Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 197

Oxtail Slider with Onion Jam: Much to my pleasure, this week has offered several new food surprises for me. It's great when I discover something totally by happenstance, and luckily that happened to me again tonight. Me and the GF were able to attend Atlanta Magazine's "Best Of Atlanta" party at the Cobb Galleria, which features vendor booths from all of the magazine's "best of" categories from this past year. The ticket proceeds go to charity, and with the price of admission comes the luxury of sampling unlimited food and drink from all of the featured restaurants and markets. We went last year as well, and while the food was great, I didn't expect to find anything brand new to me this year. Thankfully, I was wrong.

As we started navigating the numerous booths,  I noticed something early on that I'd never had before: oxtail. I know oxtail is a common ingredient in a lot of Jamaican and African cuisine, but this version from the Shed at Glenwood was featured on a slider with an onion jam topping. I'd been wanting to try oxtail (and their sliders) for awhile, so I was glad to finally see what the hype was about.
I pushed my way to the front of the line and grabbed one off the Shed's table, and we quickly moved to a quiet spot so I could try. The slider was constructed like any other sandwich, and a small amount of the onion jam was placed on top of the oxtail, which seemed to be pulled/shredded much like pork. I took a bite, and was impressed. The oxtail reminded me of pulled pork or beef pot roast, and had a slightly gamier flavor than either of those. The onion jam (which I don't think I've ever had either) provided a slightly sweet contrast to the meat, and overall, it was one of the better sandwiches I've had in awhile. I know the Shed has a "slider night" where they feature creative spins on them, so I should really put that on my food schedule soon.

Incidentally, oxtail doesn't come from an ox at all - it's actually cattle tail. It's usually slow-cooked or braised and apparently makes a good stock for soup. I'm glad I finally got to try it, and I hope to experience it again in another dish soon.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day 196

Turnip Cake: Today marked another first for me: I had my inaugural Dim Sum experience! I've been meaning to do it for awhile now, but I'm frequently out of town on weekends, and that's when most dim sum menus occur. Luckily for me, I wasn't busy this weekend, so I was finally able to give it a shot at Canton House on Buford Highway. I wish I could take credit for this meal, but I have to thank my new foodie friend Sarah (follow her on Twitter @sasoffer) for getting the ball rolling on this experience. I've been trying to interact face-to-face with some fellow bloggers and food fans lately, and so far, the results have been great.

If you're not familiar with dim sum, it works like this: you sit down, and servers wheel carts by your table featuring small servings of all different kinds of food. If something looks good, you say "yes" and they give you one. I could write exhaustively about all we ate today, but unfortunately, this blog has to be narrowed down to one new thing. I knew that there had to be several new foods for me to pick from, but as the carts rolled by, I lost count of the things that I didn't recognize at all. Luckily, our "guide" Sarah knew what was good, and we let her do the ordering. It's rare that I let someone else do my choosing for me, but considering how awesome everything looked, I wasn't worried.

In addition to some really amazing clams in spicy black bean sauce, shumai with pork and shrimp, and BBQ pork buns, I got to try something brand new to me, simply called "turnip cake." I don't have any experience with turnips, and this slightly gelatinous-looking square didn't look like anything I've ever eaten. This was the dim sum experience I was looking for. 
Since we were sharing, I grabbed my chopsticks and broke off a small piece. From what I could tell, it looked like the "cake" was pan-fried, and served over a small amount of what appeared to be soy sauce. Despite the gooey texture (which I know turns a lot of people off), I was really exciting to see what this was all about. I took a bite, and it definitely had a firm but gelatinous texture, like I expected. The flavor was a bit sweet, with some saltiness courtesy of what I later decided was oyster sauce in the bottom of the dish. It reminded me of the Asian products I've eaten made with rice flour, and I really enjoyed it.

After doing some research on this dish tonight, I was shocked to discover that there's actually no turnip in turnip cake! According to Wikipedia, turnip is used in the name only, and it's actually a Cantonese dish made from shredded daikon radish and plain rice flour. I've been duped!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day 195

Hamachi Crudo: Today's new food was rather unplanned, but my favorite posts have usually been foods that creep up unexpectedly. While trying to decide on dinner, the GF suggested an impromptu visit to the Sound Table since it was close by. I'm a big fan of their food (and cocktails), and I've had several great meals there. Luckily, we managed to grab the last table before they stopped seating downstairs.

After perusing the menu, I noticed something I'd seen on several menus (especially sushi bars), but never actually eaten: hamachi crudo. I usually stick to tuna or salmon when eating raw fish, so I was curious to find out what the Sound Table did with a dish like this. I knew that crudo referred to a raw preparation, but past that, I wasn't sure what to expect. Their version was listed as being prepared with "sichimi togarashi, habanero sesame oil, pineapple." That was enough to sell me, so I ordered.
A few minutes later, our server brought the dish, and I was hungry and eager to try. It basically consisted of a few small slices of hamachi underneath a small amount of what appeared to be soy sauce, with some tiny chunks of pineapple placed around the fish. Based on the ingredients, I knew the flavors would be light and clean, with some heat provided by the togarashi (a Japanese spice mixture).

My first bite was really tasty - the hamachi had an extremely mild but slightly buttery flavor, and the togarashi sprinkled lightly on top definitely brought some spice. As far as raw fish goes, it was some of the better stuff I've had in quite awhile, and slightly reminiscent of tuna. However, I couldn't quite detect the habanero sesame oil, and the liquid covering the bottom of the dish definitely tasted like soy sauce to me. Maybe it was mixed with the soy, but no big deal - it was still good. If you like Asian flavors and/or raw fish, give this one a try on your next trip to the Sound Table.

