Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 258

Soy Bacon Bits: While browsing today at the Whole Foods on Ponce, I noticed something on the salad bar that I'd never experienced before: soy bacon bits. My displeasure with fake meat and other vegan products has been well documented, but apparently I can't say no to any new food experience. I asked for a sample cup and took some of these fake bacon (facon?) bits home with me - what did I have to lose?

Appearance-wise, they looked more like Cocoa Pebbles than bacon bits, but to my surprise, there was quite a bit of authentic-ish smoky aroma to them. They didn't appear to be as oily as the real thing, but I guess that's to be expected of something that doesn't use actual meat as an ingredient. According to WF's description, the main ingredient was "textured vegetable protein." Mmm.
How did they taste? Not that bad. The ultra-crunchy texture was almost the same as the real thing, and the fake smoke/bacon flavor was pretty convincing. If you sprinkled these on top of your loaded baked potato, you probably wouldn't know the difference. Well, as long as you were using real cheese and sour cream, that is.

Out of all the fake meat products I've tried, this one was definitely the most palatable. Not that I'll ever choose these over the real thing, but they weren't as bad as expected.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 257

"Corny" Bar: Today's new food is another find from the bag of goodies my friend's parents were kind enough to bring me from their travels. The majority of the contents were from their recent visit to several Asian countries, but this funnily named "Corny" snack bar came from a German-speaking country, based on the writing on the wrapper. In addition to the unusual name, the wrapper also pictured something that looked like a run-of-the-mill granola bar. I really hoped it would be more interesting than that.
After opening the wrapper, I quickly figured out I wouldn't experiencing much of anything new. It looked just like any other chewy granola bar I've eaten, so my last hope was to find out if it tasted any different. Nope - it tasted just like that, too. Even though my German wasn't good enough to translate the contents, I'm guessing it was made from a mix of rolled oats/nuts/corn syrup. Nothing else to report for this one.
Oh well, I guess all my new food experiences can't be truly new. I still think the name is funny, though. Pass me a Corny, I'm hungry!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 256

Joyva Sesame Crunch Bar: After last night's binge at the Foodtopia event, I wasn't in the mood for anything too strange (or heavy) tonight to eat for my blog post. I decided to forgo the rest of the Asian treats I had stashed and try something that the GF found for me a couple weeks ago at the Toco Hills Kroger. As I've mentioned before, the Toco Kroger has an extensive selection of kosher goods that aren't usually found at other area Krogers, and this "sesame crunch bar" made by Joyva was something I'd never seen. I like sesame seeds as an ingredient, so I was excited to find out how something made almost entirely from sesame seeds tasted.
Based on the ingredients (sesame seeds, sugar, corn syrup, honey), I knew this would be a fairly sweet treat. After opening, I broke off a piece and discovered that it was extremely hard and crunchy, almost like peanut brittle. My first bite proved to be even more crunchy than I expected, and I was glad I didn't crack a tooth in the process. Once I got past the crunchiness, it actually tasted good. The toasted sesame flavor was noticeable but not overpowering, and the sugary base that held it all together provided a nice, honey-tinged sweetness. I finished the whole bar pretty quickly, so it's pretty obvious that I liked it.
If you ever find yourself near the Toco Hills Kroger, check out the kosher sections if you have time. I promise you'll find some foods you've probably never had before.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 255

Rabbit Rillettes: Tonight I had the pleasure of attending one of the best food events I've ever been to, courtesy of the Foodtopia people from Asheville, NC ( I've visited Asheville several times, but I had no idea they had such a vibrant and creative food scene. If the goal of the Foodtopia Atlanta event was to gain attention for Asheville, they definitely succeeded. Lots of chefs and food purveyors from Asheville were in attendance, and I actually had a difficult time narrowing down what I wanted to blog about - there were several new foods for me to try.

Even though I ate lots of great food, I spotted one dish early on that I'd never experienced: rabbit rillettes. If you're not familiar with rillettes, it's an old-school French way of preparing meat that's similar to pate. Basically, it involved cooking meat in fat until it's soft enough to be shredded, then cooled with the fat to form a paste that can be spread on bread. It's one of my favorite things, and I was excited to find this version made with rabbit since I'd never tried it that way.
Appearance-wise, it was much different that other rillettes I've eaten, and it looked more like shredded pork than anything else. I noticed that some people were eating it on a piece of toasted bread with some condiments, but I ended up trying it a la carte. My first bite was really tasty - the shredded rabbit had an earthy, salty flavor that had just the right amount of fat content. If the idea of meat cooked in fat confit-style sounds like overkill, trust me - it's not. It isn't something that I can eat large amounts of, but this rabbit version was decadent and awesome.

