Michael Baxter, that’s me, had the very good fortune to be profiled in the September 2010 issue of Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia! Journalist Amy Ma, who I showed around Nishiki Market and ate some Kyoto-style sushi with back earlier in the summer, profiled a number of hot foodie bloggers around Asia and KyotoFoodie got to represent Japan. The idea was to get some current and authentic insider information about the latest and greatest places to chow-down. I got all excited and wrote more profiles than my quota. See below for the ones that didn’t fit in the piece.
They Came. They Ate. They Blogged.
Food bloggers are the cowboys of the culinary world, armed with insatiable appetities and the ability to broadcast their view with the click of a mouse. Meet the fastest online hands in the east. By AMY MA
They Came. They Ate. They Blogged. Cowboys. The fastest online hands in the east. That Amy Ma can really write!
What a Treat I Found in My Mailbox
When I opened my mail just now I found out that I am a guru! That is what it said, in black and white. I got so excited I called my beagles over and showed them. They were looking at me less like I was a foodie blogger guru and more like I was just going to give them some treats. But dried sardines aren’t allowed in the office! They soon wander back to their beagle house, all disappointed. Sheesh!
I guess I wanted to impress someone with my newfound guruhood, so here you go. A KyotoFoodie article! You don’t see these as often as you used to now. I am not the only guru though. Be sure to pickup a copy of the September 2010 issue of Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia and read where the other gurus eat and of course my profiles of Takaraya Ramen (Unfortunately Takaraya Ramen has closed as of November 2011.), Izuju (Kyoto-style sushi) and Hachibei (‘inner meat’ Japanese beef restaurant).
Here are the profiles that I wrote that literally wouldn’t fit on my page. There is some insider info on Kyoto tea, French kaiseki, wagashi and sake. Enjoy!
1. Fukujuen Kyoto Flagship Store
In a town that ought to have accumulated flagship stores for centuries, Kyoto finally got it’s first in 2008. The brainchild of 8th generation owner Masanori Fukui, Fukujuen Kyoto Flagship Store is a place where people can experience the entire tea culture of Kyoto, a place to break new ground and better connect Kyoto to the outside world. Numerous shops, restaurants, cafe and tea salon (with tea house) are all wrapping in a modern, latticed 10 story enclosure, dramatically lit in rainbow colors at night. Each floor has a traditional work of art by a living national treasure!
My most favorite floors are:
Ujicha Tea Atelier [B1F] Sample unblended gyokuro, sencha, kabusecha and tencha free. Purchase these highest grade rare teas as is, or create your own custom blend. See matcha being stone ground, even grind your own! A one of a kind tea experience in Kyoto.
French Cuisine [3F] At Kyo-no-chazen Restaurant, Ujicha tea meets French cuisine. Each dish includes green tea leaves as an ingredient! Salads, wagyu steak, lamb, seafood dishes with green tea spicings, dressings and sauces. Each place is set with unique service handcrafted by a noted female Kyoto ceramicist.
Tea Utensils and Tableware [5F] Browse the Cha-no-chagu store for the finest Kyoto tea culture wares, all made in Kyoto. Styles are from traditional to nouveau, prices are moderate to expensive, everything is elegant.
closed 3rd Wed monthly
address: Kyoto, Shimogyo, Shijo-dori, Tominokoji-kado
website: www.fukujuen-kyotohonten.com (Japanese only)
2. Kyoto Kaiseki with a (French) Twist: Takumi Okumura
Five years ago proprietor Naoki Okumura, the son of a Kyoto chef who was the first to combine French cuisine and Kyoto kaiseki opened Takumi Okumura in a former geisha tea house in Gion, just off of Hanamikoji Street. Okumura has created a number of restaurants, bakeries and patisseries.
Takumi Okumura offers harmony of French cuisine and Kyoto kaiseki. Okumura’s original cuisine offers the kaiseki course format and the Kyoto emphasis on seasons, exquisite Japanese ingredients, all made with French techniques.
The former tea house is beautifully renovated in authentic Kyoto style. The art, service and decor is distinctly modern-Japanese, both artisan made and antique.
hours: 12-1:30, 5:30-9pm
address: Kyoto, Higashiyama, Gion-cho Minamigawa 570-6
KyotoFoodie article: Osechi Ryori: French Osechi by Restaurant Okumura
3. Wagashi and Tea Hidden Gem: Saryo Hosen
This Kyoto confectionary has been specializing in bean based sweets for some 60 years (an upstart by Kyoto standards). A few years ago they opened a tea and wagashi salon just down the street from the Hosendo main store in a meticulosity renovated Kyoto-style townhouse and seasonally picturesque garden.
My favorite dish is the jelly-like warabi mochi, made with real mountain fern root starch, a rarity. Taking Japanese friends from out of town here never fails to surprise and delight!
Hosen also offers other wagashi confections. Be sure to get some sweetened black beans to take home as a souvenir.
Hosen is located in scenic north Kyoto, between the World Heritage Sites Kamigamo and Shimogamo shrines, near the Tadasu-no-mori forest.
hours: 10am – 5pm
address: Kyoto, Sakyo, Shimogamo, Nishitakagi-cho 25
website: www.housendou.com (Japanese only)
4. Sake Bar Asakura: Real Sake is Fresh, Fruity Sake
If it isn’t refrigerated, it isn’t sake. Actually, I can’t stand regular sake. It is fortified with ethyl alcohol and produces an instant hangover. Namazake, or fresh sake is unpasturized. My favorite is unpasturized, unfiltered, undiluted and unfortified. Namazake is the rage sake among afficianados in Japan. It is popular with women as it has a fruity bouquit similar to white wine. But how do you get fruity, from rice? Never mind.
There are three sake bars in Kyoto that serve sake that passes muster with me, my favorite is the intimate Nihonshu Bar Asakura. In addition to namazake, there is golden koshu, or aged sake. The young proprietor is speaks English very well, offers good service and his a huge Michael Jackson fan.
hours: 7pm – 2am (open some weekend afternoons from 3 pm)
address: Kyoto, Nakagyo, Kamiosaka-cho 518-2 Daikyu Bldg 2F
website: www.ameblo.jp/sakebar/ (Japanese only)
OpenKyoto article: The Taste of Real Sake in Kyoto: Sake Bar Asakura (with Fluent English Service)
This is Cheri and I stocking up on luck at Ebisu Shrine in Gion, Kyoto. This festival is held on January 10th. People visit the shrine praying for good fortune and prosperity in the coming year. Most people that visit, especially business owners purchase a freshly cut bamboo branch and decorate it with auspicious trinkets, dolls and symbols.
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