May 7, 2012
Those that have been following me on Twitter this weekend are probably familiar with (and maybe completely sick of) the following phrase: #foodiephotohunt.
(Note: If you DON’T follow me… *cough* Shameless plug! *cough* Top right corner of blog! *cough*)
Yes, this past weekend was Amateur Gourmet‘s 2012 Foodie Photo Scavenger Hunt, sponsored by the Culinary Institute of America. It’s a relatively simple contest: take a picture with something on his list, post the picture on the internet, get points. The team with the most number of points wins a four-day course at the CIA.
When the details of the hunt first came out, Jenn and I threw around the idea of participating but, to be honest, I don’t think either one of us seriously considered competing. As two 20-something year-olds living in NYC, our social weekend was already scheduled well in advance. A whiskey tasting and birthday party put Jenn out of commission to compete on Friday night and Saturday morning. I had a knife skills class early Saturday afternoon. We both had the LuckyRice Night Market Festival and yet another party on Saturday night. Then, to top it all off, I had a birthday brunch to attend on Sunday afternoon. Realistically, we wouldn’t get to the majority of our hunting until 3PM on Sunday (at the very earliest) and the submissions needed to be in by midnight of that night. How many points could we possibly get in 8 hours?
Turns out, quite a lot of them. 205 of them, by our count. There’s a huge advantage of being in a city that is both ethnically diverse and completely compact – you can find anything if you just wander down a street. Therefore, 8 hours, 12 miles (according to my pedometer) and 1 freakout session later (more on that to come), I bring you some highlights and behind the scenes stories about our first Foodie Photo Scavenger Hunt.
First off, I’ve discovered people are EXTREMELY nice to you if you start off by saying, “This might be the most random question you’ll get today but I’m participating in a food-related photo scavenger hunt and I’m looking for _____.”
Example #1: I went through the entire list with Eataly’s information lady and, not only did she point us towards the aged balsamic vinegar (10 points) and bottarga (10 points), but she also recommended we visit Kalustyan’s (where we picked up another 25 points for pomegranate molasses, date molasses and aleppo peppers).
Example #2: The wine guys at Morton William’s Wine and Spirits didn’t have a bottle of Greystone Cellars wine (5 points). However, they used their computer to find us a wine shop (conveniently up the street) that did!
All the people we interacted with during the hunt were so nice and really went out of their way to help…we couldn’t thank them enough.
Secondly, I’ve learned that the road to scavenger hunt success definitely involves a bit of luck.
A friend of ours (when looking over the list) had warned us geoduck would be hard to find since it was out of season, and I definitely noticed its absence when wandering the stalls of Chinatown. However, in that last seafood shop, the one on the other side of the subway stop that I didn’t want to go to because my legs were tired, was geoduck (15 points). (I’m glad we decided to make ONE LAST STOP.)
(I was so giddy to see a geoduck, the shopkeeper started laughing at me.)
On the flip side, along with luck, timing is key as well. There were so many points lost because we couldn’t “come back tomorrow”. We missed out on the compost center (10 points) at the farmer’s market because of our late start (it closes at 1PM, we showed up at 3:30PM). No latte art (10 points) either because it was getting late and we had to go home and cook onions (40 points). We didn’t realize the Mexican market closes early on Sundays so there went our pequin pepper and huitlacoche points (10 and 15 points, respectively). And, we lost 25 Top Chef points, not because we couldn’t find a Top Chef contestant (we saw one – Carla Hall was at LuckyRice) but because we didn’t have anything to write “Top Chef” on our shirts with.
Losing the Modernist Cuisine points (all 20 of them) was especially painful because it slipped through our hands not once but TWICE. The nearby Williams Sonoma (which usually has one on display) sold their copy only a couple days prior and The Stand had a copy in their rare book section…but we arrived an hour after they locked that room up. (*sigh*)
None of those lost points caused me to spazz out though – that freak out session goes to something much larger. Like I mentioned earlier, we had to submit our pictures by midnight in order to be qualified to win the grand prize. Because of our tight time crunch, we didn’t start uploading until 11:45PM. Of course, what happens? The internet in my apartment decides at that very moment to crap out. (Thanks a lot, Time Warner Cable.) I restarted the computer, tried plugging the cables directly into my laptop instead of using wi-fi, everything…nothing. I think Jenn said it best:
…We finally upload our full submission at 12:12PM.
Adam of Amateur Gourmet is still tallying up the points so not sure if our late submission will come back to bite us in the butt (results are supposed to be posted later today so keep your fingers crossed for us). Either way, this was such a blast! I’m already thinking about next year…If we place with only 8 hours to work with, think about how many we could have gotten if we had an entire weekend!
We didn’t win. *wah waaaaah* Well so…Congrats to the teams that did!