Right after I tried this dish, I met the guy who owned the farm that the rabbit came from. I know the whole "farm to table" thing is super-trendy right now, but it was really cool to meet the guy who was responsible for raising the food that I ate.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 254

Prepared Cuttlefish: I hope my readers aren't getting tired of reading about Asian snacks this week, but if you are, be patient. I was lucky enough to score some truly unique new foods courtesy of my friend's parents, and I've had a great time figuring out what they are. Today's new food is something that I've seen several times in Asian markets, but never had the chance to try: dried cuttlefish. Dried seafood is a common ingredient in Asian cuisine, but since I don't know what it's used for, I never buy it. From what my friend's parents said, these cuttlefish (packaged in Thailand) were being sold as a snack, so I was eager to finally try them this afternoon.
According to the bag, these were of the "best selected quality," and based on the appearance, I would hate to see the worst. I opened the bag and was immediately hit with an odor that reminded me of a cross between a pet store and fish food. Not good. I hoped they tasted better than they smelled.
I popped a small portion into my mouth, and fortunately, the taste wasn't bad. Kind of like any other dried fish I've tried, and the flavor was close to the dried Russian fish I attempted a few months ago. These were flavored with sugar, chili and salt, which cut the fishiness a bit. Texture-wise, they were dry and chewy, and it took quite a bit of work to get the first mouthful down. Not bad, but not something I'd seek out again.

Incidentally, I had to wash my hands after eating to get the fishy stench to go away. You better love stinky stuff if you want to try these.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 253

"Naughty" Quail Eggs: Today's new food is another selection from the stash that my friend's parents brought me from their travels. I've been eyeing these since they first brought me the food, but I was waiting for the right frame of mind to try them. If you long time followers remember correctly, I tried some preserved, salted duck eggs during the first week of the blog and wasn't that impressed with them, so I assumed that these would be more of the same.

The first thing I noticed about these was the name - apparently these were spicy and "naughty," which was pretty hilarious to read. They were packaged in Taiwan, and the tiny little eggs appeared to be hard-boiled, then possibly pickled in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and red pepper. I love raw quail egg in several sushi dishes, so I hoped these were at least better than the duck eggs I'd previously tried.
 After opening the tightly vacuum-packed package, I popped one of the gumdrop-sized eggs out and took a look. The shell had obviously been peeled before being packaged, and the slick surface was extremely dark brown (almost black) from the soy sauce. I cut one in half, and the inside featured a tiny cooked yolk - when combined with the brown interior, it almost looked like chocolate and peanut butter.
I took a bite of one, and was surprisingly impressed. The soy sauce/sugar mixture gave each one a sweet/salty flavor, with a spicy bite at the end from the red pepper - "naughty," indeed. Texture-wise, the outer section of the egg was slightly firm and chewy, which paired well with the softer yolk. I was seriously prepared to not enjoy these at all, but I ate a few of them before stopping. Thumbs up.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 252

Grape "Pizza Candy": I know the words "pizza" and "candy" don't exactly pair well together, but that's exactly what today's new food (another one courtesy of my friend's parents) tries to do. Well, at least on the packaging, anyway. Because I put off my blog entry until after dinner, I wasn't really in the mood for much of anything else to eat, so I figured this small piece of candy wouldn't hurt. From what I could tell, this "pizza candy" was packaged in Thailand, and in fact, wasn't pizza flavored at all.
After opening, I noticed that the candy was sort of pizza slice-shaped and purplish in color, which I'm guessing was the intended match for its grape flavor. I was hoping for some sort of strange fruity/pizza hybrid, but it tasted like a grape Jolly Rancher (or any other hard grape-flavored candy). It was sort of chewy in the middle, and after a few crunches, it disappeared. Not much else to report on this one.
I know that a lot of Asian products have unusual names and translations, but I guess this one is related to pizza in shape only.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 251

