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Archive | Crazy Eats

Learn about weird foods and crazy recipes from across the world.

Tonight’s Special: Pork a la Petri

Late last month it was announced that scientists in Holland have successfully grown pork meat in a petri dish.  The meat was developed from special cells called myoblasts that are specifically programmed to repair muscles in a live animal.  If they are left in a super rich broth of nutrients, as the experiment in Holland shows, they will grow indefinitely, creating a possibly endless supply of synthetically grown, but otherwise identical meat for human consumption.

Proponents of the Dutch project say meat produced in this manner can save millions of tons of greenhouse gases each year by making the production of meat much more efficient.  There are also real concerns that as global populations grow, arable land will not be able to produce enough protein to keep up with demand.  Synthetically produced meats represent a solution to this problem.

Tonights Special: Pork a la PetriThe meat produced in this experiment was soggy and soft because it never exercised enough to give it firmness.  Scientists involved with the project said they are developing ways to stretch and work the meat so that it takes on the same consistency as natural meat.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know how the meat actually tastes.  Laboratory rules forbid employees from tasting the experiment.

So will your restaurant be serving boneless pork chops grown in a lab sometime in the future?  Dutch scientists definitely think so, but they realize that if this meat doesn’t look, taste, and smell exactly like natural pork, there’s no way it can ever be marketed.

So would you ever eat pork, beef, lamb, or even fish grown in a lab if you couldn’t tell the difference between the synthetic and natural version?  Leave a comment below….

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Extreme Mixology: Inhaling Vaportinis

Extreme Mixology: Inhaling VaportinisMixology is a hot trend in food service.  More and more bars and restaurants are investing in exotic flavors and unique blends to make cocktails that draw customers in and tantalize their taste buds.  There are even professional “mixologists” who dedicate their time to the art of developing the next trendy cocktail.

The Red Kiva Lounge in Chicago has apparently taken mixology to a new level with Vaportinis: a shot of alcohol that’s heated, and, instead of being drunk, is inhaled as it evaporates from the heat.  The result is a head rush akin to smoking a cigarette as the alcohol is absorbed through the lungs.

The owner of The Red Kiva got the idea for Vaportinis after a trip to Finland, where vodka is poured over hot coals and then inhaled during an annual winter festival.  After developing a special container that heats the alcohol and then allows the customer to inhale through a straw, The Red Kiva started offering several different types of alcohol in their Vaportinis.

The more exotic mixology gets, the more interesting the ways people will find to ingest alcohol.  The quest for the next trendy drink continues to yield innovations like the Vaportini.  The biggest hurdle to this drink is reminding people that inhaling alcohol still gets you drunk.  No word on how a breathalyzer reacts to someone whose been “smoking” alcohol.

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Want Your Fast Food Fancy?

A website called Fancy Fast Food has taken all the mass produced food that makes Americans fat, but that we love to eat, and turned it into top quality fine cuisine, complete with garnish.  The results are actually very stunning, even after viewing the before picture.  Some examples include:

Want Your Fast Food Fancy?

Nathan’s Not-So-Famous Faux Foie Gras – 6 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, a lemonade, a mustard packet, and a rosemary garnish.  The result looks like anything you might find at a 5 star restaurant, and without the ethically questionable duck livers to boot.

Want Your Fast Food Fancy?

Boston Kreme Brulee – Made from the filling of 8 Dunkin’ Donuts Boston Kreme Donuts,  this “kreme brulee” looks just as tasty as anything you might find in a restaurant, and probably cheaper too.

Want Your Fast Food Fancy?

The Colonel’s Chicken Corn Chowder – Put together a complete meal from KFC and get some top quality corn chowder.  The picture sure makes it look good…

Submit your own fancy fast food recipes, complete with before and after pictures.  The only rule is that you can’t add anything to your recipe besides what you buy in a fast food joint (with the exception of a garnish).  These guys have plenty more amazing recipes, and every one makes their motto ring a little more true: Yeah It’s Still Bad For You – But See How Good It Can Look!

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Weird Food: Goat Meat Isn’t Really All That Weird

Weird Food:  Goat Meat Isnt Really All That WeirdTo most Americans, goat meat sounds like a foreign and unsavory dish consumed in far-off places by people who don’t have many other options.  In reality, goat is the most commonly consumed type of meat the world over, and not just in the Third World.  America is one of the few holdouts where goat hasn’t really taken hold.

Until recently, that is.  There has long been localized markets for goat meat, especially in immigrant centers like New York City and southwestern states where there is a heavy Hispanic influence.  But increasingly, middle class white people in America are discovering goat, or maybe they’re simply catching up with the rest of the world.

