Grape Harvesting and Wine Sampling

This past weekend, myself and a bunch of the other dietetic interns went to Walpole Mountain View Winery in Walpole, NH to help harvest grapes. Random, I know. It all started about 3-4 weeks ago, when I was running along Court Street and saw a small sign for the winery at a traffic circle. I took a picture of the sign so I could look it up later once I got home. After perusing the website a bit, I found that not only did they have a tasting room, but they also have harvesting dates that community members can sign up for. Luckily, Nikki was coming to visit me the following weekend (YAY), so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out this place and try some wine. Unfortunately, we decided to follow a GPS to get there, which brought us to a dirt road/driveway and up to someone’s private property where we then proceeded to turn around (while avoiding running over their barking dog) and get directions from a woman who lived there (who came out of her house with her baby). Meanwhile, the GPS was still insisting the winery was there, on this woman’s private property…it was not. Very reminiscent of The Office episode when Michael drives his car into a pond because he insists on following the technology (watch here for a laugh). IMG_9149 Anyway, eventually, after driving many more miles (some in the wrong direction), suffering from poor cell signal, failing GPS, and dropped calls to the winery, we finally made it. Nikki and I were given lists of the wines available to try and got to check off whichever 6 we wanted, while cross referencing from a detailed description of each. We decided to try a variety of dry versus sweet, red versus white and rose, etc. We also decided to get some Cabot cheese and crackers (butterfly crackers, of course) to have with our wine. For the very reasonable $5, we also got to take home a wine glass as a souvenir (stemmed or unstemmed).

Tough choices

Tough choices

While they were pouring our samples, we watched a 5 minute video in another room about the winemaking process and this winery specifically.

Proof that learning can be fun

Proof that learning can be fun

We then continued into the tasting room, beautifully decorated and with plenty of glass windows so visitors can drink while looking out at the scenic NH mountain view.

View from the tasting room

View from the tasting room

We sampled our wines one by one, swirling them around in our new wine glasses and eating bites of cheese and crackers in between.

Reminds me of those sorority paddles girls always decorate. But this is better. Because it has wine in it.

Reminds me of those sorority paddles girls always decorate. But this is better. Because it has wine in it.

Nikki was the expert, as she reminisced about taking a 9am wine-tasting class abroad in Sydney two years ago. I, on the other hand, knew nothing about how to properly taste wine.

The pro

The pro. But she just wants to eat the Cabot cheese let’s be real.

We didn’t end up loving any of the wines enough to want to buy a whole bottle to take home, but sampling was fun and for $5, it was a very affordable and enjoyable afternoon activity. Note: we ate the entire block of Cabot cheese and sleeve of butterfly crackers #noshame.

Cheers! Yay for visiting friends! <3

Cheers! Yay for visiting friends! ❤

In addition to offering taste tests of their wine, I also found, while perusing the winery’s website, that they have harvesting days on weekends throughout October and are always in need of community members to volunteer and help harvest grapes. After this initial visit with Nikki 3 weeks ago, I reached out to the other dietetic interns, figuring others besides myself would probably be interested in learning about grapes and winemaking (it contains antioxidants, right?!).

Nikki and grapes

Nikki and grapes

As expected, the majority of the girls (I can say that because, per usual, there’s a lack of males in this dietetic internship program. And by lack of, I mean zero) were interested. I got everyone’s availability and coordinated with Virginia (the winery owner) a date that worked best for everyone. So last Saturday 8 of us woke up (way too early for a weekend but oh well) and drove 30 minutes to the winery (once again, despite giving clear instructions to others who were driving, I still messed up the directions myself and got semi-lost in a no-cell area). When we got there, Virginia had set up a breakfast area for all of us to fuel up before we headed out to start picking the grapes. While drinking some coffee, we were handed tasting sheets (the same ones I got when I had come with Nikki a few weeks prior) to check off the 6 wines we would later want to try. We were given the description sheets so everyone could read what flavors they have, what they pair well with, their alcohol and residual sugar content, etc. Once we’d made those hard decisions (this time I stuck to just the white wines–my favorites), we then went around the room and did some introductions (there were about 20 people helping overall), and then we were given a bucket to sit on, a pad for the bucket, gloves, some sort of grape picking tool, and an old coffee container that was used to collect the ‘ugly grapes’ aka the ones that weren’t quite ripe yet, may have had mold, had dried up, etc.

Dietetic interns turned volunteer day laborers

Dietetic interns turned volunteer day laborers

There was also a reporter from the New Hampshire Chronicle doing a story on the winery, so if and when the video is released, (assuming I sound like a literate human being and it’s not embarrassing) I’ll have to find it and post it (my moment of fame!).

Half grapes, half raisins!

Half grapes, half raisins!

Lucky for us, grape harvesting isn’t actually very physically demanding. Most of the time we were able to sit on our buckets and pick the grapes, occasionally standing to get the harder-to-reach bunches (#shortpeopleproblems). The tool she gave us to use (wish I could remember the name) easily cut right through the vines. IMG_9140 Thankfully, it’s late enough in the season now that there aren’t many bees, so I didn’t have to constantly be worried about them attacking us. On the downside, though, it turned out to be a much chillier morning than we had anticipated. According to the meteorologists (why do we ever trust them?!), it was going to be relatively warm and sunny. Yet the clouds remained and the temperature didn’t seem to increase over 45ish until probably noon when finally the sun started to peek out of the clouds. However, along with that came some strong wind, made even stronger because we were on a mountain. Despite the weather, it was a pretty enjoyable morning. While picking, you have lots of time to chat with the people sitting next to or opposite you, and because you are constantly moving around (play leap-frog, if you will), you get to talk to a lot of different people which made it even more fun and made the time pass by pretty quickly actually. It was also great to catch up with the different interns after we’d all had our first week at our different rotations.

So many grapes

So many grapes

By about 12:45, we had harvested 3 very long rows of grapes and it was time to head back inside to get lunch. They had prepared several soups for us (just what we needed, since we’d been so unprepared for the cooler weather), along with fresh bread, cheese, cookies, and salad. And, of course, we got our wine samples. We sat at a round bench outside (because it was finally sunny) and attempted to eat and drink while the wind tried to knock over our new wine glasses (rude!).

