Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sweet Inspiration :: Bags of patches

When we were in Tokyo Nicky was on a mission... to get a new bag. Something original, possibly hand crafted and practical. She unfortunately failed, but was sorely tempted by a patchwork bag we saw at a book store... but it was so, so, expensive. It was apart of an art exhibition by an artist called Kodue Hibino (I think!).

By the way, I love how there are art exhibitions supporting small artists in cafes, bookstores and even on the streets in Tokyo.

A few days later I picked up this magazine (I don't know its name!)

and it was featuring Kodue Hibino... and her bright, fresh patchwork. I haven't ever been a big fan of patchwork... but I am beginning to appreciate this more modern & fresh approach to the craft.

It show some of her techniques, like the way she pins fabrics together to create patchwork.

There were other patchwork goodies in the magazine. This is my favourite.

I will post the other ones up in Flickr so you can see the whole set. T

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sew Sweet :: Cashless capers in Textile Town

And so here we finally were. Nippori Textile Town in the outer Tokyo suburbs. With quiet anticipation of the fabric discoveries we would make and armed with this map, we exited the subway and followed the signs to a main street full of fabric stores. It's a rather non-descript street in a residential neighbourhood where everyone rides on bikes. The stores also look rather non-descript, but that didn't matter when there was fabric goodness to be found!

We wandered up one side of the street, scanning a few things we planned to come back for. We didn't want to laden ourselves with goodies too soon, but already there were lots of "Wow's!", "Look at this!" and "Oh my goodness, I NEED to have that!" After lunch in an Italian cucina called Cinderella (ok, so there wasn't much choice in the eats department on this street & the air-con was highly appreciated!), we headed down the other side of the street.

And this is where we discovered the store of all fabric stores...Tomato. This place is split into several shopfronts, one specialising in soft furnishings, another in trimmings & sewing accessories...but the best was the main store. 5 storeys of the most amazing fabrics at amazing prices! It was Tokyo's take on our Spotlight stores...but on steroids! Ok, so Spotlight doesn't even compare. We knew there were bargains to be had when we could see the masses of women rifling through fabrics on the ground floor.

We systematically scanned every floor, so we could see what we wanted to buy. And believe me, there was SO much we wanted to buy. And that's when we came to a little problem. After finding some amazing fabric for our business, we proceeded to the counter with all 12 rolls. We'll have 3m of each thanks. After cutting the third roll, I see a's Cash Only. What?? Yes, all 5 floors we're told...Cash only. Stop, more cutting we say! Neither Tiff or I had too much cash on us, so while Tiff waited with the fabric, I dashed down the street, trying to find an ATM that would accept my card. No such luck. I had an inkling getting cash out of Japanese banks could be difficult & we were in the 'burbs. It wasn't gonna happen.

So there we were, shaking out our coinage to pay for the 3 pieces that had already been cut. We must have looked like we couldn't afford the stuff! Here they are:

We couldn't believe our luck. We just couldn't believe a big place like that didn't accept credit cards. We'd come all this way to stock up on fabric for our business & our own personal stash...only to be stumped up by a lack of cash. And I think it was pretty much the same for all the other little shops on the street. I did manage to scrape together some cash to pick up these goodies, also from Tomato - a few trimmings and French-inspired fat quarters:

So everyone, the moral of the story is...if you're heading out Nippori way, be CASHED up or you'll find yourself commiserating all the way home! And the upside to this story...we saved a lot of pennies including excess baggage fees! N

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sweet Eats :: Busted...but oh-so worth it!!

