Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An epilogue

Now that I've had a week to relax after finishing the 365 days, I thought it might be fitting to write an epilogue of sorts. It's still hard for me to believe that I actually finished this endeavor, and since I completed, I've definitely had to make some adjustments.

One major thing that's changed is the fact that I don't have to go shopping anymore. Over the course of the last year, the responsibility of shopping always loomed over everything else in my life. Since I found most of my new foods at markets, I was luckily able to stockpile things to last me a few days. Sometimes I was able to get by for a couple weeks, especially if I found something unplanned during a restaurant meal. However, even stockpiling presented problems. If I bought anything fresh, I had to worry about it spoiling before I got to eat it, therefore wasting the purchase. Regarding the actual shopping, it was extremely difficult to find new options that weren't on Buford Highway. The average grocery store rarely offered anything new for me, and even the more exotic markets on Bu-Hi got redundant quickly. I frequently worried that I was repeating myself too often, but that's impossible to avoid when you're trying to eat a new food every day for a year.

Another shopping issue was the money. That was a major concern before I started, and I worried that taking on the project would cause me to spend much more than I anticipated. I tried to keep most of my market purchases under $5, and most of them ended up costing me much less than that. It would have been great if I'd had an unlimited budget to spend on unusual imported cheeses and fancy pates and terrines (both of which I love), but since I didn't, I tried really hard to keep each purchase affordable. The idea of investing too much money into something that might suck wasn't feasible for me, so I tried to make sure I was really interested in anything that was more expensive. I was able to score a lot of items for free (especially at the Whole Foods hot bar), and when possible, I worked a new food into a dinner I was already paying for. I did have a few splurges here and there, but for the most part, I didn't spend nearly as much as I thought I would.

The other big issue was the blogging itself. The self-imposed obligation to blog once a day for a year straight was easy on some days and extremely difficult on others. In addition, I constantly worried that something would happen that would keep me from blogging before the end of the day. What if I got in a car wreck, or got sick or injured? I realize that those things are considerably worse than missing a day of the blog, but if any of those had happened, the whole thing would have been over. I didn't want anything to happen that would ruin all my hard work. Also, trying to write somewhat creatively every day was tough. On some days, I just wasn't feeling it, especially when I ate something new that didn't inspire me. In my opinion, my best posts came from days where I ate something really good - or really bad. I found creative inspiration in the extremes, and the foods that fell in the middle were often hard to write about. Not every food can be good, and that was a lesson I quickly learned.

Now that it's all over, it strangely feels like I should still be doing it. The blog became such a huge part of my routine during the last year, and I've caught myself on several occasions during the last week thinking "wow, I need to go shopping" or "I need to go ahead and write my blog for today." I guess that's to be expected when you commit so much time to something for so long. Despite all that, it honestly feels great to not have the weight of finishing hanging over me. I can eat what I want, when I want, and I don't have to blog about any of it if I don't want to. That feels good.

The only negative aspect of completing the blog that I can think of is how the whole process changed how I feel about discovering new food. Before I started, visiting places like the Buford Highway Farmers Market was thrilling every single time. After getting a few months into the blog, the thrill diminished. I sometimes looked at shopping as just an obligation instead of a fun learning experience, and honestly, there were some days when it was anything but fun. The concept of something you love becoming an obligation was often difficult for me to grasp, and now that it's over, it's going to take some time for me to regain my excitement for finding and eating new things. I haven't tried anything new at all since I finished, but once I recharge, I believe the excitement will return.

A lot of you already know that I'm going to continue blogging. My plan is to keep the original idea going, but only blog when I feel like it. That could mean once a week, once every 2 weeks, once a month...who knows? If I eat something new, interesting, or just plain special that I want to share with my readers, I'll definitely post about it. However, I can honestly say that I will never take on another project like the one I just finished. I had fun and learned more than I ever anticipated, but the daily requirement is one I do not wish to repeat.

This is officially the last post I'll put up at this address. Thanks again to all of you that followed along, and for all future updates, please visit www.whoeatsthatstuff.wordpress.com.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 365!

Haitai Black Garlic Flavor Fish Sausage: Ok, this is officially it. Day 365. It's so hard for me to believe that I completed this insane project. I know I said I'd save the sentiment for the last day, and to be honest, it feels awesome to finally be done. I can't tell you how daunting it was to begin this blog and know that I was taking on the responsibility of doing something every day for a year. How many things do any of us do every day for a year, besides sleep, shower, or brush our teeth? Not many.

One thing I can't stress enough is how important the feedback was from my readers. If no one had cared  about what I was doing, I can't say with certainty that I would have finished. All the positive comments kept me going during times when I wanted to quit, and for that, I thank all of you. Also, I definitely couldn't have finished without the support and input from the "GF" I mentioned a million times during the blog. She encouraged me to keep going when it was the last thing on earth I wanted to do, and for that I'll always be thankful.

Several people have asked me what I plan to do with all this information once I'm done. I'm toying around with a couple of ideas, but even if those don't materialize, I'll always have the satisfaction of what I accomplished. I learned more about food that I ever imagined to, and that's really what the goal was all along. In addition, I committed to doing something every single day for a year, and I succeeded. It feels great to have put it behind me so I don't have to think about it anymore. I cannot tell you how much I'm looking forward to eating like a normal person again, without scanning every market or menu for my next possible blog entry.

Enough talk - on to the last new food! I chose today's entry to be the last because of its ties to what I ate on day 1. Remember the Korean blood sausage called "soon dae" that was my first entry? Well, my last new food is yet another unusual Korean sausage, and I feel like I've now come full circle. There are few things I love more than interesting sausage-y things, especially ones made with off-the-wall ingredients, and this one definitely fits that bill. Strangely, it somehow made sense to end with something similar to what I began with.

