you don"t need to save the crystal for a special day, even water tastes better in a "Fancy Glass"

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Old World Elegance

This is the second year we have traveled to the EU for Christmas. (just got back to japan yesterday) One of the things I love about Vienna, and other spots we have visited, is the elegance and old world sensibility. There are modern conveniences and all the stuff you would expect but there is also a preservation of the culture and a slower pace to things that I appreciate so much.

The photo above is from the Blue Lounge in the Hotel Sacher (home of the famous Sacher Torte) The Sacher hotel is all about old world elegance. Proper pots of tea, hot cocoa served in pitchers, door men, and towel warmers, and a great concierge. All adds up to a relaxing and luxiurious stay.

The Sacher went above and beyond this year and made our christmas so special. On christmas eve when we returned to the room after visiting the Vienna Christmas Markets, there was a chocolate sleigh filled with christmas cookies, and later that night they gave us special christmas slippers when they did our turn down. It was a small thing, but it meant a lot to us. Cozy, comfortable and yet elegant. We are planning to make Christmas at the Sacher a family tradition.

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St. Stephen's Moment

well, we are home, just got in today, and tomorrow I head back into the restaurant. It was a great trip, and it was fantastic to spend such a special christmas with Mom.

I am going through photos and notes to post up- over the next few days, but for now, here is a little video snippet from the gorgeous midnight mass celebration we experienced in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. This is from the choir concert that started off the service. simply gorgeous, and wonderful to attend with mom.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

finding Christmas in Bavaria Pt.2

Well, I have been here 3 days, Mom arrived and we have been having a wonderful time. Yesterday was simply magical. It has been a long time since I really saw snow. (Tokyo gets an occasional flurry but not accumulation) But I got my wish for some snowy-christmas-adventures yesterday!

Our hotel provided a service to link up to a sight seeing tour out to the Bavarian alps and to Neuschwanstein. The gorgeous alpine area lies just about 2hrs from downtown Munich so a day trip was very easy. We had a hearty breakfast. The highlight of which for me, was a whole honey comb that you could slice a hunk of honey from and have on excellent homemade bread with rich creamy butter.

the bus set up was a bit hard to understand as we joined the tour, but after it sorted itself out things went very smoothly. Uta was our guide, and though a bit odd she was friendly and informative. On German tours, punctuality is everything! so things moved in a very quick and scheduled pace. The theme of the day was King Ludwig II. Fairytale castles.

We first visited the tiny palace of Linderhof. Very ornate, and quite gogeous. (and very cold!) and then we stopped in a lovely Alpine village of Oberammergau (famous for it's once a decade performance of the passion play of christ- which has been going on since the Plague times.) Oberammergau is filled with lovely Alpine houses and shops with frescos painted on the walls. It is really like walking through a postcard.

But the jewel of the day was finally seeing Neuschwanstien. What an amazing place. And the weather made everything icy, snowy and totally gorgeous. The castle was never completed inside, with most of the decor being done only on the floor of the King's royal apartment. The entire castle, all the furnishings and wall coverings were inspired by Wagner's operas as King Ludwig was a huge Wagner fan.

You take a horse carriage to the top, near to the castle, then a brisk 10 minute walk for the last part. And you are inside. everything is stunning. My favorite room was the king's bedroom which it took 14 woodcarvers 4 1/2 years to complete! I was also greatly impressed by the byzantine inspired throne room.

King Ludwig died under myserious circumstances long before he could see the completion of the castle, and it was open for tourists just 6 weeks after his death!

Back in the bus, and two hours later back to our hotel where we had a lovely dinner and slept the deep sleep of those who spend a day up in the mountains and snow.

--top pictures clockwise from top left-- bavarian snow scape walking to Linderhof/ painted walls of Oberammergau/ Neuschwanstein in the snowy evening/ Bavarian village street.

