If you've ever wondered how chefs turn flavor into foam, or get liquid into little balloons of gel, count on the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota to reveal the science behind the showtime. Harvard University's David Weitz will lead a lecture on "Physics and Cooking" at 7 p.m. Feb. 9 in Room 150 of the physics building, 116 SE. Church St., Minneapolis. Weitz will include demonstrations based on a science course that he offers with a team of chefs in an effort to inspire more interest in science, especially among nonscientists. The lecture is free and open to all.

Networking with farmers

Growers, raisers and eaters will have the opportunity to mingle at the annual conference of the Sustainable Farming Association Feb. 18 at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn. Local food and wine will be available amid a variety of information sessions. The keynote speaker is Val Farmer, an expert on rural mental health issues and the unique psychological problems farmers face living and working in rural areas. Registration is $60 for SFA members, and an $85 fee will cover registration and membership. For details and to register, visit www.sfa-mn.org/conference.

Stop carping, start eating

Carp: It's what's for dinner -- at least at Mrs. Sippy's River Town Bistro in Trempealeau, Wis. (cross the river at Winona, then head south) and the Bluegill Cafe & Coffee Haus in McGregor, Iowa (more of a jaunt, across from Prairie du Chien, Wis.). After two years of hosting a Carp Connoisseur Contest only to receive zero entries, Big River Magazine senses a sea change in people's attitudes. The Trempealeau entry was a smoked carp omelet, while McGregor offered carp chowder. Editor Reggie McLeod said that hundreds of thousands of pounds of carp are netted in the Upper Mississippi annually, but very little is consumed locally. Eating more would help reduce the invasive fish's destructive impact on the river and boost employment and the local economy, he said in a release.

Cupcake winners in Maple Grove

Look for some award-winning cupcakes to be available in March. That's when Nadia Cakes expects to open its Minnesota branch in the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes in Maple Grove. Abby Jimenez, who founded Nadia Cakes in Los Angeles in 2007, won a recent "Cupcake Wars" on the Food Network, partly on the strength of her cheesecake cupcake. Jimenez and her husband, Carlos, wanted to open a second bakery, but not in California, and visited 23 states before settling on Minnesota. In a press release, Jimenez said they also were looking for a place to raise their three young daughters. Sounds like a win-win situation. To see some of her cake creations, visit www.nadiacakes.com.