[August 4, 2013]
Dear softrice fan:
I had a plan. I was going to finish writing my Hasaki post, go to the gym, shower, and watch TVB over dinner. The ever spontaneous Prima ruins everything routine and structured, reshuffling my deck to live as the wind takes us. We first complete the necessary evils – Prima on laundry duties and a beautifying facial, while I prematurely break my writing momentum to tone my chocolate bars on the elliptical. Then she rushes me through shower to satisfy her noodle cravings.
When you are with me, you are with the best, and you shall have the best. Thus, when Prima wants ramen, she gets the best ramen. We make the longest journey away from the confined comforts of home to Midtown, home of my office building, satellite ramen dojos, and Flashdancers. Other friends in her extroverted circle would refuse to wait with her for ramen, but I know how to enjoy quality of life. We are in good company, of good health, with good weather, and will have good food. As lover would say, life is softrice.
The hour-long waits for Totto Ramen empower me to uncover more to my feline sidekick, as Black Cat is to Spider-Man. She has an obsessive craving for Oreo O’s, a discontinued cereal product that is currently only available in South Korea. (I have never heard of such a product and I have no idea why it is only for sale overseas in one specific country.) Irene is there now to smuggle a case back.
If Oreo O’s are as good as the legend says, I might have to fly to South Korea to buy a box to share with lover. The mightier plan that I suggested to Prima was for us to fly to South Korea to buy the cereal and follow it up with a visit to Hokkaido for their fresh milk. The combination is so powerful that even Prima admitted it was the best plan ever! But first, in the here and now, we enjoy bowls of the very best ramen in New York.
366 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019
The two of us conquer bar stools and hold down forte for the time that it takes to consume a bowl of ramen. Other than a mirror to look at my divine reflection, we had the best view in the restaurant. Giant tanks of boiling broth and fire torches caramelizing glutinous plates of pork belly, Prima and I were front row witnesses to food happiness. In a time bubble of our own, Prima starts our meal with a can of Coca Cola, while hungry followers that include Caucasians in their ranks continue to surprise her (in that they were willing to wait such long hours for Asian comfort food).
A cat with a taste for raw fish, Prima wets our palates with the Avo Tuna. These torched cuts of tuna sashimi make sour apples seem sweet, most probably due to the culprit known as their special yuzu garlic sauce. The marinated avocado were not fresh either, as Prima points out that they were once put in the refrigerator. The tag-team of tuna, avocado, scallion, and yuzu garlic was one atomic bombing of salt in the mouth. You taste nothing else, which is a shame, given the captivating red of the fish.
My motivation is to try the new and different for lover. Having been to Totto Ramen a handful of times, this was my first order of the Paiten Ramen with Chicken. These straight homemade noodles are cooked al dente style in a whole chicken and premium soy sauce based soup, topped with scallion, onion, and a nori. I could do without the nori. It is not my thing.
The chicken died in vain. He would rise from the dead and complain to the chef. Each of these chicken ramen bowls are accompanied by three thick pieces of white breast meat. It would be a generous offering, if they did not taste like cardboard. The meat is dry and tasteless, providing ammunition for Chinese to favor dark meat. Lover is a huge fan of chicken, so this would be a grave disappointment. Luckily, she eats pork, wherein their pork bellies make the sun shine on rainy days.
The first-timer Prima has the best choice, the sacred Paiten Ramen with Pork Belly. There is no comparison. If I had to bring lover to one ramen in New York City, this would be it. Their supreme broth is strong and thick of chicken essence, easily reaffirming Prima that my word is gold. Chickens line up for the honor to be this soup!
If we had to nitpick though, Prima has two alternatives. I really like the noodles al dente, which gives them a chewy texture. However, Prima prefers her noodles a tad softer, such as the offerings at the girl power hotspot, Ippudo. The second alteration is her indifference to Japanese pork belly. It is good, but she much rather have Chinatown meats, like the white cut chickens, char siu, and roast ducks. Yet Prima would not exchange the pork belly for these Chinatown meats, because the taste combination in ramen would be thrown out of proper balance. I just care that lover prefers Chinatown meats too.
Other than their barbequed meats, Prima also prefers the desserts in Chinatown. One example is the tiramisu, which is overly moist when done by the Italians, but optimal with the Chinese version of less coffee and less rum. Since Asian desserts held closer to her heart, I was going to take her to the nearby Kyotofu for Japanese sweets, even if both of us were going to skip on their cupcakes. However, my intelligence needs updating, because we arrived to a vacated space. They closed without informing me (or Eater)! May-Ling will be devastated to learn of their demise (insert sarcasm here).
On our retreat back to my original dessert ambitions, Prima shares that I should be a food critic. Others like Miranda have imposed the same career potential on me before, presumably on the simple facts that I like food and I write. Overlooked is the motivation that I do both for lover. I explain how impractical the idea is, because I would starve to death before I could make any money from doing so. My blog has no following, aside from the loyal softrice legion. And it takes me forever to write one post. The worst to come from such a profession would be my enslavement to having friends, so that I may dine and wine enough to justify a restaurant experience on paper. No, thank you, a love letter in disguise is a fine side hobby for my time being.
Brushing aside the doomed career path, my personality on paper (although she reads it as an email attachment on her phone) – INTJ – is of the greatest interest to Prima. She studies the report with an intensity unseen elsewhere in the nine worlds. All of her normal human friends are feelers. The Prince of Heaven is the one and only “Rational” she knows, besides the girl in the mirror, which is one of the few reasons why we click. One detail fails to surprise her; I am on the extreme end of being a planner. We smirk on my commentary that these things are not always accurate.
