Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 107

Chinese Eggplant: After looking at the last few days of blog posts, I decided that it was time to start actually cooking some new foods instead of focusing on ready-to-eat items. While it's easier to look for stuff that's already prepared, it's been limiting my options as of late. Today I decided to hit Your Dekalb Farmers Market to look for some new produce I could work into a meal. I knew that I'd seen several vegetables there on past trips that I'd never eaten, so I figured I could find a few interesting ones to try this week. Different varieties of eggplant have always been something I've wanted to eat, so I picked up these Chinese hybrids today.
After I got them home, I looked online for a quick and easy recipe to try them with. I found a basic Thai-style method, which had me slicing then stir-frying with oil, garlic, fish sauce, sugar and basil. I like all those components on their own, so I hoped they would only enhance the eggplant's flavor. I did notice that it looked a little less seedy that regular eggplant, and the flesh was whiter as well. Once the eggplant was translucent after stir-frying in the oil/garlic, I added the rest of the ingredients and served. The texture was a lot like traditional eggplant, but a bit more tender than what I'm used to. I don't know if it was because of the other ingredients, but I eagerly ate all of it and then had more. Really tasty, and I'll definitely buy again.

I'm liking the idea of actually cooking more new items, so keep on the lookout for more.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 106

Crab Apples: Today was one of those days where I really didn't feel like making a major shopping trip for new foods, so I scrounged the produce section at the Ansley Kroger looking for anything that might be new to me. I was almost ready to give up when I noticed these crab apples displayed amongst the regular apples. Crab apples are something I've heard mentioned here and there since I was a kid, but I've never known what they were or how they compared to traditional apples. These were tiny in size, and they almost looked like a shrunken version of a red delicious. These appeared to be my only shot at new produce for today, so I threw a couple in my basket.
Before trying these, I fully expected them to be sour and not sweet. I have vague memories of eating tiny sour green apples from a tree in my backyard when I was a kid, and those weren't very appetizing. I took a bite, and was surprised - it wasn't sour at all, but sweet like a red delicious. Except for a noticeably grainier texture, it tasted really close to any other red-skinned apple I've had. I'm not really sure what crab apples are used for, and I can't imagine buying them again instead of the cheaper red delicious variety. According to Wikipedia, they're sometimes used as an ingredient in cider, but I doubt I'll be making that anytime soon.

This week is apparently gonna require more shopping for me. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 105

Saya Snow Pea Crisps: Today's new food was an item I originally found in the snack section at Super H Mart a couple weeks ago. I haven't had time to do any shopping since before Thanksgiving weekend started, so I had to pull from my reserves. When I saw these at Super H, they seemed interesting - I like snow peas as well as dried vegetable-type snacks, so I figured they couldn't be too bad.
The last few times I've had dried vegetable snacks, I've really enjoyed them (especially the crispy dried okra sold at the BHFM). I thought these would basically be the same, but in snow pea form. Well, yes and no. This snack was definitely made from peas, but I think these were formed into a snow pea shape instead of being actual dried snow peas. The crunchy texture reminded me of Funyuns (everyone's fave convenience store faux-onion rings), and the taste was, well...pea-like. Not that tasty, but sort of a mindless snacking-type option. They weren't really any more exotic than a random bag of potato chips or crisps from the USA.

In the future, I'll definitely stick to the real dried vegetables, like the okra I love so much. Oh well, I tried.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 104

Trader Joe's "European Style" Yogurt: Ok, so I know this one may seem a bit conventional, but when I spied this item at Trader Joe's this week, I really didn't know what they meant by "European Style" yogurt. I've had plain yogurt and Greek yogurt, but European? I like yogurt in all forms that I've had so far, and this one was only $0.99, so it didn't hurt to give it a try.
In addition to being "European," this one was also mocha flavored. Nothing really new, but I was more curious about how different the texture of this one would be. I opened it and gave it a quick stir, and it had a noticeably thin texture, much like Greek yogurt. I took a bite, and it almost reminded me of Jell-O pudding, but a bit thinner. The texture was smooth and creamy, but with a faintly tangy aftertaste like Greek yogurt. The mocha flavoring was also tasty - I like anything coffee flavored, so I knew that element wouldn't disappoint.

