Monday, July 23, 2012


When I was a kid, my dad took my brother and I to an Indian restaurant in Georgetown.  We split a platter that had lots of miscellaneous chutneys on it.  My brother was the first to try one of the brownish, greenish looking ones, and a look of "yuck" spread across his face.  After drinking water, saying how gross it tasted, and making his disgust clear, he asked if I wanted to try it.  By all human logic, I should have said, "no."  Why would anyone want to try something so gross and so capable of producing such a look of displeasure?  But, I had to know.  I had to know, what does "that gross" taste like?

So, I did.  And, it was "that gross."

I tell this story because I'm sure this type of morbid food curiosity is not uncommon.  Smart people upon hearing something is gross have the good sense to walk away.  Being a foodie means waving good sense and jumping in with both feet.  About a year ago, I wrote about trying live squid and silkworms in Korea.  Part of the driving force behind that was to know for better or worse, what food experience was I missing.

One high "ick" factor food I've been intrigued and taunted by is Durian.  For a while, I've heard about this smelly fruit that has such a strong stench, it has been banned on some subways in Asia.  There is even a no durian sign for places that don't allow its strong pungency to taint the air.  

Food shows and travel shows love making unsuspecting average Joe's try durian.  Food hosts describe the fruit and offer Joe a smell.  Joe smells and pulls away in revulsion.  Although this should make me not want to try durian, every time a food show host presented the big, yellow and red, spiky fruit to someone and I watched his/her expression of horror, I found that old morbid foodie curiosity piquing.

The chance to try durian never really popped up until recently.  I discovered in Lincoln, NE, that several of the Vietnamese restaurants offer durian bubble tea.  Knowing that access was now available, I knew the moment of facing durian was at hand.

When I went to Virginia in June, I visited my friend Kathy.  She reads my blog regularly and so had read from a post that I was interested in trying durian. She said she tried it and liked it, which helped give me a little more  food courage.  When we went to a Thai restaurant, Kanlaya, in D.C.'s Chinatown, durian bubble tea was on the menu.  With a little bit of Kathy's encouraging, I ordered one.  I figured, coupled with chewy tapioca pearls, cut with sweetness, and blended up, would be a chance to wade in.

It's weird.  The smell gets in your nose.  Then it takes a while to build up the sweeter side of the taste to get the smell out.  I had heard people describe it as sulfur like, rotten egg hints.  Antony Bourdain says, "Its taste can only be described as...indescribable, something you will either love or despise. ...Your breath will smell as if you'd been French-kissing your dead grandmother." He even goes so far as to describe the act of eating durian as "sexy."  To me, it is spring onions, with a hint of eggs, and a sweet not quite fruity finish.  If you drink enough of it, you build up the more tasty side of the fruit.  But, I never really overcame that taste of spring onions.  Once I ate some food and came back, spring onions would battle for flavor dominance.

After a couple of sips, Kathy asked me if I liked it.  I can't say "no," but I can't say "yes" either.  That distinct confusion of something that looks like a fruit and yet doesn't produce fruit like associations makes for some palate confusion.  So, if you want a bright fruit to enjoy, durian isn't it.  If you want a strong tasting savory bite, durian isn't really it either.  For me, it is a no man's land experience.  I know what it isn't, but I don't know what it is either.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Botanical Gardens

 After going to see the new Martin Luther King Monument, my friend Kathy and I talked about where to go next.  I mentioned that I hadn't been to the Botanic Garden in over 15 years.  Since Kathy had never been, we wandered around.  

The outside area is beautiful.  You can sit on a bench and enjoy lunch with views of the Capital or the museums.  From the gardens, the views of the Mall becomes encircled with leafy greens and bright flowery colors.   Inside, you can wander the themed rooms to see desert or jungle plants, the flora and fauna of Hawaiia, or one room filled with delicate orchids.  For the foodies, one of the displays features metal plants, grouped in bunches, and filled with the spices and herbs that comprise things like curry  or African Berbere.   With it, you could smell the individual spices and see how they come together to flavor your favorite dishes. 

I've included my favorite pictures from the gardens.  But, the photos don't even begin to do the beauty of the place justice. 

Next Up is the last of the D.C posts . . . Adventures with Durian
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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Washington Monuments

When I lived near D.C., I kinda of took the proximity for granted.  Now, with living half a country away, I thought it might be nice to have some pictures to remind of what great city D.C. is.  Though not food related, I thought you might enjoy  my photographic walk through the Mall. 

Washington, Lincoln, and WWII

Martin Luther King, Jr. 


Capital Building

National Museum of the Native American

Next Up . . . The Botanical Gardens
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Monday, July 9, 2012

What I Ate On My Summer Vacation

A couple of weeks ago, I left Nebraska and went back to Virginia to visit friends and family.  Over the time there I conquered a food fear in Washington D.C., tried some new vineyards and revisited a familiar one, and explored Floyd, VA.  It was a lot of fun and made for lots of food blog posts.  

So, over the next couple of weeks, you get to read all about what I ate on my summer vacation.  I'll start this week with some photos from Washington, D.C. and a review of a Thai restaurant in Chinatown.  Then, I have a series on Virginia Tastings, which will cover the vineyards I visited as well as a new experience doing a coffee tasting.  Finally, I'll end with a couple posts on sampling the food in Floyd.  

Coming Up . . . "Washington Monuments."

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