Umeshu Matsuri – Plum Wine Festival in Tokyo

If you live or happen to be around in Tokyo this long weekend, why don’t you pop in Yushima Tenmangu, or Yushima Tenjin to sip umeshu, Japanse plum wine?

Umeshu (梅酒 : 梅 ume = plum, 酒 shu = sake) is made by steeping unripened Japanese plums in alcohol and sugar to allow the flavours to infuse. It is called plum ‘wine’ in English, but it is liqueur type of alcohol.

venue: Yushima Tenmangu, near Ueno

Over the weekend, the Umeshu Matsuri, Plum Wine Festival is held at the Shito shrine, which is famous for its beautiful plum blossoms in spring. Beer is nice – Oktober Fests are thrown here and there around this time of the year even in Japan, but it may be a good idea to try this aromatic, sweet and plesantly sour liqueur.

the leaflet and token coins

At the entrance, purchase 18 token coins for 1,600 yen (advanced ticket was 1,400 yen). 1 or 2 coins are required for a small cup of umeshu (about 30 ml/cup), but 3 for some or award winning ones. Okay, now you are ready to sip. Enjoy and find your favourit(s) out of 156 umeshus from sake breweries all over Japan.

made with distilled alcohol – from Hiroshima
made with sake – from Hyogo
made with sesame shochu – from Fukuoka
Kosher umeshu – made with sake – from a brewery in Kyoto (established in 1673!)
made with brandy – from Akita
blended with yuzu juice – from Wakayama
blended with gyokuro green tea – from Kyoto
nigori umeshu from my favourite sake brewery in Hyogo producing Kotsuzumi which I mentioned on Kinosaki Onsen post (left: more fruity and tastes like peach juice right: with plum pulp and full flavour)
umeshu hopping

If you find your favourit(s), you can buy it/them!!

I bought a bottle of 梅申春秋, Baishin Shunju from my fav brewery!

left: Baishin Shunju / right: Daku Daku


Umeshu Matsuri

Facebook page
Period: 6th – 9th October 2017
Venue: Yushima Tenmangu
Access: Nearest staion is Yushima on the Chiyoda Line. Take Exit 3 and the left, turn left at the first intersection and walk down about 30 metres. It’s on the left hand side.


Now that you’ve come all the way, why don’t you look around the site?

Tribute to the Shito deity: the first rice sheaves of the harvest are presented as offerings, called shinsen, to the kami, deity or sacred power of Shintoism during agricultural and other festivals.

Yushima Tenmangu(湯島天満宮)a.k.a. Yushima Tenjin(湯島天神)was originally founded for Ameno Tajikaraono Mikoto in 458, and became one of Tenjin shrines in 1355 – Kitano Tenmangu in Kyoto is the most famous one.

‘Tenjin’ is the name of Michizane Sugawara (845-903), a scholar and a high government official. Like other Tenjin shrines, Yushima Tenjin is visited by students to pray for passing exams and inscribe ema – small wooden plaques – with petitions for success in exams, esp. entrance exams.

Among lots of ema, you will find Michizane on a cow. A cow, a typical feature of a Tenjin shrine, is believed to be the servant of the deity.

In the precincts of the shrine, there is a bronze cow, which is known as nade ushi (a cow to stroke). People believe that touching or stroking the cow will cure physical illness, and that is the reason why its head  and forehead are so shiny.

You will also see plum trees in the garden and bonsai as well.

Tenjin is strongly related to plum because Michizane had always favoured the trees and blossoms (There is a legend about him and his tree, called ‘Flying Plum Tree‘),  so ‘plum’ became a crest of the shrines.

 

plum blossom crest in the blue circle

Strolling in the precincts, you might come across a wedding ceremony.

Would you like to try omikuji, sacred lot?

If the fortune telling is not a good one, tie it around branches of a pine tree or some such. If good, keep it in your purse or wallet!

Hope you enjoy umeshu and the visit.

See you!  S/he is cute, isn’t s/he?

 

More about Umeshu:
Umeshu seminar in London last year
Umeshu made with whiskey by Suntory produsing Hakushu, Yamazaki, Hibiki whisky

More about Tenjin, read the post of one of my blogger friends.

 

Advertisements

Sicily and Lemony Ricotta Fettuccine with Tomato & Pistachio

This Fettuccine recipe is adopted from the Raviolini al Limone I enjoyed whilst in Enna for the Holy Monday last year.

 

Raviolini al Limone @ Centrale

 

Instead of ricotta filled ravioli, I used fettuccine and added the cheese into the sauce. Also scattered with ground pistachios to make it Sicilian!!