Alligator Bob's Smoked Alligator Stick: Today's new food might not seem all that unusual, since most of us have had the ubiquitous "Slim Jim" beef jerky more than once in our lives. However, this one featured an ingredient that was brand new to me: alligator. My friend's parents included this in their bag of treats that they gave me last weekend, which they accumulated during their travels over the past few months. This one procured in Florida may not be as strange as some of the Asian foods they found for me, but I was excited just the same to find out if gator tasted "just like chicken."
This gator stick was about a foot long and packaged in a sealed plastic tube, just like any standard beef jerky stick. I opened the plastic and sliced off a piece, and I couldn't tell any real difference appearance-wise. My first bite didn't really offer any new flavors, and it had the same salty, greasy goodness that any typical convenience-store beef jerky offers. I wish I could report something new, but if put in a blind taste test, I doubt I could find any differences between gator and beef (in stick form, that is).
I'm still curious about finding out what unadulterated gator tastes like, so maybe I'll encounter it in my travels soon. I doubt any restaurants in Atlanta are serving it up, but I guess I could always be surprised and find it somewhere here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 250

Unidentifiable "WoKeeLoong" Asian Snack: Today's new food is a first for me: something that I absolutely cannot identify at all. As I mentioned a few days ago, a friend's parents recently visited several Asian countries during an extended trip, and they brought me back a huge stash of goodies. When they were telling me about this particular food, they couldn't provide much information about it other than the fact that a lot of people on the streets of Hong Kong were snacking on them. Apparently, they even asked someone in HK what they were, and they didn't know. Even though I had no clue what they were, I was excited about finding out.

To make my eating even more complicated, there was almost no English on the bag. There was a logo with "WoKeeLoong" written under it, which I figured out was also the name of the manufacturer. "Hong Kong Cake Shop" was also written on the bag, but these didn't look like any cake I'd ever seen. The contents in the bag reminded me of General Tso's chicken, and they were coated in some sort of bright red sauce. I had no clue what these were gonna taste like, so I opened the bag and dug in.

The texture was strange, to say the least. Each piece seemed to be fried, and was super-crunchy and crispy, almost like a pork rind. The coating reminded me of sweet and sour sauce, only much spicier. But...what were these, exactly? Honestly, I still don't know. My hunch is that there was some sort of protein (maybe meat or tofu?) involved, based on the grams of protein listed per serving. Based on the small amount of information I had, I couldn't do too much researching, and my efforts were fruitless. They were sort of tasty, but it made me feel strange to keep eating something I couldn't identify at all, so I gave up after a few bites. Not that I haven't eaten something that I couldn't identify before, but I'm usually able to figure it out eventually.
If anyone out there can help me identify these, I would really appreciate it. Until then, they will remain a total mystery.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 249

Macaroons: I know that today's new food may sound just like something I tried during the first few weeks of the blog, but trust me, there's a big difference between macaroons and macarons. One is a classic French pastry, while the other is a staple of Jewish cuisine. While I'm partial to the former, I was curious to find out what macaroons were all about after a friend gave me some to sample. These weren't homemade, but the ones produced by Manischewitz that are common in most grocery stores.

I was craving an afternoon snack today, so I decided to give them a try with my coffee. Each piece was about the size of a quarter, and I was told that these were flavored with chocolate and cherry. I knew beforehand that macaroons were made primarily from coconut, which I love. It's hard for me to not like any type of sweet or pastry, so based on the ingredients, I knew they wouldn't be bad.
After finishing the few pieces I had, I immediately wished I had more. They were extremely moist, and the toasted coconut mixed with the chocolate and cherry pieces was pretty awesome. Each piece was bite size, so maybe it's better that I didn't have a whole container - I would have burned through them quickly. Now that I know how good they are, I'll be scouring the kosher section of my local Kroger to buy them. Good stuff.

According to Wikipedia, macaroons are apparently popular during Passover due to their lack of flour or leavening, but I could eat these year-round. Maybe I'll look for a good homemade version around town soon, but until then, these will definitely do.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 248

Maamoul: After finishing my awesome lunch at Tasty China on Monday, I noticed another destination in the same shopping center that I'd been wanting to check out for awhile: the Jerusalem Bakery (585 Franklin Rd., Suite 160, Marietta, GA 30067). Despite being full from lunch, I couldn't help myself from wandering over to check out what they had to offer. I'd read about their exceptional selection of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern baked goods, so I figured I might find something new to take home.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the amazing smell, and even though I had a stomach full of food, I couldn't resist some browsing. The bakery counter featured baklava and a few other standards, and there were tables of freshly baked pita bread near the front of the room. The bakery had pre-packaged several kinds of sweets, and a plastic container of what appeared to be some sort of pastry sprinkled with powdered sugar caught my eye. I'm a sucker for anything featuring powdered sugar, so I asked the counter attendant what they were. She said they were called maamoul, filled with either walnuts or dates. I opted for the walnut version and took some home.
I finally got a chance to check these out today, and I was impressed. The flour pastry itself was slightly crumbly, almost like the spherical "wedding cookies" found in any grocery store, and the filling was mix of what appeared to be chopped walnuts and brown sugar. They weren't too heavy or sweet, and I could have easily eaten more of them. I really like dates as an sweet ingredient as well, so I'll definitely try that version on my next visit.
Jerusalem Bakery also features Mediterranean lunch fare as well as strombolis and calzones. If you're not too full after your next Tasty China visit, check them out.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 247

