At the very south end of the Sunday Hollywood Farmers Market is a stand selling whole fish, crab, lobsters and live sea urchins. The urchins are submerged in buckets of water. Given that I love uni, I had looked longingly at this Santa Barbara based stand for a while, but never worked up the nerve to order something, not knowing exactly what I'd do with a whole sea urchin.
On a recent trip though, the guys behind the counter told me that for $7 I could get an urchin, and they would crack the thing open right there for me so that I could eat the precious uni. I paid, and they cracked. The urchin they handed me was still alive, its spines moving creepily as I held it with a paper towel. They didn't offer any plasticware (a spoon would have been handy) so I just stood there, scooping uni out with my hand and feeding my face, all the while drawing a crowd of curious onlookers.
The uni in my urchin was pretty sparse (it's a bit of a crapshoot because every urchin is different), but what was there was phenomenal; it was rich and buttery...the foie gras of the ocean. Tasting uni right out of the urchin definitely will make it harder for me to enjoy anything but the very freshest the next time I'm at a sushi bar. If you're looking for a fun experience and some great uni, give it a go.