Top Three Meals of My Life

Food, especially in the South, is more than mere sustenance we shove into our mouths. Food is a quenching art form, and the perfect meal can leave your belly swollen with sleepiness, remaining in your memory for years to come.
Most of my favorite meals occurred while on vacation. Of course, the magic of travel can make these memories sweeter, but I long to eat these meals again.

1. Chelsea Grill, New York City

My family and I happened upon the Chelsea Grill, located in Hell’s Kitchen, by chance. It was late, and we were starving.

The Chelsea Grill may not be New York’s largest restaurant, but the exposed brick and candles make it a posh, yet rustic, spot. My penne pasta with vodka sauce was creamy, cheesy and slightly, but pleasingly, tart. The tomatoes were fresh, firm and sweet, and the pieces of chicken breast tossed in with the pasta were tender. That night, I went from tolerating asparagus to craving asparagus after trying stalks of the char-grilled vegetable. Seasoned with fresh pepper, the stalks were as thick as a quarter.

The Chelsea Grill offers a variety of food, mostly American-inspired, like steaks, pork chops, sandwiches, salads and pasta.

2. Boma, Walt Disney World Resort

Boma is an African-inspired buffet in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, a safari-style hotel near Disney’s Animal Kingdom. After visiting Boma during my senior trip, it’s a must-go whenever I’m in Disney World.

Boma offers a variety of food– meats, salads, soups, vegetarian options, desserts and more. The soup and salad bar is one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Five unique soups ranging in color (there’s usually a pastel green and/or buttery orange) and ingredients offer a variety of choices. My favorite is a coconut-seafood creamy soup. The salad bar’s tangy vinaigrettes over mixed greens and spinach are fresh and flavorful.

If you’re picky, don’t worry. Meat, potatoes and mac n’ cheese allow even the choosiest eaters something to munch on.

Be sure to save room for the dessert bar. The zebra domes made with chocolate, cream and rum are my weakness.

Be sure to look around the resort before or after your meal. Animals surround the grounds and the rustic, African decor makes you feel like you’re across the globe.

My friends Allison and Callie have a little too much fun with the decor.

3. Mystery Sandwich, Paris

My friend John Paul enjoys his Swiss cheese.

When I was in France a few years ago on a church trip, lunch was provided on our way from Paris to Normandy. It was the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten, and I have no idea where it was from.

A warm baguette with only two ingredients is still etched in my memory. Only Swiss cheese and creamy French butter topped the sandwich, but it was more flavorful than a sandwich with ten ingredients. I’ve tried to recreate the sandwich a number of times, but it’s impossible.

According to our tour guides, putting butter on a sandwich is a French custom, as they don’t typically use condiments.


Morning Shows Are Worth It Part 1: The Today Show

The gang has a lot of energy, even at the crack of dawn.

Leaving my toasty bed before the sun comes up (or before 10 a.m., really) is not something I particularly enjoy. So, when my family and friends traveled to New York in May 2011, visiting The Today Show was not something I was just dying to do. Though I enjoy The Today Show ( the gang’s chemistry is the best of early morning news programs), I prefer to watch Al Roker give the weather report from the comforts of my queen-sized bed.

When we arrived at NBC (about 2 hours before the show, a good time if you want to be on the first row), a breakfast truck provided free coffee, waffles and pastries to those waiting for program. Don’t judge a caramel macchiato from a van. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had.

My group also participated in the sign-making tradition of The Today Show. The April 27th tornadoes had just struck my hometown, Tuscaloosa, as well as many areas in the Southeast. Our signs reflected our Tuscaloosa pride, one reading, “We will praise You in this storm-Tuscaloosa, Alabama” and another saying, “Roll Tide, Y’all.” Security checks every sign before you enter the gates of the lot, and they are a scary bunch.

Various members of The Today Show gang come out to the lot about five times per show. Roker, the showman, gave everyone on the front row (including myself) high fives. The special guest, who was Glee’s Chris Colfer at our show, also visits the lot.

Needless to say, I was freaking out. And trying not to call him Kurt.

Television screens and speakers allow you to see what’s filmed in the studio, so you’re not bored when none of the on-air talent is outside. The high energy of trying to get on TV is fun if you want your five seconds of fame. As an aspiring member of the media, I enjoyed watching how the producers, directors, assistants and on-air talent prepared for the show. It’s definitely a fast-paced environment, but this group makes it look effortless.

The next time you go to New York, devote a morning to The Today Show. Plus, it’s a free attraction with free breakfast. That’s nearly impossible to come by in the Big Apple.