"This isn't Fear Factor," says Exotics Chairman Gene Rurka, 58 (shown below), the mastermind who supplies scorpions, beaver, maggots, and much more for the exotics appetizer hour at the annual dinner of the New York Citybased Explorers Club, a worldwide society of explorers and field scientists. "These foods are a protein source for many indigenous peoples," Rurka says of the expedition-inspired cuisine. The unusual gustatory tradition, which began in 1905, hit the road this year with the apt moniker Taste of Adventure (www.explorers.org). Sponsored by Redwood Creek wines, the eight-city tour features honey-glazed tarantulas, rosemary-rattlesnake cakes, and the crowd-pleasing scorpion with herb goat cheese on endive—all for free. Each dish is paired with an appropriate wine. For dessert, famed explorers, like Everest alpinist Peter Athans, impart wisdom from their travels. And yes, Rurka notes, some people inevitably say certain appetizers taste like chicken: "That's because it's familiar. If we ate more adventurously, we might be reminded of hog testicles or boa constrictor."
Sautéed scorpions (above), served on endive and known for their crunchy and herbal flavors, are the most sought after item on the menu. They are raised organically for human consumption.
Exotic-foods expert Gene Rurka (left) puts the finishing touches on the caribou pâté as part of the adventurous hors d'oeuvres in the kitchen of the Explorers Club headquarters in New York City.
Inset photograph courtesy of Redwood Creek Wines