Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 138

"Tokyo Teriyaki Tokuyou" Seaweed Snack: I must admit, doing this blog while having a stomach virus is quite difficult. I love food, but it's hard to get excited about trying anything new when you're worried about anything you eat coming right back up. I'm feeling much better today, but the stomach is still pretty sensitive. With that in mind, I was glad that I had a couple new foods stashed as backups from past shopping trips. Today definitely wasn't the day for any fish or meat products, so I decided to open this jar of dried seaweed snacks I bought at the BHFM awhile back.

Upon first glance, these looked like tiny rectangular sheets of dried nori, the kind used with sushi. I was curious to see if they tasted any different than that, and surprise - they really didn't. I did notice a hint of sweet teriyaki flavor (as specified in the name), but no other real difference from dried nori. The label also branded these as "hot," but I didn't detect any heat at all. Eating dried seaweed sort of reminds me of chewing on parchment paper, but it wasn't bad at all for snacking purposes. I had a couple pieces before giving up - don't want to chance upsetting the stomach today.

If you like the seaweed element of sushi rolls, I highly recommend trying these.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 137

Cocktail Grapefruit: I apologize for this entry being so short - I've been on the couch all day, out of commission with a stomach virus. It's been difficult to eat much of anything, but obviously I couldn't skip my daily new food. I guess that was part of the deal I made with myself, right? Anyway, I found this variety of grapefruit yesterday at the Edgewood Kroger. I'd never heard of a cocktail grapefruit, so I threw one in my basket to take home.
The fruit was about the size of a baseball, and resembled an oversized lime. After cutting into it, I noticed that it looked like any other grapefruit on the inside. The taste was a bit sweeter than traditional pink grapefruit, with less of the bitterness and acidity that I'm used to. Other than that, it wasn't much different. I later read that cocktail grapefruits aren't actually real grapefruits, but a cross between a Frua Mandarin and a pummelo. Interesting.

My posts this weekend will hopefully be more in depth, but for now, it's time to head back to the couch.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Day 136

Sfogliatelle: Tonight's new food entry comes courtesy of one of my favorite restaurants, Antico Pizza in Atlanta ( I'm addicted to their pizza - it's by far the best I've had, anywhere. I've eaten there several times, but I'm usually never able to make it to dessert after devouring large amounts of pizza. However, tonight I spied something in the dessert case up front that I'd never had: sfogliatelle. At first glance, it looked like some sort of pastry, but past that I knew nothing about it. After me and the GF finished our pizza, I decided to buy one on the way out to take home.
I unwrapped the pastry when I got home, and it looked like a giant seashell made out of layers of flaky dough. It definitely had some weight to it when I picked it up, and when I broke it apart, I saw that it contained a ricotta-like filling. I love ricotta cheese, so I hoped whatever the filling was tasted like it. I took a bite, and was really impressed - the outer pastry was super-flaky and crunchy, and the interior tasted like sweetened ricotta. Almost like a croissant texture, but much more crunchy and buttery. I also noticed some pieces in the filling that appeared to be candied fruit, but I'm not sure what kind. Definitely one of the better pastries I've had in awhile, and I highly recommend trying if you make it to Antico.

FYI, according to Wikipedia, some sfogliatelle contain candied pieces of citron, so maybe that's what this one had. If anyone knows for sure, please feel free to comment!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 135

Spartak Chocolate Bar: Today's blog entry is another new Russian food I found at the BHFM last week. I haven't been in much of an eating mood since my holiday binge, so I thought trying this small candy bar would be the best idea for tonight. I've really enjoyed most of the Russian/Eastern European candy I've tried - some of it has been pretty close to American candy. I'm not exactly sure what this one is called; as usual, there wasn't much English on the wrapper, which is common with Russian products.

The ingredients listed (in English, thankfully) included chocolate, sugar, butter, condensed milk, and blackcurrant jam. It sounded like a standard candy bar, but sometimes ingredients can be deceiving, especially in terms of texture. I opened the wrapper and broke the bar in half, and it looked like some sort of marshmallowy filling surrounded by a thin chocolate shell.  Upon trying, there weren't many surprises with the flavors - it tasted like light, airy marshmallow surrounded by a waxy chocolate coating. The only thing keeping it from being standard was the thin layer of blackcurrant jam on top of the marshmallow, which brought a fruity element to the candy. Not bad, but nothing really new for me in terms of experience.

My past couple entries have been mildly disappointing - let's hope the upcoming new year brings me some awesome finds.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Day 134

Orion Cuttlefish Peanut Ball: Today's post is another strange snack I found before the holidays at the BHFM. I didn't feel much like trying something substantial tonight after the weekend-long binge of holiday food, and I had this bagged Asian snack stashed for a backup. I was in need of a little something to tide me over till dinner, so I decided to check these out. I've generally had good luck with the Asian snacks I've tried during this project, so I figured these couldn't be that bad. The flavor description (cuttlefish peanut?) was a bit bizarre - what were these gonna taste like?
These snacks basically consisted of tiny little balls made from wheat flour. The manufacturing company's website ( described it as "the refreshing taste of the seas and the nutty flavor of peanuts in one bag." Hmm, OK. After the "octopus flavored" snack I tried a few days ago, I wasn't sure what to expect from these. I popped a couple in my mouth, and the flavor was honestly more salty than anything else. I didn't really detect the "taste of the seas," mainly just some saltiness and faint peanutty-ness. The texture was airy and crunchy, with a seemingly hollow center. Not bad.

