Universal Studios – Must Try Foods

Allergen-free eating on the road, family, Florida, food, geek, Travel
Ivy showing off her cupcake at Cinderella’s Royal table

In an Instaworthy land of food treats, it’s easy to get caught up on the trends and seek out the photo, not the FOOD. I am a terrible food-grammer (see my page for evidence) as I get so caught up in enjoying a meal or cupcake or snack that I forget the photo. Instead of showing off my Butterbeer, I guzzle it. Instead of treasuring my cupcake, I inhale it….you get the picture.

However, while Disney may win with new colors, bows, and ears on everything. Universal has its fair share of options for foodies seeking delicious and equally delightful treats.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

My absolute favorite in “Harry Potter World” is the Butterbeer. I love it, and the versions of cold, iced, or hot through the year are a must try. While Gluten-Free, the treat is not dairy free, but that does not stop me from having one or two!

I also happen to think the sweets and other goodies, all Potter themed, in this part of the park are worth a try! Don’t miss the Bertie Botts, Pumpkin Juice, and other gems that are sprinkled throughout. So far, nothing has disappointed. Even better, if you have food allergies, the staff at every location will work hard to make sure you have plenty of deliciousness to eat and enjoy. Read more here. Our meal at the Hogs Head was one of the best I have had in years (I maybe ate my weight in potatoes)!

Fast Food

Universal is full of dining options for all preferences. If you are trying to maximize fun time, and minimize other “wasted” time then opting for more “fast casual” food places are sure to please. We tried Mel’s Diner for burgers, shakes, and soda on our last trip and we were thoroughly delighted. Not only were the burgers (vegan Beyond Burgers too), fries, and drinks DELICIOUS, the restaurant was well staffed, quick, and made for an enjoyable time. This was true for our group of people aged 12 to 82!

If Mel’s isn’t your style, the park offers Krusty Burger for fans of the Simpsons and other locations with pub-style and American fare! The best part, more and more people are serving allergy-friendly and vegan options for those with different dietary needs!

City Walk

If you are sick of the parks, or simply wanting to try something different, head to City Walk and try some more refined dining and drinks. The prices and options are similar to that of a downtown in a bigger city *think Denver or London* but the quality is a step above!

We dined at The Cowfish (I don’t get the name either), which offered exciting Asian fusion. This was perfect for us that enjoy sushi, and those that are more land-based eaters. I would give the food a 3.5 out of 5 and atmosphere a 4/5. This is a good option for those wanting a healthier dining option and something beyond regular theme park Americana Food.

My absolute favorite (in the park and not) for entertainment, food, and atmosphere is Toothsome. While almost imposing on the Universal skyline, Toothsome is a steampunked themed “Chocolate Restaurant” with everything you imagine that would include. The ambiance is full of vintage-style prints. The servers and other employees are all decked out in Steampunk garb and ALL of them are a 100% delight. Our server alone set the bar for servers to an entirely new level! Not only did he have the ENTIRE (very large) menu memorized, but he knew allergens in each dish and how to either modify the dish or direct someone elsewhere. He was so great we even had to take a picture with him!

Perhaps the biggest draw for the restaurant, and definitely something our group loved, were the giant and delicious sweets. Toothsome serves up crazy shakes with desserts topping them (brownies, pie, cookies) AND they have a chocolate shop inside. My stepdaughter opted for a crazy brownie shake, and I opted for candies to bring home to my work team. All around they were considered a roaring success.

Most importantly, Toothsome has a charm to it through all of these features combined. My husband had the “best Rubin of his life” but I just had one of the best dining experiences of my life. While my salad was above and beyond, my amazement was with our server (who we tipped 30%), and his skills to make our night magical. All of us left with giant grins, massive gratitude, and overwhelming joy. Which, ultimately, is what we all seek on vacation!

My advise – jump on that Toothsome train and love it!

Happy Travels & Eats!

Universal Studios – Dining with Allergies

Allergen-free eating on the road, Florida, food, geek, Travel, United States

It is so unbelievably hard traveling with food allergies. Living in the western United States with food allergies is Russian Roulette on where you go, with who, and how sick you might become. The biggest issue overall is that people don’t understand that allergies are serious, and that eating said food means hours, if not days, of discomfort and upset!

