Kat Chen

Contributions:

THE FULL BODY EXPERIENCE

The Full Body Experiece: Essay Cover
 
When I found out that Molly Moon’s Ice Cream was opening another shop, my first thought was: in this weather?
 
November seemed a strange time of year to install a sixth store. I was compelled to find out if Seattle really wanted or needed another gourmet ice cream shop.
 
I made my visit on a boring Wednesday night, a week or so after the grand opening. The space itself was luminous: the white tiles, the spotless counter, the polished chairs, even the sign glowed in its brand newness. I was dazzled, and I wasn’t the only one. Walking down the newly unveiled south wing of the Village, the streets were empty except for a line of people extending out the door of Molly Moon’s.
 
Unlike the other locations, Molly Moon’s new opening was constructed to feel less like a traditional ice cream bar—where you can go right up to the counter, press your nose against the glass, and order the one that looks the most tempting—and more like a café, where the menu is handwritten in chalk on a large blackboard above the counter, with no visual help in sight other than the recommendations from the ice cream baristas. With its small tables and stools set up to the side, the U Village location invites its customers to enjoy their cold treats in the comfort of a warm store.
 
Too bad so many people wanted ice cream. I was already freezing and had to queue up outside. Waiting in line sucks. Waiting in line in the cold? Even worse. My fingers were already numb. How was I going to carry the cone? As I shivered in my jacket and scarf, I tried to stop obsessing over the weather, and its debilitating aspects, and decide on a flavor.
 
They had their everyday selections, including my two favorites: Lavender Honey, where the lavender is grown in Sequim, Washington, and Stumptown Coffee, using the roasted beans from the Oregon-based company. However, Thanksgiving was just a week away and I was in a festive mood so when it was finally my turn at the counter, I requested a sample of all four of their seasonal flavors: Pumpkin Clove, Pear Elderflower Sorbet, Cinnamon, and Vegan Coconut Chunk.
 
First, I took up a little spoonful of Pumpkin Clove, then of Cinnamon. If the pumpkin flavor had not come in a beautiful burnt orange color, I could have easily gotten the two confused when it came to taste. The flavor of the pumpkin was present, though not at all powerful, and the cinnamon also presented my palate with more cream than the aromatic spice itself. These might be good to have as a double-scoop since the flavors melded well, but singularly, neither had enough intensity to truly entice or surprise my taste buds.
 
The Vegan Coconut, however, was surprisingly good. The idea of anything being vegan usually sends me into a this-would-be-so-much-better-with-real-dairy-or-meat-mindset, but I was pleasantly surprised at how creamy it was and how every bite had real coconut flakes with a hint of Theo’s chocolate scattered throughout.
 
Next, I was given a sample of the Pear Elderflower Sorbet. Because it was a sorbet, and therefore not made with cream and eggs, it was much lighter than the other three, and naturally-sweet tasting. At the first encounter of sorbet to lips, the flavor of the pear shined, then left with a faint floral aftertaste. This became my new favorite. The juiciness of the pear, the exotic taste of elderflower, all scooped onto a freshly made waffle cone, was exactly what I was hoping to experience at Molly Moon’s: a new perspective of flavor on an old dessert.
 
I left the store with a smile at my delicious discovery and forgot about complaining, forgot how cold it was, even forgot how numb my fingers were. All I felt was delight and childlike excitement at having found a favorite new flavor. As I passed another patron, also happily licking away at her Molly Moon treat, I asked how she felt about eating ice cream in cold weather.
 
She replied, “Oh it’s the best. My dad always said that ice cream in the cold was a full-body-experience. I swear, it tastes better that way.”
 
After this visit to Molly Moon’s, I have to say I agree.
 
And ice cream in the snow? That must be positively thrilling.

HOLY HAIRY MEATBALL!

hairy-meatball
 
Being broke and being a foodie may seem paradoxical, but I assure you, it is merely extremely difficult and involves long, willful gazing at food photography and heart-breakingly buying boxed grocery sushi, knowing it just won’t be the same.
 
Having saved up enough for a nice meal, I couldn’t wait to try out Cuoco, a Tom Douglas restaurant located in Seattle’s South Lake Union. Be it another one of his restaurants downtown or through an enterprise like his partnership with Starbucks (where he helped create a coffee blend that pairs with Thanksgiving dinner), Mr. Douglas’s name is constantly in the Pacific Northwest air. Yet of his fifteen restaurants, until last week, I had yet to try a single one.
 
When I sat down for lunch last Wednesday, I was pleased with Cuoco’s ambience –nostalgic with its brick and green-bordered windows lining the walls like an old-timey train station, but with touches of modernity in its large-scale paintings and trendy bar/lounge. I had heard good things about the place – it featured organic produce, hand-made pasta, and highly touted drinks.
 
With the unlikely appearance of the sun that cool October afternoon, I opted to splurge on a glass of 2009 Cabernet-Merlot along with pork meatballs over spaghetti. 
 
My noodles were cooked perfectly – they had that wondrous toothsome texture, and the tomato-garlic sauce had just enough heat to brighten an otherwise simple meal. It wasn’t until most of my plate was clean that I finally slowed down.
 
I had a few strands of spaghetti left and a whole meatball. I speared the ball with my fork and eyed it with conviction – I had saved for this meal and I was going to savor all of it.
 