I didn't even know fish sausage existed until I saw this Korean import during my last trip to the Buford Highway Farmers Market. Several different styles were available, but I chose the one flavored with black garlic. It had a sort of light tan color that resembled bologna more than a fish product, and it was made from surimi, which is also what's used to make imitation crab (or "krab"). Surimi isn't an actual fish - it refers to a "fish-based food product that has been pulverized to a thick paste and has the property of becoming a dense and rubbery food item when cooked." Kind of like a fish hot dog - thanks, Wikipedia.
Despite yesterday's disaster with cooking the souse, I decided to try pan-frying a couple slices of this one since I wasn't sure if it was pre-cooked. Luckily, it didn't immediately disintegrate when hitting the hot pan like the souse did. Each slice was fairly firm to start with, and I managed to brown each one on both sides after a couple minutes of cooking. Once they were ready, I took one out of the pan and took a bite. Not bad. The flavor reminded me a lot of "krab," with a sweet, slightly fishy taste that was actually pretty good. I didn't detect much garlic, but there was a mild saltiness that didn't bother me at all. Texture-wise, it was similar to a hot dog, and it took my brain a few seconds to register that I wasn't eating one. I'm not sure how this product is traditionally eaten (alone? in a dish?), but I found a recipe for breading and pan-frying it that sounded good. Maybe I'll try that.
Well, folks...that's it. I'm done. Once, again, thank you so much for all the support and comments over the last year - they both mean a lot. I know a lot of you have expressed interest in what's next, so here's what's going on. The whoeatsthatstuff.blogspot.com site will remain as is, but I'm rebooting the whole project at a new address (www.whoeatsthatstuff.wordpress.com). Check there in a few days for more information on what comes next. I'm going to continue blogging about all the new foods I try, but unlike this blog, there will be far less rules, some different content, and first and foremost, no daily posting. I plan on having something up this week, so please check back with me soon. And, as usual, I'll be regularly updating on Facebook and Twitter.

I usually don't type in all caps, but here it goes...I"M FINISHED!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 364

Souse: Wow, so I'm down to my next-to-last day of new food! I'll save most of my emotional sentiment for tomorrow, but I really am amazed that I was able to come this far. I don't know which element of the blog was hardest: the shopping or the daily writing commitment. The eating was the easy part (well, except for yesterday and Friday). It's been a massive self-imposed task that has often left me frustrated, and I'd be lying if I said there weren't several times that I wanted to throw in the towel. Despite that, I'm really glad that I did this - it's allowed me to achieve much more than I ever thought possible.

During a recent visit to my neighborhood Kroger, I noticed something in the meat department that several people had recommended I try: souse. I wasn't entirely sure what it was, but based on what I knew, it was a head cheese-like substance made from pork parts. Anyone who reads my blog knows how much I love stuff like this, so when I saw this version made by the Lee company on sale (only $1.29!), I figured it was time to finally try it. Appearance-wise, it reminded me of the bologna-style "olive and pickle loaf" that's easily found in most delis.
Since I was already past the expiration date (and almost past my blog expiration date), I gave this one a shot early this morning before I headed out of town for the day. Not exactly how I wanted to start my day, but since I was going to be unplugged for most of the trip, I didn't want to take any chances. The package ingredients included pork snouts (yum?), water, pickle relish, corn syrup, and a lengthy list of chemicals and preservatives. If hot dogs are supposedly as bad as cigarettes, souse must be a Marlboro Red.

I couldn't figure out if it was pre-cooked or not, so I heated up a pan and threw a slice in just to be safe. Once it touched the heat, it immediately turned into a jelly-like liquid, so I guess that answered my question. I grabbed a fresh slice from the package and cut off a small bite, and I have to say that it wasn't good at all. I like head cheese, but this was more like thick-cut vinegared bologna that had inedible chunks of fat/gristle mixed throughout. I got through one bite before giving up, which was not what I was expecting with this one. Apparently, my luck with eating tasty food for the last couple days of this project is not good.
In case you were wondering what souse actually is, Wikipedia describes it as "pickled meat and trimmings usually made from pig's feet, chicken feet or cow's tongue to name a few. The cooked meat or trimmings are cut into bite sized pieces and soaked in a brine made of water, lime juice, cucumbers, hot pepper, salt and specially prepared seasonings." I know Holeman and Finch in Atlanta serves their own version, so I bet I'd be better off trying it there. I love any excuse to visit H&F, so maybe I'll do that soon.

One more day left, folks......

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day 363

Natto: Just when I thought I couldn't find anything more disgusting than yesterday's entry, along came this equally repulsive new food I found during my last visit to the Buford Highway Farmers Market. I'd heard about natto before, specifically in one of Anthony Bourdain's books. It's a traditional Japanese dish made from fermented soybeans, and based on his description, it sounded pretty awful. However, I'll try anything once, so when I saw this packaged version in the BHFM, I gave it a shot. It was only a bit over a dollar, so if it was truly bad, at least I didn't have much invested.
I decided in advance to try the natto today, so I took it out of the freezer last night and put it in the fridge to thaw. Once I opened the styrofoam package this afternoon, I was surprised by what I saw. In addition to the soybeans, the package also included 2 packets of what appeared to be mustard and soy sauce for mixing. When I tried to remove them, tendrils of what looked just like spider webs extended from the soybeans to the plastic. Wow. Not a good sign.
Once I opened the packets and started mixing the contents with the soybeans, the whole concoction took on a viscous, snot-like consistency. I'd never seen anything more unappetizing in my life. When I dug in with my fork, the trails of mucus followed all the way up to where the fork stopped. Oh, and did I mention the smell? Kind of like sweet soy sauce that had been left to go bad out in the hot sun. I knew this was a fermented dish, but that wasn't helping me much here.
Despite how bad the whole thing looked and smelled, I had to try it, so I held my breath and lifted a tiny bite to my mouth. Much like yesterday's food, the overpoweringly bad smell made it hard to even focus on the flavor, but what I did taste was a salty/sweet mix of the soybeans and hot mustard, followed by that putrid rotting soy smell. I can't really say much else - I spit it in the sink and gagged, then guzzled a huge glass of water. It's hard to comprehend how anyone, anywhere could tolerate this dish.

Yesterday and today have been the 2 worst things I've ever eaten in my life. EVER. I'm so glad this blog is almost over.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 362

Lottia Shukti Bhorta: Out of all the foods I've tried over the past 362 days, this one has to be one of the most exotic and unusual, and it also comes with a great story. While doing some shopping on Buford Highway a few weeks ago, I noticed a Bangladeshi grocery that was pretty close to the Buford Highway Farmers Market. I was desperate for new items that day, and since I'd never been to a Bangladeshi market, I figured it couldn't hurt to check it out.