Charoset with Maror: Today's new food came to me as a complete surprise, which is always fun. Tonight, me and the GF attended a Passover seder at one of her friend's houses, and while I had tasted most of the food there previously, I spotted something new to me on the dinner table: charoset. It looked almost like granola from a distance, but after asking what it was, I learned that it was made from a mixture of finely diced apples, nuts, cinnamon, and wine. Based on the ingredients (which I've had individually), I know that the dish sounds like something that wouldn't count as new, but once I learned how it was traditionally eaten, I knew it would be a new experience for me.
I was told that the traditional method of eating charoset was to put some on a piece of matzoh, then top with maror (horseradish with beet juice). All the components were considered kosher for Passover, so this was about as traditional as I could get with Jewish cuisine. Surprisingly, the heat from the horseradish was a nice pair with the sweetness of the charoset, and combined with the crunch of the matzoh, I really enjoyed it. I had a few more portions before moving on to some gefilte fish, which as I'm sure my readers expected, I enjoyed.
In addition to the charoset, I managed to score another new food from the host that I'm planning to write about later this week. I've been lucky with plenty of surprises this week, so here's to no shopping for awhile!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 246

"Hot And Numbing" Beef w/Cilantro and Chili Oil: One unexpected result of starting my blog is that it's allowed me to meet people that are involved in Atlanta's food community. I've really enjoyed putting faces with some of the names that I interact with online, and so far, it's been a great experience. Today's lunch led me to a meeting with Dan Aldridge, who writes the "ATL Food Snob" website ( His site contains some great Atlanta restaurant reviews as well as some ambitious recipes, so check him out if you can.

When Dan suggested that we meet at Tasty China in Marietta, I was automatically in. I'd heard of it several times from various sources, but never had a chance to try until today. Their menu features authentic Chinese dishes along with some Americanized items, but we definitely went authentic. I let him do the ordering, and even though everything we ate was really good, one item stood out for me: the hot and numbing beef with cilantro and chili oil. After hearing so much about the Sichuan "hot and numbing" quality, I couldn't wait to find out how it tasted.
Unlike a lot of Chinese dishes that I've been used to, this one was served cold. The only ingredients that I could spot were the ones actually listed on the menu - just thin-sliced beef, chili oil, and cilantro stems with leaves attached. Even though I like spicy food, my tolerance for heat isn't exactly high, so I wondered how my system would react. My stomach wouldn't allow me to wait any longer, so I dove in.
My first few bites were super flavorful, and the thin, tender beef went down easy. The whole thing was awash in the red chili oil, and after another bite or two, I started to feel it. My forehead started sweating, but not enough to stop me. If you like spicy food, I'd suggest buying some of the chili oil from an Asian market (most in the area have several different brands) and sampling the oil at home first. If you don't like the oil, you won't like this dish - there's no good way to dilute it. However, I liked it a lot, and the cold temperature mixed with the spicy oil was addictive. I'll be ordering this again next time, for sure.

In addition, we also had fried eggplant and braised fish dishes that were out of this world. If you like authentic Chinese cuisine (or have never tried it at all), you won't go wrong with Tasty China.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day 245

Codfish Pastry with Seaweed: Yesterday provided me with an awesome surprise - a friend's parents brought me a huge stash of exotic new food that they found for me while traveling. I always love it when anyone brings me new food, since shopping for this blog can be exhausting. There were some really great items in the bag, and I had a hard time narrowing down what I wanted to write about first. I couldn't even identify most of the foods, but one in particular featured English on the package that sounded tasty: codfish pastry with seaweed. Well, tasty to me, but I'm sure a lot of people would disagree.
The first thing I noticed was the hilarious packaging - there was a thought balloon inexplicably coming out of the pastry saying "Boo!!" Maybe that was the name of the item? Also, there was a description on the front that stated "a piece of this snack is sweet smell and delicious." Pretty typical for Asian packaging, but still funny. The product appeared to be some sort of fish flavored cracker (not really "pastry" as we know it) with a nori-style seaweed coating on one side.
 After opening the box, I found that it contained another small foil bag containing the "pastry." I took one out and tried it, and it was pretty much what I expected. The "pastry" was indeed a thin, crunchy wheat cracker flavored with fish paste, according to the ingredients. The texture was similar to any wheat cracker, and it reminded me of the Carr's crackers, only fishier. The flip side was coated with a piece of nori, which I've had a million times before in other Asian snacks and sushi bars. The combination was a little fishy, a little sweet, and really good.

