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Price: 270 yen
Just having a look around to see what's available one rainy day; curious about what's different in Kurume's Iwataya as compared with the bigger location in Tenjin (Fukuoka).
In Iwataya's depachika (basement market), there are specialty grocers selling teas and high end fruit. There is a French style bakery there, and their free samples lured me in.
The salt bread was nostalgic for me, soft on the inside with a crisp outside, made with olive oil and rock salt. The condensed milk bread was just new to me and really mild but sweet. I got these to go and share at dinner time.
Other nice options were beautiful apple pies and sweet chestnut danishes. There is some seating available in the store and beverages are also sold.
I'm guessing the name of this panya means "golden angel," and Google Translate tells me I'm correct! I won't bother trying to translate the French on their bags, but go ahead if you're curious, there's a photo for you.
In the Area
Hanada is an izakaya very close to Nishitetsu Kurume Station. There are tons of izakaya in the area, but this one was chosen by a company I work with as the meeting place for this year's company party. There were 15 people in our group and the restaurant had prepared for us ahead of time. We had the 2 hour tabe-nomi hodai option and the manager used a coupon so we got free motsunabe, which was waiting on the table for us when we arrived. (Motsunabe is a nabe made from intestine and other inner parts, and it's quite popular around here.) We had one pot of miso motsunabe and one shoyu base motsunabe, sitting on the burners ready to be cooked up. The menu was the usual appetizer type dishes and salads common at izakaya, so we ordered a lot of dishes and drinks and had a nice time. The space was slightly cramped for our large group but we managed, and there were a couple other areas with smaller tables, as well as a bar seating area. We stayed a bit longer than the two hours to finish off the drinks that had been ordered at last call. I guess I always feel bad for staying while staff is trying to clean up or for being in a group of foreigners, especially if they are on the noisy side. I'm not a fan of smoking in restaurants or izakaya, but Hanada was ventilated well enough that we couldn't really smell smoke from other groups very often. They're open from 5pm-midnight every day.
I stopped at a tiny shop, Studio Nucca, on the way home from work after riding past it a few times. It turns out the store has printed and handmade products made by local adults with physical and mental disabilities. There are postcards and pencil cases with illustrations that are childish yet hip (and lots have great Engrish on them!). They also promote some local creative events and have a classroom/workshop in the back for their artists. The same owner has other locations in the area which specialize in things like day care for special needs children and cooking focused workshop/restaurants.I bought some letter writing stationary with the local Ferris wheel illustrated on it. Super cute, but there were a few other things I wanted to buy, without any real plan of what to do with them. Letter writing is a hobby, so I knew that paper would be put to good use soon. I went back with a couple birthday gifts in mind and found the perfect Lucha (masked Mexican wrestler) file with a hilarious illustration of four Luchas with a surfboard, but the background is a grassy field. No where near the beach, and they look kinda sad. There were also sticky book marks, stickers, and T-shirts with these artists' illustrations. The staff is really kind and helpful but not pushy, and they often have some free postcards customers can take. There are tons of handmade decorations in the studio shop so it's fun to just go look around.This is the perfect place for useful gifts for anyone who enjoys handmade things. It's also supporting a good cause as the adults with special needs get to see some of their work printed and sold in the store.