What does goat taste like?  It’s somewhere between lamb and chicken, with a distinct flavor that isn’t too gamey.  The key with goat is to cook it properly.  It’s very easy to end up with tough, stringy meat that chews like boot leather and goes down like shoe laces.

Goat that is slow cooked with lots of marinade and spice can be very tasty.  Many ethnic restaurants have added it to the menu as America finally starts to catch on, and the results can be excellent, like pulled goat tacos, Jamaican-style jerk stew, and in rich curries.  The best part about goat meat is that it’s leaner than chicken and has more protein than beef, making it a smart choice for the health conscious.

And for those who are concerned with the industrial-scale production of beef, pork, and chickens, with the accompanying environmental and animal cruelty issues, goat presents a unique alternative.  That’s because goats are usually raised on marginal pastures that are not suitable for other types of agriculture, and they thrive in those environments.  When they are raised on pastures also used by beef cattle and other animals, they do not compete for the same plants, which improves land use and gives ranchers a natural way to control weeds.  No matter what, they don’t end up in a feed lot.

Goat meat may not be a white, middle-class American tradition, but for the rest of the world, it’s a staple, kind of like soccer.  So the next time you encounter goat meat, give it a try and see what you’ve been missing.

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Hungarian Pigs Are Cool Again

Hungarian Pigs Are Cool Again100 years ago, a Hungarian breed of pig called Mangalitsa was the preferred pork breed for restaurants across Europe and the eastern U.S.  Over the last century their popularity declined for a variety a reasons.  The Mangalitsa also fell out of favor with pork producers, because they require open pasture and high quality feed, as opposed to common breeds today, which can be raised in small pens on an industrial scale on cheap feed like corn or soy.

However, recently, the Mangalitsa has returned as a favorite in some chefs kitchens, because, unlike most popular breeds, Mangalitsa pork is marbled.  This gives the meat a rich, authentic taste that makes it unique among pigs.  This is good news for the Mangalitsa, because just a few years ago the breed was bordering on extinction, with numbers in the hundreds, as opposed to 30,000 individuals in 1950 in Hungary alone.

At least one farm has imported the Hungarian pig to the U.S., and Mangalitsa pork, previously only available from Spain, has begun to spread to other Western countries.  Restaurants like the Spotted Pig in New York city have begun serving the pork with much success.  Mangalitsa meat fetches a much heftier price than industrial pork, but for customers who value taste over price, the succulent marbled meat of Hungarian pork can be a satisfying experience.

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Insects: Cuisine of the Future?

Entomophagy is the human consumption of insects of any kind.  Before you recoil in horror, consider a few interesting facts about eating insects:

1,700 different insect species are eaten in 113 countries across the globe.  Scientists note that insects are a great source of protein and unsaturated fats as well as other key vitamins and minerals.

In fact, there is significant evidence that early humans relied on insects as a major part of their diet, since hunting larger mammals was very difficult and could not be relied on as a consistent food source.  It appears early humans ate ants, bee and silkworm larvae, and even lice.

Some have even suggested that entomophagy be reintroduced to Western culture.  Insects are much more efficient to produce in large numbers than traditional protein sources like cattle, pigs, and poultry, and in many cases the nutritional value of insects is far better.

From a sustainability standpoint, it can be argued that as climate change starts affecting human agricultural capabilities, particularly in world breadbaskets like the midwestern United States and continental Europe, raising insects for food might become an unavoidable reality.

The biggest challenge is figuring out ways to prepare insects that don’t force the people eating them to deal with buggy eyes, spindly legs, and hairy antennae.

Some pretty tasty recipes (well, depending on your perspective) can be found on the Clemson entomology department’s website, including mealworm spaghetti, bee grubs in coconut cream, and grasshopper fritters.

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Sake Not Just For Sushi Anymore

Sake Not Just For Sushi Anymore

Sake is usually associated with sushi, but not anymore

Sake is fermented from rice and lies somewhere between beer and wine as an alcoholic beverage.  It’s popularity has grown in the U.S., and this has mostly been the result of the growth of sushi in popularity.

In fact, most people would never think about ordering sake if they weren’t eating Japanese cuisine.

Well, that’s changing, and fast.  The introduction of premium sakes into the American market has given birth to a group of sake connoisseurs across the U.S., and as more people learn about sake, the more this trend is going to grow.

The heated sake you’re used to having at your favorite Asian restaurant is actually the bottom of the barrel in the sake world, like ordering one of those gallon jugs of E&J Gallo wine.  Sake is heated to mask impurities and poor flavor.

