffee.
When things settled down a bit we caught the route 131 bus down to SODO. Now, I might joke about the Missus and Her love for Chanel bags and such......but I've got a bit of a bag fetish as well. You see, I'd been searching for the perfect carry-on bag for years. We only do carry-on when we're travelling, unless we'll be bringing stuff back....we have a foldable duffle for that. A few years back, I got a Tom Bihn Tri Star, basically a European sized carry-on and I loved it. The Missus complained about spending so much for luggage, ya-da, ya-da, ya-da.....Until the Aeronaut 30 came out and I got Her one.....now She's a Tom Bihn-nite as well.
Anyway, Tom Bihn's factory and only showroom is located on Ohio Ave South. So we caught the bus, got out at the South Dawson Street stop and walked to the showroom.
The showroom is basically a partitioned off section in front of the factory floor. But.... I was in travel bag geek heaven! Anyway, the Missus determined that I should get an Aeronaut 45, which can actually hold a lot more than I believed. So yes, another bag for me.......
We caught the bus back to Pioneer Square. By now we were getting a bit hungry. So we stopped by this fast casual shop named Sprout, ordered a Cobb Salad and went back to the room and shared it. By now it was nap time for the Missus and usually, I'd be joining Her. But, for some reason, I was still a bit jazzed. I guess that 10 hours of sleep I got he night before really did me good....except for my legs of course....
It had dried out a bit, so I decided to take a walk around the area....to some of those places I hadn't been to in a while.
Man, the last time I actually visited the Waterfall Garden was back in the 90's.
And though the area is still kind of gritty.....kind of like the Tenderloin in SF, things look a lot better than I remembered. It looks like folks are starting to move into lofts, we saw folks walking their dogs.....
I had a destination in mind.....funny, how you get into a pattern of things. By habit, I went to the "old" location of Uwajimaya.....and then remembered it had moved over a block back in 2000!
Picked up some bottled tea and water and walked back to where we were staying. I was kind of suprised to smell so much reefer in the air as I walked around Seattle. I don't ever recall that before!
I'd been gone over an hour, so the Missus had a nice nap. It looked like it was going to be a nice evening.....
And we had reservations at Sitka & Spruce for dinner.....
On the way back to the machiya, we ran into Masae, the owner of the property and also the craft beer bar in the shopping arcade. We asked her about finding some tea. She recommended a visit to Ippodo Tea. So after a nice shower and a short nap, we headed off to find Ippodo. Up Higashioji-dori, then west on Marutamachi, crossing the Kamo River.....left on Teramachi-dori right when you hit Kyoto Imperial Palace Park......about four block down, you'll find Ippodo.
The shop and the connected Kaboku Tearoom, where you learn to make and also taste various teas was doing some brisk business. One of the young ladies spoke excellent English. We didn't have time to dally, but she went over all the main types of tea with the Missus and we got to sample a few. We ended up purchasing a few packages.....which the Missus loves. I'm thinking we'll be back.
Ippodo Tea Teramachi-dori Nijo, Nakagyo-ku Kyoto
We really weren't sure of exactly where our dinner destination was. I'd heard of a place serving rustic wild game; I recall the term "mountain food" a couple times when reading about the place. It really didn't take us long to find the place. Masae pointed out it was near the Hotel Heiannomori, right past Okazaki Shrine.
The rabbit is the spirit of the shrine and is also said to house the god and goddess of easy childbirth.
It's a nice peaceful place to visit.
Right past the shrine, you can't help but locate Okariba. You can't miss the signs. The place is dark, warm, and very rustic looking. The trappings are simple; a large grill in the middle of the room; beer kegs lie about, the lines drawn to the taps. The owner is a very gentle and soft-spoken bespeckled gentleman named Aoki-san....whose mild manner belies the name of the place; "Hunting Ground" as well as the firearms hanging on the wall.
The Missus took a quick look at the sake bottles on one of the tables and said; "he has his own sake, with the name of the place on it."
And so we sailed off on our maiden voyage at Okariba, with simple, but nicely braised slices of daikon and aburage.
