wine

Japan: Tokyo/ Omotesando/ Gluten-Free (Natural Cream Kitchen)

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If you have food allergies like I do, you know how daunting traveling may be, particularly when it comes to overseas travel.  But, a great man once uttered, “Nothing is impossible,” and indeed with growing food allergy awareness, traveling with food allergies is becoming much easier than it used to be.  The only caveat is that you must do your homework ahead of time, which many of us who have allergies are accustomed to doing anyway.

In this new blog post, my purpose is to introduce you to a wonderful little café located in Omotesando, which offers all natural, gluten-free items on their menu.

Natural Cream Kitchen opened in spring of 2015 and bills itself as an “additive free sweets café.” However, sweets are not the only things offered on their menu. Here you will find delicious items such as chicken and roast beef entrees, meatloaf, pasta, sandwiches, quiche and salads.  Their drinks menu includes soft drinks, herbal teas, beer and wine! They even have a brunch menu featuring oatmeal and omelets among other items!  Everything is prepared using natural ingredients, no sugar and no additives.  Their tarts, breads and cakes are created with rice flour and sweetened with amazake  (a traditional sweet, low- or non-alcohol Japanese drink made from fermented rice) and sugar beets. Their signature roll cakes come plain and in chocolate cake flavors and are available in sizes up to 50cm (19.6 in). For Christmas you can order the Christmas cake version. Oh, and did I mention their sweets sampler tower?

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You can choose to dine in the cozy café decked out in a bright and soothing décor or take your food out. There are large vases filled with white flowers, white washed tables and chairs, exposed white brick walls and a giant chandelier comprised of eating utensils.

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The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, able to answer any questions you may have regarding the menu (provided you speak Japanese.)  Even if you can’t speak Japanese, the menu has pictures of the items available so you can just point to what you would like to order.

Whether you have food allergies, are health conscious or just want to try delicious tasting foods, Natural Cream Kitchen should be on your list of places to visit when in Tokyo! The café is open Mon-Sat from 10AM-8PM, Sun & Holidays 9AM-8PM. It is easily accessible via the Meiji-Jingumae Station (Chiyoda, Fukutoshin Lines) or the Omotesando Station (Ginza, Hanzomon, Chiyoda Lines).

 

Web page:                        https://naturalcreamkitchen.com/

Location:                           GYRE B1F 5-10-1 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001

CALIFORNIA: SONOMA COUNTY/ MATANZAS CREEK WINERY

Founded in 1977, Matanzas Creek Winery is situated on the site of a former dairy farm in Sonoma County’s newest American Viticultural Area (AVA), Bennett Valley. Bennett Valley was formally recognized as an AVA in December of 2003, but its history of grape growing dates back to the mid-1800s.

Since its founding, the winery has built its reputation on Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot, two varieties of grapes that thrive in Sonoma’s temperate climate. In 1985, the original winery was demolished to make way for a modern winemaking facility. Since that time, the winery’s vineyards have grown to include over 280-acres and its wine portfolio has been expanded to include Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chardonnay and a limited quantity of Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

In addition to its wines, Matanzas Creek is also famous for its spectacular lavender gardens.  Lavender has been grown on the winery grounds for over twenty years and more than two million stems are harvested every year.  The winery offers a full line of bath, body, and culinary products derived from the harvested lavender.  The high quality, all natural products are available for sale at the winery’s lavender shop and at spas throughout Sonoma County and beyond.

The bath and body products include soaps, lotions, massage oils, scrubs, masks, sprays, and bath salts.  The culinary products are comprised of lavender laced Himalayan salt, spice rubs, honey and lavender grill sticks.

The winery offers daily wine tastings and wine and cheese pairings.  Vineyard tours are available between the hours of 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM.  Visitors to Matanzas Creek can also choose to picnic among the winery’s fragrant lavender fields or participate in a game of Bocce Ball. The annual Sonoma Lavender Festival takes place in June.

So, when you are  traveling in California’s wine country, why not incorporate a visit to Matanza’s Creek and sample the offerings from Sonoma County’s newest American Viticultural Area?

Location:            6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, California 95404

Web Page:         http://www.matanzascreek.com/

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Portugal: Porto/ The Yeatman (Luxury Wine Spa Hotel)

Porto (Oporto in English), is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon, and one of the major urban areas in Southwestern Europe. Situated along the hills overlooking the Douro River, it has been continuously inhabited since at least the 4th century, when the Romans referred to it as Portus Calle. In 1996, the city’s historical center was awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO.

Ribeira Portugal

Ribeira Portugal

Vila Nova de Gaia

Vila Nova de Gaia

Port wine cellars

Port wine cellars

One of Portugal’s internationally famous exports, Vinho do Porto or simply port is exclusively produced in the Douro Valley. This fortified wine is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine though it also comes in dry, semi-dry and white varieties. The Vila Nova de Gaia district in Porto is famous for its Port Wine cellar and located right in Vila Nova de Gaia is a marvelous wine spa hotel called The Yeatman, which opened in 2010.

With its breathtaking views over the Douro River, The Yeatman hotel is a wine lover’s haven. It’s spa which was awarded Europe’s Best Hotel Spa award in 2013, offers a unique Vinotherapie program. There is a Roman bath, sauna and a relaxation area with direct access to a panoramic infinity pool. The hotel’s wine cellar is said to have one of the most comprehensive collections of wine from Portugal. Throughout the year there are various wine tasting events, tours, seminars and dinner programs from which to choose. Further, some of the region’s wine producers have sponsored individual rooms and suites to be built within the hotel which offer a touch of originality and exoticism, adding to the already unique atmosphere of The Yeatman.

