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Garden Festival at Chuang Yen Monastery/Carmel

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Did any other chowhounds attend this festival today? I got married five years ago on the monastery grounds, and I went back today as part of my anniversary celebration and was pleasantly surprised to discover a festival in progress. There were traditional dances (including one particularly memorable one with a solo woman and two rose-colored fans), lots of Buddhist jewelery and books on hand and-- best of all-- tons of Asian vendor-style food on hand.

I started with pearl tea and then feasted on several things that I don't know the names for. The first was an almost tamale-like rice/mushroom/bean sprout/meat-substitute paste (the monastery doesn't allow any meat on the premises) steamed in a leaf (banana?). The ones I had were okay, but nothing to get excited about. (I do think that with the right dipping sauce they might have been very good, though.) Then I had these dumpling like things. They were sort of cup-shaped, very thick and soft and slightly sweet with a small amount of some eggroll-like filling inside. Yummy!

And finally, for dessert I first had sweet (but not overly sweet) rice squares, followed by "eight surprise ice," which was one of the most exotic things I've ever eaten. First beans, corn, peanuts, tapioca and gelatin were put in a cup, followed by a huge mound of shaved ice which was then drizzled with sweetened condensed milk, honey and a fruit-flavored (raspberry/strawberry?) drizzle. The effect at first was of an ordinary snowcone, but lower down, when the sweet drizzle met the corn and beans, it became really unusual. I finished every bite.

Sad to say, I think this was a one-day event, but chowhounds in the Kent/Carmel area should keep their eyes open for other such festivals, because it was really fun. Although I have never been (getting up on Sundays is hard), they also serve a vegetarian brunch every Sunday between 12:30 and 1:30.

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