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UP CLOSE: Going gaga for natural food
April 20, 2017

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LAKE PLACID - Forgive Kim Scarpa if - while she's cooking you up a meal at Green Goddess Natural Foods - you catch her dancing like she's one of Lady Gaga's backup dancers from the epic 2009 "Bad Romance" music video.

It's probably because she is re-enacting one of the many choreographed moves she's practiced over and over from the iconic music video. It's a blistering five minutes set in a futuristic all-white bathhouse that's reminiscent of a new age avant-garde Michael Jackson music video.

"I probably know 50 percent of the moves," she said. "But that's a lot!"

Forgive Scarpa, because in a few short minutes you'll probably consume a meal much tastier than if she hadn't been blaring her favorite artist in the back of the house.

"My stuff tastes better when I'm dancing to Gaga, for sure," she laughed on a Friday, April 14 the store and cafe on Saranac Avenue.

Scarpa is the lead chef at Green Goddess, where she's worked alongside owners and founders Wynde Kate Reese and Tammy Loewy for about a decade. She's a proud vegetarian, and she serves up most every vegetarian-based dish the popular health food store sells at its cafe.

And she's such a fan of Lady Gaga because of the artist's pro-equality message, whether that be one of her many statements in support of the LGBTQ community or when the musician wore a dress made of raw beef to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards to make a statement about fighting for what you believe in. Gaga has explained in the past that the dress was a metaphor for people "having as much rights as the meat on their bones," if they don't embrace equality for all.

That was one of many statements made by Gaga that struck a chord for Scarpa. She's been a vegetarian since the age of 13, a decision she came to when she looked into the eyes of a cow at a dairy barn at a local fair in New Hampshire.

A few years later, she travelled through the Adirondack Park to her future home at Paul Smith's College, awestruck by the beauty in the wake of the devastating 1998 ice storm.

Scarpa found her home here in the mountains, and she's stayed true to her vegetarian roots throughout culinary school, which was a challenge at times. She stuck around the Tri-Lakes Region after graduation, working at a few other local establishments before joining forces with Reese and Loewy, who eventually opened this store in Lake Placid.

While she has fallen in love with the vibrant and multi-layered nature of her favorite artist in Lady Gaga, Scarpa likes her food to be densely rich, complexly intense and sometimes a little bit spicy. Though most of her creations are sold over the cafe's counter, one of the store's best-packaged sellers is something she created: Curry Cashews.

Indian food is her favorite, and curry goes with a lot of the dishes served at Green Goddess, including the popular "Goddess Salad." As for its atypical taste, Scarpa's description is equally spicy.

"It's like India is dancing on your tongue," she said. "It's some serious Bollywood action in your mouth."

Scarpa has seen Lady Gaga once before, at the iconic Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan. She's also tripping to New York City to see her favorite artist this summer at Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets.

When she arrives to watch Lady Gaga rock the baseball stadium, Scarpa will singing along with 42,000 other self-professed "little monsters," an affectionate term for Lady Gaga fans. There, she and thousands of others will curl their knuckles as if they are going to scratch the air. For Gaga fans, it's a uniting symbol known as "putting your paws up."

Back at Green Goddess on Friday, April 14, Scarpa put her paw up while thinking about what she'd make for Lady Gaga if she were to walk into the store.

She'd probably cook up a Mayan Chocolate Torte, a chocolate cake infused with cinnamon and cayenne pepper, filled in chocolate mousse and then enrobed in a cinnamon and cayenne ganache. Scarpa thought to make it one day when eating chocolate ice cream with cinnamon. She craved a bit of cake as well. These days, customers can put in special orders for the dessert at Green Goddess.

As for what it tastes like, Scarpa used one word you won't find in Merrian Webster's Dictionary. It's a "mouthgasm."

"The heat comes at the end," she said. "It's not overwhelming or spicy, not overpowering. It's just the blend, the harmony of those flavors together in your mouth.

If and when Lady Gaga walks into Green Goddess and orders up the Mayan Chocolate Torte to go, Scarpa supposes she'll be a bit awestruck before creating the best dish of her life.

"I don't know if I'd be able to speak through the tears," she said with a laugh, "but I would thank her profusely through everything she's done. She affects my life and my food."

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