Our journey to desserts brings us pass Armani Exchange in Soho. Their windows were advertising Pima tees, prompting Prima to point and shout, “Wear me!” I go over the idea with her. If I wear her in front of me, my back will be exposed, and vice versa. My savvy partner says I should wear her sideways, wrapping herself around my waist. This way, Prima will be able to cover my family jewels and great behind, and promises that her “touching-breast-dragon-claw-hands” will protect my nipples from the savage mouths of pretty girls. And although she is not heavy and I am able to (momentarily) carry her, I maintain my reservations on carrying her weight with me everywhere I go. Pima tees have yet to win against the cotton body-huggers.
235 Elizabeth Street
New York, NY 10016
A.B. Biagi is a bright yellow storefront that cannot be missed on the most romantic block in New York City. (Lover lives here.) Premium Brazilian gelato is made in the background machinery, while the actual gelato buckets and cashier girl are the midsection that separates a limited corner of seats in front. A quartet of friends already occupied the small dessert shop, so Prima and I had our gelato on the outside wooden bench for two.
Prima is a faithful follower of softrice and a loyal addict to Pistachio Gelato. A.B. Biagi serves a weakened version compared to Mo Gelato, which upsets my need for concentrated flavor punches, but tickles Prima fine. This goes down softer on her throat.
Somehow our rants come upon the common practice of hiding proposal rings in food. Neither of us could understand the logic behind it. Prima worries about the blotched job, because the diamond is sharp and can cut all of her sensitive insides. And even for those successful executions, I judge the deed unromantic and unsanitary.
The climax of our night was my flowery heart on three gelato flavors – Acai & Banana, Vegan Peanut Butter, and Basil & Pine Nuts. I love the Brazilian superfruit; acai is an inseparable part of my current diet. I restock supplies from Whole Foods on a weekly basis just to drink it. A.B. Biagi is also able to channel their inner Brazilian pride through this one definitive gelato flavoring, albeit their texture overly relies on the addition of banana. I am happy to be the first one to introduce Prima to acai too. My life adds another achievement to its long list of wonders.
Lover is a big fan of peanut butter, so my second choice in flavors was a no-brainer. The gelato tastes as rich as the creamy spread, melting in your mouth as a snowman would on Christmas Island. My heart fares no better against lover’s tender lips.
The Basil & Pine Nuts did a much better job at hiding its flavors than I originally hid my secret crush on lover in the beginnings of time. The gelato was a faint hint of nothings, yet surviving on a close resemblance to a soulless vanilla. Perhaps the best admiration is drawn from a taste for the subtle, as lover peeled away at my thick layers of shyness to reveal a heart true and tried. I should give the basil and pine nuts more patience and care, to grow and surprise as I had under lover’s nurture against my nature.
Shy I am still, regardless how expertly I disguise my introvert habits under an extroverted corporate mask. Hence my jerk reaction to drum up conversation and camouflage myself in deep eye contact with Prima as lover’s parents walk by. Dad walks ahead as mom trails a step or two behind, navigating through the narrow sidewalks of Nolita. My mouth runs off simple automated scripts to push the conversation forward with Prima, while my brain secretly drowns in self-doubts and over-thinking.
Did lover’s parents recognize me? Do they wonder what I am doing, sharing gelato with a young and attractive girl in short shorts? Do they mentally battle Prima against their younger daughter in an unknown mental arena? Do they doubt my faithfulness to lover? Or did the two of them walk pass, oblivious of me, and had nothing more on their minds than what was for dinner tonight? And which outcome would I want?
The easiest passage through collapsing brain waves was to return to my jabe with Prima. Her childhood survival story was dependent on three foods to eat while she was starving at home – Peanut Butter, Whipped Cream, and Condensed Milk. When Prima was eight years old and home alone, these three treasures kept her alive.
Her mom was hardly home and restocked supplies on the same frequency. There should have been canned pastas to last the duration, except this schedule did not account for her stepfather crashing on and off at their home, and finishing two to three cans in one serving to fill an adult appetite. The juvenile solution to this monster jerk was to always choose canned pasta with sausages, which he disliked, instead of his beloved spaghetti and meatballs. This prolonged the availability of food supplies.
Because of the humidity in Florida, bread did not stay fresh for longer than three days. Her saving grace was bagels, which stored for longer periods of time. They went along well with her three treasures, especially whipped cream. The other two were eligible solo acts when necessary.
When Prima moved to Virginia, she looked forward to school lunches. (Virginia generally does have superior food, as I can attest after having been there on work trips.) This excitement did not survive their next immigration to New York. She wondered how humans could eat this garbage. Other than starving my way through high school, I grew up on these school lunches, so I was used to them. My favorites were pasta shells with ricotta cheese, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken wings, and chicken nuggets. However, if you were to serve this quality of food to me now, I probably would spit it back out and curse along a lawsuit filing on how human beings could be reduced to eating such waste.
Prima and I grew up in poverty; we were content and happy in the only world we knew, but we gladly drifted away from the old lifestyle as we worked towards a wealthier future. I rose through the noble ranks of SYEP, while Prima played hot potato with cash as a hostess at Grand Harmony. Now instead of feeding handfuls of starving children in third world countries, I stockpile a complete set of McDonald’s Minions at Prima’s apartment, along with new postcards from Xi’an and Yangshou on her refrigerator collection. I harbor ambitions to travel the world with a Chun Li toy too, to represent Prima, as I photographically document the adventures of my yellow rubber duck and Captain America Munny. This world is in a greater need for hope than sustenance.
And I am the greatest hope of all, because even I can love.
Always in a puff of smoke,