When I travel abroad I usually can find items without issue, it is taken pretty seriously in most establishments (if you can cross the language barrier). While in the United States, half the people you work with don’t care, or don’t understand. I am not picking on servers who are underpaid, overworked, and often undertrained, but rather a system that doesn’t always take it seriously. For instance, I have celiac, that means that if you make me a dish after someone else, you need to either use a CLEAN pan or CLEAN the pan to remove any residue from the last order. Sometimes the care is taken, sometimes it is not.

Therefore, when I went to Universal Studios this time around, I was really nervous about what I could eat and what would be offered. When I visited in 2015, I found it hard to find enough to eat that was worth the money and worth the sit-down meal time. Four years later I was worried I would be faced with similar issues. I even packed emergency food because I had no idea if I could eat all day.

My fears were actually overhyped. Completely overhyped. What I found on the food landscape at Universal in late 2019 was a complete overhaul of their menus, offering a vast and delicious variety of food for people like me. Not only am I celiac, but I don’t eat any meat but fish (pescatarian), and I try really hard to avoid dairy and soy. The true key to the success of their grab and go menus was the use of one magic little patty, the Beyond Burger. For those not in the know, the Beyond Burger is a protein packed veggie patty that is gluten, soy, and dairy free. It is also vegan, and the thing is really tasty when prepared right. Universal now offers this burger at most quick eat burger-type locations AND they offer a gluten-free bun.

This meant that I could go to Mel’s Drive-In with the rest of my group and eat a burger with everyone. To top it off they even had a gluten-free french fry fryer. This meant I could sit down in a burger joint and eat with my family. I almost cried with joy, I had not been able to do something like this EVER with my husband (we have been together 9 years) and stepdaughter. To top it off, it was soooooo tasty.

AND the better part is it wasn’t just Mel’s that worked hard to make our time great. We went to the Three Broomsticks for dinner that same night, and we ordered their Great Feast platter which is full of veggies, potatoes, and chicken. It feeds like four to six people. All of us but my husband and stepdaughter had allergies, so the chef came out and discussed our options. So wonderful was he that he made individual plates for my sister’s and I (the most common allergies) and made sure no one got sick. This was equally delicious, and we practically rolled everyone out of the pub after dinner we were all so full. This care and concern MADE the trip really magical.

Did I mention that Butterbeer is also GLUTEN FREE (not vegan/dairy free) and extremely tasty hot or frozen!

It didn’t stop there either, we ate at the cafeteria at Cabana Bay the nights we were there, and we had the same care and precision with our burgers there. We ate at Cowfish at City Walk and they were equally cautious and thorough. Then we ate at Toothsome, also at City Walk, and the gentleman there was so good that he had every menu item memorized and could tell us when we could and could not eat at the drop of a hat. He also did it without flinching, without checking with a chef, and without concerning anyone!

This meant many things, including that we all had a much easier and enjoyable time on vacation, and that we all left the restaurants without stomach aches, needing an Epi-pen, or days of discomfort. This precision made our vacation an elevated and magical experience, which I have only ever seen in the contained workings of a cruise ship kitchen.

This comes down to offering a variety of food at each location and well-trained EXPERT staff that do their job with love and dedication. Without the people that have the knowledge of ingredients, cooking, and allergies, none of this would work.

Therefore, I write this as a thank you to the fantastic employees of Universal Studios Orlando!

Happy EATS (and Travels)!

Disney Planning – What to Eat?

Allergen-free eating on the road, Florida, food, geek, Travel, United States

Disney is well known for its food options at their parks. In days of lore it was the giant turkey legs and Mickey shaped ice creams. Today Disney is trying to constantly create and sell Insta-worthy options for a growing number of teens and young adults that capture everything. For those with diet restrictions, the theme park constantly makes strides in providing more and more gluten-free, vegan, and peanut-free options for visitors. The point is, you won’t go away hungry.

Even better than all of the what you CAN eat at Disney is that you can also bring in your own food. Unlike other theme parks, Disney still allows guests to bring food and drinks (non-alcoholic) into the park without issue. For those on a budget, or with numerous food needs (I have to do Gluten Free and Pescatarian, avoiding dairy and soy), this is a godsend. It means I can make sure I have enough food options for the day without having to restaurant to stand hop just to have a snack. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t partake in a little dining fun.

For those wanting something special, there are numerous options for adults, families, and kids to have a magical time. In my line of work, we get a lot of requests for Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest which are the big “Princess” dining experiences. Beware that they can cost you a pretty penny. My group of four (including a five year old) will be dining for a late lunch at Be Our Guest and it will be $350 total, including gratuities. Granted, this is a special thing we are doing, a one and done situation, not the norm.