If you're looking for a healthier dessert alternative, check this one out at TJ's. Not an earthshaking new find for me, but I'm glad I tried anyway.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day 103

Pomegranate: Today's post is another find from my pre-holiday Trader Joe's shopping trip. I know it's probably hard to believe, but I've never had the ubiquitous pomegranate in raw form. I've heard that there wasn't much to them, mostly seeds and a little bit of fruit, but I figured it was time to try one. TJ's had a plentiful supply of them for an inexpensive price, so I threw one in my basket to take home.

When I was preparing to eat it today at my parents' house, my dad advised me to roll it on the kitchen counter top to "break open" the juicy membranes surrounding the seeds, then puncture the skin so I could sip the juice out with a straw. He advised against eating the seeds, and said they were extremely bitter. I trusted his judgment, but I wanted to cut it open to see what I was dealing with. After slicing it in half, I noticed that it was almost entirely seeds, with some dark red pulp surrounding each one. I scooped out a couple and tried them, and my dad was right - they were bitter and not flavorful, but the pulp was sweet and tasty. I grabbed a bowl and decided to squeeze the rest of each half like any other fruit to get the juice out. What resulted was a couple ounces of the blood-red liquid, which I drank from the bowl. It was really good - almost like a sweeter, thinner, less pulpy orange juice.

I'd definitely eat pomegranate again, but I may stick to just buying the juice in its pure form to save on the waste.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 102

Oyster Stuffing: I didnt expect to be surprised with a new food as a result of my parents' Thanksgiving menu, but tonight I was. When my dad told me earlier today that he was making oyster stuffing, I was intrigued. I remember it being served at various family holidays when I was a kid, but it always sounded repulsive. I didn't even know what was in it, but oysters didn't sound like something that belonged in stuffing. Of course, now I'll eat anything, so I was eager to try it for the first time.

I'm sure all my readers know what traditional stuffing is, so I'll spare the rundown of ingredients. This version contains the addition of raw oysters in the mix, which is ultimately baked in the oven till the whole thing solidifies and the oysters are cooked. The oysters my parents bought weren't fresh out of the shell, but pre-packaged in a small plastic container. Upon trying, I noticed that the flavor wasn't that different from normal stuffing, but I thought the oysters added a nice, savory contrast to the stuffing mix. When I was a kid, I expected it to taste fishy and weird, but it didn't at all. I love oysters any way I can eat them, so I really enjoyed this variation on traditional stuffing. Good stuff.

Interestingly, my mom really doesnt like the oyster version, but loves it without. To each his own, right?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 101

Curried Lentils: Like many of you this week, I hit the road to spend some time with the family for Thanksgiving. My parents are currently in a small town in SC, so I brought some blog-worthy foods with me just to be safe. Before I left town, I hit Trader Joe's in Atlanta for some last minute provisions, and today's entry was a great new food find for me. I have very little experience with anything Indian, and I'd heard good things about TJ's line of frozen Indian foods. I picked up a package of these curried lentils w/rice to have for lunch today, and I was pretty happy with the results.

Obviously these were frozen, and they were packaged in a plastic film-covered container with the lentils separated from the cumin-flavored rice. I heated them up in the microwave, then poured the lentils over the rice in a separate bowl. I took a bite of both, and they were really tasty - almost like a spicier, curry-flavored black bean soup. It was a hearty dish, and the portion size was perfect for lunch. I don't know much about lentils, but the texture reminded me of a cross between black beans and chickpeas. Apparently they're extremely nutritious as well, so I definitely won't mind eating these again.

If anyone has any recommendations for authentic Indian fare in ATL, please let me know. This TJ's version was good, but I really need to try the real thing soon.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 100

Loup De Mer: Today's post comes courtesy of a stellar meal at Floataway Cafe. Me and the GF celebrated her b-day dinner there tonight, and we were both excited about trying the restaurant for the first time after hearing many great things about it. After checking out the menu, I knew it was going to be tough to make a choice - there were so many items that sounded good. I knew that anything I ordered would be great, but my attention kept returning to the selections of pan roasted fish. I'd never tried loup de mer, much less any fish whole-roasted on the bone, so I eagerly ordered.
Sorry for the dark picture, the lighting was a bit dim in the dining room. If you order fish in most restaurants, you're probably used to being served the fillet only. This was different - the whole fish had been left intact, head/tail and all, and the body cavity was stuffed with lemon, onion, and herbs. It was also served with a salsa verde and an arugula salad. I'd never attempted to eat any fish served like this, so it was a bit intimidating to figure out the best way to get to the good stuff. I started by peeling the skin back, then digging out the lemon/onion/herbs used to provide flavor. This resulted in revealing some really amazing pieces of tender, white fish. I had to be careful to not accidentally swallow any tiny bones (or eat any strange organs, since the fish hadn't been totally gutted, from what I could tell), but the extra work was worth it. Definitely one of the best pieces of fish I've had in a long time.

