Review – Japanese Collection from Squish Candies

Squish is a locally-based candy company that’s grown into quite a success story over the years. They focus on unique and seasonal flavours aimed at adults (including an entire cocktail-inspired collection), and offer a huge selection of all natural and vegan options. As someone with allergies to both artificial flavours and milk proteins, their efforts in avoiding common allergens and really clearly labelling all their products is incredibly appreciated.

So of course when I saw they’d released a special edition Japanese Collection for this spring, I knew I had to jump on it. I was very curious to see how they’d hold up to some of the more gummy variations of wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets. They released three separate flavours that all play very nicely together; sakura & sake, sake blossoms, and yuzu mimosa.

I was most looking forward to the sakura & sake flavour, and while they were tasty enough they ended up being my least favourite of the three. Between the cherry flavour and the slightly herbaceous accent of the sake they come off a tiny bit medicinal, for lack of a better word. They’re by no means unpleasant and I’ll happily eat them, but I’m not nearly as crazy about them as I am about the others.

The sake blossom ones have a very fresh and clean taste. It’s subtle but definitely has the familiar taste of sake. There’s even a hint of that warmth you feel after drinking alcohol. The nice thing about these is that they aren’t overly sweet, so they’re refreshing and not overwhelming.

The yuzu mimosa ones are by far the standout here. They’re absolutely delicious and it was very difficult for me not to eat them all in one go as I was trying them out and photographing them! They’re the perfect balance of tart citrus and sweet gummy, without being cloying. They taste like sunshine and summer and brunch with friends on the patio.

And look how cute and springy they are all mixed up in this jar! Eating them mixed like this seems to balance the flavours perfectly. You get the sweetness of the sakura, the bright citrus flavour of the yuzu mimosa, and the delicate sake to balance everything out.

Are these a substitute for imported wagashi? Sadly, no. Are they delicious, and a great accompaniment to a seasonal meal or snack? Absolutely! I’m definitely going to be stocking up on the yuzu mimosa and the sake ones.

 I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.Note: A portion of all purchases of sakura & sake during the month of April will be donated to support The Véro & Louis Foundation. This Quebec-based charity’s mission is to build and operate group homes to support autistic people twenty-one and over. 

Montreal Kimono Club Meetup!

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting up with a group of other local kimono enthusiasts. I will admit, I was more than a little nervous since it’s been over five years since I’ve worn kimono out of the house. Initially, I’d wanted to wear this coordination but it’s been so hot and muggy here lately that I knew I needed to switch to a hitoe kimono. Once I’d decided to run with my bunny komon, I decided to go a bit overboard with adorable animals, finishing the outfit off with my ridiculous daschund tabi and bunny geta.

We met up at a metro station and helped a few folks who didn’t have items of their own get dressed. Of course, we attracted some curious attention, but it was primarily positive. From there we headed to Kimono Vintage Montreal. I’ve been wanting to check this store out since it opened, but I hadn’t had the opportunity yet. It was definitely worth the wait! The store is an amazing little gem, filled with gorgeous treasures. The women there were incredibly friendly and helpful, and seemed genuinely excited to see our ragtag little group. We spent a fair bit of time there, eyeing all the beautiful kimono and accessories on display. I’d not intended to buy anything, but of course I found one piece I absolutely loved and knew I had to have. There was a brief moment of sticker shock for someone who has been spoiled by buying things from online auctions, but the experience and the quality were more than worth it.

After we posed for a few photos and said goodbye to the lovely ladies of Kimono Vintage, we headed a few blocks away to a tiny gem of a tea shop, Cha Do Raku. Of course, we attracted attention from the few other patrons, but again, it was overwhelmingly positive!

There was a huge selection of tea available, and with the muggy weather I was happy to hear most of them could be served iced. The young woman working there was so sweet and helpful, and she served us our teas and snack with warmth and grace. The shop is quite small and intimate, and was a wonderful place to relax and cool down a little after our adventure.

Overall, it was an awesome day. I met lots of wonderful, like-minded people and it felt really excellent to get out and about in kimono again! I’m really looking forward to doing this again sometime soon.

If you’re in the Montreal area, please check out the following links:

Kimono Vintage Montreal Website | Kimono Vintage Montreal Facebook
Cha Do Raku 茶道楽 Website | Cha Do Raku Facebook
Montreal Kimono Club Facebook

Bowling and shenanigans in Kimono

Ever since seeing this photo of a maiko bowling in full regalia, I have been dying to go bowling in kimono myself. It looks adorable, and I wanted to prove that there’s no reason you need to be stuffy and “fixed”, especially in casual kimono. After the devastating Tohoku Quake, the Montreal Japanese Cultural Center has been arranging a lot of fundraisers and they announced there’d be a bowling event with proceeds going to the Red Cross. I figured it would be the perfect opportunity.

Amelie and I arranged to meet there, but unfortunately due to ridiculous road work she was a bit late, so I went in and played around a bit. The reactions to my kimono were all really positive and encouraging, lots of “sutekii!” and “sugoiii!”. It made me feel a lot less self-conscious about being there by myself. A lot of women asked where I’d learned to dress myself, and seemed very shocked when I explained it was all self-taught. A few of them sort of seemed wistful that they didn’t know themselves, but I encouraged them to check out some books and websites. I really hope they consider it!

