When I was a kid, there were certain foods I didn’t like. My mom would say things like, “One day, you’ll love this,” and I thought she was full of it. Of course, she was right. I used to hate mushrooms and asparagus but long since learned to love them (especially the latter). Horseradish was another one. I couldn’t comprehend why anyone would want that on food as a kid, but now I get pissed if I get prime rib and they give me the watered down horseradish-flavored sour cream instead of the real deal.
As an adult I’ve developed a much more adventurous palette. There’s very little I wouldn’t try and few things I simply won’t eat (topping the list is sea urchin, which I’ve tried twice and found to be like eating a loogie). I figured by this time I was over most of my earlier-era dislikes, but I’ve been proved wrong twice so far.
Raw Oysters: I’ve liked them cooked for a long time, especially the fabulous baked oysters at Tojo’s in Vancouver, BC, but I’d been adamantly opposed to the raw stuff since the age of 17. I was on a trip to Baltimore with my high school friend Pete, who was a native. He urged me to try some fresh oysters, so I gave it shot and found them to be foul. Never had them again until last year. This past May Nik and I were in LA for E3. The last night, by happenstance, was our six-year anniversary so we drove up to Malibu to celebrate at the local branch of Nobu. When we walked in, I noticed a huge metal colander full of beautiful oysters. They looked like they had been pulled from the sea all of five minutes ago, just insanely fresh and inviting-looking. While we were ordering, I asked the waiter what they were doing with the oysters. He told us about three different preparations and said we try them all with a half dozen on the half shell. We agreed and they were fantastic. Not to sound too much like a judge on the Iron Chef here, but I thought, “Now I understand the true taste of raw oyster!” Since then I’ve been eating them frequently. Over the summer, Nik and I were hitting a lot of happy hours since Kate was with her dad in Vancouver. Seattle, as you’d imagine, is a good spot for oysters and many restaurants have great deals (one, for instance, has oysters for 25 cents a piece at 3 pm, with the price increasing by 25 cents every half hour thereafter). Happy hour, another great reason to work for yourself!
Anchovies: Nothing grosses out kids more than anchovies on pizza. In fact, I remembering wondering more than once as a youngin’ why they even put anchovies on the menu. Surely no one ate those icky things. Fast forward to GAMA Trade Show 2002. Nik and I were out to dinner at Red Square with our GR partner Hal, Jeff Mackintosh from Guardians of Order, and free agent Anthony Ragan. All of us are total foodies, so we agreed to try their steak tartar as an appetizer. I don’t think any of us had had it before. It arrived and the waiter mixed it up at the table, save the anchovies on the side. We tried it and found it quite tasty. Then Hal said, “Let’s try mixing in the anchovies.” Turns out Hal had good instincts. The salt and oil of the anchovies turned the dish from good to great. The next time we went to Red Square, I simply got the steak tartar entrée. It’s that good.
This week Nik made a salad nicoise, which included anchovies. By this point we’d been eating salad every day for over a week, so the prospect didn’t exactly thrill me, but the salad nicoise ended up being quite tasty. And again, it was the anchovies that put it over the top. I found myself digging through the bowl and fishing out anchovies. I never thought I’d do such a thing.
The moral of this story: you can apparently teach an old punk new tricks. And for the record, the Red Square vodka flights encased in blocks of red ice are also the bomb.