Tag Archive | "Bizarre Foods"

The McGriddle – an extreme American breakfast sandwich

A modern breakfast burger for the caveman in all of us: eggs, sausage and a pancake. Meet Mickeydee's McGriddle.

A modern breakfast burger for the caveman in all of us: Eggs, sausage and a pancake. Meet Mickeydee's McGriddle. (Photo: Joel Meares)


What is it?

The McGriddle, introduced by McDonald’s in 2003, shows that a dish doesn’t need to feature tongue, bat or bug to be Survivor-level weird. A close cousin to the more sophisticated McMuffin, the McGriddle sandwich is bookended by two soft and soggy pancake-like buns and comes in three varieties: Bacon, Egg & Cheese (420 calories); Sausage, Egg & Cheese (560 calories) and plain old Sausage (410 calories). Those dark tablet-looking bruises in the griddlecakes are bursts of maple syrup.

Where do you get it?

Anywhere you see the famous golden arches, before breakfast hours finish.

Where does it come from?

Where else but America? Although, you can now find McGriddles in McDonald’s restaurants in Germany, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Guatemala and Singapore.

How much is it?

The prices vary store to store but a single sandwich will set you back a little over $3. But when Kyle Griffin, 23, went to buy a single McGriddle at his local Harlem Mickey D’s, he discovered it was actually cheaper to buy two. The store was offering two Sausage, Egg & Cheese McGriddles for just $3 – the cheapest way to down 1,120 calories this side of the Hudson. Griffin scarfed two and says he felt sick the rest of the day.

Who eats it?

Griffin and everyone else who likes to mix the sweetness of syrupy hot cakes with the saltiness of squidgy yellow Mickey D’s eggs. One famous eater is Morgan Spurlock, who pointed out in his anti-McDonald’s documentary, “Supersize Me,” that the company launched the McGriddle at the same time it kicked off a healthy eating campaign. At least one of the initiatives was a success. Months after the McGriddle launched, the fast food chain’s sales rose 11 percent in the USA, with the company attributing some of that success to the new breakfast sandwich.

Tastes like: A perfectly good English breakfast dunked in a vat of syrup.

How do you cook it?

You don’t have to – leave that to the pimply teenager out back. All you have to do is peel away the greasy paper wrapping, open your mouth and pray you make it through this alive.

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It’s not the chocolate chip cookie your grandma made


Cookies at Rubyzaar (Photo: Winnie Andrews)Chocolate chip cookies are about as traditional as you can get, but throw in some unexpected ingredients and the result is an unexpected twist on the classic.

Two Brooklyn based sisters are doing just that: Molly and Sarah Rubin decided to update the chocolate chip cookie with ingredients like Earl Grey tea and pretzels, and are intriguing customers with their concoctions.

The sisters’ idea was to incorporate their favorite flavors from around the world in the traditional cookie.  Their Golden Triangle cookie has coconut, mango, toasted rice and dark chocolate and was inspired by the sister’s love for sticky rice with mangoes from Thailand.  Another cookie option, called “Ambrosia,” has Mediterranean ingredients such as fig, pear, sage, roast walnut and creamed honey.

Last December the Rubin sisters started selling cookies at the Union Square Holiday market. The treats are back again this year at their retail stand, called Rubyzaar, which can be found online and at various retail festivals throughout the year.

Shannon Stanczak, a personal trainer, is a regular at the Holiday stand and a fan of the updated cookie. Stanczak said the cookies are chewy and buttery. The first bite tastes like the original, but then the other flavors kick in and it’s a whole new cookie, she said. One of her favorites is inspired by tastes of Colonial India and is flavored by tea and has earl grey, smoked almonds and dark chocolate. “It invigorates and wakes up your mouth,” she said.

The new combinations of taste-bud teasers tempt those who come looking for the basic cookie. Julie Rosenberg, one of the many holiday shoppers, was swayed by the allure of the NY Pretzel cookie with large chunks of chewy pretzel. “I had wanted the regular chocolate chip,” she said handing her eight-year-old daughter the updated pretzel version, “but I thought, OK, let’s push ourselves and try something different.”