After getting home and doing some research, I learned that crudo is used to describe a raw fish dish in Italian cuisine. I'm not sure why the ST's version leaned more to the Asian side considering that, but I'm glad I tried anyway.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 194

Pixie Tangerine: Much to my surprise, I actually had a decent haul of new foods from Whole Foods on Ponce a couple days ago. Even though their produce is always high-quality and fresh, I don't usually find too much out of the ordinary there. My readers probably know how much I like discovering new fruits, so when I saw these little "pixie" tangerines, I had to try. I haven't had a regular tangerine in years, so I wondered what these were all about. I'm rarely disappointed with citrus, so how could it be bad?
Since this specimen was tiny (smaller than a tennis ball), I decided to try it as a afternoon snack. The skin was much like any other tangerine or orange, so instead of peeling, I cut it in half before segmenting. Inside, it looked like your standard citrus fruit - nothing new. Taste-wise, it wasn't really any different from a normal tangerine. It had the same juicy sweetness, with a bit of tart in the finish. Good, but no new flavors for me.
I could see buying a few of these if I didn't want to chance wasting full-size oranges or tangerines. I'm guilty of buying fruit in bulk with good intentions, then letting it spoil in the fridge as I eat pulled pork, fried chicken or other unhealthy stuff instead. I'm certain I'm not the only one with this problem, so check these out if you want a bite-sized burst of fruitiness.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 193

"Crispy-Green" Crispy Asian Pears: Today's post is another find from yesterday's trip to Whole Foods on Ponce. Like I said, I don't do a lot of shopping there, largely due to the prices. However, I did manage to find quite a few things there that surprised me, and luckily I didn't spend much money at all (hello, free samples). As I was looking through the dried foods section, I noticed a display of dried fruits that were on sale. Usually, the words "on sale" have to be taken liberally at WF, but these little bags of fruit made by Crispy-Green were only $0.89. That's practically free for WF, and since I'd never tried freeze-dried pear before, I threw a bag into my basket.
I decided to try these today as an addition to my lunch, since I didn't have any real dessert stuff on hand. I've only had freeze-dried fruit when it's been added to cereal, like those strawberries found in Special K. I like Asian pear by itself, so I was looking forward to finding out what these freeze-dried pieces were all about. According to the bag, the contents were equivalent to one whole pear, which didn't seem possible given the size of the bag. Oh well, on to the eating.

I opened the bag and dumped a few pieces into my hand. First of all, I really don't see how the bag contained a whole pear - there was hardly anything in it. I know freeze-drying shrinks things, but wow. Anyway, the dried chips actually tasted good, but dissolved in my mouth almost as soon as I started chewing. They were mildly sweet and really crunchy, but I only detected a small amount of pear taste. After a few bites, the bag was empty. Even at $0.89, the price still seemed too high for so little food.
Whole Foods also had these made with dried apples and bananas, but honestly, they weren't worth the price. My sister recently got a food dehydrator and makes this stuff herself, which I'd imagine is a much more economical way to enjoy dried fruit.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 192

"Chick-N-Fried" Tofu: Over time, I've noticed that I've tended to bounce around a pretty good bit when it comes to trying new foods. One day I might be trying some animal part of strange origin, the next eating a new fruit or vegetable. I really can't discriminate; if I did, it would be extremely difficult to complete 365 days of this project.

After yesterday's success with the weird but tasty mish-mash of pig parts called scrapple, I chose to go in a completely different direction today. I was completely out of new food, so I stopped by Whole Foods on Ponce to see if I could find anything interesting. I normally don't do much shopping at WF, since their gluten-free, vegan, organic, free-range inventory doesn't hold much interest for me. I'm not knocking it, but that kind of shopping isn't necessary for my needs (or my wallet - ouch). However, I needed something badly, and since it was close, I figured it couldn't hurt.

I've actually had great success with WF's hot bar as well as their salad bar. It's extremely overpriced, but if you ask the counter staff, they'll be glad to give you free sample cups to try things. And since my project only requires me to taste something for it to count, I've used this method several times. While browsing the bars today, I noticed something that was new to me (and halfway tasty-sounding): "chick-n-fried" tofu. Anyone that reads my blog knows how I feel about fake vegan meat (yes, I hate it), but I don't have a problem with tofu. And how could anything "chick-n-fried" be bad. right? I dropped a piece in my sample cup to take home.

Once I checked out and got home, I gave it a closer look. There seemed to be a nice crust on the chunk of tofu, but I wasn't sure if WF had actually deep-fried it. The ingredients stated that they used a dry chicken soup mix for the breading, so I'm not sure how vegetarian it really was. Whatever. Let's eat.

My first bite was surprising - it was really pretty tasty. The crunchy exterior reminded me of fried chicken breading, but the lack of grease led me to believe that it had been baked instead of deep-fried. After getting through the thin breading, the center was just your standard firm tofu, nothing special. Despite the lack of meat, I could have seriously eaten about 50 more of these, especially if I had some good honey mustard or BBQ sauce for dipping.With some mac n' cheese or collard greens as a side, it would have been a good meal.

I can apparently only handle fake meat or tofu if it's fried or baked with chicken breading. Obviously, I'll never be a vegetarian.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 191

Scrapple: Anyone who's followed my blog knows how much I love anything made from strange animal parts. I have a definite obsession with offal, and I've often found that dishes made with it taste much better than they look or sound. However, today's new food didn't look or sound appealing right from the start.

