Friday, October 14, 2011

St. Vincent Wine Festival @ Huis Ten Bosch サンヴァンサンワイン祭り@ハウステンボス

For roughly two weeks, every October, Huis Ten Bosch hosts a popular wine tasting festival.
There are wines from all over the world although, unsurprisingly, most are from France and Italy.
The Top Ten

For a mere ¥1500 you can get a regular wine pass - this gives the holder the opportunity to sample 100 different wines. There are also limited regular passes costing ¥2000, which come with a free bottle of wine to down at your leisure.
The "Gold Pass" sounds much better, and it is! It's ¥2500, but with that you get to taste the usual 100 wines PLUS 10 higher grade wines. The selling price of these wines range from about ¥3500 to ¥6500 a bottle...and you can try them as many times as you like.
If you are feeling flush, or want to treat yourself to something extra special, then you can blow ¥5000 on a "Premier Pass". You can quaff the regular 100 and the special 10 - plus you get to try a glass of a specially selected vintage wine.
Got kids? Don't worry! There is a special kids soft drink pass, costing ¥700 for the chance to try 5 different fruit juices. Some of the juices tasted nicer than a few of the wines actually.
Some of the 100
There are also plenty of stalls and shops selling all sorts of meats, cheeses and snacks plus Huis Ten Bosch is home to many restaurants of differing quality.

German style sausages...great with a cold beer!
If you get tired of wine then why not try a beer? The newly refurbished booze shop now contains 100s of beers from all over the world - possibly the best selection to be found in Kyushu! You can even drink them outside if you like, or take them home and enjoy them with a friend. On top of that there are also many fantastic, though pricey, wines and of course many varieties of Japanese grog.

Some great beers...

If you drink too much vino then why not stay at one of HTBs many lovely hotels - there are often fantastic deals on Rakuten, which sometimes include dinner and breakfast or a free pass into the theme park!

The Watermark Hotel
The festival runs this year from now until Sunday, October the 23rd. Doors open from 11am to 8pm - but if you have to pay a theme park entrance fee then you should consider perhaps going there from 5pm - 8pm as after 5pm entry to the park is dicounted to ¥1000.

For more information please check out the Huis Ten Bosch website


Friday, June 10, 2011

Suivie - 酔美

Suivie's Bar is a Saga City institution that has been catering to clientele from all walks of life for nigh on 20 years. The Master behind the counter, Naoki, is always ready to greet you with his infectious grin and friendly banter. Word of warning though, he enjoys nothing more than seeing his customers get very drunk and late at night you will often see a few "tired and emotional" patrons passed out on the bar! Here he is with a few lucky ladies...

Suivie is renowned for it's excellent cocktails and huge collection of whisky and bourbon. Whether you order a Mojito, Godfather, or just a simple gin and tonic, the level of care and attention used to pour each drink is spectacular. Naoki is a fluent English speaker and, ably assisted by lovely barmaid Serena, will always attempt to cater to every whim and fancy of the customer, so whatever you want don't hesitate to ask. Highly recommended are the legendary "Dirty Boy Scout" (be very wary of the "Flaming Dirty Boy Scout Special"), and "The Bulls**t". All cocktails, draught beers, bottled beers, spirits, liquers and wines are very reasonably priced.
Below is a Dirty Martini. Lovely.

While originally being primarily a cocktail bar, Suivie has evolved gastronomically and now serves a wide variety of gourmet dishes. Many patrons were initially partial to the Italian fare served at Suivie, such as the famous handmade seafood pizza seen below, which is a mere 1200yen and perfect with a glass of dry white Italian wine,  and their many pastas and risottos (the Gorgonzola Risotto is pretty damn tasty).

Suivie has recently updated it's menu, and it now includes several Spanish-style tapas dishes and also offers freshly sliced cured Serrano ham. Juicy, tender and superb with a glass of dry sherry and a few mixed olives.

Even though Naoki has revamped his menu, he has still retained the old favourites. Such as the mighty Steak Platter - a huge chunk of prime Aussie beef, garlic toast, chunky chips and generous blob of wholegrain mustard - all for the bargain price of 1500yen!

