Event Announcement: Sake Fest 2009

31 03 2009

On April 7th, Sake Fest 2009 will open its doors again to a thirsty and enthusiastic crowd.  Sake Fest has been an annual event in Philadelphia since 2005 and has drawn in crowds of people eager to learn more about this increasingly popular drink.  The event features dozens of sake varieties and food from local restaurants, with the intent to educate people on the different types of sake, how it is made, and how to pair it with food. 

Sake Fest is organized in conjunction with the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia (JASGP) as a featured event in the annual Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival, said to be rivaled only by the festival in Washington D.C.  All net proceeds from Sake Fest benefit the JASGP.

As devoted fans of this beverage, we are looking forward to attending sake fest and we will post reviews of our experience and of the sake and food soon after the event. If you are planning to go, maybe we will see you there. If you can’t make it this year, maybe our reviews will provide a list of reasons to be there next year.

Sake Fest 2009
Presented by Event Navigators
Tuesday, April 7th
6:00 – 8:30pm
Loews Philadelphia Hotel
Click Here to purchase tickets.

Sake barrels at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo:
sake barrels

Rice at a sake brewery:

The fermentation process:

Sake in traditional cups, “kiki-joko.”
sake cups


Newbold I.P.A.: Beer review

30 03 2009

newboldWe bought a case of the variety pack from Philadelphia Brewing Company and I love the labels (and the beers). The Newbold I.P.A. is my kind of beer–the taste of the hops is strong but not overwhelming. The label is very diner/50s/Jones-y/South Philly (Newbold is a neighborhood in South Philly).

Philadelphia Brewing Company
Newbold IPA, 6.5% alcohol
Color: amber, clear
Carbonation: average
Smell: not strong, hoppy, a bit sour
Taste: hoppy, thin, bitter
Goes well with: smoky meats and strong cheeses

“Rekindle your passion for your favorite Philadelphia brewery by enjoying our substantial, aromatic India Pale Ale. Newbold is aggressively hopped, with a crimson hue and depth of flavor that will satisfy the most demanding devotee of this revived style.  Newbold I.P.A. tells it like it is.”

Sweet Potato: Asakusa

29 03 2009

Down a pedestrian side-street in Asakusa is an amazing shop that sells variations of sweet potatoes, a famous winter food in Tokyo.  Walk down Nakamise-dori towards Sensoji Temple and turn left on Shin Nakamise-dori (click here to view an easy-to read map).


The pureed sweet potato baked in an apple is 525 yen and big enough to share between two people.  The potato is browned and crispy on top.  The apple is baked to perfection and is soft enough to eat with a plastic spoon.

sweet potato baked apple

Another option is a steamed sweet potato for 100 yen:

sweet potato roasting

Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food: Reston, VA

24 03 2009

Reston, Virginia has an adorable town center with enough restaurants for those with various palates and budgets. Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food was fun and refreshing, and rumor has it the wait can be two hours on a weekend for dinner. We chose to eat a late lunch there and everyone was happy!


The restaurant has a retro-diner feel with amazing lighting.

pale ale
Jackson’s own pale ale was tasty and smooth.

This complimentary bread was unique and delicious. The cute round rolls actually tasted like donuts and I swear that the whipped butter had vanilla beans in it.

The roasted beet salad with avocado, pine nuts, goat cheese, and citrus vinaigrette ($10) was crispy and fresh with a nice blend of flavors.

The burger was a little messy but the doneness couldn’t have been better. (Cheddar Cheese burger, mustard mayo, ketchup, pickle & hand cut fries, $9)

I ordered two sides–the spinach was definitely the lesser of the two. Not very tasty and a bit too wet. (Sauteed butter spinach, $4)

mac n cheese
The best for last: mac and cheese with ham ($4). I am slowly becoming a mac and cheese connoisseur. I never ate it as a child, so my taste buds are still being developed. This was, hands down, one of the best mac and cheese dishes I have ever tasted. Well done on the top with a Parmesan crust but soft (not too soft) and cheesy through the center. The ham gave it a smoky flavor but didn’t overpower.

Jackson’s is affordable, tasty, and fun for everyone.  Check out more reviews and information on yelp, The Washington Post, and the Mouth of Moldiver.

Jizo at Zojoji, Tokyo

22 03 2009

I decided to film a peaceful moment in the middle of Tokyo–the jizo statues with pinwheels at Zojoji Temple in Minato-ku. You can also hear the noisy crows in the background.

Zojoji Temple, founded in 1393, sits in the middle of a very busy and affluent neighborhood in Tokyo called Minato-ku. It is frequently photographed for postcards and promotional materials because Tokyo Tower looms behind it and the contrast between old and new is obvious.

The statues in this video are called “jizo” and symbolize the Ojizo-sama divinity that protects children, especially those who have died before their parents.

Zojoji Temple
Jodo Shu Main Temple
4-7-35 Shibakoen Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0011 Japan
Tel: (81)3-3432-1431

The closest subway stations are Onarimon or Shibakoen Station on the Mita Subway Line and Daimon Station on the Oedo Subway Line. The temple can also be reached in a ten minute walk from Hamamatsucho Station on the JR Yamanote and JR Keihin-Tohoku Line.