However, if you need to be more budget conscious, there are so many options to get food in the parks.  For those of you wanting tips and information on what is available, I highly recommend the Disney Food Blog, click here, and their awesome YouTube videos. They also share a lot of other valuable tips and tricks, which I have found to be invaluable for my own planning and assisting clients.

If you are visiting during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival you can have even more fun with your budget by buying several small plates to share with your group, or hoard to yourself.  This is a great way to try a lot for a little, and a lot of the international offerings look divine!

Don’t forget that you can order food from the sort of “fast food” locations around the park, using your phone and the Disney App, which will save you time and effort. If you have time, play with the app and see what pricing looks like before you go to the park, and practice what it takes to make an order.

All around, you should have a lot of fun! Happy Eats!

Disney Planning – Which Disney?

family, Florida, geek, Travel, United States

More on Disney

If you are staying stateside you have two parks to choose from, Disneyland and Disney World. Disneyland is in Anaheim, California and Disney World is in Orlando, Florida. Pick a coast. Both will be about the same cost, per day, with all things considered. If you are smack in the middle of the country, as I am, airfare will probably be comparable. If you want other theme parks to visit, both are by respective Universal Studios, and other similar activities. Even better, both are near oceans and seaside activities that come with such a geography.

Disneyland is comprised of two different theme parks, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park. Both of these parks have unique activities, themes, “lands” and it is the original theme park under the Disney umbrella, opening in 1955. While California Adventure Park is the newest installment and expansion, which opened in 2001.

Disney World is by far a much bigger experience. The Disney World Resort complex has four theme parks for guests. The Magic Kingdom is the closest match to Disneyland, with many repeat rides and experiences, but also unique in its own right. The Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, and was followed by Epcot 11 years later. Epcot opened in 1982 as the first expansion of the Orlando property. Epcot has a focus on international cultures, events, food, and dining; which often labels it as an “adult” theme park.  Disney’s Hollywood Studios, opening in 1989, is getting the most attention recently as it has opened a Toy Story land and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge in the last year. The focus on Hollywood Studios is definitely on movie magic and connecting guests to that feel. Finally, last but not least is Disney’s Animal Kingdom, opened in 1998. The Animal Kingdom is actually the largest theme park in the world, covering 580 acres, and it is themed around animals and natural areas.

All of these theme parks will offer a good variety of activities and adventures for visitors. However, it is important just to grasp the size of these theme parks and how few hours there are in a day, or one’s patience. All of Disney World is 40 square miles, roughly the size of San Francisco, or two Manhattans. While a lot of this is not fully developed, there is a lot of space to get around between parks, hotels, restaurants and everything else.

That being said, do not plan to try to go from park to park all day. For your sanity, and your family’s or friend’s I would suggest doing all single day tickets and going to one park per day. Then at the end of your stay, if you have extra time, return to your favorite or favorite(s) by upgrading your single park per day ticket. For more information, click here.

Therefore, if you are planning a trip to Disneyland I would plan for around five days. Spend one day getting there, go to Disney Springs in the afternoon, or your first park if you want. Spend one day at the other park. Then have two more days to park visit or just relax. Finally, you have day five to get home.

If you are planning on Disney World, and you want to see every park, plan on at least a week. Day one to get to the park and Disney springs. Day two Magic Kingdom. Day three Hollywood Studios. Day four Epcot. Day five Animal Kingdom. Day six is be an extra day to see favorites. Day seven travel home.

Of course, you can mix this up, skip places you have already been, or only go to one park all the days. I suggest visiting the respective websites for lists of activities and entertainment for each park and select what makes your heart excited, or the inner six-year-old squeal with delight. If you have a favorite movie, go see those characters. If your five year old is just happy to exist, plan your days around what will inspire and excite them.

Happy Travels!

Film and the World

geek, History, musings, Travel

Everything about the magic and history of movies has tied it to opening portals into other lives, other times, other places, and completely fabricated lands. Photography opened these doors in the 1800s when the first photos were taken of places and distributed around the world. They not only captured a fleeting time, but they also shared new doorways to other places. In less than one hundred years the world would move into wanting more and more of these portals to better view ourselves and others.

From the earliest of movies we played with concepts and story lines that represented ourselves but also others. In the perspective of travel, men and women went around the world with their cameras and equipment and they documented what they witnessed. National Geographic became what it is and was because we could open more doorways than ever before.