 

 

Ingredients

(for 2 servings)

200 g dried fettuccine
2 liter water
2 tsp salt

2 tbsp olive oil
400 g fully ripe tomato, finely chopped
200 ml water from boiled fettuccine
100 ml heavy cream (whipping cream, fat 35%)
2 tbsp ground pistachio (pistachio powder/flour)
100 g ricotta cheese
2 tbsp juice of lemon, freshly squeezed
a few pinches of lemon zest (organic unwaxed), freshly grated
ground white pepper (to taste)

flat leaf parsley  (to sprinkle)
unsalted pistachio, roughly chopped  (to sprinkle)

 

 

 Method

  1. Bring a large pot of the water to the boil. Salt the water and cook fettuccine until 2-3 min short of ‘al dente’. Reserve the cooking liquid for the sauce.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Put in the tomato and fry for a few minutes stirring consistently.
  3. Transfer the fettuccine into the pan and add the cooking liquid. Increase the heat to high and mix well by stirring consistently for 1-2 min or until the liquid thickened. Make sure it doesn’t get dry. Add some more cooking water if required.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium. Pour in the heavy cream and pistachio stirring constantly as it thickens. Add the ricotta, lemon juice and zest, season with the white pepper and toss it well. Once mixed, turn off the heat immediately. Taste it and add salt or some more lemon juice if required.
  5. Plate the pasta, and sprinkle with the chopped pistachio and parsley.
    Calascibetta – view from Enna

MUST VISIT whilst in ENNA

 Villa Romana del Casalea large and elaborate Roman villa or palace located about 3 km from the town of Piazza Armerina, Sicily. Excavations have revealed one of the richest, largest and varied collections of Roman mosaics in the world, for which the site has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The villa and artwork contained within date to the early 4th century AD. (source: Wikipedia)

the Great Hunt

the ‘Bikini Girls’
the Giants

The Villa is famous for so-called ‘Bikini Girls’ mosaic, but for me, the most impressive one was the Giants.

The mosaic with the Giants shot by the arrows of Hercules is one of the most expressive in the entire residence. The figures are isolated and emerge clearly from the white background, heightening the drama of their poses.

The dying Giants have powerful bodies with reddish brown skin and are called serpent-footed because their lower limbs end in the form of sinuous snakes.

As in the central field, Hercules is not shown in the scene, which instead depicts the result of his vanquishing of enemies who dared challenge Olympus.

 

 

How to get to Villa Romana del Casale

1. to Piazza Armerina 

  • by Pullman (intercity bus) – arrives at Piazza Marescalchi
    from Enna and Palermo – by SAIS
    from Catania, Catania AP, Caltagirone – by Interbus

2. from Piazza Armerina to Villa Romana del Casale

  • by local bus: Villabus (1st May – 30th Sept. only)
  • by taxi: leaves from Piazza Marescalchi (main bus station)
    If you cannot find any taxies, try the bar at the piazza/near the bus station. They have the phone numbers and will probably call for you if you don’t speak Italian (so I could manage to take a taxi!!). Make sure to book for return. The return fare (both ways) costed about 20 euros as of March 2013.

Click here for more access tips

 

MUST STAY in ENNA

This newly opened B&B, P&G Design is run by the same owner of Bianko & Bianko I mentioned on my post, Chickpea & Almond Biscuits and Sicily. She kindly sent me the information for my future visit to Enna.

P&G Design (source: Booking.com)
breakfast (source: Booking.com)


MUST EAT in ENNA

Centrale was recommended by the owner, whose restaurant tips never disappoint me 🙂
Antipast al Buffet is a MUST as well as Raviolini al Limone!!

Antipast al Buffet @ Centrale

 

Croatian foods will follow later on….

Croatia 2017 – Digest

I had never travelled to any seaside resorts during the peak season, so I was really amazed!! and learnt how Europeans (and others) spend their vacance, which was a good anthropological study 😀

Although fed up with the crowds (and prices!), I had a wonderful time in Croatia – enjoyed stunning views, encounters, swimming, sunbathing… and food + wine, of course!!

Before departure, I had asked one of my blogger friends for some tips.
Thank you, Martina on Crunch Crunch Away! !

 

Plitvice Lakes National Park

I advise you to take Entrance 2, not 1 if you visit the park in the high season, otherwise you would waste more than one hour to go through the entrance like I did.

 

Split

I recommend the views over Split from the Marjan Park rather than from the Bell Tower of Saint Domnius – I am fearful of heights!!

