Aoyama Farmer’s Market

Food Sake Tokyo is delighted to host guest blogger Janice Espa. Janice is passionate about food and Japan. She is a great photographer and all of the photos here are from Janice. Janice’s most recent guest post on the Best of Japan Tour now being offered at Coredo Muromachi in Nihonbashi, is very popular and some followers of Food Sake Tokyo have since taken the tour and loved it. Here is Janice on Aoyama Farmer’s Market. Arigato, Janice!

Espa - Market vibe

Market Vibe – Janice Espa

I thoroughly enjoy learning about the story behind things. The food we come across and the people who put it together to make a livelihood out of it. The effort that goes into cultivating crops, the detail and care with which coffee is grown and roasted. The significance behind passing down a recipe from generation to generation in order to make cookies ‘just like grandma used to make’, or the finesse with which dishes are conceptualized and presented.

Espa - Father daughter and amazing mushrooms

Father and daughter’s Amazing Mushrooms and dashi packs – Janice Espa

 This aspect of food and travel is a deeply gratifying cultural experience, and it’s readily accessible too. Farmer’s markets are the perfect place to begin.

Flowers - Janice Espa

Flowers – Janice Espa

In Tokyo, Aoyama Farmer’s Market is a great weekend destination. Every Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the forecourt of the United Nations University becomes a lively bazaar. The market is buzzing from start to finish, but getting there before noon will ensure you don’t miss out on buying any of the fruit, vegetables, breads, pastries, or flowers you’re after.

Fresh from the farm - Janice Espa

Fresh from the farm – Janice Espa

I’d suggest making a morning of it, browsing the stalls, talking to the producers, and then having a brunch in the courtside area – or head to a nearby park for a picnic, because you’ll pick up many tasty things along the way.

On my visit, I was enamoured by the tomatoes, many shapes and sizes, beautifully plump with bright colors. The stalls have clever and cute names. I sampled juicy strawberries that were just in season, as well as surprisingly flavorsome, and healthful, soy yogurt smoothies. My jaw dropped when I counted the number of mushrooms for sale from one of the vendors, and I giggled in excitement as the lady selling sesame paste and sesame seed products freshly ground some seeds for me to take home.   “If possible, all the way to Machu Picchu”, she said.

Kawaii strawberries - Janice Espa

Kawaii strawberries – Janice Espa

This one-on-one interaction, taking all the smells in, the sight of people sharing who they are and where they come from, producers eager to have a chat and tell you their story, and then the surprises and treats that may come from this sense of community, is priceless.

Fresh ginger and yuzu vinegar - Janice Espa

Fresh ginger and yuzu vinegar – Janice Espa

Aside from fresh produce, there are handmade bags and accessories and a selection of breads. Pastry stands offer kinako (toasted soybean flour) shortbread cookies, miso-based sweets, and fresh bagels. There’s also a takoyaki (octopus cooked in a savory batter) stand, a cart selling Spanish sangria, a curry rice vendor, Indian dosa made-to-order, and some German sausages for sale.

Cool Mobile Coffee - Janice Espa

Cool Mobile Coffee – Janice Espa

Aoyama Farmer’s Market, located in a relatively quiet section between Omotesando and Shibuya, is the perfect way to spend a few unscheduled hours in Tokyo. I thoroughly encourage you to check it out and find for yourself the taste of the season. You may bump into some of Tokyo’s famous chefs like Shinobu Namae of  L’Effervescence who often shops here.

Arrive by bike - Janice Espa

Arrive by bike – Janice Espa

AOYAMA FARMER’S MARKET

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-53-70, United Nations University Plaza 渋谷区神宮前5-53-70国際連合大学前

Nearest station: Omotesando (Ginza, Chiyoda and Hanzomon lines)

farmersmarkets.jp

 

If you liked this post, please check out Janice’s other post about Kyoto.

