Comforts

The end is nearing–I received my last complete work schedule yesterday, along with what I believe are my last days off. I have 10 days left in the Cowboy State, which is unbelievable. Wasn’t I just circling spots on the oversized map of Jackson and pressing sticky notes into crinkled pages of my Grand Tetons guide? Wasn’t I counting the days until my mother visited (more on that lovely visit later)? It seems to me like Lauren and Ryan, the last of the deli kids to arrive, were just moving in, even though they’ve been here a month. Yesterday Marissa left for Kansas, the first of my friends to end their season (more on that hug-filled goodbye later). I’ll be next.

I could easily talk about the impending wrap-up of deli days, evening campfires, Teton gazing, etc. but I tend to avoid things until they’re right in front of me, so we’ll save the reflections for my layover and red-eye flight back home.

Instead, let’s talk about the ultimate comfort: food. I love food. I love eating it, cooking it, baking it, and writing about it (food inevitably makes an appearance in all my stories). Today is one of the rare days off where I don’t overlap with any of my friends, and after waking up at 11am (I rarely wake up past 9am), I deliberated between having a lazy day after a week of too-little sleep, or going into town. I chose the latter, and of course it was downpouring when I arrived in Jackson, despite a sunny 2 hour shuttle ride into town. I hightailed it to my favorite coffee shop, Cowboy Coffee, regretting leaving my cozy (and dry) pile of blankets. But then I ordered an almond milk cappuccino and the only thing I was regretting was ordering a medium instead of a large size.

For those who don’t know: I have a coffee addiction. When I open the deli one of the first things I do is start the coffee, and then proceed to drink five cups between the hours of 6:30am and 11:30am. It’s not particularly good coffee, but it’s strong and hot, and that’s all I’ve come to expect from my coffee in Wyoming. It also allows me to sing deli-parodies in the morning (for example: “Evacuate the deli/Oo this meat is killing me” to the beat of Evacuate the Dancefloor) and yelp “Woot!” whenever I bake something/clean something/screw up something. Yesterday Lauren just shook her head at me and Megan good-naturedly declared I had too much energy after I serenaded her near the coffee pots. To apologize for my nuttiness I gave her a cup of puppy chow (powdered sugar soaked chex mix that we call “moose droppings” in the deli) I made.

Anyways, I digress. The point of all this is that my caffeine habit both makes me both tolerate less-than-stellar coffee and appreciate quality coffee. And Cowboy Coffee’s cappuccinos and iced coffees give me the same satisfaction of my favorite coffee shops back home, Redeye Roasters and Thinking Cup. The foam on the cappuccino is light, the espresso is robust without being bitter, and their iced coffee is pleasantly dark without being acidic. Plus they have wifi and plenty of seating, with two windows overlooking the town square.

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Almond milk cappuccino at Cowboy Coffee

My other favorite spot is Persephone Bakery, which has regularly been supplying Jackson’s cafés and restaurants with breads and pastries, but only recently opened up a storefront. And let me tell you, the storefront is gorgeous. It reminds me of one of my best friend’s, Emma’s, house–modern yet rustic, with all the delicious scents of kitchen perfuming the shop. There’s a wooden porch that looks like it’d be perfect for an outdoor party, with its wooden bar attached to the railing and large picnic table. The store is set inside what appears to have once been a home, and the indoor seating area, with its flowerpots, white wooden chairs, and open windows, echoes a homey feel. The shop looks like it should be the subject in a Good Housekeeping spread. It’s the perfect place to read, blog, or just relax, and sitting with a book on the porch with their lentil salad is one of my favorite treats on a day off. I’ll admit I’m yet to try one of the tempting goods from the bakery case (too many options!), but the lentil salad, with its toasted hazelnuts, earthy lentils, and roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, and eggplants, maybe just be the best salad I’ve ever had. It’s light yet filling, perfect for summer, and I can’t wait to recreate it at home. It pairs perfectly with their Plum Ginger iced tea, which is subtly sweet and spicy, and completely refreshing on a hot Wyoming day. The last time I ordered a cappuccino there they had just opened and the staff hadn’t quite gotten the hang of the espresso machine, but the coffee drinks looked like they had improved on my most recent visit. Before I head back to Boston I’m dying to try their almond croissant and truffle baked egg dish.

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Lentil salad and iced coffee at Persephone bakery, accompanied by my journal and reading material (highly recommend Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson!)

Though I try to keep my food-spending to lunch and coffee so I don’t blow all of the minimum-wage earnings I’ve made this summer, sometimes a break from the EDR (Employee Dining Hall) is necessary. The EDR vegetarian dining options are lacking, to be generous, and I’ve eaten far too many meals of wilted romaine topped with chickpeas, olives, and steamed cauliflower, broccoli, and peas (the standards veggie option). Though the EDR staff knows I’m vegetarian, and whenever there’s tofu or veggie burgers or lasagna without beef they jump to tell me about dinner, and always look slightly crestfallen when there’s no vegetarian option to share with me. Chef Joe is always willing to open a new tub of peanut butter for me, throw a grilled cheese on the grill, or get me a bowl of oatmeal when I’m late for breakfast, and for that I’m grateful. But when I’m looking for a vegetarian meal that I know will sate my appetite, I go to Lotus Cafe, a sort of hippy-dippy place that serves tofu scramble, tempeh, and raw breakfast bowls, but also local bison, fish, and chicken. I’m trying to convince my non-veggie friends to go there for dinner this week–we’ll see if I’m successful. But, speaking of tofu scramble–they make the best here. I had a breakfast of kale, quinoa, breakfast potatoes, and tofu scramble at Lotus for breakfast, and I need their scramble recipe. My carnivorous friends roll their eyes when I wax poetic about tofu scramble, but seriously, this stuff is the shit. Spicy and a little salty, and cooked to the consistency of scrambled eggs (rather than the watery mush you often get), even non meat eaters will like it. I dare you to try it. Kale, quinoa, and potatoes sounds like they could be bland sides, but the potatoes and quinoa are both well seasoned, and the kale adds a nice brightness to the dish. It’s a good mix of different flavors and a great introduction to what Lotus can do.

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“The Custom” at Lotus Café; tofu scramble, breakfast potatoes, steamed kale, and quinoa with a béarnaise style citrus sauce

Another favorite spot to grab a meal is Shades Cafe. Their breakfast bowl is a mix of some of my favorite things–spinach, black beans, poached eggs, salsa, and avocado. These guys know how to poach an egg perfectly, and the salsa and avocado always taste freshly made. Plus the inside is cute, with a small table by the window and a larger one nestled in the corner, or you can eat outside on the porch, where the staff slide your order to you through a window in the kitchen.

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Breakfast bowl at Shades Café; two poached eggs seasoned with spice on a bed of spinach over black beans, with salsa and avocado

Those are my favorite Jackson spots; within the Tetons it’s a different story, and though park food is notorious for its poor quality, there are actually some good places to nom within the Grand Tetons park. But the sun’s come out, my cappuccino is finished (must resist ordering another), so I think it’s time for a stroll around town. There’s still so much to talk about–the visit with my mother and godmother, Marissa’s last days, our adventures hiking and grilling last week, and what I’m going to miss about this crazy place, but with less than 2 weeks left here, I’m going to close my computer and explore Jackson for one of the last few times.