March and April were crazy months. It's nice finally to take a step back and relax a bit in May. In March Bryan and I spent a week in Argentina (series still ongoing on the blog). Bryan proceeded to travel to Macau and then California while I held down the fort in Boston.
After that we traveled to New York City for a weekend (as part of one of my work trips) and then to Napa/Sonoma Valley for a quick weekend getaway following Bryan's work trip to San Francisco for a week.
Upon returning, Bryan hopped on another plane to visit North Carolina for work. We saw each other for two days before I hopped on a plane to visit Philly.
I was visiting the Penn Taiwanese Society, who had invited me to come and share a little about myself as well as to give a workshop on food photography. They took such good care of me, taking me to their favorite local Chinese restaurant, the world's top gelato shop, and showing me around campus.
I took a 10AM flight and arrived just in time for lunch. The Penn Relays were going on, so the city was mobbed with runners. It was fascinating and inspiring at the same time.
I met up with several students from the Penn Taiwanese Society, who took me to Han Dynasty, one of their favorite restaurants, for lunch. One student even said he eats there every week (!). We had some delicious Beef and Tripe in Chili Oil (my favorite!), Dan Dan Noodle (one of their signature dishes), Stir fried Pea Shoots (another classic I love ordering anywhere), and Hot Sauce Style Fish.
The weather was perfect, so we sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine. I took the opportunity to teach the students a little about food photography, emphasizing how outdoor "overcast" (or shadowy) areas provide better light for food photography than direct sunlight, which looks harsh.
After lunch, a couple of the students took me to Capogiro, one of the most famous gelato shops in Philly.
In fact, National Geographic rates Capogiro as the best ice cream shop in the world (yes, even above the ice cream in Argentina!)
I was super excited about this place. I had even mapped it out before arriving, knowing that it was within walking distance of my hotel.
The gelato is in fact delicious. My favorite was the dark chocolate, which was decadently rich, bittersweet, and super smooth.
I then briefly met up with food blogger and entrepreneur Vijay from Noshon.it, who used to live in Boston but recently moved to Philly. We met over excellent coffee at HubBub Coffee (also very close to U Penn), where I enjoyed a locally roasted pourover coffee while we traded thoughts about the best restaurants in both Philly and Boston.
At 4PM I headed straight for U Penn, where we prepared for my 4:30 workshop. I was giving a similar workshop I had already given at several other Asian societies around the US, including ITASA (Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Students Association) in Atlanta, BAASIC (Boston Asian American Students' Coalition) in Boston, and TAP (Taiwanese American Professionals) in Boston.
This talk, however, was slightly different. Instead of just giving a food photography demo, I also shared extensively about myself.
I talked about my experiences growing up as a Taiwanese American in the US (more specifically, in the middle of Ohio where there weren't that many minorities). I shared about my own personal struggles with career choices, and detailed how I made the switch from chemist to patent attorney and what I've learned along the way.
Finally, after giving them some food photography tips (you can see a summary of my food presentation at this post), I had them go for it! They got into teams and food styled to their hearts' content.
I was floored by their creativity.
Check it out!
Oxo was kind enough to sponsor part of the event, donating mixing bowls (which I LOVE), wooden spoons, tongs, cutting boards, and measuring cups (see it all here). We ended up giving away a few sets as prizes for the event. I also gave away a precious copy of the excellent cookbook Taiwanese Homestyle Cooking, written by Taiwanese moms across America.
Unfortunately because I was busy teaching and talking during most of this event, I took way too few photos. Thankfully, PTS did a great job taking tons of photos, which you can see at this album on Penn Taiwanese Society's facebook page.
I had a fabulous time, and everyone was so awesome. Thanks for being such great hosts!
That evening, I watched a stunning sunset while walking to dinner through the lovely quaint neighborhoods of University City in Philadelphia.
I met up with an old college friend who lives in Philly now. We had a unique molecular gastronomy - inspired tasting menu which will be described in a separate post (because it would really make this post way too long!)
My friend and I traded stories and had a richly memorable evening catching up - reminiscing about the future and sharing about our current lives. I was so touched. Her husband was out of town that weekend so I thought it might be difficult to meet up. Somehow she managed to get her mom to stay over at her house for the night to watch her four (!) kids so that she could come out to the city to have dinner with me.
Times like this I realize how precious my college friendships really are. Trust me - it's harder to make friends once you graduate, get married, and (I'm guessing) have children. Hang onto those friends you made in college - they will be friends for a lifetime.
The next morning, I got up super early to catch an 8:30AM flight in order to make it back to Boston in time for church. It was a whirlwind 24 hours. I feel richly blessed to have been able to meet so many amazing people, experience so many angles of this fantastic city, and also to be able to catch up with old friends.
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