Monday, November 29, 2010

Tokyo Five Foot Runner :: Week 3

Week 3 was a lot like week 2, but a wee bit harder. It seems as though my excitement is wearing off and my muscles are wearing down. That makes for a bit of a nasty combination, but I did my best to surge on and was rewarded by a somewhat inspiring long run yesterday. Another 10K but this week it felt easier and much less daunting. So, while I got off to a rocky start, things took a turn for the better. Why? Perhaps it was all the Thanksgiving goodies I treated myself to. Nothing will fuel your desire to exercise more than guilt and shame.

The biggest banana ice cream sundae in Japan at the Chelsea Cafe in Shinjuku. 

Addictive Bran Muffins with Bird Seed Topping from the Flour Bakery cookbook. Out of all the scrumptious, buttery, American looking things in the book, the first one I wanted to make most was the Bran Muffins. I need to eat hearty and healthy meals for my weekly runs and this recipe just called out to me. They didn't disappoint.

This week's ABC Cooking Studio Bread :: Pizza! 

Tuesday was a holiday in Japan, so Monday night, Blammo and I had some really good sushi below his place of business. On the left, medium fatty tuna (chutoro) and on the right, fish roe (ikura) and rice. I'm always really surprised at how full you can get eating sushi. 

Sunday Night Dinner and a movie :: POT PIE! People really love pot pie. My sister is a big fan and I've been missing her a lot lately. Bags - this ones for you. 

 Except not really, because this one's for me. It has a K on it. The movie by the way, was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Takeaways: 

1. Swedish is a weird language. It sounds like a dutch spoken like Italian. 
2. Men who hate women deserve what's comin' to them. 
3. This is not a great movie to watch while eating dinner. 
4. It is refreshing to watch a non-Hollywood movie now and again. People have wrinkles. Lots of them. 

Can't get enough of that creme fraiche. Whipped with a little sugar and some strawberries. Happy Sunday. It almost made me forget that Monday is pretty much here. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving in Tokyo

Nothing will make you miss home more than the holidays. For me, this especially means Thanksgiving. I totally get being annoyed by the stress of Thanksgiving. The travelling. The family. The football. But until you've been separated from the tradition at least once in your life, you won't truly appreciate what you have. Last year, I pretty much ignored Thanksgiving. I thought at least that way, I could pretend it never even existed and it wouldn't hurt so much that I wasn't with my friends and family. It only semi-worked. So this year, I tried my best to embrace it. On Wednesday night, I baked 2.1 pies for my co-workers in the hopes of bringing some holiday spirit to my quiet and semi-antisocial officemates. I baked until 1am and suffered my first baking casualty ever - a little burn on my arm from taking the pies out of the oven. Youch!

The taste of home was much appreciated (even by the Aussies in the house, who eat pumpkin pie at Christmas before they go swimming on the beach - weird, right?) with the exception of a few needy folks who asked if I also brought whipped cream. I told them the same thing I tell 4 year olds: You get what you get and you don't throw a fit. 

 Some leftover batter for a teeny tiny pie. 

For Thanksgiving Day, I made reservations at Beacon in Aoyama. They do a really nice Thanksgiving dinner every year. I ate here for my first birthday in Japan last year so I knew I was in for a treat. To make things even more fun, I got to treat my Japanese friend to her first Thanksgiving dinner ever! It was adorable. 

 Smoked salmon with curried egg salad on rye toast and mixed baby greens. Just like Thanksgiving at home, salad is just a formality. This came after a pretty mind blowing cream of seasonal wild mushroom soup. 

 Peace! (At Thanksgiving) 
 Beacon did a nice job with the sides. Very seasonal, very earthy and very Thanksgiving. Brussel sprouts with shiitake, creamed cauliflower and pearl onions, whipped candied yams with sour cream and toasted pecans. 
 Oh, why hello there Mr. Turkey! Thank you for invited your friends apple, chestnut and sausage stuffing and cranberry-persimmon relish. Please make yourself at home!

