Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 319

Roasted Eel with Fermented Black Beans: As my readers probably know by now, I love any type of canned seafood I can get my hands on, especially smoked fish. When I saw this can of roasted eel during my last visit to the Hoa Binh Market on Buford Highway, I was immediately interested. One of my fave dishes at any sushi bar is the ubiquitous "BBQ" eel, and based on the packaging, this looked pretty similar.
Rather than being prepared BBQ style, these were actually roasted, with fermented black beans added. I haven't had great luck with any of the fermented/preserved foods I've tried lately, so I hoped these proved to be better. I didn't have plans to eat these today, but a friend from Virginia is visiting, and I actually let him pick something from my stash for me to try. If they were bad, it was gonna be his fault!

Once I got the pull-tab off the bottom of the can, I wasn't too surprised at what I found. The contents weren't as pretty as what you find at a sushi bar, and I'd probably be offended if this stuff was served as nigiri. However, it tasted much better than it looked. Like most eel I've had, it was fairly sweet, but much less moist than sushi-style BBQ. The black beans didn't really add much - there weren't that many anyway. There wasn't much oil in the can, and what was left in the bottom made the eel taste much better when used as a dipping sauce. Not bad.
Overall, these were a little drier and fishier than what I'm used to, but not a bad replacement if you're craving eel. You can probably find them (or something like them) at any Asian grocery.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 318

Ma Law Sesame Biscuit: My inaugural shopping trip to the Great Wall Supermarket on Pleasant Hill Road in Duluth proved to be pretty successful. I still have several items stockpiled from there, and while the preserved olives I previously tried weren't so good, today's new food was much better.
I've noticed that so many sweet Asian snacks are made from the same ingredients - rice, flour, sugar, and sesame. However, they all seem to taste extremely different when a couple other ingredients are added. I assumed these Taiwanese "Ma Law Biscuit" things would just be a crunchy, sweet cookie, but I was totally wrong.
I was craving a dessert after lunch today, so I opened the bag and gave them a try. My first bite completely surprised me. Instead of a cookie or "biscuit," I discovered an interior filled with something that reminded me of flaky, sticky cotton candy. How did they achieve that texture? It dissolved in my mouth quickly, and I was left with a sesame-flavored syrupy coating that provided just the right amount of sweetness. Most Asian and Indian desserts have noticeably less sweetness than American desserts, and these were definitely in that category.
It's rare that I eat seconds of anything I try for this blog, but I ate 2 of these sizable"biscuits" today before stopping. Good stuff. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 317

Fried Seaweed Cookies: After my last few not-so-tasty offerings from the Hoa Binh Market on Buford Highway, I was apprehensive about trying these Taiwanese "fried cookies" I found there during my last trip. In all fairness to the market, it wasn't their fault that I didn't enjoy the foods I've tried so far, but I really hoped the cookies were better.
Like most Asian products, there wasn't much English on the packaging, so when I decided to open these today, I perused the ingredients first. Wheat flour, sugar, butter, egg, seaweed, all sounded fairly innocuous. The seaweed appeared to have been dried, then flaked and sprinkled on top of each cookie after baking. Anything had to be better than the preserved orange peel from a few days ago, so I opened the bag and gave them a try.
Actually, they ended up tasting pretty good. Not much different from a thinner, crunchier vanilla wafer, to be honest. The small amount of seaweed (pretty much the same as dried nori) was almost undetectable, and it didn't really add any flavor to the cookie. Despite not being very unusual, they were tasty, and I ate several of them before giving up. I could see them working well as a light dessert or snack. Not bad.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 316

Que Huong Curry Beef Jerky: Today's new food is another selection from my last trip to the Hoa Binh Market on Buford Highway, and while I've eaten plenty of jerky during this blog (venison, alligator, vegan shiitake mushroom), I've never had any quite like this.

When I spotted it in the market, I wasn't sure what to think. It looked more like dried out rope or leather than jerky, and I can't say that it seemed very appetizing. However, I love any type of jerky in general, and I also love anything curry flavored. Plus, the little cartoon cow on the front was kind of amusing, so I had to try it. I'm generally disturbed by any packaging that features a cartoon version of the animal I'll be eating, but I made an exception for this.
I finally opened the package of this unusual jerky tonight, figuring that it'd be like any other, just curry flavored. Wrong. Instead of the chewy texture of most beef jerky I've tried, it was extremely dry and crunchy. I had to use a bit of effort to bite it in two, but once I broke off a small piece and chewed, it became much softer and rehydrated. The curry flavoring was sweet and spicy, and actually worked well with the flavor of the beef. Pretty good.
If you're tired of snapping into your Slim Jims, give this jerky a try if you see it at your local Asian market. The company also makes a fruit flavored jerky, which I'll definitely try if I can find it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 315

Fresh Flavour Preserved Vegetable: After yesterday's miserable experience with the preserved orange peel, I hoped that today's new food would be a lot better. I'm apparently in a habit of trying preserved foods lately, but the results haven't been so good. I found this little bag of Chinese preserved "vegetable" at the Great Wall Supermarket in Duluth last weekend, and yes, the packaging just says "vegetable." There was no indication of what kind of vegetables were in there, so of course, I had to find out.

