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You haven't had a ! until you've had a !!

Until today, I was the only one I know who likes figs. I'm mad about figs. Specifically, Adriatic figs. Today I shared one with a fig hater and instantly converted them. It made me wonder what varieties of a food are the acme of its type, or at least, the most powerful to nonbelievers. This is not a thread about you haven't had pizza until you've been to Di Fara - I'd like to keep it outside the restaurants. I'd rather it be you haven't had salmon until you've had fresh chinook, but I'm fine with shelved and branded products that involve more production work as well - you haven't had goat cheese until you have ash-rolled goat cheese, you haven't had a TV dinner until you have Stouffers, whatever.

Anyways, I'm interested to hear what you consider the creme de la creme of your favorite foods that everyone else is missing out on.

I'll start with Adriatic figs, Hendrick's gin, Dark Prince tomatoes, Marcona almonds.

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  1. I was pretty indifferent to both cherries and raspberries until I moved to the NW.
    My first Bing 3 hours from a tree in Eastern Washington was an epiphany.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sebetti

      Oh, how I miss WA cherries and berries! Commercial raspberries aren't even worth my money; CA strawberries are passable but never as good. I hope you live in an area with U-pick options.

    2. Mango : Alphonso
      Blueberry : wild (Michigan or Vermont)
      Smoked Whole Chicken : Mine
      Pear : Yali
      Apple : Honeycrisp

      2 Replies
      1. re: gordeaux

        The best wild blueberries come from Maine!

      2. Yukon Gold potoates.

        My whole life my family never tried to serve me anything but russets, or the occasional red new potato. I hated them. Yukon golds have a much nicer texture and sweeter, more delicate flavor. I'll happily eat them.

        1. I wish everyone could try the concord grapes that grow in my aunt's backyard. And the italian plums that grow there too. But alas, I'll have to eat them for you.

          2 Replies
          1. re: soypower

            I never cared for grapes until the day I tasted some purple ones from the vine in a friend's backyard. OMG-- it was another fruit altogether! Night and day! I don't think I've ever tasted anything so delicious!

            1. re: CookieWeasel

              Same here, when I was younger we rented a house that had grape vines growing all over it and there was so much grapes that we ran out of ideas and would just pick and eat them all day long. They were big and green (not round though) and seedless, yumm!

              They were perfect but I don't know the name, it was in the middle east.

          2. Rice pudding until you've tasted my grandma's! She got the recipe off of a Minute Rice box over 55 years ago. She gave my aunt the recipe, but it doesn't come out quite right. My aunt gave me the recipe, but I still can't get it the right consistency. Maybe one day...

            ...on the other hand you haven't had a cannoli like my Aunt's cannoli.

            1. Peach until you've had a Red Haven from southwestern Ontario.

              4 Replies
              1. re: buttertart

                I was going to say: Until you had a Sierra Lady from the Medford, OR

                1. re: BeefeaterRocks

                  And I was going to say until you've had an Elberta from Fresno, CA and environs.

                  1. re: jmnewel

                    They grow those in Ontario too. Also in NY state - I have a bunch of them in the kitchen right now, have to hang your head over the sink to eat them. Oh peaches.

                2. re: buttertart

                  ...until you've had any of the peaches grown at Moutoux Orchard in Loudoun County, VA.

                3. Beef tamales in Tucson at Christmastime (and they have to have an olive)!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                    Or two or three olives, green, of course. :-)

                    Whole fresh beets wrapped in foil and thrown on the grill, slipped out of their skins and diced and buttered. I served these to some friends, and he went on and on. A while later my friend said "He's been talking about those damn beets for a week now!" They do have to be 'in season' or they might be woody or flavorless.

                    A really ripe fig right off the tree

                    A turnip right out of the ground, peeled with a pocketknife and eaten. So sweet...

                  2. For me, I didn't like olives until my Sister brought home a bottle of kalamatas. I still don't eat green olives, though.

                    1. ...a strawberry until you've had a wild strawberry.

                      Back in the mid 80's, I was camping somewhere in New Mexico.
                      I went off for a short hike by myself and crested a hill and went down into a small pasture/valley. I didn't notice them at first, but once I realized what ALL of the small plants were that covered literally the whole valley, I thought I was in a Beatles song. I plopped my butt down and started eating. They were small, about the size of your thumbnail and I have never tasted anything like it before or since.
                      I didn't even know they grew in NM.
                      I sure wish I knew where that valley was...


                      8 Replies
                      1. re: ArizonaDave

                        They sound like alpine strawberries--we grew some for the first time this summer. Did they almost have a floral taste to them and look like fat little Christmas tree lights? :)

                        And to continue the list of you haven't had a !...
                        GRAPEFRUIT until you've had a RUBY RED GRAPEFRUI!!

