Hollow Heart in Watermelon

I miss watermelon season! In the past few months, I have been cutting and eating several watermelons. Check out the past FoodMeOmaha post, “FoodMeTrivia Series #4: Watermelon Basics”.

Among the several watermelons, I discovered one that stood out among the rest. On August 19th, I cut a “normal” watermelon in half and then I was surprised by the insides…

Watermelon with Hollow Heart

It looked like someone purposefully carved out a biohazard symbol! What caused this symmetrical structure? Is it safe to eat?

Watermelon with Hollow HeartWatermelon with Hollow Heart

The exposed watermelon flesh is whitish, dry, and rubbery.

After some googling, I learned that this is a watermelon with a hollow heart. The internal pattern naturally happens due to poor pollination during the growth process.

Fortunately, this intriguing watermelon is safe to eat. The dry parts were discarded and the remaining watermelon was eaten. While I had less watermelon to eat, the taste quality was not impacted. In fact, it was a wonderfully juicy and sweet.

Still curious about the hollow heart watermelon? Here are some online resources about the natural hollow heart occurrence in watermelons.

FoodMeTrivia Series #4: Watermelon Basics

Watermelon is a sweet, refreshing, healthy snack that FoodMeOmaha cannot get enough of. This summer I have been on a watermelon kick (seven watermelons so far)!

Watermelon

Ready-to-eat, chilled cut watermelon has been my daily snack. Due to my watermelon kick, I have learned some watermelon basics.


Question:
When is watermelon in season?

Answer: Domestic watermelon is in peak season in May, June, July, and August. Think watermelon and summer.


Question:
How to pick the best watermelon?

Answer: It is important to pick out a sweet and juicy watermelon for optimal taste! The first three things I look for are:

  1. Dull and dark green skin: Look for a dull, non-shiny skin and dark green color.
  2. Yellow spot: Look for a yellow creamy spot, aka the “field spot.” This shows that it has been sitting on the ground for a long time and getting ripe.
  3. Heavy for its size: Pick it up and check how heavy it is. The heavier the better for water-weight goodness. I sometimes compare between similar size watermelons.

After the above, I do the thud/knocking test, but sometimes I don’t have the distinguishing ear on the hollow sound (good) versus the thick sound (bad). The visual and weight are more dependable indicators for me.

Here are some great online resources on picking the right watermelon.

FoodMeOmaha Tip: Leave the watermelon out in room temperature for a few days to get a bit more ripe. I commonly do this when I am not ready to cut the watermelon.


Question:
How to cut a watermelon?

Answer: Fruit ninja style! Just kidding. Of course, there are several ways to cut a watermelon. My current favorite cutting method is watermelon sticks.

After eating a few watermelon sticks, I then cut the sticks into cubes. The bite-sized pieces are stored in containers and refrigerated for later snacking.

FoodMeOmaha Tips:

  • Prior to cutting, I wipe the watermelon with a damp paper towel or wash it under running water if it is extra dirty.
  • Set a towel under the cutting board to catch the watermelon juice for easy clean up. Otherwise, I have experienced sticky watermelon juice leaking on to the counter and floor.

Next time, I plan to try the following efficient methods to cut watermelon into cubes:

How do you cut your watermelon?

Stay tuned for the next FoodMeOmaha post on the unusual “biohazard” watermelon I had!

Local Omaha Restaurants Supports ALS

I love the community among local Omaha restaurants. As an avid foodie, I have seen the camaraderie and collaboration between different chefs, restaurants, and organizations through different events (chef swaps, fundraisers, etc.) and social media interaction. This is also seen with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!

Here are some ALS Ice Bucket challenges videos from Omaha Restaurants.

Dolce’s Ice Bucket Challenge:

The Dolce crew challenges Chef Jon Seymour and crew from V. Mertz, Owner Chef Paul Kulik and crew from Le Bouillon and Chef Tim Nicholson and crew from The Boiler Room Restaurant.

V. Mertz’s Ice Bucket Challenge:

Sommelier Matthew E. Brown and Chef Jon Seymour of V. Mertz accepts the challenge from Dolce and then challenges Dante Ristorante Pizzeria, Block 16, and The Berry & Rye.

