January 30, 2005

thirty years

I was in a cellar of my local liquor store a couple of days ago when I took a notice of this old, really old champagne. It was Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 1975, a vintage champagne made exclusively using chardonnay grapes.

It is not very uncommon for good wines from good vineyards to keep several decades, but it is not as much a case with champagnes as with red wines; 30 years is really long for most champagnes.

And besides, this Dom Ruinart was incredibly cheap - almost too cheap. So it naturally made me guess that this would not be a) a very good vintage, or b) thus overstocked in the market, or both of the above. But again, just because I wouldn't find a 30-year old champagne so cheap everywhere, I changed my mind and grabbed the bottle to the casher (I had been there to buy another wine).

To enjoy the old bottle of wine, I whipped up a platter of small toasts:

I made three kinds of them: toasts with Vacherin Mont-d'Or cheese, chocolate toasts with olive oil and fleur de sel, and fig and brie toasts with almonds.

Vacherin Mont-d'Or is a winter delicacy that is so soft even chilled, and melts on a slightly warm toast.

Chocolate with olive oil and fleur de sel (extra-fine sea salt) might sound odd to some, but when I first came to know about it in a book by Amanda Hesser Cooking for Mr. Latte: a food lover's courtship, with recipes (2003, W.W. Norton & Co.), I thought it would be great. Thin slices of baguette with small pieces of bittersweet chocolate (I used Araguani, a Valrhona bitter chocolate) were lightly toasted just enough to melt the chocolate, then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and topped with just a sprinkle of fleur de sel. The combination of olive oil and chocolate was lovely, although a tiny bit sweeter chocolate might have been just perfect.

This combination of brie cheese, fig spread, and chopped salted and roasted Spanish marcona almonds on toast was based on samples that were given out at a Whole Foods store last year. There were his mother and I that tried one, and both of us liked it so much we bought a whole set of products for the toasts so that we'd reproduce some at home for a Thanksgiving dinner. At Whole Foods they used Dalmatia fig spread which was great, but this time I used regular fig spread as I didn't have Dalmatia's. I also tried a tiny twig of fresh rosemary on top; this worked tremendously good I think.

Now with all these small nibbles ready on a pretty white plate that my sister bought me while I was in Japan, I opened my bottle of old champagne, which came out almost amber in color and with very little bubbles left after three decades.

This was my second time having old vintage champagne; last time was when my friend got a bottle of some 25-year old Dom Perignon and we opened it at a French restaurant in Tokyo, and that was when I found out that such a old champagne could still hold bubbles, while enjoying what was totally different from regular, "newer" champagnes.

This time, however, the wine was apparently too old - it obviously didn't endure this long period of time, either because it wasn't good enough a wine to last such a long time or it had not been stored in a right condition, or maybe both. It nevertheless had a remnant of noble crispness of blanc de blancs, and tasted better with sweeter toasts (Vacherin, unfortunately, didn't really go good with this particular wine, even though I love the cheese, anyways). Thirty years seemed to have been rather too long for this bottle and I couldn't help wishing that I had had it ten years before - how good it would have tasted. But you never know.

Anyhow, cheers to the wine that has lived a bit too many years, and to myself who has to live many more years to come. Happy birthday to me.

January 28, 2005

macaron tour in Tokyo 2005 winter

You have checked out the assorted desserts from Pierre Hermé, haven't you? Good.

Now, like I announced in my last post, this time I am tracking back my Macaron Tour in Tokyo 2005 Winter.

Before going any further, I wanted to make one thing clear: French macarons are NOT equivalent to American macaroons, represented by coconut macaroons. They may be similar in a way that both are made by egg whites, sugar and ground nuts, but that's about it - the outcomes are very, very different. Don't ask me specifically what makes them so different; I have never been into either kind of macaro(o)ns and never really cared for them, so I am not the one to ask.

Anyways, like I just confessed, I didn't use to like macarons at all, until very recently when I brought myself to make my own macarons for the very first time. That was when I made up my mind to try real good macarons when I have a chance.

The first chance came when I was in Tokyo, where there are a serious bunch of pastry chops all over. But since I was pressed by work the whole time, I only got to go look for macarons at the very last minute of my stay. I still managed to grab several bags of macarons from a few shops - all within just three days or so!

These are from Dalloyau, a renown French patisserie that has been in Tokyo for quite some time (for more than 15 years), offering a range of perfectly beautiful - almost too perfect to be real - cakes.

