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!

Chicken Salad Chick

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Sometimes I wonder if getting addicted to certain foods is a southern thing. I mean, think about it.

Milo’s Sweet Tea.

Chick-fil-a.

And, in Auburn at least, Chicken Salad Chick.

Now, this one I’ve never understood. Probably because I detest mayonnaise. (I’m also an oddball because this rules out pimento cheese and potato salad, other southern staples.)

But I feel it’s worth mentioning because EVERYONE I know in Auburn seems to love it.

And because it’s coming to Auburn’s campus next school year.

And the reaction has been impressive.

 

And that’s just a taste of the reaction.

While I may not understand the appeal, the owner, Stacy Brown, has a cool story. (Read it here.)

From a divorced mother of three to successful franchise founder, Brown has done extremely well. There are now more than 60 franchises over the southeast.

So maybe, just MAYBE, I’ll give it a chance when it comes to campus.

How about you? Chicken Salad Chick yay or nay?

 

Applause for Tiger Dining

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It’s pretty hard to talk about dining in Auburn without at least taking a glimpse at on-campus options.

With a required meal plan of $300 for commuter students and $995 for residents each semester, it gets a lot of attention from students. Some love campus options and some hate them.

I tend to give Tiger Dining, the organization behind campus dining venues, credit. In the three years I’ve been here, there’s been a ton of changes.

We’ve gained a Chik-n-Grill, a Go Greek! and now a Chobani bar in the Student Center. They’ve added a lot of build-your-own-(insert food name here) venues in the Village Dining center, including stir-fry, pizza, pasta, salad, sushi and more.

Even good old Foy Hall has gotten a revamp with the addition of Panda Express, Tender Lovin’ Chicken (TLC) and Pizza Phlats. And Lord knows Terrell Hall has been fixed up quite nicely, now boasting a Taco Trek and an all-you-choose-to-eat option.

For people wanting to eat green? There’s a venue for that now, too! Lupton Hall in the Quad now holds not only the old favorite Lupton Deli, but also the new farm-to-table option Plains-to-Plate.

Carts and food trucks have even begun to roll onto campus.

I make no arguments for the prices–those are pretty steep sometimes–but the quality has really improved leaps and bounds.

As a resident assistant, I’ve met personally with Glenn Loughridge, the director of Campus Dining, multiple times. Somehow, the topic of healthy options comes up every time. Why? Because that’s what students want, so that is his focus.

How did Loughridge and Tiger Dining know what changes to make? They’ve made an effort to seek out student input and listen to what they have to say.

They’ve worked with Residence Life staff to try to see what residents want. They use Twitter and Facebook daily. There’s even a focus group of student with special dietary needs, such as gluten intolerance or vegan/vegetarian lifestyles, that helps give Tiger Dining an idea of what is needed on campus.

So no, Auburn does not have the giant cafeterias with all-you-can-eat buffets that you see on almost every other college campus. No, it’s not exactly cheap.

But we do have variety and we do have quality.

I, for one, applaud Tiger Dining.

As a little bonus, below is a video package I did recently on the addition of the Plains-to-Plate venue. Enjoy!

Video Story Critiques

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As a student who has been dipping her toes in the video-editing world in classes over the past couple of semesters, I have serious respect for the art.

It is not easy. At all.

So as I searched for food-or-restaurant related videos to critique for a class assignment, I could only imagine the effort these video creators put forth.

One website, Food.Curated., really impressed me. Liza de Guia is the founder and chief storyteller of the site. Her motto is, “All good food has a story. I tell it. On video.”

That sounded right up my alley, so I clicked on a few and watched. Wow. Here’s my take on a few of de Guia’s pieces:

The story “Grazin’s Grassfed Burgers: A Small Diner Aims to Make the Cleanest Burger You’ll Ever Eat” managed to do the impossible. It got me to actually watch a nine-minute video all the way through.

Yep. That was a miracle. I sometimes have the attention span of a squirrel.

