Monday, November 30, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 30th, 2015

Hallmark - Doughnut Ornament

I happened to browse in a Hallmark store recently and couldn't resist buying this cute little doughnut-themed ornament - perfect for my food/drink Christmas tree!  It's a little hard to tell in this photo, but this ornament is seriously tiny - around half the size of my thumb, haha.  This is the perfect ornament for anyone that loves doughnuts, or just miniature food in general :o) 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 24th, 2015

Skoshbox - November Box

The November Skoshbox included a bunch of little samples, and a nice mix of sweet and savory flavors.  Along the bottom of the photo are sesame mochi filled chocolates, Hello Kitty chocolate-filled marshmallows, and strawberry milk candies.  I especially loved the sesame mochi chocolates because they had a very strong and nutty sesame flavor.  At the top of the photo are panda chocolate biscuits, a savory senbei (rice crackers with soy sauce flavor), and dinosaur shaped milk biscuits.  Milk biscuits are very popular with young children (I think they also dissolve quickly so little kids can eat them safely), but they're just as tasty for adults, haha.  I really enjoyed everything in this month's box, and I'm already looking forward to December's box!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 23rd, 2015

Target- Reindeer Mugs

I need a new mug like I need a hole in the head, but of course I just couldn't resist looking at the holiday offerings at Target when they were starting to roll out, haha.  Clearly, it did not take long for me to pick up one of these cute little reindeer mugs!  

This reindeer has such a cute face and is wrapped in a bright red plaid scarf on the bottom.  In addition to drinking out of it like a regular mug, I think this would be a really cute pen holder or holiday decoration for your home with some ornaments inside or little flowers.  Be sure to check out this mug and the other super cute holiday kitchen items that are available at Target soon! 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 20th, 2015

Mean Girls Holiday Shirt

Anyone that is a fan of the "Mean Girls" movie will love this holiday shirt at Target! It's one of the most popular lines in the movie (in a movie FULL of popular lines, haha) all decked out in a festive holiday theme.  We may never actually see Glen Coco in the movie, but this is a fun twist on the usual festive holiday clothing that comes out around this time of year.  As an extra bonus, it's a slouchy and very soft fabric!  Target also has a ton of other quote t-shirts and holiday tops, so be sure to check them out soon! 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 19th, 2015

Japan Visit - Bus Tour

While most of my visit to Japan was spent staying with family, my mom and I did get a chance to go on a one-day bus tour to spend some time outside of Tokyo.  Unfortunately it rained pretty much all day, but we all made the best of it and had a great time.  In my experience I've found that bus tours in Japan are always packed with a lot of activities, sightseeing spots, and plenty of food haha.

The bus tour that we chose included lunch at a hotel, a small local art museum, tea and cheesecake at a cheesecake factory, "all you can fit" dorayaki (red bean paste pancake snacks), jellies, as well as local carrots, potatoes, and onions, into 2 separate bags, and all you can pick and eat Pione grapes. So as you can see, basically all food mixed with a bit of sightseeing haha.  We also stopped at some local rest areas in between, which is always fun in Japan because there's a ton of gifts and things to look at.  Even thought it was raining, it was still fun getting to see things outside of Tokyo all in one day!

These Shinshu apple souvenirs were so cute, especially the Arukuma apple-bear mascot!

The tea and cheesecakes at the cheesecake factory were delicious- Japanese cheesecakes are usually lighter in texture and more creamy than the ones in the US.  Of course we bought some at their gift shop to share with family.

It had finally stopped raining by the time we got to the Pione grapes, and we got to see row after row of these perfectly shaped bunches.

These Pione grapes were seriously unlike any other grape I've had before - super sweet and each grape is packed with a ton of flavor and juice.  One of the stipulations of "all you can eat grapes" here was that you had to finish the whole bunch, haha.  Meaning, you couldn't just eat a few off of the first bunch and take a second, third, etc. bunch " to-go".  Which is very smart on the owners' end because Pione grapes are very expensive and if you didn't have that stipulation, people would just wind up taking a whole bucket full of grapes home with them, haha.  I wish they sold these grapes in the US, they are so delicious! 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 18th, 2015

Japan Visit - Kit Kats

Of course it wouldn't be a visit to Japan without getting some limited edition Kit Kats! I always love Japan's enthusiasm for different Kit Kat flavors, and this fall's selection at the airport did not disappoint.  From the top left we have Sweet Potato (meant to be toasted in a toaster oven), Pumpkin Purin (like a Flan/pudding), Adzuki bean (sweet red bean), and Strawberry Cheesecake.  