Nishiki Market and Kyoto Uzuki Cooking School

Sake Tasting with JD Kai

 

Janice Espa photoJanice Espa

Janice Espa is a Spanish-Peruvian food enthusiast; an avid traveller and inquisitive taster who explores culture through cuisine.  Janice lives in Sydney where she writes and styles food. Her days are spent visiting grower’s markets, checking out restaurants, and shopping at specialty stores to discover goods from every corner of the world.

Feel free to email suggestions and travel tips, or to contact Janice for her own recommendations, whether you’re visiting Peru, trekking South America or doing a road trip along the east coast of Australia.

Email:  janicespa at gmail.com

Omotesando Koffee

Image

Omotesando Koffee, while known for its good coffee, it is perhaps more famous for its “ko-hi- kashi” or coffee sweet. Kunitomo-san at the shop said it is a baked purin, which is like a creme custard, but that flour is added to the mixture. It has a crispy crust and is soft and eggy inside. Dangerous if you come hungry as one could easily go through several of these.

The quality of the coffee is excellent here. My girlfriend’s latte had a nice proportion of milk to espresso. I indulged and got a Bailey’s espresso. The aroma of the Baileys reminded the both of us of our days at Midwestern liberal arts colleges. Amazing how just smelling the Baileys brought back memories from 25 years ago. Next time I will get the Baileys with some milk.

The shop card are coffee filters that are also used for serving the ko-hi- kashi. Brilliant. I teased him asking if I could recycle these at home as coffee filters and he said we could.

Image

Here is the exterior of the shop. It is on the first floor of a residential home, which could explain why the shop does not open until 10 a.m. We got there a bit early and it was fun to watch the rituals of preparing the small garden in front of the shop before opening the gate.

The handsome Kunitomo-san in a light blue lab coat is very friendly. We spoke only in Japanese but on our way out some Americans came in and we could hear him speaking English. It was raining this morning so we stood inside and had our coffee tachi-nomi style. If the weather is good there are two small benches in the narrow garden in front of the shop. But, this is not a place you want to linger for long at.

Omotesando Koffee

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-15-3

03-5413-9422

10:00 – 19:00 daily

* Omotesando Koffee is right behind Maisen tonkatsu. The perfect spot for a coffee after tonkatsu.

Japanese Fried Chicken at iro-kara

Irokara1

 

I have been craving Korean-style fried chicken ever since listening to Rick Bayless talk about it on The Feed Podcast. When I lived in New York City and Singapore I could get my fix. For some reason, Tokyo, which has amazing kara-agé (deep-fried, seasoned, boneless cuts of chicken) hasn’t caught on to it. And, there is a big difference. I believe the Korean chicken is fried twice. It has a sweet and spicy sauce that will have you licking your fingers after you have gnawed off all the meat that you can get off of the bone.

I went to Shin-Okubo, the Korean part of Tokyo and tried two restaurants, both disappointing. A dear friend suggested iro-kara near Omotesando. The kara-agé here was delicious but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I will be back as it was a nice, quick lunch. The chicken is fried after the order is placed and there is al fresco seating on the rooftop. The donburi is a generous serving of rice topped with the fried chicken, katsuobushi, leeks, and pickled ginger. A mash-up of kara-agé and takoyaki toppings.

Irokara2

There are several flavors, such as basil, curry, yuzu kosho, and ume shiso. We tried a few but nothing outstanding. Best to stick with the basic kara-agé.

Brimmer Beer is next doors, but not open at lunch time. There is also a curry stand next door. Could be fun to order a curry and top it with the fried chicken.

iro-kara

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 3-8-34

www.iro-kara.net

 

 

3rd Burger

Image

3rd Burger recently opened in the Ark Hills South Tower. I thought it was a new restaurant to Tokyo until I came across a second shop in the Aoyama/Omotesando area. The clientele in Aoyama is young and hip. Diners are given a buzzer after placing their order. Not exactly fast food, but the food does comes about five minutes during the busy lunch hour. The meaty burger is juicy and the fries are excellent. Burger options include avocado wasabi and basil and tomato. Burgers are served with fresh lettuce and tomatoes.  The only downside was that ketchup is given in small packets. Burgers start at about 400 JPY and fries at 300 JPY. 3rd Burger has a variety of smoothies in flavors like carrot, banana, and fresh tomatoes. The Aoyama shop is brightly lit and there is a communal table at the front of the shop. Now, if they would only open a shop on the Chuo Line.

