If you feel like you've tried it all when it comes to unique foods
, we my have the solution for your precocious palate: Eat and drink dangerously by gorging on this feast of criminal and once-forbidden foods. Get ready, rebel, it's time to ingest some banned sustenance.
Appetizer: Jamon Iberico (Spanish black-hoof ham)
The non-sterile slaughterhouses and open-air curing barns in Spain put the USDA
in a tizzy over this ultra-buttery ham, which it barred from entering the U.S.
Thanks to some killing-floor upgrades in Spain, the oinker meat went legal in 2005. But since the curing process can take more than four years, the primo batches of this pork didn't start stacking up at our deli counters until this early this year.
Look for bellota, the tastiest grade of Iberico
. It comes from free-range pigs that get to leisurely roam the countryside eating their fill of the super-fatty Spanish oak acorns -- until, you know, they're tricked into the truck. Cut razor-thin slices and munch with Manchego cheese, maybe some Malbec and -- bang! -- you're supping like a Spaniard.
Main Course Part I: Foie Gras
Don't play dumb. This delectable dish of goose liver is produced by sticking a tube down the bird's gullet and over-feeding it with corn meal. Chicago banned it for a few months in 2008 (until chefs revolted). Come 2012, it'll be illegal in California.
Some Europeans have created a so-called "humane" foie gras, which allows the free-range geese to gorge themselves to death. Um, we're not sure how humane that is, but if it allows us to order it without our date sobbing into her salad, we're all for it.
Plain, or added to a dish, this decadent and divine death paste never fails. We love it cold and spread on Melba toast, aka au torchon
. See you in hell!
Main Course Part II: Ortolan
This tiny, succulent bird is fattened, then drowned in Armagnac brandy before it's cooked in its own fat. You eat it whole -- bones and all -- as the bloody cuts in your mouth are said to add to the flavor. Chowing down the endangered bunting officially became a crime in France in 1999.
Nefarious gourmands are still getting their hands on the hens, which are native to southwest France.
You're urged to cover your head with a napkin when scarfing the songbird. This table tent tradition hides you from heaven as you devour one of the sweetest-sounding creatures on the planet. Tuck in, sinner.
Dessert: Raw Milk Cheese
Before Louis Pasteur
came along and started boiling off bacteria, dairy drinkers used to get sick – occasionally. This is why the FDA
has long declared that all milk must be pasteurized.
A growing faction of foodies says the process of making milk a little safer seriously sacrifices the flavor of cheese (it does), and the risk of a few stomach bugs is way worth it (debatable).
Score some at your farmer's market. And you thought this Saturday morning bazaar was a place of purity -- what, with its organic offerings and old maids peddling homemade jams? Wake up and smell the dairy barn, buster! It's a front for the black market of illegal cheese, my friend. Bring cash!
Digestif: Zubrowka (Bison Grass Vodka)
This tasty, rye-based Polish vodka is infused with zubrowka
, a sweet grass that grows wild in the buffalo-thick forests along the Poland-Belarus border. The feds banned it in 1978 because the blades are packed with the naturally occurring blood thinner, coumarin.
The makers of this happy juice made it hemophiliac-friendly and re-released it in the U.S. in 2008.
Sugary, with hints of toffee, it's best sipped ice cold and neat, with a splash of apple juice. Some call this concoction a "Polish Kiss." We call it Zubrowka with apple juice. Because we're men.