Last local broccoli of the year
Even though it is soup season there is still time to check out this Asian broccoli salad recipe. Since my Maryland gardening adventure began three years ago I’ve become much more knowledgeable about the growing seasons for vegetables. Before my gardening education I didn’t realize how well broccoli grew in the fall. It thrives in the cooler weather and lack of bugs. If the weather is cool enough, broccoli planted in August and September grows fast and full. Big thick crowns of this healthy vegetable flourish in cold weather and can even withstand a bit a frost without damage.
The weather forecasters are really loving this big winter storm coming down on the bulk of the US earlier than usual. Almost everyone has heard of winter storm Astro by now. It has dumped up to sixteen inches of snow in parts of Minnesota and is just getting started. While us lucky folks in Maryland won’t get that type of winter weather, it is going to bring a hard freeze. Therefore it is time to get out to your local veggie farms and buy the last of the fresh broccoli, cauliflower, kale and other fall vegetables before it turns into frozen veggies!
I went off to Wilbur’s Farm yesterday in Kingsville, MD, just up the road from my home to buy what was left of their fresh veggies. I bought great looking broccoli that was just cut, and a sack full of various peppers. Knowing that it will be many months before I can buy fresh locally grown vegetables I made it a priority to get what I could before the big freeze comes on Thursday and Friday nights.
With the broccoli and peppers safely back home in my kitchen I knew what I wanted to do with them. If you have not made a home made broccoli and bell pepper salad with an Asian vinaigrette you are missing out on one tasty salad. I usually make my own dressing but I had a bottle of Annie’s shitake vinaigrette salad dressing and put it to work. This is one of the easiest and healthiest salads out there. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes to make, and can be eaten right away or chilled for 1-4 hours for optimum flavor. So before we get all the way into soup and hot foods season I hope you try this simple and delicious recipe. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter if you haven’t already, and please share this with friends and family.
Asian Broccoli and Bell Pepper Salad
2 cups of broccoli florets, cut into bite size pieces
1 1/2 cups red bell pepper diced large, about the size of a nickel
1/3-1/2 cup Annies shitake vinaigrette salad dressing, see note
1/4 to 1/2 cup thin sliced red onion
1-3 jalapeños sliced thin, optional
Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
Serve right away or chill up to four hours for best flavor. Roasted seaweed goes well with this as an edible garnish. Try the wasabi flavored seaweed for some added spice!
Serves six to eight
Try an Italian vinaigrette salad dressing for a nice variation and grate some parmesan cheese into it if you like.
Cauliflower goes well with this too. Try adding a cup of bite sized florets and reduce the broccoli to one cup.
As a chef I love the explosion of specialty food shops over the last twenty years. Within that explosion are oil and vinegar shops scattered throughout the US. Back in 1999 my wife and I went to Austria on vacation and visited Vienna for a couple of days. At an open air market we had a good conversation with a local who was working the vinegar shop at the market and educated us on the old world’s vinegars. She related that she had lived in the US for a few years and most Americans don’t have a clue about quality vinegar. She sold me two different types of high quality vinegars that I experimented with for happily over a year.
Now days us foodies are so lucky to be able to find oil and vinegar shops in abundance. My wife and I took a day trip to Bethesda last week and discovered Secolari Atrisan oils and vinegars. The big difference between them and others is they are not a franchise. The owner and his wife take trips to California where all of their olive oils come from. They hand pick anything that goes in their store, but before it goes on the shelf they both have to agree it is worthy. If one of them doesn’t like the selection, out it goes. Tasting is free and encouraged in their shop and I tasted many vinegars and a few oils.
I came home with a Blackberry Vinegar and an Ancho Pepper Vinegar to play with. Since I had just gone to my favorite local farm in Kingsville yesterday and bought five pounds of green beans and six ears of bi-colored corn I knew what I was going to do. I cooked up the corn and ate three for dinner reserving the rest for a salad the next day. I steamed the green beans the next morning and chilled them in ice water. Now the stage was set for a perfect summer salad. I picked basil and jalapeño peppers from my garden and put it all together in the recipe below.
