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Thought I wanted something healthy for the first meal of the day, so headed over to Brown Rice Cafe, which was about 5 min walk from where I was staying.  But the sign on the door said it opens at noon!

Brown rice cafe:
GREEN BLDG 1F, 5-1-17 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

Since I was rather hungry and had to head over to Nakameguro to meet up with a friend,  aborted my plan for having a healthy meal and went for a tonkatsu set meal at Maisen.  Very well known to travel books for a very good reason, this place serves amazing tonkatsu and other deep fried dishes.  Batter is unbelievably fluffy, light yet crunchy with capital letter “C”!  Even it’s a deep fried piece of pork, it almost melts in your mouth like a cotton candy!


まい泉 (maisen):
4-8-5 Jingumae, Shibuya-ki

Enough with tonkatsu!  When JR train was about to stop at Nakameguro station, I was stunned with the view outside, since along the both sides of Meguro River (it’s called a river, but it’s more like a quaint canal) were covered with cherry blossoms in full bloom!  Since I was rather disappointed by what I saw in Ueno Park 2 days earlier, I wasn’t expecting much!  Plus, my sole reason for a visit in Nakameguro was to try out a veggie dessert place , it was like a huge bonus for me and my friend!  First, we walked and chatted while walking down the river.  Both of us were extremely excited by the view in front of our eyes and felt so lucky to be witnessing something so beautiful together.

And then we headed over to Potager Patisserie for rather unusual afternoon tea.  The place was small and jam packed with people lined up to try beautiful desserts made out of veggies.    We tried 3 items, buckwheat mousse, carrot pudding and chocolate brownie with some sort of veggie inside to add some crunch.  I must say I’m still a fan of full fat and sugar concocted desserts, but it was a very unique experience worth  trying!

Patisserie Potager:
2-44-9 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku

After the afternoon tea and long chat, I headed over to Ebisu, where sleepy residential streets are dotted with one of a kind stores for clothing and home furnishing.  I was able to score a french sailor shirt with crisp dark blue horizontal strips (which was on the top of my shopping list) and cute enamel butter knives, which I’m so excited to use for homemade scones.

Strolling in Ebisu was very calming and spotting newly opened blooms were rather refreshing.  It was cold though.  I nestled myself in a tiny cafe ran by 3 young woman and warmed my hands, body and soul with a mug of matcha latte while watching the sun go down…

Hexagon Cafe:
2-8-9 Ebisu Minami, Shibuya-ku

My plan was to walk over to the train station, but I knew I was lost.  Sun was already gone and dusk was fast approaching.  But I was rather calm.  Asked a person on the street whether I was close to Nakameguro, since I sensed that I was walking toward west.  The polite middle aged man said I was about 20 mins away, so I walked.  I wanted to see cherry blossoms once again illuminated by the street lights.  I always considered cherry blossoms to have innocent beauty.  But night sakura showed its sensual side.  There’s something shy and introverted about closely clustered blossoms, yet so open and eager to show itself…

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While making a bowl of guacamole with perfectly ripe avocado for a simple Sunday lunch, completely on a whim, sent text messages to a couple of friends…  And in a mere hour later, I was sitting on a lawn, by the river, munching on chips with velvety guacamole and tangy fruit salad.  Not a bad way to fight a sudden humid summer weather in NYC…

Day 4 started off with a heart to heart girl talk until my friend had to leave for the last minute shopping before catching her flight back home. I took my marry time to get myself ready and checked out around quarter to noon.