If you can get past the whole concept of your food "looking at you," whole-roasted fish is an awesome experience. By the way, "loup de mer" is apparently what seabass is called in the French Mediterranean.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 99

"Bissli" Snack: As many of you know, most of my new food finds have been from local markets or restaurants. However, today's food was brought to me from Israel by a friend of the GF's that visited there recently. I'm always curious to find out how simple snacks from other countries compare to the ones here, so I was really glad to score this one. I've often found that they're a bit more interesting than the standard USA fare, but maybe I'm just used to what we have. 

At first glance, Bissli looked like any other bagged convenience store snack that you see everywhere. The label stated that it was a "pizza flavored, cholesterol-free wheat party snack." OK, let's party!

I opened the bag, and I could immediately smell the "pizza flavor." It reminded me of how a bag of Chex Mix or Combos smells, so I expected the taste to be in the same universe. I wasn't far off - the little wheat flour-based cubes were really crunchy, with a hint of the faux-pizza flavoring promised on the label. Good, but kind of in a mindless snacking kind of way. It was comparable to many American snacks of this type, but not exactly groundbreaking for me.

If you like Combos/Chex Mix/etc., you'd probably like these. Good luck finding, though - markets in the ATL area that carry Israeli products might have them.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 98

Mochi: Today's post is one of the last remaining items from my Super H Mart shopping trip from almost a week ago. I've had some good and bad stuff from that run, but tonight's is sort of in the middle. I've heard of mochi several times, and I've even seen something called "mochi ice cream" at Trader Joe's. When I saw this small box labeled "mochi" in the Super H, I decided it was time to try.
From what I could tell from the ingredients, mochi was going to be one of those glutinous rice-type snacks that I've tried several varieties of. These were labeled as green tea flavor, but there were also a few other flavors (red bean, sesame, etc.). When I opened the box tonight, the six individual pieces were pachaged in a plastic tray inside a sealed bag. There was also a little envelope of powder labeled "alcohol voltilizer, don"t microwaves" inside the box, which I assumed was not meant to be eaten. Maybe it's used to keep the mochi from going dry?

Anyway, on to the eating. I popped one of the mochi out of the tray, and each piece was dusted with flour. The consistency was truly strange in my hand - it felt like a squishy, heavy, rubbery marshmallow that's been sitting underwater for awhile. It pretty much tasted like that as well, and it reminded me a lot of the glutinous rice Asian snacks I've already had. The green tea filling really did have a tea-like flavor, but with a good bit more sugar added. I'm not sure how I feel about these - they tasted OK, but the texture is pretty strange.

If you're an adventurous snacker, give these a try for sure. Maybe the "mochi ice cream" would be a little more palatable, right?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 97

"Butter Peanut Cake": This was another non-fruit find from my shopping spree at the Doraville Super H Mart earlier in the week. I love their "snack" section, and it's comprised of some true oddities from around the world. Today's item is of Asian descent (I believe either Chinese/Japanese), and strangely, isn't cake at all.
Upon first glance, it looked like one of those Lance peanut rolls that I'm used to seeing in convenience stores everywhere. I figured it would be a bit different from that, but I was surprised at how similar it really was. It tasted like traditional peanut brittle, with no real differences that I could find. Maybe they call peanut brittle something different overseas? Anyway, it was super-crunchy and really good, with a strong, syrupy peanut flavor, but there isn't much else to say about it.

If you like peanut brittle, check this one out next time you're at Super H. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 96

Forelle Pear: Today is the last post from my Super H fruit binge, and unfortunately, it's not a positive one. I had some good (and not so good) luck with my new fruit experiences this week, and today's was sort of an unexpected surprise for me. I really love pears in general, and I figured that this forelle variety would be just as tasty as others I've had, but not so much.

This forelle pear looked much like others I've had in color and shape, but I discovered something totally different when I took a bite. It had a bizarre, unpleasant chalky taste that was really hard to work around, and even the plentiful juice made my mouth feel like I'd just eaten chalk. The rest was pretty sweet and not so bad, but that chalkiness just turned me off. Strange. I got through about half of it before chucking it in the garbage.