I've found that a lot of the bagged snacks from across the world aren't much different from what we eat here - most of them could easily be repackaged and sold under different names with no questions. These were OK, but not too much to report. I feel like it's hard to translate a true seafood taste to a chip-like snack, so if anyone knows one that's truly fishy, let me know.

FYI, Orion's website suggests that these are best enjoyed with a "glass of bear." Mmm...bear.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day 133

Venison Backstrap: Some of my readers may remember my entries awhile back about some venison products that my dad brought me from Texas. The sausages and jerky he brought me were really tasty, and a lot more flavorful and lean than a lot of other meats I'm used to. My dad's no Ted Nugent, but he has some friends that hunt, and all of the venison I've tasted came from animals hunted by them. For the Christmas holidays, he brought me something from the venison family that I'd never had before: "backstrap." He told me that it was basically the loin from the animal, and he'd marinated it in a peppercorn-style mixture before cooking in the oven.
The "backstrap" was originally about a foot long before cooking (the pic below was made after a good bit of it had been eaten). I cut off a few slices of it tonight to try, and it surprised me upon first taste. The texture was extremely close to beef loin, but a tiny bit tougher. I suspect it may have been cooked a bit too long (sorry, Dad), but it was still fairly tender. The flavor was fairly close to beef loin as well, but definitely a bit gamier. The peppercorn marinade brought a little bit of bite, but most of the flavor came from the meat itself. Pretty good.

It's always interesting to me to see how similar cuts of meat from different animals compare in flavor. If you like beef products and are curious at all about wild game, I recommend venison for a trial run.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 132

Parsnips: Today's blog entry was a surprise - it was something that I hadn't planned on eating, which is always great. My uncle from Atlanta came up to my parents' house in SC today, and he brought some foods from home to serve during our Christmas feast. We had a lot of the usual staples (smoked turkey, dressing, mac & cheese, etc.), but he brought some various root vegetables for roasting. One of them was parsnips, which amazingly, I've never had. Every now and then, I encounter a fairly common food item that I've never experienced. I know parsnips may not seem all that interesting, but they're new to me.
I knew that parsnips were a root vegetable similar to carrots, but that's about all. I wasn't able to get a picture of the whole, uncooked parsnip, but my uncle had sliced them, then roasted in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper. I love almost any vegetable roasted in that fashion, so I was eager to try these.

Once they were finished roasting, I was able to try a few bites. The taste/texture definitely reminded me of carrot, but these were noticeably sweeter. I also noticed a little more stringiness in the texture than what I'm used to with a carrot, but it wasn't a problem at all. I think I actually liked these a bit more than roasted carrots, and I'd like to explore some turnip recipes at home. I just noticed one online that combines mashed roasted parsnips with butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg - yum.

I'll definitely be adding these to my vegetable rotation - highly recommend.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 131

Tako Chips Octopus Flavored Snack: So this may seem like a strange blog entry for Christmas Eve, but I was a bit hungry tonight before the fam's customary dinner of "party food" (meatballs, sausage balls, ham biscuits, etc). I've had to bring blog-worthy food with me on this trip, since my fam's currently residing in a small town in SC. Not many brand new culinary options going on here, so it was up to me to pack some food. As a pre-dinner snack, I broke open this bag of Tako "octopus flavored" snack chips I found last week at the BHFM. I doubted these would be as bizarre as the dried fish snacks I had last night, but I was curious to find out. How does someone extract "octopus flavor" and put it into a chip?
I've had plenty of bagged Asian snacks over the course of this blog, so I was curious to find out how different these were from the others. I was amused at how they were fish-shaped - why not octopus shaped? The texture was a lot like air-puffed corn chips (or a Goldfish cracker), but the taste was more strangely fishy than octopus-like. Not bad, but I can't say I was inspired to eat many of them. I noticed a lingering fish aftertaste, but that was quickly erased with a few sips of beer. No real octopus flavor going on here - oh well.

Not much more to say about these, really. Ok, but kind of a mindless, crunchy, potato-chip-like snack for quick consumption.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 130

Dried "Korushka" Fish: I have to be honest - these looked a little scary when I first spotted them in the BHFM. I love pretty much all things fish related, especially smoked varieties, but I'd never had any dried fish before. These came from the Eastern European section (which my readers probably know by now that I love), and despite their intimidating appearance, I was willing to try. As usual with most Eastern Euro products, there wasn't much English on the package - actually, there wasn't any English on it. I had to look at my receipt to even know what to call these things.
I did a bit of research to figure out if "Korushka" was a brand name or a type of fish, and I think it refers to the Russian name for smelt fish. I could be wrong, so feel free to correct me if needed. I should point out that these things smelled strong - like, I-could-smell-them-through-the-bag strong. It reminded me of the way fish food smells, which was probably not a good start. On to the eating.
I opened the bag, and the strong fish smell got even worse. Not terrible, but strong nonetheless. I popped one in my mouth, and it was super chewy, like jerky. The taste was a combination of fish, smoke and salt - actually pretty good once I got past the chewy toughness. If you like beef jerky, you'd probably like these just the same (if you can get past the idea of eating a whole tiny fish, bones and all). I knocked out a couple of the tiny fish before my jaw needed a rest, but I enjoyed them. My dad tried one, but based on his confused expression, I couldn't quite tell what he thought. Hey, at least he tried, which is more than most of my other friends would do.