They also have the awe-inspiring "Suivie Burger", which consists of a mouth-watering pattie of pure ground Japanese beef, topped with a velvety fried egg and a thick slice of fresh onion while resting elegantly on a bed of juicy tomato and pickles. Only 650yen and absolutely divine!

Suivie is comparatively large for a bar in Saga. Naoki and staff often cater for weddings, birthdays and other functions. If you are looking for somewhere with a little more class than your average "all you can drink" Izakaya for a party then give Suivie a call - they will definitely give you a good deal. Suivie also has a large screen and a projector, making it a great place to watch sport (Premier League etc) and other live events.

Whether you are looking for a relaxing cocktail after a hard day's graft, wanting to entertain friends or searching for a top quality meal in refined surroundings, Suivie is a definite must for the Saga dweller. See you there!

Suivie Bar and Restaurant 酔美
Open every single day. Mon to Thurs 6pm to 3am. Fri and Sat 6pm to 5am. Sun 6pm to 12am.
Shirayama 2-1-3, Saga City
Check out the link - Suivie 酔美

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hokkaido Food and Drink Fair...

At Saga Tamaya department store from April 13th until the 24th.
Every day there is a different special offer available. This event is worth a visit just to taste the numerous free samples and be charmed by various old ladies trying to flog you their wares!
There are many types of cheesecakes, cream puddings, chocolate snacks, cheeses, meats, and fish to sample. There are also special Hokkaido seafood bento boxes on sale, and even a sushi stall too. My personal favourites are the wine-tasting corner and the spicy chicken wings. You can also purchase locally produced Hokkaido beer, healthy yogurt drinks and also delicious crab cakes and dumplings. Only while stocks last though! Enjoy!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

JA Saga Prefecture Agricultural Festival 2011!!! Updated...

Thursday February 3rd. Saga Airport Park, Kawasoe Town.

Pedalling flat-out on a "granny bike" certainly builds up an appetite - and luckily once I finally arrived at the festival there were plenty of things to sample. With tweed jacket, flat cap and welly boots on, I entered the main arena/tent looking dapper and definitely agri"cultural".

But onto the eating. Avoiding the usual Japanese festival stall food (anpanman and doraemon cakes, cold fried chicken, jumbo octopus balls etc), I made my way to the inner sanctum where locally-sourced ingredients were used to create some great dishes.

The minced pork and lotus root hot buns (特別肉まん), from the Kashima area of Saga Prefecture, were juicy and a little sweet. The Daatan soba noodles, named after an ancient tribe from Northern China, were thicker than your average soba and, even though there was NO yuzukoshou, they were very tasty and perfect for a slightly harsh mid-winter day. According to the old lady who served them, they were also good for me, as they have a high concentration of Rutin (more info here - by this time I was too busy slurping to hear exactly what she was banging on about.

Other notable highlights included fresh mikan juice, smoked cheeses, roll cake, organic ureshino tea and youkan tasting - plus of course plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood from all over Saga Prefecture. There were events of some kind on the main stage during the day, such as Enka singing and a gardening demonstration, but thankfully I missed them!

If you have some time to kill or would like to sample/buy local Saga goods then the festival is worth a visit. Each day also has different events and different produce from a variety of regions.
The line-up for the next few days is :

Friday, February 4th - Farm produce from Ogi City, Taku City and Yamato Town. Plus goods from Kashima and Ureshino.
12:00-13:00 Karaoke Tournament!
13:00-14:00 Auction

Saturday Feb 5th - Farm produce from all over Saga Prefecture!
Anpanman Event 10:00 - 10:50 and 14:30 - 15:20
11:30 - 12:40 Brass Band Performance
11:30 Crepe and Juice making event
14:30 Kinako making event

Sunday Feb 6th (FINAL DAY) Farm produce from all over Saga Prefecture!
11:00 - 11:30 JA Saga Group Song Performance!
12:00 - 13:15 Yosakoi Dance Performance
10:00 Miso making event
11:30 - Decorative Cake making event
13:00 - Gardening Event

The Festival runs until Sunday February 6th and opening hours are 9:30 until 16:00.
A free bus service runs from Saga station on Saturday and Sunday.
Please check the website JA Saga Matsuri for more info.