Gurakoro of McDonald's / マックのグラコロ

McDonald's Japan launched Gurakoro and Demi Cheese Gurakoro on November 14, 2012 and it's 20th anniversary of this menu.
Gurakoro is an abbreviation of Guratan Korokke (Gratin Croquette).
Instead of meat patty, they put gratin croquette with shredded cabbage between steamed soft bums.

This is the official image of Gurakoro.
The first Guratan Korokke was produced back in 1993, and it's been a winter limited menu except 2010 when they had "Big America" campaign.
Around 2007, the commonly called name "Gurakoro" became an official name for this.
Last year, 2011, they had Tomato Cream Gurakoro, which some of my friends liked and other didn't, but I didn't get a chance to try it so I can't tell.

The croquette is white sauce based cream with shrimp and macaroni and really creamy.
Underneath the croquette, there're shredded cabbage and egg/mayonnaise sauce.
Sweet and salty sauce is over the croquette.

Demi Cheese Gurakoro has same gratin croquette but it has an additional toppings; demiglace sauce and cheese.

I decided to have the regular Gurakoro for my today's late lunch close to 4PM and ran to McD. near my office ordered the regular one to go.
I hate mayo, so I asked them not to put the mayo.

On a paper wrapping with "Made for You" sticker as I asked no mayo.

As it's wrapped in paper for 3 minutes or so, the bum shrunk a little bit.
You can tell it's the steamed bum, not the regular one for other burgers.
But I didn't see any flood of sauce over the gratin... 
And I was wondering if they had taken the sauce away, too.
Here it is, but I call it lazy sauce.
I wanted more sauce!
I'll ask them next time to put more sauce to make it look like exactly the image.

First bite.
Mmmm, Gurakoro... So good....
I hadn't had this for a while and realized I had missed Gurakoro.
Started thinking when was the last time I had this.
It was at least 5 years ago and I remembered mine came with the egg mayo sauce though I asked them not to. 
This is the reason I kid of stopped eating Gurakoro.

Outside of the croquette was really crispy (as it's freshly fried) and inside was really creamy.
I could taste shrimp in the sauce, too.
You can see macaroni on the right side and right next to it, there's a piece of little shrimp.

The finely chopped cabbage added crunchiness to the soft creamy sauce and also to the steamed soft bum.

Even though this is one of my favorite menu, I don't want it all year around.
Gratin croquette is something I want for cold season and not adequate for humid summer.

This year, they'll have Gurakoro till middle of December but as it's limited, not sure if all the McD. has stocks till then. 

I might give it a try for Demi Cheese Gurakoro sometime soon while supply lasts.

By the way, a picture of Gurakoro has been retweeted a lot with the fact of Gurakoro.
As you can easily picture that Gurakoro consists of tons of flour.
This is the famous image and all the parts pointed by arrows are made with flour.
But I love carbs, so I don't really care.


Debu Pan: #1 / デブパン:その1

I've been using a home bakery, which a small and household use bakery machine since Sept. 2012.

I've made regular loaves and dinner rolls, but I started thinking to try something fun.
What I thought of was "to ad snacks into the dough" and my interest didn't stop me doing this when I found a snack weird but didn't wanna toss it away.

It's actually adding snacks' calories into the bread, so it's not healthy at all, I knew it, but I really wanted to experiment.
And I recently named this "snack-in-bread" as "DEBU PAN."
Debu means fat in Japanese (colloquial)
Pan means bread.

For the first trial run, I used Caramel Corn, which is a long-seller (since 1971) sweet snack from Tohato, a snack maker and a shareholder with more than 95% is Yamazaki.

They produce season limited flavors and this time they created larger sized snacks with brulee flavor for fall/winter.
The each Caramel Corn's size was 5 times bigger than the regular ones.
I usually enjoy Caramel Corn, but even though the flavor was nice, I didn't like the size.
It's really sweet, so I wish it was regular size...

So,,,, that's the time my idea popped up.
"Put the snack into dough."
I took out a regular bread recipe and decrease the bread wheat and flour as I'm adding more non-liquid-but-more-curbs to the dough.

Here's what I did.

Bread wheat (strong flour): 190g
All purpose flour: 30g
1 small beaten egg
Milk: 140ml (low fat <- just because...)
Yeast: 3g

A pinch of salt
Margarine: 20g
Caramel Corn (Brulee): 50g ---Originally it was 80g but we had some before and it's less by the time I used for Debu Pan.

