kruizing with kikukat

Monday, June 11, 2018

Fried Mahimahi

I guess summer is here.  The rain has tapered off, the termites come around, and I haven't had to turn on my electric blankie for over a week.

When the weather turns warm, I try to serve food that won't add much to the heat...more veggies...less "gravy" foods.  The warm weather is also perfect for outdoor eating and "build your own" foods like fish tacos.

For several years, I've been making breaded mahi (short for mahimahi).  Breaded mahi/fried mahi, is an okazuya staple.  Pieces of golden brown fillets line trays, waiting to be packed in a box lunch.  "Breaded" usually refers to the use of panko breadcrumbs.  The Ds and The Help enjoy mahi because it's easy to eat; no bones to pick out.  I like making fried mahi at home (maybe because The Help makes the absolute best tartar sauce).  I would post his recipe for tartar sauce, but I am certain he doesn't use a recipe.  Magically, it turns out delicious every time.

In spite of willingly consuming breaded mahi, The Help isn't normally much of a fish, rice, and Japanese pickles eater.  So it wasn't a huge surprise when he broke from the norm and used my breaded mahi in fish tacos.  I suppose the stars were all in the right place. . .we happened to have won bok, carrots, purple cabbage, tortillas, AND salsa, on hand.

Whether you have breaded mahi in a bento, with rice or in a taco, making it at home isn't too difficult.  The results are delicious and well worth the effort.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 lb mahimahi, thinly sliced
     1 tbsp sugar
     2 tbsp cornstarch
     1 tsp salt
     1 tbsp sake
     1/2 tsp curry powder
     1 tbsp shoyu
     1 egg, beaten
     1 1/2 c panko
     oil for frying

Combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, sake, curry powder and shoyu.  Add mahimahi and marinate for 1 hour.  Heat oil in a skillet.   Dip fish into beaten egg then roll in panko.  Fry until golden brown.
It seems like it's been a while since I went anywhere.  But a few weeks ago, I went to Honolulu to "fix" my shoulder.  A trip to Honolulu would not have been complete without visiting the newest (for now) member of my family, Cody.  Big congratulations go out to his parents, LA and Stason, and his beaming grandpa Miles.  Cody will have many rich years of listening to Grandpa Miles' stories about his youth, the dangers of going into Waikiki, and how he didn't enjoy napping while he was younger.

And we will forgive Stason for his ugly shirt.

Although I was in town for only an evening, I managed to get my dim sum fix.  We tried a new place called Yum Cha.  I was excited to see xiao long bao on the menu.  It was actually just okay, although this was the first place in Hawaii where I've actually had xiao long bao.  My previous experience has been limited to Din Tai Fung, so perhaps it's not a fair comparison.  The shrimp look funn was delicious.  Yum Cha is one of those places on Oahu where you can get the cute animal buns (I think the other place is Panda Dim Sum, a place I have yet to try).

The animal buns are dessert buns.  The piggies are filled with custard, and the doggies (sorry, no pic) have a black bean filling.  If you know me, then you know why there is no doggie bun pic.  I'm not a big fan of black bean.

The Help had to have his steamed char siu bao, and we also had an order of lo bok gao.  I managed to eat just one of the piggie buns because I could not leave without having my favorite, mango pudding.

For our only dinner,  it was a no-brainer.  We ended up at Tonkatsu Tamafuji.  I was smarter this time and ordered the white rice.  But next time, I think I will try the oyster and shrimp combo.  I don't think I need to eat the pork loin katsu again...not because it wasn't good, but it was just too heavy.

Since returning home, I've been putting a lot of time into my recovery.  In addition to physical therapy, I've been trying to stretch and do more at home.  While I am not back to normal yet, I can tell that I have made progress.  I can actually put on my own deodorant and wash my own hair.

While all this was happening, Kilauea volcano continued producing lava.  It is rather difficult to grasp the magnitude of changes which have occurred in the lower Puna area in the past 5 weeks.  I know of several people who had to evacuate, as well as others who have actually lost their homes.  D1 called me last week Thursday to tell me her long-time friend no longer has a home in Kapoho.  This is not a stranger.  This is someone who has spent time with our family over the years.  It's difficult to find words.

