Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 169

Kibe (Kibbeh): With today's post, Brazilian week continues. Even thought I found today's new food in a Brazilian market, it curiously didn't have any Portuguese printed on the box. It was all in English, and the box stated that it was a "product of the USA." So why am I including this in Brazilian week, right? Well, outside of it being featured in a Brazilian market, Kibe is a popular snack in many countries. It's a Lebanese dish that branched out to Lebanese people in several locations, including Brazil. Kibe is basically a little croquette made from a mix of bulgur wheat and chopped meat (usually beef or lamb). The version I found was frozen and made from a mix of wheat and beef. I normally don't spend this much ($10) on a blog item, but I was really curious about these.
I decided to reheat them for dinner tonight, along with some TJ's Biryani Rice and broccoli. After throwing them in a 400 degree oven for 20 mins., they were ready to go. Visually, they reminded me of little chunks of falafel, which I love. I broke one open before eating, and they definitely looked like falafel on the inside as well, only brownish in color instead of yellowy-green. The texture was also somewhat grainy like falafel, but much more savory due to the inclusion of the beef. Honestly, they were a bit dry, and as I ate them I wished I had some sort of dipping sauce - maybe tzaziki? I also tasted a good bit of mint, which was one of the primary ingredients listed under the beef, wheat and onion.
After I opened the box, I noticed that they actually expired a few months ago - oops. Maybe they were dry because of that? Regardless, they were pretty tasty, and I devoured quite a few of them before stopping. I'd love to try a fresh version of kibe, so if anyone knows where I can get some in ATL, please let me know. If you like falafel (and aren't vegetarian), check these out if you can find them.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 168

Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pao de Queijo): Today marks day 3 of Brazilian Week, and so far, everything I've eaten has been really good. I was lucky to find some great items to take home from my visit to Minas Emporium a couple days ago, and their lunch buffet/pastry counter has provided some tasty surprises. I had one more pastry left, so I decided to go ahead and eat it before it went stale. After yesterday's coxinha awesomeness, I was looking forward to trying this piece of cheese bread, which is apparently a Brazilian staple at many meals.

This ring-shaped little piece of bread held up surprisingly well after being in the fridge for a couple days, but I microwaved it for a few seconds to hopefully return some of the moisture. From what I can tell, these are made from a mix of tapioca flour, milk and shredded queso fresco. I figured it would be good - how can you go wrong with any sort of bread made with cheese?
After heating, I took a bite, and it was a bit drier/crumblier than expected, but that could have been due to not eating it when it was fresh. The interior had a flaky consistency that reminded me of a popover, but without the hollow middle. The mix of bread/cheese was a savory, salty treat, and I bet these would be amazing right out of the oven. I'll have to make sure to not fill up on the buffet next time and eat a couple of these while hot. Good stuff.

I'll be posting the rest of my Brazilian goods over the next few days, so stay tuned. I'm so happy that I discovered a new cuisine - I'm learning a lot!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 167

Coxinha: In case you didn't notice on my Facebook page, this week is officially "Brazilian Week" here on my blog. After finding some awesome new eats yesterday at Minas Emporium (a Brazilian eatery/market on Roswell Road), I decided to devote the next 7 days to the Brazilian food I discovered there. After finishing a super tasty lunch, me and the GF did a bit of browsing in the small market. In addition to an impressive meat counter and some interesting dry goods, they also had a hot pastry display with some choices that looked really appealing, including this coxinha.

I'd previously read about coxinha on Blissful Glutton's website and decided to take one home - I was too full to possibly eat any more. It looked like a teardrop-shaped breaded pastry, and it was apparently filled with a mixture of cheese and chicken. Yum. Based on the ingredients, I figured it couldn't possibly be bad.
I decided to give it a try this afternoon, so I heated up the oven to keep the coxinha from getting soggy in the microwave. It looked like it held up well from yesterday, but the paper bag it came in was a bit greasy. I hoped it didn't dry out, but after heating it and cutting into it, it was anything but dry. Once bisected, I saw that it was filled with a creamy mix of shredded chicken and some sort of creamy cheese. After doing some research, I discovered that the cheese was actually Catupiry, a Brazilian style that's reminiscent of cream cheese. The pastry shell was about a quarter of an inch thick, and it held the cheese/chicken mix in well.
On to the eating. I took a bite, and was blown away by how good it was. The pastry dough's texture reminded me of a dumpling, but with a potato-like consistency. The breading had a nice crunch, and the chicken/cheese mix was a bit savory and sweet at the same time. The chicken itself was really tender, not stringy like canned chicken can be. Wow. Definitely one of the better foods I've tried during this experiment, and I could have easily eaten 4 or 5 more of these if available.

Based on what I've eaten so far, I've become a fan of Brazilian cuisine. I can't wait to find out how good the rest of my purchases are.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 166

Virado à Paulista: For the past few days, I've been wanting to change things up and try something brand new that I didn't find in my usual shopping locations. After a less-than-productive day yesterday trying to find a reclusive Russian deli on Covington Highway, I stopped by Your Dekalb Farmers Market and found absolutely nothing interesting or new. I know that may sound crazy, but today is the 160th day I've been doing this. I've eaten a lot.