All by myself in Tokyo, I headed to Daikanyama and had two onigiri (riceball) at Onigiri den den for brunch – one stuffed with grilled shiozake (salted salmon) and the other made with melted cheese and sesame seeds. Ever since I was a little girl, I was obsessed with onigiri. It always appeared on Japanese animation or comic books with characters eating triangular riceballs in a delighted manner. Now I can confidently say that I can make my own, but it was an absolute delight to try something so homey at a restaurant with equally homey feeling that had 3 tiny tables and bar seating area. Armed with onigiris in my stomach, I marched forward into a small alley of Daikanyama to visit Kurasu. It’s a tiny little store in the back of a shabby looking house selling traditional Japanese and modern houseware. As expected, it was a joy just looking around and imagining all sorts of dishes I can present on those ceramics. Torn between so many options in front of my eyes with limited luggage space, I purchased a couple of items and decided to pay a visit to d&department, another houseware store. However, as soon as I walked out of the store, it was sprinkling outside, and in an effort to keep myself dry from the shower, I went into Bombay Bazar. It’s a café/restaurant that seem to specialize in curry (Japanese LOVE curry). However, since I wasn’t ready for yet another meal (I did end up getting 2nd lunch later though), I ordered a Indian coffee, which was milky coffee spiked with ginger flavor; quite similar to spiced chai latte. It was rather perfect choice, since I was suffering from soar throat from unexpected cold weather in Tokyo.

おにぎり田田 (Onigiri den den):
23-1 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku

暮らす (Kurasu):
20-13 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku

Bombay Bazar:
20-11 Sarugaku-cho (BF1), Shibuya

Anyway, back to d&department… It’s located in a suburban neighborhood of Tokyo called Kuhonbutsu (九品仏). I took JR line from Daikanyama and transferred at Jiyugaoka station to Tokyu line. Frankly, it’s not so far away from central Tokyo, but the tiny outdoor station and a short strip of main shopping area with family owned businesses made me feel as if I was on a day trip! D&department is about 15 min walk from the station and is located in a space which used to be a printing factory. 2nd floor is now used as a store selling furniture (mainly in a mid century modern style) and housewares ranging from traditional Japanese to modern. I picked up a couple of small dishes and a tiny ceramic grater that I can use to grate wasabi root and daikon radish! Since I was quite impressed with the cookbook published by d&department café team that the store was selling, I went to the first floor to try out their creation. They have a wide variety of desserts for tea, but I prefer savory dishes to sweet ones, so I picked dry curry set. YES! It was my 2nd lunch of the day. Just like other dishes I encountered in Tokyo, it was simple and homey, but prepared with care and fresh ingredients! Even the salad that came with the meal was full of fresh flavor of vegetable. Only regret? I forgot to pick up the cookbook before leaving the place and I wasn’t able to find it in any other bookshops. Oh well… Good reason to return to Tokyo… After a brief exploration of the neighborhood to celebrate cherry blossoms and calmness of the residential streets of Kuhonbutsu, I headed to Omotesando and ended my 4th day with a dinner at modern izayaka called Maru.  No photos from Maru though, since I get rather shy when it comes to taking photos at a nicer restaurants… 😉

d&department:
8-3-2 Okusawa, Setagaya-ku

まる (Maru):
Aoyama KT Building B1F, 5-50-8 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

As much as I love cooking, I also enjoy grocery shopping.  However, I’ve never been a huge fan of Chelsea Market, since it somehow feels like a tourist trap than a real market.

However, despite my reservations, because of the rainy weather, I had no desire to go to Union Sq. green market, so thought I’d give it a try…  The result?  Fabulous 3 course dinner!  I found fresh fillet of cod at Lobster Place, which I baked with mustard caper sauce and served with oven baked broccoli.  For an easy to make appetizer, I prepared charcuterie platter draped with cold cuts from Buon Italia and a substantial slice of pork rillette from Dickson’s Farmstand.  I also found almond paste, nuts and other ingredients for baking at lower cost, some of which I used to bake mixed berry almond tart.  It seems like I will be visiting Chelsea Market rather frequently going forward.

I must say through the act of baking and other kitchen-related activities, I have been able to keep my sanity during the first month of break up.  And I now have a new partner in crime, that is a stand mixer in retro pistachio!

Our first collaboration was to paddle to cool down pate a choux for eclairs and puffs filled with lightened chocolate pastry cream.