Cute story #1: After eating her turkey, friend exclaimed "I just don't understand why we don't grow Turkeys in Japan!" 

Cute story #2: I tried to explain the tryptophan-induced turkey coma thing at dinner but it was really loud and I had a hard time explaining why it makes you sleepy. When we parted for the evening, I told her that she'd probably fall asleep on the train. She emailed me today and said: 

i was so sleepy on the train as you said.  it's turkey magic?

Pumpkin cheesecake with pumpkin gelato. No gracias on the gelato but the pie was very good and I much prefer it to the recipe I used for the 2.1 I baked the night before. I've come to the conclusion that I like pumpkin cheesecake pie better than regular 'ol p-pie because it's lighter and creamier. And yes, it was better with whipped cream. 

Blammo had a work related thing to do so he missed the Thanksgiving outing. Thankfully, the portions were so big that I could bring him home leftovers, thus completing my quest to recreate Thanksgiving in Tokyo. Leftovers are the best part anyways, right? 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Grocery Stores in Tokyo :: Find What You're Looking For (Mostly)

One of the positives of going on this mad hunt for creme fraiche and buttermilk was that I discovered a few great places to get hard to find ingredients. I thought I'd post them here just in case anyone needs a helping hand getting started with groceries in Japan: 
  • Nissin World Market in Azabu Juban: This international grocery store is a meat lovers heaven. They have a huge meat section and apparently, the Emperor gets his sausages here. Aside from meats (and yes, they have frozen turkeys, stuffing, canned cranberry sauce, pumpkin puree etc. during Thanksgiving) they have a variety of imported groceries from Europe and the United States. You'll find Kirkland Brand, Amy's Organic, exotic cheeses and hard to find produce and herbs. (Lemongrass!) They also have a huge liquor section with beer and wine from around the world. They also sell Christmas trees during the Holidays. 
  • National Azabu in Hiroo: I've never actually stepped foot into National Azabu, but I know it exists and that it is very popular with the foreigner crowd. My guess is that it is pretty similar to Nissin. When I walked by, they had huge Costco sized jugs of Snuggle, so that's always a good sign, right? 
  • Tokyu Hands (Ginza, Shibuya and all over Japan): Tokyu Hands was one of the first shops I went to and had a "oh my gosh they sell these here?!"moment. Anytime I need something for the home or kitchen, I automatically think about going to Tokyu Hands. It's a DIY store with various gizmos, gadgets, crafts and supplies. In their kitchen section, you'll find a small baking area with ingredients and pans. It mostly skews towards Japanese style baked goods (roll cakes and tiny muffin tins) but if you get creative enough, you can figure out how to make their ingredients work for you. 
  • Seijoisshi (all over Tokyo, usually near a train station): A small gourmet grocery store that carries a lot of foreign brands. Great American candy selection, although their other goods tend to skew European. (Seriously, the most Muesli and Haribo I've ever seen in my life.) 
  • Kaldi Coffee (Naka-Meguro, Omotesando): Kaldi Coffee is interesting. I've come across a few of these shops, but usually in areas just on the edge of Tokyo proper. They give you free coffee every time you visit and they have a great selection of imported gourmet goods for not too expensive. 
  • Dean & Deluca (all over Tokyo): If I ever need a good cheese to use in a dish, this is the place to go. Also good for jarred sauces, gourmet salt, expensive wine and tea. 
  • Precce (all over Tokyo, definitely one in Tokyo Midtown and Naka-Meguro): Precce is a great place to get fresh veggies, fruits, meat and fish. They also have some imported brands, but that's not really the focus. They too have a great candy selection. 
  • Cuoca (Shinjuku):  This is your one stop shop for baking. It is incredible. Supplies, ingredients, packaging - the works! The first time I went here (yesterday), I was so dazed by their offerings, I could hardly focus on what I needed to get. They have any flour could possibly need, cookie cutters, adorable fondant cake toppers, plain fondant, nuts, pie tins, pans, silpats, boxes to transport, decorations for said boxes, butter, frozen fruits...but they don't have creme fraiche ^_^ This is where I found the buttermilk powder by the way. I think they also offer classes.  
I'll add to this list if I discover new places, but feel free to add your own tips in the comments. Sharing is caring people! 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Making Creme Fraiche :: A Journey