Here’s the important point I want to make. If you plan ahead and cook extra items you are already cooking for dinner then the next day’s food preparation can be a breeze. By cooking the corn and beans the night before you have part of the makings of this salad for the next day and it will take less than ten minutes to make the salad. This is a fast, easy, and healthy salad that just about anyone can make so give it a try and see what you think. Please share with friends and family and leave a comment on this recipe.
Two Bean Salad with fresh Corn and Tomato
1 cup green beans, see note
1 1/2 cup cooked corn cut from the cob
1 can kidney beans, see note
3 sliced jalapeños, about 1/3 cup, or use diced green bell peppers
1 medium sized fresh tomato diced
1/2 cup sliced fresh basil, about 1/2 package
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, see note
salt to taste, about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon
To make this easy plan ahead and have steamed green beans the night before and cook extra, but take the beans for your salad out of the pot and chill in ice water then drain and refrigerate over night.
For the corn it’s pretty much the same thing. You cook an extra two ears and chill it in ice water. Cut it off the cob and refrigerate over night.
Rinse and drain kidney beans and put in a medium-large bowl.
Dice tomato and add to mixing bowl.
Slice jalapeños or dice bell peppers and add to bowl.
Dice tomato and add to bowl.
Add oil, vinegar and salt and mix gently.
If serving soon add basil otherwise wait until just before serving to add basil. They helps basil retain its green color instead of turning black.
Fresh or frozen green beans will work.
Chill your can of kidney beans the night before.
I used Secolari’s, (an oil and vinegar shop in Bethesda, MD) Ancho Pepper vinegar, but white wine or champagne vinegar will work also.
Summer provides us with so many lasting memories, and as a kid I couldn’t wait for school to be over and blissful summer to arrive. I loved many things about summer growing up in Lakewood,Colorado. It was a time for games like “kick-the-can, hide-n-seek, kickball in the street, and baseball at the nearby school yard. We also loved the pool four blocks from home and my brother and I went there often to beat the heat.
The family camping trips into the majestic Rocky Mountains were a highlight each year. We would usually camp out and eat fresh caught trout cooked in a cast iron skillet over a campfire for dinner with pork and beans. When It got dark my brother and I would lay out on a picnic table or the ground if no picnic table was available and stare at the billions of stars one could see back in the 1960’s way up in the Colorado mountains. It was paradise on earth.
Back in Lakewood in a corner of our yard was a plot about ten feet wide by fifteen feet long for a veggie patch. I was the unofficial veggie gardener of the family taught by my grandfather and my dad on the art of growing one’s own food. I started young, about at tens years of age if memory serves me right, and I loved it! I grew radishes, carrots, green beans, corn, and beets. I would eat it all but not the beets.
It took another two decades before I would willingly eat the red monsters of the dirt. They were grown for my parents to enjoy, not us kids. Better late than never though as I have learned to not only like them, I love beets. I cook the beets greens in garlic infused olive oil with or without sliced mushrooms. I cook and eat the beets hot or make a variety of summer salads with them all through the season. Plain cooked, chilled and sliced beets are a colorful accompaniment to a green salad, or just by themselves with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar as a side dish.
Today I share with you a recipe using the first Chioggia Beets of the year from my garden. This heirloom beet named after a fishing village in Italy has a lovely candy striped inside and a soft red outside color pattern. They are more like a golden beet in taste then a typical Detroit Red Beet. This recipe can be used with whatever beets you have available, but best with golden beets if you can find them. So give it a try and have a great summer and a safe Fourth of July!
Golden Beet Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette
12 ounces fresh beets
3 tablespoons thin sliced fresh basil leaves (chiffonade sliced)
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil, or walnut oil
Wash and trim beets and remove green tops.
Put beets in a pot with enough water to cover and bring to a boil. If your beets are global size it will take about 10-12 minutes to cook after they come to a boil. If bigger they will take 15-17 minutes to cook.
Cool beets in cold running water for 3 minutes.
Drain and trim any hair like roots, or peel if you wish.
Cut into bite sized pieces and tops with oil, basil and vinegar .
Chill for a half and hour or more and enjoy.
I like to start by putting my mixing bowl in the fridge to expedite the chilling process.
