My last pre-quarantine outing: Ramen Pop-Up Competition at Zorn Brew Works

It was mid-March. The word coronavirus was starting to seep into everyone's vocabulary. What I knew at that point based on the bits of news I had consumed:-
- We were to wash our hands a lot.
- We were to avoid shaking hands.
- We were to stay away from the elderly.
- Sporting events were being cancelled.
- Those who were exposed were supposed to self-quarantine for 14 days.
- Schools were not yet closed, although that Friday my kids were told to bring all their books home in preparation for school being closed - maybe for a couple weeks.

I volunteer as an usher at a performing arts theatre and a couple days prior I was working. The show went on (even though Broadway had canceled shows) and we did extra cleaning afterwards, wiping down all the high traffic areas and backs of seats and armrests with Clorox wipes.

It was St. Patrick's Day weekend, but there were warnings in Chicago to avoid gathering in large groups. The St. Patrick's Day Parade had been cancelled.

I don't know if it was my naive brain or that there wasn't as much information then or that I wasn't paying attention to it. At that point I was kinda in denial, I suppose. I thought that large gatherings would be canceled for a couple weeks or maybe even a month or so, but didn't expect the world to shut down to the extend that it did or that it would last as long as it has. I do know that everything felt strange when I left the house on March 14, first to visit my sister at a tea-room for a lunch we'd planned weeks earlier (where the owner said she'd had 20+ cancellations for that afternoon) and then to go to serve as a judge at the Ramen Pop-Up Competition at Zorn Brew Works in Michigan City.

I had several other things going on that weekend that had been canceled. My son, who has been on the cross-country team for three years, had joined the track team in his senior year and I was looking forward to seeing him participate in track for the first time. Then he was going to participate in his first half-marathon, which was canceled. I was going to attend a play with one of my sons the night before and just hours earlier, they put the production on hold. My teens were still going to their jobs at a local restaurant - one as a busboy, one as a cook and one as a dishwasher.

Anyway, I didn't want to bow out as a judge and didn't feel like I was at high risk - and I was looking forward to it. Everything else was getting canceled. This was something that wasn't. So, off I went. I accidentally shook hands with someone and realized mid-shake and I think he did, too, and we pulled our hands away quickly. Other than that, it was like any other event and we had a great time. We had no idea that the next day the state would begin shutting everything down and that over six weeks later we'd still be ordered to stay home. It was a fun last hurrah.

Provecho Provisions took first place, Zorn was second and 3 Floyd's and Franklin House tied for third. Each one was distinctly different, but were all fantastic examples of this Asian specialty that is a perfect comfort food.

Sign Gypsies and Balloon Boutique from Valparaiso provided decor and signage. Christopher Messer provided glow-in-the-dark painting and Mermaid Straws provided chopsticks for the VIP bags.

Zorn Brew Works is located in Michigan City and currently open for carry-out orders of howlers, crowlers and growlers and their delicious food from a new menu from their scratch-made concept. Visit their online ordering system at They are open from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. every day. You can also order by phone at 219-243-7157.