Monday, July 31, 2017

Cavalock and The Kyi-Karuizawa Crossing

Karuizawa? Never heard of the place until the baker-at-home told me we were heading there this Japan trip. Hah! Well, it's only an hour Shikansen or bullet train ride away from Tokyo and it's an upmarket mountain resort in the Nagano Prefecture. This being summer, there aren't any snow but you can expect more than a few shops offering treats like ice desserts and their local speciality jam. It's really a quaint little country town with numerous speciality shops. We also noticed some butcheries selling cold cuts and inviting cafes.

Quite a warm 30-minute summer stroll hike from the train station to Kyi-Karuizawa but definitely worth every step, just to breathe in a little country air, take in the sights and maybe later do a bit of shopping at the huge factory outlet that's right in front of the train station, oh did I mention that it was the baker-at-home who planned this trip? ;)


We dropped by popular Japanese dessert store Foundry at their Karuizawa Nagano location. Famous for their seasonal desserts, there's just so much goodness in every corner of the two-storey shop. Once more, our hands were already full and that was before us hitting the big bad factory outlet. Yah, we bought a few boxes of apple and peach confectionaries. Kept them in our hotel fridge that night when we got back and finally managed to cross the Pacific Ocean home with them.

"Our thanks and respect to nature's blessings as only the farmer knows. Lovingly-crafted confectionary prepared with only the truest of seasonal fruits and carefully selected ingredients."

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Cavalock and The Things We'll Never See Here

There's a new Shake Shack right in Shinjuku and it's in the same building as Hotel Century Southern, the hotel we stayed in March! They weren't there yet when we were there! Naturally we made our way there for both lunch and dinner on our latest trip to Tokyo.

The Shinjuku Shack will donate 5% of sales from the Rainbow Connection concrete to the Institute of Human Diversity Japan to benefit the successful development of communities and organizations to promote human diversity.
Two things we'll never ever see in Singapore which is pretty disheartening cos I think they are both really cool. Pet food in our fast food menu and service staff going that extra mile to brighten up your day. Sad but true and you all know it.

Another thing that's cool are the food trucks that are set up at the outdoor area right next to Shake Shack. Alfresco dining is at its best when everything clicks together, like nice weather, music and it's not too crowded. As the summer weather became a lot more agreeable at night we decided to chow down on our burgers outdoors that evening, opposite the food trucks and their music.

Zzzzzzt!..... we interrupt this Tokyo update to bring you our annual Washpole Patriot update for 2017. We are glad to inform regular viewers readers that the Washpole Patriot is back this year! Proudly flying our nation's flag over the iconic HDB dumpster is a sight citizens across the island We now return you to our regular 2017 Tokyo vacation update.

Here's something I never expected to see, and was pleasantly surprised when I got off the escalator and saw Eataly in the middle of Tokyo, or in the basement of Mitsukoshi department store to be exact. Eataly is this huge Italian food marketplace. But this Tokyo outpost takes up only a pretty small section of the basement area. According to Wiki, they are "largest Italian marketplace in the world, comprising a variety of restaurants, food and beverage counters, bakery and retail items." Should I chalk this up to another thing that we'll never see here? ;)

I had wanted to drop by the New York Eataly when I was in the Big Apple last year but there wasn't enough time. We had a decent dinner with refreshing limoncello at the restaurant there but didn't pick up anything as our hands were already full with our Japanese purchases. Cos this was kinda unexpected, maybe with a little research, we'll grab something if we are there next time.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Cavalock and The Tokyo Station Shopping Spree

As much as I like Shinjuku station, Tokyo station comes a close second cos of the massive labyrinth of shops and eateries in the underground complex. Every time we are there catching a train transfer or just window-shopping (No I lie, one hardly ever window shops in Tokyo), we discover exclusive new shops and seasonal food items.

This last minute trip was no exception as we stumbled upon NY Perfect Cheese. Like most folks, we were first attracted by the long queue stretching out of their little station shop. Not really sure what these little ones below are called but they are delicious. Single bite-sized goodness with a sweet cheesy flavour. Unfortunately they need to be refrigerated so we made it a point to finish our box before leaving Japan. If they ever reach our island, I'm sure there'll be a long queue for them too.

So what else can you find at Tokyo station? Well, there are Lego, Tomica and Snoopy stores there and numerous other shops selling official merchandise based on various anime properties if that's your thing. There's also a whole wall showcasing bento lunches from different parts of Japan. Pretty neat. And uni or sea urchin lunch boxes, lots and lots of different uni lunch boxes.

For fans of the highest-grossing anime movie in the world, Your Name has a special pop-up store at the station too. Got a gashapon pouch from there even though I have yet to catch the movie. Let me know if you are a fan of the movie.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Cavalock and The Snoopy Stopover

No, that glass of green beer isn't a leftover from St. Patrick's Day. It's matcha or green tea beer from Torigen Shinjuku, our usual yakitori joint whenever we are in Tokyo. We tend to make it our first dinner stop after landing and checking into our hotel in the evening. As for the green beer, it's pretty much boozy green tea that gives you a buzz as evident by the amount of green tea powder you'll eventually find at the bottom of your glass. Not bad but I'll stick to my trusty whisky high-ball when I'm in Japan.

Always a joy to have dinner with friends in Tokyo as we gleefully stuffed our faces silly that night. Everything from chicken skin, beef tongue to grilled corn. It was pretty rowdy that night and on our way out, I even spotted a passed out salaryman flat on his back in one of the dining rooms. Yakitori became our bookend meals when on our last night in Tokyo, the baker-at-home and I dropped by Torigen for one more late night cap after a hearty ramen dinner earlier.

The Aftermath
Now when I was a kid, me Mom would sometimes read Peanuts or Snoopy comic strips to me and I grew up with more than a few Charlie Brown and gang stationery. Now since Snoopy is a huge deal in Japan, it's no surprise that I come home after every trip with more than a handful of Snoopy merchandise. Well, I believe I just broke a personal spending record when I visited the Snoopy Museum and its souvenir shop in Roppongi.

We were actually supposed to visit the Museum in March but couldn't find the time. Anyway, for a lifelong Snoopy fan like me this was simply way too cool. Looking at all those comic strips on display certainly brought back memories of reading them decades ago.

Like I said in my earlier post, it's summer in Tokyo and the Snoopy Museum was more than ready to capitalise on rising temperature.