Friday, October 30, 2009

We are all zombies now... Brain at La Superior (295 Berry Street, Williamsburg)

Just in time for Halloween, this entry is about eating brain. Now, everything you know about brain is true. Zombies eat it. Eating brain will turn you into a zombie… and if not, it will at the very least give you multiple sclerosis. So hop on the bandwagon, and eat some brain already... All the cool kids are doing it.

You can try brain at at least two places in New York City. Les Enfants Terribles (37 Canal Street) has deep fried sheep brain as a dinner special (call in advance to confirm that they have it that night), and if you’d like to eat brain on any night of the week, go to La Superior (295 Berry Street, Williamsburg).

I met La Superior's chef Nacxi Gaxiola through a friend. Nacxi didn't hesitate to tell me that he serves brain as soon as I mentioned this blog. He loves to find unusual combinations of ingredients for his dishes and is currently working on perfecting his pig face soup recipe.

We tried La Superior’s Sesadillas (quesadillas de sesos or pork brain quesadillas without the cheese) -- they were tiny little bites of brain goodness. My favorite Weird Food Club enthusiast Arseny described the brain's texture as similar to "soy bean paste".

To make sesadillas, Nacxi boils the brain, sautés it, adds some scallion, parsley, and other greens, puts it in the quesadilla shell and I assume does something else to it (didn’t hear the rest of the secret recipe…) Whatever it is, $3 is worth it so you can mark off “brain” in your long list of things to try in order to up your chances of developing idiopathic diseases. You can also try La Superior’s Taco Lengua (beef tongue taco) and pig feet.

Rating (1-10)
Presentation: 6 La Superior scores points for coming up with the idea of putting brain in a quesadilla, but the scratched plastic plates they were served on did not impress
Texture: 5 Wish the brain was less cooked to get the total gross, goopy effect
Taste: 7 Ttasted like ground pork, the added parsley was great
Price: $3

Surgeon General's Warning: Eating brain may cause side effects like dizziness, blindness, cerebral atrophy, involuntary facial spasms, and walking with arms outstretched. Weird Food Club members experienced at least four of these side effects. Continue...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fictional Foods and Beverages

I hosted a housewarming party last weekend for my family, who are all huge Potter-fans. I wanted to make something interesting, so I decided to make butterbeer. We were debating whether butterbeer exists outside of the Potter universe, but this was a question easily resolved by a quick wikipedia search. Butterbeer is exclusively a J.K. Rowling invention.

Here's the recipe that I tried.

1 cup (8 oz) club soda or cream soda
1/2 cup (4 oz) butterscotch syrup (ice cream topping)
1/2 tablespoon butter

Measure butterscotch and butter into a 2 cup (16 oz) glass. Microwave on high for 1 to 1½ minutes, or until syrup is bubbly and butter is completely incorporated. Stir and cool for 30 seconds, then slowly mix in club soda. Mixture will fizz quite a bit. Serve in two coffee mugs or small glasses.

Result: it turned out way too sweet and too buttery to drink more than 1 tablespoon. It was fizzy and buttery though - just as it's intended to be.

Other butterbeer recipes like this might be better.

This spawned another discussion on the topic of mead and ambrosia.

This recipe for ambrosia salad made out of canned fruits sounds completely lame. My coworkers think ambrosia should taste like barfi, an Indian dessert made out of cashews/almonds and milk.

Barfi (great name for a delicious, yellowish dessert wrapped in edible tin foil!)

And although mead is not a fictional drink, few people make it nowadays, so it qualifies as "weird". Manhattan Meadery took on the challenge of bringing it back to the people. You can try their mead at the following places in New York:

Astor Wine & Spirits – 399 Lafayette St, New York NY
Chelsea Wine Vault – 75 9th Ave, New York, NY
Big Nose, Full Body Wine Shop – 382 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Spuyten Duyvil – 359 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Abigail Cafe and Wine Bar – 807 Classon Ave. Brooklyn, NY
Camaje Resturant – 85 Macdougal St, New York, NY
Perilla – 9 Jones St, New York, NY Continue...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream @ Lulu and Mooky's (129 Allen St)

The only chemistry lesson that left a lifelong impression on me was a demonstration of what liquid nitrogen could do to an organic object like a flower, or a human hand…

Now you can have your own delicious and hopefully emergency room-free chemistry demo at Lulu & Mooky’s, a tiny new LES ice cream parlor where a dude in a lab coat will make you liquid nitrogen ice cream from one of 45 suggested flavors or one of your own invention.

