Sabores de Espana/Flavours of Spain Wine Dinner Friday, Mar 28 2014 

Our first wine dinner for the year was another international one.This time a trip to Spain. This took a bit of research as my prior knowledge of Spanish food was quite limited. Spanish food, it turns out is a real mix of things. The Moors introduced a lot of food styles and ingredients and when Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand staked Christopher Columbus’s expedition to the Americas, a whole new chapter was opened in the book of food. So many food products made their way across the Atlantic to Europe over the ensuing centuries. Tomatoes, potatoes, chocolate, vanilla, chillies(which then went further east to Asia), sweet potatoes, pineapples, passionfruit and so much more. Another big shift was the enforcment of Christianity on the nation. Thankfully a lot of the Jewish and Moorish cuisines were easily adaptable to pork.

It was quite difficult to decide what to include in the menu as there was so much delicious food to choose from. We ended up doing a selection of four canapes that are also tapas items and for an entree we did a selection of four tapas items that really needed cutlery with them.

Our evening started as usual with canapes which were served with the classic Spanish party drink, Sangria. Our canapes were a shot of gazpacho, albondigas de bacalao(codballs), grilled chorizo and pinchos(little croutons with an asparagus and almond topping).

The tapas plate consisted of gambas al ajillo(garlic prawns spiced with chilli), croquetas de anguila (smoked eel croquette with a tomato relish), tartalitas de pimiento(a tartlet of roasted capsicum topped with jamon) and Tortilla Espagnole(Spanish omelette) . For this course we had a Bodegas La Cana Albarinho 2012 from Rias Baixas in the north west of Spain.

Garlic prawns, Capsicum tarlet with jamon, eel croqutte, Spanish omelette

Garlic prawns, Capsicum tarlet with jamon, eel croquette, Spanish omelette

Our main was a tender slow cooked lamb rump that had been marinated in garlic, paprika, smoky paprika, extra virgin olive oil, a touch of sherry vinegar, thyme and rosemary. This was served along side escalivada(grilled mixed vegetables) and the spicy patatas brava. We finished this with a Pedro Ximenez jus. The wine for this was a delicious from Torres Ibericos Rioja 2010 from Rioja in the north of Spain .

Slow roasted lamb rump, escalivada, patatas brava, Pedro Ximenez jus

Slow roasted lamb rump, escalivada, patatas brava, Pedro Ximenez jus

Of course we always have a mystery wine game which this time was a Bodegas Castano Molino Loco Monastrell 2012 from the Yecla region, in the south east of Spain.

Dessert was Crema Catalana and churros with chocolate sauce. The chocolate sauce was infused with vanilla, chilli and orange.Just a little chilli to give a little heat but not too much. This was served with a Valdespino Yellow Label Pedro Ximenez from Jerez in the south west of Spain.

Crema Catalana, churros with chocolate

Crema Catalana, churros with chocolate

This event was held in the auditorium as we had 120 guests. Entertainment was also put on for the night, flamenco dancers and a guitarist. Quite an experience to talk with the big speakers behind you.

Another great evening, and I had the best compliment as a guest who  is of Spanish heritage thought an outside chef had come in for the night. But no just the team and I.

Thanks for dropping by.

A Taste of France Wine Dinner Thursday, Mar 27 2014 

Our final wine dinner for 2013 was also our first international  one. Well, if you don’t count New Zealand as international that is.

Our first job was to narrow down a selection of wines for the evening. We managed to cover five French regions, Bordeaux, Rhone, Provence, Loire and Burgundy.

To get the night started the first drink of the night was a Louis Bouillot cremant de Bourgogne, Perle d’ivoire blanc de blanc, from Burgundy.

Pre dinner drinks area

Pre dinner drinks area

Dining table set and ready to go

Dining table set and ready to go

Canapes consisted of garlic snails, chilled vichyssoise soup and gougeres(cheese choux puffs).

 

Garlic snails

Garlic snails

Vichy ssoise

Vichyssoise

Gougeres

Gougeres

Entree was a shared plate of pressed chicken and mushroom terrine, Duck liver pate, and salmon rillettes served with slices of batard loaf, pickled grapes and pickled cherries. The pickled cherries went really well with the pate and terrine and the pickled grapes were a great match with the rillette. The entree was served with a rose wine, Domain de Triennes 2012, from Provence.