Fish jerky, hmm. Should I tell Slim Jim about these?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 129

Spartak "Dary Polesya" Candy: I'm a sucker for imported candies, so when I saw this oddity in the BHFM's Eastern European section, I knew I had to try it. Eastern European goods can be tricky, since there's usually little to no English written on the packaging. Based on the pictures and the vague list of ingredients, I knew this would be some sort of chocolate bar with "honey" filling or flavoring. I love chocolate (and honey), so I tossed it into my shopping cart.
I finally got around to trying it tonight, but before I did, I made sure to do a little research. I found the manufacturer's website (, and it stated that the "Dary Polesya" was a "barrel-type candy...each candy is formed like a barrel, consisting of 2 chocolate halves and containing fillings." Hmm. Apparently they make several varieties of these with different fillings, but mine was honey. Its only listed ingredients were "sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, lecithin, honey, flavor vanilla."
OK, time for the eating. I unwrapped the candy, and it looked like many other chocolate bars, with block-type segments. I assumed that each segment was filled with the honey filling, and I was right. It tasted like dark chocolate with a gooey honey filling - pretty good, really. I ate half the bar and saved the rest for later, since it was fairly sweet. I can't really think of an American candy to compare it to, but it was tasty just the same.

If you like imported candies/chocolates/sweets, check out what the BHFM's Eastern European section has to offer. I also found a truly strange looking fish snack in the Eastern Euro section - stay tuned for that one in the next few days.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 128

Jackfruit: Today's post is a new food I'd been looking forward to trying, but the results were utterly disappointing. I'd seen whole, uncut jackfruits several times at various markets (BHFM, Super H, YDFM), but I really wasn't up to the idea of buying the entire thing. They aren't that pricey per pound, but they're absolutely massive things. Think of a football tripled in size, then covered with spiky skin, and you're pretty close to visualizing what a whole jackfruit looks like. On my last shopping trip to the BHFM, I noticed this canned version in the Thai section. I normally like trying fresh versions of any fruit for the first time, but since the fresh version was more quantity than I wanted, I picked the can up for only $1.39.
I really had no idea what jackfruit was supposed to taste like, but based on its durian-like appearance, I should have known I could be in store for something unpleasant. After opening and draining the can, I noticed a faint smell that reminded me of lychee. Ok, not a bad start, since I like fresh lychee. The jackfruit was cut into small triangle-shaped pieces, and it had an odd meat-like appearance, almost like boiled chicken. Believe it or not, the texture wasn't much different than that - it had a slimy, chicken-like feel in my mouth, and it lacked any flavor at all. Aside from a slightly bitter aftertaste, there wasn't much going on with it at all. Honestly, I couldn't get past the bizarre texture, so I reluctantly chewed it up and swallowed. Blech.

I later learned that jackfruit is used in many vegan recipes due to its meat-like texture, and it's even referred to as "vegetable meat." Based on my miserable experiences with vegan meat substitutes, I really should have steered clear of this one before trying.

It's rare that I encounter something that makes me refuse another bite, but this definitely goes in that category. Unless you're dying to know what jackfruit tastes like, I advise staying away.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 127

Thai Eggplant: After trying to find this variety of eggplant a few weeks ago at Your Dekalb Farmers Market, I was glad to finally score some at the BHFM a few days ago. It's interesting how several common foods that I've been used to eating can have many different varieties, and I've enjoyed finding out what those differences are. I was pleased with the results of the Chinese eggplant I found previously, so I was eager to get this Thai version home to cook.

I'd never seen any other eggplant that looked like these - instead of the dark purplish exterior that's common with many varieties, these were marbled with a green/yellow pattern, and about the size of a golf ball. Also, the outer skin was noticeably thicker than purple eggplant. I cut one open lengthwise, and the interior flesh was white with plenty of seeds in the middle. Surprisingly, the seeds turned from white to a deep brown almost immediately after I cut it open. I'd never seen any fruit or vegetable oxidize that fast. I decided to cook them using an easy recipe I found online, stir-frying in a mix of oil, garlic, red chili flakes, soy sauce and basil.

Once I finished cooking, I noticed that the taste of the interior flesh was pretty similar to Chinese eggplant, but the outer skin retained a toughness and crunch that didn't disappear after cooking. If you're used to the mushy exterior of common purple eggplant, the Thai variety can take a little getting used to. There was less sweetness present, but the soy sauce added some despite that. I also noticed a hint of bitterness with the skin, but it didn't really bother me.