So, as you know, I'm pretty obsessed with the Flour Cookbook right now. Joanne Chang says that her magic ingredient is Creme Fraiche. When I lived in NY and was feeling fancy (which, let's face it, was all the time) I would buy creme fraiche, whip it with some sugar and eat them with strawberries. I don't know why I felt that this was necessary. Maybe it made me feel like I was living in a magical world like Amelie and not in a tiny apartment with a rat named Stuart above a pizza joint.

In any case, I like to stay true to recipes so that I can blame the recipe and not myself if things don't work out. Creme Fraiche is not sold in Japan. At least not in any of the 7 grocery stores I checked this week. So, I googled around and learned that it is really easy to make at home and only takes about 24 hours. In theory. It took me about 7 days, 7 cartons of heavy cream and a lot of experimenting. Why?

1. Because I am not my mother or Alton Brown, and don't know the slightest thing about food sciences.
2. Because I live in Japan and am limited in my ingredient acquisition.

Round 1: Buttermilk and Heavy Cream

The most common recipe for Creme Fraiche (online at least) is to add 2 tablespoons of buttermilk to a cup of heavy cream and let it sit at room temperature for 1 to 3 days. Easy enough. Buttermilk is not sold in Japan, but I also learned from ABC Cooking School friend and various online resources that you can easy make it at home.

How to Make Buttermilk: 
Just add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a measuring cup, then add milk until you reach the 1 cup line. Let it stand for 5 minutes, and you have buttermilk!

Sort of. Actually, this will give you a very good buttermilk substitute. There are no live active cultures in it, which is not necessary for making delicious buttermilk pancakes and biscuits, but definitely necessary for making creme fraiche. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way when I realized that the heavy cream I left out for a day was still very runny, a little curdled and super rancid.

Round 2: Buttermilk Powder

This round didn't actually last long because I was wise enough to google the answer before wasting another carton of heavy cream. I found buttermilk powder, another good buttermilk substitute for baking, at a kitchen supply shop in Shinjuku. Again, no active cultures thus, no creme fraiche.

Round 3: Sour Cream vs Yogurt

I finally wised up and did some hardcore forum trolling. Though buttermilk + heavy cream is the more popular method, you can also make creme fraiche with heavy cream + sour cream and heavy cream + yogurt. Sour Cream and yogurt are both readily available here, so this seemed like a positive turn in my quest for this stupid cream.
 The players. On the left, 1 cup of heavy cream and 2 tablespoons of sour cream. On the right, 1 cup of heavy cream and 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt with active cultures. 

So, how'd it all work out? On the left, the sour cream version. On the right, yogurt. They both thickened up quite a bit, even after a few hours. The sour cream version was by far more flavorful, creamier and most resembled creme fraiche. The yogurt kind was passable, but kind of a loser.

So there it is! Sour cream wins and I can now sleep at night. I read while I was at the bookstore today, that Julia Childs preferred homemade creme fraiche made with sour cream to that made with buttermilk because it was less tangy. I'm ok with tang, but if it's what Julia prefers, that just makes it all the better. 

 How to Make Creme Fraiche in Japan (or anywhere you can find Sour Cream) 

 1. Heat 200ml (1 cup) of heavy cream (35% fat or more) on low heat just take the chill off.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of sour cream to a jar, cup or bowl. Add about 1/4 cup of the warmed cream to the jar and mix until smooth. This works out all the clumps of the sour cream. Using just a little cream makes it easier (and cleaner) to mix vigorously. Then add the rest of the cream.

