Around Town · Spring Bucket List

Around Town: Koishikawa Botanical Garden

IMG_1475Hello friends! Today we went to Koishikawa Botanical Gardens (not to be confused with the Koishikawa Korakuen Garden we went to in January). The weather outside was perfect: Blue skies, warm sunshine, and (in the gardens) there was so much green you could almost forget you were in Tokyo!IMG_1476 IMG_1478

We had a light picnic in the gardens, and I was super happy with the flavor of my grilled salmon onigiri. (I was also happy to cross going on a picnic off of my Spring Bucket list, though I know more picnics are sure to occur!)IMG_1479 IMG_1482

IMG_1483 IMG_1487 IMG_1488 IMG_1490 IMG_1491     I love these flowers because the petals almost look like a print on fabric.
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IMG_1525 IMG_1506 IMG_1510 IMG_1512  IMG_1520IMG_1521 Going to the gardens was well worth the 400 yen entrance fee. We left feeling so relaxed! We’re thinking next time we’ll go earlier in the afternoon with a bottle of wine and spend several hours enjoying the nice atmosphere. Hope you had some sunshine your way today, too!

xx Caitlyn

Around Town · Seen/Heard/Tried

Saturday Sights in Shibuya

Thank goodness for weekends. We had a lazy start today (like last weekend!), eating French toast, drinking coffee and watching Game of Thrones. Then when we were thinking of how to spend our afternoon, I remembered that Chad had said he thought Shibuya was a cool area, so I decided to see what we might be able to do out that way today. I chose three main places I wanted to go: Theobroma Musee du Chocolat, Nata de Christiano’s, and Streamer Coffee. We started our journey by walking through Yoyogi Park to Theobroma, where I purchased three chocolates for us to split later.IMG_1366IMG_1401

The one that looks like a mix between a miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and a tiny cupcake was hazelnut and milk chocolate. The one in the back right had a bit of framboise action happening (and was my favorite), and then the other (left) was a honey infused chocolate. IMG_1371After leaving Theobroma, we headed about a block over to Nata de Christiano’s. This tiny bakery specializes in egg tarts, and though I’ve made some decent ones in the past, I’ve never quite been able to make a perfect egg tart. I had to see if Nata de Christiano’s lived up to its reputation!
IMG_1392First of all, let me just say that when I write that the bakery is tiny, I mean tiny. But it is also adorable!
IMG_1390IMG_1372 IMG_1374 IMG_1375 IMG_1376They serve alcohol too!IMG_1377 IMG_1378The staff was very friendly, and the service was prompt.IMG_1380 IMG_1381Don’t they look amazing? THAT’S BECAUSE THEY ARE.IMG_1384 IMG_1386There is absolutely nothing tiny about how fabulous these tarts are, you guys. The puff pastry is just slightly burnt but super buttery and flaky. Contrasting with the crunch of the pastry is the sweet, silky egg tart filling. I just can’t tell you how in love with these tarts I am! Gahhh! I feel like Nata de Christiano would be enough of a reason to go to Shibuya, but after that, we had another great experience at Streamer Coffee.

IMG_1402Streamer Coffee is known in particular for its latte art. The owner, Hiroshi Sawada, was the first Asian to ever become a World Latte Art champion. If you know me at all, though, you know that I don’t care much about latte art if the espresso doesn’t hold its own. But um, you guys? The espresso at Streamers is absolutely awesome.    IMG_1397And I mean, awesome. As in, my latte was one of the best I’ve ever had. Streamers has created its own coffee blend, and the beans are also for sale in the cafe. #pleasegiveme #allthecoffee
IMG_1399 IMG_1400 We had such a successful day in Shibuya! After walking around for several hours, we were ready to go home for dinner. I captured a couple interesting shots on the way home (one is posted below, and the others are on instagram!). Then I worked on a super fun project I can’t wait to share with you tomorrow! (Hint: the project is part of something from my Spring Bucket List!) IMG_1406 Have a lovely weekend friends! I’ll see you back here tomorrow!
xxCaitlyn