Samples and tasting sheet

Samples and tasting sheet

Cheers! We earned those little samples (and no we didn't bother using our new wine glasses this time)

Cheers! We earned those little samples (and no we didn’t bother using our new wine glasses this time)

Before leaving the winery, we also had the opportunity to stomp some grapes with our bare feet–definitely a bucket list item checked off. IMG_9175 We first had to hose our feet down, then stepped into one warm water bucket (may have contained something else but I don’t remember), then stepped into the grape bucket which was very cold and slimy but so much fun. We ended up fitting 5 of us in it at once (quality bonding right there). Then you step in another warm water bucket on your way out of the grapes before heading back to the hose to rinse off. It was a really fun way to end the morning.

Awww.

Awww.

So now that I’ve been to the Walpole Mountain View Winery twice within the last month, it’s time to try some others! While there, I picked up a brochure of all the NH wineries, so stay tuned… #livefreeordie

Too bad this didn't count as our 'community elective hours'...

Too bad this didn’t count as our ‘community elective hours’…

Brattleboro Farmers’ Market

Well my first flog post since moving to NH is actually going to be about VT…whoops.

Now that I’ve moved to Keene for a year for my dietetic internship, I’m going to try to take advantage of all this area has to offer. Keene has a farmers’ market that I have yet to visit, but our program directors highly recommended the Brattleboro Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings only a half hour away.

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So it was decided. I would go with two other girls in the program (yay! new foodie friends!) early Saturday morning to A) get there before the rush and B) beat the rain. The drive was super easy, no complaints there. We parked and then headed into the rectangular ring of colorful booths, tables, and tents that had been set up.

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One of our program directors had even emailed us a detailed list of vendors she likes/knows personally, so that helped guide us around a bit, and it gave us something to talk about with certain vendors which is always a more enjoyable experience.

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Unique to this farmers’ market, I was surprised by the number of booths selling Asian cuisine…? Seemed kind of random/unexpected. There were several booths set up selling thai food, and even one selling dim sum. I did not order anything but both Becca and Jackie got scallion pancakes which they liked.

Scallion pancake

Scallion pancake

Dim sum, what are you doing here?

Dim sum, what are you doing here?

I stuck to my sweet tooth and visited the lady selling delicious smelling pastries at the Wild Flower Bakery table. I ordered a walnut brownie, dark chocolate souffle/muffin thing, and some blueberry tart dessert (that I somehow didn’t take a picture of). But just take my word for it, they were delicious and looked as great as they tasted.

Instead, here's a picture of gorgeous edible flowers I didn't purchase but wanted to.

Instead, here’s a picture of gorgeous edible flowers I didn’t purchase but wanted to.

Classic VT

Classic VT

From there, I decided I actually had to buy some healthy produce to make up for all the baked goods I had just purchased. After making two loops around to see all the different vendors’ offerings, I decided to get several long rhubarb stalks, fresh rosemary, and raspberries from one vendor, heirloom cherry tomatoes from another, and beets and kale from a third. Needless to say, it was a good call bringing my large grocery bag with me.

Heaven for a bunch of dietetics students

Heaven for a bunch of dietetics students

There were also vendors selling flowers, jewelry, soaps, and other random goodies that reminded me of SOWA but more ‘rustic’ if you will.

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My plan:

Beets–> roasted beet, goat cheese, walnut, golden raisin salad

Kale–> kale chips: Doesn’t really require a recipe, but I did refer to this Food Network one for oven temp etc. just to be safe!

Heirloom cherry tomatoes–> caprese salad: fresh mozzerella, basil, tomatoes, EVOO, balsamic reduction, salt/pepper

Fresh rosemary–> rosemary lemonade

Rhubarb–>Strawberry, rhubarb, peach pie

Raspberries–>plain

 

 

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The Boston Tea Party

21st birthdays are notorious for drinking alcohol. But by 22, the legal drinking age excitement has worn off (somewhat…), so for Nikki’s birthday this past week, we opted for a different beverage–tea.

I had never been to high tea before, though my mind was full of stereotypes such as finger sandwiches, fancy china, and biscuits. I was excited to see these stereotypes either fulfilled or negated. We had talked about going to tea at the Taj hotel during senior week, but those plans fell through when we found out their afternoon tea is only offered on weekends. Nikki, however, found out that the Langham Boston Hotel has afternoon tea on weekdays from 2-7 (the Langham in London has been serving afternoon tea since 1865), and since her birthday fell on a Tuesday, what better way to celebrate than a long, leisurely meal spent with our pinkies up in a city known for its Tea Party (#history)?

Afternoon tea at the Langham is served in Tiffin, a restaurant/lounge/bar/cafe area that’s off to the left of the main hotel lobby. Complete with super soft white chairs and white pillows, we got comfortable quickly (Passover-style reclining, duh) and then perused the menu, which consists of two prix fixe options. I ordered the ‘Tiffin’ option, which is slightly cheaper, and Nikki ordered the ‘Reserve’ option, which was slightly more expensive (simply due to a small glass of rosé wine and a proscuitto plate). We obviously ordered the two different options on purpose, intending to split every single item (no matter how small it already was) in order to try everything they offered. We also ate each dish at the same time and in the same order (should the curried chicken sandwich go first? Or last? It was a tough call.).

Tea and wine. Life is good.

Tea and wine. Life is good.

After Nikki’s proscuitto di parma appetizer with stone fruit, cracked pepper, and honey, we were served our first plate, a variety of adorable finger sandwiches. My favorite was a tie between the classic cucumber sandwich with chive farmer’s cheese and French white bread and the house smoked salmon, crème fraîche and dill finger sandwich on brioche. Nikki’s favorite was the Maine lobster salad on brioche (fitting because, as an alternative birthday plan, we had discussed driving to the Cape for the day).

Tea sandwiches:  House smoked salmon, crème fraîche and dill on brioche; egg and scallion salad on granary; coronation chicken en vol-au-vent;  English cucumber with chive farmer’s cheese and French white bread

4 of 8 tea sandwiches (pre-splitting them):
House smoked salmon, crème fraîche and dill on brioche; egg and scallion salad on granary; coronation chicken en vol-au-vent; English cucumber with chive farmer’s cheese and French white bread

The sandwich portion of the meal was then followed by a scone basket. My meal came with two traditional cream scones, while Nikki’s came with two cherry scones. Again, we exchanged one for one in order to try both. We were also given Devonshire clotted cream, strawberry jam, and lemon curd. I didn’t have a strong preference of one over the other, as I think they were made with the same batter and just one simply had cherries added to it. The scones were the most filling portion of the meal. I didn’t really expect to be full from high tea, as I expected portions to be miniscule–and, for the most part, they were. But the scones were actually normal-sized so filling up on bread mid-meal was a slight issue.

