The Next Course: A New Column by Kiki Aranita

25 March, 2022
Kiki-Aranita-column-the-next-course

Grasping at straws, I’ll start recommending my favorite pho places in Philly or a restaurant that serves Hawaiian brunch on Sundays, 85 miles away in Manhattan. I encourage people to please look up my published recipes and try making their own shoyu ahi poke or pipikaula. “Please visit the restaurants of my friends making Filipino food, Japanese comfort food,” I frequently tell them. “It scratches a similar itch.”

I console longtime customers by telling them future residencies are on the horizon, just a few short months away.

Many months after closing my restaurant, Poi Dog, in Philadelphia late summer 2020, I have no plans to open another. We were one of the first pandemic-related closures. Nearly two years later, I’m still too traumatized. Too exhausted. Instead, I have a sauce company by the same name now and you can find my Guava Katsu and Chili Peppah Water in specialty markets all over the US.

I’m an adjunct professor in the hospitality and culinary departments at Drexel University. I now write for a handful of publications, and I get to interview and tell the stories of many other chefs, people working the cutting edge of the fermentation world, new retail brands that have risen to address problems with food waste by converting carrot pulp into crackers and pastries into vodka. I get to play with and review new cooking equipment and develop recipes with ingredients previously unfamiliar to me.

My writing also celebrates new restaurants that have miraculously opened during the pandemic, that make their guests feel wrapped in both luxury and safety, and experience some respite from the sorrow of the last two years. I love this work. Fine Dining Lovers has now given me more space to do such exploration, through a focused monthly column. This is the first installment.

This column will be as far-reaching as my own hands, dipping into many aspects of the food world, rooted in restaurant kitchens but not limited by them. I’ll consider new food trends from the perspective of someone who is simultaneously a chef, sauce entrepreneur, academic and writer.

Article
Just as the financial crisis of 2007/8 led to the rise of food trucks, could the coronavirus pandemic revive the pop-up, as more and more displaced chefs take up guest residencies in restaurant kitchens? Chef and pop-up player Kiki Aranita reports from the front line.

I’ll still cook from time to time, for now. In September 2021, I published an article here on Fine Dining Lovers that addressed the proliferation of post-pandemic pop-ups and residencies across America. For me, the offers to temporarily take over kitchens, like comments of “I miss your food” from devoted customers, have not ceased. The venues have only gotten bigger, more interesting, and more unexpected.

After that article was published, Jose GarcesVolver (inside Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center) served a menu I had designed for two months straight so that theatre attendees heading to see Hamilton also made reservations to dine on my ahi poke tostadas, coconut luau and Maui lavender ponzu egg tofu. Last week, I wrapped up a residency in the recently Frank Gehry-redesigned café at the Philadelphia Museum of Art – yes, that Art Museum, the one with the triumphant Rocky statue at the base of its famous steps.

For the entire month of May, my husband, chef Ari Miller of South Philly’s award-winning Musi and I will join forces and take over the kitchen of Bok Bar. This is a rooftop bar that overlooks half the city and each night, it seemingly serves half the city’s population.

You’ll find me at the pass, shuffling through order tickets and sending out bowls of jewel-toned fish, rice-flour-battered chicken and dishes decorated with furikake and ribbons of shiso. But my place there will, of course, soon pass.