Monday, August 21, 2017

Cavalock and The Gen Con Reminiscence

Gen Con 50 ended over the weekend and as it was the boardgaming convention's 50th anniversary, you can bet it was the biggest gathering ever. I was at last year's event and one of the reasons' I'm not there this year is, to be honest, cos of Trump. When it was time to buy the tickets and book the hotel early this year, Trump was making travel to the US a freakin' nightmare for visitors. I took it as a sign that maybe I shouldn't be heading there this year. Non-whites getting attacked were becoming the norm. Today as I'm watching and reading the news, it's the damn Nazis that are more or less given free rein in the US. As a kid back in the old family home, I grew up on a regular diet of WWII literature, history and media, I grew up hating Nazis more than the bully in school. So you can imagine how I feel about the current situation. Part of me is glad that I'm not in that country now but of cos, there's a part that is somewhat crestfallen that I'm not there at the largest boardgame convention of all time.

I had so much fun at Gen Con last year and in 2014, playing all kinds of boardgames, heading to New York after the convention and then wandering around the Big Apple on my own, don't know if I'll ever do all that again. Well, since I'm reminiscing bout my last US trip, maybe this is the right time to mention this neat burger joint, Burgs by Project Warung at the basement of Golden Mile Food Centre or the old army market as the place is commonly known.


Been having the pulled beef brisket with additional caramelised onions for only S$6, quite a steal. The second time I had it, it was less soggy and easier to manage. It's not a very big burger but it's packing a lot in the 'tasty' department. At that price and only a short walk from my apartment, I plan to have this at least once a week.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Cavalock and Marina Barrage Shoot-Out

So while we were in Tokyo for a week, me 83-year-old Dad was still roaming across the island snapping thousands (yes, thousands) of wildlife pix last month. Figured I would share a few of them here, the ones he took at the Marina Barrage. A little shameless plug, don't forget to pick up me Dad's photo book on the local bird scene, Taking Flight at Kinokuniya! :)







No, I'm not going into another rant bout how terrible the shopping experience is at home compared to the excellent service one gets in Japan. I know I did that before, and also bout how cheap things are over there. It does get tiresome. But shopping in Japan is always such a positive experience. At Tokyu Hands Shinjuku, I finally found the Startts bag that I have been looking for. Ain't every day you find a good and inexpensive handmade bag from Japan. Man, I could spend an entire day at Tokyu Hands and still, that wouldn't be enough. So many things we'll unlikely see anywhere else outside of Japan.




Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cavalock and The Social Influencer Dissolution

Hey look! They are opening a famous Luke's Lobster right in your neighbourhood!!! How cool is this?!? Annnnnnd.... this is why I can never be a social influencer. Well, in case you haven't figured it out yet, I was just yanking yer chain. That's not a picture fro Singapore. The kinda prank that I sometimes pull on me Facebook. Posted the picture below on me Facebook with a caption bout Luke's Lobster opening here 'cept I don't say where 'here' is.

I don't post my travels on Facebook except maybe for little pranks like these where I'll show a picture and pretend it's in Singapore. Since I don't feel the need to tell the whole freakin' world I'm outta the country, no one knows. Hah! No, I don't reply to them posts either. And so ends my dream of being a social influencer or food blogger, gone are any hope for meal freebies coming my way. <^;^>


This Luke's Lobster shop was taken in Aoyama in Tokyo and I think it's either opening soon or just closed. Anyway, other things I saw worth a mention. Horse chips! They taste OK, no big deal. One of those things that you just gotta try when you see it, know wat I mean?


This new Haagen-Dazs coconut ice-cream bar is a real treat for coconut lovers. Worth a shot if you are heading to Japan this summer. I guess if in a country with so much seasonal goodies, you can expect exciting flavours almost every other month.


No, this here below is not a honey-flavoured snack. Do not eat this. I love how just about almost everything in Japan can have a cutesy mascot attached to it. 



Friday, August 11, 2017

Cavalock and The Bonus Obligatory Food & Drink Collages

Our obligatory food collage tradition continues with a mix of Japanese and western food pix taken during this summer Japan trip. This trip had us taking in more yakitori than previous visits. Fortunate that we met up with a couple of friends who were also on vacation in Tokyo.


I don't usually drink when at home but it's a different story when in Japan. Cheap and good booze all within easy reach, how could one resist? So here's a bonus drinks collage! Bottom right is me very first lemoncello. Heard, seen and read so much bout it, and finally got a taste of it at Tokyo's little Eataly. Sweet and not too tart.


What a beautiful display of Japanese table settings! Spotted these at an exhibition area at our hotel and was rather captivated by how elegant they were. Table settings as an art is something new to me. Wonder if this will ever catch on in Singapore or maybe it already has?





Monday, August 07, 2017

Cavalock and The Great Vermicular Hunt

We were lucky this summer trip that Keio Plaza Hotel provided us with free breakfast choices even though we don't recall asking for it. My theory is maybe they got it in their records that we were members or regular guests or something. Anyway we decided to go for the traditional Japanese breakfast that was available at one of the hotel restaurants. Pretty fancy for the first meal of the day and extremely filling. Slice of saba, a bowl of rice, onsen egg, fresh salad and way more Japanese breakfast treats than we were expecting.