Their macarons, like their cakes, were beautiful. To my disappointment, however, my selection of yuzu, raspberry, and pistachio macarons all smelled a bit too sweet and artificial in my opinion. They were pretty hard and sticky, too. I might have chosen wrong ones... I should try some other kinds next time.

The next up is Chez Cima (in Japanese), which is one of my old favorite Tokyo patisseries, although I never even looked for their macarons before.

I picked up matcha (green tea) and cassis. Green one tasted a bit too strong of green tea and quite sweet, which I wasn't for my taste. Cassis one, though, was excellent; macaron itself was light and fragile as well as flavourful, which was enhanced by the fruity cassis jelly inside. I liked it a lot.

Another big batch of macarons here were from Patisserie La Colomba (in Japanese), a dessert brand of a French restaurant in Tokyo. I haven't eaten at the restaurant before, but I got these just because the shop was located in the same floor of a department store where I needed to do some shopping.

I got tea, pistachio, raspberry, lemon, and caramel macarons (I had no choice but to buy this much, because they sell macarons a minimum of 50g (approx. 2oz) and those weighed 50g together). Well, other than they were collapsed after a bit of transportation, nothing particular to note; texture was light but it was, again, really sweet. If I'd choose one, that would be caramel... at least the cream inside was good.

There was one more shop that I happened to pass by on my way: Patisserie Jean Millet (Japanese website here, another such Tokyo branch of a Parisian sweet shop.

I got myself passion fruit and pistachio macarons, which both turned out very good. Macaron cookie part was light but slightly sticky as it should be, and the cream tasted fresh and fruity/nutty.

Overall, I liked Chez Cima's cassis and Jean Millet's passion fruit macarons very much. They both had light macaron shells, crisp on the outside and soft and smooth in the middle, and flavorful filling between them. They were very sweet, for sure, but there was something compelling about their sweetness... maybe the perfect balance of sweetness, flavor, and texture.

Talking about a perfect balance though (in macarons, anyways), any of these weren't quite anywhere near Pierre Hermé's - individually or collectively, in front of their box of tempting selection.

From the left: Plaisirs sucrés (chocolate macaron with milk chocolate ganache and praline), rose (rose-scented macaron with butter cream), Yuzu et Chocolat (chocolate macarons with yuzu-infused ganache), lemon, marron (chestnut macaron with chestnut cream and green tea cream), and pistachio and cherry (simple macaron with pistachio cream and cinnamon-scented griotte cherries).

Most of them had very complex layers of flavors and were highly sophisticated, and all of them were for sure gorgeous. I particularly liked the rose and lemon ones - both of them happened to be the simplest of all, which is a bit ironic because they boast a line of such fancy and decorative combinations. In other words though, they exemplified the simplicity as the beauty, maybe?

They were, again, very sweet but really addictive too; I had a small bite of each, got satisfied, but was tempted to have another bite after a while... I don't know if I should feel myself lucky or unlucky that I don't live or work near their shop; I'd have to go back over and over again, and the best (or worst) part is that they offer seasonal and/or limited-version macarons once every few times a year!

Next time ever you find macarons here in this blog, that'd be when I make some on my own... so don't expect anything fine like these!

January 25, 2005


During a past month when I was in Japan, I was determined to do something other than work that I wouldn't be able to do over here in Hawaii, like seeing friends and eat food that is hard to find over here. While I took in seasonal tastes of Japan, I also treated myself with fancy sweets made by professional patissiers - something that can never, ever be found in this town, or something that I would never, ever be able to make at home, either. And one of the places I knew I was going to, and I actually did, was patisserie Pierre Hermé, a Tokyo outlet of the world-famous celebrity patissier.

Next to their small boutique in hotel New Otani, there was a cafe that serves a selection of entremets of Pierre Hermé, and it was where my friend and I decided to have a cup of tea (and cakes, of course). Among out of all the gorgeous-looking desserts, I managed to choose one called Emotion Galance, a glass of layers of fig compote, mascarpone cheese cream with caramelized cinnamon, and raspberry compote, with a round granola tuille on top, along with a chef-blend herbed green tea called Ceremony.

It tasted just as gorgeous as it looked, but the raspberry compote was a bit too jam-like and too sweet for my taste; I would have liked it better if there had been less of this, while fig compote was just perfect and the whole glass was lovely, anyways.

Apart from it being "limited-edition" spécialité, the main reason why I chose this Emotion Galance - or, to be more specific, the reason I did not choose other ones - was that I had already purchased a box of small cakes to go at the boutique; so I wanted to try something that was not included in the box.

