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!