29 November 2011

House of Pita Hanan

Last Tuesday (I know! I have so many things to blog about and not enough time because I've been programming!), SP and I went to the House of Pita Hanan, which is a food truck. I think that I'm obligated to go to every food truck on/off campus (from 30th to Walnut, from Spruce to Market, I guess) since I
1. am a college student
2. have a food blog
but I'm busy all the time and enjoy eating peanut butter sandwiches with spinach. Either way, two trucks down (the other one being Magic Carpet, but I haven't posted about them yet since I didn't take a picture of my food last time...), many more to go, 5 semesters left (oh. wow.)

Going to the House of Pita and getting a falafel+hummus+lettuce+feta cheese sandwich really cheered me up though, from the organic chemistry exam that I completely shredded with failure...(got the results back today, but I'm not looking at my exam until 3pm tomorrow so that I can stay happy for another 25.5 hours). SP and I walked in the rain for 4 blocks, and when we arrived, my jeans were drenched, my sweater was soaked, the jacket under my sweater was getting moist, and my shoes and socks were saturated with rainwater. SP, on the other hand, was just lightly speckled with rain water. It was also really cold, and I huddled under the counter-that-juts-out-of-the-truck, out of the rain, next to the engine, for a minuscule bit of warmth. Apparently, the counter is taller than me, which is pretty sad. SP remarked "You should take a picture of yourself and send it to your friends in HK and tell that that everything in America is big".

Ha. Ha.

I would've brought my camera if it hadn't been pouring.
Anyway, I enjoyed the sandwich because it had crunchy bits of falafel (NOT dry) and a nice sauce. I kind of wish they put more falafel pieces in instead of having a lot of lettuce, though. That's the whole point of the falafel sandwich, right? However, it was overall a delicious sandwich. I can't really judge falafel sandwiches though, since I've only had two in my life.
SP got rice with chicken and falafel and a piece of pita bread. For some reason, the pita bread that he got wasn't as flexible as the pita bread in my sandwich, and it was less tasty. I know it's a bit strange to measure pita bread by flexibility, but it's the perfect adjective. I think like flexible, chewy, gluteny pita bread.

House of Pita Hanan
38th and Walnut St

23 November 2011

Beijing Restaurant & Spherification

I have been here to get bubble tea, twice, and this time, I was here for lunch with my Advanced Genetics/Molecular Bio professor and 4 other students, at Beijing Restaurant. Penn has some sort of program that dishes out money to professors so that they can take students out to lunch, in order to know students better. It's pretty nice because in a class of 6, 40, or 200, it's really difficult to actually know your professor (and vice versa) if you only get to see him/her for 3 hours a week for some 14 weeks. Since I've been busy for the whole semester so far, I chose to have lunch after class on Tuesday (before the Thanksgiving break) since the only homework I have is programming (well, okay I have studying... but I'm not thinking about that right now)
So, I got a brown rice + vegetables + mushroom + tofu dish which had the name "Buddha" in it (I forgot the name on the menu) and we all talked about biology classes, graduate school, and hobbies. Quite pertinent to me, as I'm interested in grad school... and I never knew that the Rockefeller University was top-notch in the biological sciences! There are just so many possibilities in "food science"...
1. Research genetics of flavour/taste/receptors
2. Molecular gastronomy
3. Food engineering
4. Flavour creating
5. Food safety
6. Food policy
7. Nutrition/research/obesity...
8. Food-related diseases
9. Food companies.

Um, anyway, the rice and shiny glutinous vegetables were pretty nice.

In addition, I found out what the bubbles-filled-with-mango-goo is, in the "poppy soda"  from the Cube Cafe, where I visited this summer. There is a process called "spherification" in molecular gastronomy... in which sodium alginate is mixed with the liquid (mango pulp/juice in this case?) and calcium carbonate or calcium chloride is added to it, to form some sort of outer membrane. Alginate comes from brown algae, and calcium, chloride, and sodium ions are pretty safe at this amount, so I don't see anything wrong with poppy soda at the moment. Either way, I haven't researched this enough and this is a reason for pursuing food science. Not sure where the computer science falls in, though.

