Friday, January 30, 2009

This. Is. Amazing. And so much better than Turducken.

The NYT reports on the Bacon Explosion, a roll of bacon-sausage formed by making a bacon lattice that holds groundup sausage.

Check out the article here, which contains how-to-make instructions and photos, if my confusing summary didn't help.

It's time for a chorus of "Sweet Caroline": "So good! (so good)..."

Besides the Obama-themed...

....chocolate (tactless) and the cocaine (probably illegal), Jones Soda Co., company of all hip-yuppie overpriced soda trends (though quite tasty), has released "Orange (You Glad for Change)."

But you probably expected that already.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Trader Joe's is a cult.

Exam week should not mean random food, says the girl who just tooled through gorgonzola crackers and candy cane Joe-Joe's (sandwich cookies). Oh wait -- those are classy.

Well, questionably so.

I trudged through the six to eight (we'll find out exactly how many) inches of snow today, taking photos with my blockmate and getting mistaken for tourists lurking near John Harvard. Snow was nice, not too icy, or too wet - I call it sugar snow - that is, until the Boston snowplows made it into slurpy brown slush.

After about an hour walking up and down Mass Ave and Mem Drive on our bro-date, we finally hit up Trader Joe's to prove we had done something substantive, other than full memory cards, drained camera batteries, and untouched study guides. I had realized that Sunday afternoon would make for a crowded Trader Joe's, but not this crowded - I mean, c'mon, it's snowing, guys. Admittedly, we didn't follow these standards and we walked a full mile to TJ's; my clogs were filled with snow and my socks were so soaked that I discreetly slipped my shoes off at church.

After some lurking, in which we realized intersession was for eating out and not for frozen food, M and I decided to get snacks for our exams. I hovered near chips and salsa, but ultimately decided on M's recommendation of blue cheese toasted crisps, which, according to the package, had "notes of gorgonzola." My review: At $1.99, same price as CVS sour cream and onion snack crackers. Better texture, definitely greater quantity of crackers, crispier and not buttery. Initially, it tasted remarkably similar to the CVS sour creamers, but then the gorgonzola note (should I say blue note?) kicked in, and then I remembered that I only tolerate blue cheese, not wholeheartedly embrace it as a member of the crumbly cheese family. So the best choice, considering health and taste, between the chips and salsa, sour creamers, and gorgonzola crisps, would have probably been the salsa.

I also got the last box of Candy Canes Joe-Joe's. Now I realize this is probably neurotic in a Woody Allen type of way, but I just didn't understand why I had to pay full price for them, given that they're technically Christmas fare, and probably stocked from at least a month ago (they always restock regular Joe-Joe's, or at least I like to think so). Also, they have higher caloric content than regular Joe-Joe's, and thanks to the candy cane pieces, have the thickness of a Double Stuf Oreo (which are a little bit too thick and cream for me, but at least guarantee I eat fewer Oreos). But thanks to M's "give yourself a guilty pleasure, you just finished your stats final," plus the fact that my roommate and I downed the last box within three days and that the next time we'd be eating them, it'd be nearly 2010, I figured I'd take it anyway. Wow, blockmates, way to be enablers and co-rationalizers.

The line for the register took about twenty minutes - longer than the shopping itself. M and I split up (divide and conquer, baby) into two different lines: I was trapped behind the quintessential ex-hippie-turned-literature-grad-student-roommate-pair (well, I think one silent roomie was biochem, actually) who had a cartful of goods to scan through. I would soon realize that the reason there were two of them was because Biochem would watch the cashier scan and bag the goods while Lit kept bringing more and more food to the counter, which made my wait exponentially long.

That Lit was a cultie. She really was. She talked to the people at neighboring registers, she nearly hugged the cashier, she lilted up and down the Trader Joe aisles, all without the aid of Two-Buck Chucks. It was fine, and I was glad for her, but honestly, I really wanted her to get out of the way so that I could sludge another mile to church in my drowning clogs five minutes earlier. My two items to your sixty-one (I counted, I had time)? Yeah, bring it babe.

