Japan – My kind of Foodie Paradise

 What’s my Foodie Positioning for Japan?

It’s all about the convenience, packaging, the product and the price. Yep, you heard that right, price.

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3 weeks ago, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend almost 2 weeks in Japan as part of a business school study tour. We traveled to Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe, and Osaka. Of course, I spent time talking to businesses, but secretly I’ve been wanting to go to Japan because I’m a self-described marketing junkie who just so happens to love food. I could not wait to see what Japan had to offer! On top of this, the conversion rate for the US dollar to the Japanese yen was $1 to 120 yen, so that just meant I could try more food.

So let’s just start with the pictures, because I know that food really draws people in with visuals. So here we go:

BREAKFAST – The Most Important Meal of the Day 

  • 7am at the Tsujiki Fish Market near Tokyo – Wow this was good, I think I ate that small little bowl of Uni by myself and all of this was for $20.
Tuna and Uni
Tuna and Uni

Lunch 

  • Oh the Japanese lunch! This is where packaging and price really comes to play here. You have everything from your catered lunch – where you can see my nicely packaged sandwiches, marinated chicken, pasta salad below, to a 7 course meal for $13!!!, to of course the Japanese staple tasty ramen. This meal by far, was my favorite because I never had to think twice about the tradeoff in taste, cost, and service. Everything was still top notch!
    • Below: Left, The best ramen I had during the whole trip – not salty at all! Right, My catered lunch box which included egg salad sandwiches with no crust, pasta salad, fruit and even fried chicken!

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  • Below: Left, My 7 course meal which included sashimi, vegetables, miso soup, rice, and more. Right, Japanese Fast Food.

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Dinner 

  • The best meal I had by far was at an Izakaya place (many little dishes) that cost around $60. This included food and drinks. Our classmate, Taku, really treated us well by ordering many different types of fish – grilled, steamed, broiled, and even showed us the real way Japanese drink sake. You start with beer and then move on to your sake. What’s interesting to note about the beer in restaurants there, there’s only one type of beer in the whole restaurant. So when you go there and ask for beer, there’s no room to ask for what type because they only have 1 type of beer on tap! (Completely different experience from the US I’d say, no room for brewies in Japan!).  It was a great meal – I’d say my favorite was the steamed fish, soo good!
  • Service was truly impeccable – here the chef tried to explain all the different types of fish we were eating: apparently a. gurnard was one of them, never heard of this before! But it was sure tasty! He later even ran out to hand each of us a rice ball with seafood as a thank you! Truly one of my favorite dining experiences in Japan!
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Amuse bouche to cleanse the palette – Izakaya Dish 1
Izakaya Dish 2: Pickled Veggies
Izakaya Dish 2: Pickled Veggies
Izakaya Dish 3 - Octopus so tender!
Izakaya Dish 3 – Octopus so tender!
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Izakaya Dish: Eel inside Eggplant – deep fried!
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Fish Eggs mixed with Chili
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Grilled Fish Head
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Steamed Fish!
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Beautiful Sashimi – with the perfect number of pieces per person!
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Tempura!
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In Japanese Cuisine – you start off with beer and move onto Sake!

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Some type of dessert – Japanese desserts were never too sweet, which I like!

Costco

  • I saved the best for last! Part of the experience was also seeing Costco in Japan.
    • Most of things were similar – aisles of food, membership, big carts, food court setup – but there were many things that were different. You’ll see the pictures below of the awesome sushi selection they have at Costco. Queue lines at the food court, rather than single lines for each register, it was a wraparound line. Even the food court, while people were eating carts were neatly parked side by side in 2 rows versus the chaotic carts we see in Costco in Seattle. Finally, BULGOGI BAKE! You heard that right, instead of the Chicken Bake we get here in the States, Costco Japan serves Bulgogi Bake and it was so good!
    • Other interesting tidbits: parking garage on top of Costco due to the limited space, most of the shoppers are moms with the children and they tend to share Costco purchases among many generations within the family due to lack of space at home.
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    Bulgogi bake
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So many types of fish available!

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Other highlights:

  •  Kobe beef in the city of Kobe
  • Coffee in Juice Boxes, Hot Coffee from Vending Machines
  • Teppanyaki!
  • All you can eat $1 Chicken Karaage
Teppanyaki
Teppanyaki

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Kobe Beef!
Kobe Beef!

