Floresta Doughnuts | Japan Travel Diary

floresta doughnutsFloresta Doughnuts | Stores across Japan | Website

You’ve probably seen them on social media. Cute, colourful doughnuts shaped like animals. This delightful doughnut store has been open since 2002. Ever since the first store opened in Nara, this company has stood out from other famous outlets. Say hello to Floresta Nature Doughnuts.

What makes Floresta Doughnuts so natural?

Floresta means forest in Portuguese. This natural theme flows through to their handmade (in-store) doughnuts, which are made with organic ingredients, and little to no additives. The store also tries to keep waste to a minimum, making sure their impact on the environment is as small as possible. In fact the company are so transparent about these things, that you can find the basic ingredients list for their doughnuts on their website. No preservatives are used, so every doughnut is made fresh, daily. The company – which was started by a husband and wife – strives to bring healthier, tasty options to people. A guilt-free doughnut, that you can feel comfortable giving to your children…or for yourself.

But how do they taste?

Very good indeed. You might think that being “natural” and aiming for a healthier doughnut would take away the indulgence. Nope! These are just as delicious as any other doughnut you’ll try, maybe even more so. Floresta still fry their doughnuts, but they don’t taste heavy or greasy. The doughnut itself is relatively light, and the glazes (I tried matcha, of course) make for a subtle sweet contrast.

Which doughnut should you go for?

I would suggest trying a couple – one of their classic ‘nature’ doughnuts, and one of their ‘animal doughnuts’. The nature doughnuts are plain, whereas the animal ones come with a glaze (and sometimes nuts). Prices start at 130円 (around £0.83). The doughnuts may be cheap, but the taste isn’t.

Floresta make their doughnuts fresh, on a daily basis. As they don’t use preservatives, they prefer to make small batches, so make sure you get to a store relatively early. You wouldn’t want to miss out! I would suggest stopping by one of their cafes and relaxing with a coffee. It’s the perfect spot to while away the time.

You can find out more about Floresta Doughnuts here (non-Japanese speakers can use the Google translate version).

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Coffee Valley | Tokyo Travel Diary

Coffee ValleyCoffee Valley | 2-26-3 Minami-Ikebukuro, Tokyo, 03-6907-1173 | Website | Nearest Station: Ikebukuro

This is a bittersweet post to write, as I sit here sipping coffee in my London apartment. Only a couple of weeks ago I was walking around the backstreets of sunny Ikebukuro, searching for this elusive spot. I actually discovered Coffee Valley whilst reading an old issue of Vikka magazine. The feature was pretty tiny, but the emphasis on good coffee and natural food caught my eye. It may sound silly but this little cafe was on my list of must-visit spots whilst we were in Tokyo.

How is the coffee and food?

We arrived late afternoon to find a queue of around 10 people. As a Londoner, this is nothing for me. People seemed curious about us. Maybe because this well-loved spot isn’t exactly on the tourist map. I don’t know. Either way we happily waited with everyone; which consisted of mainly dates and friends. After around 15 minutes we were directed into the cafe. We were spoken to in fluid Japanese, and told to find a table (spread out over 2 floors) before ordering at the counter on the ground floor. The menu here is small, just a coffee list and the daily sandwich, French toast and cake. Don’t worry though if you don’t speak Japanese. It’s all pretty straight forward, the food is displayed on the counter – so you can easily point – and the staff are very friendly.

We ordered two of “today’s sandwich” whilst I had a flat white, and Ben a drip coffee.  Our egg sandwiches were seasoned well with pepper and small bits of vegetables, which created a nice blend of textures. The sandwiches also came with a side of various pickled vegetables to continue the theme – my favourite! The bread was fresh and soft, and the filling was very tasty. I really appreciated the use of natural, wholesome ingredients. The best way to describe the food here is: simple flavours, done well.

As for the coffee, well it was great! Just as good as my favourites in London. They used freshly roasted beans, with a couple of options of origin. I tried some of Ben’s drip coffee, which was smooth and full-flavoured. If I hadn’t been after a slightly milkier alternative, I would have easily chosen the drip.

