Tosayama Ginger Ale / 土佐山ジンジャーエール

A friend of mine transferred to Kochi prefecture from Tokyo said Tosayama Ginger Ale is really good so I searched the ginger ale.
Kochi is in Shikoku, which is south of Honshu and east of Kyushu, and it's Japan's largest producer of ginger.

Tosayama Ginger Ale is made in Kochi pref. and its remarkable point is they use JAS-certified organic gingers.

I bought a trial set which contains 2 types of ginger ales 3 bottles each.
01 Premium: dry ginger ale
02 Mild: milder and sweeter
In the box, there're several brochures about this product and also organic gingers.
According to the brochure, they also use headwaters of Kagamigawa river, one of the 100 best waters in Japan, and organic yuzu juice, hot pepper, and domestically-produced honey.

01 Premium;  A plentiful amount of organic gingers with spicy hot pepper.
02 Mild; Uses domestic honey as a secret flavor to give milder and sweeter taste.

Drink this ginger ale straight cold is of course good, and mix with red wine, beer, shochu, and vodka would be great, too.

Besides the flavor and ideas of the product, they mention how they grow the gingers.

The process written was 9 steps.
1. BM farming methods
The basic to produce safe and secure food is the soil, so they use BM compost.

2. Plowing
They start plowing the soil from winter and plant in the dirt.

3. Put up a net
Kochi is hit by typhoons so to protect the infant cane, they cover up the area.

4. Removing bugs
By hand, they remove bugs from plants.
This affects crop yields a lot.

5. Health check-up
They check the soil and the growing condition to fertilize earth.

6. Growth
Despite of the rain, wind, bugs, or heat of the summer, the gingers grow well.

7. Harvest
Before frosting, they start cropping at once.
The amount of the harvest won't reach that of common farming since they never used any agrichemicals or chemical fertilizer to produce this JAS-certified gingers.

8. Store
They store the gingers in pots which keeps certain temperature and humidity.
Once they surface changes into amber color, they ship them out.

9. Completion
Ginger has been used as Kampo for many years.

I tried "02 Mild" first.

As it contains honey, it had sweet taste and flavor in it.

However, you can see ginger sediments at the bottom, it made my throat slightly warm after I drank it.

Then I tried "01 Premium" afterward.

This ginger ale also had sullage of ginger.

It doesn't contain honey and that made me notice yuzu flavor more (02 Mild also uses yuzu, too).

One sip made my throat and stomach hot. 
There's another package design; dots version.)

This Tosayama Ginger Ale was totally different from the ones I've tried.
It's not only dry (spicy), but also you can actually taste the real ginger fragrance and taste.
And both made me feel warm and the soda bubble wasn't hurting my throat at all.
These bottle could be an adequate drink when you got a cold.


Fujiya Country Ma'am Vanilla Ice Cream /

Fujiya (a nationwide chain of confectionery stores and restaurants in Japan) and Akagi Nyugyo (a practical ice cream maker in Sitama perf., Japan) collaborated and launched this "Fujiya Country Ma'am Vanilla Ice Cream" September 25, 2012.

Country Ma'am is a cookie name of Fujiya and it's been brought out in July, 1984 and the very first batch was sold in Hokkaido, then this product gradually spread out all over Japan.

To those who are not familiar with Fujiya Country Ma'am, here're some history and its characteristics from the HP.

A model for Country Ma'am was American fresh-baked cookies which appeared in 1970s to 1980s.
Back in those days, mothers' handmade cookie was in rage and a large numbers of cookie shops opened in towns.
This wave surely came to Japan and some shops started cookie shops went hand-in-hand with big brands from the states.
A wide variety of cookies was available; nuts, dried fruits, and chocolate chips. 
Fujya's goal was to have "crispy outside, soft inside," but needless to say it couldn't be done in whim and even to explain the interesting texture to customers was hard.

This cookie was created with a lot of Kodawari, which means carefulness and meticulousness.
1. Cookie Dough: They created 2 types of dough to provide its famous "crispy outside, soft inside" cookie.
2. Chocolate Chips: They chose chocolate for exclusive use for Country Ma'am to give rich flavor to each bite.
3. Baking: They spend longer time to bake the cookies with low heat. With the lower heat, outside of cookie is crispy but the inside of the cookie stays moist. This also evokes chocolate flavor.
4. Constant Improvement: To make more and more tasty cookies, they prototype every day little by little. And it's more than 40 times since they launched this product and they would continue this preproduction operation.

This is a brief video (only in Japanese).