Japan was truly an amazing foodie experience as you can tell by large volume of pictures. If you haven’t been, I would strongly recommend it!

I apologize for the layout of the photos- need to work on finding a new interface to document my foodie travels!

Memorable Eats of 2014

Just a few pictures of some of my memorable eats of 2014 (from left to right, top to Bottom)

  1. Quinoa I became obsessed with the Seattle I Love GFF food truck that would park out of Starbucks during my summer internship. SO much so, that I tried to recreate the quinoa bowls they’re known for. I got close, but its still not perfect. I noted the key was some cream based with curry flavoring.
  2. Pizza from Seattle Bar Cotto. I would call this a manly place, or a place where females can gorge on cured meats and awesome pizza. Their mushroom pizza is pretty amazing.
  3. Coffee Master I took some classes to become a coffee master, I’m nowhere near what you would call an expert, but I definitely know a lot more than I did last year.
  4. Santouka Finally tried this Ramen joint in Bellevue – I’d still prefer Kukai Ramen more just because I prefer less salty of a soup base, but still awesome. Bonus points for the soft-boiled egg!
  5. LOBSTA rollll from Maine nonetheless. It was amaaazzingg. No other comments necessary.
  6. Sushi Samba I have to say as big of a chain this place is, they do know how to make a group dinner fun, especially for a bachelorette party!
  7. Daikokuya in LA Little Tokyo, really good, not as salty as Santouka, soft boiled egg, Really good
  8. Class 302 This has been featured on my blog before, but I have to do a two-peat and even a three-peat. Shaved ice like ICE CREAM! Sorry Seattle folks, this is a LA joint
  9. Luksus 9 course Nordic set menu in Brooklyn. Super unique cuisine paired with Sour beers nonetheless.
  10. The Luksus menu with Beer
  11. Carnegie Deli for Breakfast!
  12. Shake Shack at JFK makes it easier for me to hit all of the spots even in 2 days in NY
  13. My Tortilla Espanola that I learned how to make in a Tapas Cooking Class at Hipcooks. I would definitely encourage everyone to take a cooking class there, lots of fun, low key, and they are not shy on sharing the food you make.

That’s it! Anyone got some foodie favorites of 2014?

Photo Aug 03, 1 06 56 PM Photo Aug 22, 9 21 12 PM Photo Jul 11, 9 53 49 AM Photo May 23, 12 10 51 PM Photo Sep 02, 11 17 34 AM  Photo Sep 06, 9 17 55 PMPhoto Dec 18, 12 45 39 PM  Photo Nov 29, 1 52 57 PM Photo Oct 17, 4 32 14 PM Photo Oct 17, 5 37 37 PM Photo Oct 17, 7 23 40 AM Photo Oct 19, 2 46 03 PM Photo Sep 21, 12 33 02 PM

A New Foodie Year for 2015!

http://www.tablefortwoblog.com/the-moistest-chocolate-mug-cake/
http://www.tablefortwoblog.com/the-moistest-chocolate-mug-cake/
Source: TableforTwoblog.com

HellOOOOOOOOOO!!

Its been a long time since I’ve posted, I apologize. Since I’ve been in school, my priority becomes homework and no longer detailing the morsel of every meal I’ve eaten.

But it does still bring me tons of joy! I’ve still lived out my foodie heart through another passion – one of the Foodies groups at school: we’ve been showing students from outside the area, everything Seattle has to offer like Chateau St. Michelle where we did a winery tour and tasting, homebrewed our own Foodies beer, hosted a couple of cooking classes and so much more. Its been a lot of fun, but nothing gives me more joy than to write about food!

So, alas! Here I am again, and my goal is to at least put 2 restaurant reviews per month!

A couple of things that I’m excited about or looking forward to:

1) If you’re craving chocolate cake, but don’t want to bake a whole one or have the time to, microwave it in a mug! Of course its not going to be as good (you can’t have your cake and eat a good one too!), but it will satisfy that chocolate craving when you need it. This recipe gives you the basics: Chocolate Cake in a MugIt takes only 2 minutes to make!

