Escolar (aka walu walu or snake mackerel) is infamous for its keriorrhea effect. Consumption of this oily fish could sometimes lead to rapid "wax flow" or acute anal leakage said to be greasy, terrifyingly stinky, and repulsively orange, like Donald Trump's face. And yet, I gave it a try. It was at City Hotel Restaurant in Columbia Historic Park where the ominous fish and I crossed paths. My buttery pan-seared escolar was served on top of saffron rice and accompanied by zippy mango salsa. Worth the risk? Absolutely. So moist and delicate, it tasted like salmon's more delectable cousin. And lucky me, no back door trots occurred that night.
Fried Livers and Waffles
Many doubt fried chicken and waffles are a harmonious match. If those same skeptics ever see fried livers and waffles, their incredulity might deepen tenfold. I had this unlikely pair at Chicken N Waffles, a local greasy spoon, whose menu items sounded like stuff from a family potluck (e.g. Mark's Special, Aunt Sarah's, and Bubba's Best). This fried livers and waffles combo was listed under the moniker of Hattie's Request. Heaven knows who the heck Hattie is, but one could assume she might be a little crazy, possibly vitamin B12 deficient, and habitually drunk, or else she wouldn't request something like this. I must confess, though, I did enjoy that plate of delicious incongruity very much.
Runsa (also spelled Runza)
Some say simplicity breeds vapidity. Well, that can't be any more wrong, especially when it comes to Columbia Kate's version of Runsa, the famous Nebraskan meat pie. I bought this yeasty delight for breakfast after surviving a night at a haunted hotel. Inside the golden-brown goodness was ground beef, onion and cabbage, seasoned just right. The bread itself also deserved a big round of applause. I ate it on the balcony of my ghostly room, minding my own business, when suddenly, a little black bird flew at the nearby window on full speed and plopped to the ground. It didn't die but seemed quite dazed. Paranormal activity or just a reckless bird? I couldn't care less. I was in an impervious state of rapture munching on that meat pie.
Having been featured on Food Network's program, the Best Thing I Ever Ate, episode "Hot and Spicy," this appetizer sells like hotcakes at Emporium Thai Cuisine in L.A. It's a northeastern Thai dish, traditionally consisting of sirloin steak marinated and grilled to medium-rare, and served with a dipping sauce so mercilessly spicy it could bring a tiger to tears. There, at Emporium, I waited for the dish to arrive with masochistic anticipation. I wanted it to attack my taste buds senseless. I wanted it to make me cry ( just a little). Well, the beef turned out to be melt-in-your-mouth tender and hit the right flavor profile, but the sauce, although tasty, failed to live up to its name. At best, it could only make a tiger sneeze.
Cockles, also known as blood clams, aren't for the faint of heart. As little as they are, these suckers release a copious amount of red liquid that looks and smells kind of like blood, rendering them qualified to be on a vampire party menu. Growing up in Thailand, I ate these "gruesome" clams on a regular basis. The bloodier, the better! And I'm completely unapologetic and unashamed of this obsession. Sadly, most Thai restaurants in the U.S. don't serve them. So when I saw cockle salad on Luv2eat Thai Bistro's menu this last spring, it felt like a lost-love reunion. The clams were fresh as if recently fetched from the beach. Its herb-centric composition further intensified the freshness, and the tiny slices of Thai chili carried a powerful punch of heat. All in all, it was a bloody triumph.