Ok, here comes details of Country Ma'am Vanilla Ice Cream.
This vanilla ice cream contains crushed Country Ma'am, so basically it tasted like cookie and cream ice cream.
However, Country Ma'am has its distinguished rich flavor and that made the ice cream much different from the regular, well-known, or so typical cookie and cream ice cream.
Dark dots were chocolate and light brown dices were soft-but-crunchy cookie dough.
Though, Country Ma'am isn't only sweet but also has slightly salty taste in it.
The hint of saltiness gave this smooth and sweet ice cream little accent and.

An interesting aspect is that this ice cream contains Shiro-an, which is white azuki beans.
"An" (a.k.a. azuki beans, sweet red beans) is usually used in Wagashi, Japanese-style confectioneries and not in Western ones.
*On the label, it says Shiro-an but in the parentheses it says kidney beans, sugar, and starch syrup so it means they call it Shiro-an but technically they're not using any An made from azuki beans.
But as I didn't really notice any of those flavor, it wasn't something shocking to me.

To find this ice cream, I literally went to 10 conbini near my house and office on the launching day.
I finally found one of the conbini chain called Mini Stop and so happy to get this.
When I was at the cashier, I said, "None had this ice cream except here!" and then the clerk said she's surprised and some of the shops might have lost all the stocks.
Phew, lucky and so glad to try this ice cream.

If you wanna try this but can't find it, I'm sure if you crash Country Ma'am cookies and mix with Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream, it'd be pretty much the same but cost-efficient.
Content : 121 ml
Calories: 231 kcal
Protein : 2.9 gm
Fat: 11.2 gm
Carbs: 29.9 gm
Natrium: 71mg

Price: 126 JPY

Allergic component: wheat, milk, and egg

Available at conbini and supermarket


Ramen "Nagi" in Shinjuku Golden Gai / 新宿ゴールデン街 ラーメン凪

I've been searching ramen shops in Shinjuku area.
There're many shops where they use pork bone, chicken, and/or dried sardine broth.

One of the highest reviewed shops is located in Shinjuku Golden Gai.
Golden Gai is East side of Shinjuku station and famous for bars and tiny eating places.
The history starts back in 1950s. It used to be a black market and most of the shops here are wooden row houses which were built after WWII.
In this area, approximately 200 shops carry on business.

The ramen shop Nagi is sort of near the Shinjuku city office.
Near the city hall, there's a little and dark stone path that leads you to Golden Gai.
On the second row of narrow path, make a right turn, and walk for roughly 15 steps, there's Nagi.
The sign is not loud but it was easy to find since there're a flat wooden board, lighting sign on the wall and also paper lantern.
Nagi in Golden Gai uses dried sardine broth and according to the website, more than 50gm of dried sardine is used per bowl. (Not sure if it's a lot or not...)
I've had dried sardine broth before, I could imagine what it's like yet I was also sure that each place has its own distinguished flavor in it.

At the entrance, there's a skinny and simple red lighting box.
The white light box says, "We're open on the 2nd floor."
To learn this place, I checked some reviews and they said the steps are really steep and narrow (it's on the 2nd floor).
And I was like, "Oh my god, it was true..."
This is how it looks from the ground floor.
Going up without the wooden handrails wasn't difficult but if I had worn high heels, I would have grabbed it for sure.

In front of the final steps, there's a vending machine to buy tickets of ramen and topping.
When I got to the 2nd floor, I could smell strong broth.
When I was wondering what the difference between Niboshi (dried sardine) Ramen and Special Niboshi Ramn, the waiter explained me kindly.
Niboshi Ramen: A slice of char siu, seaweed, naganegi onion, and mianma (bamboo shoots).
Special Niboshi Ramen: 2 slices of char siu, seaweed, naganegi onion, mianma, and Aji-Tama.
Aji-Tama is an abbreviated word for Ajitsuke-Tamago, which is "seasoned egg" in English.
It's usually soft boiled egg cooked with soy sauce based broth, so the outside of the egg (egg white) is brown, and the tone of the color varies as it depends on how the ramen shop cooks the eggs.

It was my first visit, so I went with a simple ordinary Niboshi ramen this time.

There're 10 seats at the counter and it's so tiny that your shoulder might touch the person next to you.
Besides once people sat on the chair, it'd not be that easy to walk behind them.

I handed the ticket at the table and they started making my ramen.
There're more waiters than customers due to the sudden and heavy rain, and they're all joking about it.
"You must be pressured as we're watching you eat."
"How did you find this place? Do you write blog in English? Oh, we have several shops in Hong Kong and Jakarta."
"This guy is most attractive worker here."