If you've never heard of "scrapple," don't feel bad. I'd never heard of it either until my grandfather recently told me about it. We were talking about my project, and while it's probably hard for an 84 year old man to grasp why I'm doing this, he didn't hesitate to tell me about some of the strange stuff he grew up eating. He asked me if I'd heard of scrapple, and I said no. I love being stumped by anything food-related, so he proceeded to school me. Based on his description, it sounded like something reminiscent of Spam, but he seemed to enjoy it. I'll try anything once, so when I saw a package of scrapple made by Dietz & Watson at YDFM, I knew I had to have it. And at only $2, it wouldn't be a big loss if it was bad.
I didn't have anything decent at home for lunch today, so I finally gave this strange-sounding scrapple a try. My grandfather had mentioned that he used to just pan-fry it until brown on each side, so I decided to get my redneck on and make a sandwich out of it with a Pillsbury "Grands" biscuit and a fried egg added. Can you tell I grew up in the south? Oh, and if you're curious about the ingredients, here they go as listed: pork stock, pork, pork skins, pork snouts, corn meal, pork liver, whole wheat flour, salt, spices. I'm guessing the name comes from the use of all those pork "scraps."
While the biscuits were baking, I fried the scrapple for about 5 minutes on each side to get it a bit brown and crispy. It cracked and popped a lot in the pan, but surprisingly, not that much grease rendered out. It smelled like bacon (or gravy) cooking, so I was excited to taste the results. I took the scrapple out of the pan, fried the egg, then assembled the sandwich.
How was it? Actually, really tasty. Imagine a solid, chewable version of sausage gravy, and you'll have a good idea of what this was about. It wasn't as greasy as I expected (much less so than bacon or plain sausage), and the salty, porky flavor paired well with the biscuit and runny fried egg. If you like sausage gravy, you'd love scrapple. One of my readers suggested pairing it with apple butter, and I'd imagine that salty/sweet combo would be awesome.

Interestingly, this version was also labeled "Philadelphia Style," and the D&W website says it's "an original Philadelphia breakfast delicacy and the only true Philadelphia Scrapple available in the market." According to Wikipedia, it was created by Dutch colonists and popularized in the Pennsylvania area. I'm glad that happened, because I've discovered a new favorite.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 190

Chang Gu Honey Dipped Snack: Today marks a return to the ubiquitous bagged Asian snacks that I was so fond of writing about a few months ago. Not by choice, mind you - I've had a busy and somewhat stressful past few days (long story), and I haven't had time to do any shopping. I wasn't up for doing any searching tonight, and my only other options besides this was something called "scrapple." That may be tomorrow's new food, but for today, I bring you "Chang Gu."
I actually bought this a few months ago at either the BHFM or Super H, but I cant remember which one. Not important - all that matters is what it tastes like, right? I've had fairly positive results with most of the Asian snacks, and this one claimed to be a honey-dipped snack, "original since 1973." I like keeping stuff like this on hand in case I don't get to shop, and tonight I was super-glad I kept it.
Based on the description, I assumed this would be a crunchy chip-like snack, and most likely sweet. I opened the bag and tried a few, and I was immediately reminded of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. I let the GF try one, and she thought they tasted like sweet Bugles, which was pretty accurate. Each tiny piece had a lightly sweet, cinnamon-flavored coating, but strangely, I couldn't find honey listed on the ingredients list (as promised on the front). Overall, it wasn't much different from a lot of American snacks, but still good.

Oh, and the kid on the front of the bag is kinda disturbing. He either has extremely rosy cheeks, or bruises - not sure which.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 189

Apricot Lavender Truffle: Today's new food post is unfortunately coming in right under the wire. I've had an extremely busy day, starting with brunch at the West Egg Cafe, followed by a private gig with my band. I attempted to do a post this morning with something I thought was new, but after doing some research, I realized it was just another version of a plain old orange - nothing really new at all. I didn't have time to go shopping after that, and I thought I'd be frantically searching tonight after my gig, looking for anything new. Luckily that didn't happen, since the GF managed to pick up some sweets this afternoon that surprisingly counted as a new food for me.

I know that chocolate truffles hardly sound like the breaking of new culinary ground, but these aren't any ordinary truffles. If you've never heard of Cacao in Inman Park (, you should. I've read about their artisanal chocolates several times now, and I've been wanting to sample them after hearing much praise from several food writers I respect. These apparently weren't anything like normal chocolate, and the GF picked up 3 flavors: apricot lavender, peanut butter & jelly, and cinnamon pear. If you're looking for run of the mill truffle flavors like strawberry, mint or coconut, you won't find them there. The apricot lavender used real pieces of lavender to provide the flavor - I could actually see it on top of the truffle itself. This was gonna be fun.
I took a small bite of the truffle, and was immediately blown away by how strong the real lavender taste was. It wasn't overpowering, but added a really interesting flavor to the chocolate. Speaking of the chocolate, it didn't taste like any other I've had. It had a definite semi-bittersweet taste, and not at all sugary sweet like what I'm used to. It also had small slivers of real apricot mixed in with the ganache-like filling, which was also dark and not too sweet. Overall, the flavors were great but intense, and I couldn't imagine gorging on these like I do with Lindor truffles and the like. And at this price ($2.50/piece), I couldn't afford to.
If you're curious at all about what real, unadulterated chocolate tastes like, Cacao is a great place to start. I'm glad I tried these, and I hope to try more in the near future.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 188

Salt & Vinegar Crickets: As my readers know by now, it's rare that I eat something that's completely brand new to me. Even though I make the effort to discover something new every day, I find that a lot of things that I eat are variations on foods that I've already had. However, today was definitely different.

A friend of mine bought something for me that he'd been promising to give me for awhile, and he was finally able to deliver it this afternoon. Yes, it was dried salt and vinegar flavored crickets - the insect kind. I've always wanted to try insects in any form, since I've seen them included on countless food shows and such. I know eating insects probably sounds disgusting to most people, but I'm not most people. These "crick-ettes" (as the package cleverly stated) were dried, then flavored with salt and vinegar, much like potato chips. Although I doubt the Lay's company will be introducing these in their product line any time soon.
I was really excited to try these, so I eagerly opened the package and poured a few into my hand. I'm not gonna lie and say that it wasnt a bit strange to be holding dried crickets in my hand, knowing they were going straight into my mouth. Anyway, I threw caution to the wind and dove in.
My first bite immediately reminded me of a crunchy potato chip in texture - maybe an air-puffed type, like Cheetos. The taste, aside from the salt/vinegar flavoring, reminded me of peanuts, but more like the taste of the peanut shell itself. Not bad...actually, pretty tasty! Once I got past the notion of what I was eating, I enjoyed them. If you put a bowl of these out with some beers as a party snack, people would love them. Well, provided that they weren't weirded out by eating crickets.

