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Six months online

Another milestone has been reached today by reaching my six month anniversary. In those six months I’ve posted roughly 150 of my ramblings about food and drinks that I label as unusual. If you read my blog often you will know that “unusual” doesn’t always mean disgusting. I sometimes write about things like balls, brains and blood, but more often than not I write about flavor combinations that are unusual to me, or special editions of famous snacks.

I’m super excited when I get a new follower or when someone leaves a message, so a big thank you to everyone who has commented on or followed my blog. It has been a great motivator to keep me going. Otherwise I might have been faced with something that I wouldn’t want to eat, but now I often think “I have to do it, for my blog and my readers.” Thanks again guys.

Let’s look back at the past six months and see what my favorite and least favorite items were.

Favorite foods and drinks
Truffle ice-cream
Braised pork cheek
Green tea & chocolate egg waffles
Molecular xiaolongbao
Rosemary crème brulee

Least favorite foods and drinks
Durian
Pig’s blood cake
Cucumber chips
Durian chocolate
Strawberry KitKats

Biggest surprises
Bull’s testicle
Schmaltz
Goat curry
Chicken hearts
Corn ice-cream

Beef cheek pierogi

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I had tried beef cheeks before in London and loved it, so when I went to Poland and there were beef cheek filled pierogi on the menu, I knew exactly what to order. This was at a old Jewish restaurant in Krakow called Starka, where I shared a couple of dishes with my friends.

The dumplings looked a bit anemic, boiled and without any sauce, but they made up for it in taste. The dumplings were stuffed with strand upon strand of beef cheek. Any more and they would burst. The cheeks were cooked until they were super soft and tender. There didn’t seem to be much added flavor to it, but I didn’t think the dish needed it as the beef was so strong tasting on its own.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 9

Peaches & wine ice-cream

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At Fatamorgana, a chain of modernist gelato shops in Rome, one of the flavors on offer was a peach and wine combination. It sounded to me like these two would go together very well indeed, and so I didn’t hesitate to point out the beautifully salmon colored concoction to the vendor.

The gelato was so soft and smooth, it had an almost perfect texture. I could tell they had used fresh peaches to make this ice-cream. It was almost as if you were eating straight up peach puree. Harder to detect was the wine. In fact I couldn’t pick it out at all. Perhaps it had simply blended into the peach.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Absinthe

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Absinthe is a very strong alcoholic drink that’s often portrayed in films as the mythical green fairy. It is made with a handful of herbs such as wormwood, which is said to give the drink hallucinogenic properties. For that reason it had been made illegal in many countries, including my home country of Holland. In fact, it has never been proven that absinthe is any more dangerous than regular alcohol.

In Krakow, Poland there is a bar called Absynt that, as you might have guessed, specializes in the green drink. I’ve seen absinthe prepared in movies before, and I always wanted to try, so here was my big chance.

The bartender first gave me a small tap of water and a bucket of ice. I could add as much of each as I wanted as the drink was 70% alcohol, and thus very strong. He then put what looked like a cake shovel on the glass with a sugar cube on top of that. The sugar was set on fire left to melt into the glass. I was advised to taste just a drop in order to check how much water I wanted to add.

To be honest, I didn’t feel like adding much water at all. The taste of anise seed was very strong, just like a French pastis or Greek ouzo. For me, it didn’t even feel that strong, but I didn’t want to look like a drunk either, so I did add some water and ice. It was a great ritual to experience, and I did like the drink, but it’s a bit elaborate and a little more expensive than other drinks.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test – 9

Kimchi chips

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Another week, another potato chip review. This time around with a Korean twist, kimchi chips. If the kimchi crackers I tried before were anything to go on, then these chips were going to be next to tasteless. Going in with low expectations, I opened the box and was pleasantly surprised that I could smell kimchi. There is just no denying that sour, slightly off, yet spicy fragrance. My expectation level just rose a few bars.

