Thursday, May 28, 2015

Foodicles x Alvin's Penthouse Kitchen Collaboration

From the yearbook room of our high school days to the kitchen of our present lives, it's a Foodicles x Alvin's Penthouse Kitchen Collaboration!

We're almost halfway through the year and we have yet to take our annual BFF vacation.  So while we plan and wait for an open time for that, I traveled to Hong Kong for a long weekend's staycation.  Our staycation involved homemade cocktails, neighborhood eats, and a nice night out (more on this soon).  And, my best friend is naturally my best friend because we share a love for food, both eating and cooking.  So cooking a dish at home became priority number one.

His day job as a flight attendant allows him to bring back fresh, seasonal produce from all over the world.  On the morning of my arrival, he also flew in from Switzerland.  He surprised me with a bundle of goodies - white asparagus from Germany!  White asparagus is unique to spring and for only a short time in the later weeks of the season.

White asparagus has a delicate sweetness, and so it should be treated with a delicate simplicity.  Honoring the vegetable and the lightness of spring, we simply roasted the asparagus and balanced it with a complementing sauce.

The penthouse floor gives Alvin access to a rooftop garden for his freshly grown herbs.  Fresh herbs make all the difference in cooking.  It brightens and livens any dish.  With an abundance of parsley, we decided to make a parsley dressing with a creamy touch.  And with health in mind, yogurt gave that creamy texture, while lemon and olive oil with a touch of seasoning brought it all together.

After cooking, prepping, and food styling the gorgeous plate, we spent an equal amount of time photographing all angles.  Our time was truly rewarded with the succulently sweet bites of asparagus paired with sips of sparkling wine, European and American craft beers, and cocktails.  Much can be said for staycations especially when they are this fun and indulgent.

For more about white asparagus and the details of our recipe, check out Alvin's Penthouse Kitchen!

Food styling and photoshooting

The final product

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Can't stop eating in Tokyo

Like all trips to Tokyo, the eating is non-stop.  Well, it stops when you are so full that you walk it off and then you're ready to eat again.  There's so much to eat and not enough time.

With all our favorite cities, we go back to our favorite restaurants.  Ramen Street in Tokyo Station is a must for every trip.  Some ramen shops change while our favorites remain filled with lines.  The station always has new restaurants and food stalls, plus many food attractions for the kids from burgers to snacks both sweet and savory.

Convenience store eats are another fun place to stock up for breakfast.  I've been pretty obsessed with ikura (salmon roe) lately, so I really enjoyed the 7-11's ikura onigiris (rice balls) every morning.  On the other end of the eating and price range, our hotel Japanese restaurant at the Palace Hotel has such a great ambiance for tradition Japanese dining.

And just when you think you can stop eating, Haneda airport has such a quality selection of eats before getting on the plane.  You have a last chance for tsukemen and ramen; but my favorite is the Japanese curry in the ANA lounge.  It's better than a lot of restaurants.

I got full and hungry again from writing about these eats.  I can't wait to go back to Tokyo!

Shoyu Ramen with Handmade Noodles at Menya Shichisai

Monday, May 18, 2015

Serafina of NYC in Tokyo

Aside from the hotel restaurants, the Palace Hotel Tokyo also offers restaurants in their basement arcade.  They vary from Japanese specialties, like soba or shrimp tempura, to Korean cuisine and Italian American cuisines.  Something for everyone.  The restaurants cater partly to the hotel guests and mostly to the office workers in the nearby buildings.

Serafina is a standard meal each time we check into the hotel.  At least once a visit, and this time we ate there 3 times.  It's satisfying and comforting, while have vibrant taste.  The original location hails from New York City with several branches around the city and continues to grow internationally.

Italian is a cuisine the Japanese have perfected, and here at Serafina Tokyo it's really perfection.  We came for the pizzas, but I fell in love with the pastas.  Perfectly al dente and sauced so well.  After hours of walking around Tokyo and carrying shopping bags and nephews across Tokyo Station, a hot plate of carbs taste so deliciously good.