3rd Burger

Minato-ku, Roppongi 1-4-5, Ark Hills South Tower B1

OR

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-11-2

Beacon Brunch

Image

Brunch at Beacon is a taste of America in Tokyo. David Chiddo works his magic at this urban chophouse located between Shibuya and Omotesando. I picked Beacon for Sunday brunch thinking I would go for a burger and martini. But, once I took a look at the menu the huevos rancheros jumped out of the menu and I am so glad I got it. I loved the green rice and beans. I was sad when the plate was empty. And, I could see that many others in the restaurant were enjoying the burger.

Image

Portions are generous, another nod to American brunches. The brunch menu includes a selection from the bread basket, fruit, and coffee, tea, or espresso drinks. My girlfriend who studied at university in Minnesota also felt right at home with this hearty plate of eggs Florentine. Many of our fellow diners were talking in English, something that I am not used to, so I totally felt like I was back in the USA. Staff are attentive and there is a great buzz in the restaurant. Diners are here to relax and be taken care of.

There is a counter if you are dining solo. Beacon’s a great spot for meeting friends at. It’s popular so reservations are highly recommended. If you are from America, you will feel right back at home. Other brunch menu highlights include Belgian waffles and fried chicken, steak and eggs, and almond French toast made with brioche.

One of Tokyo’s best brunches.

Beacon

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 1-2-5

03-6418-0077

Gotta Go – Utsuwa Kenshin

 Image

Asato Ikeda-san’s gorgeous pottery. I first came across these at Den in Jimbocho.

Image

Saké tastes better when served in something this beautiful.

Image

Bob Tobin and Hitoshi Ohashi of the Tobin Ohashi Gallery first introduced me to Kenshin Sato-san of Kenshin Utsuwa. When I asked chef Zaiyu Hasegawa-san of Den about these cups he too said that Kenshin Utsuwa would have these. I have been following Kenshin Utsuwa on Facebook as he  hosts many special events around the city. I contacted Sato-san and placed an order for the cups. Here I am picking up the cups and pourer. What I am holding is not what I bought, but a piece he had in his gallery.Image

Kenshin Utsuwa is a small, but well-stocked gallery in between Shibuya and Omotesando. I got lost finding it, so be sure to have a good map. This day there were several gorgeous pieces from a potter in Hokkaido.

Image

If you want to invest in some handcrafted pottery, be sure to visit Kenshin Utsuwa while in Tokyo. First though, call ahead and make sure the shop is open. As he hosts special showings throughout the city he often closes the gallery. The Kenshin Utsuwa Facebook page always is updated with his current shows.

Utsuwa Kenshin

http://www.utsuwa-kenshin.com

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-3-4, Star Building 2F

Phone and Fax: 03-6427-9782

Facebook page

Art on the Table by Asato Ikeda

Den29

It was the first time in my life that I held a cup in my hand and immediately fell in love with it. The light sky blue color, the rough and smooth texture that my fingers fell into, and the taste of the saké while holding something so beautiful. I couldn’t put it down.

I first held Asato Ikeda’s ceramic cup at Den in Jimbocho, chef Zaiyu Hasegawa’s brilliant restaurant. I thought someday I would invest in some of Ikeda-san’s pieces for myself. Even took a picture of the cup (photo above) so that I could remember it. And then, a few months later, Ikeda-san and his works were on television. Once more my heartstrings were pulled and my motivation to bring his craftsmanship into our home became a priority.

I did some searching online in Japanese and quickly lost hope. What few sites that did come up with his pieces were all sold out. I then reached out to Kenshin Sato of Kenshin Utsuwa. Bob Tobin and Hitoshi Ohashi of the Tobin Ohashi Gallery first introduced me to Sato-san last spring. I went to one of his special events at Ginza Mitsukoshi and we exchanged business cards.

