Reverb Broads 2011, December 15: Did you taste any new flavors this year? Did you love or hate them or something in between? Will you incorporate these new flavors into your life? (courtesy of Bethany at http://bethanyactually.com)
I’m a slightly weird eater. I adore ethnic food and exotic spices, but I hate a lot of the foods that most kids subsist on: graham crackers, peanut butter & jelly, chocolate ice cream, bananas, applesauce. I’ve also got sensory issues with some foods; for instance, I hate the dry-mouth feeling cranberries give me. And I’m convinced some tastes are genetically keyed, too — it’s the only possible explanation for my utter inability to tolerate blue cheese.
But I love new things, and I found two new favorites this year. I also discovered the best way to taste one of Minnesota’s great food treasures.
I have this strange ordering habit which crops up from time to time; it usually happens when I’m equally torn between two choices. When it’s actually time to order, I’ll suddenly blurt out whatever my gaze snags on as I look up at the server. This has been mostly disastrous. I once ended up with some Southwest egg dish, at a breakfast with brand-new friends, from which I extracted at least a full cup of fresh jalapeño slices after I reached the point where I could take no more heat.
But for once, it worked out, when I visited Sebastian Joe’s for the first time with my good friend Karin. As always, there was a long line, which gave me plenty of time to ponder the offerings. I had pretty much settled on the raspberry chip, but at the last moment, I asked for a sample of the salted caramel. Yeah, I know salted caramel is Old News to foodies, but I’d just never had occasion to try it. The tiny spoon went in my mouth, and as they say, that was all she wrote. My heart even sank a little, as I tasted something so good that I knew it would drive me to eat too much of delicious, unhealthy treats well into the future.
The second new taste I got hooked on this year has one of the funniest names of anything I can think of: dol sot bi bim bop. It’s Korean food: a rice, veggie, pork and egg dish, served in a hot stone bowl (the dol sot) that sizzles and browns the rice it touches, making a gorgeous, slightly crunchy crust that’s a little reward for patience and finishing your supper. My dear friend Lana, who has a Korean sister-in-law and therefore knew all the secrets of Korean restaurant ordering, has promised me a return to the fabulous Sole Café soon, and I can’t wait to go.
Finally, I went to the Minnesota State Fair for the first time this year, and that’s a place that’s all about food. We didn’t bother waiting in line for Sweet Martha’s cookies — it was a quarter of a mile long, I swear. And my experience of deep fried foods at the fair began and ended with the fried pickles (surprisingly good, actually). No deep fried butter or candy bars; this isn’t fricking Iowa.
But what made the trip truly sweet was how I spent that day. My friend Heidi is a nurse at a facility for disabled adults, and her clients look forward to their trip to the State Fair all year long. They pretty much need a one-to-one volunteer/client ratio for that trip, so she asked if I wanted to come help during the day, and get my hand stamped so we could go back that night for a girls’ night out. I couldn’t think of a better way to experience the fair (what, like I was going to take my family?! Just kidding; we went together later that weekend).
I was assigned to a young man in his 20s who had cerebral palsy. We hit it off right away; he has a hilarious sense of humor, and we totally cracked each other up. He had his eye on barbeque for lunch, so I helped him get his fill of Famous Dave’s baby back ribs. I had sauce all over my fingers (not all over him!) by the time I was done, and when I licked them clean, I had to agree that it was outstanding. Later, when we were getting really annoyed with the crowds that kept cutting him off — seriously, if you see a wheelchair, get the eff out of the way, please — we consoled ourselves with freshly made fudge that tasted like the best hot cocoa you can imagine.
I loved being with a veteran, and I loved being with a person who really wanted to be there. The whole experience made everything taste better.