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Friday, March 21, 2014

Grand Chief Burgers

I am not a huge beef eater, but every now and then I like a GOOD burger. A REAL good burger. Not a fast food burger. Unfortunately, it's been difficult to find here. I could find a great hamburger steak (which I also love), but not a good hamburger. Until now.

I read about Grand Chief on Facebook when a few ladies posted about it, and then got more information when the Iwakuni Explorer did a post about it. I knew as soon as I read the post about it, that I had to check it out.

I told my friend Cynthia about it and we decided to have lunch there last week. It was super easy to find. We just went out the Main Gate and took a right at the very first light. Followed that road until it came to a T intersection and then took a left. At the light we turned right onto Route 2. Grand Chief is located right after the Eneos station on your left so stay in the left lane once you get on the 2. Look for the Teepee or the Airstream trailer (I think that's what they're called).

Or you can look for this sign

Or you can look for this teepee

It kind of stands out so I don't think anyone will have a problem finding it.

We looked over the menu and I just could not decide what I wanted so I went simple and got a regular burger with avocado. I love fries so I got the regular set. Cynthia ordered the Grand Chief burger (recommended by the owner). We sat down and waited. It was a beautiful day to sit outside so we didn't mind at all. They were kind of busy while we were there. Quite a few people just come by to place take out orders.

The wait wasn't very long at all...maybe 10-15 minutes. We grabbed our trays and sat down. I couldn't wait to unwrap my burger. I did munch on a fry or two before I opened my burger. I couldn't resist. The fries are good.

Here's my burger -

Here's Cynthia's burger -

Don't they look delicious??? They are. I have now found a place to get a good burger. I like it so much that I went back today and ordered the Teriyaki Ginger burger. That was pretty tasty too. Not a heavy ginger flavor at all. They also have a Cajun Chicken sandwich that I am curious about. If anyone tries that, please post a picture on my Facebook page and let me know your thoughts.

The sign says they open at 10am, but there is nothing listed for a closing time. I drove by it a few nights ago (I think it might have been around 8pm-ish) and it looked like they were still open.

I did take a picture of the menu so you have an idea of prices.



Check out Grand Chief and let me know what you think!!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

My Temple and Shrine Stamp Book or Shuin-cho (WARNING: This is not a food post)

I debated about this for a little while and then decided I should just do it. As it states in my intro, I love to travel. I especially love to travel and take photos and experience local foods. So.... a post about my travels every now and then won't be weird...right?

Last year I went up north with my friend Tina and her husband to visit our friends, Courtney and Tom. We were going to climb Mt Fuji together (maybe I should write about that crazy experience....), but we also had some sightseeing planned.

The day before our climb, we headed over to Kamakura. I was super excited because I had never been and it was on my super long list of places to visit. Our friend Courtney had told us about the temple book (shuin-cho) she got when she was visiting Kyoto. I had never heard of a temple book so I was pretty intrigued and once I looked at hers, I was hooked. She said she carries her book with her everywhere and she gets a stamp (shuin) from each temple and shrine she visits. I knew I had to get my own shuin-cho! It's quite beautiful and I really love to watch them add my shuin when I am able to. Someone at the temple places a stamp or two onto your book and then writes in calligraphy, the name of the temple and the date. There is typically a 300yen charge for each shuin. I have heard that there are some that are more expensive, but so far all of mine have been 300yen. Some places will ask you to leave your book and come back in a few minutes. It hasn't happened to me too many times, but it does happen. They will not allow you to take photos. I have tried a few times and most places have a sign posted stating no pictures allowed. I even asked if I could just take a photo of their hands as they worked on my shuin, but I was told that was not possible either.

It is such a great souvenir for yourself to remember your time here in Japan, and all of the temples and shrines you visited while here. I also think it's a great gift to give someone visiting you or just arriving to Iwakuni! Kind of a "Welcome to Iwakuni" gift!

My excitement level for travel is always already super high (dancing around the room and jumping up and down while squealing - high), and I try to go somewhere every weekend. Even if it's some place close by that I have already been to many times. I love going to the same places over and over again, but at different times of the year. Where was I going with this?.... OH! Yes. My excitement level is even higher now (I know that just doesn't sound possible, but it's true) and I am constantly looking for new temples and shrines to visit. More stamps for my book!!!!! It also leads me to places I have never been. I have added quite a few places to my very long list.... sometimes I wonder if I will ever get through it. Part of me hopes I don't... what will I do then?? I'll have to move or something. Well, I do have to go back to a lot of the temples and shrines I visited before I got my shuin-cho. This means I will have to add to my list again.... maybe I won't ever have to move after all.

