There was a moment on Monday after I pulled out of our steep driveway in our 1984 Landcruiser successfully managing NOT to hit any other cars or stall when I thought, “well, it doesn’t matter how things go tonight with our Cocina de Mama pop-up because clearly the highlight of the day will be driving a manual transmission car on my own for the first time.” I don’t mean to toot my own horn too loudly (well I can’t, it doesn’t work), but it really was a fairly big life accomplishment.
Full disclosure, I did hit a bush and subsequently broke into a sweat. But I probably needed the adrenaline rush of the drive as a warm-up for what became a high-pressure evening. Cocina de Mama was on– full on as we say in Tassie– at the Alley Cat bar in Hobart. Given the success of our first Pop-up, Matt, Carlos and I anticipated making about 100 tacos. What we didn’t calculate was the fact that last time we made 63 tacos in two hours and this time we were budgeting the same amount of time but almost doubling our production.
Things got hectic, fast. By 5:55 pm we were set-up alongside the bar, the mariachi music was on and the cocktail menu was printed. Our first customers arrived promptly at 6 and ordered two tacos each of carnitas and verduras. From that moment on I couldn’t so much as take a sip of water let alone stop to sample our fare or chat with customers. Matt had made about 60 flour tortillas in advance and Carlos started pumping out corn tortillas in front of our growing crowd. The head-start was necessary but hardly held us afloat. By 6:35 we were sold out of flour tortillas and had to rely solely on the corn made-to-order. By 7 pm our orders were 30 deep and the line was growing. At one point I looked up from my station and saw the line wrapping around the bar with at least twenty people waiting to place an order and felt sick to my stomach. SHIT. What had we gotten ourselves into? I didn’t know if we were going to have enough ingredients to make all the tacos already ordered let alone feed the masses waiting to get more. It was crazy!
At 7:15 I saw we were going to run out of masa and Matt ran out to the kitchen to make more. New friends continued to arrive and previous customers were coming back for more. The spicy chipotle salsa that I was sure would be too hot to handle was long gone and we were well into our second batch of carnitas. Our butcher, Marcus Vermey came back for his second round to feed his family of four and sent his praise. That was a moment. My friend Mary waited patiently for her veg taco and gave me a look when she whispered, “Paige it’s quite the who’s who in here right now.” Too busy to deduce what she meant I said, “what do you mean?” as I quickly glanced up. “Well chefs from Ethos, Garagistes and Smolt, to name a few, are all eating your grub now,” she said. That was another moment. Wow. Those are the best restaurants in Hobart. Butterflies in my stomach again. I put my head down and got back to work.
At 8:05 we officially sold out of everything. People would have licked the salsa bowls if we let them. The ten kilo of carnitas were gone and we didn’t even get to feed ourselves dinner! I knew the intensity hadn’t just affected me when Carlos said, “I need to go home. Now.” Everyone knows that Carlos is always game for a post-work drink. But not tonight. We were floored and exhausted and in shock all at once.
Two hours, 150 tacos. Nuts. HUGE appreciations go out to Kris and Caroline at the Alley Cat for letting us use the space, Matt for his uncanny prowess of facebook to spread the good word (in addition to cooking up a storm) and all our friends for coming out to support the feed.