Everyone says politics makes strange bedfellows. Turns out, it makes for strange table mates, too. Donkeys, elephants and grinning politicians have taken over not only the airwaves, but the dining table, patio grill, the cocktail bar and even the farm.
Restaurants around the country are revving up the big screens and rolling out election-inspired cocktails including a Commander-in-Chief at Restaurant 1833 in Monterey, Calif., and a Mitt-tini and Obamacolada at the Cityhouse Bar at San Francisco's Parc 55. Voters are invited to cast their ballots by choosing red-state or blue-state coffee cups at 7-Eleven, or by dropping an espresso bean in the appropriate voting cup at Albany's Zaki Kabob House.
An entire niche industry of election-related food items including political beef jerky, donkey/elephant steak branding irons and candidate cookies has sprung up around the ballot hoopla.
Some of these things are whimsical, others distinctly odd. We're not sure what to make of jerky-maker Jack Link's Meat Romney and Obameat offerings, nor about the candidate "portraits" constructed completely from strips of beef jerky by San Francisco-based mosaic artist Jason Mecier.
'Pick your prez' • The election-related frenzy even goes into the farm. This year's Cornbelly's corn maze at Thanksgiving Point features caricatures of Obama and Romney. Guests are encouraged to "pick your prez" by entering the Lehi maze on the side of their preferred candidate. Participants also can vote in a "straw poll" by dropping a piece of straw in the clear plastic container of their favorite candidate.
It's no surprise that in Republican-dominated Utah, Romney has won the poll every day since the attraction opened in late September, said creator Brett Herbst.
"He is pretty dominant here, no doubt," said Herbst, whose Utah-based company created almost identical election-themes mazes in 20 other states this year. "Utah's just a red state. If we went blue that might be a miracle."
Taking a bite out of the other side • There's no doubting the adorability quotient of Parker's Crazy Cookies, the Hayward, Calif., boutique bakery that invites you to sate your sweet tooth on your favorite politicians' chiseled good looks chiseled into shortbread cookies, that is. The cookies are available as a President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden two-pack, or a Republican challenger duo, featuring Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's faces.
Owner Dave Parker says the political cookies are the bakery's biggest sellers right now. The cookies, which also are available online (http://www.parkerscrazycookies.com), are flying off the shelves at Lafayette's Diablo Foods and all the Draeger's and Lunardi's markets. So much so, Parker says, that if an election could be called purely on the basis of cookie sales, there wouldn't be any question as to outcome. "The Democrats are definitely leading," he says. (Romney fans might want to consider upping their sugar intake.)
Moonstruck Chocolate, the Portland, Ore.-based artisanal chocolatier, has released a line of chubby little elephant and donkey truffles, perfect, they say, for taking "a bite" out of the other side. Chocolatique, a Los Angeles confectionery company, has a similar boxed set, available in Democrat, Republican or "Bipartisan" versions.
If we can find bipartisan agreement in a candy box, perhaps there's hope for Washington.