                        Ruby reds are so sweet and yummy, unlike regular grapefruit that I just don't like whatsoever. I still remember being offered a glass of grapefruit juice when I was a little kid. I hadn't had it before, but knew grape juice, so thought grapefruit juice would be just as tasty. Imagine anticipating the sweetness of grapes and getting regular grapefruit! ACK!

                        1. re: kattyeyes

                          Concur on the ruby reds. My mother the grapefruit fanatic (whose morning addiction has been sadly sidelined by taking a statin) always insisted Texas ruby reds were the best.

                          And speaking of her, you haven't had applesauce until you've had my mother's home-canned, unsweetened Gravenstein applesauce, with its buttery-rich flavor. I know buttery and rich are odd descriptors for applesauce, but I can't think of a better way to describe it. The flavor is consistently deeper than any other I've had.

                          Hmm, it's Gravenstein season now; I might have to see about poaching a few jars...

                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            You've sold me. I wish I could try some!

                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              Have to disagree...you haven't had a Ruby Red until you've had one from FL's Indian River area.

                              1. re: cavandre

                                Second that - those are my favorites!

                            2. re: kattyeyes

                              I never liked grapefruit until I moved to Texas and discovered Ruby Reds. I thought maybe it was just that I finally learned to like grapefruit, until I tried a regular grapefruit again. I second kattyeyes' ACK!

                              1. re: kattyeyes

                                I'm not sure I've had anything BUT Ruby Red sin decades. I wonder if they come from CA?

                              2. re: ArizonaDave

                                Wild strawberries are heaven indeed.

                              3. You haven't had a date until you've had a Black Sphinx date.

                                As far as I know, they only exist here in Phoenix. I buy them from a lady that lives in the last orchard of Black Sphinx trees. They have a very thin, black skin that is almost crispy in texture and when you bite into one, it's like a little explosion of honey in your mouth. They are exquisite.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Jen76

                                  i'm a big date fan and my parents live in Surprise. Next time i am down there, i'll definitely look for them. are they seasonal?

                                  1. re: majordanby

                                    Very. I believe it was late fall when I bought the last batch. As far as I know, you can only buy them direct from a woman that lives in the date orchard in Arcadia, although I think I saw a few pounds at the citrus shop I go to in Phoenix (around 32nd St. / Baseline Rd - Summer's Fruit Barn or something like that). I believe the woman sells them at the downtown Phx farmer's market on Saturdays.

                                    And I was NEVER a date fan. All I had experienced as a child in Wisconsin were those hard, dried date chunks that my grandmother would buy to make Christmas cookies. Yuk. These completely converted me, and now I enjoy Medjools and honey dates as well. Black Sphinx will always be my favorite though.

                                  2. re: Jen76

                                    Oo. Time to travel.

                                    More generally -- you haven't had a date until you've had a spiced date.

                                    I like to combine the juice of one lemon with a tablespoon of dark brown sugar, ground grains of paradise, cardamom, cumin, & cloves in a pan over medium-low heat. Once the sugar's dissolved and the mixture's steaming, toss in maybe a dozen-plus halved & pitted dried Medjool dates (the best I've found out east) cut-side down over low heat. They turn tender pretty quickly; once they're hot and tender transfer everything to a shallow bowl to continue to stew off heat.

                                    Great fresh off the stove and almost as good as drained & chilled leftovers. (Also tasty: let them stew overlong until mushy then puree, chill, and add as a swirl in homemade ice cream.)

                                    1. re: Scriever

                                      I have a recipe in a Mediterranean cookbook for orange-date salad. As soon as the oranges come in later in the year (tangelos are my favorite), I plan to make this for lunches. By the way, I keep my dates in the freezer. They don't really freeze hard. They are great cold, sweet snacks in the hot desert summers!

                                      1. re: Scriever

                                        Medjools, plain, are what I was going to say.

                                        You haven't had limoncello until you've had it homemade in Sicily. Does that count?

                                    2. Cara Cara navels took the boredom out of oranges, for me. They're a low-acidity winter variety with pink flesh and a surprisingly floral, sweet taste that makes them incredibly addictive.

                                      I'd never heard of them until a small batch turned up at a market in Southern Maryland last winter. When I asked about them the greengrocer just smiled, pulled out a pocketknife and sliced one open for me. I tasted one wedge and was hooked. They were hard to find for resupply, but I bought them up whenever I could. Can't wait for the cold months this year.

                                      1. virtually any fruit or vegetable fresh off the vine, tree, bush, or out of the ground. Just like fish, the fewer minutes between harvest and consumption the more amazing the difference. as good as farmer's market produce may be, it is still not the same as something that came out of your own back yard 10 minutes ago.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                          True indeed - case in point: a potato straight out of the ground, into the house, washed, and boiled in salted water is a treat fit for a king. This is one of my fondest childhood memories (had a cousin who had the most beautiful veg and fruit garden, with raspberries the size of the tip of your tongue. All of her produce fell into the you haven't had a... category).

