Hot cakes with a side of snow
65th Sapporo Snow Festival (Japan Feb. 5-19)
We were fortunate to be able to plan a short holiday to Sapporo Japan to see the Sapporo Snow Festival. There was so much to see and do, with this event drawing an estimated 2 million visitors to the region. Believe me, on Saturday night it seemed like there was at least 1 million in Odori Park walking the one-way loop. Odori Park is the 11 block location for the ice sculptures, vendor stands, exhibits, displays, and carving competitions. There is so much to see and do that it would literally take weeks to walk through the city of Sapporo, both above ground and underground. Subways and trains are highly efficient ways to get around. It helps to have some familiarity with signage and to know some basic Japanese. There are thousands of stores just in the underground shopping centers.
We noticed that there were some teams from neighboring countries (Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Hawaii) as well as other countries making Ice Sculptures. We were wondering why Guam didn’t have a delegation to this international event. After all, Guam participated about 11 years ago and won a 1st place position for their creation “Ocean Symphony”. Wouldn’t it be great to re-visit and have Guam compete again?
We also had a wonderful reunion with the former Prego (Westin) chef, Denis Schiavo, who has opened and operates his own Italian restaurant in Sapporo. It is called La Veneziana Cucina Veneta & Bar. (website: www.laveneziana-denis.com) He was quite happy to see us and we were happy to get out of the cold, snowy weather into a warm environment. He had us try his signature pizza made with pistachio pesto and shrimp. I had a home-made fettuccine with a delicious crab and tomato sauce. If you ever get to Sapporo , be sure to look him up! Denis also does some teaching at a local culinary school. It helps that he speaks Japanese.
One of our objectives during this Sapporo trip was to re-connect wih our friend, Toshiyuki Nakajima, who used to be the Chef De Cuisine for the President (Nippon) at the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort for seven years. He was one of the Chef Competitors for the last UOGEF/MCA Celebrity Chef’s Cup held at the Sheraton. He is now the Executive Grand Chef for the Renaissance Sapporo Hotel. We took a taxi to find his hotel and dropped in (without a previous phone call). He came out in about 10 minutes and we had a delightful time catching up on some of the recent events and happenings on Guam. He was so happy and surprised to see Zee and I!
Ishiya Café (Must-have hot cakes)
Aurora Town, Sapporo
t seemed appropriate that so many stores and pastry/confectionary shops and bakeries in Sapporo were advertising Valentine’s Day specials. We were at one of the underground stations that connected to the shopping complexes that also housed countless eateries. We had Mocha Cafe’s on the first visit and I had made a mental note to come back again one day before leaving to try their famous hot cake. I guess looking at the photo of Zee and her travelling mascot, “Theolonious” with their heads sticking out of the center of those giant cakes made me hungry.
So we set out to re-discover this special place. Believe me, it took us about an hour and a half. We were finally pointed in the right direction and then waited for a table. When we were seated, we ordered the Hot Cake Set Deluxe (with Chocolate Syrup and Maple Syrup), as well as whipped cream, fresh fruits, and nuts (Y1050 - about $10).
When it was delivered, it was as though time stood still. It was all about tasting and savoring the incredible fresh hot-baked goodness of the perfect cake. The strawberries were the sweetest, as were the blueberries. The almond slivers were crunchy crisp! The whipped cream was sweet and fresh, another level was achieved by melding this with the chocolate and maple syrups. We were both mesmerized and almost had to pinch ourselves to see if we were dreaming! I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything that tasted so decadently divine (and delectably heavenly) at the same time!! If you ever get to Sapporo, this is a must eat dessert/confection. It’s best to share (if it’s possible to maintain some civility). This is why desserts are Valentine’s essentials!! Let’s celebrate Valentine’s Day!