Six reasons to visit Japan

Last fall I had the pleasure of going on my very first visit to Japan. It was an otherworldly experience that’s taken some time to process—I mean, the taxi doors open by themselves, the toilets bowls wash you and vending machines dispense delicacies like warm sake and fresh brewed coffee, ground to order. In other words, if life is about the details, it seems that the Japanese have mastered the art of living. I already knew I loved Japanese food. But here are a few more things that I learned during my time in Tokyo and the neighboring Saitama and Chiba prefectures:


1) The cats in Japan are really cute

The cats who oversee Goi station in Ichira, Chiba, get their breakfast from none other than the train conductor. Photo by Gabriella Gershenson

If you’re familiar with my Instagram feed, then you know I’m cat crazy. Well, not only is Japan home of Maru, the world’s cutest and most famous Internet cat. It’s also home to the phenomenon of the feline station master. It is what it sounds like—cats who live in train stations and are in charge of them, too. I felt very fortunate to catch these three bosses eating breakfast at Goi station on the Kominato Line in Ichira, Chiba.

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Foodie Beauty Bonanza

I love the Rachael Ray Every Day test kitchen. Dearly. Not only are the staffers tireless in their pursuit of recipe perfection, they’ll magically appear with food—like so many lunch fairies—if they even suspect you might be trapped and hungry at your desk.
One thing our test kitchen doesn’t have, however, is a view of Paris. So when I encountered another that did, I couldn’t help but be seduced. And I’m here to confess my fling.

It began not in the kitchen itself, but on a staircase landing I hit en route, where I fell under the hypnotic spell of a pink macaron whirligig.
Why the installation? It signals that you’re on the doorstep of the macaron maestro himself: one Pierre Hermé, also known as Paris’s “Picasso of Pastry” and general dessert deity about town.


Baussan, left; Hermé, right 

Among Hermé’s biggest fans is L’Occitane founder Olivier Baussan. And their new holiday collaboration is the reason I—and several other reporters—wound up in that test kitchen. Where better, thought Hermé and Baussan, to celebrate some of the foodiest beauty products in history? (I should note that the November attacks hadn’t yet happened, so everyone was feeling more festive.)

As Hermé’s staffers gave us macaron-making lessons—don’t overmix your batter, or it’ll be too runny to hold a nice shape—we talked ingredient combos that work as well on your skin as in patisserie. Take rhubarb, clove, nutmeg and grapefruit—a super-fresh foursome you’ll find in the Pamplemousse Rhubarbe Body Lotion, among other products. Or honey-crystallized mandarin, which scents the heavenly Miel Mandarine Hand Cream.

Then there was bitter orange blossom, jasmine and Immortelle flower—a trio I couldn’t get enough of, whether in perfume or pastry form. (Hermé makes tons of floral desserts, as I’d already discovered through careful recon at one of his ice cream outposts.)

Violet-flavored ice cream and candy mixed with other deliciousness 

“Many of the ingredients in L’Occitane’s holiday collection have appeared in my pastry,” he noted during the launch. “But while I normally work with my mouth, this time I was working with my nose.” (Lest you miss the pâtissier’s imprint on each scent, the perfume bottles are even shaped like abstract macarons.)
After a bit more chitchat, my dalliance with the dessert demigod ended.
I’ve since returned to the loving embrace of our own test kitchen—with the bonus pounds to prove it (I came back just in time for holiday treat testing). Still, monsieur Hermé, we’ll always have Paris.

Recipe Roots: Ramen Cheeseburgers

We’ve already told you how much we love mash-ups. Whether it’s two Italian classics crammed into one (hello chicken parm pizza!) or a French onion soup-Chinese dumpling hybrid, the delicious end results are greater than the sum of their parts. Such is the charm of the ramen burger. When you cross the all-American sandwich with the ultimate Japanese comfort food, everybody wins.


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The Apple (Orchards) of Our Eye

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: apple picking time! There are few things we love more than spending a brisk fall weekend roaming through row after row of fragrant apple trees and stealing bites of tart, crisp, juicy, fresh apples. But besides the fresh produce, we love a good apple orchard with other things to offer, such as hay rides, Halloween specials and, oh yeah, FOOD! So whether you’re living on the east coast or west, or somewhere in the middle, there’s an apple orchard for all your fall fixes. Here are some of our favorites:


Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards, LaFayette, NY


Photo courtesy of Beak & Skiff

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4 of the Craziest Food Mashups Across the Country

Looking to dine out, but can’t decide on a craving? Everyone’s been there. Luckily, we’ve got you covered. In our September issue, we tackle some of the hottest “mash-up” dishes to sweep New York City (complete with recipes so you can D-I-Y at home!). For those outside the Big Apple, fret not: these hybrid creations are popping up all across the country. Here are just a few of the dishes that prove definitively that, when it comes to food, we really can have it all.


