We’re preparing for our annual restaurant issue at work, so I started thinking about my foodie adventures. Everyone has a favorite and/or least favorite meal and restaurant, but what about in between those ends of the spectrum? What have we tried that has expanded our palate and made us wonder what other delectable dishes are out there? Here are a handful of times I surprised myself (and my tongue) with some unusual food experiences.
My family and I spent two weeks on the Big Island of Hawaii in the summer of 2008, specifically on the coast of Kailua-Kona. Of course, we had to spend at least one night at a traditional luau, complete with roasted pig dug straight out of the ground, served with local side dishes and Hawaiian food staples like poi. I put a little on my plate to taste and was less than thrilled to discover that it is a gray paste completely devoid of any flavor and the consistency of cement pudding (gritty and mushy). Pictured above? My “why do people eat this?” face.
This is by no means unusual by most people’s standards, however I’ve had a lifelong reluctance to put anything raw near my mouth, so I’m quite proud to have finally tasted sushi for the very first time recently … at 27 years old. My parents and I went to Sogo Fusion in Easton, PA on Easter Sunday and I tried a “Creamy Shrimp,” a “Fresh Sweet Scallop,” and a “White Tuna.” We also shared an order of “Monkey Rolls,” pictured above, which are a (delicious) house special made with shrimp tempura, avocado, and spicy sauces. Shrimp? Good. Tuna? Surprisingly savory. Scallop? Like squishing a jellyfish around your mouth and tasted about the same. Wouldn’t recommend that one. I was so pleasantly surprised with my experience that I waited a whole five days for my next one—I had a sushi date last night with a friend!
OK, so I made an exception to my “raw” rule last summer on a family vacation to St. Lucia. During a horseback riding excursion, we came across a local who was chopping coconuts out of the trees and cracking them open for tourists to taste. Coconut water is all the rage with modern health nuts, but I’m baffled as to why. You can buy “fresh” coconut water by the bottle in the States and it’s bland, slightly oily, with just a hint of coconut flavor. Fresh out of the coconut itself tastes about the same, but warm. Yuck. I had a couple sips and passed it along.
I went through a veg phase in early 2013; it was my New Year’s resolution to become a vegetarian. Limiting yourself nutrition-wise really starts to become a challenge, and I found myself discovering new things quite frequently. At the time, I was a freelance reporter working for a hyperlocal online newspaper in Red Bank, N.J. I wrote a profile on a downtown vegan eatery, Good Karma Cafe, and was so impressed with what I learned (and sampled) that I immediately returned for dinner with a friend not long after. I tried their buffalo tempeh strips and was incredibly surprised by how delicious they were. Like tofu, tempeh is a meat substitute made from soybeans, but unlike tofu which is more spongy, tempeh is fermented and pressed into a more compact cake. It was certainly interesting—and tasty!
Some may mock this magical, albeit somewhat fictional butterscotch beverage as it can only be found in one very specific place (and a handful of internet sites proposing DIY recipes), but Potter fans and other fantastic people who are still in touch with their inner child and like fun things will understand where I’m going with this. And where I’m going is Hogsmeade, thank you very much, located in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studio‘s Islands of Adventure where my family and I visited in the summer of 2012. My sister and I were practically beside ourselves as we walked through the gates with Hogwarts castle looming in the distance, past the Hogwarts Express, and into the heart of the charming village from the worldwide best-selling book series. There, we ordered some famous butterbeer from a cart and enjoyed its ice-cold, frothy goodness under the scorching Florida sun. If butterscotch and cream soda had a baby, it lives in Orlando.