Nadine Kam photos
Bowls lined the floors at The ARTS at Marks Garage, going out as needed to replace those grabbed off shelves during the “Empty Bowl Evening in Chinatown.”
Hundreds clamored for soup, bread and one-of-a-kind ceramic bowls during Empty Bowl Hawaii 2011’s “Empty Bowl Evening in Chinatown” fundraiser March 18.
The crowd skewed mostly older, the sort who could make sense of a $20 bowl of soup to benefit Hawaii’s hungry, with funds raised going to Hawai’i Meals on Wheels and River of Life Mission.
The event was to start at 6:30 p.m., and when I arrived at 6 p.m. for parking’s sake, a long line had already formed from Pauahi Street to the end of the Mark’s Garage building on one side, with a shorter line going in the opposite direction. No one really knew how the line would flow, and because of the seemingly non-sensical arrangement of payment stands, bowls and soups, people were already complaining about putting right-brained artists in charge.
After that, I had to take a right/left brain challenge to see which one I am. I think of myself as equally analytical and creative, but this test put me at two-thirds right brain and one-third left.
Once they let us in, it became even more confusing, though it ultimately made sense. I thought we would pay first, for instance, but we had to choose our bowls first, then pay.
It should have been hard to choose from the 4,000 bowls available, in every size, shape and color imaginable, but I picked mine up rather quickly (below), and scanned for a while to see if I could find anything better, but didn’t see anything that called to me, so that was that. I even spot checked on the way out.
After we selected our bowl, we could pay for it, and I was asked, “Do you want that wrapped?”
I was like, “No, I’m going to use it.” But all the bowls had to be placed in shopping bags, so they knew you had paid for it, instead of just walking off with it. That’s when we got our soup tickets. I heard some people bought four bowls for the opportunity to sample four of the soups available.
It was hard for many to decide which soup to sample, because for most, with only one option, they figured they had to make it count. But how do you choose from the likes of Portuguese bean soup from Big City Diner, sausage and vegetable from Side Street Inn, smoked bacon and cheddar from 12th Avenue Grill, and New England clam chowder from Alan Wong’s?
I ran into someone I knew whose husband likes the onion soup at Le Bistro, so off he went to get the tried and true. For my part, I always want to try something I’ve never had, so as much as I like Mariposa’s Kahuku corn chowder, that was nixed because it’s on the restaurant’s menu, Portuguese bean soup is also fairly easy to find, and I could also find soup at Whole Foods any time.
Finally, owing to Roy’s-trained Ron Nasuti’s new tenure at Tiki’s Grill & Bar, I settled on his three mushroom bisque with portabello dust and black truffle foam. Mushroom flavor could have been stronger, I thought, but I was happy with the choice, though I was still curious about Brasserie Du Vin’s Kahuku corn and crab bisque. That sounded yummy. Maybe it’ll pop up as one of their soups du jour.
A line formed quickly for Tangö’s bouillabaisse.
It would have been beneficial to show up with several friends to taste more selections, but that didn’t always work. A friend went with his mom and he had hoped they could share “because she usually offers,” he said. Not this time. She loved Town’s “Pohaku” so much that before he knew it, she had finished it without giving him a single sip!
I got to try it too, when Joann Lo Grimes shared some of hers with me. She had taken a long time to decide, and was quizzing everyone she knew about their selections. But it came down to the cleverness and she loved the play on the story of stone soup! The soup itself was minestrone, which is not a particularly sexy choice, but of course we could count on Town to come up with something delicious, and it was great, filled with beef and several familiar minestrone vegetables, including more unusual choices of turnips and kale.
Looking forward to the next event!
Added March 23: Beryl Ono Stapleton of the Empty Bowl Hawaii 2011 Project reports nearly 2,600 bowls were sold in an hour-and-a-half for more than $50,000. With another $8,000 raised from a silent auction of artwork at Neiman Marcus, it put the group at about $7,000 shy of its $65,000 goal. The remaining bowls are available for purchase at The ARTS at Marks Garage for $15 each through March 26.
Whole Foods was to have served chipotle tomato soup, but it sold out at the store that day, so they brought a sweet, creamy butternut squash/apple soup instead. Ah well, we know where to get the tomato later! From left, Natalie Aczon, Lauren Roth and Vanessa Pheobus.
At the Tiki’s Grill tent, Michael Miller and Ronnie Nasuti served a three-mushroom bisque topped with black truffle foam.
Indigo served its tomato soup out of beautiful ceramic ware. Rod Eugenio teased that if I bought out his soup he’d give me the pot.
Sisters Charlene Lo Chan, left, and Joann Grimes were quick to choose their bowls and Charlene was equally quick to sample Tangö’s bouillabasse, but Joann wanted to inspect every soup before making her selection.
Burt and Rochelle Lum were lucky to find a table to enjoy their soup and bread.
As it got darker, it was a little harder to see the bowls’ colors, and to help people in the back see better, staffers below held up bowls to see if there were any takers.