Grey days are cosy days

I’m not sure why, but something about the grey rainy weather always makes me contemplative. Actually, that’s just code word for lazy. Nothing I like best than sitting on the couch, hot tea, chocolate and trashy book or movie at hand. Today though it made me think of Hong Kong as I stumbled over a photo I took at the Ferry Terminal from the Avenue of Stars. As a child, my mother was a serial shopping addict (although she denies this) and we went to HK almost yearly on shopping trips. I remember I was once only allowed to bring 2 tops and 2 bottoms! Although this was not as bad as my friend who told me her mother only allowed disposable underwear on her shopping holidays…

Anyway as a child HK was dirty, smelly and bustling. It was always brash and loud with a take it or leave it attitude. But, there was always sun. It would stream through on the streets. Now all you can see in HK is smog and grey grey skies no matter the weather. People blame China and so on. But all I know is it makes me sad. It’s not a grey from a comforting rainy day, it’s a grey like something over Hogwarts from
the dementors. Bye Sunny Days.

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Living in Paradise

This is a little bit of a late post, but I’m talking about my time in New Zealand. A good friend of mine lives there and convinced me to sacrifice valuable eating time to visit him. We went to Waiheke Island and it was amaaaazing. There is a cute little town with lots of beautiful beaches. Really picture perfect. I could imagine spending a few lazy days. My friend and I met a lazy summer about 6 years ago, where went to the beach everyday, drank, camped where we wished and had not a worry in the world. So spending this beautiful summer day on the pristine beaches had a strong nostalgic feel to it. Not to mention I ate the most delicious Salted Caramel White Chocolate Gelato there. Mmmm Tus me manques. ♡

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I love girly nights

I don’t get enough of these in Japan! A good girl’s night consists of excellent cocktails, good conversation, dessert and of course girls. Although the language barrier may be good conversation, you can’t find a decent cocktail in Nagoya. Not to mention they don’t make the sturdy, dirty and naughty girls in Japan that I’m used to finding back home.

Obviously our sparkling wit, some oohing over my ring, copious men talk and shopping adventures dominate my conversation with my girlfriends.

Now the other three ingredients I mentioned?
I found this recently at Le Bon Ton in Collingwood. Apparently newly opened (it shows it) the food was southern comfort American soul food. Apparently the hip new thing in Melbourne since I last was home. Previously it was every distant kinship to anything Mexican, despite the roughly 1,200 population of ACTUAL Mexicans in Australia. Anyway service was friendly if not patchy. See below for my cocktail that says it all!!

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Le Bon Ton
51 Gipps St
Collingwood 3066

03 9416 4341

My stand out Girl night happened last night where I had one on one action @ Hammer and Tong.  You know you’re talking too much when the waiter comes twice but you have not touched the menu. Bookings reccommended and 120% worth it. The food is too pretty to eat, but you do anyway because I’m a pig. Their small menu designed for sharing means you could probably sample the entire menu. Despite their largely uniformed hipster clientele and waiters ( who all had very similar glasses) service was efficient with a bit of forgetfulness thrown in. Our waters were ony refilled twice and cutlerywe requested never came. We forgave them because of the food. I know we shouldn’t but take a look.

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How could you not?

Hammer & Tong 412 Eating House & Coffee Bar
Rear 412 Brunswick St.
Fitzroy
Vic 3065

Phone: 03 9041 6033
Email: admin@hammerandtong.com.au

Wow! I’m back!

To be honest, my laptop of 3 months died last September. (Curse you Windows 8 and your offspring) I also found the android app for WordPress a bit yukky. Anyway long story short, I’m here to try again. I’m back in the city of my heart ♡ Melbourne, I daily drink copious amounts of consuming artery choking food. My body paid for it by rejecting everything thoroughly yesterday. Sad face. Pained face.
Today I had this healthy thing at Barry’s in Northcote. My tummy was a little sore so I thought this would do. The healthiest thing I’ve had so far.

Gin-cured Salmon on Freekah Salad with poached egg. Isn’t it pretty? Pretty huge and a good deal (by Melbourne standards) $17.50.

