After a few weeks of gorgeous weather in the city, the familiar overcast skies and cooler weather are creeping back in. As I stepped out of my car after an incredibly long day at work and a seemingly longer drive home, I was issued a prompt slap in the face by the brisk breeze whipping through the streets of Hayes Valley. Granted, coming from college in Michigan, I might as well be on a Caribbean cruise and to be quite honest, I can't complain too much about the temperature. Still, after being spoiled these past few weeks, I just wasn't having any of this nonsense. My whole body took on a chill, and all I wanted was a hot, steaming bowl of ramen to warm my soul.
Lucky for me, Hapa Ramen just so happened to be popping up yet again at Wing Wing, just two blocks from my house.
As I rounded the corner of Haight and Webster and pushed my way through the orange and black door, I could already begin to smell the glorious broth that was about to fill my stomach. I was greeted by the pseudo-familiar face of Finch Linden (who, among other things, is a phenomenal photographer - check her out @finchlinden and http://finchdown.tumblr.com/). She took my order - Spring Pea Miso Ramen, English Pea & Mushroom Panisse, Sugar Snaps, Snow Peas, Konbu - and we "officially met" after knowing of each other through Twitter and Instagram.
Torn on which of the two options to order, the woman behind me asked if I had tried them both before, to which I explained that I was pretty sure these were all new, limited edition trials (Finch confirmed)...so no.
I offered, however, to split mine with her if she would do the same.
"All for halvsies," she agreed, and when our orders came, Finch looked a bit puzzled when we asked for two bowls. Now normally, we would both have agreed, save for two key factors. First, she was on the tail end of a cold and didn't want to get me sick. Second, we had just met about two minutes prior.
"Wait, you two don't know each other?"
Well, we do now.
As it turns out, Lauren (I learned after we both decided to dig into each other's food), is originally from Arizona, went to Northwestern undergrad, spent some time in Italy before going to grad school in Virginia and moving out here to take a job with a marketing firm which, just as my luck would have it, she just quit to take a new job in L.A. We had been complete strangers just moments earlier, yet I already felt as though, by her moving, that I had just lost a (potentially really great) friend.
Lauren, best of luck with your move and new job: if you're half as good at your job as you are at keeping a conversation with a complete stranger, you're going to be a star.
On our perch at the end of the ordering counter, we bageled a bit (see my previous post for a definition), and ran the gamut of conversation from how we spent the Jewish holidays to the horror stories of trying to find a place to live in the city. Turns out, we may also have some mutual friends. The food itself was incredible as always: the spicy broth of the chicken ramen was a perfect strength for the cool evening, the garlic sausage and garlic oil were an ideal paring. However, I think this was the first time in my life when I preferred the veggie option to the meat, as the miso broth and snappy peas were killer good, and despite not knowing from a panisse, it was fantastic. And that slow egg...oh that slow egg...
Forty-five minutes later, she decided it was time to head back home and pack up the rest of her belongings. And there I stood, alone with two half-bowls of ramen, wondering what the night would have had in store for me had it not been for this chance encounter. Finch and I shot the shit for a bit until, full and warm from bottom to top, I made my way back home.
The logistics of splitting a bowl of ramen are a bit tricky - long noodles are not easily cut with chopsticks, bowls filled to the brim with broth that are not conducive to pouring, chicken sausage and pea and mushroom panisse falling apart (in a good way)... However, all things considered, I think our execution was pretty impressive, and we had a lot of fun trying. And it was a good thing we each got our own slow egg: that would have been a disaster.
But isn't that just a damn-near-perfect metaphor? We're all made of experiences and features that make us unique - some of which we can share easily, and others that take a bit more prying to let loose. But if you at least make the effort, when all is said and done, you get to try a little bit of something new each and every time.
I've always contended that food brings people together, and this exemplified that sentiment to a T.
All because of two bowls of ramen.