Friday, November 29, 2013


There have been numerous posts I've wanted to write. I haven't been able to link pictures from Flickr to Blogger since October. Until I figure out what is wrong, I will provide a link to my pictures on Flickr and "blog" from there. It'll essentially be providing better descriptions to my pictures. :) Perhaps this will be better format?

Cassaendra's Flickr site

Thank you for stopping by!

- Cassaendra

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lemon Ginger Yogurt

Snowville Creamery's lemon ginger dessert yogurt was extremely popular for several weeks through Fresh Fork Market, so it was unavailable unless special ordered. Perhaps a ton was ordered or many got their fill recently. To my surprise, we were able to procure a 16 oz tub without special ordering.

Snowville Creamery Lemon Ginger Yogurt
Lemon ginger yogurt + Ikea lilac Godta bowl

Silky in texture, the lemon ginger yogurt is subtly sweet with a subdued citrus-ginger flavor. The tang is pleasant, not jarring. I can see why this is labeled as a dessert yogurt.

If Snowville Creamery sounds familiar, perhaps you've had Jeni's ice cream? Their sweet cream is sourced through Snowville. 

- Cassaendra

Snowville Creamery
Pomeroy, OH (near Parkersburg, WV)
Available through Fresh Fork Market, Heinen's, Whole Foods, and select Giant Eagle supermarkets.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mango Munchies

Monkeypod Mango Chipotle Jam
Mango chipotle jam

Monkeypod Jam mango chipotle jam from Kaua'i is fantastic feasting with a spoon to sate a sweet craving. The chunks of macerated mango with a hint of smoky heat also works well as a sandwich spread.

For a quick dinner tonight, I spread chipotle mayonnaise and mango chipotle jam on a wrap with leftover smoked chicken, cucumber sticks, diced orange and yellow tomatoes, and a pinch of fresh ground black pepper.

- Cassaendra

Monday, September 23, 2013



Here's an earworm that wriggled its way into my head when I walked across this crosswalk. If you know this song relatively well, you'll know why. :)

- Cassaendra

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Happy Belly

On a corner along Detroit Avenue, Happy Dog is easy to miss. Parking is along the street and at two small lots across the street, an open lot and at another business' lot (available after business hours weekdays and all day on weekends).

Happy Dog Storefront
Happy Dog storefront

Aside from hearing about $5 make-your-own quarter pound hot dogs, what really light a match under us to visit for lunch was finding out they had pinball machines. Funky reason, I know.

Medieval Madness is a castle siege with a cool castle in the upper left corner of the playfield. In X-Men, Magneto manipulates the pinball when it passes through the center.

Happy Dog Pinball
X-Men and Medieval Madness pinball machines

Ordering off their menu is similar to ordering sushi, or if you're familiar with ordering at a make-your-own spot, via rectangular slip of paper with an immense number of toppings [50] to consider. Choices run from the traditional to creative: ketchup, apricot chutney, black truffle honey mustard, Yuengling sauerkraut, pimento mac and cheese, yellow mustard, chow mein, peanut butter, ...

Happy Dog Chili Sriracha Onion Egg
Chorizo chili, nacho cheese, Spanish onions, sriracha, fried egg

It took us a while to decide what we didn't want on our dogs. Bug ordered chorizo chili, nacho cheese, Spanish onions, sriracha, and a fried egg with his hot dog, while I ordered chorizo chili, pimento mac and cheese, and Momocho habanero sauce.

The dogs are made by Blue Ribbon Meats, a local company that sources its meat in Ohio. Veggie dogs are sourced elsewhere.

Happy Dog Chili Mac Cheese
Pimento mac and cheese with chorizo chili

Chorizo chili with pimento mac and cheese in a super soft white bun fulfilled my chili dog craving. I was pleased the macaroni had texture, a concept (pasta cooked al dente or at least with some semblance of texture) that is lost at many places. In the event the Momocho habanero sauce was flames-bursting-from-all-orifices hot, I ordered it to arrive separately. Fortunately, it was a pleasant heat.

The wieners, plump and not overly salty, were heftier than expected, which is silly since a quarter pound dog is a quarter pound dog. Toppings were appropriate so I could appreciate all the ingredients.

