Monday, April 04, 2016

Ramen Noodles for the Soul and the Nostrils

When the thermometer flip flops between 70 degrees and 30 degrees during any given week, it’s a pretty good bet I’ll get smacked with the dreaded spring sinus infection. Within a matter of hours, I’m at least three of the Seven Dwarfs – Drippy, Sneezy and Stuffy. I need therapy STAT.  

As it happens, Zany is nursing a pesky post-nasal drip as well, so we arrange for immediate medical attention - a trip to UrbanSpace for Ramen noodles.  I trot quickly across town to meet her, as my 24 hour cold medication appears to have expired after just 6 hours.  

We rendevous a bit ahead of the noon hour, as the competition for those squiggly noodles can be fierce.  In fact, the entire floor of UrbanSpace is already starting to look like the 6 Train at rush hour.
Kurt-Obi Ippudo is renowned throughout New York as the Zen Master of Ramen, with locations all over the city.  The UrbanSpace booth is humming with activity.   Team members in smart white t-shirts mix noodles into large vats of broth, stirring up a steamy umami haze that just might whip the crowd into a frenzy. 

The base recipe at Kuro-Obi Ippudo is noodles, scallions and scrumptiously savory pork immersed in creamy white chicken broth, infused with garlic oil and umami miso paste.  Then, you have the option to build your own Ramen bowl, adding on extras like hard cooked egg, sweet corn, Parmesan cheese and thick cut bacon.  
Zany is torn.  She consults with the counter woman who explains to her that the thick cut bacon will offer a smokier flavor.  Zany is obviously under the weather.  She rarely needs any convincing that adding bacon is a good idea. I go crazy with two toppings – umami egg and sweet corn for added crunch.  My bill is nearly 18 dollars.  

We circle the indoor picnic area, and finally find the only two remaining seats on the floor. We slide onto the benches and open our bags of food.

“You know, of course, it would probably only cost us a few dollars to make this ourselves,” Zany observes. Perhaps, but sometimes you just need to consult with a professional. 

A savory steam wafts from the cup, and I dip into the rich broth.  Immediately my nostrils relax and I can breathe again.  The combination of crave-worthy spices and yards of slippery noodles does the trick. It’s far superior to one of those nose strips.  Across the table, I hear happy sounds emerging from Zany’s direction as she slurps her noodles and attempts to consume a piece of bacon the size of a golf ball.  
At last, she puts down her chopsticks, folds her napkin demurely, sighs with satisfaction, and suggests, “Shall we go in search of dessert?”

She leads me through the labyrinth of UrbanSpace, which is now in serious need of crowd control – we are surrounded by thousands of ravenous, well-groomed professionals who would clearly be lost without their hair gel.

Zany makes a good show of leading me around UrbanSpace to see what’s available, but it’s clear she’s leading me in the direction of Dough. This is a doughnut entrepreneur with attitude. 
Their slogan is “We Fry in Bed-Sty, Flatiron, Urban Space and now…Row Hotel.”  For those of you planning a trip to New York, Row Hotel is a hip art filled hotel in the theater district that clearly puts no restrictions on a guest’s calorie consumption. 

These are doughnuts on steroids and in fact, they are works of art, featuring varieties such as Dulce De Leche-Almonds, Salted Chocolate Caramel, Passion Fruit and Hibiscus.  We select a mammoth Café au Lait doughnut that seems a departure from our Asian menu.     
“I was thinking when we finished our ramen noodles that it was the first time I’d had lunch with you and actually not felt stuffed,” says Zany.  “I think that is about to change.”

I do the honors and split the doughnut in half.  It has a roasted coffee glaze and toasted pecan topping.  “What do you think?” I ask.  “Would we say that this half-a-doughnut is about a thousand calories?”

“Probably 750,” says Zany. “But don’t worry.  We only had broth for lunch.”

I wolf down my half and half of Zany’s half and I do feel better. Which proves definitively that the old medical bromide is, “Feed a cold, starve a fever.”   Or, “Don’t waste your money on cold medications, when you can have Ramen noodles and doughnuts.”  

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