Tag Archives: fruit

True Adventures – Part 2

After enjoying our drinks and appetizers, it was time to get down to the serious business of dinner – the entrees.

Valerie ordered the Vietnamese Crepe:
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Filled with honshimeiji mushrooms, fried tofu, and mung bean sprouts, this crisp pancake was light, flavorful, and tasty with its spicy dipping sauce.

Several folks at the table ordered the Green Curry with fried tofu, mizuna & bok choy, maitake mushrooms and black rice cake:
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The curry was pleasant, mild for green curry but with a terrific hint of lime. I found it slightly salty but the black rice cake was nicely chewy and it was all well-balanced.

Speaking of balance, the flavors in the spaghettini melded perfectly:
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Another popular choice at the table, it combined smoked tofu, English peas, blanched almonds, and a “cream sauce” made from cashews. The smoked tofu was incredible, with a flavor and texture like smoked gouda, a perfect complement to the sweet English peas. To my taste the homemade pasta was a bit too soft; a function, I think, of being made without eggs. Other than that, this was close to my favorite dish.

The ultimate honor, however, ended up with my own entree:
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This the phyllo purse! Stuffed with seitan, roasted zucchini, and caramelized onions, surrounded by a red mole, fire roasted peppers, arugula & pepitas, this was an outstanding combination of flavors and textures. The phyllo was crisp and golden, opening to all of the treats inside. Seitan, which is made from wheat gluten, is often used as a meat substitute, although personally I like it just fine on its own merits. The mole was smoky and complex and brought out the best in all of the ingredients. Should I return to True Bistro I may have a hard time ordering anything else…

When the time came for dessert our waitress asked us if she could make some recommendations. Naturally we agreed – who better to help us make our choices? She recommended, and we ordered, the following:
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The coconut pie. This was pretty much a no-brainer anyway; it’s always raved about in reviews, and it’s even won vegan baking praise from PETA. A blood orange sauce is swirled around a slice of what almost resembles a firm coconut pudding topped with toasted coconut; the crust is some sort of short bread or crumble. It’s NOT meant to be coconut cream, and so it is not, but it IS creamy on its own right. Not being the world’s biggest coconut fan (I like the taste, but the texture of dried coconut squicks me out) I liked this just okay, but LOVED the blood orange sauce. Drip that on some good vanilla and we’d have a serious winner. If you DO love coconut, this is pretty outstanding.

Her second choice was the newest dessert on the menu, a raspberry Napoleon:
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Traditional Napoleons are made with puff pastry layered with pastry cream or whipped cream, and iced. Puff pastry = butter and pastry cream is out for the obvious reasons, so this was instead sugar phyllo dough with a filling of white chocolate “mousse” and topped with raspberries and a raspberry reduction. Again, the fruit here was the big winner, sweet and tart at the same time and very, very fresh. The sugared phyllo was a hit too, crispy and not too sweet. The white chocolate mousse was good and creamy, but a bit unexciting in the way that white chocolate always is.

However, the final recommendation was exciting indeed!
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That, my friends, is the “death by chocolate” cake. Covered in creme anglaise and shattered caramel, this blew me away. In part this was because I was expecting chocolate cake, as in birthday cake. I do not really care for chocolate cake. It is always disappointing to me, because it doesn’t really taste like chocolate, and cake is just not my jam. It’s like sub-par, sugary bread. THIS chocolate cake, on the other hand, was a riff on flourless chocolate – creamy, intensely cacao-flavored, barely sweetened, and covered on top with one of my favorite desserts, burnt sugar. Hard to go wrong with that combination, and I was all the more impressed when I found out that it’s made with silken tofu! If I can ever get my hands on this recipe, look out!

All in all, True Bistro exceeded my expectations of what a vegan restaurant can do. My favorite dishes were those that didn’t try to replace animal products so much as demonstrate that you don’t always need them to make great food. Thank you to Mr. Menace, Elise, Valerie, Dan, Aime, Gary, Sarah and Andrew for sharing this adventure with me!

Fruit Devil or Fruit King?