Tomorrow we are off to Nurnberg.
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Monday, December 17, 2007

finding christmas in Munich pt.1

So last year we started a new tradition. Christmas is NOT a real holiday in Japan. It is not even a day off of work. The Japanese adopted some of the Christmas trappings, but none of the good ones. Mariah Carey "All I want for Christmas" blares everywhere and crazy neon plastic decorations are abundant. But nothing warm, nothing family-oriented, nothing that seems "Christmassy" to me. So last year, I took vacation at Christmastime and my husband and I went to Vienna and Prague where we heard Christmas traditions were alive and well.

It was fantastic.

And this year we decided to do it again, this time my Mom will be joining us too! Which is the best Christmas present ever.

My Mom's side of the family is German, and most Christmas traditions come from there, so this year we choose; Munich, Nurnberg and then Back to Vienna for the end of the trip. Mom gets in early tomorrow morning, but we have been here since yesterday. And the report so far is that Christmas is everywhere!

There is a fantastic Christmas market on Mariaplatz. Hot mulled wine, bratwurst, gingerbread are the market specialties. There are goregous decorations. Window shopping is loads of fun. And I am totally in Christmas heaven. The shot above is a collage of some of the sights this evening. from top left-clockwise.

1. a goregous tree lit up on a darling little back street
2. the main Townsqaure, with a massive goregous traditional tree and the start of a very big christmas market
3. me and santa :-)
4. a beautiful fruit stall

On our first day we also had a fantastic Christmas Sunday Brunch (they do it in the hotel each sunday of advent). More on that later.
time to try hard to go back to sleep in spite of jet lag!
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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Fish tacos and a dinner guest

I just got back from a short businessy trip to Hawaii to Fujimamas Kona. I was travelling alone this time, and only on the Big Island for a few days. But one stop included an ocean view dinner at the Canoe Club (which has a much better view than it does food!) I had the fish tacos which were filling and ok. The fish was nice, the cold shreaded cheese was a disappointment.

The sunset was lovely and I had time to watch a very cute golden gekko hang out on my ketchup bottle. These trips are much more fun when I can go with my husband. But I got a lot done. Brought back some stuff for the restaurant in Tokyo met with my bosses briefly, and saw the new expanded farm! Including the adorable ducks, dogs, and very nice heritage chickens.

I was busy closing out an apartment we had rented there for the last few months. Nice place. Lovely landlords. (met them through craig's list.) and I got to go book browsing at Borders, and picked up some nice stuff at Costco.

All in all, a good trip, though very short. I hope to get back sometime in the new year.
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Monday, November 26, 2007

Post pie round-up

Well whew! that is behind us again for another year! The restaurant I help run does a BIG thanksgiving business every year. Very tasty, and Very Popular. You see it is a big thing for us, providing away-from-home-americans a little holiday cheer. Most people do travel to their home countries for Christmas-- or go visit friends. But very few folks can get home for Thanksgiving AND Christmas. So we provide a traditional thanksgiving feast. reservations only.

It means a lot to us. We keep the cost low and the Comfort food level high. And we sell out. Every year.
this year was no exception, and now on the Sunday after I am just recovering. We serve turkey lunches for a week, turkey caterings, turkey take outs and 4 full seatings for dinner on both Thurs and Fri. nights.

The team held together well, though by the fri. night second seating the stress was starting to show. Everyone kept their good spirits though, and the food was delicious and well recieved.

Many restaurant people complain about working the holidays. But I look at it as a chance to celebrate with a really big extended family.

Our Hawaii location also did about 100 people for dinner on thanksgiving day.

I am proud that we could help people enjoy their holidays. And I admit I am a bit tired and happy to put it behind us for another year.

the Tally in Tokyo
725 or so Total meals
about 50 pumpkin pies
and 600 Kilos of Turkey!
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Monday, November 12, 2007

Last week we had the honor of attending the engagement party for two dear friends, shoko and sean! it was a lovely dinner- formal but relaxed. tasty french inspired food, good friends and family. Everyone seemed to have a nice relaxed time. And the after party involved 3 bottles of Dom! - very delicious stuff.

