EXCLUSIVE: Ten Unusual Food Experiences

As we prepare for our annual restaurant issue which hits stands next Thursday, April 16, we started thinking about our 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 we surprised ourselves (and our tongues) with some unusual food experiences.

Poi

Poi

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.—DT

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Escargot

L'Escargot, Greek Street London. February 2014

My wife and I go to Epcot‘s International Food & Wine Festival in Disney World almost every year, which allows us to try some unusual and exotic food. One of the only dishes that gave me pause was the escargot (snails) in France. The appearance of the slimy snails in their shells made me hesitate before pulling them out and enjoying their garlicky awesomeness. The texture might cause some problems, but I’d recommend these gastropods to anyone.—JK

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Sushi

Sushi

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 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’m waiting a whole five days for my next oneI’ve got a sushi date tomorrow night with a friend!—DT

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Deer Heart

Deer HeartThis dish might not be too much of a surprise to the many hunters around here, but when my friend brought a jar containing a floating heart into my office, it was a bit surprising. I think it’s noble to use every part of the deer you harvest, but I wasn’t ready to eat some whitetail offal. Venison? Sure. Deer jerky? No problem. A heart? I wasn’t feeling too confident. She assured me that it was pickled and safe to eat before I hesitantly dug in. Honestly? Not too bad.—JK

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Raw Coconut

Raw coconut

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.—DT

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Steak Tartare

Steak tartareThis is another Disney Food & Wine Fest dish that grossed my wife out. The steak tartare at Le Cellier in the France section of Epcot has amazing steak, so I thought I’d try something outside of the boxraw, high-quality beef. It was absolutely amazing. As the chef/television personality Anthony Bourdain so eloquently put it in his book Medium Raw: “You shouldn’t have to handle your raw food like toxic waste.” Quality beef is as good rare as it is cooked.—JK

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Tempeh

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 4.54.52 PMI 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 interestingand tasty!—DT

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Crawfish

crawfish

I know, I know, not that exotic. You can get these little crustaceans at pretty much any Chinese food place in the area. However, crawfish did pose one of my most difficult culinary challenges. I just couldn’t get over how much they look like insects. I’d always pass over the bug-like creatures at every buffet I frequented. Eventually I took the leap and sucked all those delicious juices from its head as advised by my crawfish-loving friends. Not bad! Still looks like a giant bug though.—JK

Butterbeer

Butterbeer

My cowriter, Joe, is going to mock my “fictional” (MAGICAL) butterscotch beverage blurb, 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, yes, fictional 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.—DT

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LeFou’s Brew

LaFou'sI know my cowriter Danielle is going to insinuate that she drank “butterbeer,” featured in a subpar children’s book series about a boy wizard, so I think LeFou’s Brewa fermented fruit drink you can get at Gaston’s Tavern in the Disney‘s Magic Kingdomshould count. As Disney fans know, Gaston is the antagonist from “Beauty and the Beast.” It wasn’t bad, but the giant cinnamon rolls that you can get there would make any pairing seem good.—JK

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