View from Marjan Hill

Trogir

Half day trip from Split by boat and local bus on my way back

Omiš

Half day trip from Split by local bus (I’d love to try rafting in the river next time. )

Three island hopping by speedboat:

I was really looking forward to seeing the Blue and Green Caves. I waited for the tour while in Split, however, all were cancelled because of strong winds. As a Marphy’s Law, it went back to normal on the very day I left the city  😦

Heading to Milna for morning coffee – Brač Island (Try Milna Pekara for nice local bread.)
Paklinski Islands or Devil’s Islands
One of the highlights of my trip – Hvar Habour and Paklinski Islands from Spanjola Fortress

 

Dubrovnik

Lots of unexpected things happened in Split almost ruined my holiday but, thank goodness, Dubrovnik saved me!

To avoid (human) traffic jam on the Ancient City Walls and the long queue for the cable car, stroll early in the morning, then head to the top of Srđ Mountain!

Mostar 

Joined a tour group from Dubrovnik and visited Mostar.

‘The historic town of Mostar, spanning a deep valley of the Neretva River, developed in the 15th and 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town and during the Austro-Hungarian period in the 19th and 20th centuries. Mostar has long been known for its old Turkish houses and Old Bridge, Stari Most, after which it is named. In the 1990s conflict, however, most of the historic town and the Old Bridge, designed by the renowned architect Sinan, was destroyed. The Old Bridge was recently rebuilt and many of the edifices in the Old Town have been restored or rebuilt with the contribution of an international scientific committee established by UNESCO. The Old Bridge area, with its pre-Ottoman, eastern Ottoman, Mediterranean and western European architectural features, is an outstanding example of a multicultural urban settlement. The reconstructed Old Bridge and Old City of Mostar is a symbol of reconciliation, international co-operation and of the coexistence of diverse cultural, ethnic and religious communities.’    (source: UNESCO website)

View from the Minaret of Koski Mehmed Pašha Mosque –  Stari Most after reconstruction completed in 2008. On the way to Mostar, I saw some remains of buildings destroyed during the Bosnian War.
He is collecting 25 euros from passersby to jump…
into the river from the Old Bridge, about 25 metres high above water level.

If you plan to visit this pretty old town or Montenegro with a guided tour from Dubrovnik, choose one in a mini van or/on weekdays, otherwise it would take really long – 6 hours in the high season – to clear the border(s).

Mljet 

Last but not least, Mljet is the best highlight of my trip. I didn’t see Odysseus Cave, but the national park was marvelous enough to satisfy me. Walking around the salt lakes, dived into the water whenever/wherever I wanted. I highly recommend the small lake where the waves were calmer, the water looked more emerald green and there were few tourists. I loved the tranquility and calmness floating on the gentle waves. It was so peaceful and soothing, which brought me back to childhood as I brought up by the sea, that I almost fell asleep!!

Benedictine monastery on the Isle of St Mary in the middle of Veliko Jezero (the Great Lake)

My photos cannot describe the beauty enough, so I uploaded below:

About 1.5 hour ferry boat trip from Gruž Port, Dubrovnik to Polače, Mljet (140 kn for return). The entrance fee to the  Mljet National Park is 125 kn (incl. bus and boat fares in the park), but worthwhile paying.

Mljet National Park
Timetable: Gruz – Mljet

 

Lessons learned :

Next time on, I will avoid travelling in high season (and the places Game of Thrones were filmed – is it the reason why Isle of Skye was full of tourists last year? Nay, it’s not the filming location, isn’t it?). And next time in Dalmatia, to keep away from the major towns/cities and stay in a smaller and quieter village or island.

 

Anyway, my culinary adventure stories shall follow.

 

 

Eating Well?

My Bucatini con Sarde (click here for the recipe) e finocchietto

 

Hope you are eating well. I’ll come back soon 🙂

 

My cooking from Sicily trip 2016

The Misteries of Trapani – Good Friday in Sicily

Easter is approaching again…. As I posted last year, I travelled around in Sicily during the Holy Week of 2016, and saw some religious traditions: U Signuruzzu a Cavad du in CaccamoHoly Monday processions in Enna and so on. After Etna, I moved on to the western part of the island for the Holy Thursday Procession in Marsala and Processione dei Misteri di Trapani on Good Friday.

The Processione dei Misteri di Trapani or simply the Misteri di Trapani (in English, the ‘Procession of the Mysteries of Trapani’ or the ‘Mysteries of Trapani’) is a day-long passion procession featuring twenty floats of lifelike wood, canvas and glue sculptures of individual scenes of the events of the Passion, a passion play at the centre and the culmination of the Holy Week in Trapani.

The Misteri are amongst the oldest continuously running religious events in Europe, having been played every Good Friday since before the Easter of 1612, and running for at least 16 continuous hours, but occasionally well beyond the 24 hours, are the longest religious festival in Sicily and in Italy. (source: Wikipedia)

Programme for Holy Week 2016

 

The Misteri are an artistic representation of the Passion and Death of Jesus through twenty sculptural groups, including two statues of the Dead Jesus and of the Lady of Sorrows. They were granted in trust, by deeds, by the Brotherhood of St Michael the Archangel, which instituted the rite in the late 16th century, to the members of the local Guilds in exchange of the promise to carry them during the passion procession every Good Friday. (Wikipedia)

At 2 pm, the procession commenced from Chiesa del Purgatorio accompanied by the local marching bands.