Once inside, I noticed that the inventory was similar to what I've seen at other Indo-Pak groceries, but as I started browsing the frozen section, I saw something that I absolutely could not identify. The small, square package was labeled "lottia shukti bhorta," and there were no pictures at all on the box. Hmm. I looked at the ingredients, and the main ingredient was, umm, "lottia shukti." That didn't help me at all, but the other ingredients included many familiar Indian spices (garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin), so I decided to give it a go despite knowing almost nothing.
Once I got ready to pay, the counter attendant looked at me quizzically and asked "you from here?" I guess he was confused by my selection. I said yes, then he asked me if I'd ever tried it. I said no, and asked him what was in it. He said "fish," and I when I asked him if it was good, he said yes. I'm pretty sure he called his friends after I left and told them about the young American guy who just bought some lottia shukti bhorta.

Anyway, I finally decided to give this one a try tonight with my dinner as a side. Once I opened the box, the contents (which looked a lot like collard greens) were inside a small plastic container, and when I opened the lid, I immediately noticed the smell. Wow - not good. Actually, it kind of reeked of rotting garbage. I really hoped it tasted better, so I microwaved the container according to the package instructions and hoped for the best.

Once the heating process began, I noticed that my apartment was filling up with the rotting garbage smell that I noticed earlier. You know that odor that a garbage truck has on a hot summer day? It was a lot like that. Once I took it out of the microwave, the stench got worse. I didn't know how I was going to choke down a bite, but the show had to go on. I put a small portion on my fork and tried it, but I just couldn't get past that god-awful smell. What I did manage to taste was a salty, fishy, super-spicy mix that wasn't at all palatable to me, and I almost barfed in the sink while spitting it out. Yeah, it was that bad. 
Out of all the things I've tried, this was by far the worst. No question. The smell alone was enough to make me choke, but I had to try it. After I threw it out (sealed in a Ziploc bag), I guzzled a full glass of water, then lit matches in the kitchen to kill the smell. Oh, and I also cleaned the microwave. I'm not joking.

In case you're still wondering what "shukti" is, it refers to a dried fish that's popular in Bangladeshi cuisine. The fish is usually mixed with spices and other ingredients. I don't recommend this stuff to anyone - maybe it's one of those things you have to grow up on to enjoy.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day 361

Mozartkugeln ("Mozart Balls"): For today's entry, I originally had plans to tackle another interesting restaurant dish that I'd never had, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to improvise with something else. Luckily, the GF's parents returned from another trip abroad yesterday, and they brought back some candy that I'd never seen before. They apparently found these in Austria, and they were called Mozartkugeln (translation: Mozart Balls). Go ahead and joke about me eating balls twice in one week...I'm way ahead of you.

At first, I thought this candy wouldn't really be able to provide me with anything new, but when I asked the GF what was in them (she'd had them before), she said they were chocolate on the outside, but filled with marzipan on the inside. I'd never had marzipan, but I'd always heard it was one of those love it/hate it things. I'd knew it was made with almonds, but that's about it. How could anything covered in fine Austrian chocolate be bad, right?
Each ball was covered with a thin foil coating featuring Mozart's face, and once I unwrapped it, it's shiny surface reminded me of a Lindt truffle. Once I took a bite, I could definitely taste the marzipan filling. From what the GF told me, marzipan is basically a sweetened almond paste. I thought it was good, especially when mixed with the taste of chocolate. I'm still not sure what the lighter colored ring surrounding the marzipan/chocolate center was, but it was a bit creamy and provided some additional sweetness. The outer chocolate tasted like plain milk chocolate, but overall, it was pretty good. I don't understand why marzipan would ever have a bad reputation, but to each his own, I guess.
That was definitely the last new candy I'll be covering for this blog. Only 4 more days to go!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 360

Toro (Fatty Tuna): Today's new food was an indulgent surprise, but not exactly what I was expecting to eat. Let me explain: I'd been wanting to try uni (sea urchin) for a long time now. I've been eating sushi for years, but never gotten around to trying some of the high-dollar delicacies, like uni or toro. Those are usually out of my price range, and it's not often that I'll devote that much of my dinner budget to something like that (unless I'm in Vegas). I'd been hearing about the deliciousness of uni for years, so my original plan for tonight was to hit the sushi bar at Miso Izakaya (one of my fave spots in town) and finally try it.

My attempt unfortunately didn't go as planned. I eagerly ordered the uni from my server, and she came back a few minutes later and told me they were out of it. Oh well. I thought my plans for finding something new were ruined, but then I saw the toro right below the uni on the menu. And of course, like the uni, only "MP" was listed in the price column. I went ahead and ordered it anyway, price be damned. I'm almost done with this blog, so I deserved to splurge a little for all my hard work.

If you don't know much about toro, here's the scoop: it's widely known as the highest quality raw tuna one can eat. As far as I know, it's usually served alone, without much adornment. Miso's version was simply served as 2 pieces of nigiri over sushi rice, with a twist of lemon as garnish. It didn't have the bright red color of lower-grade maguro tuna, but more of a light pink/beige color. I was curious to find out if toro was worth the hype (and price), so I dug in.
Once I took my first bite, I could tell that it was no ordinary piece of fish. "Buttery" was the first thing that came to mind, and it almost melted in my mouth without having to chew. It didn't have any of the bright, metallic flavor that I've experienced with lower grades of tuna, and it was possibly the richest piece of fish I've ever tried. That's definitely a good thing. I like tuna in almost any form, but this was by far the best. Incidentally, my server recommended that I not use any soy sauce or wasabi with this one, and that suggestion was correct. It didn't need anything at all.

I could definitely see myself eating this again, but only if someone else is paying. Pretty awesome.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 359

Aneta Brand Vegetarian Pate: After last night's bacon/pork/parts binge at Holeman and Finch, it somehow made sense for me to tackle another unusual vegetarian dish today. I found this small tin of vegetarian "pate" during my last visit to the Buford Highway Farmers Market, and after noticing it several times in the Eastern European section on past visits, I finally decided to give it a go.

