January’s favourites: 5 cheer-myself-up foods and drinks

Time, whatever happens it passes and doesn’t care if you’re late, you can call it bastard, but in the meantime it’s gone already.” says my rough translations of a song from the famous Italian songwriter Lorenzo Jovanotti. Time flies, it ridiculously does, and while I’m trying to figure out the important changes that are occurring in my life at moment, I suddenly find myself realising that an entire month is gone since my last post. It’s been stressful so far, considering everything is going on with my family, so keeping my 2015 resolution to stay positive has been likewise difficult, but I like to think I’m stronger than that, therefore fingers crossed because I don’t want to snap.

What I really like about myself, together with few other personal characteristics, is that my eating habits are not affected at all from the various everyday life circumstances. Even in the darkest of my days I never thought for one second to skip meals, because food is extremely important for me and if I don’t eat, neither my body nor my mood would cooperate to brighten the atmosphere.

During this month I kept myself up with these fabulous foods and drinks that I’d like to share with you guys. Who knows, if they worked for me they could do the same for you.

Almond milk. Ok it’s not technically milk, but more of a drink that resembles milk. Lately I’m having problems with regular English milk (yes, as weird as it sounds, the one I have in Italy is totally fine) so I thought giving almond milk a go, after I found out the soy one and I don’t really get along. I like the toasted flavour that matches my Illy coffee blend, but still, it’s not milk. That’s what, sometimes this January, has led me directly to point n.2.

Credits: Michael Kwan

Matcha latte. The Japanese famous bitter green tea powder exceptionally  combined with warm frothy milk by the skilful Timberyard baristas. A comforting treat which takes me back to the friendly atmosphere of Tokyo’s cafés.

Fresh mango with full fat greek yogurt and desiccated coconut. Ok this breakfast/afternoon snack came up by throwing in a bowl some stuff I had in the fridge, together with that desiccated coconut that was sitting in my pantry for too long. Thick rich yogurt for the creamy texture, coconut adds crunch and mango for a tropical sweet touch.

Talking about ‘Nduja here.

‘Nduja. The Calabrian spreadable spicy salami you can enjoy on your bruschetta or to revive your pasta sauce, or even better, you can melt it on your pizza to give that fiery Southern Italy kick. I also use to add it to soups, because it completely enhances the overall flavour.

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My last visit at Tonkotsu East.

Tsukemen: it was love at first bite when the waitress at Rokurinsha, Tokyo, brought me a big bowl of these thick noodles to dip in their rich pork broth. I never had the chance to eat them since that moment, almost three years ago. However London is always full of wonders, so when I found out that Tonkotsu East was serving tsukemen I had no choice but go trying them. What a joy it was! Perfect homemade noodles with the right porous texture that allows to absorb the broth. I won’t disclose any more details guys, as I’m preparing a review with an another article about my personal ranking of ramen bars in London.

So these are my January’s favourite foods and drinks, but I’m always looking for something new to cheer myself up with, so I can’t wait to hear about your suggestions.

Let me know, guys!

Kirazu London review: a Japanese “tapas” restaurant in Soho

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I found Kirazu during a hot August afternoon while, in the middle of disastrous property viewings, I was comforting myself with the latest hipster trend, a bubble tea, in the shop right next to it. I suddenly stopped gulping my fresh white peach and tapioca pearls drink and intensely stared at the inside of the empty room from the window. I am sure the waitress, who was cleaning and tidying up for the evening shift, thought I looked a bit creepy, but she smiled politely back at me like only the Japanese can do.

To tell the truth, I was totally enchanted by Kirazu’s interior design whose aged wood, wrought iron elements and beautiful Japanese pottery create a modern but also homely style. An elegant and, at the same time, cozy balance between the Japanese modern design and the vintage approach that is taking over London trendy bars.

