Monday, March 29, 2010

Ten things I'm looking forward to this week

1) Rehearsals for In Durang's Shorts!  We had our first stumble through last night, and the whole show is looking awesome. The whole cast is so talented and funny. I'm really glad to be a part of such an awesome group.

2) Trying to convince my wednesday lunch group to go to Bon Fresco for lunch on Wednesday. I had lunch there on Saturday, and I really want to go back!

3) Burgers this week with Julie!  This week, we are going to Re-return to one of our favorite places.

4)  Friday off!

5) The weather getting better this week (rumor is, it might hit 80)

6) Consuming the fruit salsa I made! (note to self: make some cinnamon chips)

7) Looking forward to my some of my co-workers trying these  (the Durang crew liked them!)

8)  Thinking of other applications for the peanut butter ganache.

9) Getting some laundry done.

10) Memorizing my lines so I can be completely off book by the end of the week.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


1) Springtime in Baltimore

2) The awesome theater company I'm in, and the night of short plays we're doing (go buy tickets now!)

3) Rehearsals!

4) Wii fit-ing every day.

5) Compost Cookies. (not making me happy to eat them right now, because they are gone, but currently planning to make more awesome cookies.)

6) The house tea at Cafe Zen that comes with dinner. Smoky, and delicious.

7) Thinking about making these cupcakes..... I should definitely do that, right?

8) Sam's Kid Asian tapas resturant in Fell's point. You combine that with gelato, and hanging out with Tammy on Sunday, and you basically have the most perfect spring day ever. (Also dinner I had there last week with Julie. I LOVE that place.)

9) Looking for new awesome recipies to make.

10) Making progress on my list.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Poncabird Cafe

We're trying to find the best burger in Baltimore! For More entries, click Here. 

I was talking to Julie earlier today, and we were trying to figure out when we could do burgers next, when I realized that I had never posted anyting about Poncabird cafe!
Which is really an oversight, because they have some awesome burgers at the Poncabird.
Poncabird Burger
We started with the Crab dip in a bread bowl which was really excellent- creamy and delicious, with the awesome addition of melted cheese on top. . My one criticism would be that it could have used a little bit more Old Bay.
Crab dip in a bread bowl
(sorry for the blurry picture, my camera battery was dying)

The Poncabird is in kind of a strange area, nestled in amongst big warehouses in the Higlandtown area, and I got a bit turned around going there. But once I was there, it's a really cool neighborhood hangout. there are christmas lights up around the bar,  the service was good, and attentive, and  all the food is cooked in the open air center of the bar. The ambiance was fun too, with a crowd that looked like regulars, and a table with a barbershop quartet that started warming up, but never sang. (we hoped they would sing, but alas, no.)

This was a solidly good burger, among the top, but not quite surpassing our favorite burger (at Jennings Cafe) It was cooked perfectly for both of us (I had medium rare and Julie had medium) And Julie liked that the onions on her burger were sliced thin and spread all over the burger.  The burgers came with chips, and a pickle, but no pickles on the burger (which was sad for me).

Up Next: Abbey Burger Bistro!