I liked this Thai version, but I doubt I'd keep substituting it for a purple variety. If you're feeling adventurous with your eggplant, check it out.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day 126

Pig's Head Taco: I'm a huge fan of anything in taco form, and when the GF told me that Hector Santiago (owner/chef of Pura Vida and Super Pan Latin Sandwich Shop) was now serving tacos/burritos from a stand across the street from his restaurants, I was excited. The stand, called "El Burro Pollo," is only open for lunch on Sat/Sun, and I managed to eat there twice this weekend. Yesterday's lunch (a delicious, ginormous chicken burrito) offered nothing new for me, but today's special was something else. I noticed on their Twitter account (@ElBurroPollo) that they were serving pig's head tacos, which are obviously right up my alley. I grabbed some cash, then headed down to check them out.
When I pulled up, Chef Santiago and his crew had a grill going to heat the fresh corn tortillas on, but the real surprise was directly behind that. Positioned on a work table was an whole pig's head, from which the chef was carving chunks of meat for the tacos. Seeing the whole head of any animal (raw or cooked) is pretty intimidating, but I knew that what came off of there was going to be tasty. I've eaten several cuts from cow's head (cheek, tongue, etc.), but never anything from a pig's head. I'm not sure what sections of the head they used for my taco, but at this point I didn't care - it smelled amazing.

After my taco was topped with some additional ingredients (carrot, radish, cilantro and some hot/mild chile sauces), I was ready to go. My first bite really surprised me - the texture was a lot like very finely minced pulled pork, but much more fatty and savory. I also noticed a few bits of crunchy skin, which may have been my favorite thing about it. Who doesn't love pork skin, right? The other ingredients definitely added some nice flavors, and the chile sauce (which tasted like maybe chipotle/adobo) brought a little heat. I actually spoke to Chef Santiago for a second about how much I was enjoying the pig's head, and he said that the last few people to show up get some of the brain. Lucky!

I should also add that the tacos/burritos are absolutely huge, so come hungry. My single taco was more like 2 tacos worth of food, which was an awesome deal. I know the stand is closed for the next couple weekends during the holidays, but I highly recommend checking it out after that. You won't be sorry.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day 125

Sweet Lime: Today's post is yet another new fruit I found on yesterday's shopping trip to the BHFM. It's always fun to shop there, but lately I've noticed that I've already worked my way through quite a few of the fruits they have to offer, which probably doesn't fare well for my blog. Anyway, I was glad to see they had some brand new items stocked up front, one of which was sweet lime. I had no idea how these were different from the traditional green limes that you see in every market, but I was willing to pick one up to try.
The sweet lime was slightly bigger than a regular lime, and the skin was sort of a spotted yellow instead of green. Once I cut it open, I noticed that it looked just like any other lime I've seen. However, that's where the differences ended. I was fully expecting a slightly sweeter version of a traditional lime, but this one was only sweet - no tartness or acidity at all. Interesting. I could actually eat whole pieces of it (not including the rind, of course) with no overwhelming tartness. To be honest, it didnt taste like much - it almost had a bitter grapefruit aftertaste, but no real pleasantness. I was hoping to use the lime for something (cocktails, maybe?), but I'm not sure if the mild taste would really be an additon to anything.

If anyone knows more about what sweet limes are used for, please feel free to comment. I haven't been able to find much online about these.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 124

Apple Pear: I know my readers are pretty used to me finding new foods at the Buford Highway Farmers Market, but I actually had a reason to go there today that didn't include finding new foods. I'm addicted to this Asian chili oil in a jar - not sure of the brand name since there isn't any English writing on the package, but I use it constantly as a way to spice up vegetables and other dishes. However, after finding what I needed, I knew I had to do some food hunting. How could I not in a great location like that, right? I ended up getting quite a few things (which you'll be reading about in the next few days), but I found a couple of great new items in the produce section. Tonight's blog entry is one of those: apple pear.

Upon first glance, it looked like an oversize, rounder pear, with a firm, light brown/gold skin. I assumed by the name that it would taste like a cross between both fruits, and I was eager to try it at home to see what it was all about. I decided to try a piece of it tonight as a snack, and the results were a lot like what I imagined. The flavor and texture was almost exactly like a hybrid of apple/pear, but a lot more pear-like in texture. Since I love both apples and pears, I was extremely happy with this find. The flesh was super-crisp and juicy, with the same sweetness as most red-skinned apples. Really tasty, and I'm always happy to discover new fruits that I can add into rotation.