I really wasn't in the mood to try anything new today, but as my readers know, skipping a day just isn't an option - especially when there are less than 2 months left in this insane project. Anyway, I cracked these open tonight as a post-dinner snack. In addition to the "vegetable," the ingredients also included salt, vegetable oil, sugar, MSG, and chili powder. Oh, and these mystery vegetables were made by the "Fish Well" company. Hmm.
Once I got them out of the package, I still couldn't tell what they were. Tasting them unfortunately didn't help much, either. Like the other preserved foods I've eaten lately, they were extremely salty, with a somewhat spicy aftertaste supplied by the chili powder. Texture-wise, they reminded me of bamboo shoots...or maybe some kind of onion? I really have no idea. It wasn't too appetizing on its own, and the packaging advised that it "can be eaten directly upon opening or can be eaten with rice, fried dishes or make a soup."
I really hope my next couple days of new foods are better. I think I'm staying away from preserved stuff for awhile.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 314

Preserved Orange Peel: It's been a long time since I've spit anything out after taking my first bite, but that's exactly what happened with today's new food. I found this bag of "preserved orange peel" at the Hoa Binh Market on Buford Highway last weekend. The market had an awesome selection of Asian snacks, and when I saw these in a section with other preserved fruits and vegetables, they looked really interesting. I like oranges, but who eats the rind? Apparently some people do, so I considered them safe enough to try. Man, was I ever wrong.

I finally got around to opening these this afternoon, and I was extremely curious. According to the ingredient list, the contents consisted of orange peel, salt, sugar, citric acid, licorice (?), sodium benzoate, and sodium metabisulfite. Wow, that's a lot of sodium for something that was originally fruity. Each piece of peel looked like it was candied, then coated in sugar.
I expected these to be sugary and tart, but no. My first bite flooded my mouth with a bitterness that eclipsed any citrus rind I've ever tasted, with a super-salty aftertaste that almost made me choke. There was very little sweetness, just the overpowering bitterness of the rind. I guess the preservation process only makes the bitterness worse. I also detected something that reminded me of soy sauce - maybe that was the licorice? After a couple chews, I spit the remainder in the sink, then rinsed my mouth out with coffee. Ugh.
These were by far one of the most unpleasant things I've tried. Ever. Unless you're in love with insanely bitter citrus rind permeated by salt, stay away from these at all costs.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 313

Stuffed Pumpkin Flowers: In addition to all the great stuff I've already found at the Buford Highway Farmers Market, I've also been on a quest for something else there that I wasn't even sure if I'd find: squash blossoms. Me and the GF have been hunting them after finding an awesome-sounding recipe in her Mesa Grill cookbook, which involve stuffing them with ricotta cheese, then deep-frying. Apparently, they're only available seasonally, so when she got an email this morning from the BHFM saying they were in stock, we hustled down there to get some.

When we arrived at the market, what we found was something a bit different, but definitely usable: pumpkin flowers. They looked just like squash blossoms, and after some quick iPhone research, we discovered that they could be swapped for squash blossoms in most recipes. There was only one package left, so we hastily grabbed it.
The recipe basically required stuffing the inside of the flowers with a mix of ricotta and cotija cheese, basil, and roasted corn. Once we got them stuffed, we coated them in a rice flour batter, then deep-fried. I know the deep-frying trend is out of control right now, but whatever - these looked good.
Once we removed them from the oil, we trimmed the stems, then drizzled them with a sweet-hot yellow pepper vinaigrette that we had prepared beforehand. My first bite was really good, but the texture of the flower was hard to describe. It was sort of spongy, without much flavor on its own, and it struck me as more of a vessel to hold the delicious filling than anything else. I didn't try them alone, so maybe that was a mistake.

After doing some research, it seems that pumpkin flowers are the same as zucchini blossoms and squash blossoms. If you've never tried edible flowers, definitely try this recipe if you can find it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 312

Seasoned Dried Cuttlefish: After my not-so-appetizing experience with prepared cuttlefish a couple months ago, I wasn't sure if I'd ever be up for eating them again. However, when I saw these seasoned, dried cuttlefish at the Buford Highway Farmers Market last weekend, I decided to give them another try. The pre-packaged version I tried before tasted like stinky fish jerky, but these (seasoned with oil, syrup, soy sauce, sugar, and sesame seeds) actually sounded good.

