Mochi Cream Review

Shane discovered Mochi Cream from reading Kirby’s Cravings food blog.  When he showed me the beautiful images of this dessert, I told him that we absolutely must find this! Fortunately, we found out that a store is available in Mitsuwa Marketplace in Costa Mesa, not too far away from San Diego.

Mochi Cream is a dessert store that carries mochi with fillings that go beyond sweet beans. They can be filled with a variety of fruit, chocolate ganache, whipped cream, coffee and much, much more!


Off we went on a quest to find this new twitst on mochi. When we entered the store, I immediately fell in love with this Mitsuwa location! I have been to the San Diego store many times to purchase Japanese treats for video reviews, but the Costa Mesa location is much larger! They have a giant food court with multiple eateries and, of course, they have Mochi Cream! Their colorful display was to die for! It took all my willpower not to purchase every possible flavor option.


The colorful mochi are all neatly arranged. So beautiful!

The colorful mochi are all neatly arranged. So beautiful!

Mochi shaped like donuts?! How adorable is that?

Mochi shaped like donuts?! How adorable is that?

These are plastic desserts. The real Mochido are kept behind the counter. The Japanese win first prize for their realistic looking plastic food displays!

These are plastic desserts. The real Mochido are kept behind the counter. The Japanese win first prize for their realistic looking plastic food displays!


We eventually finalized our purchase and picked up these flavors of the donut-shaped Mochido: Cafe au lait, Double Mango, Strawberry Shortcake, and Chocolate Banana.

We started off tasting the fruit flavored Mochido: Strawberry Shortcake and Double Mango.

Strawberry Shortcake and Double Mango Mochido

Strawberry Shortcake and Double Mango Mochido

These fruit-flavored mochi, slightly melted in our two hour drive back home. 😦 Fortunately, this didn’t seem to affect the flavor much. They just weren’t as aesthetically pleasing as when we first purchased them.

The Double Mango was filled with whipped cream and flecks of mango. The rice mochi exterior had a nice, soft , almost melt-in-your-mouth texture and was also mango flavored. This was delicious and ended up being the favorite of all the Mochido flavors we tried!

Next up was Strawberry Shortcake.  The rice exterior had a strawberry flavor and the interior was also filled with light whipped cream.  This was also very tasty, however, the addition of fruit like the Double Mango, would have made this mochi taste even better.

We enjoyed these fruit -flavored Mochido a little more than the upcoming flavors.

The last two Mochido we tasted were Cafe au lait and Chocolate Banana.  We noticed that these were firmer in texture than the previous fruit flavored Mochido.

Cafe au lait and Chocolate banana Mochido

Cafe au lait and Chocolate banana Mochido


The Cafe au lait’ flavored Mochido had a very strong coffee flavor.  The interior was a coffee-flavored sweet bean paste.  The top of the exterior was topped with an additional coffee glaze and small cubes of white chocolate.  Shane and I both felt that the coffee flavor was a little strong for our taste. We both have never been coffee drinkers, however, if you enjoy your cup of coffee in the morning this might just be the perfect thing for you!

We enjoyed the Chocolate Banana flavor much more that the Cafe au lait’. The interior filling was a real banana-flavored bean paste along with chocolate whipped cream. The exterior of the Mochido was covered in a chocolate glaze. This was delicious and definitely recommend this flavor! Having two flavors and textures commingling in the filling greatly enhanced the taste.

Overall, our Mochi Cream experience was superb! Even just writing this review, I want to head back and try more flavors of Mochi Cream! I highly recommend for anyone to visit the Mitsuwa Marketplace in Costa Mesa to experience this amazing dessert!

If you would like to watch our video review,  you can watch it here!

Field Trip to David Freda and Trish McAleer’s Jewelry Studio

I recently took my Marriage of Metals class last quarter on a field trip to visit David Freda and Trish McAleer’s studio. I thought this would be a great way to expose the students to practicing metalsmiths who incorporate good design and phenomenal craftsmanship.  This was such a great experience for everyone that I would like to incorporate more jewelry field trips in the future for my students! Both David and Trish were very gracious in letting me schedule an appointment with them for my students to come to their home and see their metal work and jewelry processes.