A few lovely women were running an origami table and they taught me how to make a crane and a heart. They were so sweet! I have a LOT of photos to share here, so I’m inserting smaller ones than usual. Please click on them to see the larger versions 🙂
Bowling in Kimono

Amelie arrived while I was with them and we finished up and went to the part you’re all waiting for… the bowling! And no, these pics are not a setup. We really truly did play a full ten-round set to completion, entirely in kimono. I wore my black and red wool outfit that Amelie gave me along with a red hanhaba and my car obidome. I knew I’d be wearing bowling shoes, so I wore ridiculous red and black striped socks. Amelie wore a really pretty komon and orange hakata, and also had fun with rainbow striped socks. We didn’t plan it, I swear!

Bowling in Kimono Bowling in Kimono

Bowling in Kimono Bowling in Kimono

Even the ugly bowling shoes look better when they’re paired with kimono and fun socks!
Bowling in Kimono

After our bowling game, we were feeling really hungry so we headed out for dinner. While walking to the car, we walked by Kazu Izakaya, a restaurant with Japanese-style pub food, and I remembered I’d heard really amazing reviews but hadn’t managed to go because the restaurant is always totally full and there’s always a huuuuuge lineup. We passed by just before it was getting to open, so we seized the opportunity. The food was amazing. I know I don’t normally go into detail about the restaurants I eat at, but I cannot say enough good things about the food here. The gyoza were deliciously flavourful with a melt-in-your-mouth texture. The tofu was made in-store and creamy, soft, and delicious. The okonomiyaki was crispy and moist at the same time, the sauces were perfect. Even the simple dessert of ice cream with earl grey tea powder was rich and tasty. I cannot say enough good things about this place! The food was as beautiful as it was delicious, and the staff were all incredibly friendly. We sat at the counter and watched the chefs, and it was definitely the right place to sit!

Bowling in Kimono Bowling in Kimono

Bowling in Kimono Bowling in Kimono

After all that food, we were feeling a little bloated and tired, so we headed back to my place. We headed to the park near me in the hopes of taking pictures on the swings, inspired by Naomi’s awesome photoset. I was quite dismayed to find out that they’d removed the swings for the winter, but that didn’t stop us from horsing around on the other park equipment!
Bowling in Kimono Bowling in Kimono

We also managed to take some mildly respectable-looking photos. Shock and awe!
Bowling in Kimono Bowling in Kimono

There are a bunch more photos in my Flickr Account.

Birthday dinner at Sakura

My birthday is on this coming Tuesday, but I hate having long, relaxing dinners (especially ones with alcohol involved) during the work-week, so I invited a few friends and my folks to come dinner at a restaurant I’d been wanting to try, Sakura on de la Montagne. I read that the waitresses and staff wore kimono, so I figured I would not stand out too much if I wore one too. What I was not anticipating is that the entire restaurant staff would be Japanese and dressed in simple komon and relatively informal obi. Enter one gigantic white person in a rather dressy kimono and even dressier obi, and hilarity ensues.

I chose to wear an outfit comprised of nothing but gifts, and I still cannot believe how perfectly everything worked out. I paired the pink Takara houmongi from Arian with the Stations of the Tokaido obi from Suara, and finished it off with a beautiful haneri from Naomi and obiage and obijime from my dear friend Jeff. Even the shawl was a gift – my grandmother crocheted it.

The restaurant was absolutely lovely. The decor was decidedly Japanese and we sat in a tatami room, but it was subtle and tasteful – not a cheesy theme restaurant, which unfortunately are the norm around here. The owner, Ishii Noriko-san, was incredibly kind and fussed over my outfit repeatedly. She’s offered to contact a Japanese tutor for me, and insisted I come back again in kimono. The food was delicious and the wait staff were all very kind. They allowed me to order off the “other” menu – the one intended for the Japanese clientele, and I had unadon. They also found out the dinner was for my birthday, and brought the table some delicious green tea ice cream (mine had a sparkler in it!) as well as a special box of yokan for me. I was incredibly touched.

My mother took a photo of Noriko-san and I. Doesn’t she look stylish? I loved her obi so much! This photo also does a great job of illustrating why clothing made for the average Japanese woman is so difficult for me to wear.

Uchikake in the front receiving room

Delicious courses of dinner – shrimp gyoza, salad, sushi, dessert.

Delicious unadon. This wasn’t on the regular menu, I had to special-order it from the “Japanese people” menu XD. I love me some grilled eel. Next time though, I think I will try the katsudon!

I was incredibly surprised and touched when Noriko-san came in with my special birthday yokan.

I also received some incredibly sweet gifts, Andy got me a DVD of a spy series I know he is very fond of, The Sandbaggers, and Leslie gave me two beautiful antique woodblock prints by Kunisada that she purchased in Japan quite a while ago. I was so touched. The whole evening was wonderful.