Wednesday, October 23, 2013

FROM This Chef Wannabe: Pesto Pasta Salad

Last night, I made Pesto Pasta Salad to satisfy my craving for pesto and cheeses. The first time I made it, I Pinterested and Googled recipes for it. I've probably made it around 4 times now but last night was special -- I made it my own.

Here's how.

I had a lot of produce that I had to go through in our fridge. The recipes I looked up called for cherry tomatoes, olives (kalamata, or otherwise), mozzarella and parmesan. Well, I only had tomatoes and I ran out of mozzarella. I also thought I'd use my red cabbage and kale as fillers -- the more veggies, the better. As for cheese, I only  had feta.

~* Pesto Pasta Salad *~
rotini pasta
cherry tomatoes (sliced in half) or plum tomatoes (slice in quarters) 
kalamata olives (sliced in half or quarters) or just olives
kale (torn in bite size)
red cabbage (sliced)
feta cheese
mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese
Cook pasta according to box instructions. Drain and coat with pesto and parmesan. Let cool or chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Mix all vegetables after slicing/cutting.
Toss the cheeses in.
Add in pasta.
If you want more of the pesto taste, you can add more according to your fancy.
I lve making colorful dishes. 
I always try to be different colored bell peppers and the red cabbage 
-- I lve purple -- 
and of course, lots of greens.
Next time I make this, I'm going to throw in mozzarella with feta. It will then be called Triple Cheese Pesto Pasta Salad.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I like to think I'm old-fashioned. I lve getting stuff in our mailbox: greeting cards complete with handwritten messages, boxes of goodies, care packages and of course, letters. 

Today, I spied with my little eye a big envelope in our mailbox.
It's things like this that makes me feel blessed. 

There was no doubt as to who had sent it to me.

When I was in Wisconsin last May, I frequented Madison where my forever friend, Jessica lives. I lve Madison, it's one of my favorite cities. On one of the nights I was there, Jessica and brother Joshua introduced me to the ways of Kinfolk and a sneak into the life and comedy of Chappelle. We supped in Kinfolk-like manner, with organic meat and rose-flavored sparkling water -- in wine glasses, of course. We topped our dinner off with frozen kefir and a one minute view of Chappelle's Show, because neither of us could agree what to watch and none of us paid attention, anyway.

I delicately opened the envelope; I want to save it. There it was, my first Kinfolk magazine. I smelled it as I let the pages go through my thumb and I knew right away that the paper used is none of that shiny, glossy ones. I lved that.

For some reason (that I should have known), Jessica sent me volume eight. In the years of writing each other letters and sending goodies, every item was always attached with significance. This one though, I wasn't sure why. Then I got to this page.
Indubitably, sakura.

Scanned some more. I wasn't expecting it but it didn't come as a surprise either when I saw the coffee I was raving about -- Omotesando K▢ffee featured on this publication.

I miss Japan. 

And now, I am going to "wallow in the quagmire"of longing for Japan through Kinfolk, care of Jessica.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


'K' in the K▢ffee stands for Kunitomo; and the square is a symbol for kiosk box.


The first time I allowed myself to admit that Starbucks is overrated, was when I discovered I brewed way better coffee than they ever did. And that's using their coffee beans. 

The first time I swore off Starbucks was when Jessica's roommate, Arti, invited me to have a cup of coffee before leaving their apartment. I did. It was nothing like I've brewed before, so I asked her what coffee beans she used. She got it from Steep & Brew. I then had Jessica take me to State St. in Madison where Steep & Brew has been brewing since the 80s. I've been ordering their beans since, finding ways and means to have it shipped to our house. More recently, through my mother-in-law; bless her for always keeping a look out at their local grocery store.

The last time I swore off Starbucks was after my first sip of Eiichi Kunitomo's café mocha.