David Freda and Patricia McAleer

David Freda and Patricia McAleer

Every time I have walked into their studio, I am always blown away!  The huge space, abundant natural light streaming in from windows surrounding the entire studio, and every tool you could possibly imagine: quite simply, this is every jeweler’s dream! The studio is impeccably organized down to separating each step in individual containers of every phase of David work.




The rightmost bench and adjacent table are Trish’s work area.

I have known Trish and David for quite some time.  I became more acquainted with Trish early on as she was the former president of the Metal Art Society of Southern California.  Though she finished her term as president several years ago, Trish is still very involved in the MASSC organization.  Trish is a very kind, outgoing and friendly person. She is also an accomplished metalsmith and wrote a book on metal corrugation techniques that she had been exploring for many years.

Trish McAleer's book on Metal Corrugation

Trish McAleer’s book on Metal Corrugation

Trish investigated every possible texture you could create with metal corrugation. There are textures you wouldn’t believe would be achievable with this technique! I definitely recommend this book if you haven’t picked this up already. If you are interested, you can find it here:

Below is an example of Trish’s work. This piece of jewelry was a collaboration between David and Trish. She fabricated the piece and he enameled it. The corrugated textures truly enhance the piece!

"Poppy Pods" by Trish McAleer and David Freda

“Poppy Pods” by Trish McAleer and David Freda

I had a small mention in Trish’s book. I fabricated a necklace a long time ago using the metal corrugation technique.  You can see what my very early work looked like.

"Autumn Leaves" necklace by Tara Magboo

“Autumn Leaves” necklace by Tara Magboo

While I was in graduate school for Jewelry and Metalsmithing at SDSU, I took a Professional Practices graduate seminar where we were required to interview a current metalsmith.  I was and still am a big fan of David Freda’s work and I contacted him in 2007/2008 to request an interview. He, fortunately, said, “yes” and this turned out to be a great opportunity to become better acquainted with his work and life story. I  met him in the past through MASSC functions, but never talked with him at length.

David Freda was first a wildlife illustrator, falconer, and taxidermist. He took jewelry making on a whim and became instantly hooked! His jewelry work later evolved to incorporate all his abilities. His hyper-realistic, representational metalwork shows clear influence from his illustration and taxidermy background. David renders his depictions of wildlife with almost terrifying realism, but his work is so expertly crafted that it elevates his work to the level of the precious.  It’s his juxtaposition between beautiful and disturbing that really drew me to his work.

I recommended for Jay Whaley of Whaley Studios, where I teach, to interview David Freda.  Check out David’s recent interview on Blog Talk Radio with Jay! David is truly a renaissance man!

Below are some examples of his personal jewelry work.

David's work in progress.

David’s work in progress.

David's hatching turtle necklace

David’s hatching turtle necklace

He also won grande prize for his Stag Beetle Necklace in one of the most prestigious competitions in the jewelry industry: Rio Grande’s Saul Bell Competition.

David Freda's Stag Beetle Necklace

David Freda’s Stag Beetle Necklace

Detail of Stag Beetle Necklace

Detail of Stag Beetle Necklace

David Freda's grand prize trophy for Rio Grande's Saul Bell Competition

David Freda’s grand prize trophy for Rio Grande’s Saul Bell Competition

David currently works for Tiffany and Co. making one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces for elite clientele. Sultans have purchased David’s work! Apparently, Tiffany puts out two catalogs: one for the general public and another for the high-rollers.  He recently completed a series of orchid brooches, finishing close to sixty pieces! Below is a photograph of his work in the Tiffany catalog. As you can see, the work is exquisite! If you are in the market to buy meticulously crafted enameled gold brooches, you know where to get them!

2007/2008 Tiffany catalog with David Freda's orchid brooches.

2007/2008 Tiffany catalog with David Freda’s orchid brooches.

David is one of the few people in the world with such tremendous skill that can carry on the tradition of fabricating the well-known Tiffany orchid brooches made famous by Paulding Farnham in the late 1800s-early 1900s.

He is currently working on a new series of jewelry pieces for Tiffany which has yet to hit the marketplace. Coming to see David’s work in progress is quite literally watching history in the making!

Back to the orchids, David and Trish have a nice collection of unusual orchids that has served as inspiration for his orchid series.  David has also cast directly from their flowers as well.