The Help allowed a friend to try out his Fuji, and he captured this amazing picture from his bedroom.   The foreground is bayfront (downtown Hilo).  The lava fountain (fissure 8) is about 20 miles away.
photo credit:  Nakaz42
And yesterday, I received an awesome gift from the valley of the sun. . .D1 returned! 😻

Monday, May 7, 2018

Cripes! Earthquake!!!

By now, you've probably heard about the huge earthquakes and the lava in east Hawaii.

On Thursday, May 3, mid-morning, there was a quick jolt.  It was enough to send me running to the doorway, but not enough to rattle the only student in my class that day.  He sat unfazed until I told him to get in the doorway with me.  The shaking stopped just as he stood up to join me.

By that late afternoon/early evening, the news reported fissures popping up in the Leilani Estates subdivision, about 40 minutes away from where I live.  Aside from my sore shoulder, I had a rather calm evening and was looking forward to the May Day program the next day.

I felt pretty good, pretty top-shape, having dealt effectively with 2 technological malfunctions that week.  KikukatDad's 1st Generation iPad was unable to download an upgrade to the Star-Advertiser app.  For him, that was a deal-breaker.  He knew the time had come to purchase a new iPad.

In spite of being a technology-dunce, KikukatDad, who has never turned on a computer in his life, took to the iPad.  For over 6 years (it was my hand-me-down), KikukatDad has read his newspaper on the iPad.  He mastered scrolling, swiping, and zooming.  When he went to Honolulu for short trips, his iPad followed him.

After a quick run to Target and a short set-up at home, his new iPad was ready to go.  I delivered it to him and he was able to read his paper again.  The Help provided some navigational support to smooth the transition.  So far, so good.

On Thursday, shortly after the jolt, D2 came to my room to show me her cracked iPhone screen.  Weighing the options, I told her we'd get her screen fixed (she would pay for it).  She wanted to use the phone as-is, but I told her that was unacceptable, fearing the cracked screen would eventually give way and cause damage to the actual workings of the phone.  OfficeMax was able to replace her screen, and I was home in time to cook dinner.  Again, so far, so good.

Then on Friday, around 11:30 am, the sign fell off the wall, literally.  I was in the boss' office, complaining about a coworker and a student engaging in blatant academic fraudulence.  One of the vice principals had joined us in his office, as he was questioning a recent announcement.  Then the shaking began.  A sign from the wall behind me fell and landed a few inches behind me.  There was no desk to crawl under!  Well, there was, but I would've had to sit ON the boss!  So I did what any reasonable person would do...I jumped up and held onto the vice principal.  Not my proudest moment, but I did feel safe.

The students and staff were eventually corralled into the pool area.  I actually felt safe in the pool area. . .no second or third floor to collapse onto me.  No concrete to fall on my head.  But every measure of safety was thrown out when the shaking began.  I was floored that many students just sat on the bleachers.  I wanted to run.  Where to, I'm not sure, but I knew I wanted to run.  The shaking lasted a loooooong time.  A student managed to take video, and it was featured on Hawaii News Now (and other places have shown it since).  The vantage point of the video is actually very close to where I was when the shaking began.

We've had a few jolts since then, and it is unnerving every time it happens.  Thus far, the damage at home hasn't been bad.  I lost a Mikasa crystal drinking glass.  My room at school seemed intact too.  I'm fortunate.

I have a few friends who have had to evacuate, and my thoughts and prayers are with them.

In spite of the chaos last week, I don't think we've seen it all yet.  In chaotic times, I find myself resorting to fast and easy cooking.  Just a bit fancier than plain white sticky rice, warabi rice is quick and easy to make.  The ingredients are fairly easy to obtain here in Hawaii.  When things quiet down and tourists decide to check out the east side of the island again, warabi is definitely something to be tried (Suisan---warabi salad; Coqui's Hideaway---warabi fried rice).  If you are fortunate enough to receive warabi as a travel gift, try this rice recipe or my warabi kamaboko salad recipe.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1-2 c warabi, chopped in 1/4" pieces
     1/4 c dried shrimp*, chopped
     1 kamaboko, diced
     2 pieces aburage, diced
     2 tsp salt
     1/4 tsp hondashi granules
     2 tbsp oil
     3 c rice (cook 3 c rice cooker cups as usual in rice cooker)

Heat oil and saute shrimp until golden.  Add kamaboko and aburage.  Fry until aburage is crispy.  Add warabi.  Sprinkle salt and hondashi and toss lightly.  Remove from heat.  In a large bowl, combine rice and warabi mixture using quick, light strokes.  
*My grandma used iriko (small, dried fish) instead of shrimp, but iriko is very hard to find now.