A Young Kenyan Woman Holds Her Pet Deer In Mombassa, March 1909
A Young Kenyan Woman Holds Her Pet Deer In Mombassa, March 1909

These stories along with thousands of others, images, and film, have been an undeniable driving force for my own identity and desire to see the world. As I have said before, National Geographic has been a huge influence on my life and desire to travel. Yet, it has not been the only one.

Recently I have been rewatching movies I loved as a child and I have noticed a very important ache in my heart as I adventure with beloved childhood characters, an ache to experience and see what is being shown.

Today I watched Mulan probably for the 100th time since seeing it in the theater at seven and falling madly in love with Chinese culture. Through the scope of a child she was this amazing warrior that saved everyone but also beautiful and smart and inspiring. The perfect blend of everything I wanted to be as a girl. But she lacked fear, and had more determination than anything. She wanted to be a girl worth living for herself and to this day I know her persona has influenced me to live life even if I am scared.

Chinese woman – Tartar or Manchu – John Thomas 1869

This week I also watched The Mummy again, probably for the first time in at least a decade, and I also felt that familiar ache. I wanted to be Evelyn running around the desert reading ancient manuscripts and fighting baddies. Once again I admired her spunk and tenacity, her intellect and determination. Her ability to face fear and move forward.

No doubt neither movie is an ideal exploration of a culture or a time. Lord knows the Mummy has a white savior issue. However, they have a central theme that I think is vital for girls to know, that it’s important to be brave and it’s important to do what you know is right for you. I think of what my life would be like if I had not been exposed to these movies, or other not so great movies like Cutthroat Island, I would not be the same me.

See, when I could see through these portals into other worlds I realized that I too could be something of note. I too could get out there into a man’s world and be all I wanted to be. I did not have to set in the mold society, or my conservative family, or the patriarchy had decided to make for me. I could break that mold and make my own journey. That is huge for a child that is growing up in a rural area with limited means. It is huge for any child just trying to understand it is okay to be them.

While I think movies and media can be double-edged, where people travel based on myths and stereotypes and miss the real story, I also know that these stories have launched a thousand courageous people into the world. And I hope that these stories have also allowed people to open their hearts and minds to others in ways that other media has not.

I think a lot on the significance of representation in stories and how vital it is that we see a wide variety of people in media. If all else, there needs to be a statistically even representation of all peoples in the media. This is vital to the long term health of the world.

As we become more global we need to share the platform with more and more people to more fairly share our lives and times. Having more women play the heroine has benefited my confidence in living my life. Having women of color share their stories creates compassion and understanding no matter the distance in time, space, and cultures. Having queer characters allows for them to be understood, humanized, and loved. Having differently abled characters opens up the eyes to better reflection on our society and our compassion. Doorways open many routes for us to grow as a culture.

What I hope for the future is to continue to see these inspiring tales and stronger sharing of differing stories and cultures. I hope that more doors open so we can respect and love one another more whole and I hope that all of us will take the time to look and listen.

Do a Lot With a Little

Allergen-free eating on the road, europe, family, food, France, geek, Ireland, italy, Travel, United Kingdom

I have never had what I would consider a lot of money or resources. I grew up in my grandparent’s house. My family lived below the poverty line. Since moving out of my childhood home I have been in school and/or working in jobs that don’t pay more than $34,000 a year. I sometimes do some work as a photographer or web designer to make ends meet. It has never been a lot. I have never had excessive means.

However, even with a little, I make it stretch. I take the advantages that have been given to me and make it work. This is, of course, been an immense lot of luck, and stubbornness, and sacrifice. However, it has meant that I have been able to do more than many at 27.

For my first trip to Europe, I lived at home and worked almost seven days a week for $8 an hour, at a crappy little fossil shop with sketchy owners. I did that for eight months, and then cheaply wandered around Europe crashing with friends, old and new, and hosteling when I needed to. I ate apples for lunch, and cooked in dingy kitchens to save cash. I walked instead of taking taxis and buses. I made it work. I took the advantages of free places to sleep and turned it into a longer trip, another museum, a nice meal.

In 2013 on my study abroad I headed to Italy on the most economical program I could find. I ate at the apartment for the most part, picking up in season produce at the markets. Savoring every sweet little strawberry and succulent squash. I bought $2 gelato on my way to classes for my “lunch” and euro store (same as a dollar store) nuts for a snack. I would scour the city for food deals on dinners. €15 three-course meals meant I could eat and drink on the cheap, street vendors served €2 polenta for a real treat. I bartered to cut down on souvenir costs. I stubbornly walked away to save another €5. I took advantage of every meal and treat that the study abroad program offered, knowing it would save me money.

