Jews and Chinese food go together as well as Bert and Ernie. So you can imagine how excited I was to hear about Black Trumpet, Gabe Fine and Mia Scharpie’s brand-new kosher meat pop-up that focuses on Sichuan cuisine. I asked them about the concept and inspiration for their launch next Thursday, May 29, plus I got their take on why pop-ups keep on, well, popping up!
Tell me about Black Trumpet: the concept, the menu, who’s involved and how you got started.
Black Trumpet really started on a whim—Gabe, our chef, had been mentioning how he wanted to cook Sichuan food when we found out about the Schusterman Foundation’s #MakeItHappen grant, a micro grant given out to make cool things happen in the community. It looked like a great way to do some cooking, so we started brainstorming “hashtag-ish” ideas, or ideas that sounded vaguely marketable, and landed on the idea of doing a pop-up meal: a meal in a location that’s not necessarily restaurant space.
As we got more into it, we realized it was actually a really awesome concept, something we both wished already existed, as well as a fun way to collaborate and innovate together. We both love food, and we love everything around it: the ritual around cooking and eating, the art of a well-executed dish, the atmosphere of a meal where people really connect.
The idea is that we host meals monthly in different locations in Boston. Our menu focus changes from one cuisine to another every few months, focusing on regional cuisines that are rarely seen in kosher meals. We’re starting with Sichuan food for the first few and then will move on to another regional cuisine. It’s never the same twice; you never know what new taste might show up on your plate and who you might meet each time! Most pop-ups don’t have a design partner, but we really believe that a meal is more than food—the space and setup set a tone that can make a really amazing experience.
Perhaps most important for this audience, you are doing kosher, and kosher meat, no less! What was the motivation behind that decision, and has it been a challenge keeping everything kosher?
We both keep kosher and think that more exciting kosher food options make the entire Boston Jewish community better off, and more fun and vibrant. At the most basic level, we wanted more options for fun, contemporary dining in Boston for ourselves, so we created it. At another level, we also feel that food should be something that brings groups of people together instead of dividing them, and keeping Black Trumpet kosher means more people get to be involved.
It’s definitely logistically more complicated to run a kosher outfit and kosher pop-up; we can’t just rent our dishes and equipment the way some pop-ups can, and we definitely feel it when we’re carting off boxes of equipment to the mikveh to kasher them (make them kosher), but we try to think of it as something to be creative about. We’re all about people of different sorts breaking bread together. We try not to ask whether we can make it work, but how we can make it work.
As for the decision to go with meat? It’s one of Gabe’s major loves. He actually started learning how to perform kosher slaughter because he loved meat so much. So when it came to which side we were going to pick, there was never a question.
It’s very unlike me to say this, but enough about food! I’m actually curious to learn a little about your day jobs.
We actually both have day jobs—Gabe runs a health care startup and works on a food truck, and Mia works as a landscape architect and researches design firms that work on social issues. In Boston that ranges from a firm that is designing innovative health care spaces in the developing world to the redesign of the Greater Boston Food Bank building a few years ago, which now works more efficiently on the inside and reminds commuters about the key issue of hunger every day.
It seems like we have a lot of these temporary food events going on in the city: pop-ups, food trucks and the like. Putting your urban design hat on, what do you think is driving that and what does it say about city living now?
There are two major reasons we see. The first is that temporary events have less infrastructure so they let people with ideas and passion into the ring, even if they are low on capital. But the second, and we think more interesting reason, is that temporary events allow you to test out ideas and be creative. There’s more room to play, and when you get to do things that are a little surprising, it’s more fun for everyone. The surprises and sense of camaraderie that pop-ups and food trucks bring can help turn up the volume on one of the things we like best about meals—getting to know one another!
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