Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hurricane Irene gave us a reason to smile

Everyone on the East Coast prepared for Irene as if the end of the world was coming. We boarded up our windows and stocked up on water and canned food, as the government instructed us all to do. Some of us even evacuated our homes.

My family and I decided to spend the night of the wicked storm together in Bergen County, one of the more elevated areas of New Jersey.

We had a great evening together and even decided to eat dinner with candles lit, to celebrate the impending power outage early. The storm came at night. Wind whistled. Thunder roared. Lightning struck. Massive downpour of rain flooded streets.

When all cleared up in the morning, we took a stroll outside to check the damage. Yes, small rivers formed in the streets, and branches were scattered around. Yes, a few trees were downed. And yep, we didn't have power.

Yet there was one great thing that surprised us all: a fantastic sea of mushrooms covered our neighbors' lawns. It was the greatest harvest of wild mushrooms that any of us had ever seen in our lives. Thanks to Irene, conditions were perfect for thousands of fungi to spring up literally overnight in our suburban town.

Being Russian, our eyes bulging with excitement, we ran with our bags and knives to go mushroom hunting. We looked for lawns that were marked as not chemically treated and collected these completely under-appreciated, misunderstood and even feared things called mushrooms, with permission from property owners (who while expressing their concern for our safety allowed us to do as we liked!).

We collected multiple bags of gorgeous chanterelles, russulas, and boletes. Some of these species can sell for up to $30 per pound! Needless to say, we went home with our booty happy as clams, and proceeded to clean, cut and cook these beauties on our grill and in the fireplace, producing the most spectacular meal.

Nothing tastes better than the food you hunt or gather yourself!

WARNING: mushroom hunting requires expertise! Before attempting this yourself, please review these guidelines to avoid mushrooms that are not only bitter but lethal! Continue...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Classmates from my alma mater developed a start-up for visitors and locals to meet and share cool experiences in New York. It is called Tourbie and is still in beta, but you can find my Weird Food tour on it! Plus, here is a short profile video we shot at the High Line:

Kat V. from Tourbie on Vimeo.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Insect Cocktails at White & Church

Grasshoppers at Toloache was just the beginning of our insect exploration. Once again, we challenged our fears and common sense at White & Church (281 Church St), a TriBeCa newcomer that is already generating buzz for its cocktails with grasshoppers, spicy worms and scorpions.

Their cocktail menu includes:

Summer: Batilda de Coco, oatmeal milk, sugar, and dried grasshoppers carefully placed in a weaved bamboo leaf sphere. This cocktail was delicious, gorgeous and certainly bizarre. To get over the fear of eating bugs, WFC member Alex convinced herself that the grasshoppers looked cute on its cotton-ball-soft foam, "as if they died and were now sitting on clouds in heaven". Perhaps a bit of self-hypnosis is necessary in this kind of situation!

9/10 for taste, innovative presentation and weirdness factor

Rosemary: cinnamon flavored rum, apple juice, lemon juice, with toasted honeybees and a sprig of rosemary. Unfortunately, White & Church's supplier discontinued honeybees, so Rosemary is now served with grasshoppers. While we were disappointed that honeybees were no longer available, Rosemary was actually our favorite by taste.

8/10 wins points for taste and weirdness factor

Why not? consists of Don Julio tequila, Cointreau, sugar, lime and avocado topped with Mexican dried spicy worms. This bland frozen margarita inspired cocktail would not exist without the exciting spicy worms. The combination of avocado and citrus was just not working, and thus left us disappointed. The spicy worms tasted like fish food, and were seriously overshadowed by their companions grasshoppers and scorpions.

5/10 wins points for worms, loses points for taste

Blue Velvet is a dangerous mix of Crème de Menthe and Sambucca, rimmed with black sesame seeds and topped with a scorpion.

7/10: wins points for scorpion and presentation, loses points for mouthwash taste and inconsistency (we ordered 2 and they were different in taste and color.)

Watch WFC member member Mike trying "Blue Velvet" scorpion cocktail:

... and a grasshopper.

Most cocktails at White & Church are in the $12-14 range. Note that White & Church runs a happy hour on ALL BUT insect drinks Tues - Sunday 5-7pm, when you can try their other amazing concoctions half off.