1. Put every thing except crushed Caramel Corn into the bread machine.
This is pretty important; if you put the snack from the first, it'd totally get  shattered and disappear.

2. Choose "regular bread (pain de mie, sandwich loaf)" mode.

3. Let the machine make the dough and add roughly crushed caramel corn when the machine beeps (or when the machine is almost done with making dough).
4. Wait till all the process is done.

This is it.

While it's baking the bread, it smelled really sweet.
We couldn't see much Caramel Corn in it when it's baked.
Maybe next time I'd add non-broken ones.

Tasted slightly sweeter than regular bread, but it didn't have much the famous Caramel Corn flavor.
I think I had to put the whole bag or even more.

Even though it was my first Debu Pan, it turned out good enough for me!


Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Grahams Vanilla Cupcake

Pepperidge Farm's Goldfish has a lot of flavors and I got a chance to try Vanilla Cupcake.

As Smore's one, it's one of the  whole grain line.
The package made it easy to imagine the flavor: cupcake.
The cupcake image at the bottom left has frosting with colorful chocolate sprinkles.
We somehow call it "chocolate spray" in Japanese.

I love sweets so I was as excited as when I was about to try S'mores Goldfish.
Wooooo, smiley Goldfishes are lying there.
I could see green, blue, orange, and pink little dots in the fish-shaped cookies.
However, unlike the S'mores, this didn't have much sweet cupcake scent.
I'm amazed how fine these color dots were grained.
I just think the S'mores was so good that none can really beat it.
S'mores Goldfish consists of light brown and chocolate color cookies and white marshmallows, but this cupcake was a bit plain.
It'd have been more enchanting if this had sugar coating over the cookies and more colorful sprinkles to resemble actual cupcakes.

Another reason that I couldn't enjoy this was the timing.
I got this package around September, and even though it's not opened and it's kept in dark and cold, somehow this cookie went slightly bad.
When I opened this bag, it had oxidized oil flavor came out and also it had weird taste; not bad, yet not good.
I should have eaten this earlier!


Afternoon Tea at The Lobby Lounge in Ritz-Carlton / 
リッツカールトン東京 ザ・ロビーラウンジのアフタヌーンティー

We decided to visit the top 5 afternoon teas in Tokyo, and the list was on CNN news site.
According to the ranking, the list was the following.
1. Mandarin Oriental
2. The Four Seasons Tokyo Chinzanso
3. The Shangri-La
4. Peninsula
5.The  Ritz-Carlton

"Tokyo's 5 best hotel high tea experiences"

We tried to make reservation from the top one but top 4 were all full and finally could get a table at The Ritz-Carlton for Sunday. --- Well, we called Saturday afternoon, which was a day before, so we're really lucky to get a table.

The Lobby Lounge is located on the 45st floor with 8.1m height of ceiling, where the main lobby is, and afternoon tea is available from noon to 5PM every day.
There're 2 types of afternoon teas; The Ritz-Carlton Original Afternoon Tea and Heavenly Tea.
The difference was finger foods. The Original has more expensive seafood and delicacies. (7,500 JPY which is inclusive tax but added 13% of service fee.)
We're not big fan of foie grais or canard, we chose the other one, Heavenly Tea.

We're guided to a table and saw all the tables without customers were already set nicely.
Napkins were folded into a rose shape (or some kind of flower).
On each table, there're an apple with a white bird display.
A decorative pot of sugars and 4 jams were there, too.
They're strawberry, apricot, orange marmalade, and pure honey.

When we're seated, they brought menu books of yellow hard cover with flower prints.

Heavenly Tea
Tea list
First, hot wet towels with Ritz-Carlton's lion symbol were brought.
The towel smelled pepper mint. --- I didn't wipe my face, just I smelled it.

And a little bit later our tea came.
I ordered The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo Special Blend (chocolate flavor) and he ordered Tea Master's Special Selected Tea (rose flavor). 
My tea looked dark enough and had cinnamon-ish flavor instead of chocolate, or it was more like cocoa flavor and no sweet flavor.
Tea Master's Special had thin yellow and looked like a water with yellow ink to be honest, and had a similar flavor to camomile flavor, not rose.

Then we waited for high tea for a while, maybe 20 minutes.
On the top, there're 5 kinds of desserts, second plate was filled with finger foods and the bottom was two types of scones and clotted cream).

