Eat the Grasshoppers at Hugo's

Off the Wall

I believe the last time I willingly ate bugs was when I was five and didn't know any better. So, how did I find myself in my twenties ordering grasshoppers to share as an appetizer with my fiancé while dining atHugo's?

In certain countries, bugs and insects are delicacies, such as fried centipedes and locusts in China, spiders in Cambodia and the Witchetty grub in Australia. In America, we tend to step on our bugs more often than we toss them in a frying pan to serve for dinner. However, at Hugo's, grasshoppers, or chapulines, are pan-fried and served with guacamole, blue corn tortillas and a spicy chipotle tomatillo salsa.

I have always seen the chapulines on the appetizer menu at Hugo's, and admittedly have been curious to try the little buggers, but could never bring myself to actually order them. In fact, the one time I almost did, I was informed they were sold out; I saw that as a sign not to have them.

The other night, though, my fiancé and I agreed to take a whack at trying these fried grasshoppers. If it didn't turn out well, we would just feast on the blue-corn tortillas and guacamole and sip on our margaritas, because we sure needed something to get us through eating bugs.

The platter of fried grasshoppers, guacamole, salsa and tortillas arrived. Just as I expected, the bowl of chapulines literally looked like a bowl of bugs, but the additions of sautéed onions and wilted greens made it more of a "dish," in my opinion. We asked our waiter the proper way to enjoy the grasshoppers, and he told us "by the spoonful" was his preferred method. But if we couldn't stomach that, he said, we should coat the small tortilla in guacamole, place a spoonful of grasshoppers onto the tortilla and top with the spicy salsa. Sounds harmless, right?

Once my first soft grasshopper taco was assembled, I took a bite. Crunch. My taste buds were instantly hit with the oil used to fry the bugs, the tangy guacamole and the spicy salsa. While I expected the creamy guacamole and salsa, I did not expect the incredible flavor from the grasshoppers. Who knew little fried bugs could taste so good?

Chef Hugo Ortega enhances the grasshoppers with a spice mixture I can't quite put my finger on, but it's awesome.

All in all, this was a dining experience I never thought in my wildest dreams I would ever have. From the waiter asking us, "How are the grasshoppers?" (words I never thought a waiter would utter) to my eating the bugs with only guacamole, this was one of my craziest culinary endeavors, and I am so glad I mustered up the courage to order the chapulines.

As soon as you get past the fact that you're eating bugs you're accustomed to squashing with your shoe and that their little legs get stuck in your teeth, you'll definitely appreciate the salty and oily fried insects. This comes from someone who can't bear to watch Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, so you should trust me and order the chapulines at Hugo's. After that first bite, you'll be eating them by the spoonful.

Top Five

Five 2013 Food Trends We Want in 2014
Hopefully these things stick around for the new year.

Brooke Viggiano

Not all food trends are annoying, and though we know "to each his/her own" is a good rule by which to live, there are a few gems out there in the food world that we cannot wait to see more of.

Here are Five 2013 Food Trends That We Hope Stick Around in 2014:

5. Bread & Butter Service

Bread and butter programs have been #trending in the past couple of years...and we love it. If the breads and spreads are as exceptional as we've seen at restaurants like Provisions, Roost or Underbelly, we certainly don't mind shelling out the extra cash.

Take, for example, Provisions' bread and cheese pairings — a black-olive loaf with violet-date mostarda and a wedge of Red Rock cow's milk cheese is well worth the $9 price tag.

Keep the crusty baguettes coming. We look forward to more restaurants creating mindful pairings of their own.

4. The Revival of Downtown

Like a phoenix ascending from the ashes, it's clear that downtown is back and better than ever.

This year we saw the rise of a downtown überblock with the introduction of hot spots like The Pastry War, Fusion Taco, Goro & Gun, El Big Bad and OKRA Charity Saloon, which technically opened in December 2012. We love walking around Market Square Park and reacquainting ourselves with old favorites like Warren's, La Carafe and Hearsay Gastro Lounge in between exploring the newbies — like the upcoming live music bar and lounge The Nightingale Club.

With the expanding train line, more bike lanes and the bike-sharing program B-cycle, we hope for the area's continued development and success so we can put the days of the downtown ghost town behind us.

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Molly Dunn
Contact: Molly Dunn