The Gastronomic Bucket List: Ten Foods to Eat Before You Bite the Big One
Foie gras. Calling this lobe of unadulterated luxury "liver" is like calling a Bugatti Veyron "transportation." Sure, in some circles, it's no longer PC, but as its fatty lusciousness dissolves slowly in your mouth, all you care about is one more bite.
Caviar. Not the neon tobiko of sushi bars. Not the hideous "lumpfish roe" of your local supermarket. Not even the home-grown paddlefish "caviar" (which is actually quite good). No, for our bucket list, only the lightly salted ("malossal") roe of Caspian Sea sturgeon will do.
Dungeness crab. No offense to Florida's own stone crab, the blue crab of the Chesapeake, the giant king crab of Alaska. But the West Coast's Dungeness crab beats them all, whether simply steamed or (my favorite) coated with a spicy-garlicky herb paste and roasted.
Jamon Iberico de Bellota. Even the finest prosciutto and jamon Serrano run and hide when this bad boy shows up. Made from the hindquarters of the Spanish pata negra hog, a free-ranging animal whose diet is primarily acorns, its flavor and delicacy are unparalleled.
Mangalitsa pork. What Kobe is to beef, the meat of this
once-almost extinct Hungarian porker is to "the other white meat." It's
just beginning to be available in this country, but its deep, rich porky
flavor and clean-tasting fat make it the "Pig of the Gods."
It does smell like fermented gym socks, and when fully ripened and cut,
it spills out of its rind like cheesy, stinky water. But the flavor of
this cheese, produced in a village near the French city of Dijon, is
merely divine, especially with a glass of good Burgundy.
Perfect summer tomato.
Sadly, this most pleasurable of simple pleasures is as common to South
Florida as snowstorms in July. Even local hydroponic heirlooms don't
have that sweet, summery, sun-ripened flavor. The only solution, I'm
afraid, is to grow your own.
Kumamoto oysters. Oysters
come in all sizes and flavors, from tiny, coppery Olympias to fat, meaty
Gulf oysters that resemble seagoing fetuses. But the smallish Kumamoto,
originally harvested in Japan, has a sweet-briny delicacy no other
bivalve can match.
Great chocolate. Most of the chocolate
on the market today is, well, brown. Luckily there are dozens of
artisan chocolatiers turning out everything from delicate milk chocolate
to bracing bittersweet. Payard's, Vosges, and the estimable Michael
Recchiuti are a few.
Sweetbreads. Yes, sweetbreads are
the thymus glands of a calf. Yes, when improperly prepared, they're
rubbery and gross. But when poached, picked over, pressed, and quickly
sautéed, they're crispy-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside delights.
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