Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 228

"Moscow Brand" Dry Salami: As my readers probably know by now, I'm a big fan of all types of cured meat. From the finest Italian or Spanish ham to the most rustic head cheese, I love it all. During my visit to the European Deli in Marietta, I found several interesting cured meats and salamis that I'd never seen before. I would have liked to take home some of each, but I managed to narrow my choice down to one since I was going to be out of town for half the week. I had a hard time doing that, but the helpful employee recommended this "Moscow Brand" dry salami as one of his favorites.
Upon seeing a cross-section of the salami, it looked to be fairly high in fat content, which is always good for me. Yes, there is such a thing as good fat, and if you're used to the chewy, inedible stuff that's trimmed off your Outback steak, you're missing out. This all-beef salami was studded with little white pieces of fat throughout, and the taste was a bit milder than the Italian styles that I've been used to eating. It had a thin casing that I ended up eating instead of peeling off, and I ended up knocking out several pieces before I gave up. Really good stuff.
If you're looking for an inexpensive addition to a charcuterie plate, this Russian salami would be a great choice. Even though I found this one out in Marietta, I'm sure it could be found at the Buford Highway Farmers Market or New Odessa off Clairmont Road.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 227

"Golden Cornfield" Candy: After the last couple days of savory Russian food, I thought I'd try something sweet for a change. I actually didn't get this candy from my trip to the European Deli, but from the Classic Russian Deli (the one on Covington Highway that was a major disappointment). It still fits into my Russian/Eastern European theme for the week, so I decided to go ahead and give it a shot tonight.
I've enjoyed all the Russian candies I've tried in the past, but they can be extremely hard to identify due to their lack of English on the packaging. Actually, I couldn't identify this one at all until the GF found the company's website written in tiny print on the wrapper - obviously, she has much better eyesight than I do. Once I did a bit of digging and translating on their website (, I what discovered this strawberry-shaped chocolate candy was actually called. They listed it as "golden cornfield," which was a bit mystifying. Time to eat and figure out what this "cornfield" is all about.
Due to its strawberry shape, I thought this one might have some sort of fruity filling. I unwrapped it, and it had a chocolate exterior covered with crunchy wafer pieces. After my first bite, I noticed that it wasn't fruity at all, but filled with a malted milk-like substance that reminded me of a chewier Whopper (the candy, not the burger). Not bad, but considering that Whoppers are one of my favorite candies, this one paled in comparison. And I still have no idea what they meant by the "golden cornfield."
I'll be trying a few more Russian candies over the next few days, as well as a couple truly unusual finds from the European Deli. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 226

Koryushka (Fried Smelt): Today marks day 2 of new foods found during yesterday's trip to European Deli in Marietta. I really enjoyed browsing in the market, and despite it's relatively small size, their attentive, friendly staff guided me towards lots of interesting new eats.

In addition to an extensive selection of pre-packaged goods, they also had a deli counter featuring some fresh-made European/Mediterranean standards. I spotted a few things I'd already tried (baba ghanoush, pierogies, etc.), but these little fried fish were something entirely new to me. I asked the guy behind the counter what they were, and he said that they were "fried smelt," or "koryushka." He also said they were extremely popular in St. Petersburg, Russia. I've had canned, smoked smelt before, but never these fried ones, which were much larger and consisted of the whole fish. I asked if these were to be eaten whole, and he said I could do that or just remove the filets. I love this type of thing, so I got him to box me up a few.
I decided to go ahead and give these a try tonight, so I threw them in the oven for a few minutes before eating. Each fish was maybe 6-7 inches long, and briefly deep-fried until golden. I should mention that these things didn't exactly smell pleasant, and the fishy odor only intensified after heating. I hoped they tasted better than they smelled.
After pulling them out of the oven, I decided against eating it whole. I didn't know how many sharp bones I'd be dealing with, so I took my fork and pulled the filets off each side, leaving just the spine and head intact. The result was different than I expected; the tiny filets were mild and a bit sweet. The skin retained its crunchiness, even after a day in my fridge, and I quickly devoured all of them before I got to my dinner. If you like whole fish on the bone (or any fried, white fish), you'd definitely like these - they were super good.

I hope my distant future involves a trip to Russia or Eastern Europe. Their respective cuisines feature so many flavors I love, but until I make the trip, I'll keep my cravings satiated with great finds like this.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 225

Black Bologna: If you've been wanting me to incorporate some more Eastern European food into my blog, this week is for you. Today I decided to check out the European Deli ( in Marietta after reading about it on the Scoutmob website. I love all things Russian/Eastern European, and combined with the half-off discount, I knew I had to check it out. In addition to having some interesting new items for me to take home, the friendly staff was eager to offer me samples of a couple things I'd never tried.

The real surprise was the market's meat counter - it featured a wide array of European deli fare, including salami and bologna from Russia. I had a really hard time narrowing down what I wanted to try, but luckily the guy behind the counter let me sample a few of the meats before I made a decision. As I browsed, one selection caught my eye: black bologna. I had no idea what that was, but it definitely sounded interesting. How was it different from the Oscar Meyer I've been eating since childhood? And more importantly, what did it look like?

Rather than commit to a pound of the stuff, I asked for a small sample. I was surprised when he handed me a small piece on some butcher's paper - it wasn't black at all. It actually had the same pale pinkish look as the potted meat I tried months ago, which disturbed me since it was one of the least appealing foods I've ever tried. I sincerely hoped this was better.
After taking a bite, I was relieved. The taste/texture was similar to regular bologna, but he told me that this was actually made from pork, not beef. It didn't taste as salty as beef bologna, but was a bit milder. I liked it a lot, and I bet it would make a great sandwich when paired with some fresh bread. I ended up not buying it due to my busy travel schedule this week, but I'll be sure to pick some up next trip.