Le Bouillon’s Ice Bucket Challenge:

Owner Chef Paul Kulik of Le Bouillon challenges Owner Charlie Yin of Hiro 88 and Chef Clayton Chapman of The Grey Plume.

Hiro 88’s Ice Bucket Challenge:

Owner Charlie Yin of Hiro 88 and Pana 88 accepts the challenge from Owner Chef Paul Kulik of Le Bouillon.  In turn, Yin challenges Owner Ethan Bondelid of The Berry & Rye and House of Loom, Owner Isaiah Sheese of Archetype Coffee.

Kudos to the participating local Omaha restaurants!

Note: If there are any other ALS Ice Bucket Challenges from Omaha restaurants, please comment with the link and I will update the post. Thanks!

New Food Events Index Page on FoodMeOmaha

I recently added a Food Events index page on FoodMeOmaha. More content requires more organization.

This is an easy reference on all the public food events I have blogged about. Click on “Food Events” on the menu bar, then click on any of the blue links. See the screenshot below.

Click to your stomach’s desire…

FoodMeOmaha New Food Events Index Page

FoodMeOmaha Goes to the Philippines, Part 1: Introduction

FoodMeOmaha goes to the Philippines! Philippines Flag

In just a couple of days, I will be in the Philippines for the first time. I am super-excited for the culture, food, and fun to come. It’s a trip of lifetime guided by wonderful Filipino friends (and foodies), Maude and Joen.

My blogging will be temporarily on hiatus but I will be sending twitter updates @FoodMeOmaha.

When I return to Omaha, I will share some of my Filipino food experiences! Stay tuned for the blog post series, “FoodMeOmaha Goes to the Philippines” in January. I foresee glorious, memorable food in the Philippines.

Here’s a teaser of some of the Filipino food we will be feasting on.

Spicy Lechon (Spicy Roasted Pig)

Spicy Lechon (Spicy Roasted Pig)

Lumpia Shanghai

Lumpia Shanghai

Dinuguan or Dugo-Dugo (Pork's Blood Stew)

Dinuguan or Dugo-Dugo (Pork’s Blood Stew)

Ponchero (Beef Stew with Bone Marrow)

Ponchero (Beef Stew with Bone Marrow)

Sisig (Sizzling Pork Face)

Sisig (Sizzling Pork Face)

Chop Suey (Chinese "Assorted Pieces")

Chop Suey (Chinese “Assorted Pieces”)

Pancit Noodles

Pancit Noodles

Crispy Kangkong (Crispy Spinach)

Crispy Kangkong (Crispy Spinach)

Escabeche (Sweet and Sour Fish)

Escabeche (Sweet and Sour Fish)

Buad (Dried Fish)

Buad (Dried Fish)

Chicharon (Crispy Pork Skin)

Chicharon (Crispy Pork Skin)

Chorizo (Spanish Sausage)

Chorizo (Spanish Sausage)

Hanging Rice

Hanging Rice

Tinolang Isda (Fish Soup)

Tinolang Isda (Fish Soup)

Puto (Sticky Rice) and Sikwate (Chocolate)

Puto (Sticky Rice) and Sikwate (Chocolate)

Thanks to Maude for the preview food list and online references.

FoodMeTrivia Series #3: The Making of Rocky Mountain Oysters

Question: What are rocky mountain oysters?

Answer: Rocky mountain oysters are cooked animal testicles, usually from cows. Lamb, pig, goat, yak, buffalo, and turkey testicles are also eaten. Its a well-known, novelty dish in parts of western America where cattle ranching is prevalent. Other names they go by are prairie oysters, Montana tendergroins, cowboy caviar, swinging beef, and calf fries.

As explained by Wikipedia, rocky mountain oysters

“are often deep-fried after being peeled, coated in flour, pepper and salt, and sometimes pounded flat. This delicacy is most often served as an appetizer with a cocktail sauce dip.”

I find the cocktail sauce humorous. CornyMe. Other sauces include hot sauce, tartar sauce, and ranch sauce.

The first rocky mountain oysters I tried were deep-fried, breaded, sliced cow balls served with ranch sauce (pictured above). And, they were good! (See the FoodMeOmaha post, “My First Balls: Rocky Mountain Oysters“.)