I love that there are more of these "toaster oven" versions of Kit Kats.  They are plenty delicious on their own, but warming them up in the toaster oven browns the mini bars and makes it taste more like a dessert.  The pumpkin purin is also a personal favorite - just a hint of pumpkin and custard flavor, which of course is something I would like.  I've actually had the Adzuki and Strawberry Cheesecake flavors before, but I like them a lot so of course I had to pick some up.  No matter what time of the year you go to Japan, there are pretty much always new Kit Kat flavors available, especially at the airport - be sure to check out the shops before your flight out of Japan! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 16th, 2015

Japan Visit - Matcha (Green Tea) Snacks

Japanese snacks come in all sorts of varieties and flavors, but I'd say that the dominant "special" flavor is matcha/green tea.  In a standard supermarket or conbini (convenience store) you can find at least a handful of snacks with matcha somehow incorporated in it.

These are some of the fun matcha flavored sweets that I picked up during my visit.  From the top left we have Oreo bits (Mini Oreos in the US) with a matcha cream filling, Sakura matcha Kit Kats, Galbo mini round chocolate biscuits with a matcha coating, and Milky brand matcha latte chocolates.  As you can see, chocolate is a common pairing with matcha sweets, which makes sense because they are a tasty combination, and pretty to look at, haha.  I've been slowly making way through these snacks and they are all very delicious! 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 13th, 2015

Japan Visit - Japanese Cakes

Food in Japan is pretty much delicious anywhere you go, but I have a deep affinity for Japanese sweets.  There's just so many different flavors and types of cakes, tarts, cupcakes, pies, etc. that it can get a little overwhelming, haha.  I'm not saying sweets in the US are bad by any means, but there's just something about the way they make sweets in Japan that is so, so good.

While I was in Japan, a bunch of my relatives were able to get together, and my aunt brought this insane looking box packed with Fujiya cakes, haha.  Just some of the more interesting flavors include purple sweet potato, green tea, and chestnut - all popular flavors for sweets in Japan.  The Fujiya brand has been around for forever, so it's always a nostalgic taste for most people in Japan.

These pretty cakes were slightly fancier and super delicious as well.  My mom and I enjoyed these cakes at a cafe inside of a department store, which had a giant display of about 20 different cakes to choose from - how could you resist?  We both went with seasonal cake flavors - chestnut Mont Blanc, and a muscat grape cake.  A cake with grapes on it might sound a little strange, but these are incredibly sweet seedless grapes that are very popular in the fall in Japan.  A perfect afternoon stop between shopping with lots of tea! 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 12th, 2015

Japan Visit - Food Displays

One thing you may notice when you visit Japan is the sheer volume of food displays outside of restaurants.  They've been around for as long as I can remember, but I always love seeing all of the different plastic foods because they really do look so real, haha.  I've seen countless TV programs in Japan about how these display foods are made, and they really do put in a lot of effort to make them look as realistic as possible.  It's also a great way for people that don't read or speak Japanese to easily decide where to eat or what to order, since you don't need to read menu to figure it out.

This is just a small part of the food display outside of a sushi restaurant (surprise) that we went to the day I arrived in Japan.

And here's the real sushi - not too much of a difference unless you're looking at them really closely, haha.

And here we have a food display outside of a Chinese restaurant inside of a department store, showing some of the entree options as well as the sides that come with certain set meals.

While these dishes are not in the previous photo, I thought it was pretty awesome that this Chinese restaurant offered so many different set menu options - I mean, who wouldn't want a small tonkotsu ramen as a side dish to the entree?  

Finally, we have a delicious shrimp burger from Mos Burger - and I didn't take a photo of the fake one, but at first glance it would be really difficult to figure out if this was real or fake, because both the display and the real burger look identical, haha.  And this is a fast food burger place - when's the last time you got a burger in an American fast food place and it looked just like the photo??  Especially the perfectly toasted bun, not smashed down into a sad sliver of bread, haha.  

These are just a fraction of the amazing food displays you can see everywhere in Japan - such a fun and practical way to figure out what you'd like to eat!! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 11th, 2015

Japan Visit - Starbucks Roasted Nutty Chestnut Latte

As you might be able to tell between yesterday's Mister Donut post and this one today, chestnuts are a big thing in Japan, particularly in the fall.  Starbucks even gets in on the seasonal fun with two chestnut-based drinks that were available through September - a Roasted Nutty Chestnut Latte and Frappuccino.

Luckily, there is a Starbucks located within 5 minutes of my oldest brother's apartment, so I was able to try the Roasted Nutty Chestnut Latte right before the end of the month.  This drink was SO pretty in person with the design on top, and looked EXACTLY like the photo which is impressively common with Japanese food/drink.  The only reason why the left part doesn't have the pattern on top is because I took the lid off to take the photo, haha.  This latte tasted amazing, with a deep chestnut flavor.  I will say that I'm glad I got this in the Tall (Short in the US) because it was definitely very decadent and sweet, so I'm not sure if I could've had a larger size.  I wish they would bring this flavor to the US, I think it would do well here! 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 10th, 2015

Japan Visit - Mister Donut

Of course a visit to Mister Donut was on the Must list during my trip to Japan!  It's always so delicious, and they have a good selection of seasonal items pretty frequently so there's always something new to try.