Monday, March 15, 2010

compost cookies

I love the salty/sweet combination Chocolate covered pretzels, salted caramels, you name it, I like it (especially when there is dark chocolate involved.  I first read about the Compost cookie on Serious Eats, who had done a review of Momofoku Milk Bar in New York,  and there was this cookie that had potato chips and pretzels in it. I was intrigued.  I didn't know how the crunchy of the chips/pretzels would do and if they would get overcooked in the oven.  I filed them in the part of my brain that holds places I want to go to visit when I'm in New York, and promptly forgot about it.
I would see different reviews of Momofoku Milk Bar, and then would mention the Compost Cookie, and I would think hmmmmmmm. Until a few weeks ago, when one of my favorite food bloggers, The Amateur Gourmet, put the recipe for the cookies on his website.  As it often happens, I had a hankering to make the recipe. I thought about it, and thought about it, and thought about it some more. But I was leaving for Japan in a few days, and I really didn't have time to be baking cookies. 
Then, I headed down to Tim's before Japan, and we found ourselves with a free evening before we went.  Because we love to cook, we headed to the grocery store and got the ingredients for roasted chicken with potatoes, and the compost cookies.
We got down to work, and I was surprised at the method for making these cookies. Once you have creamed the butter and sugar, you add the eggs and vanilla, and then beat for 10 minutes, creating a light and fluffy texture for the batter. then you mix in the flour and other add ins, just to incorporate. I think this gave the cookies an awesome texture and I am definitely going to try it with some of my other cookie recipes. (up next: chocolate chip and peanut butter). I also followed the recipe to dose them out with an ice cream scoop, which made some definitely huge sized cookies (mine tend to be cookie-scoop size)  I put them on the cookie sheet, put them in the oven, where they proceeded to spread out uncontrollably, and get too brown around the edges and still borderline raw in the middle. It was at that point I looked at the recipe again, and realized that the cookies needed 1hr to 1 week refrigeration. I threw the rest of the dough into the fridge, waited for an hour (while I was falling asleep) and put the second batch in to bake.  they looked a little better, but still not great.  
When we got back from Japan, I read an article on  Christina Tosi (pastry chef of Momofoku Milk Bar) that said that the butter she used for cookies was the fancy European butter Plugra.  I was itching to try the recipe again, and this time I wanted to use the Plugra (what Tim calls 'magic butter') and give the cookies a longer chill time in the fridge.
And there was success!  And happiness in the land. The combination of the magic butter and the resting time in the fridge for the dough made fantastically chewy, awesome cookies.  The salty and sweet of the peanut butter chips and the semisweet mini chips, combined with the kettle chips and the pretzels.... I can't wait to make these cookies again.
My add ins:
3/4 c Mini semisweet choc chips
3/4 c peanut butter chips
3/4 c crushed pretzels
3/4 c crushed potato chips
If you like salty and sweet, make these now.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Thursday- Ginzan Onsen and Tokyo

to the left

I managed to sleep until five, and then got up to monkey with the photos from the night before- I wanted to see if any post processing could make some of the user-error of my nighttime photos, and write down about the day before.  I worked for about an hour, and then Tim got up and I crawled back into bed to get warm (I had been sitting next to the window)

I rested for awhile, then got back ready for the hot spring, and went down for the bath. It was blue sky again in the morning, so the view was great.

We had our last breakfast:

We got back to the room, got dressed, and cleaned up our stuff.  We checked out, and had about two hours to kill before our driver came to get us. Tim went back into the town, to check things out, and I stayed at the hotel, writing and listening to music.

As tiny as Ginzan Onsen is, (and it's small) it is really beautiful.  The service at the ryokan was fantastic- even though there was a pretty large language barrier, Tim and I were definitely able to communicate with a few shared words, a lot of gestures, and facial expressions.  Everyone we ran into there, from the tiny Japanese old lady who giggled  at Tim for being so tall to the couple at the next table over at dinner who heard us speaking English and kept smiling and waving at us and trying to speak to us in Japanese were excessively kind and friendly.  In retrospect, it could have been a very terrible and isolating situation- two English speaking American amidst a sea of Japanese-only speaking staff and guests- but it never felt that way.  We were welcomed, and treated very kindly, despite a few looks of surprise and curiosity at the ganjin that were invading their hotel.

After a 40 minute ride to the airport, we  had some truly lackluster (uh, spoiled much?!) udon noodles and coffee, which Tim thought was so bad that it assaulted him. (he added four packets of sugar to an espresso size cup and claimed it was drinkable) I did not object to my coffee nearly as much as he did, as mine came with a scoop of ice cream over my iced coffee. Ice cream can cover a lot of bitter coffee sins.

terrible iced coffee float 2

I opened up my computer to see if there was any wifi, and lo! THere was! So we hopped online and checked email and facebook for the first time since monday. Our plane boarded, and it was a quick 40 minute flight back to Haneda Airport. After walking the entire length of the bus terminal, we found our bus port, was informed it would be a 20 minute wait, and headed back into the airport to wait. We found a convenience store, and bought some snacks for our friends to try- Gentlemen's pocky, Wasabi and green tea kit kats,  and Tim found the waffle flavored snacks that I loved so much! (I had completely missed them, RIGHT NEXT to the pocky I had picked up)

Also found at the airport: in the bathroom stall, a small child restraining device that you can put the kidlet in, while you are doing your business. Handy!
child restraining device in the bathroom