These would be a great substitute for any sort of snack cracker or chip, but I don't even know where to tell you to look for them. The BHFM or Super H would be my first guess. Or China.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 244

Joyva "Joys" Candy: Today's new food is another selection that the GF picked up for me yesterday at the Toco Hills Kroger. Unlike other Krogers in the area, the Toco location features a large kosher selection, which luckily offers me a good supply for new experiences. When she showed me this "chocolate covered jelle" bar she found, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. What is "jelle," and was it going to taste good covered in chocolate? It was up to me to find out.
After unwrapping it this afternoon, it looked like a million other candy bars I've eaten. I broke it in half to check out the inside, and the thin outer layer of chocolate revealed a firm, dark red, jelly-like substance on the inside. I took a bite and was fairly pleased: the milk chocolate shell was nothing new, but the filling had an odd texture that reminded me of solidified jelly with a strawberry-ish taste. Maybe it's just because I was craving something sweet, but I ate the whole bar quickly. Not bad.
I'm not sure if I'd try this one again, but I'm glad I gave it a shot. And, apparently "jelle" is just like jelly, only firmer. I really love that I'm able to learn so much about food from doing this blog.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 243

Bissli Falafel-Flavor Party Snack: As of a couple hours ago, I had absolutely no new foods to write about today, but the GF came through for me in a pinch after hearing that I was lacking anything new. She managed to find enough time to swing by the Toco Hills Kroger, which features quite a bit of Jewish/kosher cuisine. I've found a few things there before, and luckily, she found a couple interesting new items for me.
I've actually blogged about these Israeli "Bissli" products before, but the ones I previously wrote about were the pizza-flavored type. These looked completely different (more like little sticks), and were falafel-flavored instead. I love falafel, so I was curious to find out if these tasted like the real thing at all.
I opened the bag, and I noticed that they did smell a bit like real falafel. The flavor had a nice salty/garlic-y, crunchy element that's common in a lot of wheat-based chips and snacks. I can't say they'd be a great replacement for real falafel, but I did eat quite a few handfuls of them before I stopped. I even tried dipping them in tzaziki that was left from my last at-home falafel meal, but the tiny matchsticks weren't really dipping-friendly.

Overall, they reminded me of a cross between canned fried onions and Fritos - not bad. After trying these, I'm definitely interested in the other flavors of Bissli.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Day 242

Schav: I actually didn't find too much during my last trip to Your Dekalb Farmer's Market, but I did take home something that I'd noticed on my last couple trips there but never got around to buying: Gold's Brand Schav. I ate Gold's borscht a few months ago with pleasing results, so I was curious to finally find out what this yellowish-colored soup was all about. The label listed it as being "made with farm fresh sorrel leaves." I didn't know what sorrel was, but at only $1.50 for the jar, I couldn't resist trying.
Since the schav was my last new food item from this week's shopping trip, I had no choice but to go ahead and try it tonight. Apparently it can be eaten hot or cold, but most advice I read online recommended that it be mixed with a bit of sour cream. It actually didn't include many ingredients at all, just water, sorrel leaves (sorrel is an herb, if you weren't sure), salt, egg yolks, and turmeric. I didn't feel like heating it, so I decided to go the cold route with a dollop of sour cream.
After shaking well, I put some of the schav in a bowl, then added some sour cream. It honestly didn't look too appetizing, and it reminded me more of swamp water than something to be eaten. However, appearances will never stop me, so I dipped my spoon in and gave it a try. I'm sad to report that it didn't taste much better than it looked. Actually, it didn't taste like much at all - like sour, slightly lemony, watery nothing. The sorrel didn't add any flavor that I could detect, and I got through a few spoonfuls before giving up. Oh well.