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Question: How are rocky mountain oysters made?

Answer: From start to finish, here are generic steps to make the classic rocky mountain oysters:

  1. Get some balls.
  2. Cut a slit in the skin-like muscle surrounding each testicle and remove the skin.
  3. Once peeled, give the balls a bath. Soak the balls in either salt water, beer, milk, or vinegar mixture for a couple of hours.
  4. Slice, pound, or leave the balls whole.
  5. Season and bread the balls.
  6. Deep-fry the balls for a few minutes.
  7. Eat some balls!

Curious and still can’t visualize the process?

Here’s a video of rocky mountain oysters in the making with yak and bison balls.

Here’s is a video of smaller balls (I suspect calf) being peeled.

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Question: Are there swimmers in rocky mountain oysters?

Answer: My friend’s doctor friend verified that sperm is in the testicles. The balls are the swimmer’s home base. Naturally, it makes you wonder, are you eating microscopic cow tadpoles?

On my online research, I found some entertaining comments:

  • “Is there still semen in rocky mountain oysters? and if so is it like a twinkie?”
  • “Where do you think the sauce comes from?”
  • “extra protein!”
  • “Don’t let them fool you. A cooked swimmer is still a swimmer! Don’t let them tell you otherwise!”

According to wiseGeek’s “How Do I Make Rocky Mountain Oysters”,

“Testicles are often removed from a calf when he is branded, but may also be removed from adult bulls. The calf testicles are smaller and more tender so are the preferred meat to use.”

A Yahoo! Answers contributor explained

“They are removed from young bulls not mature enough to breed, once a male calf is sent to the feed lot to be fattened up for processing he becomes a steer or a castrated male, they are just spongy tissues when removed, I cooked them and ate them as a chef, I use bull and lambs fry’s for use in the places I worked as chef.”

While I don’t have a concrete answer, here’s my theory. If you are eating calf balls, then you are not eating any swimmers since they haven’t hit puberty. If you are eating adult balls, then you are eating unseen, cooked, dead swimmers. Extra protein!

If you know the answer, please share with CuriousMe!

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Question: Which dining venues serve rocky mountain oysters?

Answer: You can find rocky mountain oysters at testicle festivals (which I have yet to experience) or restaurants and bars around America. It’s common to find them served at western-themed steakhouses. Case in point, I tried my first balls at Black Iron Grill Steakhouse and Salon in Rock Port, MO. In the Omaha area, Dinker’s Bar and Grill serves classic rocky mountain oysters which FoodMeOmaha plans to try one day!

FoodMeTrivia Series #2: The Meaning of Brasserie

Question: What is a brasserie?

Answer: Brasserie should not be confused with brassiere (spelled with an extra “i”), aka the bra.

According to Dictionary.com, brasserie is

“an unpretentious restaurant, tavern, or the like, that serves drinks, especially beer, and simple or hearty food.”

According to Wikipedia, brasserie is

“a type of French restaurant with a relaxed, upscale setting, which serves single dishes and other meals. The word brasserie is also French for “brewery” and, by extension, “the brewing business”.  A brasserie can be expected to have professional service, printed menus, and, traditionally, white linen—unlike a bistro which may have none of these.”

Brasserie is usually not as casual as a bistro or as formal as a fine-dining French restaurant. They are known for traditional, simple French fare and beer.

Dario’s Brasserie in Dundee fits the brasserie definition.

Dario’s website states “A Brasserie, pronounced (Brahs-uh-REE) is an informal French café that serves beer, wine and simple hearty food. Dario’s is a European style restaurant with banquette seating and gentle lighting that give an intimate and elegant feel. Our cozy and comfortable bar area is great for a drink or casual dining experience.”

Thankfully, Dario’s Brasserie isn’t a bra place! Check out the FoodMeOmaha reviews, “Mussel Up at Dario’s Brasserie” and “Dish Up at Dario’s Brasserie“.

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Question: What are other types of French restaurants?

Answer: The French have a naming system for different types of restaurants. This includes bistro, brasserie (discussed above), cafe, salon de the, and bistrot a vin.

Since these bloggers explain it, here are posts describing the different types of French restaurants: