Kyoto is for Eaters

Kyoto is so beautiful it almost makes me mad.

But since we’re being totally honest with each other, I’ll admit I was the most excited by this sight:

Black sesame and honey ice cream. With a gingersnap spoon. I shoved it into everyone’s face, insisting they must try the Most Delicious Ice Cream Combo, until I realized that meant less for me. So I sneaked away to lick my cone clean in the dark shadows of a shrine.

We opted for the kaiseki meal in our ryokan, which meant dinner while wearing our pajamas and yukata (cotton robes). While our server delicately described the seasonal components and zen balance of each dish, I was busy taking photos and so I had no idea what I was eating. Vegetable or fish? Who cares! It’s boiled!

It was great, but it made my mouth tired.

Our ryokan also served us breakfast, with amazing little pillow-like cubes of tofu.

I love Japanese breakfasts. I’ll take some rice and grilled fish over an omelet any day.

On our way out of town we stopped for lunch at Katsukura, a tonkatsu (fried pork) restaurant in Kyoto Station.

The sorta-trendy restaurant serves you sesame seeds with a small mortar and pestle, to grind and add sauce to for dipping. I did it wrong. Who knew you could be so uncouth at a fried meat restaurant?

In case anyone is curious we stayed at the lovely, not-too-fancy Ryokan Motonago. The tonkatsu restaurant is located in the JR Kyoto Station, The Cube, 11F (above Isetan).

Truth in Advertising: Super Butter

At first, these felt wrong. The first taste reminded me of the butter in a squeeze bottle that was sometimes offered for our grilled sweet corn when I was a kid. The kind of squeeze butter that, upon closer inspection, says “butter flavor” on the bottle, causing a gut punch of betrayal.

But 5 seconds later, I got over my butter supremacy issues and ate the entire box. These should be called Super Duper Lick-your-Fingers-Clean Butter.

Snack Crack

I’m in love with Pretz — crispy little breadsticks covered in salt and umami.  In Nagoya we did a riverside taste test: clockwise from the top left, we tried salad サラダ, gyoza 餃子, black pepper chicken wings 手羽先, and citrus すだち. The black pepper wings were the obvious winner.

A quick Google search of Pretz cemented my love — check out the YouTube cache here. Warning, it may cause seizures. Please take note that Pretz is pronounced like the classy Pennsylvania gas establishment Sheetz (Ah Sheetz! I dropped my Pretz!), not like the Pennsylvania snack food, the pretzel. The recommended method for eating Pretz is to snap them in half. I prefer to inhale them, teeth continuously chomping like the wood chipper in Fargo. “Where is Pancakes House?” Who cares, I have Pretz.

Snack food companies in Japan are good at throwing new, crazy flavors at you so you’ll continue to buy their products, as if the addict needs another excuse. A recent find, just butter ジャガバタ:

And there are many, many more. Sorry crafts, it looks like I have a new hobby.

A Weekend in Pictures

Hello! I’m back, at least physically if not-quite mentally. We spent the weekend with friends in Aichi prefecture, and it was fantastic.  Here’s a look at our weekend and some of the reasons I love summer in Japan.

We started the weekend with a proper lunch, prepared in Nagoya’s hitsumabushi 櫃まぶし style.

The evening found us in yukata 浴衣 at the Nagoya Castle summer night festival.

Mmm, cream puff.

Sunday meant a trip to Gifu for a river swim.

Then a post-swim hike.

Back in Kisogawa, as we waited for the hanabi 花火, the sunset almost outdid the fireworks show.

After some of the best fireworks I`ve seen (according to our friend, the display was 1/6th as big as others), it was off to an onsen. It rained a bit as we sat in an outdoor pool, cooling our faces. That night, curled up on the tatami mat, I never slept so well.

Soba School

While in Nagano Prefecture a few weeks ago, we learned how to make soba noodles from scratch. I’m not going to provide commentary, so you’ll have the same semi-clueless, watch-and-mimic experience as me:

Got it? Now time to eat!  They cooked up our noodles while we headed downstairs to the restaurant.

A satisfying feast.

Have a look at some meat.

I just learned the word for a restaurant under the train tracks is ガード下 (gadoshita).

I love the ambiance of these places. The rattle of the train overhead has the added benefit of masking the (more than) occasional earthquake.

Gadoshita are also known for having cheap food, usually grilled meats. We ordered chicken skewers, fried tofu, kimchi, and ホルモン煮込み horumon nikomi — stewed innards.

Learning new vocabulary isn’t always fun and games. From the translated menu:

I realize this outs me as a person who takes photos of the word “vagina.” I consider myself an adventurous eater, but I draw the line at womb. Though, meat of the head? Yum! Make mine a double.

The Pudding Man from Osaka

Dan went to Osaka this week and returned with a gift:

A box of puddings. I love everything about this — the package design, the cheery little mascots, the fact that it’s pudding and full of eggs and doesn’t have to be refrigerated.

I opened the box, and the puddings were wearing hats. The instructions are fully illustrated, so I know not to put on the caramel sauce and caramel crunch in the wrong order (gasp!).

This is exactly what Dan looks like dressed up as a pudding.

Since I opened the box, I’ve been a steady stream of chuckles. This pretty little puddin’ face has been taped to my computer screen. I like his peeping.

Coincidence that Dan found a pudding doppelganger while in Osaka?

Dan, the Pudding Man.  Has a nice ring to it.