But then I saw a dark clump on the side of the otherwise smoothly textured, lightly sauced pork. What is that? I thought. A burn? Some sauce? I poked it. No, it’s coming off, and as a piece of fuzz clung to my nail…oh wait, it’s hair! At first, I thought it must just be a part of the pork, but after a closer examination, I saw clearly that it wasn’t just a few bristles. It wasn’t a freshly fallen strand that had innocently found itself laying atop a forkful of spaghetti, no. It was a mingling of follicles and lint nestled in a clump
 
No doubt about it, I was looking at a hairy meatball!
 
As someone who goes out to eat fairly often, it is almost impossible to avoid such an incident; in fact, finding a stray hair in food is somewhat de rigueur. But a clump! A small mass? A dust bunny of cilia? My thoughts raced with possible explanations, anything to excuse the rising sense of disgust and disappointment building in my belly. Perhaps it fell from the ceiling or from a dirty exhaust vent… These scenarios did not make me feel better. And I hated thinking about it, but disturbing questions kept popping up: Who’s hair was it? Was it even human? Could it be the hair of, say, a cat? Of an opossum?
 
Faced with the dilemma of either telling my very friendly server about the fibrous gob or keeping it to myself and risking another customer finding their own, I decided to give notice.My waiter apologized profusely, and when my check was dropped off, all that was on the bill was wine.
 
I had not expected my meal to be comped, which not only saved me my hard-earned pennies but had the happy side effect of quieting my stomach and generally increasing the enjoyment of  my experience at Cuoco.
 
Now I’ll be able to afford my next Tom Douglas meal.
 
Maybe if I’m lucky, history will repeat itself thirteen more times. Then I can get a taste for all that each of Mr. Douglas’s establishments has to offer. 

A BLIGHTED STAR  

blighted-star
 
 
I hope to one day have a daughter,
a fellow bibliophile.
I hope to equip her with a name
matched to a life of
excitement.
Romance.
Adventure.
Perhaps I’ll name her Lady
after my favorite Macbeth.
With overreaching
determination,
she’ll become
a queen with spotty laundry.
Maybe I’ll name her Emma B,
a romantic to the extreme.
A carriage ride around Roen
sounds terribly sexy to me.
The heroine who appeals most
is the hardest working D’Urberville.
With the rage of a wronged woman,
will my girl stab her rapist, too?
Tess’s end is tragic,
but hers is a crazy
I wouldn’t mind instilling.
God forbid, my daughter
grows up dull.
Nice would be even worse.
If she turns out no smarter
than Lydia Bennet,
I’ll have to strangle her. 

WE, THE ZEDD HEADS

zedd-heads
 
 
At 10pm on September 29, I stepped into line outside of the Showbox Theater in Seattle to hear Zedd—the internationally known, exceptionally talented, twenty-four-year-old DJ. As I waited, I watched intimidating men in dark suits and earpieces pulling kids aside and searching their pockets and bags.
            These security measures seemed harsh. I wondered if the extra precautions stemmed from the tragedy that had occurred barely a month earlier in Boston. One of the first stops on Zedd’s Moment of Clarity tour was at the House of Blues, where nineteen-year-old Brittany Flannigan died of “an apparent overdose,” according to WHDH, a Boston TV news channel. They made the girl’s death out to be a direct product of the show—a sort of necessary evil of electronica.
            Maybe that’s the only way to sell a story.
            When I was let in, the place was already packed with children and teens and old men alike—there was, after all, no age limit. Guys wore neon tank tops; girls wore neon next-to-nothings. The crowd was divided: younger members occupying the wall on the right, sporting anime-character backpacks, arms laden with multi-colored beads; older Zedd fans lingering by the bar and VIP section. The opener was still playing, and the overhead lights shone dimly on the dance floor, grimly reminding us, as though we were anticipating the start of a movie, that the main attraction had yet to come. I took this opportunity to let a few vodka tonics chase each other down my throat until Zedd finally appeared on stage, accompanied by an impressive display of digital production with lights and lasers colliding and kaleidoscoping over our heads.
            He played tracks from many of the giants of house music like Swedish House Mafia and Hardwell and remixed top forty favorites such as Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and Skrillex’s “Breakin’ a Sweat.” Some criticized Zedd for not playing enough of his own songs, but for the most part the crowd was in thunderous agreement: this was a great show.
            I was, at that point, caught up in an overwhelming feeling of positivity that permeated the venue. Dizzy from the mass excitement and too much bottom-shelf vodka, I swayed and sang with others. For an encore, Zedd played his most popular song, “Spectrum,” and as his performance came to a close, the beat dropped one last time and the ceiling exploded in lights and confetti.
            The entire crowd cheered.
            Then the theater lights turned on, reality stung our eyes, and I looked at all that beautiful confetti stuck to the grimy floor.
             As people formed a line, this time to get their coats, and slowly began filing out, I looked around for telltale signs of a stretcher or ambulance, struck as I was with a terrible if slightly paranoid thought. To my dizzy relief, no one had died or needed hospitalization, but I couldn’t help noticing that my own experience had been tempered with memory of Ms. Flannigan’s death. I wondered if they guy next to me, pupils dilated and sweating profusely, had heard about her. A good chance he had—after all, Zedd had canceled the show immediately following her death, had even tweeted to his 650,000 followers, “PLEASE, everyone… BE RESPONSIBLE!”
            The man noticed me looking at him. He said, “Hey, you want to go to the after-party tonight? It starts at three and goes til morning. Or some time.”
            I hesitated a moment. Then I declined.