We got on the bus, and began the hour trek back into the city.  Once we got back and settled into the hotel, I tried to repack a little (not so successful) and then we headed out to the city to get something to eat. It was raining, and we were tired, and we both had a case of the don't-know-what-we-want-to-eat itis after walking around for far longer than we wanted to, we indescriminately picked a place that had some medium food, but some great drinks. I had a lychee drink with seltzer and some kind of liquor, and Tim had a grapefruit drink that was really awesome.  We finished our drinks, and headed back to the hotel to crash.
kind of what the restuant felt like

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wednesday- Ginzan Onsen

;out  the window wednesday

I was up again at four, writing and editing pictures, And when Tim woke up, we figured it out. We could sleep till about 3 on the mats, until you wake up, and think, I'm not really comfortable. I managed to soldier through, tossing and turning until I got up at 4, and Tim just kept fighting the good fight to try to get some sleep.  I managed to get another hour at about five thirty, and then it was six thirty and time to get up and meet the day before heading down to the hot springs.

When we got back from the hot springs refreshed, I had actually been able to wrangle my hair into something that didn't look like I had plugged myself into a light socket,  we got dressed for the day and headed down to breakfast.
Breakfast Tray

The breakfasts are so good. It's not just that there's a lot of food, (because there is. A. Lot. Of. Food.  It's that the variety and progression of the food works so well. We had small portions of noodles with seaweed, steamed greens, grapefruit wedges,  Seaweed with beans, and pickled vegetables, along with steamed fish and cabbage with a ginger broth,  Fish and gingered pickle, Miso soup, rice, and a cherry flavored jelly-like gel.  We hung out in the room for awhile in the morning, listening to music and reading books. I finished Kitchen Confidential, which Tim brought (I definitely did not bring enough books this trip)  and we took some more pictures of our view.

We headed back into the village for lunch, and went to the Currybread place- where I got the sandwich that I got yesterday (YUM) and coffee, and Tim got a soup with vegetables and pork and noodles that he was happliy slurping away at.  (not really. Tim does not like to slurp. But he was enjoying it!)
blue sky!

When we were done with lunch, we came out of the shop, and miracle of miracles! the sun was out! and we could see blue sky! We didn't hesitate taking a bunch of pictures of the blue sky, the town, each other, and heading back to the hotel so that we could see what the view outside our window looks like with blue sky behind it. It turns out, it looks pretty amazing.

Blue Sky mountain

Back in the room, we listened to more music, and played cards and generally hung out and had fun.

I am guessing for the third night dinner, they pull out all the stops, because it was CRAZY AWESOME.

(An aside: the way that they serve dinner is not an -everybody gets the same dinner thing. From what we could tell, Everyone gets the same dinner on the first night they are there, and the second, and so forth. So we would see people who had come in the same night as us, who were on the same meal, but we also saw people who had just gotten there, who were having the meal that we had on the first night)

So onto dinner:  We started out with a shot of sweet sake, which was my favorite of the three nights- it was fruity and smooth.

After that was a cold dish of green beans and some kind of vegetable that I couldn't identify, but it was excellent. Next was pickled veggies with a pickled cherry (....interesting)
Some kind of mild pickled something

The composed plate was next, with a container of greens and noodle bits with seaweed.  Then a shell with a sweet and savory mussel mixture baked into it. Onion with bean paste on the end,  a toothpick with three natto beans on the end, that were starchy and tasty. Then a shrimp bite, and the last bite was very similar to the custard from the night before- when you bit down on it, the sweet custard filled your mouth. I could have eaten ten of them.
under the paper 5 dishes

After that was sushi- wonderful, fresh, amazing sushi. There were four kinds, an orange fish (maybe salmon?)  a white fish, a Langoustine, and another white fish. With the amazing wasabi and soy sauce. The sushi I've had here has definitely been the best I've ever had in my life. Creamy, and sweet, insanely fresh, and cut so that it melts in your mouth.  I think I will miss this sushi the most about my trip.