The sake was mild and sweet, but really, this type of food called for beer. After starting with this; it was beer all the way.
Things started off with what is probably the signature dish here (though folks who came in later all ordered trout); the grilled wild boar. Wonderful, surprisingly tender chunks of wild boar with a classic Japanese marinade and tare; smokey from the charcoal, slightly sweet, nicely porky, but mild. The portion size was quite a surprise for us; this is enough for two or three to start.
We weren't going to Kyushu, but I knew I could get a specialty of that area here; basashi - horse sashimi. I really love the flavor of horse; I know, it's not PC.....but it's not endangered either, right?
This was very nice; served just slightly frozen, just the way I was told it shoud be, the flavor is quite clean, with a mild sweet finish. The texture is like beef, with a tad more toothfullness. I love this dish.....
Arriving with the basashi was a combination of preserved vegetables and something else....more on that in a bit. I grew up eating items like takana-zuke, so I loved the pickled greens. I'd never had fuki-miso, basically akunuki butterbur, stirfried with miso, then preserved.
The most interesting thing was the "Inago" - locusts, which had been glazed with a wonderful sweet mirin-soy. These were nice and crisp and so sweet and salty....going well with beer.
The Missus's favorite dish by far was the hobamiso.......
A wonderful, savory, but not salty miso with mushrooms and scallions grilled on a leaf. It was funny; we thought we were doing pretty well; but Aoki-san came by......and decided he needed to show us how it was done....it became this wonderful, miso-mess of flavors.
This just screamed for another beer; so we ordered one. And were soon surprised with this....Aoki-san brought it over and said "gift-tu"..... Some nice home made tofu.
Then another "gift"....this was fantastic. I'd never had Wasabi-zuke before. This was wonderful; made from the leaves and stems of the wasabi plant; on occasion you'd get a super pungent bite, but the flavors were amazing, sweet-pungent-bitter-sour-salty...totally my kind of dish.
When this arrived, I just thought I needed to have another beer.....he's giving us free food. So I had another beer....at which time fried tofu arrived.
By this time I figured out...the more we drank, the more stuff would be coming out. I'd better quit here or we'd be literally rolling back! If there was a time I wished we could tip in Japan, it was here. The warmth and hospitality made me want to do something. I should have brought some omiyagi, or something......
We decided to follow the Shirakawa canal through Gion. I took this photo on one of the cement bridges, the type with no handrails that passes over the canal near Shinbashi.
Crossing over the Kamo river, we then headed up, the now busy Ponto-chō, restaurants now going full tilt.
As we passed by a hair salon, something caught my eye. I pointed out the one guy doing "hair" in the salon, which was closed to the Missus. She said, "yeah, he's doing hair, so what?" I told Her to take a look....that head had no body! He was actually working on a wig placed on a mannequin head. I'm not sure if this is SOP....but it just seemed a bit, well, strange......
And finally, there as Shijo-dori....while not crazy as Tokyo; which seems to actually be pulsating with it's own heartbeat, the crowds and objective sure were a contrast to the Gion.
The Missus really seemed to take to Kyoto. The size, the crowds, the shops, were just Her speed.
At this point, we decided to head back.......the Missus was tired for a change.
As we crossed Furumozen-dori, we noticed some activity up ahead. Lanterns, laughter, drums......and strange specters seemed to float ahead.
Suddenly we both remembered. Masae had told us that Awata Matsuri was happening this weekend. This was the Awata Jinja Lantern Festival! We were told that one of the key points of the Matsuri was that this was the day when both the Buddhist and Shinto Priests actually get together and celebrate together.
Then of course, there's the inevitable intermingling that occurs when everyone takes a break at Family Mart!
Once things got started, we quickly made it back to the machiya. Why? Well, because the lantern parade went right through the shopping arcade, right past where we were staying.....
It's quite amazing. The paradox, the new, modern, somewhat glitzy, but there's always the respect for tradition that pulls things in....bringing order to things.
And also very thankful. For the fire control, who instantly put out all the burning embers from the fire which was placed on the ground for some symbolic reason. Once it was lifted back up, they sprung into action and made sure everything on the ground was put out in the blink of an eye.......that's Japan in a microcosm.