Holding up to the stereotype. I don't hate it.

Holding up to the stereotype. I don’t hate it.

This, however, didn’t stop us, of course. As we still had dessert to look forward to. My meal came with a marmalade tartlet, chocolate madeline, raspberry napoleon, lemon panna cotta, and blackberry parfait. Nikki’s included chocolate, caramel and Gloucester sea salt tartlet, toasted coconut buttercream cupcakes, strawberry hazelnut linzer, and vanilla crème brûlée with apricot compote. Of the desserts, the winner was definitely the chocolate tartlet (which, luckily, we had saved for last). However, aesthetically, the winner was the blackberry parfait that–I kid you not–was served with edible gold leaf #classy.

Marmalade tartlet, chocolate madeline, raspberry napoleon, lemon panna cotta and blackberry parfait. GOLD LEAF. ON A BLACKBERRY.

Marmalade tartlet, chocolate madeline, raspberry napoleon, lemon panna cotta and blackberry parfait. GOLD LEAF. ON A BLACKBERRY.

The most disappointing portion of the meal was the little extra birthday plate served (that I not-so-sneakily requested from our waiter while Nikki went to the bathroom). Presentation was great, but the three dessert bites were all mediocre-tasting at best. The plate consisted of a raspberry macaroon (didn’t hold a candle to Laduree, but I’ve been spoiled), and then two other desserts I don’t even remember now (which thus shows how unimpressive they must’ve been). But we weren’t charged for this dessert plate, so can’t really complain I guess!

Blowing out the candle.

Blowing out the candle.

And, most importantly (?), the tea! We made the mistake of ordering the same kind on round 1 (not because we didn’t like it, but because it would’ve been smarter to order two different teas to try two different flavors). Nonetheless, we both enjoyed our refreshing white peach teas. Once we had finished our first pot, we ordered another, this time getting different ones.

Tea tools.

Tea tools.

Nikki ordered the tropical green tea, and I ordered the English flower blend, which was pleasant and mild, like a more floral chamomile tea. All this fluid contributed to our feeling super full…but we just kept going. The tea came in beautiful white individual tea pots with a pink floral pattern that happened to oddly match the dress I wore. The first pot had already been steeped in the back before it was brought out to us, and the second pot we ordered came with a small hourglass timer which told us when it was ready to drink.

Casually matching the china. #pinkiesup

Casually matching the china. #pinkiesup

Overall, it was a fun, entertaining experience. The quiet, un-rushed (such a rarity these days) atmosphere was relaxing and conducive to conversation, and there was something fun about being the youngest diners (by far) in the room. It was definitely a splurge activity–both time-wise and money-wise, but perfect for birthday celebrations. There’s something so much more fun about getting to try lots of different things as opposed to just one main dish; it reminds me of Spanish tapas, except quieter, more refined, and instead of lots of different dishes on lots of different little plates, you get lots of little dishes on just one plate (coincidentally, her birthday dinner plan involved tapas…so clearly Europeans have the right idea). Interestingly, when you only have a bite or two of a dish, it makes you eat slower and more focused–being more aware of what you’re eating and enjoying those two bites while they last, before moving onto the next mini-dish.

Cheers to 22! And hopefully many more classy birthday celebrations in years to come 🙂

Because, even on her day off, Nikki just can't stay away from fancy hotels apparently ;)

Because, even on her day off, Nikki just can’t stay away from fancy hotels apparently 😉

 

 

Raspberry Picking

It’s slightly awkward when you show up to the farm to go blueberry picking, only to find out that there is, in fact, no blueberry picking. However, my disappointment was short-lived, as we immediately learned that, instead, it was prime raspberry picking time.

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Though I admit I was temporarily upset about no longer being able to make the 1209729 blueberry recipes I’d researched throughout the previous two days, I got over it as soon as I walked up to the rows and rows of raspberry bushes, filled with berries waiting to be plucked and put into our little baskets ($5 each).

Doesn't get fresher than that.

Doesn’t get fresher than that.

As our ultimate destination for the day was Rockport, MA, I specifically looked up farms that were on the way and came across Brooksby Farm in Peabody, which was only a five minute drive off the highway and worked out beautifully. We were pleasantly surprised to find a bunch of animals on the premises (and a ton of adorable children trying to feed them), including some chickens, roosters, pigs, sheep, etc. Really just enhanced the whole farm thing. In addition, the farm has a store that sells some of their own produce, as well as baked goods, canned jams, soaps, etc. from local companies. It was adorable and I wanted to buy everything (particularly the monkey bread…but I resisted knowing there were many other delicious things to be had in Rockport a few hours later). 

With my new animal friends. Photo cred: Sophia

With my new animal friends. Photo cred: Sophia

The premises was gorgeous. And it helped that it was a beautiful day. My friend Sophia and I spent about 45 minutes walking up and down the rows and rows of red and yellow raspberry bushes amidst children and their parents (there is something so charming about little kids being so excited about picking their own food). Truth be told, the yellow raspberries actually tasted much better than the red ones (less tart, more sweet–but mildly sweet like a white peach); we knew this because we were obviously eating our way through the rows as we slowly added to our little baskets (you have to taste test, of course).

Gorgeous

Gorgeous

Overall, it was a pretty similar experience to apple picking last fall, but on a much smaller scale. It was more fun to eat your way through the raspberries, though, because they are so small. Sampling apple after apple gets to be filling (or wasteful if you don’t actually eat all of it). Raspberry picking is a bit more challenging though, in my opinion, because they are so fragile; you have to very delicately grasp each one, with enough strength to remove it from its stem, but not so much force as to crush it with just your thumb and pointer finger. It requires more attention and care.

That's the kind of focus I'm talking about. Serious business.

That’s the kind of focus I’m talking about. Serious business.

In any case, I decided not to bake with my raspberries–they were simply too good to alter in any way. I am using the past tense because, obviously, they are all already gone.