Yes, super talkative male waiters.
After about 10 minutes, Niboshi ramen was served.
And it didn't feel that long as I was chatting with them while waiting.

When I was about to take a photo, one of the waiters rotated the bowl and joked, "This is the ideal angle, sorry, my co-worker isn't smart enough."

It was totally different from the one I had before in another ramen shop.
This broth was darker and not fatty looking.
I had a sip of the soup, and it had salty and soy sauce based flavor with heavy fragrance of dried sardine.
It made me think I was eating slow-grilled savory fish without any piece of fish in the soup. 

And the noodle was interesting. 
In one bowl, you get to try 2 types of noodles.
This yellow noodle was wavy and thick. 
The texture was lighter than Udon noodle but it was pretty strong.
As it's wavy, the noodle caught the soup pretty well.

On the right side, you can see a flat white noodle.
This is called "Ittan Momen."
It's a character's name in "GeGeGe no Kitaro," and it looks like this.
This Ittan Momen noodle was thin and was similar to won ton skin.
However, it's a very large and flattened noodle like large version of fettocine.
It was incredibly smooth and a little bit hard to pick up with chopsticks.

Mianma was thin sliced and it also had intense soy sauce taste with sesame seeds.
Those mianma I'm used to is much lighter color and not salty like this.

Naganegi onion was chopped into a little dice size and it was crispy and crunchy so that it gave the ramen some fresh and additional texture.

Their char siu was sliced thick, about 5mm, well seasoned.
It was hard to bite off, which is far from my preference; I love soft char siu which tears and fall off from the chopsticks when I try to pull up from the soup.

The soup had a great flavor of dried sardine but to me it was a bit too salty.
However, as the soup was thick, it may have gone well with a bowl of rice after finishing all the noodles (and actually they have side menu of "a bowl of rice" if you'd like).
I was too full to get it, but maybe next time when I'm seriously starving.

When I was about to leave, they asked me if I had umbrella with me and also to be careful for the step as it's slippy.
I thought it was really thoughtful of them and they did to all the customers who came in there.
Many could provide decent food but some won't give good atmosphere or service with it.
Even though I was there by myself, I didn't get bored or felt lonely thanks to them.
If there's no waiting line outside, it'd be interesting to talk with them.

Ramen "Nagi" / ラーメン凪
2F, 1-1-10,
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo


Monday to Saturday; 11:30AM - 3:00PM, 6:00PM - 5:00AM (following morning)
Sundays and holidays; 11:30AM - 3:00PM, 6:00PM - 2:00AM (following morning)

Closed on every 3rd Sunday (opens only daytime).


Halloween Oreo / ハロウィーン オレオ

Not only costume industries get busy around this time, but also food companies are launching limited selections, too.

Nowadays Japan has been following the Western culture yet the brightness of the color and the range of foods are not comparable.

Nabisco started selling Halloween Oreo and I'm lucky enough to try this.
On the package, there're 3 witches.
2 of them are mixing a big pot which contains orange liquid and the other witch is instructing with a book saying, 
"5 Boorific Shapes 
orange colored cream
   same great taste!"

It was my first time to pay attention on the package and to the details on it.
And I was actually happy to see the cream has normal flavor as the regular Oreo has.

On the side of package, there's a photo of the Halloween special Oreo and witch flying on a bloom in front of full moon.
The color of orange cream looked as vivid as cheddar cheese.

Back side of the package has all the different embossed surface.
Clockwise from top left; 
Ghost with bats, 
Pumpkins (Jack O'Lantern), 
Witch on a bloom flying in the night sky (with stars and crescent moon), and 
Cat with bats (with stars and horned moon).

Let's see the cookies inside!
Pulling the "lift" tab, it's easy to open and you can close the lid to keep the cookies fresh.
(Not sure since when they use this special sticking cover.)

Same as the package, the cream has vivid orange color.
Smelled exact flavor which I'm used to when I eat Oreo.

I tried all of the 5 patterns and it was fun to look for them since they're packed randomly.

Needless to say, they tasted so good. 
I think I like the regular Oreo flavor the most.
However, I also wonder what if they had used pumpkin flavor in the filling.
Personally, I'm positive that they can pull it off really well.

I should have checked my tongue to see if it became orange from the artificial coloring....