Many of my Rav buddies on the mainland messaged me with their concern.  I am grateful to be in their thoughts.  I think the stress of the earthquakes/lava have taken a toll on me, even if I'm not in such close proximity to the area being affected.  My shoulder has been aching more and more, and nights of good sleep are fewer.

My main hobby and outlet have been affected as well.  I have a few projects going, but I am careful about taking frequent breaks to stretch my shoulder.  This weekend, I finished a beaded beret for DHS.  I hope to finish an MKAL project soon too.  

I received 2 skeins of gorgeous yarn (pictured) from Western Sky Knits as prizes I won in a contest in the Plum Dandi group.  

The Keeper gave me a ramen t-shirt from our favorite Hawaii ramen place, Hokkaido Ramen Santouka.

And Nakaz bought me a yummy lunch on Friday.
I feel the love!

Monday, April 9, 2018

IP Food: Boiled Peanuts

Happy Birthday to The Help!

The Ds and I got him his birthday gift a few weeks ago. . .a Yeti cooler for his ride.  We managed to find it in the ever-elusive gray color.

We will celebrate later today with a cake.  I am hoping Hilo will not be as crazy as it was this past week. 

Whenever it's Merrie Monarch Festival time, the town takes on a whole different persona.  We get inundated with visitors.  This is great for our economy but creates havoc with the normal flow of business and traffic.  Nakaz said it took him close to an hour to get from his place (just across the "Singing Bridge") to Target!  To put it in perspective, it took The Help, D2 and I about an hour to drive the entire length of the Saddle Road!

In an attempt to escape the craziness in Hilo, The Help, D2 and I ventured to the other side of the island.  Apparently, the rain had the same idea and met us in Kona!  Upon embarking on our journey, we passed a familiar sight...the pop-up tent on the side of the road selling boiled soybeans and peanuts, two of D2's favorite snacks.

Over the past few months, I've made multiple attempts to perfect boiled peanuts in the Instant Pot.  I have found that the ideal cooking time is somewhere between 6-10 minutes.  If you prefer your peanuts on the crunchier side, go for 6 minutes.  If you prefer them softer, then go for 10 minutes.  A 6-quart Instant Pot will hold a pound of raw (dried) peanuts. 

Many other recipes suggest using something inside the pot to keep the nuts submerged.  I have never done that.  I find that by allowing the pressure to come down naturally (about 45 minutes) and waiting an additional 15 minutes, the peanuts will all be submerged when the pot is opened.  This wait time allows the brine to penetrate and flavor the nuts.

If you prefer to make this the conventional way, I posted a recipe a few years ago.  You can find the post here.
 click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 pound raw peanuts (dried)
     1 1/2 quarts water
     3 tbsp rock salt
     2 star anise

Place all ingredients in Instant Pot.  Set cooking time for 6 minutes (crunchy nuts) to 10 minutes (softer nuts) on high pressure.  When cooking is done, leave for 60 minutes before removing from pot.  Drain and serve.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Mochi Balls

Spring break is just about over.  It's been quite cold and damp, but something tells me it is like this most every year.  This year just seems a lot colder than previous years.  I spent most of my break wearing socks in the house.

This break was not without some fun.  I went out with two friends.  One of them lives here, but our schedules are usually out of sync, so breaks are the only time we can have lunch.  And I was honored he chose to spend his only free lunch in Hilo with me. 

My other friend outing was a nice breakfast with Dee.  Dee lives on another island, but she came home to spend some time with her mother.  Dee usually makes a quick stop to see me when she is back, but it was really nice to sit down with her and catch up.  I guess she has forgiven me for nearly hosting her demise, although I maintain my innocence since things were beyond my control (While taking a shower at my apartment, she slipped and fell.  That same evening, she got a reaction from gulf rock shrimp which we had for dinner.).  And in case anyone is wondering, I ate the same shrimp and did not have any reaction.  Shit, maybe I shouldn't have brought it up again.

