Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Day 2 in Hakodate (Part 2 - Cheesecake Battle at the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouses and Dinner at Ciriya)

D & BB opted to stay in their rooms to lounge around, so it was just M & I who followed Tomoko-san and the rest of the group members to explore the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouses, a conveniently short jaunt from our hotel. The warehouses are a remnant of Hakodate's past one of as Japan's first trading ports with the West, now converted into a sprawling shopping and dining complex. The story of the warehouses could be found in the Exhibition Hall of the Hakodate History Plaza, but M and I never got round to it, because we were really only there for the pastries.

On the coach, Tomoko-san had told us about the two patisseries housed in different buildings within the compound, both selling their own take on mini cheesecakes, using the rich ingredients that Hokkaido has to offer. Personally, she preferred those by Petite Merveille (プティ・メルヴィーユ), but the queue at Pastry Snaffle's (ペイストリースナッフルス) was often longer, so she urged us to try both, and decide for ourselves. The first thing that came to my mind after she said all this was: CHEESECAKE BATTLE. 

M and I got split from the rest of the group while taking pictures of the Christmas decor, but with help from one of the many handy directories available all over the place, we managed to find our own way to our first stop, Petite Merveille (Shop B5 of Bay Hakodate). The cafe set-up was rather romantic, so M & I decided we'd have a nice and relaxed spot of tea there. 

The salesman behind the counter was very helpful in helping us pick out our cake sets, so we ended up with a pretty good selection. I had a cup of lemon tea with one pumpkin and one original cheesecake. 

M went for something rather different - a very indulgent salted caramel and chocolate cake. It was a really good cake. I stole some rather massive bites had a bit of a nibble. 

On my end, I began with the pumpkin cheesecake, and the smooth taste of pumpkin was quite deftly balanced with a hint of cheese. It was like a dense mousse, save for the soft, thin layer of sponge cake at the bottom. 

Texture-wise, the original cheesecake was the same. The cheese flavour was creamy but light, and I can imagine how easy it would be to eat a whole box of these small cakes at a go. 

The cafe walls are adorned with a few artful black and white shots of Hakodate and the pastry-making process, including placing some decorative touches on the teddy bear cakes. 

Here's what the animal cakes look like at the end. We didn't get any because we knew we'd end up feeling terribly guilty if we cut one up and ate it. 

Down in the next building was Pastry Snaffles (K-2 of Kanemori Youbutukan), where the salespeople were very enthusiastically handing out cake samples.

With the lunch we just had, intense back to back cake tastings started to feel a little overwhelming, so M went for a soft serve instead. 

I just had to have a proper comparison though, so I bought myself one cake to try. 

Personally, I preferred the taste of Pastry Snaffle's cheesecake. It was a little more moist and a little denser than Petite Merveille's version, with a richer hint of cheese. For me, Pastry Snaffle's edged ahead of Petite Merveille, but as Tomoko-san said, this really is the sort of thing you need to try for yourselves. 

To wash it all down, I had a cheeky pint of the Red Brick Ale at the Hakodate Beer Hall after M and I caught the firework display at the Bay. We got in together with the early dinner crowd but they managed to find a table for us in a corner to have drinks. After we finished, we strolled back to the hotel, and watched as the town mascot (A squid) scared a bunch of girls who'd walked by thinking it was a statue. The screams reverberated, but not as much as the sniggers from everyone who'd seen what happened. 

Dinner that night was Shabu-Shabu at Chiriya (ちり家). Beyond the usual meats, we also feasted on sashimi, crab leg tempura and some really good fish paste that we boiled in the pot.

The meat was from Tokachi, and beautifully marbled. The beef comes in rather large slices, which I find is all the better for slurping up.

When cooked, the beef doesn't look like much, but when you eat it and the fats ooze out onto your tongue it's utterly glorious. 

Even with M eating only the vegetables, between the three of us D, BB and I finished everything that came with the set, and were greedy enough to order ourselves an extra plate of beef. So worth it. 

By the end of the evening, you could have lain me on my side and rolled me out the door. Since we're mostly in Japan for the food, it was a most excellent day. 

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