I came home frustrated and wanting to give up, so I decided to get online and do some hardcore research. One of my favorite local bloggers is the "Blissful Glutton" (, and based on how many great finds she writes about, I figured I could find a good recommendation on her site. After a bit of looking, I noticed something interesting that I'd never tried: Brazilian food. She featured an article about a traditional Brazilian cafe called Minas Emporium (7405 Roswell Road Northeast Atlanta, GA 30328-1026) that sounded really tasty, and the restaurant/market also had an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. I normally don't like buffets that much, but this one sounded good. Me and the GF made plans to check it out for lunch today.

When we walked in, I had hopes of finding feijoada, a traditional dish made with various cuts of pork and black beans. And until I got home, I thought one of the dishes I had off the buffet was feijoada (more on that later). We got our plates and proceeded to fill up, and there was plenty of tasty stuff to choose from. I got a bit of everything, including fried fish, a mix of rice and chunks of pork, some beef served in gravy and a dish including cauliflower and something else I couldn't quite identify. However, my favorite was the Virado à Paulista, which I actually thought was feijoada until I got home, did some research, and figured out it wasn't.
This dish (pictured at the bottom of the plate) was honestly amazing - it featured rice, tutu de feijão (a paste of beans and manioc flour), sauteed collard greens and a few different types of pork. The pork was definitely my favorite element, especially the crispy pieces that reminded me of a cross between chicharrones and bacon. It also included some pieces of diced up sausage - not ground, but with casing. Not exactly light eating, but I went back for seconds. It was a starchy, salty treat that I definitely plan on trying again soon. I could have eaten it till I made myself sick, but considering I have a show to play tonight, I figured that wasn't the best idea.
I also bought several other things to take home, so get ready for Brazilian Week. And thanks again to the Blissful Glutton for recommending this place. Good stuff.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 165

Spotted Dick: Yeah, yeah...I know. Before you make any jokes, just know that I've already thought of them all. My mind's probably way further down in the gutter than yours. Anyway, today's new food is something that I've seen in the international sections of many grocery stores. All I knew is that it was a British product, but past that, I knew nothing. I've had several people ask me if I've tried this stuff yet, and when I was at the Edgewood Kroger tonight doing some browsing, I stumbled upon it again. Since I wasn't finding much else, I decided to go ahead and give it a try.
Based on the ingredients (primarily water, sugar, wheat flour and raisins), I knew that Spotted Dick was some sort of dessert-like substance. The can stated that it was "sponge pudding," so I wondered if it was going to be closer to cake or a dense pudding. After choosing the microwaving option for cooking (it was either that or steam it in the can for 30 minutes, no thanks), I opened the can and emptied the contents onto a plate, and it more resembled cake or bread, not pudding.
Once heated for about a minute, I dug in. The texture was more like a dense bread or cake, but fairly moist. It reminded me of raisin bread, but maybe a bit sweeter and spongier than that. Pretty good, but I couldn't handle eating much of it due to its weight. I'm not sure if it's usually eaten alone or with something else, but I'll definitely finish the rest of it later.

In case you're wondering where the name came from, Wikipedia states that "spotted refers to the dried fruit (which resemble spots), and dick may be a contraction or corruption of the word pudding or dough." Hmm, so that explains it.

Aside from the suggestive name, I can't think of much else about it that's too memorable. You could probably recreate it easily at home, and not pay the somewhat exorbitant import grocery store price. Maybe it's a dish that better enjoyed as a British tradition.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 164

Satsuma Orange: By now, I'm sure my readers know that I love discovering new produce, especially fruits. The variations sometimes seem endless, even though it might appear that I've eaten everything under the sun already. On my last trip to the BHFM a couple days ago, I noticed that they were demoing a couple different types of fruit. While I've tried quite a few varieties of orange, I'd never heard of these Satsumas. They looked to be a bit smaller than a Valencia, almost like a Mandarin in size. I love oranges, so I snapped a couple quick pics (since their lighting was good) and put one in my basket.
When I cut one open tonight at home, it looked like any other orange on the inside, with the same segmenting seen in lots of varieties. I peeled it and broke it into a few segments, then took a bite of one. It reminded me a lot of Mandarin orange - sweet, but not quite as sweet as a Valencia or navel, and little more sour. I couldn't really tell a difference at all between the Satsuma and mandarin, to be honest. It was really juicy and good, but it didn't really offer any new flavors for me. I'd definitely eat it again, though - it's hard to resist good citrus fruit.

According to Wikipedia, the Satsuma is a relative of the Mandarin that's often referred to as "seedless Mandarin." It comes from Japanese origin and was brought to the U.S. during the 18th century. They apparently grow regularly in Florida as well as a few other states. Interesting.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 163

Classic "Baked Milk" Biscuits: Today's new food is a product I bought on one of my recent trips to the BHFM. I've found plenty of interesting stuff in their Eastern European section, and on my last few visits, there's been a "sale" section set up at the back of one row with some oddities that I'm guessing didn't sell that well. When I noticed these "baked milk" biscuits, I was intrigued. Eastern Euro products are often extremely hard to identify, and there usually isn't much English writing on the packaging. I figured they might be like many standard crackers or cookies, but the "baked milk" wording wouldn't let me pass them up.
I tried getting on the manufacturer's website to find out more about these "biscuits" (, but the Russian wording didn't translate well, despite Google's efforts. I opened the package, and they looked like any cookie or cracker you'd find on American shelves. However, I wasn't sure if they were going to be sweet or savory. I took a bite, and they tasted exactly like animal crackers or tea biscuits - nothing really new for me. I was hoping that the "baked milk" would result in some sort of interesting filling or new flavor, but it didn't. And I still don't know what "baked milk" is.
These were tasty and light, but nothing really special. Almost like a less sweet graham cracker, so maybe I'll put some peanut butter or Nutella on the rest of these for an easy dessert.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 162