I'm so glad that I finally got to add insects to my list of new foods - it was a long time coming. Now I'm ready to try more. Thanks again to Michael Hoffman for providing them!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 187

Jicama: Today brings an end to this week's successful run of offerings from the YDFM salad bar. I managed to score 4 brand new things from one visit, and I even spotted a few more for next time if they're still offering them. Anyway, when I spotted jicama on the cold section of the salad bar, my curiosity was raised. I'd seen it on several menus around town as an ingredient in several dishes (especially salads) but never tried it, so I grabbed a couple of pieces and put them in my to-go box. I wasn't sure what jicama was (some kind of plant? a root?), but I was eager to try.
I didn't want these pieces of jicama to go bad, so I finally gave them a try this afternoon as a snack. I wasn't sure what the original product looked like, but what I had was cut into long, thin slices. It almost looked like thily sliced apple in texture and color. I bit off a small piece and was surprised - it had an extremely crunchy texture, almost exactly like an apple. The flavor was mildly sweet, not fruity at all, and it reminded me a bit of fresh water chestnuts found in Chinese cuisine. Very light and refreshing, and after trying, I could see why jicama would be a great ingredient in any salad. Its neutral flavor would probably hold up well with many other ingredients without overpowering them, so I might be adding this to some meals at home if possible.

Ok, so what is jicama? It's actually a root vegetable that resembles a turnip or beet in appearance, and it's popular in Mexican cuisine. It's also apparently rich in vitamin C and fat free, so I managed to eat something healthy without even knowing it. Score!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day 186

Baba Ghanoush: Every now and then, I manage to find something new from a cuisine that I've experienced plenty of times. I've eaten Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food on several occasions, and I've had the ubiquitous stuff (falafel, gyro, hummus, etc.) more times than I can count. However, when I spotted baba ghanoush on YDFM's salad bar a couple days ago, I knew it was time to finally try it. I've been meaning to order it whenever I saw it again on a Middle Eastern menu, but I haven't been to any of my faves in town for that type of cuisine lately. For now, this version from the YDFM would have to do.

Baba Ghanoush is apparently much like hummus, but made primarily from eggplant instead of chickpeas. The eggplant is cooked, then mashed with a variety of seasonings. I love hummus and could eat it daily, so I was looking forward to giving this a shot with my lunch today. I didn't get much of it from the buffet, but enough to formulate an opinion.
Sorry about the picture - I had a really hard time getting the small amount to look decent while being plated on the to-go container. Anyway, my first impression upon trying was the overwhelming lemony flavor. Maybe whoever made it used too much, but it was a bit off-putting. The second thing I tasted was garlic - lots of it. The eggplant had a nice, smooth texture, but the lemon and garlic both left an aftertaste that didn't go away until I downed a big glass of water. There was also a spicy note that I couldn't quite identify, and it made me sweat a little bit. Overall, I can't say I enjoyed it, which surprised me. Maybe I was unlucky enough to get a bad batch from YDFM, but I'd definitely be willing to try it again to compare.

If anyone knows where I can get a authentic version of baba ghanoush, please let me know. I don't want to give up on it based on this negative first impression.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 185

Ratatouille: Today's post is another find from Your Dekalb Farmers Market's hot bar that I visited yesterday. I was excited to see several items on the bar that I'd never tried, and with a price of only $4.99/lb, I managed to take home 4 different new foods. Not bad. After a fairly positive experience yesterday with the Indian dish masoor dal, I was looking forward to trying something else.

When I saw the classic French dish ratatouille on YDFM's hot bar, I knew I had to take some home. I'd never heard of it before the movie became popular a few years ago, and I still didn't know what was in it. I do a fair amount of restaurant dining, but I don't think I've ever seen it on a menu in Atlanta. That being said, I was surprised to see it on this hot bar. I had no idea if their version was authentic (or even good), but I spooned a small amount onto my to-go plate anyway.
I decided to give it a try with my lunch today, and i hoped it would hold up well after reheating in the microwave. I usually do a bit of research about what I'm eating before I try it, but I decided to skip that step with this - it looked innocent enough. With my first bite, I instantly picked up on a strong tomato flavor, which wasn't that surprising due to the color of the dish. I also noticed some tender chunks of zucchini, onion, and possible eggplant in the mix, and the whole thing was really hearty. There was a small amount of oil left in the plate when I finished, but I assume that's used to get the vegetables tender in the cooking process. I could see it working well as a side dish, or as a main if paired with some bread or rice. Good stuff.

When I finally did some research tonight, Wikipedia stated that "tomatoes are a key ingredient, with garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper, carrot, marjoram and basil." It was hard for me to detect all of those, and maybe YDFM's version didn't even contain the whole list. Nevertheless, it was a tasty dish that I'm glad I tried.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 184

Masoor Dal: As my readers probably know, I'm always on the lookout for new methods of finding new foods for the blog. It's easy to end up in a lot of the same markets continuously, but even the old standbys can offer surprises. A few days ago, the GF recommended I take look at the hot bar/salad bar in Your Dekalb Farmers Market. I've been there countless times and noticed that section, but I've never even walked through it. I assumed that it contained standard hot/cold buffet items, but she told me that she'd noticed a few oddities there that I may not have tried. That made sense, since YDFM caters to a wide range of backgrounds and ethnicities. Since I was completely out of food today, I figured it wouldn't hurt to check it out.