Interestingly, the apple pear is not a hybrid of apple and pear. It's actually in the pear family, and goes by several names (Asian/Nashi/Korean/Japanese/etc.). Thanks, Wikipedia!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day 123

Moussaka: I wasn't planning on eating in a restaurant again tonight after last night's meal, but when the GF suggested getting some Greek fare at Taverna Plaka, I couldn't say no. I love most Greek food, but I usually find myself eating it in quick-service establishments like Mediterranean Grill in Atlanta. Taverna Plaka is a little more upscale, and they have several dishes that I hadn't seen before on other simpler Greek menus. I was trying to decide what to order, and the GF suggested moussaka. She explained that it was sort of a "Greek lasagna," made from layering slices of eggplant, zucchini and potato, then baking it.
Taverna's version also included ground beef, and the whole thing was topped with a creamy bechamel sauce, then baked. It sounded really tasty, so I eagerly ordered. When our server brought the dish, it really did look like lasagna - the whole thing was layered just like it, and served on top of a small amount of tomato sauce. Not exactly light eating, but I really enjoyed it. The layers of vegetables were cooked well, almost into a pasta-like consistency, and the ground beef added a savory element that the vegetables probably couldnt supply on their own. I could have probably used a little more of the tomato sauce to balance out the richness of the bechamel and beef, but it was good nonetheless.

Definitely one of the better Greek dishes I've had, but make sure you come hungry if you want to tackle an order of this stuff.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 122

Panna Cotta: When I saw that Scoutmob (one of my fave local websites) announced a half-off deal at Fritti earlier this week, I knew I'd probably be using it as soon as possible. Luckily, tonight was the night. The guitar player in my band stopped by for dinner, and we decided we were in the mood for pizza. He'd never been to Fritti, so it was time for him to try one of my favorite local haunts. Their pizzas are my second fave in town (right under Antico), so I knew we'd have a great meal. The dinner was tasty as usual, but the dessert menu offered something I'd never had: panna cotta. I knew panna cotta was a pretty standard Italian dessert, but I've actually never had it. I figured Fritti's version would be as good or better than any other in town, so I ordered.
The menu described their panna cotta as a vanilla custard-style dessert, drizzled in 12 yr. aged balsamic vinegar. I was curious to taste how the balsamic contrasted with the sweetness of the custard, since I'd never tried any flavor combination like that before. Once I tasted, I was pleasantly surprised. The panna cotta reminded me of a more congealed pudding, but much silkier and smoother. Almost like a vanilla creme brulee taste, without the "brulee." The balsamic added a really interesting vinegar/sour note to the sweetness of the rest of the dish, and I thought the 2 tastes worked really well together. Definitely one of the best desserts I've had in awhile, and I'd gladly order again in a minute. Even after stuffing my face with pizza, it was light and delicious.

If you managed to score the half-off Scoutmob deal (or even if you didn't), go soon, and be prepared to have a great meal. Good stuff.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day 121

Hachiya Persimmon: I should preface this post by saying that I wasn't too excited about trying this Hachiya persimmon. I tried the fuyu variety of persimmon awhile back, and wasn't at all impressed with the results. However, when the GF brought me this hachiya from Your Dekalb Farmers Market, I couldn't say no. I hoped this one was better than the fuyu.
At first glance, it looked a bit different than the fuyu variety. It reminded me of an over-ripe tomato in texture, and the skin felt soft to the touch. According to Wikipedia, the hachiya is best once the entire fruit is softened, which is the opposite of how we choose a lot of other fruits. Once I sliced it open lengthwise, it still reminded me of a tomato, with a soft, mushy center. The directions I found online intstructed me to scoop out the flesh with a spoon, leaving the outer skin to be discarded. Once I did that, I took a bite, and the texture reminded me a lot of a peach. The flavor was definitely not peachy, though - it was super sweet. The best comparison I can think of would be a peach with all the tartness removed. Not too bad, but not really one of the best flavors I've experienced.

I'm generally not a fan of fruits that are all sweet with no tart, so I'm not sure I'd try this one again. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 120

White Asparagus: Today's new food is another item that my GF picked up for me at Your Dekalb Farmers Market yesterday. I'm a big fan of traditional green asparagus, and I was really curious to find out what the white variety was all about after hearing about it for so many years. According to Wikipedia, white asparagus is grown by "denying the plants light while being grown." Interesting. I was curious to find out if the flavor was any different, so I made them as a side for tonight's dinner.
Before cooking, I checked to see if there was any special preparation involved, and I'm glad I researched that. Unlike green asparagus, these required peeling off the outer skin before cooking, which is apparently bitter and stringy. Once that was done, I tossed the spears with olive oil, garlic salt and pepper, then roasted in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. The flavor was surprisingly different - much sweeter and milder than the green variety. The GF actually thought that it tasted like someone sprinkled sugar on it instead of salt, but I didn't think it was quite that sweet. I found the texture a bit stringier than green asparagus, but not in a bad way.

If you like the green variety at all, check out the white if your local market has it. I enjoyed this version, and I'd definitely buy it again. One question - does white have the same nutrients as green? I suspect not, considering the lack of color. If anyone knows, please feel free to comment.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 119

Kumquat: After a long day on the road coming home from NC, I was almost home when I realized that I had no new foods to blog about today. I did some looking in some various convenience stores on the way, but those efforts were fruitless. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when the GF texted me and said she'd picked me up a few new things at Your Dekalb Farmer's Market. I would have had to drag my tired bones out to a grocery store to look for something tonight if not for that, so to her, thanks! When she said she'd bought some kumquats, I was extremely interested. I've heard of them many times, but never had the chance to try.
At first glance, each tiny fruit looked like a miniature orange, but a little less round. The box's label described them as "nature's sweet tarts," so I figured they'd be a bit sour. The instructions advised eating them whole except for the seeds, and also said they had a "sweet peel, with tart pulp." The GF cut one of them in half, scooped out the seeds, and handed me a piece.