Final thoughts on Coffee Valley…

For me, Japanese cafes are in a league of their own. Coffee Valley is no different here. Not only is their branding on-point, but their ideology is too. For me food and coffee should be simple at heart, and transparent. By that I mean the use of fresh ingredients which you can trace back to their source. Again, this is something independent cafes in Japan do well. I hope I’m not coming across as pretentious, but at the end of the day Coffee Valley offers up great food, and even better coffee. So if you find yourself in Tokyo, looking for a chilled cafe, make sure you pop by.

You can find out more about Coffee Valley here (non-Japanese speakers can this Google translate version).

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Sakura at Sake no Hana | Lifestyle

sake no hanaSake no Hana | Japanese | Mayfair | Website | Nearest Tube: Green Park
– reservations available –

Last year I posted about fulfilling one of my foodie dreams – to visit Sake no Hana during cherry blossom season. The annual event of Sakura at Sake no Hana is one of beauty and simplistic indulgence. The restaurant is transformed into a sea of sakura, with blossoms adorning walls, ceilings, tables… The dishes reflect the decor, with hints of sakura and cherry making their way onto the set menu. Myself and VA (chopstick panorama) were invited to return again this year, and of course we couldn’t say no to this glorious event.

To Start…

We began with a cocktail so innovative, I doubt it could ever been outdone. The Kaori Arpége mixes gin, yuzu sake, cherry liquor, peach bitters, grapefruit juice and agave. It sounds wonderful, no? As delicious as it was, the presentation and use of edible perfume made the drink. Our perfumes consisted of 3 flavours: refreshing elderflower, spicy cinnamon and floral violet. My favourite was the unique use of violet, which smelt as wonderful as it tasted.

Mains…

After a light miso soup, we were served our boxes. These consisted of a Sushi & Sashimi Box and Salmon Miso Yaki. I can’t eat raw fish, so the chef kindly seared mine for me. Each mouthful was fresh and flavoursome. I could have easily eaten two boxes. However I’m glad I didn’t as the Salmon Miso Yaki with egg mustard sauce is not to be missed. We both noted that the portions of chunky salmon were of considerable size, and the mustard sauce was smooth and tangy, but not spicy.

And Dessert…

To end our meal I chose the Cherry Chocolate Sake Mousse with a side of Sakura Sencha (a special blend of cherry blossom tea). As always, Sake no Hana produced a beautifully light dessert. With subtle hints of cherry and chocolate, this is a dessert that almost anyone could enjoy. I was pleased to find that the blend of tea was the same as last year; sweet, bold and the perfect accompaniment to their Cherry Blossom Macarons.

Sake no Hana final thoughts:

VA and I spent the good part of 2 hours in the restaurant. When the food is this exceptional, and the decor this magnificent, time flies by. Even if you can’t make it for the Sakura Menu (£34pp for cocktail, soup, sushi and salmon boxes), I would suggest stopping by for the Sakura Sencha (£4.50) and Macarons (£1.80 each/5 for £8). As always I throughly enjoyed my experience of Sakura at Sake no Hana, and that’s exactly what this is, an experience. Relax and enjoy your time at Sake no Hana, because this is as much a feast for the eyes, as it is for the stomach.

Check out last year’s Sakura at Sake no Hana post here.

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A London Life… at Jackdaw Clapton Jazz Cafe

jackdaw-clapton-7Jackdaw Clapton | Jazz Cafe | Nearest Tube: Hackney Central Overground

I’ve always dreamt of myself as a jazz cafe person; black leggings, turtleneck and beret, a la Funny Face Audrey. Ok silly stereotypes aside, I really do enjoy jazz. And yet I barely have the chance to enjoy an evening of smooth music and a good cocktail. Enter Jackdaw Clapton, a Jazz cafe in the heart of East London. I stopped by with Eva one Saturday morning for brunch, and to check out the live music venue.

The Food

The food here is anything but your average grub. I was surprisingly pleased to find items such as jerk beans and spiced split peas against the usual breakfast favourites. Don’t get me wrong, I love eggs royale and French toast as much as the next person, but it does get a little boring when it’s on every menu. We had the Jerk Beans, Poached Eggs & Crouton (a spicy, filling start to the morning), Coddled Eggs & Spice Split Peas (great mix of textures & flavours) and Sausage & Mustard Sarnie (a classic) – all washed down with a flat white (Nude coffee, which I purchased using DripApp). In a nutshell, Jackdaw are offering up an innovative, interesting menu…and it’s pretty damn affordable. Our meal and drinks came to £23 total (£11.50 per person).