Around Town · Food & Cooking

Around Town: Kikanbo Ramen

We often go wandering around Ikebukuro, and when we do on weekends, we also often end up eating ramen. We’ve found several great ramen shops, but recently we decided to try one that always has a line of at least three people waiting every time we walk by: Kikanbo Ramen.IMG_1267 Chad thought I should show this picture to illustrate my point about the queue…
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First you buy your ticket with your choice of ramen, and then you take the ticket and stand in line.
IMG_1249While you’re waiting in line, one of the employees asks you what spiciness level you would prefer for your kara shibi ramen. The “kara” spice is made up of 12 different spices, and the “shibi” is ground Chinese numbing pepper, apparently. We chose “futsu” or average spice, for both of our bowls.

IMG_1245Outside the ramen shop, there is a giant oni, or ogre, club.IMG_1247
Inside the shop, there are several ogre masks, as well as ogre figurines and more clubs.IMG_1248 IMG_1250 IMG_1251 IMG_1252
It’s fun watching everything being prepared in the kitchen while you wait to be served.IMG_1253 IMG_1254 There is also drumming music to add to the ambiance. IMG_1259
After several minutes, my hunger was growing and I was starting to feel like an ogre myself. Fortunately it wasn’t too much later that we were each presented with a wonderful looking bowl of ramen.
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When our ramen arrived, we were most excited about the hefty piece of pork inside. It just fell apart in our mouths and was definitely the part of this meal worth savoring. As for the broth, it was quite peppery, and the spiciness cut through the oiliness of it. I tend to prefer ramen with a more buttery broth, but the “futsu” level of spice worked for me.  IMG_1261The noodles were of an al dente texture, and a bit thicker than a lot of ramen we’ve tried, but I liked them a lot. IMG_1262
Overall, I would say that Kikanbo Ramen is worth a try. Would I go back, though? Not necessarily. After all, there are so many ramen shops I am obsessed with, not to mention the many more I want to try!

Hope you’re having a good week–mine’s almost over!
xx Caitlyn

Around Town

Around Town: Ciffon Bakery

We stumbled across this cute little bakery in Bunkyo, Tokyo, and–after several days of dreaming about trying some of their baked goods–we decided to visit the friendly shop to try their Nama Cream Anpan.IMG_0036Apparently the shop’s primary specialty is Chiffon Cake, which I suppose most people would guess from the name of the bakery: Ciffon Plus. My coworkers and I, on the other hand, were much too focused on the enticing pictures posted on the windows to even look at the name of the shop when passing by. We just knew we had to try the Nama Cream Anpan!IMG_0037                                                      Our little treat came in a cute paper bag.IMG_0038
Pan” means bread, “An” means sweet red bean paste, and “Nama” means fresh.IMG_0039
Look how pretty the bread looks with the single little red bean on top!IMG_0040
Here’s a view of the inside. Check out the layers: fluffy, subtly sweet, golden bread, light, fresh whipped cream, and smooth, sweet red bean paste. The three layers together make up just the right combination of texture and flavor.IMG_0041
We certainly enjoyed our Nama Cream Anpan, and have already been back for more. Sometime I’d really like to give one of the Ciffon Plus chiffon cakes a try, though that would mean I’d have to choose between several kinds: Earl Grey Tea, Cocoa Marble, and Cranberry, to name a few! Perhaps for our next Wine and Cheese Party?

Have you tried any new bakeries or baked goods lately?
xxCaitlyn

Around Town

Around Town: Paul (a bakery)

IMG_1904Last weekend Chad and I stumbled across a bakery/cafe called Paul in Shinjuku, and from the amazing smell permeating the air alone, I knew I would have to visit soon. Fortunately, “soon” came this afternoon. We were trying to decide where to go for a walk, and I asked, “How about we walk to that bakery with that giant heart thing?”