Incidentally, I have no idea why it's called "black bologna." The outer packaging/casing was black, but the bologna itself was anything but black. I couldn't find too much info about it online, so if anyone with knowledge about Eastern European cuisine has the answer, please let me know.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 224

Poutine: Today's new food was totally unplanned, which is always a good thing. Aside from the thrill of surprise, it also means that I can postpone my shopping for one more day. Keeping this blog going isn't exactly easy, so every new food that I don't have to shop for helps. Anyway, me and the GF decided to try Hobnob for dinner tonight, which recently opened in the Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta. Their menu mainly featured standard-issue pub food (burgers, pizzas, etc.), but one item in the starter section caught my eye: poutine. I'd heard of it several times, but never seen it on any local menus, so we decided to give it a try.

If you've never heard of poutine, it's a dish that originated in Canada that consists of french fries covered in brown gravy and cheese curds. I love all those components independently, so I was curious to find out how they all worked together. I'm not sure what type of cheese is typically used, but Hobnob's version included mozzarella curds. I wasn't even sure what "curds" were, but that's what I'm here for, right?
Our dish arrived shortly after ordering, and it looked pretty much exactly how I expected it to look. The fries were layered on the bottom, the cheese curds in the middle, and the gravy on top. We dug in, and it tasted like, well, fries covered in brown gravy and melted cheese. The gravy had a peppery bite, and the cheese curds didn't seem much different from melted mozzarella, to be honest. Good, but it was basically heavy, dense drunk/stoner food probably best enjoyed after a night of partying. The portion was huge, so I'm glad the GF was with me to share.

So, what are cheese curds, exactly? According to Wikipedia, they are the "solid parts of soured milk." The pictures I found online of the cheese curds in poutine didn't look like what I had at all (more like cottage cheese), so maybe the mozzarella ones look different?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 223

Coconut Curry Cashews: I really haven't eaten that much candy during the course of my blog, but every now and then, I stumble upon a new sweet that I can't resist trying. During last week's trip to Your Dekalb Farmers Market, I found these candy-coated cashews in the bagged candy section near the front of the store. I love cashews, but I'd never seen any that used curry powder for flavoring. I liked the idea of a sweet/hot coating on cashews, so I got a small bag of these to take home.

I've had a lot of other new foods to get around to this week, so I decided to finally give these a try today. According to the label, the candy coating was made from white chocolate, coconut, curry powder, sea salt, and sugar. I like all those things, so how could these be bad?
Actually, these were awesome. The coating had a nice mix of sweet from the white chocolate and heat from the curry powder, with a hint of coconut flavor. The cashews were firm and crunchy on the inside, and I could have easily eaten the whole quarter pound bag in one sitting. As I've mentioned before, I have a low tolerance for spicy food (despite eating it frequently), and the curry in these definitely made me sweat a little. Good stuff.

I'm not sure if these are available anywhere besides YDFM, but if you see them, give them a try. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day 222

Gingerbread with "Raspberry Aroma": I know the description of this item sounds strange, but I took it right off the label. Before you get too confused, let me back up. Earlier this week, I decided to give the elusive "Classic Russian Deli" on Covington Highway another shot. I tried to visit it a few weeks ago, and after finally locating it down a barren alley of car repair shops, I decided it was too sketchy and gave up. I happened to see another picture of it in Atlanta Magazine in their recent "best of" issue, so I figured it couldn't hurt to try again. However, this time, I brought the GF with me for backup.

Once we got inside the market, I quickly realized that we'd wasted our time. I have no idea how this place got nominated for "best" anything - the minimal shelving wasn't stocked with much, and the barren freezers/refrigerators weren't any better. The whole place was dimly lit and a bit on the humid side, and it looked nothing like the picture I saw in the magazine. Rather than give up and go home, I decided to make the best of the trip and buy a couple of things.

I spotted these gingerbread things in a large box near the end of the store. They must be popular with someone, because the market had them in about a million different flavors. As with many Russian/Eastern European products, there wasn't much English on the label, but they looked to be gingerbread cookies with "raspberry aroma." Hmm, ok. I didn't know what that meant, but I grabbed a bag to take home anyway.
I finally got around to giving these a try today, and I was pretty happy with the results. Despite being a bit dry and crumbly, they actually tasted pretty good. The cookie was standard gingerbread (made from wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oil), and the "raspberry aroma" resulted in a subtle raspberry taste that didn't overpower the other flavors. Not bad, and I managed to eat a few of them with my coffee before giving up. I can't picture buying them again, but I'm glad I tried.
As far as the "Classic Russian Deli" is concerned, don't bother. You'll find a much better selection of Russian/Eastern European products at New Odessa or the BHFM.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 221

Indian Eggplant: If memory serves me right, this is the third type of eggplant I've tried during the course of my blog. Other than the slightly bitter Thai version, I haven't noticed many differences in flavor between them. I like eggplant, so whenever I spot a type I haven't tried, it's hard to resist.

On my last trip to Your Dekalb Farmers Market, I noticed these Indian eggplants in the produce section. They looked like tiny versions of the larger ones commonly found in most grocery stores, and I wondered if they tasted different. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I'm trying hard to find new foods that require cooking. Eating prepared foods is convenient, but having to cook some of what I find keeps things interesting for me (and hopefully my readers, too).
Since I didn't want them to spoil, I decided to go ahead and cook these as a side dish with tonight's dinner. Most of the recipes I found required elaborate Indian-style spices and preparation, so I chose to keep it simple and roast them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Plus, I wanted to know what they tasted like unadulterated. After slicing them, they didn't look much different on the inside than the other types I've tried. In addition to their dark purple skin, they also featured a whitish flesh studded with tiny seeds that oxidized almost immediately.
After roasting for about 20 minutes, I took them out of the oven and gave them a try. Honestly, they didn't taste any different from the other varieties of purple-skinned eggplant I've had. The skin had a slight crunch, and the interior was tender after the roasting process. Not much else to report.