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I unquestionably missed Japanese food, I craved it so much during the previous 9 months I stayed in Italy (no, I wasn’t pregnant!) that I felt the urgency to go back there and give this place a chance. Usually I consult the web before trying a new place, like everybody in 2014, but this time my instinct was stronger than my usual reasoning. Or, simply, I was just in love with the interior and I expected the food to be as delightful as the location. Typical me!

The following day I went back there for lunch to give a first try, since the lunch box menu was only just £5. “I’ll play it safe this time and if they surprise me I will definitely go back.” I told myself while I was staring at the big black board listing all the tapas they prepare for the evening shift. Yes, tapas, although I don’t like this word when used outside its Spanish context, but I assume the chef Yuya Kikuchi borrowed the term to immediately convey the precise concept of tiny plates to share to its international customers.

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My partner, G., and I chose our lunch box from a list of 4 available on that day. He ordered chicken karaage with curry and I got the same chicken but with sesame dressing and mayo  and a pickle salad. Both lunch boxes included a hot miso soup and a portion of steamed rice.

While waiting, G.’s face lit up as his eyes caught the word Matcha on the menu. Now, Matcha green tea is not something supposed to be drunk at the beginning of lunch, but I don’t always follow rules because life would be boring, wouldn’t it? Plus, G. wanted to try the “real thing” for so long, so I challenged him to prepare it. Luckily for him, every passage was carefully explained by our kind waitress, so no mess or green splashes all over the place.

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“Your face shows everything you’re thinking, please do something about it.” I remember my mother and friends repeating these words to me since childhood. This time it happened again, I could not hide a bit of disappointment in looking at how small portions were, especially the main dish of the bento box: 2 tiny bite-sized pieces of chicken. At the same time, I was torn because I felt almost guilty being dissatisfied with my lunch as I was paying £5, seated and served.

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I have nothing to complain about the food, as it was delicious and full of flavour. It was just what I wanted, what I had been craving for months: pure Japanese home style flavours. I just wanted more of it. I solemnly promised myself to go back for “tapas” and that’s what we did a week later.

Surprisingly, the evening atmosphere had completely different vibes: dim lights, people cheerfully toasting, waitresses who relentlessly juggled around the tables and tiny spaces with their trays full of beers and sake. In other words, the place was rapidly transformed into the modern adaptation of the traditional Japanese izakaya, a bar where customers can enjoy food to accompany their drinks. However, I noticed that the options for the evening are far more refined than the ones offered for lunch, so it has to be said that the food served here has not the mere role of a side dish to accompany a glass of beer, but more of an elegant protagonist.

This time we ordered from the “tapas” board a portion of takoyaki, octopus carpaccio with fresh wasabi, mentaiko (a type of marinated roe) and salmon sashimi to accompany the roasted aroma of our Asahi Kuronama black beer.

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Octopus carpaccio

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Mentaiko

Food portions were again tiny and maybe a bit expensive for that size, but I give up to the fact that fish is pricey anyway, so I don’t feel I should blame the owner/chef for overcharging us.

Again the flavour was just perfect for each plate in a different way, but my favourite were, the octopus carpaccio and mentaiko. The first had a delicate soft texture which is not easy to master. Then the intense flavour of fresh wasabi gave the dish a nice zingy kick. Mentaiko had a strong spicy and smoked flavour that I cannot associate with anything else I have ever tried, but it was undeniably pleasant to the palate.

I can’t say I was full after eating there, so I would probably not call that meal, a proper dinner, more like a fancy aperitivo.

I give this restaurant 7.5 in total, as the food truly reflects the authentic flavours of Japan. In addition, the place has a simple but modern atmosphere that makes the whole dining experience charming.

I’m still not convinced by their £5 lunch deal, so for your lunch break I would recommend more a place like Soya, whose larger portions are worth spending some more pennies.

However, Kirazu can be a lovely place for an elegant pre-dinner sake or to indulge in a Japanese dinner where traditional flavours are modernised with a hint of sophistication.