 3. Cover loosely with saran wrap, a tea towel or jar lid. Place in a warm spot for 24 hours. I chose the top of the fridge because I read somewhere that this is the warmest place in your kitchen. Another good spot would be your oven with the oven light on. Mix every 6-8 hours if you can.

4. After 24 hours, it will be much thicker. Give it a good mix, then cover properly and put it in the fridge for another 24 hours. It will thicken up more in the fridge and can be used immediately. I don't know how long it will keep, but I imagine 4-5 days. Just be smart about it - you know bad dairy when you smell it.

Tokyo Five Foot Runner :: Week 2

Week 2 is in the books. I ran a little over 15 miles this week including a long run of 10K/6.2 miles today. The weather turned cold for a few days, but dry enough to run outside, which is all I really care about. Yesterday, I had to cross train for 40 minutes. I chose to use an elliptical at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in Sendagaya. No membership needed. It's 420 yen to use their gym for 2 hours and there are showers and hot baths. I haven't used an elliptical since I lived in NY so I was shocked to learn how BORING it can be. I'll need to think of a different cross-training activity because that was grueling on the mind.

This week, I successfully signed up to use a women's only running station near the Imperial Palace, my normal running spot. I'm very particular about my running routine. I prefer to go running right after work, but that requires me to change in a public bathroom and put my stuff in a coin locker. Not a big deal, but running stations are much more convenient since you have a few amenities to help you freshen up after your run. I've learned over the past few months, that being visibly sweaty and gnarly isn't very welcome on the trains. There are a few stations around the Palace and other popular running areas, but ABC Cooking Studio has a relationship with a ladies only gym called Bodies, which I learned upon arrival, is the Japanese version of Curves. The Bodies branch in Marunouchi, just a few steps away from the Imperial Palace running route also serves as a running station where you can store you stuff for 500 yen a visit. A little more than a coin locker which is 300 yen, but way more convenient.

So, what have I been fueling myself with this week? Maybe not the healthiest stuff, but definitely tasty stuff! I've vowed to start eating a little more healthy in the weeks to come and thankfully, since Joanne Chang is a pretty hardcore runner, she included some somewhat healthy treats in her Flour cookbook.
This burger tasted a lot less guilty this week. 

ABC Cooking Studio Bread of the Week :: Cinnamon Swirl Bread. This is a good opportunity to point out one of my favorite kitchen purchases of late - a bread cutting board. It came with a serrated knife that fits into the board for storage, and the grated top comes out so you can dump out the crumbs inevitably made when slicing bread. GENIUS!

A made quite a few cookies this week. Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin. 

 So many, that I had to give some away. I packed a few up in some incoherently cute wax bags and dropped them off at our front desk reception desk. I like our building staff - they're friendly and pretty helpful. Squidward overheard an angry Englishman telling them off this morning, so it seemed like homemade cookies might brighten their spirits. 

And upon our return home, we were greeted with the best thank you card I've ever received. Ever.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No Big Deal (and A Nagging Question Answered)

Hey, remember 5 minutes ago when I told you about how I randomly email bakers and cookbook authors? Well, I just got another email from her. Ok, was unsolicited. I emailed her a picture of the cookies I baked up (her website specifically requests that you do so! I'm not weird at ALL.) Then randomly decided to follow her on Twitter, because, duh...that's what stalkers do. And...

Ok sure, maybe I'm not "trending" or whatever, but this is a major coup for me and my tiny kitchen.

In my email, I also slipped in a question about what I should use in place of All-Purpose Flour. They sell many kinds of flour in Japan, but All-Purpose is not one of them. I've been using a 50/50 mix of bread flour, which is high in protein and cake flour, which has a lower protein content. It's been working pretty well, but I wanted to hear it from a professional. So, what's the verdict?

Hi Kimberly- these cookies look incredible! I think you've made a perfect substitute for all-purpose. That should give you approximately the right protein content. The proof is in the pudding- how were the cookies??
Thanks for sending along pics!