Souffle Pancake and French Toast at Hoshino Coffee /

Nowadays, pancake is so famous and many pancake shops are opening in busy areas in Tokyo like Shibuya, Harajuku, Omotesando, and etc.

However, this Hoshino Coffee shop has been making pancakes before the pancake boom has arrived.

A reputed pancakes of Hoshino Coffee shop are souffle pancakes.
Like the name has "souffle," it's like souffle.
Also, another distinguished point is that the pancakes are prepared in a kiln.

As the shop serves coffee mainly, the atmosphere was nice and quiet.

The lighting wasn't bright and it was slightly dark.

The front of the menu was so simple and modest in which I couldn't imagine they serve such a soft and puffed up pancakes.

Besides on the front, it only mentions coffee how they choose the beans, drip, and serve to customers.

On the first page, there's a list of coffee and on the second page, there're some other beverages.

And on the third page, there're gratin, pasta, doria (rice casserole), french toast, etc.
On the fourth page, finally there're souffle pancakes.
It takes about 20 minutes to make this pancake as they make it after getting order each time.
On the menu, with little font, they have a word for caution.
Also, when you place an order, they'd mention again that it'd take 20 minutes.

We ordered french toast and souffle pancake "double."
French toast came first, which doesn't take that long.
In a iron pan, thick sliced french toast was sitting with ice cream looking like whipped cream.
Served with a little glass jar of maple syrup.
While pouring the maple syrup, we could see the whipped cream started melting into bread.
This bread was really really soft and thick.
It kind of made me think of Yamazaki Double Soft (a name of bread).

It was open kitchen and we could see when they're dripping coffee and taking out pancakes from the special oven, which looked like soft-version of cream puff.

A load of pancakes were taken out from the oven, removed from souffle pan, and finished with whipped margarine (or butter) on the top and they're waiting on the counter to be served.

Finally my pancake came to our table.
From the distance, I could tell it's puffed up high and tall.

This is how it looks. Yes, it's tall.
Each pancake was about 3-4cm (1-1.5 inch).

I put iPhone next to pancake to show how tall this is.
*The plate had slight tilt to it so actually it was about the same height as iPhone 4.
Outside of the pancake was crispy not like regular pancake I've had before.
Those tended to be just soft and no crust on the surface.
Inside of the pancake was definitely soft and moist.
The sponge absorbed maple syrup well and got heavy so that to have a big piece on a fork was difficult and the pancake fell apart.
I learned to cutting it smaller pieces were better without making a mess.

Double was 680 JPY, and single was 530 JPY.
Regardless of little difference, I wanted to have double to see how big it would be from the first.

As they had some other non-sweet plates, I'd love to go back there and try some of them.
Pepperidge Farm: Milano Slices Sweet Toffee

I've been a fan of Pepperidge Farm products and tried several cookies when I'm lucky enough to find them in Japan.

So far, I've had these items below.
Original Milano,
Mint Milano,
Sausalito Milk Chocolate Macadamia,
Tahoe White Chocolate Macadamia,
Double Chocolate Nantucket Dark Chocolate, and
Goldfish Crackers (a bunch of flavors)

This time, I first tried Milano Slices Sweet Toffee.

Milano Slices have chocolate on a side of thin cookie, but it's left as it is and not covered with another slice.
So, you can see the chocolate with toffee on cookies basically.

I've never tried any of Pepperidge Farm cookie which doesn't look like a sandwich (chocolate between 2 slices of cookies).

Back side of the package says, 

"Discover this thin, crispy cookie covered in a layer of rich chocolate topped with delightfully sweet toffee... Just a small slice of heaven!"

Yes, I need to experience the heaven.

Nutrition Facts.

150kcal for 3 cookies, which is about the same calories of one bowl of rice.

But who cares? Tasty things are sometimes bad for you, and even though you know that, you'd still eat them anyway.

Baked with no artificial flavors or preservatives (just one more reason why they're so good).

This line also made me expect a lot for this cookie.

Time to open the bag...

I see cookies! I see chocolate!! And little toffee chunks!!!
Usually, most of their cookies have same fragrant of chocolate only, however, this one had sweet caramel flavor with the ordinary chocolate scent.

Luckily they have 3 paper cups with 5 cookies each, so I can easily pour the fallen off toffee chunks into my mouth.

Size and shape of the cookie was well-known oval and about 8cm (2.5 inch.).

I'd say this chocolate was not milk chocolate but more like dark chocolate since they sprinkled crunchy toffee over it.