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“Californify It:” Eating our way through LA

This year for spring break I decided to do something different. One of my best friends has been studying ‘abroad’ in LA this semester for BU’s film/tv program, and, given that I have never been before, I figured this was a good opportunity to experience a new (and warm!) place while reuniting. It turned into a super fun group trip which entailed a detailed Google doc (thanks to my OCD) to meticulously plan the 3 days, jam in as much touristy activities and eating as possible, and forever be made fun of by my friends.

Though we were only there for three days, we managed to try a lot of really good food. I shamelessly had my phone out and ready to take photos to capture each and every place and most dishes. I’ll go in chronological order:

1) In-n-Out:
Well, our hotel happened to be LITERALLY right next door, so we couldn’t NOT get In-n-Out for our first meal at midnight when we arrived. It was an obligation. The place was jam packed at that hour and we even had to wait a little while (so much for their name). In any case, I’m not much of a burger person (sue me) so I don’t have too much to say…I got a regular cheeseburger and chocolate milkshake. Probably would’ve enjoyed it more had it not been 3am in my head at the time. I was also slightly confused because apparently In-n-Out has this sort of ‘secret menu’ that only regulars/non-tourists/BuzzFeed readers know about. News to me!

The hungry crew after our 6-hr flight NOMMING.

The hungry crew after our 6-hr flight NOMMING.

Cheeseburger and shake.

Cheeseburger and shake.

Reunited at last <3

Reunited at last ❤

2) Gladstones
On day one, we woke up early and drove to Surfrider beach (Malibu area) to soak up some sun and, at least for me, stick my feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. The beach was gorgeous, but as much as we wanted to stay out in the sun for hours on end, we were soon hungry. Since we had been told by two separate individuals to go to Gladstones, we figured we should probably try it. It’s located right off the oh-so-scenic Pacific Coast Highway as we headed back toward Santa Monica. We gave our name to the hostess and had to wait for about 15 minutes in the lounge area until our table was ready. The waiting went by quickly though, as we were entertained by the sandbox built into the lounge area. Dan tried to make friends while we occupied ourselves by assigning other little kids as mini versions of ourselves (i.e. the little girl with the hat was me, the little girl with the ice cream all over her face was Nikki, etc).
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So about the food…everything on the menu looked amazing and I would’ve easily eaten anything on it. It was a tough decision bu I finally decided on the fish tacos (sounded very Cali to me at the time). Dan tried ceviche for the first time (so proud), Hannah got a flatbread pizza (goat cheese yes please), Nikki got some sort of wrap that she ‘Californified’ (which pretty much means just adding avocado to said dish), and Chris got a cajun grilled salmon sandwich. Although pitchers weren’t on the menu, we inquired anyway and managed to swing a pitcher of blackberry/raspberry margarita (good decision). The amazing meal was made even better by the perfect weather and view of the beach.

Right on the beach.

Right on the beach.

Cheers to spring break #hydration

Cheers to spring break #hydration

Mango salmon tacos with guac, mango salsa, and limes. #socal

Mango salmon tacos with guac, mango salsa, and limes. #socal

3) The Grove:
The next day, after an incredible tour of Warner Bros., we went to The Grove, a must-see item on the Google doc. I didn’t know what exactly ‘The Grove’ consisted of, despite how much I’d heard of it, so I was really open to anything. Turns out, it’s this incredibly beautiful outdoor shopping area and, attached to it, there is an amazing semi-covered farmer’s market area with virtually every type of cuisine you could possibly want.

Farmer's Market

Farmer’s Market

We did one walk-through just to get a lay of the land, and then we had to make the very difficult decision (#firstworldproblems) of where to settle down and actually buy lunch. Chris and I settled on a cute little French place and Dan, Nikki, and Hannah decided on Mexican (#carnitas, Dan?).

Croissant with brie, apples, and proscuitto and side salad with mustard viniagrette

Croissant with brie, apples, and proscuitto and side salad with mustard viniagrette

Quesadilla

Quesadilla

Chris and his massive crepe

Chris and his massive crepe

While I was waiting for the three Mexican diners to get their food (I was polite and didn’t want to start without them, though I may have nibbled on some of the croissant because how could I not?), I walked over to a little fresh produce stand and FINALLY came upon the avocados I’d been searching for. I purchased 2 perfectly ripe avocados (though I was hoping they would be cheaper considering we were in California…oh well #worthit). I couldn’t wait and immediately cut into one so I could add it to the sandwich I bought for lunch. And that is what we are calling ‘californifying’ it.

$1.99/avocado and worth every penny

$1.99/avocado and worth every penny

Me being me.

Me being me.

I brought the other avocado home and had it for breakfast (duh) because our Days Inn ‘continental breakfast’ was just not cutting it. Mashed avocado is SUCH a great alternative to cream cheese/butter/jam on toast. Breakfast of champions.

When in California...

When in California…

On the way out of the Grove, we had to get ice cream (because when it’s warm out, it’s pretty much an obligation). So we stopped at Bennett’s which had a wide variety of flavors to suit all of our cravings. I couldn’t resist ordering a Cabernet Sauvignon sorbet (because I’m such a huge fan of JP Licks’ Maneschewitz sorbet which only is offered twice per year in Boston). It was delicious and refreshing (and classy?).

So many choices!

So many choices!

Cute old fashioned register

Cute old fashioned register

NOM

NOM

4) Carney’s:
We met up with a friend from BU who graduated last year (shoutout to Saba) and who is now out in Cali writing for the LA Times (here’s to hoping for employment come graduation…). After much discussion, we finally decided to meet up at Carney’s, a very unique restaurant because it is actually in an old train! Very cool. The menu included primarily burgers, so I got a turkey burger and sweet potato fries (my favorite) which I pretty much watched the cooks make the entire time because they cook right in front of the waiting customers.

yummm

yummm

A real train!

A real train!

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5) Griddle Cafe
I’m not sure where to begin. Our friend Jeremy made it very clear during the planning process that this restaurant was a must. So we decided to go for brunch after hiking Runyon Canyon (so the calories would cancel out?). The photos really don’t it justice, so just take my word for it. The pancakes are the size of medium-large pizzas and they are typically served three at a time. While we waited for our table, we saw how massive the portions were and knew better than to order a stack of three pizza-pancakes. Instead, we opted for the single pancakes, which, it turns out, are still too large to eat in one sitting.

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In addition to pancakes, the cafe serves egg dishes, french toast, and non-brunch items. The 6 of us managed to order quite an array of dishes as the photos clearly show. There was no way we could finish–or even close to finish–all the food that came to our table.