I love pate in any form (especially chicken liver), but I'd never gotten to try a vegetarian version. As my readers know, I'm not a fan of fake vegetarian/vegan "meat" or "cheese" products. Aside from seeming just conceptually wrong, I've never grown to appreciate their flavor. Some of them have actually made me feel physically ill, so unless I'm trying something for the blog, I stick to the real thing. 
Once I read the ingredients before opening it today, I was surprised at how few elements it actually contained. The whole thing was made from simply mushrooms, vegetable oil, tomato paste, and some spices. I assumed it wasn't going to taste like much, so I slathered some on a cracker and took a bite.
To be honest, the texture/flavor reminded me of saltier instant mashed potatoes. I know that's a strange comparison, but that's the first thing I thought of. The slightly fluffy "pate" spread fairly well on the cracker, and even though it tasted OK, I still wished it was something else - like, something made from meat. It's a good thing I don't have to be a vegetarian, because I'm pretty sure I'd end up extremely unhappy.

It's official: that's the last fake meat product I'll ever try for this blog. It might even be the last one I ever eat, if I can help it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 358

Lamb Fries: It's not that often that I experience a truly brand new food, but tonight's entry definitely fits that category. Me and the GF went to Holeman and Finch for my birthday dinner, and anyone that's truly into food in Atlanta should know it by heart. Their menu is, in my opinion, the most creative in town, and I could probably fulfill a month's worth of blog entries just from going to H&F alone. This was my third visit there, and our meal was just as good this time as the others.

In terms of something new, I knew exactly what I wanted to try before I even got there: lamb fries. No, not "fries" in the traditional sense. If you've only thought "fries" described french fried potatoes, you're wrong - the word can also mean testicles. I'd seen the dish on the menu during my other visits, but it's definitely hard to narrow down choices there when everything sounds so good. However, I wasn't going to let them slip by me tonight.
H&F's version of "fries" was made schnitzel-style (breaded, then fried) from thinly sliced lamb testicles, served with fresh blueberries and a vanilla-whiskey syrup. I don't know anyone personally that's tried this dish anywhere, so I really had no idea what to expect when our server brought the dish. Once he brought it to the table, it didn't look as intimidating as I expected. The fries almost looked like little pancakes, and the whole dish was dressed with blueberries, syrup, and a bit of parsley and onion.

I was a little scared before I took the first bite, but that subsided quickly. The texture reminded me of liver, but firmer and springier. The flavor was also similar to liver, but much milder. Once the breading and other ingredients were factored in, it was easy to forget what I was actually eating. I doubt that "fries" have a lot of flavor on their own, so the addition of the other elements was probably needed. They were definitely tasty, so I wouldn't be opposed to trying them again.

I'm so glad I finally got to try these - what a great birthday present!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day 357

SeaKid Mixed Crispy Pusit & Dilis: Ok, so I know I said that yesterday's post was my last Asian snack, but I had forgotten about having today's new food left in my stockpile. I found these "pusit & dilis" (mixed crispy fried squid and anchovy) in the Buford Highway Farmers Market as a Filipino import during my last visit. Considering my love of salty, dried fish, I felt like I had to have these. Apparently these were teriyaki style, which made them all the more appealing.
I sort of knew what I was going to experience here before I even tried them, but I'd never had squid prepared this way. The ingredients included dried squid, dried anchovy, sugar, coconut oil, and spices. Since I'd already eaten dinner tonight, I decided to try them as dessert. Hey, sugar was the third ingredient, so I felt alright about counting it as dessert.
Once I opened the bag, I was immediately hit with a strong fishy smell. No surprise, considering what was in the bag. They luckily tasted much better than they smelled - each piece was super crunchy, almost like a potato chip, and the sweetness of the teriyaki was a good pair for the saltiness of the anchovies and squid. The anchovies were fried whole, but the squid appeared to be sliced into small pieces. Due to the greasiness, it wasn't something I could eat much of, but it was tasty just the same.

Check back tomorrow night for something truly unusual - I have a great dinner planned.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day 356

Nongshim Kikiri Drumstix: I've eaten a whole lot of Asian snacks during the course of this blog, and it looks like this could be the last one I cover before the year is up. Some have been really good, others just plain strange, but this one was a pleasant surprise. When I saw these "drumstix" at the Buford Highway Farmers Market during my last trip, I really wanted to try them. I love snack foods that visually resemble what the manufacturer wants them to taste like (think Funyuns), and these definitely fit that category.
Even though they were supposed to be "fried chicken flavored," they were also apparently given a dose of chili and lime flavoring. I bet those flavors would be a good addition to real fried chicken - can someone maybe get on that soon? Anyway, when I opened the box today, the contents looked just like the picture on the box, minus the cute little tablecloth-lined basket. That's a rarity for most foods, even the ones I find in American grocery stores.
Once I tried these, I was impressed. The wheat flour base provided a nice crunch (I'm guessing these were fried), and the inside of the "drumstick" was hollow. The flavoring really did taste like fried chicken, and the chili powder brought some heat that was subtle but good. I didn't really detect much lime, but that's OK - the rest was tasty. If the Lay's company developed an American version of these, they'd be an instant party hit. Highly recommended if you like salty, chicken-y, crunchy snacks.

If you want to try these, you'd best be OK with preservatives. The ingredient list was a mile long.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 355

Ragi Tape Yeast: After almost a year of doing this blog, I guess it was inevitable that I accidentally end up trying something that wasn't really food at all, and that's exactly what happened tonight. During my last trip to the Buford Highway Farmers Market, I noticed this unusual item called "ragi tape yeast" in the Indonesian aisle. I wasn't sure what it was, but since it was mixed in with other snack foods (crackers, cookies, etc.), I assumed it was meant to be eaten alone. Strangely, there were no ingredients listed on the packaging, but that sort of roadblock never stops me.

I didn't get a chance to do any real researching before I bought it, and if I'd been smart, I would have done so before I decided to try it tonight. Once I opened the bag, each little disk had a chalk-like appearance that mystified me. Surely it had to taste like something, so I took a bite off one of the discs. Ugh. In addition to looking like chalk, it tasted like chalk, and I chewed a couple times before spitting it in the sink. It had absolutely no flavor at all, and it left a burning sensation in the back of my mouth that took a couple glasses of water to get rid of. This was an Indonesian snack food? I had my doubts, so I fired up the computer in hopes of figuring out what I just ate.
After some intensive searching, I discovered the truth: I had just eaten solid yeast. Apparently, this style of yeast is used to make a few different Indonesian desserts, including "ragi" and "tape." Well, that explains the name on the packaging. I feel like the BHFM could have prevented my misfortune by putting this item in a different section, but I guess that's just the risk I take when I buy things like this. It was never meant to be eaten alone, but that's exactly what I did. Oh well, you live and learn, right?