So there you have it. 50/50 it is!

The Flour Cookbook and How It Turned Me Into A Stalker

I recently acquired a Kindle. I really love it even though I swore I would miss the feel of its printed ancestors. My Kindle will never replace my love for wandering around bookstores and it certainly won't take the place of my growing collection of cookbooks. I had added the flour bakery cookbook to my Amazon wishlist knowing that no one would ever buy it for me, so I'm lucky that I stumbled upon it on my latest bookstore bummel. 

This. Book. Rules. For oh so many reasons. First of all, I love the author/baker's backstory. She's Chinese-American, graduated from Harvard with a degree in Applied Mathematics and Economics, did the whole 90's Asian kid thing (ie - had a stable, high-paying job after college) then did the whole new millenium Asian kid thing (ie - pursued what she really wanted because she listened to her parents, got a good job and now has some money to use towards her passion and is equally as successful and double-y as happy than before). A few years apprenticing at some prestigious patisseries and bakeries around the Northeast, now she's the mastermind behind 3 Flour Bakeries in Boston! And she's ran in every Boston Marathon from 1991 to 2006 to boot! She's kind of my hero in every single way.  

Reason number two why this book rules: These are classic American recipes done right. They're simple with the right amount of pizazz. She explains the science behind baking which is always fun and jazzes up these American classics with yummy ingredients like creme fraiche, candied ginger and black sesame seeds. How worldly. 

Reason number three why this book rules: The recipes are both in cup measurements and weight measurements! I can't even begin to tell you how big of a deal this is to me. Japan is a metric country and weighing food is faster, cleaner and more precise. It makes it easier to divide and multiply recipes. When I buy ingredients, I can read how many grams I get in one package, so I'm sure to get enough. Most American cookbooks don't use metric, so I started buying English cookbooks...which is fine. I've got a lot of great Sticky Toffee Pudding recipes but I'm an American! I want chewy cookies, fluffy frosting and pies! (Pies not filled with meat, mind you.) 

Reason number 4 this book rules: It's published by Chronicle, which is one of my favorite publishers. Why? Because they always publish books from people I really like (Tartine, Martin Yan, Chiarello) and their hardbound books lie flat without weights on top of it. MONEY. And they're from San Francisco. West coast bias. 

I haven't taken my nose out of this book since I got it over the weekend. I've never even been to Flour Bakery, or Boston for that matter. But I sort of geeked out over the wekend and while I was on their website, I saw a link about the cookbook asking people to email I did! And you know what? She wrote me back! I swear! I mean, at least her PR team did...but it does seem pretty legit: 

Hi Kimberly!
I'm thrilled you are enjoying the book! And even more thrilled that you use metric- so hard to get people to switch and as you know it's so much easier. I can't wait to hear about your baking- please do keep me posted.
Thank you for your wonderful email!

Real or not, it was cool to get a response and it only inspired me more to actually make one of her recipes. I started with the Oatmeal Raisin cookies tonight and the smell alone was enough to make this book worth it. It's a very simple recipe, but simple is good. I have a ton of other pages marked for the weekend. It's a good thing I started running more because me and my tummy would be in big trouble otherwise. If it isn't obvious, I high recommend this book. It has a lot of great show stoppers, everyday treats and tips you'll love. I promise!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tokyo Five Foot Runner :: Week 1

The annual New York City Marathon has come and go and even though I'm not living in New York anymore, the excitement and energy of the race has still found it's way to my soft heart. Aside from the US Open, I believe that the NYC Marathon is one of the greatest sporting events to attend. I'm always amazed at the diversity of people running the race (hello Grandma!) and always find myself getting a little teary eyed watching people from around the world challenge time, the city and themselves. This year was extra special since one of my best friends, Ms. Ha, took on the challenge and took one step closer to establishing herself as a true New Yorker. And she rocked it! For just her first marathon, she clocked in at 3:43:34 -- just shy of qualifying for the Boston Marathon! I have no doubt, she'll be qualifying soon. 

