Wednesday, April 13, 2011

another hapa ramen convert

hmmmm. i'm winding down for the evening. super duper early meetings tomorrow. yet, i wanted to write a bit about the last few days.....while things are still fresh in my memory. plus, i think it will help me unwind and perhaps, get a decent night sleep.

it is a bit difficult to believe that monday was a few days ago.the days have blended together a bit. yet, i knew monday was going to be a good evening because i would be introducing the heart sister to the food of hapa ramen. i mean, she's read about it here, seen the pics, well as heard me talk about these folks for a while now. yet, she had never met any of the folks of hapa ramen until monday night.

we arrived into the mission quite a bit earlier than our reservation. yet, i was feeling kind of lazy and didn't want to carry around the bottle of bourbon (for everyone in the kitchen after service) and the blue bottle coffee (for mrs. hapa ramen) while the heart sister and i were wandering around the mission before dinner. sooo, we dropped in very quickly to say hi, drop off the presents, and then explored some of the clothing and furniture stores along valencia.

after walking and browsing for a while, we headed back to bar tartine for the hapa ramen pop up. whenever i am heading to bar tartine, i find that i always have to really pay attention or else i will walk right past it. here is a shot of it across the street (it is the dark place in the bottom middle of the pic).

we were seated pretty quickly......

and then settled in to look at the menu. understandably, the heart sister spent a lot more time looking over the menu than i did...since this was her first time trying their food.

as we were still waiting for the rest of our party to arrive (i had gotten a call saying that they were being held up at work), we decided to have a couple of sides with an aperitif to start of the meal. we started with the watermelon radish cake......

and a dish of lardo, artichoke, sun choke, preserved meyer lemon, as well as what i suspect were sugar peas...

they were lovely dishes....a combination of textures and salty savory flavors. as we nibbled and enjoyed, the heart sister had a couple of questions about the hapa ramen folks background since they were serving up non-ramen dishes as well. i could tell she was enjoying the food when she started peppering me with questions about them.

i answered some of her questions about the chef's background (va de vi, nopa, the linecook blog, podcasts with AB, etc.), the sous (the photogenic nice earnest young dude), and susanna (from hawaii and how her unique pairings of sweets remind me of AB....while the content/flavors i've tried from both are extremely different...and to be fair...most of AB's food i've had is in a personal setting and not a restaurant one.....but i find they are the same at pushing boundaries within expectations/restrictions of pastry...but they really work.)

it was kinda funny to answer some of her questions. i felt like certain spheres of my life were started when vivacious mrs. hapa ramen came by the table to say hey and chat for a bit and then continued with my answering the heart sister's curiosity. it was a bit surreal....but in a good way.

i was very interested in how the heart sister would react to the food.

she adores food as much as i do and spends quite a lot of time thinking, planning, and implementing what the family should eat....according to what is local, sustainable, in season, and just plain good. it is a part of her ethos and has been as long as we've known each other.

while we were at uc berkeley together, she was also holding down a full time job doing PR for a government agency involved with food. it was through her that i first learned of folks like marion nestle and her not so gentle nudges at eating organic and sustainable.....and "why" it was a good idea....well before it became the "in" thing....years and years ago. she became the youngest public affairs director.....ever...for that agency.

her olympic level drive makes me look like a total amateur.

i remember having a couple of OMG moments when she would talk about meeting certain chefs or journalists for events while we were at school. then, a few years after we graduated.....when she moved out of the city and stepped away from the agency to raise the family.... her passion for food and its provenance didn't change. it had a different outlet and one that was particularly significant with raised stakes...because this time... it was about the kids....and what she and AC wanted their awareness and relationship with food to be like.

so yeah, i was watching very keenly when she decided to order her own bowl of pork ramen with a slow cooked egg.....and i kind of held my breath a bit while she started through her bowl of ramen while i nibbled through the chicken cassoulet.

it was very quiet for a while. i was sneaking peeks at her while she was sipping. then after a bit, she said "i get it. i totally get it now why you like them so much."


i didn't even realize that i was holding my breath so much. did i mention that it was also a kind of birthday celebration for her as well?

exhale some more.

she referred to how everything she's had so far points to how talented they are. then i mentioned, a wee bit mischievously, that we'd also see it with the desserts that susanna came up with.


the reason for my internal snickering at the time was because i had snuck by the kitchen earlier in the evening when the heart sister wasn't around.... to ask susanna for a favor. i handed over some candles and asked if she could stick a candle in the date cake for the heart sister's birthday. susanna said that she would take care of it and suggested doing a sampler plate.

hence my self amusement.

so when our uber adorable server came by to ask us about dessert, i mentioned that susanna had something for us. then when the server came out with the dessert board, with the candle in the date cake....the heart sister was very surprised that i snuck this in on her. i think she had a WTF look on her face and if the server is reading this....the look(s) weren't directed at was more about the surprise of the whole thing and her not realizing that it was for our table. hee hee hee.

then as we dug into the dessert, i got a big kick out of how much the heart sister liked them and the combinations. since i've eaten susanna's desserts a couple of times already...i already knew what to expect. so it was fun to see the heart sister's reaction to them. it was a lovely way to end the meal.

by the time we ended and paid for the meal, the place had been hoppin for a while. despite it being busy and my not wanting to interrupt them during a super busy time in the service, i knew that if i didn't say good bye....i'd probably get some shit in a-not-so-vague-older-brother-tone from a certain chef about it later. so i interrupted them....said the good-byes to mr. & mrs. hapa ramen..... and thanks to susanna for the favor. i also wanted susanna to hear from someone else (aside from just me) how much her desserts were enjoyed.

as we left the hapa ramen pop up, the heart sister and i were on a bit of high from all of the good food. also, as we made our way back to my place, the heart sister also talked about how she wanted the kids (her kids = my godkids) to try it and start planning on when to bring them to the ferry building or get some of the ramen to go kits so that they could eat hapa ramen. this is when i knew, for certain, that she really liked the ramen.

so it looks like the hapa ramen folks have another convert. no surprises there, huh?

ps. if you want to see an example of what the heart sister's ramen bowl looked like, visit here: it is a shot of the pork bowl w/egg that i had at the ferry building a few days earlier...and this is what it looked like at bar tartine as well.

p.p.s. to find out what hapa ramen is up to and about other pop ups...visit

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