Oh well. I now know what pear to avoid. Maybe the forelle would something good for those who have that weird "pica" condition.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 95

June Plum: Given how much I like plums, I was excited to see a version in the Super H Mart this week that I'd never experienced. I wasn't sure what a june plum was, but it looked much different from most plums I'd had. It was extremely small, not much longer than my thumb, and had a green, lumpy outer skin. They weren't very expensive by the pound, so I threw one in my basket.

Before I tried it today, I tried to find out what a june plum was, and I found out that they're fairly popular in Jamaica, Trinidad and a few Asian countries. It's an edible fruit with a pit in the middle, but that's where the similarities stopped with the plums I've eaten before. I cut a slice off, and was immediately struck by its sourness. I chewed it for a few seconds before giving up and swallowing - honestly, it was almost inedible to me. All I could taste was the sourness, plus an overwhelming grassy flavor from the skin. Not for me at all, but maybe it works for others. Apparently june plums are eaten dipped in salt, sugar or chili paste in some countries, but I didn't get that far with it.

Oh well - all my attempts can't be tasty. Maybe tomorrow will yield something better.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 94

Pomelo: Today's post is yet another fruit find from the Super H Mart in Doraville. Despite my discovery that I'd already tried most of the fruits in their produce section, I did manage to find a few new ones. I spied these pomelos in a bin right near the main entrance of the store, and at only $0.50 apiece, I couldn't say no. I had no clue what a pomelo was, but was willing to invest some pocket change to find out. I picked one up, and it had a lot of weight, much like a grapefruit. And when I tried it today, I discovered that the similarities to grapefruit didn't stop there.

I cut the pomelo in half (this one was labeled as a "white" pomelo) and immediately smelled a familiar smell: grapefruit. My hunch was right - it looked almost identical to a traditional grapefruit on the inside, but the rind was much thicker. I used a knife to separate the individual sections, and took a bite. Yes, it tasted just like a grapefruit as well, but noticeably less bitter than the pink ones I've eaten for years. I do like grapefruit, so I devoured the pomelo pretty quickly. Once I'd eaten the fruit, I squeezed a little of the juice into a glass, and it was good - much less tart and a little sweeter than what I'm used to.

If you like grapefruit, try a pomelo if you find one. Be warned that they yield a bit less fruit than a pink grapefruit, but they're just as tasty.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 93

Black Plum: A few days ago, I decided that I needed some more fruits/vegetables back in the diet, so luckily I found some good candidates at Super H in Doraville yesterday while browsing. Their produce section isn't nearly as big as the one at the BHFM, and it seemed like I'd already eaten my way through most of what they had. This is obviously going to be a problem sooner or later, but I did happen to find a few new fruits that looked good. Today's entry is black plum, and while I wasn't entirely sure how different it was going to be from other plums, it wasn't going to hurt to try.
Like other plums, this one featured a soft, thin skin with a slightly waxy coating. Apparently these are native to Japan/China, but I'm not sure where these were grown. I like plums, especially their juiciness and tartness, so I was curious to see how this one compared to others I've had. After cutting off a slice, it looked like the lighter-colored versions I've had on the inside. In regard to taste, I couldn't tell much of a difference, either. It had the same tartness, but was a little less juicy than I expected. Good, but nothing really new for me.

I'll be blogging about more new fruits as the week goes on, so stay tuned. This should keep the scurvy away, for sure.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 92

Korean Hot & Spicy Seafood Soup: I had a couple of errands to run on Buford Highway today, and I also needed to do some shopping for blog-worthy items for the week. Luckily, Bu-Hi offers lots of different options for browsing, but my travels landed me once again at Super H Mart in Doraville. Most of you are probably familiar with Super H, and they never disappoint when it comes to interesting eats. In addition to the foods I bought, they were also giving out samples of some things that were new to me. I love it when I can fulfill an entry without having to spend money, since I have a lot more eating to do over the next 9 months.

Towards the back of the store, a kiosk was set up that was selling pre-packaged ingredients to make Korean-style hot and spicy seafood soup. The employee attending the station had a pot of it going as well, and was giving out samples to anyone that asked. I took a look at the package of ingredients, and it included a huge variety of components, including shrimp, mussels, squid, smelt and several different vegetables. It also came with the needed seasoning, and I assume the idea was to dump it all in one big pot and cook.