Once I got there, I walked into the hot bar area and started browsing. The GF was right - they definitely had some stuff I'd never tried. There were some of the usual southern buffet items (mac and cheese, fried chicken, collard greens, etc.), but I also noticed some standouts that were new to me. One of these was "masoor dal." They actually had it spelled "masur dahi" on the info card, but I discovered the correct spelling when I got home. From a glance, it looked to be an Indian dish, and it looked like a soupier, more orange-looking version of the curried lentils I tried a couple months ago. I really had no idea what this was, so I put some in my to-go container.
Once I got home, I decided to try this dish as a little snack. I didn't get much of it, but definitely enough to form an opinion. My first bite reminded me a lot of curried lentils, but much more spicy and curry-flavored. The soupy texture would probably be good mopped up with some flatbread, but since dinner wasn't far away, I didn't go that route. I also noticed some chunks of cooked carrot, which added some flavor and texture to the whole mix. Like most Indian food I've tried, I really liked it. Which reminds me, I really need to eat in an actual Indian restaurant soon. I've been putting it off for too long.

What is masoor dal made from, you ask? I was wondering the same thing. According to Wikipedia, ""Dal" actually refers to dried lentils, peas or beans which have been stripped of their outer hulls, then split. It also refers to the thick stew made from these." Masoor refers to the red lentil, and this particular dish is made from combining those in a pressure cooker with several other ingredients and spices, including onion, tomato, turmeric, curry leaves, cumin and ghee (clarified butter).

More to come from my YDFM hot bar visit soon...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 183

Lotus Nut Paste Bun: Today's post actually contains 2 new items in one, and I'm actually embarrassed to say that I've never eaten a traditional Chinese steamed bun in any form. I've heard nothing but great things about them for the last few years, so when I noticed these frozen versions at the Cobb County Farmers Market last weekend, I decided it was time to finally try. I know that a lot of purists may wonder about me trying frozen versions of anything first, but it's not always easy to find fresh, even in a city as diverse as Atlanta. These also contained something called "lotus nut paste," which I've never had either.Was it made from a lotus, or lotus nuts? Time to find out.

Since I didn't eat much lunch, I figured one of these couldn't hurt as an afternoon snack. The package contained 6 pieces, each a bit bigger than a baseball cut in half. After covering with a wet paper towel and heating in the microwave for 45 seconds, I grabbed a knife and cut it in half. I could immediately detect a smell that reminded me of freshly-kneaded bread dough, which is hard not to love. According to the ingredients, the bun itself was made from water, sugar, baking powder, yeast, and something called "dough improver." The brownish lotus nut paste in the middle was indeed made from lotus nuts, as well as a mix of mung bean, sugar, rapeseed oil and glucose. It smelled good enough, so I was excited to finally try.
I grabbed one of the halves and took a bite, and the steamy chewiness of the bun was actually pretty good. It had a much more spongy texture than bread, and the brief "steaming" in the microwave managed to not dry it out like I expected. The lotus nut paste provided a mildly sweet, grainy filling, and it reminded me a lot of the red bean paste commonly found in many Asian pastries. I know that these types of buns can be filled with almost anything, but this one would maybe be best suited for a side item or light breakfast/dessert.
Even though I enjoyed this frozen bun, I'd really like to know where I can find a good fresh version in Atlanta. I've heard that Chef Liu's on Bu-Hi does a good job with them, so if anyone can confirm that (or suggest other locations), please let me know.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 182

Totis "Donitas" Fried Flour Chips: Today's blog entry marks a milestone for me, and if you guys don't mind, I'm gonna pat myself on the back for second. As of today, I'm officially halfway through this experiment. I try to not think too much about the time line for this endeavor, but it's hard to ignore the fact that it's halfway over. I really wasn't sure what was going to happen once I started, and I'm not gonna lie - some days it's been a huge annoyance. But overall, I've eaten a lot of really great stuff and learned more about food than I ever thought I would. Let's hope the next 182 days are just as productive.

Anyway, today's new food is a bagged snack I found during my last visit to the BHFM. It sort of confused me at first - it looked like a Hispanic product (lots of Spanish on the bag), but was located in the Jamaican aisle. The bag described these "Donitas" as "fried flour chips with chili and artificial lime flavor." Mmm, artificial lime flavor. Plus, the Trix Rabbit knock-off on the front of the bag had me even more confused. Based on the word "fried," I figured it couldnt hurt to try these.
I decided to try these as a pre-dinner snack tonight, so I opened the bag and grabbed a handful of the tiny ringlets. I popped a few in my mouth, and they immediately reminded me of the fried dough taste I've experienced a million times at state fairs and such. After a few chews, they melted quickly in my mouth, almost like they were never there. However, they were pretty tasty, and I managed to put away several handfuls before stopping. The chile/lime flavoring was spicy but not overbearing, and it managed to leave an orange coating on my fingers reminiscent of Cheeto dust. Nice.
If you're in the market for a interesting potato chip alternative, check these out if you're in the BHFM or any similar markets. I'm still confused about the rabbit, though.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day 181

Dulce de Camote (Sweet Potato Candy): As my readers know by now, I love it when I find an item that completely mystifies me. It doesn't happen that often, but when I saw this Mexican candy last week at the BHFM, I was stumped. I actually spotted it first at the Plaza Fiesta on Buford Highway - one of the candy vendors there was selling these huge chunks of what appeared to be candied fruit in various shapes and colors. I didn't buy any there, but when I was paying for some other purchases at the BHFM, I noticed that they had some smaller pieces stocked in the rack near the cash register. Seeing something twice in one day was enough to raise my curiosity, so I grabbed a piece of this dulce de camote (sweet potato candy) to take home.

I decided to finally give it a shot this morning, and even though this had the words "sweet potato" in the description, I really wasn't sure what I'd be eating. Was it actually a piece of sweet potato, or was it just pure sugar flavored with sweet potato? Time to find out.
I unwrapped the plastic from around the candy, and I noticed that the only ingredients listed on the label were sweet potato, sugar, and a couple types of sodium. Interesting. I took a bite, and one thing immediately came to mind: candied yams. It tasted just like that, and after a few seconds, I knew that this was obviously a piece of candied sweet potato, just like i guessed. Pretty tasty, but I could only handle a couple bites due to its syrupy sweetness.