                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                            Apple season is starting here in NH and I'm looking forward to the Ginger Golds etc. It's been a long, cold and wet summer here so blueberries are incredible but tomatoes are blighted and my peppers haven't colored up yet. I can hardly wait for them to get red. I'm growing some heirloom varieties and THIS year I will take better notes as to which ones we liked best. I get plants from a grower who will sell them as individual plants. And some day I might learn to make good pie crust like my MIL's.

                                          2. You haven't had a lobster, until you have had a hard shelled lobster from Maine. And luckily for me, it's only an hour's drive away.

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. You haven't had shrimp until you've tried some of FL's rock shrimp. When properly broiled, they have an almost lobster like taste & texture.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: cavandre

                                                  Or Alabama's Royal Reds! Same taste and texture. Deep-water shrimp.

                                                  1. re: cavandre

                                                    you got THAT right. I fell in love with broiled rock shrimp in FL.

                                                  2. A bit more complicated, but coffee, until you've had a cup brewed with beans less than six months old from a direct trade project by one of the big three (Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Counter Culture or other up-and-comers following their lead) and roasted only to medium light.

                                                    It's a shame more people don't think of coffee as a perishable crop. A great coffee has more complexity than the best wines, and you wouldn't even consider drinking it super heated or adding milk to be able to enjoy it.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Panini Guy

                                                      Totally agree on this...My friend started a micro-roastery and had me over for a coffee-tasting. I've never been able to drink coffee black, but after I tasted the stuff he was roasting, I'm completely hooked.

                                                      1. re: Panini Guy

                                                        Yes, yes, YES! I moved to Portland a tea drinker; I had Stumptown; I left Portland a coffee drinker with a serious habit. Now I roast my own. Beautifully, lightly roasted coffee changed my life.

                                                      2. Bacon ... Benton's
                                                        Mango... champagne
                                                        Tamale... homemade one from the anonymous lady who sells them in Johnny's Cash Store in Santa Fe, NM

                                                        1. Well, this is going to sound truly ignorant but I remember the first time I had fresh pineapple - compared to only having canned previously - wow! I had to stop and pause!

                                                          I'll keep canned in the house for the odd what not recipe but I actively search out fresh when I can.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: JerryMe

                                                            Fresh pineapple is fantastic. Now, have you ever had it tempura-battered and deep-fried? Check out this photo. Yummmmm!

                                                          2. A macoun apple picked right off the tree...to enjoy with a jar of TJ's peanut butter tucked in the glove compartment for the journey home.

                                                            Macoun season is now!

                                                            1. Avocados till you've had California ones instead of Florida.

                                                              Peaches till you've had an in-season ripe white peach.

                                                              Grapefruit till you've had a Ruby Red.

                                                              Broccoli until you've tried broccoli rabe!

                                                              Good small watermelon till you've had a Dulcinea

                                                              Peanuts till you've had fresh ones (like from Virginia) roasted

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: Cinnamon

                                                                I don't love white peaches. Too me, they taste like lots of sugar, and much less peach flavor than many other varieties.

                                                                  1. re: BamiaWruz

                                                                    Same here. My friend raved about them and gave me one. Much prefer the regular, drip down your chin southern peaches. And sweet Vadalia onions.
                                                                    Hass avocadoes.

                                                                    1. re: bayoucook

                                                                      Ditto that with the peaches. The goldener the better. Also Vidalias and Hass avocados.

                                                                      Oh- Mexican avocados. The best guacamole I've ever had (or made) was made with fresh limes and little Mexican avocados from a Puerto Penasco market. The four of us agreed that it couldn't get any better than that, and so far it hasn't.

                                                                      EDIT- also limes, little Mexican limes that turn yellow and you pick just as they fall off the tree. There's nothing better than those!

                                                                  2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                    I love good Southern peaches, and I would've said I didn't really like white peaches till the batch I tasted this year. It doesn't need to be the only peach one eats, but it's a wonderful variation when you get them in season and a good one (in my opinion).

                                                                    1. re: Cinnamon

                                                                      I grew up in Atlanta, the Peach State, but when I moved to CA 30 years ago, I discovered that I preferred CA peaches. They were bigger, sweeter and much juicier - IMO :)

                                                                      1. re: Cinnamon

                                                                        I was not a big white peach either, but Moutoux Orchards' (Loudoun County VA) finally won me over. Yellow are still my favorite, but I'm down with good white peaches too.

                                                                  3. plum...greengage

                                                                    I second Marcona almonds and Macoun apples!

                                                                    1. Squash until you've had a kabocha.
                                                                      Tofu until you've had it fresh.
                                                                      Yogurt until you've had Fage or Liberté.