Since I didn't want them to spoil, I eagerly dove into them tonight. The first thing I noticed after opening the package was the smell. Apparently, cuttlefish never smell good. These had an extremely fishy odor that hit me from a couple feet away, so I hoped that they tasted much better than they smelled.
Luckily, that was exactly what happened. Don't get me wrong - there was definitely a strong fish flavor, but no worse than canned sardines. Believe it or not, the sweetness of the soy sauce and sugar worked well with the strong flavor of the cuttlefish. If you've never seen a cuttlefish, they look a lot like squid, but these had obviously been dried and shredded before seasoning. The texture reminded me of a cross between jerky and firm noodles, and overall, I liked it. I'm not really sure if it's supposed to be eaten as a side or snack, but it was tasty.

If you like ultra-fishy flavors and jerky-like texture, check this one out. Once you get past the smell, it's really not bad.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 311

Grilled Quail: So me and the GF decided to do an impromptu dinner at the Sound Table on Edgewood, and while I wasn't sure if I'd find anything blog-worthy there during tonight's visit, I knew we'd have a great meal. If you haven't tried the Sound Table yet, you really should. In addition to a great menu, they also have my favorite cocktail list in town.

As I scanned the menu for something new to me, I noticed something interesting: grilled quail. I know it may sound crazy, but I've never had quail before. All I knew about quail was that it was a tiny game bird, but past that, I really didn't know anything. The ST's version was served grilled as a "salad," with an Anson Mills grit cake and arugula topped with a caramelized honey balsamic glaze. Luckily, the GF was up for trying this dish with me, so we ordered.
Once the server brought the dish, the presentation surprised me. The "salad" actually consisted of the quail served on top of the grit cake, with the arugula and dressing on the side. While it all looked good, I was most curious about the quail, which was split into 2 legs and 2 wings (I think).

Based on its appearance, I expected it to taste like chicken, but that wasn't quite right. There was definitely a chicken-like texture, but the slightly gamy flavor fell somewhere in between chicken and duck. The meat was mostly dark, and it had a smoky quality that chicken definitely lacks. Each piece was moist and tasty, with just the right amount of char from the grill, and I could have eaten much more of it. The rest of the dish was also good, but the quail was the real standout. Good stuff.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 310

Seasoned Potato Stem: I must have done a really good job with last weekend's shopping trips, because I definitely snagged some new foods that have totally mystified me. I love the Buford Highway Farmers Market's fresh prepared Asian section in the back - in addition to most of the selections being tasty, it's also supplied me with some truly new experiences. During my last visit, I spotted a product labeled "seasoned potato stem" in the cold section. Potato stems? I had no idea what those were, so of course, I had to buy them.

I'd had these sitting in the fridge for a couple days, so I finally broke them open today to find out what they were. The "stems" were seasoned with salt, dashida (a Korean soup seasoning), sesame oil, garlic, and soy sauce, and the dish also included some green onion and sesame seeds. I love those particular seasoning ingredients in Asian cuisine, so I knew I'd probably like these if the "stems" tasted good.
I wasn't sure what to expect with this dish, but it was actually pretty good. The stems reminded me of crunchy, stringy cabbage - almost like kimchi, but not leafy. However, that's where the kimchi comparisons ended. The sesame/soy element was fairly strong, and I assume they had been previously stir-fried before being packaged cold. Some additional flavor was added by the onion/garlic, but overall, I liked this. I'm sure it's a popular with Asian cuisine, and apparently it's Korean in origin (also called goguma).

If you're still wondering what potato stems are, well...I'm not entirely sure. I couldn't find any conclusive info, but I gather that they're one of the wiry, stringy parts ("tubers") of the potato that we usually don't eat in American cuisine.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 309

Wax Apple: Today's new food comes from my last shopping trip to the Buford Highway Farmers Market (surprise). I really don't know how I would have done this blog without the BHFM, especially their awesome selection of interesting produce. Now that the seasons have changed, I've been finding some great new things there instead of the same inventory I've been used to for awhile.

