Kristian Niemi is a restaurateur and the proprietor of Gervais & Vine, a wine and tapas bar in Columbia, S.C. He's also a veritable reference guide to food, wine and common sense. Gervine, as it's fondly referred to, will always hold a special place in my culinary pantheon.
The following is an excerpt from one of Kristian's weekly Gervine e-mail updates. I hope this will be the first of many contributions from him.
A curious thing happened the other day. It’s happened before, but since this time triggered a childhood memory, I figured I’d get my thoughts on it out in the open.
When I was kid (I guess I kind of still am a kid…at heart, at least), my cousin Bill and I would raid our grandma’s fridge in a quest to put together the most bizarre combinations of food, then the other would have to eat it…and you couldn’t chicken out. Spaghetti noodles and blueberries? Not bad. Roast beef with strawberry jam? Also, not bad. Lemon meringue pie with chicken gravy? Not good. Not good at all.
However, no matter how bad it was, we tried it. It didn’t kill us and most of the time it taught us that sometimes the least likely combinations actually work quite well together. It also taught us that if something truly tastes bad, you can just spit it out.
What nudged this long-dormant memory to life? Well, I’m not going to name names, since I don’t know it anyway, but let’s just say we had a modern day John Wayne in here the other day and for all his roughness and toughness, the guy was a bit of a wussy when it came to food. His lady friend had ordered what I considered one of the best items on the menu and he simply refused to try it.
No matter HOW good she claimed it was AND that she knew he liked both of the ingredients, he simply wouldn’t even put any in his mouth. The logic of “you like this ingredient” and “you like that ingredient” didn’t even work. This was a guy who looked like he would rush into a burning building, reach into a badger hole or wrestle a bear---afraid of nothing…except food.
The food in question, by the way, was the utterly delicious Duck and Cherry Meatballs that Chef Jason made for the Rosso event the other night at Coplon’s. Ground duck meat, sage, garlic and seasonings studded with sun-dried cherries in a meatball? To me, that’s food nirvana. Like a Reese’s…two great tastes that go great together!
Why do I bring it up? I’m not really sure I have a deep, poignant answer to that question except that like the old adage goes, “life is short.” Experience everything you can at least once. If you don’t like it…fine…spit it out…in a napkin, please. But if you don’t try it, you may be missing out on something that could make your life so much richer, even if it’s something as small and inconsequential as a duck meatball.
Heck, a lot of my happily married friends will admit that they never thought they’d end up with their significant others, but since they took a chance and simply “tried them out” (not in the dirty way…gutter minds), their lives are much better. On the other hand, a lot of my friends have “spit out” their former spouses, so my analogy is pretty darn appropriate, eh?