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D.C. food pop-up serves up free insects

Friday - 5/30/2014, 9:20am  ET

Pestaurant.jpg
Insects are common culinary staples on the plates of many cultures, but for one day, D.C.-area residents can get a taste of gourmet grasshoppers and more at Pestaurant. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

Pestaurant pops up in the District

WTOP's Rachel Nania reports

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WASHINGTON -- It's time to bite back at those who bite you. D.C.'s unique dining scene is expanding beyond dreamy doughnuts and cheesy chili fries.

A one-day pop-up restaurant will deliver lunch with a crunch -- from roasted crickets, no less.

Pestaurant, an event started last year in London to expose diners to edible insects, is coming to D.C. June 4. The 3 1/2-hour lunch will take place at Occidental Grill on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Lunch is free, and the menu features everything from grasshopper burgers to Mexican spice mealworms, buffalo worms, roasted locusts and, yes, roasted crickets.

Those with a sweet tooth can sample scorpion lollipops, chocolate ant rounds and cricket lollipops, among other dessert options.

"It's a mad idea, of course, eating bugs … But once you've had one or two, they're relatively delicious," says Randolph Carter, vice president of marketing for Ehrlich Pest Control North America, the company behind the event.

Carter says insects are becoming recognized as an alternative food source around the world. More than 2 billion people already incorporate insects in their diets, especially those in Asian, African and Latin American cultures.

D.C.'s Oyamel, a Mexican restaurant downtown, serves up an Oaxacan specialty taco that has sautéed grasshoppers, shallots, tequila and guacamole.

Why insects?

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations says insects are high in protein, fat and minerals. But their benefits go beyond nutrition. Insects as a food source help address environmental concerns of food production and sustainability.

"They're really good for the environment because they take less food to grow and farm and therefore have less food to grow and farm and therefore have less impact in terms of greenhouse gasses and things like that," Carter says.

According to a report from the United Nations, pigs produce 10 to 100 times more greenhouse gases per kilogram than mealworms. Insects also use significantly less water than livestock and can be farmed easier, the same article reports.

But will local diners be able to stomach the nutritional and environmental benefits of insects? Cater says if you get over the initial hesitation, you'll likely enjoy bugs on your burger.

And while insects may not be a permanent protein on every restaurant menu, Carter says he's seen more dining establishments, especially in Europe, embrace insects -- and he expects more will do so in the future.

"It's becoming more normal," he says.

Those brave enough to try the crispy creepy crawlers will help out a local nonprofit while tickling their taste buds. Ehrlich will donate $5 to D.C. Central Kitchen for every person who tries the insects, and $20 for each person who takes part in the day's pest-eating competition.

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