After popping it in my mouth, I was immediately shocked by the sourness - "nature's sweet tart" was a bit of an understatement. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to finish it, but after chewing for a second, the sourness was balanced out by the rind's sweetness. It reminded me of an intensely sour orange - that's the best comparison I can come up with. Not bad, but if you have a low tolerance for sour flavors (which I apparently do), be warned. The GF liked them much more than I did, so I hope she can help me finish them.

Other than being eaten on their own, I don't know much about what kumquats are used for. If anyone knows more about them, please feel free to chime in...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 118

Dilpasand: I usually don't do blog posts this early in the morning, but I'm getting ready to head out of town for a gig in North Carolina, and I wanted to go ahead and knock out my daily update before the weekend gets really busy. Luckily, I had a couple pieces of Indian candy left from my trip to Taj Mahal Imports earlier in the week. Eating sweets with breakfast isn't a bad way to start the day, right?

I should mention that I had a really difficult time locating any info about this item. From what I can tell, "dilpasand" refers to quite a few different dishes, but that's what this one was labeled as at the store. If anyone has any additional info about it, please feel free to let me know and/or correct me.
The candy actually looks and sounds much like the "manpasand" candy I tried a few days ago. I was really surprised at how good these Indian candies are, and I figured that this one would be just as tasty. I was right - this one was good, and almost identical to the manpasand I tried before. The top and bottom layers had the same sweet, nougat-y consistency, but the interior was a bit different. The ingredients listed something called "tutti-frutti," which I believe is a mix or compote of dried fruits. It also listed almonds, sugar, cashews and saffron.

The only difference I could taste was a little less moisture in the filling than the manpasand. It reminded me of a drier Fig Newton filling - that's the closest thing I can compare it to. It was good, but I definitely preferred the manpasand to this.

I'm really glad I tried these Indian sweets this week. If your only notion of dessert is something chocolate-y and rich, then they could be a whole new experience for you.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 117

Indian Hummus: Before some of you freak out and think "how could he have not had hummus before?" let me say that this was not standard, Mediterranean style hummus, which I've had plenty of times. During my shopping visit to Taj Mahal imports a few days ago, I noticed that the entire wall on the right side of the store was devoted to sauces, pickles, and chutneys. It was hard to narrow down a choice from the huge selection, but I settled on a jar of Patak's "Brinjal Eggplant Relish." I've seen Patak's products in traditional grocery stores before, but the selection has been limited to curry and masala sauces. The back of the jar included a recipe for "Indian Hummus," and it only required mixing the relish with a can of chickpeas in a food processor. I like hummus, so I was curious to try this Indian version.
The brinjal relish's ingredients consisted of sugar, eggplant, vegetable oil, chile peppers, salt, water, mustard, chile powder, fenugreek, coriander, garlic and spices. Tasted alone, it had a sweet, spicy eggplant flavor that was a bit overwhelming on its own. I dropped a couple tablespoons of the brinjal relish into the food processor, along with the drained can of chickpeas. The finished product was a lot chunkier than Mediterranean hummus, and I had to add a small amount of olive oil to keep it from being too dry. It was tasty, but much richer and sweeter than traditional hummus. I spread a little bit of it on some toasted flatbread, but I couldn't eat as much of it as traditional hummus due to the richness. I might make it again, but I definitely prefer Mediterranean style.

I'm glad I tried this recipe, but it's definitely a different experience than Mediterranean hummus.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 116

Dal Paratha: As if you couldn't already tell, this has been my "Indian Week" for the blog. I had a great shopping trip a couple days ago at Taj Mahal Imports, and I'm really enjoying all the new foods that I found there. My past couple posts have all been candy/sweets related, so today I'm making things a bit more savory. I spotted these "dal parathas" in the frozen section of the market, and they looked interesting to me. I love anything in pancake form, especially when they're filled with something, so I had to try these.

One thing I'm discovering about Indian cuisine is that, well, I know almost nothing about it. My only experience with Indian food prior to the last couple weeks was a really bad Indian buffet restaurant in SC where I used to live. I'm glad that ATL has several outlets for me to start trying it, and I'm finally starting to learn some of the basic foods and terminology.

Anyway, back to the dal paratha. "Dal" refers to lentil, and I've seen this ingredient show up in more than one of the Indian foods I've tried. Basically, this dish consists of a wheat-flour based pancake (paratha) stuffed with a curried lentil filling. This frozen version simply required heating in a pan for a few minutes on both sides, and the results were pretty tasty. Think of a thin, buttery, chewy pancake with a spicy, curried lentil interior. Really good, but not exactly light eating - one is all I could handle.

I really hope I get to try some of these Indian classics in an actual restaurant soon - doing so is definitely on my agenda for the near future.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 115

Kaju Pista Roll: After being really impressed with my first attempt at Indian sweets last night, I was eager to try more today. I bought several different homemade sweets yesterday from Taj Mahal Imports, which is a market carrying all sorts of amazing Indian goods. The "manpasand" candy from yesterday was super tasty, and today's entry was just as good.