Happy Dog Tots Bourbon Beans
Tater tots with bourbon pork and beans

Tater tots and fries are $3 and offered in a similar manner to their dogs. Sauces are available for free and toppings are $1.00. I wanted to try the bourbon pork and beans on a hot dog, but didn't want to smother mine with too many toppings, so I ordered it with our tots along with ancho chile coffee barbecue and Jamaican jerk mustard mojo sauces.

Happy Dog Mojo Coffee Habanero
Jamaican jerk mustard mojo, ancho coffee barbecue, and Momocho habanero sauces

While the ancho coffee sauce was interesting, sweet and smoky, I prefer the spicy stone ground mustard with the tots. I wonder what hot dog toppings would go well with the coffee sauce.

After our visit, I read about a basement with more games! There was no doubt we would return to try more tasty hot dog combinations, but our curiosity is substantially piqued.

- Cassaendra

Happy Dog
5801 Detroit Ave
Cleveland, OH 44102
Tel: (216) 651-9474

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Night in Hakata

Just another night in Hakata near the train station.

Hakata Train Station Boots

Department stores have oodles of restaurants. Train stations have a plethora of food options. The Hakata station has a couple of large department stores attached to the train station. The food options are mind boggling.

I can't wait to try Pietro (left) some time when I visit Hawaii. The udon restaurant to the right was mediocre. My father's udon was oooverdone. How does one overcook udon other than on purpose? Fortunately, I ordered ebi tendon (shrimp tempura over rice).

Hakata Train Station

We ran into family and had an after dinner snack at one of the basement department store - train station restaurants. I was still full so I ordered a small bowl of mentaiko (spiced cod roe), famous throughout Japan. At the table, one can have takana, spicy shoyu-pickled mustard greens, a regional condiment, at your hearts content. With the salty roe and salty salty takana, the large mound of rice and tea were appreciated.

Hakata Eki Mentaiko Rice

For an after after dinner snack, we headed upstairs to one of several department stores buzzing with activity even though it was later in the evening. How could anyone ignore this dessert case at Fugetsu?

Fugetsu Display Case
Dessert case

Chestnuts are one of my favorite Japanese dessert ingredients. How could I pass up pureed chestnuts, chopped chestnuts, and a whole chestnut (inside), in a chocolate cup?

Fugetsu Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc

I didn't.

- Cassaendra

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tom Yum Pretz

Tom Yum Pretz
Tom yum Pretz

If you're a fan of Chicken in a Biskit, savory Pretz, and tom yum, you'll like Glico's tom yum Pretz "breadsticks" made in Thailand.  

Tom Yum Pretz Box Thai
Box in Thai

While it isn't like crunching on a bowl of tom yum goong nor very spicy, the salty, lime-sour, and shrimpy flavor hits the target. Blindfolded, one would easily guess the flavor.

Tom Yum Pretz Box English
Box in English

I didn't realize there were over 75 Pretz flavors. This doesn't even touch upon Glico's other more famous stick snack, Pocky. Intriguing flavors that were available for a limited time, in Japan, or around Asia: nozawana, basil, mapo tofu, potsticker, eel, spicy squid, larb, mentaiko, and sharks fin. Salad is my favorite flavor.

- Cassaendra

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Train to Zone

There are a few activities I look forward to when I go to Japan. Riding trains ranks high, just after visiting friends and family, exploring historic areas, and food.

Tsubame Car
Tsubame Express - Hakata to Kumamoto

Since we were non-Japanese citizen tourists, we all bought Japan Rail (JR) passes for a phenomenal price - less than $200 for 7 days of unlimited travel - traveling on the shinkansen (bullet train), most commuter trains, buses, and the ferry to Miyajima.

When I walked into the car to Kumamoto, I was impressed with the wooden seat backs. Even with use, the wood wasn't nicked much. It is evident that passengers are appreciative and respectful of their surroundings.

Tsubame Interior
Tsubame interior

Another perk to the shinkansen are the carts with local specialty foods called ekibento or ekiben (train meal) and beer, as well as trinkets. I've written about our meals here.

Japanese trains are clean, even daily commuter "one man" trams. Bullet trains are beautifully maintained and comfortable to ride due to its speed, traveling 150-200 mph.