I'm pretty sure everything else I have lined up from here on out is food that's actually edible. This was pretty disgusting, but in all fairness, it wasn't even real food.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 354

White Eggplant: One recurring theme during this blog has been me attempting several different varieties of the same food. A great example of that is eggplant, and before I started all this, I never knew how many types there were. I like eggplant in general, so it's been fun to find out how all of them differ. When I saw this white variety at the Buford Highway Farmers Market a few days ago, I knew it was something I had to try. I'd never seen it anywhere else, and I was curious to find out if the unusual white color resulted in a completely different taste.
I decided to give this one a go tonight as a side with my dinner, and I kept the prep simple. I sliced it thin, then sauteed it with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. After slicing, I noticed that it wasn't nearly as seedy as other varieties of eggplant I've eaten. All of the seeds were concentrated towards the bottom end, and they were harder to spot due to their pale color. The interior flesh was almost the same color as the outside, which surprised me.
After heating it in the pan for a few minutes on each side, it turned from white to a bit more yellow. The skin actually turned brown in a few spots, but it wasn't burnt. The flavor wasn't too different from its purple counterpart, but the interior was actually a little softer and sweeter than the varieties I'd tried before. It tasted like, well, eggplant - nothing much new to report. Good, but it didn't offer the new experience I was hoping for. I'm still not sure what causes the bright white color, so if any of my readers know, I'd love to hear from you.

I just realized that this white eggplant was probably the last fresh produce I'll write about during the blog. Everything else I have planned is either pre-packaged or a restaurant find, so I guess this post was more meaningful than I first thought.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day 353

"Wife Cake": I don't usually do much personal commentary on this blog, but I have to say that it feels a bit strange that this whole thing is almost over. It's been such a big part of my life for the past almost-year, and despite the frequent frustration of having to do so much shopping/eating/posting, it's been a great experience that's allowed me to achieve much more than I expected. And for all those that have followed along, I have to say thanks. If no one had paid attention, I'm not so sure I would have stuck with it.

Anyway, on to the food. Today's selection is another from the Master Bakery on Buford Highway, and after the awesomeness of yesterday's "pork pastry," I was curious to find out if this one was just as good. It's name was "wife cake," and due to the language barrier I mentioned yesterday, I wasn't able to discern what it was made of. However, it looked good, so I wasn't about to let a lack of information stop me.
I tend to eat pastries pretty soon after I buy them, so I went ahead and knocked this one out out this afternoon. It seemed to be made from rice flour (like many other Asian pastries), and it was filled with something I couldn't identify based on appearance alone. I assumed it was some sort of fruit filling, so I eagerly took a bite to find out.
Not too much new to report with this one. The flaky, slightly moist pastry was much like many other Asian pastries I've tried, and the filling was a mildly sweet, fruity paste that had a faint melon flavor. Tasty, but it didn't offer any new flavors for me.

So what's the story behind the "wife cake" name? According to Wikipedia, it's a traditional Chinese pastry that's also frequently called a "sweetheart cake." The name comes from a Chinese fable about a man whose wife sold herself into slavery to pay for his sick father's medicine, and he made her this cake to reward her good deed. Not very uplifting, but interesting. Oh, and the cake contained sweetened winter melon. I'm getting good at identifying strange flavors, for sure.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day 352

Pork Pastry: "Pork" and "pastry" aren't usually two words you find together, but that's exactly what I found yesterday on Buford Highway. While doing some browsing during my last official shopping trip, I noticed an Asian bakery called the "Master Bakery" that I'd never been to. I'd attempted to visit them once before, but they were unfortunately closed on the day that I tried. I love Asian bakeries, and I was curious to find out if this one offered anything different.

The bakery itself wasn't that big, and in addition to the ubiquitous pre-packaged buns and cakes wrapped in cellophane, they also had a case featuring some house-made offerings. One immediately caught my eye, with a card beneath it that read "pork pastry." I asked the lady behind the counter what was in them, and she said "pork...and pork fat." There was a bit of a language barrier going on between us, but that was really all I needed to know. I also bought something else, but I'll get to that tomorrow.

I was really curious about these, so I eagerly unwrapped them this afternoon to try. Each one was a bit bigger than a wedding cookie, and the buttery outer crust was topped with sesame seeds. I could see some sort of dark brown filling, so I took a bite to find out what was going on inside. Wow - these were awesome. The flaky, slightly chewy crust gave way to a filling that seemed to be a mix of fruit jam and pork fat. I actually found some tiny pieces of minced fat mixed in with the jam, and the whole thing had a slightly bacon-y flavor that worked well with the sweetness. I ate two of them quickly and saved the third one for the GF, since I knew she'd be let down if she didn't get to try something this tasty. Really good stuff, and I've never seen these anywhere else.

I'm glad I'm experiencing some great new things during these last two weeks. I need to really make the last days count, right?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 351

Chicken Head Cheese: Today marked a milestone for me: my last official shopping trip for the blog. I have a couple restaurant dinners coming up over the next couple weeks that I'm planning on gaining blog entries from, but I wanted to stockpile some stuff today to get me through the remaining days. With that in mind, I did my usual Buford Highway crawl. In addition to finding more interesting Asian pastries at another bakery, I also made my obligatory visit to the Buford Highway Farmers Market. As much as I love that place, I think it's going to be a long time before I go back.

As I was browsing the Eastern European section, I made one last pass through the deli counter, hoping to find anything I'd missed before. Piroshkis? Check. Smoked fish? Already done that several times. However, I did find something in the deli that I didn't recognize. It looked like head cheese, but was much lighter in color than the types I'd tried before. I asked the counter attendant what it was, and he informed me that it was "chicken head cheese." That explained the lighter color, since I'd only tried the beef and pork varieties.
I was all ready to buy some without tasting first, but he graciously gave me a sample to try. Like all other head cheese, it consisted of various parts suspended in a jelly-like aspic, then seasoned. The aspic in this one was much more thick and gelatinous than I was used to, almost like firmer Jell-O. Flavor-wise, it was one of the better head cheeses I've had. The aspic tasted like a flavorful blend of chicken broth/fat, and the meat suspended inside was more like lean white-meat chicken than the fattier stuff I'd eaten in other head cheeses. Good stuff, and I'd definitely eat it again.