2015 was the start of my M.A. and I hosteled, while others stayed in hotels. I packed lunch or ate cheap soup in the cantina at the college instead of eating a sandwich nearby. I traded books at the hostel and did my laundry in the basement. In an extra three weeks of travel I only stayed three nights in a real hotel, a 3-star Ibis. I was gifted gluten free bread from a fabulous bakery in Dublin. I bought few souvenirs and savored toast and tea and packets of oatmeal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love food. I LOVE food. However, I love seeing the world more. I love diving into museums and cathedrals and tours. I love eating cheap food that locals love, from chippies and markets, and food stalls. I like finding fresh veggies and fruits to suck down locally. I like fancy things, and fine meals, but if it means I can try three restaurants for the price of one, I’ll take more over the one.

I find this philosophy trickles into everything I do. I shop second hand clothing stores so I can afford a better quality item for much less. I shop grocery store sales, and closeout items for a better deal. I coupon and wait for deals to get the items I need. I scour for off-season travel deals and seasonal items to hit the clearance sections. Some find this cheap. I find it a means to live a fuller life.

I don’t hoard this bounty either, I gift to others, and donate like crazy. Monthly I probably get rid of at least one if not more trash bags of stuff. It consists of clothes my stepdaughter has outgrown, shoes we are bored of, and books we have read. I recycle and reuse, I pass it on and upcycle. I take a little and make a lot.

End note: I have been extremely lucky and I am fully aware not everyone can do this.

Cruise Room Secrets

colorado, geek, History, love, musings, Travel, United States

As a part of our anniversary escape my husband and I went to a Denver gem that is often missed, The Cruise Room.

I knew about this hidden treasure from an interview with Nick Urata I had read, and for years I had wanted to visit. Well our time in Denver meant we had the perfect opportunity for a night on the town. We gussied up and snagged dinner and then headed to the Oxford Hotel by Union Station.

Inside this other great historical hotel is a bar that has been open since prohibition ended I. 1933. In fact, it opened the day after prohibition was repealed nationally. This means its very existence is important, but wait there is more!

The entire bar is designed after the bar on the Queen Mary (located in California today). It has all of its original wall features that are made of plaster and are meant to represent different countries and locations from around the world. They still serve up classic cocktails, and an antique jukebox has a corner dedicated to its existence.

We loved every detail of the place and we found it to be a great place for chatting and a drink. We were the most dressed up people there, everyone else was in jeans, but it felt great to feel fancy. I even had my first real gin martini!

If hitting D-town at night, don’t miss a chance to visit this great historical treasure!

Happy Travels!

Brown Palace Romance

colorado, Colorado Events, geek, History, Travel, United States

The Brown Palace in Denver is probably one of the most iconic locations in all of Colorado, if not the western United States.

Built on a triangular plot of land, the hotel is oddly shaped, but the attention to detail is where the magic lays. The exterior of the hotel is made of rich “Brown” sandstone, carved and pieces together with hidden elements. The facade even has animals carved along the roof line.

Built in 1892 the hotel is full of details celebrating its past, and reflecting the significance of Denver in history. Almost every president has stayed at the hotel among many other notable celebrities. The Beatles stayed at the hotel in 1964 before playing at Red Rocks. They created such a a ruckus that they had to be moved via service elevators. They have a suite in dedication to them.

My husband and I decided to have a sweet and romantic getaway to the Brown Palace for our first anniversary. The hotel is known in my family as it is where my grandparents stayed on their wedding night on August 7, 1949. The story goes that they showed up in their 20 year old Model A and the valet was surprised at their arrival. They had driven the dirt roads from Fort Morgan (where they got married) to get there, and no doubt they probably looked a little bedraggled.

In some ways I went to honor them, but I was also curious about my own story and finding my own memory at the Brown. We definitely succeeded.

We stayed in a standard king room, we were on the 6th floor, and we had great views of the city. The room elegantly blended modern and old to make a space that was cozy and welcoming and not lacking for charm. The bathroom was done with traditional tile and classic features, while crown molding dotted the ceilings throughout.

We loved being able to walk through the history and charm of the hotel with its open center and stained glass ceilings. The structure inside is made out of steel making the spindles and staircases a timeless piece that awes the viewer. Every detail is classically inspired with the elegance of the “gay 90s” and updated features to celebrate the decades and 126 years of history.