The statues are taken around Trapani by the portatori, volunteers who carry them on their shoulders and walk with a particular step called nnacata, rocking sideways.

  

Stood still for about 5 hours to observe all the 20 statues!

The procession continues throughout the night…

even in rain…. (shower the following morning)

finale

retiring into the church 24 hours after (about 23 hrs in 2016)

 

The people

Kinosaki Onsen Hot Spring Town

As I mentioned last March on this blog (Kusatsu Onsen Hot Springs Resort), a friend of mine and I made a visit to another Onsen place. It was just before the New Year’s Eve and Kinosaki was ready for the 2017.

Shimekazari : traditional Japanese New Year decoration or wreath hung over the front door to keep evil spirits away and to welcome the Toshigami, the deity of the New Year
Kadomatsu (Gate Pine) : another New Year decoration to welcome in good fortune for the New Year – normally set up on either side of the front entrance to the house

Kinosaki Onsen is one of the most well-known hot spring resorts in Japan. One of the reasons is that it appears in At Kinosaki (1917) by Japanese writer, Naoya Shiga  – there still exists the ryokan, Mikiya where the author stayed. In the short story, the main character visits Kinosaki Onsen to recuperate from injury.

Not for recuperation, but I used to dip in the hot spring in winters when I was a resident in Kobe (Arima Onsen in Kobe is my another favourite). Kinosaki is getting popular among foreign tourists – but still less compared to Hakone, Kusatsu etc. – although it is far from Tokyo, and even from Kyoto or Osaka, it takes about three hours.

map from Independent

Whether it’s popular or not, you would surely be charmed once you visit the onsen town along a willow-lined river. Walking down the high street with old-fashioned shops, restaurants and amusement arcades, you would feel the ambience of good old Japan.

The top attraction at Kinosaki is sotoyu meguri, ‘public bath stroll’ although every ryokan has its own bath. There are seven public bathhouses in town, and in the evenings, people enjoy onsen hopping from one to another in yukata outfit and wooden geta sandals – also some in early mornings as well.

Sotoyu meguri is enjoyable, but you should be mindful of yuatari, bath dizziness, which may cause your blood pressure and heart rate to rise temporary. To avoid yuatari, we didn’t bathe too long or longer than our body can handle, and didn’t try all the seven bathhouses – just two or three a day at most is enough! – and had two at night and one in the morning.

Below are the seven along with the sotoyu meguri map:

 

 

① Satono-yu
② Jizou-yu
③ Yanagi-yu
④ Ichino-yu
⑤ Goshono-yu
⑥ Mandara-yu
⑦ Kouno-yu

The weather forecast expected snow for the days, however, we had some rain and occasional sleet or hailstone instead. Our bare feet in geta sandals miserably got soaked and frozen on the way to the baths, so we had to defrost them in the hot spring 😦

Other than that, we relaxed in the hot springs and enjoyed hopping (and a bottle of German wine afterwards 😀 )

Kinosaki Onsen promotion video

 

MUST EAT & DRINK at Kinosaki

Seafood from the Sea of Japan

Onsen tamago again (Read my Kusatsu Onsen Hot Springs Resort). Buy nama (raw) tamago and cook your own in a hot spring well!

(You can make onsen tamago – not in a hot spring though – at home! Here is the wonderful recipe.)

Takeaway Ohagi/Botamochi at Chikara Mochi.

(from left) cinnamon daifuku, shio (salt) daifuku, ohagi/botamochi

Kinosaki Beer from a microbrewery in Kinosaki.

The beer is good, but I would like you to try Japanese sake, Kasumitsuru. If you visit Kinosaki in winter, try Kasumitsuru Shiboritate sold only for winters.

If you drive to Kinosaki or can afford a one-hour taxi drive from Kinosaki, visit Katsumitsuru Brewery, where you can join the guided tour (booking is necessary) and try some samples.

Sake brewing at Kasumitsuru Brewery (in English)

To be honest, I prefer Kotsuzumi from adjacent province, Tamba. There are variety of Kotsuzumi, and among others, I like Akino Hiyaoroshi most. Unfortunately, this one is also seasonal product and only available in autumn months.

