As you may have seen on Instagram over the weekend, I had the pleasure of going with a friend for coffee and cake at an owl cafe! I first came across Fukuro no Ouchi (pronounced oh-oo–chi, not ouchy!) when Chad and I were bumbling around Sugamo waiting for our time slot at Tsuta Ramen, and I had been wanting to go ever since! There is a little bell outside you can ring before going in. When you are seated in the cafe, a waitress comes up to explain how the cafe works. The cafe charges 1500 yen for one hour, and that includes time with the owls and a drink. You are given a number, and when your number is called you can go in the owl room to touch and hold the owls for about ten minutes. While you wait, you can enjoy a beverage and (for an extra 500 yen) a cute cake. You are also encouraged to peruse the gift shop. Our call number and some of the cakes available. Also some really informative English 😉 The owl room!
This was my favorite owl. Her name is Milky, and she shares my birthday month of November!
Aren’t they marvelous? I love the one in the top middle–it reminds me of a teddy bear!
The owl in the middle right pictured above was smaller than my hand!
It felt so amazing to hold such beautiful creatures!
Fukuro no Ouchi is about a ten minute walk from Sugamo station, and is open from 1-8 on weekdays (closed Wednesdays) and 12-8 on weekends. For more information, you can visit the Fukuro no Ouchiwebsite (Japanese only). I really enjoyed the cafe, and definitely recommend a visit if you’re in Tokyo!
When we got our placeholder tickets for Tsuta Ramen earlier this week, we had several hours to wait before our dining time. By chance, we found a couple really nice ways to spend our day before ramen time that I thought I’d share with you today.
First, we walked toward Komagome Station to check out Rikugien Gardens. We didn’t know anything about the gardens, but we figured it was a sunny day and we had time to pass so we might as well give them a shot. Before we got to the gardens, we stopped at Niki Bakery, which is very near to Komagome station.
Niki Bakery and Cafe is quite a nice little stop, whether you’re interested in a couple pastries or something for lunch. Pictured above you can see some cream-filled Totoro bread, chocolate-filled Doraemon bread, and sweet red bean paste-filled Anpanman bread. We grabbed a couple pastries and some coffee and headed to the gardens.
The entrance fee for the gardens is only 300 yen. There are some rules prohibiting you from doing things like bringing in animals, running, or bringing mats for picnics, but you can still bring in drinks and snacks. There were plenty of benches throughout the gardens to sit on, as well as a few bathrooms that were nice and clean, (and–surprisingly for Japan–even had soap!), and a couple areas for refreshments.I love that almost every tourist place in Japan has a stamping area so you can stamp a dated picture to remember your visit on a pamphlet or brochure. It didn’t take long at all for us to be very glad we decided to visit these beautiful gardens. It was hard to believe it’s the end of December with the bright weather and colorful leaves! Chad and I shared a fluffy, sugar-crusted raisin bread and a danish-like pastry with apple, dried cranberries, raisins and powdered sugar. Rikugien Gardens are based on a theme of poetry, and this bridge and rock symbolizes a poem about loneliness in the moonlight.With the bright sunshine and loads of ducks swimming around nearby, we fortunately didn’t feel very lonely looking at it. After spending an hour and a half or so enjoying the gardens, we headed back toward Sugamo station to check out Jizo-dori, a shopping street known as a Harajuku for Obachans (Japanese grannies).
At the beginning of the street you can spot a little information hut that has several images of the Sugamo mascot, a duck called Sugamon. You are also greeted Sugamon’s great big, furry duck butt in a shrine!
Apparently touching the butt causes love and bonding, and if you touch the butt gently and softly, you won’t suffer an problems around your own butt. What a lucky thing to pass by!
I have a feeling the “healing properties” from rubbing the duck bum are related to the nearby temple, Kogan-ji. There is a statue within the temple that you can rub to heal your ailments. The picture above is of two men making New Year’s preparations for the temple entrance, but I failed to get any good pictures of the temple. You can see some pictures and read more about Kogan-ji (as well as some other interesting Jizo-dori facts) on this interesting blog if you’re interested though! There are lots of interesting shops lining Jizo-dori that sell everything from traditional Japanese rice crackers to “sexy red bloomers for little old ladies.” The shop above sold several sweet potato delights, including a whipped sweet potato concoction inside an apple. A nice old man bought some honey-covered sweet potato bites and gave one each to Chad and I. If you’re around the shop and have a little money to spare, I’d recommend indulging! We had a really nice day full of fresh air and interesting window-shopping before heading off to try the now-famed Michelin Star ramen for our late lunch/early dinner. I hope if you’re looking for an inexpensive afternoon in Tokyo that you’ll give these ideas a try, too. And if you’re reading from afar, what are some surprisingly nice things you’ve done to pass the time waiting?
Yesterday, as you may have seen on instagram, we decided to hike Mt. Takao. After a long but fun day out of the city, we were very ready to eat when we got back to Tokyo. We decided to revisit a restaurant we tried for the first time a couple of weeks ago called Gotoo.
Gotoo is about a two minute walk from Otsuka station, has a review of 4 out of 5 stars on yelp, and always has a line when we walk by. Despite the small size of the restaurant, the wait usually isn’t much longer than 15 minutes, and the friendly staff take your order while you’re waiting so that your meal is ready close to the time you sit down.Yesterday we were seated at the bar, where you can see two to three chefs working away, usually smiling while they’re doing it!
