Thursday, September 25, 2008


Most sound minded individuals outside of France shudder at the thought of eating a snail. Being that I'm neither from France, nor sound of mind, I've been wanting to try properly prepared escargot for a long time. My only experience with consuming gastropods took place a few years ago when I picked up a couple cans of snails on sale. The experience was less than pleasing and rather dampened my enthusiasm to experiment further but, seeing as though they weren't authentically prepared, I wanted to give the little critters another go.

Being presented with a bowl of steaming snails shells is odd in itself. Picking up the tiny fork and pulling the little slug through its hole to the world is even stranger. A lot firmer than one would expect, escargot has a consistency and texture similar to scallops as opposed to the slimy, softness of an oyster as I was imagining. Biting into one isn't all too unpleasant as may be presumed.


It's incredibly difficult for me to describe the flavor. The garlic and butter from the sauce was a bit dominant but the snail itself, apart from one strong note, is fairly bland. I remember that one strong flavor from my previous, canned experience and had been hoping that it was a component of the marinade but, alas, I was left disappointed. Bitter, but not the kind of bitterness one associates with a strong coffee, hoppy beer, or dark chocolate. This bitterness almost comes across as a direct signal to my mind that it may be unwise to ingest this creature and perhaps I should not proceed any further. But proceed I did until all of the little blighters were gone, their shells empty as my desire to repeat the experience.

So perhaps the taste doesn't quite suit my palette (unrefined as it is) but I am altogether happy to have given it a shot. So, unless banana slugs really do taste like bananas, I think gastropods might be out for me; though I'm quite prepared to continue foraying into the realm of edible "bugs" and such.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cornish Game Hen

So the wealth of information available on the internet once again destroys my illusions and slays another mythological creature. The Cornish Game Hen, here made and packaged by Tyson and available in major supermarkets, is simply just a complicated name for a young chicken. They are not game, they are nothing but a small chicken, slaughtered before reaching full maturity. USDA regulations simply require that any chicken being sold as the mythological Cornish Game Hen weigh less than 2 pounds and be no more than 5 to 6 weeks old at time of slaughter.

Regardless, the novelty of finding what is often presented as an extravagant food item on clearance was too much for me to resist.

raw game hen

There isn't a lot to say about this one. It is a small chicken. Quickly gathering some recipes from the internet, I chose a quick and easy preparation consisting of butter, salt, and pepper. The diminutive size meant a shorter cooking time and a juicier end-product.

One can't even make the joke that it tastes like chicken because it is chicken. I found nothing different in the flavor to distinguish it from the mature variety and the only distinction was a softer texture which is probably due to the fact that it doesn't take as long to cook.

game hen cooked

So if you want to pretend you're posh and impress others, you can probably pick one of these up for a decent price right now. Otherwise, if you want to be more cost effective or try something strange, I'd suggest turkey; they're huge and look a lot weirder.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fuel Cafe Beer

On a whim I took a trip to the local alcohol megaplex in search of weird intoxicants. While there were some odd spirits in the place, my low tolerance and infrequent alcohol consumption forced me to steer away from the liquors. The wines were a bit too plentiful to tackle but a few strange brews jumped out at me in the beer section.

The first of my purchases and samplings was Fuel Cafe Beer, an American stout brewed specially for the Fuel Cafe in Milwaukee, WI. And what makes it unique and attractive (particularly to myself)? It has coffee added to the mix. Being a lover of all things coffee, I simply couldn't resist.

fuel cafe beer

Most stouts have a burnt aroma and flavor which is understandable considering the malts are roasted, much like coffee beans, to give them such characteristics along with the dark color. Therefore, the pairing of coffee and stouts seems almost natural. The first I'd heard of such a concoction was from a Kurt Vonnegut memoir where he reveals that adding a bit of coffee to the mix was the secret behind the success of his grandfather's award winning stout.

Using Guinness as a point of comparison, this beer is a little lighter and nowhere near as thick. The coffee and stout aromas mingle quite nicely, the difference being so minor that the distinction is subtle.

Being a slave to the burnt, bitter taste of strong coffee, I found nothing unpleasant about the flavors. Again, the distinction was subtle but there are notes not present in stout alone. Beer-wise, not the best stout I've had but not too shabby either. Despite the addition of coffee, it's unlikely I'll be drinking this with any frequency. But since it was quite enjoyable, I'll probably revisit this oddity once in a while.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Dragon Fruit

The name is understandable. One could easily imagine the spawn of some fire-breathing beast to claw its way out of this scaly, crimson egg. But what lies beneath the skin is far less frightening yet still rather surprising.

dragon fruit

The three common varieties of dragon fruit, also called pitayas, comes from cactuses of the genus Hylocereus. I had the most common type, Hylocereus undatus, the red pitaya. Its striking resemblance to the prickly pear made me think this at first but the soft, sensitive skin and succulent innards caused me to doubt my initial impression. The full-sized fruit is about as big as a mango and has a similar yet less weighty feel (because it lacks a large pit in the middle).

dragon fruit

Slicing open the dragon fruit exposes its shocking secret. Beneath the scaly red skin is a pure white flesh full of tiny black seeds. The aroma is flowery and sweet, like a fresh flower on a dewy morning. The flesh looks like a bleached watermelon and, apart from the crunchy little seeds, has a very similar texture.

dragon fruit open

Despite the grand buildup caused by the odd look and pleasant aroma, the initial taste is confusingly underwhelming.

"This doesn't taste like anything."

Tasteless but not bland, it's hard to describe. However, the more bites you take, the more prevalent the subtle flavors become. Creamy, floral, sweet, and nectar-like; perhaps the mildness of the flavor is a good thing as a bolder expression of these characteristics could be overwhelming. If it weren't for the price, I could definitely make a regular snack out of this fruit. With any luck the few seeds I planted will sprout (like my prickly pear seeds did).

dragon fruit open

A very pleasant experience indeed. The dragon fruit isn't only a strange sight to behold but also a subtly delicious treat. Look for them in the refrigerated part of the produce section in your local supermarket.