Japan: Bar 零 (Zero)

My favorite Bar I have been to is Bar零. It is located in Tokyo, Japan. It is easiest to find Bar零 by getting off at the Ikebukuro Station. You will have to look for the dark wooden door off to the side of the bustling street with the small sign. 

Once through the door, you walk down the narrow staircase to another door and are greeted by the owner, and are seated at the beautiful, dimly lit, traditional Japanese bar.

The bar is the perfect spot for a quiet date night drink because of the intimate size, highly skilled bartender and wonderful cocktails. 

The owner is extremely kind and speaks English very well. He will love to have a nice conversation with you. He has owned and operated the bar for sixteen years.

Once you order a drink, be sure to watch him make it. He uses perfected skill and precision to cut each ice cube to the correct size so it will slowly melt and to drop into your glass at the exact moment he pours your drink.

I highly recommend spending a night at Bar零 if you are ever in Tokyo. It will be a truly unique experience.


Japan: Sugi Lemon Honey with Icecream 

Despite being absolutely freezing from the cold weather in Japan, my favorite thing to eat in Nishiki Market, Kyoto was icecream. Sugi Bee Garden has locations all over Japan where they sell different varieties of  honey, honey products and delicious icecream drizzled with flavored honey. I think I had Sugi Bee Garden vanilla icecream with lemon honey approximately five times while in Kyoto. It was so cold but a great  refreshing and delicious treat to walk around Nishiki Market with! 

Japan: Okonomiyaki (Japanese Cabbage Pancakes)

One of my favorite Japanese dishes to eat is Okonomiyaki. It is a savory cabbage, vegetable, meat pancake that is made on a hot griddle on your table. My first try of Okonomiyaki was at Sakura Tei in Tokyo. The restaurant is tucked away down a tiny street but has a huge selection of different types of Okonomiyaki, rice, and noodles to cook and eat. It was so much fun to cook the Okonomiyaki and noodles at the table. They were truly delicious. After you cook the meat and vegetables you pour the batter onto the grill and cook until bubbly. Each person has their own small spatula that is used to then scrape the Okonomiyaki from the grill and eat. Depending on the region of Japan that you are in there are different variations of how Okonomiyaki is prepared. Above and below is Okonomiyaki from Osaka. It is traditionally made as a street festival food and it rolled onto chopsticks for easy eating.Okonomiyaki from Hiroshima is layered instead of mixed together like it is in Tokyo. The thin layer of pancake batter is then topped with noodles. Then vegetables and pork are cooked on top. This is then flipped over onto an egg and seasoned with spices and savory sauces. 

Vending Machines, Animal Cafés & French Toast: Tokyo, Japan 

Everything in Tokyo is new and exciting. Literally every street you walk down there’s something that catches your eye. All over Japan are these convenient beverage vending machines. (Even in the most remote areas) They have cold and even hot drinks!In Tokyo there are so many restaurants and  unique places to eat. Pictured above is a French Toast Restaurant. The French toast was so delicious! I was craving some sweet food to eat after eating Ramen. Tokyo is home to many cat cafés and even owl cafés. You pay by half-hour which gets you a drink of tea and time with the cats or owls. Unfortunately I could not find a good dog café. One of my favorite places to walk around in Tokyo was Kitchen Street or Kappabashi Street. The street has countless stores with kitchen utensils, bulk food, supplies and equipment. My favorite store was the chopstick store. I wanted to buy every single tool for my kitchen. Maybe next time I will pack an empty suitcase to bring utensils home.

    The Best Sushi Making Class in Japan!

    My first stop in Japan was Tokyo. I knew I would like Tokyo, but I unexpectedly fell in love with the city life, ease of transportation, such kind and helpful people, and of course the food. The first day I spent in Tokyo was at a sushi making class. Cooking School Yuka Mazda was my favorite cooking class I ever went to! If you’re planning on visiting Tokyo I highly recommend that you take one of Yuka’s traditional Japanese cooking classes. She offers sushi, tempura, teriyaki, and gyoza with wagyu beef cooking classes as well. Yuka was the chef that taught the sushi class. She was incredibly kind, funny, and extremely knowledgeable of traditional Japanese cooking. Yuka helped each of us to cut the sushi fish correctly which was not as easy as it looked. She bought us the finest fresh ingredients and taught us not only how to make sushi but how to properly cook Miso soup and how to make sushi rice…the correct way. You will not go hungry after leaving Yuka’s sushi class. We made so much sushi and had extra rice, fish and vegetables to eat as well as homemade Miso soup, tofu, tea, and even a sweet dorayaki (Japanese red bean cake.)Of all the sushi and even Miso soup that I ate in Japan, the food that I had at this cooking class was by far the best quality and taste.I learned so much about sushi making, Japanese food and culture. It was a great start to my trip in Japan. I am definitely going back to Tokyo some day and cannot wait to go to Yuka’s cooking class again! 

    A Quick Stop in Sydney, Australia 

    On the way to Japan I flew from Christchurch, New Zealand over to Sydney, Australia for a few days.

    It was great to be in Sydney and see more people and a bigger city. This is the Queen  Victoria Building in the city center. It was raining so it was a nice place to walk through. The building is a huge mall with expensive stores and fancy decor.There are many restaurants and bars with different types of cuisines in Sydney. My favorite night was spent at Norsk Dor, a Norwegian bar that is hidden below the city. It was an incredible night!Walking down to the bar/restaurant is an experience in it self (be sure to listen to the walls!) Once you enter the restaurant you become overwhelmed with the incredible atmosphere. I was not expecting the restaurant to be so warm, cozy and inviting. The restaurant gets crowded fast so be sure to make reservations. The menu is made up of small Norwegian style foods that are easy to share. All of the drinks and food were absolutely delicious. If you sit at the bar you are able to see into the kitchen area and watch the chefs create their beautiful Norwegian plates. I was not able to take any pictures of the food… because I was enjoying it so much! 

