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

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

Goose gizzards

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Up until I started this blog I never really knew what gizzards were. I’d seen them in the supermarket and I could tell it was some kind of organ. It looked like hearts to me, but I still didn’t know what gizzards were. According to the wisdom that is the Internet, gizzards are internal organs that help break down food for animals that can’t chew very well. Most of those animals are birds, though some fish and crocodiles have them too.

During my trip to Krakow, I visited Zazie Bistro, a French restaurant holding a Bib Gourmand by Michelin. They offer a ridiculously cheap three course menu for lunch. One of the option for main was a potato gratin with goose gizzards. The gratin was slathered with tomato sauce and cheese, and reminded me of a lasagna in taste.

Among the components were also a handful of the gizzards. They were totally different from what I expected. In my mind organ meat is either chewy or soft, but these goose gizzards were very meaty. You could pull apart each strand of meat, much like cheeks, except this is much denser and not as soft. The taste was also quite meaty. It was hard to believe this was poultry and not beef.

Fear Factor – 7 – Taste Test – 8

Seaweed Salad

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A few years ago I never ate seafood, as I didn’t like it as a kid. It hadn’t occurred to me that taste buds change, and as people grow older they start liking different things. When I found myself at a Japanese restaurant looking at the menu I thought seaweed salad was a highly unusual choice of salad.

It came with some cucumber and a sweet and sharp sauce. I was hooked straight away. The textures were chewy but not tough, and the taste was very refreshing. I’ve since had seaweed salad on numerous occasions. Most recently was at restaurant “Umami by Han” in The Hague where I took this picture. That was probably the best seaweed salad I have ever eaten.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test 9

Finnair business class meal

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This blog entry was inspired by fellow blogger Paul from Paul Sees the World who writes about food – obviously, travel, planes and cats. He recently posted a comparison of first class meals from some of the American flights he’s been on. Just two weeks ago I was on a business class flight myself.

While checking in at the airport for my flight to Amsterdam recently, I overheard the ground staff say there were no available seats. I was starting to panic, but then they told me I would be upgraded to business class. As soon as I sat down I was given a glass of champagne and a menu for lunch. A four course business class lunch, that’s definitely unusual for me.

As a canapé we received a tiny piece of bread with some raw salmon, sour cream and fish roe. The taste was very fresh, but also very mild. I like raw salmon, and I liked this dish, but it could have used some more seasoning. For starters I chose an Asian inspired chicken and coriander soup. In this case the flavors wee much stronger and the coriander especially shone through. It was served with some excellent dark rye bread, but unfortunately the side salad was lacking in both flavor and inspiration. It was just a handful of restaurants chucked on a plate.

Main course was a letdown. I wanted to choose the beef, but they had ran out. That’s a bit strange to me as there aren’t that many business class seats anyway. There was a fish option which didn’t look appealing, so I went for a sweet and sour chicken with rice and mushrooms. I live in China and have eaten some great sweet and sour chicken, but this was not it. The sauce was alright in flavor, but a bit oily and split from reheating. The chicken itself was a bit too soft in texture for me.

For dessert I received two pieces of cheese with some crackers. Can’t go wrong with cheese. They were quite mild in taste, but still good. I paired that with a really nice glass of port wine. All in all I was happy with what I got. Great wine, great bread and good soup and chees. However I was expecting just a bit more for main course from a business class seat.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Rose & lychee ice-cream

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A while back I wrote about this amazing little ice-cream parlor in Shanghai called Pree. Here they make ice-cream to order, so it’s always fresh, and they use Swiss Michelin starred chef’s secret recipes. When I was there I not only tried the truffle and Sichuan pepper ice-cream, but also the rose & lychee one.

Rose water is very strong and perfumy and can be overpowering quickly. Lychee also has a perfumy quality, and it’s no wonder the two mix very well. Although it’s a little difficult picking up the lychee notes as the rose is so overpowering. I did like the ice-cream as it was super soft and silky, and although strong, the rose did taste really nice. The addition of crystalized rose pedals made for a nice extra touch as well.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test 8

Bull’s testicle

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I’m writing the blog entry from my hotel room in Krakow, Poland. Last night I went to the great restaurant and steak house Ed Red. Ed Red is renowned for its dry aged steaks, but also serves some interesting nose-to-tail dining for the first courses. I asked you guys what you’d like me to try for my blog and the answer was “mountain oysters”. That’s the name given to bull’s testicle.

I’m not going to lie to you. I was indeed a bit grossed out at the idea of eating testicles, but the sense of adventure won me over. The dish came served just as beautifully as one would expect from a Michelin listed restaurant with a white chocolate sauce and grapes.

My first thought was, “Hey, this looks nice,” as I was expecting to just see one big old lump of meat on a plate as you see in some travel shows when they visit Spain. The ball itself looked much more like meat than organ meat, so that was a good sign as well. Then I had mustered enough courage to dig in.

Let me tell you, it was amazing. The texture was not fatty or chewy like most organ meats are, there was a real bite to it. I would compare it to a French boudin blanc. The taste was similar to a German white sausage, and I love sausage. This was a really nice piece of meat, but what really made it outstanding were the accompanying sweet grapes.

For anyone who is ever faced with the option of eating bull’s testicles, I would suggest to set your fears aside and just go for it. Do you have the balls?

Fear Factor – 7 / Taste Test – 10

Licorice parfait

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Dutch people love licorice. It’s one of those things that really is only popular in one country. Well, I should say region, because a few other northern European countries like Finland like it too. Licorice is a candy made of licorice root and salt, though it can be sweet as well as salty. Whenever I let some friends here in China try, they look disgusted and say it tastes like medicine.

When I was on holiday in Bali, I had to make a quick side trip to Jakarta to sort some things out at the local visa office. I had made lunch reservations at Salt Grill by Australian chef Luke Mangan. The restaurant was located on the top floor of a skyscraper with a beautiful view of the city. I felt a bit underdressed as everybody was in their office clothes, and I was in my holiday outfit, but the food more than made up for that.

For dessert I had a licorice parfait with a crispy tuille. The flavor of the licorice candy I had as a kid was definitely there, and I can see how some people see it as medicinal, but I kind of enjoy that. Besides the creamy texture of the parfait had mellowed the flavors out a little, and they were not so harsh anymore. It was definitely a sweet dessert with a hint of licorice root, but nowhere near as medicinal or savory as the salty candy we sell in Holland.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 7