I always see pics and vids and read about chefs going to farmer's markets or wandering through markets in the Carribean or Mexico or visiting Chinatowns and yet I don't see them using more esoteric ingredients on their menus and it's always the same things over and over.
I've been really experimenting and challenging myself with different ingredients (mostly fruit and produce) that I can find in my local grocery stores chains (Latin/Hispanic section) and specialty markets (Patel Bros., HMart, etc.) and farmer's or open air markets if I can. Sometimes I have to do a bit of a search for stores but it's out there. I do see a lot of stuff while on vacation also.
Since last year I've bought:
dragonfruit (too pretty to eat, should be put on a pedestal and admired)
cassava root (didn't poison myself, sorry)
ubi (gorgeous purple yam, not potato -- this stuff is the shit!!!)
guava (both seedy little one and big green)
large green papaya
wax apples (I read it on the Manhattan board when they do Chinatown fruit reports, bought one but didn't like it)
fresh young coconut (white coconut meat wrapped in plastic)
This is just off the top of my head. Many of the things I've bought I just look up to see how to use it and then I go by my own judgment on how I want to use it. The biggest score was the purple ubi yams and the little seedy guava fruits (intoxicating). I've had guava juice but never a fresh guava. I haven't been able to find it here in CT or Westchester.
I just want to know why, many, esp. new restaurants do not try use different ingredients or try to do anything strikingly different instead of running w/ some trend that's been there, done that. Not trying to start controversy, but some of the above list is out there at my local freakin' ShopRite.
I also have a list of beans, seeds and grains but that's another post. And please contribute to the list if you can!!