Jessica messaged me out of the blue like we usually do. In it she gave me the link that led me to Omotesando K▢ffee.
I checked out the list of Heidi's favorite places in Tokyo and I saw the word 'Koffee'. Anything pertaining to coffee will have me, right off the bat. I 'googled' Omotesando K▢ffee and it seemed like it is Tokyo's best kept secret. All reviews raved about it as the best coffee they've had. Its popularity is blog-wide; blogs from people who go around places on a coffee trail and from people who just love coffee and sometimes from coffee aficionados. Naturally, I was drawn. What made me even more excited was that this place was something to be hunted down. The fact that it wasn't out there made it more appealing. It is concealed by residential houses, to be uncovered by GPS. Me, I lve holes-in-the-wall, it's like discovering a secret garden, yours to enjoy and no one else's. This coffee shop, is it.

I set out plotting how to get there, first locating where it is and then checking which station it was closest to. And for anyone who might care to take a gander, Omotesando K▢ffee is right behind Omotesando Hills, get off Omotesando Station and take exit A2. Then use Google Maps to locate the café at the residential area.

My next worry was, whether or not I was going to take on this hunt by myself or with The Hubb. Being in the Navy, nothing is concrete; we can't schedule anything as early as a week before date planned. I had to wait. I planned on going that weekend but I didn't want to get my hopes up only to be in vain. So I waited for the final word on Friday. Nothing was in vain! On Friday, The Hubb told me they were going to have the weekend off. Believe me, living the Navy life, that is something I jump for joy for.

We took JR to take us to Tokyo and the Ginza Line to take us to Omotesando Station. My plan was to cover lunch first at MAiSEN, also reviewed by many as the best tonkatsu in Japan, including our very own Rajo Laurel. When we got to the area, it was high time for lunch so we dropped by MAiSEN and had mouth-watering grub. (insert review here, currently writing) 

I didn't linger, like I usually do after eating. I was so looking forward to that coffee! Also, my head was feeling the embers of a migraine, my body transmitting to my brain that it's time for my caffeine. So I felt like I was in limbo between rushing and taking my time to relish the moment when I "find" the hole-in-the-wall coffee shop. I made sure to take a picture to truly capture and remember the moment.
There it was, right smack in the middle of houses. These residents are so lucky, to have in their reach, coffee brewed in this house.

We stepped in and everything was so zen.
Complete with a statue of a mother and baby frog that made me jump, biting my lip to keep from yelping, saving The Hubb from embarrassment. It was on the rocks behind that bench! 
Who here also think they look real...
To complement the feel, the interior of the shop embraced minimalism.
Notice, even no cash register.
Just the owner/barista behind the counter with his machine. The Hubb and I watched him make coffee. It was like watching him make art -- coffee is his art. He was intent, making every cup he brewed get to the peak of its potential.
The Hubb wished that we could have recorded him. It was a sight to see, I have never seen anyone make coffee the way he did. Sure, Japanese have always been known to give their utmost when it comes to service but I've seen the baristas at other coffee shops here and none compare to Kunitomo-san.

Omotesando K▢ffee goodies.

We each ordered coffee, I had a hot one and The Hubb had cold, must be the Wisconsin blood in him. The day we went was definitely around 10°C and I couldn't bear to take in anything icy. 
Drink all gone.
My café mocha was perfect. No hint of acidity, mocha didn't overpower the distinct taste of coffee. It was smooth as silk on my taste buds. Like I said, perfect. I almost didn't want to finish my cup off, knowing I was going to run out of this work of art. But I did, in the end. It was bittersweet.
Café mocha with kashi (baked custard) in coffee filter.

Here is me with the master brewer:
very modest, no pretense at all. Just him doing his passion. His coffee shop is definitely a mirror of him, unadulterated behind the fancy-schmancy shops of Omotesando.