Tsubame Interior
Tsubame interior

During my train ride to Beppu, I bought a bento of grilled fish and a large assortment of side dishes for less than 500 yen at a department store. Even with riders eating meals and drinking, I must comment again, the trains are meticulously kept.

Kumamoto Eki
Kumamoto train station

One man trains (trams), buses, and cabs arrive frequently outside the train station. In Kumamoto, the tram stops are beautifully landscaped. It is nothing like the depressing train stops in many US cities that make one feel like a second class citizen for using public transportation.

I also noticed posters in local trams asking commuters to refrain from speaking on mobile phones. What a wonderful rule!

Kumamoto Tram
Local "one man" tram in Kumamoto

Traveling by train is an adventure, but the major stations are a labyrinth of treats with hours of exploration. One of Angelo Pietro restaurants, a chain of Japanese-Italian bistros based in Hakata, is located in the basement of the Hakata train station. Their miso-sesame salad dressing, sold even in Cleveland, is amazing on salads and as a marinade.

Hakata Train Pietro
Hakata train station basement

Aside from food, train stations have a phenomenal variety of amenities. One is able to shop for gift-wrapped boxes and fancy jars of regional specialties and fancy jars, as well as textiles and trinkets.

At the Hakata train station there are two major department stores encompassing 6-8 floors where one can purchase play to formal clothing, prepared foods to take home for dinner or on the train, stationery, books, perfumes, kitchenware, furniture, dine at casual and fine dining restaurants, and so much more.

- Cassaendra

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bonbon Brunch

This was our second weekend in a row to Bonbon Pastry and Cafe for breakfast/brunch in Ohio City, a bright, bustling patisserie and cafe adjacent to the building that houses Crop Bistro and Penzeys Spices, along Lorain Ave, just off of W 25th St.

Our previous trip took place when only the breakfast menu was available. Bug enjoyed his breakfast nachos with chorizo, eggs, avocado, black beans, peppers, onions, pico de gallo, and cheddar. It was a deceivingly filling platter.

I was impressed with their corned beef hash. The potatoes were crisp, brussels sprouts were not squishy, and there was just the right amount of corned beef and grilled mushrooms for flavor. Hooray for leftover corned beef hash.

Additionally, I almost burnt my tongue on a fried-to-order batch of cinnamon sugar mini-doughnuts with chocolate sauce and mascarpone dip. Who is crazy enough to wait until fresh doughnuts cool off? Hmm, or maybe it was the cup of macchiato?

Bonbon French Dip
French dip

With the lunch menu available during this visit, it took only moments to decide upon meals -- Bug got the French dip and I chose the grilled asparagus sandwich. He enjoyed the French dip with gruyere, caramelized onions, and au jus. It's not my thing (the onions). The loaf was wonderfully crusty. His platter also came with am impressive stack of fries. I was enamored with the crispy, tasty slender seasoned potatoes that I probably stole half of them.

Bonbon Asparagus Sandwich
Grilled asparagus sandwich

The combination may seem like a difficult jumble to eat; however, the asparagus for the most part cut easily with my teeth. Warm grilled asparagus and meaty mushrooms were enhanced by the oozy-creamy combination of fresh mozzarella and basil pesto. Salad greens and marinated tomatoes provided a cool crunch and piquancy that covered the remaining textural and taste bases. Of course, this wouldn't have worked with tough or dry bread. Loved the crusty baguette.

When entering Bonbon, there is an enticing display of pastries. As the picture shows below, I grabbed the cream-filled choux with dark chocolate and ate more than half...

Bonbon Eclair

While I adored my sandwich and would like order it on every visit to Bonbon Cafe, I want to try some other dishes like the tofu hash, bubble and squeak, as well as their other pastries. The fries (a barrel of them) alone are enough to return over and over again.

At the time of this post, Bonbon Cafe advertises a breakfast happy hour, where breakfast entrees are $5.00 from 3:00 - 8:00 p.m. Parking, as far as we have seen, is what is available along the street.

- Cassaendra

Bonbon Pastry and Cafe
2549 Lorain Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
Tel: (216) 458-9225

Monday, May 27, 2013

Town and Country

Driving along West 25th, there are numerous buildings with murals that show the goings on of each neighborhood.