2) Got tickets to Tom Douglas’ The Lion’s Den! Its like Shark Tank but for foodiepreneurs. Here’s more info. I’ll be sure to post back here on my experiences

3) Graduating with my MBA this year! Can’t believe I’m almost done!

I’ll be back – and with my goal of 2 reviews per month. Better get back to working on those posts! :)

My Visit to Kauai Coffee in Koloa, Hawaii

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My Visit to Kauai Coffee in Koloa, Hawaii

16oz bag: $10.99

During my recent trip to the Hawaiian island of Kauai, I also had to stop by the Kauai Coffee Plantation in Koloa. Kauai Coffee is home to the largest coffee farm in the United States. Not only does it feature a walking tour of how coffee is grown and roasted, there are free tastings too! That is always a plus in my book!

Upon entering the gift shop, you go past the double french doors to find tastings of their 100% Kauai Coffees, Kauai Estate Reserves, and Specialty Coffees. They divided up the coffees by type of roast, dark, medium, light and even had a flavored coffee table. As you can imagine I kept filling my cup, let’s just say I was pretty caffeinated for the entire day. Surprisingly, I wasn’t a big fan of their Koloa Estate Medium Roast brew or their Kauai Blue Mountain-Dark Roast coffee, too light in flavor for my liking. Of all the flavors, I actually preferred the Estate Roasted Vanilla Macadamia Nut pictured above. Just enough flavor of the Vanilla Macadamia Nut but not overly too sweet that it took away the coffee flavor. I ended up buying 4 bags home!

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Then it was time for the walking tour! All over the tour, there were 8 different sign posts like the one below on the left, detailing the types of coffee grown on the farm, how the peaberry (where the coffee bean comes from) gets picked, and how the coffee gets processed and roasted.

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Who knew that coffee beans could grow to the size of coconuts?! Yes, that’s me, enjoying my coffee as I went on the tour!

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All in all, my 40 minute visit to the Kauai Coffee Plantation was well worth it in my opinion. Free caffeine fix, coffee education, and souvenirs all in one!

Kauai’s Best Eats and Not So Best Eats

Kauai’s Best Eats and Not So Best Eats

Kauai

I was lucky enough to go to Kauai in December for some relaxing and sunshine. Of course, I plan vacations around food, so the first thing I bust out is my phone and load up Yelp to see what people are eating. Surprisingly, there’s quite a bit of Yelp activity in Kauai. We were also lucky enough to talk to some locals who suggested a few places as well. See my below top places to eats and others that you can pass on!

Best Eats!

1. Koloa Fish Market

5482 Koloa Road Koloa, HI 96756

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        • Price: $10 for the combo plate
        • What to get: Kahlua Pork and Lau Lau combo plate for $10.49
        • Category: Best overall
      •  We loved this place so much that we came back twice! With the combo plate you get a cup of the Kahlua pork, the Lau Lau, Chicken Long Rice, Poke and 2 scoops of rice.
      • My favorite part of the dish were the Kahlua Pork and the Poke. The Kahlua pork was super flavorful with the smoked, tender and not dry. The Poke, fish was fresh (this is a fish market after all!) and pretty flavorful with the soy sauce and flavor they put into it. Honestly I wanted to go back to eat more Poke (they have 4 different kinds) and just get a pound of it so I could eat it in the car!

2. Restaurant Kiibo 

2991 Umi St Lihue, HI
kilbo
  • What to get: Sukiyaki
  • Price: $ 17 for Combo Sukiyaki

Category: Best home cooked

I’m going to fully admit, I don’t know if I’ve ever had amazing Sukiyaki. But I did think of all the places we ate in Kauai, Kiibo was the most authentic home cooked meal we had. I chose the sukiyaki combo so I could get mine with the side of Sashimi. They no longer serve sushi here, which I am quite sad about,we heard from locals that it was because the sushi chef here passed away a couple of years ago.

The Sukiyaki was flavorful without being overly salty. Had onions, beef, and cilantro. Quite good. Served with a side of miso soup, pickled cabbage and sashimi. Overall the meal was really satisfying!

Not the Best Eats! 