If you like candied yams and have a craving for a portable version, check these out. I'm sure most Hispanic markets around town have them, but I can verify that Plaza Fiesta and the BHFM both have them. Now I'm curious to find out what all those other colors and shapes of this candy are all about.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 180

Xoconostle (Sour Prickly Cactus): Today's new food is one that I had to do a bit of research on before I actually ate it. During this experiment, I've been lucky enough to not repeat anything, not even accidentally. However, I thought I was almost in danger of doing so when I got ready to eat this odd little cactus. I ate another kind of prickly cactus fruit way back during the first couple months of my blog, and the GF thought that this may have been the exact same thing. I don't know if I'd be able to live with myself if I screwed up and re-tried something, but sometimes it's hard to remember what I've eaten. Luckily, this one was different, so the crisis was averted. I really need to print out a list of what I've tried when I go shopping.

I noticed this xoconostle while shopping at the BHFM a couple days ago. I could barely pronounce the name, but it looked interesting enough to try. My previous experience with cactus fruit wasn't good, and the end result was just some sour pulp filled with teeth-crunching seeds. I hoped this one would prove to be better.
Upon first glance, this one looked noticeably different from the prickly pear cactus I tried before. The skin was an interesting blend of green/pink hues, and it was much smoother than the prickly version. I cut it in half, and the center was filled with a mass of reddish pulp and seeds. The outer later was a light yellow color, and looked to be fairly juicy. I scooped out a small spoonful of the pulp and gave it a try - wow, it was bitter, with almost zero sweetness. The seeds were almost too crunchy to be edible, and since I don't have dental insurance, I spit them out after sucking the pulp from them. Not so great.
The flesh was actually much different in texture, almost like a really under-ripe peach, but even more bitter in taste than the pulp. I've had the bad luck of picking a lot of bitter fruit over the past couple weeks, so I wasn't exactly thrilled about this. I tried a couple bites before giving up - oh well.

Apparently xoconostles are frequently used in salsas and syrups, and even sometimes candied or turned into marmalade. Maybe they aren't meant to be consumed raw? I'm not sure, but at least I gave it a shot.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day 179

Fragrant Pear: As my readers know by now, I always love finding new fruits to try. Aside from usually being tasty, they're also an economical way to experience something new. People frequently ask me if I do all my new food finding in restaurants, and while that sounds fun, it would probably leave me broke. Besides, who wants to eat out every single day for 365 days straight? As much as I love good restaurants, I really enjoy eating at home.

Anyway, when I was doing some shopping at the BHFM yesterday, I noticed these "fragrant pears" in the produce section. I'd heard of them before, and all I knew was that they were of Asian descent. I've eaten several varieties of pear during the course of this blog, with varying results. Overall, I like pears a lot, so I decided to give this one a try.
Visually, this "fragrant" variety didn't look much different than many others I've eaten. It was a bit smaller than my fist in size, and had a slightly bumpy, bright green skin. It felt extremely firm, so I expected it to be crunchy. OK, on to the eating. I cut a small piece off and took a bite, and my suspicions about the crunchiness were right - it was probably one of the juiciest, crunchiest pears I've ever tried. Unfortunately, I didn't find it to be that flavorful. This one was mostly sweet, with no tartness that I could detect. I prefer a lot more tartness with my fruit selections, and this just didn't have it. Regardless, the ultra-crunchy texture was enough for me to enjoy, and I could see this being a great addition to a fruit salad for that reason alone. On its own, it was just alright.
Oh, and I really didn't pick up on the "fragrant" element. Maybe I missed something, but even after sniffing a few times, I didn't get it. According to online sources, it's supposed to have a floral scent. Hmm.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day 178

Chebureki: As I've stated before, shopping for this blog has become more difficult than I anticipated. Even in a city like Atlanta that has a vibrant food culture and several ethnic markets, I tend to see the same things over and over again. I'm sure the average shopper doesn't notice this like I do, but then again, the average shopper probably wouldn't dream of doing what I'm doing. Anyway, after a couple of failed attempts at grocery buying on Buford Highway, I wound up at the Buford Highway Farmers Market again. Even though I've done a lot of shopping there, I always seem to notice something new on each trip.

While browsing the Eastern European section (one of my favorites in the market), I noticed a type of pastry in the deli section that I'd never seen before: chebureki. I love their freshly-made piroshki, and I was curious to find out if this one was as tasty as those. I asked the lady behind the counter what was in it, and she told me it was filled with beef and pork. It's hard to beat a savory Russian pastry, so I took one home to eat for dinner tonight.
After reheating the chebureki in the oven to keep it from getting soggy, I dove in. It looked like it was made from standard pastry dough, and the shape reminded me of a mini-sized calzone (or huge ravioli). When I cut it in half, the filling looked to be a light-colored mix of ground beef and pork. I'm not sure if these were deep-fried or baked in the store, but the exterior was a bit greasy. Anyway, I took a bite, and was really impressed. The dough retained a nice crunch even after reheating, and the beef/pork mix was just salty enough to pair well with the flaky crust. Yum. Just as good as piroshki, but extremely filling. One of these is definitely enough for most appetites, especially when paired with a couple of sides.
Even though the BHFM can seem overwhelming, I can't recommend the Eastern European section enough. If you really want to take home something special, try any of the savory pastries - especially the chebureki!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 177

Arepa De Queso (Cheese Corn Cakes): Today's new food is another purchase from my visit to the Cobb County Farmers Market this past Sunday. While I wasn't that impressed with the market, I did find a couple interesting things that were new to me. While me and the GF were browsing the frozen section, she noticed something that excited her: arepas. She grew up in Miami, and apparently these were a popular street food there. She insisted that I try them, and I couldn't argue with the idea of anything made from a combo of white cornmeal and cheese. I doubted they would be as good as a fresh version, but still worth trying all the same.
I decided to give these a try tonight as a side with my dinner, so I defrosted them and heated up a pan with a bit of butter for cooking. The idea was to get them brown on both sides, which didn't take long after the pan got hot. The GF was confused as to why these didn't have any visible cheese, since the ones she was used to were made sandwich-style with cheese in the middle. We decided that the cheese was blended with the cornmeal with these, but no big deal.
When they were done, I eagerly tried a bite, and was impressed. The taste was much like a corn tamale, but a bit sweeter due to the blend of cheese and butter. Not exactly healthy eating, but I could have easily eaten another one if we hadn't had shrimp and vegetables to accompany them. The exterior had a nice crunch from heating in the pan, and I bet they'd also be good as a dessert, sprinkled with powdered sugar or honey. Maybe I'll try that next time.