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http://instagram.com/p/kryWdNqr_T/

Iron Chef Chen Kenichi is my NEW BEST FRIEND 4 EVA!

It’s true, check out my photo below to believe it. OK, So that’s not really true, but I couldn’t withhold my excitement!!! I also know I was meant to post the second part of my Shirakawa-Go trip, but this is way too exciting not to announce to everyone and anyone. It’s on par with I touched Prince Williams hand when he visited Australia. Or my cousin’s friend’s uncle knows xxx D grade celebrity.

As part of our somewhat haphazard Anniversary Celebrations, R and I went to the Iron Chef Si Chuan Restaurant in Nagoya. For those of you that don’t know what Iron Chef is – Shame on you, only the most entertaining show EVER! For those of you that do read on to be awestruck and jealous stricken. About a month into arriving in Nagoya I found out that Chen Kenichi – Iron Chef Chinese, had a restaurant in Nagoya. Some friends told me that he would actually be cooking on the 18th August, because of that we decided to book in as a special treat for the day. We didn’t really expect it to be any different than a normal outing to the restaurant but thought they might have some specials that they didn’t normally run. BOY were we surprised!!!! Here’s a little wiki on Iron Chef Chinese himself. You’ll be glad to know that -the special ingredient seemed to be SEAFOOD. Maybe not sure, but everything was quite seafood themed, it was 7-8 courses in total.

When we got there we were graciously shown to our spots, the service was friendly and nice from the get go, and the menu of that nights dinner was placed at our seats. The Restaurant is actually smaller than it seems from the outside, but you get to have a lovely view right into the kitchen through a special clear window. We sat next to a suspiciously Yakuza looking couple, the guy had massive tattoos all up and down his arm, neck everywhere. I know it’s a complete stereotype, but he did whip out an expensive VERY black looking fan to occasionally fan himself……. JUST like in the movies. They were actually a nice couple.

Halfway through our meal, Chen Kenichi popped out, he was quite gracious. Stopping at every table, asking if we enjoyed our meal. Having a chat, and assuring people without meals that a tasty treat would be coming their way! He was surprisingly jovial and friendly, I was so awestruck and starstruck that I could only mumble pigeon Japanese at him. He must surely have thought I was a special needs child. He kindly took a photo sitting next to me and later at the end of our meal, he personally brought out our dessert plate and wished us Happy Anniversary! As we left he came back and signed our menu before leaving, he has a beautiful handwriting btw! Reminded me of my Grandfather’s calligraphy. The food was amazing as well, although probably not strictly Chinese in some dishes, it definitely had Chinese influences and is probably the best Chinese food you can get in Japan (Japan having almost no authentic Chinese Cuisine outside of Yokohama). It was also great value (comparing it to back home), the ingredients were all fresh and quality stuff. Although it was by no means cheap for Japan, I was conscious that the same meal could easily cost us double this back in Australia considering the ingredients used.

Their normal menu when Iron Chef doesn’t make an appearance is cheaper, and I would definitely recommend it as a special treat for Chinese food lovers. Just don’t go expecting an orthodox recreation of your grandmother’s Si Chuan Recipe. The only gripe I have is that the Chinese Tea (Fragrant and plentiful), cost about 1,000 – 1,500Yen, you wouldn’t even pay for this at most restaurants, but they did serve quality tea at least. Like many Japanese restaurants they offer a lunch course which is great value, starting from around 3,880 Yen you can get often almost the same menu for half the price! Book ahead though as these restaurants are often booked up a few months in advance.

The MENU for the night as below -

- Amuse bouche of a light sashimi, with a delicious sesame dressing on a bed of pickled cucumbers, tomato

- Then a selection of 3 Cold Entrees, I haven’t uploaded a photo yet, but it was pickled jellyfish, seared beef and a tofu with szechuan sauce.

Scampi, light stirfried with Uni in a Ginger Sauce

- Abalone poached and served on Seafood Consomme

Shark Fin and Crab Soup

- Poached Japanese Sea Bass in Hot and Spicy Soup

Handmade ‘Ban’ Noodles with a Dan Dan Sauce 

Peach Jelly Panacotta with Honeydew Ice Cream and Fresh Fruits.