Watch out though – not all flavor combinations will taste great. Our mango-kiwi monster tasted like tuna and garnered 6 votes for “yucky”. Rosemary & burnt sugar flavor got 5 “yum” votes though! Other favorites were red sour cherry & pear, and ginger.

Liquid nitrogen (or LN2) has been a darling ingredient of many molecular gastronomists, and for good reason. Making ice cream with LN2 has several advantages to the regular fridge and/or ice approaches:
- fewer crystals form, so the ice cream ends up with a very buttery texture
- the freezing process is almost instant, so ice cream can be made fresh for each customer.

Watching ice cream being made with funky fog is part of the fun, but because it took 2 minutes to process each order, we were wondering how Lulu & Mooky’s would handle big crowds in the summer time. As a group of generous business consultants and entrepreneurs, we offered lots of free business advice to the dude in the lab coat – we’ll see if L&M will listen! ☺

Rating (1-10)
Presentation: 9 (We loved watching LN2 in action, but we would have liked to see the parlor decorated with more color or possibly with photos of extremely attractive people eating their ice cream – we told L&M they can always use our slideshow!)
Taste: 7 (hit or miss. Avoid the mango-kiwi combination, as well as flavors #46 and 47 - click on the slideshow to discover what they are)
Texture: 8 (very creamy)
Price: $4 for 1 cup (2 scoops) Continue...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How I ate The Queen of Jellyfish in Queens

If you’ve tried jellyfish once, you’re a newbie. If you’ve tried jellyfish in three different dishes in one evening, that’s what I call a real accomplishment.

And that’s what we did at the last Gastronauts outing at Waterfront International Enterprises, Inc. (A.K.A. Fu Run) @ 40-09 Prince Street, Flushing, Queens. Do you need any more reason than Jellyfish Three Ways to spend 2.5 hours in the subway? Nope, you really don’t.

Fu Run was packed with roughly 60 gastronauts by the time Kevin, his girlfriend Jess and I arrived. We started with bottles of Tsingtao (the restaurant quickly ran out of them, and we had to make do with pitchers of Bud Light) and skin jelly (we still have no idea what that is).

The menu was shockingly long (16 courses), and not a single item could have been considered usual fare by any means. A few things on there were downright mysterious – is tiger vegetable a piece of a tiger? what is blotch soup?

The star of the evening, of course, was the jellyfish. Crunchy and absolutely tasteless, jellyfish is like tofu – it will taste like anything you put on it. Jellyfish with hot sauce tasted like crunchy noodles of hot sauce, jellyfish with scallion mostly tasted like crunchy scallion.

The Prom Queen of Jellyfish Dishes was Jellyfish Leg – gorgeous to the sight and completely vapid on the inside. I took many photos of this beautiful thing but got absolutely nothing out of it when I actually stuffed it in my mouth.

My favorite item on the menu was stew of miscellaneous fish with home style cookies. This dish was delicious, beautifully presented and filling. It really felt like a friend’s grandma made this stuff. On the other side of the spectrum, the least tasty dish on the menu was lamb stomach - it felt like a sheep was hanging under my nose while I was eating a goopy piece of meat.

Highlight of the outing: pics of me eating agaric ended up on the Gastronauts website and I got an email from Gastronauts founder Curtiss letting me know that I looked like his high school sweetheart.... maybe next time dinner will be on him? I'll make sure not to bring my boyfriend ;-)

Rating (1-10)
Presentation: 8 (Jellyfish legs are sexy)
Taste: 4 (It is absolutely tasteless!)
Texture: 7 (Crunchy!)
Price: Jellyfish on its own is probably a pretty cheap thing to eat (just go to Brighton Beach, catch some and cook it at home), but the overall 16-course meal was $50.
Will I ever go back to Flushing again? Only for live baby octopus. Continue...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gastronauts: a great discovery

In our quest for weird food, Kevin and I searched for other likeminded food-crazy freaks who may have already created a list of NYC restaurants worthy of our patronage. Fortuitously, we came across Gastronauts, a club for adventurous eaters.

With a mailing list of over 2000 subscribers, Gastronauts founders Ben & Curtiss organize a monthly outing to restaurants that serve unusual food. Seating is very limited (depending on the size of the place), and RSVP spots go as quickly as galoshes in the Soviet Union.