In many ways, this post has been a long time in the making. On my original list of adventures, it was mentioned. It came up again when I tried mangosteen. Reaching further back, I remember reading about a fruit so pungent, so terrible, that was banned on public transit, yet its devotees consider it the food of the gods all the way back in 2002 (in Lynda Barry’s amazing book, One Hundred Demons. Lynda’s grandma describes it as something that “smells so badly, but tastes so goodly.”). I was intrigued by the possibility of a food whose scent belies its flavor. I’m talking, of course, about the one and only King of Fruits – the durian.

For the uninitiated among you, this is a fruit with a serious reputation. Native to Southeast Asia, it resembles some sort of primitive sea creature that has washed up on shore – about as big as a basketball, yellowy-brown, and covered in thorns:
Fruit or Sea Creature?
(Those thorns actually come into play, later)

They typically weigh 2-7 pounds, and some of the trees are so tall that they can only be collected after falling to the ground (and believe me, you do not want to be standing under it when that happens). In all respects, this is a formidable looking fruit. However, the terrifying power of the durian is not in its looks. It’s in the smell.

Reports of its odor vary, from turpentine to onions to almonds to excrement. TV personality Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods loathes the thing – it is one of the few foods he’s spit out on his show. Anthony Bourdain, on the other hand, loves it – though he describes the after-effect as having breath that smells “as if you were French-kissing your dead grandmother.” This was the fruit that just this past Sunday I purchased at my local Asian market and to which I subjected my friends.

To be fair, they volunteered! We gathered in the backyard for the tasting, along with several other goodies that I will discuss in upcoming posts. Still, the king was the focal point of our afternoon, and we got right now to business. I printed some helpful instructions on how to open the beast, since the spiky horror looked like it was going to be challenging, and convinced Mr. Menace to do the honors. The knife went in with surprising ease – it turns out that beneath all of the spines, the hull was more pliable than it appeared. The flesh within was revealed, and we all recoiled instinctively, prepared for the stench.
The Innards

Tentatively, we sniffed the air. There was a faint odor of…nothing. No terrible smell. What were all of these people going on about? We got a bit closer…maybe a the barest hint of turpentine, maybe a touch of overripe fruit, but hardly anything to get worked up about. Mr. Menace turned back to his work at the grill and I set about freeing the pods from the shell.

Here at last there was a tiny bit of drama, because while it still didn’t smell all that much, the devil fruit DID manage to fight back a bit – those spines are really sharp! While prying out the pods I noticed a red smear on my finger, and was temporarily puzzled, thinking about what was at all red inside the durian. It turns out that it was nothing inside the durian – it’s red inside of ME. The sucker bit me! My fingers are now covered in this little pinpricks:
Durian Wound

Despite this I soldiered on and finally released all of the pods:
Pods

They were extremely soft and custardy. My dining companions compared them to runny eggs, pudding, or alien young. The spent husks looked vile, coated as they were in fruit slime:
The Aftermath

Finally, after all this ballyhoo we put the fruit in our mouths. The taste was extremely sweet, practically a sugar overload. Some folks compared it to honeydew melon. There was a sort of pineapple tinge, and at certain points a definite almond flavor. Nothing too offensive until it was finished, when there was indeed a faint aftertaste of onions. This was unevenly distributed throughout the fruit, however. No one hated it! Even our friend Gary, a notoriously picky eater, gave it the thumbs up!

Mmmm

In the final estimate of whether I’m in the Bourdain or Zimmern camp, love it or loathe it, I have to come squarely in the middle. Ultimately it wasn’t the faint hint of onions that bothered me; it was the texture. The durian is soft, vaguely gelatinous, dare I say it? SQUISHY. While I’ve come a long way in my fear of slimy foods, I’m not sure I could just snack on this – I could see enjoying it cooked into something, but not so much au naturel.

In the end, after all the hype, there was a slight feeling of anticlimax. Some quick research suggests that we were eating Thai durian, which is known for its sweetness and relatively mild odor. I guess we’ll need a trip to Malaysia to experience the fruit king in all of his stinky glory. In the words of Levar Burton, however, you don’t have to take my word for it! Two of my esteemed guests have already given their thoughts:
Elise’s Blog
Dan’s Blog

Thanks to all of my fellow food adventurers for making this a party! Special thanks to Mr. Menace, who encouraged me to do a bit more than “go to a field, eat fruit.” I’ll be posting about some of our other snacks later this week.