The visuals are amazing. The opening shot is of hands–belonging to the main character, Andrew “Chip” Chiappinelli–molding a raw burger patty. It may be a little out of the ordinary to open with raw meat, but the quality of the colors in the shot are jarringly good, especially for in a kitchen. The music that plays over that part of the video helps catch the attention of the viewer.

The videographer has Chiappinelli tell about his passion of animal welfare and good food, then open up into the larger operation of the farm and some of the difficulties they face.

Chiappinelli is shown to be a very likable character. He’s portrayed as passionate about his craft and good-natured. He has an easy way of talking and seems comfortable, which adds to this representation of

Essentially, the main character is doing something entirely different from other diners. He and his father-in-law are borderline obsessed with the quality of the food they serve and the way in which it was sourced. He talks about how this turns some people off, but he’s OK with that.

He has a goal in life to prepare the “cleanest” possible food that he can. And he sticks to it.

The videographer uses Chiappinelli’s voice to tell the story along with an abundance of video of the diner, the farm, the animals and Chiappinelli himself working. The music the videographer chose to add helped transition between pieces of the story from introduction to background to what Grazin’s goal is and so on.

The natural sound could have been more prominent. There were many farm scenes where I just thought that adding in the mooing of a cow or amping up the sound of chickens would have helped the video.

To end the story, the videographer showed Chiappinelli telling a funny anecdote about a vegetarian in need of iron coming by and appreciating the way he prepares his meat. Then it cuts out as he mentions he wants everyone to enjoy the food experience he supplies.

As I look forward to my work, I will keep in mind the use of music to move the story along. Also, I like how the video work was done–great quality, dynamic angles, lots of variety. However, I think more natural sound is definitely necessary to have a fully-rounded piece.

The next story you should check out is also by de Guia on Food.Curated.

La Vara Churris: The Standard Which to Measure Every Churro” pulled me in with the opening shot of churros bubbling in a deep fryer as the main character, Alex Raij, saying she thinks that her restaurant, La Vara, makes the best churros.

To someone who loves food and cooking (read: me), that catches my attention. She said it’s the best and it looks pretty good, so I’m going to stay and watch what makes them the best. It reeled me in.

Raij is portrayed as a cute Argentine woman who just finds happiness in perfecting her churros. She mentions that she does “personal” versions of dishes. She values nostalgia in her food. She’s like a Latin Betty Crocker.

Raij’s quest is to make the best churros. She is specific in how she does it (a blend of Spanish, Mexican and Argentine traditions) and how it should be eaten (warm, with dulce de leche and maybe some hot chocolate). The videographer uses the excellent interview to both establish the character’s passion and to tell the story by playing it over delicious-looking video of Raij preparing churros.

Showing step-by-step how Raij makes the sweet confections also adds to the story arc.

The videographer wraps up the story by playing a sound byte of Raij talking about not finding any good churros in New York, but having found some good ones in North Carolin followed by a laugh. Though it was a bit of an abrupt way to end, the sound byte added to the character’s personality.

Once again, de Guia had excellent video, variety and use of music and sound bytes. I hope I can be this consistent in that area of my video storytelling.

But she also lacked good natural sound once again. I could just catch a little of the background noise under the music, but I think really cranking up the natural sound on the sound of the sizzling fryer or the mixer would have transported me to the kitchen.

For my third and final video story, I mixed it up a little. I wandered on over to Vimeo and stumbled upon a great member called Cool Video Hunting. The team that makes this page’s videos claims to shoot for innovation.

In their video story  “John Daley of New York Sushi Ko,” they certainly found it.

The video opens with a scene-setting shot of a busy sidewalk and music, then pulls the viewer into the sushi shop. This technique really pulled me in.

John Daley, a sushi chef, is the main character of this story. The videographer portrays him as a sushi purist who is dedicated to putting out the best and most authentic sushi. By playing Daley’s interview over a wide variety of shots, we both hear and see about his trade.

The details that Daley gives let the viewer know that he is serious about sushi. He studied under a master, then under his master’s master. Through this technique of allowing Daley to tell his own story, the videographer also portrays him as a little cocky rather than just confident.