The Yeatman

The Yeatman

The infinity pool

The infinity pool

Douro River

Douro River

There are a total of eighty-two guest rooms, each decorated with artifacts relating to the wine industry. There are also several large, individually themed suites to choose from. The 1600 sq. ft. Bacchus Suite for instance is the crown jewel of The Yeatman. Named after the Roman god of wine, the spacious open floor plan includes a high vaulted wooden ceiling, a fireplace, private terrace, round copper Jacuzzi and a large rotating bed! The 880 sq. ft. Master Suite 007 on the other hand, features carpeted floors and a unique wine barrel bed. The headboard is an original barrel top and the domed oak ceiling mimics the curvature of the oak barrels used in wine making process. This suite was sponsored by the famous Douro wine producer, Nieeport. Master Suite 008 is similar to 007 but instead features a four poster barrel bed. The bed is set within an enormous oak barrel, raised off the ground on small pillars with dual stair access from either side. The sponsor for this suite is none other than Taylor’s, the renowned 300 year old Port producer.

Executive Room

Executive Room

The Bacchus Suite

The Bacchus Suite

Master Suite 007

Master Suite 007

Master Suite 008

Master Suite 008

The hotel also includes private wine baths and a Michelin-starred restaurant. Rooms start from €175 during the slow season and €250 during the busy season.

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Terrace restaurant at sunset

Terrace restaurant at sunset

Porto at night

Porto at night

Wine tasting event

Wine tasting event

When you visit Porto, Portugal, you will find that it is a place like no other. It is a mix of traditional and contemporary, historical and cutting edge, urban and rural. The Yeatman is simply a reflection of the city combining all of these attributes into its own unique atmosphere and offering guests an experience of a lifetime.

 

Web page:       http://www.the-yeatman-hotel.com/en/

Address:          Rua Choupelo, Santa Marinha, 4400-088 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

 

Japan: Tokyo/ Setagaya (Lupopo Cafe & Gallery)

The Setagaya ward in Tokyo has a reputation for being an upscale district and is home to the popular shopping district known as Sangenjaya. Here you will find a diverse gathering of affordable eating establishments, small boutiques and thrift stores selling everything from household items to clothing and just about everything in between. The area is easily accessible from Shibuya via the Tokyu Den-en-Toshi line, exit at Sangenjaya Station.

Just a short walk from Sangenjaya Station is a little café and gallery known as Lupopo. The shop is incredibly small but the Japanese are renowned for fully utilizing any space no matter how small.

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Upon entering the café you will notice a wall of wooden boxes containing tastefully displayed arts and crafts for sale. These items include jewelry, candles, stationary and small items created from felt. Certainly a great place to pick up that unique omiyage to bring to the folks at home. Overall the café offers a cozy, cottage-like atmosphere and depending on when you arrive, you could quite possibly have the café to yourself!

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The menu includes wonderful latte drinks, teas, lunch set items, salads, noodle dishes and desserts. You can also order a beer or a glass of wine for only ¥500. The latte drinks are served with a small container of brown sugar cubes and a little wooden spoon.

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On each table there is a small notebook and a container of various colored pens. Patrons to the café leave notes to the owners in these notebooks, messages like, “Thank you, the latte was oishii!”

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Maguro/ tuna salad

Maguro/ tuna salad

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Noodle dish

Noodle dish

So after browsing through the shops at Sangenjaya, won’t you take a moment to stop off at Lupopo Café & Gallery? You can just kick back and enjoy a nice cup of latte and browse the various wooden boxes and discover what they have to offer. The café is open from 11:30 AM until 7:30 PM. They are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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Address:          1 Chome-35-20 Sangenjaya, Setagaya, Tokyo

Web page:       http://lupopo.net/

Japan: Tokyo (Swallowtail Butler Cafe)

Japan is well known for its host of maid and animal cafés and now there is yet another “theme” café to be added to that list. Tucked away beneath K-Books bookstore in Ikebukuro, you will find the latest craze in café dining, The Swallowtail Butler Café (http://www.butlers-cafe.jp/). The café offers lunch, dinner, tea and dessert sets and caters predominantly to female clientele in their 20s and 30s, and it is easy to understand why.

Butler cafe

Butler cafe

Entrance 1

Entrance

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The café décor is reminiscent of an English manor house. Customers are led into the dining room through a lavishly decorated corridor filled with paintings, vases and flowers. Each side of the dining room is lined with private booths decorated with overstuffed pillows and beautiful fabric curtains. Tables with claw-footed chairs are placed in the center of the room beneath two massive crystal chandeliers and there is a mirrored cabinet on one end filled with exquisite tea sets.

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Elegant decor

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China cabinet

Although menus are available in English, the butlers mostly communicate in Japanese. There are 20 butlers who were trained for a month on manners, speech and the art of tea making and they are extremely attentive. They subserviently greet customers with a “Welcome home Madame, “ push your chair in, carry your purse to your table, bow whenever they leave your table, refill your tea cup and go the extra mile to make you feel special. Although men tend to visit maid cafés in groups of 2-3, approximately 1/3 of the female patrons at this butler café were there alone and seated at what would be classified as a “single” table. A majority of the customers were female naturally but there were some men in the mix as well.

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The food is a bit on the pricey side, as can be expected and most people typically wind up spending on the average between 2,000¥ to 5,000¥. A bell is placed on your table and you ring it if you want your butler’s attention and even to get permission to visit the restroom.

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Reservations are required and should be made between one to fourteen days prior to your planned visit. There is an 80- minute time limit for patrons to remain in the café and perhaps that is a good thing as women would savor this kind of service all day long if allowed to do so. For those of you wanting to take a bit of the experience home with you, there is a gift shop across the street which offers cards and photos with the butlers’ images, CDs and other goods. You can also purchase wine, sweets and tea at the gift shop.

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Items available at the gift shop

Items available at the gift shop