IMG_1902IMG_1948These sandwiches looked just like the ones we had in France…

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IMG_1950The massive heart “thing” (a palmier) I had my eyes on last weekend can be seen above on the bottom shelf!  IMG_1951 IMG_1953Drooling yet?

IMG_1954IMG_1963I loved the look of this bakery, both outside and in. Gorgeous glass windows showcased bread and a few pastries to view from outside, and the glass cases inside tempted us with everything else. Additionally, the ceiling was made of really pretty wood, there were simple prints throughout the bakery, and very subtle splashes of soft color.

IMG_1956After arriving home for the day, I researched a little bit about Paul and found out that it is a chain that started in France. The corporate history is kind of neat, and there’s other information on the international site if you’re interested, too.IMG_1957Chad and I decided to split a raspberry frangipane tartlet, and it was quite lovely.

IMG_1958 IMG_1960 IMG_1961The balance of the almond crust with the creamy cheesecake-like filling and the juiciness of the raspberries made for a delightful afternoon dessert.  IMG_1964We decided to get the chocolate covered palmier to go for tea time later. Apparently, palmiers are made with puff pastry in a similar way to croissants, but without yeast. You know how much I love a good croissant, but I also really appreciate the light, flaky, crunchy texture of a good palmier. And now, rather than referring to them as heart-things, I will remember the actual pastry name!

Have you tried any new cafes lately?
xxCaitlyn

Around Town

Around Town: Holland Street Performers Series

Guest Author: Ariel Knapp

Hi everyone! It’s Ariel, Caitlyn’s sister-in-law. I’m super excited to start guest posting here on Little Snail! So let’s get started. Last Thursday my husband and I went to the Holland Street Performers Series.
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The buildings and trees that line the sidewalks make downtown Holland a really pretty place

During the summer months downtown Holland allows performers of all types to use the sidewalks of 8th Street as their stage and entertain the public. 8th Street is closed down for a couple of hours on Thursday evenings and people watch the performers and walk through the stores that line the street. Last Thursday was the 10th anniversary of the event and there were some promotions going on in conjunction with some of the businesses downtown.

unfortunately I did not get a party hat
unfortunately I did not get a party hat

One of the first performers we saw was my cousin Corey. He’s been doing caricatures for years and is a regular at the Holland Street Performers Series.

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Farther down the sidewalk we saw a young magician. He was pretty good at keeping up a running patter of talk while doing his tricks.

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There were a lot of musicians. They were all playing really well and it was fun listening to the different kinds of music on offer. We heard everything from folk music to Let it Go from the movie Frozen.

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We didn’t go into many of the shops since we were enjoying the performers but we couldn’t pass up Peach Wave frozen yogurt.

mmm I can't say to no to frozen yogurt!
mmm I can’t say to no to frozen yogurt!

The Kahlua flavor I got wasn’t as good as the cheesecake flavor my husband got but it was still delicious (especially with all the toppings I put on it!).

Another store we went into was The Peanut Store where there is definitely more than just peanuts on offer. There’s a large selection of candy that includes brands from Europe and Asia, handmade chocolates and old fashioned candy our parents and grandparents would be familiar with.

what you see when you walk in the front door of The Peanut Store
what you see when you walk in the front door of The Peanut Store
you can buy candy like jelly bellies by the pound and half pound
you can buy candy like jelly bellies by the pound and half pound
I'd definitely be a happy hippo if I ate too much of this candy :)
I’d definitely be a happy hippo if I ate too much of this candy 🙂

As we were getting ready to leave we saw this woman on stilts in a butterfly costume and a hot air balloon high above the festivities.

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We had a great time and I would like to go back later in the summer to see if there’s any new performers. If you’re in the Holland area on Thursday evenings looking for something to do I suggest checking out the Holland Street Performers Series.