My favourite was probably either the Scampi or the Noodles, the entree was just the perfect to whet our appetites! I was deliciously hungry for more after consuming it. The dessert was also amazing, I have to put up a photo of it, it was so refreshing! I think it’s safe to say, Iron Chef Chinese CUISINE REIGNS SUPREME!

Eat with Bea Rating – 4.5/5 Stars

Cost – 10,500Yen for Special Set Course and expect to pay around 850 – 1,600 Yen for a pot of Chinese Tea. Lunch Course from around 3,880Yen

Contact Details (Reservation suggested) -

http://www.sisen.jp/

〒 464-0073
, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya Takami 2-9-12 Nagoya Central Garden
TEL :052-753-9101
Fax :052-757-5250

OR

〒 450-6012
Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture Nakamura Meieki 1-1-4
JR Central Towers 12th Floor, Plaza Towers
TEL :052-566-5501

I have the attention span of a 3 yr old faced with 100 different types of cupcakes

It’s true, how terrible am I? I started this blog almost 1 month and a half ago and after diligently posting about my adventures in Japan, I promptly lost interest in less than 10 days. Does everyone go through this with blogging? Maybe it’s because I’m from the instant gratification generation. Or so my parents insist on telling me quite regularly.

Since it’s been a while since I said hello! So much has happened that I’ve wondered. What should I blog about exactly?? I’ve done so much and EATEN SO much that there’s just too much to contain in one little post. And to be fair, you’ll all be bored stiff reading as it is. Well instead of posting ridiculous high-calorie-arteries-clogging food photos I’ve decided to change it up a bit. With Obon upon us this week ( a period in Japan where a bunch of public holidays fall one after another and the Japanese honour their ancestors) R and I have decided to go and explore a little of the Central Japan Area. Everyone and anyone get’s in their cars, jet off somewhere and it gets congested and overpriced. But if they didn’t have this block of holidays Japanese people would probably work too much!

I should probably mention to make up for the lack of posts that I’m sure the world wide web has been eagerly anticipating with bated breath, I have decided to split my post into two. WOAH I know. If anyone actually sticks around to read the second one…

Sadly this region we live in seems to be just a quick post-note in most guide books. I’m not sure if this is because it is not as convenient a route for most 1-2 week holiday trips in Japan. Most people do the Tokyo – Osaka/Kyoto – Hiroshima route, and just bypass anything facing the Japan Sea side. (Which I myself have done the last few times in Japan too) Having said that there is a huge domestic market for it, just that I can barely string a sentence to say “I’m going on holiday” in Japanese.  Actually I think that this region is just as beautiful, and I’m enjoying finding out more and more about it and it’s ‘off-the-beaten-track’ charm. Well enough of that, I’m sure you’re all dying to know where I decided to go.

After some talk we decided that we wanted to visit the Gokoyama Region, although by far the most famous village in this region is Shirakawa-go (A Unesco Heritage site), there are other lesser visited places in the area. I’m not going to go on about it, because to be honest you can google the hell out it. There are three villages in the area that make up the Gokoyama Area, although half is in one prefecture and the others in another. Our plan for the day was to start at Ainokura (the furthest away) and end at Shirakawa-go before heading home with a quick Onsen dip on the way home (although this didn’t happen, we were just too tired!) Although we initially wanted to stay in a Ryokan up there, it ended up being too much of a hassle because of the busy holiday period so we decided to save it for later.

So the day arrived and R and I, with two of our friends K and M decided to leave our house at 9ishAM. I say 9ish, because if any of you know me well, you know I am a terrible time keeper. We all piled into our car and left, after about 30 mins, we already hit our first road block. The dreaded TRAFFIC JAM, it took us 30 mins to clear 250meters at one point! But then it all miraculously cleared up, it did add an extra hour to our travel time though.