Anyways, the point of this is that her commitment to training for a marathon inspired me to sign up for a Half Marathon in January. Actually, Ms. Ha and I ran our first official race together about a year and a half ago and while I have continued running to keep in shape, I haven't run in any races or taken it very seriously since. Well, that all changed this week as I began my preparation for 13.1 miles on January 9th, 2011. 

I'm using Hal Higdon's Novice Half Marathon training schedule because it has the most rest days and didn't muck up my schedule too much. I have to jump in on week 4 since we're only 9 weeks away but with week 1 under my belt, I think I'll be ok. My goals are:
  1. Stick to the schedule.
  2. Don't get hurt. 
  3. Finish the race without stopping. 
So, what does one eat during race training? Well, obviously a lot of carbs and proteins but other than that, I haven't done too much research on the matter. So what did I fuel myself with this week? 

Pasta, duh! I adore this super simple tomato sauce recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It takes less than an hour to make, only has 3 ingredients (canned tomatos, butter and an onion) and is delicious. I made a big batch so it could last the week. Meatballs on day 1, hearty mushrooms on day 2 and just plain on day 3. 

Exercising is a weird thing. Burning all those calories definitely makes you hungry, but not right away. In fact, for hours after my runs, I'm not hungry at all. But then it just hits you. So, in order to avoid a total food coma, I've been craving soups. French Onion soup recipes are floating around the internets at the moment, so I decided to give it a go. Oddly enough, this recipe is very similar to the tomato sauce mentioned above but it takes waaaay longer than 1 hour and instead of tomatos, you add beef broth to the onions and butter. 

Sundays are the long run days. Today wasn't toooo bad - 5 miles. I decided to whip up some wonton soup because I saw some really nice photos on this blog, Joylicious. I added in noodles and lots of veggies to make it more filling - similar to a soup Squidward/Blammo and I used to order from Mama Buddha in the West Village. This soup is delicious and simple, but what I liked most about her recipe post is the story about missing her mother. I miss my mom too Joy! I especially miss her when I get gchats from her like this: 

Mom:  Hi Kimmi,I am online.  I am laughing and drinking , drunk! Have a good day. bye i love you 

I logged in 15 miles this week, more than I've ever run in a 7 day period so I deserve a little treat, no? It's been a very very long time since I've made my chocolate chip cookies so I finally dusted off my recipe and busted out a batch. I missed these little suckers!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy Japanese Birthday Party

 Friends are fun. I don't have a ton of them in Japan, but the ones I do have, I like very much. Quality, not quantity people! And even though I can count my buds on 1 hand, they somehow managed to extend my birthday celebrations to 3 weeks. My friend Natsuko invited me, Squids (who is requesting ANOTHER name change...Blammo) and my ABC Cooking Studio partner in crime over for a "typical Japanese birthday cake" party. It was a low key night in Saitama where we ate nabe, talked about appropriate x-mas gifts (Blammo: "Fireworks.") and listened to Spice Girls (only about 30 seconds of it...on accident...I hope.) 
Appetizer. Avocado, cream cheese and shaved bonito flakes with a soy dipping sauce. Pretty tasty and VERY Japanese. 

My friend made "Kimu Kimu Nabe". When Natsuko and I became friends, she said that I had to have a nickname because...that's what Japanese people do. So, she settled on "Kimu Kimu" which is my name doubled up and pronounced in Japanese. In honor of my birthday, she made Kimchi Nabe, a classic Japanese one pot winter dish with kimchi. Cute and delicious! 

More on nabe: Nabe means pot or hot pot. The clay nabe pot goes in the middle of the table and everyone sits around and eats it. It's filled with lots of veggies, tofu, chicken meatballs, pork, mushrooms...basically anything you want. They say that eating nabe brings you closer together, both physically and spiritually. 

