Saturday, July 27, 2013

Summer Daze

Flashback to the beginning of summer in Kyoto town 2013...  how come the Japanese can wear a suit in 40C+ heat and 99% humidity and seem to cope (if  a little uncomfortably) and the rest of us melt like ice blocks under a grill?? 


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Animal Doughnuts

Are these not the cutest doughnuts you have ever seen?

You'll find 'em: on the east side of Kawaramachi street just south of Sanjo street in downtown Kyoto
They are moreishly chewy and made from real ingredients  -  chocolate, nuts & fruits of the season. 

They have some wonderfully simple, traditional Japanese flavours such as red bean, green tea, black sugar etc - but I can't take my eyes off their animal range. There are all sorts of cute critters which change regularly. I'll add more next time I pass by the sweet little shop. 

But do check out their website for a peek at their range. And don't forget to switch on the automatic translator in Google chrome so you can read their titles and what goes into them. 

Now I'm hungry... what's for breakfast?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Bar Satanaka. Sfera Building. Kyoto

It's Friday night. This busy week has flown by. I need a drink. 
But where to go in Sydney town?
If I was in Kyoto I know exactly where I'd be... 

Bar Satanaka is tucked away at the back of a  green-lit, metal-laced building in the northern section of Gion. By day, it is easy to walk by - even though its appearance is strikingly different to the neighbouring machiya.   But by night... well you couldn't miss it could you??

The  Sfera building also houses one of my favourite design stores and is in close proximity to the antiques district around Shinmonzen dori. I'd never have discovered the bar if it wasn't for my window shopping habit. 

When you reach the correct floor you need to feel your way down a dark hallway

The bar is intimate and quiet until around 10pm when it gets its buzz on. 

Bar Satanaka is perfect for catching up with friends over a really good cocktail or glass of wine (.No sake!! ouch. ) as you can actually hear each other talk - especially in one small pocket of the bar (almost a private room - so snaffle it up early!). The rest of the bar is simply a long , sleek counter with comfy high-chairs to perch upon and a friendly, professional barkeep to gaze at.

We didn't have much time to catch up with friends during our trip in May but we did squeeze in a couple of bevvies with the lovely and talented David B and the spectacular Ms Lizzie! All too brief. Thanks for a great night guys. xx

Find Bar Satanaka on the west side of Nawate Dori (street) just south of Shinmonzen and north of Shinbashi streets. 3rd Floor. Enter on the ground floor level - even though it seem like there is no one there.... and take two sharp right turns to find the tiny lift.

Open 7pm - 4am

*it's not your eyes.. some of the images appear a little blllurry due to mild intoxication of the photographer. I swear they were in focus at the time...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

August 2013's Delicious Magazine... where you will find my feature story all about my love for KYOTO IN WINTER! All 9 pages of it!

Where to go, what to see and experience, my favourite places to stay - and importantly - where and what to EAT!

So hop out and buy it IMMEDIATELY! 

They also very kindly give my WINTER TOURS a shout out - lucky me! 

Thanks so much to the lovely people at ABC Delicious Magazine! 

Ps - it also happens to be the issue that announces the very talented winners and medallists of the Delicious Produce Awards! Congratulations everyone. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ohara Morning Market - Kyoto

I came across some photos today and was reminded about a couple of articles I was writing for SBS Feast Magazine at exactly this time last year.   One was about the wonders of Nishiki Market with a focus on pickles and another was my 'Kyoto Hit List'  - which recommended taking a trip to breathtaking Ohara in the mountains on the outskirts of Kyoto city to the north east. 
Ohara has always been one of my favourite day trips from Kyoto. Actually I say day trip but it is only about a 50 minutes bus ride north from Kyoto station but time is lost very easily in Ohara and it is usually late afternoon by the time I get back downtown.  