Chicken and mushroom terrine, duck liver pate, salmon rillette (in glass)

Chicken and mushroom terrine, duck liver pate, salmon rillette (in glass)

Main was a decontructed beouf Bourguignon. We slow roasted beef eye fillet at 80C to medium rare. We cooked the sauce again at 70C  which left us with a fabulously rich sauce. This was served with a garlic mash, chunks of carrot and some fresh peas. The wine here was a great Perrin et Fils Cotes du Rhone Rouge Reserve 2012, from the Rhone Valley.

Our slightly deconstructed Beouf Bourguignon

Our slightly deconstructed Beouf Bourguignon

Our mystery wine for the evenin was a Marc Bredif Vouvray 2011, from the Loire region. Usually we have a red for the mystery wine but this time we changed it up a bit and gave our diners something a little different.

Dessert was also a mixed plate of delicious French fare. We baked and decorated Buche De Noel, Raspberry and Champagne macarons, Madeleines and petite coffee brulee tarts. A lot of work but well worth it. I was very happy with my first ever Buche De Noel as I have been wanting to make one since Mum bought the Women’s Weekly French cookbook back in the 1980′s. On the night, ours was filled with a chocolate and raspberry butter cream. I also managed to get some traditional sugar mushrooms to decorate the cake with. Dessert was Chateau du Pavillon 2008, which was a nice little Sauternes from Bordeaux.

Buche de Noel

Buche de Noel

Buche de Noel, Coffee Brulee Tart, madeleines, Macarons

Buche de Noel, Coffee Brulee Tart, madeleines, Macarons

In all a lively night as we had some entertainment this time, a singer and cancan dancers entertained our diners.

Thanks for dropping by!!

Black by Ezard, The Star, Sydney Wednesday, Mar 26 2014 

 

This year I had a slightly early birthday lunch combined with our 20 years together lunch. We were at The Star shopping concourse and had thought of going to Balla Osteria by Stefano Manfredi, alas it was closed. Surprisingly Black by Ezard was open. Surprisingly, because we didn’t think they were open on Sundays.

For Sunday lunch Black By Ezard offers a special, 3 course champagne lunch for $125 per person, which  sounded good to us. Champagne on offer was one of our favourites, Moet& Chandon, so that settled where we were going to eat.

View from the restaurant

View from the restaurant

Pushing through the large front door we entered a very luxurious room. Dark woods, stone flooring, water views, shiny modern chrome lighting, beige leather and beautiful screen panels were a pleasing sight. We were seated in the main area, back from the window but still able to enjoy the view of the bay and brilliant blue sky.

Black By Ezard Menu

Black By Ezard Menu

The concise menu for lunch had a great range of options to choose from along with a good selection of sides. But first, a mini house made brioche loaf was bought to the table.

Brioche loaf

Brioche loaf

Mr CA4G went for one of his favourite dishes, Steak tartare with heirloom beets, spiced herb mayonnaise, mustard ice cream and puffed wild rice. The beets were done in several ways, one of which was a deep purple gel covering the tatare. All together an interesting and delicious dish.

Beef tartare, heirloom beetroots

Beef tartare, heirloom beetroots

I went for a slow cooked, crispy pork hock, apple and pear slaw with chilli caramel. A moist yet crispy piece of deboned hock was topped with the slaw, radish slices and drizzled with the chilli caramel. Great combination of flavours and textures.

Slow cooked, crispy pork hock, apple andpear slaw

Slow cooked, crispy pork hock, apple andpear slaw

Mr. CA4G loves a good steak and particularly a fillet. At Black By Ezard the 30 day, grass fed angus 200g fillet was served with a roasted cauliflower and pearl onion salad and gremolata. A selection of sauces was also bought to the table for Rene to choose from, of which he selected béarnaise sauce and Café de Paris butter. Of course with steaks you need some chips, in this case with garlic, parmesan and rosemary salt.

Angus fillet, roasted cauliflower and pearl onions

Angus fillet, roasted cauliflower and pearl onions

I opted for duck breast which had a salt and pepper crust and was served with a peach and rocket salad and tamarind honey dressing. The dressing had a nice sweet sour touch and the salad was great with the sweetness of the peach and the pepperiness of the rocket going well together.

