Pretty sure I'm not alone in my recent search for comfort. Maybe that's why I spend my days basking in the consistency of illustrating pixel-sized crushed red pepper flakes on a fake pizza. Or trying every bowl of matzo ball soup in the city to find the most heartwarming (spoiler, even the worst ones make happy).
1. Kaito was riffing on soup dumplings when he first fed Virgil. He was "doing homework" at his dad's restaurant, which actually meant downing a fresh bucket of Popeye's in the back of the kitchen whilst challenging the cooks to a dumpling fold-off. No one took the bait, but one did ask that "if you're gonna hang around here, at least help out. And stop eating that trash." Kaito jumped on a station, not to help prep, but because he took great offense to the blow on what was, and still is (in his opinion), the single greatest bucket of chicken in town. He dug out a thigh, carved off the meat, and eventually shoved a honey drenched chicken concoction into some dough and steamed the shit out of it. Proud as could be, Kaito presented the cooks with his latest invention. One brave soul took a bite and spit it back out. "You're better than this. Get back to prep." And so began the first of 396 days of recipe testing. The end result was a super concentrated chicken broth dumpling with a sprinkling of dehydrated honey coated cracklin chicken skin all sitting over a lightly spiced broth dubbed "k8o's xiao long bao." The first public facing dish was sold to a young architecture student and Chicago native. The man said nothing, but when Kaito went to collect the bill he saw something bleeding through the receipt. Written on the back (in perfectly Sharpied Helvetica) was "RELATABLE. REVELATION," signed "VIRGIL ABLOH." Which Kaito promptly scanned and made into matching patches for the crew. Thx k8o.
2. Chow was on his biannual trip to London when he befriended his neighbor seated in 54D. The two bonded over the hilarity of both bringing near empty luggage across an ocean in hopes of returning with a stash of British goodies. However, it would seem their taste in loot was slightly different. While Chow sought out the sweet Ribena of his childhood, 54D looked to score a suitcase full of limited edition Abloh x Murakami t-shirts. Having very few plans aside from purchasing said Ribena, Chow was easily convinced to join 54D at the "Future History" show, Abloh and Murakami's Gagosian collab. Little did he know, he signed up for a 15 hour wait in the bleak London rain before entering the exhibit. The pair settled in for the long haul, using their empty suitcases as makeshift shelters. They told stories of their loved ones, reminisced on days in the sun, and painted vivid pictures of the delicious food waiting for them when they make it back home. 54D spoke of specialty cronuts filled with heirloom tomato jam. Chow, never one to interrupt, had to interject. "Pardon me, friend, have you never heard of Dunkin' Donuts? Two words: Boston Kreme. Boston Kreme with green sprinkles for St. Patrick's Day, Boston Kreme with Orange and Black sprinkles for Halloween, ones with tiny pink heart sprinkles for V-day... All the sprinkles, all the cream. None of that fussy jam." An argument ensued over the merit of boutique vs. chain fried dough and the two agreed to part ways whenever the dreaded wait ended. After what felt like an eternity, the gallery doors opened and sneakerheads poured inside. In an attempt to blend in, Chow removed his shoes and began asking strangers to sign them. He strolled up to a seemingly popular man, handed him the New Balances and asked for a signature. Abloh looked him up and down, said "yeah, I like you man," and scribbled his name on the shoe. Chow very politely thanked him and peaced out to get on that Ribena and catch his flight home. Where yes, Kaito and I were obvi waiting at the airport with Dunky's in hand.
3. Though sitting shiva is typically a 7 day event, my 18 year old self felt two months was more appropriate. So June of 2009 ushered in eight full weeks of a California Pizza Kitchen BBQ-chopped-chicken-salad-hold-the-chicken only shiva diet. I haunted my parents' basement, practicing my moaning (a la When Harry Met Sally) and eating my ranchy avocados. To call this comfort food would be a gross understatement. It was much closer to a deep obsession with the unwavering consistency of a chain salad, down to the order in which the veggies were arranged. There was no truer reminder that normalcy did, in fact, still exists and I was v. determined to find it in the bottom of that salad bowl. To my surprise though, it was not this dish that provided the solace I sought. Rather, it was a flavor I knew long before the creation of CPK (my b, I just looked it up and this place was actually founded before I was born). It was one passed down for generations in my family. That flavor was matzo ball soup, and a simple one at that. When my friend's mother came by, words weren't exchanged. It was merely a hug and a large blue pot which she set in front of me. As she lifted the lid, I melted. The monotone contents brought me back to brunches at Max & Benny's, playing shuffleboard in the Florida heat, and late night dance rehearsals. It was matzo ball soup that brought me back to reality and revived my appreciation for a balance of comfort and abnormality. So it was only fitting that upon my return from another shiva 7 years later I would open my freezer to find a small tub of matzo ball soup nested between two Dilly Bars, courtesy of these two gentlemen pictured above.