The boutique was truly like a jewelry shop; all the cakes were beautifully displayed (and protected) in glass cases (you can see an image of the shop in the link above). Having fun (or tough) time choosing cakes just enough for three of us at home, I was thrilled when I found a box of tiny versions of their new-comers as well as top-sellers neatly sitting in. This is exactly what I wanted, I gasped; when you can't come back to somewhere like this and yet want to try to as many things as you can at one time, small bites of different things would suit you better than a few large pieces. That's it.

The box, called Fours Frais, had eight small morsels of a size of chocolate truffle. They were all miniature versions of their standard entremets line products, and most of them were designed almost exactly the same as the regular version. Even so, I would imagine that, since they design their cakes so precisely - even down to the ratio of each components (cake, cream, etc.) - that their smaller versions would not taste exactly the same as the regular-sized ones due to inevitable changes in the ratio of each component. But what can I say, in front of such artistic works?

I brought the box back home and shared everything with my sister and her husband. Yes, everything; cut into three thirds, each was small enough for a very young kid to eat in a mouthful. But when you got a box like this, you just have to try all of them - I know I do.

Tarte Azur.
Smooth ganache with yuzu citrus and flourless chocolate biscuit in a sable tart shell, topped with soft candied lemon peel, tiny sable cookie piece, and crunchy lime crescent. At Pierre Hermé this winter they seem to feature yuzu in a lot of their seasonal delicacies, and this was one of them. Yuzu wasn't very prominent overall, although there was definitely a hint of tangy citrus in the rich ganache.

Plaisirs sucrés. A Pierre Hermé classic. Hazelnut dacoise, a milk chocolate thin with praline, and chocolate ganache. It incorporated various texture into one piece of cake, in perfect harmony. Sweet pleasure, that is what it was.

Tarte au citron. Lemon tart with a kick for true lemon lovers... such as myself. Vibrant, refreshing, and energizing.

Mont-Blanc aux Marrons. Very classic, standard mont-blanc with meingue and sweet chestnut cream. Pretty sweet, but it was just a small bite so it was okay.

Choux à la crème. Another classic sweet - cream puff, with what I thought was a mixture of custard and chantilly cream, topped with crunchy sugar bits.

Yu. Dacoise with praline, baked apple scented with orange and yuzu, and praline cream cased in thin chocolate wrap. Very pretty looking and actually tasty, but as a miniature, this one had rather too much chocolate that was overpowering other components.

Ispahan. Another Pierre Hermé spécialité. Rose macaron with raspberry, lycee and rose cream (as a small version, the raspberry part might have been raspberry puree rather than fresh berries), with an elegant hat of scarlet rose petal. It smelled lovely, looked stunning, and tasted divine; this was a small but arrestingly gorgeous beauty. That guy truly is a genius.

Hermé Carré Yu. Creme brulee with orange peel filled with baked apple scented with orange and yuzu on sable breton pastry, covered with what I think was a citrus-flavored thin white chocolate. Every part was very, very fragile and hard-to-eat, and had a very delicate taste as well.

All in all, everything was delectable, delightful, and pleasing. It was a hard choice, but when asked which one they liked the best, my sister chose Plaisirs sucrés, while her husband went for Ispahan. Both are highly understandable, considering how successful the two have been in Pierre Hermé shops. As for myself, well, like I just said it was too hard to single out... I really liked the above two, but lemon tart came very close, too. But I think I will have to have them again, in the regular size, to find out the real winner. To tell you the truth though, I really don't need to know which one would be the "best"; I just need an excuse to go back to the boutique and get some more.

At the shop, by the way, I also got a box of their famed macarons, too. They are, of course, already gone for long, but I will come back here with some pictures of them along with my other macaron acquisitions.

January 23, 2005

souvenirs from Japan

I tore myself away from Japan and got back home in Hawaii just a couple of days ago. Life was busier than normal for the last several days of my stay, and I've got a lot of photos of food stacked up from those days, so as piles of actual food that I brought from there. So much that I think I can live for a while on those food items, both virtual and real, in the blog world and real world.

To begin with, here I am sharing my "sweets of the month" from Japan with you. In Japan, mass manufacturers of sweets are doing massive launch of either "new" and/or "limited-edition" lines of sweet products every twice a year or so, and there are certainly loads of stupid consumers who make an easy target of their marketing tactics by running to the store and try every single new stuff that they can find (like me). All of these below are such new/limited versions that I found and liked this time.