I'm a terrible person.

But then she redeemed herself, as she shimmied up to the register and slammed down two plastic containers. She announced - as if she were Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia! - "these are the best things in the world." She tilted the container to the man at the next register (now that I begin to think of it, was this entire energetic routine a ploy to hit on him?). I craned my head to see what the blue label said, but I didn't need to, since she continued: "Sea salt brownies. These...(dramatic pause) are like: yum. I know they sound freaky but when you open them, they are heavenly."

Actually, they didn't sound weird at all. Sea salt is good, and when you put it in chocolate it imparts a nice flavor that keeps the chocolate from being too rich. In general, salty things plus chocolate equals yummy. Like bacon. But anyways, I silently acknowledged her for a find, even though I had found my one chocolate-flavored item for the day and sure wasn't going to give up my spot in line after twenty minutes.

Before Lit and Biochem left, Lit leaned towards the cashier and stated flatly, "I should advertise for this place." I thought to myself, actually...maybe. Then I realized that Trader Joe's are filled with these types of people - myself included. They rely on word of mouth for their business: Two-Buck Chuck, which reviews indicate does not taste like more than two bucks (or three, if you're on the East Coast), was largely a publicity stunt. My mom goes to Trader Joe's because my sister raves about their flowers, and we craved their trail mixes before they even opened a location in Minnesota. My roommate tells me to get their chocolate covered almonds because our blockmate, who grew up around TJs her entire life, had some lying on top of her fridge freshman year. The sites I've linked you to above - the topmost site for Google searches containing those terms - are all TJ's fan sites. If TJ has a cult following, then it must be a cult.

Don't question my logic, kthx.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Red Mango vs. Pinkberry: another showdown

I've mentioned the plethora of froyo places that have popped up over the past two years. We've got the 'original,' Pinkberry, and then a whole bunch of local places including but not limited to Berryline (Boston), Mr. Yogato (Washington, DC - the owners are friends of Berryline and my friend Caroline worked there), and redcherry (Minneapolis - though it's part of a chain, it's still localized).

I've only mentioned Red Mango (um obvskis, they have a myspace page like woah. Also, note how redcherry looks like a ripoff of Red Mango) once, I believe, but it's the nearest competitor to Berryline. It started up in South Korea (in fact, the photo above was taken in South Korea last summer, more photos from that trip will be in a later post). Its North American head is a former investment banker who believes in the nutritional power of froyo. In any case, they face the same consumers, and this time in the Bay Area:

The giants of the tart "fro-yo" craze — Pinkberry and Red Mango — are opening across the street from each other at Santana Row and Valley Fair, the first stores in San Jose and among the first outside the Los Angeles and New York markets.

Having been to both malls, I can see that both stores might be trying to split the demographic. Santana Row is the "classy outdoor mall" with designer stores, while Valley Fair is your typical mall. But...Valley Fair's Red Mango owner is Yul Kwon, winner of Survivor. WIN. I say it again: FTW!111!1eleventy!

Other than that, two facts that I thought were pretty cool:

...the dairy delight, a 2.0 version of the soft-serve type of frozen yogurt introduced in the 1980s...

The article just had to mention 2.0 in a Silicon Valley local article, didn't it?

Also, I didn't realize that soft-serve froyo began in the 80s, though now that I think about it, it makes sense. Weird neon-colored flavors (cotton candy, I'm looking atcha) sputtering out of a soft serve machine? Also, Yumi Yogurt (San Mateo) has definitely got that kitschy decor goin' on (although my friend Jon, who lives there, commiserates with me on this) - but it is a lot cheaper than 2.0 yogurt.

Each company has Korean roots: Red Mango originated in South Korea but has a separate, American branch headed by Kim and based in Southern California. Pinkberry was founded in L.A. by two Korean-Americans, Shelly Hwang and Young Lee.

Froyo is an American thing - since Korean-American is American as well - but not necessarily the way we think about it. Awesome. Also, the yogurt thing makes sense, because during my childhood, I was one of many Asian kids to drink liquid yogurt (different from yogurt smoothies sold in American grocery stores, much thinner and non-fruit-specific-flavor: an actual drink).