If you like eggplant but feel like you might waste the massive purple ones found in most markets, give these tiny Indian specimens a try. They taste the same, but won't require you to cook enough eggplant to feed an army.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day 220

Mellow Mushroom Vegan Pizza: Even though I travel a good bit around the southeast playing music, I really don't find much new food out on the road. Due to lack of time and transportation, I usually end up eating the same things over and over, without much variation. However, that unexpectedly changed last night. The singer in my band recently decided to adopt a vegan diet, and while it seems like an insane choice to me, it did allow me to experience something new.

When we play private events, we usually have food catered or bought for us, and last night, our meal came from the ubiquitous Mellow Mushroom. Due to their apparently vegan-friendly menu, our singer was lucky enough to score a pizza that fulfilled his dietary requirements (the rest of us stuck to cheese and pepperoni). I stayed away from the vegan version at first, since the meaty/cheesy pie was enough to make me happy.

After we were done, we packed up and headed to the hotel around 3am. I was hungry, but me and the other meat/dairy eaters had demolished our pizza hours ago. Our singer offered me a slice of the vegan, and it occurred to me that it would count for a blog entry - score! I'd never had vegan cheese, and the crust was apparently vegan as well. Luckily, it didn't feature any toppings made from fake meat, but I did spot some green pepper and mushroom.
I didn't have any method of heating the pizza, so I had no choice but to scarf it down cold. The "Daiya dairy-free" vegan cheese appeared to have been melted earlier; honestly, the concept of fake cheese "melting" is a strange one to me. Anyway, I took a bite, and my first impression was that the crust had been made extremely soggy from sitting around for a few hours. Nope, that was the "cheese." It reminded me of gooey, runny, melted marshmallow, almost like the kind that results when heating up a s'more. It didn't taste like cheese at all, and for a cheese substitute, it was weak. Oh well, another reason why I won't be vegan anytime soon.

The crust was OK, but a bit dry and chewy due to the lack of butter/parmesan usually found on MM's crust. I definitely missed the garlic bread-esque flavor of the original. Overall, I'd say my relative enjoyment of this vegan pizza was due to my rabid late night hunger, but as a pizza substitute, it was fine at best.

Like I said, the vegan thing will never be for me, but I'm glad I at least gave it a shot.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 219

Smoked Turkey Neck: Today's new food is something I'd noticed on my last several trips to Your Dekalb Farmers Market, but for some reason, I passed it by each time. That changed yesterday when the GF finally talked me into getting one, and despite its unappetizing appearance, I went ahead and gave it a shot. Most of us have eaten a lot of turkey breast during their lives, but how many can say they've tried turkey neck?

Despite being labeled as "smoked," it almost looked like it hadn't been cooked, which disturbed me. I asked the counter attendant if it had been cooked, and after he confirmed that it had, I asked him to bag me one. The whole neck was about a foot long, but the attendant was gracious enough to cut it into 3 or 4 smaller pieces for me. I generally love smoked meats of any sort, so I figured I couldn't go wrong with this one.
Before heading back out on the road today, I decided to give it a try with my lunch. It was almost impossible to tell how much meat was on it, but the seasoning smelled good. After heating a small piece in the microwave for a few seconds, I took a bite. Wow. There was almost zero edible meat on this thing, and what was there was undoubtedly the toughest, stringiest meat I've ever tasted. My teeth weren't even capable of tearing off anything salvageable, and the only result was a tiny bite of what reminded me of ultra-tough, fatty chicken.
 After another failed attempt to bite into it, I tried using my chef's knife to cut off what I thought was an edible portion, and even that tactic didn't work. Honestly, it was inedible. I chucked the rest of the piece into the garbage. The smoky seasoning was good, but other than that, it was a major letdown.

Based on the toughness of the meat, I'm not sure if smoking these is the way to go. Maybe slow cooking or braising would yield a better result? No way I'll ever eat these again if they're cooked in this method - there's just no point.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 218

Papaya: Yes, I know it may seem strange, but until today, I'd never tasted fresh papaya. While doing some quick shopping at Your Dekalb Farmers Market, I noticed that they had a display set up in the produce section featuring samples of fresh papaya. As my readers know, I love samples - they've allowed me to try lots of new things for free. I've eaten a couple of papaya-flavored items during the course of the blog, but I always prefer trying the real thing first when possible. That obviously didn't happen this time, but it's never too late to try.
I've wanted to try fresh papaya for awhile now, but due to its large size/weight, I've been discouraged from buying it. I usually don't invest in extremely large fruits or vegetables, since I really wouldn't want to throw them away if I didn't like. Luckily, the market had some pieces of papaya cut up for sampling, so I grabbed a toothpick and got busy. My first bite instantly reminded me of melon or cantaloupe, but noticeably sweeter. As I've probably mentioned before, I'm not crazy about many types of melon - they're filler fruit to me. This one was a bit tastier due to its sweetness, but now that I've sampled it, I doubt I'll ever buy a whole one. Not that bad, but I won't seek it out again anytime soon.
Aside from the taste, I have to say that papayas look pretty cool on the inside. YDFM had some halved papayas for sale towards the back of the produce section, and I couldn't resist taking a picture of them.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 217

Banh Cuoi Dau Xanh (Mung Bean Cake): Today marks the last of my purchases from Lee's Bakery on Buford Highway. I found some great new items there earlier in the week, and I hope my readers have enjoyed the Vietnamese theme for the last few days. Everything I've eaten has been interesting, to say the least, and I definitely plan on going back to Lee's soon for more discoveries.

After I finished dinner tonight, I unwrapped this pre-packaged mung bean cake for a bit of dessert. Even though Lee's stocked plenty of Vietnamese pastries, not all of them were made in house. According to the sticker on the back of the wrapper, this one was made by a bakery called Hong Phat (yes, seriously) in Lawrenceville, and I'm guessing they supply a lot of Asian markets in the area.
Based on the ingredients (mung bean, flour, water, sugar, corn oil, egg), I knew this "cake" would be somewhat sweet, but past that, I wasn't sure what to expect. Oh, and durian was also one of the ingredients, which scared me a little. Would the whole thing be ruined by the inclusion of the notoriously stinky durian? Let's find out.