Kirazu, 47 Rupert Street, London, United Kingdom W1D 7PD.

When healthy meets delicious: a chat with Tamara Arbib, founder of Rebel Kitchen.

Last month I was religiously visiting Wholefoods after ages, because it was absolutely necessary to keep myself updated with the latest food trends. So, while I was looking for new drinks, there it was, looking at me: the Rebel Kitchen Matcha Green Tea Mylk.

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Great, I thought, it should be similar to the drink I used to have when I was in Japan, Once again my choices are extremely connected with memories and emotions.

Luckily enough there was a very kind lady who was giving samples of the entire Rebel Kitchen Mylk range to customers, so I took the opportunity to taste them all and also to be informed about their sustainably sourced ingredients and the healthy bits; in fact all drinks are made with coconut milk, meaning dairy free, and are naturally sweetened with date nectar, which makes them ideal for both children and adults.

Ok, but what about the taste? One word: amazing. This is because ingredients are carefully balanced, so there are no overpowering flavours. I confess I have a bias against dates, as I find them too sugary, but in Rebel Kitchen drinks they perfectly blend with the other ingredients without resulting extremely sweet.

Healthy and delicious almost never go together in the same sentence, but these two adjectives truthfully sum up the characteristics of Rebel Kitchen Drinks.

I felt the necessity to know more, so I did some research and I contacted Rebel Kitchen’s founder, Tamara Arbib who kindly agreed to answer my questions:

Q: I read you came up with the idea of producing your coconut based drinks because you were desperately looking for healthy and appealing alternatives to feed your children, but it does not really happen every day to start company on these basis. What convinced you to do make this step?

A: I’ve always been passionate about food and nutrition and my husband and I set up a charitable foundation called the A team foundation to help support and promote this goal. After 5 years within the space it was crystal clear we needed to show that health can be achieved not only through charitable endeavours but also through a business channel.

Q: “It’s important to drink milk because it makes you grow up stronger” I remember my mother kept telling me these words for years, so what would you say to those mothers like mine who would fear rebel drinks cannot compare because of their dairy free nature?

A: I think that coconut milk is tremendously nutritious and provides other nutrients in the form of MFC (medium fatty chain acids like lauric acid) that promote brain function and support the metabolism. Coconut milk is an antiviral and anti-fungal. You can get calcium from other plant based sources such a dark leafy greens. Nutrition and growing up strong can be achieved through a diet of whole and unprocessed foods. Milk is not a necessity past the baby stage.

Q: Did you invent and test the recipes yourself? Can you explain the entire process, from the idea to actualisation of those recipes?

A: Yes we did! in the rebel kitchen! I cannot tell you more as that would give our secrets away! hehe!

Q: I see you have a Coming Soon section regarding snacks on Rebel Kitchen’s website. Any anticipation?

A: I have a lot of ideas and the list is long…you’ll have to wait and see! We don’t want to rush and we have a lot to do with the mylks first!

Oh, I will wait for sure, maybe while sipping my favourite Rebel Drink!

 

Click here to know where you can find Rebel Kitchen Drinks near you.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Rebel Drinks and I purchased the product myself for personal use unless otherwise noted. My opinion is completely honest and based on my own experience.

 

And now in Italian

Il mese scorso sono andata in “pellegrinaggio” da Wholefoods dopo secoli che mancavo, perché dovevo assolutamente tenermi aggiornata su tutte le ultime tendenze in fatto di cibo. Così, mentre cercavo nuove bevande, c’era lui, che dal banco frigorifero, mi attirava intensamente: il Rebel Kitchen Matcha Green Tea Mylk.

Perfetto, ho pensato, dovrebbe essere simile al latte al tè verde che bevevo in Giappone. Ancora una volta le mie scelte gastronomiche sono state fatte in funzione dei miei ricordi e delle mie emozioni.

