Rocky Mountain Foodie Love

As much as I love Florida, there are times when those steaming summers can seem a tad bit overbearing. Between the hundred degree temps and the hair -frizzing humidity, the last thing I want to do is go outside. Something about it being eighty degrees at eleven PM is just wrong.

So when I have the pleasure of escaping to the Rocky Mountains for even a weekend, I want to do nothing but breathe in that fresh mountain air.
Oh, and eat. Because that seems to be my forte lately.

Today was a stunning day for food. After a mid-afternoon arrival in Steamboat, Colorado, my posse of hulking brothers (who work out religiously and look like Abercrombie models while I literally do nothing but cook and eat 24/7) and I had lunch at The Paramount at the foot of the slopes. A sleek, modern ski-rustic atmosphere with loud funky music and chalkboard menus, The Paramount was the perfect welcome into the midsummer ski town. My sandwich was beautiful, served on a wooden plank with thick toasted slices of bread, copious amounts of goat cheese, cucumber slices, walnuts and fresh sprigs of dill.

As if that weren’t enough, we later hit up the bookstore downtown for some coffees. Well, actually, I had a steamer that came recommended by the barista. I have a weird habit of taking advice from locals, no exceptions. It was delicious, albeit a bit filling. 

And then, not two hours later, came dinner.

The ribs my dad had so carefully prepped and slow-cooked were so mouthwateringly tender they fell off the bone. Fresh corn on the cob, light pasta salad and a bleu cheese pomegranate salad played supporting roles. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

But it does beg the question: was the food so good because of the fresh Colorado air? Because it was eaten surrounded by the people who mean the most? Or was it simply that my dad makes the best ribs?

It must have been all of the above. Because that’s the best meal I’ve had in a long time.

Austin’s Coffee Shop and Film: A Review (Kind Of)

It was over a sweet-and-creamed ice coffee in the middle of an Orlando summer, squashed comfortably between a detached movie theater seat and a worn checkerboard table that I got to know Alex.

Austin’s Coffee Shop and Film set the stage. Both of us avid antique shoppers with a flair for the highbrow/lowbrow vibe of the Downtown Orlando scene, we wandered into Austin’s without any idea what to expect and found a hipster haven inside. I hardly knew Alex, yet over the thrumming thump of indie rock and some rockin’ coffee at prices far better than Starbucks, we became friends. (Our mutual love of vintage dresses and tea gloves may have also been helpful.)

It is impossible to describe the few hours we spent in Austin’s without using the word ‘hipster,’ or other common jargon. It was an eclectic scene—mismatched chairs and couches, movie theater cushions, and straight wooden chairs were everywhere. There was an immediate ‘anything-goes’ feel about the place. The inhabitants were of the distinct and unusual variety, nearly all of them with beards, some with braids, many with laptops. Outside of the seemingly small café, a few guys in black t-shirts with goatees and guitars blew rings of smoke into the steaming Orlando air.

The benches and chairs were filled unusual people whose stories could be anybody’s guess. At least three of them were sleeping. Others had ear buds in, or looked supremely busy playing online games. It was, to say the least, a college hangout with few rules, a distinctly ‘chill’ atmosphere.

“What can I get for you?” the girl behind the counter asked. Alex and I looked at each other, then back at the menu.

 “Can we have a minute?” Alex asked, the girl shrugged nonchalantly, telling us to holler when we were ready.

 In the back of the café, between the bathrooms covered in graffiti and song lyrics (the women’s restroom boasting a loud I AM FEMALE, HEAR ME ROAR! in silver sharpie on the towel dispenser), a dude in a ponytail casually stroked a loaded paintbrush against the wall. A mural of a forest pathway began to emerge from the brown and green paint.

A few feet away, whitewashed shelves held stacks of old board games, from yellowing Monopoly sets to Trivial Pursuit, Uno and Parcheesi. Beside those, stacks of books on random subjects and CD’s of every imaginable variety lay in wait. It looked like the contents of a garage sale left to the honor system.

We settled on the barista’s favorite drink—sweet iced coffee, served in an eco-friendly plastic cup. The ice cubes were perfectly square, clinking against each other as if in agreement—this was the best coffee to swim in. Twice the size of a Starbuck’s ‘tall,’ the coffee was half the price as twice as delicious. The atmosphere added to the enjoyment significantly.

We settled in the center of the coffee shop, Alex perching on a strightbacked wooden chair painted in rainbow colors as I tumbled into a movie-theater seat with a tendency to lean too far backwards. We carried on a conversation this way for a long time, until the ice in our drinks had melted and the Orlando sun had been replaced by rain.