Hamura’s  Saimin

2956 Kress St Lihue, HI 96766
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  • What to get: Lilikoi Chiffon Pie
  • Price: $8
  • Category: Best dessert
  • Maybe I love Ramen too much, so Saimin to me isn’t as impressive. This was my first time trying Saimin and I have to say the soup is flavorful, lighter than Ramen and noodles are more like wonton noodles. The one thing they do is use mustard and vinegar together to dip the meat in. (Correct me if I’m wrong here Saimin experts!). Hamara’s was packed though, locals  and tourists alike were eating here. It was quite tasty but I have to say their Lilikoi Chiffon Pie picture on the right, was really what stood out to me. Light, fluffy in consistency and super tasty!

 Bobbie’s Restaurant

3820 Hanapepe Rd Hanapepe, HI 96716
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We went to Hanapepe for the Art Walk. Lucky for us all the restaurants came out as well (Saw a sushi food truck there!) but I gravitated towards Bobbie’s given the highest Yelp reviews in the area. I ended up choosing the Huli Huli Art walk special because I saw the smoker sitting out on the sidewalk. The Huli Huli chicken had been brined overnight and then smoked right before. Look at that! That is a half a chicken! I had to share it with my husband, and we still could not finish that plate! I would definitely give Bobbie’s the best value, that plate was about $9 all in all, with 2 scoops of rice and 2 scoops of macaroni salad. The chicken was quite tender but it wasn’t worth remembering about except for its size. The one other thing that ruined it for my husband was that all over the island, we saw chickens and roosters milling about, so let’s just say this was the only chicken dish we ordered our entire time on the island :)

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Red Salt

2251 Poipu Rd Koloa, HI 96756 inside the Koa Kea Hotel
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  • Red Salt is a good place to go for nicer brunch. On the left is the eggs benedict and on the right is their house special pancakes. The eggs benedict was quite good as it had some citrus flavor to them. The pancakes were definitely unique as they were really light in flavor, but too much of the same flavor made me question whether there was something to balance the texture of the light airy pancakes. Both of these dishes will set you back $15-17 a plate.

Lappert’s Ice Cream & Coffee

4425 Ala Kalanikaumaka Koloa, HI 96756
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I got the Kona Coffee (because I was in Hawaii) it was tasty, but not as good as Seattle’s Molly Moon’s Ice cream.

Keoki’s Paradise

2360 Kiahuna Plantation Dr Koloa, HI 96756
  • We got a tip from the local that the ribs were good. Too touristy for my taste and overpriced.

Josselin’s Tapas Bar & Grill

2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka St Koloa, HI 96756
  • Come here for the happy hour, their lychee sangria posted below on right is quite tasty and only $5! Pictured on the right is dry ice served with sashimi.
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Beach House

5022 Lawai Rd Koloa, HI 96756
  • Go here for the sunset view
  • Tip: Get reservations
  • Food is okay and pricey
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Sueoka Store: Snack Shop

5392 Koloa Rd Koloa, HI 96756
  • Best cheap eat and comfort food
  • You can get the loco moco for $3.25

Savage Shrimp Truck

2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka St Koloa, HI 96756
  • While tasty, not as good as Giovanni’s in Oahu
Savage Shrimp Truck
 

 Koloa Shaved Ice

HI-520/Poipu Rd Old Koloa Town
Koloa, HI 96756
  • The blue vanilla was good, but still not as good as Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice in Oahu. I think its because of the ice consistency, not as smooth as I’d like.
koloa shave ice koloa shaved ice
 
 

Overall, Kauai has some tasty food, but I still think the Big Island and Oahu has better eats! Stay tuned for my next post on my coffee tastings at Kauai Coffee Plantation! Happy New Year!

Hey There, Stranger!

It’s been awhile, I got married, started business school – its been a busy year!

But now that its 2014, its time to reset! Look out for posts I’ll be posting this week including

– Some favorite eats from the Hawaiian island of Kauai

– Starbucks La Boulange reviews

If you have a restaurant you’ve been thinking of trying in Seattle, but haven’t gotten around to, feel free to suggest them in the comments box. Even though I’m on a student budget now, I still like to treat my stomach to some nice food every once in awhile!