My sample was really good - the broth was hearty, with a flavor almost reminiscent of Old Bay, but much spicier. The vegetables and seafood were cooked well, and I could have easily eaten much more than the sample provided. With the weather getting a bit cooler, this would be really great to eat on a cold, rainy day (like today, for example). Maybe next trip, I'll buy the whole packaged mix to make at home.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day 91

Korean Pickled Radish: As my readers know, I'm a big fan of all the Asian foods that the BHFM has to offer, and the "lunch box" that I bought last week offered some great new foods for me. Along with the four different offerings that came with the box, there was also some traditional Korean picked radish included. I've seen this particular item frequently packaged with various Korean foods, but never had the chance to try it. It's bright yellow color intrigued me, so I wondered what it would taste like.
The first thing I noticed was the strange texture that the radish had - it was sliced thick and had a weight to it that didn't at all seem like a pickled vegetable. I tried a bite, and it surprisingly had a nice crunch to it that was extremely different compared to the texture. Taste-wise, it had a tangy, citrus-y bite that didn't taste like I expected. From what I've read online, this particular radish is an extremely popular condiment for lots of Korean food, and is easily pickled at home with basic ingredients. I've also seen packaged versions of this radish at various Asian markets, but I can't imagine buying it in bulk for my purposes at home.

I can't say I loved this particular pickled food, even though I love most anything pickled. However, I'm glad I tried.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 90

"Pratzels": After having some good eats at the Sweet Auburn Market food truck event this past Thursday, me and the GF decided to take a look around inside the market. Most of the vendors were already closed for the day, but there were a couple that were still going. Right inside the front door, we noticed "Miss D's New Orleans Pralines," which was a dessert shop that sold homemade popcorn, candies, and various other treats. As we looked at Miss D's products, the GF noticed something that neither of us had heard of: "pratzels." These were basically homemade crunchy pretzels with a sweet praline coating. I remember my dad loving pralines and cream ice cream when I was a kid, but I've never known what pralines exactly are.
According to Wikipedia, pralines are "usually made by combining sugar (often brown), butter, and cream or buttermilk in a pot on medium-high heat, and stirring constantly, until most of the water has evaporated and it has reached a thick texture with a brown color." I tried a bite of the "pratzel," and it was pretty much like a standard one, but the coating of homemade pralines gave it a sweet and salty crunch. The pralines reminded me a bit of butterscotch, but with a nuttier consistency. Really tasty, and me and the GF quickly devoured the bag with ease.

I'm glad I finally know what pralines are made of, and if you're ever in the Sweet Auburn Market, check out Miss D's.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 89

Korean Green Pepper Kimchi: Today's post is the last item left from my Asian "lunch box" purchased last week at the BHFM, and luckily it kept nicely until today. I really enjoyed all the other foods that this combo came with, and I'm sort of glad I saved this one for last. I've had traditional kimchi plenty of times before, but this version made with Korean green peppers was new to me. As you may remember, I have an extremely low tolerance for spicy foods. If I'd eaten this item first from the combo box, I'm not sure I would have been able to go further - this kimchi was super spicy.
In addition to the heat from the peppers, the addition of chili paste raised this dish up quite a few notches. The peppers were whole with stems still on, and the kimchi seasoning added a tasty, sweet (but super hot) element to them. I could honestly only handle a couple of these peppers at a time before I reached my limit. They tasted great, but my forehead was pouring sweat after a couple bites. If you have a cold or sinus congestion, these will definitely open you up.

If you like kimchi and have a high tolerance for heat, give these a try if you see them at the BHFM. Eating a whole serving of these would be a great "Man vs. Food" challenge for me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 88

Pear & Port Wine Sorbet: Lately I've been trying to support the burgeoning Atlanta food truck scene, and there are definitely some great vendors out and about so far. I really hope that things go well for the food truck concept in conjunction with the local government, since it could result in some really good fast food options besides the usual corporate garbage. Tonight, me and the GF went down to the Sweet Auburn Market for a food truck event featuring a few different vendors (Yumbii, Westside Creamery & Blue Tailed Lizard Tamales). I'd had some of these vendors before, but I saw a couple flavors of ice cream and sorbet on the Westside Creamery (www.westsidecreamery.com) menu that sounded awesome. One in particular stood out: pear and port wine sorbet.
I've had sorbet before, but I usually stick with ice cream since I prefer it's creaminess. However, this flavor combination was new to me, so I couldn't resist. I love anything pear-related, so I felt like this couldn't be bad. Upon trying, I noticed that it was a lot more rich and creamy than other sorbets I've had, almost like an ice cream consistency. The pear flavor was definitely stronger than the port, but still tasty and refreshing. It's rare that ice cream or sorbet actually tastes like the real ingredients in the description, but this was as close to real pear as you could hope for. Maybe they'll add a little more port to the next batch if I'm lucky.

