Last year my husband and I took a trip to Japan and had a thrilling 3 weeks there. We visited Kyoto and stayed at a traditional ryokan, (inn). Staying in the ryokan was an amazing/overwhelming experience that included getting naked in public (a story for another day), a 12-course dinner, beautiful sites and a traditional Japanese breakfast. We ate numerous meals, but the ryokan was the most interesting. The hubs and I visited the Otagi Nenbutsu-ji temple, which is a buddhist temple with over 1,000 quirky and interesting statues. We LOVED it! The statues were placed in 1981, so they aren’t particularly ancient, but they are still wonderful.I was especially happy to find a statue holding a camera. A kindred spirit!After site seeing we had a lovely experience at the ryokan and the next morning we were given the choice of a ‘western’ or ‘japanese’ breakfast. We laughed at the stupid westerners that couldn’t handle a Japanese breakfast and promptly opted for the most traditional breakfast possible! It seemed like a great idea until we sat down to the table and had NO idea what were were about to eat. I love trying new things, but this was definitely out of my comfort zone. You know that experience you have when you got to a fancy restaurant and suddenly realize there is much more cutlery than you are know what to do with. Why are there 4 forks, what is this mini plate for, am I supposed to use the small spoon for dessert, soup… ? This was just a taste of what it was like to eat traditional japanese breakfast. There were so many plates and ornate boxes with little treasures inside. I didn’t what was garnishment or food. At one point I managed to ask what to do with this cup of liquid only to discover it was just a cup of tea, which was the only thing I knew what to do with. It was beautiful and amazing, but we had no idea what were eating and what sauce went with what. A lot of it was delicious, but a lot of it we weren’t sure about. This could have been because we were pairing sauces with the wrong food. I did recognize rice, soy sauce, fish (pretty sure) and maybe.. tofu. The service was impeccable. Though the employees didn’t speak English, and we struggled with awful Japanese, they still took care of our every need and made it a great experience for us. The view was so beautiful it was surreal. Boats floated by and I kept feeling like I’d fallen into a movie. It was one of the highlights of our trip!We were awkward and confused, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Nothing is quite so idyllic as Sunday morning brunch. Just talking about it makes me feel like a Jane Austin heroine, but I’m pretty lazy on the weekends so it is rare for me to actually partake in the custom. Thankfully, on my last leg of Florence Restaurant Week I found myself at Imagine That Cafe & Bakery for brunch.
Imagine That is absolutely charming. It is a narrow, little restaurant but that only enhances the cozy, European feel. The restaurant is SO cozy that we actually walked past it twice not realizing where it was. It’s not really that hidden, but the business front is narrow and we were not paying the best attention. Apparently talking, walking and finding the restaurant was too much multitasking for my husband and I.
Our server let us sit where we wanted and immediately brought over menus and pleasantries. In typical annoying photographer fashion I asked lots of questions about how the food look and she pointed me in the right direct. Olivier order the Mother’s Day special, Ginger Peach Pancakes with house made syrup and I opted for the bagel and lox, and of course a coffee, which I have a pretty serious addiction to. I love it and I will not seek help for recovery. While we waited for our food I explored the restaurants nooks and crannies. I even shamelessly asked if I could climb into the front windows to get better photos. Dana, the owner, was very nice and accommodating and let me roam about the restaurant, including the windows. The more time I spent exploring the more fun details and features I found. For example, the mugs and chairs, though coordinating do not match, making you feel like you are visiting someone’s home, rather than a stuffy cafe. Street lamps line the cafe and glass cake stands filled with pastries and bagels add to the unique ambience.
Our food arrived in a timely fashion, so I stopped exploring and started tasting. My bagel and lox, which came with a side of fruit, hit the spot. It was fresh, balanced and most importantly delicious.
I would love to go back and try out their dinner selection, which includes citrus baked salmon with cilantro lime risotto, lasagna baked with house made pasta, and roasted pork tenderloin with mango and peach salsa! Yummy!
Disclosure: I was invited to participate in Florence Restaurant Week by Florence Main Street. My hotel was paid for by them to make it easier for me to participate and I received a $10 gift card from Imagine That Cafe and Bakery. I paid the remaining balance out of my own pocket and all thoughts and opinions about the restaurant are my own.