Visit the liquor store, Sakamotoya in Kinosaki where you can find the drinks I mentioned above and buy not only bottled but also a glass (glasses 😀 ) of sake at the counter.

crab crab crab crab

In winter months, from November to March when Matsubagani crab is in season, many, especially from Kansai region (I used to be the one of them), head to Kinosaki for Matsubagani cuisine – kani sashi, yaki ganikani suki/kani nabe etc.

However, Matubagani is pretty expensive. If you find less expensive ones or dishes, they are not Matsubagani but crabs from Russia.

Kani suki, crab hot pot (pic from Mikiya website)

If you would like to enjoy sushi, sashimi, Matsubagani and other seafood dishes in high quality, dine at Orizuru, one of the best restaurants in Kinosaki. Reservation is a must.

Orizuru

As you can easily imagine, the bill would come out quite…, but their lunch menu is more affordable. I popped in the restaurant at lunch time after seeing off my company who headed for Izumo Grand Shrine, and took away a bento box of kani chirasi, scattered sushi with crab meat.

kani chirashi (1,400 yen)

If you are Wagyu or Kobe Beef lover, Tajima Beef is a must!

 

How to get to Kinosaki Onsen

By bus (Zentan Bus)
From Osaka (nr Umeda Station) or Shin Osaka (departs from nr JR Shin Osaka Station): about  3-3.5 hour journey
From Kobe (nr JR Sannomiya Station): about 3 – 3.5 hour journey

By train (JR)
Click here for further information.
Hyperdia – timetable and route search

 

Where to Stay in Kinosaki

http://visitkinosaki.com/lodging/inn/

 

More options: minshukua kind of bed & breakfast or guest house usually run by family – a bit away from the central Kinosaki but more budget

Hashimoto –  We wanted to try this minshuku but had fully booked. (Not sure if English-speaking available)

Or stay in KasumiShibayama etc. small towns by the Sea of Japan and visit fish markets!

Maruya – I have stayed here many years ago. The place was cosy and comfortable, and I remember they served good Matsubagani cuisine. (Not sure if English-speaking available)

Kasumi Tourist Information: http://kasumi-kanko.com/index.php

Accomodation in Tajima province: http://www.hyogo-tourism.jp/english/accomodations/hi_tajima.html

 

Bolo Rei – King’s Cake and Lisbon

Bolo Rei, or King’s Cake, is a traditional Portuguese cake usually eaten around Christmas, from 25th of December until Epiphany, 6th of January (This reminded me of my Kutia, Ukrainian Christmas Eve Pudding.)

Bolo Rei is a sweet rich fruit bread – rather than a cake – baked with raisins, various nuts and crystallised fruits. Also included is a dried fava bean, and the tradition dictates that whoever finds the fava has to pay for the cake next year. (Wikipedia)

As you can easily imagine from the name of and fève in Galette des Rois for Epiphany, Bolo Rei is originally from France although it looks like Frankfurter Kranz. (Click here to learn more about Boro Rei from a video.)

I didn’t know anything about Bolo Rei, but a Postcrosser in Lisbon gave me a recipe on the web, and it has stood by to be posted here since last August!!

My Bolo Rei with postcards from Postcrossers in Lisbon and my Portugal postcard collection.

The first try didn’t work out that much – the dough turned out to be hard rock buns 😀 so I changed plain to strong flour. Also altered some ingredients, quantities and process but I basically followed the recipe.

Ingredients

For the dough
85 g assorted crystallised fruits, to chop if necessary
35 g raisin
2 tbsp port wine
1 tbsp rum

35 ml lukewarm water
1 tsp caster sugar
½ tbsp dried yeast
50 g strong white flour

50 g butter, room temperature
50 g caster sugar
1 egg and 1 egg yolk, whisked

100 g strong white flour
100 g plain wholemeal flour
25 ml lukewarm milk
½ tsp lemon zest
½ tsp orange zest
20 g sliced almond
20 g walnut, chopped
10 g pine nuts
(optional: a dried broad/fava bean)

For the topping
1 egg white
crystallised fruits of your choice

For the glaze
50 g icing sugar
25 g honey (I used orange blossom honey)
2 tbsp water

Method

  1. Soak the crystallised fruits and raisins in the port wine and rum for 1-2 hours. Drain well and set aside.
  2. Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the lukewarm water, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Tip the 50 g strong flour into a bowl, and pour in the yeasty water to mix. Knead by hand for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Pour in some more water a little at a time if required. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a bowl, and cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm. Allow to rise in a warm place for 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Remove the dough from the bowl, and punch down gently to degas. Shape into a ball, place back in the bowl and cover again and sit for 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flours until just combined and stir in the milk to mix well. Then add the yeast mixture to the dough making sure it is evenly blended together, using your hand and create a sticky dough. Put in the zests, nuts and soaked fruits (and a fava bean). Lightly mix until all the fruits and nuts are evenly covered by the dough. Cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.
  4. Preheat oven to 190 C.
  5.  Knead the dough for about one minute. Scrape the dough on to a greased baking tray, shape into a round loaf (about 20 cm in diameter) , and make a hole in the centre. Brush it all with the egg white. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes. Cover with aluminium foil if the surface becomes too brown. Remove from the oven, brush the top surface again with the egg white and decorate with cristallised fruits. Put back into the oven, and bake for a few minutes (Do not burn the fruits!). Carefully lift out and place on a wire rack.
  6. To make the glaze, put the icing sugar, honey and water in a small pan over low heat. Stir until completely melted and slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and spoon over the cake.
So far I have received two postcards from Lisbon, which are my faves.

Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe, dear Postcrossing friend in Lisbon. I’m sure to make this again whether it’s Christmas/Epiphany or not!

 


I have been wishing to revisit Lisbon…. Night Train to Lisbon, both the novel and the film, added fuel to the wish. Once I planned train journeys from Nice to Lisbon via San Sebastian but it hasn’t come off yet.

What I enjoyed most in Lisbon are:

city views from above

trams

tram-3

and steep slopes of narrow streets and alleys. Above all, the slopes up to the B&B I stayed at. Whichever the labyrinthine alleys I took, I could go back to the place, which was really fun!

 

MUST STAY in LISBON

Casa Costa do Castelo is located at the foot of Castelo de São Jorge, or Saint George’s Castle, which offers gorgeous views by day and night.

A Room with a view

 

MUST EAT in LISBON

I happened to find Fonte das Sete Bicas when exploring Alfama. It is a small family run restaurant  like a trattoria, and many locals were in for lunch. You can enjoy dishes at reasonable price – I paid 8 – 9 euros for one course with bread and salad, a glass of wine, dessert and coffee (as of 2009)!

Cozido à Portuguesa, Portuguese stew with several kinds of meats and vegetables.
pudim flan

According to Tripadvisor reviews, their fish dishes look also nice.

At another restaurant, Sardinhas Assadas, Vinho Verde and Vinho do Porto satisfied me a lot…. Must go back to Lisboa!!

Rotweinkuchen – Red Wine Cake and Ahr

 Actually, I was not planning to post the recipe in December, but the result has come out satisfactory just before the festive season! The flavour is wintry and Christmassy – wine and spices –  so you might want to try this Rotweinkuchen out for the upcoming holidays. Or maybe with an unfinished bottle of wine from the feast.

As for the wine, it doesn’t need to be expensive or high quality, but full bodied dry red wine should be used for the cake.  So far, I have tried two varieties: Spätburgunder (German Pinot Noir) and Zinfandel. I chose wine with slightly smoky, spicy and cocoa flavours, and that goes well with chocolate. I used:

  • 140 Jahre Spätburgunder trocken (2013) – Winzergenossenschaft Mayschoß-Altenahr
  • Napa Valley Zinfandel (2013) – Napa Cellars

The Napa Zinfandel matched with cocoa/chocolate so well that aroma of spices had been drowned out, so I added ½ tsp allspice more, i.e. 1 tsp allspice for the Zinfandel and ½ for the Spätburgunder cake.

The cakes baked with the each wine properly stored for a few days after opening taste better than with those two right after being opened.


updated 17/2/2017
For the people who prefer less sweet cake with very dry wine:

  • from Mendoza, Algentina
    Amancaya  Gran Reserva (2013) – Domaines Barons de Rothchild (Lafite) and Nicolas Catena (alc. 14.5%, Malbec 60-70% Cabernet Sauvignon 30-40%)
  • from Puglia, Italy
    Chocolate Tube (2015) – Mare Magnum ( alc. 14.5%, Primitivo 100%)

If obtainable, do use Alter Eco’s Nor Intense chocolate. My brownies baked with this choc are divine 🙂 , and it turned out be perfect for the Rotweinkuchen as well!!

source: Alter Eco website

Ingredients

(for 16 cm Gugelhupf tin)

110 ml full-bodied red wine (I tried Spätburgunder / Zinfandel), warmed
40 g sugar free dark chocolate (I used cacao 60 %), grated
150 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ – 1 tsp allspice, to adjust
150 g butter, softened at room temperature
150 g caster sugar
2 egg, whisked
icing sugar, to decorate
(optional: whipped cream)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180° C. Add chocolate in the warm wine to dissolve completely and set aside.
  2. Into a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon and allspice.
  3. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Fold in the flour mixture until just combined, then stir in the wine mixture until evenly combined.
  5. Spoon into a greased tin and bake for about 60-70 minutes or until a skewer poked in comes out clean.
  6. Leave it stand for 10 minutes and turn it out on to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  7. Dust with icing sugar to serve. Tastes better the next day or two than when freshly baked but store properly to keep the cake moist.