I spotted these "wax apples" near the front of the store as soon as I walked in, and even though I've tried several different styles of apples for the blog, I'd never seen these. Each one was a little bigger than my thumb, with a red, waxy skin that was appropriate for its name. I really like apples in general, so I threw a couple of these in my basket - they would only cost me a few cents, anyway.
My curiosity finally got the best of me this afternoon, so I grabbed one and gave it a try. My first bite wasn't what I expected at all. Instead of the sweetness that I expected, all I tasted was the bitterness of the skin and a watery, mostly tasteless interior. The texture was actually more like a pear than apple. It really didn't taste like much at all, and I'm guessing these are better when worked into a dish and mixed with sugar or some other sweetener.
Interestingly, Wikipedia states that the only resemblance to an apple with these is the outside color, with all else being totally different - it's not an apple at all. Way to go with the naming, people!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 308

Preserved Olive: Even though I eat a lot of new food for this blog, it's not every day that I'm truly stumped and surprised by something, but that's exactly what happened with today's entry. I found some interesting stuff at the Great Wall Supermarket in Duluth yesterday, and in addition to finding lots of packaged Asian foods, the market also sold some things in bulk. It was hard to narrow down my choices, but I couldn't resist these "preserved" olives. They didn't look like any olives I'd ever seen, so I selected a couple of them to take home.
I decided to give these a try this afternoon, and the results were unusual, to say the least. Each one looked more like a tiny lemon than an olive, with a bright yellow skin that was dry, not moist. I bit off a small piece, and the texture was fruit-like, but more reminiscent of citrus peel/rind than anything else. The flavor was sweet and sour, not like an olive at all, but it also had a salty, vinegar-y aftertaste that I really couldn't stomach. I truly expected this one to be more savory than sweet, but I was wrong.

Preserved olives are apparently a popular Asian snack, but I don't think I'll be eating these again. I couldn't find any conclusive info about how these are preserved, so if anyone knows more about them, please feel free to educate me. Some internet sources I read say they aren't really olives, but plums. Now I'm really confused.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 307

Banh Da Lon Khoai Mon (Sweet Green Taro Root Cake): After a few days of procrastinating, I finally got around to a full-fledged shopping trip today. I hit several new markets on Buford Highway and bought some awesome new foods, but today's entry comes courtesy of the GF's visit to Lee's Bakery. She had lunch there with a friend, and was thoughtful enough to bring me something back to blog about. I've had a couple of their packaged desserts before (made off-site by the Viet My Bakery), but I'd never seen this one, made with green taro root.
I didn't want this one to go to waste, so I gave it a try tonight after dinner as dessert. The ingredient list was fairly long, but consisted mostly of water, tapioca starch, taro root, sugar, bai toey leaves (a common Asian herb), and some coloring. It also included a side of the creamy coconut dipping sauce that was featured in the steamed banana cake dessert I previously found at Lee's.
Once I got the wrapper off, it reminded me of Jell-O in appearance, but much more gelatinous-looking. My first bite reminded me a lot of the banana "cake" I ate before, but this one had a much less distinct flavor. Even though there was no rice flour listed, it reminded me a lot of the gelatinous rice cakes and desserts I've had. I mainly tasted sugar, but the coconut dipping sauce added a lot of flavor. It was kind of like eating warm, sugary, non-fruit flavored Jell-O dipped in coconut cream. Not bad, but not really anything new for me.

How strange is it that I'm used to this flavor/texture by now? I bet a lot of people can't say that.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 306

Aprium: Remember how I promised to complete a real shopping trip today? Yeah, that didn't go so well. After an attempt to locate an obviously closed Vietnamese grocery on Cheshire Bridge Road, I ended up at a health food store nearby. That effort was also fruitless, literally and figuratively. Let's just say that I'm glad I don't choose a gluten-free/vegetarian/vegan diet - the selection was unappetizing, and the prices outrageous.

I ended up at the Publix on the corner of Lavista and Cheshire Bridge in hopes of finding something to at least get me through the day. As usual, I hit the produce section first, since it usually offers the greatest chance of finding something seasonal that I haven't tried before. I noticed these "apriums" after a few seconds of browsing, which I'd never heard of. They looked a lot like peaches (or apricots) with a soft, velvety skin, but I knew they'd probably offer something different. Score.
Once I got home, I gave it a try as an afternoon snack. I cut off a slice, and the texture reminded me of a under-ripe peach, but the flavor was much more tart than a peach. I have a low tolerance for tart/sour, but luckily it offered just enough sweetness for me to enjoy. It wasn't that juicy, but aside from a small pit in the middle, it offered a lot of edible fruit for the money. Good stuff.
So, what is an aprium, exactly? According to Wikipedia, it's a "complex cross of plum and apricot, requiring several generations of crosses to create a new fruit." They're only available in the U.S. in June, so I apparently snagged one of these just under the wire.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 305

"Black Velvet" Pluot: Today's new food is my second find from my visit to Whole Foods on Ponce yesterday. Like I've said before, my options at WF have pretty much run dry, but I was lucky enough to find a couple of items to get me through yesterday and today. Real shopping will have to happen tomorrow, whether I like it or not.