The place is so sleepy and serene it feels like you are far away from everything and if you are a tourist it is a lovely break from the sometimes intense tourist trail. I used to only ever head up there to visit the beautiful Sanzen-in (which I will post about soon) then I discovered Jakko-in a couple of Autumns ago and it blew my mind in its autumn colours - the walk from the bus stop, via farmland and rustic homes, to the temple is magical. Take a look HERE.
One of the other cool things about Ohara, and the reason so many locals take the trek up there on a Sunday morning - is the local farmers' market. 
Start your morning with a really good coffee, drip-filtered to order by this very friendly chap
then make your way around the 15 or so stalls selling fruit or veg plucked from their gardens that morning or dried lovingly in the sun, 
home made traditional sweets, 
western style pastries,
 sushi,  flowers and a small range of other food items - oh and a couple of crafty bits n pieces.  

It seems to be a bit of a local hang  - an excuse to catch up with the hard-working neighbours perhaps?  
Foreign visitors are looked upon with amusement and stifled giggles but it is all pretty relaxed  - which is a charming change from what can at times be a rather stitched up Kyoto. 
The market is open from 6:30 in the morning till about 11 or until everything is sold out -which can happen quite quickly some days.  So don't be late!
Just take the number 17  Bus from Kyoto station  (or one of its downtown stops - but a warning that the bus is often packed - which is why I like to get on at the start of the journey! and get off the bus at "SATO NO EKI" - which is just before the Ohara bus terminal (near Sanzen-in and the walking route to Jakko-in). Ask the bus driver for the correct stop and sit near the front so he can let you know. If you go too far and end up at the terminal - it is only a short walk back in the direction you came from - on the main road on the Eastern side. 
A few minutes walk back towards the city, on the same road, but on the opposite side  - is a cute store selling more local veg and sweets and some really good soy, local pickles,  salad dressings, miso, tofu etc - if you are staying in accommodation with a kitchen and are in town for a little while it is worth taking stopping in here.  I believe there is an organic restaurant nearby but I haven't eaten there yet -  that will be on my next mission!

Here's just a taste of what that walk from one to the other might look like.... a little bit of Ohara life...
In case you are seeking it out - below is the shop I mentioned earlier -with some of its wares ....

Stop in for a tasting!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Wine and Confit Ikariya Shokudou

It's  that time of year when Kyoto-ites make the most of the summer heat and the end of the rainy season by eating in the open air, over the cool river. 

The many, many restaurants that line the western edge of the Kamogawa (Kamo river) construct platforms (yuka) that extend from their restaurants out over the flowing water with an uninterrupted view of the greenery opposite.  

Although in reality it may not be so cool and refreshing - it is the impression or the idea of something that should or could be - that makes it all worthwhile in a country where summer is so hot and humid it  is sometimes difficult to breathe. It is really more a stimulus for the mind over actual physical conditions. Which, if you are open to it, and the Japanese certainly are, can make things just a little bit more bearable. 
The thing that originally drew us to Ikariya (opened 2011) was the promise of whole chicken confit on the menu board at the restaurant's entrance... I mean, confit anything and I'll probably give it a go - but the main reason for our excitement is that it's rather difficult to find a whole chicken anywhere in Kyoto. They're not generally sold in supermarkets and food halls etc (unless it's Xmas and you order them in) as so few people have an oven big enough to cook them in  - toaster ovens are the name of the game in pocket sized Japanese kitchens. And let's face it  -whole birds aren't so easy to eat with chopsticks...

 Having said that, I've noticed a roast chicken specialty restaurant had opened recently, and the odd whole chook sneaking in to high end fresh produce stores... so it is clearly becoming more popular.
We were welcomed into 'Ikariya' by a charming waiter who spoke very good English - which was a nice surprise. Furthering our delight was his ability to converse about the wonderful range of wine they had on offer  - many of them by the glass.   
We ate a range of dishes from the eclectic but French leaning menu, all of them good and at a very reasonable price. Some of the yuka restaurants tend to make you pay a significant cover charge for the privilege of being seated outdoors. I think there may have been a small surcharge of a few hundred yen at Ikariya but it was totally worth it. The service was excellent, the food flavoursome and well handled, the wine really lovely and the setting couldn't have been more perfect for an early dinner on a summer's eve in Kyoto town. 

You will find the restaurant entrance on the east side of  Kiyamachi street - south of Shijo street. Look out for the cute Rooster and anchor emblem on the sign out the front. 
Open 5pm - 12am (another lovely surprise as late closes are rare in Kyoto town) 
075 276 2067