This small orchid flower looks like a little bee!

This small orchid flower looks like a little bee!

It was very generous of Trish and David to allow my class into their home and to generously share their knowledge and experience with us! All of the students, myself included, left very inspired by this field trip. Thank you again David and Trish!

Blast from the past! This is a picture of me and David when I first interviewed him for my graduate studies.

Blast from the past! This is a picture of me and David when I first interviewed him for my graduate studies.

American and Japanese Sodas from Galco Soda Pop Stop

Galco’s Soda Pop Stop or Old World Grocery, is awesome!  I believe this is the second largest soda pop store in the country! Shane did a little bit of research on fun places to visit in Los Angeles and he came across Galco. When he found out that they had such a large and unusual inventory of bottled sodas, I was excited to check this place out!


We went a little soda crazy! Some of the sodas we bought were recommendations from the owner, John Nese, from an interview we watched on him on



We purchased eight sodas as well as a few old time candies and chips. As soon as we bought them, Shane and I quickly opened two of the sodas in the car before we headed off to our next destination.  The first soda we tasted was Plantation Style Mint Julep.


The color of the soda was this beautiful sea foam blue/green color which, by the way, is my favorite color! Shane picked this one out as he had tried similarly flavored sodas that he loved in the past.  Unfortunately, it didn’t taste quite as wonderful as he had remembered.  This soda tasted exactly like toothpaste.  I can’t say that I enjoy food that tastes like toothpaste so, sadly, we had to give thumbs down on this soda.

The next soda we tried was my pick called “Mr. Cola”.


I was drawn to the old  world graphics and I also love cola! If any of you have tried “Q cola” it is my absolute new favorite cola beverage! Let me tell you, if cola was a healthy beverage to drink, it would be my sole source of liquids! Fortunately, I try to limit my soda intake to once a week. “Mr. Cola” tastes very similar to Vanilla Coke.  It has a soft cola flavor that’s softened by that additional vanilla flavor.  Shane and I both liked this soda and gave thumbs up for this!

The next soda, I tasted was “Rock and Rye” by Faygo.


This was a recommendation by owner ,Nese, for a smooth cola.  I have to say, this didn’t taste much like cola. “Rock and Rye” just had the slightest hint of cola flavor but tasted predominantly like cream soda. If you love cream soda, this would be a good one to try.  I would give this product thumbs up, however, don’t purchase this if you are wanting a cola flavored beverage.  If you  are looking for a vanilla cola flavor, “Mr. Cola” is a much better option.

The fourth soda I tasted was Mr. Q Cumber soda.


I decided to try this because this was another recommendation from Nese.  I was a little skeptical about this soda because I was not sold on the idea of vegetable flavored soda.  Don’t get me wrong, I love vegetables, I’m just not sure about vegetables in soda form.  My first sip was fantastic! Wow, was I wrong! This cucumber soda was delicious and I have to say this was actually my favorite soda of all the sodas I tried from Galco! It does have a cucumber flavor, but paired with the sweetness and carbonation it is very refreshing! I highly recommend “Mr. Q’ Cumber” soda . Plus, it comes in such an adorable little green glass bottle!

Of course, we had to try some Japanese sodas! Even though I have tried Ramune many times, I have not tried this particular flavor: Melon.  I have tasted a Japanese melon cream soda in the past that I loved! It comes in an aluminum bottle and is also by Sangaria.


The great thing about Ramune is the unusual way in which the bottle opens.  There is a marble that is trapped in the opening of the bottle.  You take the plastic stopper that is included in the package and you use this to push the marble into bottle. This creates a nice, satisfying loud pop! I remember cutting the blue plastic at the top of the bottle as a kid just so I could get the marble out!  This melon Ramune just tasted like sugar soda. I couldn’t really detect much of a melon flavor. Upon tasting it multiple times, I had to change my rating from my video review to thumbs down on this soda. It doesn’t taste bad, but I don’t particularly like soda that has little to no flavor.

Next on the list is “Bubble Up” Lemon-Lime.


This was another recommendation by Nese. What intrigued me about this soda was that it was made with real lemon and lime oil and cane sugar.  I liked the idea of a natural 7-up and wanted to give this a go. This tastes just like 7-up.  In fact, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two.  I think I would have to do a side-by-side comparison to identify subtle differences.  This was good especially if you are looking for a natural type of 7-up.

