A restaurant in North Carolina has a flair for the unusual. During its Exotic Meats Month, it features such options as python, iguana, camel, alligator and scorpion on the menu. And this year, it added a bonus option: a hamburger topped with gruyere cheese, spicy chili paste, and an oven-baked, salted zebra tarantula.
This sounds awesome to me. At our house we have a rule. You have to try everything. You don’t have to like it but you have to try it. I used to tell my children that someone, somewhere eats everything. I also told them that everything they now eat, everything they love, was new to them at one time.
The restaurant only gets 15 of the “farmed, organically raised” spiders each year, so diners are selected via a lottery system. Who knew there were farms growing organic tarantulas? Apparently, the owner got the idea after reading about how tarantulas are street food staples in Cambodia, mixed with salt and sugar. I’m in!
I have always been an adventurous eater. I have eaten the usual, unusual meat like venison, bison, goat, ostrich, lamb, duck and rabbit. But I have also had conch, alligator, rattlesnake, eel, frog legs, crickets (chocolate covered), meal worms, chocolate covered ants and have been known on occasion to have eaten the worm out of a bottle of tequila. (Long story but the only way it will come out of the bottle is if the bottle is empty or almost empty. I’ll let you figure out how that happened.)
I also love raw or cooked seafood including shrimp, crab and lobster so I am a big fan of Sushi. Much to the chagrin of some of my family members. I am actually quite adept at using chopsticks.
I remember some friends of ours, my wife and I went to a place called Flying Tigers near the Buffalo airport for an all you can eat crab night. I think we were part of the reason they shut down. They started cooking up more crab as soon as they delivered a fresh bowl to our table. We must have gone through 8-10 bowls of this delicious treat that night.
I have recently found a place with all you can eat crab and sushi for less than $16 per person but I’m not going to divulge the location for fear the seafood lovers out there will swarm this place and make the prices go up. Suffice to say this is one of my new favorite places.
There used to be a place in Olcott called Connie’s. They were the only place I have found locally that served Conch Chowder. We used to go there for dinner just to get the chowder. Unfortunately Connie’s is gone.
When I lived in Fall River Massachusetts, the neighbor kids used to go fishing in Mt Hope Bay and catch a bucket of eels. Nobody could get their mother to cook these so they would bring them over to our house. I enjoyed them. When Donna, my wife prepared them in a pan full of hot oil. There wasn’t much meat on them but it was sweet as candy. We cooked them whole and I picked the meat off of them. FYI we received these eels while they were still fresh but they were dead when they arrived at our door.
While down there, one night at about 2AM there was a knock on the door. My buddy, Ed, was spending the weekend with us and he opened the door. There was a neighbor standing with a canner size pot of quahogs (a type of clam) and two huge lobsters. These lobsters measured over 36” long. She threw them in the door and said quick hide these. It seems that one of her sons had broken into a seafood place and stole them. The police were looking for him and the evidence. We hid the ill-gotten gains and feasted for several days. Another time I “procured” 25 pounds of frozen lobster tails. We had lobster-every-way for a week and a half.
I don’t think there is anything I wouldn’t at least try once. I have found several favorite foods that way. I love trying the foods from different cultures and have had the traditional, Italian, Greek and Chinese but I have expanded my palate to include Laotian with their spring rolls, Korean and their ramyeon noodles and Vietnamese and enjoy Banh Xeo (Crispy Pancake) and Ca Kho To (Caramelized Fish in Clay Pot). I like Lebanese and Mediterranean with their Tabbouleh, Falafel and Shish Kabobs.
I used to go to a Korean place in Sanborn where I was first introduced to Kimchee, a fermented cabbage dish. I have this almost every day for breakfast at home now. Kim, the owner of the restaurant used to make the best Spam and Kimchee omelet ever. It filled the plate and was usually the only meal I would need on a Sunday. The owner also made a fresh Korean hot sauce. Try as I may, I could never get her to sell me a bottle. It was one of the things that sneak up on you. It was a slow burn. It would start in the back of your throat and by the time your meal was over, your lips were on fire. Unfortunately Kim’s has closed.
I can’t wait to find something new, something different, something that wakes up my taste buds and makes them say “what the hell is this?”
Norb is a restaurant reviewer and a food blogger. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Lead image: FidlerJan