We made plans to come back again, to tuck our cars away in the tiny backlot and spend a few overnight hours studying or playing board games in the relaxed, almost grungy atmosphere. A tad rebellious, even edgy, offset by the comfortable seating and disregard for any particular demographic, Austin’s felt comfortable and relaxed. The unusual slices of pie and sandwiches on mismatched glass plates, wrapped securely in plastic lay crookedly in the case, a sight that should have been off-putting and yet somehow looked appetizing.

For anyone trying to get past their millionth Starbucks here in Orlando, or just looking for a hipster place to crash and swill joe, this is the spot!

Here is their website, and their Yelp reviews are stellar.

Now you know!

 

Adulthood, Huh? Okay.

Do you ever find yourself in weird places,  and yet despite it all, you’re kinda happy to be there?

Thats where I am. Or, more specifically,  I am outside a frozen yogurt shop eating lemon meringue flavored froyo with those strawberry boba balls (holy cannoli are those good) in the pouring Florida summer rain.

And its weird to eat froyo alone, but for some reason, it makes me feel grown up. Like I can confidently go buy and eat whatever I feel like on my frozen yogurt because I’m an adult and I do what I want.

Turning into an adult, it turns out, can be delicious. It means your mom isn’t around to tell you, “Stop, thats enough sprinkles!”

(Can you hear the freshman fifteen calling? I can.)

Yep, times like these I think my eight year old self would be real proud of who I have become.

Anyway, maybe its because I just nailed my externship interview and I have a job lined up for the end of school. Or maybe its because I’m wearing fancy job interview clothes. Or maybe its because I wore eyeliner for the first time in a year and I feel like my eyes are the size of a Disney princess or Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie and I can *blink!* make magic things happen. Like more boba balls and sprinkles, please.

I really didn’t expect the pinnacle of my adult life so far to be froyo in the rain.

But it is.

And I’m happy to be here.

The Hundred Foot Journey is… Well, Delicious

By now, I’m sure media gods Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg have found a way to advertise their new culinary flick The Hundred Foot Journey onto a screen near you. Especially if you watch Food Network.

And, if you’re like me, you think you know exactly what to expect from this movie.

Let me tell you a not-so-secret secret. You’re right. This movie has no surprises. Well, very few surprises. But that is absolutely no reason for you not to go see it, because this film is delicious, clever and truly heartwarming.

Pictures from The Hundred Foot Journey official Facebook page

Because I’m the obnoxious straight-A type who joins clubs and writes essays for fun (think Brian from The Breakfast Club) I am the secretary of my LCB Campus’s Student Advisory Committee because I like typing notes. And, because my fellow culinary geeks are over achievers like me, we received VIP passes to see The Hundred Foot Journey a week before it hit theaters.

And then because I’m on the President’s List for holding a 4.0, I got another pass to the other premier. (This time not VIP, but still four days before the actual movie released.)

So, before this movie was even released, I’d seen it twice.

And I would still pay to see it again.

The film focuses on Hassan Kadam, a culinary prodigy who can do no wrong in the kitchen. When his family is forced to relocate from Mumbai to a small village in France, Hassan’s stubborn father purchases an abandoned restaurant across the street–a hundred feet–away from a Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant, run by the snobbish and sophisticated Madame Mallory. Hassan’s miraculous kitchen ways eventually win over the austere Madame Mallory, as well as the affections of her charming sous chef Marguerite. Hassan skyrockets to fame as ‘a chef who can bring down the stars’ (Michelin stars, that is) and his victory is almost as delicious as the dishes he creates.

There’s a little bit of everything for everyone in this film. There’s conflict. Drama. Felonies and fire. There’s wit and humor, enough to coax a chuckle or two out of everyone in the theater. There’s romance, and at the heart of it all, the deepest kind of love–the love for food, and way it brings people together, no matter how vast the space between them may seem.

As a culinary student entering the industry (as of this month, I have one year of kitchen work under my belt, hooray!) I was able to relate to the story and the passion Hassan has for food. And the flawless Helen Mirren brings such delicate depth to Madame Malory it is impossible to leave the theater without a sincere appreciation for the world of culinary arts and its prominent figures.

If there is any advice I can pass on to you, it’s this: don’t go see this film on an empty stomach. Theater popcorn will not fill the gaping hole left in your gut when this film is over. You will want curry. You will want fresh cheese, bread baked by hand, sea urchin from the market. You will want ripe tomatoes and fresh mushrooms.

And you will wish your car brakes failed in the South of France.

Perhaps I’m a bit prejudiced because I have an unhealthy addiction to culinary movies (No Reservations is on the top of the list, right up there with Chef, which was released a few months ago and is more than worthwhile to see) but I think The Hundred Foot Journey is a film that will leave you hungry for a taste of the restaurant life.

Go see it.

I’m serious.