The other fun event of my break was getting together with a few friends.  One of my friends brought back a bottle of sake from her recent trip to Japan and wanted to share it.  Since she was sharing sake, I decided to make a few things to nibble on (I cannot drink without having snacks).  Everyone must have been thinking the same thing because we ended up with tons of food. 

The Keeper brought a tray of baked salmon, which I hope to replicate when D1 comes home.  We also had Indian food, Vietnamese food, and a lovely local goat cheese with herbs.  I made a cheesecake in the Instant Pot because one of my friends was intrigued by the idea.  I wanted her to taste it for herself . 

Since sake was one of the reasons for us getting together, I thought a Japanese-ish dessert would be a good match.  My first thought was to make andagi since I was already planning to deep fry won ton.  Nakaz had been experimenting with andagi the previous week, so andagi was fresh in my mind.  And then I remembered fried mochi balls.

Fried mochi balls look like andagi, but because they are made with mochiko (glutinous rice flour), they are dense and chewy instead of cake-like.  The stiff dough contains a moderate amount of sugar, so there is no need to roll the fried balls in additional sugar.  These mochi balls are similar to cascaron (Filipino fried mochi, often served in multiples on skewers), but they are crispy on the outside.  Unlike other deep fried foods, these mochi balls stay crispy for a long time.  It turned out to be a good choice.  At the end of the evening, the mochi balls were still crispy.

 click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 c mochiko
     3/4 c sugar
     1 1/2 tsp baking powder
     1/2 tsp salt
     3/4 c water
     oil for deep frying

Mix together.  Using a #70 disher (about 2 tsp), drop dough into hot oil.  Fry until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Kamaboko Patties

It's nice to have had a holiday last week.  The next holiday will be spring break, so it is still weeks away.  And there will be no trip to sweeten the deal of spring break (at least not this year).  Oh well.

I was hoping to be posting a bunch of Instant Pot recipes by now, but that won't happen this week.  I've been trying things in the Instant Pot (IP), but I don't think I'm ready to throw out my Crock Pot and Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker just yet.  I learned that you CAN overcook food in the IP.  Last week, I tried making braised English-style short ribs.  It was a conventional recipe (stove top, oven) which I attempted to adapt to the IP.  I overcooked the ribs!  Yes, overcooked.  The meat was falling-off-the- bone tender, and that was not a good thing.  Short rib has a thick piece of non-meat which feels like a cross between rubber and plastic.  These pieces were attached to every bit of meat!  Gross.

And if that wasn't bad enough, I managed to spill short rib liquid on a placemat.  In spite of washing the placemat multiple times, the placemat, my washer and my dryer still smell like beef.  Seriously.  I will not be having beef for a while.

So until I get things like that  (as well as the clean-up) sorted out, I will not be posting any IP recipes.  I'm going to stick to safe recipes while I wait for additional IP accessories to arrive.  I ordered a silicone steamer, some mini mitts, and a 7" springform pan.  I have not ordered a glass lid yet, although I probably need to get one since I do not have a glass lid which fits it.  My friend Odie ordered a non-stick pan.  That might be something to order eventually.

With the Olympics on TV, I did not spend much time in the kitchen.  I wanted to watch my favorite events, the alpine events...Super G and Downhill.  I'm always amazed at how quickly those people make it down the hill.  I'm even more amazed at some of the freestyle events and how more of those athletes don't end up paralyzed from nasty falls. 

And it's not your imagination.  My last blog post was also about patties, clam patties to be exact.  I guess I like making patties.  In addition to being quick to cook, they are easy to serve and easy to pack as leftovers for lunch.  If you have burger buns on hand, these patties make a great sandwich filling too.  While these are good as is, The Help likes his with Bulldog tonkatsu sauce.  I like to have mine with a sesame kochujang dipping sauce.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 kamaboko, grated (medium coarse)
     6 shrimps, chopped
     1 can water chestnuts, chopped
     green onion
     3/4 c flour
     1/2 tsp salt
     1 tsp sugar
     1/4 c water

Combine flour, salt and sugar.  Stir in water.  Add remaining ingredients and combine well.  Using a small ince cream scoop, make patties.  Fry on both sides in oil until light brown.

Last Day
October 13, 2017:  Day 5

Saying goodbye to Hokkaido was a sad day.  Toyoko Inn graciously offered to hold our things while we spent the day traipsing around Sapporo.  In spite of Toyoko Inn being a basic hotel, I actually enjoyed my stay.  The place was clean and the daily breakfast, had I not been a piggie, would've been more than ample.