Also of note were some dishes at White & Church: zucchini blossoms, literally tempura fried flowers of the zucchini plant (beautiful but not exactly a meal), and artichoke croquettes.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dusseldorf weird foods

Here are a few bizarre food items I picked up while in Dusseldorf, Germany:
  • candy that tasted like cardboard with sour poprocks-esque filling inside
  • caviar spread in a toothpaste tube
  • deer terrine
  • Killepitsch, a local liquor that tastes like cough syrup and sounds like "Kill a b*tch"
  • pistachio spread that got taken away by airport security
  • bubble gum in a tube
  • chocolate with absinthe filling
  • chocolate pasta that tasted a lot like regular pasta
  • candy cigarettes (there were rumors these were banned in the US, but in fact it was real candy/fruit-flavored cigarettes that were banned)
  • candy that looks like eggs -- so much fun!
Other items not pictured:

I also had the opportunity to attend a cooking class with Frank Petzchen Cooking School where my coworkers and I learned how to make Mustard Soup with Blood Sausage Ravioli.

See recipe posted further.

Recipe for Dusseldorf Mustard Soup with Blood Sausage-Apple Ravioli

Ingredients for 4 people

200g celery
60g onion
30g butter
500ml chicken stock
20g roux (1:1)
200ml cream
80g mustard

80g black pudding (blood sausage)
30g apple
30g onion
8 wan-tan leaves
1 egg
chip/ French fry fat


Mustard Soup:
Cut celery into fine slices.
Cut onion into slices, melt in butter and fill up with chicken stock.
Cook celery until tender, puree and strain it.
Boil the broth and use roux to thicken it.
Add cream and season to taste.
Before serving add the mustard with a blender.

Black pudding/apple ravioli:
Chop blood pudding, apple and onion into small cubes and then fry in a pan
Season with majoram and let it cool
Apportion the mix on the wan-tan leaves and glue the sides with egg
Deep fry the ravioli in chip fat and place two ravioli in each soup bowl.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Taiwan in New York

Last Sunday WFC went to Passport to Taiwan in Union Square. In its 10th annual installment, this is the largest Taiwanese American outdoor festival in the States.

We were happy to find a Dracula Popsickle and Crystal Meat Dumpling among the multiple food stand offerings.

Dracula Popsickle is made out of pork blood, mixed with rice flour, corn starch, sausage and rice. It is baked, briefly deep fried, and rolled in crushed peanuts. Served with cilantro.

You can watch this tutorial video by food writer Josh Ozersky with Public's chef Brad Farmerie on how to make it.

The blood popsickle tastes a lot like boudin noir, but has a more prominent pork blood taste and smell. The peanuts add a nice crunch and the cilantro balances out the smell.

Crystal Meat Dumpling was unlike any other crystal dumpling I've ever seen. The rice dough was a lot more translucent than that of other dumplings. It was wrapped in saran wrap for convenience, and was stuffed with all sorts of meats (I will never know which!) and shiitake mushrooms. I can't seem to find any information on the crystal meat dumpling. It will remain mysterious.

A more popular recent Taiwanese culinary export is Taiwanese Shaved Ice. Many other countries have their own versions of Shaved Ice (or "Shave Ice" or "Snow Ice"), a dessert made by shaving a block of ice and topping it with various sweets. The Taiwanese version is often topped with fruits, condensed milk, syrup and red beans. (WFC Factoid: red beans are sweet because they are cooked with a whole lot of sugar, not because they are naturally sweet!)

SeriousEats lists places where you can try Taiwanese Shaved Ice in New York, including:
- Excellent Pork Chop House (3 Doyers Street)
- Ten Ren (75 Mott Street)
- Dumpling Man (100 Saint Marks Place)
- Vivi Bubble Tea (49 Bayard Street)

So far I've only tried Shaved Ice at the Flushing Mall food court, which had an impressive variety of toppings.

As Shaved Ice becomes more popular, perhaps it will soon be as ubiquitous as bubble tea!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Free Veal Brain and Cricket Tacos today only!

Dos Equis's "Feast of the Brave" truck is a godsend to all weird food eaters this Cinco de Mayo: today only you can get FREE tacos with ostrich, veal brain, tongue and chapuline (cricket) fillings!

Today's "Feast of the Brave" Truck location:

- Park Ave and 47th street

If you miss your free tacos today, you can catch the truck in NYC until May 7. For the latest truck locations and photos, go to or Twitter at @FeastoftheBrave.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bizarre Easter Egg Hunt

What would be a Weird Food Club Easter without a Bizarre Easter Egg Hunt??