Having started our day before 5 in the morning, we'd walked at least 7-8 miles easily. The Missus, for the first time I can recall was totally bushed. It had been quite a day. I'd planned our "red-lettered day" in Tokyo; starting with Tsukiji Market and meals at Michelin starred Sushi Iwa and Suzunari. And while that was an epic and unforgettable day. This rather unscripted, hastily planned day was its equal.....Sushi Iwa and Suzunari showed me the skill, execution, and polish of a great restaurant. Karako and Okariba displayed the heart and soul......each has its place in my eating universe.
One of the great things about train stations in Japan is the abundance of storage lockers. For about five bucks US, you get a good sized locker for the whole day. Since we left Tokyo quite early in the morning we arrived way before check in time at the residence where we were staying. We managed to stow our bags....we travel light, I have a Tri-Star and the Missus an Aeronaut 30, which She loves. How the Missus ended up agreeing with me about Her Aeronaut is a story for another day. Anyway, these two bags are European carry-on size and we can easily travel for a month (or more) with what we pack in these bags......mine weighed out at 9 kilos for this trip.
For some reason, we found Kyoto Station to be bit confusing....Tokyo Station was a slam dunk; but Kyoto Station just seemed like a maze at first. After finding the gates to the JR Nara line, which wasn't that hard, we got on the train.....which ended up being the Express, which bypasses the Inari Station! We actually didn't feel too bad, since there were at least a dozen people (all Japanese) who did the same thing. We got off at the first express stop after Inari Station and headed back...with the other folks who took the wrong train and made it to Fushimi-Inari.
Our first impressions of Fushimi Inari-Taisha? It was so strikingly beautiful.......and so crowded!
And while we could enjoy the vibrancy and character to the shrine; the packed crowds, the noise (remember we had spent a couple of days in Tokyo, so it's all relative), and the lines to walk through the colorful torii (gates), were just a bit too much for us. I told the Missus that the shrine opens at dawn.....if we woke early enough, we could get here at dawn, and really enjoy the place.....so we decided to return the next morning. We'd bundle Fushimi Inari and Kiyomizu-dera for the next morning.
Having read enough about our travel, I'm sure you realize that the Missus was not going to stop and proceed to sit on Her hands. She decided we should walk up the street...... It was an interesting walk as the shops gave way to temples, several of which we walked through.....ending up at the impressive gate of Tōfuku-ji.
This massive Sanmon is the oldest in Japan and is considered a national treasure.
The Dragon painting on the ceiling in the Hondou (Main Hall) is by famous Kyoto-born artist Insho Domoto.
The temple is known for the stone and moss gardens and the Tsuutenkyo Bridge.
I can just imagine what this view would be like during autumn when all the leaves turn color!
There are many temples and shrines in the area.....
So we just meandered around.......
We ended up at Shorinji Temple.....
It was nearing noon and our check in time, so we headed down the hill to Tokufuji Station, back to Kyoto Station, where we got confused again....this time trying to remember where our locker was. Once located we headed off to our destination. A Machiya in the Southern Higashiyama area.
First off, the owner wasn't kidding when she said it was one minute from Higashiyama Station....it was literally one minute! Located in a shopping arcade - Furukawacho shopping arcade, this is among the top ten places we've ever stayed....it was huge; two floors, a large kitchen, an awesome bath....of course the sleeping arrangement was traditional Japanese.
Masae was fantastic, so organized, she even had a map of the area around the arcade, with restaurants and shops listed. There was a typhoon, Vongfong headed our way....she kept us appraised via emails. She made our stay wonderful.
Meanwhile, we had asked Reiko about things we should buy in Kyoto. While on the way to the Machiya, Reiko mentioned getting a Furoshiki. And Masae knew just the spot. A few blocks away was Kakefuda. The Missus was taken with the various patterns. The young man here did a demo....a couple of times, showing the Missus how to do some of the basic tying methods. Somehow, no matter how many times She's practiced....it just doesn't look quite right. That's alright though......the Missus got something for herself from Kyoto.