When I was in Kyoto last November with Courtney and Tina, I forgot my temple book (wouldn't be the first time...*sigh*). I ended up buying a book at Kiyomizu Dera (one of the most famous places in Kyoto) because I couldn't stand the thought of not getting any shuins while I was there, or buying the loose paper with the shuin on it that I would have to glue down into my book when I got home. The shuin-cho there is a little bit smaller than the one I bought in Kamakura so it fits nicely in my purse. Hopefully this means that I won't forget my book anymore! However, now you know that even if you forget your book, you can still get a shuin for it.

Here are some pictures of my temple book -


I try to be really good about writing down the name of the temple or shrine and the date I visited, on the bottom of the page. I did say "try" right?



You can buy a temple book at almost any temple or shrine, but some are definitely more ornate than others. Some are also more expensive than others. Courtney has filled one up already (I need to get busy and visit more temples and shrines!!) so she had to buy one when she came down for a visit. Her plan was to get one at the Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island. Their book was very plain though so she decided to wait until we went to the Daisho-in Temple to see what theirs look like. Before heading there though, we stopped off at the Daigan Temple to check out their books. They have beautiful books there so she ended up getting one there for 1,000yen or so (I think it might have been around 1200 or 1300yen actually). I wish I would have taken a picture of her book. Mine was less than 1,000yen, but it is also not quite as pretty as Courtney's. I think I know where I'll be buying my next book...


Pick up a shuin-cho the next time you go to a temple or shrine and start collecting beautiful temple stamps! If you can't figure out where to go for a temple stamp, just say "shuin" and someone at the temple will point you in the right direction.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What to do with Renkon (Lotus Root)

I am such a HUGE fan of renkon! I get really excited when renkon season is here and I eat it as much as I can until the season is over. Hard to say what my favorite way of eating it is though... I love renkon tempura! I love reckon kinpira. I also love the renkon creme brûlée Trois serves for dessert. Sounds odd, I know, but it is sooooo good!

Many of you have probably seen renkon in the grocery store though, and just didn't know what it was or what to do with it. I'm hoping this will help to make you feel more comfortable about buying this delicious root vegetable and giving it a try.


There are so many ways to prepare renkon, but I just want to share a couple of recipes to get you started.





RENKON NO SUNOMONO - This is a delicious, marinated renkon. You can substitute the yuzu with another citrus fruit like lemon or kabosu (a citrus fruit similar to yuzu). You can also leave the citrus out, but I personally think it's so much better with it.


1 1/2 - 2 cups thinly sliced renkon
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBSP sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
fresh yuzu peel (just the outer part of the peel) and yuzu juice

Bring a small pot of water to boil. Add thinly sliced renkon and continue to boil for about 2 minutes. The longer you leave them in, the less crunchy they will be so don't leave them in for too long. Drain and while still warm, add the salt, sugar, and vinegar. Mix well. Taste and adjust by adding more salt or sugar if needed. The vinegar will be very strong, but will mellow out as it sits so don't worry if it seems very tart. Add a squeeze of yuzu juice and some yuzu peel and mix well. Cool completely and serve. I can just sit and munch on these all day.


RENKON NO KINPIRA - This is a renkon stir fry that goes very well with rice. If you want it to be a little heartier, you can throw in some ground beef.


1 1/2 - 2 cups thinly sliced renkon
2 TBSP dashi shoyu
1 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP sweet rice wine (mirin)
1 TBSP sesame oil
1 TBSP sesame seeds


Soak the sliced renkon in a bowl of water for a few minutes to get some of the starch out. Drain.
Combine the dashi shoyu, sugar, and mirin in a small bowl and mix well. Taste and adjust as needed.
Heat sesame oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add sliced renkon and stir fry for a minute. Add the sauce mixture and mix well. Stir around for another minute or two before turning off the heat. Crush the sesame seeds between your fingers as you sprinkle them over the kinpira. Transfer to a bowl and serve with rice.

Oh! Renkon is a good source of dietary fiber and Vitamin C. They taste good AND they're good for you!

Another interesting fact about renkon is that Iwakuni is very well known for renkon, and I have heard from quite a few people that the Iwakuni renkon is unusual because there are nine holes instead of the usual eight holes that are in the renkon. Of course I had to count them. It's true. There really are nine holes.

Are you feeling like you need to rush out and buy some lotus root now? The season is coming to an end so don't wait too long!
I should mention that I did not slice the renkon all nice and pretty. My knife skills are not the greatest. Toshiko and Keiko have amazing knife skills though and they are the ones who sliced everything up for these recipes. I just took pictures and tasted and took more pictures and tasted some more.