Friday, October 26, 2012

Your Weekly Open Thread Is Noodling Around

Posted By on Fri, Oct 26, 2012 at 11:10 AM

As Bites readers are well aware, especially if they've already checked in this morning at our sister arts and culture blog Country Life, this is the last weekend for the zombie paintball hayride at Millers Thrillers Haunted Woods in Columbia. Zombies? Paintball? Hayride? Haikus wish for such a crescendo in so few words. The dilemma? How to hit the 6 p.m. early hour for kids on Sunday — and not miss Sarah Gavigan's pop-up ramen fest 4:30 p.m. at East Nashville's Barista Parlor.

A bowl of ramen for $20? Madness, you say. (Well it does include a Japanese pickle plate and tea from Barista) And Steve Cavendish paid $75 for her noodle meal (along with other Japanese-inspired delicacies) earlier this week when Gavigan, under the business name Otaku South, staged her pop-up at The Catbird Seat. He came away practically doing the backstroke in her broth, as he wrote in this week's Scene:

The star of the show came in a large bowl, a sous-vide egg slightly broken and floating in a rich bowl of pork broth. A slightly shimmering layer of fat sat on top. Fried shallots and pickled ginger accompanied pork shoulder and turnip greens. It was damn near impossible to get the same bite twice, sometimes getting a little bit of egg yolk, sometimes getting a near-perfect green, which was just the right thing to cut through all that richness.

It quickly became a two-handed affair. We just don't eat soup like this here in the U.S. — chopsticks in one hand and spoon in the other — and it took a little getting used to. It also became apparent that I was never going to get one perfect bite, either. Sometimes I picked up a bit of green, sometimes I got pig. (These are good problems to have.) I naively expected the broth to be translucent, but this was opaque, the complex product of bones and their marrow bubbling for a couple of days to create an otherworldly taste.

Like most Americans, my exposure to ramen has been as bulk product, a way to keep the hunger at bay on a shoestring budget. Costco, not comfort food. One bowl of this, though, and I began to understand why Gavigan has gone to such lengths to re-create it here in Nashville. This is decadence. It's layer upon layer of goodness, something no flavor packet in hot water is ever going to give you.

So for this week's Open Thread, a few questions on the table. Where do you go, in town or elsewhere, to satisfy that itch for noodle bowls? What's your favorite here? Would Nashville support a restaurant serving high-double-digit prices for a staple they associate with Costco pallets for $10? And most importantly, any tips for slurping a noodle bowl while you're speeding down I-65 toward Columbia?

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