Incidentally, sorrel contains a toxin that can be fatal in large amounts. I didn't know I was risking my life for the blog by choosing this food, but I'm guessing I'll be around tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 241

Fleishkase: Ok, so today's new food isn't quite what I expected to post. Earlier this evening, I attended a tweetup at JCT Bar & Kitchen off Howell Mill Road that was built around what they call "Wiener Wednesday." The bar featured hotdogs made from exotic ingredients and toppings, but while tasty, the dogs featured tonight didn't really offer me anything new. After eating and socializing for awhile, I returned home to choose something else to blog about. Luckily, I went shopping yesterday at Your Dekalb Farmers Market, and I happened to find something in the deli section that was new to me: fleishkase.

I'd never heard of fleishkase, but I assumed it was some sort of deli meat that featured a mix of several pork products. After opening the package tonight, it reminded me of the pressed "olive loaf" that's found in grocery stores everywhere. It was full of little holes, and it almost looked like a hybrid of bologna and swiss cheese. Weird, but I was still excited to try.
How did it taste? Actually, the flavor was just like olive loaf, minus the olives. The pieces were sliced thin, and it definitely had a bit more flavor than standard bologna. Tasty, but not really a new flavor for me. I had no idea what fleishkase was made from, so after some research, I discovered that it's a Bavarian dish that translates as "meat cheese." Yes, you read that right. It's typically known as leberkase, but that more popular version contains liver, where this one doesn't. It usually contains corned beef, onions, bacon and pork, and it's made by grinding all those ingredients, then baking them as a loaf. Yum.

Tonight may not have resulted in me finding a new meat in hotdog form, but this fleishkase was definitely the next best thing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 240

White Sweet Potato: Today's new food is another score from my visit to the Buford Highway Farmers Market a few days ago. When I noticed these unusual white sweet potatoes in the produce section, I couldn't resist trying one. It's funny to think about how many types of one thing (potatoes, pears, apples, etc.) I've tried during the course of this blog. I never thought there were any other types of sweet potato other than the standard ones I've been buying for years, but this experiment has definitely proved me wrong.
 I didn't want this specimen to go bad, so I decided to go ahead and prepare it as a side for tonight's dinner. The potato was much smaller than most sweet potatoes I've had, and the outer skin was sort of a light beige color. I usually just slice sweet potatoes into discs then roast them with some olive oil, which I what I chose to do with these. I wanted to know what they tasted like unadulterated, so into the oven they went.
After roasting for 20 minutes, I pulled them out and tasted. They were noticeably less sweet than any other sweet potato I've tried, but I still detected a hint of sweetness. The texture was no different, and they were actually just as tasty as what I've been used to. If normal sweet potatoes or yams are too sweet for you, I'd recommend giving these a try if you can find them.

Speaking of sweet potatoes, I found out that "yam" is the proper name for the orange-colored ones that most people eat. This firmer, white variety that I just tried is actually a true sweet potato, but the U.S. Department inexplicably requires that yams also be referred to as "sweet potatoes." Going by that logic, this is my first authentic sweet potato.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 239

Nongshim "Banana Flavored Snack": I haven't had a good Asian snack in awhile, so when I saw this whimsical-looking bag of, umm, something at the BHFM last week, I knew it would be going home with me. More often than not, the packaging with Asian goods is much more appealing than the product inside, but I was still curious to find out what this one tasted like. "Snack" could describe almost anything, right?
I was in dire need of an afternoon snack today, so I broke open the bag and hoped for the best. I was immediately hit with the smell of banana, but it was more like the fake scratch-and-sniff type instead of the real thing. The ingredients listed corn flour and sugar as the primaries, with some additional flavoring (including something called "banana powder") thrown in. They looked like oversized Cheetos without the orange coating.
How did they taste? Actually, really good. I'm usually not too crazy about fake banana flavoring, but these were lightly sweet, crunchy and totally addictive. The banana flavor was noticeable, but not overwhelming. After a few bites, I wondered how they would taste dipped in peanut butter, and the results were awesome. I went through the whole bag in one sitting, which I rarely do with anything I try for the first time. If you've ever wanted to try a sweet version of Cheetos, make sure to pick up a bag of these next time you're at the BHFM.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Day 238