The cake was about the size of a hockey puck, and when I unwrapped it, I was surprised to see that the design on top was actually printed on the cake with red dye. Interesting. It felt heavy and dense, so I was curious to find out what the texture was like. I bit into it, and the outer yellow layer reminded me of undercooked pastry dough. The interior was filled with what I assumed to be mung bean paste, and it had a slightly grainy texture. The whole concoction was mildly sweet, but due to it's density, I could only eat about half of it. As for the durian, I didn't detect any durian taste or smell, so they must have used very little of it (which is probably good). Overall, I liked this one, but for me, it would be better as a snack than dessert.
If you like Asian food at all, I highly recommend Vietnamese cuisine. The flavors aren't heavy like you might be used to with run-of-the-mill Chinese/Japanese food, and even the more jaded eaters I know have always found something good.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 216

Soursop Candy (Keo Me): OK, so this one was a bit confusing. I found this new food during my visit to Lee's Bakery a few days ago, and based on the pictures on the label, I assumed it would be some sort of tamarind-flavored candy. I'd never heard of soursop, but since the label featured what I swore was tamarind, I expected it to taste like that. After doing some research, I discovered that I was partially wrong.
I finally cracked these candies open today, and I was excited about figuring out exactly what they were. The word "candy" wasn't exactly descriptive, so as I opened the lid, I wasn't sure what I was going to find. At first glance, the contents reminded me of dog food - not an appetizing visual, I know.
The little pieces were clumped together and super-sticky, so I dislodged a couple of chunks and popped them in my mouth. The flavor was fruity (kind of like a mix of tamarind/strawberry) and sour, and the outside was coated in granulated sugar, which helped with the sourness. The texture was exactly like a gumdrop or gummi bear, but didn't taste like any gumdrop I've ever had. Pretty good, but I can't picture buying them again after I finish these. I'm not that big on fruity candy, but I'm glad I gave these a shot.

So, what's a soursop, you ask? It's a small, spiky green fruit that's popular in a lot of Asian cuisines, and it's used in a wide variety of dishes. I still don't understand why tamarind was pictured on the label, since none of the pictures of soursop I found looked anything like tamarind. Maybe the manufacturer screwed up? They tasted a bit like tamarind, but the only ingredients were soursop, starch, sugar and salt. Strange.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 215

Banh Dua (Sticky Rice Stick): Today marks day 3 of new Vietnamese finds from Lee's Bakery on Buford Highway. If I haven't mentioned before, Vietnamese is one of my favorite cuisines, and I've generally liked everything I've had from it. I have obvious faves (banh mi, pho), but Ive really been enjoying the new stuff I found at Lee's. I found today's food (banh dua) at the prepared foods counter there, and I honestly had no idea what it was. The guy behind the counter's description ("sticky rice with mung bean") didn't help much, but I'm all about things I can't identify.
Before heading back out on the road today, I decided to give this unusual-looking item a try. Other than rice and mung bean, I had no idea what else was wrapped inside the leaf, which was tied up tightly with plastic string then wrapped in plastic. After a bit of internet searching (I've gotten really good at figuring out what things really are based on appearance), I determined that this was banh dua, also known as Vietnamese sticky rice stick. The contents are apparently wrapped in a coconut leaf, then steamed.
I tore off the plastic wrapper, then snipped the twine off. After peeling away some of the coconut leaf, I was left with a solid center of sticky, gummy rice with mung beans placed throughout. I took a bite (right off the top, like a candy bar), and was surprised. It wasn't sweet at all, and the center of the rice was filled with something that reminded me of cornmeal or grits. The rice had a tasty, super-sticky texture, but I can't really say the dish had much flavor. Kind of like eating cold cornmeal, and I would have liked it more if it were a bit sweeter.
This one was OK, but I probably wouldn't do it again. Out of all the Vietnamese cuisine I've tried, it's been my least favorite so far.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 214

Banh Chuoi (Steamed Banana Cake): Today's post will be short and sweet (just like this steamed banana cake). Due to my schedule, I only have a few minutes in the entire day to put this post up, but the blog must go on. I found this banh chuoi during yesterday's visit to Lee's Bakery, which had all sorts of interesting Vietnamese treats for me to choose from. Several kinds of desserts and sweets were featured there, and I noticed this one in the prepared section as soon as I walked in the door. I like bananas, but I'm not too crazy about anything banana flavored. However, this looked really cool, so I added it to my purchases.
I decided to give it a try as a breakfast dessert this morning before I left. We should all be eating dessert after breakfast more often, right? As I looked at the ingredients, I saw a few things that I was familiar with (rice flour, thai banana), but based on this dish's gelatinous appearance, I had no clue what it would taste like.It also included a little cup of something called "coconut cream," which I assumed was a dipping sauce.

My first bite was interesting - it reminded me of chewy banana Jell-O, with little pieces of real banana strewn throughout. I've tried so many Asian dishes with this consistency, but it's one that I'm guessing a lot of Americans would have a tough time with. The real winner was the coconut dipping sauce - it added a much sweeter element to the banana cake. Kind of like that Coco Lopez stuff, but not quite as syrupy. I actually enjoyed this one, and I could definitely see buying it again as a light dessert.

More to come from my visit to Lee's Bakery over the weekend...stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 213

Che Dau Trang: No, it's not anything related to Guevara: it's a traditional Vietnamese dish I found today while doing some shopping at Lee's Bakery on Buford Highway. I'd been meaning to venture back that way once I had some time freed up, and I had a small window available this afternoon to check this place out. One of my readers had suggested I try Lee's a few weeks ago (she even suggested I try this particular dish), and since I love all things Vietnamese, I knew I'd probably find some good stuff there.

