Japanese Shaved Ice Is a Splendid Summer Treat

Although it’s mid-August already, summer is still far from over. Each day is a struggle (for me, at least) between going out to enjoy the vacation and lurking home with the curtains closed and aircon on full blast. Being under the sun in this weather is an admirable feat that deserves proper rewards, and there’s no better way to relieve the atrocious heat than the classic kakigori, or shaved ice.

You should be able to find kakigori at any place that has this flag.
You should be able to find kakigori at any place that has this flag.

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Studio Noquudo スタジオ・ノクード

While the Valentine spirit still lingers, I want to take this opportunity to write about… chocolate, and the location in focus this time: Studio Noquudo. Taking its name from the English expression, “knock on wood”, Studio Noquudo consists of an art gallery of the Beppu-based artist, Ninomiya-san, and an open space used to host various events such as café, themed dinners and live performances.

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The location itself is quite peculiar. If you follow along the path North of Beppu Station, you’ll reach, first, a shopping street nestled inside an overpass under the railroad. Continue a bit further along and you’ll come to find the door leading up to Studio Noquudo.

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The first thing you’ll notice about this place is that it is situated right under the railroad, which means there’ll be noisy trains occasionally running overhead – quite an experience I say. The next thing, perhaps, is the interior: surrounded by raw-concrete walls, most of the furniture are made from wood, or at least, sport a similar color. Small pots of plants, herbs and vegetables fill the space. Various art pieces, depending on the occasion, are often on display.

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By this point you’re probably asking, what does all this have to do with food? Well, Sono-san, the owner of the studio, happens to be a very good cook. But more than just being good, she is also creative. Each month, she would organize different events, from lunch café during the weekend to full-course dinner events. I’ve been her fan since the first day, and so I’ve often frequented Noquudo to look for new ideas and perspectives regarding food culture.

Now we get to the chocolate part: for Valentine, Studio Noquudo hosted a workshop that focused, of course, on chocolate. The main activity was to experiment and  customize your own chocolate drink using a variety of ingredients. The workshop also included a dessert course menu, featuring different types of chocolate sweets.

We start with an “appetizer” plate.

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Here chocolate is incorporate in many different ways: dark chocolate + nuts + dried fruits; white chocolate + yogurt + rum raisin on a biscuit; and a kinako chocolate truffle. No sugar was used in any of these bits. Not-so-chocolatey are the avocado and banana on biscuit, which has sprinkles of cocoa powder, and the pickled cauliflower & cabbage on the side. This was served with hot wine – a perfect match.

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Next was the chocolate orange cake, which was soft, moist but not gooey.  Chocolate and orange have always paired well together, and this time it was no exception. A coffee, carefully chosen so that it would not overpower the taste of the chocolate, came with this cake.

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The coconut milk made the dish creamy enough so that it was not too icy – not something you’d want during winter. The addition of fresh fruits was also refreshing. Oh, and everything on this plate is edible – including the flower.

Now, to the final, and the main fun of the day: making your own hot chocolate drink for dessert. We were given a measuring glass filled with soy milk, an alcohol burner, chocolate ingredients put inside transparent plastic cases.

Noquudo06We added heaps of spices like chilli (cos we like it hot!), cumin seeds, cinnamon… Remember the last time you did some experiments in your high-school chem lab? This was almost the same, except for the part that it was actually edible. And  delicious too (although I would have to exercise more self-restraint with the spices…)

To end this post, let’s see some other photos of various events I’ve taken here during the past year.

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Studio Noquudo http://noquudo.jimdo.com/

Address and map in the above link.

Opening hours: according to events. Check the Facebook page for updates on the latest events.

SUNNY FOOD* CAFÉ&MUSIC

A long time ago on a Monday evening, I met a young lady at my favourite tearoom. And as how things usually go there, we soon engaged in conversation. I found out that she worked at SUNNY, a place I’d often heard about. I also found out that I was, by chance, already following her on Instagram to get some info about the place. What can I say, even with the Internet, Beppu is still a small city.

Anyway, Monday was their official day off, so she would usually take the opportunity to chill somewhere in town. We chatted as the evening wore on, and before she left, she gave me some namecards of the café which she drew and designed (I don’t have the photo here, but those were all very cute). So I thought, maybe I should go here at least once. “You should” – confirmed the tearoom’s Master – “I took my wife there once, and the food was very good”.

That was in late October, and I never actually went to SUNNY until this January. There is one (huge) problem: SUNNY is based in Kannawa. Too far away, and the buses aren’t really convenient from where I live. I know I’m missing out much because there are plenty of interesting cafés and restaurants in Kannawa, but I just can’t really be bothered. Except for that one time when I finally made the effort to come to SUNNY.

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The owner, originally from Fukuoka, moved to Beppu roughly 3 years ago. “It’s a nice city. You’ve got all the hotsprings, the beautiful sceneries, the clean atmosphere. Oh and also some of the best ingredients and the best food in Japan”. He surely was not the first of his kinds – stories of those who moved from big cities like Tokyo or Osaka to Beppu have been flourishing in the city’s small community.

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It was a New Year day, and the special Oshougatsu menu was being offered for lunch. I ordered the Pasta set, while my boyfriend got the SUNNY set. Both started with a salad full of cripsy fresh veggie bits: baby carrots, radish, pickled onion with a dash of turmeric…

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And a pretty cup of potage.

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The boyfriend’s maindish was a hamburg steak, paired with homebaked bread. Mine was pasta with spinach and bacon, which managed to infuse just about the right hint of garlic.

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Like many restaurants, SUNNY underscores the importance of ingredients, and most of the vegetables and meat come from Oita or Kyushu. “I wanted to open a café that served home-cooked food. But more than that, I’d like to think of SUNNY as a place where people gather for music or art. I love music. That’s why we occasionally hold live performances of local or visiting artists. You should come some time!” The cafe space is filled with proper sound system, books and a

rtifacts.

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I almost forgot…

Dessert
Dessert

All in all, it was a pleasant and delicious experience. I’d like to come back again, and would highly recommend this place for those going on a lunch or dinner date, or those seeking to try new places.

Address: 〒874−0845大分県別府市北中67. Take the AS60/AS61 bus going to Kannawa, get off at Kitajuumachi.
Price range: Lunch: 1000yen~; Dinner: 2500yen~; you can also come for a coffee and some homemade sweet treats.
More information can be found here (Website also available in English): http://sunnymanpuku.jimdo.com/%E5%96%B6%E6%A5%AD%E6%99%82%E9%96%93-%E3%82%A2%E3%82%AF%E3%82%BB%E3%82%B9/

「ニコニコ村」Organic Grocery Shop & Café Niconico Mura

(read: niconicomura) 

Happy New Year! – I’m a tad too slow aren’t I now. Ever since the first day of 2015 until recently, I had been constantly working on my school assignments, so while I still allowed myself occasion delicious treats, it was difficult for me to find one afternoon to get down to writing without any distraction. I guess for this year my resolution is to focus, focus and focus.

Last weekend, I had lunch at ニコニコ村, an organic food shop/café with an emphasis on macrobiotic food. Macrobiotics is a brand of diet which is quite popular in Japan, keenly advocated by George Ohsawa. The diet mainly consists of whole grains and fresh vegetables, avoiding animal and processed products. Yin and yang are the central ideas of macrobiotics, which claim that a diet conditioned to maintain the body’s balance can improve one’s health and avert diseases.

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Michiko-san posing in front of the shop.

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