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Licking the bones clean – literally


Bone marrow. Those two words, at least for me, always carried the unfortunate connotation of cancer clinics or biology labs, definitely not appetizing, gourmet meals. Yet, in front of me on my plate lay large chunks of bone. Inside of each bone cylinder I could see the grayish-brown, gelatinous marrow, which I was meant to scrape out with a small fork and spread onto toast. And then eat. I wasn’t sure I could do it.

I should back up and say that I am not a vegetarian, nor am I a picky eater. Yet, this was one of the few times in my life that I couldn’t seem to overcome what it was that I was actually about to eat. Bone marrow! The inside of a cow’s bone! It was especially hard to forget that, as the bone was right there looking exactly like, well, like a bone.

Although not that common in American diets, other cultures have been eating bone marrow for years. In Vietnam, the Philippines, Hungary, Italy and France, to name a few, marrow has long been a routine meal, either alone or as an ingredient in soup. The protein-rich food is high in fat (reportedly as high as 300 calories per ounce) and cholesterol. And while it’s not exactly ubiquitous yet, several restaurants in New York City serve it, including Blue Ribbon Brasserie, Prune and Landmarc.

When served still in the bone, it is usually cooked quite simply — just roasted with a bit of salt — and then served with toasted bread.

As I put on a brave face, picked up the bone and went about the visceral process of scraping out the insides onto my plate, I tried to mentally prepare for tasting it. However, after the first bite, I still didn’t know if I liked the taste. I was too distracted by the texture, slippery and gooey, somewhat similar to a raw oyster. So I took another bite. Very rich like butter, slightly salty and vaguely meaty. All in all the taste was quite good and I cleaned my plate. Yet, I still couldn’t help cringing every time I picked up a piece of bone and scraped out the insides.

Next time I try marrow, I’d prefer it to be deboned for me. Although I may have the palate of a carnivore, I’ve found I definitely don’t have the stomach of a butcher.

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Weird Food: Elk chops

Elk Chops at Henry's End in Brooklyn Heights

Elk Chops at Henry's End in Brooklyn Heights.


Henry’s End in Brooklyn features a “Wild Game Menu” and, among other offerings, serves elk chops with rice and broccoli.  The meat is delicious, although difficult to distinguish from lamb chops, pork chops, or, probably, zebra chops.

The restaurant itself is the epitome of unpretentious affluence.  The tables are a plain black.  The napkins are cloth.  The wallpaper in the bathroom is a heavy, tasteful fabric. The pepper grinders are wooden and weathered – just like at grandma’s house.   There are about 40 patrons, several of them wearing cardigans and heavily-rimmed glasses, and the level of murmur is just loud enough to feel lively without intruding.  There are no televisions.  At the table next to you a middle-aged white fellow mentions to his companions that he can recommend several fine restaurants in Aspen.

Prior to arriving on your plate, the elk chops belonged to an elk who was raised on a farm in New Zealand, where he was fed a diet of grain.  It is against the law to serve wild game in a New York City restaurant, although evidently it is not against the law to advertise that you do.

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Tongue tacos in Manhattan


Walk down a street in any given Mexican city and you will find many taco stands, the good ones before the bad ones.  The aroma of spicy meat and vegetables will guide your feet to the perfect stand.  Most have meat or pork tacos, but every once in a while you might run into one that serves lengua, Spanish for tongue.

While Manhattan doesn’t have the stands on every corner, you can find tongue in Harlem at the brick and mortar hotel, Cinco De Mayo  Restaurant at 1028 Amsterdam Ave. has them.  No such aroma on the sidewalk, but you’ll know to go in by it’s big Red, Green and white canopy on the west side of the street.

They charge $2.95 a taco, which isn’t too bad.  In Northern Mexico they go for about a dollar each.  The tongue isn’t made directly from the meat.  It’s boiled, peeled then sautéed, normally with tomatoes and onions.  Then it’s topped off with cilantro in true Mexican fashion.  And to make it even more authentic, you have to squeeze a little lime on it, preferably from your cold Corona.