Salt and pepper crusted duck breast, peachand rocket salad

Salt and pepper crusted duck breast, peachand rocket salad

Desserts of course were a high light. We saw another table with the chocolate dessert, so one of us had to have it. I had Strawberry shortcake, sauternes mascarpone, yoghurt lime sorbet and strawberry jelly. Nice and summery and not too heavy.

Strawberry shortcake, sauternes mascarpone, yoghurt lime sorbet

Strawberry shortcake, sauternes mascarpone, yoghurt lime sorbet

Mr. CA4G was the one who ordered  the decadent chocolate sphere (reminiscent of our chocolate dessert at Gordon Ramsey @ Claridges), topped with edible gold leaf. Warm ganache was poured over the top of the sphere which melted to reveal the fresh mint ice cream, raspberry mousse and chocolate cookie. Nothing like a bit of performance with food.

Chocolate sphere filled with mint icecream, raspberry mousse

Chocolate sphere filled with mint icecream, raspberry mousse

Pouring the ganache

Pouring the ganache

Going, going...

Going, going…

The revelation

The revelation

Black by Ezard surpassed our expectations and we will definitely be heading back again. Hopefully our next visit will also be on a spectacularly sunny day.

Christmas Pudding Friday, Jan 3 2014 

For the first time in 10 or so years I decided to make our Christmas Pudding to take to Mr. CA4G’s sisters place for Christmas Lunch.

Growing up Mum and Nan made our Christmas pudding and the highlight for us children was to make our wishes when we got to have a stir. It was the only time we were allowed to do anything to the pudding. I can remember after they were boiled Nan and Mum would have puddings dangling from the beams of the verandah for at least 2 months before Christmas. Sounds like a lot of pudding with 2 people making them, but Nan used to send a couple to my Aunts in Victoria and my uncle in Sydney. I think one might also have gone international to Nan’s friend in New Zealand. Customs must have had a chuckle at that package. So by the time they were sent off Nan was left with one and Mum had 3 of which one would go in the freezer to have in winter.

There were two recipes that Mum and Nan used on a regular basis. The prize winning Singleton Show Pudding and Margaret Daggs Pudding. Last year I attempted Margaret Daggs recipe. I learnt that I should have gone with the full recipe and not cut it down, cut my calico to a smaller size(90 x 90cm is a bit too big), and get some decent twine.

The best part of cooking Christmas pudding is the smell in the kitchen while it boils away for 4 hours. Unfortunately I cooked mine at work this time and an industrial exhaust fan just doesn’t allow the aromas to linger too long. Oh well at least I was able to use the huge pots we have at work, otherwise I would have been in trouble at home as my pot isn’t quite big enough for the size puddings I had.

On to the recipe. You will need to start this a week or two ahead of time to get the fruit well macerated in the alcohol. If you have sixpences and threepences give them a boil before adding to the pudding. DO NOT USE DECIMAL CURRENCY!!

Margaret Daggs Christmas Pudding

Mixed fruit 1.875 Kg ( I  buy a large bag of mixed fruit and then add glace cherries, figs, dates, blackcurrants, cranberries etc to make it up to the weight required)

Alcohol(rum, brandy, vodka) 750ml(or more if you like)

Breadcrumbs 500g

Plain flour 125g

Butter, softened 250g

Brown sugar 250g

Eggs 6 (59g eggs)

Baking powder 1/4 teaspoon

Golden Syrup 1 Tablespoon

Mixed spice 1/2 teaspoon

Cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon

Nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon

Salt pinch

Vanilla 1 teaspoon

Place your fruit in to a container with lid and then pour the alcohol over it. Cover and leave for 1 to 2 weeks.

Dampen your pudding cloth and then dust liberally with flour. Depending how big you want your pudding you can get two big ones or three slightly smaller ones.

Put a water on to boil in large pot/s.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time mixing well between each.

Add golden syrup, and spices, stir to combine.

Sift flour and baking powder into a seperate bowl.

Alternatively stir in the breadcrumbs, flour and fruit until all added. When mixed gather the family members around to have  three stirs and make a wish(cooking with love added).

Mixing the pudding, 3 stirs then make a wish.

Mixing the pudding, 3 stirs then make a wish.

Place cloths over bowls and divide the mixture evenly between them. Put your sixpences and threepences in now if using them.

Dampen the cloth and flour it

Dampen the cloth and flour it

Laying the cloth over a bowl to give shape to the mix

Laying the cloth over a bowl to give shape to the mix

Pull the corners up, and then at the top of the pudding mix bring the fabric together and tie tightly with twine. We tie several times and go up the cloth a bit to keep it all together.

