The Unique Foodie Experience
Insects...brains...unique animals...After nearly 2 years, I am still looking for the unique foodie experience. No, I am not talking about your day-to-day ethnic dishes found at any restaurant, but something 'atypical'. My search has taken me to Oyamel for its grasshopper tacos; Zaytinya for the rabbit; several French restaurants for the sauteed calves brain; and RT's for alligator stew, but this can't be all....Does anyone have recommendations for the next stop on this adventure?
Besides the unique setting/dinning experience, I think the exotic foods per se may be divided into three variations. First, exotic animals. Second, exotic body parts. Third, non-animals. As the Chinese say, anyting that flies, except an airplane, anything with feet, except a table and anything that swims are all fair game. For the first part, I think you might want to check out this website. It was pretty entertaining even for someone who's tried quite a few exotic stuff. http://1-800-exoticmeats.com/info.html I guess they are out of guinea pigs for now. As for restaurants serving these, please advise.
As for exotic body parts (of mostly common animals), you'll find many types of them in the Chinese markets. Duck tongues are nice, but the best part is the meat attached to the long bones sticking out of the roots of the tongue, are almost never found in the U.S. My (actually tasty) suggestions other than ones above are coagulated blood, sea cucumber and sesame oil kidneys. Most of the "common" exotic dishes you can find in the Chinese supermarket pre-cooked counter in places like "Kam Sam" on N. Washington in Rockville. For the more expensive stuff like livers and kidneys, you might want to try a fancier place like Michael's noodles (I think Bob's 66 may have kidneys) or your fancy authentic chinese places in town not known for their General Tsao's.
As for seafood, Fugu can be found at Kaz but they are pre-prepared frozen stuff from Japan. Sushi Taro used to have squid ink, and tuna guts (I have strong taste, but this one tops them all...it's putrid). So, buddy up with a genuine Japanese sushi chef, and you might find some interesting stuff in store for you.
Then there are countless high end semi-medicinal delicacies in Chinese culture that can be sought after.
Swallow's nests - not in stores but if know of wealthy Chinese families they might cook you some. Supposedly you get the same nutrition as white wood ear, but definitely more tasty. The red ones are actually swallow's nests tainted with blood as the swallows regurgitate these things to make their nests.
"Winter worm summer grass" is now one of the expensive ingredients for something like pig/cow heart soup. The stuff is actually a larve underground that has been invaded by a fungus, which during spring "sprout out" above. It's dried and more expensive than gold (They are nice and chewy when it was not near extinct years ago).
Yes, and there are legal and very affordable ways to get stuff like bear paws (one of the ultimate dishes) but I don't know of a restaurant that would be able to properly prepare them, and besides, we will be getting all the animal rights activists all excited. Even though I would say that's discrimination to okay pig or duck feet but not bears that are legally obtained "the good ol' American way."
Well, I am still looking for genuine "car wheel" brand Mexican abalone. If you know any legit sources, please let me know.
In San Francisco, you'll find Incanto, an Italian restaurant that describes its food philosophy as head-to-tail cuisine. Even if you were to order something that appears predictable like their salumi platter, you'll delve into organ meat. Your pate will contain all manner of offal, and your sliced meats will veer much more to head cheese and scrapple than to procsiutto or culatello.
A couple of times a year, Incanto offers a "Head-to-tail" dinner. (Since one is coming up soon, I've provided the link -- below -- to the menu) In-advance options for twosomes or small groups include their Quinto Quarto menu (See second link) and Leg-of-Beast meals.
Why not use this restaurant as a model for the kind of meal you're seeking? Why not contact some of the local Italian chefs to see if any of them would be willing to create a similar meal for you? The chef at Teatro Goldoni is doing seriously adventuresome meals. Perhaps the night you dine at the Chef's Table, his focus could be Offal/Unusual cuts rather than his, more typical, innovative cuisine.
Finally, as painful as it is to suggest anyone go to Bebbo, Robert Dona is certainly capable of cooking the kind of food you're seeking.
First off, I'm not sure what "atypical" is to you, but....here are some suggestions:
-Eel, most Japanese places have this "Una Don" dish.
-Ostrich - I've only seen this at farmers markets in DC, not at restaurants.
-Pigeon (squab), not -that- unusual, but for some it could be.
-Wild board is pretty tasty. Dino has a pasta dish with it.
- Eat a "live" shrimp at a sushi bar (many sushi chefs did this in So. California). Traditional places probably won't do this, but fusion or sushi bars more focused on drinking might.
- I whole heartedly second trying ma-la (spicy numbing) intestines at a Chinese restaurant, specifically Bob's 66. SO good! I heard the spicy peppercorns were once illegal in the US.
-Sea snails are so good. Get the sea snails cold in a spicy marinade. Unfortunately, I have no idea where to get this outside of Asia and So. California.