After browsing the prepared foods counter, I knew I was going to find some great new foods at Lee's. I managed to score a lot of stuff (more of that to come in the next few days), but the real unknowns (to me, anyway) were in the refrigerated cooler near the front. The shelves in the cooler were full of awesome things I honestly couldn't identify, and none of the containers had any labels or prices. Instead of walking away, I grabbed a container of this unusual concoction that looked like rice pudding with beans in it.
As the guy behind the counter rang me up, I asked him what the stuff in the container was. He said "sticky rice with white bean." Hmm, ok. I knew it'd be up to me to figure out the real name of this dish, so when I got home, I did some research. Interestingly, it was the same thing ("che") that my reader had recommended. Strange coincidence, but it worked out well!
Ok, time to eat. I wasn't sure what to expect with this, but my first bite surprised me. It reminded me of a much more gelatinous, slightly sweet rice pudding, but with little white beans (or were they black eyed peas?) mixed throughout. Pretty good, and it made for a nice, light dessert to enjoy after I finished my lunch. I'd definitely try it again, and now I'm curious to find out what all the other varieties in the store taste like. They had some that had a whole rainbow of colors in the glass.

In addition to the che, I also had a killer banh mi sandwich - delicious, but nothing new for me there. Stay tuned for more Vietnamese fun over the next few days...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 212

Gedesa (Yellow Plum): First off, I know I've been promising to do some more adventurous shopping this week. It's gonna happen (I promise), but due to events beyond my control, yesterday and today just weren't convenient for searching. I didn't have anything to blog about for today at all, so I made a desperate run to the Edgewood Kroger in hopes of finding something. Like I've said before, it's getting nearly impossible for me to find new foods at conventional grocery stores, so I didn't expect to find much.

I decided to hit the produce section, since the rotating stock sometimes yields new things. I didn't see anything at first, but after a few minutes of scrounging, I saw a small, yellow, plum-shaped fruit that caught my eye. As usual with Kroger, I couldn't find a label or price, but the small sticker on the fruit said "Gedesa Chile." I had no idea what that was, but I knew I'd never tried one of these before. Into the basket it went.
After knocking out a quick dinner tonight, I gave this "gedesa" a try for dessert. I first tried to cut it in half, and didn't succeed - there was a small pit in the middle. I didn't know it was going to be a stone fruit, but I sure knew after that. I cut a small slice off the side, then took a bite. It had the texture of a plum, with a soft, thin skin and a slightly firm, juicy flesh. It wasn't as sweet as a dark plum, and the skin had a faintly bitter aftertaste. Not bad, but I doubt I'd buy these again - I prefer plums that are darker and sweeter. This one didn't have nearly as much flavor as those varieties.
As it turns out, a "gedesa" is just another word for yellow plum. I really couldn't find much info about these online, and I assume the one I had was grown in Chile. If anyone knows more about these, please don't hesitate to fill me in.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 211

Balsamic-Roasted Tofu: OK, so I know today's post may make it sound like I'm cheating. I've obviously eaten tofu before (even recently with the "chick-n' fried" specimen), but this preparation that I found on the Whole Foods salad bar the other day was something new to me. I've had tofu a lot of different ways (pan-fried, deep-fried, baked), but never balsamic-roasted. It was just interesting enough for me to grab one of my trusty sample cups and take some home. Since it was a cold dish, I knew it would keep for a few days until I got to it.

According to WF's description, the tofu dish included roasted garlic, red pepper, black pepper, rosemary and basil. I love all those ingredients on their own, so I was looking forward to finding out how they blended with the balsamic-roasted tofu. Tofu is definitely my favorite meat replacement food, even though I rarely eat it. Let's find out what this one was all about.
My first bite tasted like, well, firm tofu. I did detect a faint balsamic flavor, but the cooking method didn't seem like it sealed in much of it. The rosemary was probably the standout flavor (I noticed several sprigs throughout the mix), but the "roasted" garlic was more like raw instead. I could see eating this in the spring/summer months for a light entree or side, but I don't think it's anything I'm dying to return to.

If you're worried about my blog developing a full-time Whole Foods theme, relax. I've got some more adventurous shopping planned for this week.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day 210

Japanese Sweet Potato: Today's new food is something I spotted during yesterday's Whole Foods run. While their produce department isn't usually adventurous enough for me, I can occasionally find something that's blog-worthy. After coming up empty handed in the fruit area, I noticed these Japanese sweet potatoes towards the back of the section. I like traditional sweet potatoes (especially prepared with butter and brown sugar), so I was curious to find out how these Japanese hybrids were different. The skin had more of a purplish color than the brown ones I'm used to, but other than that, my eye couldn't tell any difference.
I wanted to find out how this one tasted without piling on seasoning or butter, so I threw it in the oven at 350 degrees until it was soft and a bit crispy on the outside. When I cut it open, I was surprised to see that the interior was a whitish-green color, not orange like the traditional ones. It may sound ridiculous, but I love it when food ends up looking different on the inside than I expected. Luckily, my cooking method resulted in the potato being appropriately soft and edible, so I dove in.
After a few bites, I decided that I couldn't really tell much of a difference between this Japanese variety and the kind we're used to in America. It had the same sweet, starchy flavor, and it was just as tasty as any other I've eaten. I can't see buying these again in place of the cheaper orange ones, but I'm glad I tried just the same. 

Apparently, these Japanese potatoes are used in many different dishes in Asian countries, while the North American version seems to only be used in a handful of dishes here in comparison. Don't get me wrong - I love me some sweet potato casserole (I was raised in the south, after all), but I hope I get to try some of the Asian-inspired dishes one day.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 209

Kamut: I know I might be repeating myself a bit lately with my shopping location choices, but I haven't really had enough time this week to do any hardcore searching, Buford Highway or otherwise. Due to time constraints, I hit the Whole Foods on Ponce again yesterday to hopefully find some new foods quickly. As usual, I cruised the hot bar first in hopes of taking home a couple sample cups of blog-worthy eats. I'm a bit worried that I'm gonna be known soon as "sample cup guy" by the employees there, but maybe I'm overreacting.