Buford Highway Farmers Market, I'm gonna miss you. I'll be back one day, I promise.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 350

Potato Kugel: Remember a few days ago when I mentioned finding something else interesting at the Toco Hills "Kosher Kroger?" Well, that's today's new food. While I was browsing the Kosher section a few days ago in hopes of finding something (which is hard to do anywhere after almost a year), I noticed this box of Manischewitz potato kugel on one of the top shelves. I'd had noodle kugel several times and loved it, so I wondered how this potato version compared. I couldn't resist, so I put one in my basket to take home.
The noodle kugel I'd eaten before was a mildly sweet dish made from egg noodles, sugar, cottage cheese, cinnamon, and varied fruits, but this potato version was definitely going to be more savory than sweet. The main ingredients were potatoes, vegetable shortening, onion, and salt, and the prep was super easy. All I had to do was take the dry mix and combine it with oil, water, and eggs, then bake for an hour. They even provided the aluminum baking pan, so screwing this up was basically impossible.

After baking as a side for tonight's dinner, the mix developed a nice brown crust on top. I plated a piece and took a bite, and was really happy with the results. The interior reminded me of fluffier potato pancakes or hash browns, but with a stronger onion flavor than either of those. It was almost like a potato souffle, and I knocked out seconds of this pretty quickly after eating the first piece. Really good.
Even though this dish was vastly different from the sweeter noodle kugel, I'd definitely buy it again.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day 349

Dry Meat Bun: Out of all the foods I've tried for this blog, this one had to have one of the most unappetizing-sounding names. Dry Meat Bun? It doesn't sound like something anyone would ever want to eat, but when I saw it at the Oriental Bakery on Buford Highway a couple days ago, I was intrigued. The bakery had a rack of the ubiquitous cellophane-wrapped Asian pastries (most of which I'd already tried), but this one was something I'd never seen before.

It looked like a small loaf of white bread, but it was topped with a brownish substance that I couldn't identify. Was that the "dry meat?" The first few ingredients were pretty standard (flour, sugar, oil), but the last two were "salad" and "dry pork sung." Hmm, ok. I had to know what this was, so I bought one to take home.
Since fresh pastries have a habit of going bad quickly, I gave this one a try this afternoon for a snack. I broke it in two to see if there was any sort of filling, but it was just plain bread on the inside. The bread itself was light and fluffy, and a bit sweet. However, the topping was something entirely different. It was indeed "dry meat," and it tasted like finely shredded dried pork that had been sweetened. It actually tasted good, and the saltiness of the topping worked well with the sweetness of the bread. Not as scary as I first expected, but I doubt I'd buy one again.
I had to know what "pork sung" was, so after some research, I discovered that it's a Chinese dried meat product that's made by stewing cuts of pork in a sweet soy sauce mixture until the meat can be fork shredded. It's then dried in an oven, followed by drying in a wok. The resulting product (also called "rousong") can be used as a topping for many dishes.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 348

Red Bean Crisp with Egg Yolk: Anyone who's been following my blog knows I've eaten quite a few Asian pastries during the last almost-year, but this one that I found yesterday at the Oriental Bakery on Buford Highway (in the same plaza as Chef Liu and Chicago Supermarket) offered something quite unexpected. In addition to some of the pre-packaged pastries that are easy to find at almost any Asian grocery, they also featured a glass case with some house-made treats that I'd never seen before.

Rather than overload on pastry, I decided to pick out a couple. One caught my eye immediately just based on the name: red bean crisp with egg yolk. I asked the girl behind the counter if there was actually egg yolk in it, and she said yes. I couldn't discern anything about it from just looking at it, but there was apparently egg yolk in it, and that's all I needed to know.
My level of curiosity about this one was pretty high, so I eagerly gave it a try this afternoon. The pastry itself was egg-shaped, with a hard outer crust that was topped with some sort of yellow substance (egg yolk?) and sesame seeds. I cut it in half, and the interior looked entirely different from what I was expecting. Instead of traditional yellow yolk, it was filled with red bean paste and what looked to be part of a preserved duck egg (the darker part in the pic). Not exactly a combination that sounds appetizing, but I took a bite anyway.
The results weren't too bad - the outer pastry crust was flaky, and it provided a thin covering for the red bean/egg filling. Nothing really new to report with the red bean paste, but the egg had a gamy, rubbery texture much like the kind I'd had before as an ingredient in congee. I'm still not sure what the coating on top was, but as a snack, it was definitely an unusual experience. Kind of a sweet/salty combo, so if you're into that, you may like these.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 347

Dolmas: As I've mentioned a million times before, shopping for this blog has become extremely difficult, and with less than 3 weeks left, it's almost impossible for me to find things that are new to me. Well, in Atlanta, anyway. I had to do some shopping today, but I wanted to make a conscious effort to stay away from the Buford Highway Farmers Market. As great as it is, I just didn't want to resort to it during this trip, so I explored other options that luckily turned out well.

Even though traditional big-box grocery stores don't offer me much anymore, some chains offer fare that not every location has. I decided to hit the Toco Hills "Kosher Kroger," hoping to find some interesting Kosher products. I'd been there a couple times before with good luck, which I hoped to repeat. I did find one Kosher item (more on that later this week), but I also found something else on the fresh Mediterranean olive bar near the front of the store that was new to me: dolmas.
I knew enough about Mediterranean cuisine to know that dolmas were stuffed grape leaves, and these were filled with long-grain rice. They appeared to be served with some sort of lemon sauce, so I scooped up a couple with a bit of the sauce to take home. I love being able to buy things by the pound in situations like this - a couple dolmas only cost me a little over a dollar. I've eaten Greek/Mediterranean cuisine many times, but I'd never gotten around to trying these.
Once I gave these a try tonight, I was impressed. Each piece was tightly rolled, so I cut through the outer grape leaf, which revealed the rice filling. The grape leaves were extremely tender, almost like collard greens in texture, and they were a good pair for the rice filling. They had a mild flavor that reminded me of other leafy greens I've tried, but a bit more salty. Not much to report with the rice (it was just plain rice), but there was a strong lemon flavor that I assume came from the sauce it was served in. Not sure if that's typical, but it was tasty just the same.