Cut up grapefruit sections are a nice addition to this salad.
I usually don’t peel organic beets.
Avocado and Salsa Salad
In the world of fast, and healthy recipes this original salad I made up is one of my favorites. It takes no more than five minutes to prepare and it tastes great. You can use almost any store bought tomato salsa or home made like I do to make this salad. I think a salsa that has a fair amount of tomato juice in it works best, but if you are using something like Pace picante that is a bit thicker just squeeze some fresh lime on the greens before topping them with the avocado tomato mix.
It can be a meal or just a salad starter for lunch or dinner. Add jalapeños for a kick, or even olives. Let your imagination play around with this one. You could snap peas, broccoli, or shredded cabbage in it also.
The recipe is a simple as it gets:
one ripe avocado, cut into one inch cubes
1/3 cup salsa
about two cups of your favorite greens
Mix the cut up avocado with the salsa in a mixing bowl and spoon it over your greens.
I love avocados so much I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate them in my diet.
This weeks giveaway is a beautiful solid cherry cutting/serving board that I bought in Fairhope, Alabama while there visiting my Aunt. It’s so nice I’m having a hard time parting with it, but someone will win it just for taking the time to comment on this post. Could it be you?
In Praise of Soup
It is definitely soup season. With the appearance of real winter this year as opposed to the last two mild winters we have had in Maryland I am willing to bet soup consumption is up here and in most North American households. The great thing about soup is it does well as a starter, a snack or a meal.
I have been on a soup theme for a couple of months now with post like the lamb and dried mushroom stew recipe I developed,(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/lamb-mushroom-stew/), Navajo Stew from the Moosewood Cookbook, (http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/cold-weather-special/0) , and back in October I developed a Beef and Mushroom Chile recipe for my friends at Phillip’s Mushrooms in Kennett Square,PA,(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/soup-season/). All three of these are good choices for an entree type soup.
Lets take a look at some other great soup attributes. I suspect I’m not the only one that packs a lunch for a spouse that goes off to work Monday through Friday? My wife loves having a thermos of hot soup for lunch from the previous night’s leftovers,or freshly made that morning. There are several types of thermos bottles out there that will keep soup hot for hours if preheated properly. When your loved one opens up the thermos at work or school that day at lunch time out comes that wonderful aroma of home made soup. A much healthier and tastier way to eat at work, school or play.
Versatility is another great attribute of soup. You can tweak most recipes to your liking. If you want sausage, go ahead and add it t a bean soup, or Italian style tomato soup. If you want a cream soup but want to make it Vegan, just use coconut milk instead of cows milk. Vegetables are great in soups and you can find a soup recipe for just about any vegetable.
Soups can be very healthy too! Since we are coming out of the holiday season where many of us have eaten a fair amount of not-so-healthy foods it’s a good time to put healthy soups on the menu a couple times a week. Most bean soups are very healthy. Vegetable soups without cream are some of the best soups you can eat. One of my very favorite soups is my own concoction called Italian Tomato Soup,(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/italian-tomato-soup/0 a soup I posted back in November of 2012 just after launching my blog. This soup has the heartiness of a stew, and the health qualities of a bean or vegetable soup all in one pot. It’s a Vegan soup that can be changed for meat eaters by adding pork or lamb sausage to it, and it cooks in under one hour start to finish!
Soups are ethnic food. Take a Cuban black bean soup, of Chinese hot sour soup for example. Many cultures have their special soups. I love a good bowl of French onion soup when I visit France. When I used to cook in restaurants Portuguese fisherman soup, of French bouillabaisse was one of my favorites. to make and eat. I guess American’s have their chili to represent them on the ethnic soup stage as our best known original soup. Without chili I think the saltine cracker would disappear.
Soups pair very well with salads, and sandwiches for lunch, and many restaurants serving lunch offer such combinations on the menu. Even in the winter I like a soup and salad combo at lunchtime occasionally. Recently I developed a new salad dressing using cranberries in a vinaigrette style dressing. It’s quick, easy and delicious. It could be used on green salad or on chicken salad too. This would pair well with my mushroom chowder(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/392/) or my butternut squash and curry soup. So give this a try while fresh and frozen cranberries are still available, and let me know what you think.
Cranberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, or thawed frozen cranberries
1-2 fresh lemons juiced, about 3 tablespoons
1/2 cup walnut oil, or canola oil
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
optional, a dash of Bragg’s Aminos, or soy sauce
optional, 1 to 1/2 package of stevia, or 1 teaspoon of agave
Mix all ingredients in a bowl with an immersion blender, or use a tabletop blender until cranberries are pureed. Makes about 18-20 1 tablespoon size servings.
Walnut oil works very well with this recipe, but it is more expensive than canola.
I like this dressing without the sweetener best.
This would work well with a variety of salads like green, chicken, pasta, or bean salad. Have fun experimenting.
Fresh cranberries freeze exceptionally well without any extra work. Just pop them into the freezer in the bag or plastic package they came in. I have used one year old cranberries from my freezer that had no freezer burn, or other bad taste.
It’s been a busy week here a the fast and furious test kitchen with lots of great things from my favorite farms. I’ve been getting the tastiest farm fresh lima beans ever from K.P. Huber’s Farm in Kingsville, MD. These are the best looking and best tasting lima beans I have ever bought! At $3 per quart sized basket they are a deal.
Just up the road at Wilbur’s Farm I’m getting great organic produce that my garden doesn’t have, or is struggling with. They have the sweetest white corn I have ever tasted, and everything they sell is certified organic. I like their potatoes, onions, green beans, eggplant, and zucchini. I just made a lovely ratatouille last night from their zucs, and eggplant and my tomatoes. Good stuff indeed. If you have not tried making ratatouille you should. It’s good hot the night you make it and if not overcooked it’s quite good at room temperature for leftovers. It stays fresh for several days after cooking too.
Tuesday was a big day for me as I was able to drive down to Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia. There I walked the farm to see if what I have read is true about Joel Salatin turning the farm world on its head by developing sustainable methods of raising cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits and more on his 450 acre family farm. It seems all true, and I witnessed happy cows in a beautiful pasture, and happy pigs in the woods about a mile up the hill from the farm house.
I bought a chicken from the farm store to test in the FFC test kitchen tonight and tomorrow night. Tonight it’s a French style roasted half chicken with fresh garlic and dried rosemary. Tomorrow night it’s Filipino Chicken Adobo. Come September 16th I’ll visit the farm again to be guest chef for Joel’s family, the farm workers and apprentices for dinner. That night I plan to cook the same two chicken dishes for all 21 people on the farm. Lucky for me the cook, Brie, will be helping me in the kitchen.
With all the great tomatoes my garden has been putting out I decided to buy some salad greens to pair with them. Last week I had some leftover bread from our supper club dinner and decided to turn it into fresh croutons. These are better than store bought by far, and almost as addictive a Doritos for munching. It does help if you use good bread like a whole grain loaf, or even ciabatta works well. I made another batch today and took a sample across the street for Wendy and Mary at Moore’s Orchard to taste and both of them liked the croutons a lot. Therefore I share with you now another fast and furious cook original recipe to try in your kitchen. This will take about 15 minutes to make , and lasts for 2-3 days if you don’t eat them all the day they are made.
As always, please try the recipe and comment on my blog.
Pan Toasted Spicy Croutons
2 1/2 cups day old bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 teaspoons garlic infused olive oil
3/4 teaspoon of dried oregano, or mixed italian herbs
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes or fresh thai peppers sliced thin
optional, 1/4 teaspoon salt
optional, 1/4 teaspoon paprika
Add oil to saute pan and heat on medium low for 10 seconds or so.
Add the bread and toss well to distribute the oil on the bread cubes.
Continue cooking on medium to medium low for 5-7 minutes tossing or stirring every minute or two.
Add oregano, and chili and cook for two minutes on low heat.
Remove from saute pan to a sheet pan to cool for 3-5 minutes before adding to a salad.
Use regular olive oil in place of garlic infused and add 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder with the chili and oregano.
finely shredded parmesan cheese is a nice addition at the end. Just add after the heat is off and toss or stir well to distribute the cheese.