Tied up, good enough for Mr Grey?

Tied up, good enough for Mr Grey?

Too much cloth, knotting away.

Too much cloth, knotting away.

Place in to boiling water and then boil away for four to 5 hours, topping up the boiling water as needed.

Bubble bubble toil and trouble,oh look puddings

Bubble bubble toil and trouble, oh look puddings

When the time has come, lift the puddings from the water in to a colander and sit for several minutes. Using butchers hooks or similar hang the pudding to dry. A week is good but longer is ok as it will keep.

The puddings were hung by the exhaust hood with care.....

The puddings were hung by the exhaust hood with care…..

To reheat on Christmas Day, carefully remove the cloth and wrap in foil, place in 170C oven until hot. You can also add your sterilized coins after reheating by slipping one in to the slices of pudding.

For a bit of drama you can warm some brandy and pour it over the pudding and set it alight. Makes for a nice wow moment.

Our pudding

Our pudding

The pudding also freezes well.

Our family doesn’t use brandy custard on our pudding. We make rum sauce. Which is just milk, sugar, cornflour, vanilla, rum. You boil your milk with the sugar and vanilla add the rum and thicken with cornflour. Easy and you don’t have to worry about the eggs over cooking and becoming brandy scrambled eggs.

I hope your Christmas feast was a wonderful one and you kept family traditions alive!

Tokyo Coffee Culture Friday, Dec 27 2013 

Generally you think of Japan as being a big tea drinking country, but on our first trip to Japan in 2008 we were quite surprised at the sophistication of the Japanese coffee culture. Prior to our trip we had only been exposed to the traditional coffees here in Australia, drip, cappuccinos, espresso, flat white, flat black, bad instant etc. Then along came the Nespresso style pod machines. So, seeing some new ways of brewing coffee was an eye opener.

When we have a holiday in Tokyo, we have a little tradition of visiting three of our favourite cafes, one located behind Ginza Alley in Ginza (brick building very European looking), Ko’hikan in Asakusa and Miyama in Nakano

Our very first coffee in Tokyo in 2008 was in Ginza, on a very cold and damp spring afternoon. We stumbled upon a very European looking coffee shop (wooden door and window surrounds, exposed brick, brass revolving door, elegant frosted windows, baby grand piano, you get the picture?). A menu was presented to us in English with pictures so we decided on a cointreau coffee (it was COLD, we needed the warmth from the cointreau). The waitress bought our order along with a rich slice of chocolate cake.

Cooffee and cake in Ginza

Coffee and cake in Ginza

The cups and saucers were a very elegant surprise and of course I had to peak and see who they were made by, naturally Noritake. Just so you know I am slightly (ok, extremely) partial to Noritake crockery, having been bought up with my Nan’s set that came out every special occasion.

Interior of our favourite Ginza coffee shop

Interior of our favourite Ginza coffee shop

Our next visit we ordered milk coffees. Wow talk about a bit of theatre for service. Our cups came out first, then, the waitress bought over two silver coffee pots. We thought there was one for each of us, but one had coffee and the other was hot milk. Starting low to the cups, the waitress poured equal quantities of milk and coffee, raising the pot as she did so which created a little froth on top. Of course we needed a little sweet thing to go with our coffee, a light and fluffy cheesecake.

Coffee with cheesecake Ginza

Coffee with cheesecake Ginza

Mr CA4G snuck in a visit by himself when he went for a solo visit between jobs in 2010 and had a black coffee with milk and his favourite dessert Mont Blanc.

Coffe and Mont Blanc, Ginza

Coffe and Mont Blanc, Ginza

In Asakusa we discovered Ko’hikan while walking over to Kappabashi Dori from Senso-Ji Temple. It was the first place we ever tried Syphon filter coffee. The first time we visited the water for the coffee was heated using a methylated spirit flame and this year when we went we discovered they no longer use a flame but a really high heat lamp. The coffee is placed in the upper portion of the syphon, the water is heated in the bottom globe section until it goes up the central tube into the upper section, the heat is removed and the coffee brews. As it cools the brewed coffee flows back down the tube in to the lower half of the unit and is then poured into cups and served with little glass jugs of milk. Very scientific looking.