The sweets counter at Taj Mahal had way too many choices for me to wade through, but I narrowed it down to a few that looked good. I was intrigued by these "kaju pista" rolls - they looked like little tubes of dough that had been filled with some strange greenish substance, then cut into bite-sized pieces. I really didn't know what I was getting into, but I bought a couple to take home. I like sweets in general, so how could they be bad?
After taking a bite of one, I was pleasantly surprised. The roll had a Play-Doh like consistency, but was mildly sweet. A little interwebs research told me that these were made from a mixture of cashew and pistachio paste, which wasn't surprising - the pistachio flavor was really obvious. The recipe also called for ghee (a staple in Indian cuisine), milk and sugar. The green "filling" was simply food coloring, and I assume that's just added for looks. I wish I'd bought a lot more of these, and I definitely plan on doing so next time.

If you like marzipan, you'd probably like kaju pista, although it's not nearly as sweet/rich as marzipan. Highly recommend.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 114

Manpasand: After getting several recommendations lately for locations to buy Indian groceries, I finally ventured out today to scope out a few of them. I've recently been intrigued by Indian food after trying a few of Trader Joe's frozen Indian entrees, and I knew that the real thing would be different (and probably much tastier). My first stop was to a market called Taj Mahal Imports, located off Briarcliff Road. From what I read online, they featured a wide variety of Indian goods, including snacks, sweets, frozen foods, and housewares.

Once I found it, I was glad I did. It definitely wasn't like any other market I've been in, and there was a wide array of goods that I'd never seen before. I bought several items, but the GF directed me towards the sweets counter at the front, featuring several types of homemade pastries and candy. I wasn't familiar with any of them, so we picked out a few to take home.
I decided to try the manpasand tonight - from what I've been able to research, it's an Indian candy made from cashews, fig, almond and sugar. These were made locally by a company called Rajbhog (, and Taj Mahal featured several of their products in the sweets counter. The Rajbhog site also mentioned that all their sweets are made with ghee (clarified butter) and fresh milk. Anyway, this treat was super tasty. I can't quite describe what the top and bottom layers tasted like, but it had a sweet, nougat-like consistency - almost like the center of a Baby Ruth. The center reminded me of the filling in a Fig Newton, but much richer. I only bought a couple of these, but I could have easily eaten more. Really good stuff.

I took home a few different varieties of candy and other goods from Taj Mahal, so I'll be blogging about those coming up. If you're interested in Indian goods or culture at all, it's a great market to check out.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 113

Caperberry: While I was out doing some errands today, I stopped back into Whole Foods on Ponce since I was already in the shopping center where it's located. I was just there a couple days ago, but I figured I'd check out the hot bar/salad bar again since they change out the items frequently. However, instead of looking at those, I perused the olive bar. I'm familiar with many varieties of olives, but I saw something on the bar that I'd never heard of: caperberry. Since WF is OK with giving out samples, I asked for a trial-size cup so I could try one of these.

The caperberry looked like an overgrown olive, with a long stem protruding from one end. I brought it home with me to try, and I was surprised at the results. It tasted like a hybrid of green olive and pepperoncini, with the center containing a seedy mixture much like a pepperoncini. It tasted like it had been brined (much like an olive), but the taste wasn't nearly as strong as an olive. Pretty tasty, and since I like olives, I could see snacking on these as an accompaniment to a cheese plate in place of olives.

I didn't even know what these were before today, but according to Wikipedia, caperberries are actually the fully grown bud of the caper plant. Capers are the immature buds from the plant, but those taste completely different. Interesting.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 112

Soon Doo Boo: Last night I had a gig to play right off of Pleasant Hill Road in Duluth, and on the way there I noticed several Asian eateries and markets near the club. I didn't have time to check any of them out, but I decided to go back today and see if I could find anything interesting to eat. I quickly stopped inside the Super H Mart on Pleasant Hill to see if they had some new eats in stock, but my stomach got the best of me. I can never resist their food court, and with the weather being colder today, a hearty Korean soup sounded awesome. The Korean stall had a lot of great options, but I went with this one after seeing someone else order it.
Soon Doo Boo was described as a "hot and spicy soft tofu stew." Several options were listed (kimchi, seafood, miso, mushroom, or beef), but I chose the "combination." I picked up my order a few minutes after placing it, and it was still boiling rapidly in the small stone pot. I had no choice but to stir and let it sit for awhile, since this insanely hot mixture would have likely destroyed my mouth and throat in this state. It was also served with sides of rice, kimchi and some sesame-tasting bean sprouts, so I snacked on those while waiting for the stew to cool.

Once it was safe to eat, I was really impressed with the flavors. The reddish miso-based broth was spicy and hearty - much better than the dishwater-y miso soup you're probaby used to eating at hibachi joints. The soft tofu melted in my mouth with each bite, and the combination of seafood (squid, mussels, shrimp) and mushroom/beef only added to the awesomeness. I ended up dunking some balls of rice into the mixture to soak up broth - not sure if that's standard eating procedure, but it was tasty regardless.I'll be back for this one (along with the dolsot bibimbap) again.