Receiving membership to the club involves writing a short paragraph about yourself. I think I wrote a book about all the weird stuff I’ve had: my favorite bull penis, bacon-flavored cheerios, marmite, bone marrow, lard, durian, pig and chicken feet, steak tartar, blood sausage, Kobe beef, horse steak, horse sushi, etc. No surprise, membership was granted with a short response from Curtiss: “You had us at bone marrow. :)” I know, I might have come off a bit overzealous.

To all skeptics who believe there are only four places in NYC that serve unusual food, the Gastronauts list of 43 restaurants so far visited contains:

Waterfront International Enterprises, Inc. (AKA Fu Run) – jellyfish, triple pork intestines
Roberta’s – fluke (whale tail), sea urchin, fennel pollen, etc
Lamb and Jaffy – peach soup, octopus, squid, calf brains, etc
San Rasa – polose (Jack Fruit), baby goat ox tongue, etc
Himalayan Yak – all parts of yak, etc
La Fusta – sweetbreads, tripe, tongue, liver, etc
Su San Seafood – live baby octopus, etc
Grand Dakar - knuckle soup, tripe and feet stew, etc
Trestle on Tenth – blood, liver sausage, etc
Mokeytown – rattlesnake, frog leg terrine, warm turtle salad, etc
Xiao La Jiao – rabbit, pig ear, bullfrog, etc
Henry’s End – wild boar belly, quail stuffed with figs, etc
and many more... Continue...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bull Penis (Kenka, 22 St. Marks Pl)

Kenka in the middle of St. Marks Pl is probably the best of the tourist-friendly yet quintessentially New York places for the adventurous eater. You'll know you're in the right place when you see the gigantic statue of a Japanese raccoon dog (Tanuki) with huge testicles and blinking light-bulb eyes outside the restaurant. The giant testicles definitely set the course of the night down a certain theme, for we came to the place to sample their most famous dish -- Bull Penis.

Alcohol tends to help with the touching of penises of any species, so we started off with huge mugs of Sapporo and sake. We had quite a large group at Kenka. Believe me, when you eat Penis, you want witnesses - so I recommend going here with a group of good-hearted friends, rather than a date... unless you want it to become more awkward than it probably already is. :-P

Our own Kenka expert Kai (former Kenka employee) recommended specifying that you want bull penis "with the head" when you order. I assume that the bull penis is so big, that you could potentially get a piece that doesn't have it??!

In terms of taste, my fellow adventurous eater Alex said: "It tastes like a blow job covered in sauce." So think of that next time you try bull penis. The restaurant also has a cotton candy making machine outside, so if bull penis is not your idea of dessert, you can always have pure sugar.

The best part about bull penis and Kenka in general, is that it is very affordable: $5 beers, $5.50 penis.

Rating (1-10)
Presentation: 7 (Decent. If they presented the penis on a silver plate with shavings of gold, I'd give it a 10)
Taste: 6 (mostly tastes like sauce)
Texture: 8 (cartilage)
Price: $5.50
Will I eat it again? Yes, but not for nutritional purposes. Continue...

About the Creators of Weird Food Club

Kevin & Kat at the office, displaying items they scored at The Free Store . Unfortunately, the Free Store is now closed (tends to happen with non-profit social/arts projects). Kevin and Kat were very sad when the Free Store closed. They needed a new outlet for their energy and love. Luckily for our readers, Kevin & Kat's love is now directed toward Weird Food Club. Continue...

Welcome to Weird Food Club

Friends have noticed that whenever I go to a new restaurant, instead of trying a staple dish to assess how well they make it in comparison to other places, I tend to get the weirdest thing on the menu. Whether it ends up good or bad is not a question in my mind at the moment of making my order. I only care about trying something new, unusual, sometimes yucky that other people would dare not try.

With the popularity of food critics like Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain, and even travel show hosts like Samantha Brown, and their bizarre food excursions, weird food itself is becoming of interest to many people.

I love to travel, but with a full-time office job, like many people, I only get a limited number of vacation days. However, luckily, my partner in crime / bizarre food enthusiast Kevin and I live in New York, the most diverse of culinary melting pots, so we bring to you a blog about all the weirdest foods you can find in New York City.

This is one of the first google image results for "weird food". Wouldn't you want to try these delicious chicken feet? Continue...