And The Entertainment

After our brunch we took a peak downstairs. We’d been told that this is where all magic happens, and we weren’t surprised. The coolest of the cool come here from Friday to Sunday, offering up jazz, funk, soul…the list goes on. And the intimate venue is as comfortable as it is cool. Eva and I commented on how we could easily see ourselves and some friends chilling out in the space. The line-up changes on a weekly basis, and at around £5 entry, it’s a steal.

Final thoughts on: Jackdaw Clapton

Jackdaw is a triple threat: food, coffee and music. Some places might find it difficult to do all three, but Jackdaw does it effortlessly…and in a very cool venue to boot. Put that together with some lovely owners and you’ve got exactly the kind of place Clapton needs. I can’t wait to pop down for one of the live music nights. And who knows, if you come along you may even catch my friend Eva performing.

Read more in my A London Life series.

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Where to Eat in London: Wa Cafe

wa cafeWa Cafe | Japanese Patisserie | Nearest Tube: Ealing Broadway

Some may say that France has the best patisseries in the world, however I would have to disagree. Japan has learnt from it’s European counterparts and created something altogether unique – fusing traditional ingredients with modern techniques. I’m sure you won’t find it odd when I say I miss Japanese food. However you may be surprised that a lover of savoury items such as myself, misses Japanese pastries. I can’t begin to explain how delicious and light they are. It’s something sweet and savoury fans alike should experience at least once in their life. So when I heard that Wa Cafe (an authentic Japanese patisserie) had opened in Ealing Broadway, I knew I had to try it. Skip ahead almost a year, and I was back again for my birthday weekend.

The Savoury…

 The first time I visited Wa Cafe they had run out of sandwiches, so I knew I had to grab one this visit. Two soft, chunky slices of bread encompass the Chicken Katsu Sandwich. Inside, the breaded chicken is accompanied by lettuce and a delicious salad dressing. This is one gigantic sandwich; perfect for sharing. However a dish this delicious may leave you wanting a whole one for yourself.

And The Sweet…

The savoury dishes here may be wonderful, but I know you’re all wondering how the cakes are! This visit I had the Strawberry Shortcake, and I was not disappointed. Japan’s Strawberry Shortcake is very different to the UK kind. A light sponge is layered with cream and strawberries. It’s very popular as a birthday cake in Japan, so it seemed fitting for this particular visit. Wa Cafe’s is just as light and airy as those I ate in Japan. The cream is sweet, but not sickeningly so. And even as someone who dislikes strawberries (yes, I’m weird), I enjoyed this cake immensely.

Final thoughts on : Wa Cafe

Wa Cafe is well worth the journey (around an hour from my East London dwellings), and well worth the wait. The cakes are as delectable as they are aesthetically pleasing. I spent around £17 on this particular visit, and I don’t regret spending a penny of it. Previously I tried the Matcha Swiss Roll, Curry Pan and the Melon Pan – all of which I would have again…once I’ve worked my way through the rest of the dishes. Of course. I could easily have breakfast, lunch and dinner here. In fact I’m not even upset that visiting means becoming more acquainted with my gym membership.

Read more in my Where to Eat in London series.

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Celebrating Chinese New Year at Yauatcha

yauatchaYauatcha City | Dim Sum | Broadgate Circle | Nearest Tube: Liverpool Street

Last week Yauatcha invited myself and VA (chopstickpanorama) to come along to their City location, to celebrate Chinese New Year with them. I don’t usually celebrate new year, whether it’s British, Chinese etc etc…you get my point. However when Yauatcha told me that this particular celebration would involve copious amounts of food – and gin – I found myself unable to say no.

Dim Sum

We ordered all of the dim sum dishes from the CNY menu, which includes: Caviar siew long bun (full of soupy deliciousness), Foie gras roast duck puff (beautifully presented rich parcels of goodness), Caviar taro dumpling (a dumpling by any other name…) and Black truffle edamame sesame ball (oddly sweet). The Caviar siew long bun was the best dish by far for me that evening. However the Foie gras roast duck puff came in at a close second. Controversy aside, this is a delicately rich and buttery dish, and I love the heart shaped pastry. I could easily have ordered both of these numerous times, and gorged on them for the rest of the night.