Photo courtesy of Food Spotting

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4 Foodie Adventures to Try this Weekend

We’ve got a question for you: How well do you know the food in your city? Are you the type of person who likes to try a new restaurant every week, or do you you visit the same eatery with frequency? Do you know every Mexican, Italian and pizza joint around town? How about the bakeries and ice cream shops? Well, if you’re looking to become more familiar with your town’s best dining establishments, use this weekend as the perfect opportunity: create your own foodie adventure! No matter where you live, there are plenty of opportunities to explore your favorite cuisine or novelty. And while the weather’s still nice, you can hop, skip or jump from location to location. Here are just a few ideas for inspiration:



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Pet Project: Sit. Stay. Order!

Take your pooch out on the town! Kelly E. Carter, author of National Geographic’s new The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel, has sniffed out America’s pup-friendliest eateries (and watering holes). Bone appetit!



Whatcha craving, Fido? Check out these top-notch spots!


The best…



While you enjoy, say, duck confit at Bistro 17 in Hilton Head, SC, your furry friend can order off his own menu (chicken with rice, anyone?). Even better: Half the proceeds from each $6 doggy dish go to an animal rescue organization. (


Beer Garden

Pups can toast to having their own dog run at all four outposts at the Lucky Labrador Brewing Company in Portland, OR. Perhaps to make canines feel extra welcome, the beers range from Dog Day IPA to The Mutt, even if the place is BYOT (treat). (



You and your pooch can get a little sweet fix at Carmel Bakery in Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA. Try the famed buttery Scottish shortbread–and a pink or blue dog bone with the words, “Good Girl” or “Good Boy” drizzled in white icing. (


Ice Cream Parlor

Beyond serving tasty dairy treats and burgers for humans, many New York City Shake Shack branches have a “Woof” menu. The drool-worthy, frosty Pooch-ini pairs dog biscuits with vanilla custard and peanut butter sauce. (


By Sarah Zorn



Related Links

Pet Project: Chow Time!

Pet Project: Summer Treats

A Birthday Cake for Isaboo

Jess and Bob’s Excellent Adventure Part V

Our art director and her husband are hitting the road in a souped-up campervan for a full-on Wild West adventure! Sleeping in the desert. Crazy road food. The works. Follow them here for the best of what they’re doing, seeing, and eating en route.

Day five:
Time to hit the road for the four-hour drive to Arches National Park. Our first thought on arrival: Stunning!!! Followed immediately by, Hotttttttt!!!  By 10 a.m., it was already 92 degrees, which perhaps explains why we were able to score a rare camping site on the Colorado River in the canyons. Only us and the crickets!




The next day, we woke up early and hiked to the iconic Delicate Arch. Otherworldly landscape aside, the greatest  thing about visiting Arches is that you can do a combination of hiking and driving there. So you can get some exercise, then escape the heat!!!



Another great way to escape the heat there? Margaritas! Took us a bit to get to the restaurant, as we had to explain to some interested Swedes what our van was all about. But once we settled into our table at Fiesta Mexicana, someone had to explain to us what these walls were all about! This crazy place packs thousands—and I mean thousands—of pictures of sombrero-topped guests! But the setting isn’t just hilarious; it’s thoughtful: There are magical misting machines to take the edge off the heat. Still, nothing like a tasty—and giant—margarita to cool off in the desert.


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Jess and Bob’s Excellent Adventure Part IV

Our art director and her husband are hitting the road in a souped-up campervan for a full-on Wild West adventure! Sleeping in the desert. Crazy road food. The works. Follow them here for the best of what they’re doing, seeing, and eating en route.


Day four: After a gloriously lazy morning in Dixie National Park, we did the 15-minute drive back to Bryce for some canyon hiking! We hiked both the Navajo/Sunset loop and the Fairyland loop—about 10 miles total—and wow, was that worth every step. Even for someone (yours truly) who’s slightly afraid of heights!!




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Jess and Bob’s Excellent Adventure Part III

Our art director and her husband are hitting the road in a souped-up campervan for a full-on Wild West adventure! Sleeping in the desert. Crazy road food. The works. Follow them here for the best of what they’re doing, seeing, and eating en route.

Day three:

After a night in our amazing off-road campsite (check out the view!), we said goodbye to Zion for a little while—and hit the road to Bryce Canyon.

But something stopped us along the way: food!! Bob is a man of many breakfasts and by 9 a.m., he was ready for his second of the day. Lucky for us, we happened to be right by the Thunderbird Diner, a local institution founded by a husband-wife team in the 1930s.


The wife’s pies were reportedly legend among truck drivers, and if the breakfast we polished off was any indication, her spirit is still alive and well.

As for this sign: The diner’s founder abbreviated “home-made” in a very…particular way so everything would fit on the sign. And you know…the tagline stuck!


After the drive to Bryce, we needed a place to crash, but once again, we were thwarted by the kickoff to summer travel season: Every campsite we tried was full. Luckily, we had our home on wheels, and after talking to some super-jealous park rangers who showed up to check it out, we we headed to the highly recommended Dixie National Forest. Beautiful!



Nothing out there but us and our steak dinner, complete with G and Ts.

One funny aside: Over the past few days, we’ve actually seen quite a few other Jucy vans, a surprise given how recently the company came to the US from New Zealand (2012). Anyway, we all wind up saying hello to each other by flashing our lights and honking. Hilarious!

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