ONE YEAR OF FOOD & SH*T: A RETROSPECTIVE (PART II)
THE GREAT EAT FOWARD
So, the first six months were crazy. Thankfully, Team Food & Sh*t is The Shit. Otherwise, what was a good little run might've ended right there and there wouldn't be a part two to this retrospective. Our front of house crew: Crane, Presh, Rachel, Richard, Nikki. Our kitchen crew: Bua, Bee, and a rotating cast of family members and guest chefs. Our runners, videographers, photographers and creative consultants: Janelle, Sin, Jerome, Nicole. The Inay's staff who works with us on their day off, especially Louie. WIthout all these people, Food & Sh*t would simply be Sh*t and we can't thank them enough. So salute them when you see them and tip them well.
This is where my rap career starts crossing over into the kitchen. Most people know me from my work with Blue Scholars, but 2014 saw me and Sabzi delve into our side projects. For me, that was The Bar--a Filipino Uncle Rap supergroup featuring myself and fellow rapper and beer food enthusiast Bambu. We released our newest album, Barkada, in March on Beatrock Music.
So we themed our March pop-up around bar food, or Pulutan. Sisigs and bagnet and inasal wings and the like, featuring the video premiere of The Bar "Barkada" video directed by Harry Clean. While Chera held it down over the weekend with prep, The Bar somehow managed to sneak in a 48-hour trip to the Philippines (24 in the air, 24 on the ground) to open for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis in Manila. Fitting, as all we ate was pulutan while we were there. We arrived back in Seattle on the morning of the pop-up with a batch of smuggled fresh calamansi and headed straight to Inay's. Somehow, through the magic of coffee and San Miguel, we even managed to shoot another music video during the prep break.
This is when it started getting really real. Starting with April's Kamayan, we got help in the kitchen from Chef Garrett Doherty: of Kraken Congee, Adobofest 2013 winner, and chef de cuisine at The Ruins. With his impeccable palate, kitchen experience and awesome knife set, our service leveled up and got a +1 stamina, +2 intelligence, +3 strength boost.
Many diners had come through and suggested we do a kamayan-style dinner, which has always been a thing with Filipinos but really started becoming a thing in the last year at various eateries and pop-ups with crazy instagram pictures of food on food on food on banana leaves. Seattle Refined came through and gave us a glowing review. #blessed
One thing we wanted to do from the jump was showcase the awesomeness and variation of Filipino regional cooking. Dishes you wouldn't normally find at a Filipino restaurant or a big party buffet table but maybe on your auntie or uncle's dinner table. The kind of shit the kids think is gross when they're young and assimilating in America but then grow up to love. Some items on the Luzviminda menu were straight-up recipes handed down from moms and pops, like the kalderetang kambing (goat). Others were on that local/global mashup, like the geoduck kilawin. This was the dinner that put us on the Eater Seattle map.
It all started with a tweet. Melenie, a DJ and move-maker in the local music scene, had come to our previous pop-ups. She hit me up on twitter suggesting a collaboration with the burger spot Lil' Woody's, which has a weekly special sometimes featuring burgers crafted by local musicians. I'd already been trying out adobo sliders at home, so I suggested we do an Adobo Burger. After meeting with Lil' Woody's owner Marcus and consulting with chef Cory, we settled on a marinated and injected pork loin topped with a calamansi radicchio slaw and dressed with an adobo reduction mayo. Cory suggested a Hawaiian sweet bun and Melenie suggested an ube milkshake to accompany.
The response was overwhelming. With no lead-up promo and a quick day-of announcement, the burger sold out before dark on the first day. I must've marinated at least 3 cop cars worth of pig in 3 days. After the week was over, the Adoboburger ended up being the best-selling Lil' Woody's special of all time, surpassing the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Heist Burger. It would become the one thing I've ever sold more copies of than Mack.
While the Adoboburger madness was happening, Chera and I jetted off to Honolulu to do our first outside-of-Seattle pop-up, Hi!. The Bar had a show there on a Saturday, so the homie Riana and the Above the Goods fam linked us up with the new Fresh Cafe as a venue for a Sunday night pop-up. It was crazy being back hitting up the same places I got dragged to as a kid: Ward Farmers Market, Tamashiro's Seafood Market and Waipahu Festival Market, sourcing local ingredients. We presented a kamayan-style "greatest hits" of our previous three pop-ups, along with the ube cheesecake, which somehow survived the six hour flight. Check out the photos from the two dinner services we did that night.
Summertime! Of course we had to bring it outside. To the streets. Kalsada (street) was our ode to street food--both the kind that we ate walking around in the Philippines and the kind you'll find in the OG taco trucks that have revolutionized the West Coast fast food experience. So we mashed up what we love about both and put it, like the big homie Roy Choi did, into a taco. 700 tacos, to be exact. And 100 salmon fish balls. 48 balut. 72 ube cheesecake slices. A line that wrapped around the block and made passersby wonder if Inay's was dropping the new Jordans.
After Kalsada, we had some midsummer family trips on the calendar so we wanted to keep July simple. So we took our most popular menu item, Chera's Hood-Famous Ube Cheesecake, and did a one-item daytime pop-up during Inay's regular Sunday service called Murado (purple). By then, the cheesecake started to take on a life of it's own. It had traveled to Hawaii with us. It got sent in care packages to LA, San Francisco and New York. We did a 12-batch trial run of local orders through this site for a Mother's Day pick up. This time, Chera rolled out 50 whole cheesecakes and 108 slices, all of which sold out.
The whole "hood famous" thing started with a tweet. Shortly after the Loco Moco & Sh*t pop-up, the homie Harry told me "bro, the ube cheesecake is hood famous." So I tweeted this pic and, next thing I know, twitter folk are adding the hashtag #hoodfamous to photos of the cheesecake. I told Chera after I had my first bite of it that, one day, this cheesecake finna buy us the house that my rap money couldn't buy. We're still several thousand cheesecakes away from that dream but I'd say we're off to a good start.
We took August off of our regularly scheduled monthly pop-up program to link up with The Salo Project traveling pop-up series. Chef Yana started doing underground kamayan-style Filipino pop-up dinners last year in New York, and this year she embarked on a 50 pop-ups in 50 states. The Seattle stop happened to land mid August, around the time we'd usually do our dinner. Having been to Seattle before and being a fan of our own local pop-up scene, Yana gathered us, Garrett and Irbille to put together the first ever Food & Sh*t + Lahi + Kraken Congee + Salo dinner. 75 diners feasted on a South Lake Union rooftop provided by the homie Joey. It was a fitting end to a year-long journey where we found ourselves in the kitchen with some of the very people who influenced our own project.