We started the second plate, finger foods.
I took all the kinds except the chicken salad as it's full of mayonnaise (topped with orange in the photo above).
Clockwise from the top, smoked salmon sandwich, mini sandwich with curried egg salad and shrimp, pate, and goat cheese.
I can eat goat cheese but it's no my favorite besides the cheese was as big as the mini baguette and was thicker than 5mm.
After having first bite with half of the cheese, I took the cheese off from the bread...

Moved on to the bottom plate, scones.
2 types of scones; blueberry (left) and lemon (right).
Both were deliciously risen high and had buttery flavor with golden top. 
Each scone had about 4cm diameter and 6cm height.
(Photo above is with strawberry)
I tried all the little jams and I liked apricot the best with clotted cream. 
Apricot: sweet but also had some soury taste.
Strawberry: really sugar-sweet.
Orange marmalade: bitter and fresh flavor
Honey: this is the only jar out of 4 without sugar, but as the flavor was too strong, I couldn't taste the scone's butter flavor well with this.
Both scones were crispy and had rich butter flavor and taste.

Finally we tried sweets plates, which we named diabetes plate.
From the left to right in front of the glass cases, montmorency, caramel macaroon, chestnut sweet potato tartlet, Uji green tea cake.
Glass cases are soy milk blanc-manger.

Cherries soaked in brandy were used and it had a strong alcohol flavor. If you're seriously weak with alcohol, I'd recommend to have a little bite before you finish this up at once.
The pie crust was crispy and whipped cream was smooth but medium rich.

Soy Milk Blanc-Manger:
The white stuff is a rice dumpling topped with gold leaf and chestnut.
The sauce was milky and had some sort of tea flavor. Blanc-manger was so soft, velvety, and light.
I think this was the most refreshing dessert out of 5 on the plates.

Uji Green Tea Cake:
Green tea cake at the bottom, white jelly, green tea jelly with whipped cream and azuki bean (sweet red bean) with a decoration of green pine straw.
As the pine straw isn't edible, we took it out first.
I could taste a strong bitter green tea flavor in it.
Most of the desserts with green tea is made sweet so this cake surprised me.

Caramel Macaroon:
Chocolate stripes on the top and it was a crispy macaroon but also had sticky texture as it needs to have.
Inside, there's thick caramel filling and it was bitter sweet.
I could both smell almond flavor (from the shell) and caramel, and it was a great combination.

Chestnut Sweet Potato Tartlet:
Spaghetti looking sweet potato is covered with sparkly gilt dots.
Top was soft and tartlet was crispy so I could enjoy different texture and taste from one sweet.

Note: Live music (piano)
From 2:30PM to 4:30PM, there's a pianist and plays the grand piano at the lounge.

<Personal Evaluation>
View: 3 out of 5

According to CNN's link, The Lobby Lounge is located in the tallest building in Tokyo, but unless you're seated near the window, you won't be able to see much and just seeing the distance, which doesn't let you see how tall you're as it's impossible to see the bottom of the building.
Due to the sunlight coming from in front of me, you can't see the outside in this photo, but mainly we're seeing some building and lands in far away places.

Food: 3 out of 5
Finger foods, sweets and scone were good, but we didn't have any favorite in the finger foods.

Tea: 2 out of 5
I've been to afternoon tea for a couple of times (in a hotel but not in Ritz-Carlton), I could change tea leaves and get different beverages as many times as I wish, so I was expecting the same service.
However, here, the Lobby Lounge doesn't do that. I asked if it's possible to change tea afterwards, the waitress said only one tea is served.
The pot was full so we could get about 4 cups of tea.
They kept the pot over a little candle so that the post and the water inside were always warm, but as the leaves were sitting in the pot all the time and they didn't add water, the last 3rd or 4th cup of tea was really really strong and bitter. If it's acceptable, you might wanna ask them to add some hot water in the pot before serving after 3rd cup.

Service: 3 out of 5
As we wore a winter coats, they offered a cloak and they took care of before we asked or even thought of it.
We have some issues with the food. One doesn't eat pork or shellfish, the other doesn't like mayo.
We mentioned those issues except mayo part because as long as the amount of mayo they use is little, I can handle it.
The waitress bend her knees to listen to our request carefully and made an offer to switch some finger foods to some others on the menu. 
When the high tea came to us, we had 1 shrimp and pate instead of two, then they added 1 more chicken salad (total 3 cups) and salmon sandwiches (total 3 sets).
We're thankful that they're flexible but maybe it'd make it easier to ask them in advance if there's any special request.
It took them a while to adjust, I assume, they prepared our high tea and served us first, then served other tables after us. I thought it was nice of them to keep the order.
Sometimes it took them for a while to take our order, notice that our cups were almost empty and also bring us the bill given that it's almost full, I understand, and of course they said that they're sorry for keeping us waiting.