Anyway, after a quick search of the bar, I noticed something I'd never heard of before: kamut. It looked like some sort of grain, and WF's version was advertised as a "kamut blend," mixed with kamut wheat (whatever that was), colusari red rice, and wild rice. Honestly, it didn't look that appealing - like one of those dishes that's extremely healthy but tasteless. However, I'm willing to try anything once, so I grabbed one of my sample cups and took some home.

Before heading out for a long day of musical obligations, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. It was served as a cold dish at WF, so I pulled it out of the fridge and plated it. I couldn't detect any other ingredients besides the ones listed (not even any garlic, spices or other seasonings0, so I hoped it at least tasted like something.
After taking a bite, my hopes were deflated. The overall taste reminded me of undercooked rice, or half-cooked oatmeal with no flavoring. Bleh. The chewy pieces of what I assumed to be "kamut" (the light-colored grains in the picture) had a slightly nutty flavor, kind of like wheatberries or quinoa, but not at all memorable. As for the red/wild rice, they didn't add anything special. This dish really could have used some seasoning - it tasted like bland filler, and probably gives vegetarian cuisine a bad reputation. Maybe it could be better worked into a dish and seasoned, but on its own, it was forgettable.

So, what is Kamut? According to Wikipedia, "Kamut" is actually a brand-name that refers to Khorosan wheat, which is twice as big in grain size as regular wheat. Despite having a extensive history that allegedly dates back to biblical times, I wasn't impressed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Day 208

Pickled Green Tomato: If you guys didn't know by now, I'm a big fan of all things pickled. I even went through a phase about a year ago where I was pickling things at home on a regular basis, and the results were always tasty. In my opinion, almost anything tastes better pickled. I know that most people like to use "fried" in that sentence, but if you haven't explored the world of pickled food (other than cucumbers), you're missing out.

On that note, I was happy to find a pickled item at Your Dekalb Farmer's Market this week that I'd never had before: green tomatoes. I've eaten a lot of interesting pickled items (eggs, garlic, carrots, celery, okra, beets), but tomatoes have always eluded me. I've never bought much out of YDFM's deli section other than meat and cheese, but when I saw these green tomatoes nestled in between the various salads and salsas, I couldn't resist buying one. Luckily, they sold them by the pound, so I got the deli attendant to wrap up a single one for the low cost of $0.20. Score.
After eating a quick dinner tonight, I realized I hadn't done my blog entry for the day, so I got the tiny tomato out for some sampling. I took the lid off the plastic container, and immediately noticed a strong vinegar odor. Not a great first impression, and I hoped it tasted better than it smelled.
I cut it in half and took a bite, and the taste wasn't any better than the smell. Instead of a mildly sweet pickled flavor, I was hit with a pungent, overly vinegar-y taste that wasn't pleasant at all. The tomato apparently wasn't cooked before pickling (which is sometimes normal), but it resulted in a tougher texture than I expected. Maybe these weren't brined for long - I'm not sure what the normal procedure is for tomatoes. Either way, it wasn't even kind of good.

I know all my food finds cant be great, but this was a major disappointment. I could only get through one bite before giving up, and that rarely happens. Oh well - better luck tomorrow.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 207

Piñata Apple: Today's new food is another find from this week's visit to Your Dekalb Farmer's Market. While their selection isn't the best in town for my project, it's been a great place for me to find new foods in a pinch, which was definitely the case the last time I went. I really love their produce section in particular - they always have fresh stuff in stock, and usually at a much cheaper price point that any of the big-box grocery stores.

While looking through the selections of fruit, I noticed a few different kinds of apples that I'd never tried, one of which ended up being today's new food. I know apples may not be the most interesting thing in the world, but they're tasty, and the different hybrids usually end up tasting different from type to type. When I spotted this hybrid called "pinata" (yes, just like the thing kids beat with a stick, blindfolded), I decided to give it a shot. I like red-skinned apples much better than their green counterparts, and this one with it's bright red/pink skin looked good to me.
After cutting into it this afternoon, I noticed that the inside looked like any other red apple I've tried. And after taking my first bite, I was quick to conclude that the flavor was pretty much like many other apples, especially Golden Delicious. Crisp, juicy and tart, but unfortunately, nothing new for me. If you like tart, mildly sweet red apples, give this one a shot if you see it.
According to Wikipedia, Piñata apples are actually a cross between a Golden Delicious, Cox's Orange Pippin and a Duchess of Oldenburg (both of which I've never heard of). It's also commonly referred to as a Pinova, Sonata or Corail apple. "Pinata" is way more festive, though, right?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day 206

Purple Potato: During the course of this blog, I can't say I've eaten many different types of potato; actually, this might be the first new one! I've had plenty of Yukon Gold, Russet and red potatoes in my life, and when I saw these unusual purple ones at Your Dekalb Farmers Market the other day, I thought they'd make a great blog entry. I had no idea how these were different from more traditional varieties, but their dark purple skin intrigued me. I was planning on making lamb burgers for dinner sometime this week, so I decided to take home some of these purple oddities to make as a side.
After I found an easy recipe (roasting with olive oil, salt and pepper), I started cutting them into little discs for cooking. I assumed that these would be white on the inside just like red potatoes, but I was surprised to see something completely different - they were a really dark purple hue, not light-colored at all. Each cut I made into the flesh of the potato also left some strange purple juice on my knife, which reminded me of when I first cut into a blood orange a few months back. What were these gonna taste like?
After roasting for about 25 mins. at 400 degrees, I pulled them out of the oven. They had actually turned a bit darker after cooking, and a few of the smaller pieces turned brown and crispy. I waited for them to cool, then popped one in my mouth. Tasty, but not really any different from any other roasted potato I've had. In a blind taste test, I don't think anyone would be able to discern any new flavors going on with these. Oh well, I'm still glad I gave these a shot.