Displayed along a surface lot on W 25th Street and Church Ave, near Detroit Ave, reflects Ohio City's cycling and sidewalk cafe scene.

W 25th Church Ave Mural

A few blocks away, across from West Side Market, is the typically bustling Market Square Park of shoppers and foodies. Having taken this early Sunday morning, only a couple of people were roaming about.

W 25th St Lorain Ave Mural

Red brick is a lovely canvas, regardless of whether the fabric is worn or well kept.

- Cassaendra

Along West 25th Street
Ohio City
Cleveland, OH

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Pizza Pizza

The weather was beautiful last night, clear and cool in the 50s (°F), almost fall-like, perfect for something spicy and butternut squash. Why not pizza at Crust?

We ordered our usual hot pepperoni margherita pizza -- medium, thin crust. We've had the best result with Crust's medium pizza, while not cracker crisp along the bottom, it is not soggy in the center like the large. In addition, we ordered their butternut pizza.

Crust Hot Pepperoni Margherita
Hot pepperoni margherita pizza

The thickly sliced pepperoni was meaty, salty, and spicy, but not overwhelming over the smoked mozzarella, garlic, and roasted tomatoes. One of the charms of tonight's pizza was its irregular shape, not perfectly circular.

Butternut squash pie sounds odd, but if you're open minded about pizza it is quite good, especially when it is well balanced -- sweet apple cider reduction and caramelized onions, spiced butternut squash, nutty pumpkin seed oil, smoky bacon, and sharp Danish blue cheese.

Crust Butternut Squash
Butternut squash pizza

My next pizza will be roasted eggplant, which has roasted tomatoes and red peppers, red sauce, smoked mozzarella, oregano, fresh basil, arugula, balsamic reduction, and romano. The Capocollo sounds pretty good, too, with Italian cured ham, roasted tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, basil, and olive oil.

- Cassaendra

1020 Kenilworth Ave
Cleveland, Ohio 44113
Tel: (216) 583-0257

Sunday, May 19, 2013


We discovered Breadsmith of Lakewood last Saturday and have nearly filled their customer loyalty punchcard of 12 loaves. Their bread is baked in small batches each day. A monthly and weekly calendar denotes the schedule of available loaves. Not only do they have a large variety and great tasting bread, their service is fabulous -- cheerful, personal, knowledgeable, and warm.

Our current favorite is their Greek olive focaccia with cheese -- cheesy on top and  loaded with olives, enough to flavor it but not overwhelming. We're on our 3rd loaf.

Breadsmith Monkey
Mini-monkey bread

The mini cinnamon monkey bread pictured above is also quite good, lasting less than half a day. We've also tried their sour dough, sun dried tomato and basil, multigrain, and zucchini walnut loaves, as well as the chocolate chip, sugar, and ginger cookies.

Ginger cookies are wonderfully soft. Each time we've visited, we've indulged in one. Sugar cookies were fine. The chocolate cookies are soft, thick, and chocolaty, but not as much my preference as the ginger.

For dinner, Bug served up grilled cheese sandwiches using slices of the sun dried tomato and basil loaf with Mayfield Road Creamery's smoked gouda and some American cheese. Lunch tomorrow will be herb roasted turkey on sour dough bread. Can't wait!

By our next purchase, we will have filled our punchcard. It was noted during our most recent visit that the free loaf would be the most expensive. That is a first for me.

- Cassaendra

Breadsmith of Lakewood
18101 Detroit Ave
Lakewood, OH 44107
Tel: (216) 529-8443

Saturday, May 18, 2013


We ducked in from the rain into an office building a few steps from Kumamoto Castle. Packed into a small elevator, we zipped up to Uotami, an izakaya chain. It was the first of several visits to izakaya during this trip, more times than I had in my lifetime previous.

Stepping out of the elevator into the restaurant, one is transported from concrete, traffic, and bright lights to warmth, wood, tatami, paper, and soft glowing lamps. Shoes are removed in one area and taken to a room with three walls of square-foot wooden lockers.

Kumamoto Uotami Shoe Key
Shoe key

The characters on the key slide into a slot in a matching labeled door, which is pretty nifty since you don't have to remember the exact location of the locker, except when you pick a locker with a blank key like my uncle accidentally did. The characters had been rubbed clean. Fortunately, we remembered the general area so it took two tries before he was able to retrieve his shoes.