Soda number seven was River City’s Old Fashioned Blueberry and Lemonade Soda.


This sounded unusual and I loved the blue color, so I had to try this! The ingredient label states that it is flavored with quillaia which I found out is an extract from the stems and branches of soap bark. Quillaia is a common flavoring in cream soda and root beer. This tasted exactly like the soda described: the flavor is mostly blueberry but there were definitely citrus notes in the background. This was delicious and definitely in my top four favorites of all the sodas I tried from Galco.

The last soda I tried was the plum-flavored Ramune.


This was delicious! This soda had a nice, fruity flavor with floral notes! I definitely give this thumbs up putting this also in my top four favorites!

My top recommendations are:

1. Mr. Q Cumber

2. Plum-flavored Ramune

3. Mr. Cola

4. River City Old-Fashioned Blueberry Lemonade Soda

Galco is such a fun store to visit and I will definitely come back to try more unusual sodas! Anyone would be overwhelmed by all the soda varieties! The nice thing about Galco is that the owner makes an effort to find unusual sodas manufactured by small companies.  For example, you won’t find Pepsi-Cola products here. It is wonderful that Nese supports small businesses and also tries to find naturally sweetened sodas.

If you would like to check out our video review of Galco sodas, check it out here!

If you are interested in finding out where to purchase some of these interesting sodas check out the affiliate links below.
Mr Q Cumber Soda (Pack of 12)

Sangaria Ramune, Plum Flavor 6x 6.76z

Sangaria Ramune Marble Soft Drink Melon Flavor 6 Pack


Japanese Tea Cakes at Hogetsu Bakery

I have traveled to the west side of Chula Vista many times because my best friend used to live there. In my many years of traipsing around Chula Vista with Keyanna, I never came across this bakery even though it was only about half a mile from her home! Shane and I only recently discovered this gem on a search for the infamous wagashi, Japanese tea cakes.


Hogetsu is hidden away in a tiny shopping center, not visible from the street. The exterior of the building looks a little industrial, therefore not so much like a warm inviting bakery.  However, when you step inside, magic happens!


I about died when I saw the colorful little tea cakes! Above, were our purchases from the bakery. Afterwards, we quickly resented placing such a small order.


The bakery is owned by an old Japanese couple that make all the wagashi on the premises.  They certainly have a special talent for making beautiful, tasty objects out of rice! The brown tea cake on the right, was the first one we tasted. It had a very thin, light pancake wrapping the outside and was branded with cherry blossoms. Inside was a sweet mochi, rice dough, and this was one of the softest textured mochi I have ever eaten! It was like biting into a pillowy cloud. It became very clear that the pastries were just freshly made! Unfortunately, I cannot tell you what the names of these individual tea cakes are, however, teacake #1 was delicious!

We read a suggestion on Yelp that it was best to come to the bakery right when it opened to get first pick, otherwise the best selections would have already disappeared! We certainly didn’t want that to happen, so we showed up right at their opening time, 10am, which fortunately is not too terribly early.

The second tea cake we tried was the rainbow colored mochi. It looked like colorful toy sashimi because it was rectangular in shape and the bottom was white like a bed of rice. The rice was equally soft as the first, however, this was my least favorite. The top colorful portion was slightly salty in flavor making this mochi more savory.  Shane’s description of it’s flavor was very accurate, “like the finest play-doh”! He did find this play-doh quality odd but, strangely, he took a liking to it. Come, on! Admit it! We all tried to eat play-doh as kids and remember it’s distinctly salty taste. Although, I have to admit I was a little exceptional in that I tried to eat many non-food items as a child which included silica gel and my mother’s contact lenses!

I digress! At any rate, tea cake #2 received mixed reviews. Shane liked the rainbow mochi and I did not. Although, If you have a strange desire to reminisce about your play-doh eating days, definitely give this a try!

The third tea cake we reviewed was the purple, plum-shaped mochi. They certainly do not overlook details at this bakery because they made a little green stem coming out of the plum from agar-agar which is a seaweed derived gelatin. The plum mochi was my favorite! It had same soft rice dough on the outside, except it had this extraordinary melt-in-your-mouth quality! Inside, was a soft, sweet, smooth red bean filling.  Shane and I both loved this, so we definitely recommend tea cake #3!