02 November 2011

Raewyn Turner - Olfactory Artist

When my mentor emailed me asking whether I'd like to go to a seminar last Thursday about art in biology, presented by the olfactory artist Raewyn Turner, my mind subconsciously skipped over the words "olfactory artist" and I contemplated not going - in that hour, I could get some homework done! I assumed that it was going to be some presentation about those diagrams you find in biology textbooks. I decided to go, anyway, because I figured that it'd be cool to meet a textbook artist while eating cheese and crackers. Maybe she'd give me some tips on drawing complicated proteins.

Raewyn Turner, however, is not a textbook artist. She doesn't use paper or pixels as her primary medium. She's an olfactory artist - what the heck is an olfactory artist?! - and I never knew such a field existed. I suppose this justifies my ridiculously high college tuition; instead of going to Rutgers, I'm here, with opportunities to meet people (and I'm close to a Trader Joe's. And supermarkets, in general). My mind was blown by this concept of art based on smells. I don't actually grasp a lot of what she did, but she did bring some nifty devices that I got to see close up.

One of these was this... balloony thing, that had motion sensors. When you walked up to it, the balloon swelled up, and a box within the balloon emitted a smell. If you stood motionless, the balloony thing would shrivel up and lie dormant. It reminded me of an eager dog (perhaps a mechanical one).

Another device detected smells and output sounds that corresponded to the smell. For example, when ethyl alcohol (?) was placed at its sensor, it emitted a certain sound, and when cinnamon was placed at the sensor, a bright, tinkering bell sound was produced. A low lull/clock chiming sound represented hydrocarbons. The smells themselves were in little beads in mini jars. I really want some of those beads (air freshener?... it's just really cool to have supersaturated smells), and they're apparently used in the perfume industry because they are concentrated and absorb the specific smell and only emit the smell slowly.

Other art of hers that I didn't really comprehend/didn't see a point in included the baking of a lot of cakes and sticking many colors of icing on them and the tasting of some 50 samples of wine, paired with certain words from poems. Ironically, these are the food-related projects...

I think that as it is such a novel concept to me, olfactory art hasn't found its niche in my brain yet.

01 November 2011

My Pancake-Maker

Today I will tell a story about my pancake-maker (I should name it). My pancake maker has heated up a lot of food for me over the past two months, and I honestly don't know what I'd do without it (perhaps use TJ's microwave? You can't toast bread in a microwave, though. Nor can you make tofu with grilled cheese. Or cheese crisps to garnish the cheesy-tofu, as pictured).

My pancake-maker is by Toastmaster, and it's white and has four mini-pancake compartments. There is no on/off switch; literally 15 seconds after I plug it in, the surface is piping hot. I can plop whatever I want onto the pan, lower the lid, and let it sit there for a few minutes (or until stuff starts smoking). Sometimes, I unplug the pancake maker and leave the food there for 10 minutes, because my pancake maker cools down really slowly, so food continues to cook even though there is no electricity powering it anymore.

In the mornings, I slice bagels and let the pancake maker toast them. Other times, I sandwich in tofu meatballs, sandwiches, cookies, eggs, frozen pizza, and pancake batter (obviously). The more adventurous things I've thrown onto my pancake maker include pears, rice (tedious, unless you're cracking an egg onto it. Otherwise, it's a pain scooping the rice out),  spaghetti (bad idea -- maybe farfalle would be better, but thin spaghetti is really irksome to pick up), and collard greens.
I think this is the best thing I've bought for $1. It cranks up the heat, is easy, is fast. It was inexpensive, does everything I want, and is willing to try everything too, and it doesn't matter if it gets dirty or if pancake batter  gets plastered onto the edges. It's is reliable, loyal, and serves me well. It makes me happy. I think that out of context, I could be describing either a significant other or a prostitute.