 


Some of you may already know, but I am into German wine, especially Ahr red wine. And again, I made a visit to the wine region this September, during the harvest season.

Ahrweiler Markt
@Ahrweiler Markt

It was a bit early for the beautiful ‘Golden October’, but the leaves in the mountains and the vineyards had started turning yellow and brown.

Ahrweiler Markt from vineyards
The harvest of Frühburgunder, ‘pinot madeleine’ or ‘pinot noir précoce’ in French, had been done a week before my arrival and the vintners were about to move on to Spätburgunder. Frühburgunder is a mutation of Spätburgunder, and ripens approximately two weeks earlier than Spätburgunder. (früh = early, spät = late)

This year I enjoyed a different weinfest: Dernau Winzerfest, or Dernau Vintners Festival. It is one of the biggest wine festivals in Ahr, so tons of tourists got together in and around Dernau, which caused not only traffic (hikers) jams on the Rotweinwanderweg but also train delays! (What was worse, there were construction work on tracks and a fire somewhere on a track or at a station, which caused more delays, train cancellations, destination changes etc… and I almost missed my flight back to Tokyo!! )

source: Rotweinwanderweg Facebook page

I didn’t see such a number of people last August – pretty amazing – and I found that “most of Ahr wine is consumed locally and by the tourists” is completely true.

source: Rotweinwanderweg Facebook page

Do you remember that my previous visit was too early for Federweißer and Zwiebelkuchen (Zwiebelkuchen posted in September 2015)? Rotwein the Foodie never forgot about it 😀

Weingut Peter Kriechel’s Federweißer and takeaway Zwiebelkuchen

Bought a 1.0 litre bottle of Federweißer and enjoyed it with Zwiebelkuchen, onion tart  and Käsekuchen, cheesecake, which matched really well! Federweißer is sweet and low alcohol drink (about 8%) and tastes like juice, so I could manage to finish the bottle in 3 – 4 days! Sometimes I sipped it in the morning before going out 😀

Zwiebelkuchen mit Federweißer @ Hof Bärenbach in Rech

Also enjoyed Federrotter made from red grapes. I prefer weißer though.

Federrotter @ Weingut Peter Kriechel’s wine station on the Rotweinwanderweg

It’s worth visiting Ahr for its beautiful red wines but also worthwhile for Federweißer/rotter in autumn 🙂

Scotch Broth & Potato Scones and Isle of Skye

On St Andrew’s Day


Once I had a precious person up in the Isle of Skye, off the northwest shore of Scotland. Scotch broth is one of my unforgettable memories with the person.

When visiting Skye, I usually take a coach which arrives late in the evening. She always waited for my arrival with her homemade Scotch broth on stove because it was my favourite.

She was like my grandma, and I just loved her. I liked spending time together – attending Gaelic service, chatting and watching telly by the fireplace with a nice cup of tea and some biscuits…. Even the silence for a wee time in dim light before retiring to the bedrooms –  only the sound of clock, light wind and rain around us, and a seagull noise far away – I liked a lot.

My cherished memories.

Ingredients

For the broth (for 4-6 servings)

1.7 ltr water
250 g lamb shoulder (without bones)
50 g pearl barley
1 bay leaf
100 g potato, diced
100 g carrot, diced
100 g swede (Swedish/yellow turnip, rutabaga), diced
100 g  white cabbage (leaves, soft inner stems and leaf stalks), chopped
100 g leek, halved and chopped (white portion only)
50 g fresh or frozen green peas
salt and pepper, to taste

St Andrew’s Cross?

For the tattie scones (8 pieces)

250 g floury potato
25 g melted butter, and more for frying
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp buttermilk
70 g plain flour, and more for rolling
½ tsp baking powder
25 g grated cheddar cheese

Method

Scotch Broth

  1. Put the lamb, barley and bay leaf in a large saucepan with 1 liter water and bring to simmer. Cook over low heat for 60 mins, skimming off the scum.
  2. Pour in the rest of water and add the vegetables into the pan, then bring back to simmer. Cook for 20 mins or until the vegetables tender.
  3. Take the lamb out of the broth, cut into small cubes and return into the pan. Add the peas and cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note:
I didn’t skim off the fat for cold winters and for better flavour. Remove excess fat if you wish.
For better taste, let the broth stand overnight without adding the peas. Skim off solid white fat layer if desired.

Potato Scones

  1. Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain, peel, and mash thoroughly with the butter and salt. Stir in the buttermilk, then shifted flour and baking powder to form a soft dough. Add the cheese and mix well.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead lightly and divide into two equal pieces. Roll out to about 15 cm in diameter or about 4-5 mm thick. Cut into quarters and prick all over with a fork.
  3. Place on a hot greased griddle or heavy pan and cover. Cook over gentle heat for about 5-6 minutes or until golden brown and crisp all over on each side.

