Cookies, Parkour, Slasher Movies

I have not blogged since Sunday. That means this is the third night since my last post. Because of my laziness since that previous post (in all seriousness I have actually been insanely busy) I will make up for the missed days by writing about three different topics. Of course I would have used these topics as stand-alone posts if I had not neglected my blog for my job and late night Halloween horror movies but such is life. Let’s get this over with.

Monday Cookie Day: Although I hate the way every single day on our calendar is designated for some activity or food, for all I care this past Monday could have been called The National Day of Giving Cookies to Brent. Imagine my surprise and gratitude when a student-worker in our internal operations department came into my office and gave me a bag of chocolate chip homemade cookies. Although I had hinted at her before that I wouldn’t mind it if she ever brought me some cookies since it is well known that she is a great cookie baker I did not expect it to actually happen, especially not on a random Monday. It was very nice.

That exact same day, HuHot ran a Twitter promotion for Missoula residents. Thanks to my brother who screen captured the tweet and sent it my way, I was the first person to respond to a specific tweet from HuHot’s Twitter account asking followers if they would like their special dessert called Cookie Dough Conquest (several fried wontons filled with cookie dough). Because I was the first person to respond, a rep from HuHot brought the deep fried cookie dough to my office! Complete with chocolate dipping sauce I had to give most of them away because after eating just one I felt like the most terrible and unhealthy person on the planet.

Me standing with the cookie dough dessert that was delivered by HuHot to my office.

Me standing with the cookie dough dessert that was delivered by HuHot to my office.

Parkour: I had another one of those moments where I realized I am not that young anymore this week. For our big Griz-Cat volleyball game on Monday night I booked an act called Unparalleled Movement for halftime. To my knowledge I thought they were just an eccentric, entertaining group who used some basic props and did cool flips. I was not up to speed on the fact that Unparalleled Movement is part of something much bigger, something that has swept the nation, something that people cooler than me call parkour. I admit it, I knew very little about the parkour movement that has attracted thousands of people to the demanding and physically daunting discipline. But I have now done my research and I have a lot of respect and appreciation for parkour. I also now know how to pronounce it correctly. Even if for some unfounded reason I didn’t like parkour I would at least feel somewhat indebted to it because on Monday night Unparalleled Movement rocked the gym during halftime and had over 1,000 fans on their feet. When my crowd is happy, I’m happy.

A photo from Unparalleled Movement's performance on Monday.

A photo from Unparalleled Movement’s performance on Monday.

Slasher Movies: As I mentioned at the start of this post, I have watched my fair share of horror movies this week. With Halloween right around the corner, a couple networks go the route of showing horror movie marathons. Over the past several days I have watched bits and pieces of Chucky, Friday the 13th, and Halloween. I think probably the only reason why I watch them is because it is that time of the year. I mean why else would I? In my opinion these movies are garbage. I find no thrill or suspense in a guy wearing a mask or, worse yet, a doll in overalls going around killing people. It is not scary, it is predictable and rather boring. If I want something that is scary, I am watching a movie that is either about a possession, about something that is unexplainable, or about a girl who has telekinetic powers with a mom who is nuts. It is Halloween so I can tolerate and even watch some of these slasher flicks but once October is over I never waste my time with them.

Time now to sit down on the couch and eat some cookies while watching Halloween 6 and keeping an eye on my phone that is playing parkour demos off my YouTube app. Ah yes, another typical Wednesday night in the life of Brent Reser . Don’t Blink.

My Special Taste for Mongolian BBQs

Okay, all of you might want to hit me really hard for writing about food again so I apologize. I have convinced myself that the more I write about it the less I will eat it so at least you have an idea of my thinking. So just a few days after going into great detail about homemade pizza, I am onto my next high-caloric yummy fascination.

One difference about what I am writing about tonight is that this dining option really is not that feasible to make at home. Rather, you have to go to certain restaurants to indulge in this extravagant cuisine. And believe me, I am not using the word “indulge” lightly. Mostly when people enjoy this type of food they enjoy it for quite a while afterwards because when you are done, you are stuffed. I am talking about a truly interactive dish, one that you see made right in front of your nose, from the bubbling of your sauces to the chopping of your meat to the swooping of food off the cooking surface and onto your plate. I am talking about Mongolian BBQ.

Growing up, I was initially turned off to Mongolian BBQ restaurants. Not too far away from my parents’ house, jam-packed in the middle of a not so clean strip mall was a local Mongolian grill place. We would go in for lunch or dinner occasionally. I would get my bowl and go through the rather small line of noodles, meats, and veggies and pick out what I wanted…pretty routine, right? Well, pretty routine except for the owner standing at the end of the line staring at me as I made my every move. I looked down as I put the preliminary ingredients in my bowl. But then, every single time, just as I got to the sauce section he would jolt toward me, take my bowl, and speaking in some Asian language he would talk out loud while pouring a combination of sauces on my food. He would finish splashing everything into my bowl and then hand it back to me and motion me towards the grill to have it cooked.