It is nice to share these moments with those close to us and we certainly wish them every happiness now and long into the future.
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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cheers from Les Hydropathes

This was a delicious evening. We went to one of our favorite little spots a Belgian restaurant in Shibuya. They have a GREAT beer menu, loads of different kinds in bottles and on tap. The two we tried on this evening were a Raspberry Lambic Beer and a Blonde. (the blond was a double glass potion- check out the picture below! ) The store is called Les Hydropathes.

I love fruit beers, on another trip there recently I had a peach lambic, also delicious!

They must have about 40 different types of beer. All from belgium, and the staff are also fun and friendly. Strangely this little gem is in the basement of a department store. There is also a great book store on that level that has art and design books it is called Logos. Good stuff.
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Friday, November 09, 2007

Yummy season

I love this time of year, fall turns to winter, Christmas on the horizon and a silly little thing that makes my day-- GINGERBREAD LATTE. Now I know there are some people that don't like starbucks. I am not one of them.

I don't go everyday, but I like their products, and staff, and atmosphere. I think they have a great thing going. And I especially like to try their new inventions and seasonal products.

I live in japan where starbucks just turned 10 years old. Some of the USA varieties that I like don't make it in the market here. This fall, Starbucks Japan cancelled the Pumpkin Latte for halloween and did a green tea- something instead. :-(

but thank goodness The gingerbread Latte is happily on offer again this year. Not particularly good for the waistline but soooooooooooooo tasty. It makes me feel festive. And since I work in the restaurant business and this is a very busy stressful time of year a little festivity is a very welcome thing.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

cost cutting and profit mongers endanger all of us


I have long suspected that as the saying goes, "money is the root of all evil" except I think it would be better stated Greed is the root of all evil. Scandals concerning product saftey have abounded this year in China, the USA, here where I live in Japan. And the root of the problem is that the owners are just plain greedy. It is not enough to make millions, they want billions... and they put their reputations and the health of the public at risk. It is the same with all kinds of product, there is no longer a sense of pride at a good product and a happy customer. And it is not enough to make a good living, owners of corp. chains want to be mega-weathly. And they don't care how they get there.

the latest scandal just breaking in japan involves the japanese company that runs Mr. Donut.

Japan's food safety scandal hits Mister Donut TOKYO
- A widening Japanese food safety scandal hit an internationally popular doughnut chain on Wednesday, with Mister Donut acknowledging it used out-of-date syrups in some of its drinks earlier this year.

Mister Donut - the iconic franchise launched in the United States in 1955 and brought to Japan in 1970 - served "Fruity Milk" drinks made from expired melon-and strawberry-flavored syrups at shops across Japan, its operator Duskin Co. said.

The syrups, some almost 30 days past their expiry date, were used to prepare 1,075 servings of Fruity Milk sold at 181 Mister Donut outlets, according to Duskin spokesman Akira Kita. The drink was pulled from stores Wednesday.

Read the rest about this, the latest in world-wide bad business practices- here.
Consumers need to stand up for their rights and saftey and governments need to severely punish companies that break the public trust for increased profit.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I happily went on assigment last month for a couple of afternoons and went to two afternoon teas- and wrote about them for Being A Broad Magazine. I went to two fantastic new hotels in downtown tokyo where afternoon tea is the thing to do. My first stop was the RITZ-CARLTON Tokyo. Their tea was fantastic. Everything I was looking for. Tea cakes, gorgeous porcelin, fantastic views as far as the eye could see and a long leisurely afternoon with my friend over a big personal pot of finely blended black tea!

The second try was at the brand new Penisula, I thought it was nice, but not nearly as special as the Ritz! Since they don't take reservations at the Penisula tea time involves long lines and made me feel not at all special. And the tea service itself was uninspired though the scones were quite nice.

I will cross post the story when it comes out. It was a fun one to do. Next piece for them will be about gourmet gift giving for the winter holidays here in Tokyo.

the ratings?