    And of course no trip to Sydney would be complete without a visit to The Sydney Opera House. I enjoyed my time in Sydney and definitely want to go back to Australia to explore more. 

    Christmas: Suprise Visit Home

    I decided only three days before Christmas Eve to book tickets home. I only told my brother, my aunt so she could pick me up from the airport, and my dad so I could make sure I had a spot at dinner out on Christmas eve in Philly. (I was so excited to eat Italian food) Cuffari’s are famous for suprises so I figured I would keep up the tradition! 

    I took three flights to get home. My first was a short 40min flight in New Zealand up to Auckland. The airport was so small they didn’t even have security and I just walked onto the plane from outside. I had to literally hand my bag to the worker so it could be placed under the plane. My flight only had five people…including me. Everyone was so kind.

    After hanging around the Auckland airport for six hours…I finally got my second flight to San Francisco which was 13 hours long.

    Once landing in San Francisco (after circling for an hour around the airport due to so much fog in SFO) I had to sprint  to through customs, security, and all the way to the domestic terminal to make my flight to Newark. It was so weird to leave the kind and small airports in New Zealand to the rude, highly disorganized and crazy packed ones in the US…it was not welcoming at all.

    Pictured above, on my flight to Newark I looked out at the snow covered ground and think that I spotted Blue Mountain Ski Resort.

    My aunt picked me up from Newark and drove me to go suprise my mom at her house. She had no idea that I was there! I was literally standing next to her while she was eating dinner and she didn’t even notice! It was absolutely the best suprise ever!

    I also suprised my friend Colleen at her house. She had no clue I was in her house for half an hour talking to her parents downstairs until I finally knocked on her door and she then slammed the door…like she does when people suprise her. It was so funny!

    The next suprise was my Grandparents in Philly on Christmas Eve. I rang their door bell, and my Grandmom opened the door screaming. But the best part of the suprise video was my Grandpop. He totally knew that my brother was holding my phone beforehand. He was screaming “She is sneaky!”

    It was great to spend time with family and friends over Christmas and New Years. 

    Wellington: New Zealand 

    Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and is located at the bottom of the North Island. 

    It is a bustling city on the water and has many shops, restaurants, farmers markets and free museums. (Which are good to see on the many rainy days.)

    There are several hikes through forests and on beaches that are beautiful to see when you need a break from the city area.

    I unfortunately didn’t realize that these shells I stumbled upon were the famous New Zealand paua shells. They are used for jewelry and are very expensive to buy in stores. I only brought one back home though…Oh well. Sorry to anyone who wanted one.

    Below is a fresh new fern growing. It is one of my favorite things to see on a hike. The ferns grow outwards in a spiral-like fashion. Throughout New Zealand the spiral symbol is seen everywhere.
    New Zealand is very good at making delicious hot chocolate. This was one of the best hot chocolates I have had in New Zealand at Nikau Cafe.

    Also, I have started a new obsession with avocado toast in New Zealand. Pictured below (also from Nikau Cafe) is an avocado toast with goat cheese, pistachios, pickled turnips, sprouts and herbs.

    At The Library, on Tuesday nights the adesserts re two for the price of one…so of course I took advantage of this sweet opportunity. Chocolate Cube: chocolate orange icecream with pistachios and a cube of dark chocolate ganache cake.  

    The second dessert I had was a vanilla ice cream topped with carmel popcorn and peanuts.

    Being in Wellington during December was neat to see how Christmas is celebrated. There was a big Christmas festival and parade one weekend that was weird to see people dressed up and it being 70 degrees outside. Definitely didn’t feel like Christmas to me.

    To bring some wintery Christmas to the children, the festival had set up a snow dome which had man made snow inside where the children could play in the snow. 

    American Thanksgiving: New Zealand 

    My favorite Kiwihousesit home was in Napier. It had an amazing kitchen that was great for cooking Thanksgiving dinner (and many other meals.)

    The house even had a lovely pool which was great to swim in on sunny days.

    The best Kiwi kitchen ever was here in Napier. It was so well equipped-like my kitchen at home-I was so excited to cook every day. The garden outside had fresh herbs and citrus fruits that I loved using as well. 

    The homeowners are avid travellers and had maps and travel books tscatteredthroughout their house.
    Finding a turkey and cranberries was a very difficult task in New Zealand. I asked everyone I met if they knew where to get a turkey or if any stores sold cranberries. 

    But finally in the freezer section of a grocery store a few days before Thanksgiving, I found a bag of frozen cranberries! I was so happy! (Cranberry sauce is my favorite Thanksgiving side)
    I made homemade stuffing from my Mom-mom’s delicious recipe and fresh bakery bread. 

    After going to a few stores and butchers I finally found a turkey at a nice butcher shop in Napier. It was my first time making a turkey and it turned out so delicious with all of the fresh herbs. 

    The meal was my favorite part of this house stay. We made so much food that were eating Thanksgiving leftovers for days! 
    I also made delicious pumpkin ravioli with the pasta maker from the so well-equipped kitchen.

    And finally I made my Grandmom’s delectable meatballs and gravy (tomato sauce.)

    Oh…and one of the cats I was watching.