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My Struggle With Open Mindedness

February 15, 2016

My tongue takes two days. I’m modifying the technique that chef Josh spelled out in his recipe a few months back. But the idea is the braise the crap out of it. Chill it. Slice it. Sear it.

The smell in the house is intensely beefy. I’m loving it. But you know who isn’t? Mrs. Fussy. She hates tongue. The very notion kind of turns her stomach. And I guess that’s understandable to a certain extent. Everyone has their issues.

There’s an old story though that Raf used to tell me about going out to eat with his dad. The two of them would go to fancy restaurants. A lot. And after a while, to make these outings more interesting, Raf would find the thing on the menu that looked least appealing, and order that. His logic was that if the chef could transform something that sounded unpleasant into something delicious, than the chef must be a great talent indeed.

I’ve seen this play out in my own life. Some friend of mine bought a kangaroo steak and we cooked it up on the grill one night. It was vile. Seriously bad. The meat was gamey, and greasy, and tough. It had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It would be very easy to say after that experience that kangaroo meat is not my thing.

But put in in the hands of Dimitrios at The City Beer Hall, and it’s transformed into something quite special.

So here’s the question. When do you keep trying something to see if you’ll like it. Or how do you know when to just give up and throw in the towel? Let’s talk about a few more examples, and then I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Salmon steaks. They just are not for me. It’s not that I hate salmon. I love salmon. Give me a nice wild Alaskan salmon filet in season, and I’d swoon with joy. Some people out there must love those cross cut salmon steaks that slice through the fish’s vertebrae. But those bones are a dealbreaker for me. Actually, I find all bony fish to be unpleasant. Even when it tastes amazing, picking those bones out of my mouth negates any joy I may have taken from the dish.

I wish this weren’t the case. But it is.

As a counter example, let’s look at something like Chardonnay. It’s a grape, and it is used to make some of the most popular wines in the world. But with popularity comes backlash. And within a certain band of wine cognoscenti, it’s deeply reviled. Much like the famous rant against Merlot in that movie about Pinot Noir and despair.

However, when people say they hate Chardonnay, almost universally they are talking about the widely available, overly oaked New World styles of this grape. Think supermarket wines like Kendall Jackson or Sonoma-Cutrer. I know it’s hard since we don’t have wine in supermarkets out here. But just go with me on this.

These oak and tropical fruit bombs came out of a French tradition which I would argue does it better. Largely because there’s a vast difference in the quality that you get from a mass-produced wine that sells for under $15 a bottle versus a smaller winery in Mersault that costs five times as much. But there are other expressions of Chardonnay as well, like the lean and racy Chablis that bears no resemblance at all to its richer and rounder cousin from the south in the Cote de Beaune.

So I do wish people would stop saying that they don’t like Chardonnay, since I do believe there is a Chardonnay out there for pretty much anyone. Whether you’re willing to pay the price for it is another question entirely.

Most recently I’ve been struggling with sour beers. I picked up a few bottles from the Bier Abbey of two beloved aged sours from Allagash in Maine: Farm to Face and Nancy. Mrs. Fussy really enjoyed them. Me? Not so much. There’s another brewery in Connecticut called Kent Falls, and the beer people really love their stuff. But it didn’t really thrill me either.

What’s so interesting about this situation is that I actually have a sour palate. Some of my favorite cocktails are bracing and filled with fresh squeezed citrus. My favorite potato chips are salt and vinegar. Lemon curd is one of my favorite desserts.

Why do the sour beers leave me flat? I don’t know. So I keep trying more. And then more again. Until recently I decided that they just are not my thing.

Last week I was hanging out with the Fuj and he offered me a taste of his beer. It was the 2013 release of Rosso E Marron from Captain Lawrence. I took a sniff and it smelled magnificent. But when he told me it was a sour, I demurred from taking a sip.

Part of me regretted not tasting it. Maybe it would be the sour that would change my mind. However, I’ve come to terms that different people have different beer preferences. In fact, it was Fuj who planted that seed in my head a few months ago. My personal beer tastes are in a rapid state of flux as I’m exploring all the flavors the craft beer landscape has to offer.

It’s an exciting time. But at some point you have to make choices. I can’t drink everything. I can’t eat everything. And those choices are going to be driven by preferences and prejudices.

Still it’s important to be able to talk about things in a good way. So if you ever find me saying that I don’t like sour beers, please give me a poke in the ribs. What I mean to say is that I’ve yet to find a sour beer that I really love. One thing that makes the journey of discovery more challenging is that I don’t like taking sips out of other people’s glasses. But that’s another story.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2016 11:34 am

    Great post. Loved your comment about seasonal wild Alaska salmon – a great alternative to farm-raised open net ocean pens. Closed container land-based aquaculture is gaining traction and will offer consumers a sustainable alternative soon. I haven’t tried kangaroo, but only because I haven’t had the opportunity. I will always order anything on a menu that I have never had before. So far, my most pleasant surprise has been porcupine. Delicious!

  2. ericscheirerstott permalink
    February 15, 2016 11:54 am

    My Sister serves salmon steaks each time I visit, and in between my visits she always forgets that I hate them.

  3. February 15, 2016 4:13 pm

    Silly question, but have you tried good imported Belgian Lambic or gueuze? Or are have “craft beer” pedants been feeding you “American wild ales?” I’ve tried a couple American sours and they taste like homebrew that’s gone bad. Little respect for the style with awfulness disguised as complexity/novelty.

  4. Skye permalink
    February 15, 2016 9:54 pm

    Kangaroo is very, very easy to mess up! I’m not surprised you hated it at first.
    It’s best when cooked rare, and seared on the outside. I like it every once in a while, but it’s a rather gamey meat so I would often rather reach for a nice steak or lamb dish.

    It’s not that popular but you will find it in the occasional pub or high-end “Modern Australian” restaurant.

  5. albanylandlord permalink
    February 18, 2016 2:27 am

    What do I keep trying? Sour beers, just like you. I think they are probably an acquired taste and they are the only style of beer I don’t like so I keep pushing myself. I have liked a few of them, but i’m not there yet.
    I don’t order the least appealing thing on the menu, but often the strangest. I ordered tongue in a chinese restaurant in SF where nobody spoke english, and have been hooked on it ever since. I order it every time I see it now.
    Now that I think about it, the other thing i keep trying is wings. I have never had wings that were really great. But I keep reading about great wings here and other places and I keep trying. Maybe at the Ruck next Tuesday….

  6. February 18, 2016 11:03 am

    Get thee to the Olde Saratoga Brewery and order a pint of barrel aged Sour Imperial Stout. (But bring a designated driver because it is 11%.) It will change your mind about sours.

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