Margherita Pizza

Rigatoni Bolognese

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Izakaya at Teppen

The fun of staying at The Palace Hotel Tokyo is the constant discovery of Marunouchi's restaurants.  Up in the buildings, the ground floors, and countless establishments in the basements - you can't stop eating in this financial hub.

Most of Marunouchi's eats are casual, but casual among the suits from work.  After work restaurants are filled with drinking, smoking, and eating the day's stresses away.  It's a fun environment, and the more crowded the restaurant, the tastier the food.

In one of the many buildings, !iiyo! or the Eiraku building holds countless eats in a matter of meters.  In an attempt to find a smokefree environment for my nephews, we saw an table made of milk crates.  It seemed like decoration, but still function.  And the menu was filled with grilled and fried Japanese izakaya dishes.  Thankfully, the decorative table was indeed function.  So sitting on cushioned milk crates made for a fun night of eating at Teppen.

There are so many great eats in Tokyo.  I love that these restaurants are understated and low key, while shining with overwhelming plates and tastes.

Vegetables to start the meal.  Look at these beautiful colors!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Always revisiting Tokyo

Tokyo is one of those cities that leaves you wanting more.  One trip, two trips, x number of trips are not enough to be satisfied.  It's so repeatable.  You can always discover new areas in the city and constantly go back to the same places which feel familiar.  Japan and Tokyo are always updating and improving.

We made it a family trip with my little nephews, so it was a balance of shopping in Ginza and a journey to Tokyo Bay for the Legoland Discovery Center.

Here are some pictures from our hotel, around Ginza, and at Legoland:

View from the Palace Hotel Tokyo at night

Thursday, May 07, 2015

More eating in Grand Front Osaka

My favorite kind of hotel has the conveniences of transportation, shopping, and eating all in a nice higher end area.  The Intercontinental Osaka fits my preferences for location, conveniences, and quality of hotel.

On the ground floor of the hotel is a mall entrance to Grand Front Osaka.  This mall has a few buildings, all with local and import shopping brands and a variety of endless eats.  Adjacent by a short walkway bridge is the Osaka Station, which also has two major department stores, Lucua and Daimaru - both with basement floor food halls, and restaurants on the upper levels.  There's soo much to eat that it keeps us coming back to Osaka for second servings.

One of the many views around Grand Front Osaka

Unagi set dinner at Bincho
Changed and elevated my standards for unagi

Monday, May 04, 2015

Cherry Blossoming in Osaka

Back in Osaka, and this time for Cherry Blossom season!

The last time I was in Japan in April I was a toddler; so my memories are few and far between.  This time around I researched the best places for "hanami", which translates to cherry blossom (sakura) viewing.

If you can only choose one destination for hanami in Osaka, it's the Mint Bureau, or Mint Museum grounds.  In mid-March, dates are announced for the one week viewing in April.  This year, they fell on April 9 to 15.  Just those few days to walk just over 500 meters and view 350 trees with 132 varieties of sakura trees.  It's a cluster of incredible.

My first viewing was on day 2, April 10, when the rains went from a drizzle to mildy heavy with winds.  Despite that, the crowd was decent and the sights made up for it.  The next morning, it was cloudy but rainless.  So I went back again.  It's amazing to see the change in blossoms over 24 hours.  That's why the viewing is only for a strict week.  After that the weather, rain, wind, and heat of the sun, will take the blossoms away until next year.

Parallel is a food festival with vendors that seemed to match the number of sakura trees.  Mainly filled with local street food, like okonomiyaki, the vendors are freshly preparing hot food and snacks to make a day of your cherry blossom viewing.

In the past, Japan gifted countries around the world with cherry blossom trees.  While it is beautiful there, it's truly a sight to see in its homeland.

Massive weekend crowd