I enjoy sharing my travels and the amazing food I eat as I wander around the globe. Sometimes, though, I find myself saying “wow” because something was so bizarre or strange, particularly when it comes to food. I thought it would be fun to share some interesting foodie moments when things were just a little off. Click here for more travel misadventures.

If this is special, I’d hate to see a regular meal

A few years ago, I had a dinner arranged for me at a new restaurant. I was looking forward to it, because the public relations representative had promised me an evening to remember at a very posh spot.

Chocolate Torte

Chocolate torte for dessert. Photo: Susan Lanier-Graham

The evening was anything but posh and became a comedy of errors. Once we were finally seated (after waiting more than 15 minutes before anyone showed up at the front to take us to a table in a completely empty dining room), I ordered a glass of my favorite Oregon Pinot Noir. The waiter brought me a water glass filled with wine. I am really not a wine snob, but I just can’t bring myself to drink an expensive wine out of a water glass. I asked for a wine glass. After grumbling and telling me the glasses were still packed, the waiter finally came back with a small wine glass, reached for my wine and unceremoniously plopped it into the wine glass, splashing red wine all over the tablecloth as he did so.

I was hoping food would be better, but I realized I was in trouble when the waiter came with the “amuse bouche” (a first taste that is supposed to showcase the meal to come) from the chef: a Ritz® cracker with a slice of pepperoni on it. The meal went downhill from there. After burned vegetables and overcooked meat, they did serve me a very nice slice of cake. I guess I should have been grateful, right?

No worries, Mon

Another interesting food moment was on a visit to Jamaica.

Beach in Jamaica

Beautiful beach in Jamaica. Photo: Susan Lanier-Graham

I arrived on a hot afternoon and was looking forward to relaxing in my room for a few minutes before hitting the beach. I walked in and saw a massive plate of fruit on the table.

My momentary excitement of finding fruit was dashed by the long line of ants trailing across the room from the fruit to the patio door. There were literally thousands of tiny little ants. Someone from the hotel came to remove the platter about 20 minutes later, but I could never get all those ants out of the room and there were no empty rooms available.

There is a limit

The thing with food is that you never really know what you’re getting when you travel. You have to keep an open mind. I have tried–and enjoyed–foods I never thought I would eat. Sometimes, though, you just can’t force yourself to eat something. That falls into two distinct categories: things I can’t define and foods that are just wrong.

Taiwan street food

Taiwan street food. Photo: Susan Lanier-Graham

The first category occurred a few times in my travels to Asia. I loved the street markets in Taiwan, but some of the food was a little too out there even for me. I tried the dehydrated shrimp and the sautéed baby fish. I even sampled the dried crickets. But I was not going to try the bizarre assortment of organ meats (shown in the photo). I’m sure it might not be as bad as it looked, but I didn’t want to find out.

Stinky Tofu

Stinky Tofu. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The other thing that turns me against food is smell. I had smelled Durian fruit here in the US and had watched it used on episodes of Chopped on Food Network. But it couldn’t prepare me for the smell of stinky tofu in Taiwan. Stinky tofu is exactly that. It can be difficult to describe a smell. Just use your imagination—it’s made from being aged in a brine made from a variety of ingredients, including fermented milk. Seriously. This stuff exists. It is the most awful smell in the world. I can’t imagine how anyone would be able to eat it because just smelling it from behind the counter made me gag.

Some foods just shouldn’t be eaten together

I was at a restaurant in Southern California for a food tasting, so I had no idea what was on the menu for the day. I ended up having what I consider to be the worst restaurant dish I’ve ever tried. The chef was very proud of what he called “Cappuccino Mussels.” The waiter served me what appeared to be a cup of cappuccino in a glass mug with foam on top. Instead, I discovered that it contained mussels that had been steamed in chicken broth, placed in the mug, then covered with actual cappuccino. On top of that was a “foam” of goat cheese that had cinnamon sprinkled on top. Nope, didn’t eat that one. Or drink it. How could a trained and otherwise very accomplished chef go so wrong? He would have definitely been chopped.

Some foods shouldn’t be served together. Mussels, cappuccino, goat cheese and cinnamon for example.

If you can’t stand the heat

I’ve lived in Arizona for almost two decades. I like spice. Things that might have seemed spicy to me a few years ago simply have nice flavor now. I thought I could handle most heat—until I was in Thailand. I loved the food in Thailand. I had some of the most incredible flavors of my life there. Traditional Thai cooking has a unique heat. It plays a symphony in your mouth, with sweet, salty, spicy and smooth all mixed together. However, on a visit to the small “floating” restaurant of Pae Krung Kao in Ayutthaya, about an hour north of Bangkok, I discovered that it pays to be vigilant about what you eat in Thailand.

Thai chilis

Thai chilis. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

I had been careful to avoid eating the red chilis that everyone warned were hot. That day, I had a delicious curry dish and it had assorted fish and vegetables in the mix. I was thoroughly enjoying the heat in the dish and then I put a forkful of food in my mouth that contained what I thought were green beans. I quickly realized it was no green bean. I had taken a full bite of the infamous green Thai chili known locally by a name that translates to “bird’s eye chili”. Wow. It was definitely a big wow moment. The tears flowed and I must have looked as if I was about to pass out. The waiters in the restaurant took great pleasure in watching me, but they did come to my aid with a creamy yogurt fruit drink that eased the pain almost immediately. I was definitely more careful during the remainder of my trip.

Do you have some memorable food moments that left you wondering why you ever tried the dish in the first place? You can click here to check out some of my favorite food finds.

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