He's originally from Minneapolis MN. But a wayfarer's spirit and his parents had him seeking solace in the sunnier climes of California. Hanabi currently resides in San Francisco and works in this little industry that some people have heard of called the "tech industry." He's eschewed the current economic trends in California of gold mining, panning for gold, and the shipping of goods and sundries for this upstart tech business. He also owns a screen printing business for good measure. He's a trained chef, a wizard in the kitchen, and an avid world traveler. Oh, and he likes to collect vintage synthesizers to round out his renaissance man persona.
Hanabi is also a man who hails from Sacramento, CA -- the state capital if you will. We had an actor from Austria as our governor. If you flew into the Sacramento airport a few years ago you would have seen shirts in various gift shops that said things like "The Gover-nator" because that same actor-turned-politician used to star is some robot shoot-em-ups. But not many people are familiar enough with his work, so I digress... Hanabi is an audio-engineer and live sound technician by trade. He can play the drums well -- like, really well. He currently resides in Seattle and is on a mission to seek out every single craft brew made in the Northwest and review them so you don't have to.
Some common threads among Hanabi's two personalities are: 1) a love of great food, whether it's from a $300 a person price-fixe menu or a meal using kitchen hacks that cost $10 to make; 2) a love of really odd Japanese music and; 3) finally, of course, they're both hella (Nor-Cal saying, kinda like "hyphy") West Coast for life.
Hanabi is not a hater. Well usually Hanabi is, but not when it comes to vegetarian and vegan foods. Hanabi is very judge-y though. It’s not that meat or dairy free foods are bad, it’s just that there needs to be a greater level of creativity and attention to detail when preparing these foods. Let’s face it, even an over-cooked or simply a low-quality cut of meat can be made to taste passable in one way or another. You can add cheese, even horrible processed cardboard cheese and save hopeless dish. But, you can’t really save poorly executed vegan or vegetarian dishes. The ingredients are just that fragile and requires a deft hand to put it all together. With that said, Hanabi usually hates fake meat and fake cheese. That’s a big part of what in Hanabi’s opinion drags down meat and dairy free cuisine. But, Hanabi wanted to try a new vegan burger place on Haight St. called VeganBurg. He actually liked it, and it inspired him to do a vegan-burger battle. He put VeganBurg up against an old time favorite from Sacramento, the Sunflower Drive-In. Listen to see who comes out on top. Hanabi also checked out 633 Bistro in Seattle and is clearly still on a Lent kick, so he opted for a ginger beer from Smalltown Brewery.
Hanabi lives in a magical land of apps. The apps allow Hanabi to do absolutely nothing for himself anymore. I’m being a bit cynical, but it’s true that the San Francisco Bay Area is a hotbed for new apps that tend to be available here long before they reach the rest of the country. For example, New Orleans just recently got Uber. One of the food related apps that I’ve recently used is No Wait. No Wait allows you to put your name on the restaurants waiting list without having to be there in person. That’s usually a no-go over the phone. But, the time I used it, it worked. It’s sort of bridge between a waiting list and an actual reservation. Score one for technology. Another app I frequent is Instacart which is available in several cities throughout the country. Much like the now defunct WebVan from 2000, Instacart will go shopping for you at local markets and deliver your groceries to you. It’s fast and ultra convenient. There are several apps for food delivery now as well, including deliveries from restaurants not typically known for to-go orders. It seems logical that a restaurant wouldn’t want to turn down that additional revenue stream. Hanabi also got down with some Sichuan cuisine at the appropriately named Sichuanese Restaurant. Classic! He also guzzled some Diamond Knot IPA with a very Cathulu looking label.
Hanabi is soon to be making his travels to the ancient homelands of Europe, specifically, Paris, London and Rome. The big three I guess you might say. I’ve been to Paris and London several times, and I never get tired of those cities. How could you? I’m looking forward to Rome, as I’ve never been. Needless to say, many adventures await. In this episode Hanabi lays out the plans for the restaurants he wants to try, and after he returns we’ll contrast and compare. In Paris, among several spots it’s all about L’Avant Comptoir. It’s modern Paris at its best, from what we hear. In London, it’s all about a full-English breakfast for Hanabi. Apparently there’s no better place than Breakfast Club right now. We’ll see how it stacks up to The Wolseley. Rome is a wide open book right now.. There’s just so many places to go, but Bonci Pizzarium is the siren call for Hanabi and it must be done. Have you ever wanted to eat a Dork Burger or Dog Sticks Me too. Check out Hanbi’s adventure to the LunchBox Laboratory in Seattle!
Sometimes Hanabi leaves the confines of the city for Southern climes. Don’t be shocked, outside the city there exists some of the finest restaurants in the country. One of those gems is in Los Gatos, an affluent hamlet in the South Bay home to Manresa which just earned its third Michelin star. I had one of the most memorable meals at Manresa and chef David Kinch did not disappoint. Two years ago Manresa had a kitchen fire that shut it down for about 6 months. But, it’s firing away on all cylinders. While I’m in the South Bay, Palo Alto to be specific, and because I spent all my money at Manresa I need a place that is delicious but not going to break the bank. That’s where Oren’s Hummus comes in. Fresh Israeli hummus and house made pita? Yes please!
Hanabi’s parents are shoving off to Prague and Budapest in a few months to keep the image of the American tourist alive. So, with a father-son dinner meet up on the schedule, we figured we’d get them ready for that Eastern European cuisine by visiting Cafe Europa in the Richmond district.