Great with soups or salad.
Cooks best if your saute pan is big enough to keep the bread cubes at just one layer. If the pan is too small the cubes will stack up and won’t brown properly.
Most of us Americans live busy hectic lives with lots of complicated tasks facing us daily. I’m in the middle of refinancing my mortgage and let me tell you that is complicated. On any given day the lender might call me up to ask for a document filed log ago in some faraway place in my home. We all have these challenges living our complex lifestyles, but why take that into the kitchen? Case in point is summer foods that offer the best in simplicity due to the heat.
Not many of us want to be in the kitchen any longer than it takes to put together a meal, but that doesn’t mean it has to be junk food. Take the humble egg. There has been a lot of talk about it being healthy or unhealthy. It is however a great item for fast eating whether it’s a quick omelet, scrambled eggs, or egg salad. I don’t eat eggs often as I pretty much agree with the book “The China Study”that they are high in cholesterol, and not the most healthy food for us, but about once a year I fall prey to the siren song of comfort foods of my childhood.
I get those warm and fuzzy memories of mom serving us up egg salad sandwiches and potato chips for a perfect lunch, and want one soon. Yesterday I planned ahead and boiled up six eggs and whipped up a quick egg salad for today’s lunch. It was close to my mom’s way of making them that includes chopped dill pickles, chopped celery, mayo, salt and pepper. I added to that some pickled jalapenos for a bit of a kick, and Spike seasoning salt. Instead of serving it on white bread I used my home made whole wheat bread and garnished it with fresh basil and cherry tomatoes from my garden. The result was a trip down foodie memory lane that tasted great and brought back wonderful memories of a simpler time. So please join me in welcoming the humble egg salad sandwich to you home for lunch soon and enjoy a great lunch food for these hot summer days.
6 large eggs hard boiled
1/3 cup celery chopped fine
1/3 cup dill pickles chopped fine
1/4 cup mayonnaise or low fat yogurt
1 teaspoon Spike seasoning salt, or just salt and pepper
4 cherry tomatoes for each sandwich garnish
1 bunch fresh basil sliced or whole leaf
sliced pickled jalapenos, optional
Chop eggs and set aside. Mix celery, pickles, Spike, and mayo together and add to eggs until blended.
Serve open or closed face on the bread of your choice.
Note: I use a pastry cutter for chopping the eggs instead of a knife.
There is a whole world of salads out there in food land for us to choose from. Since it’s summer I like to make salads as a main dish once and a while. I have had a bean salad idea brewing in my mind for the last three days and today I put it into a recipe for myself and my readers. When I was starting out in the cooking business as a young cook in the US Coast Guard I had to make many a dish that I didn’t like.
Three bean salad was one of those. It didn’t help that all the beans were canned. I didn’t like it until just a couple years ago when I tried one that was pretty good, and that got me thinking of ways to make my own version of this common salad. I set out to make it uncommon though, and today I whipped up what’s sure to be a classic(Three Bean Salad with Sweet Corn) for you all to try.
Hopefully you all are staying cool enough to go into your kitchen and make something quick and healthy from scratch like I do here at the Fast and Furious Test Kitchen. It’s important to have dishes like this one that you make once and can eat two or three times over the course of four to five days.
This isn’t just your every day three bean salad. I sought to make it healthy, quick and delicious while being different too. I decided to use fresh green beans, and edamame to make it non-conforming. Then I added fresh basil for another twist. I thought about using garlic infused olive oil, but will try adding that some other day to see if it adds or detracts from the overall taste.
Usually I would add hot peppers to something like this but I wanted a baseline recipe first to see how it tasted before tweaking it much. After all one could add hot sauce or peppers at the table and it would still get the job done. Since we are in the third day of a heat wave it’s a great time to make a refrigerated salad that can have the hot stuff added later on the whim of the person eating it. So give this one a try, and tweak it if you want. Please leave feedback so I can gauge how popular this recipe is. Stay cool until we meet again and look for my Facebook posts from Alaska starting July 25th.