Grasitas: I had a couple errands to do today near the BHFM, so I figured I'd stop in for a quick browse. I hope my readers don't mind me shopping there so much, but it really is a great place to find new foods. And after all I've eaten, I can't really find anything at a conventional grocery store, anyway. As I did a quick stroll through the right side of the market (I always seem to start on that side), I ended up in the Hispanic meats/cheese section. I haven't bought much from the Hispanic aisles, and after noticing a few interesting things today, I now know I need to change that.

Beside the deli counter, I noticed a large section to the left that featured several fresh pork products. They had some homemade chicharones that looked good, but my eyes settled on something I'd never heard of: grasitas. I assumed it was some sort of pork, but not sure of what kind. Luckily, they had a small sample tray set up, so I decided to give them a try before committing.
At first glance, the grasitas looked like overcooked chunks of bacon, but with a much more oily sheen. I took a sample and popped it in my mouth, and it definitely tasted like bacon, but much more fatty. I have a feeling that this stuff was just fried pork fat, nothing more. However, they were super tasty in an artery-clogging way. Due to the greasiness, I ended up not buying any to take home. My stomach can be sensitive to high levels of grease/fat, which obviously was represented well with these. If you like bacon/pork/fatty goodness, you'd definitely like them - they were just a bit too much for me.

I did a bit of research on these when I got home, but couldn't find much info. If anyone knows what grasitas are exactly, please let me know.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 161

Sweet Potato Gnocchi: I know that gnocchi might seem like an ordinary food, but when the GF told me that she'd bought this version made with sweet potato, I was intrigued. I've had gnocchi several times, but I didn't know that it could be made from sweet potato. Apparently she found this frozen version at Trader Joe's, and as my readers know, I do a lot of eating/shopping from their Midtown store. This TJ's product was microwaveable, and was packaged in a brown butter and sage sauce. I love that flavor combination, so I was eager to try this gnocchi.
After heating in the microwave for a few minutes, I took the gnocchi out and got the dish ready to eat. It smelled amazing, and the combination of the brown butter and sage made me instantly hungry. After it cooled, I took a bite, and the texture was pretty much like any other gnocchi I've had: soft, chewy and a tiny bit grainy. The flavor was a bit sweeter due to the use of the sweet potato, but other than that, it wasn't much different. The brown butter and sage sauce gave the whole dish a smoky, rich taste, and I could have easily eaten the entire package as a meal -  good thing we actually made chicken and green beans to accompany it.As a main dish, it would have probably been a bit too greasy and rich on its own.
If you see this dish at TJ's, make sure to give it a try. As good as gnocchi made from plain potatoes is, this richer, more buttery version shouldn't be ignored.

I'm in the AJC!

I normally don't post about anything other than my new foods, but this is an exception. The AJC wrote a great article about my blog, and I've attached scanned pics of the whole thing for my readers. It isn't on the AJC's website yet, but hopefully that will change soon. Thanks to everyone who has followed along!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 160

"Pepecuate" Japanese Style Peanuts: I wasn't quite sure what to make of today's new food when I saw it in the BHFM last weekend. Japanese peanuts, but in the Hispanic/Latin section? Umm, OK. After pondering the strangeness of that inclusion, I decided to buy a bag of these. I like peanuts in general, so I figured they couldn't be too bad.
The ingredients on the back of the tiny bag read "peanuts, wheat flour, iodized salt, sugar and soy." I'm guessing the addition of soy makes these Japanese style? Anyway, after opening the bag and trying a few, there wasn't much to report. They tasted like dry roasted peanuts, but with a slightly sweet/salty glaze. They definitely had a bit more crunch due to the glaze, but I couldn't detect much soy flavor at all. Oh well. They weren't too bad for mindless snacking, but these didn't offer anything new for me.
I tried to research these online, but couldn't find much info other than that they're a "Mexican snack." I'd still like to know how the Japanese element got thrown in.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 159

Sunchoke Puree: Today's post comes from one of my favorite new restaurants in ATL, the Sound Table. Me and the GF have eaten there several times, but when Scoutmob (another one of my favorite local businesses) issued a half off deal there a couple weeks ago, I knew I'd be going back soon. I've had many great items from their menu, but I noticed something tonight I'd never had: sunchoke puree. I'd read about this dish in Creative Loafing, and it was apparently one of food editor Besha Rodell's favorite menu items of last year. While a trustworthy recommendation is always good, I really had no idea what this was. I didn't even know what a sunchoke was, much less any pureed version of it. Obviously, I had to order it.
The menu described it as being served with roasted mushrooms, poached egg, and pecorino. Even if I had heard nothing about this dish, I would have been sold by the inclusion of the poached egg - I love anything featuring a runny egg as an ingredient. After we knocked out a few starters, our server brought the puree, and at first glance, it reminded me of a bowl of ultra-creamy soup. The roasted mushrooms were layered on top, and the poached egg was nestled in the corner, waiting to be broken. I broke the egg and mixed it into the puree, then took a bite of the whole mixture.

