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The 2012 Foodie Photo Scavenger Hunt – #foodiephotohunt

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.

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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!

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RESULTS UPDATE!

We didn’t win. *wah waaaaah* Well so…Congrats to the teams that did!

No Reservations: An Evening w/ Anthony Bourdain – *SWOON!*

June 26, 2010

Sometimes I refer to Anthony Bourdain as “King of my Heart” but jokes aside and speaking honestly now: Bourdain is king of my heart.

Maybe it’s his iconic Kitchen Confidential bad boy persona. Maybe there’s something in the fluidity of his speech or in his distinct choice in words. Maybe it’s that he just doesn’t give a shit about what other people say. Honestly, I don’t know…all I know is that man is so charismatic I can’t help but swoon.

When I heard that Bourdain was going to be plugging his new book, “Medium Raw”, by speaking at Royce Hall at my alma mater, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be going. My heart wanted to get the $175 meet and greet tickets but decided to be cheap and admire him from afar instead. (Hey, I was looking out for his well-being! What if I suddenly transformed into the Bourdain equivalent of a Beliber?! I might have bum-rushed the stage!)

(I wasn’t kidding with the “admiring from afar” – I was siting so far away, I couldn’t get a picture of king of my heart on stage! I photoshopped him in instead.)

Sitting in Royce, listening to Anthony Bourdain made me feel like a girl on her first date with that cute boy she’s been eyeing in class – I sat there, enthralled at everything that came out of the man’s mouth. I laughed excessively at his jokes, made mental notes about his favorite things and ran the night over and over in my head. (A disclaimer: For those that haven’t figured it out, I’m exaggerating for literary effect. I love the man but don’t worry, I’m not really stalking him…and if I were, I wouldn’t be telling you…)

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Anyway, a recap of that glorious night:

– The night began with a loving bash on Food Network personalities. The winners? Ina Garten and Giada De Laurentiis made it through the battle, unmarred (although I was ecstatic to hear he also thinks that Giada has an unusually large head). The losers? Rachel Ray (of course), Sandra Lee (meeting her has the honor of being his most terrifying moment in life) and Guy Fieri. Bobby Flay made it through, but just barely.

– Onto TV shows: He likes Iron Chef but not Iron Chef America. He likes Top Chef but not Hell’s Kitchen. He has respect for Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods because Zimmern eats the weird and disgusting, but doesn’t drink (whereas Bourdain drinks the horrors away). He thinks that his network is trying to kill the man in Man v. Food.

– He has a 3-year old daughter and is terrified of her falling into the fast food trap. His solution? “Ronald McDonald has COOTIES.” “Ronald SMELLS BAD.” “Did you hear about little Timmy? He went missing…” “…Was it Ronald again?” (Note: I laughed SO HARD at this one. I’m totally raising my kids this way.)

– Words of advice when traveling and eating: 1) Make the most of it. 2) Don’t worry about dirt; eat where the locals eat. 3) Follow local traditions. Be polite.

– Taping in Russia is dangerous. When he’s there, he drinks 3 shots of vodka for breakfast, 7 for lunch and 17 for dinner.

– Best kid story ever: He took his daughter to a restaurant, ordered the seafood tower. She looked at the top of the tower and saw a crab and screamed, “Sebastian!” (i.e. from The Little Mermaid)…then proceeded to tear “Sebastian” down and eat him.

And a couple good ones from the Q&A session:

– “Nigella or Giada in a knife fight?” (His response.)
– His last meal? The sea urchin and lardo from Marea.

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Oh Anthony, I’ll be counting down the months, weeks, days, minutes until I have the chance to see you again…

DineLA Chef Roundtable – Of Puck, Preparation and Produce

June 18, 2010

(Click for a larger picture.)

Mark Peel of Campanile, The Point and The Tar Pit.
Josiah Citrin of Melisse.
Susan Feniger of Street, Ciudad and Border Grill.
Joachim Splichal of the Patina Group.
Karen Hatfield of Hatfield’s.
Wolfgang Puck.

To listen to any of these chefs would be a pleasure. To hear all six of them speak at the same event? That’s a privilege.

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This post was originally going to recap the roundtable and the conversations that took place there – I even took mental notes on specific things each chef mentioned that I wanted to address. However, as you’re probably familiar with my typical lag period, you shouldn’t be surprised that, by the time I got around to actually writing this post, the fine people at DineLA had already posted a video of the entire event online. (Oops.)

Well, since the job of recapper is no longer necessary (*whew!*), I’m going quickly cover the parts I enjoyed most about this whole roundtable.

– I’ve always loved listening to successful people tell the story about their life. There’s something so intriguing about hearing about them before they made it big, whatever trials or tribulations they may have gone through, and seeing where they are now. Wolfgang Puck is no exception – he could have been on that stage by himself, speaking for the entire hour and I would have been perfectly happy.

My favorite Wolfgang story of the night was the one about how he got started in the restaurant business. (Start at 14:10 in the video. Watch it – I’m not gonna recap it for you!) Imagining little 14-year old Wolfgang being told he was good for nothing and then seeing him in person on stage now, governing his empire…It’s surreal to hear him tell his story (and probably even more surreal for him to live it).

– As an accountant, I have a rather practical view on life. Thus, I appreciated the concrete advice Joachim gave when asked about starting a new restaurant (at 27:43 in the video). While the chefs prior (Susan, in particular) spoke of passion for their craft, Joachim asked them to think and prepare and…well, basically be a businessman. I may not know much about running a restaurant but I’ve seen this much from my accounting gigs over the years – you can’t run a business on passion alone.

– I found it interesting that, throughout the roundtable, the chefs repeatedly touched upon the abundance of fresh produce in Los Angeles and the appreciation for food. It was especially interesting because, about 2 years prior, I attended a similar event moderated by Jonathan Gold on the topic of California cuisine and remember taking away one thing from that event: California cuisine is the abundance of produce matched with our variety of ethnic influences. At the time, I almost thought that was almost a cop-out answer – “Yes, I know we have great produce but…what else??”, says the girl who has only lived in California and has been surrounded by fresh produce her entire life – but to hear the same talking points two years later made me re-evaluate my original reaction and how I may take California’s strongest assets for granted.

Anyway, as you can tell, the roundtable was a great experience. I had the opportunity to listen to some of my favorite chefs in person and the stories of their lives. Plus, after it was all over, I gorged myself on Starry Kitchen‘s tofu balls and got to take a picture with Susan Feniger! (Woot woot!)

(Picture taken by Julian of Jewelz, What Are We Doing Today?)

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