Friday, February 20, 2015

Backstube Zopf Bakery

Expats might think that if you want a decently baked bread, there's no way you would get it outside of Tokyo or Yokohama, the expat hubs of the Kantou region.

Well, I'm happy that Backstube Zopf, proved me absolutely wrong.


This unassuming door opens to a tiny, warm, and deliciously fragrant heaven.



Heavenly, right?

I was initially drawn to the pastries, just because I'm a huge custard fan, but Backstube Zopf is actually known for the very Japanese curry bread (カレーパン).

You usually can't go wrong with a curry bread at any bakery in Japan, but Zopf goes beyond just making it "right," it's been marked as the best in the Kantou region and featured on television--resulting in lines (especially on weekends) that sometimes stretch far down the street.


Most curry breads have a thicker bread exterior, similar to a white bread that has been deep fried. Zopf somehow makes their bread exterior thinner with an unexpected crispy crunch, allowing me to take a bite and still retain its shape.

The curry is also much better than your average bakery. It has a much more robust flavor and doesn't taste like regular boxed curry roux, which is the standard fare for most places.

Does it get better though? Why, thank you for asking. Yes, it does.

Zopf also makes a variation of this--the katsu curry bread (カツカレーパン). Yep, you guessed it. To make things even better, they stuff a tiny breaded and deep fried pork cutlet inside the curry bread.

The curry breads are one of Zopf's top-selling items, but don't worry about it selling out--the bakery fries a fresh batch as soon as supply gets dangerously low.

Zopf also carries a variety of different types of bread. I usually visit early morning though, so I naturally gravitate towards the danishes with their very fresh seasonal fruits.




I also ventured from my usual fruit danish breakfast to try the bienenstich, a seasonal pastry only available for the winter.


It was a beautiful change from the danishes, which are delicious in and of themselves. Zopf's bienenstich was soft,crisp, and had a light vanilla custard, same as the ones used in the danishes, making it a perfect tea time snack.

The pastries do unfortunately sell out, so if you feel that you must have one, be sure to get there early.

This is a definite must visit if you are in the area, but it is a bit of a trip out, involving a 10 minute bus ride from Kita Kogane train station.

It is definitely delicious though, so it won't disappoint if you do make the trip out.

As the German's say--Guten Appetit!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

クロワッサンたい焼

I'm not much for sweets since I'm someone who, 99.9999% of the time, chooses chips over ice cream.

クロワッサンたい焼 (Croissant Taiyaki) is a definite exception though.

I passed by the little shops occasionally at the station, but even so, I never had any cravings except for one random commute. I've been hooked since.

Regular taiyaki has a sweet filling, usually bean paste or custard, baked inside a soft fluffy castella cake-like exterior on cast iron fish-shaped molds.

Croissant taiyaki substitutes the soft exterior with the unexpected surprise of a crunchy puff pastry exterior. The large coarse sugar granules also adds to the texture without making this snack overwhelmingly sweet.


The regular Croissant Taiyaki with a red bean filling.


The added texture actually has made me a bigger fan of Croissant Taiyaki than of regular street-side taiyaki. It feels as if you're eating a proper pastry, but the only downside is that it isn't warm (more on that later, though!)

To further stoke my inner glutton, Croissant Taiyaki also features seasonal flavors.

I've seen the poster for the custard flavor, and Dairy and Cream also featured a matcha/green tea collaboration with the Wicked Musical.

I've yet to get my hands on the custard flavor, but I spotted this poster for the chocolate flavor. The shop had unfortunately sold out for the day though, but I made it my mission the next day to be there early and get my chocolate croissant taiyaki.


Made with couverture chocolate, it certainly was chocolatey. Topped with sliced roasted almonds, this was a great combo. My friend ate hers on the spot, but I actually took it home and did a quick toast to melt the filling a little.

It was delicious, but I was expecting a heavier chocolate flavor (a part of me not so secretly longed for something along the lines of Nutella to gush out). It's certainly still a treat for chocolate lovers though!


My last bit of advice is to get yourself there early. The shops bake only a certain number every day, so once they're sold out, they're out (even if this is 3 in the afternoon, and that particular shopping center doesn't close for another 7 hours!?).

Enjoy!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

俺のフレンチ・イタリアン青山

I've been wanting to go to 俺のフレンチ・イタリアン青山 (Ore no French Italian, Aoyama) almost the entire time I've been in Japan.

I was always a bit nervous though, since I had no experience with French food and deciphering what the katakana French menu offered seemed somewhat daunting.

Thanks to the all wonderful internet and even more awesome Dairy and Cream, I managed to compile a list of everything I wanted to try when I finally managed to make a reservation at the restaurant.

The majority of the tables are standing, but because we made a reservation the second time around, we managed to get a seated table.
Definitely much easier on the legs after walking around shopping in Omotesando all day :)

On to the food though.

A must try is the トマトのムース 雲丹とキャビアのジュレ寄せ (tomato mousse, uni and caviar gelee).