Wow. Amazing. The taste was kind of like a super creamy vegetable-based soup (think cream of asparagus, maybe?), but a million times richer and smoother. The flavor was overall sweet, with a hint of bitter at the end. The roasted mushrooms were tender and added a smoky note to the mix, and the runny poached egg thickened the puree a bit after mixing it in. I assume the pecorino was blended in to the puree, since I didn't see it shaved or sprinkled on top. Really good stuff.

I had to do some research when I got home about the sunchoke, and according to Wikipedia, it's a root vegetable that also referred to as the Jerusalem artichoke. I expected it to look like an artichoke, but it looks more like a piece of unpeeled, raw ginger. I'd love to know how to make this dish at home -  I could have easily eaten a gallon of it.

We also had some killer cocktails as well as a cheese plate, crispy ceci peas, Oaxacan hanger steak and lemon tart. If you haven't been to the Sound Table, do yourself a favor and go. Soon.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 158

Kim's "Magic Pop": I discovered this oddity on my last trip to the BHFM. I'd seen the stand that makes this snack set up on my past few visits there, but I'd never seen it in action until last weekend. As I was doing some browsing near the produce section, I kept hearing a loud, frequent popping sound that sounded like compressed air. As I tried to figure out what it was, I stumbled upon the source of the strange noise: the Kim's Magic Pop stand ( It consisted of a tall machine surrounded by a Plexiglas shield, and the lower half of the machine was shooting out these Frisbee-sized discs of what appeared to be some sort of rice cake. I feared for the safety of the employee running the machine behind the glass - one false move, and she was taking a high-speed rice cake to the groin. They were coming out super quick, almost like the clay "ducks" at a skeet shooting range. Based on what I saw, I couldn't resist buying a small bag of these to take home.
Once I decided to try one today, I did some research on the company's website beforehand. The "magic pop" is actually a grain snack, and it's made from a blend of wheat, brown rice and corn. I bought the strawberry flavor, but they apparently make several flavors, including onion, pumpkin, shrimp and yam. The strawberry version appeared to have little pink spots throughout, which I assumed was where the strawberry flavor was contained.

OK, on to the eating. Not too much to report on this one - it basically tasted just like a rice cake, but with a much lighter, airy texture. It was really crunchy, much like a rice cake, and the flavor of the strawberry flecks reminded me of Crunch Berries cereal (which I happen to love). As I was eating, I wished I had some cream cheese to spread on it, and I imagined these would be really good with various toppings - maybe fruit and cream cheese together? It wasn't bad on it's own, but not that much flavor going on. I guess I couldn't expect much from anything that only had 15 calories per serving.

Next time you're in the BHFM, follow the popping sound and check out the Magic Pop booth. Even if you don't buy them, the machine is pretty cool to watch in action.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 157

Minneola: Today's post is a surprise find from a Trader Joe's shopping trip yesterday. I was in the Midtown Promenade location picking up a few essentials when I noticed this fruit in the produce section. I'd never heard of it, but it looked like an orange with a strange lump growing out of one end. I always love discovering new fruits, so I threw one in my basket to take home. As much as I love TJ's, it's rare that I find something new at a conventional grocery store anymore.
I decided to give it a try this afternoon, and I was curious to see what this thing was all about. After cutting it in half, I noticed that it looked identical to an orange on the inside. I didn't dissect the strange lump, but I took the other half and peeled it just like an orange. The sections actually came loose much easier than an orange's, which made it much easier to eat. The texture was identical to an orange, just as juicy, but the taste was a bit more bitter and not quite as sweet. I really enjoyed it, and would have eaten the whole thing if dinner wasn't so close.
After eating, I did a bit of research, and I discovered that a minneola is actually a cross between a Duncan grapefruit and a Dancy tangerine. It's named after Minneola, FL and is also called the "Honeybell" in the gift trade. It's also considered a variety of the well-known tangelo. Wow, I learned a lot with this entry!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 156

Tejocote: I decided to break away from my melon theme today and try another fruit I discovered at the BHFM on my last shopping trip a few days ago. When I spotted these small crab apple-like things near the front of the produce section, I had no clue what they were. The name sounded like it might have been from Spanish origin, but apart from that, I had no other guesses. Due to their inexpensive price, I threw one in my basket. That's what I'm here for, right?
When I prepared to eat it this afternoon, I wasn't quite sure how to go about it. Based on the apple-like texture, I decided to just take a bite and see what happened. I quickly discovered that the taste was much like an apple, but closer to a sour green crab apple than a traditional red apple. Actually, it was really sour. My palate doesn't respond well to high degrees of sour, so I wasn't able to take more than a couple bites. The texture was much like a mushier, grainier apple, and the skin was thin enough to bite through easily.
I should also note that the inner flesh turned brown almost immediately after I took a bite. I've never seen any fruit oxidize that quickly, and I have no idea what would cause that. Still, it was pretty interesting to witness. It also had a hard, brown seed in the middle, which obviously is another similarity to the apple.
Apparently tecojotes are not apples, but a fruit that grows from a species of the hawthorne plant originally found in Mexico. The fruit is commonly used in "ponche," a hot fruit punch served during the Christmas holidays in Mexico. Interesting. I can't say I'd want to eat these again, but maybe they're better in "ponche" than eaten plain.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 155