Hee hee here's the only shot I took of the legendary Millefeuille 2000 at Pierre Herme's Chocolate Bar in Aoyama before I got busted by the oh-so-polite French waiter! Oh well...I was just another foodie tourist! More importantly, the millefeuille was just how I remembered it in Paris nearly a year ago! Super crispy, super creamy with flecks of praline...although I can't believe I'm saying this, it was almost too much of a good thing...I was completely stuffed for hours after this it was so rich! Maybe that's cos I also had a decadently rich iced chocolate to go with it! Tiff indulged in something different....a Plaisir Sucre. Translation: Sweet Pleasure. Indeed! Tiff said it was delicious. I couldn't take a pic, but I do have the recipe in my PH book. Let's just say the recipe goes for just over 5 pages (!?)...a hazelnut dacquoise on the bottom, then layers of praline, chocolate ganache, whipped chocolate cream & chocolate sheets!

Come to think of it, this wasn't the first time we got reprimanded. A couple of days earlier, we were standing outside another French patisserie, Dalloyau in Jiyugaoka...admiring the amazing confections in the window when a young lass came running out the store motioning for us not to take a photo! Hmmm...these patisseries are quite protective of their artistic creations! Anyway, after losing track of time shopping in zakka stores, we returned later for a 3 o'clock lunch with the ladies-who-lunch upstairs. Our salmon & cream cheese sandwiches (no crusts of course!), lemon squash & 2 desserts turned out to be the most expensive meal of our whole trip!

Well, here's a shot I didn't get busted for...cos I took it in the comfort of our hotel room! Some lovely patisseries from Sadaharu Aoki. I can't remember what they were called...the one in the foreground is my choice...a cakey layer on the bottom with crispy praline, layered with blackcurrant mousse & chocolate. Very interesting textures in the mouth. Tiff chose a strawberry moussey cake which she liked much more than mine!

We purchased these in the basement of the Isetan department store in Shinjuku. It has the most amazing food hall, packed with counters & counters of take-home Japanese food. But not just that, down here were mini French patisserie shops like Pierre Herme, Sadaharu Aoki, Jean-Paul Hevin...and to my astoundment, even Le Roux was here...famous for its salted butter caramels I fell in love with in France! But drats, they'd sold out!

I haven't been to Japan since I was 9, so it was very different seeing Tokyo with adult eyes! What a consumer culture...I keep saying to everyone - you can buy EVERYTHING in Tokyo! EVERYTHING!! Every brand name you've ever heard of is here! And so finally, here are some of the "brand name" biccies I bought: Pierre Herme florentines & currant biccies, Peltier mini palmiers and some very crispy coconut tuiles from L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon (the hubbie's current fav):

Mmmm...there's nothing like bringing back food from your travels! But the use-by dates are calling me on these biccies....we are eating our way through them now! N

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sweet & Soft :: Ernie goes to Tokyo

Yes we have made it back from Tokyo.... with our luggage stuffed to overflowing, our tummies filled with Oh So MANY goodies... we are just zakka-ed out really! Ernie still looks chirpy though! Here he is, my lovely little buddy, on the Narita Express. This is the fastest way into Tokyo from Narita airport and in my books the most comfortable... it takes you past rice paddies and little towns. The Thomas the Tank engine of Tokyo really...

Here is a few more of Ernie... He loves to relax with a bottle of Lemon water. The best drink in Japan, fresh & fruity and not crazy sweet!

And a little summary of things we enjoyed:

Best broken English: "Thank you for every day".... Yes we went to Afternoon Tea every day without fail.

Left our jaws gaping: Two girls pulling our curling irons in the bathroom for a hair touch up!!! It drove me to blow dry my hair every day (very, very unusual behaviour for me).

Best Tokyo fashion moment: Two heavily tanned girls in Shibuya. Which is not that unusual except they had brilliant white & purple hair that was twisted around their bodies and looked like vines! Nicky called them the Tarzan girls! They were also wearing something that resembled loin cloths!

Best foodie blog moment: Always keen to get her foodie shot before devouring her treat Nicky got reprimanded in the "Chocolate Bar" of Pierre Herme for taking photos!

Nicky still got the shot it... so I am sure there will be much to share in the coming posts! Good to be back.... T