Hello again. Alissa here. I stumbled into an interesting opportunity this summer that I’ve been meaning to write about when I got a free moment. It all started (like most good things) by accident. I was hanging out backstage at Rock the Garden. My ex (best friend) was doing sound for Babes in Toyland. So I was hanging around backstage (as I am known to do). Well, on this particular day, it just so happened that Woody Harrelson was also hanging out backstage. It was exciting because Woody is a big star and all that. Though honestly, I’m not usually a starstruck person. Maybe because of the nature of the work that my ex does, I’m used to hanging around famous people. But Woody Harrelson! He is one of the biggest proponents of raw and vegan food out there! My ex was all over my case. You HAVE to tell Woody about your cheese. I was reluctant at first. Normally, I’m a little on the shy side. So it was a little intimidating. But I eventually mustered up the courage to run up to him in a semi awkward moment and introduce myself and give him a PRL guitar pick. It was a little weird, but he was really nice about it. I offered to bring him samples of the cheese to try. And he mentioned that maybe I could bring them by the set sometime. He was in town for the whole summer working on a movie! Well, as it turns out the movie is called Wilson, and he co-stars with Laura Dern. Laura Dern!
Admittedly, I’m not really much of a movie person. I’m much more of a music fan than a movie fan. I hardly ever go to movies. But there was one movie that came out when I was 19 or so. Wild at Heart. I don’t know why I was so obsessed with this movie. But it’s the only movie I have ever gone to see in the movie theatre three times. And it was three days in a row! Laura Dern was amazing in this movie. I wanted to BE her! I even started smoking Kools after that. I caught a lot of flack for it at the time. What can I say? I was 19.
Anyway, that night I relayed what happened on my facebook feed – that I had just met Woody Harrelson and he invited me to bring cheeses to the set and that he would probably never remember any of this tomorrow. And of course, I never heard from Woody. But the cool thing was that after my facebook post, it seemed like the entire City of Minneapolis was conspiring to get my cheeses in Woody’s hands. Minneapolis, like most cities, is a small town in disguise.
As luck would have it, a week or so later, I get a text from Tracy Singleton, owner of the Birchwood Cafe (Minneapolis’ most beloved local dining establishment). Here she is pictured with her Executive Chef, the amazing Marshall Paulsen. It turns out that that they’d been hired as Woody’s culinary team while he’s in town. Woody only eats raw and vegan food. This is easy enough to find in other cities. But in Minneapolis, it can be tougher. Tracy and the Birchwood are leaders in our local food movement. They have gone to great lengths to establish relationships with all the local farms in our area and to source ingredients directly from them. They are changing the food system here from the ground up! However, their area of specialty is based more around local food and less around raw food. So they wanted to know if I wanted to be involved. Well, hells yeah I wanted to be involved!
In reality, because of my responsibilities in running a cheese business, I wasn’t as involved as I would have liked to have been. But I did try to fill out the menu with some bonus items. Like kale chips and chocolate bark and this mint cacao nib ice cream. The mint ice cream really felt like a full circle moment for me. Marshall had told me that Laura was one of the people indulging in our delicacies. At 19, my obsession with Laura Dern got me into lung crystallizing Kools (that only lasted a couple months before my lungs revolted). Now in my forties, I’m coming back around with healthy raw and vegan mint ice cream. It all felt kind of interconnected – a cosmic moment for me. The universe reaffirming that I was in the right place at the right time. I love that.
Probably my best moment was making this. It’s like a couple days after I agreed to help out, I get a call from Marshall. 8PM. He tells me that they are filming a hospital scene. And we need to make something that’s raw and vegan and looks like a chicken fried steak for Woody to eat on set the next day. OMG. Things got a little crazy. I mean you have to appreciate raw food really to understand the challenge of making something that looks fried and unhealthy and adheres to the standards of raw food. Needless to say, I was up all night that night making this chicken fried steak. The steak is basically a veggie patty I made from whatever vegetables I could find that day (cauliflower, squash, zucchini, radish, chives, etc.). I made a puree out of the veggies. It was way too wet to make a patty out of. So I spread it on teflex sheets and dried it for a few hours and then formed it into patties. Then, I coated the patties with a coconut/macadamia batter. I added some cumin and curry to get the color right. So actually, it didn’t taste at all like a chicken fried steak. Because of the curry spice, it was more like a pakora. But it looked good!
Well, it turns out it was good enough to impress the props director. It got used in the scene! The next day, we got a text saying it was great, and Woody even thought it tasted good. They even sent a picture of the tray that got used in the scene.
Looks pretty real, doesn’t it? We won’t know until the movie comes out if the scene actually gets used in the movie, but it would be cool if it does. Marshall says that we are now part of an elite club of folks that includes the people that made him the fake twinkies for Zombieland. That sounds pretty cool to me. I like being in elite clubs with eccentric types. I’m all about that. Thanks Woody!