Sweet Melon Cake: Apparently I decided this week would be melon-themed without even trying, right? I found this pastry while shopping at the BHFM a couple days ago. I've tried different varieties from the Oriental Bakery before - they usually have several different types of pastries for sale on a small rack near the Asian hot/prepared foods section of the market. I've really enjoyed the ones I tried before, so I figured this one would be just as good. And at $0.99, it wouldn't hurt much if it wasn't.
Like a lot of the other pastries from the Oriental Bakery, this one was made from flour, sugar and vegetable oil, but this one included a filling made from "melon paste." The label described this one as a "sweet melon cake," so I figured it'd at least be sweet instead of savory. I must not have been thinking clearly when I bought this one, since I don't like melon that much. Oh well, on to the eating.
I took the pastry out of the cellophane bag, and it definitely had some weight to it. I broke it open, and the filling was actually more translucent in color. For some reason, I was expecting orange - maybe they used Korean melon? I took a bite, and the floury, flaky exterior gave way to the sweet, fruity filling. I didn't detect much melon flavor, but I did notice a few crunchy chunks of melon in the filling, which surprised me. Not too bad, but I think I prefer the sweet red bean filling a bit better.

If you like your pastries less sweet than Cinnabon or other similar syrupy concoctions, give these Asian varieties a try.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 154

Korean Melon: After a great Vietnamese lunch yesterday, it was great to get back to some real shopping for the blog. Obviously the weather messed me up for a few days, but it was way past time to venture out and look. Since I was close to the BHFM, me and GF decided to stop in for some browsing. I had never seen them that busy - guess the bad weather made everyone want to shop since it was actually nice yesterday. As usual, I hit the produce section on the way in and found a few interesting new things. Like I said before, it's getting harder to find new things there. I've eaten my way through a lot of their usual inventory, so now I usually look for new arrivals or specialty items.

When I spotted this Korean melon, it looked interesting enough to try. I didn't know anything about this variety, but I'm usually not a big fan of any sort of melon. It never tastes like much to me, and I regard it as "filler fruit," especially in fruit salads. Anyway, I figured it couldn't hurt to try. I picked out a small specimen, and it ended up costing about $1. Not bad.
I decided to try it today, but before I did, I had to do some research on how to eat it. That's a fairly common practice for me, since a lot of the items I buy don't exactly come with directions. One website I found instructed me to slice it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, then peel the outer skin, leaving the firm inner flesh for consumption. OK, done.
Once I prepared it for eating, I was actually quite happy with the results. It was much sweeter than cantaloupe or honeydew, and had a clean, fruity flavor that was surprising. The flesh was more on the crunchy side, almost like a cucumber. Even though I'm not crazy about melon, I liked this Korean version and could have easily eaten a bit more of it. From what I've read, this variety is frequently served as dessert, sometimes with a bit of sugar added. I'm not sure if I'd replace my usual dessert options with this, but it was still tasty.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 153

Co'm Tam Bi Cha: After this week's unexpected weather situation, I was happy to get back out on the streets today in search of new blog foods. I've had a rather difficult time coming up with interesting entries this week, and I had to rely primarily on foods I had stockpiled (except for that gross fake jerky I bought at the Candler Park Market). With the roads being much more drivable, me and GF ventured out to Buford Highway in search of some shopping options. Since we hadn't had lunch yet, we stopped at Thien Thanh Vietnamese Cafe (5219 Buford Highway NE). I had a Scoutmob discount I'd been wanting to use for this place, so we decided to give it a try.

I love Vietnamese cuisine, and I usually end up getting a steaming bowl of pho instead of perusing the menu. However, today I decided to try something new. I noticed the section of the menu devoted to rice dishes, and one caught my eye: co'm tam bi cha. They described it as "shredded pork and baked egg with broken steamed rice." I'd heard of the co'm dish before, but never tried it. And, anything with pork and egg as ingredients never sounds bad to me. Done.

The dish included several components: rice, a couple slices of something that looked like meatloaf, green salad, and something that resembled rice noodles coated in a brownish, powdery substance. Interesting. The server also gave me a small bowl of nuoc cham (a standard Vietnamese condiment) and a bowl of some sort of soup. I tried a bite of the meatloaf-looking stuff first (pictured in the lower left corner), and it was really tasty. It tasted like it was made from a mix of egg, pork and glass noodles, and it had a spongy texture that I loved. Dipped in the nuoc cham, I could have eaten much more of it.

Now, on to the other components. The noodle (?) dish was something entirely new to me, and at first, I thought it was made entirely from tripe. The noodles had that crunchy tripe-like texture, and I spotted a couple pieces of something translucent that I thought had to be tripe. Upon further tasting, I deduced that it was definitely rice noodles cooked under al dente, which were then mixed with small slices of pork. The whole thing was also coated in a nutty, powdery mix that also mystified me. When I got home, I did some research on this dish, and discovered that it's called "bi." Googling "Vietnamese bi" produced some, umm, funny results, but I did manage to figure out what it was. It turns out that it's actually a mix of rice noodles, pork skin, shredded pork and ground rice powder. It was a bit dry on its own, but a little nuoc cham made it good.