The article also has a table for a side-by-side comparison, so I say definitely a showdown.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Breaking news: Crispy french toast... going to be served once a month in the houses during brunch, starting this Sunday.

Yay for HUDS feedback (though I'm still waiting for them to bring those calorie cards back) and for the Winter Wonderland brunch.

You can also find out exactly when the crispy french toast will be making an appearance. I've mentioned this in a previous post, but CS 50, Harvard's introductory computer science class, requires students to make a final project - most students create a Facebook or iPhone application. Some of those projects involve email notifications when a certain HUDS menu item appears that day; HUDS Buddy and Crimson Dining are the two active ones I know of. If you're craving french toast, give 'em a try (my favorite HUDS foods: Greek pizza and that weird Mollie Katzen chicken).

Rest in peace, Whopper Sacrifice

Gawker reports that Whopper Sacrifice didn't make the week:

After Facebook pulled the email notification to users who got defriended by WS, BK pulled WS in response.

I mean, yeah, probably a bad idea to have those email notifications, especially if it's people you don't know that well. I mean, can you imagine being a freshman at Annenberg and seeing the person who defriended you (you totally recognized him from his profile picture)? Or eventually getting housed with him? Awkies, especially when they bring it up. (And it definitely happens. One girl stared me down in Annenberg last year and told me she recognized me because I defriended her before we came to school. But I have a few responses to that: one, I didn't really friend anyone I didn't know before I stepped on the Harvard campus, two, I don't really reject or defriend friend requests from mass frosh-frienders - of which she was one - and three, she totally defriended me over the summer. Not that, like, my freshman self or anything is bitter about it, but she sure is.)

But at the same time, the Angry Whopper advertising hinged on its viral edge: that the people who got defriended would now know about the Angry Whopper, and defriend their friends too. Of course, a lot of people worked the system, thanks to the Facebook groups and Craigslist ads looking for fast (food) friends interested in a good ol' Whopper defriend.

Although the math doesn't work out: more than 230,000 friends were removed by 82,000 users. This means the average number of friends removed was less than 3 per person. Maybe people were scared off when they heard that their defriends might recieve emails, but c'mon, you have the app, now get the Whopper. (For the record, I did not friend purge.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

...Never gonna give you up

My two favorite hobbies -- aside from learning (no, really - stuff I wanna learn, okay? Just like how Randy Moss plays when he wants to play. thankfully, the course catalog should handle some of that) and taking photos and being sarcastic and other things I've neglected to mention* -- are probably eating and rickrolling**.

Obviously, those are other people's hobbies too. So what would be better than a food-and-rickrolling post? Here are three links that might interest you if you're into projecting Rick Astley skillz on your foodz:

A rickrolling lyric cake [Matilda's Cookbook People]
. Impressed by the pun on dessert and desert. Not so impressed by the gel icing; that stuff reminds me of two things: melted fruit roll-up or the lip gloss everyone used in eighth grade (and some people would actually drink because it tasted like blue raspberry).

Actual rick rolls; that is, Rick Astley's face superimposed onto hamburger buns.

But the true queen of food rickrolling is here. This woman disguised a hat box in icing to serve as a decoy birthday cake for her boyfriend. Underneath the hat box, she had created a rickroll cake with the words "Never gonna give you up," along with Rick Astley's image. Not only did she achieve what the other two links did, but she disguised it. Then, when her friends tried to cut her cake, she turned on the music and lifted the box.

Dear readers, if I am ever proposed to, I hope this is how it's done. How can you go wrong if "our song" is "Never gonna give you up?"

*If you clicked that, you just got rickrolled. Suckaaaaa.
**"Never Gonna Give You Up" was actually left off the Now 25 compilation album as one of the top songs over the past 25 years. Travesty? Travesty.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Be still my heart, mocha cinnamon swirl

Remember the "Sweet and Savory" event for freshmen last year, where the first-years got free cheesecake and nachos so that they didn't freak out over finals?

Unfortunately, my unworthy goals of crashing this year's Sweet and Savory were dashed, but for good reason - I didn't arrive in Boston until a few days later. Which - by all accounts - is good, since I got an extra day of home-cooked food and missed some Lamonting.

In any case, missing a premium study break was well worth it. As non-first-years in the houses, it's now our turns to get good food, starting with the Winter Wonderland brunch tonight. Admittedly, the first-years might have gotten a whiff of Winter Wonderland, whether in Annenberg (though the food's probably mess hall there) or in unrestricted upperclass dhalls (still not your own).

Winter Wonderland brunch was amazing. Admittedly, we would all prefer if HUDS spread out their good meals, but this was a nice touch to finals week (even if it extended my stay in the dhall to over thirty minutes). Unfortunately, I wasn't able to try all the food, but between all of us, we managed every menu item:

  • horseradish crusted beef (appparently why Adams and Eliot restrict dinner for Carvery nights)
  • apple bourbon brown-sugar crusted French baguette toast
  • potato latkes
  • lobster bisque
  • grape-nut bread pudding
  • made to order omelettes (with feta cheese, smoked ham and salmon, etc)
  • the goat-cheese cranberrys salad
  • the requisite chocolate fountain (obvs?)
But the best part for us was the flavored coffee. A weekend staple at the Quad houses (and the only perk I can see from living in Pfoho, aside from my friends and maybe Cabot dining hall's layout), French Vanilla never makes it to the River houses. Neither does mocha cinnamon swirl - admittedly, the coffee is watered down and the caffeine is giving me a little headache as I blog, but it's not regular acidic dhall coffee!

Needless to say, I'm not excited for my finals this week. Though I'm anticipating the finals study breaks - including but not limited to the return of potato skins. Freshmen, even though I was you last year and I hated house restrictions on study breaks, please don't come into my unrestricted break. Behold: I will take you down if you take my shredded cheese-chive-bacon masterpiece.

Happy finals?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Will defriend for food

So Good, one of my favorite blogs (which, on a semi-related note, gets me singing the chorus of "Sweet Caroline" in the practically pre-med library - every cubicle has the words "orgo sucks" written somewhere, remember that - and then thinking how sketchballin' Neil Diamond must be*) posted about the Angry Whopper's new promotion: if you join Burger King's customized Facebook application, Whopper Sacrifice, and ditch 10 friendos** on Facebook, you get a new Whopper.

I haven't added the application yet. Regarding other advertising campaigns by Burger King, I think the giant king head is freaky; I'm not sure why it hasn't scared off all children under 12 and I still don't understand how it's possible to make a papier-mache mascot skanky as heck. (Note that a Google search for "burger king""sexual""commercial" yields more results than "burger king""creepy""commercial", the later which was actually a catchphrase.^) I haven't eaten BK for like 2 years because of that thing.

On the other hand, Flame by BK - their charbroiled burger fragrance - is as tacky as something literally tacky, like um tacks, but could have made a twistedly passive-aggressive Secret Santa gift (in my all girls blocking group, it would probably mean, "You smell like a man after you go to the gym, but buying you AXE would been too clear of a signal and would have made assumptions about your sexual preferences.") Heck, the only advert I really like of BK's are the little crown hats you can get for little kids.

However, this Angry Whopper campaign is brilliant. If they're trying to hit the 18-25 demographic, they've got me and my friends. The only thing is that I don't eat Whoppers, ever since I hit on a goldmine of Wendy's coupons (square patties of actual meat taste, holla!) and have been planning to organize a trip with friends to the nearest Arby's, one-and-a-half hours by bus: Heidi and Mary Kate and Ashley go to Arby's doesn't have the same ring to Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, but my pre-med roomie (not named Kumar though) rejects fast food and I've always wanted to go on a MK&A adventure.

Not only would I not eat a Whopper, I would not bother to try (and this is extreme for me, one of my pet peeves is people who say a food is gross without trying it) an angry Whopper because it has crunchy onions and while I love onion strings the onions in the publicity photo look like onion blooms and everybody knows those are mushy.