Main

For our “main” we ordered the Yauatcha scallop pushing (a light, refreshing salad), Hakka fortune pot (a variety of meats & seafood) and Dried oyster fried sticky rice (to accompany). The Yauatcha scallop pushing was a mixture of textures and zesty flavours. Our server also explained that this traditional dish comes with an added bonus; by mixing it as high as possible you can make one wish for the new year. Let’s see if VA’s comes true (she did all the mixing)! I was excited for the Hakka fortune pot as it included abalone (a new taste for me), however I felt slightly let down by the dish. Alongside the Dried oyster fried sticky rice, it all just seemed like a classy version of a Chinese takeaway…which to be fair, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just not for me.

Gin Cocktail Flight & Macarons

The cocktail flight was a lovely accompaniment to our meal. Each of the 3 cocktails was served at separate times throughout the evening; to compliment the food we were served. Of course the Saffron gin and tonic was my favourite. Ever so sweet, and a pleasing colour  – kudos to Monkey 47 for this dry & complex gin.

The macarons (Gin and tonic, Juniper berry, Bitter orange almond, Elderflower ginger, Rose rosehip and Camomile) were a delight, as they always are at Yauatcha. Their innovative use of ingredients never fails to produce a unique flavour and texture. My favourites of the evening were the Rose (tastes just like Turkish delight), and the Camomile (the buttercream is almost custardy in texture).

My thoughts…

Our meal came to just over £157 (£79 each), including the cocktail flight. Taking this into consideration I can’t say I would go back and spend that much. However I would happily go back for the select few dishes that helped make my evening so delicious (see bolded items).

Head to Yauatcha to view their Chinese New Year menu.

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A London Life… at Sushinoen with Nuffnang UK

sushinoenSushinoen* | Japanese | Whitechapel | Nearest Tube: Aldgate East

London is a culinary melting pot of cuisines. We have the complete A-Z of food, from Algerian to Zambian – Foodies need not be disappointed. Whereas I do enjoy discovering new cuisines, there’s one I always go back to – Japanese. After living there, I have a handful of recipes that I like to re-create at home. However there’s nothing better than having someone else cook for you, am I right?

This past weekend I was lucky enough to be a guest at Sushinoen, courtesy of Nuffnang UK. A cute Japanese restaurant tucked away in the heart of Whitechapel, Sushinoen serves up a variety of Japanese dishes. We were sat at a sunken table (horigotatsu), which I always find super comfortable. After everyone had arrived we ordered a bottle of plum wine (umeshu) – my favourite Japanese tipple. Conversation flowed as the first round of food was brought to the table: Butakakuni, Agedashi Tofu, Beef Tataki, White Tuna Carpaccio, Mixed Seaweed Salad, Shumai, and Chicken Gyoza. Honestly I would recommend it all, but it was the Butakakuni and the Agedashi Tofu that really had something special. Agedashi Tofu is probably my favourite Japanese side dish, the crispy outer is complimented by the soft inner (and a wondrous tentsuyu broth). However it’s the Butakakuni that surprised me the most, as I’m not the biggest fan of pork belly. This though was so tender it fell apart and melted in the mouth – definitely my dish of the day!

At this point I was already starting to feel full, and then a wild plate of sushi rolls appeared! We had the Bravo Duo (seared tuna & salmon on California roll) and Spider (prawn tempura on California roll) rolls. I could only manage a couple of bites, but I was left wanting for more  – thank you Hidekazu Tojo for this marvellous invention! Unfortunately we were all too full to eat any Sukiyaki (the next dish on the menu), but nothing was wasted as we were given boxes to take home. The dessert of matcha ice cream & mocha was a light & refreshing end to the meal. Of course I always have room for something sweet – my friends say I have betsubara – especially if it’s matcha.

For any bloggers interested in working with brands, I’d highly suggest checking out Nuffnang UK.
And for those with a rumbly tummy, Sushinoen is definitely worth a visit.

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