Then there was that one morning when we had leave the hotel to have our 'usual' Japanese pastries for breakfast. Reaching for a sugar high and carbo heavy start just cos we got lotsa walking to do. Hah! Not really that expensive and I think it's something first-time visitors to the country can easily grab.


On our last trip in March we spent a sizeable amount of time hunting for the elusive exclusive Japanese Balmuda toaster and then stuffing it in our suitcase before lugging it back. Well, here we go again! Only this time it's a (at least!) 5kg, 26cm Japanese cast-iron pot! Yes, we were still within our weight limit after all that, boardgames and all.


So what's the big deal bout this enameled cast-iron pot!?! For starters, it's a Vermicular oven pot that doesn't require any water at all to cook your food. That's their selling point. New Japanese technology at work again.

"Vermicular's main characteristic is its extremely airtight properties that make "waterless cooking" possible. Because vegetables'moisture and flavors are sealed-in, just a few seasonings will perfect the taste. You only have to cover and cook."

Everything stays in the pot and you can roast, steam and boil with it. All without water. The memorable part was how we hunted for this miracle pot throughout Shinjuku and beyond. The big department stores like Takashimaya carried the range but were mostly sold out. However we got our lucky break at Mitsukoshi department store. It wasn't easy packing it into the suitcase but we did it and it's now sitting in our kitchen cupboard.

Now I was just wondering, do people do this when they go overseas especially to Japan? I mean, buy crazy big innovative home appliances and then figure out how to bring them home? <^;^>

Friday, August 04, 2017

Cavalock and The Japanese Boardgame Haul

Time to reminisce over another great Tokyo meal we had last month. On those rare days when we got nothing planned, we were looking for an early lunch near our hotel in Shinjuku when we strolled past this rather inconspicuous basement joint. Fortunately the baker-at-home recognised the restaurant banner fluttering outside and in we went! To be honest, I wasn't aware of this place or its culinary fame and I said 'yes' to eating here as it was a hot summer's day, and I simply wanted some air-con!


The pix we took of the famous Gyukatsu Motomura beef cutlets don't do the food justice. Inexpensive, good food tend to generate long queues and this is no exception. Fortunately it's an "eat-and-go" kinda place, so the queue moved pretty fast. You gotta cook the beef cutlets on the hot stove yourself and it was absolutely delicious. Definitely will visit it again if we can.




No Japan trip is complete without me coming home with more than few boardgames! I tell myself this trip's haul is more moderate than the one in March. I still got at least half dozen old Japanese boardgames that I haven't even played yet! Most interesting game this trip has got to be the below Tokyo Highway, a simple dexterity game that was a sold-out hit at the recent Tokyo Game Market. It was sold out in March and when I checked the shop for it this trip, they told me that the second edition will be in the very next day. Glad I got it and had lotsa fun playing it since.




Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Cavalock and The Coffee and Corn Break

Like our previous vacations in Japan, we once again hand-carried home little crates of fresh produce such as peaches and tomatoes. Still way cheaper than those sold at our Istetan and Meidi-Ya supermarkets in Singapore. But this time, we brought white corn back with us! Yup, the same kinda Japanese white corn that is soooo juicy delicious when eaten raw. I found these last two at a grocery store for only a little more than a 100 yen each! They aren't easy to find locally and if you do find them, they are gonna cost around S$4 or S$5 each if I remember correctly.


This trip was also a good opportunity for us to squeeze in some things that we wanted to do in March but couldn't find the time. And one of that was dropping by the insanely crowded Blue Bottle Coffee joint in the Newoman mall above Shinjuku train station.


Very strong ang mo hipster vibe but thank goodness the hordes of mainland Chinese tourists gave the place that much-needed little pinch of kopi tiam vulgarity. Too harsh? <^;^> Anyway despite the long queue and crowd, service was fast (as expected since this is Japan!) and we soon scampered away to a corner to enjoy our ice coffees. Had the New Orleans which is cold brew coffee with milk and cane sugar. Not bad and rather refreshing in this summer heat but at 500 yen which is like S$6 a cup, a little too expensive even for Tokyo.




Monday, July 31, 2017

Cavalock and The Kyi-Karuizawa Crossing

Karuizawa? Never heard of the place until the baker-at-home told me we were heading there this Japan trip. Hah! Well, it's only an hour Shikansen or bullet train ride away from Tokyo and it's an upmarket mountain resort in the Nagano Prefecture. This being summer, there aren't any snow but you can expect more than a few shops offering treats like ice desserts and their local speciality jam. It's really a quaint little country town with numerous speciality shops. We also noticed some butcheries selling cold cuts and inviting cafes.


Quite a warm 30-minute summer stroll hike from the train station to Kyi-Karuizawa but definitely worth every step, just to breathe in a little country air, take in the sights and maybe later do a bit of shopping at the huge factory outlet that's right in front of the train station, oh did I mention that it was the baker-at-home who planned this trip? ;)




 



We dropped by popular Japanese dessert store Foundry at their Karuizawa Nagano location. Famous for their seasonal desserts, there's just so much goodness in every corner of the two-storey shop. Once more, our hands were already full and that was before us hitting the big bad factory outlet. Yah, we bought a few boxes of apple and peach confectionaries. Kept them in our hotel fridge that night when we got back and finally managed to cross the Pacific Ocean home with them.


"Our thanks and respect to nature's blessings as only the farmer knows. Lovingly-crafted confectionary prepared with only the truest of seasonal fruits and carefully selected ingredients."