Fish, Food and Ice Cream

tsukiji2 Our days have been so packed here, it’s hard to cover things in any kind of detail. Yesterday, we started at the Tsukiji Fish Market, which they say is the largest in the world. It’s a great experience, although it’s such a hive of activity, it’s hard not to feel in the way! There’s row upon row of fish stalls, and a huge fruit and vegetable section as well. I’ll be back later in the trip for some sushi…

oucaWe had lunch in a neighbouring hotel as part of the Irish trade delegation, and then, in the afternoon – ice cream! We went to Ouca, a shop with fairly wild flavours from a western perspective – a seasonal pumpkin, black sesame ice cream, salty soy ice cream lotus blossom ice cream, red bean (azuki) ice cream, etc. 

The flavours were fun, but I think it was an Italian pre-fabricated base, if I’m not wrong. An interesting concoction that they served had agar-agar cubes with ice cream and red beans, topped with a sugar sauce. 

kacyoFor dinner, we went to Kacyo, a Ryotei with private rooms that used to be a private men-only place for closing business deals.

The nine course dinner was great, with the sashimi served with edible shiso flowers and the lobster tempura being two of the highlights for me.

We staggered back to the hotel, stunned.

groupThis morning, we had breakfast at Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant in the hotel with the Minister for Agriculture

We then headed to some of the posh department stores including Takashimaya and Mid Town in Shinjuku, to check out the food halls.

The presentation and variety on offer was truly astonishing. If we had the former in Ireland, I would be in serious trouble.

aokiWe had lunch in Mid Town at Yamanoue Tempura, and the shopping centre contained a beautiful branch of Sadaharu Aoki, a patisserier I first discovered in Paris, and Toraya for traditional Japanese sweets.

I have bags full of chocolates and confections, which hopefully will make it back to Ireland if I can exercise control. 

Tonight there’s an embassy reception with the Taoiseach, but I’d rather keep eating and walking. Tokyo is far more relaxed and enjoyable than I would have imagined. It’s been a brilliant trip so far. 

Technorati tags: 

Kore ni shimasu

inakaya2 I arrived safely in Tokyo, and although exhausted from lack of sleep and the long flight, I’m delighted to be here. 

conradNot only am I in the extremely comfortable environs of the Conrad Hotel in terms of lodgings, but we visited a few food shops and had a great meal out tonight courtesy of Bord Bia

We went to Inakaya in Roppongi, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a Robata Yaki restaurant, which basically means they cook fresh ingredients on a grill in front of you and do a lot of shouting (adds a lively vibe).

We were served an insane amount of courses, including grilled shitake mushrooms, grilled fish, a bit of sushi, grilled asparagus, more grilled fish, etc. etc. 


For those of you in New York, you can get a taste at home – Inakaya opened a branch last year at 620 8th Ave (on the ground floor of the New York Times building). 

I’m tired, stuffed and off to bed early. It’s going to be a long day tomorrow, with lots more eating. Poor me.

Technorati tags: ,

Still More Barcelona

Statue With the days either rainy or cloudy, I´ve continued to spend my time in Barcelona walking and eating. The Catedral de Barcelona (photo above from the garden) made a welcome respite from the drizzle.

Museu de XocolataSo did the Museu de la Xocolata, which doesn´t really have that much to offer, but is a must for a chocoholic like myself.

There´s a little walk through history, including the use of cocoa beans as money (photo right), a slide show that I couldn´t make work, and some sculpures of chocolate that might be impressive in terms of craft but wouldn´t exactly win art awards.

Cocoa SampakaBeing Barcelona, a good amount of the exposition was given to FC Barcelona, although I couldn´t quite understand the connection between football and chocolate. Perhaps the best part of the museum is the shop, where you can buy all sorts of artisan chocolates or drink a cup of the hot stuff.

Another place definitely worth checking out if you like chocolate, is Cocoa Sampaka. There is a shop as well as a cafe in the back, and you are sure to come out with a bounce in your step.

I think it´s my favourite chocolate shop in Barcelona.

What else can I report? Tulanian´s suggestion of Bar Central at the back of Mercat Boqueria was spot on. Definitely worth a visit if you like seafood.

Bar CentralMany of the other places I´ve gone have been little hole in the wall places that my friends here have brought me. All of them good and interesting.

I had a beer of homage in Manu Chao´s pub.

Now I have one more day.

Spain has been great but too rainy. I need to go back to Ireland for some sun!

Technorati tags: , ,

More Barcelona

 There’s so much I could write about here in Barcelona, but I’ll keep it somewhat brief. What strikes me more than anything, is how this city revolves around eating and drinking. It truly is a food and drink culture. 

Between the restaurants, tapas bars, markets, cafes, and snack shops, there is very little danger of going hungry or thirsty. People eat standing up, walking, sitting down, or any combination of the three. It is also amazing to me how happy people are to have a drink as well – at any time of the day. When I go in for my breakfast coffee, it seems quite normal for business people to be chatting over a beer and a croissant. 

The top photo shows a place my Spanish friends here brought me to show me a real old-school tapas bar. The most expensive item on the menu is about 3 euro, and the drink choices are cava (sparkling wine) or red wine. 

I’d give you the name of the place, but it doesn’t have any sign outside the door, and my friends had no idea what it was called, assuming it’s called anything.

If you want to find it, go to Carrer de la Reina Cristina (by the water, and only a block long) and look for the people spilling out onto the street. Seemingly it’s always packed. 

I’m happy to report, though, that between the eating and drinking, I did manage to attend an outdoor concert of Juan Moneo at the Flamenco Festival that’s on at the moment. Needless to say, there was a convenient pavillion selling sandwiches (along with the booze) in case the music went on too long and people began to feel peckish. I ordered a beer. Perhaps worried that I wasn’t eating, they gave me two. 