Ko Hi Kan, Asakusa

Ko Hi Kan, Asakusa

Interior, Ko Hi Kan, Asakusa

Interior, Ko Hi Kan, Asakusa

We go to Nakano for some very specific shops for Mr CA4G, but we find we need a coffee for some fortitude. Miyama is located in the shopping centre and what caught our eye on our first visit was the cold water filter system that they use ( another very scientific looking contraption). Water slowly drips through the ground beans into a carafe underneath. The coffee is then warmed as needed. This form of filtering provides a smoother coffee without the bitterness that is often present in hot brewed coffee.

Cold filtered coffee, Miyama, Nakano

Cold filtered coffee, Miyama, Nakano

Coffee, Miyama, Nakano

Coffee, Miyama, Nakano

It is great to be amongst the locals, I can’t recall seeing any foreigners when we have been. This year we also had lunch which comes as a set (sandwich with coffee). Mr. CA4G had a burger and I had a sandwich. Very tasty and that fluffy white bread they make in Japan is so light.

And of course on Kappabashi Dori amongst all the kitchenware shops is a specialist coffee shop along with a several specialist roasters and providores of coffee beans/ground coffee. They seem to be really in to their single origins and fair trade coffees in Japan.

Union coffee supplies, Kappabashi Dori, Asakusa

Union coffee supplies, Kappabashi Dori, Asakusa

Cold filters

Cold filters

Interior Union Coffee supplies

Interior Union Coffee supplies

Syphon filters

Syphon filters

Cold filter close up

Cold filter close up

Coffee roaster, Kappabashi Dori

Coffee roaster, Kappabashi Dori

I think the only time we have had a cappuccino or latte in Tokyo was when we have breakfast in the Park Hyatt, The Conrad, or at our favourite little cafe/bakery Vie de France. When we stay at the Park Hotel Shiodome we love the over cup drip filter they have in the rooms, from Key Coffee.

Key Coffee,

Key Coffee,

Drip On by Key Coffee

Drip On by Key Coffee

Have you had a great coffee somewhere other than here in Australia? I would love to here about it!

 

 

Merry Christmas And Happy New Year!! Tuesday, Dec 24 2013 

To all my readers and followers, I wish you and all your families a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful year in 2014 filled with lots of love, adventure and good times.

ipad mini christmas wallpaper 001

This Christmas I managed to make my first Christmas puddings in many years, one was split between two work colleagues and one will be going to my sister in law’s for the four of us tomorrow. Will post about it when things quieten down a little.

Have a safe and happy break and many thanks for stopping by to read my little blog!

 

Pickled Cherries and Grapes Monday, Dec 16 2013 

For our French wine dinner at work the other week we had Duck liver Pate, chicken and mushroom terrine and salmon rillettes for the entree. When we did the tasting for the dinner a week before, I realised that we needed some kind of pickled items to go with all that rich, fatty goodness that we were serving. A few years ago I pickled some white grapes to go with a chicken liver parfait, which set my mind in motion and noticing some red grapes in the coolroom I decided to pickle those. I also remember seeing somewhere pickled cherries, conveniently we had cherries in the coolroom so I decided to pickle them as well.

I only used a basic pickle mix of sugar, vinegar, water, cinnamon, whole cloves, coriander seeds, bay leaves, salt. I was only able to let them sit for around a week so could imagine they would taste better with a bit more time to sit and pickle. I used the same mix for both the grapes and the cherries.

The pickled grapes went really well with the salmon rillettes, while the cherries were a hit with the pate.

Pickle Mix

625ml White Vinegar(use one with 5% acidity)

500g white sugar(or for some variety raw caster sugar)

2 Tablespoons Maldon Sea Salt

15 black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

6 whole cloves

1/2 cinnamon stick

10 coriander seeds

Place all in pot and bring to boil. This is enough for around 1.3kg of fruit.

Deseed and destem your cherries by cutting them in half (warning you will stain your fingers, use disposable gloves if  you can) or cut seedless grapes in half place in to pickle jars.Pour the hot brine over cherries or grapes, leaving 1.5cm of headspace. Wipe the rims, apply lids and rings (mason jar) process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.Using tongs, take them out of the water and leave to rest on a towel  for 24 hours.

Store in cool, dark place until ready to use.