Matcha KitKat. Nowadays Japanese chocolate companies seem to make matcha (green tea) versions of every single chocolate product they sell. This is one of such recent products, and it was actually good.

Black Sesame Koeda Chocolate. Koeda, so named for its resemblance to koeda or twigs, is a longstanding chocolate snack in the market. The original version is sticks of milk chocolate with small pieces of rice puff. This all-black version, featuring black sesame, is made of white chocolate with black sesame paste and loaded with roasted black sesame seeds and rice puff. If you like black-sesame sweets, you've got to love this.

DARS Gianduja Blanc. I like traditional gianduia combination of chocolate and nuts (Ferrero, Nutella, or even Valrhona), but this one, made of white chocolate, might be a bit unusual.

LOOK "Quality" Pistachio. LOOK chocolate was one of my favorites back in the day when I was little; it was a box of chocolates filled with four different kinds of paste, namely, strawberry, pineapple, banana, and almond. Since then it has evolved to have a lot of different sets of flavors, and this "Quality" version came as a deluxe edition featuring a rather luxury ingredient: pistachio (the other one was strawberry, which isn't all that luxury, but should be better than regular strawberry chocolates, I suppose). Each bite-size nugget is filled with pretty green nut cream and a whole pistachio nut and tasty, although there is an arguably tricky thing about it; the green filling isn't made with pistachios but almonds. There is no description on any part of the package that the cream is made using pistachio, so nothing is "fabricated", but it is a bit tricky and possibly misleading that the cream is colored green, although it is really minor and I like them anyways.

Now I wonder how long these will last in here.

January 15, 2005

a typical place to eat atypical Japanese food

Wednesday, January 12

I am still in Japan, occasionally enjoying the cold weather, mostly stuck in front of computer working 24/7 (okay, little less. I mean, a lot less). I haven't been going out much like I did at the end of the year, but the other night I went out for dinner with him, my sister and her husband, before he was leaving here for Hawaii. With someone who doesn't want to eat fish/seafood (him) and someone who doesn't eat meat (my sister), it could be a bit of trouble finding a right spot to please everyone... and we settled down with an izakaya, or Japanese-style bar/restaurant near our place.

Izakayas have now become very popular among all generations (except for those aged <20, for the record) in this country, with a large variety of usually reasonably priced decent food. Lots of them offer dishes of various origins rather than single cuisne, such as "Japanese", "Italian", or "Chinese". They also tend to have "fusion" food, although the backbone is most likely Japanese that has influence of foreign cuisine, most often Chinese, Italian, and increasingly Thai and Korean. They can also be a source of inspiration for creative dishes, and I have made a lot of things with an inspiration from izakaya food.

That evening, there were three of us first - my sister was coming late from work - so we had to have (apparently) fishless dishes to feed the hungry meat-eater. We ordered several stuff, which came more or less all at once:

(sorry about the small, dark and blurry photos)

Carpaccio with amberjack sashimi. Carpaccio is originally ultra-thin slices of raw beef topped with arugula and shaves of parmigiano reggiano and drizzled with olive oil, but over here its sashimi-versions seem more common; marinated thinly sliced sashimi served with greens and herbs. This was topped with a generous amount of salmon roes and tasted pretty good. Well this was the only "real" fish dish that we had in that evening.

French fries aglio olio e pepperoncino. Regular French fries flavored with garlic, olive oil, and chili peppers.

Pizza Margherita. Not much of "twists" on this one, but a very simple thin-crust pizza with tomato sauce, cheese, and tomato dices (and one[!] leave of basil). Wait, I didn't have any bite of this... (who could that have been to be blamed for?)

Beef tendon stew. I don't think beef tendon is common at all in the US, but when it is slowly and carefully cooked, it becomes REALLY tender and ready to absorb soup/stock/sauce.

Rice ball with a hard-boiled egg in demi-glace sauce. Called Arancini in Italian, it is a deep-fried ball of rice flavored with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. This one had a whole hard-boiled egg inside and came with a sparkler (which wasn't for consumption, I suppose). This dish was named "Godzilla's egg". Wonder why.

Tofu with Chinese-style dressing. Dressing seemed to contain soy sauce, sesame oil, some Chinese pickles, and a hint of chili.

Deep-fried chicken with sweet and peppery sauce and tartar.