It may not be the best character trait, but allowing that to come through was a really cool layer in the story.

As far as Daley’s quest goes, we see that he wants to serve the finest and freshest sushi.

Visually, we see this in the careful and precise way he cuts each fish and in the odd-looking techniques he utilizes (repeatedly slapping a wrapped-up fish?). Through his interview, we hear how he makes the extra effort by importing Japanese fish daily and how extensive he trained for this life.

The ending added to Daley’s respect of the art of sushi preparation and consumption. He comments that, if you come and enjoy one of the rolls, then, he says, “We’ve all grown today.”

I much preferred the natural sound in this piece to that in the previous two. I love how the videographer used the sounds of each stage of sushi preparation–from hitting the fish to wrapping it–to add to the experience.

After looking at these, I definitely know I want to focus on video quality and natural sound. In each of them, I think the music should be less prominent. That’s an issue I plan to avoid.

Any good food/restaurant video stories to recommend?

 

 

 

 

Cakeapota-what?

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“Let them eat cake,” Marie Antoinette supposedly once said.

Well, visit Cakeapotamus on Pepperell Parkway in Opelika and it’s obvious owner Amanda “Mandi” Buckalew has a similar message. However, Buckalew’s cakes are definitely not what the late French queen had in mind.

From sculpted “Harry Potter” Sorting Hats and Darth Vader riding a unicorn to stylish wedding and baby shower cakes, Buckalew has done it all.

“My clientele want 50-50 something nobody’s ever heard of or just something pretty,” she said.

She doesn’t discourage the quirky requests, though. In fact, the bakery itself practically begs customers to add to Buckalew’s unique portfolio (viewable in the photos on the bakery’s Facebook page).

Paraphernalia from “Dr. Who,” “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” litters nooks and crannies around the two-room shop. The walls are decorated with pictures from various parties held at “the Cakepot,” including princess tea parties and one “Star Wars”/”Ghost Busters” hybrid party for a 5-year-old girl. One wall bears a pink-painted bass fish on a plaque.

“It has a lot of character,” Buckalew said. “We have a lot of regulars and people who participate and wonderful things are happening.”

These wonderful things include active participation in events announced on the Cakeapotamus Facebook group. One such event was a field trip to the sing-a-long version of “Frozen” recently.

Buckalew credits the success of her shop to its unique style and her personal approach to owning a bakery.

“I opened in an old millhouse, not a strip mall,” she said. “And I decorated it with ‘Batman’ and ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Star Wars’ because that’s what I like.That resonates with people.”

Buckalew said owning and operating Cakeapotamus is her “happily ever after job.” As she lives out her fairytale, her shop allows customers to ride along.

 

For more information on Cakeapotamus, check out the website and Facebook page.

 

 

The Sights and Sounds of Wake Up Coffee Company

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My audio slideshow, entitled “Wake Up Coffee Company” (link below if the hyperlink fails), gives you the chance to hear from the very busy owner of the popular coffee shop, Wade Preston. He describes his inspiration, his coffee philosophy and a little bit about how his shop supports fair trade practices and artisan crafters. I hope you enjoy!

Full link:  https://googledrive.com/host/0B06vquViR27jWUhOU0tZTWhoUlE/index.html.

(Note: To get the full experience, click “captions” under the slideshow frame to enable picture captions)

A Fair Take on Coffee

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College students love coffee. Yeah, I just dropped some (obvious) knowledge on you.

What college students also love is when they can feel good about their purchases.

Our generation is often happy when we can not only buy our coffee, but know that the people who grew and picked it were treated well and paid fairly.

Enter Wake Up Coffee Company.

Take a look at the gallery below to see what this new South College Street shop brings to downtown Auburn.

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The Auburn branch is just one in the Wake Up Coffee Company tree. Each shop is dedicated to the same fair trade, sustainable and community-centered standards.

I don’t know about you, but I could go for a vanilla latte now.