I might also add that this whole dish was only $6. Why can't this style of cooking be in every food court?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 111

Tabouli: I ventured out this afternoon to maybe find something for lunch, and I ended up at the Whole Foods on Ponce. I rarely shop there due to the high prices, but occasionally there's something on the hot bar or salad bar that catches my eye. Today I saw something that I'd heard about for years, but never actually tried: tabouli. I knew it was some sort of wheat-based vegetarian dish, but past that, I knew nothing. Luckily, WF will let you sample before you commit, so I asked for one of the little sample cups so I could taste.
WF listed the ingredients as "bulgur wheat, brown rice, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, couscous, lemon juice, wild rice." I suspected that it would be a lot like cooked couscous, but I was slightly wrong. The texture of the bulgur was almost like half-cooked couscous, with a chewy, nutty feel. Not bad, but not that great, either. It reminded me a lot of the wheatberry salad I tried a few weeks ago, and the remaining ingredients definitely added a lot more flavor to the bland-ish bulgur and rice. A little too much onion in this version for me, but I doubt I'd eat it again anyway.

For the record, I'm not sure what the correct spelling of this dish is. I've seen several different versions, and this is the one that WF used.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 110

Channa Masala: Even though I've made some new foods and dishes from scratch this week, it's difficult to do for every blog entry. I definitely plan on doing more cooking in the upcoming weeks, but today's post isn't in that category. I really enjoyed the last Indian-style frozen entree I picked up at Trader Joe's, so I snagged another one on my last trip there. This one was labeled as "channa masala," which I've never had. My experience with Indian cuisine is extremely limited, and I plan on checking out some of the Indian restaurants in ATL that have been recommended to me by my readers. But, for today, this frozen version will have to do.
 From what I could tell from the picture on the box, channa masala looked like a mixture of chickpeas and possibly a tomato-based sauce of other ingredients. After checking out the ingredients, I noticed I was right, but the dish had a few other components (ghee, garlic, salt, cilantro, mango powder, turmeric, bay leaf). After heating, I also prepared a piece of TJ's garlic naan to pair with the masala mix.

I really enjoyed this stuff - it was extremely hearty, and the mix of spices and tomato complemented the chickpeas well. Apparently "masala" means "a mixture of spices," and this chickpea version was really tasty. I know that I'd be better off trying this for the first time in a restaurant (or homemade), but I feel like this version gave me a good idea of what the dish is about. And, it was vegetarian, which is something I usually don't go for.

I need to find out more about Indian cuisine ASAP. I've been putting it off way too long.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 109

Spaghetti Squash: I'm proud to say that once again, today's post involved me actually cooking a new food instead of relying on something pre-packaged or ready to eat. A few days ago, the GF recommended that I try spaghetti squash - I'd never heard of it, but after hearing her description and doing a bit of research, it sounded interesting. Spaghetti squash looks like many others on the outside, but after cooking, the insides are scraped out, resulting in a fibrous flesh that's supposed to look just like cooked spaghetti. They're pretty easy to find, and I ended up buying one at YDFM on my last trip a couple days ago. The plan was to make a simple recipe including the squash, onion, feta, basil and tomato.

The recipe I found online instructed me to cut the squash in half lengthwise, pull out the seeds/pulp, then cook in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. After it cooled, I scraped out the insides with a spoon, and the end result really did looked like overcooked spaghetti. The football-sized squash yielded quite a bit of "spaghetti," and I tossed it with the sauteed onion/garlic, tomato, feta and basil. The squash actually tasted a lot like al dente spaghetti, but with a noticeable vegetable texture. I can't say it tasted like much on its own (much like pasta), but the additional ingredients really made it a tasty dish. I'd highly recommend it to anyone that likes pasta, but wants to cut back on the carbs. Good stuff.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 108

Pepino Melon: Today's post is another new fruit I found at YDFM during yesterday's shopping trip. Interestingly, I'd seen this unique variety of melon at Kroger a few weeks ago, but was shocked to learn that they were charging $5 apiece for them. That's way too expensive for me, but I managed to score this one for $1 at YDFM. Not quite sure how to explain that price difference, but anyway...on to the eating.
I wasn't at all sure what this melon would taste like, but the colors on its skin looked vibrant and appealing. The entire thing wasn't much smaller than my fist, and it had a firm texture that reminded me of an under-ripe tomato. I sliced it in half, and the interior color was almost the same as the exterior, almost like a mango. After peeling the skin off (which I read was slightly bitter), I cut a small piece and took a bite. Honestly, it tasted just like cantaloupe, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. I'm not a fan of cantaloupe or honeydew - in my opinion, they're tasteless "filler fruits" that I avoid when possible. I later read on Wikipedia that the pepino actually isn't a melon at all, but the fruit from the "pepino dulce" plant.

I really hoped this one would be tasty, but I was wrong. If you feel like you must try a pepino, stay away from the expensive ones and find a cheap one like I did.