MUST Visit in SKYE

My photos cannot show you the beauty of Skye enough, so I downloaded some from isleofskye.com which gives you useful tips on the island.

Cuillin Hills (source: isleofskye.com Facebook page)

Old Man of Storr

Enjoy the walk up to the place where beautiful scenery awaits you. I also enjoyed cream tea – climbed up with a cream tea pack from Morrisons’ – at the foot of ‘Old Man’, whose face in profile you will see from distance on the main road.

source: isleofskye.com Facebook page
Can you see his face? (source: isleofskye.com Facebook page)

Neist Point Lighthouse

I had always wanted to see the site where some scenes of Breaking the Waves (1996) were filmed (also at the Quiraing), and eventually made it! Unfortunately, the weather was bad – no good photos at all – and it was quite hard to get to the lighthouse in the strong wind. Yet, it was still stunning! Hope you have a nice weather when visiting!

neist-point
source: isleofskye.com website
source: isleofskye.com Facebook page

The Quiraing

One of the most spectacular landscapes in Scotland. It has appeared in many films, which attracts lots of tourists to Skye. Actually, I had never seen such an amount of tourists in the island before, and neither had the islanders.

source: isleofskye.com Facebook page

Talisker Distillery 

Islay whisky is wonderful and I like its smoky, peaty and seaweedy flavour – love to visit the distilleries one day – but mellow Talisker gives me more comfort.

Made a visit in 2011

free sample(s) – I think this was 10 yr old. Also sipped Talisker 57° North (alc. 57% !! )

 

MUST Eat in SKYE

What a shame! The Harbour View closed down…. So I tried a newly opened seafood restaurant, Cuchullin in Portree. Their mussels and oysters, along with a dram of Talisker Port Ruighe (pronounced ‘Portree’, old Gaelic spelling), were satisfactory. Book a table to avoid disappointment.

If you are a seafood lover and hungry enough, try the seafood platter!

Cuchullin’s seafood platter (source: tripadsivor)

 

MUST Stay in SKYE

I’m afraid there is no accommodation I can recommend at the moment, because my fave B&B has stopped taking any guests. I miss their porridge and poached smoked haddock for breakfast…. I will post here if they go back to business again.

 

How to get to the ISLE OF SKYE

We don’t have to travel on horseback any longer like Samuel Johnson and James Boswell did in the 18th Century 😀

If you are not driving up to the isle, Scottish Citylink coach services are available.

  • Edinburgh – change at Inverness – via Kyle of Lochalsh – Skye: runs along Loch Ness – you might bump into the famous monster!
  • Glasgow – (a few via Glasgow AP) – via Fort William and Kyle of Lochalsh- Skye: drives through Glencoe

En route, both pass by (or stop for passengers) the most romantic castle in Scotland, Eilean Dona Castle near Kyle of Lochalsh.

Many films were shot in the castle – Made of Honor (2008), Elizabeth – the Golden Age (2007), 007 – the World is not Enough (1999), Rob Roy (1995) etc. (photo from Eilean Donan Castle website)

ScotRail offers more scenic journey.

  • Inverness – Kyle of Lochalsh (then Scottish Citylink onto Skye)
  • Glasgow Queen Street – Fort William (then Scottish Citylink)

From London to Scotland, night train travel is an option.

from my trip in 2010

Caledonian Sleeper for Inverness and for Fort William (Glasgow and Edinburgh routes also available) depart from Euston, not from Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross 😀

@ King’s Cross Station

Book in advance, and you can get a bargain berth.

Took the upper bed.
Scottish breakfast – morning delivery (included in the fare)

Wagashi of the Month: November

As autumn deepens and it gets cooler, leaves change colour into bright red and yellow.

Wagashi of the Month in November is fallen Momiji, or Japanese maple leaves on the bottom of river.

 

Autumn colour from my album:

Day Trip to Hakone – Nov. 2011
Lake Ashinoko, Hakone – Nov. 2011
Tokyo in late autumn, 2014

I’ll add some more photos from a local autumn festival last month.

There are countless local festivals (Matsuri) in Japan because almost every shrine celebrates one of its own. Most festivals are held annually and celebrate the shrine’s deity or a seasonal or historical event. Some festival are held over several days.

An important element of Japanese festivals are processions, in which the local shrine’s Kami (Shinto deity) is carried through the town in Mikoshi (palanquins). It is the only time of the year when the Kami leaves the shrine to be carried around town.

(source: japan-guide.com)

 

Mikoshi