Fee: I think it's understandable charge as it's a luxurious hotel afternoon tea.
3,900 JPY (tax included) + 13% service charge = 4,407 JPY

The Lobby Lounge (45st floor in Ritz-Carlton Tokyo)
Tokyo Midtown
9-7-1, Akasaka,
Minato-ku, Tokyo

ザ・ロビーラウンジ(ザ・リッツ・カールトン東京 45階)
東京都港区赤坂9-7-1 ミッドタウン


Kirin Gogo no Kocha 
    European Style Winter Special Apple & Ginger
キリン 午後の紅茶  
    ヨーロピアンスタイル Winter Special アップル&ジンジャー

Kirin Beverage Company ltd., founded in 1963, launched new limited flavor in Gogo no Kocha line on November 6, 2012.

Gogo no Kocha, which means afternoon tea, is one of the famous product in Kirin and this was brought to the market in 1986.
We call it "Gogo tea" as a short form with Gogo and Kocha ( = black tea in English).

Brief description of Gogo no Kocha:
The very first one launched in 1986, and the flavor was just a plain black tea (called "straight tea") in 1.5 litter pet bottle. The purpose was to renovate the English tea beverage market with industry's first bottled one since there're only canned English tea.
Following this, from 1988 to 1989, they started selling Lemon Tea and Milk Tea, which are the current regular 3 lines and became one of the leader products of Kirin.

Product name is a direct translation of afternoon tea which Anna Maria (Anna Russell, Duchess of Duke of Bedford VII) first ever started.
Thus, on Gogo no Kocha package, you can see her upper torso with decorated big hat.
One of the female employees came up with this name.
According to PR team in Kirin, a popularity ranking of the regular 3 is "Straight Tea" in the first place followed by "Milk Tea" and "Lemon Tea."
From 2001, it's also available in China and Taiwan, and in 2009, they started selling in Thailand, too.

Ok, this winter flavor's full name is 
Kirin Gogo no Kocha European Style Winter Special Apple & Ginger / 
キリン 午後の紅茶ヨーロピアンスタイル Winter Special アップル&ジンジャー
Such a long name...
This new limited flavor's motif is Christmas tea, which is much-loved in Europe.
Also they added Snow White on the package.
I guess it's apple flavor, so it's easy to see why Snow White is there.

On the back side, there's a witch with apple in the hands with deceiving smile.

On the side, there's a little story of this product.
This is an authentic flavored tea to enjoy the ingredients.
Everyone knows the princess in a country.
This sweet apple with spicy ginger flavored tea express the one scene of pretty Snow White with apple red cheeks and the witch trying to trap her.
You'll be in wonderland once you drink this tea.

When I bought this, I thought it'd have strong ginger flavor and less sweet apple flavor.
However, I didn't really taste much ginger and it had great amount of sweet taste with apple scent.
Maybe a hint of ginger right before apple flavor disappeared. 

Cute package, interesting taste, and sometimes you can find this in a supermarket and sold cheaper than retail price in conbini. --- I bought this from a supermarket and was sold around 100 yen instead of 140 yen.
To try something new and limited flavor, I think it's easily accepted by anyone even those who are not big fun of ginger.


Zeitaku Chocolat (limited edition) / 

Calbee Inc. launched limited flavor collaborated with Royce called "Zeitaku Chocolat."
Zeitaku means rich, fine, and luxurious.
Royce' is a chocolate company based in Sapporo, Hokkaido and was founded in 1983.
Its famous product is ganache which only contains 17% of moisture content.
There're directly owned shops mainly in Sapporo and also entire Hokkaido, but they also have online shops.
I found a section sells Royce' chocolate and some other stuff in Narita International Airport, too.
Calbee potato chips x Royce' chocolate reminds me of Royce's chips.
Royce' has been selling chocolate covered potato chips and it was quite tasty.
So it wasn't surprising that Calbee launched salty chips with chocolate.

On the package, しお味に、チョコっと甘さを♪ 
Shio aji ni, choco to amasawo ♪ means "on salty chips, add a hint of sweetness"
*choco is a shorten way we say chocolate and also "chototto" means a little bit, a hint of.