My roommate isn't actually a big uni fan, but we both were avid fans of this combo. I have to admit that I had my doubts too, since caviar and uni were such strongly flavored ingredients, but the smooth tomato mousse below really brought everything together in this dish. Plus--there were gold flakes on the caviar! Talk about luxurious!

Another dish we had was the ズワイガニのフイヤンティーヌ〜ピスタチオとフランボワーズ (Snow crab feuillantine ~ pistachio and raspberry).


The feuillantine was a very interesting combination of tastes and textures. The crab meat and feuillantine complimented each other very well. My palate wasn't sensitive enough to pick up the raspberries though.

One of Ore no French Italian's specialties is the オマールのロースト~貴腐ワインのソース~ (Roasted lobster ~ Wine sauce).


The lobster roasted to perfection. Every bite had a piece of juicy fresh lobster, and the buttery sauce made me wish I could abandon my knife and fork.

Next is another favorite, the サーモンのテリーヌ (salmon terrine).


This one literally had me oohing and aahing. It came covered with a smoke-filled glass lid. When the lid was lifted, I had a slight recoil from the sharpness of the smoke within, but once the fog lifted (quite literally), behold the glory of this beautiful joined terrine. It definitely wasn't just a showy dish though--the taste lived up to its appearance.

The only thing about the terrine is that it's only available from 8pm onwards. The first time we visited Ore no French, many of their specialties were sold out, so we ordered this blessing in disguise.

Last, but not least is one of my Ore no French Italian favorites--the 牛フィレとフォアグラのロッシーニ トリュフソース (the beef filet and foie gras rossini with truffle sauce).


We saw this dish at nearly every table, and when we tasted ours, we knew why.

The smooth foie gras with the lean steak makes a perfect combination. Add that with the earthy truffles, and you have a beautifully composed steak dish on your hands. If it weren't for all the food that we had already stuffed into ourselves, I would have loved to have some bread to finish off the sauce.

Ore no French Italian is a must visit. There are some fees (music and the mandatory cheese price), but for the price that you pay for the food, it is most definitely worth it. If possible, do try and get a reservation, which can be made on the Ore no French Italian Aoyama website. Otherwise, you will probably be looking at around an hour to a two hour wait (still worth it though!).

Has anybody else been there before? What other dishes should I try?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Monochrome

I happened to be carrying around my camera, and I was quite literally chasing shadows today during the blizzard.

It was nice to be seized by inspiration and get some unexpected shots.

[Companion]


I technically didn't get permission from these random strangers on this snowy street to take the photo, but...let's keep quiet about that, shall we?


[La Femme en Noir]


This photo was taken when my roommate, Sangria Sundays, was running to escape the snow. She's clearly not going to be winning Sochi golds any time soon.

The snow is expected to continue well into tomorrow morning, so for those in the Kanto area--stay safe and stay warm!

Till next time!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

TABITAI finally on TV

I always knew I was going to grow up to be a TV star, and frankly, when some random guys standing in front of Shibuya's Don Quixote finally asked us for an interview, I thought, "About damn time!"

I kid, of course.

It actually went down like this:
My brother and I had just come back from Haneda from dropping our parents off. We were meeting someone at Yuurakucho Station later at night, so I figured we'd have lunch and hang out around Shibuya to see if we could maybe have something of interest to buy.


We had lunch at a tiny curry shop and I spotted a Donki, sometimes my favorite store because it's such an eclectic mish mash of both useful and absolutely useless things.

"Let's go to Donki!" I exclaimed, not particularly looking for my brother's input. My brother meandered along good naturedly when he was suddenly stopped by a man in glasses asking in somewhat broken English.

"Excuse me," he enunciated carefully. "Are you here for trip?"

"Er...yes?"

The man explained that they were doing a segment on popular souvenirs amongst foreigners, and would we be willing to let them follow us around the store as we browsed?

My brother hesitated, but I said, "Sure!" before my brother could turn them down out of perfectly sensible privacy concerns.

It was the most awkward moment of window shopping I'd ever done, and I suddenly felt self-conscious of everything I was picking up and looking at. At one point, I turned the corner and found myself in a decidedly adult section of the store and hurriedly backed out.

Eventually, the crew stopped us and asked us a few interview questions such as, "Was the layout of the store confusing? How did you feel wandering around the store?"

At any rate, you can check us out in the video below. We appear at the 1:17 mark, and again at the 2:25 mark.

video

Appeared on national TV? Check

Watched by A-list Japanese celebrities? Check.

We also asked to commit the TV crew to (digital) film just in case we never got a recording of the actual clip, but of course YouTube came in handy later on down the road, and they were nice enough to oblige.


I became a minor celebrity of my workplaces, and it was interesting to be greeted by people who I had never met before with a, "Excuse me, but have I seen you on TV before?"

And now, I can answer, "Why--why, yes, you probably have."

Also, thanks for my brother's friend, Bennett Fong, for letting us know that he saw us on Youtube. Unfortunately, the clip he found was taken down, but I found another one easily enough and did a bit of poking around to save for myself.

Anyways, till next time~!