Best Beef stew EVER
And then there was the beef stew. It came in a small porcelain tureen with a lid, Tim lifted his lid off, smelled it, put the lid back on, and looked at me. I couldn't quite decode what his look meant, so I took the lid off of mine, and was hit with one of the most heavenly smells of my life. Inside the tureen was beef stew, with a carrot and a potato. The beef was so tender- so flavorful- the fat had melted and become one with the meat, so each bite that I brought to my mouth with my chopsticks was so tender it did not really require chewing. Bite after bite, Tim and I were silent, shaking our heads at each other, unable to believe how completely awesome it was. I know that I use the word awesome a lot- I am, after all, a child of the 90's. But this dish was awe-inspiring.  We could have ended the meal right there and been sated. I wanted to to into the kitchen and beg the chef for the recipe. (Not that he would have known what the hell I was saying)   Even now, at six am the next morning, when I'm writing this, I could go for a bowl of that beef stew.

We took a beat to compose ourselves, and then fell onto the king crab legs, which were steaming hot from the kitchen, sweet, with a huge amount of meat on them. Each time I thought i had gotten it all, i would put my crab utensil in, and was able to get more of the delicious meat out.
King Crab legs

After that, our soup, that our waitress had lit underneath when we arrived at the table was hot- a soup with onion, and beef, a light broth that was pretty complex.

It was at this point that I could not imagine eating anything else. The sake was getting to me a little, and when the watiress came with our next dish, I had a moment of "no! I cannot eat any more!"  but then she laid down the tempura.  Seaweed, a flower of some kind, Shrimp, and mushroom tempura. with a little container on the side of something salty to dip them in. The tempura was impossibly light and flavorful.

The next soup was a kind of custard tasting, savory soup with a thin cut vegetable that we couldn't quite identify- Tim thought it might have been onion or bamboo, but we are still puzzled. It was rich and creamy and delicious.

We had our rice,  and then the dessert, which was a lime/kiwi custard that was firm and melted easily on the tongue.

Impossibly full, we went back to the room, gathered our coats, resisted the urge to lie down on our beds and be one with the floor, and headed outside to see Ginzan Onsen at night.   It was still clear, and we could see some stars peeking out from behind clouds, as we headed down.  I monkied around with my camera a little to get the right settings for taking pictures at night, and then we headed into the town, taking pictures of the beautiful lights at night.

Red bridge

Night 10

When we were done, we walked back to the ryokan, and after watching a few minutes of an episode of the West Wing, I was asleep.
Picture of the room

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Japan-Tuesday- Ginzan Onsen

blue outside 5

We were up early (well, I was up early, because I couldn't sleep, and puttered around writing and editing photos until Tim got up at about 6 am. We hung out in the room until it was time to go down to the hot springs (We are pretty sure that each room is ascribed with a certain time to go) The hot springs go like this: you go down, get undressed, completely shower yourself with soap/shampoo/conditioner, and then rinse completely off before you get into the just shy of scalding springs. the temperature,  is what I am always going for when I draw my own bath- it was amazing.  the first part of the spring is inside- you get used to the water and regulate your body temperature, then there is a little door that leads to outside, sitting in the hot spring with snow all around you, looking out on the hills, is really relaxing.  They have another level, for individual sitting and relaxing (better for laying down) which I tried, but did not like as much as the first way.

Tim and I met back in the room (bathing is separate gendered)  and got dressed for breakfast.

Breakfast was another multi course affair, with fish, a poached egg that must have been slow poached- the yolk was amazing, rich, and the perfect combination of not runny at all, but not dry- it was a deep orange.  Rice, steamed vegetables and pork, miso soup, and  sweet jello-like Jellies. I wasn't sure how much I would like the fish for breakfast, but it was actually my favorite part.
Steamed food  Steamed veggies and pork for breakfast. 