All these dishes came almost at one time, which means we had a tough time trying to eat everything in a right condition; if I tried to have the potato fries while they were hot and crispy, I had to miss sizzling-hot beef stew. We all gobbled things down over a beer (or two).

Then the other dish came:

Spaghetti in beef stew. I don't think I ever had had beef stew with such pasta, even though although they serve stew with egg pasta like tagliatelle, but it was not soupy at all, and tasted actually good. I think it would be a nice change for regular ragu (Bolognese sauce). But this was a third dish using demi-glace sauce this evening....

When the first batch of dishes came, we all thought that was way too much food, but by this time they were pretty much gone and we were getting full. Then my sister came late and joined us, and ordered a couple more dishes:

Potato chips "cajun flavored". A bit like the French fries aglio olio e pepperoncino in taste, but it had a whole lot different texture - thin, light and crisp.

House salad. Beneath the funky puffy pizza dough was a bowl of caeser salad. First we stabbed open the crisp balloon, cracked it into pieces, then mixed into the salad.

Everything was pretty good, reasonably portioned, and was decently priced overall. This is a kind of place that I miss when I am in Hawaii; a place where we can share many different styles of dishes instead of having a huge plate of pasta enough to serve me two full meals. It might be a bit like a potluck, except that I don't have to cook.

Among the dishes I had this time, I might try and reproduce French fries aglio olio e pepperoncino and spaghetti in beef stew at home.

I shall come back with a little more food from Japan before going back to Hawaii....

January 9, 2005

o-sho-gatsu in the mountains

I stayed in Nagano for a week or so to spend the New Year (o-sho-gatsu) holidays with my family, and just got back to my sister's in Tokyo (well, more precisely just out side of it across a river) a few days ago. I haven't been blogging as much as I was wishing to, partly because I was being lazy (that's the way to spend New Year holidays anyways) and partly because I got a bad cold, and more and more because I am being swamped with work which is because I was being a procrastinator. Before it is too out of date, I am posting some pictures of food I had in or from Nagano over the New Year week.

Traditionally, Japanese families would have a set of special New Year' dishes called osechi which is typically arranged in a set of fancy multitiered boxes. Nowadays many people just buy a whole set or part of it from stores or even from restaurants, while there are still some good people who prepare them all by themselves, like this (in Japanese, but you can see the beautifully-presented authentic home-made osechi). And there are quite few people who just skip osechi altogether or just have a few dishes, like my own family. So here don't expect to see anything like traditional Japanese New Year's dishes at all... what I am putting here is simply what I had over the New Year time.

That said, I have to add that we do have a must-have New Year dish: zoni, or soup with rice cake. While it is such a popular New Year dish throughout the nation, its main ingredients (other than rice cake for its own sake) surprisingly vary from one region to another, or from one family to another. Ours is pretty simple: just a few ingredients (typically chicken, carrot, green onion, and mitsuba herb) in a light fish broth.

We usually have this for the New Year's day breakfast "dinner". So did we this year...

... only we didn't have anything else as we were in hurry to get ready to leave for Nagano before noon. Trying to give a celebratory feeling to the one and only dish we had for the supposedly most important breakfast of the year, we garnished it with salmon roes (they're quite a luxury over here).

Then we hurried our way to Nagano, and got there before dark. My mom was busy preparing dinner, but we sat down for a while to have a cup of tea/coffee over a slice of cake I had bought in Tokyo.

Cake roll with mascarpone cheese cream and bruleed custard cream

We wouldn't make a whole set of traditional osechi, but there are a couple of staples that my mom would always make. This is one of them.

Slow-cooked chicken and vegetable pot. A lot of root vegetables along with chicken are gently cooked in a stock. Mom would make a huge potful and as a kid I used to avoid it, but it is now what I miss most when I am not spending a New Year with her.

Sweetened beans. There are a variety of beans we have for this dish, and this time she used a large kind called hana-mame. This is my sister's favorite and she gobbled them down before anyone else could take their time to taste them.

For dessert, we had a large cake that one of my cousins who was with us had brought.

In fact, it was a cake that he made. As a former patissier in profession, he knows how to make a gorgeous entre: chocolate mousse with chopped orange peel on a chocolate sponge, covered with ganache.

Apparently, the person who cut up the cake (myself, that is) didn't know how to do it properly, but it tasted super good nevertheless.

On the following day, we had a small birthday party and did seafood barbecue on the fireplace fire.

We had scallops and prowns along with a LOT of vegetable and mushrooms.