Most of my day alone was spent looking for yarn stores.  I managed to find Mariya, which was a total disappointment.  There was hardly anything of interest to me.

A few days prior, I managed to find a Kanariya outpost in the ESTA shopping arcade at the Sapporo station.  I was thrilled.

But I hit the motherlode again when I found this store, Yuzawaya.  I cannot read Japanese, so I asked someone to read the characters for me, even though the knitting sheep made me quite certain I was at the right place.

This was indeed an awesome store, and I bought some goodies to share with a few special Rav friends.

After all that shopping, I was totally hungry.  I knew I could find something to eat at the station, and it would put me closer to retrieving my bags at Toyoko Inn.

The Keeper was on the outskirts of the city exploring some kind of temple so he was out of play.  Just when I was trying to decide what to eat, I came across Nakaz, also looking for a meal.  We decided to indulge ourselves one last time at Tonkatsu Wako.  Since it was lunch, there was a slightly different menu...different combination sets.  Yum!  This was a great last-meal-of-the-trip, and it was nice to have good company as well.

There was another memorable food experience...a frozen fruit cocktail mochi.  I regret not getting any pics of it, but it was like eating a creamy fruit cocktail in a mochi.

A final thank you to The Keeper for getting me to Sapporo and back home (and every minute in between) safely.

Goodbye, Sapporo...until next time.

After many hours, I finally walked into my home.  Traveling is fun, but it's also nice to come home and enjoy the travel mementos (sake glass from Kitaichi Glass, Otaru).

Monday, January 29, 2018

Clam Patties

There are nights when I really have no idea what to cook.  And for whatever reason, going to the supermarket after work seems like too much trouble.  That's when I start digging in the pantry for my stash of clams.

These clam patties are quick to make, and I usually have all of the ingredients on hand.  Clams are reasonably priced, and they are often on sale at KTA or Longs.

Feel free to buy canned clams wherever you want, but you won't run into me at Long's.  I don't go to Longs anymore since the pharmacy lost my mom's pain killer prescription when she was dying of cancer.  Imagine that...the pharmacist blamed the misplaced prescription on a pharmacist-in-training from the local college.  She told me she would have the prescription ready the next day.  Bullshit!  My mother had just been released from the hospital and had only a few hours to fill her prescription before getting on a plane for a last-ditch treatment effort.  So no limp apology from a pharmacist can compensate for my mom's pain.  Thanks for nothing, you incompetent dipshits!  Actually, I stopped going to Long's way before that, but I was there to pick up my mother's prescription.  Long's pharmacy does not have their shit together, that's for sure.   They seem to have the fake apology down though, and the pharmacists are good at talking down to people too.  I take my business to Safeway or KTA.

Maybe this rant isn't fair.  Maybe there IS a Long's pharmacy out there which is staffed by competent people.  My mother's incident happened in June 2016 at the Long's which used to be next to the Hilo Safeway.  Okay, enough about Long's.  This is pissing me off all over again.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, I was talking about clam patties.  When we have this, I ask The Help to make tartar sauce (he does a good job).  It also goes very well with potsticker sauce.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 cans minced clams
     1 egg
     2/3 c flour
     1 tsp baking powder
     dash of Tabasco
     1/2 tsp salt
     dash of pepper
     2 tbsp minced celery
     1 tbsp minced parsley
     oil for frying

Drain clams, reserving 1/3 c liquid.  Beat egg in a small bowl and whisk in reserved clam liquid, flour, baking powder, Tabasco, salt, and pepper.  Stir in clams, celery, and parsley.  Heat 1/2" oil in a skillet.  Drop a teaspoonful of batter into hot oil.  Batter will flatten out.  Flip when golden brown to fry other side.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve with tartar sauce or potsticker sauce.  Patties can be kept warm in a 250 degree oven.

Hakodate, Japan
October 12, 2017:  Day 4

Prior to heading to the train station, The Keeper and I went to the far end of the Hokkaido University campus.  He wanted to check out picturesque gingko trees lining the entrance to the campus.

The Keeper told me Hakodate was a 3+ hour train ride away from Sapporo.  I was excited because I had fond memories of train rides.

 Our first stop in Hakodate was the morning market.  In spite of snacking on the train ride, I was starving when we arrived.

