BLOG: Things to Eat Before You Die
These five food items are special in that they highlight the top five "gastronomic experiences" of your life, from anywhere and anytime.
See the link above for some tempting examples. Whittling down my top five is going to be a bit challenging, but I'm up for it...
So here we go...
1. Ice cream on the shores of the Black Sea in Odessa: Back in 1989, I did a short summer tour of Russia and the Ukraine (then known simply as the U.S.S.R.). Our last and most southern stop was in Odessa, a sleepy beach city where city folk from up north came to cure whatever ailed them. I'm convinced one of the cures was their ice cream. Rich and light at the same time and nestled in a paper cup, it was probably one of my first experiences in local artisinal food.
2. Ripe Hachiya Persimmons: The "ripe" part is crucial. Hachiya persimmons that are unripe will turn you away from them forever, leaving on your tongue the sensation that you just ate lemon toilet paper. When they are ripe, the thin skin almost looks like it's about to burst (and it often does). And the flesh within is like bright orange stained glass. I quarter them and then suck the flesh away from the skin in one scoop. It's pure autumn candy.
3. Mole: Pronounced moh-leh. It's a Mexican sauce consisting of a long list of ground chilies, spices, and chocolate. When I have it on hand, I put it on everything from carnitas to rice. It can range anywhere between the sweet and spicy scale. I prefer the sweeter side, but won't turn it down if it's a bit spicier than I usually like.
4. A Maryland soft-shelled crab: This was originally honey mead, but then it occured to me that it's not an 'eat' so much as a 'drink'. And plus, I came up with something better. There comes a time in a young crab's life when thoughts turn to molting. In order to grow, Crabby McCrabberson has to shed its shell and grow a newer, bigger one. In that short-lived and vulnerable state, you are able to fully enjoy the beast. Sure, there's something to be said for pounding away at shells with a mallet on a newspaper-covered table next to the Severn River in summer. But eating the little suckers whole (after sauteeing them in butter) ensures you aren't missing any hidden nook or cranny of meat. It's primal whole beast cuisine at its best.
5. An In-N-Out Burger: In-N-Out Burger is one of the oldest drive-thru burger chains in Southern California. When I was living back east, a trip out west meant In-N-Out Burger for lunch at least once. Dive in with a Double Double with Cheese and a Neopolitan shake. Their lemonade isn't bad either.