Sapote: You know how I mentioned yesterday that finding new fruits was mostly successful for me? Well, today's new fruit find wasn't in that category. While looking through the BHFM's produce section during my last shopping trip, I noticed these small fruits that looked similar to a kiwi. I'd never heard of a sapote, but I figured that if it tasted anything like a kiwi, I was in good shape. I wasn't so lucky.
I gave this one a try this afternoon, and after slicing it in half, I noticed that the inside appeared to look more like pear than kiwi. The skin peeled off easily like a kiwi, so after cutting off a piece and peeling it, I gave it a try. My first bite wasn't good at all - the texture was similar to a soft variety of pear, but the taste really wasn't good. It was sweet, but it had a strange vegetable-like undertone that didn't mesh well at all with the sweet fruit flavor. I got through one bite and couldn't do any more. Maybe it's better when cooked or worked into another dish, but I won't be finishing it on its own.
I guess I can't win them all when eating something new every day. Everything can't be good, but fortunately, I've experienced more good than bad. And if you're curious, sapotes are a fruit indigenous to several regions, including Mexico, Central America and South America. One source said that several varieties can be "truly incredible," so I guess I selected one of the varieties that wasn't.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 237

Kohlrabi: Today's new food is another find from the Buford Highway Farmers Market's produce section. While I've noticed that it's getting more and more difficult to find new fruits, I still have a lot of ground to cover with vegetables. I usually stick to fruits since they don't require cooking, but when I saw this strangely-shaped bulb near the back of the cold produce wall, I was curious. It reminded me of an alien spacecraft, or maybe one of the Snorks (remember that Saturday morning cartoon from the 80's?). It was pretty cheap per pound, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to take one home.
After doing some research, I was glad to find out that it didn't require cooking at all. A lot of recipes recommended using it raw in various slaws or salads, so I peeled its purple skin and cut a few slices off to try. I had no idea what it was going to taste like, but the flavor instantly reminded me of something I've eaten a million times: cabbage. The texture was more like a radish, and I can see why it's crunchy interior would be great for making slaw if you wanted a break from using traditional white cabbage. Unfortunately, it didn't taste like much on it's own, so maybe I'll try using it in another dish or pickling it.
So, what exactly is kohlrabi? It's also referred to as a "german turnip," and it's in the same family as cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. I'm going to definitely keep more new vegetables in rotation for the blog. I'm rarely disappointed with the results, and I always feel like I'm doing something healthy for myself. I can't survive off meat and bread products alone, even though I wish I could.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day 236

Mangosteen: As my readers know by now, I love finding new fruits and vegetable to try for the blog. Not only are they healthy, but they're usually pretty inexpensive and easy to find. While browsing the produce section at the Buford Highway Farmers Market, I noticed something that I'd seen there before but never gotten around to trying: mangosteen. Despite the name, it looked nothing like any mango I've tried. It was also rather expensive ($6.99/lb!), but a nice lady shopping close by saw me examining them and told me that they were "really good for you," and I should try. That was all I needed to hear, so I selected a small one and threw it in my basket.
I wasn't sure how long these things stayed fresh, so I decided to give it a try this afternoon. It was about the size of a small plum, with a hard outer shell and a woody stalk on top. I wasn't even sure how to eat it, but some online instructions advised me to break open the outer shell and eat the small, juicy pieces inside. It took some work with my knife to break the tough exterior, but once I did, I saw the little edible pieces waiting for me.
I carefully scooped out the interior with my knife, and each tiny section looked like a clove of garlic. Despite it not yielding much edible fruit, it had a bright, fruity berry-like taste that reminded me of pomegranate or lychee. I devoured all the juicy pieces quickly, and wished I'd bought more. Too bad these aren't less expensive.
So, what are mangosteens, exactly? According to Wikipedia, they're actually a fruit that comes from an evergreen tree that allegedly originated in the Sunda Islands and Indonesia. And, the lady at the market was right - the fruit is used in many health supplements and juices.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Day 235

Trubochki: Ok, so I know I said I'd give my readers a rest from Eastern European/Russian food after last week's run, but I found something today at the Buford Highway Farmers Market in the Eastern Euro section that I couldn't resist. And yes, I found plenty of other items elsewhere in the market that weren't in that category, but for today, I had to try these.