The Keeper suggested a restaurant on the edge of the market which served freshly killed seafood.  After the abalone at Ohiso (near Nijo Market in Sapporo), I knew I had to get abalone again.

The specialty of the restaurant was finely minced fatty salmon with ikura over a bowl of rice.  I regret getting the small portion.  I know I could've eaten the large size.  This was probably THE best raw food I had during the trip.

One of the "attractions" at the Hakodate market is catching your own squid and having them clean (read=kill) it and prepare it for you.  The restaurant we went to for breakfast also served freshly "prepared" squid.  It wasn't a big deal to me about catching my own squid, but I knew this was something I had to eat too.  Good thing The Keeper has a good appetite.

Like Otaru, Hakodate has a bunch of red brick buildings.  These are now filled with shops.  Marion Crepes, which also has an outpost in Shirokiya Japan Village Walk, has a counter in one of these buildings.  The yummy filled crepes are half the price of the ones in Honolulu!

We took a streetcar to get to Goryokaku, a star-shaped fort built in the mid-19th century.  We didn't actually go into the fort, but we went to the top of the observation tower.  The tower has sweeping views over the fort and the city.

I love how the manhole covers are whimsically decorated with regional touches.

We returned to Sapporo and went to grab dinner at the ramen yokocho in Susukino.  This time, we ate at Aji No Karyu, the place where Anthony Bourdain ate (this is the first shop, the one that is on the main street at the entrance to the yokocho).  I took a picture of the shop here.  I wanted to take a picture of my corn-less bowl of shoyu ramen (by this time, I realized I don't like corn in my ramen), but there was a large sign in English saying "no photos".  Shit!!!

This was a sad day for me because I knew that in a few days I would be back at work. . .and I was staring down the barrel of an 8-hour plane ride the next day.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Cinnamon Pretzels

Have we recovered from the holiday?  Maybe you have, but I haven't.  I'm not looking forward to the full-blown work day, although I am prepared to welcome the 2nd semester. 

My vacation was really not a relaxing time.  There was so much to be done.  Not only did it take half my vacation to wash the winter ball linens, but I seem to have been in the cooking cycle for the entire time.  I had a bunch of guests to prepare for...the old aunties for Christmas lunch and working palz for sake.  By the time that was over, I was making desserts for New Years Day AND preparing for another bunch for dinner.

The Old Aunties coming over for lunch on Christmas was not bad at all.  I made prime rib with a nice chunk of beef The Help found at Costco.  The working palz were fed a bunch of things, but I think they appreciated the potstickers and sauce.  They also enjoyed the miso salmon.  My fave part of the night (in addition to the company), was the sake.  The Keeper brought some good sake.  We weren't able to finish all the sake (plus another guest brought a bottle), so I shared some with my cousins on New Years Eve, after the crab lasagna dinner.  I don't think sake would pair well with crab lasagna!

I did get a special treat this vacation...I got to meet up with my cousin Michelle and her family for breakfast.  Michelle grew up and lives in Honolulu, but her hubby is from Hilo.  In a strange coincidence, his older sister is my high school classmate.  Small world!  The Old Aunties joined us, and Michelle got to ask them a bunch of questions about her grandfather (their brother).

In addition to the get-togethers, I was busy with projects.  I did a test knit for Kay Hopkins.  I knew when I agreed that the cardigan was not something I would wear, but I saw it as an opportunity to practice stranding.  I gave the cardigan to one of the Old Aunties for Christmas (whew...I managed to finish the cardigan in a week!).

I was not as successful with another cardigan (veronika) D1 requested.  I was hoping to finish it before she left, but with all that was happening (cooking, get-togethers, etc.) between Christmas and her leaving, I was not able to finish.

With the beginning of the 2nd semester tomorrow, I am grateful to be done with my advisorship (and the after-shit which accompanies the event...the washing of the linens).  The students I got to work with for the project were awesome, and they did a great job putting the event together.  On the final day of bid sales, I distributed Cinnamon Pretzels to the students who helped.  I made a few extra bags so I gave some to Ma (if you know, you know), which she consumed in lieu of lunch.

Although I would've enjoyed relaxing during the vacation, seeing friends and family was not a bad trade-off.  