I've got some super-interesting stuff coming up over the next couple days...stick with me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 346

Champ-O-Rado: Ever wonder what chocolate oatmeal would taste like? Well, look no further than this product I found during my last visit to the Buford Highway Farmers Market. I've made an effort to search in different sections there instead of my usual standbys (Korean, Eastern European, Japanese), and I've actually found lots of interesting new things in the Philippines aisle. While not as extensive as some of the others, the aisle has supplied me with several finds, one of which is today's new food.
At first glance, the picture on the box made it look like chocolate pudding, but as I looked closer, I realized it was much different. Apparently, it's a popular Filipino dish made with glutinous rice and cocoa powder that can be served as a snack or dessert. At first, I thought this might be too similar to congee (which I'd tried before), but as I kept reading, it seemed extremely different. Into my basket it went.
Since this was the last stockpiled item I had on hand, I went ahead and made it today. Preparation was easy - I just had to add 3/4 cup of sugar to the powdered cocoa/rice mix, then boil it for about 10 minutes until it thickened. Once it was done, it resulted in a thick, soupy, dark liquid that resembled oatmeal. The directions advised drizzling some milk on top, which I did before trying.
Despite the good amount of sugar I added, it really wasn't that sweet. It actually reminded me of a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles that had been left sitting for awhile to get soggy, then heated. Not too bad, and definitely not like congee at all. This recipe made a lot of this stuff, so I guess I have some eating to do if I want to finish it. If the concept of chocolate hot cereal or oatmeal appeals to you at all, definitely check this one out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 345

Lobster Roll: Today's new food was definitely unplanned, but that's a good thing. It's easy to get in a rut with new things that I stockpile from various markets, and breaking free from that is always a welcome change. I attended a "tweetup" tonight at the Shed at Glenwood in East Atlanta, and the restaurant featured their well-known sliders as a special. In addition to some featuring fried chicken, chorizo, and prosciutto, they also featured a lobster roll slider. I'd never had a lobster roll anywhere, but I'd heard they were tasty, so I figured this could be a good start.
I knew that lobster rolls (made from a mix of cooked lobster meat and mayonnaise) were typically served on a grilled hot dog bun, but the Shed's version featured a small bun that looked like brioche. The filling almost resembled a seafood salad, and the mixture looked like it contained some cucumber and celery along with some small chunks of lobster. In addition, it was topped with a "crispy potato" that added some crunch. Once I dug in, it actually tasted pretty good, despite my usual dislike of heavy mayo. I didn't really find many pieces of lobster, but that was probably to be expected for a small slider like this.

I've heard that there are several good versions of this dish around town (Bocado and the Sound Table, to name two), so I might have to try this again somewhere else if possible. I feel like this one might not have been the most authentic, but it was still good nonetheless.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 344

Banana Cracker: As my readers know by now, it's pretty hard to stump me, but when I saw this unusual snack item at the Fiesta Farmers Market last week, I had no idea what to think. The market carries a primarily Hispanic inventory, but I actually found this Vietnamese import there after doing some intensive searching. Despite being called "banana cracker," I knew it would probably different from any cracker I've tried.
I decided to give it a try as a late-night snack tonight, and after I cut the bag open and took one out, I was surprised. It reminded me of a thin flour tortilla filled with ultra-thin banana slices, and I could actually see little pieces of banana layered on the surface. The only ingredients were banana and wheat flour, so I guess I was almost right with the tortilla comparison.
Once I finally took a bite, the results were strange, to say the least. The texture was also a lot like a flour tortilla, but one that was left out on the counter all night to go a bit stale. It took a bit of work to bite off a piece, but once I did, I was left with a chewy, slightly crunchy substance that had a strong banana flavor. There was also a strange plastic-y taste that was a bit disconcerting, but it was less noticeable as I tried a few more bites. Interesting, but I can't say I'd recommend them.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 343

Uthappam: I can't think of any other time during this blog where I've gotten to try two brand new cuisines in one week, but that's exactly what happened this week. In addition to trying Ethiopian for the first time on day 339, I finally tried Indian cuisine today. I know I've eaten plenty of Indian items over the course of the blog, but I'd never eaten in an actual restaurant until tonight. Crazy, but true.

I'd heard good things about Saravanaa Bhavan in Decatur, and when Scoutmob issued a discount recently, I figured it was finally time for me to try. They specialize in South Indian cuisine, and their menu was all vegetarian. I have no problem with vegetarian fare as long as it tastes great, and I'd really liked all the packaged Indian food I'd had so far, so I was excited to find out how it compared.

In addition to lots of things I recognized (curries, samosas, etc.), I noticed something new that sounded really tasty: uthappam. The menu described it as a sort of pancake, served plain or with various fillings. I opted for the one filled with onions and green chiles, despite my low tolerance for spice. I guess I was in the wrong place for low spice tolerance.
Once our server brought the dish (served on a cool looking stainless steel platter), I was impressed. It looked like a large pancake, and I could see several pieces of red onion and green chile pepper studded throughout the dough. The utthapam was served with several dipping sauces, none of which I could easily identify. One was sweeter, one more spicy, and another was mild and almost cottage cheese-like. I was hungry, so I dug in.

My first few bites were good - the dough (made from rice flour) was cooked well, with a nice crunch on the outside. It was bit thicker and breadier than I expected, and after a few minutes, I started to feel the heat from the chiles. The sweet dipping sauce (pictured on top of the pancake) was my favorite, but I still can't quite pinpoint its flavors. Me and the GF demolished all of it quickly, expect for one small chunk with a large concentration of chiles. If you decide to order one, make sure you have someone to share with - it was extremely filling.

