poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie

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Japan Trip: Odds & Ends

It’s with great relief and a tiny bit of sadness that this is my last post about my Japan trip. It’s been fun to blog about, and I hope y’all have enjoyed learning a little bit more about Japan and its cuisine as much as I did during my trip! Here are a few odds and ends of things I ate or drank that I thought were worth mentioning:

1. Okonomiyaki
A Japanese pancake filled with lots of stuff, depending on the region. “Okonomi” means “what you like” so it’s really whatever you want to put in it. This particular okonomiyaki was filled with squid, egg, shrimp, and veggies, topped with shredded seaweed and okonomiyaki sauce. I went to this okonomiyaki establishment with my fellow Kyoto hostellers, where they only served one version of okonomiyaki. However, I’ve also heard there are okonomiyaki places where you can pick out what you want to eat from a salad bar or a menu and have your okonomiyaki cooked to order. This particular okonomiyaki was just ok, but pretty economical. My meal cost about $9 including a large draft beer. Good deal!

2. Convenience store rice balls
These were great snacks on-the-go. Not only were they cheap (about $1.50) but they were really tasty too! This one was filled with salmon. To keep the seaweed fresh, they keep it separated with plastic. With typical Japanese ingenuity, there was a really clever design on the wrapping that allowed unwrapping of the plastic without separating the rice ball. It was the equivalent of grabbing the tablecloth off the table without disturbing any of the plates or cutlery. It took me a while to figure this out, but once I realized that there was a numbering system, it was pretty easy. Highly recommended!

3. Kirin Lemon
Some of you might recognize Kirin as a Japanese brewery, but they also make a variety of non-alcoholic beverages, such as Kirin Lemon. It tastes like a less sweet version of Sprite and is super refreshing. Plus, don’t sodas just taste better from glass bottles?

4. The best bowl of instant noodles.
As the creators of instant noodles, the Japanese have got an unsurprising variety of instant ramen. Since hot water dispensers and electric kettles are a commonplace appliance in many hotel rooms and hostels, these bowls of noodles are a great snack. The one pictured here is miso ramen flavored. I should’ve taken a photo of the FOUR flavor packets it came with, including freeze dried shittake mushrooms. It was awesome and the most elaborate cup of noodles I’ve ever made. Yes, it was more expensive than its American counterparts at about $3/bowl but still well worth the money.

5. Eating at the train station.
There were a TON of restaurants in the Kyoto Train Station. I was tempted to return to ramen alley but since I had my luggage with me, I decided to go to one of the more traveler-friendly restaurants on the main level. As this was likely my last big meal of the trip, I went all out, ordering a huge set meal: salmon sashimi and roe with egg over rice, vegetable tempura, soup, and an egg, tofu, and pickle platter. I looked around and didn’t see anyone else eating this much. I’m sure the waiting staff were whispering to each other, “That’s the American girl who eats like a pig.”

6. Eating at Tokyo Narita Airport.
As with every international trip I go on, I try to use almost all of my foreign currency before I leave. I ate a big bowl of ramen for breakfast at Kansai International Airport. Then I flew to Tokyo, where I had an 8 hour layover. I spent part of that time working, another part getting a 20-minute massage at Raffine Refloxology (highly recommended! about $20/20-minute massage), and some of it eating. I got curry, which I hadn’t eaten my whole trip (pictured). For those who don’t know, Japanese curry is very different from Indian curry. It’s sweeter and much less complex, relying mostly on curry powder. This curry was decent, but I was annoyed at the fact that the coke, an impulse purchase, cost almost as much as the curry!

That’s all folks! Hope all of your meals are as oishii as my Japan meals were!

p.s. Some of you might remember that I stayed at a capsule hotel in Osaka. That was a funny experience; this NY Times article about the jobless resorting to long-term stays in capsule hotels — not so much.


Hot Saturday in the City

Back in August, we were enjoying a heat wave in the Bay Area. I spent a whole day in San Francisco, eating and hanging out with friends and testing out my 50mm lens (it’s fancy!). My day started off with brunch at Absinthe in Hayes Valley with L&T. The restaurant is a favorite among foodies, and part of its notoriety stems from the fact that their executive chef is Jamie Lauren from season 5 of Top Chef.

The bar at Absinthe. I want to come back and try all of their fancy bourbon cocktails.

The bar at Absinthe. I want to come back and try all of their fancy bourbon cocktails.

I was immediately wowed by the artful decor and the impressively long cocktail list. I ordered the Seelbach Cocktail: bourbon, curaçao, Peychauds, Angostura bitters, topped with champagne and an orange twist. It was delicious.