The fruit makes the meal healthy, right? Eh....

The fruit makes the meal healthy, right? Eh….

Another egg dish

Baked potato omelet

Jeremy and his Chocolate Chip Cookie Crusted French Toast. This shouldn't be legal.

Jeremy and his Chocolate Chip Cookie Crusted French Toast. This shouldn’t be legal.

Chris for some reason adding syrup to his Nutella stuffed French toast. Because it wasn't sweet enough as is...?

Chris for some reason adding syrup to his Nutella stuffed French toast. Because it wasn’t sweet enough as is…?

For the first time ever, I witnessed Dan NOT finish the food he ordered. Pictured: 'Black Magic' pancake (oreo filled) and the 'A Time to Love' pancake filled with streusel, butterscotch chips, caramel).

For the first time ever, I witnessed Dan NOT finish the food he ordered. Pictured: ‘Black Magic’ pancake (oreo filled) and the ‘A Time to Love’ pancake filled with streusel, butterscotch chips, caramel).

My red velvet pancake topped with streusel and cream cheese frosting. It tasted just like a cupcake but in pancake form. And beautiful presentation!

My red velvet pancake topped with streusel and cream cheese frosting. It tasted just like a cupcake but in pancake form. And beautiful presentation!

Nikki and Hannah's split third dish: 'Banana-nana' pancake with brown sugar baked bananas mixed into the batter.

Nikki and Hannah’s split third dish: ‘Banana-nana’ pancake with brown sugar baked bananas mixed into the batter.

Needless to say, we needed to be rolled out of the cafe. Moving was a struggle to say the least.

The aftermath.

The aftermath.

The waiters may or may not have come outside to check to make sure we were okay...

The waiters may or may not have come outside to check to make sure we were okay…

6) Diddy Riese Cookies:
Jeremy insisted we visit this cookie shop located by UCLA. Considering how great his Griddle Cafe recommendation was, we figured trusting his recommendation was a good call. So after visiting UCLA and admiring the beautiful campus (too late to transfer? JK…), we stopped by the little shop to each get a handful of cookies. That being said, I still felt so full from brunch that I got the cookies to-go. The place only takes cash which is annoying, but, at $0.35/each, the cookies are SO incredibly cheap I really shouldn’t complain. I admit I have high cookie standards (the gold standard remains Paradise Bakery) so they were not the absolute best cookies ever, but they were definitely worth the visit. They were all completely full of chocolate chips/M&Ms/etc which was great.

If there's a line, it has to be good.

If there’s a line, it has to be good.

COOKIES

COOKIES

Unlike me to just buy two...but I somehow did. One dark chocolate and one regular chocolate chip.

Unlike me to just buy two…but I somehow did. One dark chocolate and one regular chocolate chip.

Believe it or not, we actually did other things in LA besides eating, I swear. But it holds true that the best way to explore a new place is through its food.

Eating Our Way Through Utah

I am a firm believer that the best way to get to know a new place when travelling is through its food. So, I made sure to take copious mental notes, as well as many iPhone-quality photos, on my most recent trip to Park City, UT. My family has been traveling to the area every winter break for about 10 years now, so we’ve had some time to figure out the cuisine of the area. We tend to return to our same favorite restaurants year after year (creatures of habit), though every once in a while we’ll throw in something new and different.

First, it is difficult to convey this in writing, so you’ll have to take my word for it. The quality of the on-mountain food served at Deer Valley is bar-none. I have skied at numerous other resorts around the country, and not only does Deer Valley’s food surpass all other on-mountain food, it also surpasses most gourmet, upscale restaurant-quality cuisine. I am not the only one who feels this way; Deer Valley Resort is notoriously ranked highly because of its renowned food and customer service. I own their cookbook (yes, they publish and sell an overpriced cookbook for foodie tourists such as myself).

I kid you not–we were having lunch with our family friends (shoutout to the Matz family) at Empire Lodge on our first ski day when a couple chefs came out of the kitchen wheeling a huge clear tub filled with legs of lamb marinating in gallons of olive oil and herbs. While we ate our gourmet panini sandwiches, flourless chocolate cakes, and beef/lamb pot pies (can’t make this stuff up), we watched these chefs tie and hang the legs of lamb in front of the fireplace to start slow roasting the meat (to be served at dinner for those lucky enough to eat there twice in one day). Lunch and a show (I won’t get into the sanitation of these procedures at the moment, which we were all seriously questioning but will let go because the food is just too darn good)!

Can't make this stuff up.

Can’t make this stuff up.

Deer Valley is clearly really vegetarian friendly...

Deer Valley is clearly really vegetarian friendly…

Beef/lamb pot pie with a perfect golden-brown puff pastry crust. Deer Valley's famous carrot cake.

Beef/lamb pot pie with a perfect golden-brown puff pastry crust. Deer Valley’s famous carrot cake. Not your typical on-mountain food.

In past years, we’ve tended to ski more frequently at Deer Valley than the other mountains nearby (usually because we want to eat lunch there…now you know why). This year, however, we spent more time skiing at The Canyons Resort, a mountain about a 15 min drive from Deer Valley and a 5 min drive from our condo (the Canyons also has cheaper lift tickets). The on-mountain food is not on the same playing field as Deer Valley’s, but I would still like to highlight 2 good lunches:

First, there is a Belgian waffle hut called Bruges Waffle by the Red Pine Lodge which serves THE most delicious waffles. They are coated in sugar so that, when cooked, the outside becomes sweet and crispy, and they are served with whipped cream and strawberries/raspberries/blueberries. But, the best part–they are STUFFED with dark Belgian chocolate which melts and oozes out as you cut into the breakfast/dessert concoction. As a nutrition student, I do not endorse this as a well-balanced, nutritious lunch. As a hungry skier on vacation, however, I fully support it.

Lunch of champions.

Lunch of champions.

Another good lunch at The Canyons was at the Tombstone Grill, an outdoor BBQ joint by the Tombstone lift mid-mountain. While I wouldn’t be too thrilled eating outside on a cold, snowy  day, it was the perfect choice for a sunny, (relatively) warm ski day. I ordered the BBQ pulled pork sandwich (because I’m such a good Jew) which came with a side of cole slaw and cornbread. Wasn’t a fan of the cornbread, but the pork was delicious and hit the spot. Portion was pretty decent too, as you can see. Also, service was super quick, which is always a plus when you’ve paid for an expensive lift ticket and want to get as much skiing out of it as possible.