Good sake should be served at room temperature or even slightly chilled, depending on the brewer’s recommendation.

Premium sake also varies widely in taste, and like wine, ranges from sweet to dry.  And more and more Americans are discovering that good sake can be enjoyed with a variety of cuisine, not just Asian food.

It’s become a hot trend in fine dining restaurants from Seattle to Minneapolis to New York, and as consumers become more educated, the market for premium sake is going to continue to grow.

Sake Not Just For Sushi Anymore

Premium sake is like a fine wine and there are even different types of sake associated with different regions in Japan!

Sake has been around for thousands of years, but the brewing process for premium sake was only developed about 30 years ago, when technological advances allowed Japanese brewers to achieve new purity levels in the milled rice, water, and other ingredients of sake.

This, combined with an advanced brewing process, led to a blossoming of complex flavors in the new generation of sake.  This range of flavors means that sake can now be enjoyed with a variety of foods, just like wine.  And, like wine, different regions produce different types of sake, from light, dry offerings that pair well with fish to rich, darker varieties for meats and heavier meals.

If you’re considering buying some premium sake for your restaurant, here’s a couple tips to keep in mind:

If at all possible, taste the sake first.  Look for balance in taste.  Sake can range from sweet to dry, but no matter what, it should have balance and smooth drinkability.  Harsh or artificial flavor is a sure sign of poor quality.

Look for color.  Most premium sakes will have a light amber or golden color.  Clear sake can also be good, but typically clearness indicates too much filtration, which tends to rob the sake of its flavor and character.

Watch out for dark brown coloring.  Unlike wine, sake doesn’t age well, and if it is exposed to hot temperatures or excessive light, it will degrade even more quickly.  In general sake shouldn’t be kept for more than a year.  A surefire sign that a sake has degraded is dark brown discoloration.

Price doesn’t always mean you get what you pay for.  Of course, Japanese sake is going to offer a better range of flavors and quality than American sake.  But prices for Japanese sake is usually doubled when it’s imported.  There are a surprising variety of American brands that are very drinkable and a fraction of the price.  Naturally, the best of the best is going to come from Japan.

Sake can be a great addition to your restaurant’s repertoire and give your customers a truly unique dining experience they will remember for a long time to come.

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Crazy Eats: Cuy Will Make You Smarter

Crazy Eats: Cuy Will Make You Smarter

Two cuy dishes from Peru

Yes, your favorite childhood pet is also a favored delicacy in the Andes.

Called “cuy,” (coo-wee) by locals in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, roasted guinea pig has a gamey taste similar to rabbit and is said to improve intelligence and focus if eaten regularly.

In Cuzco, Peru, cuy is roasted like a suckling pig and served with hot peppers.  Other regions fry several cuy whole and serve them with a hot pepper or achiote sauce over rice or potatoes.

Crazy Eats: Cuy Will Make You Smarter

A view of Machu Piccu, the former stronghold of Incan Kings

Cuy is a traditional source of protein in the Andes going back centuries before the arrival of Columbus, when the Incan nobility dined on cuy exclusively and used their entrails to foretell the future.

Now guinea pigs are raised commercially and can be found in markets all over the Andes.

So if you’re ever in South America, and you don’t want to eat your childhood pet’s cousin, stay away from the cuy!

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Aztec “Beer” Makes a Comeback

Aztec Beer Makes a Comeback

The traditional Aztec drink pulque

Pulque is a thick, milky alcoholic drink first enjoyed by Aztec kings in the centuries before the arrival of Spanish conquistadors.  It is fermented from the juice of the maguey plant, which is an aloe-like relative of the agave, the source of tequila and mezcal.  After the fall of the Aztec empire, the masses of poor mestizos in colonial Mexico adopted the drink and pulque consumption soared.

Fermented maguey is mixed with any of a number of flavors including pineapple, pistachio, strawberry, and even celery to mask its bitter taste.  Places that serve pulque, called pulquerias, have been going out of business one by one over the past century as its popularity dwindled among the working classes of Mexico.

Then, suddenly, young people in the heart of Mexico City rediscovered pulque and now the few surviving pulquerias are thriving hangout spots for Mexican youth.

Technology has also lent a helping hand  as modern pasteurization has led to the bottling and canning of pulque, which traditionally had a shelf life of only a few days.

A few companies have even begun to import the drink to the United States, in hopes of capturing the attention of homesick Mexicans and tuned-in hipsters.  After a hundred years of decline, pulque has made a comeback.  Montezuma would be proud.

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