Omotesando K▢ffee was only meant to be a temporary fixture in the neighborhood. Owner Kunitomo-san designed it as a pop-up kiosk, giving it the ability to literally pop-out and to move out, popping in to another area of Japan. Ideally, it could also be Nagaura K▢ffee or Zushi K▢ffee. The house it is in right now has been scheduled to be demolished since 2010 but Omotesando K▢ffee has gained popularity that people have been expressing its desire to make it a permanent café in the area.

Who knows where this K▢ffee could pop up in the future.

•{One Surreal Afternoon}•

... or •{Intro To Japan, Take Two}•



Okay. Really now.

Living in Japan has been something of an experience. A few months back, I had a very Murakami-esque encounter.

The Hubb and I had just come back from our trip to Cebu on a Friday. Walking up to our house, we saw the undeniably towering, unkempt weeds that had grown in the twelve days that we'd been gone. There's something about flying that makes one as exhausted -- I don't know if it's all the sitting, the waiting or just the air up there -- as we were from the hours of travel/commute we had to take to get home. We decided to let the weed problem go and let them stay until well into the weekend... the next weekend. We didn't want to do anything before he was to return to work on Monday. 

I stay holed up in our house when The Hubb is at work; I basically have no idea what is happening outside unless I run upstairs to the front room and look out the window. When he came home from work, in disbelief, he asked if I had pulled out the weeds. The disbelief being called for, he knows I don't do any gardening. I'm scared of the insects and whenever I get close to any garden cleaning, I feel like all the insects are on me, gnawing at me. Then it gets really itchy, imaginary or otherwise. I told him I hadn't done that. We were puzzled, we couldn't figure out who cleaned the path way to our door. We were grateful, our house no longer looked abandoned. So we stopped trying to make sense of it.

The next day, our door bell rang -- wary of it because I can't speak Japanese. I have mastered this,  though: 私は日本語を話さない (Watashi wa nihongo o hanasanai = I don't speak Japanese). A man I've never seen before was at the door, he bowed and told me that he lived right next door. I had never seen our neighbor before then, but I believed him. He had, on his glove-covered hands, a hoe. He asked me if I'd allow him to clean our gutter. Our house is identical to his, built on one parcel of land, owned by the same person -- I assume -- and our gutter is connected. To clear it out, it was easiest to go through our gutter, the exit way was on our end. Weather forecast said there was going to be a big storm coming our way. 

I asked him, 
"Were you the one who cleared our weeds?!" He looked at me funny and told me no. 
"Oh. Okay. Sure, you can clean our gutter."

I could hear him working outside, in our backyard, scraping the leaves, gathering them on a pile. I didn't know what the etiquette for this was... should I make him lemonade? Is lemonade too much, would water be more appropriate? Would offering him something be considered imposing? I just stayed in the house, wishing I'd told him no, that we'd clean the gutter ourselves. But there was a sense of urgency in his voice, forecast-induced, most likely. After awhile, he rang our doorbell again. He asked if I had plastic bags to put the leaves in. I was relieved because now I had the chance to help him. 

I held the plastic bag open and he'd scoop in the leaves. We moved from one pile to another and managed to communicate, in kindergarten English, the basics of our lives. He was Otto-san and for a man as old as he is, I was impressed. Most 40s, 50s aged Japanese can't speak English, but this guy was able to carry on a conversation. We moved on to the second pile and I told him that my husband was American working for the Navy, he replied that was a retired Japanese Navy. I guess that's why he was quite fluent, most Japanese Navy work closely with the US Navy. Their bases are right beside each other. On the third pile, Otto-san told me he lived with his wife and daughter. I'm supposed to call his wife by his surname + san. I asked him what her first name is and he told me, with gentle stern, to call her __________-san. I nodded; sumimasen, hai; of course. On the fourth pile, I told him he could call me Love. "Love-san." That was our last pile. We tied the bags and had them against our wall. Garbage segregation only allows us to throw burnables every Monday and Thursday, with threat of sanctions. 

Our job was done. We bowed to each other.
I bowed again before I went in through our door.
"Arigatō gozaimasu Otto-san."