After breakfast we headed out to go check out the town again, only this time, there wasn't much open, since it was nine o' clock.  Here is where I made my first tactical error. About five inches of snow had fallen the day before, and I decided to wear my crocs. ( I will interject here, at TIm's insistence, that he had suggested we borrow the boots that were provided by the ryokan, and I thought I'd be fine in the Crocs). The roads had been plowed, and were fine, for the most part, until we got to go up this hill at the end of the village, to go check out the waterfall.  Going uphill was fine,  we saw some Japanese teenagers coming down the hill, (some of the girls with heels on!) and everything seemed okay.  When we got to the top, took a couple of pictures, and then began our descent down, which was proving to be much more slippery than the way up. I was holding onto the chain railing, and slowly, slowly making my way down when "Swish, BAM!" I hit the ground. My feet had slipped out from under me.  My right hand shot out to break my fall, my left grabbed onto the chain that connected the fence posts, and I felt a sudden pain in my wrist.  I sat there for a second, to compose myself, got up, and proceeded to inch down the incline again.  Two minutes later, "Swish, BAM!"  I hit the ground again, with my hand again breaking my fall. The pain was worse this time, and as I sat on the ground, I thought that I could not go the remaining 25 feet where the path was the most treacherous, As I was sitting there, my ass slowly growing colder, I realized that since i was already at a 40 degree angle, I could use the path as a slide, and make my way down that way.  Which I, while being laughed at by Tim, proceeded to do. Once the scariest part of the walk down was done, I stood up, braced myself, and inched down the rest of the walkway.  I safely made it down to the bottom of the hill, as relief flooded through me.  I was supremely grateful that I fell towards the mountain, and not over the edge of the path, which would have resulted in about a forty foot drop where I am certain that I would have probably broken my head and several other various and sundry bones.
Have successfully navigated the hill! 
After making it down the hill!

We made our way back to the ryokan, and I iced my wrist, while it swelled, and I jury rigged an ace bandage out of a robe tie.  (and took some Advil)

We spent the rest of the morning hanging out, and reading, and listening to music, taking a nap mid morning.  At about one, we were hungry, so headed back down into the village to see if the Italian cafe was open (it was not, and we could not decode the cafe hours on the side of the building)  so we headed to the end of the village, where they had something called "currybread"  which was a fried dough, with a curry paste in it, that was really delicious. You can either get it plain (that's the way Tim had it_ or split in half and filled with lettuce, cucumber, a mayo based sauce, and tomato (which is the way I had it). ours came with tea and coffee, and we sat and relaxed and ate.
Currybread sandwich

Full of delicious currybread, we decided to do a little shopping at the stores in the village, and pick up some souveniers, then headed back to the ryokan. We hung out there for the afternoon, reading, listening to music, and watching episodes of the West Wing until it was time to go to dinner.

Dinner was really good- the courses were:
dinner night 2

Started off with a shot of sweet sake and we had cold sake to drink with dinner. There was Tofu skin with wasabi and soy sauce

Shabu shabu- Hot pot with thin sliced beef, tofu, vegetables,  that had two kinds of dipping sauce, one ponzu, one sesame based, that you dip your food into once it came out of the hot pot.  The sesame sauce was good, but the ponzu was where it was at, a little acidic, and salty from the soy, it made the beef sing.

There was another composed plate of five things this evening a container with tiny baby shrimp,  a leaf with a gelled custard inside (which was AMAZING), Pork, three balls of various colors which I'm not sure what it was, and dried fish over a fruit of some kind, which Tim and I could not identify but was in a kind of thick green sauce, and was really refreshing and nice.Five things

Then the sashimi, which was as incredible as the night before, but with a different white fish (the rest was the same), nestled in next to a lemon slice.  I am usually not a fan of wasabi at home, but here? I love it. it's perfect with the sashimi, and mellow, the brief hit of heat that marries with the sweetness of the fish.

After that we had steamed crab legs, which were sweet, and lovely. They were cut in such an efficient way, that there was a crab utensil on our table, that was able to get the crab meat directly from the leg.

The next dish was a whole fish, with a gingered pickled item,  The fish was good, if hard to navigate. I suspect that you may have been able to eat the whole thing, but I settled for doing the best I could and avoiding the tail and head. It was warm, and rich, and delicious.

After that, miso soup, which was different from all the rest we've had, with a thicker, more cloying texture. It was good- rich, but good.

Then white rice with picked vegetables, one (that looked like a thin, tiny green eggplant, packed some serious heat) I don't think that I've talked about the rice before- So I should here. I am not a huge rice fan, usually. I mean, I can take it or leave it, and I'll eat it if it comes with a dish, but it's never something I seek out.  The rice here has made me change my mind about rice. Sticky, and just a breath before sweet, it is the perfect thing to end the meal with before dessert.  I could eat bowl after bowl of it.
breakfast rice

And a shrimp ball, in broth, which texturally reminded me of Matzoh ball soup, and was savory, and delicious.  Dessert was Ice cream that tasted like a fruit sorbet- Tim and I guessed Lychee, but we could have been wrong. It was light, and sweet, and excellent for cleansing the palate.