The produce section didn't offer much of anything new for me, but in addition to yesterday's "eightball" squash, I found this "black velvet" pluot. I tried a pluot for the first time way back on day 41, but I'd never seen this version before. It featured a dark, velvety-looking skin, which was much different than the shiny, smooth skin of the other pluot I'd tried. I love trying new fruits and vegetables, so what did I have to lose?
Once I tried it as a afternoon snack today, I was happy with the results. I cut off a slice to check out the interior, and it was actually a bit darker than I expected, resulting in a bit of liquid leaking onto my knife that reminded me of blood orange juice. The flavor was sweet, reminiscent of a plum, with a tangy bite from the skin that I really enjoyed. There wasn't much fruit on this specimen after factoring in the pit, and after tasting, I wished I'd bought a couple more.
If you like plums (or any dark-skinned fruit), give these a try. I know Whole Foods on Ponce has them, but I'm not sure where else.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 304

"Eightball" Squash: In an effort to put off serious shopping until another day, I stopped by the Whole Foods on Ponce today, hoping to find something to tide me over. I've pretty much given up on WF as far as finding new foods goes, and I've eaten every selection I could possibly find on their hot bar. Those free samples have kept the blog afloat on more than one occasion, so I can't say too much bad about them.

As I browsed the produce section, I wasn't finding anything at first, but I noticed something new on one of the top shelves near the back: "eightball" squash. I'd never heard of it, but it was definitely interesting enough to count. The outside looked like regular green squash, but instead of being long and skinny, it was short, round, and about the size of a baseball (or eightball, I guess).
I was curious to find out how it compared to the other green squash I've tried, so I decided to cook it as a side with my dinner tonight. Once I sliced off the ends, I cut it in half horizontally and sliced it like an apple. The interior was like any other green squash, with some seeds circling the middle. I sauteed it for a few minutes with olive oil/salt/pepper, and in the pan, I couldn't tell any difference in appearance. Flavor-wise, it was the same as any other green squash I've had, and it retained a nice crunch after cooking.
I wish I had more to say about this one, but it's just green squash, only rounder.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 303

Trader Joe's Baingan Bharta Eggplant Curry: If you're tired of reading about my attempts at different types of Indian cuisine, fear not - today is the last one for awhile. I found this package of frozen "Baingan Bharta" eggplant curry during my last Trader Joe's visit, and since I've had good results from their frozen Indian selections, I took one of these home for good measure.

According to the box, "bharta" refers to any type of char-grilled/smoked and smashed vegetables, with eggplant being the most popular choice. TJ's version included eggplant, onion, tomato, and a generous helping of the usual Indian spices. Since I didn't have anything set aside for lunch today, I decided to give it a try with a side of TJ's garlic naan. Much to the probable dismay of all you gourmands out there, I eat a lot of TJ's food when I need a quick, simple, healthy meal. Not usually adventurous, but their foods from various cuisines definitely help.
After a few minutes in the microwave, the dish was ready. Despite the small size, the container actually contained 3 servings, so I was glad the naan kept me from eating all of it. I actually liked this one a lot - it was much lighter than the channa masala from TJ's, and not as spicy as some of the other curry dishes I've tried. The smoky mashed eggplant worked well with the tomato, onion, and spices, and I finished about half of it with the naan bread before stopping.
I'm always surprised at how good Indian vegetarian cuisine can be. Not that I'd ever consider going vegetarian, but at least there are tasty options out there if you do decide to go that route.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 302

Kadhaai Brand Egg Curry: I sincerely hope my readers like hearing about Indian cuisine, since I've been trying a lot of it lately. Today's new food is another find from my last Buford Highway Farmers Market visit. I'm truly thankful that market exists, since I've found an overwhelming percentage of food for my blog there. It's a great place for one-stop around-the-world shopping, and if you've never been, what are you waiting for?