Also, processed jalapenos are questionable on the taste scale, unless you're my friend Anne and you snuck them in the authentic curry you made from dining hall ingredients.

Anyways, back to the point. I'm really tempted to defriend 10 friends, because this is really the only time you can do it and be rewarded for it. Sure, all those kids running "friend purges" on their facebook every semester must derive some form of utililty from the fact that they've successfully distinguished for themselves friends, acquaintances and creepers, but I'm talking something tangible, something you could sell to an impressionable freshman.

Below, a list of people my friends or I would consider defriending for the Whopper (all probably in jest, my Facebook friends), as compiled from a dinner discussion:

  • kids from my high school who friend you as part of their ongoing campaign to see how many people from their main network they can get friended. Sure, they might know you, and you might know their big brother, but really, man? Really?
  • kids you meet the first week of school when they walk past you in the Science Center and you go down to the computer lab to find out they've already friended you from their iPhone. Flattering, no? This is definitely a debatable topic, along with "people who friended you in those [College] class of [Year] groups but you ended up going to different colleges" on which I stay on the safe side (keeping), because I actually became good friends and pset partners with some of them. So I'd say no, but there were mixed feelings among the people I asked at dinner.
  • creepers. This was the primary category, followed by exclamations of "Thank goodness there was limited profile, I didn't want to let them down."
  • in a particularly funny installment of creepers, from personal experience mentioned at dinner: people who hit on you and then argue with you about why you don't want to get together with them. Honey, arguing is probs not the best start to a relationship.
  • A similar case to the above was ex-boyfriends: "Man, if I kept him for a week longer, I could have easily made with two Whoppers."
  • Blockmates was an unanimous choice, if only because you knew they would understand your defriendship for a greater cause.
  • this is directed to fellow Minnesotans: stop trying to get me to listen to Atmosphere. I don't really care if they're from Minnesota. I personally think Post-its are a lot cooler than Atmosphere, especially if you put up the latter's CD title as your profile picture when you were fourteen. I'm proud about being from Minnesota, but this does not require me to place "Like d***, I'm from Minnesota, land of the cold air" prominently on my profile, so don't hate on me if I choose not to. This is like telling me to watch like the Mary Tyler Moore show all the time, or fake an accent. Also, Atmosphere does not give you hipster cred; from what I understand of that sort of thing, you actually need to earn it.
  • most importantly, prolific "photoshoot"ers and photoshoppers on Facebook. Double points if you're still in high school. Piknik is really hittin' up that twelve-to-fourteen year old demographic - was this the main goal all along? We're not talking an occasional photoshop. Your four albums, sixty photos each, we might add, of chillin' in the mall bathroom are clogging up our minifeeds. First, writing "don't judge" on your Facebook album is a clear cue to judge. Second, "my girls" is not a creative caption, even though the possessive pronoun might indicate otherwise. Neither is "Wherever you are it is your friends who make your world" or "Live to love" or "Live your life"; you know you're not the only one who copped that off of Rihanna. Also, when you use Impact font on your homecoming photos, are you really gunning for the lolcat look?
Now you've been warned. By the way, kids, the nearest Burger King is on the Copley Square T stop.

Whopper Sacrifice: Ditch 10 Friends, Get a Free Whopper [So Good]

*Sketchballin' is not an adjective with positive connotations, kthx.
** The wiki page for friendo leads directly to the wiki page for "No Country for Old Men."
^ 189000 and 112000, respectively.

edit: My friend count went down, though I'm not sure if it's because people are deactivating Facebook due to finals week. Apparently I should receive a message if I'm defriended through Whopper Sacrifice, though perhaps most of the people on the above list also defriended this post.

My roommate was defriended for a Whopper the evening I wrote this, but not by me.

If you're looking for free Whoppers, there's a facebook group that allows you to friend and defriend strangers for Whoppers so you don't feel bad about defriending. I find their footnotes hilarious, but I probably won't join given that defriending should be a legit task, and the Whopper is such a high goal that someone helping me to get one should be a friend. No sarcasm necessary.

