Sunday, August 24, 2008

Faux Caviar 1, Nik 0

I usually don't have culinary disasters. Sometimes my meals are disappointing, but very few rise to the level of disasterous. Before this weekend I had 3: the fish-n-chips, the garlic scones, and the flourless cookies. After this weekend, the tally's up to 4: fish-n-chips, garlic scones, flourless cookies ... and faux caviar made with tapioca.

Some background: on Friday afternoon I had lunch with Justin, Danielle, and Jen at Ipanema, where we (rather predictably) ate quite a bit. Friday night also happens to be the night that they come over for dinner, and we decided in advance that we wanted something simple and light after the big lunch. So we got to brainstorming, and came up with salad with crackers and brie. But then I brainstormed some more, and remembered that I like caviar, that caviar goes well with crackers, and that Richard from Top Chef had a faux caviar recipe that uses tapioca and that the judges raved about. "Aha!", I thought, "another chance to prove my culinary greatness!" So, armed with ingredients and recipe downloaded from the Top Chef website, it was off to Ukrops for the big event.

Now, as much as I like to shop at Ukrops (they remind me of SKH), sometimes they just don't have what I'm looking for. In this case, they didn't have the two kinds of soy sauce called for, or the tapioca. What they did have was "Instant Tapioca", and regular soy sauce. I should have called the whole thing off right then and there, but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Wrong.

First of all, the Instant Tapioca box says to "Shake Well before Opening". I'm not quite sure why, but shake it I did, and recieved a shower of tapioca mix all over the kitchen as my reward. Second of all, there wasn't any "cook the tapioca" directions on the package. 3 different ways to make full pudding or pie filling, but no directions for plain cooking. So I improvised, 2 cups of water per cup of mix, get it boiling on the stove, mix in the sauces and spices, and viola, faux caviar!

Then I tasted it ... and it was G-O-D-A-W-F-U-L. Not just blah, but BLECH. The consistency was like chunky hair gunk, it tasted like overpowered fish sauce, and looked like the most unappetizing thing I've ever seen. But I figured if anyone would eat it, Justin would. So I tried it on him, clinging to the hope that he would at least grudgingly eat a bit of it and I would be spared utter humiliation. Nope, he spat it out. Literally. And that's when you know something is really bad; when the eating machine, who orders the 2 pound sirloin that covers the plate and then asks for more, when he spits something out as soon as he tastes it, yep it's bad.

*Sigh, chalk up a loss. But, now that I've admitted failure, it's time for fun with pictures! To give you an idea of just how gross the texture of this stuff was, I've taken some pictures.

In the bowl, looking deceptively viscous.

Holding up a mug.

Still holding it's shape after an hour or so out of the bowl.

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