I've had great luck with a lot of the Indian food mixes that the BHFM sells. In addition to being inexpensive, they've also allowed me to try a lot of foods for the first time. I'm no stranger to curry, but when I saw this packet of egg curry mix, I couldn't resist taking it home. I love eggs in almost any dish, and I was curious to taste how they worked in a curry dish.
Once I got ready to try this dish for lunch today, I couldn't believe how easy the prep was. All I had to do was boil the eggs, separately blend the curry mix with water, then simmer it all for about 10 minutes. The curry/water mix looked a bit thin to me at first, but it thickened up once it was finished cooking. The curry sauce was fairly spicy, and my forehead broke out in a sweat almost immediately after I took a bite. I know there are several different spice levels with curry, but this one was definitely strong enough to notice. The sauce contained a lot of the standard curry ingredients (tomato powder, chili powder, coriander, etc.), and it actually worked well with the hard-boiled eggs. Good stuff, and a super-easy new dish.
One more new Indian dish to come this week, then on to some shopping. Only 63 more days to go...stick with me!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 301

Gits Brand Moong Dal Vada Mix: During my last couple trips to the Buford Highway Farmers Market, I've been surprised at how many items there are in the Indian/Pakistani section that I haven't tried. I'm not exactly the most knowledgeable with that area of cuisine, and I still haven't had the chance to actually dine in an authentic Indian restaurant, but the BHFM has some great prepared foods and mixes to tide me over until then.

I've tried a few items during this blog made by the Gits brand, but those have all been sweet and not savory. When I saw this package of moong (lentil) fritter mix, also known as "dal vada," I was really curious about trying it. How could I go wrong with any type of fried dough, right? Considering how easy the prep was (just mix w/water, then pan-fry in oil), I couldn't say no.
I decided to make these as a side with dinner tonight, so I mixed up the batter and fried each piece in oil for a few minutes on each side. The results looked like hush puppies, and I didn't expect an Indian dish to bring memories of American cuisine. The box recommended chutney or tomato ketchup as condiments, but I tried one by itself first. The flavor was a lot like a hush puppy as well - brown and crunchy on the outside, warm and bready on the inside. They were definitely more spicy, thanks to the green chile powder and cumin. I also noticed a hint of lemon, which I really liked. Me and the GF knocked out quite a few, and since we didn't have any chutney, we opted for ketchup and spicy mustard for dipping. Really good.
If you like hush puppies (or any type of fritter or fried dough), definitely give these a try if you see them. I know the BHFM has them, but I'm sure they're available at any market that sells Indian fare.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 300

Iris "Creamy" Slivochyi Candy: As my readers know, I'm a sucker for any food from Eastern Europe. While I'm partial to the smoked meats/fish and pickles, I've also tried some great new desserts from those countries, most of which I've found at the Buford Highway Farmers Market. There's a great "sale" section at the back of the Eastern Euro section, and I've managed to score some great finds from there during my last few trips, especially candy.

I spotted this Iris "creamy" candy during my last visit, and based on its appearance, I assumed it was some sort of caramel. The ingredient list contained some simple stuff (sugar, condensed milk), and some stuff that didn't make much sense (treacle, oil creamy (?) and "aromatic identical natural"). Gotta love those Russian-to-English translations.
Since I was in need of a sweets fix this afternoon, I decided to finally give these a try.  After opening the package and breaking off a section, I figured out quickly that they weren't caramels. There was no gooey texture like I expected, and the sections broke off quite easily. The taste/texture reminded me of the center of a Baby Ruth - sort of a creamy, caramel-esque flavor that was pretty tasty. I knocked out a few pieces before giving up, since they were fairly sugary.

I'm not sure if the BHFM still has these, but if you like the idea of eating an all-nougat candy bar, give them a try if you see them.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 299

Toasted Wheat Cake with Purple Yam & Crispy Young Rice: Today's new food is one of the several packaged items I found during my last trip to the Buford Highway Farmers Market. As you can probably tell by now, I bought a lot of stuff on that visit. I'm glad I don't have much further to go with this blog (only 66 days!), because it's getting really difficult to find new foods, even at the BHFM.

I've had these interesting "wheat cakes" stashed for the past week or so, and I've been eyeballing them ever since I bought them. Based on the packaging and description, I had no clue what they were going to taste like. Crispy young rice? Yeah, I didn't know what that meant, either. It's rare that I find something that offers no clues, so I decided to finally crack these open today to find out what they were.

Despite the packaging's lack of descriptive language, I searched the label for some much-needed info. These were a product of the Philippines, and I don't think I've bought anything from that region until now. Anyway, each piece was wrapped in various colors of cellophane - did that signify different flavors? The ingredient list was short: wheat flour, skim milk powder, cane sugar, ube powder (apparently also known as purple yam powder), pounded young rice, and butter. I figured they would be sweet, but past that, I had no idea.
Once I got one unwrapped, I was extremely surprised at the results. My first solid bite resulted in a fine powder in my mouth, almost like sweetened malted milk. After a few chews, it turned into a paste-like substance that was actually really tasty. If I had to compare it to anything, it reminded me of solidified malted milk. The "crispy rice" added a mild crunch, but I couldn't detect any purple yam flavor. As it turns out, all the pieces tasted the same - the different wrappers were only cosmetic.