After dinner mom whipped up a quick dessert that she had been talking about from before:

Coffee-poarched apples. Apples and coffees, not tea, have you ever had them together? I hadn't. She had insisted it be good, and I was a half suspicious and half curious... and it turned out pretty good. Apples alone tasted fairly bitter, but together with vanilla ice cream it was yummy. Very unusual though.

That night we had a crab for barbecue but it turned out not to have much meat, so we passed that to the following morning's breakfast miss soup.


Oh I lost track of what I ate on what day... but this was for one of those days.

We have winter specialty dish called nabe, which literary means "pot". Much like zoni, nabe can take any form with potentially endless combination of ingredients special to a specific region or family, and main thing is that they are cooked in a large pot (often earthen pot). This time around mom put chicken, chinese cabbage, green onions, grilled and deep-fried tofu, and enoki mushrooms,
and served it with a whole lot of grated daikon radish along with soy sauce and yuzu juice. Sizzling on the table, a nabe can be the best feast you can have on a cold winter day.

And later I caught a terrible cold and stayed in bed for a while, living on apples.

Nagano is one of the largest producers of apples in Japan, and although I am not from the area myself, I grew up on their excellent apples sent from my relatives there. I am very spoiled and picky when it comes to apples, and had trouble eating spongy and grainy apples sold at a store in Hawaii. These are the apples that I like.

After a while when I was better, I started eating other stuff than apples, and on one day my mom made tempura for lunch.

I have made it very clear that I hate deep-frying. But eating deep-fried dish (that someone else has prepared) is another story: I love it. This day we got shiso, carrots, and enoki tempura served with a light sauce. Nothing is quite like eating sizzling-fresh tempura.

Towards the end of our stay mom made curry. Although Thai and other asian curries are now very popular over here, back in the day "curry" meant those spicy dark brown sauce in a sort of Indian style, and that would be what people make at home. This "curry rice" (curry with rice) has become one of the classic home-made dishes in Japan, and kids, grown-ups and alike all love it (well, most of them).

It is also a dich that he likes a lot. In fact, it might be his most favorite Japanese dish along with chicken karaage. My mom remembered it (probably because he loved it so much last time he was here), and didn't forget to cook a large potful for us.

It was very simple just with beef, onions, potatoes, and carrots, but the slow cooking made everything really tender and disappear into the sauce, which made it realy rich and flavorful. Naturally, it wasn't only him who had seconds.

In the morning of the day we were set to leave Nagano, I baked small loaves of cake in my mom's small kitchen. I chose simple pound cake-like loaves with yuzu and apple, both a harvest of the season. I first microwaved a diced apple with a dash of yuzu juice, and put them in the batter together with grated zest and juice of one and half yuzus.

It was my first attempt to pair the two fruits in cake, but it turned out lovely. The cake itself might have been a bit too dry, but it got better on the following day. Simple but nice little ones.

Oh I ate a whole lot while I was there, and on top of that I got a lot of sweets and snacks as a souvenir for friends and myself. Recently, a number of mass confectioners make "limited versions" of nationwide products specially for a specific area. If you are not familiar with such Japanese sweet products you might not see what I am talking about, but you will probably know this one at least:
(Mouse over to open the package)

Apple KitKat. KitKat's got a lot of limited-time-only varieties with different flavors over here (in the past there have been banana, berries, pineapple, etc), and this is Nagano area only version. It did have a flavor of apple, and I liked it.

These are called Baby Star, deep-fried noodle snack flavored to resemble real noodle dish like ramen.
(Mouse over to open the package)

Nagano specials are those of soba (buckwheat) noodle with wasabi and chili pepper mix. Personally I like wasabi one a lot, but he said it was too much of wasabi.

Like I said, Nagano is known for apples, and lot of products use or feature apple. This is another such variation in candy-coated chocolate.

Chocolate inside is apple-flavored. Is it? I suppose so.

And here is my latest favorite sweet I never miss whenever I am here; walnut meringue cookies. Nagano is also known for good walnuts, and there are equally lots of sweets using walnuts.
(Mouse over to open the package)

This isn't a mass-produced product like the above three, but from a local confectionery called Hanaoka. It is a very light baked meringue with walnut bits, and once I have opened a bag it is really hard to stop before emptying it at once. I don't care for baked meringue in general, but this is a special exception.

It's a nice and quiet, beautiful little mountain village where my mom lives. I wish I could have stayed there longer, and wish I could visit my mom more often.

And now, back to work. (sigh)