Seelbach: better than your typical brunch mimosa.

Seelbach: better than your average brunch mimosa.

I bullied the group into ordering Absinthe’s famous deviled eggs, with smoked trout and caviar. It was divine.


Best deviled eggs ever.

I ordered the heirloom tomato BLT, since I was on a heirloom tomato kick. It was good but not the most outstanding dish. On the other hand, what can you really expect from a BLT? L ordered a summer squash and corn flatbread with pecorino, onions and roasted garlic, and T had a duck confit hash topped with poached eggs. Both of their dishes looked awesome.


Next on the agenda: Buena Vista Café in Fisherman’s Wharf, famous for their Irish coffee since 1952. I was meeting up with some ladies from the NorCal Jezebels (formerly SF Jezebels), who are always a fun bunch. For a historic bar in a touristy neighborhood, I was expecting each coffee to cost $10+ but I was pleasantly surprised that their Irish coffee, like all of their cocktails, were very affordable at $6-$7.  I’m glad I already ate because their menu is ginormous and I would’ve never been able to decide what to eat!

buena vista

After our coffees, we sauntered across the street Jacks Cannery Bar. We scored an outside table, which was nice except for the terrible live music coming from down the alley. Fast forward a few hours… for dinner, I ended up at Yummy Yummy in the Inner Sunset with SB and JB, but you’ve already heard that story before. Exhausted and full, I headed home to Berkeley.

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A Gastronomic Tour of Seattle, Part II

Sorry for the delay in posting. I’ve been very busy… but no excuses! Let’s get to it, shall we?

Saturday, 20 June
No food photos that day because I was: A) Preoccupied by the naked cyclists at the Fremont Summer Solstice Parade (Fig. 1); B) By the time we had lunch, I was starving and subsequently scarfed down the delicious food at J&B’s bbq/potluck party before I thought to take any pictures; C) The mid/late-afternoon bbq was the only proper meal I had, followed by a dirty martini at the Big Picture (movie theater + bar that was reminiscent of a much swankier version of The Parkway — RIP). Post-movie, we went for ice cream and french fries at Dick’s Drive In, a local favorite.

What? I was on vacation. You can’t expect me to eat 3 square meals (and take photos) when I’m chillaxing.

Figure 1. Naked people in Seattle

Figure 1. Naked people in Seattle

Sunday, 21 June

mmm... ramen

mmm... ramen!

We had lunch at Samurai Noodle in the International District. It was tiny place, with maybe 4 tables total, so we were very fortunate to snag one as another group finished their meal. They make their ramen to order, so you can customize your broth richness, noodle chewiness, and amount of meat. When the bowls arrived, I thought they were on the small side, but it ended up being perfectly proportioned to avoid food coma. We also had room for dessert, in the form of Chinese baked goods (not pictured).

My bowl of ramen.

My bowl of ramen. Delicious.

Between lunch and dinner, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and of Seattle’s amazing Happy Hour specials. We sat out on the deck of Eastlake Bar & Grill and enjoyed late afternoon drinks and sweet potato fries.

View from my chair at the Eastlake Bar and Grill. Lovely.

View from my chair at the Eastlake Bar and Grill. Lovely.

For dinner, we returned to the International District and hit up Tamarind Tree, a Vietnamese restaurant with an extensive menu and tasteful decor. To start, we had the spring rolls (or did we get the Tamarind Tree rolls?) and the cinnamon pork rice balls.

Tamarind Tree roll. Nice and fresh.

Spring rolls. Nice and fresh.

B shows us how it's done.

B shows us how it's done.

Cinnamon pork rice balls. Interesting, but slightly disappointing.

Cinnamon pork rice balls with fresh coconut. Interesting, but slightly disappointing.

For our main entrees, we ordered a seafood dish, a veggie claypot dish, and a beef dish… the names of which escape me, and I can’t find them on their online menu.  All three were good, though I think the veggie claypot was my favorite because the mushroom flavor was really rich.

Seafood sautee with

Seafood sautee with pineapple and veggies.

Braised mushrooms and tofu over rice in a claypot.

Mushrooms (shitake, oyster, and black) and braised tofu over rice in a claypot.


Beef. It's what's for dinner.

Monday, 22 June
I had lunch with B close to UW campus at his favorite pho place, Pho Thy Thy (sorry no photos again). The pho was good and cheap, and every meal came with a cream puff. You gotta love that.

On our way to the airport, we stopped by the Essential Bakery. By this time, J & B had gotten me on a regular caffeine intake regimen, so I couldn’t say no to one more delicious Seattle espresso.

Foamy perfection.

Foamy perfection.