The pickling leaches some of the colour from the red grapes and cherries, giving an attractive colour to the pickling liquid in the jar. Drain when ready to use. I could also picture using  the pickled cherries with a nice roasted duck or goose and the grapes warmed through with a piece of panfried salmon.

Unfortunately no photo as I only got the entree before the cherries and grapes went on.

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo Wednesday, Oct 30 2013 

Seeing as our recent week in Tokyo was my fourth time there, I figured I should really make the effort to visit Tsukiji Fish Market. I especially wanted to go this time as soon Tsukiji will be history. In the next few years the Tokyo Metro Government will be relocating the market to make way for construction of a tunnel and highrise apartments in time for the Olympics in 2020. This seems like a sad thing to do to a market that is considered the beating heart of the worldwide spread of sushi culture and has nearly 80 years of history behind it.

Tsukiji market from the street

Tsukiji market from the street

Tsukiji main entrance

Tsukiji main entrance

A short walk from bustling Shiodome and Ginza, Tsukiji Fish Market is a bit scruffy around the edges and definitely showing its age. Set on around 50 acres of land the market has several distinct parts. The main auction area which is off limits to visitors, the trading floor where the restaurants, caterers and fish shops buy, which is open to the public after 900am, the fruit and vegetable market and the outer market where little (and I mean little) restaurants are located next to shops selling fruit and vegetables, knives, kitchen equipment, tea, seaweeds, pickles and many other food products.

MMMMM kniiives!!!

MMMMM kniiives!!!

Kitchen ware store

Kitchen ware store

It took 3 attempts for me to visit the market. Monday the market was closed for a public holiday, Tuesday I was very early and ended up being politely asked to leave as visitors aren’t admitted before 900am. Wednesday was windy but I made my way down again and got there around 1000am. Unfortunately most of the action was over, I think I should have gotten there at 900am. I was able to get a few photos of some of the amazing seafood available.

Boxes of fish ready to be picked up for delivery to restaurants:

Fish wrapped and iced for delivery

Fish wrapped and iced for delivery

Boxes of fish redy for pick up

Boxes of fish ready for pick up

Danger lurks everywhere within the market compound and pedestrians do not have right of way. Little pallet carts zip around so you have to constantly be on your guard or run the risk of being hit.

Delivery cart

Delivery cart

Delivery cart loaded up

Delivery cart loaded up

While I saw quite a few dealers with unagi, in various stages of preparation, I stumbled across a fishmonger with live eel in various sizes. The ones in the photo were about 5cm long, and squirming like mad. The fishmonger was in the process of changing the water when I took the photo.

Unagi

Unagi

Not only were there vendors of scallops, fresh and frozen out of the shell, there were crates of live scallops every couple of stores.

Live scallops

Live scallops

Something I have only really heard about but never actually seen was the horseneck clam. These are a clam that have a syphon that isn’t able to fully retract back in to the shell. Looking at some photos of them on google was an eye opening search, some of them get sooo big!

Horseneck clams

Horseneck clams

Whelks,abalones in many different sizes(little ones bottom right) and other varieties of molluscs abounded:

Whelks

Whelks

Molluscs galore

Molluscs galore

Hairy crabs all trussed up. I had seen another variety of these on TV but was amazed to see these ones up close. Such fine little clumps of “hair” all over them and such a pretty colour combination. These ones look like they have had a buzz cut, there are hairier ones in the ocean:

Hairy crabs

Hairy crabs

Of course, the ubiquitous Fugu was at the market, a little early in the season for them, peak season is late autumn and winter. I didn’t realise that fugu are now harvested after spawning in spring and moved to floating cages in the Pacific Ocean to grow to maturity. This is to protect the fugu population, nice bit of aquaculture. Fugu is the only food the Japanese Emperor is forbidden to eat, for his personal safety.

Fugu

Fugu

Live lobsters, these were not very big and I assume that the price was per kilogram:

Lobsters and crayfish

Lobsters and crayfish

These live ebi(prawns) were certainly jumping around in their baskets:

Ebi also known as prawns

Ebi also known as prawns

The fruit and vegetable market was also amazing to see. Have you ever seen one mushroom that costs around $70? I was shocked when I did the conversion to AUD$. Beside the big one are two trays with 7 mushrooms for around $60!!! Must be some fantastic tasting mushrooms!

Look at those prices!!

Look at those prices!!