Incidentally, the BHFM had these in several different flavors, which I'll be trying on my next shopping trip. I'm not sure how popular they are in the Philippines, but they're definitely now popular with me.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 298

Mexican Zucchini: I couldn't believe that my last sampling of produce bought over a week ago from the Buford Highway Farmers Market was still good today, so before it went to waste, I decided to eat it with my lunch. I'd never seen this Mexican variety of zucchini before, but it looked a lot like the kind seen in most standard grocery stores. I hoped it would offer something new in the flavor department, but there was only one way to find out.
I usually keep the cooking of zucchini pretty simple - I slice it thin, then sautee in a pan with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. I didn't want anything to interfere with the flavor too much, and after a few minutes, it was ready.
Flavor-wise, it pretty much tasted the same as any zucchini I've had before, nothing new. The skin retained a decent crunch after cooking, and the interior was a bit mushy like it's supposed to be. The olive oil/salt/pepper definitely added some needed flavor, since this particular vegetable doesn't taste like much on its own. If you like zucchini (or squash), give this Mexican variety a try if you see it - you won't be disappointed.

The next few days will cover some unusual packaged goods I found at the BHFM - stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 297

Trader Joe's Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad): Over the last 297 days, I've tried my best to find new foods from as many different places as possible. I've encountered plenty of people that think I'm eating in a new restaurant every day (which would be difficult and expensive), and others that think I'm cooking something new every day (which would be just difficult). Both of those sound glamorous, but I've found plenty of new items in traditional grocery stores. Not everything comes from an exotic market, and today's food is a great example of that.

During my last Trader Joe's shopping trip, I found this package of Som Tam (green papaya salad) in the frozen section. TJ's does a great job of creating prepared foods from around the world, and while all of them may not be truly authentic, they've given me the chance to try several new dishes for the first time. I'm a big fan of their Indian foods, so when I saw this traditional Thai salad, I knew I had to try it. I experienced fresh orange papaya for the first time a couple months ago, but I'd never had this dish, which contained finely shredded green papaya, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, and a sweet/spicy dressing.
My diet hasn't been the absolute best lately, so I decided to give this healthy dish a try for lunch today. Preparation was easy - I just had to open the plastic packets, pour the dressing over the papaya/veggies, then defrost in the microwave for a few minutes. The results were actually really good. The papaya and veggies retained a nice crunch despite being previously frozen, and the slightly sour/sweet dressing (mostly palm sugar/lime juice, I think) paired well with the rest. I made the mistake of biting into one of the red chiles from the dressing, which lit my mouth on fire - probably best to avoid those if you're sensitive to heat.
I liked TJ's version of this dish, but now I really want to try it in a Thai restaurant. Considering the insanely hot temps outside, it'd be a great addition to any summer diet.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Day 296

Buttermilk-Fried Chicken Necks: It's not too often that I get to eat the neck of anything, so when me and the GF decided to finally check out One Eared Stag in Inman Park tonight, I couldn't resist trying out the buttermilk-fried chicken necks they had featured on the small plates section of the menu. I previously attempted smoked turkey necks from Your Dekalb Farmers Market, but according to an informative reader, they aren't meant to be eaten, but used as a flavoring agent. Based on that info, I was curious to find out how One Eared Stag's chicken necks (which I assumed were indeed edible) compared to those.

These weren't just plain old fried chicken necks. OES's version were coated with buttermilk breading, deep fried, then covered with spicy kimchi. Not exactly like the buffalo wings that I normally see on every menu in town, and I couldn't wait to taste how the kimchi worked with the breading. I hoped the chicken necks offered more meat than the turkey necks - they couldn't have offered any less.
Our server brought the dish, and me and the GF were both astounded by the pile of food on the plate. For a starter, it looked ginormous. Each neck was about 6 inches long, and was coated with a light breading. A generous portion of kimchi was placed on top of the pile, and some of the spicy kimchi liquid coated several of the necks. It looked and smelled awesome, so I hoped it tasted just as good.

The results were surprising. I eagerly devoured the breading and kimchi from the necks, but was kind of disappointed in the actual neck. Each one only contained a couple of tiny shreds of dark meat, and while tasty, they were basically just a vehicle for the breading/kimchi. The meat tasted about the same as dark meat from a chicken wing or drumstick. I'm glad I tried them, but they didn't offer much of anything new for me.
After my negative experience with the turkey necks, I really hoped that chicken necks would offer more meat, but they were a lot of work for not much reward. In the future, I'll stick to wings or legs.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 295