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     18 oz pretzels (we like butter snaps or honey wheat twists)
     1/3 c butter
     1/4 c sugar
     3/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Place pretzels in a 9 x 13" pan.  Melt butter.  Stir in sugar and cinnamon.  Stir until sugar dissolves.  Pour over pretzels and toss gently to coat pretzels.  Bake for 45 minutes, tossing every 15 minutes.  Cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

 Otaru, Japan
October 11, 2017:  Day 3

We spent the 3rd day in Otaru.  Otaru was about a 45 minute train ride from Sapporo station.

In a way, Otaru reminds me of Lahaina, where much of what's to see is along one main street.

Otaru boasts a picturesque canal, which was probably vital to the main economic base of the town back in the "olden days". 

Before tackling the shops, we stopped at a small cafe to sample soft cream.  I got the 3-flavor variety...lavender, vanilla, and melon.  It was delicious, but I should have just had a gigantic cone of just the lavender.  A few of my friends bought the 7-flavor jumbo cone, but I knew I would not be able to finish that, lunch, and what I really HAD TO HAVE.

Today, Otaru is known for glassware.  A wise friend told me that the glass industry evolved from Otaru's past as a fishing village.  In the "olden days", fish net floats were made out of glass.  With more modern materials being used for floats, the glass industry switched their focus from fish floats to table ware.  Kitaichi Glass, a famous glass vendor, is based in Otaru.  Encouraged by The Keeper, I spent a shameless amount of $ on no-drip shoyu containers (KikukatDad requested at least 3 large dispensers) and hand-carved glass, one-of-a-kind sake cups.

I ended up having lunch at a place recommended by The Keeper.  He said it was where the tour bus and taxi DRIVERS dine with the locals.  I had a raw scallop and ikura don.  The ikura was perfectly seasoned, and all of this came on a bed of finely shredded egg.

But my real goal for the day was getting to LeTAO, a pastry shop reknown for creamy desserts.  Prior to my trip, I spent a good amount of time researching specialty food of the region.  Several guides mentioned the Double Fromage cheesecake and Bin de Fromage.  I had been talking about LeTAO to The Keeper weeks before we left Hawaii, so it was only fitting to enjoy the LeTAO experience with him.  I was worried about finding LeTAO, but it turned out that LeTAO is like Starbucks...there were several LeTAOs on that one main street! We ended up at a small LeTAO outpost where there was an open table and a bathroom.

Double Fromage is a luscious cheesecake-like layered creation.  This alone was worth the trip to Otaru.  I have never had anything like it before, and if anyone wants to try testing a copycat recipe for it, I'm in!  It IS available in Sapporo Station, but really, this experience wasn't about finding it in Sapporo. . .it was about having it where it was born. . .in Otaru.

And since I was at the shop, I really wanted to try the Bin de Fromage which was like the Double Fromage but in a cute miniature milk bottle.  I was too full to eat it then, but since it was available frozen in a 3-pack, I bought the 3-pack to share.   The frozen bottles kept nicely during the ride back to Sapporo.

A word of caution with the Bin de must be eaten all the way to the bottom of the bottle for the full taste experience.
After the Double Fromage, I had a gigantic square of kakimochi (The Keeper was sent to buy this for some friends in Hawaii) courtesy of DHS and a persimmon-filled daifuku from a small store on the way to the Otaru station.  Yet, I knew I still had to have dinner.

Because Otaru wasn't far from Sapporo, we returned to Sapporo at a decent hour.  Not everyone was hungry, so everyone went their own way.  I was hungry and thinking about going back to Tonkatsu Wako when I ran into The Keeper.  Turns out The Keeper was also looking for food.  We ended up at an unagi restaurant in the station, Miyagawa Honten.

It turns out that Miyagawa Honten is actually in the Daimaru department store at the station.  Apparently there were some bad reviews, but The Keeper and I were well-aware that the eel is prepared (read:  killed and cooked) to order, so it's certainly not fast food.  I ordered a small set, so the eel came in a porcelain bowl.  The Keeper ordered a larger meal so his eel was in a lacquered box.  I didn't take a pic of his meal, but it was lavish.  And in spite of the humble appearance of my bowl, this was THE best unagi I have ever had.
After the unagi meal, The Keeper and I stopped at a convenience store to buy stuff for the 3-hour+ train ride to Hakodate the next morning.  

. . .another day of mega-eating in the books and another epic eating day ahead. . .