Now, on to the rice. I'm not sure if the "broken rice" refers to this portion of the dish or not, but it was much like any other rice I've had. The grains were a little smaller than what I'm used to, so maybe that was the "broken" part? Someone who's more familiar with Vietnamese cuisine may know better than me, but I'm guessing that's the case. The green salad was just romaine, tomato, cucumber and carrot - nothing too fancy.The soup's broth was much like pho broth, but didn't have any noodles or other ingredients. I assume it's served much like miso soup in Japanese restaurants.

Overall, I really enjoyed this dish. Not sure if I enjoyed it as much as my customary pho, but it was still good nonetheless. And, I'm always happy when I can't identify something - it means I'm learning. If you like Vietnamese, check out Thien Thanh (and thanks to Scoutmob for the discount).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 152

Irish Cheddar & Porter Cheese: Today's new food is actually one I first learned about last weekend, but I just got around to trying it today. I attended a post-holiday party thrown by my uncle that lives in Avondale Estates, and in addition to plenty of other great foods, he had a nice cheese selection featuring a couple varieties I'd never had. I noticed one interesting one that looked new to me - it had a dark brown and yellowish marbled appearance that I assumed was a mixture of a couple different kinds of cheese. I was wrong: it was actually cheddar mixed with porter-style beer. I love cheese and beer, so I was eager to take a piece of this home for sampling later.
Upon sampling this firm-textured cheese, I noticed that it had a fairly sharp and tangy taste, with some sweetness that followed after (which I assume comes from blending the beer in). I'm not sure where he bought this, but it was tasty. There aren't many Irish beers that I don't love (well, except for maybe Killian's Red), and I really enjoyed the mix of the tangy cheddar with the malty, sweet porter. Much like the ubiquitous chocolate and peanut butter, I love it when 2 great tastes taste great together. Good stuff.

If anyone can recommend more cheeses that feature beer as an ingredient, please let me know. I know the Rogue Brewery produces a few, but I'm not sure where to find them in the ATL area.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 151

"Primal Strips" Meatless Vegan Jerky: Today's post is a great example of the extreme improvisation I've had to go through due to the awful weather we've endured this week. I was running out of provisions at the house, and with my car still stuck in the driveway, I had no choice but to start looking on foot. Luckily I live near the Candler Park Market, so I took a walk there this afternoon and found this unusual new item. I typically despise any fake meat products - they're far stranger than any real meat product could ever be. However, I was in a bind, and this was about all they had that would fulfill the blog requirement.
This meatless jerky brand was called "Primal." Pretty funny, and I wonder what Ted Nugent would say about that. Anyway, this one was made from teriyaki-flavored dried shiitake mushrooms, not the disgusting seitan that I'd tried before with bad results. I opened the wrapper, and instantly noticed the smell of sweet teriyaki, which didn't translate as appetizing. The appearance wasn't exactly appealing, either - it had a strange molded look that's common with fake meat products. I took a bite, and it actually didn't taste as bad as it looked. It wasn't as chewy as real jerky, and the dried mushrooms provided a bit of stringiness that resembled real meat. I got down a couple bites before putting it away, but it wasn't bad. Not something I'd want to repeat, but not awful.
I'm ready for a new food that's actually tasty. This week has proved to be non-eventful in a lot of respects, but as soon as things thaw out, it's back to the good stuff.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 150

Trader Joe's Cioppino Seafood Stew: As many of you may have noticed, I've had to do a bit of improvising this week due to the bad weather. I haven't been able to do any driving, which also means no shopping or restaurant visits. Luckily I've had some reserves put away for the blog, but I'm afraid they're running out pretty quick. Who knew we'd be stranded this long? Anyway, when it came time to make dinner tonight, I was rummaging through the freezer when I noticed this bag of TJ's Cioppino Seafood Stew stashed away under a lot of other food. I've had this in the freezer for months now, but never got around to trying it. I've never had cioppino anywhere, so I guess it was time to start with this frozen version.
I'm usually happy with TJ's frozen foods - they're so much better than similar versions in big-box stores. Their vesrsion of cioppino included a package of tomato-based broth along with some nice sized chunks of seafood (Alaskan cod, scallops, mussels, shrimp and clams). I heated the tomato broth separately in a saucepan till bubbling, then added the seafood mix and cooked for a few minutes more. Super easy.
After cooking, I toasted some garlic bread to dunk in the sauce. For a frozen entree, I have to say that this was pretty tasty. The broth was a bit spicy, and the seafood actually came out tender, not overcooked. The mussels were much bigger than I expected after cooking, and the chunks of cod paired well with the broth, as did the rest of the seafood. When paired with the bread, it made a nice easy dinner that was perfect for the cold weather.