As you can see the images of the chips inside, it's not fully covered but there're lines on zigzag-cut chips.

On the back side, there's a description of this chips.
"Topped with Royce's special chocolate.
Thick-sliced potato chips with sweet and smooth Royce' chocolate topping.
Saltiness  and sweetness matches really well, please enjoy this rich taste."

Underneath, there's Royce' company info.
"Royce' is a chocolate maker in Hokkaido founded in 1983. They produce more than 200 kinds of chocolate and other confectioneries. Especially, 'Royce' ganache (nama chocolate)' is the most popular line and it uses selected chocolate and fresh cream from Hokkaido. These 2 special ingredients create the phenomenal smoothness and this ganache is an unshakable popularity of all the Royce' products.

Inside of the bag, you can see lines of chocolate are only on one side.
This is a close look.
The chips were thicker than regular potato chips.
Saltiness went well with the famous Royce' chocolate really good.
I've tried white chocolate one before, which was from Calbee and using white chocolate, they're just awful...
However, this Royce' one was really good.
I wonder if it's only because they used Royce' or they used different amount of salt on chips.
I'm interested in how they manufacture the chips and draw lines on such a bumpy-cut chips without dripping into the channels.


Jagarico Clam Chowder / じゃがりこ クラムチャウダー

A little information of Jagarico. Jagarico is one of the popular snacks from Calbee inc. and its first rollout was back in 1995.
Main ingredient of this snack is potatoes and they steam and form the potatoes into skinny strips with about 7-8cm long and fry them.
And the fried potatoes are in a cup like cup noodles.

Jagarico generates 25 billion yen in annual sales (as of Oct. 2011) and is best face of Calbee.

When they developed this snack, they focused on high school girls hailing around the world with loose socks, which was super popular among young girls to wear with school uniform.
And they imagined a product they'd carry in their bags and created this Jagarico in a cup.

They thought of the product name and there're "Karitto Potato (crispy potato)" "Potekky (have no idea what they meant) " "Slim Potato" and etc.
When young developing team members were discussing, one of the male employees said, "A friend of mine, Rikako seemed to enjoy this snack." 
And they started making the name; "Jagaimo Rikako" --> "Jaga Rikako" --> "Jagarico"
*Jagaimo means potato in Japanese.

Now move on to its limited flavor "Clam Chowder."
Calbee launched limited version of Jagarico with clam chowder flavor.

Now Halloween is gone and majority of companies including snack industries is moving on to Christmas and winter themed products.

As regular clam chowder is made from clams, potatoes, onions, and other vegetables, so I thought it'd taste quite good.

This actually contains powered extract of clams, scallops, and oysters besides chicken extract, heavy cream, onions, carrots, parsley, and of course potatoes (non-GM).

Inside looks like this.
Looks like thick version of uncooked pasta.

You can see some carrots and parsley's dots in it.

Texture: Super crispy like regular Jagarico.
Taste and flavor: I could sense some clam chowder flavor when I put my nose close to the snack. 
When I ate it, first it had a slight creamy and seafood taste, and started mixing with potato flavor afterwards.
By the time it disappeared, it still had a little bit clam chowder flavor and the potato didn't kill the delicate fragrance.
I think I could have still recognized if they package hadn't said "clam chowder."

According to the package, the secret ingredient is cheddar cheese.
Jagarico always has pun.
This one says, 「隠しチーズで、おいしさふくらむチャウダー」 and the letters in pink the pun.
Here is the Romanized Japanese word, "Kakushi cheese de, oishisa fukuramu chowder." 
It means, "With the secretive cheese, clam chowder get deep flavor."
When we speak imported words, most of the time we don't care if it's L or R, so we pronounce it with R sound pretty much for everything.

Apparently, these giraffes are a couple (first photo of the package) and name of the male is Akihiko (あき彦) on the left, and his girlfriend is Huyumi(ふゆ美)on the right, however, these names are only for them, not other packages' giraffes.

All Jagarico has these giraffe and on Calbee's Jagarico site, there're a whole bunch of characters with their names, which all looks like the same because they're all giraffes with slightly different outfit...

When I was in high school, one of the boom was open the lid and pour hot water, wait for 3 minutes and mix it well. 
It becomes mashed potato of the flavor.
You'd probably think it's disgusting, but it's worth trying. 
It seriously tastes as good as real mashed potato!