I also sampled a salted butter caramel ice cream that was amazing. If you spot the Westside Creamery truck at your next food event, definitely check them out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 87

Etouffee & Crawfish Tamale: After a long day on the road coming back from Oxford, MS, I raced as quick as I could over to The Hub Atlanta to check out the "Eat Up: Social Media and the Atlanta Food Scene" panel, which was part of Atlanta Social Media Week. As someone who's new to this game, I wanted to hear a few others speak about the subject. Plus, I also heard that there were going to be some local food vendors there, which never hurts. I hadn't eaten much after being on the road all day, so when the panel was done, I was eager to eat. On the way out, I noticed a vendor called "Blue Tailed Lizard Tamales." (www.bluetailedlizard.com). I'd never heard of them, but I love tamales any way I can get them. I've had the usual versions with chicken, shrimp, pork, etc., but never this version featuring etouffee and crawfish. I was hungry, so I ordered one up.
I've never had etouffee, so I hoped this tamale would offer a few new flavors for me. According to Wikipedia, etouffee is a "Cajun dish typically served with shellfish or chicken over rice and is similar to gumbo." These tamales were already removed from the husk, and were served with a little bit of Mexican crema. With my first bite, I noticed that the masa was nice and moist, which is always a plus. The etouffee & crawfish filling provided a nice salty contrast to the masa, but I couldn't quite tell if the etouffee/crawfish were blended in with each other or not. Either way, it was really tasty, and I could have gladly eaten about 5 more of them.

Based on this tamale, I'm going to have to find somewhere in ATL to try etouffee by itself. Any recommendations?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 86

Seaweed Salad: Here's yet another selection from the Asian "lunch box" I bought from the BHFM. I'm glad the food inside the box wasn't too perishable, because I've managed to get a few days worth of posts from it. Anyway, I'm getting ready to head out of town, but I decided to take a bite of something out of the box before I leave. My curiosity was high about this seaweed salad, since I'd never had anything like it before. I've had dried seaweed and the standard sushi-style nori plenty of times, but this was something new.
This salad appeared to be made primarily from stringy pieces of wet green seaweed, not the dried stuff I'm used to. I also spotted some sesame seeds, and a few pieces of brown seaweed mixed in. Getting this stuff on my fork was a bit tricky - it was much more slippery than spaghetti. I'd imagine it's much more difficult with chopsticks. I took a bite, and was really surprised at how good it was. The seaweed had a nice crunch despite its sliminess, and I noticed a strong hint of sesame oil. I later read online that it's usually made with only seaweed, sesame oil, vinegar and soy sauce, with sesame seed and chili flakes for seasoning.

I would definitely eat this again - there isn't much Asian cuisine I don't like, and it featured a lot of flavors that are favorites. Highly recommend.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 85

Seasoned Squid Salad: Today's entry is another food featured in the pre-prepared "lunch box" I bought at the BHFM a few days ago. Yesterday's stir-fried anchovies were a tasty surprise, so I was eager to try something else out of the box today. Out of the 3 foods left, this squid salad caught my eye for lunch. Except for calamari, most of my squid experience has been in sashimi form at sushi bars. Its tough, rubbery texture usually makes me stay away from it, but I figured I'd give it another shot with this salad version.
I wasn't sure exactly what was in this concoction, but it was labeled as "seasoned squid salad." Kind of vague, but it was my job to fill in the blanks. It looked like a mix of thin strips of squid, some brown seaweed, and sesame seeds. I took a bite, and was really pleased. It wasn't at all tough or rubbery like what I've had at sushi bars, and I'm guessing it was marinated to make it more tender. There was a noticeable presence of ginger and sesame oil, and the sesame seeds added a nice crunch to the squid. Good stuff.