I hated this. It took all the joy and excitement out of the experience. It also took the fun out of eating it as well. I never liked what he concocted for me. I remember the third time going in and cringing the moment that I saw the owner in his usual spot. When I got through the first part of the line and to the sauce section I tried to resist the man’s attempt to take my bowl and my mom even tried to tell him to ease off as well but it was to no avail. His voice got louder and he aggressively motioned for my bowl. He confiscated my food once again and ruined my meal. Yep, for a long time I didn’t care too much for Mongolian BBQ.

But as I got older and as I tried different Mongolian grill type places, you know, the ones that actually let you decide what you want to put on your food, I grew to like them quite a bit. Whether it was going to pig out with football teammates, enjoying a meal with my relatives in Walla Walla, or battling my brother to see who could eat the most, I developed quite an appreciation and a craving for these types of places. The combination of an all-you-can-eat place that cooks your food right in front of you and that allows you to make flavors come alive really captured my heart and my stomach. Back in my real eating days I loved to get one plate that was super spicy and then cool down with a more mild selection and then finish off with a combination of a bunch of different flavors. I was a pig.

I also relished experiencing different Mongolian BBQs. When I was younger I didn’t place as much emphasis on cleanliness in restaurants as I do today. With that said, I have eaten in some pretty sketchy Mongolian grill joints. You know, the ones where the fish tank water is probably cleaner than the dish washing water. The ones where week old debris on and around the grill is commonplace. The ones where plates are cheap, silverware is almost plastic, and napkins are thinner than your average sheet of Kleenex. The ones where grease seems to float through the air and you feel like you need a shower when you leave. But again, during that time of my life I didn’t care. I just wanted the endless, flavorful food.

I became picky with Mongolian Grills when I moved to Missoula and tried HuHot for the first time. I couldn’t believe that a love I already had for a certain type of food could increase so much more. Soup and rice brought out right away? FLOUR TORTILLA SHELLS to roll your food up in at no extra cost? Cut up sausage available in the meat line? An endless array of sauces? A spotless restaurant that even includes a classy enough bar? Needless to say, I felt like I had died and gone to heaven during my first dining experience at HuHot (Yes, there is a HuHot in Spokane but I never got the chance to go there because it was on the other end of town and with the proliferation of Mongolian BBQ restaurants in the city, it never really occurred to me to try it. EXTRA SIDE NOTE: I sang the praises of HuHot before back when I gave out the “Brent’s Best of the Zoo” Awards…as you can see, I love the place).

But what really sets HuHot apart from everything else I had in the past is just the freshness of the ingredients. Everything from the meat to the vegetables to the tortillas to the chopped peanuts is top notch. Even though it is a franchise the food always tastes perfect.

Believe me, that was not supposed to be a commercial for HuHot. I just get really excited about the food!

Just like buffets and places like Texas Roadhouse and Olive Garden, you have to make sure to only go to Mongolian BBQs sparingly, no matter how much you like them. When you go, you are pretty much guaranteed to overeat and pretty much guaranteed to feel full and guilty afterwards. But I think the thing about Mongolian grills that help decrease the guilt a little bit is just the atmosphere and experience. Creating your own dish, experimenting with sauces, and watching someone cook it on a huge grill is fun! Just make sure to pass on dessert. Don’t Blink.

Brent’s Best of the Zoo

Every newspaper in every city seems to do it. They poll its readers on what is best in that certain city regarding everything under the sun from food to nightlife to retail to tanning salons to coffee places to celebrities to attorneys to etc. etc. etc. Some publications get a little too carried away and really overstep its bounds by creating way too many categories. For some reason, something tells me that some of the especially obscure categories probably have winners that only receive two or three votes…but who knows.

For tonight’s post I wanted to take this idea and add a little twist to it in conjunction with the lovely town I live in. The twist of course is that there is no democracy here nor are there 2,000 crazy categories that nobody cares about. Instead, this esteemed blogger is the only one making the judgments and the category count has been trimmed down to only include the most important (thus dealing mostly with food).

I give to you Brent’s Best of the Zoo*. There were categories that I wanted to include but knew I had to hold off on due in part to conflicts of interest in relation to my job. With those categories off the table, I made the best compilation that I possibly could. Enjoy!

Best Missoula Influencer: Aaron Traylor, 107.5 ZOO FM.

Aaron is a DJ for 107.5 Zoo FM in Missoula but his voice is just not heard only over the airwaves. With the largest social media following in the city and with his hands in about as many different pies as you can imagine, his influence blankets across Missoula. Everyone knows Aaron and that is a good thing because his number one goal is to help the community.

Aaron and I during Halloween 2011.

Best Missoula Experience: Any event/festival in Caras Park

Initially I wanted to choose Griz football in Washington Grizzly Stadium but I am trying my best not to be biased so I have to go with Caras Park! Whether it is Downtown Tonight, Brewfest, the Great Griz Encounter, Celtic Fest, or any of the other events held at this Missoula gathering place, there is no better spot in town to relax, people watch, socialize, eat, and drink. Events at Caras Park oozes Missoula and seems to instill the Zoo spirit into everyone in attendance.