The last tea cake we tried was the mochi shaped like a white peach. They even captured the beautiful color gradation on a real peach as the color transitions from pink to white. This too had a little agar-agar detail except this was a little green leaf. The peach mochi had the same incredibly soft rice dough on the outside. The inside had a sweet white/yellow bean paste that was more firm in texture than the plum-shaped mochi. This was also, tasty and we recommend this as well!

We came to Hogetsu with our friends, Chrissy and John.  They, very smartly, purchased many items which you can see below.


I will definitely come back to Hogetsu and purchase more amazing tea cakes! I hope you have an opportunity to visit Hogetsu as well! 🙂

Shane, Chrissy, John and I made a video review of our purchases from Hogetsu.  If you want to watch some silliness, watch our video below!

Kracie Fishing Candy Review

We have another Japanese candy review! This is another crazy candy kit from Kracie, which is the maker of Popin’ Cookin’! The Japanese name of this fishing candy set is Asobo Sakana Tsuri.

Front of Package

Front of Package

Back of Package

Back of Package

Below, you can see the contents of the package.

fish candy3

Unlike other Kracie kits, this doesn’t involve actually making the candy. The candy is pre-made and comes in the purple package. What makes this kit unique is that it is a fun game that you can play with other people! The first step to play this game is to put the candy pieces in the clear blue “kiddy pool” above.

fish candy4

You then pop out the colorful paper board hooks, which you then use to “fish” for your candy. The candy is a gummy marshmallow and is shaped to resemble sea life.  There are crabs, squid, seashells and fish.

fish candy5

The candy is artificially grape flavored and unfortunately does not taste very good. The candy seems to suffer from an identity crisis as it seems to hover in that twilight area between gummies, taffy, bubble gum and marshmallows.  Since the candy doesn’t quite cross over into any clear category, the resulting texture is confusing. It is both hard, foamy and chewy. Not delicious, however, taste, as with most Kracie Popin’ Cookin’ kits, seems to play a secondary role to its interactive quality.  In other words, buy this kit to play the game! The fun factor more than makes up for any lack flavor!  Here is the link to the candy:

Asobo Sakana Tsuri
Asobo Sakana Tsuri
Asobo Sakana Tsuri

I get many questions about where to get other Popin’ Cookin’ kits, so here are more links below in case you are interested.

Popin’ Cookin’ Happy Sushi House
Popin’ Cookin’ Funny Cake House
Popin’ Cookin’ Make Bento

If you would like to watch the video of Shane and I taste-testing and battling it out over the fish candy, you can watch the video below!


Haystack Mountain School of Crafts Residency and Scholarship

In January I made the decision to apply to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts artist’s residency program. Haystack received an anonymous grant that allowed them to offer artist’s residencies for the very first time!


For a period of three years, starting last year, Haystack started offering a juried artist’s residency program. I attended Haystack on scholarship in 2007 and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life! Because I have such fond memories of my time there, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity since I knew that this program will only last for a limited amount of time. So off to work I went and I scoured over my application for two months before I submitted it! Fortunately, my hard work paid off, and I am very happy to say that I will be one of the artists in residence this summer at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts! Fifty artists from varying craft backgrounds from across the country will be participating in the residency.  We have the opportunity to utilize all of Haystack’s incredible studios to make our art! I truly look forward to having this two week period of time completely set aside where I can focus making my own personal work! I certainly recognized some of the well-known metalsmiths from the list of artists chosen: Jeffrey Clancy, Tina Rath, and Lauren Kalman.

I will talk a little bit about my past experience at Haystack so I can paint a better picture of what an incredible school Haystack truly is! Haystack Mountain School of Craft was founded in 1950 by a group of craft artists in Balfast, Maine.  The school is located on the coast of Deer Isle, which is a remote area in Maine. The school is tucked away in a beautiful forest next to the ocean. The scenery is breathtaking!  Anyone would feel inspired just walking the grounds at Haystack!

one of the cabins at Haystack

one of the cabins at Haystack


I was awarded a scholarship from San Diego State University School of Art to take a class at Haystack. I wanted to experience working in a completely different medium, so I decided to take a table making class. The instructor was Matt Hutton, who is head of the furniture department at Maine College of Art.  Matt had two teaching assistants: Yuri Kobayashi and Cory Robinson.  All three received their MFA from San Diego State University studying under Wendy Maruyama. Yuri graduated from SDSU while I was still in the graduate program and was happy to see a familiar, friendly face!