Baby Mango: Today's new food is another produce purchase from my trip to the Buford Highway Farmers Market last week. Even though I bought all the items last week, they luckily haven't spoiled yet, which has been great. I've tried several different styles of mango during the course of this blog, but I'd never seen these "baby" specimens until last week.
My goal after returning from Asheville this past weekend was to knock out last week's produce first, so I chose the mango to try this afternoon. It was closer in size to a plum than a standard-sized mango, and the skin was primarily yellow, with a bit of green shading.
Once I carefully cut off a slice and peeled the skin (I've had way too many knife-related accidents with mangoes), I noticed that the interior was a bright yellow. Flavor-wise, it didn't offer much new for me. It tasted just like the normal variety of large mango found in any market, but the flavor was a bit more sour than sweet. After factoring in the pit and skin, it didn't yield much edible fruit, so if you want to enjoy more than a few small bites, buy the larger version instead.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Day 294

Green Plum: After a weekend of seeing the sights in Asheville, NC, I was glad to finally get back home this afternoon. I wasn't really in the mood to try new food tonight, but I was luckily stocked up with quite a few new items from my last shopping trip to the Buford Highway Farmers Market. I was worried that some of the produce I bought would have already gone bad, but to my surprise, it was all still good. Guess that's one of the many upsides of cranking the air conditioner during the hot weather.
I found these interesting green plums during that last BHFM visit, and since I didn't want them to go bad, I decided to give them a try tonight. Each little plum was about the size of a large cherry, and the skin was a bright green color.
After my first bite of this, I honestly didn't want to go further. Instead of the sweetness of larger, darker plums, I found these to be extremely bitter, and not at all sweet. Remember the sour green apples you used to eat off the ground as a kid? These reminded me of those, but definitely a bit juicier. The center contained a small pit (like other plums I've eaten), but I couldn't bring myself to eat more - they just weren't my thing. Maybe they're tastier when worked into a dish and sweetened, but alone, they didn't do anything for me. Oh well.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 293

Goat Cheese & Bing Cherry Ice Cream: Today's new food post will be short and sweet, so I hope my readers don't mind. After a long day of browsing, eating, and drinking in downtown Asheville, I wound up at Ultimate Ice Cream on Tunnel Road near my hotel. I'd first heard about this place during the Foodtopia event in Atlanta, and after I sampled their unusual flavors that night, I was curious to find out what else they had.

Luckily, we were able to squeeze in right before they closed, and I eagerly scanned the flavor list in hopes of finding something new. In addition to some standard fare, they also had one unusual entry: goat cheese and bing cherry. I'd never had goat cheese (or bing cherry, for that matter) in any ice cream, so I ordered a scoop.
If you think goat cheese wouldn't work as an ice cream ingredient, you're wrong. The salty/savory element of the cheese paired well with the vanilla base, and the tartness of the cherries was a great addition as well. The goat cheese wasn't chunky, but actually blended into the base. Really good stuff.

After an exhausting day of sightseeing, it was nice to find a simple dessert that offered something new for me. Asheville has been interesting, but I'll be glad to get home to Atlanta tomorrow.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Day 292

Gazpacho: Despite having to travel a fair amount when playing music, I rarely get the chance to travel for pleasure, so I was excited when me and the GF finally made plans to visit Asheville, NC this weekend. She actually won the trip a few weeks ago at the Foodtopia event in Atlanta, which was put on by the Asheville Chamber of Commerce ( Based on the creative, interesting food I tasted at the event, I knew I'd find something new this weekend to blog about, but I didn't expect my first night here to lead me to a classic dish I'd never tried.

Our dinner tonight was at the Corner Kitchen near the Biltmore House, which featured plenty of Southern classics as well as some spins on others. I wasn't seeing much on the menu that I'd never tried, but one thing in the starter section caught my eye: gazpacho. I know it may seem crazy that I've never had it, but cold soup never seemed too interesting to me. I decided to change that tonight.

Once our server brought it, my first thought was that it looked like salsa. From what I could tell, it included tomato, green pepper, onion, cilantro, and cucumber. I wasn't exactly sure about the preparation, but the GF told me that it was traditionally made with raw ingredients, which led to the salsa-like appearance. The Corner Kitchen's version was finished with a dollop of cilantro sour cream.
After taking my first bite, my first impression was that it tasted really clean and fresh. It had much more flavor that salsa (not that I ever eat a bowl of salsa by itself), and the texture was more pureed than chunky. Aside from the fresh tomato base, I definitely tasted the cucumbers and cilantro, and there was a peppery bite towards the end that I wasn't expecting. The GF said it tasted "like a garden, but in a good way," which is a pretty accurate description. I'm glad I finally tried it, but it was something that I wouldn't want a large portion of. For a light starter, it wasn't bad at all.

More to come from Asheville tomorrow...