If you look to the top right you can see some rather square looking persimmons. Square persimmons were in a lot of shops this year, even the local supermarket near our hotel had them. There are some trays of mushrooms in this photo for around $90, $120, $130 and $160!!!

For these prices I hope they have a little 'magic' included

For these prices I hope they have a little ‘magic’ included

Also in the fruit and vegetable section was a huge variety of baby flowers and leaves for garnishing, pine needles, gingko leaves and nuts, maple leaves and the cutest baby turnips. Everything is beautifully packaged and the one thing I regret not getting a photo of was a watermelon with a belt/handle woven from fibers of some kind. Most of the mushroom boxes were made of wood and then lined with straw.

Garnishes and baby turnips

Garnishes and baby turnips

Leaves for garnishes

Leaves for garnishes

Flowers and gingko nuts

Flowers, Cape Gooseberries and gingko nuts

Of course there was plenty of wasabi  around too. Ordinarily I would have expected the price to be the same, however the price varies depending on the size and grade.

Wasabi and other vegetables

Wasabi and other vegetables

After doing your looking around, you can drop in to any of the little restaurants in the outer market for some super fresh sushi and sashimi or a nice piping hot bowl of noodles before doing a little shopping for some plates, knives, kitchen goods or matcha (green tea).

Should we get back to Tokyo next year and Tsukiji is still open I think I will visit again and time it a bit better to get a bit more of the action. I really enjoyed my visit and it was great to see seafood that I have really only heard about. If you happen to get to Tokyo before the market moves you really should drop in for a look around and if you are avoiding because you think fish market equals fishy smell, don’t worry the market is super clean and there is no fishy smell at all.

A Little Shopping In Tokyo Thursday, Oct 24 2013 

Recently we had a visit to one of our favourite cities in the world, Tokyo. One thing that I go out of my way to purchase when visiting Tokyo is hand made knives. I love Japanese knives so much that all my household knives and most of my work knives are now Japanese.

Usually I shop for my knives in the many shops on Kappabashi Dori in Asakusa. Our first stop though when we get to Asakusa is always Senso-Ji.

After walking through the magnificent Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) you get to the 200m Nakamise Dori. Filled with shops selling various snack foods and all sorts of touristy bits and pieces (yukata, fans, knick knacks etc) Nakamise Dori has a history going back several centuries. It is not only foreign tourists buying the mementos, but many Japanese who may only visit once in their lifetime are also buying up bits and pieces to take home. After walking through Nakamise Dori you will reach the Hozomon Gate behind which is the magnificent Temple main Hall, the five story pagoda, gorgeously landscaped gardens and many smaller shrines and temples.

Kaminarimon Gate, Senso-Ji, Asakusa

Kaminarimon Gate, Senso-Ji, Asakusa

Nakamise Dori

Nakamise Dori

Hozomon Gate

Hozomon Gate

Senso-Ji Temple

Senso-Ji Temple

5 story pagoda

5 story pagoda

We particularly like to visit during late October/early November when the chrysantemum displays are on. Some of the chrysanthemums are the size of a bread and butter plate in diameter and then nearly 10 cm high. A lot of them need support, which you can see in the photo below.

You don't see chrysanthemums like this in Australia very often

You don’t see chrysanthemums like this in Australia very often

After our stroll through the temple grounds we have a wander in the backstreets before heading back to Asakusa Dori and over to Kappabashi Dori.

Back streets, Asakusa

Back streets, Asakusa

Back streets Asakusa

Back streets, Asakusa

After a short walk you hit kitchen ware heaven!!! A whole street devoted to kitchenware, equipment for commercial kitchens, knife shops, restaurant furnishing shops. Basically anything you can think of that a restaurant might need and then some extras thrown in.

some of the shops along Kappabashi Dori, Asakusa

Some of the shops along Kappabashi Dori, Asakusa

Interior Kitchen supply shop, Kappabashi Dori, Asakusa

Interior, Kitchen supply shop, Kappabashi Dori, Asakusa

INterior coffee supply shop, Kappabashi Dori, Asakusa

Interior, coffee supply shop, Kappabashi Dori, Asakusa

Knife shop, Kappabashi Dori,  Asakusa

Knife shop, Kappabashi Dori, Asakusa

Kitchen ware shop Kappabashi Dori, Asakusa

Kitchen ware shop Kappabashi Dori, Asakusa

Unfortunately this year the weather was quite incliment so our visit to Kappabashi Dori was quite short.