While I'm not a big fan of random sashimi, I don't mind salmon and shrimp, especially amaebi. When abalone was part of the order, I was excited to try this delicacy. Similar to scallops with a faint fishy flavor and crunchy, but more chewy and sweeter; it was a little tougher than I expected. The mollusks are located at the bottom, 6 o'clock, in the photograph below.

Kumamoto Uotami Sashimi

The next platter that arrived was basashi, a local delicacy in Kumamoto of thinly sliced raw horse meat.   It was similar to raw beef (tried in Hida over 15 years ago), but tougher. With the shiso (perilla leaf) as a wrap and dipped in shoyu, basashi tasted like shiso dipped in shoyu. For me, shiso provides a sharpness to a dish but can overwhelm.

Kumamoto Uotami Basashi

Next up was chicken yakitori - cartilage, skin, heart, thigh, and I think liver. There are specific names for different types of skewered meat. I once asked what yakitori is called when the skewered meat is not chicken (tori) and was informed that it has become a generic term for skewered meats, so it is acceptable to call skewered beef, beef yakitori.

Kumamoto Uotami Yakitori

Their gyoza was perfectly fried, crunchy, chewy, and not too garlicky. No complaints! What was memorable about this serving of gyoza from the hundreds of plates of gyoza I have had in my lifetime was the sauce.

Kumamoto Uotami Gyoza

The dipping sauce was not just the standard shoyu, rice vinegar, and rayu. The dab of green is yuzukosho, a citrusy peppery paste made from yuzu, chile peppers, and salt then fermented, a specialty of Kyushu. I fell in love with this paste and imaged the possibilities -- in potato salad, with grilled fish, in fried rice or noodles, ramen, many dishes! It didn't take more than 2 seconds after I found a tube of yuzukosho, to purchase it. Why the delay? Question posed: How many?

Kumamoto Uotami Gyoza Sauce
Gyoza sauce with yuzukosho

Shared between 5 adults, this meal was a fantastic deal. It left me sated; cost less than $100 total; and broadened my palate by allowing me to try a number of new foods with little risk.

- Cassaendra

1-22 Kamitori-cho
Kumamoto-shi, Kumamoto 860-0845
Tel: 096-324-2288

Friday, May 17, 2013

Kumamoto Castle

The packed tram ride from Suizenji Park to Kumamoto Castle took ~15 min. Visiting Kuamamoto Castle has been a bit of a dream since I was a child since I've wanted to visit that cool black castle. Unfortunately, when we visited in the fall, it rained through the day and evening.

Palace and courtyard

Windows along the base and a little higher were used to scope out the area for enemies.

Stone base with castle

As majestic as these castles appear on the outside, they are quite functional. Stone stairs near the entrance were purposely built craggy and the steps long in stride to slow invaders. Curved base walls made of stone were difficult to scale.

Kumamotojo Aerial
Aerial diorama of old Kumamoto

Two buildings within the keep are museums with castle and overhead models, and artifacts like helmets and early arquebuses, to building equipment, post and beam fittings, and screens. Both models below were quite sizable.

Kumamotojo Model
Models of the keep

The original castle was built in the 15th century. Through the years, the keep was expanded, rebuilt when certain areas were burnt from a rebellion in the 19th century, and reconstructed.

The tools that are on display weren't used for torture, but for building the castle. It's interesting to see how little certain tools have changed over time.

Kumamotojo Tools
Tools used to build the castle

A stairwell circles the center of the castle, becoming narrower with each higher level. At the top is a panoramic view through large wood frames. I wanted to stand there for much longer to drink in the beautiful mountains with treetops starting to turn. The view from the other side is of the sprawling city.

Kumamotojo View Top
View from the top

A few of the rooms were refurbished, providing us a glimpse of what parts of the castle must have looked like when it was inhabited. Below are pictures of the main reception area.

Kumamotojo Doors
Gold doors of the main reception

I haven't done the screens and ceiling of the main receiving room justice.