I especially enjoyed the kindness and welcoming spirit I felt from everyone that worked there. The front desk was friendly, the concierge loved to chat about their love of the Palace (they’re the only hotel in the area with certified concierge). It felt like a home, and I immediately fell in love.

If you are looking for an iconic stay in Colorado or Denver then look no further. If you are short on time, but want to explore, consider an afternoon tea or a tour.

Happy Travels!

The World Isn’t Disney for Americans

adventure of the week, Caribbean, colorado, geek, musings, Travel

One of the biggest issues with myself, and with travel, is that so much of the exploration that is glamorized is done without really experiencing much.

With a world of Instagram and celebrity travel photos it’s hard to understand that the world is more than the elegance dripping from the web. This isn’t to say that everything is a lie and parts are ugly, but to say that the sanitized version we see is the air brushed version of a model.

So many Americans (and Europeans and Australians etc) flock to other parts of the world with one set of ideals of that place. In Africa it’s the Big 5. In China it’s the Pandas and Great Wall. In Mexico it’s cheap vacations and tequila. Yet while there is an immense amount of fun and cultural significance in all of these things, there is also a disconnect.

While thousands stumble off of cruise ships in Italy or Jamaica, how many people stop to talk to a local? How many have a beer from a little old lady’s restaurant or squid ink pasta? How many people take time to get lost and see something different? How many people care about the locals that live there.

What concerns me is not that people visit in droves, or that their focus is on a romantic ideal. For I have also been that person. No, the concern is the disconnect from the reality of a place. Like Disney World the grit of the world has been cleaned away in many places. Like a fairy godmother, tours select only the pristine and sanitized, something with fairy dust. It’s even more concerning when the most vulnerable populations are used as tourism props or ignored. This can be ignoring their humanity, their human rights, their rights to land and water and standards of living. For say, a new hotel, or a pool. For a new form of imperialism and colonialism to cheaply pad the pockets of the powerful.

This is not anything new. The spread of Colonialism is as old as civilization, with Greek, Roman, Germanic, and British Faces. Yet, we seem to fail at learning that these horrors are disgusting no matter there new mask. Indigenous people lose their homes for Olympics and World Cups. Communities collapse for resorts and waves of tourists. Yet, the real question is who makes it out on top? While “new jobs” help locals, do they really ever achieve a life they should? It’s hard to say yes when the heads of large companies live in gilded towers, while they barely can send their kids to school.

This is not to say “don’t travel, it’s corrupt” but rather to encourage an analysis of what one does when they explore. Do you stay at chain hotels helping the Hiltons and Marriotts of the world? Or do you seek out a locally owned gem with homemade food and warm smiles? Do you see end time with locals? Or do you shy away to American bars and hotel lobbies? Do you view locals as friends or possible enemies? And if you said yes to the last one, why?

Travel can be the life blood of a community, of a country, of a town. Yet, when we choose who and how we support that area, we need to better examine our priorities.

Happy Travels!

 

More Reading:

Must Love Mexico

Losing Bourdain

img_5458

Losing Bourdain

documentary, Florida, food, geek, italy, mexico, musings, new mexico, Scotland, Travel

I started watching Anthony Bourdain in No Reservations when I was a teenager. He had a wit about him, and an elegant but no nonsense means of writing about the world. He sucked me into his journeys in Ireland or Kenya and he did everything from drinking cow’s blood in Kenya to vegetarian dishes in India with humor, grace, and intelligence.

Bourdain moved through the world as something of an enigma. He was fully engaged with his location, yet he had a distance, a perspective, an observer’s mind as he met people and filmed a story. He existed in and out of the scene all at once, which made for a compelling look into his mind and craft.

Sure, he condemned vegetarians and Colorado, both which are near to my heart, but I forgave the grumpy uncle figure that could WRITE.

6913803975_2c38ec0090_o

He could WRITE. Bourdain pieced together vignettes that made the viewer stop and think, or day dream, or question their perspective on the world. He spun tales and myths and legend on his own that no one dared question. They were eloquent and smart, thick with descriptors and layers of thought and depth that many of his peers could never match.

I loved watching Bourdain in his element, elbows deep in meat and alcohol, talking with a local chef about the importance of animal innards to make distinct flavors and dishes. Bourdain was a compelling force, a person that could not be tamed or cut down, he just existed, and he shared with the world what that looked like.

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you.”