I did get a new knife surprisingly at Mitsukoshi Department store in Ginza. On the eighth floor amongst the home wares and household goods, Mitsukoshi stocks a range of ceramics, metalware, glass and knives made by skilled artisans. The day we went they had Yusui Nakanishi from Takeda Hamono Blacksmith showing a range of knives and offering sharpening. I ended up buying myself a Deba Bocho. The blade is made with a very high carbon content steel which gives the blade a sexy black colour. It is VERY sharp and as yet I haven’t used it. Still just looking at it.

Deba Bocho from Takeda Hamono

Deba Bocho from Takeda Hamono

Also in Ginza we stumbled upon lots of little shops selling artisan made products. One at which we did shop was filled with wooden items, bowls, trays, chopsticks, cups, and much more. We settled on 2 pairs of chopsticks one in red and the other in black. They are even dishwasher safe. This shop was a little treasure house of beautiful pieces to either display or use. We will be going back on our next visit for some of the bowls and cups. They were even beautifully packaged in paper to match the current season.

Me outside the shop we bought chopsticks

Me outside the shop we bought chopsticks

Shiny new chopsticks

Shiny new chopsticks

My final purchase this year I made on my visit to Tsukiji Fish Market. Amongst the shops in the outer market was a small one selling ceramic goods. They stocked mass produced items and some artisanl ones. Some of the tea cups were over $100. After a good 20 minutes trying to decide what to buy, I settled on two of the classic rectangle plates for sushi. These were a bargain at ¥290 (about A$3) each. Just as well I only bought two as I would have needed another suitcase.

My $3 plates from the fish market.

My $3 plates from the fish market.

Only a little shopping experience this time but next time I will prepare and have a list of things to buy, just wont take too much in the suitcase.

Below is a shot of my knives for home, the ones on each side were bought here in Australia at The Chef’s Armoury in Rosebery and the other 3 in the middle were bought in Tokyo and Kyoto

L-R M-Custa, Takeda Hamono, Aritsugu(Kyoto), Last two not sure

L-R: M-Custa, Takeda Hamono, Aritsugu(Kyoto), Last two not sure

Thanks for dropping buy to see what I bought in Tokyo this year.

StripHouse, Manhattan Wednesday, Oct 23 2013 

One restaurant that we didn’t have time to try in 2012 was Strip House on 12th Street. This year we found they have a second restaurant in Mid Town,  where we were staying so we decided to go there for dinner.

Exterior Strip House

Exterior Strip House

Strip House Midtown is a large restaurant and bar spread over 2 floors. Rich siren red walls adorned with original Studio Manasse prints of 1930’s burlesque performers and decor that combines old world glamour with modern style and sophistication. The large crystal chandeliers are quite amazing.

Looking down to the ground floor

Looking down to the ground floor

We decided to sit upstairs and had a great waiter named Ray. Something about him reminded me of a young Sinatra, he seriously would have fit in with the Rat Pack. Our table overlooked the ground floor so we had a great view of what was happening down there.

Some of the Studio Manasse Prints lining the walls:

Studio Manasse prints

Studio Manasse prints

Menu and rolls with a glass of rose champagne:

Menu, fresh rolls and a glass of Rose Champagne

Menu, fresh rolls and a glass of Rose Champagne

I loved the little covers for the butters:

Butter covers with the Strip House logo

Butter covers with the Strip House logo

A shot of Gazpacho for our amuse:

Gazpacho shot

Gazpacho shot

Being a fan of Surf and Turf Mr. CA4G couldn’t resist choosing it, along with Striphouse Steak Sauce. The prawn was the largest we have ever seen, almost the size of a marron, the steak was a classic fillet.

Surf and Turf

Surf and Turf

I went for the Kobe striploin with caramelised soy, yuzu and radish salad. The caramelised soy was very good, sweet and salty, the salad of radishes and yuzu really cut through that saltiness. We added a side of garlic and herb chips to go with our steaks.

Kobe striploin with caramelised soy

Kobe striploin with caramelised soy

Of course you can’t visit New York without having a New York Cheesecake. This was a huge slice of cheesecake and we were so glad to share it. Served simply with a berry coulis.

New York cheesecake

New York cheesecake

After dinner we had to have a big walk to work off soem of the great food. We were very happy to be able to dine at Striphouse this year and look forward to going again next time we are in Manhattan.

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