It has been a while since my last “Appetite” post. I have eaten since then, but the problem has been finding food worthy of comment. Fortunately, the search came to an end when I went to the Epicurean Restaurant in East Ridge, Tennessee.
The last time I went to the Epicurean was back in the 80’s. Trying to impress a girlfriend, I took her to a place that had a reputation for quality food and excellent service (Frankly, I also heard it was expensive, and girlfriends like expensive). This time we went for a birthday dinner, and the prices were not as bad as I remembered.
They say that one mark of a good restaurant is how many cars are in the parking lot. If that is true, the Epicurean is a GREAT place to eat. When my family and I got there at 2pm on Sunday, the parking lot and dining area were packed……with seniors…..the aged….walkers & canes. How does that factor in, I wonder?
Isn’t it true that the older one gets, the fewer active taste buds? Hmmm.
A quick look at the menu revealed that most of the food was “home-cooking” dishes typical in the South. For example, one of the Sunday specials was turkey and dressing served with two vegetables. That type of food, from what I saw on other people’s plates, looked pretty decent, but was not what I would expect from a place with such a local reputation for being above average. The home-cooking-type food I saw was no better than food at Cracker Barrel, and probably not as tasty (can I get an “amen” for Cracker Barrel turnip greens?). However, a deeper look into the menu options promised something new…something I felt obligated to try…
Every once in a while I feel the urge to try something TOTALLY new. I have even found myself eating things that were hard to identify. This dish, however, was something that was new to me on every level.
According to the experts in the culinary arts, marinated herring (aka, pickled herring, etc.) is a delicacy in Europe, and the Epicurean Restaurant IS a Greek-family-owned establishment. I figured it was time to taste the delicacy the Europeans raved about. Did I ever say that I was NOT European?
Aside from cottage cheese, there are not many things that will cause my gag reflexes to act up.
Add to that list, “marinated herring.”
I don’t do raw fish, for the first thing. I can’t even stomach fake sushi. What on earth made me think I could eat this stuff? Well, for one thing I didn’t really understand how it was made. You see, I thought they took a fish, marinated it in some “stuff,” then cooked it. WRONG! The herring is actually rinsed, then marinated for a couple of days, then sliced up for easier human consumption. It is served cold over a bed of lettuce, with chopped onion, lemon, and dill-flavored sour cream on the side.
Let me brag about this – I ate four bites, maybe five. The last one, however, was the hardest to get down. The strong fish taste, coupled with the flavors of dill, white wine, and onion was too much. I brought home the rest in a take-home container for the neighborhood cat that seems to have made our front porch one of his stops. That must have been the first time I saw a cat gag.
A large, gray cat looking at you with suspicion and contempt, his vertical pupils turning horizontal to line up with the evil squint he is giving.
Well, after a few hours went by, the lingering taste of cold, raw, meaty, oily herring finally dissipated. Some foods are definitely an aquired taste. On the other hand, some might be better left alone, especially if you don’t want your leftovers creating a Stephen King / Pet Cemetery moment right in your own yard.