New blogger to watch: “Who eats this stuff?”

posted on August 21, 2010 at 10:32 am

Atlanta’s food blogger scene gets better every day. I’d like to try and spotlight new blogs (I deem worthy of your time) every once in a while to keep you guys in the loop. “Who eats this stuff?” was brought to my attention by the author. I am liking what I am reading so far. Check out his intro (and his blog when you have the time):

OK, so some of you may be wondering how this all started. I’m not much of a cook, but I love to eat. And even as a kid, I was always willing to try anything once.

When I was younger, growing up in a small town, there wasn’t exposure to any sort of culinary scene. After I moved to Atlanta a few years ago, I was able to start eating real food, made by real chefs, and not just corporate-controlled chain restaurant garbage. As a result, I developed a huge interest in all things culinary, which was also fueled by all the food media that’s been unleashed in the past few years. With the rise of Food Network and the whole “celebrity chef” culture, exposure to new food has never been easier to come by. Atlanta also has some amazing farmer’s markets and ethnic restaurants, which have been great places to make discoveries.

Just to be up front, I’m not a chef, cook or culinary pro. My background is in music, and as a result, I’ve had the chance to tour the country and see some amazing things over the years. It’s rare that I actually get a great meal on the road, since location and time restraints usually force me to eat things I’m not too excited about. And that’s why I’m doing this – to challenge myself and maybe discover some food along the way that I would have normally overlooked.

If I encounter a food I’m not familiar with, my first thought is “what the hell is that…could it be good?” I know a lot of people don’t work that way, and I have plenty of friends that are the exact opposite. But so far, I haven’t been let down very much, and I’ve discovered a lot of amazing things that are now new favorites. I rarely get burned. And if I try something and don’t like it, so what? There’s always another meal.

Just to show I’m legit, here’s a short list of some things I’ve tried over the past few months, and why:

Sweetbreads: Nope, they’re not dessert or breakfast. They’re actually the thymus or pancreas glands of lambs or pigs. I’ve been reading about these for years, and they’re a classic of old-school French cuisine. I recently got the chance to order them at an Atlanta restaurant called Abbatoir, which devotes a section of their menu to such things. Verdict? They tasted like fried chicken nuggets, almost like the General Tso’s chicken you find in any Chinese takeout joint. Super tasty.

Chopped liver: A staple of Jewish cuisine, and a new favorite of mine. If you’re an adventurous eater at all, you’ll love chopped liver. Made from a mixture of cooked liver (usually chicken or beef), onion and egg, it’s by far the best thing to put on a toasted bagel.

Vietnamese pho with tripe: Pho is a popular soup in Vietnamese cuisine, and after hearing many good things about it, I finally sought out Pho Dai Loi on Buford Highway in Atlanta. Made from a mixture of rich broth, rice noodles, various meats and a garnish of basil, cilantro, peppers and bean sprouts, it’s some seriously amazing stuff. I decided to go all out and order mine with a combination of tripe. If you didn’t know, tripe is, umm, animal guts; usually, cow’s stomach. I know what you’re thinking, but it was great. The only thing that bothered me was the weird, gelatinous pieces. That was a texture I just couldn’t stomach, but the rest was tasty. I’ve since had it several times.

Fried chicken heart tacos: I first heard about these after reading a review of a new Mexican place called Holy Taco in Atlanta that was doing some seriously creative things with their menu. I read about these tacos, so of course I had to try. I don’t get creeped out by food that often, but seeing a taco filled with little fried hearts, smaller than my pinky, was beyond strange. And the texture was…squeaky. It tasted better than it looked, but not something I’m likely to try again.

Spaghetta alla bottarga: I had this at my favorite Italian restaurant in Atlanta, Sotto Sotto. It starts off innocently as spaghetti tossed with olive oil and sauteed onion, but then they added in the magic ingredient: Sardinian mullet roe – that’s fish eggs. Salty, oily, fishy goodness. Awesome.

Gefilte fish: I avoided this like the plague for years, based on it’s not-so-appetizing appearance. This is the stuff in the grocery store that looks kind of like a jar of chunky vomit. Not exactly on my list of priorities. But after finally trying, it really wasn’t bad. Kinda like a ball of sweeter tuna fish salad, and luckily not accompanied by that nasty liquid in the jar. I’d definitely eat it again.

Durian milkshake: Ahh, the legendary durian. For those of you who don’t know, durian is a fruit sold mostly in Asian countries, and it looks kind of like a spiky green football. However, the fruit inside is a creamy, cheesy goo that has been described as smelling like rotting corpse. I noticed that the Vietnamese place I frequent sells a durian milkshake, so of course I had to try. I knew I was in for trouble when the server looked at me with at an expression that said “ok…are you sure?” A few minutes later, she arrived with my shake, smiling from ear to ear. As she sat it down on my table, my first thought was “wow, who farted?” It seriously smelled awful. I reluctantly took a sip, and…it didn’t taste much better than it smelled. Kind of like rotting fruit mixed with bad cheese. I got through about half of it, hoping after a few sips I’d discover something new, but it didn’t happen. I’m sure the kitchen staff is still laughing at me.

Boudin noir: Also known as “blood sausage,” this is another classic of French cuisine that I’d been waiting to try. And last year, I got the chance to try it in the ultimate setting: Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Las Vegas. Keller is a culinary master that’s renowned the world over, so I knew that if I didn’t like it there, I wouldn’t like it anywhere. Boudin noir is made from pig blood, pork, and some other ingredients all stuffed into a sausage casing and cooked. When I cut into it, I discovered a rich, hearty, spicy mixture that blew my mind. Yeah, it looks a little bloody, but way less than the medium-rare steak you’re probably used to eating. Awesome stuff. And it was accompanied by the best freakin’ mashed potatoes I’ve ever had in my life. An amazing meal.

Hopefully you see where I’m going with this. There’s nothing I won’t try. And I’ll have 365 new foods to add to the list when this is done!

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One comment

  • Re: New blogger to watch: “Who eats this stuff?”
    posted by: Freehawk · September 29, 2010  12:22 PM

    More power to him. Tell the truth, I don’t want to eat any of those things. Especially sweetbreads or tripe. And I know about liver from childhood. One thing I don’t eat, that many people love, is soft shelled crab. I love crabmeat, but the soft shell kind is like eating bugs. Which I also will not do. Interesting and adventuresome, though…

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