The storm never came that week. It kept raining and the water freely went through our gutters. We still don't know who pulled out our weeds. And I never saw Otto-san again.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

•{Intro To Japan}•

I have been in Japan for almost a year now and I have not a post about it. I feel bad about that; I am not good at this blogging business.

Probably the reason why I never kept a diary growing up. My sister though, she doesn't know this, but I used to marvel at the time she took   e ve ry   single day to write on her diary. And she'd write on any notebook, she wasn't picky about it, just so long as she could write her thoughts. Me, on the other hand, it would take a fancy notebook to get me to want to write -- I loved the novelty of it all but that only happened in spurts and it didn't last long. So, I really couldn't keep a diary.

Anyway, Japan...

is awesome.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

•{The Bus Stop Mis-View}•

Time for this long overdue blog post. I've been remiss on blogging on account of nothing; laziness, probably; or an empty, wander-less mind. I have failed my dear friend, Jelian -- on two counts.

A few months back, I had to get myself on base to meet up with The Hubb. I had just learned the mechanics of commute from our house to base -- schedule, stops, etiquette and all that hoopla -- by myself. With no cellphone, for me to ask for coaching. After we got everything tended to, we had to part ways: him to work and me, back home.

Being the good husband that he is, The Hubb asked me which stop I was going to catch the bus at, just so he knows I'm headed the right way. I told him the one across Daiei mall. Well, there are two bus stops right outside the mall. He clarified, "The one right by the gun shop?" "Uh... the one right by the café." At this point, it was summer in Japan and the humidity was getting to me, so I didn't really care which one he was referring to.

So we did the ceremonial kiss-goodbye, the 'see you at homes'. I walked toward the bus stop. To cross the street you have to use the walkway which gives you a bird's eye view of your surrounding. As I got closer, I spied with my little eye (that really did grow big, in disbelief) this:
YES, we were talking about one and the same bus stop all along. I had never noticed that Gun Shop before then and I was a regular at that bus stop. 

Clearly, we each had our own perspective and we each saw the bus stop in a totally different light. His could easily be attributed to the fact that he works with guns all day long and actually loves tinkering with them. Tinker Sailor Soldier (not Spy). The Hubb was therefore, fated to be drawn to the Gun Shop. And me... who doesn't love cafés? Really. Unlimited supply of various teas and coffees and of course, pastries. Reading for hours on end. Ambience. People-watching, probably one of my favorite pastimes, especially with a friend. 

Or it could simply be because of the fact that men really are from Mars and women, from Venus.

(P.S. Jelian, here's making it up to you: I've made the promised special mention and wrote a new post.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

•{Breakfast ☀ For ☀ Lunch}•

I've been holding off on the corned beef craving, as the one on hand is not fresh but canned. Being that, it is not healthy, as per Mother. But the Pure Foods corned beef in the pantry was beckoning, relentless. So I gave up the pretense of control and gave in to the temptation. 

We had left over mais (or maize in the Western front), so I decided to make garlic rice too. I used butter instead of oil. Took a small portion off the block, just enough for the the melting butter to touch base with the frying pan's surface.
Chopped up garlic, lots of 'em. I'm the kind who can't get enough of garlic, bad breath can be managed. Heh. I was going to use some in the corned beef anyway.
This is my favorite part, sautéing the garlic. I looooove the smell of sautéed garlic, a whiff of it will make my belly churn in hunger.

Then I put in the crumbled mais. To keep the granules from sticking to each other, one needs to hold the turner straight down onto the pile of rice and mix.
This is not the way to hold the turner.
Now the corned beef. You can see there's some purple in it, that's the chopped up onions. And I didn't forget the rest of the garlic either. I used the same pan that I used for the garlic rice and didn't add any more oil. Doing so would have been too much.
I was too frisky with my meal -- took a spoonful before taking a shot of the once perfect plate.
Craving satisfied.