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

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

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

Stewed ox tail

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I remember eating ox tail soup as a kid on special occasions such as Christmas dinner, and I always loved it. To this day it’s one of my favorite soups. You can imagine that when I went to Rome recently and I found a classical Roman dish of stewed ox tail I was quite excited. The only thing holding me back was that it was served on the bone, and I’ve never been good at picking meat of bones.

The dish arrived with four big chunks of ox tail covered in a tomato sauce – anything “alla Romana” usually had tomato sauce. Like I was afraid of, the meat was difficult to get off the bones. It had been cooked till very tender, but it wasn’t exactly falling of the bone either, so you really had to pry at it. The meat that I did manage to get off was just like I remember from the soups, mild in flavor and super tender. Just a shame I couldn’t get much meat off of it.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 7

Polish blood sausage

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As part of an appetizer platter at Starka restaurant in Krakow, we were offered some kaszanka, Polish blood sausage. Kaszanka is made my mixing blood with buckwheat, a staple in Poland, and uses marjoram as a spice. In this case it wasn’t technically a sausage as it didn’t come in a skin, but was served warm in a small bowl.

I scooped up some of the stuffing and spread it on some dark rye bread. The blood sausage was perfectly palatable. It didn’t have a big coppery taste and the rye gave it some added texture. Every once and a while I would get a hint of copper, but overall it was quite ok. I do think they could have used some more spices to give the dish a bit of a kick, as I found it a bit bland.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test – 6

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

Blood sausage

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As a boy I never would have chosen blood sausage. I was happy just eating burgers and hot dogs. Now that I’m a bit older – OK, a lot older – I’m also a bit more open to trying new things. At Ron Gastrobar in Amsterdam, the Michelin starred restaurant where I tried foie gras before, there was also a dish f cauliflower, blood sausage and cheese.

I found the dish to be outstanding. All the elements really complimented each other. On its own however, I felt the blood sausage a bit bland and nondescript. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, I just expected a stronger flavor. I will have to try some blood sausage again on its own. I will let you know how I get one.

Fear Factor – 5 / Taste Test – 7

Foie gras

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Foie gras is a fattened liver of a goose or duck that is a famous French delicacy. There are many countries were producing of foie gras is illegal because the birds are force fed in order to fatten up their livers. Besides France other big producers of foie gras include China and Canada.

The livers are traditionally pan-fried whole, though they can also be made into a mousse or pate. I’ve always loved pate, so the first time I tried foie gras was in a bistro in Paris where they served foie gras pate on toast. It was beautifully smooth, buttery with just a hint of iron that one associates with liver.

Last summer I visited a Michelin starred restaurant in Amsterdam called “Ron Gastrobar”. One of the dishes I ordered was pan fried foie gras served with raisins and almond. Foie gras is often paired with a sweet counterpart, and I found the raisins were in absolute harmony with the liver. I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor of the liver, but I was a little put off by the texture which was both soft and firm like silken tofu.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 7

Ox tongue

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Some of the best beef I’ve had has been in South Korea where it gets cooked right in front of you on a table grill. In China I sometimes go to a Korean barbeque restaurant to try and mimic that experience. I’ve tried it with different cuts of beef and pork before, but this time I decided to try out some ox tongue, having never eaten tongue before.

The tongue came out very thinly sliced, but you could definitely tell it was tongue due to the marbling of the meat. Because the slices were so thin, the meat cooked in a matter of seconds. When I tried a piece on its own I thought I was eating a beef steak. Not just any steak, but one in which the flavor was so compressed you’d think you were eating over reduced gravy.

I mean that in the best possible way as it was packed full of beefy flavor. Later I tried to mix it with some onion – which was good -, some spicy sauce – which was overpowering, and some mushroom – which was amazing. Now I know that tongue tastes good, I’ll have to try a thicker slice next time I come across it.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test – 8

Pig’s head croquette

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Some of you might remember I wrote about a Hong Kong restaurant dedicated to whole hog dining in Hong Kong called The Fat Pig. The crispy fried pig’s ears there were a bit of a letdown, but there are other parts to a pig to try.

Another dish I tried was the pig’s head croquette. I’d eaten cheeks before, which I found to be perhaps the best part of the pig, and I do like croquettes, so I had big expectations for this dish. Luckily this time I was not disappointed.

The meat in the croquette was super tender and almost sticky. It was perhaps about 90 percent meat and only 10 percent ragout. The taste had a great umami taste and was very rich. The richness was cut through with a gorgeous salsa verde packed with lemon. It was a perfect accompaniment for the croquette.

Fear Factor 2 / Taste Test – 9