Chefs know that presentation of their food whets our appetites -- but photographers and artists know this, too. "Crosstalk: Playing With Our Food" presents two speakers who will explore the visual language of food, from 17th-century Dutch still lifes to today's high-tech food photography. Cindy Lund is a food-styling manager at General Mills, and has been in the food industry for more than 30 years. Alison Kettering is a professor of art history at Carleton College and will discuss early modern European art and Dutch still lifes. Conversation between audience and speakers will be encouraged. The event is at 6 p.m. March 8 at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 3rd Av. S. Tickets are $15 ($10 for MIA members) and may be purchased in the lobby or at "The Sports Show" entrance. Visit for further details.


Shades of Love contest

Last month, when the Taste section featured the Shades of Love cake, people loved this latest variation on the ombre-colored trend. Among them was Liz Smaragdis of Minneapolis, who blogs as Now she's sponsoring a Shades of Love contest. Bake the cake, using whatever color you wish, remove a slice to show the interior, then submit a photo by March 17 to She'll post entries on her Pinterest board and name a winner on the 18th. Wilton, the cake decor company, is providing prizes of a master tip set, icing color set and 50 icing bags, Ross Sveback, the Afton, Minn., blogger who made the initial cake, is throwing in six of his handmade LUX soaps, and Smaragdis tops it off with two crocheted teacup cozies. The original recipe is here (but you also can use your own): Bake on!


Earning an inventiveness badge?

This weekend, the Girl Scouts will hold their Great Girl Gathering at the Mall of America, featuring an Iron Cookie Challenge at 3:45 p.m. Saturday at MOA's east entrance. Three local bakers will concoct appetizers and entrees using Girl Scout cookies: N.M. Kelby, author of the Escoffier novel, "White Truffles in Winter," Anne Barlow of Luna's Liquid Lava Lounge and Cathy Weichart of the Dutch Baker's Daughter will compete. Judges include Marjorie Johnson, teacher and blogger Marcy Alfonsi, and last year's top regional cookie seller.


Learning from mistakes

Cooking is an art, a science and a skill. Because humans do it, it's also an arena where mistakes are made. Cooking Light magazine recently compiled a list of 41 common cooking mistakes, and we thought it made so much sense (and rang a few -- sigh -- familiar notes) that we had to pass it along. If you've ever made gluey mashed potatoes, curdled milk, been surprised by singed cookies or wondered why egg whites won't whip, this list may provide some help. Check it out at or visit and type "mistakes" in the search field.