I'd definitely eat this again, and I hope the BHFM keeps it in stock for awhile. It's too bad that light seafood salads like this aren't available everywhere - it was so much better than the mayo-heavy versions frequently seen in conventional stores.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 84

Stir-Fried Baby Anchovies: While browsing at the BHFM a couple days ago, I noticed some really cool stuff in the fresh prepared Korean section in the back left corner of the store. I've found several amazing things there that have become new favorites, and I definitely found a few more on the last trip. In the cold section, there were some pre-packaged "lunch boxes" that featured 4 random Korean selections for $5. I usually don't like spending a lot of cash for something that I'm not that familiar with, but this was a great way to try 4 new foods without investing much. Today's post is one selection from the box, and it was tasty.
I'd seen these stir-fried baby anchovies in the Korean section before, and I was eager to have a small sample of them to try at home. I love anchovies, but I'd only eaten traditional anchovy filets, not the whole fish. These tiny versions had been stir-fried, bones and all. I felt a little strange about eating something with eyes, but luckily they were tiny enough to not be distracting.

I scooped up a tiny forkful and took a bite, and I instantly recognized the fishy, oily taste I love with anchovies. However, these had a chewy, almost crunchy consistency that I assume was due to the size (and bones). It was hard to even keep them on the fork without dropping them, but they were really good. I'm not sure if I could eat these in large amounts, but I really enjoyed the small portion. If you like anchovies (or any other smoked/dried fish), you'd love these. Highly recommend.

Stay tuned over the next few days to find out what else is in the box. I'm looking forward to finding out myself!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day 83

Longan: Today's post is another item that I truly had no knowledge of before trying. I saw a bin of these near the star fruit yesterday while at the BHFM, and I picked up a small handful to take home. I'd never even heard of a longan, but based on its appearance, I assumed it was some sort of fruit. Each piece was covered with a hard shell, and was about the size of a grape. At $3/lb a pound, it wasn't going to hurt me to try a couple.
According to Wikipedia (which has become my new best friend), longan is a "tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, known for its edible fruit." Apparently they can be eaten as is, so I peeled the hard shell off and was left with what looked like an oversized, semi-translucent grape. I popped it in my mouth, and the taste reminded me instantly of something I tried for the first time recently: lychee. The flavor was almost identical, and the texture was the same as well. This one had a large, smooth seed in the middle, so I chewed around it until I was able to spit it out clean. Not bad, but not nearly as much flavor I'd hoped for.

If you like fresh lychee, you'll definitely like longan. FYI, longan translates as "cat's eye" in Malaysia. Once you see one of these up close and peeled, it makes sense.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day 82

Star Fruit: On the way down 285 this afternoon, I decided to stop off at the Buford Highway Farmer's Market to pick up something for dinner as well as some foods for the blog. The BHFM rarely disappoints, and I really love their produce section - it has some great things you won't see anywhere else, and the prices are usually much cheaper than conventional big-box groceries.

I spotted these star fruit near the main entrance, and they looked really interesting. I didn't know anything at all about them, so I picked one up to sample. I love it when I buy something that I have zero information about, so I was eager to get it home to see what it was all about. The fruit itself was only 4 or 5 inches long, and the outside was a bit soft and waxy. I did a bit of research when I got home, and learned that they're native to the Phillipines (as well as a few Asian/Latin countries) and officially called carambola. I also wasn't sure how to eat it, but the directions I found instructed me to carefully cut off the edges, then slice the fruit horizontally, resulting in star-shaped pieces.

Once I tried, I was pleased with the results. The flavor reminded me of a much less sweet kiwi, and the fruit inside was really juicy and firm, almost like a melon. Like the dragonfruit, I could easily see star fruit in a fruit salad - it was good, but not super-flavorful on its own. If you see it, it's definitely worth trying.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 81

