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Great news for salty licorice fans in Seattle: Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream, Wallingford and a brand-spankin’-new Cap Hill location, have announced their new flavors, and Salty Licorice is one of the lot!

For those unfamiliar with salty licorice (“Salmiakki”), it’s like regular licorice, but also flavored with ammonium chloride, which is almost but not quite entirely unlike table salt. It’s not quite an acquired taste; this is one of those items that you either lovelovelove or ABSOLUTELY despise. If you don’t like regular ol’ licorice, or are one of those crazies who toss the black jellybeans, do yourself a favor and don’t even think about trying the salty stuff.

On our recent trip to Europe, me an’ E had a layover in Copenhagen. Since salty licorice is a Scandinavian delicacy, I ended up bringing a plethora of the delicious stuff back with me in various forms (E thinks it’s nasty).

My favorite so far is “Turkish Pepper”– the hard, licorice shell is filled with about a teaspoon of pure salmiac, and once you’ve cracked in, it explodes in a spicy, savory, sweet sensation that must be experienced rather than described:

In the non-salty category, I procured some Skipper’s Pipes, which I suppose must be the Danish version of candy cigarettes:
skipper's pipe
The strangest non-salty confectionary, however, may be the licorice fudge:
licorice fudge
It’s exactly what it sounds like: black blocks of candy that have the exact consistency of fudge, but are flavored with licorice. It’s actually quite nice; the licorice flavoring is rather mild, and those with whom I’ve shared it have pretty unanimously enjoyed it.

If you live in Seattle and enjoy licorice, and would like to give the salty kind a try, you can find a fairly small variety at Olsen’s Scandinavian Foods in Ballard. Or, you could wait until this weekend, and look for me at the closest Molly Moon’s!

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Every now and again the old tum informs me that it’s time to go on a gustatory safari, as it were. With such an incredibly variety of edible sensations which are available to the average human palate, it seems perfectly reasonable to occasionally venture into the land of the Unknown, the mysterious border between the edible and inedible, that shady area wherein half of the population’s eyes glimmer and mouths water and the other half retches in horror. My rules when trying new kinds of food are simple, and three-fold:

1. I will not eat dog or ape (I love dogs too much, and I have a terrible suspicion that apes are humans).
2. I will do my best to avoid dining on something procured cruelly (I’m really watching the factory-farmed stuff).
2. Otherwise, if at least one culture somewhere considers it food, I’ll give it a go.

Sometimes, one has great success and makes fascinating discoveries. Lamb tongue salad, for instance, or the delicate and buttery wing of the skate, or even the earthy and simply unfamiliar tang of black sausage, might make the typical American, not used to such delights, pale and turn away. Even though about eight-five to ninety percent of the humans who have ever lived have indulged in entomophagy, most people have a difficult time wrapping the taste-center of the brain around the nutty, almost potato-like flavor of the deep-fried bamboo caterpillar. I’ve tried it, and though it won’t ever likely be a staple, I’m glad I did– it tasted good.

Given that this is the case, I have decided to feature the occasional review for the “Armchair Culinaut,” the individual who likes the idea of eating exotic stuff but can’t bring him/herself to actually pop open a bag of roasted crickets and dig in.

A person’s limited by geography, of course, and the best, most accesible bet for most American culinauts is the local sushi joint. Now, generally people stick to your typical tuna or salmon, which, while delicious and slightly adventerous for the corn-fed set, are familiar and texturally innocuous. The more daring of the new-to-sushi might go for some unagi, the delicious broiled eel (funny, as eel was a staple-fish for thousands of years in Europe) or even the more rubbery “deep sea” sushi (octopus and squid). This is all well and good, and as all sushi is heavenly, count me in on all of it. Let me tell you, people, I don’t care what you order when you go out for sushi. I am one hundred percent pro-sushi. (Personal fave: Saba or Mackerel, the quality of which is always indicative of the overall quality of the sushi joint in particular).

Nonetheless, there are two beasties often found in sushi restaraunts that are typically reserved only for the most curious of palate, namely the humble sea urchin and the obscene in every way geoduck (pronounced “gooey-duck”). I have now tried both, and can honestly offer some thoughts on both of these so-called delicacies. Here is the main thought:

DO NOT EAT EITHER OF THEM EVER!

There are very few things I don’t like when it comes to food. At the top of my list of gustatory terror is the sea urchin. I have almost never tasted something so repulsive. Imagine, if you will, the spiky critter familiar from sea floors everywhere:

One of These

One of These

Now imagine turning it upside-down, scooping out its gonads, dumping them into a ring of seaweed, sculpting them into the shape of a brain, and eating them raw. To imagine the experience, simply take some condensed milk or thick cream, mix in a cup of salt water, a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter, and the indescribable flavor of Abstract Awfulness, and eat. Yuck. Do not eat sea urchin.

The geoduck (again, it’s “gooey-duck”), on the other hand, doesn’t have a terribly offensive flavor. No, the horror of this critter is almost entirely in the fact that… well, see for yourself:

Would You Put This Geoduck In Your Mouth?

Would You Put This Geoduck In Your Mouth?

As you can see, it’s basically a clam shaped like a giant penis. Like many things unfit for human consumption, some cultures (*i’m looking at you japan*) consider this monstrosity a great delicacy. It’s harvested primarily in the Pacific Northwest, just north of Seattle, and these things sell overseas for ridiculous amounts. For those as of yet unconvinced that the Creator God is at best completely bonkers, there is an overseas black market for these. When “stimulated,” they shoot sea water from the end of that giant muscle, and it’s this sea water that imparts the flavor to the meat.

Remember, as I said, this beastie doesn’t *taste* terrible. It’s not delicious, but it’s not awful for your average fan of seafood. It basically tastes like a mouthfull of wharf and seagulls screaming over barnacle encrusted pier. However, *everything else about the geoduck is disgusting and terrible*. We’ve covered how it looks, but even more unsettling is the fact that it’s *crunchy*. Not like fried crunchy, but like raw squash crunchy. Which is fine in a late-summer zucchini with some ranch dressing, but not fine at all in a slimy penis clam that tastes like King Neptune’s bathwater.

So there you have it: two dishes that I have tried so you don’t have to. Again, for some reason some people love these things. If you are one of them, I will try to look past your obviously nutty sense of what qualifies as “food,” and invite you to post why you like these in the comments.