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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Week 13, part 3 - Kurokawa Onsen Day 2

The next morning we had a very typical ryokan styled breakfast spread before heading out.

We had udon from the lovely restaurant Soutaroan again, and a hot pot of freshly picked bamboo shoot, which was so fragrant. I've always loved wrapping my own rice in crispy nori sheets and even J couldn't resist and had one.

After a short visit to Nabegataki in the nearby Ogunimachi we drove to El Patio Ranch so I could do some riding.
The horse I rode was a 12 year old American quarter horse from Texas named Ang. She looks like the horse I jump back home =o)

After riding I was completely frozen because of the cold wind over the plains, so we decided to eat at the restaurant on the ranch. To be honest we were not expecting much because the place was completely deserted and the decor didn't exactly scream gourmet. To our great surprise, however, the Aka-ushi beef was excellent. In fact the best on the entire trip.

J's filet was so tender with just the right amount of fat without being too rich. It was also grilled perfectly to medium rare. Kudos to the chef!

My burger made with 100% Aka-ushi was equally impressive, once you get past the presentation. I read later that Aka-ushi makes up only 0.36% of the wagyu consumed in Japan, making it extremely rare. The cows who are raised to give birth live entirely on the Aso grassland during the month of April through November, eating the highly nutritious grass that's commercially farmed as hay. To qualify as Aka-ushi the cattle has to be born and raised entirely in Aso area and be fed only fresh grass or hay harvested in Aso area.

After lunch we drove to Kurokawa onsen town. The temperature had dropped ten degrees overnight so I never really thawed out after riding. The best way to warm up is actually to take a dip in a hot spring, but the process of getting in one is too cold so I opted to eat something to generate body heat, and that's when we stumbled onto this little bakery

Everything looked good but what caught my eye was their choux pastry baked with shio-koji. The skin looks crinkly and crunchy and the custard cream is made with Oguni Jersey cow milk and free range eggs. To maintain the crispiness of the skin the choux is filled only after a customer places an order.

Look at all this yumminess!!

Shortly after the choux we had another tea break. This time at a traditional Japanese sweets shop. I had rice balls in black sugar bean powder and J had amazake. My rice balls were chewy and smooth and the bean powder had oomph. J's amazake was sweet and delicious as well.

We walked a little bit more after this but decided to escape back to the warmth of our ryokan.

Alas! More food awaits us back at Yamashinobu.

And before long it was dinner again!! Tonight we started with an amuse bouche of crab, scallops and mountain okra. The appetizer platter consisted of: Ayu fish boiled in mirin, Japanese duck marinated in miso, air dried daikon, shibani prawn, sake kasu manju, squid with sesame dressing. The soup had grilled sea bream, shiitake and yuzu inside. Sashimi platter was different parts of sea bream. The lidded dish was a giant fish and shiitake meatball which was very nice. We also had grilled yellowtail and pork.

For the main we had a local specialty of steamed Aka-ushi beef and Aso free range chicken. With the excellent grilled filet still on our mind we greedily ordered an extra dish of grilled beef, which turned out to be not as nice as the beef at lunch.

I was glad to see noodles from the Soutaroan again, and this time it was charcoal udon. Dessert was a tiramisu and fresh fruits.

Next morning after another elaborate breakfast spread we drove back to Fukuoka city.

Japanese highway stops are not to be missed, and we have definitely stopped at one of the better ones.

The bakery had some really mouthwatering selections that I couldn't resist.

And I found my favorite drink!