Low and behold, the taste was there too. Yes, I could detect a hint of spice, and I could definitely distinguish that fermented flavor. Neither of those tastes were very strong, but they were there and that’s what counts. At least this chip lives up to its name. I was going to leave some for tomorrow, but I ended up finishing the whole thing. Take that as a good sign.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Fried goose liver

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I’ve eaten plenty of pâté in my life, but I had never actually eaten any unprocessed liver. That is if you don’t count foie gras, which is highly fattened. Normal liver always is much redder in color. I’d seen it cooked on TV where the chef would leave it slightly pink in the middle. At a traditional Polish restaurant in Warsaw called Polska, I ordered some goose liver.

The small livers came in a pan with apples and a very sweet, sticky sauce. The liver wasn’t pink at all. In fact it was so well cooked through it had almost turned gray. I don’t think liver is normally cooked like that, but I honestly didn’t mind. At least this way there was none of that peculiar texture one associates with organ meat.

I’m not going to lie and say I loved it, but I didn’t mind it either. It was better than expected. The texture was like a fine meat loaf, and the flavor was, surprise, slightly coppery due to the blood pumping through the livers. The combination with the apples worked well, but I did feel the sauce was too sweet for my taste. Perhaps a more traditional side of onions would have been more appropriate.

Fear Factor – 6 / Taste Test – 6

Green tea & chocolate cookies

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I think this will mark my final thoughts on green tea, as I have tried a handful of different matcha desserts, and have written just as many blog entries about it. It was unusual at first bite, but it has steadily become normal, and I’m even starting to like it.

Recently I bought a green tea and chocolate cookie that turned out to be a sandwich of two matcha cookies with white chocolate in the middle. The cookies were super soft and crumbly with just a hint of the green tea, and the white chocolate gave it that added bit of sweetness. There was enough matcha powder used to let you taste the tea, but not too much so that it tastes grassy. This was by far the best green tea item I’ve yet tried.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 9  

Sea buckthorn sorbet with licorice toffee

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I had written before about a licorice and sea buckthorn chocolate I tried in Finland at the airport. To my surprise I came across another variation of this combination at restaurant Ed Red in Krakow. It was a sea buckthorn sorbet, served with chewy salted licorice toffees and mini meringues.

The sorbet was quite sour, as sea buckthorn is an acidic fruit, but it wasn’t unpleasant. It worked very well together with the salty toffee that h ad a hint of licorice in it. The balance of flavors was almost perfect. My only slight criticism is that I found the meringues lacked crunch.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Veal brain

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At Ed Red in Krakow, where I had the bull’s testicle, I also tried some veal brains that my friend was eating. I had tried brains before in China, and really didn’t like it then, but you always have to give things a second chance, so in I went.

The brain wasn’t served whole as a piece, but mixed with herbs on a piece of bread. In looks and in texture it really resembled scrambled eggs. It was really creamy, but thick at the same time. The last time I had brains I didn’t like that texture, but as this one was mixed it was just like eating any porridge or scrambled eggs. The taste was a lot better too with the added herbs and spices instead of just eating it plain. If you hadn’t known it was brains, you would have eaten it with no problem

Fear Factor – 9 / Taste Test – 7

Rosemary crème brûlée

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After a great meal at Polish steak house Ed Red, it was time for dessert. I had my eye on an intriguing rosemary flavored crème brûlée , but the waitress informed me that the ice-cream it came with contains nut. Now, I’m not allergic to nuts, I just genuinely dislike the taste, so I ordered something else. However, my friend was kind enough to let me try the crème brûlée she had ordered for herself.

My first bite was one of those very rare wow-moments. My eyes literally sprang wide open and I heard a moan of approval escape from somewhere deep within me. I’ve only had that on maybe two or three other occasions. I mean, it was so unexpected to find rosemary in a sweet dish. I know it said so on the menu, but I had assumed it would just be a hint of the herb. Instead it was as obvious as a deer hunter dressed in orange. It really did work, the mixture of herbs and creamy, sugary pudding.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test 10