Cookie had a shortcrust texture and the chocolate was smooth.
It was definitely a tasty cookie but one slice wasn't enough for me of course.
I had maybe 3-4 cookies and pour the toffee in a paper cup into my mouth.
It was definitely a moment of heaven.


Tokyo Disneyland: Halloween has just started!

Every year, Tokyo Disneyland and Disney sea have Halloween for about 2 months.

This year, they started the autumn season special event from September 7th and it will go on till October 31st.

Halloween is supposed to be on October 31st, yes, we know. 
September is still damn hot and sunlight is brutal, thus it hardly has resemblance to fall at all...

However, considering they provide special decoration at the park besides hotel rooms, goods,  accessories, cookie tins, buffet, course menu, or Halloween costumed Mickey Mouse drawing class, running this special seasonal event for 2 months is a quite good length since some only can aim to go there on weekends. 

Anyways, we went to Disneyland on September 8th, Saturday and it's the first weekend after they launched Halloween.

Our mission was pretty much to try the Halloween only snacks plus to draw special Mickey in the drawing class.

All the foods we tried that day are the following.

(1) Center Street Coffeehouse 
It's a set menu and comes with plain yogurt with strawberry sauce in a small bowl, 2 pancakes with Mickey face, and you can choose one drink.

A waitress at the reception informed us that they'd changed this pancake and it had been Mickey face shaped but now it's Mickey face PRINTED. 
I didn't know the old style so I didn't really care or less.

Pancake was quite good! Flavorful and soft yet had light spongy texture.
*This is an year-long menu.

Close look of the Mickey pancake.
Available at Center Street Coffee House from 8:00AM - 10:00AM.

(2) Pumpkin Parfait
Pumpkin pudding, sauce, rice puffs, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin ice cream, vanilla ice cream with chocolate ghost.

Pumpkin pudding was really rich and pumpkin seeds and rice puffs gave a nice punch and crispness to the melty soft ice cream.

The ghost peeking out was definitely cute.

Available at Troubadour Tavern and Squeezer's Tropical Juice Bar.

(3) Pumpkin Churro
They usually have cinnamon, maple, and strawberry churros in Disneyland but during Halloween, some of the concession stands stop selling cinnamon or maple and only have pumpkin churro.
We always think this pumpkin flavor should be year-around flavor.

Available at Pecos Bill Cafe and Lucky Nugget Cafe.

(4) Halloween Special Buffet at Crystal Palace

As I mentioned, they have Halloween special buffet at some restaurants.
It's easier and more choice than fixed course menu, I think.

To bring the Halloween theme to the buffet area, some of the dishes were decorated with purple sauce, patterns of witch, pumpkin, bats, Jack O'lantern, and so on.

Pumpkin Croquet
Cut into half pumpkin croquet with purple sauce.
The pumpkin was sweet and it was better than regular croquet.

Jambalaya with bat motif and black sausage.
The rice was shaped into coffin first but when I got there, it was already dug in.
It was more like ketchup rice than jambalaya.

Rice Omlet Balls 
Rice Omlet Balls with ghost shaped tortilla chips.
Can you find them soaking or dancing in the sauce?
There're only 3 ghosts in one bawl so to get the chips was competitive.

Like rice omlet, this little balls were made from eggs and ketchup rice inside.
These balls looked like takoyaki (octopus ball).

Pumpkin gnocchi gratin
Only 2 Jack O'lantern shaped chips were set on the whole gratin. 
I got this chips also with ghost shaped one on the rice omlet balls ;)

This pumpkin gnocchi gratin was amazing.
I love the texture of gnocchi and the taste of sweet pumpkin.

Broccoli and salmon's quiche
The red part is supposed to be a witch on a bloom facing to the left.
I couldn't get a chance to take oven fresh one.

Honey Cake
A lot of ghost-shaped chocolates on little cakes.

Pumpkin roll cakes
This pumpkin roll cake was super soft and the cream was rich.
It was one-bite size.

Chocolate brownie
Chocolate brownie with white sugar decoration of Jack O'lantern on the surface.
This Jack O'lantern has 2 ears like Mickey.

I bought some Halloween tins for me.
I Don't Bite
In a coffin shaped black tin, individually packed chocolate and cookie.

Halloween 2012
Inside of this orange tin, there're several varieties of cookies.
Big Jack O'lantern Mickey was placed on the center.
Underneath the big Mickey, little Mickey lanterns were hiding.

<<Except the Mickey pancake, they're all Halloween season only.>>

It has just started last week and I can't wait to go to Disney Sea to try some other limited foods, too.