Matt Hutton (instructor on the far left), Yuri Kobayashi (TA in the center) and Cory Robinson (TA on the far right)

Matt Hutton (instructor on the far left), Yuri Kobayashi (TA in the center) and Cory Robinson (TA on the far right)

As I mentioned earlier, the studios at Haystack are well-equipped and well-maintained. Below are some images inside the wood working studio.

Woodworking Studio

Woodworking Studio

Woodworking Studio

Woodworking Studio

The atmosphere at Haystack is wonderful. My fellow students were friendly, supportive and driven. We had 24 hour access to use the studios to make our work. There were many instances when I hobbled out of the studio at 1am or 2am and still saw students working away in other areas. The students understood that this was a special opportunity to focus on creating art at this amazing school and therefore, everyone wanted to fully utilize their time at Haystack.

Arthur, one of my classmates, was in his eighties taking his very first woodworking class! He was a retired doctor and he very generously invited us to visit his home where he could show us his breathtaking craft collection! Arthur had traveled all over the world and had acquired well-known works of art, including original Hokusai Japanese woodblock prints. The few pieces that really stood out was his collection of original George Nakashima furniture pieces.

George Nakashima coffee table

George Nakashima coffee table

When Arthur was living in Pennsylvania, Nakashima was a neighbor of his.  Before his career took off, Arthur purchased several furniture pieces which included a dining table, chairs and coffee table.  George Nakashima was born in 1905 and was given the title of “Living Treasure” by the emperor and government of Japan in 1983, which is the highest title any crafts person from Japan can achieve. Some of his furniture pieces have sold at auction for over 100,000.

In my furniture class, I decided to make a very small table, since I knew I would have to lug this back on the plane to California.  I designed the table to look like a tree and be about the size of a foot stool.

Full-scale rendering of my table design

Full-scale rendering of my table design

Table in progress

Table in progress

I made my table out of cherry wood. Above, is the table top, the foot of the table and a small leaf-shaped shelf.

All meals and housing are provided when attending Haystack.  Generally, people have the impression that camp food isn’t very good. I certainly did. Oh, was I so wrong! My classmates and I would often joke about students coming to Haystack simply for the food!


All the meals were freshly prepared with local produce. There were plenty of vegetarian options as well. Of course, we cannot forget about the dessert!


Someone was so inspired by the desserts at Haystack that they chronicled their experience through sketches! The desserts were amazing and always eaten up very quickly!

I became friends with many of the students in the textiles area.  I went on a walk through the forest with a few of the students and their instructor, Jon Eric Riis. Jon is an internationally recognized fiber artist whose work resides in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian and Metropolitan Museum of Art just to name a few.

Jon Eric Riis (wearing turquoise blue)

Jon Eric Riis (wearing turquoise blue)

An example of Riis' recent tapestry work

An example of Riis’ recent tapestry work

At the end of the two week session, the students displayed their work in the studios for everyone to view.

Caleb's coffee table

Caleb’s coffee table

My classmate Caleb made a beautifully designed coffee table.  He was barely twenty and was clearly very talented. I love how his modern table doubled as a magazine rack!

Below are the furniture pieces that my classmate, Arthur, made.

Arthur's table and wine rack

Arthur’s table and wine rack

He made a Chinese Go table and was ambitious enough to make a second piece: a wine rack.

Matt Hutton's tables

Matt Hutton’s tables

Above, are the tables that my instructor, Matt Hutton, made for Haystack’s auction.  At the end of each session, artists donate some of their work which go to auction. The proceeds help to support Haystack’s programs.

Below, is my “finished” table.  I finished all the components of my tree table but didn’t finish the assembly.  It took a little longer than expected to carve. 😛

My "finished" table

My “finished” table

I just taped the parts together so people could get the idea of what the table would like when complete.

