Not Just Me

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As this semester winds down, I decided to try a little something different here on Taste of the Plains.

Instead of giving you tips on where I think you should go for dinner this weekend, I thought I’d ask a few of my Auburn journalism professors about their favorite dining spots. Take a look at what they said.

Dr. Sally Anne Cruikshank, Digital News Production and Digital News Reporting:

“I’d have to say my favorite would probably be Acre. The food is fresh, creative, and always good. (I especially love their brunch.) The bar there also has a very cool vibe.”

Dr. John Carvalho, Reporting and Sports Reporting:

“My favorite place is Kitchen 3810 on Opelika Highway. It is like a meat and 3 place that is done really well. They don’t overwhelm you with heavy entrees and vegetables. Their selection of meats is excellent and they do them excellent. And the people who run the place and who work there are terrific. Great place.”

And finally, Dr. Michael Fuhlhage, Multimedia Journalism and Journalism History:

“My go-to is Durango, where you will find the best soft corn tacos outside Mexico. Get the tacos de carnitas and tacos al pastor. They are beyond amazing.”

Well, there you have it. The go-to restaurants for three of Auburn’s finest–and I don’t just say that because they give out the grades.

Looks like Dr. Cruikshank and I are on the same page about Acre (minus the bar part, I still have a week and a half to go til I’m 21).

But I’ll have to give Durango and Kitchen 3800 a try. I’ve never been to either!

 

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Final Acre Project

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Acre has been one of my favorite restaurant experiences of my college career. That’s huge coming from me.

So when I needed a video story idea, I almost immediately knew that I wanted to do a story on Acre in some way. I wanted to convey a little of that experience to you, my lovely readers.

Sorting through the ideas for story direction was a challenge. However, I ended up choosing to tell the story of the vision of Acre and what they do differently through the executive chef himself, David Bancroft.

I had a lot of excellent interview snippets to weave together. The hard part was picking which ones help me get the flow right.

It wasn’t all kicks and giggles, though. I had to work around a few things.

The first and most stressful challenge I faced was that when I went in at our scheduled time Monday, Bancroft wasn’t there. Sadly, he was attending a funeral and had lost my number to let me know. He also didn’t mention to his staff that I’d be coming.

Thankfully I was able to get in touch with him and set up a time for the next day.

When time to shoot came, I faced the new challenge of working with a location that used mostly natural light. As it turns out, my efforts to angle the light in my favor gave me a lot of really cool video.

Sure, some shots I really wanted to use were too dark and I had to leave them out for the integrity of the rest of the video, but that’s why we always follow Dr. Fuhlhage’s advice to over-shoot the B-roll.

Also, I had perfect light outside. And I really loved the way the wind added movement to the plants. That just turned out cool.

Another challenge I faced while shooting was that I was unable to use the tripod most of the time. I had to respect Bancroft’s request that I not get in the way of the staff. The tripod made that impossible.

So I braced myself, literally. I was in all kinds of positions trying to use a counter, a wall or pretty much anything to steady my shots as much as humanly possible.

The biggest challenge was making sure all these things–the interview, the lighting and the steadier shots–formed the story I wanted to tell. I’m happy to say, it turned out great.

For my next video project, I think I’ll do my best to plan two filming days. That way I can look back at the first day’s shots and interview and see what I think I should add to it.

If that’s not possible. I’ll look back at my shots halfway through filming time and see what to add.

Take a look at the final product:

 

 

Here are two other video stories that I think are worth a watch.

The Red Lion Inn: A Farm Fresh Update to a Historic Restaurant by Food Curated is like what I was trying to do with Acre. I love how they connected all the dots between the farm and the restaurant. They show how the Red Lion Inn is different, like was doing with Acre.

Drawn to Fire: Chef Jeremy Stanton of The Meat Market, also by Food Curated, does something that I originally was going to do with Acre. It shows the chef’s passion for his craft. In my case, the story just formed more naturally to focus on the restaurant.

 

 

Tomorrow Shall Be Cool

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First of all, happy Easter to everyone!

After an amazing day of celebrating Christ’s resurrection with my family, I’m once again back on the Plains getting ready for the final stretch of this semester.

Deep breath.

But on a more fun note, tomorrow morning I will get to head over to Acre to film for a class project.

Now, I know I’ve mentioned Acre a few times on Taste of the Plains, but only because it’s worth talking about. They’ve got good food, a really chill atmosphere and arguably the freshest food around.

They have their own on-site garden, for Pete’s sake! (Which I will hopefully get to see!)

While I’m there, I’ll be interviewing David Bancroft, the executive chef. I’m going to get to learn about where his vision for Acre came from, how he got to where he is and what Acre does differently. If you want to know anything else, type a question in the comments section and I’ll ask during the interview–unless it’s just silly (yes, there are dumb questions).

So keep checking back for the final product, because it’ll be up VERY soon!

And as a parting gift on this Resurrection Sunday, here’s a little recipe I used for my family’s Easter dinner:

 

Filled’n’Frosted Angel Food Cupcakes

 

1 box angel food cake mix (amount of water called for on the box)

Jar of fruit preserves (seedless strawberry, blueberry or raspberry work best)

2 cups Powdered sugar

3 Tbsp water

1 tsp lemon zest

Juice of 1 lemon

2 drops vanilla extract

 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. Mix cake mix and water, pour into liners and bake 13-15 minutes.