Reading period sans Sartre

"I obviously don't mean that when I choose between a cream-puff and a chocolate eclair I'm choosing in anguish" - Sartre (1948)

Nonexistential choice
I'm sure Sartre would have put cupcakes in a separate comparison, because while they're not always tasty and occasionally overpriced, they are rather pretty.

However, he wouldn't have needed to compare Finale to anything. For me, Finale has now become the equivalent of a long, hard final: a debatably (only because of their rewards program) necessary evil (read again: overrated). That said, the blockmate (Harvard lingo: the group of friends you house with) Secret Santa was more or less successful there, including but not limited to the fact that I got a Berryline card out of the deal.

Preference and choice
Meanwhile, it's reading period: the week before finals when you panic. Or marathon all your favorite TV shows, for those of you who have no exams and all papers.

(And for those of you who are randomly stumbling upon this site thanks to the search term "upperclassmen allowed in Annenberg during reading period" - which seems to happen every January and May - yes, it's true, okay? Note to freshmen: this means that it'll be a lot more awkward if you introduce yourself to the new stranger at the table after you ask if you can sit across from them. It's just odd after a year or so to answer the same questions about concentration, hometown and dorm - I mean, house. Also, didn't the introducing thing stop in November? Not to be snarky or anything, because you know, I enjoyed it...anyway, if you're a newcomer to Foodivia, welcome.)

I'm studying for my economics midterm, hence why I'm thinking about choices. I personally find it funny that the wiki quote has a specific different definition for food within economic choices:
Personal factors of determine food choice. They are preference, associations, habit, ethnic heritage, tradition, values, social pressure, emotional comfort, availability, convenience, economy, image, medical conditions, and nutrition.
Rather than the straight up preferences we've been modeling for twelve weeks. More relevantly, I present my own food preferences, brainstormed with the assistance of my study group and in no particular order.
  • Muffins over cupcakes (I know, right, I dressed up as a cupcake. But muffin tops are so much better.)
  • Maguro (raw tuna) over sake (raw salmon)
  • Broccoli over broccolini and Chinese broccoli
  • Cooked spinach over raw spinach
  • Feta cheese over bleu cheese (On a side note, crumbled over sliced cheese.)
  • Rice over noodles
  • Broth over chowder
  • Chicken over beef
  • White over green asparagus
  • McDonald's over Burger King (There, I said it.)
  • Garlic over onion
  • Lobster over crab, shrimp and squid
Gradually, the discussion deteriorated into how much we missed food at home, even though it's only been about a week at most since we left. Also, how the Greenhouse Cafe is not providing us with garlic knots and tomato sauce, an essential part of any mathematical discussion and quite possibly the best thing offered there (I didn't learn about them until late last spring). In the meantime, I have another nonexistential choice: the HUDS menu. Sigh.

Happy reading period?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

FYI, pop is always right

Loving Strange Maps since I got the link from a friend. It makes me want to learn GIS; one of the fellow students at my job last summer had taken a semester of it and was really good at making pretty, I mean informative, maps. Just a good way to look at data.

As a proud Minnesota resident, this map (link here) undeniably shows that more of the US (by area) calls pop what it should be. For the WIN. (I wonder what those people in green call pop?)
On other food related posts at Strange Maps, you'll find graphical food representations of Argentina and New Zealand with french fries.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Old photos, new year [1]: Taiwan Food Festival

Remember when I said I'd put up all those photos of the Taiwan Food Festival, and then I didn't? (Fail.)

So I'm putting a few of them up now. The Taiwan Food Festival is an annual event that is supposed to showcase Taiwanese cuisine, along with the Taiwan Traditional Beef Noodle Competition that sporadically takes place. I was lucky to have gone to Taiwan last summer during August, when the festival is held, but missed out on the noodle festivities. Tickets were NT$200 (approximately $6) and included a NT$50 discount on purchases.

