The Story of the Popup
I received an email in October of 2013 from Gwendolyn Wright - one of the amazing people I have met recently. I have grown to become very fond of Gwen and her working style ever since I met her. She informed me that the SF HUB (where she is a member) hosted popup lunches every Monday for promoting any local beginner food/beverage entities. She inquired if I'd like to show case any wine pairings with food that I like. 2013 was a crazy year for me, I was working a full time job, studying for my Sommelier exam and working part time at a wine bar. So I politely refused. But we kept in touch and contacted each other on and off.
What is a popup?
I personally believe that popups are a brilliant concept. Whoever came up with the idea is a genius! The reason I say this is because, popups are like the 'lean startup' equivalent of the high tech world for the food and beverage industry.
How so? To organize or participate in a popup, there is no need for an actual brick and mortar location; or any of the miscellaneous investments to set shop in order to actually try out a food or beverage concept. Popups, also like lean startups offer the advantage of receiving instant feedback on the product(s) from a real target market and this can go on iteratively until the products/ideas are honed well. One of my favorite food spots called the Juhu Beach Club located in Oakland, California used to be a popup in San Francisco.
I digress. Back to my popup story, so early 2014, Gwen and I got back in touch again and we were both convinced that I should try out the HUB lunch opportunity. And so it was finalized that my first popup would be at the San Francisco HUB on March 31st, 2014. The popup was going to happen during lunchtime for HUB members and employees.
What Indian street foods should I serve at the popup?
The answer to this question depended on the following:
- It was important to choose food items that can be transported from my home to the city (SF) safely.
- Also, the food choice must ensure that it will stand well with time and stay fresh even when served a few hours after preparation.
Luckily for me, Indian street food perfectly fits both these criterion. Because, a big chunk of the work is completed while preparing all the ingredients (the chutneys, chopped vegetables etc.) and the rest is about assembling the various ingredients together. Okay, so which street foods will make the final cut?
My initial thoughts were to serve my favorite snack Sundal, followed by Dahi Puri and finally the Bhel Puri (Or should I finish with a dessert?). Decisions Decisions!
After much thought, trial & error and accounting for the transportation constraints, I decided to go with the following 3 courses:
1) For the first course, the champion of south Indian street foods and breakfast: The Idli.
2) For round 2, the goodness of yogurt, chutney, spice blends and semolina puffs: The Dahi Puri.
3) For the last course, I decided to finish with the crunchy, most popular street food of (North) India: The Bhel Puri.
Now that the food lineup was finalized, the most exciting part of the preparation began for me. What wines to choose for each of the dishes?
Yes, I realized it is going to be a Monday and it is going to be in the middle of the day. But, then I thought, what’s wrong with lightening up a Monday for hard working folks at the HUB with some food and wine at noon o’clock, right? :)
So I got right to it. I did have some wine pairings for these dishes that I had experimented with in the past and documented here in my blog. But, I wanted to ensure the wines chosen not only paired well with the food but was also lined up appropriately when sipped one after the other.
My ideal solution would be to start with a dry white wine (lighter intensity), then move on to a light-medium bodied wine like a rose for the 2nd course and finish off with a slightly heavier bodied red (or an off-dry wine).
But after many vino geek out sessions with Gary at Beltramos and several trial wine pairings at home…the wine lineup was finalized!
The TASTING NOTES
1) The first wine chosen to pair with the Idlis was a French Viognier. I had paired a Semillon for Idlis in one of my earlier blogs, but then I realized the Viognier with its aromatic floral notes would stand up to the Idlis very well. And more importantly, the Viognier would be a nice segue to the 2nd wine in the lineup.
2) The second wine choice was easy. It was magical how the Beaujolais paired with the Dahi Puris. It was unbelievable how the red fruits and acidity danced like a perfect partner with the yogurt and chutney spices in the Dahi Puri. And it was a gradual progression from a medium bodied red to the third and last wine