This article 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC 6.16.2014
The 2 young women, dressed in fashionable summer DC office attire, looked down at the red napkin being held in front of them. The napkin contained today’s featured appetizers – Mexican spice mealworms, roasted mealworms, roasted crickets, and roasted locusts.
“How do they taste?” one of the women asked, making a face. “Are they yucky?”
“No, they are really crispy. And salty,” the man replied before slipping a small handful of the insects into his mouth.
Such conversations were the order of the day yesterday on the outdoor dining patio of the Occidental Seafood and Grill on Pennsylvania Avenue, which was serving as the site of a 3-hour, pop-up Pestaurant offering a menu consisting entirely of cooked insects.
The event, which was titled “Pestaurant on Pennsey,” was sponsored by Ehrlich, a DC-area pest control company. The 1st Pestaurant event was held last year in London. This year the DC lunch at the Occidental was one of 12 locations around the globe that were offering insect dining.
Company officials said that one reason for the worldwide event was to try to make bugs and insects a little more appetizing to the general public. A 2013 report from the Unite Nations called consumer disgust “one of the largest barriers to the adoption of insects as viable sources of protein in many Western countries”. It also named “insect farming” as a potential way to “address food and feed insecurity” across the world.
But the free fun afternoon lunch also had a more immediate social impact. Erlich donated $5 to DC Central Kitchen, an organization which feeds the homeless and the poor, for every person who sampled bugs from the 3 insect-laden tables.
On the savory table, the wait staff was serving roasted crickets, Mexican spice mealworms, roasted mealworms, buffalo worms, and roasted locusts. On the sweet table, the offerings included scorpion lollipops, chocolate ant rounds, mealworm lollipops, ant candy, and ant and cricket lollipops.
But, by far, the biggest culinary hit of the afternoon was the tasty grasshopper burgers created by Occidental executive chef Rodney Scruggs. He said his burgers were a combination of turkey, grasshopper, and a secret ingredient. “You always have to have a secret ingredient,” he joked. He explained that the grasshoppers used in the burgers reminded him of dry mushrooms. “I could see them pairing well with a really old wine,” Scruggs said. The chef explained that after much consultation dried grasshoppers were added to give the burger “a little extra crunch.” He said that since grasshoppers are a staple south of the border, he topped his creation off with a special salsa.
As television, print, and online cameramen recorded the scene, Scruggs said the environmental and charitable focus of the event appealed to the restaurant. “It’s for good causes, but it’s playful, fun, and whimsical, too,” he said. “It’s really a win-win for everyone”.