166-173/1000 Foods to Eat Before You Die

May 30, 2017 by

Miles, the pup, and I are all heading out of town tomorrow for five weeks in West Virginia and Massachusetts, so I wanted to quickly catalog the handful of foods I’ve eaten in NYC lately, before we hop on the road to find what culinary delights await us elsewhere!

Poppy Seeds (166) — Eastern European

Poppy Seeds!  They give foods from lemon poppy seed muffins to everything bagels a certain je ne sais quoi.  Here, I enjoyed them as part of a lemon poppy seed macaron from Bouchon Bakery.  But they seem a little, well, basic to appear on a list of 1000 Foods to Eat Before You Die.  Let’s hear Mimi’s justification for this inclusion: “The tiny, dark seeds of Papaver somniferum add a playful needley crunch and a pleasantly smoky, earthy, and mysteriously nutty flavor that enhances every food they grace.”  Oh, also, poppies and their seeds contain opium.  So, you know, sweet, nutty, and druggy.  What more can we ask for?  Not much — poppy seeds are delicious.  But I do always feel compelled to check my teeth in a mirror directly after eating them.

Bouchon Bakery, NYC

Key Lime Pie (167) — American (Floridian)

“Key lime pie is native to the Florida Keys, the home (in a manner of speaking) of the teasingly sweet-sour Key lime that inspires this enticingly cool treat. … Complexity comes via the spicy and sunny flavor of the lime itself, in contrast to the sugar and the gentle sweet cream.”  So Mimi educates us about the provenance of this classic summer treat, which I enjoyed at Print. Restaurant with my friend Melissa before we saw Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon in THE LITTLE FOXES on Broadway (run, don’t walk, it is devastating in the best way).  The pie was delicious, the company was charming, the play was amazing, and the night was a big success.

Print. Restaurant, NYC

Pesto (168) — Italian (Ligurian)

We also had some house-made bread with pesto at Print.  I enjoy Pesto.  The below picture is not great, but you know what pesto looks like.  To quote Mimi, “the sauce is composed of fresh basil, garlic, pignoli nuts, Luguria’s sunny, sweet olive oil, and Parmesan. … Green, aromatic pesto has a way of evoking the most indolent, bosky summer days.”  I had to look up bosky.  It means ‘wooded; covered by trees or bushes.’  Indolent means ‘lazy’ (that one I knew).  So there you go.  Pesto: summer food for lazy wood elves.

Print. Restaurant, NYC

My pal Holly discovered a fantastic (really, for NYC, very fantastic) happy hour at a restaurant on the Upper West Side called Burke & WillsI didn’t realize it was an Australian bistro before we got there, but once the menu was presented, it seemed like a great time to check off some items from the Australia/New Zealand/Tahiti chapter of the book — one of only two chapters that I hadn’t yet cracked.

Burke & Wills, NYC

Bone Marrow (169) — British

Before we got to Australia, we started in Britain with bone marrow.  I’d had it before, but needed to check it off again (my running total on this project only includes foods I’ve eaten since I got the book in March 2015), so I had a bite from Holly’s order, spread on toast.  Though I know it’s a delicacy, I don’t much like bone marrow — I think it tastes like meat-flavored butter.  Holly hadn’t had it before, and when the bartender asked if she liked it, she responded that it tasted like “fancy grease.”  I don’t think Mimi could put it more succinctly, but let’s check the book. “Wherever there are long, large leg or shoulder bones of beef, bison, veal, or lamb, the marrow nestled within will be a special prize.”  I think that Holly and I will both leave that special prize for others, in future.

Burke & Wills, NYC

Risotto (170) — Northern Italian

A quick jaunt over to Italy and we have some happy hour risotto, which Mimi dubs, “the most richly luxurious of all rice dishes.”  She describes regional varieties that include cheese, vegetables, seafood, even the Venetian specialty risotto nero, made black by squid ink.  The variety we have here has been formed into balls and lightly fried, but it still retains that all’onda consistency — creamy almost to the point of liquid, like a soft cheese.  Very delicious.  Will eat again.

Burke & Wills, NYC

Pavlova (171) — Australian/New Zealand

Finally, some Australian food on this blog! Or, actually, apparently, both Australia and New Zealand claim to have created this confection, inspired by Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who performed in both those countries in 1926.  I don’t know enough about Russian ballerinas to make the call, and neither does Mimi, so I give both countries the benefit of the doubt.  What I do know, is this dessert is delicious.  “Light and frothy, the confection is based on a particular kind of meringue that is crunchy on the outside but slightly soft and creamy, marshmallow-like, within… Just before being served, it is filled with whipped cream topped by one or more seasonal fresh fruits, such as berries, kiwis, passion fruit, and pineapple.”  The dish I had at Burke & Wills featured passion fruit, and the cream on top was a passion fruit pastry cream.  Amazing.  Delightful.  Made me want to do ballet.

(Please forgive the low lighting in this pic — I fear the dessert looks much less appetizing than it actually was.)

Burke & Wills, NYC

Kangaroo (172) — Australian

Okay, y’all.  I did not want to eat a kangaroo.  I follow The Kangaroo Sanctuary on Instagram and I felt very conflicted about ordering the kangaroo burger on offer at Burke & Wills, but I also don’t know where else in the US I’ll be able to find one.  The bartender assured me that the kangaroo meat had been imported from Australia, but are there huge kangaroo factory farms there?  Are they treated humanely?  Are they fed antibiotics and kept in filthy conditions?  I had to know.  So I did a little research (sitting at the bar) and found this article from BBC.com, which assured me that, “Although kangaroos are a protected species, there are so many of them that they are widely regarded as pests, and they are hunted by professional shooters according to a strict quota system.”  That made me feel okay with consuming the burger, in principal — the animals live wild, and are hunted responsibly to control the population.  In practice, I was still kind of perturbed by the idea, to the point that I don’t know if I’ll ever order kangaroo again.  I will say that this burger was very good — cooked perfectly, and the meat had an earthy taste, like lamb.  In fact, Burke & Wills is one of the locations in NYC that Mimi recommends you try kangaroo.  If you do, I recommend you ask for the harissa aioli as an accompaniment.

Burke & Wills, NYC

You know what’s another way to spend a happy hour?  Dim Sum with your friend Michelle!  Michelle’s family is from Hong Kong, and she invited me to lunch at Tim Ho Wan, her happy place.   So.  Much.  Food.  We ate so much food.  And it was all delicious!  And hot!  And inexpensive!  And it just kept coming!

Tim Ho Wan, NYC

Dim Sum itself is an item on the 1000 Foods list, but I checked it off back in September 2016 in Los Angeles.  However, there was one specific item on the list that I was able to find and consume, among all the delicacies on our table.

Congee (173) — Chinese

Michelle told me that the hosts of “Fear Factor” used to dare people to eat congee on the show, and she and her family would watch and think, “Idiots.  That stuff is delicious.”  Her family is correct.  Congee is very good.  As Mimi tells us, “The Chinese believe in hearty, sustaining breakfasts, and congee, a creamy, steamy rice porridge, is the favorite solution. … Variations on congee can be found throughout Asia — and it’s sold everywhere from street stands to dim sum palaces to airport lounges. … It’s considered a healing food for all manner of ailments — most common among them, hangovers.”

Tim Ho Wan, NYC


There we have it!  S’laters, NYC — we’re rocketing off to new adventures!

Illustration of Miles, Boudin, and me by Michael Ramstead Art

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1 Comment

  1. Richard Thayer

    While in WV check out sweetshine bloomery. We loved your play, great production on all fronts.

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