Apparently these purple varieties have the same antioxidant compound that is found in blueberries, which gives them their color. From what I can tell, they aren't supposed to taste different because of that quality. Oh, and according to popular opinion on the internet, they aren't good for making french fries. Good to know.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 205

Foie Gras Torchon: Today's post is being written just under the wire, and it was definitely a last minute surprise. I attended my first ever "Tweetup" tonight at the Livingston Hotel in Atlanta, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to dinner at Top Flr afterward with some new faces I'd just met. It's funny how you can have daily contact with so many people via Facebook and Twitter and never put a face with the name, but tonight that came to an end. I met several of my followers, and luckily, they were all super nice.

Anyway, onto the food. If you aren't familiar with Top Flr, you should be. It's one of my favorite restaurants in town, and its sister restaurant, The Sound Table, is just as good. Even though their menu is eclectic and tasty, I wasn't sure if I'd find anything brand new to me tonight. After ordering a cocktail (an insanely good concoction called a "Strange Horse"), I scanned the menu for something blog-worthy. I thought I'd struck out at first, but then I noticed something really interesting: foie gras torchon with candied apricot & saffron jelly, served with crostini. I've had foie gras in a terrine before, but never in torchon form.

What's a torchon? I had that same question a few months ago when I saw it on TV, and it actually refers to a method of cooking where the foie gras is placed inside a towel (torchon) or cheesecloth and poached. I had no idea what Top Flr's would look like, but when our bartender brought my dish, I was surprised. The foie was actually sliced into 4 small discs, and the jelly/crostini was served on the side.
After knocking out a killer starter of parsnip soup w/truffled yolk and parmesan croutons, I was ready to attack the foie gras. I decided to try a bit of it alone before smearing it on the crostini with some jelly, and I was glad I did. If you've never had foie gras, you're missing out. Imagine eating a chunk of butter, only richer and fattier, and you'll have a good idea of what it's about. It's not something I can handle much of due to it's richness, but this torchon was awesome. The apricot/saffon jelly added a nice tartness when spread on the crostini with the foie, and I could have gladly eaten more of this if it weren't so rich (and unfortunately, expensive). I've never had foie in its pure form until tonight, and I'm really glad I finally experienced it.

On another note, I just did some research on how the foie gras torchon is prepared, and it's a fairly laborious process. Thanks to Top Flr for taking the time - it was delicious. Oh, and thanks to Sarah for the great photo!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Day 204

Lamb Samosa: Due to my car being in the shop for an all-day repair, I found myself ride-less and lacking any new food to try today. Luckily, the GF was able to make time in her schedule this afternoon to take me shopping. Since I didn't feel like going far, we decided to hit Your Dekalb Farmers Market. I just did some shopping there over the weekend, but it's a convenient option when I don't feel like trekking to Buford Highway or investing in a restaurant meal. Plus, I knew their hot bar would have some options, since they refresh the menu daily.

On my last trip to their hot bar, I noticed that they were selling fresh samosas towards the end of the line. I've heard of samosas a million times, but never tried one. Since I wasn't finding much else interesting, I decided to take one home. They offered several different fillings (ground beef, vegetable, lentil), but I opted for the version filled with ground lamb. Appearance-wise, it reminded me of an empanada, and I was excited to get it home to try. They also had something called "samosa sauce" next to the display, so I grabbed a little to-go cup of that.
After plating and cutting into it, I saw that it was filled with a generous portion of seasoned ground lamb, mixed with some small flecks of onion. The sauce was light brown and not too thick, so I drizzled a bit of it on the samosa and took a bite. It was really tasty - the pastry exterior was crispy and obviously deep-fried, and it reminded me of a wonton or egg roll wrapper. The ground lamb was a bit spicy, and the "samosa sauce" was a sweet and sour combination with a noticeable curry flavor. I could have easily eaten another if I'd had one, and I'll definitely grab another one of these as a snack next time I hit YDFM.
If you like empanadas, pierogis, or any other savory stuffed pastry, give samosas a try. Apparently they're popular throughout the world under various names, and they're usually served with chutney or other dipping sauces. Speaking of the sauce, what I had is apparently a mix of tamarind paste, water, brown sugar, and various spices.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Day 203

Chayote Squash: Today's new food actually involved some real cooking, which I haven't done in awhile for the blog. I tend to gravitate towards prepared foods, since they travel well and can usually be stockpiled for a few days worth of blogging. Also, prepared foods don't require me to buy several other ingredients just to cook them. However, sometimes I see something that I can't pass up, and when I noticed these bright green chayote squash during my last trip to Your Dekalb Farmer's Market, I knew I wanted to try them. I had no idea how they were supposed to be cooked, but they looked interesting. How were they different from yellow squash? I usually like any type of squash, so I figured it couldn't hurt to take one home.
After finding an easy recipe online (just sauteeing in a pan with olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, sugar and red wine vinegar), I decided to try them tonight as a side with dinner. The squash was extremely firm to the touch, not at all like the yellow squash I usually eat. It reminded me more of a green apple than a vegetable, and after slicing it open, the apple comparisons didn't end. It seriously looked just like a green apple on the inside (minus the little seeds), and if you had told me that's what it was, I wouldn't have questioned it.
I sauteed the squash for about 10 minutes with all the ingredients, then plated it. Even after cooking, it still looked like apple, but I knew the taste would be quite different. Unlike yellow squash, the chayote was still quite crisp, even after sauteeing for 10 minutes. It didn't have a lot of flavor on its own (much like all other squash I've tried), but the added ingredients gave it some tartness and heat. If I had to compare it to something, it would probably be the jicama I tried a few weeks ago. I actually liked it a lot, and I could see buying it again as a vegetable side for almost any dinner. Next time, maybe I'll try simply roasting it with some olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

So what is chayote? According to Wikipedia (my source for, well, almost everything these days), it's a "plant that belongs to the gourd family cucurbitaceae, along with melons, cucumbers and squash." Chayote is a Spanish word, but the plant is popular in cuisine all over the world under various names.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Day 202

Spinach Dal Curry: While doing this blog, I haven't exactly been shy about admitting that I try to eat as much free stuff as I can. If I were going to restaurants every day or buying lots of  rare, imported items, this project would get expensive really quick. Even though I try to keep it interesting, I also like to keep it cheap. That's why I love samples and buffets - they allow me to try a little bite of something new without destroying my bank account.