This summer, while at Den, chef Hasegawa told me that Kenshin Utsuwa sells many pieces that are used at his restaurant, including Ikeda-san’s. I follow Kenshin Utsuwa on Facebook and reached out to him in Japanese in December. I sent him the photo of the cup from Den and asked him if he could find me some pieces. Just last week I got the e-mail telling me that I could stop by his shop this week. It’s a beautiful shop that is worth visiting if you are in Shibuya or Omotesando as it is just between the two. Just call ahead as he closes the shop if does special events around the city.

Ikeda

Welcome home! My birthday present from me to me.

Two small guinomi and a tokkuri with a lip for pouring sake or shochu.

Ikeda1We christened the cups with Shichihonyari which we bought at our new favorite sake shop in town, Oboro Saketen in Shinbashi.

The owner of Oboro Saketen, Okuma-san, studied at university for two years in Minnesota and speaks English.

Ikeda2

We love these nori cups for bite-size sushi that we picked up at Tsukiji Market. A small celebration to welcome these pieces to our home. I am already looking forward to using these tomorrow. I have enjoyed the journey. Holding something and wanting it, thinking of someday owning a piece of Ikeda-san’s artwork, and the help of friends to help make my little dream come true.

Kenshin Utsuwa

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-3-4

Urban BBQ Smokehouse by TY Harbor

Image

 BBQ and sauces

Chef David Chiddo of the TY Harbor group has several successful restaurants in the city including Cicada and Beacon. His most recent shop, Smokehouse, is an urban barbecue with a great list of craft beers, both domestic and from the USA, as well as one of the city’s best selection of American spirits. Smokehouse is conveniently located near Omotesando. It’s a casual place and great for meeting friends for a drink and good food. The store is kid-friendly and has a kids’ menu if you ask for it. Here is my review of Smokehouse in Metropolis magazine. Here I share some photos of the food and scene at Smokehouse.

Image

House BBQ sauces

Image

Smokehouse interior

Image

Chicken fingers kids’ lunch

Image

Smoked wings

Image

Iceberg wedge with blue cheese dressing

Image

Macaroni and cheese, okra, and creamed spinach sides

Image

Burger and onion rings
Image

Yamagata sausage and fries

Smokehouse

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-17-13

03-6450-5855

Smokehouse opened in October of 2013

New York Rings at The Roastery

Image

I finally scored a New York Ring from The Roastery. Somewhat similar to Dominique Ansel’s famous cronut, it is a doughnut made from croissant dough. While I hear that the cronut is filled with flavored creams, this is simply seasoned with a cinnamon sugar. It’s very rich and filling. And, like the cronut, not the easiest to get your hands on. The first time I went, early in the morning, soon after the store opened, I was told that the NY Rings are not brought to the store until 11 a.m. And, I was warned that they do sell out quickly and another batch comes around 1 p.m. It’s good. Just time your visit around the delivery times, if you want to guarantee you get one. The shop also had a bacon scone that looked good – will save that for a future visit.

The Roastery by Nozy Coffee

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-17-13

8:00 – 20:00

03-6450-5755

The New York Ring was much, much better than the copycat version made by Banderole.

Tokyo’s Best Mamé Daifuku

Image

Wagashi, traditional Japanese confectionaries, are often made with azuki, tiny red beans, and mochi, sticky rice pounded until its like a taffy. While I grew up eating some of these, I was never a big fan until I tried the mamé daifuku from Mizuho in Harajuku.

The smooth azuki paste is not too sweet. But what makes this sweet, about the size of my fist, are the ever-so-lightly salted black beans that are in the mochi. It is often listed in magazines and television programs as one of the best mamé daifuku in the city, and for good reasons.

Image

Mizuho is located on one of the narrow streets off of Omotesando. The shop opens at 8:30 a.m. and closes when it sells out. It is closed on Sundays.

If you are not a fan of wagashi, try Mizuho. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Mizuho 瑞穂

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 6-8-7