When I first spotted these trubochki, they reminded me of chocolate-dipped ice cream cones. The label stated that they were "trubochki with condensed milk," so I assumed they'd contain some sort of creamy filling. A dessert with a wafer-like shell, filled with cream, then dipped in chocolate and nuts? I couldn't say no to that.
I couldn't wait to tear into these after dinner tonight, so I eagerly opened the container after I was done. Each trubochki was about 6 or 7 inches long, and dipped in chocolate and nuts on each end. I cut one in half, and it was filled at each end with a brown substance that looked like a mix of brown sugar and caramel. I took a bite and was really, really happy. The wafer shell wasn't that crunchy after being filled and coated, but all the ingredients combined to make one of the best desserts I've had in awhile. The filling tasted like sweetened condensed milk that had been reduced, and it was actually a bit grainy instead of creamy. Overall, it reminded me of a cannoli, but not nearly as rich. Highly recommend.
What can I say - I can't resist Eastern European treats. I really need to visit some of those countries one day.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 234

Abate Fetel Pear: Today's new food is another find from yesterday's impromptu trip to Whole Foods on Ponce. I know I promised a real shopping trip this week, but fear not: it's coming tomorrow. While browsing the produce section at WF, I noticed this odd-looking pear. It was shaped much different than any of the others I've tried, so I decided to take one of these home. I love pears, so any opportunity to try a new variety is OK by me.

According to the label, this abate fetel variety was grown in Argentina. It had the same greenish skin as several other Anjou pears I've eaten, but the biggest noticeable difference was its extended top section. It almost looked like a bloated banana, and I had no idea if it was going to taste any different from the Anjou. Time to try!
I cut off a slice to start with, and my knife went through the flesh easily. I prefer softer pears over crunchy, so I was excited to taste this one. I was correct about the softness - it was almost mushy (but not over-ripe), and had a light sweetness combined with a bit of tartness that I really enjoyed. If you like pears, you won't go wrong checking this one out.
According to some interwebs sources, the abate fetel is a European cultivar that was originally bred by monks centuries ago. It's amazing to me how some foods endure the test of time, and considering how tasty this one was, I can see why it stuck around.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 233

Vegan Cheddar Cheese: I had originally planned on doing a real shopping trip today, but today didn't find me in the right mood. I was exhausted from last night's storm keeping me awake, so I dropped any plans I had of doing any real scavenging.

As I've done in the past, I stopped by Whole Foods on Ponce to find some emergency items, since I had absolutely nothing new at home. I didn't find anything while browsing the hot bar (all stuff I've tried there before), but I found something that I'd brought home before but didn't get around to trying: vegan cheddar cheese. Since this strange substance dried out in my fridge almost overnight last time around, I went ahead and ate my sample today.
This wasn't my first time trying vegan cheese - the vegan pizza I attempted a few weeks ago had some faux-mozzarella on it that tasted more like melted rubber than cheese. I won't elaborate too much on my feelings about veganism, but let's just say that I really, really don't understand it. However, those feelings won't keep me from trying something once, so I wanted to give this fake cheddar a shot.

The version I found at WF was shredded, and except for a slightly darker color, it looked just like any other shredded cheddar. Based on previous experience I've had with vegan items, I wasn't exactly looking forward to trying this, but no big deal. My first bite was strange - my brain tried to process it as real cheese, but it knew something wasn't right. The texture was strange and spongy compared to real cheddar, and the taste reminded me of the fake cheese flavor sprayed on Cheetos or any other processed cheese snack. Not so good. Also, it was noticeably more greasy than real shredded cheese, which I'm guessing was due to the amount of oil used to keep it all together.

For all of the "healthy"qualities these fake foods supposedly have, there sure seems to be a lot of processing going on. I'll stick to moderate quantities of the real thing, thanks.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Day 232

Cod Liver: Today marks the last of my Russian/Eastern European haul from the European Deli in Marietta, and it's a strange one, for sure. I've eaten some unusual animal parts in my time, but fish offal is something I don't have any experience with. When I saw this canned cod liver in the market last week, I knew I had to have it. I remember hearing about cod liver oil when I was a kid, and just the name alone sounded disgusting at the time. However, I've grown up, and unpleasant associations of the past just aren't enough to keep me away from something I'm curious about.
I decided to open it today over at the GF's house, and I don't think she was too thrilled (although her cats seemed to be impressed). Once I got the lid off, I was immediately hit with a fishy odor that reminded me of sardines or any other canned fish. The smell wasn't nearly as unappealing at the visual, though - it looked like a gelatinous, flesh-colored blob. Not exactly appetizing, I know.
Rather than eat this stuff by itself, the GF supplied me with some crackers to spread it on. How was it? Well, the taste wasn't much different from any canned or smoked fish I've tried, much like sardines or sprats. The texture was a bit disconcerting at first, but similar to other liver I've eaten. After a few bites, it became more palatable, but I couldn't handle more than a few bites. Maybe I'll tackle the rest over the next few days.

If you love canned or smoked fish (and aren't scared by offal), give this one a try. If you don't like all of those things, you might wanna stay away.