Today, I felt the need to walk off the calories, so I followed your suggestions and went for a Gaudi stroll. His buildings are certainly very impressive and makes one wish for more interesting contemporary architecture at home.

It’s quite amazing to wander down a street and encounter his soaring curves and sense of fun. 

The Sagrada Familia, although astonishing in scale, didn’t really do if for me, as the church remains unfinished and is basically a construction site.

There were no shortage of people, however, delighted to part with 8 euro to photograph scaffolding and mesh-covered walls and be jostled by overwhelming crowds. Maybe I made the mistake of going on a Saturday and encountered more visitors than usual, but I think it was the worst-spent money of my trip.

Much more satisfying was Parc Guell, commissioned by Gaudi’s patron count. I spent a couple of very happy hours wandering around in amazement. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is not to be missed, even though it’s a bit out of town (bus 24 does the trick). 

In the park, you can appreciate the genius of the master, and there are enough winding paths and little nooks that it’s very possible to find a bit of peace and quiet as well (although musicians do tend to pop up). 

It’s perhaps the best example I have ever seen of nature meeting design, so much so that you hardly know what is native rock, and what is art. If you climb up the hill to the very top, there are some wonderful views across the city.

Now I must leave this. I’m hungry again!

P.S. I missed the match, but the texts are pouring in. Up Munster!

Technorati tags: 


Woman and statue, Barcelona Even though I’ve been spritzed and sprinkled by the rain, I’m quite happy to be here in Barcelona! My feet are sore, my belly is full, and I’m feeling more relaxed already. And no, that’s not me in the above photo.

Thanks, everyone, for your tips, and keep them coming!

Last night, after arriving and sampling a few tapas, I headed to the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the opera house. Sadly, there was no opera on, but I did get in some ballet. The Hamburg Ballet, under the direction of John Neumeier, performed Death in Venice. It was boisterous, controversial, and witty – words not usually associated with this art form. I liked it very well indeed.

Market, BarcelonaToday, after an excellent cafe con leche at the corner bar, I wandered. Of course, I had to start with La Rambla, the famous place to stroll along with all the other tourists.

A quick sidestep, and I found myself in the wonderful Mercat de la Boqueria, a teeming food market dating from 1200 AD. Very impressive, and some fresh mango juice gave me just the boost I needed.

Inside I also found Tulanian’s hot tip: Bar Central, for grilled seafood, but it was a bit early in the day for me to think about savoury comestibles.

Instead I strolled through the Barri Gotic, the old Roman part of town, until I found the Picasso Museum. Not a bad way to escape the rain for a few hours. The museum is especially noted for his early work, and it gives quite an insight into the progression of an artist. I had a passable chocolate crepe in the museum cafe.

XocoaMore wandering, then I met a friend who took me out for – no, not tapas – a feed of excellent sushi (do as the natives do). Apologies – I forgot to make a note of the name of the restaurant.

A couple of people suggested checking out Xocoa, a chocolate shop. Twist my arm. Kate – it still exists at Calle Petritxol 11, and I should know, because I stuffed myself!

I haven’t mustered up the courage yet to try their wasabi-flavoured chocolate bar. It’s in the bag, however, and I’ll turn to it if supplies run short..

Technorati tags: , , ,

Last Photos From Venice

Reflection, Venice I’m just back from Venice, and it’s a bit of a shock to leave the place. I can’t recommend it more highly, although I believe it must be unpleasant in the summer with the crush.

Accordian Player, GondolaFor anyone worried about the expense, just stay away from the cafes around St. Mark’s, and look for an apartment if you are staying more than a couple of days.

We had some meals out and some meals in, and all in all found Venice good value, especially if you avoid the patently touristy joints and make some meals from the market. And why wouldn’t you do just that? Delicious fish, fruit and vegetables at very low prices can make any meal an affordable feast!

Pidgeons couple laughingI do hope to go back to that magical city soon, but now I’m in Dingle, and I can’t complain much about that!

I must get to the business of ice cream (and back to blogging about it!)

So here are the last photos from Venice…

Technorati tags: , , ,

High Tide and a Great Meal in Venice

St. Marks Square Flooded This morning at 8:00, sirens sounded in the city of Venice, waking me from quite a sound sleep. Fire? No, it means “aqua alta” in Venetian or floods. At full moon in the Winter, high tide often floods parts of the city, and we decided to head down to Campo S. Marco for a gander.

Man in Wellies, St. Marks SquareFor those who think that Wellies are unfashionable, the sirens let Venetians know that it is time to don the rubber boots, they do it in style.

Not only do they manage to look just as good, but they clearly take pride in the fact that they can wade nonchalantly through the flooded squares, avoiding the crowds of shoe-wearing tourists on the raised gangways.

Police in Wellies

The great thing about the high tide was Campo S. Marco was peaceful and empty. If you could wade to a raised spot, you were alone except for everyone on the edges. What a beautiful sight.

We did go into the Palazzo Ducale for a look at the Venice and Islam Exhibition, which had some beautiful pieces, and took a quick stroll around the Museo Correr. Then we went back out to the square, and enjoyed the flooded square some more.

Pigeons St. MarksWhat really made it pleasant was that even the pigeons kept to high ground, perching on the chairs of the flooded cafes.

Last night, by the way, we had a stunning meal in Al Fontego Dei Pescatori in Cannaregio. Highly recommended Venetian fare (my Venetian partner in crime compared it to her mama’s cooking – high praise indeed). Make sure you peruse their excellent wine list, and leave room for the sublime desserts if you visit!

Technorati tags: , , ,