2. While the cupcakes bake, mix powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons water, 2 drops vanilla, teaspoon of lemon zest and the juice of one lemon in a bowl. (Add more water/lemon juice or sugar to reach desired. The glaze should be thin, but not watery.)

3. When cupcakes are done, remove from the tin immediately. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then poke a hole into the middle with the end of a wooden spoon and pipe the fruit preserves/jam into the middle of the cupcake. (You can use a ziplock bag if you don’t have a piping bag or icing tool)

4. Spread the glaze over the top of the cupcakes, making sure to have a thin layer over the entire top. Garnish with fresh berries if you’d like–this covers the hole in the middle if you’re into presentation.

 

Have a wonderful week!

Going Out? Top 5 Date Spots in Auburn

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In a college town, or anywhere you can find thousands of teenagers/early twenty-somethings, dating is a hot topic.

Therefore, date spots are always a good conversation topic. Where to go for which occasion can seem like a major decision for the date-planner. So I’m sharing my top 5 recommendations for date restaurants in the Auburn/Opelika area.

Let’s start the countdown.

(For price, the scale is as follows: $-low-moderate; $$-moderate-expensive; $$$-expensive)

5. Amsterdam Cafe

Most people in Auburn have heard of this long-time town favorite. It’s well-known as a nice date spot. The prices aren’t terrible and the food quality is great. It also has a diverse enough menu to please most any palate, from the simple Rustic Burger to the Duck Duck Cous Cous.

Atmosphere: Nice casual

Price: $$

Cuisine: Updated southern, American

Perfect for: Special occasions, graduation, birthday dinners

My dish recommendation: Shrimp & Grits. This so-called appetizer is actually plenty to count as a meal for the normal person (or maybe just the normal female). It’s creamy and delicious, with the shrimp cooked and seasoned perfectly.

4. Ma-Fia’s Ristorante & Pizzeria

Located on the currently reviving Railroad Avenue in Opelika, this Italian restaurant offers low-lighting, friendly waiters and excellent food. The bread basket is fantastic, the dishes are elegant and tasty and the ambience makes for a cozy setting. The menu has everything you could want: pasta, pizza, antipasti and entrees with Italian flair.

Atmosphere: Romantic

Price:$$

Cuisine: Italian

Perfect for: Anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, romantic date night

My dish recommendation: Seafood Limoncello Pasta. When people think of Italian food, pasta is usually one of the first dishes that pops into their heads. This pasta dish has a wonderfully creamy, limoncello-infused sauce that covers shrimp, scallops, mussels and a mound of pasta. My compliments to the chef.

3. Irish Bred Pub

Just down the avenue from Ma-Fia’s sits this cozy little pub. If you like good, hearty food with a little UK tradition, this place is for you. The pub itself is a very casual setting that allows for conversation, yet has enough noise that a break in the conversation doesn’t feel quite so awkward (hello, first date). As far as the food goes, it’s just plain good. It’s not too fancy, but it’s definitely a step above the typical pub fare.

Atmosphere: Casual and loud

Price: $

Cuisine: Irish-inspired pub fare

Perfect for: relaxed first date, group dinners, birthday dinners, winter date nights

My dish recommendation: Coleraine Pork Tenderloin (Or anything doused in the Guinness BBQ sauce). The pork is tender and juicy and–with a side of grits and veggies–this dish hits the comfort-food spot. And being comfortable is what first dates are all about, right?

2. Acre

Newest to the list, Acre has made quite an impression since opening in the fall of 2013. The rustic-yet-classy interior of the stone-walled building makes for a sophisticated date night. This restaurant relies exclusively on locally grown produce and locally sourced meat, fish and dairy. The food tastes amazingly fresh and the menu changes constantly to keep up with ever-changing food stock.

Atmosphere: Rustic, yet nice

Price:$$

Cuisine: Farm-to-table fresh, southern influence

Perfect for: Impressive first date, girls’ night out, celebration date night.

My recommended dish: BBQ Brunswick Stew. All I can say is, I didn’t know rabbit tasted so darn good. This thick stew is full of flavor. Paired with a small salad and served with pimento cheese sliders, it’s the perfect size to indulge yet not end up in a food coma.

1. Maestro 2300

This is one of the nicest restaurants I’ve ever visited. The low-lighting makes it a romantic destination, so avoid this one for the first date. However, the menu will make you feel all grown up with its sophisticated dishes. From steak to seafood to fancy grains, this restaurant will definitely impress your date.

Atmosphere: Elegant, romantic

Price: $$$

Cuisine: “New World Mediterranean”

Perfect for: Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, very special occasions.

My dish recommendation: Lobster Risotto. This dish happens to be on the Valentine’s Day special menu, so it’s not an everyday option. But the richness of the risotto with crunchy leeks and juicy lobster bits made up just about the fanciest dish I’ve ever ordered. One thing that is a staple is the bread. If you aren’t careful, you’ll have no room for the entree!

There you have it! My top 5 date destinations in Auburn (as far as restaurants go, anyway).

But I’m not even done.

To kick up it up a notch, I’ve compiled a Google Map for you. Use it to easily find contact information and compare prices and locations of the restaurants I’ve mentioned above. Check it out here.

 

Here’s the full URL if the hyperlink is acting up: https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zRxQdUmm2aXQ.kLY-idk_9unw