Below, is an example of work made in one of the other craft studios.

garlic paper

garlic paper

In the paper making class, the students made sheets from alternative materials, namely vegetables and fruits.  The above paper was made from thinly sliced garlic.


I took this picture while standing at the top of Haystack’s famous wooden flight of stairs. I wanted to capture a view of the trees, the school and part of the ocean on my last day at Haystack.  These images above were a sampling from my Powerpoint presentation that I gave to SDSU’s School of Art in fulfillment of the requirements of my scholarship to Haystack.  I hope these images inspired you and I cannot wait to step foot again on this amazing campus.


Cherry Blossom Festival and Japanese Candy Review

The Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, San Diego organizes the Cherry Blossom Festival every year! In recent years, this event has become a little more exciting as the expansion project of the park comes closer to completion.  The park acquired the lower canyon area where they have planted one-hundred-fifty cherry trees and will have an additional exhibition space and tea room. Shane and I attended the festival both in 2013 and 2014.  Below are images and footage taken from the 2013 festival.

cherry candy7

Most of the pictures that I took are in the lower expanded area of the park.  Many of the plants are new and have not yet fully grown.  The Japanese Friendship Garden is going to be amazing when it is complete!

cherry candy5

cherry candy3

In the above picture, you can see some of the sectioned-off areas that they are still in the process of landscaping.

cherry candy2

cherry candy4

Above, is one of the wood bridges spanning across the man-made stream.  Of course, since this is a festival there were several booths set up selling traditional Japanese street food. We first purchased our food tickets and then eagerly went on to taste-test the various offerings: yakisoba, taiyaki, and takoyaki.  We first went on to try their yakisoba. This was a noodle dish with small pieces of cooked and pickled vegetables. The dish was mild in flavor but good.  Unfortunately, I don’t have images of the yakisoba to show, but if you watch the video at the end of the blog post, you can see us try it!

Next, we tried the taiyaki which is a fish-shaped pancake filled with sweet red bean paste.

cherry candy1

This was definitely our favorite of all the foods we tried at the festival! The exterior pastry is just like a light, fluffy pancake! The red bean paste inside is smooth and lightly sweet.  If you like mochi, you will love this!

The last prepared dish we tried was the takoyaki. We were very lucky because we were one of the last people able to purchase this before they ran out! Takoyaki is dumpling with pieces of octopus inside. The dumplings are covered in a sweet soy sauce mix, drizzled with a little mayonnaise and finally sprinkled with bonito flakes.

cherry candy13

This could have been really delicious, however, the cooks rushed in preparing this dish trying to keep up with the long lines of customers. The batter wasn’t fully cooked, leaving the takoyaki a little soggy.  Otherwise, this would have been excellent.

Now onto our Japanese candy review!  Shane and I decided to walk down to the lower portion of the park and sit in a sunny patch of grass to conduct our review. The candy we tried is a special treat that comes out specifically for Cherry Blossom season in Japan and is called Tanesei (Hishiuchi).

cherry candy6

cherry candy12

Shane found this at Nijiya Market in San Diego and was immediately drawn to the bright colors of the candy! Being that this was a special treat that comes out once a year he definitely had to pick this up and give this a try. The candy was rather large. Each diamond-shaped piece was about 6 inches in length! Despite their size, they were light and airy.

cherry candy9

cherry candy11

Upon looking at this product, one wouldn’t necessarily assume this was food. At first glance, it looks like hand soap because of it’s large size, matte texture and bright color.  This is a rice flour and cornstarch candy.

cherry candy10

Well, it might come as no surprise that this did not taste very good.  The candy was hard, light and crunchy making it’s texture very similar to styrafoam.  If you took foam core and wafted a little sugar in its direction that would be a pretty accurate description of what this cherry blossom candy tasted like.

cherry candy8

Another way I can describe this is if you have ever participated in holy communion in a Catholic mass and eaten host, this tastes like a very thick, hard version. Unfortunately, Shane and I gave this candy two thumbs down. 😦  If any of you out there is familiar with this candy, definitely let me know! Maybe there is a special way in which this would be eaten in Japan and I’m just not familiar?

Shane and I had a wonderful time at the Cherry Blossom Festival in the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park and would definitely recommend anyone attending!  If you would like to watch our video review of our experience you can watch it below.