Three Bean Salad with Fresh Corn
1 1/2 cup green beans, fresh, frozen or canned
1 can of kidney beans rinsed and drained
1/2 cup ready to eat edamame beans, or frozen
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
2 cups fresh cooked corn off the cob
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup fresh basil sliced thin or left whole
1/4 to 1/2 thin sliced red onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons natural apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 avocado for garnish
1 fresh tomato for garnish
If using frozen edamame heat 4-5 cups water to boiling and cook for 3 minutes. If using frozen or fresh green beans cook with edamame. Drain and cool. Add all ingredients except oil, vinegar and salt in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle with salt and stir it in. Add oil and vinegar and mix well. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or more and serve with sliced tomatoes or avocados for garnish.
I’m from Colorado but I’ve lived in Baltimore going on 5 years this November. I grew up not knowing much about humidity. Baltimore has furthered my education in humidity though. In the almost 5 years here in humidity central I have learned to deal with this minor nuisance. After all, my garden is quite happy with the way the weather is here, and the tomatoes seem to love this hot humid weather the best. About every 5 to 8 days we tend to get a gift from drier climates west of here and dry air blows in from somewhere out there.
On these special days I pay extra attention to what chores there are to do outside and I also like to go for a good hike while this gift of great weather is with us. My wife and I celebrate these special days and say something like, “wow, it feels like Colorado weather”, or something like that. This summer is different though. So far it seems there have been twice as many dry weather days than the first 4 summers had, and they string together for 2-3 days in a row instead of 1-2. We are in the midst of one of those stretches now with 3 in a row and counting. To celebrate the great weather I already played in the vegie garden and harvested a mixed bag of beets for a special salad, and plan to hike the Gunpowder River later today to celebrate this wonderful dry and not too hot day.
Before going off on a hiking adventure with my 14 week old German Shepard puppy Tucker I decided to test a beet recipe that was forming in my mind. I suspect there may be a similar recipe out there in foodie land, but it’s a first for me. I wanted to join beets, goat cheese crumbles, fresh squeezed orange juice and toasted walnuts together to make a salad fitting for a beautiful summer day. This salad will grace the dinner table alongside fresh green beans from Huber’s Farm just up the road in Kingsville, sauteed Swiss Chard from my garden, and King Salmon from Alaska.
All of these foods are summer foods, and go great together. The citrus in the beet salad will complement the salmon nicely, the chard will be good and full of galrlic goodness, and the green beans will add a nice color to the plate.
Even though the salad is not as fast and furious as I would usually do I don’t mind waiting 35 minutes for the beets to simmer. After cooking and cooling the beets the salad goes together quickly, and some things just can’t, or shouldn’t be rushed. It should turn out to be an excellent summer meal, and with any luck we can enjoy it ourt doors on our patio. Now that it’s officially summer I wish you the best of fun and food with family and friends, and be sure to celebrate beautiful weather where ever you live, or vacation.
Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Curry Roasted Walnuts
1 bunch of beets,about 1 1/2 cups cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles
1 teaspoon minced chives
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon minced orange zest
2 teaspoons walnut oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup walnuts
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Trim and boil or roast beets, about 35 minutes, then cool, peel and cut into bite sized pieces.
While beets are cooking toast walnuts in a saute pan with 1 teaspoon of the oil. This takes about 6-8 minutes on medium to medium low heat stirring or tossing often. Add curry powder, salt and pepper after 5 minutes of cooking.
Mix beets, orange juice, orange zest, goat cheese, 1/3 cup walnuts, chives, salt and pepper until just combined. Serve on top of leaf lettuce or shredded lettuce with a few more walnuts for garnish.
I call for 1 cup of walnuts so you have extra for snacking on as they are delicious.
Salad oil, or olive oil will do instead of walnut oil.