Japanese homes get very cold in the winter, so nabe is a really popular dish. You can double your heating pleasure by eating nabe on a kotatsu, a low heated table covered with a futon. You sit on the ground with your legs under the futon and table where it is nice and warm. Natsuko says kotatsu are very evil because once you get under one, you can never leave. 

 Japanese girl's apartments are not built for foreign guys' feet. 

 Cake assembly. For Natsuko's birthday, I made her a typical American birthday cake - chocolate with cream cheese frosting and rainbow sprinkles. She pretended to like it, but I think it was too sweet for her taste. So, she promised that for my birthday, she'd make me a "typical Japanese" cake. I learned on this night, that it meant a sponge cake with whipped cream and strawberries. 

 Me with my eyes closed, waiting for the goods. 


The cake was light, fruity and very delicious. Exactly what I needed after our nabe dinner. How cute is this cake?!
And I got to take home some homemade kitchen mitts! ちょ~かわいい!(Very cute!)

New York Revisited

I left New York about a year and 3 months ago to spend time at home in California and ultimately, move to Japan. I really loved living in New York and ever since I can remember, have wanted to live there. And so I did and it was awesome. What do I miss most about New York? Aside from my friends, it's the food! I never quite hit the bar scene in NY, but I sure did dive right into the food scene and loved every minute of it.

New York and Tokyo are similar in a lot of ways, but one of the biggest differences is that, while I can get very good Japanese food in New York, it is pretty much impossible to get very good NY staples in Tokyo. We're talking hot dogs, pizza and bagels. And if we're getting personal, I'd like to add Banh Mi sandwiches to the list. So, on my trip to NY last month, I made sure to fill up on these classics.
First stop, Gray's Papaya on the Upper West Side for a hotdog and papaya juice. Japanese people actually love hot dogs, or more specifically "wieners" but they haven't quite figured out the bun and toppings part yet. 

 Cookies! Another American snack that just hasn't quite made its mark in Japan. Perhaps they're too sweet or too big? How could you say no to a classic bodega black and white? 

My bagel spot in NY is Murray's because I lived near the 23rd Street shop my first year in NY. I have fond memories of weekend walks for a Whole Wheat Everything with Sun Dried Tomato schmear. I still take pride that I now know not to ask them to's a ritual every Chelsea resident must go through. 

 ((I really wish I knew how to rotate images in blogger. )) 

 Alright, this soft serve is an area I think I can safely say that Tokyo has NY beat. This is a pumpkin cream cheese pie softie from Momofuku Milk. It was...just ok. As fun as all the crazy flavors can be, nothing beats a plain milk flavored soft serve from the Mini Stop convenience store. And if you ever see a sign for Hokkaido Soft Cream, GET IT. It's like drinking the milk straight from the utter. Ok, obviously, that doesn't sound that appealing, but you get what I mean. It's fresh!
Cake balls. Or as Momofuku calls them, cake truffles. These are birthday cake balls (i.e. funfetti) and they were very tasty, but weird to eat. These are a big thing in the South and is basically cake, mixed up with frosting shaped into balls. Cute idea, but they need to work on the name. (or DO they?) 

 I'm not going to say it is the BEST Banh Mi in New York, but it is certainly my favorite. Why? Because as any good Viet would know, it's all about the bread! It's gotta be airy, flaky, kind of flavorless and warm. Case in point: One of the best high end (or any end for that matter) Vietnamese restaurants in the world is The Slanted Door in the San Francisco Ferry Building. They have a to-go window where they sell Banh Mi. Being that they are in the Ferry Building, they have access to fresh "nationally acclaimed" artisan bread from Acme Bread, a personal favorite of mine. So naturally, they use it and...the sandwich is just so so. Another example that fancier ain't always better. 

Back to my point, I like Paris Bakery on Mott because they bake their own bread daily and supply their bread to other Banh Mi shops around town. 

 I would really kill for one of these in Tokyo. 

And a final word from your neighborhood sponsor/tagger with a message.