Kumamotojo Gold
Kumamoto Gold

Kumamotojo Rooms
Main reception room

From exquisite gold and colorful depictions of nature to clean symmetry in wood and paper, my favorite is somewhere in between. Several wooden doors were on display. This set with pheasants was my favorite.

Kumamotojo Door
Refurbished wood doors

We didn't have days to tour Kumamoto castle, so I quickly toured everything so I wouldn't regret missing anything. By the time we left, part of the grounds were closed and marched through the drizzle through a different gate forcing us to see a different angle of the castle from the outside, for which I am glad.

Time for dinner! Kumamoto is famous for basashi (horse meat sashimi), so I was going to be in for a treat!

- Cassaendra

Kumamoto Castle

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Marmalade Symphony

During a recent trip to Ikea, we picked up a jar of sylt fl├Ąder and apelsin (orange and elderflower) marmalade. Wafer thin slivers of orange in every bite creates a bright and faintly bitter contrast to the sweet, intensely orange jelly.

Ikea Marmalade
Marmalade swoon

This bottled bliss has been versatile with curried Brussels sprouts, spicy bison sausage sticks, mixed in salsa over salmon, muesli and almond milk, taquitos, crackers, oatmeal, straight from the jar...

Ikea better have their shelves stocked next time we head there!

- Cassaendra

Saturday, April 20, 2013


I have a confession. For the past few months, I've been devouring tv series on Netflix. The first major series I tackled was Doctor Who -- seventh through tenth doctors (2005 - 2012) -- over a span of 4-6 weeks. What a remarkable mix of adventure, tragedy, drama, and humor, as I had not heard of the time-space traveling adventurers growing up.

This led me to watch the entire Torchwood series, a spin-off of the Doctor Who series through Captain Jack Harkness' adventures. At first, the series was pretty light-hearted, but became very dark and quite engaging at its close.

Numerous long and short series later...

I discovered "The Guild," a web series based on a group of MMORPG players in a guild, a few days ago. Series 1-5 are available compiled on Netflix. While I am not a fan of comedies, I found this to be quite amusing since some of it is a bit familiar. *cough* Of course, I'll be watching series 6 very soon directly from their website.

The wonderful part about streaming entertainment is the availability of an entire series on demand, from the first episode through the conclusion, instead of waiting weekly over a span of years or skipping to the end. I've discovered several panned series that were fantastic only to find out, sadly, they were abruptly canceled, and the opposite with highly acclaimed series.

My favorite Doctor Who? I love Christopher Eccleston (distant, dark), David Tennant (light, brooding) and Matt Smith (playful, eccentric) equally. A few of the companions were painful to watch.

Perhaps I'll write a snippet about a few of the gems and rubbish I have discovered. So many series, so little time. Allons-y!

- Cassaendra

Monday, April 15, 2013


Walking in to Gaelic Imports in Parma, I squealed when I noticed three Aero chocolate boxes after reading about them in Mrs. L's blog -- mint, orange, and original -- and quickly grabbed an orange bar.

Aero Orange
Aero orange choco 

The photograph is missing a green bar because mint was sold out. *pout*

When I see a bubbly center within chocolate covered anything, I think of crisped rice. Imagine my disappointment when I bit into the bar to discover a cake-like texture.

Aero is aerated milk chocolate. Hello. I love orange-chocolate, so no complaints with the prominent orange flavor and would buy it again, but at $1.50, the price is a touch steep for me.

Along with the chocolate bar, we snagged a meat pastie and beef pie. It was all right, as far as beef, peas, and potatoes baked in puff pastries go. They reminded me that I haven't had curry pan and piroshki in years.

- Cassaendra

Sunday, March 31, 2013


Povitica Walnut
Walnut povitica

We recently saw a Strawberry Hill display of poppy seed, apple cinnamon, walnut, and chocolate chip cream cheese povitica at Costco. Povitica is traditionally a spiced sweet eastern European pastry roll. I first became familiar with nut rolls several years ago when someone from work brought in a poppy seed roll.

Tasting a morsel of each at the sampling station, the apple cinnamon and poppy seed povitica were delicious, as expected. I was sold on the spiced, honey walnut pastry with its moist, dense center and thin flaked crust. It reminded me a lot of baklava, but not as bitter (from the nuts) nor as sweet.

- Cassaendra

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