How to Get There

For those of you who are thinking about driving there yourself, it takes between 3 to 3.5 hr from Nagoya on the zippy Express way depending on how fast or how careful a driver you are. The Tolls cost about 5300 Yen (Around $55) Each way, plus Petrol, per car. BUT if you’re planning to do this by Public Transport, it can take you HOURS (Around 6 to be exact), this is because there aren’t great connections heading up that way, but it means you probably will get slightly less tourists  (a small bonus). You will have to train from Takayama and from there Bus to Shirakawa-go, if you want to go further to the higher areas, you need to take an extra bus from Shirakawa-go to Ainokura. All up this can cost around 12,000 Yen each way/per person or more (Around $120 I’m bad at maths too), so you can imagine that if you have a car it’s a lot more convenient not to mention cheaper to get up there!

We Have Arrived At -

Ainokura

Ainokura is probably one of the quietest villages as it’s the furthest away, All you need to pay is a 500yen parking fee and you’re free to wander around. It’s also one of the most secluded, proper roads and electricity didn’t even really get there until the mid 1900’s. Even now you can still see a lot of rural quaintness in the area. I would have loved to stay up there! You can see a lot of the villagers are self-sustaining growing their own crops and harvesting wild forest vegetables for their dinner table. In fact a famous dish from the area is tempura vegetables with vegetables found only in the region. They also sold some of their vegetables at a little booth next to the car park, although I didn’t buy any they all looked amazingly fresh and cheap. A big bag of eggplants, roughly 5-6 baby ones in a bag went for 100Yen!! We decided to walk up to the look out point in Ainokura which only took a scant 5-10 mins at most. Even so it was a dirt road, and I was surprised to see a Japanese Girl wearing 3 inch stilettos, I soon realised by the end of the day, this was quite de rigeur amongst the younger girls. THE PAIN!!!! How can they DO THAT??! I just know that I don’t want to have Sarah Jessica Parker’s veiny heel worned feet/claw/hooves. We were rewarded after our ardous 5 min hike with a beautiful view of the village. The houses here are built slightly different from their neighbours as they get larger snowfall, and we were given a pamplet in english that proudly told us of the construction that required the whole village to join in and help ceate the Gassho Houses. I could probably tell you what a Gassho house is but here’s a link instead. It also details the differences in construction.

If you’re interested in just having a cup of tea and watching the world go by in a quiet Japanese town you can do this. Or you can make yourself a cup of tea and check out this link to a LIVE FEED of Ainokura Village,  from the safety and comfort of your own couch. You can toggle the buttons on the left to get a 3 different view points. I feel sorry for these people, it’s like they live on the Truman Show, people traipse through their street staring at them gardening, now they have a camera just pointed at them ALL THE TIME!!!! There’s definitely no wandering around the house naked for these people…. not that you would I’m sure.

Below is one of the best kept houses in Ainokura, although on further reflection I felt it surely looked like the evil witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel. hmm….

One of the shops also sold their own home made ice cream, which after walking around in 35 degree heat, R and I decided was a great idea! We got one each of the Black Sesame (Goma) and Yuzu (Japanese Citrus fruit). Although I was a bit hesitant to try a citric milky cream confection, I was pleasantly surprised. This was delicious, the ice cream was soft and creamy too, which if you’re used to Japanese ice-cream, it was a surprise too.

Yuzu Ice Cream! Ainokura

A photo posted by Eat with Bea (@eatwithbea) on

There are a few points of interest in the village apart from the amazingly cute cottages

Other Things to do in Ainokura -

- There are 2 folk museums which allow you entry to see what a Gassho house is like inside (1st floor only) as well as explanation of the local music instruments etc, We decided to skip this and save ourselves for Iwase House (Which I’ll talk about later) Iwase house being one of the biggest and oldest Gassho houses in the region, plus you get to go up the the 3rd floor. You might as well go big or go home!

- The map marked out an impressively named 20 Day Stone, it told us that when the snow on that stone melted, the remaining snow in the village would dissipate within 20 days. We excitedly rushed to see it, it turned out to be a very uninspiring green covered rock in someone’s backyard, in fact what was more exciting was this cute little dog house right next to the rock, in fact you can see the 20 day rock to your right and judge for yourself on how impressive this is.

