Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's My Birthday and I'll Eat What I Want To

It was recently my birthday and as a treat, my lovely Squidward treated me to some very very delicious meals. First, an oldie but a goodie, Il Mulino. Il Mulino in Tokyo (there's one in NY too) is a great place to go if you're hungry and like Italian food. Like, real Italian food, not Spaghetti made with ketchup. Before you sit down at your table, there's already 4 plates of antipasti waiting for you. That's my kind of restaurant. A word to the wise, the specials never change. Another word to the wise, get the specials. 

Now on to the main event. On Sunday night, Squids and I headed to Joel Robuchon, which is housed in this random chateau in the middle of Ebisu Garden Place next to the Yebisu Beer Museum. Classy! A quick run down: Joel Robuchon has the most Michelin stars in the world, this one has 3 and he was named "Chef of the Century" by some people. Oh, and he's cool enough to appear on Top Chef! Last year, I had my birthday lunch at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Roppongi. It was a takeout chicken sandwich with brie and a side of Perrier. Oh how I'm moving up in the world!

 We ordered the tasting menu. It started off with a bang with some caviar mixed with crab and some sort of gelee. Delicious!
 So, I didn't have the balls to whip out my camera for every dish but this pearl pasta was too cute to not grab a quick snap with my iPhone. This was our 4th "main course" and I couldn't even finish this tiny plate of pasta because I was so stuffed. Everything was mindblowingly delicious though. My favorite was the egg dish which was wrapped in pasta like a little ravioli.

I really liked the waitstaff. Fine dining can be really annoying and people take themselves way too seriously. But the staff at Joel Robuchon were fun, funny and kept a close but not too close eye on us. We started making Sweet and Low castles and counting all the dessert spoons on the table and our waiters thought it was very funny and joked around with us. It really put me at ease. 

Did you know that petit fours does not mean that you get to choose 4 small little dessert treats from the petit fours cart? Yeah, me neither. (It means "small oven" and you can have as many as you want! Even better!)

No Joel Robuchon, thank YOU! Get ready for a bold, but factual statement: This is the best meal and best restaurant I've ever had. Yes, even better than Ko. First of all, this meal had about 17 dishes and every single one was interesting and delicious. If you ever have the chance to check it out, please do it! It is fantastic. 

By the way, what kind of people eat at Joel Robuchon? Former heads of state, that's who! On this particular night, we were surprised to see that our neighbor was none other than former Prime Minister Taro Aso! Well, we didn't notice until he got up to leave and only because Squids was mocking his amazing leather briefcase/clutch type thing. Taro Aso, by the way, is pretty cool. He's only my 2nd favorite Japanese politician (first place goes to Junichiro Koizumi because he looks like my dad and has AWESOME hair) but he's a pretty cool guy to see at a fancy dinner. According to his wikipedia entry, he loves fine dining! And now I can vouch for that. 

Why hello there birthday present! Happy birthday to me! 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Things That Are Awesome About America

Colonial America. You know, growing up out west, you really get robbed of the whole Colonial living experience. Basically, it is awesome and now I want to go on a rode trip down the East Coast. 
Gray's Papaya hot dogs with a side of papaya juice. Eaten standing up at the counter, people watching. 
Deep fried foods. Covered with sugar. Or candy. Or both. 
Honey Nut Cheerios. 
I heard this song a lot. And I like it. A lot. 

Banh Mi Sandwiches. Everyone has their favorite place and mine just so happens to be Paris Bakery on Mott in New York. Fresh baked bread every hour! 
Sandwiches! Check out this open faced chicken salad melt with bacon from Grey Dog Cafe in NYC. 
The Caprese Piadine from Tomatina in Walnut Creek, CA. It never gets old. 
Diet Coke. Not Coke Zero. Not Coke Light. DIET COKE. 

Homemade Sandwiches. A pre-wedding meal for the bridesmaids. What nice groomsmen! 
Bouchon Bakery. Who says you have to be french to make insanely good French treats?!

Nothing says Autumn like caramel apples. Already cut up and sprinkled with peanuts is so genius. 
Wine! We make some damn good wine. Again, eat it France! (errr...drink it France?)
Good deals. On really big Sandwiches. 
That someone at Hostess thought it wise to name this product GLO Balls..well, I tip my hat to you America. You did me proud. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Out of Sight, Out of Touch

Who are these people?!

One of my greatest fears of living abroad for too long is getting out of touch with American culture. Namely, American pop-culture. It sounds really stupid and superficial, but it's how I communicate and connect with most of the people in my life. I work for an American company and conduct business in English. Communication isn't a problem and yet, it is. When you take away water cooler talk, simple conversation becomes a minefield of awkwardness and misunderstanding. There's no glue. At my old office, my co-workers and I couldn't be more different. But how could a Long Island mother of 3 and I carry on and fully enjoy a 15-minute conversation? Lost. 24. The Real Housewives of Orange County. How much I hate/you love the Yankees. They may have been purely superficial relationships and conversations, but at least it was a connection made. It makes working together easier somehow. It's the social lubricant of the American office. 

I'm getting dangerously close to becoming a complete foreigner to American culture. This sucks mostly because I used to be like...for reals in the know. I knew things, I probably shouldn't have, but it made me feel like I was a part of society. Celebrity gossip. Political gossip. What music was acceptable to show people on your iPod and which ones you should hide. I just looked at the iTunes top selling singles and albums and couldn't identify anyone other than Katy Perry and even then, I have no idea if I'm supposed to like her or hate her. Glee? Never seen it. Why is the #9 most downloaded song called (and spelled) Gonerrhea? There's a movie about Facebook? Is Twilight still "a thing"? Enrique Inglesias is now making music again? Have I seriously been away so long that pop music has lapped me? I've gone from working at The Worldwide Leader in Sports to not being able to tell you who won the last World Series/Super Bowl/Final Four. (I'm so un-American in my sports participation at the moment, that I could tell you who won the World Cup, Tour de France and any Grand Slam this year.) 

Sure, the internet helps a ton. I'm religious with my Google Reader reading and my friends keep me somewhat informed on what's "hip" and "groovy". But still, for every Marcel the Shell I do catch, 20 others come and go and I'm left standing alone with my sometimes functioning Apple TV catching up on last season's hottest show hoping not to read any spoilers online. And then there's the struggle between trying to stay relevant and trying to go out and live my life in this weird, wacky and pretty awesome in its own right country. Poor me, right? 

I'm about to go back to the States for 10 days and fear that I'm going to be overloaded with culture shock. Seeing as how much of my trip will be spend inside a metal tube high above the ground (an airplane), I'll be stocking up on the latest American Culture 101: Why We're a Dying Civilization required reading - Us Magazine and People. 

PS - Just kidding! America is awesome! (NO REALLY, don't block me at immigration. I've got some weddings and family hug parties to get to!)