After dinner, I managed not to just crash face first into bed and fall asleep (it may have helped that we split a bottle of cold sake as opposed to each getting our own bottle of hot sake) Watched a couple episodes of the West wing, and went to bed.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Monday Tokyo- Ginzan Onsen

on the first day

Monday morning, We both got up pretty early, and then went out to find breakfast.  We found a french cafe type place with croissants and cappuccino.  Then off for more walking and people watching. We found a store with some awesome Japanese candy, my favorite of which was a "waffles" flavored cookie type thing.  My love of things that are maple flavored has not abated at all, and I find it a little odd, but awesome that you can find maple flavored things in Japan.

We stopped at Starbucks for some drinks, and sat for a little while, watching people go by.  Then back to the hotel, and onto another shuttle, and then to Haneda Airport that took us to Yamagata.  The flight was short, our driver met us at the exit, and then we arrived in Ginzan Onsen.  

In Tokyo, most of the signs had English names with signs and maps. In Ginzan Onsen, it is not so, at least so far. When we got to the hotel, the Concierge muddled through (very nicely) getting us checked in, advising us that there was "no internet at my hotel" which became a catchphrase that Tim and I used when we wanted to look something up online (or check facebook, or email, or watch a youtube video. We got settled, then went out to explore the tiny town. It was a little bit foggy, and snowing, but it was postcard perfect cuteness.  After bumbling around to some shops, We came back to the hotel, and then got ready to have dinner.

When we got our information from the travel agency, I had immediately hopped on to the website of our ryokan (which had some hilarious engrish in it) and took a look at the food. It looked amazing, but the pictures on the website in no way represent the epic awesomeness that was the food at the ryokan. the sheer volume, and flavor, and textures that they wove through every meal was mastery, and I will try (and fail) to do it justice.

Every night We started off with a shot of sake, that had some kind of sweet juice with it.  And the first night we both got hot sake to drink with dinner.
We thought it was Sake...

On the table was a salad with greens and a seasame/Peanutty dressing- the dressing was rich and the greens cut it nicely, it was savory and awesome.

Salad with a sesame dressing

Beef, Asparagus, Carrot and Potato, that you cook on your own cooking dish, and then dip into a sauce. I really liked this, because you could control how much you cooked the meat, and it was so tender and tasty, and of such obvious good quality that it really only needed to cook a minute.
Beef, Asparagus, potato, Carrot

A plate of six things:
Clockwise, starting at the top in the bowl. Greens with a mustard sauce.  Pickled bamboo? (I think. it tasted like heart of palm, too, so maybe it was that) blanched vegetables with mustard,  a little bundle of mushroom,  a tempura-ed something- seaweed? , and dried fish with some kind of paste on top. I think of these the bundle of mushroom was my favorite- it was completely unexpected- from the way it looked I was expecting something hard- maybe dried- and it wasn't, it was soft, and meaty, almost. Surprising and delicious. The mustard on the vegetables was awesome too- not to hot, just enough for a pleasurable sting before I was able to taste the vegetable

Dried fish, Salad type thing, mushrooms with mustard

Sushi:  there were two pieces of salmon, two of what I think was red snapper, two of the butteriest pieces of tuna I've ever tasted, and a shrimp.  It was heavenly, the entire bowl.  This came with fresh grated wasabi, and in comparison to the wasabi that you get stateside- there is no comparison. Infinitely more complex, with a quick heat that hits you, and then disappears. Amazing.
Sushi MMMM

The next one was a bed of mashed potatoes with miso, a piece of cooked fish on top, and a vegetables with two different kinds of sauces.  The mashed potatoes were rich- the roasted vegetables were sweet and cooked perfectly, the fish (some kind of mild white fish) infused the potatoes, and the sauces on either side were different, and really brought the dish together.  I definitely want to start experimenting with miso in my mashed potatoes.
roasted vegetables, some kind of fish, mashed potatoes with miso

Then there was soup. OH WAS THERE SOUP

First was a broth with greens, a fish ball, and a vegetable which I cannot quite identify. it was really good. The fish ball was pink on the outside and grey on the inside, and was light, and tasty.