1. Balut

Balut is a duck egg with a nearly developed embryo inside, commonly sold as street food in the Philippines. You can try it at Maharlika (351 E 12th St / btw 2nd Ave & 1st Ave). If you have the courage to try balut, order it as soon as you walk in, as it might take a while to prepare. Plus, don't forget to try the sisig (pig snout, ears, belly with egg).
More about balut here

2. 1000-year-old egg

In Chinese cuisine, these are duck or chicken eggs that preserved for at least 100 days in a clay-like mixture of red earth, garden lime, salt, wood ash, and tea and wrapped in rice husks. In the process, the egg yolk becomes dark green or gray and assumes a sulfuric smell, while the white turns into brown jelly.
You can try a century egg with lean pork or with jellyfish at XO Kitchen (148 Hester St btw Bowery & Elizabeth St).
More about 1000-year-old egg here.

3. Eggs of Unusual Birds

Whole Foods in Lower East Side (95 E Houston St) and Tribeca (270 Greenwich St) carry ostrich, pheasant, duck and quail eggs. Ostrich eggs are the largest of all eggs, measuring on average 5.9 in long, 5.1 in wide, and weigh 3.1 lb. I also randomly stumbled upon ostrich eggs at a farmer's market on Upper West Side ($30).

Eating ostrich eggs can give you a stomachache if they are not cooked properly. If attempting to boil, it will take 90 minutes and the outside will turn to tough rubbery consistency. Our recommendation is to make a giant scrambled egg party out of it and save the shell for decoration!

More about ostrich eggs here

WFC member Jaclynn with Ostrich Egg

Read about 3 other bizarre egg dishes.

4. Scotch Egg

(via Flickr)

A Scotch Egg consists of a hard-boiled egg, encased in sausage, coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. It is commonly served cold, with a pickle. You can try it at The Breslin (16 West 29th Street), $8. Be sure to also order the Breslin's gigantic stuffed pig's foot for 2 (beware that our group of 8 couldn't finish it!) Other notables on their menu are rabbit, chicken liver and headcheese terrines.

5. Hakone's Owakudani Black Egg

I tried these on my recent trip to Hakone, Japan. These are simply eggs boiled in sulfur spring water in Hakone, a town filled with onsen (hot spring resorts). These eggs look cool but they taste like regular boiled eggs.

We had some other interesting things in Japan, including bizarre items in a conveyor belt sushi place.

6. Twin Eggs
Closer to home, you can sometimes find eggs with two yolks in your regular supermarket. We were so lucky, we got 2 twin eggs in the same dozen! Make sure to pick up the non-organic, stuffed-with-hormones type to increase your chances.

1. Raw twin egg 2. Boiled twin egg

Happy Hunting! Continue...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Adventurous food in Taipei, Taiwan

The scariest things I've tried to date are snake blood, snake bile, and snake venom cocktails on my trip to Taipei, Taiwan.

All of these liquids were diluted with plum juice to make palatable, but I definitely was waiting for something bad to happen to me (like death) for about a week after I had these adventurous cocktails.

Snake cocktails and snake soup can be found in Snake Alley, in Hwashi covered night market in Taipei. Establishments in this part of town also sell turtle meat, and deer penis wine. All of these delicacies are said to have virility benefits. The turtles looked way too cute to eat so I didn't get those. Pig snouts and grilled insects looked interesting as well.

Taipei scores big points on the adventurous food scale, and even more so for one of their biggest modern food innovations: the toast dessert at Dazzling Cafe. It's a giant half-loaf of white bread scooped out and filled with ice cream, fruits, macarons, condensed milk, chocolate and syrups! This brilliant invention needs to be exported to the US immediately.

We also visited the Modern Toilet restaurant, where meals are served in mini toilets and look like poop and/or pee. I hope they open one in New York!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

If you’re looking for bizarre food, don’t look much further than your fridge!

If you ever look in your fridge and see nothing but anchovies, peanut butter and toast – you’ve hit the jackpot! At least, so claims Steve Wiley, who recently sent me his book “Are You Gonna Eat That?!” – a compilation of the weirdest culinary concoctions made out of the most common ingredients found in American kitchens.

I loved some of these crazy food combos that could only have been invented by starving (and/or bored) children: chips & whipped cream, uncooked pasta dipped in chunky peanut butter or cereal and orange juice.

Accompanied by juicy photos, some of these combos might actually be good:
• Cantaloupe with cayenne pepper
• Cream cheese on toast with orange marmalade and cocoa puffs
• Corn flakes with beer – a potential hangover cure that Zane Lamprey might enjoy??

Whereas others are truly bloodcurdling:
• Tuna salad and nutella on toast
• Cola with peanuts inside the bottle
• Bananas and fried egg yolk - YUCK! :)

If ever in need of entertainment, flip through this book, and point randomly to find your next snack. Or better yet, make your own crazy concoction!