When I get asked what Japanese foods I like, my honest answer is Tsukemen (つけ麺) or Ramen. To please the locals, now I adjust my answer to ‘Tonkotsu Ramen’ (豚骨ラーメン). I asked some of my junior high students where to get the best ramen in town, and I heard Taiho Ramen, (the original location or honten), was the place to go. Before even asking, I had a suspicion, as I had seen Taiho Ramen in a Japanese drama based on true stories that took place in Fukuoka Prefecture (福岡恋愛白書). I live in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture. Kurume is the birthplace of Tonkotsu Ramen. The pork bone broth has since become popular all over the world, but this is where it started, at Taiho Ramen. Fukuoka City is famous for their own version of Tonkotsu Ramen, but the Kurume version – Kurume Ramen, was the first Tonkotsu Ramen. The main store is not far from Nishitetsu Kurume (西鉄久留米) station - about a ten minute walk away, and next to the south end of Central Park (中央公園). We live close enough to walk if it’s a nice day – about 30 minutes. The original location isn’t very big, but luckily it wasn’t crowded when we went. It smelled strongly of tonkotsu soup and we sat at the bar so we could watch the cooks. For under 1000 yen, you can get a big bowl of Taiho’s Mukashi Ramen, Chashu Ramen, Wonton-men, etc. We got the Mukashi Chashu Ramen (him) and Mukashi Wonton-men (me). He got 変玉/ Refill noodles (200 yen). Kurume style ramen has rich pork bone broth and toppings like pickled bamboo shoots, chashu pork, boiled egg, bean sprouts, green onions and nori, over thin noodles. Optional toppings are spicy oil, garlicy oil, togarashi pepper, and pickled ginger. Two happy warm bellies later, we agreed that was the place to go for ramen. If you’re in Kyushu, there are several other locations which might be more convenient for you, including in Hakata/Fukuoka and Oita. Check the website for the details. http://taiho.net/
In the last week I rode my bike past a previously unnoticed place, in an area I'm not normally in. I passed there a couple times, and noticed Christmas decorations and strange music, but I just thought it was a restaurant – there are a lot of those in the area. Then I walked past there intentionally, while in the area, to check out the strange decorations. I thought there would be a lot of people there for an early Christmas Eve date. It's not a restaurant, but it's a big patisserie with a seating area so you can eat cakes in the shop. (That area was being used as a packaging station for all the Christmas cakes being sold.)A huge inflatable Santa greets visitors at the entrance. Unfortunately it was really crowded because everyone was hustling to get their Christmas cakes in time. We could barely squeeze in and have a look around. It's a surreal season and these strange elves on the roof of Silver Spoon make it even weirder. It's super Christmased out inside the shop too. The cakes are beautiful and expensive, but we weren't so interested in spending all our money or waiting in line. A small Christmas cake (four small slices) at Silver Spoon will run you 2000 yen. Must be worth it – people were paying! It was much more crowded than the two other patisseries we passed the same evening. There are also flowers being sold outside, and as it's a patisserie, there are lots of fancy cakes as well as packaged breads and cookies. Couldn't talk the husband into anything, not even the 100 yen tiny chamomile cookies he seemed into. Not on this crowded day anyway. Silver Spoon is on a busy street and at the south end of Chuo Koen. If you're just after a simple tea or coffee and cake, maybe one of the many family restaurants nearby is a good option. If it's more fancy gift territory, they've got the right sort of cakes and desserts to go or individually wrapped treats in seasonal flavors.
The local coffee roaster, Bona Fors, roasts the coffee you want (and even suggests one for you if you aren't sure) while you wait. The coffee snob in me couldn't wait to try this even though there was a chance it could totally ruin my instant coffee habit and budget. I have mostly converted to the supermarket coffee for hand drip or cold press/mizu dashi at home, so why not. Coffee can be purchased with a minimum of 200 grams. While obviously (about three times) more expensive than a bag of ground coffee in a supermarket, the prices are comparable to what you'd pay at a Kaldi coffee or Starbucks, and much more fresh. For 200 grams at Bona Fors, you'll pay at least 600-700 yen. We went with the bitter Guatemala blend, for enjoying with dessert, or as recommended for ice coffee. After waiting less than ten minutes, our pale raw coffee beans were roasted, ground to our request, and sealed in a bag. The smell of the freshly roasted and ground coffee was amazing - even in the sealed bag. I wanted it to sit in my clothes drawer so it could infuse everything with its awesome perfume.There is a small area to sit and enjoy coffee by the cup, if you want to try some while waiting for yours to roast or don't want to bring some home. The owner seems to be the only one who works there, and throws in the occasional English word to clarify. Hours are 10:00-19:00; on Tuesdays and national holidays the shop is closed. Unfortunately, the technicality of measuring the correct proportions of coffee and water made the awesomeness of fresh roasted coffee not so obvious. I was informed that for a mug that holds 200 ml, about 12-13 grams of coffee was appropriate. But my ability to measure something like grams is more like... how about a big spoonful? I think the coffee ended up too weak, although still fragrant and tasty. Not as magical as I had hoped.Armed with a coffee measuring scoop from a 100 yen store and math skills, I tried the appropriate amount of ground coffee and had way yummier results. Yokatta ne.http://bonafors.jp/