Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Prairie Noodle Shop Pop-Up #3

Let me tell you a secret: I am still new to the wonderful world of noodle soups. My first bowl of Vietnamese pho was on a snowy February day a year ago, and I've gotten a few more bowls since then. Ramen, however, is something completely new to me. In fact, the first bowl of ramen I had was just last December! So when I heard about an upcoming ramen pop-up event via Instagram, I knew I needed to get in on it.

Last Thursday evening, CJ and I were super fortunate enough to secure two seats for ourselves at the Prairie Noodle Shop ramen pop-up #3! Prairie Noodle Shop strives to transform a traditional Japanese dish into something fun, creative, and memorable. Handmade noodles, broth made from scratch, and locally sourced ingredients all combine together to make a delicious bowl of ramen. With that being said, how does one get to attend these pop-ups? The week before the event, Prairie Noodle Shop tweeted a link to their Eventbrite page, a site they used to reserve tickets (or seats) online. Seating times were at 6, 7, 8, and 9 PM. The night of ticket reservations, I was anxiously sitting in front of my computer waiting for the link to be released. With only 100 bowls being served and hundreds of ramen lovers waiting for tickets as well, it's no surprise that I felt both nervous and excited. To be honest, I have never done anything like this before! It felt like I was buying concert tickets, even though I've never purchased concert tickets online myself! I was determined to get two seats at 6 or 7 PM, but sadly, luck was not on my side. After slight waves of panic seeing "Sold Out" within seconds at all three earlier times, I managed to score two seats at 9 PM! Tickets sold out just under 2 minutes! Next time I'm getting CJ (who's more experienced at getting tickets online) to do this. 

The Pourhouse.

Pop-up #3 took place at The Pourhouse Bier Bistro on Whyte Ave. The previous two pop-ups were held at the Get Cooking Edmonton kitchen at the MacEwan University Student Residence Building in Downtown. Yea... I'm sad to say that I missed out two, too many times (lol). Walking in, CJ and I noticed just one open table right beside the window, so we headed towards it. Window seats + natural lighting = a happy Stephanie. If you're wondering how the sun was still up at 9 PM, that's because we actually had our seating time moved to 6 PM! I emailed the Prairie Noodle Shop team shortly after reserving my seats the week before with the hope that we could attend the event at an earlier time. I didn't think that my hopeful request would happen, given the number of people who were likely on the waiting list to attend. However, the night before the pop-up (and much to my surprise!) I received an email from Craig saying to come in at 6 PM! Thanks again for accommodating us! 

My bowl of ramen.

Now what is the story behind that beautiful bowl of ramen pictured above? Earlier that evening, Arden of Prairie Noodle Shop explained how their team drew inspiration from a trip to Canada's west coast: taking the richness and creaminess found in pork bone broth of Vancouver style ramen and applying that to create their own rich, creamy red miso and vegetable based broth with tons of cheese! Comfort food to keep us warm during winter was the key inspiration here. In addition to the fresh, handmade noodles in the broth, this bowl of ramen came with pickled Chinese radish, fermented bean sprouts, and a heaping pile of Sylvan Star smoked Gouda cheese. Let's not forget about that generous portion of pressed garlic on the side either. This particular bowl was made without any meat or meat products, making it Prairie Noodle Shop's first vegetarian ramen bowl. Each bowl costs $15 plus GST, so I was curious to see how this one would taste with cheese being the main protein. 

Close-up of the cheese.

I was impressed at how large the portion size was! Considering the amount of cheese and ramen noodles hidden beneath, I wasn't sure where to begin. After all, this bowl was only my second bowl of ramen in my life! I started by mixing in the cheese, which I then slurped up with the noodles. I really enjoyed how the shredded Gouda cheese created that perfect creaminess as it melted into the miso broth. So good! The pickled Chinese radish added much needed crunch and tartness to cut through the richness of the bowl. The garlic was added to the side so we could mix it in to our liking, so I mixed in a small amount. I found that it really amped up the flavours in the bowl, making the whole eating experience even better. I loved how this bowl was totally different and creative - something you wouldn't find at any other restaurant in Edmonton. Even though the bowl was already so dense and filling, I wanted to keep eating because it tasted so good! 

Sitting next to me, CJ had already scarfed down his entire bowl when I was just barely halfway through mine! His review was also quite positive: "It was just big enough for me to be full but not stuffed. The spice in the bowl was just right. The noodles were delicious. The broth was rich and tasted even better after mixing all the garlic. After eating all the noodles, I found myself eating spoonfuls of the remaining cheese that had moved to the bottom of the bowl. Overall, very delicious." 

Arden of Prairie Noodle Shop telling us the story behind the bowl.

Just before the start of the next seating time, Arden stopped by our table to talk with us. He asked us about our thoughts on the ramen, saying that feedback was valuable to help them eventually open up a restaurant. He told us that while most businesses tend to focus on the broth, Prairie Noodle Shop aims to have the toppings be the star of the show. And I couldn't agree more - the toppings in this bowl were spot on! It was nice to meet you! 

A shot from above. 

I'm so glad that CJ and I were able to attend such an exciting event. Everything about this rich, creamy vegetarian bowl was perfect. If only I had a bigger stomach so that I could've finished the entire thing! I'm already looking forward to the next pop-up, which is happening in June. The next one may be held at NAIT with a bigger and more diverse offering of ramen! Congratulations to Prairie Noodle Shop for another successful pop-up! Be sure to follow them @YEGnoodles on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date with news about future pop-ups. 

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