Tomme de Savoie Cheese: I'm sure a lot of you have wondered why I haven't included more cheeses with this project. It's not that I haven't wanted to, and with the seemingly infinite varieties, I could probably devote a blog to trying a new cheese every day for a year. Despite my love for fromage, it's cost-prohibitive for me to try too many. It's hard to buy small portions of most exotic cheeses, and even small pieces in boutique shops can be quite expensive. However, when I noticed this selection at the Ansley Kroger a few days ago, I decided to try. The store has a habit of marking select cheeses down when they become overstocked, so I snagged this piece for $0.99 - a small investment for a brand new taste.
This piece was labeled as "tomme de savoie," and the description said it was a semi-soft, raw milk cow's cheese. I know very little about cheese, and like wine, some of the descriptive terms can be a bit outside of my comprehension. I should start by saying that the rind really didn't smell good, and I had to wash my hands to get the funky odor off my fingers. I know that's typical with some cheeses, and not always an indicator of flavor. Anyway, I cut a small piece from the middle and took a bite. It reminded me of brie, although not quite as strong, with a nice nutty saltiness. Pretty tasty. I'm not sure how to describe it further, but the label says it has an "intense aroma of wet straw and mown grass," with a "fruity fragrance."

Overall, I liked this one. I'll keep on the lookout for more affordable cheese deals, and if anyone knows of any more, please let me know.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 80

Red Pear: This was another find that happened when I was out doing some conventional grocery shopping. It's funny how my grocery trips don't allow me to shop normally anymore - this project has completely changed my approach when I'm doing even the most mundane big-box store browsing. I'm always scanning the aisles for something I've never had, and sometimes it's really difficult to find anything. I've found that produce sections yield good results, since the inventory's often changing.
When I saw this red pear at my local Kroger, I wasn't sure if it was different than the normal yellow bartlett or anjou varieties. I love pears in all varieties, so I picked one up to take home. I wish I had more to report with this post, but unfortunately, red pear offered nothing new for me. It tasted exactly like a yellow bartlett, with the only difference being the skin color. Definitely tasty, and it offered all the crunch/sweetness that I'm used to with a fresh pear, but no new flavors. When I read about these online, one site suggested that the red pear "adds a beautiful contrast of color in fruit baskets and bowls."

Unless you're looking to liven up the color of your fruit basket, there's not really any special reason to seek these out.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 79

Lamb Heart: Since I'd originally planned on going to Holeman & Finch on Halloween to do a scary offal-related post, I figured today would be an acceptable substitute since it's Day of the Dead. I'd been wanting to try H&F for awhile now, and I was super excited about me and the GF finally getting there tonight. I knew some of their menu was unusual, so I was looking forward to a great meal as well as a great blog post after. They definitely didn't disappoint, and we had lots of great food and cocktails. However, I immediately saw one thing on the menu's "parts" list that intrigued me: lamb heart. The menu listed it as "szechuan-crusted, with roasted eggplant & muscadine jam." Right up my alley, of course.
Our server brought the dish, and it was served on a cast-iron platter and sliced thin. The roasted eggplant was underneath, and a small amount of muscadine jam was on top of the heart. I really had few expectations of flavors with this dish, so I eagerly took a bite. My first comparison was steak, but sliced thin and rare. I thought it would be tough and stringy, but it wasn't at all. It was really tasty, and I'd have no problem eating it again. The only thing that confused me was the "szechuan" element - it really didn't have any of the heat that I assumed that description would provide. No big deal, it was still good. The roasted eggplant was also melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and it provided a saltier contrast to the heart. Good stuff.

If you're comfortable with eating rare beef, you shouldn't have any problem eating heart prepared this way. And I can't go without mentioning that the GF, who's usually opposed to anything offal, tried this and liked it. Two thumbs up for Holeman & Finch (and lamb heart).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 78

Wheatberries: This was another find from the salad bar at Whole Foods on Ponce yesterday. Luckily they let you try samples of anything on the hot bar/salad bar before you buy, and I noticed this dish after I tried the sample of seitan and took a sample cup home. I didn't know what a wheatberry was, but after the miserable experience with seitan (aka "satan") yesterday, it could only be better.
The stuff on the salad bar was some sort of mixture of wheatberries, beets and carrots. The appearance was similar to quinoa, and I wondered if the taste would be in the same universe. I opened up the sample cup today and took a bite, and the taste was extremely similar to quinoa - a nutty, crunchy grain-type kernel that served as a good filler in between the pieces of carrot and beet. It was OK, but didn't really taste like much. I deduced that wheatberries weren't berries at all, so I had to do a little research in order to figure out what they really were. In case you weren't aware, wheatberries are actually the entire wheat kernel, and they're often baked into bread or used in other dishes such as this one. They're also a good source of fiber, if you care about that sort of thing.

Not a bad vegetarian option, but I probably won't try this again - there just wasn't enough flavor for me to be interested.