That's a lot of meat.

That’s a lot of meat.

With all of the above said, dining on the mountain is NOT cheap. There are ways to be thrify, however. Take a lesson from my father, whose eating habits never cease to entertain us.

Bringing an apple and pack of honey in his jacket with him...happy Rosh Hashanah, everyone.

Bringing an apple and pack of honey in his jacket with him #freelunch…happy Rosh Hashanah, everyone.

Adding his own crushed cheese crackers to the free crackers that came with our paninis #carbsoncarbsoncarbs

Adding his own crushed cheese crackers to the free crackers that came with our paninis #carbsoncarbsoncarbs

His annual free birthday dessert at Ruths Chris in Park City: caramelized banana cream pie.

His annual free birthday dessert at Ruths Chris in Park City: caramelized banana cream pie.

Moving onto some other meals out and about throughout Park City.

For dinner one night, we decided to try something new and different. My family, as well as our family friends, went to Shabu Shabu in the Redstone development (not to be confused with Shabu on Main St) to experience a claypot pho dinner–a first for us all. It was an experience, to say the least. We all bonded over how utterly confused we were throughout the process. It did become pretty clear, however, that Americans would all be much healthier if we ate pho all the time.

I ordered a plain chicken pho soup. Huge portions.

I ordered a plain chicken pho soup. Huge portions.

Corinne, Mollie, and Ethan smile as they receive a pho steam facial.

Corinne, Mollie, and Ethan smile as they receive a pho steam facial.

For a more conventional meal, my mother, sister, and I ate at Zoom on Main Street for lunch one day when we took a day off skiing. Interestingly, the restaurant was opened in 1995 by Robert Redford and is a Sundance Resort Restaurant. The vibe is very chic and modern-mountain-esque, which supports the eclectic menu well. I ordered the bison/beef/venison chili, Corinne ordered the truffle mac and cheese starter as a main course, and my mother ordered the special of the day which was a grilled halibut sandwich. The three of us shared a side of sweet potato fries (because if and when that’s on a menu, you can’t not order it). Despite the wait (we couldn’t get in for lunch until 2:30pm since we hadn’t made a reservation beforehand), the food was worth it and we were not disappointed.

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Perfectly crisp and salty.

When out west, how can you not order wild game chili? Homemade corn muffin on the side.

When out west, how can you not order wild game chili? Homemade corn muffin on the side.

Truffled mac with bacon. Doesn't get any richer than that.

Truffled mac with bacon. Doesn’t get any richer than that.

Grilled halibut sandwich and side of fries (not as good as the sweet potato ones though)

Grilled halibut sandwich and side of fries (not as good as the sweet potato ones though)

The last meal of the vacation to discuss took place at Riverhorse on Main. We’ve been coming to this restaurant for a number of years now; it never seems to disappoint. The upscale restaurant was re-modeled recently and is stunning. As beautiful as the decor is, though, the food is not to be outshined. The specials are always innovative (my dad ordered a special–tortilla-encrusted grouper) and I appreciate the freebies that come with the meal–an amuse bouche as well as a dessert treat that comes with the bill.

Our amuse-bouche of the evening: salmon mousse on a cracker.

Our amuse-bouche of the evening: salmon mousse on a cracker.

Fried goat cheese salad with heirloom tomatoes, balsamic syrup, and microgreens.

Fried goat cheese salad with heirloom tomatoes, balsamic syrup, and microgreens.

My mom's dish: UT red trout with pistachio crust, forbidden rice, pomegranate salsa, and arugula

My mom’s dish: UT red trout with pistachio crust, forbidden rice, pomegranate salsa, and arugula

My dad's dish: the special of the evening--tortilla-encrusted grouper with black beans and avocado aioli

My dad’s dish: the special of the evening–tortilla-encrusted grouper with black beans and avocado aioli

My sister's dish: macadamia-crusted halibut with broccolini, herb-whipped potatoes, and mango

My sister’s dish: macadamia-crusted halibut with broccolini, herb-whipped potatoes, and mango

My dish (again with the wild game): slow roasted buffalo short ribs with red currant compote and parmesan steak fries.

My dish (again with the wild game): slow roasted buffalo short ribs with red currant compote and parmesan steak fries.

The best part: their molten lava cake. By far the best lava cake I've ever had anywhere. That's saying a lot because I've tried many.

The best part: their molten lava cake. By far the best lava cake I’ve ever had anywhere. That’s saying a lot because I’ve tried many.

Free dessert treat with the bill: homemade dark chocolate truffles and peanut brittle.

Free dessert treat at the end of the meal to make paying the bill not as sad: homemade dark chocolate truffles and peanut brittle.

Needless to say, it was hard to pick a favorite dish (jk the lava cake wins every time).

I’ll end with my favorite quote from the trip. I’ll set the scene: we were in the car leaving the mountain and my dad, making conversation, asks my sister: “What was your favorite part of the day? Ninety-nine 90 [a tough peak at the Canyons which we’d skied that day]?” Corinne’s nonchalant and totally serious response: “umm…lunch.”

And there ya have it.

Chocolate Wasted

Well, fourth year’s the charm. Yes, that’s right, FOUR YEARS of dessert showcases. Actually, to clarify, Nikki has attended for the last four years; I had a retreat for my job last year that unfortunately coincided with the weekend of the showcase. So this was technically my third year in attendance. Still bitter I couldn’t be at two places at once.

Let me backtrack to how this tradition began. It was freshman year. Nikki received a Groupon email about the 2010 New England Dessert Showcase that was to take place at the Westin Copley Hotel in Back Bay. It sounded too good to be true. But it was freshman year and we really didn’t have anything else to do over the weekend besides homework (amiright Nikki?!) (we were both much less involved at the time…).

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Ironically enough, the Showcase coincided with Yom Kippur that year. So not only did we not fast that day, we pretty much did the polar opposite and completely gorged ourselves shamelessly with seemingly endless upscale, sugary treats.

Our first Dessert Showcase

Our first Dessert Showcase

Best Jews ever.