I'd love to try a homemade/fresh version of arepas now, so if anyone knows where I can find them in the ATL area, please feel free to let me know.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 176

Sour Orange: After finishing today's new food, I've realized that I should avoid most things labeled "sour." Well, let me first explain how I came to find today's post. While I was out doing a couple errands yesterday with the GF, she suggested stopping by the Cobb County Farmer's Market. We were headed in that direction already, and she said that she'd previously seen it on the way to work. I'd never heard of it, but I was willing to stop by and see what it was all about. The market itself wasn't that great - kind of a like a BHFM lite, with a fairly limited selection compared to other markets in the area. However, I did manage to find a couple interesting things, one of which was this fruit labeled as a "sour orange." As my readers know, I have a fairly low tolerance for anything sour, but at $0.99/lb, it wasn't going to hurt to try these.
I decided to give this one a shot this afternoon, so I sliced it in half and gave it an inspection. The outer skin looked like a standard orange, but had some dark spotting on it that I wasn't familiar with. It was also much thicker than expected, and it took a bit of sawing with my paring knife to get through it (or maybe my knife is getting dull, who knows). The flesh looked like most oranges, but was studded with lots of small seeds.
Ok, time to taste. After peeling off a wedge and popping in my mouth, I was instantly taken aback by the overwhelming sourness. I tried chewing it for a few seconds, but all I could taste was the sour, nothing else. It was like almost like eating a lemon wedge. In the end, it was too much for me to take, and I ended up spitting it in the garbage. That doesn't happen very often, and I think the last time that happened was when I tried jackfruit. Needless to say, I don't think I'll be finishing the rest of it.

I later found out that sour orange (also called "bitter orange") is used frequently in herbal medicines, perfumes and marmalades. It doesn't appear that it's eaten by itself that often, and after tasting its sourness, I can see why.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day 175

Barbacoa de Chivo Torta: Some of my favorite new food blog posts have resulted totally by accident, and today's entry definitely falls in that category. Earlier this afternoon, me and the GF were headed to get some lunch, but the place we were headed to turned out to be closed on Sunday. Instead of being too bummed, we started brainstorming for other options. I wasn't super hungry, so I suggested El Rey Del Taco on Buford Highway. I'm a huge fan of El Rey - it's my favorite traditional Mexican joint in this area, and I knew I could maybe order a couple of tacos there instead of knocking back a whole meal. However, once we got there, something else caught my eye: the torta made with barbacoa de chivo (barbecued goat). I've never had goat in any fashion, so I had to order it.
If you've never had a torta, you're missing out. It's basically a hot Mexican sandwich, filled with various ingredients, and served on a crusty roll that's been pressed like a panini. This one featured barbacoa de chivo, avocado, tomato, jalapeno and cheese - yum. I was eager to find out what the goat tasted like, and after pulling the sandwich apart, I noticed that it looked a lot like shredded pulled pork. If it tasted anything like that, I knew it'd be great.

After the first bite, I was impressed. The barbacoa de chivo did indeed taste a lot like pulled pork, only a bit more salty and gamy. It was mixed with some sort of spicy red sauce, so I'm not sure what it actually tasted like on its own. However, it was still tasty, and the addition of the tomato/avocado/jalapeno/cheese only made the whole thing better. Even though this was good, I'd like to try a dish featuring goat that's a bit more unadulterated so I can find out what the flavor is really like.

I wasn't hungover at all today, but if you're looking for a great hangover food, a torta from El Rey would be a godsend. It's a gooey, cheesy, crunchy mess that can't be beat. Highly recommend.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day 174

Wallaby Australian Style Maple Yogurt: Ok, so today's new food may not be as exciting as some of the stuff I've been blogging about over the last few days, but not everything I find can be sensational. While doing a bit of ill-advised dinner shopping this afternoon at Your Dekalb Farmers Market (they were insanely, uncomfortably busy), I noticed something in the dairy section that caught my eye. I've had quite a few different types of yogurts during the course of my blog, but I'd never heard of "Australian Style." This one, made by Wallaby, is the first one I'd seen that was called that, and it was also maple flavored. I like maple, and wasn't sure what "Australian Style" was, so that was good enough for me to consider trying.
I've found that there isn't much variation with yogurt, regardless of what the packaging claims. Greek yogurt is the only one that's had a noticeably different texture/taste to me, but I was curious to see if this one surprised me. After opening the lid and stirring, it didn't look any different than any other creamy yogurt I've eaten. I took a bite, and wasn't surprised to find that it didn't really taste any different either. However, the subtle maple flavor was pretty good - just a hint of maple syrup taste in the finish. I could see eating this as a light dessert or snack, but I don't understand what was "Australian" about it. It just seemed like yogurt to me.

Regarding real Australian cuisine, I know virtually nothing, except that they like Vegemite. And I'm guessing Outback doesn't count. I need to do some research and find out what's really eaten there.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 173

Blood Pasta: Today's post marks a return to the stuff I love the most: offal and any strange variations thereof. I just finished a whole week of Brazilian food, and was eager to restart the blog with something truly different. However, I can't take credit for this discovery - the GF actually noticed it on the restaurant Abattoir's Twitter page yesterday. If you've never eaten there, you're definitely missing out. It's by far one of my favorite places in ATL, and offers something special each time I visit. When she told me that they'd posted an update mentioning blood pasta as a special, I knew I had to have it. I had no idea what blood pasta was, but we promptly booked reservations for tonight to find out.