Look out, also, for a very special post – Adventures in Food’s first ever guest blog! Good friend “Easy Bake” and her beau, “Lt. Funyuns” went on an amazing, food-filled trip and EB has graciously blogged the tale. I guarantee that once you read it, you’ll be hungry.

Fruit Queen

How often do you get try new fruit?

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of fruits out there that I haven’t tried. The fabled durian and I are yet to have an encounter, and there’s always the ackee or breadfruit or a black sapote. Yet the very reason that I haven’t tried them is the one that makes new fruit exciting – they’re very hard to come by. Many fruits stop ripening once they’re plucked, and rot soon after they’re ripe, making them hard to transport over long distances. Throw in the danger of bringing exotic diseases and pests into the country, and it becomes difficult to get your hand on fruit that can’t be grown in your (relatively) immediate vicinity. (This is also why the fruits we do manage to haul over long distances – citrus, for example – are not nearly as good when you buy them where they don’t grow.) So, while I do believe in reducing your carbon footprint and eating locally where possible, I have to admit, I get pretty excited at the opportunity to experience new fruits. Enter Kam Man Food!

Directly after the Filipino food adventure in Quincy, my band of intrepid friends and I headed over to this impressive Korean grocery store and market. Both Elise and Valerie have shared some adventures in the home goods department – check them out. True to the spirit of this blog, however, my heart belonged to the grocery store, and in particular, to the large bag of hard purple fruit that we found there. Mangosteens!
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Mangosteens come from Southeast Asia and require ultra-tropical conditions in which to grow. This makes them a lousy crop for most of the United States. Throw in concerns around the Asian fruit fly and let’s just say that they’re not the easiest fruit to come by in these parts. I’ve had them freeze-dried from Trader Joe’s and enjoyed them, but here was my chance to try the real thing! So I bought them for a pretty penny and brought them home.

The dark purple outer skin isn’t edible – like the pomegranate, the edible part of the mangosteen is an aril – a fleshy coating to the seeds inside the fruit. Unlike a pomegranate the mangosteen arils are quite large and less numerous – they actually correspond to the petals on the little flower shape on the bottom of the fruit! There are always 4-8 of them.
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Should you ever have one of these in your possession, I’ll let you know they aren’t the easiest fruit I’ve ever tried to open up. That outer skin can be up to an inch thick and is rather tough, but I got through eventually and managed not to slice right through my prize! The fruit inside is white and soft, and looks like a bit like a goth orange.
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I plucked the segments out with a fork and dug in. The texture was very soft and pulpy, but not unpleasantly so. And the taste!

A mangosteen tastes like a peach and a banana had a baby, with a faint hint of citrus acidity on the finish. The fruit doesn’t have much of a fragrance, so the amount of flavor is a wonderful surprise. I found myself wishing they were much bigger! It’s said that the mangosteen is the Queen of Fruits, and it’s easy to see why. This treat is a bit too expensive to be enjoyed regularly (and sadly, all of the nutrition is in the inedible exocarp – some companies grind it into the juice to create an antioxidant-rich drink) but it was a wonderful coda to my Quincy adventure. Next up, for better or worse, I hope to experience the fruit king!

Dragon Fruit

As I mentioned in my Adventures post, I procured a dragon fruit from the always exciting Super 88 Market in Allston.  You can click the link for all of the details, but essentially this is the bright-pink fruit of a cactus, originally native to Mexico and Central and South America, but popular in Asia.    It’s a beautiful fruit, all spiny and pink outside, with a white, edible center dotted with tiny, crunchy black seeds.  I’d post a picture of the one I ate, but my camera is on the fritz.  This is the cause of much sadness.

I did a bit of preliminary research to figure out how to eat the thing, but it was pretty much what I could have guessed.  The pretty but tough skin is inedible.  You just slice it in half, scoop out the white flesh, and go to town.

The flavor was very delicate.  Like a watermelon, it was variable in taste, with some parts being very sweet, while others were just sort of watery and juicy.  The seeds had a contrasting crunch that made it a bit more exciting, but overall, while tasty, it didn’t blow me away the way my first kiwi or really good strawberry did.  Dragon fruit would probably be best as an addition to a fruit salad – it looks little enough like any other fruit I’ve eaten to add novelty.