Serious Eats: Talk

Is It Just Me, or Does Saffron Taste Terrible?

I have had it three times now where I was aware of it:

1) Once in paella (ruined the paella)
2) Recently in a semifreddo (ruined my dessert)
3) More recently in a pasta sauce with tomatoes and cream (didn't quite ruin dinner, but didn't help it)

Times 1 and 3 I cooked it myself. Time 2 was at a Rather Nice Italian Restaurant, so I assume they knew what they were doing, but good heavens -- the stuff tastes like gasoline in a monkey's butt to me. Not that I would know what that tastes like.

You might ask yourself why I keep cooking with it, but having seen so many recipes that call for (and adore) the stuff, I assumed on times #1 and 2 that I or the pastry chef had done something wrong. But after meal #3, I have come to the conclusion that it may not be me.

And yet, I cannot help but feel that in my years of eating abroad and at home I must have had saffron and not noticed it. I had bouillabaisse for the first time in December and loved it. The paella I ate in Barcelona was fantastic. But I do not know if these things really had saffron in them. Perhaps the chefs omitted them, just as I would if I were making them in my own kitchen today.

So what's the deal? Why do people like gasoline/latex paint flavor in their food? Is it just bad saffron that I (and the upscale restaurant) have/had? Is it a money thing -- people using the spice because they know it's expensive? Enlighten me. Thanks!

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