After arriving, I noticed that the dish was listed on the offal/salted/cured portion of the menu as "blood sausage/blood orange/blood pasta." I love blood sausage and blood orange, but I truly had no idea what the blood pasta would consist of. I asked our super-friendly server about it, and he stated that it was made from only pork blood and flour, nothing else. He also mentioned that it was tossed in raw egg (much like a carbonara), and then served in a blood orange broth with the sausage on top. Yum. I couldn't wait for it to come to the table.
After a few minutes, the dish arrived. I noticed that the blood pasta was cut like spaghetti, but much thicker. After trying a bite of the sausage (rich, salty, bloody goodness, as usual), I dove into the pasta. The texture was a bit firmer than al dente, and it had a smoky, sweet taste that wasn't like any other pasta I've had. Mixed with the light blood orange broth and egg, it was delicious. Believe it or not, the GF actually tried both the sausage and the pasta, which kind of shocked me. I'd never seen her try anything made with blood, so this was a major turning point for her. And, she enjoyed both. I was proud.
Incidentally, I asked the server if anyone else had ordered this dish tonight. Sadly, he said no. I know anything with the word "blood" in the description is probably a hard sell, but it's a shame more people aren't willing to try this sort of thing. Maybe its inclusion on more upscale restaurant menus will make it a bit more palatable over time. In the meantime, more for me, right?

The rest of the meal was also great, In addition to this dish, we also had some awesome cocktails, pickled shrimp, a really tasty chicken dish, and a beef stew featuring tongue, tripe, bacon and egg that was out of this world. Oh, and a killer maple caramel creme w/bacon sugar cookies for dessert.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 172

Sonho De Valsa: Today sadly marks the end of Brazilian Week. Even though I'd rather not see it end, I've discovered some great new foods along the way. I feel like I did a fairly good job of buying a good mix of sweet and savory, but my last discovery (and today's blog post) is going to be a sweet one. A few days ago, I wrote about the candies I discovered while checking out at Minas Emporium, and the "Ouro Branco" was a pleasant surprise. Anything that reminds me of a Ferrero Rocher can't be bad, so I was eager to find out how this "Sonho De Valsa" would compare. It was packaged in an identical fashion to the Ouro Branco, but the outer wrapper was pinkish-red with different writing (and also featured a picture of a well-dressed couple dancing).
After unwrapping, I noticed that it was identical to the Ouro Blanco in size/shape, but the exterior was covered in milk chocolate instead of white. I cut it in half, and the inside was constructed the same as well, only the filling was definitely different. I popped half of it in my mouth, and the crunchy chocolate/wafer shell gave way to the creamier center. However, this center was much different than the Ouro Branco - more of a peanutty, sugary taste. I liked it just as much as the Ouro Branco, and like those, I could have easily devoured several more of these. Good stuff.
I later found out that Sonho De Valsa ("Waltz Dream" in Portuguese) is one of Brazil's best selling bonbons, and it's been around since the 1930's. The center is actually a cashew/praline filling, and it's apparently used in a lot of recipes. I can see why - these things are super tasty. I'll definitely be buying more next time I see them.

I hope all my readers enjoyed Brazilian Week, and thanks to Minas Emporium for the great supplies! I have a lot more eating to do, so I'll plan another theme week soon. Please feel free to offer suggestions...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 171

Pipoca De Oz: Interestingly, day 6 of Brazilian Week has provided me with something new and something old at the same time. I found this bagged snack during my previously mentioned visit to Minas Emporium, and if you havent been able to tell by now, I found some great stuff there. I tried my best to find a good variety of new foods, even after an awesomely gut-busting lunch buffet of Brazilian favorites. During my browsing in the market, I found this bag of what looked to be some sort of corn-based snack called Pipoca De Oz. It seemed to be popular, based on the different varieties stocked. I wasn't sure what the story was behind this red bag, but I grabbed it anyway. Popular can be good sometimes, right?
I decided to give this one a try this afternoon for a snack. Through the bag's window, the contents looked a lot like cereal or some sort of grain. After opening and trying a handful, I was immediately reminded of something from my childhood: Sugar Smacks. Yes, the kid's cereal. This stuff tasted exactly like Sugar Smacks, with no real difference that I could detect. The grains were considerably bigger, but other than that, identical. It could be cereal, for all I know (there was no English writing on the bag). Nonetheless, the crunchy, sweet corn taste was pretty addictive, and I ended up eating about half the bag before stopping. Maybe I'll try putting the rest in a bowl with milk tomorrow morning.
I couldn't find much info online about this snack, but I did discover that "pipoca" means "popcorn" in Portuguese. Magic Popcorn, maybe?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 170

Ouro Branco (Brazilian Candy): Today's entry for Brazilian week is fortunately on the sweet side. The foods I've covered so far from my trip to Minas Emporium have all been savory, so I was excited to find out what this piece of Brazilian candy was all about. When I was paying for all my purchases on the way out, I noticed quite a few varieties of candy/sweets near the register. They were all pre-packaged and sold individually, so I grabbed some to take home. A couple of round, shiny pieces caught my eye, and I decided to try one of them today. First up: "Ouro Branco."
Before I unwrapped it, I wasn't at all sure what to expect. Chocolate? Fruity? Both? After removing the shiny cellophane wrapping, I was left with a small, round chunk of what looked like white chocolate, about as big as a golf ball. I cut it in half, and it seemed to consist of a center of milk chocolate covered by a layer of crunchy wafer and then the white chocolate coating. How could that be bad? I took a bite, and it instantly reminded me of the Ferrero Rocher candies that are common in most grocery stores. I really love those, so I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The wafer gave it a nice crunch, and the creamy chocolate center also had a noticeable crunch as well - maybe there were some peanuts in there?
These were a great find, and I may have to get a whole bag of them next time I go back to Minas Emporium. Incidentally, Ouro Branco are made by a Brazilian company called Lacta, which is actually owned by Kraft.