After I got home from dinner, I noticed that I'd actually bought a box of utthapam mix from the Buford Highway Farmers Market during my last trip, but I hadn't even remembered that when I ordered it tonight. That was bound to happen at some point, right?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 342

Guenepa: Today's new food is - you guessed it - another find from last weekend's trip to the Buford Highway Farmers Market. Somehow, I'm still able to find new things in the produce section, despite having already eaten my way through most of it. When I saw these, I had no idea what to think - they looked like little green berries, but they had an extremely tough skin that I assumed might yield to something tasty on the inside.
Even though I bought them a week ago, that tough outer skin hadn't spoiled at all when I finally tried them this afternoon. I wasn't able to break the skin with my fingernails, so I used my chef's knife to make a small incision. It peeled away easily to reveal a tiny orange pod covered with pulp, so I took it out of the shell, popped it in my mouth, then began to chew.
Ok, not good. There was yet another tough shell to get through, so I spit it out and gave it a look. The inside of that shell was filled with a crunchy, segmented pit that didn't taste like much. Where was the edible part? I got online and did some some searching, and apparently I was supposed to just chew the orange pulp off the inner pod. I grabbed another one and repeated the process, but this time I just tried to savor the pulp. Once I did that, it was actually kind of tasty. Even thought the amount of pulp was miniscule, it tasted like a cross between mango and lime. Not bad.
Guenepa (also known as quenepa and mamoncillo) are a popular snack in several Latin countries, including Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. I can't say I'd buy these again - they just didn't give me enough to actually eat.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 341

Tindora: I've eaten a lot of food during this blog that looks and tastes a lot like something else. Since I don't do much research before I buy something, I can either be surprised or disappointed if that happens. Much like yesterday's nectarine mango, this "tindora" I found at the Fiesta Farmers Market instantly reminded me of a gherkin or mini-cucumber. I was interested enough to grab a couple to take home, and at only a few cents apiece, I really couldn't go wrong. Maybe they'd be really different from what I expected.
Even though I bought these last weekend, they held up surprisingly well in the fridge until today. I wasn't quite sure how to eat them, but based on their cucumber-like appearance, I assumed I could eat them raw. I cut one in half to see what was happening on the inside, and it looked like a much seedier cucumber, with little chambers filled with small seeds. 
The flavor didn't leave me with too much to write about. Much like the appearance, it tasted like a seedier cucumber or gherkin, with a decent amount of crunch. Some online sources compared it to bitter melon, but I didn't detect any bitterness at all. Apparently, tindoras are considered to be a small gourd, not cucumber, and they're a popular ingredient in Indian cuisine. Maybe they're more exciting when worked into another dish, but I can't see trying them on their own again.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 340

Nectarine Mango: I've eaten quite a few varieties of mango during this blog, but that's fine by me. Mango is one of my favorite fruits, and I jump at any chance to try a new one. When I saw this unusually named "nectarine mango" at the Buford Highway Farmers Market a few days ago, I knew I had to try. It was unlike any I'd seen, with a shape/size that was more like a peach than anything else.
It was still a bit firm and under-ripe when I bought it, so I let it sit on my kitchen counter to ripen. The green color it originally had eventually turned to a greenish-yellow, and since I didn't want it to spoil, I went ahead and tried it today after lunch. Since I'm not skilled at slicing mangoes, I cut off wedges from each side and peeled them the best I could. I didn't want a trip to the ER to be on today's schedule.
After finally taking a bite, the flavor/texture reminded me of a juicy, ripe peach much more than mango. I don't know if my brain was tricked by the peach-like shape and size, but I had a hard time detecting many mango qualities. It was almost like a peach with mango skin. At any rate, it was really tasty, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes fresh peaches (or mangoes, I guess).

Not much else to say about this one. After 340 days in a row of new food, it's hard to expand on every single thing I eat unless it's really good (or really bad).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 339

Ethopian Vegetarian Platter: It's not too often that I experience a cuisine for the first time, but that's exactly what happened tonight. I'd been meaning to try Ethiopian food for awhile, but for some reason, I'd never made it a priority. However, the blog is close to winding down, and I wanted to make sure I tried it before the 365 days were up. With that in mind, me and the GF hit Desta on Briarcliff Road tonight. Several people had recommended it, so off we went.

The menu was actually much more extensive than I expected, with items ranging from breakfast specialties to full-on dinners. It was the first time in awhile that a menu's language had stumped me - it featured lots of words I'd never read, not to mention the food itself. Instead of trying to narrow down my choices to a couple dishes, I opted for the combination vegetarian platter, which featured a small portion of everything on the vegetarian section of the menu. I usually don't order vegetarian anywhere, but I'd heard that it was a great choice with Ethiopian cuisine.

Once the server brought my order, I was pretty amazed at what I saw. The colors on the plate were incredible, and the presentation almost made me not want to eat it. Almost. The meal was served with injera, the spongy flatbread that's apparently a staple during most Ethiopian meals. Keep in mind that I'd never had any of these dishes before, so I'm going to attempt to cover a few instead of all. This type of combo post is a first for the blog!
Since there were 9 different dishes on the plate (not counting the salad), I wasn't even sure where to begin. I tore off a small piece of injera (no utensils here, folks) and scooped up a small portion of the first thing that caught my eye, which was the shiro fit fit. According to the menu, this was a "mix of ground chickpeas in a rich Desta's sauce mixed with bites of injera." I was basically scooping up bread with bread, but the shiro fit fit was tasty, with an vinegar-like flavor that paired well with the ground chickpeas. Ok, off to a good start.

On to the next one, which unfortunately, I couldn't identify. Considering that this plate had 9 new dishes for me to try, I really needed a guide to follow since I had no idea what I was eating. However, the dark brown stuff (bottom row center of the pic) was probably my favorite. It almost reminded me of mole, but was much thicker and spicier. I'm not sure what it was made from, but it was awesome.

I should really talk about the injera bread itself, which until tonight, I'd never had. It had a sponge-like texture that fell somewhere between a crepe and half-cooked pancake, with a slightly sour flavor that paired well with the spicy food. Since it's used primarily for actually picking up the food, we went through a lot of it at the table. Not exactly a low-carb meal.
Except for the dishes containing beets (upper right corner of pic), potatoes (lower left corner), and collard greens (second from top left), I'm really not sure what the rest of this plate contained. I don't think I've ever tried this many new dishes at once, and it made me think back to what got me started with this blog in the first place: my love of trying new foods. It's been easy for me to forget that after almost a year of doing this, but this meal made me thankful that I started.