So that was the start of this wonderful tradition. Needless to say, this experience obviously made the “Freshman Successes” list (Yes, it is true, I do have a Word doc titled ‘Freshman Mistakes’ saved on my laptop, which also happens to have an accompanying list of ‘Freshman Successes.’ I’m thinking of passing it down to freshmen once I graduate in May.  Or publishing it. We’ll see.)

Sophomore year is a funny story. This second year, the Dessert Showcase did not coincide with a Jewish holiday that involved fasting. Thank god. Not sure why Nikki or myself did not think to check the location of the event (sophomore year mistakes?!); we just assumed it was at the same hotel in the same ballroom as the previous year. So that was mistake #1.

Mistake #2 was when we took a cab for about 45 seconds around the corner to the Back Bay Sheraton (if you’re familiar with the area at all, you should know the two hotels are literally around the corner from each other). I had a dumb phone at the time so we were relying on Nikki’s beloved Blackberry (RIP) to direct us and it just was not working. Getting frustrated, we impulsively got in a cab figuring the driver would know how to get from the Westin to the Sheraton.

In retrospect, I’m pretty sure he tried to just tell us how to walk there but we were too confused and dazed to function on our own. So the cab took us around the corner and we presumably paid probably $2.00 for the ride (of which $1.50 was probably just an initial rate). Pathetic. In any case, we made it to the desserts AND THAT’S WHAT COUNTS.

Yes we have the same photo taken every year.

Yes we have the same photo taken every year.

Nom

Nom

The aftermath.

The aftermath.

I’m going to skip year three because I was not there. I was instead in NH on a CSC Program Manager retreat eating crappy camp food (but s’mores totally made up for it).

This past weekend, Nikki and I went to the 2013 New England Dessert Showcase. And at least we learned from our mistakes. This time, we checked the address ahead of time—which was a good thing because it was at the Seaport Westin this year, much further away. Also, instead of taking the T for 45 minutes and having to transfer once to the red line and a second time to a bus, we cabbed it. But not only did we cab it, we tried Uber for the first time which was quite an experience.  If you’ve never tried Uber, I would recommend it—the cars are much nicer and we had a lovely, chatty driver who told us all about his diabetes on the way there.

Keepin' it classy taking Uber

Keepin’ it classy taking Uber

Unlike past years, this year’s event did not seem to have some sort of record-breaking dessert (freshman year there was a record-breaking Boston cream pie, sophomore year I recall a record-breaking cannoli). But similarly to the other years, we completely stuffed ourselves until we had to sit down and digest. And Instagram.

Some sort of attempt to break the record of largest Boston cream pie baked.

Freshman year–some sort of attempt to break the record of largest Boston cream pie baked.

Some sort of attempt to break a largest cannoli record

Sophomore year–some sort of attempt to break a largest cannoli record

The best foodie friend.

Senior year with the best foodie friend.

There are baking demos each year by the local chefs. Dessert and a show! If only my favorite Food Network stars had made an appearance…

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We agreed the best dessert was the molten lava cake from Chart House, warm and gooey on the inside, topped with crunchy toffee bits and a drizzle of chocolate fudge. In a close second place: delicious, rich mini chocolate mousse cakes from Finale.

Lava cakes from Chart House. Nikki is pleased.

Lava cakes from Chart House. Nikki is pleased.

Mini mousse cakes from Finale. NOM.

Mini mousse cakes from Finale. NOM.

Still remains unclear why every year there has always been these sheet cakes out front, obviously untouched because who wants sheet cake when there's a ballroom full of fancier desserts?! #America

Still remains unclear why every year there has always been these sheet cakes out front, obviously untouched because who wants sheet cake when there’s a ballroom full of fancier desserts?! #America

For the record, I am completely aware that, as a nutrition major, this is not the healthiest of activities in which I could be partaking. But life is all about balance, and, once a year, I’ve come to accept this. In addition, I ran the BAA Half Marathon the following day–so let’s just consider this time as necessary carboloading shall we?

Nikki—just because we graduate this year doesn’t mean we have to stop attending these events. In the words of Miley, “we can’t stop, and we won’t stop.”

Here’s to many more years of fun foodie traditions!

Not much has changed over the years...

Not much has changed over the years…

SoWa: The hidden gem of the South End

I wrote this piece for my summer session 1 Feature Writing class and got an A on it (YAY!) so I figured if my journalism professor thinks it’s okay, it must be decent enough to publish on my blog. I  haven’t had time to do much cooking since summer session 2 started, so here’s something for the time being…

A swarm of people, dogs, and running children surround you as you walk toward white tent after white tent. From far away it’s difficult to distinguish them, but up close, under each tent, there is something unique—a fellow Bostonian proudly displaying his or her craft, each item one of a kind.

Your olfactory senses go on overdrive as hundreds of different smells waft toward you with each food truck you pass—the scent of a wood burning fire pizza oven, rosemary dusted French fries, butter browning as it forms the perfect crust on the cheesiest grilled cheese sandwich you’ve ever seen. The colors too are vibrant and in every shade imaginable—whether it’s a pint of just-picked strawberries so juicy they temporarily stain your finger tips red, to an overstuffed red velvet cookie with purple cow ice cream sandwich, to the rainbow of brightly-painted, eye-catching food trucks, virtually every color on the wheel is represented. Movement is constant as people, children, and dogs flow from vendor to vendor oooh-ing and awww-ing, picking up, trying on, smelling, tasting, and ultimately purchasing items that please them.

Strawberry, goat cheese, caramelized onion, and arugula pizza from Vesta Mobile Wood-Fired Pizza

Strawberry, goat cheese, caramelized onion, and arugula flatbread from Vesta Mobile Wood-Fired Pizza

The largest ice cream sandwich I've ever seen: red velvet cookie with purple cow ice cream.

The largest ice cream sandwich I’ve ever seen: red velvet cookie with purple cow ice cream.

Every Sunday at 460 Harrison Avenue, three ordinary paved parking lots are transformed into this bustling market for those seeking fresh produce, handmade arts and crafts from local artisans, a unique food truck meal, and much more. Now in its tenth year, this open market, which stands for “South of Washington Street,” is open every Sunday in the South End from 10am-4pm. New this year, the market is separated into three different lots; the handmade crafts, farmer’s market, and food truck sections are all separated by a block or two, allowing the market to have expanded and making it easier to navigate for customers.