After two buses and four inches of rain that August day, I made my way toward the Taipei convention center, shook off my umbrella and entered, only to beslightly disillusioned at my first glimpse of the Festival - an overglorified convention. For foodies, perhaps, but not the kind that could eat and eat and eat, too - you see, all the dishes on display were for display. The festival was a sight to behold, not a giant dish to gorge upon. Moreover, some of the samples were glazed over with a chemical so that their structure and color would remain intact (this technique is akin to shellacking Krispy Kremes to preserve them as objects; in eighth grade, my enterprenurial classmates actually did this to market their Krispy Kreme middleman skillz.) Many of the entries were from high-end hotels and beach resorts, showing off their five-star restaurants.

Also, samples weren't free. Pity for a Midwestern teen whose idea of a good shopping day at Byerly's is highly correlated with when they serve mint-chocolate-chip ice cream samples in those mini sugar cones (though the ice cream isn't great, okay? it's just that the cone is SO cute...)

That said, the whole festival was a solid two hours of taking pictures. There was also a food court, where I promptly spent well over my NT$50 discount on cactus ice cream (see below), sausages and dried pork and squid.

To my credit, I also earned a free towel embroidered with a star-spangled pig, above the words "U.S. Pork." This was the result of my answering the question, "From which country does Taiwan import the most beef?" in awkwardly loud English (Beef, pork, same thing.) I can understand most conversational Chinese but my speaking is not up to par, which limits me to two roles in these public settings - obnoxious tourist, or cute girl who was clearly not born here. But either one increases the likeliness of free stuff at conventions. It also gave me considerable leeway to stand as close as I could to the food for photos.

Now, the photos - we started out with a survey of what hotels were offering: shrimp and chive noodles.
We then ventured to the historical part of the Festival: what people ate in different periods of time. Special emphasis was placed on different Chinese dynasties, with a twist: images of traditional culture were cast in food. Below, a taro palace behind a gelatin walkway. The bricks are individually carved. Another historical scene, made entirely out of food. In case you wondering, those jugs are actually made out of beef liver. A better use than consumption?

One of the things that amazed me about the festival was how common the skill of carving was. The most we usually ever see in the U.S. is maybe a decent jack'o'lantern - where the holes you make forms the pumpkin's identity, but here, the figure - Buddha - is fully embodied in the squash itself.
Two phoenix (phoenices? phoenii?) carved out of daikon radish and carrot.
A full boat made of squash. Though I wonder how long it took to make that net.
A simpler carving, perhaps, but no less tasty:
From oldest to newest: the following exhibit talked about green trends in food. Pretty relevant to the sustainability/organic debate in the States. A variation on spring rolls:
And a smoothie (I still can't imagine how the whipped cream stands up on its own after two days. Thank goodness for food stylists.)
The food was indeed the star of the show...
...though I did get to watch a few minutes of Taiwanese Iron Chef, with professional chefs from all over the country. The chef here is plating four servings for four judges.
One of the entries, with a mSome foods just reminded me of home - two dishes had the same structure as Spoonbridge, the Oldenburg/Van Bruggen sculpture near my high school. (The two artists are known for making giant sculptures of everyday things.)

Speaking of art, culture 'n stuffz, the National Palace Museum, Taiwan's premier art museum, even had an exhibit where they displayed foods similar to their sculptures. Their most famous piece is the piece of soy sauce-marinated pork shown here, shown with a stone which was dyed and cut to resemble this traditional Taiwanese dish.Here's another sculpture, a cabbage carved out of jade.

And bittermelon, one of the few vegetables I refuse to eat. It's just so...bitter. And probably difficult to carve a replica of, too, given its bumpy exterior.As I mentioned, I tried cactus ice cream at the food court. I didn't know it was cactus for a while, but nearly everyone at the festival seemed to be carrying a cone of it, so I thought I'd join in. It was edible, and smooth - definitely not prickly. However, I really couldn't detect any taste except some sort of fruity juice. The consistency was more ice than cream, making it disappointing overall.

Unlike the sausages, which were piping hot and bursting with juice.
I concluded my day with a few more photos, and a few minutes after taking what I considered my "best shot" - featured at the top of the post - I left the festival; my stomach wasn't full, but my memory card was sure getting close.