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! 

    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.

    A Quick Tour of the South Island: Lake Tekapo 

    Lake Tekapo is a gorgeous lake that is home to beautiful views, the Church of the Good Shepherd and clear starry night skies.

    The famous Church of the Good Shepherd is a big tourist attraction…so be warned of the crowds in the day time. This picture was taken around dusk and thankfully many tourists were away eating dinner. 

    The beautiful colored flowers are called lupins and are seen in high density all over the landscape.

    In the tiny one street town of Lake Tekapo is home to a few very delicious restaurants…

    Above is a gluten free brownie and below is a mini donut ice cream dessert…

    Hot chocolate…with pink Marshmallow of course…

    Fresh salmon quinoa vegetable salad from Reflections Cafe.

    Pad Thai…

    and finally also pad see ew from Kohan Restaurant. 

    Dinner in Auckland…

    After a long first day in New Zealand, I knew exactly what I wanted for dinner. I went to BannSang in Auckland. Bibimbap is a Korean rice dish made in a hot stone bowl with lots of vegetables, egg, meat or tofu and spices. The rice is on the bottom of the bowl and some of the rice crisps and browns from the hot stone to add an amazing crunch to the dish. 

    The Gin Room in Auckland has various selections of gin and tonics and I actually found a drink that I liked. 

    Icecream in Auckland…

    The first food that I ate in New Zealand was icecream. This famous icecream place in the center of the city called, Giapo creates delicious art out of unique icecream flavors and various toppings. The counter is different than your traditional icecream shop…you are not allowed to see the icecream flavors in the case. Giapo wants you to try each flavor and decide which flavor you want only through your sense of taste. 
    After tasting different icecream flavors I chose a chocolate yorkshire pudding flavor. The icecream was artfully situated on top of a chocolate pastry bun, topped with chocolate mousse and sprinkled with a mysterious sweet/sour-ish pink crumble. Although it was cold outside, the icecream was delicious and brightened the rainy day.