- There is a cute little shrine with a beautiful cypress tree by it’s gate entrance, you can see this in the photo above. I can’t remember the name unfortunately!

So I’ve rambled for long enough so this ends my post for today. The village gave us just a sample of cuteness to come, trust me the rest of my day was punctuated with cries of OH THAT IS SOOOOOOO CUTE! I hated myself, I sounded like a 16 yr old Belieber and a Bieber concert, but I couldn’t help it. Ainokura is definitely worth the visit if you have a car, it is a mere 30 mins away from Shirakawa-go, it is less touristy and you get to wander around the village without too many other people trying to get in your photos ( a common disease that affects most snap happy people). I could easily see myself coming back to spend a night in one of the Ryokan or Guest Houses here. Although I’ve heard that they play a loudspeaker message and music at 6.30am right through the village for 10 min intervals for half an hour……. so not for the early risers I’m guessing.

oh the shame…My Burger Weekend

How lazy am I?? A few days in and I got distracted living life! Well… I think the truth is I was trying to avoid telling everyone the truth. Please forgive me.

I didn’t get to eat THE TRUFFLE BURGER. After I had told everyone about my excitement, I went down to McDonald’s (after an hour of of to and froing with my bf, and ignoring his desperate pleas to please not give in to the EVIL Clown) only to be told. Sorry we’re sold out. WHAT?!?!?!?! How can they be sold out at not even 2pm in the afternoon? That’s right everyone the burger was sold out within 4 hours. Sad tear in my eyes.

And triumphant boyfriend in the background. He thought he had won! I was so hungry from talking about eating this burger the whole day with my bf that I just bought something else in the end. Quarter Pounder! Ha! He wasn’t so triumphant any more.

Well apart from eating my burger, my weekend was very low key. Originally, we had great plans to go to Okazaki, see the castle and Miso factory. I tell everyone that I want to go because of the amazing history. But the truth is, Okazaki was a key location in the game Samurai Warriors, one of my favourite all-time games. Ok the truth came out, I love THIS GAME. (click on the link to learn more). To be fair I am interested in Iyeyasu Tokugawa, and his history. Blah blah. So all you need to know is I’m excited about Japanese history. Unfortunately helping out our friend, and by the time everything was done and we were ready to leave it was already 4pm. So…… Okazaki another day.

One of the bad asses from my much loved game.

I know you’re thinking, what does this have to do with burgers? Well, instead of going to Okazaki, we decided to go to this little cafe instead.

The Little Best Cafe

〒 466-0064 愛知県名古屋市天白区平針2丁目1111  A2ビル1F

TEL:052-842-8686

http://cafethebest.jp/little

Cafe – The Little Best

Look at it! It’s so cute!! I highly recommend it! My bf picked it out, and it so happened a lovely random person had recommended it as well! Perfect it was meant to be. Although it was essentially a burger, they called it a  ‘Sando’ サンド. They make their own buns in this cafe, and surprisingly it’s not the sugar sweet bun that you get at a lot of Japanese places. The bun is almost like damper (for the aussies out there). All the burgers come served with wedges and 2 onion rings, as well as some pickles. The prices start from 780円 and you can add an extra 500円 to get the drink and cake set as well. Considering that most drinks on the menu are already 400円 and cakes start from 380円 it’s quite good value to add the cake set. The funny thing is that I noticed they only had one chef in the kitchen, but they had a completely separate cake kitchen which had 3-4 patisserie chefs. Their cakes must be super popular! Below are the yummy things that I had. I went with their ‘special, which had okra, mozzarella, a meat sauce, tomato, lettuce and their home-made patty. It was delicious, although their ‘special’ burger is a bit more it’s still worth it! All the burgers are quite large and both of us were absolutely stuffed after. For a Japanese home made burger it’s not bad at all! I would definitely recommend going back again if you had a burger craving any time soon. All I can say is – It’s a good burger.

If you collect Hot Pepper coupons etc, you can also use them at the cafe. They also have parking if you need.

The ‘Special’ Burger

 

The cute cake I had. Blueberry Mascarpone Short Cake

Well until my next food adventure! Sayonara!