And yes!  I’ve further sinned by dipping them into chocolate glaze…

After laboring quite a substantial amount of time on Friday night and Saturday morning, I couldn’t just stop there, so made some almond frangipane and whipped up a couple of mixed berry almond tart with pate sucree I stashed in my fridge last week…  Always so lovely with a dainty cup of orange pekoe tea…:)

Cannot believe 4 months have passed since my last posting.  Quite a bit has happened during my hiatus, but the most notable one would be the baking course at ICE.  Already attended 7 sessions and 5 more to go.  It has been a fun journey, and I’m definitely gaining tiny bit of confidence in baking.

Kartoffelsuppe

Extremely simple yet so hearty and comforting…  I think I’m ready for the winter…

Been down with personal and professional reasons, which manifested in the form of feverish cold.  It was 1PM-ish and wanted to cook something to pick my spirit up.  Asked my boyfriend what he’d fancy for lunch.  Just like bartenders at Milk & Honey do.  “What are you in the mood for?”  His answer was rather generic.  “Rice with light sauce?”  It’s not entirely light, but couldn’t think of anything better than heap of gumbo ladled over fresh cooked rice

Conveniently, I had chicken thigh, andouille and bacon frozen in my freezer.  So ran out to the corner store to buy some produce (bell pepper, onion and a can of tomato).    After an hour of labor in my kitchen, I was able to yield 4 portions of gumbo…

gumbo

Ingredients

  • 2 pieces of chicken thigh: diced
  • 1 andouille sausage: thinly sliced (0.25 inch thick)
  • 3 slices of bacon: diced
  • 1 medium sized onion: chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper: seeded, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves: finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 0.5 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaves
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup of sliced frozen okra
  • Minced fresh Italian parsley (0.5 cup)

1. Cook bacon in a dutch oven over medium heat until browned but not crisp
2. Add chicken thigh and andouille sausage to the dutch oven and cook until chicken pieces are barely cooked
3. Transfer bacon, chicken and andouille to a bowl with a slotted spoon
4. To the dutch oven, add butter and when it bubbles, sprinkle in flour little bit at a time while stirring constantly to make roux
5. When the mixture turns light brown (shade of peanut butter), add green bell pepper, garlic, onion and white wine, scrap any brown bits from bottom of the dutch oven and stirring occasionally
6. When the veggie mixture bubbles, stir in chicken stock, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf, cayenne and 2 teaspoons salt and cook for 5 mins
7. Add bacon, chicken andouille, frozen okra, and chopped parsley in the dutch oven and cook for 5 mins
8. Serve on top of steamed rice and adorn with finely chopped parsley

With 2/3 of a tub of mascarpone cheese left from Wednesday, I made marcarpone cheese pancakes by modifying Nigella’s recipe for cottage cheese pancakes.  Since marcarpone cheese is not as liquidy as cottage cheese, I added a bit of water to the batter.

With macerated strawberries, maple syrup and Arnie Palmer with a dash of lemon basil syrup I made last week, the pancakes were a perfect summer brunch dish!

pancake

INGREDIENTS
2 eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla extract, mascarpone cheese, strawberry, balsamic vinegar,

1. Cut strawberries into small pieces and macerate them with a pinch of sugar and 3 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and set it aside

2. Separate 2 eggs, and to the yolks, add sugar (4 tablespoon), mascarpone cheese (3 tablespoons), flour (2/3 cup), water (1/4 cup), and vanilla extract (2 teaspoons)

3. Beat egg whites until foamy and fold into the mix

4. Drop a ladle of batter on a hot non-stick pan and cook approx. 1 min on each side

5. Serve with macerated strawberries and maple syrup

crimini mushroom pasta

Last night, I was flipping through DVR-ed episodes of Nigella Express and when I saw her rolling up sizable ball of liguine, I knew what I was making for my dinner-for-one on Friday night.  It is extremely simple and perfect for hot summer season, since the sauce only needs a bit of chopping, grating and tossing!  I used pecorino romano (which I had in my fridge) instead of parmesan.  Also, didn’t have any parsley, sprinkled extra thyme after placing the pasta in a serving bowl.  It was velvety with cheese and musky yet refreshing as I added plenty of lemon juice.

Nigella’s Recipe on FoodNetwork.com
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nigella-lawson/linguine-with-lemon-garlic-and-thyme-mushrooms-recipe/index.html