- Eat fish eyeballs, supposedly they're good for you (according to my grandmother). Personally, I think they're a novelty thing to eat because they don't add much to a meal.
-Fugu! Blowfish is a delicacy (and potentially poisonous) and is probably hard to find in the US, but it is the most delicious thing I've ever eaten! When eaten raw, it tastes like a cross between amebi and lobster, so sweet and delicate in flavor.
- Scuttle jerky (squid jerky). You can find this at H-mart. If you don't like "fishy" things, then you definitely won't like this. Fish jerky is good too, as well as something called in English: pork floss. It's pork jerky that's shredded into a dry moss like consistency.
And if your adventure includes non-animals:
- Try a durian boba drink. Durian is a very pungent tropical fruit - I have heard it is banned in public buildings in Asian countries. There must be other places that have durian, but the only place I know of is in Chinatown on 6th street called Pho Saigon and Grill.
- Try wood ear. It's a tasty fungus that looks like the cap of a thin black mushroom. It usually comes in asian noodle soups or stir fries.
-Bitter Melon, try it at a Chinese restaurant. It's very bitter, yet tasty, but looks like a cucumber with a million warts.
- Shirataki noodles. It's grey with black flecks in it and is made of yam.
The ma la peppercorns were banned for import once to the U.S., but not because of their heat, it was because they might be carrying citrus canker. In 2003 though, the ban was lifted so long as the peppercorns are heated to 70 degrees to carry the bacteria. They're amazing though, their name actually means numbing and spicy, and they're found in szechuan hot pots.
There is a long list of places where you can try all sorts of animal parts just for the heck of it. But if you are asking what is really great, then that's another question. For example, I don't like the chalupinas at Oyamel, but not because I'm adverse to eating them; I just don't like the spicing/dryness. They cry out (not literally) for a good salsa bar where you can add your jardiniere or maybe some cibollitas and hot sauce.
Many interesting possibilities at Bob's 66 Noodles (Tawainese) in Rockville, Bay Lo at Eden Center, Falls Church, Va (vietnamese), and there is aChinese-only menu at Peking Village (Merrifield, that has all kinds of intestines on it. Even if you can't read Chinese, the manager will be happy to pointthemout to you. Personally, I recommend yrying the one with three stars (for spicy and numbing) next to it. Not because I've eaten it, but because it will probably be the most palatsvble if you've not had intestines before.
Also they serve kidney, but maybe that's old hat for you?
Here are some easy ones:
Duck Tongues, very yummy, Bob's 66
Pork Belly, Sichuan style, Grace Garden (Odenton, MD)
Tongue, Luzmilla's, Falls Church, VA (Bolivian)
Tripe, Bebo, Crystal City, VA (Italian)
Shortbreads (gland), many French Restaurants, call Le Lavandou
Frog, many Chinese Restaurants, try X.O. Taste, Falls Church, VA
Frogs Legs, Huong Viet, Eden Center
Goat tacos, Tacqueria El CharritoCaminante, Arlington, VA
Go to LLajtaymanta, a Bolivian restaurant in Falls Church for their "pork roll". Will contain some pork, some ham, but mostly it is a gigantic head cheese. Served cold with a vinegar dressing.
No Victor's in Falls Church? Steve - you're asleep at the wheel! I'm talking the one by the pollo place just south of Broad on 29.
The PDF may crash your browser, but around page 4 is a MEAT plate of all sorts of goodies!
Btw - the steaks really are good.
MiniBar. Good luck getting a seat.
I'm also assuming you are looking for this experience in the D. C. area. Alternatively, are you willing to travel? A long way for something truly extraordinary and memorable? Dinner in a pitch black room served by blind waitstaff? (your group is led into this, single file and in total darkness; you also eat with your fingers) There are several of these now with the original in Cologne. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,901020729-322741,00.html Dinner in a 2,000 year old Roman era furnace which literally supplied most of the stone for the Roman coliseum? Northwest of Genoa on the Italian Riviera: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/262344 Perhaps a restaurant where every course is rice and you dine in a rice mill. http://www.smh.com.au/news/food--wine... Just south of Verona. Closer to home, the "slave's kitchen" at the Wayside Inn in Middletown, VA, just off of I 81 near I 66. The room is almost 300 years old.
If you are really into food, really into extraordinary experiences there are some that are just incredible. I am also suggesting that the most incredible dining experiences are not unusual tastes but tastes in unusual settings.
re: Joe H
Thank you, Keith. Unfortunately most of my trips are on business which means that I go straight into meetings off of a plane and might, finally, find sleep after 30+ hours. Still, the reward for this, for me, is food and wine. For this I've been fortunate and truly enjoy being able to share and write about what I've found. Thank you again!