Review: Monk’s Cafe, Philadelphia

18 03 2009

Monk’s Cafe is a Philadelphia stomping ground. Known for its burgers, fries, mussels, and Beer Bible, this corner bar hasn’t changed much over the years–in a good way. The burgers are still $8.50. The fries still come separate. The Bible is still holy. And the only night of the year it’s empty is on St. Patrick’s Day.

I got there early and took a few experimental shots:





This Flemish Sour Ale was not sour at all–it was rich and sweet and nutty.

We started our meal with the country terrine, which I don’t usually like, but I practically inhaled this and didn’t even need the toast.


I chose a new burger on their menu: the Antwerp with sottocenerre truffle cheese and shiitake mushrooms. Matt chose an old favorite, the Brussels (bacon and cheddar).



This is the burger cooked medium:


The basket of fries can easily be shared. These are my favorite fries of all time–and I consider myself to be a very picky fry-eater. These are perfectly cooked–not too mushy and not too crunchy–served with a mayonnaise sauce.


We never needed to use this:


The menus are so comfortable. I really don’t think anything has changed in at least six years–maybe a couple of additions here and there. Of course, the beers on tap are always in rotation.


Besides the sour ale, we also had these delicious beers…



…from the Beer Bible:


Total bill (terraine, two burgers, fries, 28 oz. bottle of beer, one glass Chimay, and one bar draft) not including tip: $66. Not bad.

Visit Monk’s in Philly. They don’t take reservations and you won’t get seated until the whole party is there. The bar is small and the decor is tired. But it’s worth the wait and the food never disappoints. Neither does the beer.


Check out these blogs for more reviews on Monk’s Cafe:

Days That End in Y
McDuff’s Food & Wine Trail

Tokyo Walking Tour: Shibuya and Harajuku

15 03 2009

Tokyo is a huge city. Luckily, it is extremely pedestrian-friendly so there are many ways to avoid the subways and trains and use your feet to see the sights. This is a pictorial essay, with descriptions, of a walking tour of Shibuya and Harajuku.

We took the Yamanote-sen to Shibuya, although there at least five other train and subway lines you can take into this part of the city. The Yamanote loops around Tokyo and takes you to all of the major parts of the city.

Exit the station at the “Hachiko Exit” and find this statue of Hachiko, a famous dog that has turned into one of the most popular meeting places in all of Tokyo. Hachiko was a loyal pet who waited for his master at Shibuya station every day and walked home with him. Even after his master died, he continued to wait at the station every day and was eventually memorialized in this statue.

Through the winding streets just outside of the station, you will find a hodge podge of shops and restaurants. We walked straight away from the station up Center Gai street, turned right, and sadly saw this Outback Steakhouse, which confirms the infiltration of bad American chains.

graffitti grafitti
Shibuya is popular with the younger generation and sometimes screams pop culture from every crevice. This side alley’s wall was popping with colors, and although the cuteness is obvious, there is usually a slightly macabre undertone to the art.


We walked away from Outback and saw a Lawson on the corner. For a cheap lunch, stop at any neighborhood Lawson. My favorite lunches were the fresh salads with one of the many varieties of iced tea–green, black, barley, you name it. If you love tea, you’ll be in stimulus overload. Lawsons are everywhere, but if you’d like a map, go to Google Maps and zoom in on any area. The maps will show most convenience store locations as icons. Lawson is blue with a white milk bottle.

taiko game
We turned right at the Lawson and walked towards the station again. We noticed this taiko drum game in one of the arcades that keep people busy at all hours. These are contraband photos–no picture taking allowed in the arcades! You can also get “purikura” with your friends to pass the time and take home as a cheap and unique souvenir.

manga shop
Mandarake is one of the most famous comic and anime shops in Tokyo. Walk down into the depths and the bowels of this shop and you are greeted with rows and rows of comics, home made figurines, and even a stage where the employees dress up and do cosplay.

random crepe shop
Crepes are another cheap snack and we stopped at this one across the street from Mandarake. Our choice: cinnamon apple and whipped creme.

Here is a great map of this area from the Shibuya Mandarake website:

Shibuya crossing
Be careful at Shibuya Crossing at the Hachiko exit. During the day, the crowds aren’t as thick, but when darkness falls, you could get lost in the shuffle.

The 30-minute walk from Shibuya to Harajuku is a straight shot up Meiji-dori. We passed this temple, and I still can’t figure out which one it is.random shrine


Our first venture in the Harajuku area was to Yoyogi-koen. For a snack, Matt got some takoyaki at one of the stalls that is set up along the edge of the park.


Back towards Harajuku train station is Meiji-jingu, one of my favorite places to escape from the frenetic nature of Tokyo. Since New Years had just passed, the sake barrels that were donated by breweries were still on display.


The famous torii-gate at the entrance of Meiji. I probably have a dozen different photos in front of this gate.

meiji wedding

We just so happened to be at Meiji on Valentines Day, which is why (I think) we saw so many weddings. Usually I would see a wedding every other time I visited Meiji but on this day, we saw at least three in a row. Meiji is one of the most famous shrines for people to get married.


Harajuku station
After walking around Shibuya, to Harajuku, and through Meiji, we were exhausted, but walking is always a great way to see more of the city. We hopped on the Yamanote at Harajuku station and headed home.

You can see more shots of our walking tour on our flickr site.