Today's post is the second of the samples I got yesterday from the Whole Foods on Ponce's hot bar. As I stated before, WF can be difficult for me to shop at, but occasionally I find something new (and affordable) there. Even though the hot bar didn't offer me much on this week's trip, I did find 2 new Indian foods to write about. Yesterday's "Aloo Mutter" was tasty, so I hoped today's sample of spinach dal curry held up well overnight in the fridge.
After reheating it for a few seconds, I spooned the small amount onto a plate for testing. It looked a lot like creamed spinach (which I guess it kind of is), but I knew it wouldn't exactly taste like that. If you didn't know, dal is a preparation of dried lentils or other beans, and I'm guessing those were added to the spinach mix during cooking.

My first bite was good - the whole mixture was extremely smooth, and spicier than creamed spinach could ever be. I tasted a bit of tomato flavor along with curry, and the spinach added a nice, chewy texture to the dish. It wasn't nearly as spicy or flavorful as other Indian dishes I've tried, and it'd probably work best as a side instead of a main. Still, I enjoyed it, and wouldn't hesitate at all to eat it again.

I still didn't know exactly what was in spinach dal curry, so I did a bit of research to find out. According to some recipe sites I found, it's traditionally made with a mix of spinach, onions, tomato and dal, then seasoned with spices such as garlic, cumin, mustard seed and turmeric. I love the complex spice mixtures found in Indian dishes, and this one would be a great place to start if you have a low tolerance for heat.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Day 201

Aloo Mutter: Once again, I found myself at Whole Foods on Ponce today in search of some new foods. I had a great run last week with some of their fruits as well as samples from the hot bar, and since I didn't want to invest in a major shopping trip, I decided to swing by there after the gym. Unfortunately, I didn't find much, but I did grab a couple of samples to tide me over until I can search for real. I generally don't like buffets or "hot bars" anywhere (especially at WF with their exorbitant prices), but theirs has actually yielded some good results for my blog.

While browsing today (unfortunately during the lunch rush), I noticed a couple of interesting Indian food items. Since WF apparently caters to a lot of vegetarians, I'm sure the Indian selections are much appreciated. I'm obviously not a vegetarian, but I like Indian food, and WF had two selections that I'd never tried. Since I didn't want to invest in a whole meal, I grabbed a sample cup from the nice people behind the prepared foods counter and dropped a spoonful of Aloo Mutter into it. I had never heard of it, but it looked a lot like the channa masala I've been eating from Trader Joe's.
At first glance, it looked like it was comprised of peas and chunks of potato, mixed with some sort of brown sauce or gravy. If it tasted anything like the vegetable-based Indian food I've tried so far, I knew it would be good. My first bite instantly reminded me of the channa masala dish, especially the sauce. It definitely had a tomato base, but much spicier than anything Indian I've tried in the past. The peas and potato were well cooked, and I devoured the whole sample within seconds. Really tasty. Aloo Mutter would be great as a meal, especially if I had some warm naan bread to go with it.

Ok, so what's in this stuff? According to some simple recipes I looked up, it's a traditional Punjabi dish containing peas (mutter), potato, onion, pureed tomato, and a spice mixture usually including coriander, cumin, garlic, garam masala powder and chili powder. WF's version also claimed to use spices from a company called Kerala Curry (, which specializes in traditional Indian cooking products.

I really need to get myself to an Indian restaurant soon. What am I waiting for?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Day 200

Honey Murcott Tangerine: Today's new food wasn't a surprise find, but it wasn't my first choice for something to blog about. I had planned on eating a sample cup of vegan cheddar cheese that I scored from Whole Foods on Ponce last week, and when I went to try it today, it had gone bad. Not moldy bad, but crunchy, dried out bad. I'm no expert on vegan food, but I'm guessing that crunchy cheese isn't a good thing.

That being said, it was time for plan B. I had a new type of tangerine in the fridge from that trip to Whole Foods, and luckily it hadn't gone bad. I actually found two new types of tangerine last week (you may remember the "pixie" I wrote about), and I was glad that this one had survived a week in storage. Time to try.

At first glance, it looked like any other tangerine I've eaten: about the size of a tennis ball, with a firm skin like an orange. I've found that there aren't usually a lot of variances between hybrids of the same types of fruit. One usually isn't much better or different than the other to me, with the exception of pears, which can be much different from hybrid to hybrid. Based on the name, I estimated that this one might be a bit sweeter than normal. Let's find out.
I cut it in half, and it looked like many other citrus fruits. I didn't see any seeds, which made me happy (I hate eating around seeds). I peeled off a segment and took a bite, and it honestly tasted no different from other tangerines I've tried. Sure, it was juicy and sweet, almost like a miniature orange, but offered nothing new for me. That's the risk I run when choosing foods for this blog, and it's really difficult to find something entirely new every day. As long as I've never eaten it before, it counts.
Maybe I'll cruise by Whole Foods tomorrow and see if they still have that vegan cheddar cheese. I've had several types of fake meat, but never fake cheese. I'll keep you posted...