After six visits to Japan over the last 15 years I was ready to try a five star hotel, and when the Chanzanso Hotel Travelzoo deal showed up in September of 2012 we jumped on the offer. Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo is set on a hillside that was called Camelia Hill until 1878 when prince Aritomo Yamagata purchased it and named it Chinzanso. The gardens that he and later owners established are there for all to see and enjoy, not just hotel guests. This is one of the nicest gardens attached to a hotel that I have ever seen! The camellias and cherry trees were in full bloom for our visit. The rest of the garden sights like the three story pagoda that is around 500-600 years old, are worth noting too. The garden lists the “Ten Scenic Spots at Chinzanso” that are all worth seeing. I loved the little statues found along the garden path that I called “Japanese garden gnomes”. The sacred tree of the garden is about 500 years old and stands magnificently towards the bottom end of the garden close to the soba restaurant. They also have a stone lantern from around the 12th century.
As if the garden isn’t enough of a reason to stay at Chinzanso we found the room, restaurants, and staff to be excellent. Our room was large by Japanese standards, and in excellent condition. The large bathroom had a tub and separate shower as well as L’Occitane toiletries. We were given room number 1001 which had great views of both the gardens and the city of Tokyo. We found the location of the hotel to be much quieter than any other we had stayed at in Tokyo. I had read in previous reviews online that the hotel is kind of far from restaurants and shopping, but we found that the restaurants in the hotel and nearby were very good and many to choose from. The concierge told us about a nearby 175 year old Unagi restaurant the was Michelin rated and quite good. The train station is a 15 minute walk and the Metro is 10 minutes walk from the hotel. Or you can take a taxi for 710 Yen. The hotel is serviced by the Friendly Airport Limousine bus from Narita Airport, and is a good way to and from the hotel.
All in all I can’t think of any other place I could recommend more than this hotel for comfort, and service. We will never forget the service from the concierge desk just hours before we checked out. We had lost our camera two days before, but when we were packing up to leave the room my wife found a taxi reciept from the ride we had taken the day the camera was lost. On a whim we had the concierge call the taxi company to see if the camera had been turned in. It had, but they had sent it to the police lost and found. The concierge called the police, but they couldn’t find it so the concierge called the taxi company back, found the camera and got it to us an hour before we left for the airport. Now that is great service.
The foodie part of the trip was great as usual. We started out by having lunch at the Unagi (eel) restaurant near Chinzanso. For about $40 each we had a great lunch in a Michelin starred restaurant that seemed to be a small mom and pop type place.
The next morning we went to the Tsukiji Fish Market and had sushi for breakfast at Sushi Zanmai. I had a great Tuna Sampler for just $30 that was as good as it gets. For dinner that night we went to a fancy sukiyaki restaurant called Asakusa Imahan to meet friends. It was a lovely traditional sit around the table and eat a big Japanese meal. It was fun during the part of the meal where we got to do a bit of the cooking in the frying pan at the table conveniently placed in front of us.
The next evening we ate dinner at the soba restaurant on the Chinzanso Hotel grounds. This was one of the best soba meals I have ever had! It was enhanced by the view of the gardens lit up at night just in front of our table. The soba itself was cooked just right and the sauce was excellent.
The best meal of the trip was at the Japanese restaurant in Chinzanso Hotel. They called it a buffet, but what it was is a menu of about 35 items that you ordered from at will. There was sushi, hot pots, appetizers, desserts and more. We couldn’t believe it was all you can eat. The quality of the food was superb, with the exception of the hot pot that was a bit weak on flavor. The appetizers were great, the sushi was great, and the cherry ice cream at the end was great! Apparently they have this deal all year, but the menu varies with the season. For about $100 you get an amazing meal. Next trip to Tokyo I would definitely go back to this restaurant.
For a quick and affordable lunch it’s hard to beat the Sekiguchi french style bakery chain that has been around Japan since 1888. The baked goods are quite yummy, and at lunch you can get soups and sandwiches too. For about $10 each we had a very good lunch there. Their croissants are very good as well as the curry bread, and salads.
For a Japanese style salad dressing to commemorate the trip I made up this dressing today in the Fast and Furious Test kitchen.
Sesame Oil and Cider Vinegar Dressing
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger, optional
Mix all ingredients in a bowl then pour into a salad dressing bottle. Best if you can refrigerate it over night, but plenty good just after it’s made too.
Try this pouring this dressing over bite sized fresh broccoli, cauliflower, red bell pepper and carrots. Put in refrigerator for 2-3 hours for best tasting salad.