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!

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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?

 

 

 

 

March Restaurant Madness

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Whether it was spent partying at the beach or chilling at home, spring break is–sadly–over.

A moment of silence, please.

Now, let’s be honest. Be it from drinking too much, going a little overboard on fast food or just over-doing it on Mom’s cooking, most of us probably lost sight of that New Year’s resolution over break.

We may be past the spring break-bod chase, but summer is coming fast. Swimsuits aside, eating a little better can make a big difference in how you feel. 

Luckily, there are a few affordable places here in Auburn that can help you get back on track in the health department. Take a look at a few of my favorites:

1. Panera Bread

Fresh salads, soups and sandwiches make this place popular. My personal favorite is the Thai chopped chicken salad–the peanut sauce that comes with it is to die for! And for those of us looking to watch the calorie-intake, Panera provides nutritional information next to each item on the menu. (And also on it’s website).

This part is a little bit of a win-lose. You feel great about your salad, but then you know how many calories that bagel you had this morning really contains.

My rule is to save the bakery items for special occasions. Maybe it’s the southern girl in me, but I feel that a good grade, getting that job or finishing a tough week at school merits a quality treat.

2. Pita Pit

This downtown pita shop is basically a Subway with cooler options (sorry Subway, you’re still the sub king). You can choose a meat and sauce to be cooked on the flat top, add any or all of the fresh veggies you like and choose between a whole wheat or white pita.

There’s also the option of making your pita “fork-style,” which puts all of the sandwich fixin’s of your choice onto a bed of lettuce and cuts out the carbs. Voila! The best salad ever.

Go to the Pita Pit website to “Build a Pita” and see the nutrition information for your creation.

3. Taziki’s

This just-opened gem is located in the new strip between CVS and Barbecue House on South College Street. On of the Mediterranean Diet? Well, get your greek-food fix at this fast-casual eatery.

As a chain, the menu at Taziki’s is pretty standard at all locations. It features appetizers, soups, salads, wraps, entrees and more–all ready in a matter of minutes.

The hummus with baked, seasoned pita is an excellent starter to share with a few friends. It tastes incredibly fresh and puts packaged hummus to shame (sorry, Tribe Roasted Red Pepper).

My favorite meal is the mediterranean salad. It’s full of chickpeas, roasted red peppers, feta cheese and other goodies. On top of all that, it comes in at under 400 calories! (Did I mention that Taziki’s provides nutritional information, too?)

These are just three of my personal favorites. A few honorable mentions go to Smoothie King, Earth Fare, Moe’s Southwest Grill (with a few modifications) and good old Subway.

So let’s get back on that healthy-eating bandwagon and fight the post-spring break slump. Are there any good locations that I missed? Comment with your favorites.