“I was pleasantly surprised with the number of artists and the crowd size,” said Boston University student Nikki Jenner. There are all kinds of vendors at SoWa—farm and food, gourmet and kitchen products, bath and body, antique and vintage, fashion trucks, fair-trade, and eco friendly handmade import vendors.

The SoWa Farmers Market is a juried market, so it is required that independent designers submit an application and pay a fee in order to become a vendor. Additionally, they must commit to a minimum of five dates. And the open market does go on rain or shine. According to Helen Schroeder of Linden Leaf designs, “getting accepted to sell at SoWa is quite a stamp of approval in the Boston indie arts community—almost like a rite of passage. I get the sense that having this opportunity under my belt will open doors in other places.”

The market appeals to people of all ages, from kids enjoying the gourmet food samples being offered to them, to the elderly checking out vintage, one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry, to all ages in between. “[The market] was set up in a neat way, and to just aimlessly meander and look at some of the trinkets and thingamabobs was really cool,” said Ethan Rimdzius, a student at Boston University.

Ethan was hungry.

Ethan was hungry.

The open market is an unusual place for both customers and crafters alike. Schroeder sells most of her work—handmade paper designs—online and on wholesale or consignment, so she typically does not get to experience much customer interaction. However, SoWa provides her with a means to communicate face-to-face with customers.

“I believe there’s something so valuable in being able to look at and question and talk to the person who has made the object you hold in your hand, whether it’s art or furniture or food,” said Schroeder. From the opposite perspective, too, it’s also valuable for artists to observe customers interacting with their work, to see what gets them particularly excited and what they’re specifically looking for. As Schroeder says, “It’s the best kind of ‘market research’ there is.”

Since the artists must commit to several Sundays, visitors, such as Jenner, have the chance to come back and check out any booths they previously enjoyed and to see if anything new was added. “There are a few artists’ booths that I look forward to keeping up with to see upcoming creations,” she noted.

Admiring the plethora of local designers' jewelry. Photo courtesy of Ethan R.

Admiring the plethora of local designers’ jewelry. Photo courtesy of Ethan R.

While some visit SoWa to shop for gifts, others, such as Jenner, simply stop by for a bite to eat. “Nowhere else in the city can you find a gathering of [food trucks] this size and with such variety. There is something for everyone to eat and it’s all so delicious,” she continued.

“The food truck culture in Boston is amazing and I love getting the chance to trade food with other trucks and meet new people at SoWa,” said Emily Sanchez, Assistant Manager of the popular Roxy’s Grilled Cheese Truck.

While working SoWa can be exhausting, it is also a rewarding experience for those inside the truck or behind the craft table. “SoWa shifts can be a million times crazier than any other shift—which is part of the fun I think,” disclosed Sanchez. “You just have to keep working for four to five hours nonstop, and of course by the end you’re sort of brain-dead, but so are your coworkers and it’s okay.”

Fresh produce from the SoWa farmer's market. Strawberries so ripe and juicy they stain your fingers red immediately. Photo courtesy of Ethan R.

Fresh produce from the SoWa farmer’s market. Strawberries so ripe and juicy they stain your fingers red immediately. Photo courtesy of Ethan R.

As a downside, the hand-made crafts at SoWa can be a bit pricey as they are all homemade, thus they could potentially be out of the typical college student’s price range. However, the market is not in an area of Boston that is dominated by that age group. The other drawback about SoWa is its location. While the vibe of the market does mirror the general feel of the South End—eclectic, artsy, edgy—the market’s location is less than convenient, making the journey there and back a bit unappealing for those residing in Back Bay, Fenway/Kenmore, Brookline, and Cambridge. However, the MBTA bus system can get you there without too much hassle.

Despite the location, taking part of your Sunday to check out all that SoWa has to offer is “a great way to support local, smaller businesses,” said Sanchez.

Boston is very lucky to have such a well-run open market that seems to draw an enormous crowd every weekend to a part of Boston that typically is under-recognized. According to Schroeder, “To me, a morning at SoWa is the quintessential summer day in Boston.”

Click here to see the SoWa website!

Being Punny

I had an epiphany on the walk home from class.

It would be fitting to have one of my first posts discuss how I came to the title I finally decided upon.

So once I decided to make this blog idea official, I was in search of the perfect blog title, and it had to be punny–whether the pun dealt with a particular food or the city of Boston or nutrition, it just had to be something worthy.

So, naturally, I opened a new tab and like any good college student, looked to Google for the answer. I literally typed  “nutrition puns” into Google. And, like magic, I got some great/entertaining/hilarious/corny ideas.

After 20 minutes or so of ‘extensive’ research, I turned my attention back toward Facebook, deciding to ask two clever friends who were both conveniently online at the moment for some brainstorming help. Even though I didn’t end up picking any of these titles, they were funny enough to still be worthy of some blog attention. Here goes:

From Chris R.:

  • Bitch, peas! (clean version: Chick, peas!)
  • I’m kind of a big dill
  • Grape to meet you
  • Jello, goodbye

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From Harrison S.:

  • BosTON of lard
  • Gut reactions
  • Wishful shrinking
  • Mind over platter
  • The Nobelly prize

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Welcome & Introduction!

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3!

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Modeling my favorite apron (birthday present from my friend Lauren) as I deal with my least favorite chore, handwashing dishes.

I’ve wanted to create a food blog for awhile; it was only a matter of time. And of course I would finally get around to creating it during a time when my schedule is packed with work, class, and volunteering. Here’s to productive procrastination!

In any case, here’s a bit about me before I delve into future actually food-related posts. My name is Alyssa and I’m a rising senior at Boston University (go Terriers!). I’m working obtaining two degrees at the moment: a BS in Magazine Journalism from the College of Communication and a BS in Nutrition/Dietetics from Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. So, naturally, food blogging is the perfect fusion of my diverging interests.

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Proud Terrier Fan

When I’m not in class, I work at BU’s Undergraduate Admissions Reception Center and BU’s Community Service Center and am the Food Editor for BU’s Buzz Magazine. And when I’m not in class or at work, I like to shop, run, ski, explore the wonderful city of Boston, take tons and tons of photos, and watch Pride and Prejudice over and over again. Oh, and I (obviously) enjoy cooking, baking, reading about food, watching the Food Network, eating food, and critiquing food.

For the record as we go forward, I will just state some of my favorite foods here: chocolate, avocados/guacamole, mangoes, sushi, Nutella, and cereal. The list goes on…