It is always a great time at Caras Park. This was taken at Brewfest 2012.

Best Missoula Restaurant: HuHot

Okay, so I know HuHot is a franchise with locations in seventeen states but I just can’t overlook how good this restaurant is. Always offering fresh and creative ingredients in a cool atmosphere, I find myself craving HuHot a lot. I have dined at a lot of Mongolian grills in my time and nothing comes close to HuHot. If I get to choose where we go to eat and if I have a large appetite, we are driving to the end of Brooks to eat at HuHot.

Best Missoula Burrito Joint: Taco Del Sol

I start to salivate a little bit when I think of Taco Del Sol. Much in the same way that HuHot stands out to me as the best of its kind not just in Missoula  but everywhere, so does Taco Del Sol. When it comes to burrito shops, I think Taco Del Sol is #1. When I think of this place one word comes to my mind: flavor. There is a distinct flavor that is Taco Del Sol that I can’t get enough of. Also, it is cheap and they sell cold beer. I am a huge fan.

Best Missoula Breakfast: Montana Club

Whenever my parents come to town, it is a requirement that we go to the Montana Club for breakfast. With a breakfast menu as big as its portion sizes, you will definitely get a great start to your day. Everything about the food is high quality. I always struggle about whether to get the pancakes, the ham and cheese omelet, or the larger than life biscuits and gravy plate. Although the decision is always tough, I always leave satisfied.

Best Missoula Restaurant Server: Adam, Iron Horse

If you don’t know who Adam is right off hand, you will after I briefly describe him to you: He is the guy with the long hair set in a ponytail who is always working at the Iron Horse busting his ass off. Accurate, accommodating,  and entertaining, Adam is one of those people at the top of his trade. He epitomizes the title of his job, “server”, because that is what he does…he serves.  He is polite in that classy way that is not overbearing but respectful and charming. He always remembers me and I have had nothing but top-notch service from him the numerous times I have been lucky enough to sit at one of his tables. I can only imagine the tips that guy brings in on a nightly basis.

Best Missoula Brewery: Bayern

With a couple friends who are brewery-obsessed, it seems like I have developed a pretty good taste for all the fabulous breweries in Missoula. For me, one especially stands out and that is Bayern. The first selling point for me is the beer. I love pretty much all of the Bayern beers with Dragon’s Breath and Dump Truck earning special places in my heart. I also just connect the best with Bayern’s atmosphere. I like the two story set up and the actual bar location. If an out of towner comes and they want to experience a Missoula brewery, I am taking them to Bayern.

Best Missoula Blogger: Saskia Boogman, “According to Sauce”

Although Saskia recently penned her last post for “According to Sauce”, there is no way I was not going to choose it as Missoula’s best blog. From 2009-2012, she blogged about her experiences and adventures while working at the Missoula Hooters. Saskia took her readers behind the scenes and into the world of a Hooters girl. It was must read material. It brought her great notoriety and opportunity on a national level. On a much more local level, her blog was one of my influences in starting Don’t Blink. The combination of honesty and humor she used in writing her blog made it such a success. I already miss it greatly!

Best Missoula Writer: Joel Carlson, Grizzly Athletics

Now I said I wanted to stay away from any possible conflicts of interest but there is just no escaping this one. Joel Carlson is the best writer in Missoula period. Joel is our assistant sports information director in the athletic department at The University of Montana and the wonders he does with the written language is incredible. No one from any publication or other outfit in the city can hold a candle to him. Joel blows everyone out of the water. Early this summer he earned some well-deserved recognition as he won several national story awards, including national story of the year. Do yourself a favor right now and surf over to www.gogriz.com to view some of Joel’s work.

Best Missoula Mentor on Campus: Keith Graham, Professor – School of Journalism

You won’t meet a cooler guy. Energetic, outgoing, good looking, athletic, and very positive, Keith Graham is a person who everyone loves at The University of Montana. The number of cool things he has done and the number of important people he has met is pretty impressive. What is more impressive though is how nice and respectful he is to everyone. I never took a class with Keith, heck, I never even took a class in the journalism school (if you have read this blog you can figure that out) but that didn’t stop him from reaching out to me and giving me the time of day. The UM is very lucky to have Keith.

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There you have it, the 2012 edition of Brent’s Best of the Zoo. To all the winners of my prestigious list, I regret to inform you that you will not be receiving a framed certificate or an invitation to a special recognition party. Maybe in my 2013 installment I might have something in the budget to more appropriately recognize the people and businesses who top my list. Until then, please contact me if you if you want to call BS on any of my selections or if you would like me to weigh in on any other categories that I did not include.  Congrats to the best of Missoula! Don’t Blink.

* The term “Zoo” is a nickname for Missoula.