Jamie

FatHappyandCheap Food Debate 1: Seattle Donuts Mighty-O vs. Top Pot

What: The First FatHappyandCheap Seattle Food Debate

Item: Seattle Donuts

Featured from: Top-Pot & Mighty-O Donuts

Average Price per Donut $1.60


So what prompted the first donut debate? Well it all started when I got a Top Pot donut at work and tweeted out there, which donuts are better Top Pot or Mighty-O, and Mighty-O tweeted back. And then prompted my foodie adrenaline why not have a donut debate for real? No solicitations, just pure facts from people who enjoy food just like me?

And so it began. The date was set, I requested 5 taste testers and off it went.

My tasting panel included: Annie, Danielle, Nishanth, Lewis, and Sam. Thanks guys! Their culinary tastes range from those loving donuts to those who hate, a sample of some real taste buds here. No one too overly critical, as this is all meant for fun!

It started first with the donut rating card- pictured below but it basically 8 donuts (4 from Top Pot, 4 from Mighty-O) on 5 different categories on a 5 point scale with 5 being the highest.

1) Look – overall look of the donut, does it look appetizing?

2) Texture/Density – inside of the donut, density of the batter

3) Crisp- (I learned later this one needs work), but at the time, was thinking of freshness

4) Taste – Overall do you enjoy the flavor of this donut

5) Crave :) – after you finish this donut do you want more?

6) Total Points out of 25 – and the 3 overall winners were……..

….

….

1st Place goes to Top Pot’s Jelly Filled Glazed Donut

2nd Place goes to Top Pot’s Maple Icing Old-Fashioned

3rd Place goes to Mighty-O’s Nutty Vanilla

Overall comments, the reason why Top Pot’s Jelly Filled Glazed Donut came out on top was just the flavors. Really that simple, that fruit jelly in the middle was not overbearingly sweet, just had the right consistency, and with that glazed donut around it, it really was that icing on the top. Of all the donuts, Top Pot’s Jelly Filled Glazed donut was a Crave Category Winner. In second place, came Top Pot’s Maple Icing Old-Fashioned. This is actually one of my traditional favorites, no matter what donut store it comes from, but it was just the right balance between crispy and flavor that really wasn’t overwhelming. In third, came Mighty-O’s Nutty Vanilla. And this was really the sleeper hit, and the reason why I say that is because when you take a bite into this donut, you’re expecting to be overwhelmed by all the nut topping, but there’s pack of vanilla/peanut butter right under that along with the texture that really makes this donut a winner.

Of the samples we’ve tried:

Top Pot Selection: Jelly Filled, Maple Old Fashioned, Double Trouble, Old-Fashioned

Mighty-O Selection: Don King, Lemon Poppy, Nutty vanilla, and Chocolate Glazed

These flavors were selected on 2 criteria: 1) Whatever was available in store at the moment I dropped by at 3pm on a rainy Seattle Saturday afternoon 2) At recommendation of the place. No special orders nothing, whatever was available at the shop. I wanted to mimic the experience of any customer that walked in at that time of the day

Donut Data:

Top Pot: With over 40 different types of donuts, Top Pot prides itself on being hand-forged donuts, as donuts are made the old-fashioned way  with all donuts containing zero trans fat. Top Pot has become almost synonymous with a Seattle donut, and of more recently Obama himself has even stopped by this Seattle donut place to try one of the local favorites.

Mighty-O: Mighty-O’s distinction is that they make their donuts with certified organic ingredients, they contain no cholesterol because there are no chemical preservatives, no animal derived ingredients, no colorings or artificial flavors.

Summary

All in all, by numbers Top Pot came out on top. But if you have had to dig deep into the value that both of these Seattle donut eateries bring to the table, I’ll classify it this way Top Pot for Taste, Mighty-O for conscience and creativity too.

Tasting panel, please feel free to comment if I missed out any detail, or left out anything.

Because I had so much fun doing this donut debate, as well as the tasting panel, we will be doing recurring FatHappyandCheap food debates on Seattle favorites: next stop? Seattle Wine and Cheese. Please check the FatHappyandCheap Facebook page located here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/FatHappyandCheap/150005308376648 for details.

If you are a local food vendor who would like to donate items for an upcoming debate, please contact me at fathappyandcheap@gmail.com