THE PENISULA TEA TIME 3 fg (disappointing)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

what to do... what to do....

So, my problem used to be, when I imagined owning a restaurant -- I couldn't decide what kind of place I wanted to have, what it would look like, what the menus might be... I just wasn't sure or I lacked the confidence to articulate my ideas.

That has not been my problem for a while now! in fact I have 3 really solid concepts, ideas in my head- down to the LOGOs and at least a rough sketch of the menu ideas. BUT --- No idea yet how and where to put them into practice. Our plan was to be in Hawaii before the end of next year, and be thinking about what comes next--- But with the hubby getting a great new job, and the need to really buckle down and save $$$ for whatever the next thing is- all my ideas are burbling around and on hold. Not a bad situation to be in I supposed. but it feels kind of weird. two of my ideas are on the sort of trendy-side and I am afraid that I will miss a window of really possible popularity with them- but I guess it would be better to miss a window than invent a great idea with a short shelf life. so the waiting may do me good.

Just got a good look at one possible logo for one of our ideas this week. And it is so good! the logo I mean- that I am itching to work on the design and business plan. I guess nothing is stopping me from working on it. hmmmm?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

speaking of cookbooks

An intersting area of cookbooks and recipes is those that were and are put out by food manufacturing companies. We have this little gem at home Recipes with Catsup! It is a little 8 page pamphlet with gems like the cover shot above, called Fabulous Aspic. makes me crack up every time I look at it. totally not appetizing in this day and age, but what a cover.

other hightlights are the Dazzle Dip, and the Sensational Chicken. lots of catsup of course, and plenty of other processed food ingredients.

These little treasures are quite charming. They capture a time and place in american culture. I am on the look out for more. If you know any good sources-- let me know.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

stuff I love!

I love cookbooks (well all books really but...) I love all cookbooks- Old ones, new ones, funny small ones, touristy ones... cookbooks are just great. You can get a view of a different culture, feel like you have traveled somewhere new, right from your own kitchen.

You can dream about meals, future, and fantastical.


you can learn about history.

That is where Old CookBooks .com comes in. A great cookbook retailer with an amazing inventory. Great for gifts, and just great to browse around and see a view of meals and food culture from our long ago and recent past.

check out their easy to use site. They are super nice as well. I have gotten a few gifts for special cooking friends in the past. They have repair services too, if your own special old cookbook needs some work.

just a super site to visit and browse.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fancy Glass Book Review "Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen"

One of the most famous, and one of my all time favorite food blogs is Chocolate and Zucchini. (and I am not the only one who thinks it is great. check out the press page.) Pretty good for a blogger!

And now the author of that wonderful blog is also published!

Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen (Paperback)

Clotilde Dusoulier

one of the great things about this book, is that the lovely author Clotilde, shared the book writing process with us, the loyal readers of her blog. She talked about the book proposal, how she chose topics and recipes, and working through the publishing process. She also celebrated with her online community when the book was set to go live. It was so much fun, and as a freelance author and want to be novelist it was great hearing about the process. I signed up for the book as a pre-order long before it was released.

I hadn't really had time to go through the book till recently. It is lovely! First off Clotilde's personality really shows through. And a lot of the basics she shares in the beginning of the book were helpful and well done.

I am going to be working my way through reading the rest of the book cover to cover, though I have already done a ton of browsing, skipping and skimming.

My one comment would be that I found all the many different layout-fonts a bit confusing and fussy at first. I am getting used to it, but it seems a bit over the top in that area.

So my Fancy Glass Book Review (1-5 glasses with 5 being the best)

Writing and Content- very well done, friendly and approachable with a real sense of the author's voice. 5FG

Layout & Design- a bit too much going on and I thought the photos did not do the recipes justice 2 1/2 FG

Recipe Selection- WONDERFUL 4fg (though I have not tried to make anything yet)

Overall a lovely cookbook that will keep a place on my shelf for a long time. 3 1/2 FG