Wramen Pop-Up

On Sunday, April 13th, two of Fort Worth’s highly talented chefs – Jesus Garcia of Little Lilly Sushi and Kevin Martinez of Tokyo Cafe – hosted a Wramen Pop-Up at the Culinary School of Fort Worth.  Pronounced double-u ramen, Wramen implies westernized ramen, or a version you wouldn’t expect to see in Japan.  The term originated in Seattle when food writer Jay Friedman called for “a change in nomenclature”.  He proposed that authentic Japanese ramen continue to be called what it is (ramen) and anything else that is not authentic should be termed “Wramen”.

If you think he’s being a food snob, I’d urge you to think about what passes for Mexican or Chinese food in your neighborhood.  I was lucky to grow up in the big melting pot of Houston, where friends taught me the distinction between authentic and Americanized versions of their cuisines.  Since ramen in restaurants is still relatively new to many Americans, I’m happy that someone hopes to maintain its integrity, much like we Texans differentiate between Mexican and Tex-Mex.  So I guess to me it makes sense that two Mexican sushi chefs from Texas would understand and want to promote the Wramen naming concept.

Double-u ramen, ramen, whatever you want to call it, these guys do it well!  Some of the Wramen we sampled was relatively authentic and some was definitely unconventional, but it was all outstanding.  I completely respect what these guys are doing … for themselves, the restaurants they work for and our city.

Lucas and I arrived at the Culinary School around 5:30, grabbed some wine glasses (byob!) and sat at a table for two.  Many of the tables were large enough to accommodate bigger groups, but as we watched people make their way inside it appeared most came in pairs.  We weren’t certain what would go best with each course so we showed up with some belgian beer, a bordeaux and a bottle of champagne.  I sipped on the champagne while waiting for our meal to begin, since I knew from some pre-dinner snooping that our first course would be light.  Also, this was my birthday dinner so I felt like celebrating.

The first course was Branzino (European sea bass) seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, a perfect small yellow tomato sliced in half and placed between it and some rocket salad with a hint of lemon and remarkably good parmesan.

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Next was the Bao Bun Duo.  One was filled with savory duck and figs, reminiscent of five spice, topped with pickled cucumbers.  The other was full of moist, tender Miyazaki Beef, sprouts and spicy chile oil.  L.O.V.E.D. both of them.

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The 3rd course was our first bowl of Wramen!   Continue reading

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Magnolia Cheese Company

On a warm Fall afternoon, Lucas and I hopped into the truck and headed to the corner of Magnolia and 5th to try a new (for us) restaurant.  Housed in an old building with big windows, which lend a surprisingly generous feel to the small space, was our destination:  Magnolia Cheese Company.  What better way to enjoy the beautiful day than by sitting at a table on the sidewalk, eating an array of cheese and meats, while sharing a bottle of wine and people-watching?

When I pushed open the door and walked in I was immediately drawn to the casual atmosphere.  Seat yourself tables to the left, a wall of wine and the cheese/deli counter to the right, plus a huge chalkboard with the menu posted behind the counter.  I paused, taking it all in, and noticed that something felt off.  Looking over my shoulder I realized the door was wide open.  Oops!  Feeling like a dumb-ass for one quick moment, I shut the door behind me and made my way to the counter.   Fancy cheese or no, this is Texas.  So I should say I sauntered up to the counter.

After agonizing over the menu and weighing all of the options we decided on the Local Cheese Plate ($16.00)  and a 3 Meat Plate ($14.00).  Libations?  The patient guy behind the counter offered us a wine sample, but it was not quite what we wanted.  He held our order in the system while we stepped out of line to look through the bottles on the wall.  Recognizing some of them and getting a feel for the mark-up, we selected something around $30 that we’d never tried before.  Back in line with bottle in hand, we paid for our order and then snagged a table on the sidewalk facing Magnolia.

While sipping on wine and waiting for our food to be brought out, we watched people pass by, many walking their dogs or on bicycles.  A trio of too cool for school hipster guys walked by and I pondered for a moment over what passes for fashion these days.  Ugh.  I brought my judgmental self back in check when I looked down and realized I was wearing an ugly old shirt, jeans and hiking boots.  Double ugh.

But within moments we saw something so beautiful I could barely contain myself.  The Local Cheese Plate – a glorious sight to behold!  5 different cheeses accompanied by an assortment of fruits (pears, persimmon, grapefruit, pomegranate seeds & figs), curried pecans, honeycomb, sauces, jams and a bowl full of sliced baguette.  I wish I had taken the time to jot down exactly what cheeses we had, but my absolute favorite was the blue, followed by a creamy goat with bacon.

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Next came the 3 Meat Plate.  Wow!  Serrano Ham, Bresaola and … Anchovies?  Well now, that was a surprise.  Lucas felt cheated because he’s not a big fan of anchovies.  I however love them, but was certainly sorry to give up part of my portion of the other two meats.  Lesson learned (ask what’s on the meat plate). Continue reading

Little Lilly Sushi

I haven’t been inspired to write much lately, but I still know how to enjoy a meal.

And Little Lilly Sushi in Fort Worth makes that so very easy. From the moment I step over the threshold it feels as though I’ve been transported off of Camp Bowie and into another world. Little Lilly is an intimate restaurant with a warm atmosphere that immediately puts me at ease. The waitress with the sweet smile greets my husband and I, asking if we’d prefer one of the few tables available or a seat at the sushi bar, and something inside of me is released. I am content.

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Behind the sushi bar stands Jesus Garcia, Head Chef Extraordinaire. This is the heart of the restaurant, where the magic happens, and undoubtedly where we want to be. He remembers us from our previous visits, greeting us with a smile. We take our seats and look over the drink menu, eavesdropping on the conversation he’s having with another couple. Lucas and I share a smile, because Jesus is so easy to talk to and the conversation is alway always always about food. We order a bottle of Ginga Shizuku Sake and continue to listen as they discuss restaurants in Houston’s Chinatown.

Continue reading