February 10, 2005

Taste Matters

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I love this damn town! I don’t ever want to live in Ithaca again, but it never ceases to amaze me. Okay, my amazement actually ceased a long time ago, but the idiosyncrasies of this small, horribly situated city are certainly worthy of commentary. I’ll just quickly give my opinion on the whole topographical problem with Cornell. I’m still wondering what genius scoped out the highest, steepest hill in the coldest, windiest part of New York and thought it would be a good idea to put one of the nation’s largest universities on top of it. Cornell, if you haven’t noticed, also faces west. That’s where the sun spends most of its time in the afternoon, which makes driving anywhere down that stupid hill during the winter one of the most dangerous and life threatening things anyone could ever think of.

However, Ithaca has redeemed itself. We all remember that USA Today ranked the ‘ca as the nation’s number one emerging city. Wow. I was impressed. We also beat out Portland, Oregon as Utne Magazine’s number one “enlightened town” in the country, whatever the hell that means. I’m sure that’s just code for most per capita acid dropping in the country, but at least Ithaca is the best at something. For those of you who complain that “there’s really nothing to do” in Ithaca — shuuuut up you wussy little malcontents. Sorry if Ithaca isn’t metrosexual enough for you, pretty boy. It may not be the suburban metropolis you’re from but you just tell everyone that you hail from a big city in the Northeast; it’s not your pappy’s farm just west of the Mississippi, where you attended a one-room prep school. And no, sorry, well, actually, yeah, it kind of has turned into Long Island. Anyway, just deal with your surroundings — the townies certainly haaaaaave (sounds like the Ithaca aaaaccent). Just a few short years ago, Ithaca’s main attractions were Wegman’s and the food court in Wegman’s.But suddenly, Abercrombie and Fitch injected its quirky mix of blatant racism and child pornography into the Pyramid Mall. Then Target, Walmart, Chili’s and other big chains began to move in to try and be as cool as Abercrombie. Of course, what else is to be expected of the nation’s number one emerging city? Alas, while our lives as students who can’t live without Kickin’ Buffalo Strips and shirts that euphemistically suggest that you pulled Pimpin’ Ken ’05 amounts of ass on your Spring Break in Old Walnut Creek have improved, Ithaca may become another small city lost in consumerism. Aside from this potentially bleak future, Ithaca still retains some of its mysticism in the form of Asian food.

The beginning of the school year saw another Asian eatery open its doors in Ithaca. After hours of exhaustive brainstorming, the owners of Peace restaurant apparently named their establishment after the really lame thing that annoying, dirty hippies used to say a long time ago, which I guess would kind of appeal to the most enlightened city in America. Or maybe it’s a sick play on words. You hate Peace??! You despicable monster. No one likes a crazy war monger, have some chicken fried rice or rice fried chicken!

No, I don’t really know why they named the place Peace, but I kind of know why they opened it. Those of you who inexplicably love Hong Kong restaurant must loathe Peace for its Chinese Takeoutopoly. Yes, Peace is in a better location, it looks new, its bathroom is awesome (it’s right near the door, so you can use it between bars) and its food seems better. But Ithaca is a door mat that says welcome for new restaurants, not one that says, umm, not welcome. Both places have a lot of different things to offer if you look hard enough. Hong Kong’s General Tsao’s Chicken is 4 percent chicken and Peace’s is about 6 percent. The lady that takes your order at Hong Kong says,”You want some chopsticks?” while the lady at Peace says, “Do you want some chopsticks?” The hot sauce at Hong Kong has a smiling, evil fat baby on it while the hot sauce at Peace has a sweetass fire-breathing dragon on it. Peace’s complimentary tea is on the left and Hong Kong’s is on the right. Look, it’s the same crap. I was trying to make some kind of point, but oh well. Just appreciate the increase in Asian restaurants, okay? Peace and Hong Kong should not player hate; they must player participate.

In all honesty, there are only a few of those Chinese places, where nothing is authentically Chinese and is instead swimming in grease while presented in enormous portions to satisfy the American palate. And yes, it is a stupid idea to break the Fast of Yom Kippur by visiting the King Buffet on Rt. 13. That was like filling an empty gas tank with spicy fat and an endless supply of Jewish guilt. I’m talking about the Chinese and Southeast Asian restaurants that saturate the greater Ithaca area with relatively inexpensive yet authentic cuisine. The countries in that region, like most outside of ours, really emphasize the eating experience as a whole, rather than throw a plate of bland, salty food your way. Many of the dishes are amalgamations of different flavors that have influenced taste buds around the world. For instance, sweet and sour, hot and sour, hot and sweet, and sweet and salty are not accidental pairings. One of my all time favorite dishes is Thai basil chicken. The fresh minty sweetness of the basil complements and at the same time pleasantly subdues the spicy chilies. You can find that dish at any of the Thai restaurants around here. My favorite is Thai Cuisine in the Commons.

There is also an abundance of Korean food around Ithaca. For those of you who have never eaten Korean cuisine, I suggest you head down to the Four Seasons, Korean Barbeque or Collegetown Caf