We then headed West, over the Kamo River, finding Nishiki Market. Man, this placed was packed. It was wall to wall people. My first instinct was to bail....but the Missus was hungry and getting a bit grumpy, so we decided to hunt for some "snacks", starting out with an ok Takoyaki....kind of too soggy for my taste. It was just meh......very dull...so I'm thinking a black and white photo describes it best.
We came across a stand selling Hamoyaki; grilled conger eel brushed with a tare. They had a little standing table and we really wanted a respite from the masses. This was actually pretty good. Hamo is very mild in flavor, so it's basically a palette for the tare. We really enjoyed the light texture of the eel.
We made our way further down the market and something caught the Missus' eye.
This place made yakimanju and yakimochi....grilled rice cakes. We tried a yakimanju....
I have to say....I love the fragrance of these....but as a whole, I'm not a fan of yakimochi and this was basically the same thing.
Nothing amazing, but enough to keep us going......we spent the rest of the afternoon shopping around Shijo-dori. When it was time to head back, I asked the Missus what She watned to do for dinner. We'd had a long day; I awoke at 330am and actually did a post. We'd need to wake by at least 5am tomorrow and we were bushed. So, Daimaru's resutoran-gai ("restaurant town") just made sense, especially since the Missus was craving salad, which is rather hard to come by.
This stuff ain't cheap, but the variety is staggering.....as I mentioned previously; large department stores have an entire floor full of food stands and vendors. It's easy to get lost in all of this.
Dinner in hand, we made our way back to the house. Not directly of course......
This thin, alley-like street is named Ponto-chō, it is one of the Hanamachi, Geisha districts in Kyoto. The street runs parallel to the Kamo River and is full of restaurants, bars, and, after being absolutely shocked to see a Geisha walking down the street, Geisha houses I guess?
The wooden buildings and hanging lanterns sure adds to the atmosphere.......
Having come from Shijuku and seeing the Robot Restaurant, then Shibuya and the goth-Hello Kitty chicks, to this in less than three days is something to wrap your head around.
Crossing over to the other side of the Kamo River, we made our way back to where we were staying.
We followed the Shirakawa Canal, into the Gion, another Hanamachi district, and the street folks told me was the most beautiful in all of Japan.
I can see why.......
The sound of the water; the wooden buildings, the trees.....take a photo and ask someone where this is and they'll say, "well, Japan of course....."
Getting back to the machiya, the Missus decided a nice long soak in the wonderful tub was on the agenda. I went upstairs to the sitting area.
I had some tea while watching the folks pass through the marketplace below. There's a meat market and a small convenience type store right across the walkway from the house.
Dinner was a a simple affair......but perfect as we were pretty tired.
As you can see, the Missus got Her "salad fix".
Here's the rather unique Furoshiki the Missus chose. She said it would always remind Her of Kakefuda.
After dinner, we took a walk up Sanjo-dori and some of the side streets in the Gion...packed with bars and Izakayas. There was a Family Mart and a Grocery Store right around the corner from where we were staying as well.
Life is full of happy coincidences. When we arrived, Masae told us that she had just opened a craft beer bar in the same arcade, a few yeards from where we were staying. Really? A craft beer bar? Awesome!
We headed over for a nightcap. The tiny spot was busy, but they found us a small table. Looking at the beer list, I had to crack up; Stone, Lagunitas, Pizza Port, Saint Archer.... you gotta love it!
Of course there was a selection of Japanese craft brews as well. The Missus likes Her sours, so She went with the Morita Kinshachi Fruits Draft Lemon.
I mentioned that we were from San Diego and had recently visited Belgium to Masae....who apparently loves her beer. we had a nice conversation about San Diego breweries, along with a promise that if she visits San Diego, the beer is on us!
I had the Kure Beer Belgian IPA, which was interesting. Less hoppy than an IPA and not veyr boozy; this was on the sweet side and not unpleasant.
Man, it had been quite a long day; from Tokyo and a view of Mount Fuji, to temples, then shopping, and finally a nice quiet self catered dinner, followed by a visit to a craft beer bar......
So this was Kyoto, huh? Though we were dead tired, we were having fun.