I'd love to try a fresh, from scratch version of cioppino - I'm sure it's much better than this. But for now, TJ's makes a good option, if you're interested.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 149

Papaya Cake: After being stranded at the GF's house for the last couple days because of the icy roads, I was running out of options for new food pretty quick. I managed to improvise last night with the tri-tip steak, but the rest of my food stash was back at my house. Despite the treacherous sidewalks, I managed to walk all the way back to my house this afternoon - luckily, we don't live too far away from each other. While my dinner consisted of some Trader Joe's frozen goods, my dessert was something tasty that was brand new to me.
I scored this package of "papaya cake" during my trip to the Super H Mart last week, and while it may seem fairly normal compared to the tripe-fest of the past few days, it was definitely worth trying. These came from the snack section of the market, which has always been great for finding new, interesting foods. The cakes were packaged in a clear plastic container, and from the outside, they looked a lot like Fig Newtons. I doubted they would taste like them, but it was my job to find out.
I opened the package and took a bite of one, and the outer shell (made from wheat flour) actually did taste a lot like a Fig Newton. The filling was made from what the ingredient list called a "papaya paste," and it had sort of a gooey, gummy texture that tasted more like peach than papaya. Not fresh peach, but more like the artificial peach flavor you find in a lot of candies. I really liked these - they were almost like a more fruity-tasting, peachy Fig Newton. Good stuff, and not a bad option for a light dessert.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 148

Trader Joe's Santa Maria Tri-Tip Roast: Today's new food was actually a bit unexpected. Due to the nasty weather, I spent the night over at the GF's place last night, and luckily she'd prepared for the weather in advance with food supplies. I was worried about finding a new food to blog about today since I hadn't been able to prepare in advance, and driving to buy something was out of the question. When she mentioned cooking this tri-tip roast for dinner, I knew it would work. I'd never had that cut of beef, so the crisis was averted. This pre-marinated version came from Trader Joe's, and since I love most of their products, I knew it wouldn't be bad.
The roast was marinated in a mix of onion, garlic, lemon and pepper, and the package instructed to roast it in the oven for around 30 minutes. I wasn't sure where the tri-tip came from on the cow, but Wikipedia informed me that it was taken from the bottom sirloin. Apparently it's quite popular on the West coast, but just now reaching a higher degree of popularity elsewhere. Anyway, after cooking and resting, we sliced the roast into thin strips. It was cooked a perfect medium rare, and I was hungry and eager to try.
My first bite was tasty - the marinade provided a good bit of flavor and spice. It was a bit tougher and chewier than a lot of cuts I've had, but good nonetheless. I'm glad we didn't cook it longer, since it may have been a little too tough if left in the oven past 30-35 mins. If you're looking for a more economical way to cook steak, especially without a grill, this would be a great option. I ended up using a little bit of Bobby Flay steak sauce on it, but it really didn't require that. 

I bet this will make good steak sandwiches tomorrow, which may be our only lunch option if still snowed in.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day 147

Pork Stomach: Today's new food is the last offering from the strangely awesome combo platter of pork offal that I bought from the Doraville Super H Mart last week. So far, the stuff I've eaten from it has been good (tongue, liver) and just plain weird (ear), but today brings me to the stomach. I've eaten beef stomach before plenty of times in Vietnamese pho, but never pork. I'm glad I was feeling better this week after being sick; otherwise, there's no way I would have been up for sampling the food from this platter.
Like the other cuts from the platter, the stomach was steamed then sliced thin into strips. It had a greyish-white color to it, and it honestly didn't look too appetizing. I sprinkled a little of the salt/spice mix onto a small piece and took a bite. It was extremely chewy and rubbery, and it didn't have much flavor. Better than the ear, but it still reminded me of chewing on a piece of inner tube. I've found that I prefer offal when it's worked into a dish as an ingredient. I've eaten plenty of this type of stuff in pho with great results, and I had an amazing tripe stew at Abattoir last year. To be honest, a lot of offal doesn't taste like much on its own. Maybe some cultures enjoy this sort of thing by itself, but it's just not for me.

I'm glad I tried all the selections from this platter - the tongue/liver were definitely winners, but the ear/stomach...not so much.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 146

Pork Tongue: Today's new food isn't actually the first strange meat product I've eaten today - I had a hot dog at Costco this afternoon. It's always funny to me how people are so resistant to offal, but they'll gladly eat hot dogs and other processed meats. At least with offal, I know what part I'm actually eating, right? Anyway, I promised my readers that I'd pick back up today with more of the pork offal that I got with the combo platter that I bought from the Super H Mart a few days ago. The pig's ear was super strange, and the liver was much better, but today it was time to try the tongue. I really like beef tongue, so I was curious to see how this differed.
Like the other offerings from the combo platter, the tongue was sliced thin and steamed before serving. Before eating, I reheated a few pieces in the microwave then sprinkled a bit of the salt/spice seasoning on it. My first bite reminded me of pork roast, but a bit chewier and tougher. The texture was a lot like beef tongue, but it definitely had a much more pork-centric taste. Really tasty, and I could have gladly finished it if I wasn't going to dinner relatively soon. If I had to compare it to one thing, I'd say it's close to roast pork, but a little bit chewier/stringier.