broth with a fish ball

Next was a broth with soba noodles, greens, mushrooms, and insanely thin sliced pork on it.  The soba noodles were like a cloud, they were so soft. The broth was rich and complex, and that one they lit the fire under the soup, and opened the lid for us when it was ready.
Pork, soba noodles, veggies

After that was plain rice, and Miso soup. The tofu in the miso soup was soft, and light, and had miso on the outside, and there was a folded piece of fish inside that was amazing.  The broth was flavorful and light, and amazing. with this came a dish of pickles, which were not too sour.
Miso of my dreams

And last but not least dessert.   Two mochi balls with a sesame dust on them, custard with strawberries on top, and a yogurt drink.  The custard was light, and creamy, the strawberries sweet and a little tart. The mochi was great- I like the not quite a gummy texture of them. The yogurt drink was cool and refreshing.

The whole dinner was crazy. Tim and I kept looking at each other, in amazement, at how good things were, and saying things like "Shut up. This is so good."   There isn't much that makes me want to stop talking, but for the first time, I realized why some fancy resturaunts are hushed and quiet. It's because the food is so amazing that it takes away your words, and you are dumbfounded into just taking the next bite, and the next bite, until you look up, and it's an hour later, and it only felt like ten minutes.

We went back to the room, and tried to figure out the bed situation (there were a bunch of mats in a closet, stacked up, and we didn't quite know what we were doing. A knock came on the door, and I went to go answer it, and there was a hotel employee, who started to speak to me in Japanese, and when I gestured that I had no idea what he was saying, he started saying "stone! Stone!" a femail sgtaffer came over and started to speak as well, and she gestured inside to where Tim was messing with the mats, and I sighed with relief, and let them in, so that they could set up the beds.  After laughing at us a little, at the strange way that Tim had set them, they fixed them, put sheets on , and bid us farewell.

the height of our sleeping mats

This, by the way, was the first of many instances at the ryokan where a Japanese person would start to talk to me, I would say and mime that I could not speak Japanese, and then they would continue to talk to me. I could not figure out why this kept happening to me, and not Tim.  He thinks it's because I'm friendly. I think it's because funny things tend to keep happening to me.

Ok, that's it for now- will update more tomorrow!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Japan- the beginning

Tim's also blogging about Japan- check him out at

We left Tim's at 4:30 in the morning on Saturday the 27th, we hopped into my car, drove to Reagan, and then (after waiting what seemed like forever) onto the plane to O'Hare.  We were a little late getting in, because there was some kind of delay
getting planes onto the ground.  We we got into the gate, and walked over to the new one, and this time had a short wait to board the plane for Tokyo.

The flight, as any 13+ hour flight is, was long.  the food was medium to terrible. (medium: the beef and potatoes for lunch) (terrible: the sushi, and the sandwich we got, that was still frozen in the center, giving it a distinct "meatsicle" texture) the less said about the flight is probably the better, except to say, we were in the center aisle, and the guy who was in the middle seat (the row was five across) had to get up no less than six times.

We arrived in Japan, and then got to our hotel after a shuttle bus ride (not so fun: my ability to get bus sick)  and checked into our hotel, which had a high speed elevator that was glass encased and gave us an amazing look at the city, including a soccer field that was on top of a building, and the a look down onto the Shibuya District.   Soccer field on top of a skyscraper.

We dumped our stuff, and then headed out to check out the lay of the land.  We saw a Lush store, a
Disney Store, and lots of different kinds of Japanese food and clothing stores. Where we are staying, it seems like a Times Square vibe- lots of people and billboards and frenetic energy, centered on one circle of fraffic, that when the light would change, people would flood it to go across. We first saw it from the hotel, and it didn't get any less strange once we were on the ground and in the middle of it. 

Japan Street.
Japan at night

So we walked around, and eventually found dinner, and it was fantastic. Tim and I  both ordered a bunch of different things, so we could try lots. We had cucumbers with miso paste and ume paste, tempura mushrooms,  two kinds of dumplings, mackrel, and braised pork  The whole meal was fantastic, but i'm still thinking about the braised pork.  It was mouth meltingly tender and delicious.  

Pork from heaven

We did some more walking, but by that point we were pretty tired, so we headed back to the hotel and I updated my pictures, and Tim fell asleep.

Ok, that's it for now- heading to bed. More tomorrow!