Per fortuna c’era una signora molto gentile che stava facendo provare ai clienti l’intera linea Rebel Kitchen, così ho colto l’occasione per assaggiare tutti i loro drink e per essere informata riguardo gli ingredienti da agricoltura sostenibile e le loro proprietà benefiche. Tutte le bevande sono fatte con latte di cocco, ottimo per gli intolleranti al lattosio, e sono naturalmente dolcificate con sciroppo di datteri. Praticamente sono ideali per adulti e bambini.

Ok, ma il sapore è buono? Sì, incredibilmente buono. Questo perché gli ingredienti sono magistralmente equilibrati, quindi non ci sono sapori che prevalgono prepotentemente. Confesso che sono un po’ prevenuta contro i datteri, in quanto li trovo troppo zuccherini per i miei gusti, ma in queste bevande si fondono perfettamente con gli altri ingredienti, senza che il risultato finale sia estremamente dolce.

Sano e buono sono due aggettivi che quasi mai troviamo nella stessa frase, ma riassumono fedelmente la descrizione delle bevande Rebel Kitchen.

Dovevo assolutamente saperne di più, così ho fatto qualche ricerca e ho contattato il CEO Rebel Kitchen, Tamara Arbib, che ha gentilmente accettato di rispondere alle mie domande:

D: Ho letto che hai avuto l’idea di produrre le tue bevande a base di cocco perché eri disperatamente alla ricerca di una bevanda sana e, allo stesso tempo, invitante da dare ai tuoi figli. Non capita spesso di avviare un’ azienda su queste basi. Cosa ti ha convinta a fare questo passo molto importante?

R: Sono sempre stata appassionata di cibo e nutrizione,  per questo ho creato con mio marito una fondazione di beneficenza chiamato A Team per contribuire a sostenere e promuovere questo obiettivo. Dopo 5 anni dopo, era chiaro che dovessimo impegnarci per dimostrare che le sane abitudini possono essere instaurate non solo attraverso opere di carità, ma anche attraverso un canale di business.

D: “E’ importante bere latte perché ti fa crescere forte”. Ricordo che mia madre continuava a dirmi queste parole per anni, quindi cosa vorresti dire a quelle madri come la mia che potrebbero non essere convinte dalle tue bevande poiché non contengono latte?

R: Penso che il latte di cocco sia estremamente nutriente e fornisca altri nutrienti sotto forma di MFC (acidi grassi a catena medio come l’acido laurico) che promuovono le funzioni cerebrali e aumentano il metabolismo. In più, il latte di cocco è un antivirale e antimicotico. È possibile ottenere il calcio da altre fonti vegetali, come le verdure a foglia scura. Crescere forti e ben nutriti può essere possibile attraverso una dieta composta da cibi integrali e non processati. Il latte non è una necessità oltre la fase dell’infanzia.

D: Hai inventato e testato le ricette da sola? Potresti spiegare l’intero processo, dall’idea alla realizzazione?

R: Sì, l’abbiamo fatto! Nella Rebel Kitchen! Non posso dirti di più perché dovrei rivelare i nostri segreti! hehe!

D: Vedo che sul sito di Rebel Kitchen hai una sezione “Coming Soon” riferita a degli snack. Ci dai qualche anticipazione?

R: Ho tantissime idee e la lista è lunga … dovrete aspettare e vedere! Non vogliamo correre e abbiamo ancora tanto da fare per la linea Mylk!

Certo, aspetterò di sicuro, magari sorseggiando il mio Rebel Drink preferito!

Trovate i drink Rebel Kitchen da Wholefoods, Waitrose ed altre catene del Regno Unito (Clicca qui per sapere dove). Il sito ha una sezione shop che, per ora, spedisce solo nel Regno Unito, ma l’azienda si sta attrezzando anche per le spedizioni internazionali.

Disclaimer: Non sono in alcun modo legata all’azienda citata in questo post e ho acquistato personalmente il prodotto. Il contenuto del post riflette solo e soltanto la mia opinione e la mia esperienza del prodotto.