I make a lot of sandwiches these days. One, my wife S love sandwiches. And two, they’re easy to throw together in the morning. (I actually make toasties, having purchased a toastie machine from Tang’s a few months back, but that’s not the point of this post.) I would say that we eat sandwiches (toasties) for brekkie at least four mornings out of seven. One of the most important elements, to me, in making a great sandwich is a great sauce (spread). And while I’d like to pretend I have the time to make my own from scratch, the truth is that I reach into the fridge and grab a jar or two. But since I’m almost always reaching for a jar of Roza’s Sauces, I know that my sandwich will turn out simply stunning.
Often, I find myself needing some time off. Time off from the world, from long work days followed by longer dinners, from my computer(s), from my cell phone, from happy hour cocktails, and just from the world… I was seeking a break where I could nourish my body and empty my mind. So I did a lot of research and asked around, considering various options from yoga ashram in India to a Chinese medicine retreat in Northern Thailand. In the end I discovered the best of both worlds in Kamalaya in Koh Samui, Thailand.
As mentioned in an earlier post, my wife and I decided to take our two year old son to Kyoto for a weeklong holiday. Because we wanted to visit during sakura (cherry blossom) season, we actually booked our tickets almost a year ago and started looking for places to stay, at the recommendation of friends in Kyoto, in early September. Because sakura season (which is the end of March and early April) is so popular, most places get snapped up months in advance. I actually advice booking your own accommodations no later than August the previous year if you can plan that far in advance.
A couple of years ago, my friend Lynda gifted me with a canvas tote bag that had a quirky and beautifully illustrated print. It was a gorgeous print of a loaf of bread with its Chinese name enclosed in dotted boxes. I thought the design was pretty ingenious. If you were in primary school back in the 1980s (yes, you can start figuring out my age), the bag will bring back memories of writing Chinese characters within the dotted boxes and figuring out the correct hanyu pinyin (汉语拼音). Another huge reason why I love this bag is because it features one of my favourite things to bake – bread. This is one foodie gift I greatly enjoy carrying around.
As you can see from the posts that have come before this on, there are many things to see and do when vacationing in Tohoku. There are wonderful onsens to bathe in, great drink to be tasted and purchased, and incredible food to eat. There’s also a rich cultural heritage to explore. One city worth stopping in is Aizu Wakamatsu, which is the main city in Aizu, in the western part of Fukushima.
Matsushima, a small city near Sendai in the Miyagi prefecture (in Tohoku, Japan), is worth visiting any time of the year. The Japanese consider the views of Matsushima Bay, teeming with more than 260 small islands, to be one of the most beautiful views in the country. As you may or may not know, the Japanese love making lists. Especially lists that rank things. They are also a people obsessed with natural beauty, man-made beauty and festivals. So, for centuries, they have designated and celebrated things like the country’s top three gardens, Kyoto’s top five Zen temples, Japan’s top three festivals featuring floats, Kamakura’s top ten wells, etc. Most famous among the many designations might be Japan’s three most scenic places. Selected several hundred years ago, they are Matsushima, Miyajima and Amanohashidate.
There are few things as relaxing and pleasurable than taking a bath–Japanese style–in natural hot spring water. For those of you who have yet to experience the joys of the onsen (the Japanese term for hot springs and baths using their waters), you have no idea what you are missing. I, myself, didn’t until a few years ago. For most of my life, I’ve been a shower person. I truly didn’t see the point of and never appreciated baths. But then, for a consultancy gig I had undertaken for a hotel collections company, I spent two and half weeks visiting some of Japan’s most beautiful and unique boutique hotels and inns, several of which boasted onsens among their main selling points.
Before I had even experienced modern wagashiya (Japanese confectionary shop), Higashiya for myself, I was already enamoured of the discreet yet clearly orchestrated style of the brand; by the time I had my first Higashiya encounter, I was well and truly hooked.
This past weekend, Marina Bay Sands in Singapore hosted its first Epicurean Market. I have to admit, although I have mixed feelings on the success of the festival as a whole (which I will elaborate on later), I had a wonderful time when my wife S and I visited–mostly because of the generosity of the participating chefs and the sheer deliciousness of their food.