I ordered the same meal I got the last time I went because it was fantastic: the Combination B Set of ebi (shrimp) fries, kani cream korrokke (crab cream croquette), cabbage, noodle salad, rice and miso soup. Chad chose a Japanese-style hamburger set, which he said wasn’t as good as the ginger pork he got the last time. He still liked it well enough to eat every last bit, though!Tired boy after our hike…! Anyway, let’s get back to my meal, which was amazing, in case you forgot already. Look at that bite out of my first ebi fry–see how big and beautiful the shrimp is? And despite being fried, the ebi fries at Gotoo taste light with a very nice crunch. Something that really adds to the flavor is the tartar sauce. Unlike tartar sauces I am used to with pickles and mayonnaise, this tartar sauce has no pickles at all. Instead, it includes ingredients like cabbage and green onion. The tartar sauce is seriously delicious, and I am on the lookout for a recipe for a similar sauce. The next important part of the meal is the crab cream croquette. It is so easy for crab cream croquettes to be too fishy tasting, or too mayonnaise-filled, but this crab cream croquette is the best I’ve ever had. The balance is perfect, and I could eat ten of them. Right now. And this isn’t pregnancy talking. (I think?)
If you’re in the Tokyo area and you’re looking for a new restaurant to try, I would recommend giving Gotoo a try. It can be a little pricey (my meal was 1200 yen), but if you are into ebi fries and croquettes, the money is totally worth it. If you’re NOT in the Tokyo area, consider checking out some recipes for croquettes! I never had them before living in Japan and they are one of my favorite foods (on the less healthy spectrum 😉 ).
Almost seven years ago, we chose to have blue hydrangea at our wedding. The bridesmaids held bouquets that were so pretty! Many memories from our wedding came back today as we walked around the annual Hydrangea Festival in Bunkyo.
One really fun event at the festival was canvas bag painting. For 200 yen, you could sit at a table and paint for as long as you liked, and then take your creation home! A lot of children were making the bags, but we figured there was no reason we shouldn’t give it a go, so we sat right down and went for it. Painting was quite peaceful; we were surrounded by beautiful flowers, a temple, the smell of incense, and quiet chatter among the others who were also painting. I love how Chad’s turned out!
And here’s mine. I wanted to paint blue ones for our wedding colors 🙂 After we finished painting, we walked around looking at more pretty hydrangea.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a festival without several food stands.
This couple decided to get shaved ice! Yum!
These traditional Japanese candies were packaged to look like hydrangea.
I decided to try a little egg pastry. It sort of reminded me of a soft macaron dusted with powdered sugar and filled with a light cream.
Chad chose beer as his treat at the festival.
We had such a lovely Sunday afternoon in the sun. Does the weekend have to end?
Hello 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!
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!)
I love these flowers because the petals almost look like a print on fabric.
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!
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. Chad thought I should show this picture to illustrate my point about the queue… First you buy your ticket with your choice of ramen, and then you take the ticket and stand in line. While 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.
Outside the ramen shop, there is a giant oni, or ogre, club.
Inside the shop, there are several ogre masks, as well as ogre figurines and more clubs.
It’s fun watching everything being prepared in the kitchen while you wait to be served. There is also drumming music to add to the ambiance.
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.
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. The 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.
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!
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.Apparently 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! Our little treat came in a cute paper bag.
“Pan” means bread, “An” means sweet red bean paste, and “Nama” means fresh.
Look how pretty the bread looks with the single little red bean on top!
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.
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?
Last 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?”
These sandwiches looked just like the ones we had in France…
The massive heart “thing” (a palmier) I had my eyes on last weekend can be seen above on the bottom shelf!Drooling yet?
I 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.
After 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.Chad and I decided to split a raspberry frangipane tartlet, and it was quite lovely.
The balance of the almond crust with the creamy cheesecake-like filling and the juiciness of the raspberries made for a delightful afternoon dessert. We 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!
Hi friends! I know it’s been a while, but I’ve been busy crossing things off my summer bucket list, and that (in combination with work and everything else that comes up in life) has left me with little time to post! Hoping to get back into regular posting again now, starting with this entry today on a fabulous little deli in Grand Haven called Did’s Deli & Catering.
Did’s Deli & Catering is located just off US31, though it’s sort of tucked away off of the main part of the cross street (Jackson). The deli has a simple, charming atmosphere, along with a menu filled with sandwiches, salads and soups.Chad tends to get their reuben, which has honestly got to be one of the best reubens I’ve ever had. But despite repeatedly enjoying tastes of the reubens Chad gets, I always get something else: a fantastic sandwich on sour dough heaping with ham, hard salami, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, and an Italian sauce. I guess the sandwich isn’t called a Bigga John for nothing.
Most of the sandwiches offered can come in wholes or halves, but the Bigga John can only be ordered as a whole. Since the Bigga John is so big, I tend to eat part for lunch, and save the other half for later. I was super excited to have a Dog n’ Suds with my sandwich when I went the other day. I had been biking around town and the root beer was a perfect beverage for refreshment to go along with my hearty sandwich.
Did’s Deli also sells loaves of its bread, and I’ve been tempted to indulge in a loaf of that wonderful sour dough bread I always get. *sighs longingly*Did’s Deli has been a family-owned restaurant for over thirty years. If you’re ever in Grand Haven, I definitely recommend stopping by to either eat in or grab a great sandwich for a picnic (or to bring to Odd Side Ales to have with a beer…!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.