If you like pork at all, don't be scared to try the tongue. If it's sliced thin and seasoned, it's just as good as any other cut. Well, except maybe belly.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Day 145

"Apple" Banana: If some of you have been checking back today in hopes of reading my post about trying pig tongue, I apologize. I went out for dinner unexpectedly tonight, and after a killer cheeseburger at Craftbar, I wasn't really up for stuffing strange pig parts in my mouth. That'll come tomorrow, but for today, I decided to try this unusual piece of fruit I found during my shopping trip at the Super H Mart a few days ago. I spied these tiny bananas in the produce section, but at first couldn't figure out what they were or how they were different. My only clue was the small label from Del Monte, which labeled it as an "apple" variety. I had no idea what that meant, but I knew it was something perfect for me to try.
The first difference was the size - it was about half of a regular banana, but the same shape. The outer skin was a bit rougher and paler in color, and I was curious to see what the "apple" label was all about. I peeled it and took a bite, and the flavor surprised me. It really did have a fruity, tart taste, almost like a regular banana that hasn't ripened. The fruit flavor became more obvious with each bite, and I actually detected a mango (not apple, actually) flavor that was really interesting. Good stuff. I also liked the small size, since I often end up not eating the whole banana after I peel it.

I'd definitely buy these again, especially since I prefer bananas when they're in their tart, under-ripe stage. Highly recommend.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day 144

Pork Liver: Today's new food is another offering from the combo platter of pork offal I bought yesterday at the Super H Mart in Doraville. After a truly strange experience with the pig's ear I tasted yesterday, I decided to keep it a little safer today and try the liver. I really love beef and chicken liver, so I was curious to see what pork liver was all about. I've probably had it in various pates and terrines without knowing it, but I've never had it in its unadulterated form.
The liver had been previously steamed (like the other offerings in the platter), then sliced thinly into small servings. It had a dark brown appearance like other liver I've had, and the taste was rich, spongy and gamy - pretty close to chicken or beef liver. If you've never had liver, it's a difficult taste to describe. It has a quality all its own, unlike any other part of the animal it comes from. Some people love it, and I actually prefer it fried to steamed or sauteed. However, this was actually pretty tasty, and the salt/spice dip included only added to the strong flavor. Not something I could eat a huge portion of, but in small doses it can be great.

Coming up next...stomach and tongue. Oh yeah.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 143

Steamed Pig's Ear: Ok, so today's post is a return to the stuff I enjoy the most: offal and any other related strange parts. I did some shopping today at the Super H Mart in Doraville, which is one of my fave places to browse. Their inventory is primarily Asian, and I always manage to find some great new foods there. After looking through the produce (which I've disturbingly eaten most of now), I wandered back to the prepared foods section to see if there was anything new. There was a long table where some cooked items were displayed, and I saw some tantalizing offerings, including pan-fried kimchi, some tasty looking fried mackerel, and the piece-de-resistance: this combo platter of pig offal. Aside from how awesomely interesting this looked, it was a way to score 4 new foods for less than $5. Nice. The platter included pig's ear, stomach, liver, tongue and some of the amazing Korean blood sausage that I love so much (but obviously won't count as new).

After a long day in the recording studio recording some bass tracks for a local producer, I ventured home to make some dinner, and I decided to try a bit of the pig's ear for an appetizer. I've eaten plenty of pig parts in my time, but never the ear. As far as I know, all the items in this package were cooked by steaming, and it also included a small container of the salt/spice mix that's common with many Korean dishes.
I grabbed a small piece of the ear (pictured above) and took a bite. Wow. I guess the texture could best be described as "squeaky." The ear was sliced thinly, and the fattier outer layer thinly covered the inner cartilage, which made a resounding "snap" when I bit into it. The "snap" kept happening as I kept chewing - this was a truly new texture for me. I can't say I enjoyed it, to be honest. It didn't have a lot of flavor on it's own, and it tasted more fatty than anything. I tried another piece, this time dipping it into the salt/spice mix, and that definitely added some flavor.

Maybe pig's ear is better when prepared other ways - a friend of mine has raved about a "crispy pig's ear salad" at a restaurant in Chicago. This was ok, but it was more about texture than taste. I'm looking forward to trying the rest of this platter over the next few days - stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 142

"Smiling Fish" Brand Fried Mackerels in Green Curry Sauce: So I hope my readers are glad to know that my stomach is officially better after last week's nasty sickness. I took it easy for a few days, sticking to light meals (and light new blog items), but today marks a return to the stuff I love trying. I bought these fish snacks a few weeks ago at the BHFM in the Thai section, but I haven't had the chance to try them until today. I love any canned fish product, so these looked especially interesting to me. Most canned fish items aren't mixed with sauces, but these featured a green curry/coconut milk sauce mixed with the fried mackerel. Time to try.

I pulled open the tab on the can, and the first thing I noticed was the smell - kind of like cat food. Hmm, not a good way to start, but I decided to keep going. I poured the contents into a small plastic bowl, and the appearance wasn't any better. If I'd seen this stuff last week, my vomit reflex would have kicked in instantly. Thankfully that wasn't the case this week, so I eagerly dug in. The mackerel filets didn't really taste fried, but the green curry sauce definitely had a spicy, sweet kick that wasn't too bad. The fish itself was, well, appropriately fishy, but I don't mind that sort of thing. If you like spicy green curry and/or little fried fish, check these out if you see them at the BHFM.

For my money, it's hard to beat the Eastern European brands for canned fish products, but these were good for a change of pace.