It’s most common to eat them with corn tortillas.  You might need two, because the tongue tends to be somewhat watery.   A normal person will probably be satisfied with about six tacos.  The beauty in that is to vary them.  If you’re not feeling bold, have a couple steak tacos, maybe some head-meat tacos.  Once you have tongue, you can graduate to tacos made from head muscles.  And that’s the gateway drug for entering the adventurously delicious world of brain and tripe tacos.

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Little Pepper Spices Things Up


Xiao La Jiao Sichuan Restaurant, also known as Little Pepper, serves food spicy, and they make it known. Images of red peppers are on the lit storefront sign, and strings of peppers adorn the windows and main door of this hidden little place that sits in a quiet part of Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing. The lights are fluorescent, the space is enough to fit seven or eight small groups, and the décor is kitschy—red paper lanterns with Chinese lettering, a lucky golden cat statue, a hanging bundle of corn and, of course, red peppers.

But it isn’t about the spice so much as it is about what’s spiced here.

One may choose to eat chicken in hot pepper sauce with white rice and vegetable dumplings—a safe choice—but daring diners have options: beef organs, ox stomach, beef tendons, braised intestines with pork blood, duck tongue or bullfrog.


Photo: Nushin Rashidian

A foodie who neither clings to familiarity nor tries to pogo stick before learning to crawl might choose a modest sampling: Ox stomach and beef tendons to start, and duck tongue as the main course.

First, two palm-sized plates are brought to the table: Peanuts on one, pickled cabbage on the other. Next, the ox stomach and beef tendons arrive, both cold dishes.

The ox stomach in spicy Szechuan sauce is cream-colored and sliced into thick strips. One side of each strip is sleek, smooth, and the other is covered in tiny bumps. The texture is elastic, jiggly and spongy; it is cold and light and tastes like undercooked chicken skin, but spicy. The sauce is simple: oil and red pepper. The cooking method is even simpler: Put whole stomach in boiling water to soften before slicing.


Photo: Nushin Rashidian

The sliced beef tendon in spicy sauce could, from afar, pass for abnormally light proscuitto. The slices are thin, translucent yellow, with a slimy film enveloping them. But the taste is mostly basic despite the red pepper flakes because the tendons don’t absorb the spice as much as the ox stomach does. The pieces are chewy with a slight and brief crunch upon first biting in. Again, there is something undercooked — or, in this case, under-cured — about the taste. This dish is prepared by cutting the tendons from a cow leg, boiling them in water until they soften, refrigerating them to cool, slicing and then placing in soy sauce mixed with oil, salt and pepper.

Finally, the duck tongue with spicy sauce arrives. The hot plate is a mixture of bits of scallion, ginger, garlic, red pepper and, of course, a bunch of tongues. The tongues are thumb-sized, dark, and curved up at one tip; on the other side, where the tongue was cut off is still visible, which may turn even the strongest stomach. There are several textures as one bites into the tongue: fatty, juicy, chewy, and hard — that is when the teeth hit the strip of cartilage in the center. The taste is, surprisingly, exactly what a duck kung pao would be, if the texture can be overlooked.


Photo: Nushin Rashidian

The duck tongue isn’t the most popular meal and is ordered, on average, maybe twice a day. But, it has the best taste. The ox stomach and sliced beef tendon are very popular, according to the chef and restaurant owner, Chong Qing. Chinese customers order each at least 10 times each day. Bai Ling, a waiter, says that these cold, fresh and spicy foods are thought to be good for the skin, and therefore especially popular with the young women he knew growing up.

Whether their food is good for the skin or not, Little Pepper is a good test for whoever has never tried cuisine from the Sichuan Province and still calls themselves adventurous diners.


Ox Stomach: $5.95

Sliced Beef Tendon: $5.95

Duck Tongue: $11.95

Address: Xiao La Jiao Sichuan Restaurant

133-43 Roosevelt Avenue

Flushing, NY 11354

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