It being the end of September, fall and Halloween doughnuts were in full force in the shop that I went to - there were so many fun flavors to choose from! 

We wound up getting a chestnut marron cream doughnut, plain Pon de Lion, brown Pon de Lion, and a chestnut Pon de Lion.  If you ever find yourself at a Mister Donut in Japan or other Asian country, you must try a Pon de Lion- the little doughnut holes have mochi in them, which make them extra chewy and super tasty!  I also loved the fall-only chestnut doughnuts - not too sweet, with a deep chestnut flavor throughout.

In addition to the delicious doughnuts, there was one VERY important reason for the Mister Donut visit - right before I went to Japan, they started a promotion for these super fun Hello Kitty collaboration curry plates, with a number of purchases on a point card.  Of course I had to get one since it was still going on while I was there, and I'm so happy I was able to get the design I wanted.  As you can see, it was a very tasty and worthwhile trip to Mister Donut! 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 9th, 2015

Japan Visit - Starbucks Pumpkin Pie Latte

At the end of September, I had a relatively short but fun trip to Japan, mainly to visit family members.  While I wasn't able to get out and do a lot of stuff every day, of course I had a great time seeing everyone... and enjoying all the food and drink that I was able to cram in during my visit, haha.

One of the great things about Japan is the presence of Conbini, or convenience stores, just about everywhere.  The idea of a convenience store might be pretty boring to us in the US, but in Japan they are a mecca of delicious snacks, drinks, and even full on meals that are quick and tasty.  I was very happy to come across this Starbucks branded Pumpkin Pie Latte at one such conbini, and I loved it! It's basically like a latte in juice box form, and it had all of the sweet pumpkin flavor you'd expect from a pumpkin pie latte.  The relatively small size (which is average for Japan) makes this just the right amount of a sweet iced latte for an afternoon treat.  I wish they would sell these drinks in the US as well, I think they would be a big hit! 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 6th, 2015

West Elm - Sweater Weather Tote

I found this tote bag on sale at West Elm a while back, but it's now a great time of year to start using it :o)  Of course it's no secret that I love fall, and this tote bag is the perfect way to celebrate the cooler season.  The bag is roomy and works well as a tote for the farmers' market, fall festivals, and weekend shopping trips.  While this specific tote bag doesn't look like it's available online anymore, West Elm has lots of cute tote bags out now - including states, cities, and holiday themes

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 5th, 2015

Shake Shack - Center City Pretzel Concrete

I visited some college friends in Philly a few weeks ago, and CONVENIENTLY one of my friends lived a few short blocks from the Center City Shake Shack, haha.  Of course being at a different location, I had to try out one of their location-specific concretes!

This Center City Pretzel concrete consists of vanilla custard, Philly-style soft pretzel, caramel sauce, marshmallow sauce, and banana.  As you can see, there were lots of big chunks of soft pretzel in the cups, which were definitely the best parts of the concrete! I actually didn't see the banana on the menu, but we definitely tasted the banana once we started eating this.  I'm not entirely sure what the banana has to do with the pretzel custard, but I can pretend like it's more healthy that way, haha.  I would definitely recommend trying out this custard if you like soft pretzels! 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 4th, 2015

Georgetown Cupcake - Chocolate-dipped Chocolate Toffee Crunch Cupcake

Before I talk about this cupcake, I want to mention how much I've loved the change to these cute patterned bags at Georgetown Cupcake - very festive! 

This Chocolate-dipped Chocolate Toffee Crunch cupcake has a very long name, first of all, haha.  But the many components made for a delicious secret flavor cupcake! The chocolate cake had little bits of toffee throughout, with a thick chocolate ganache on top.  This was perfect with my soy latte at Starbucks, and a very decadently chocolate-y way to start off my day :o)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 3rd, 2015

Shake Shack - November Custard Calendar

Looks like another fun- but shortened- month of custard flavors at Shake Shack!

11/1: Shackenstein
11/2 - 11/8: Salted Maple
11/9 - 11/15: Grandma's Apple Pie

Be sure to check out the custard flavors before their Thanksgiving break!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Lunchtime Links for November 2nd, 2015

Georgetown Cupcake - November Flavors

Happy November everyone!  We have another month of great flavors at Georgetown Cupcakes in November:

- Caramel AppleFresh apple cupcake with a caramel core topped with a vanilla cream cheese frosting and a caramel star drizzle
- Pumpkin SpicePumpkin spice cupcake with a maple-infused cream cheese frosting topped with a fondant maple leaf
- Pumpkin CheesecakePumpkin-infused cheesecake cupcake 
topped with maple cream cheese frosting and a fondant maple leaf
- Election Red Velvet Donkey: Red velvet cupcake with fondant Democratic donkey
- Election Red Velvet Elephant: Red velvet cupcake with fondant Republican elephant
- Thanksgiving Maple Chocolate ChipMaple Cupcake studded with Callebaut chocolate chips and topped with a maple frosting and fondant turkey