July 12th, 2011

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Good food in unexpected places

Continuing to fill in bits from my peripatetic wanderings of the past few weeks.

Columbus, OH and Bloomington, IN are not places that I would have sought out as hotbeds of fine cuisine. But in fact, both Origins and Known World Dance were marked by really excellent food.

The first week, mindways and I were at Origins. Now you have to understand, the Columbus Convention Center is *really* long and narrow. It's basically a three-block-long corridor with rooms hanging off of it. And as it happens, it was probably fortunate that at one end of that was the Board Room (where all the good board gaming happens, so we mostly hung out there) and our hotel, and at the other end was the Food Court. Which might have been inconvenient, except that right behind our hotel (and thus, much closer than the Food Court) was North Market.

North Market turns out to be an absolute delight. It's a big indoor market, jam-packed with little local vendors. And it's not a simple farmer's market by any means. Oh, sure -- there's the hot dog place and two pizza places. But there's also the Indian food stand -- and the Vietnamese one. And the Middle Eastern one that sells excellent baklava. And the Polish one with the pierogies and saurkraut-and-cheese-stuffed chicken croquets. And the place that just sells fresh-squeezed smoothies and a zillion varieties of bubble tea. (Black bubble tea I expect; red bean bubble tea I don't.) And the fabulous ice cream stand with fruit flavors even I like. And *especially* the waffle place, that just sells Belgian Waffles: lovingly made with just the right amount of sugar, so that a bit caramelizes on the waffle iron, and OMG syrup would be just redundant -- you simply grab one, blazing hot and plain from the iron, and nomnomnom it on the spot.

The only downside is that North Market closes early (5pm on weekends). But we wound up building our eating schedule around it. Complete win.

And then there is Bloomington. It wouldn't have occurred to me, but apparently the Dalai Lama's brother emigrated there many years ago, establishing the root of a thriving Asian community. And the side-effect is one of the coolest restaurant rows around.

Just a block away from Indiana University, there is a fairly innocuous-looking residential street -- which on second glance turns out to be *solid* restaurants. Not one of them is a chain. Rather, there are three Tibetan restaurants; two Turkish restaurants; Thai; Korean; Japanese; you name it, it seems to be there. We ate at several of them while there, and they were a marvel. Top winner was probably the Turkish restaurant where we had lunch the first day -- service was dreadfully slow, but the food was fabulous, from the various toppings for the endless fresh bread to the Red Lentil Soup To Die For.

Moral of the story, which is useful for me to remember, is: ask the locals. Some cities have remarkable hidden culinary gems, not at all obvious at first glance. (Yes, yes -- I come from Waltham, and should know this by now. Still, my assumptions about Bloomington, IN were quite comprehensively dismantled -- it's a *remarkably* lovely town...)
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15 years ago today...

... we first tossed a gaggle of players down the rabbit hole of an espionage plot they knew nothing about. The idea of starting everyone with amnesia was new and cool at the time (TMA beat us to the punch, but we were the second game in the genre), and we learned a lot -- about LARP in general, and the amnesia mechanic specifically.

One player called me a bastard (in a friendly but chagrined way) when he finally figured out who he was. One figured out far too much about his character a full five seconds into the game, simply from how we had positioned him. One proved to us that you should never, *ever* tell a bunch of LARPers that the door of a locked room is unopenable, because they will spend hours demonstrating to you just how wrong you are.

I was just wandering around my old website, and came across the site for Tabula Rasa 2; that reminded me that Tabula Rasa 1 was held July 12-14th, 1996. So happy anniversary to what is still probably my *favorite* of the games we've written. It was flawed in a host of ways, and quite a learning experience, but man -- it was one heck of a lot of fun to write and run.

(And yes, hungrytiger and I need to get cracking on TR3. Unfortunately, it's at the heavy-lifting stage now. It's probably designed enough to get started: now we "just" have to write it...)