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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Where, Oh Where, to Sprinkle Pomegranate Seeds?

Pomegranates are in season, and their seeds provide little bursts of tart flavor that complements both savory and sweet flavors.

They are good paired with oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese; or have some over vanilla ice cream. They mix well with grain salads, and they’re a natural garnish for any recipe that calls for pomegranate molasses.

Cook them into a compote to accompany pancakes and waffles, suggests, Sam Fujisaka, who says the same compote goes well with ham, pork chops, or lamb.

pescatarian uses them on crostini: slice baguette and top with brie; broil until the brie begins to melt, then sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranate seeds are wonderful in salads: try them with shaved apples and fennel; with arugula, pine nuts, and crumbled feta with a citrusy vinaigrette; or with shredded green apple and toasted slivered almonds over crisp lettuce with.a dressing of lemon, grainy mustard, honey, and olive oil.

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Ideas for pomegranate seeds?

Candied Bacon

People just can’t stop eating perfectly crisp bacon. The deadliest partner: a little sugar on top. Caramelized brown sugar is a great partner for crispy bacon in these simple recipes:

Hungry Celeste puts bacon in a single layer on a sheet pan, sprinkles with dark brown sugar and finely chopped pecans, and broils until the bacon is crisp the sugar is caramelized.

JasmineG bakes bacon for 15 minutes; then turns it over, sprinkles with a mixture of of brown sugar and cayenne, and bakes for 15 minutes more, or until done.

Kater makes an appetizer of water chestnuts wrapped in candied bacon; it’s incredibly popular with her guests. Coat bacon in a rub of brown sugar, ground mustard, ground chipotle pepper, cumin, black pepper, and onion powder. Wrap a strip of bacon around a water chestnut and secure with a toothpick. Line a baking sheet with foil, place a rack on the pan, and put the bacon-wrapped chestnuts on the rack; bake at 375F until bacon is cooked and crispy.

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New Oranges

There’s a new hybrid called Red Navel, a combo of the navel orange and blood orange. They’re juicy and sweet, with a hint of the tanginess and color of the blood orange. Beautiful!

They’re available in season, next December, from this Florida source.

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Navel/Blood Orange Hybrid hits the markets

Yolk It Up

The New York Times has the ultimate food porn piece (registration required) this week: a story waxing poetic about the joys of embryonic eggs—the eggs that the butcher finds in the laying hen he is dispatching.

The article has all the elements of porn: The picture of the unlaid eggs make them look mouthwatering, though slightly disturbing. (Is that … a capillary?) Unlaid eggs have both elements of taboo and sexuality to them. Eggs evoke fertility, and yet hens that “produce” unlaid eggs are considered too old. The story makes the eggs sound really, really good, although I did feel slightly squeamish while reading it.

Maybe it’s just messing with my head, because the practice of harvesting embryonic eggs turns the egg, which has traditionally been throught of as a vegetarian food, into something that can’t quite be defined as vegetarian anymore.

They’re coming to a menu near you. Dan Barber, chef/owner of Manhattan’s Blue Hill, has been experimenting with unborn eggs at his restaurant. Orders for dishes containing the unusual protein picked up after he changed the menu description from “embryonic” to “immature.”

One of his biggest hits is a two-yolk treat. He injects the immature yolk into an ordinary egg after the egg has been barely poached using a method similar to sous vide, at very low heat for an hour and 20 minutes. The albumen coagulates but the yolk stays runny.

A Wine Bar by Any Other Name …

As wine bars seem to pop up on every block, wine blog Vinography takes the trend to task, setting the bar for what should and should not be considered a wine bar.

With the ever-increasing interest in wine, it was bound to happen—wine bars in every cute and quaint corner of the city. But as blogger Alder points out, they don’t always live up to the name.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this, too? You wander into a newly opened ‘Bistro and Wine Bar’ in a favorite neighborhood only to find it is actually just a restaurant … that serves wine by the (often over-full and impossible to swirl) glass? I often find that such establishments, even those that actually have a bar you can sit at, not only bear no resemblance in service or offering to what I think of as a wine bar, their wine selections are often worse than many restaurants their caliber who wouldn’t dream of calling themselves wine bars.

Though Alder has only two simple qualifications for a real wine bar, he’s quite clear on what doesn’t make the cut, trumpeting his belief that a true wine bar should have wines available by the glass, half-glass, bottle, and open for a little taste.

A restaurant that happens to have a list of wines by the glass (no matter how long or how great) is not a wine bar, no matter what they say on the sign outside. A wine shop that has a little tasting area where they sometimes (announced or unannounced) pour wines for customers to taste doesn’t qualify either. A bar that also happens to serve wine by the glass? Nope.

He follows up with a list of what he thinks makes a great wine bar, and promises some wine bar reviews on the site in the near future—those that do and don’t make the cut.

Apparently, from the chorus of agreement in his comments section, there are plenty of folks who want the real thing.

Four Squares a Day

Taco Bell’s campaign to get us to choose a Crunchwrap when the late-night munchies hit (a concept known as the “Fourthmeal”) has been going on for a while now. It’s been the subject of lots of blogging and has even ended up in the Urban Dictionary.

The Lakeland, Florida, Ledger puts the Fourthmeal question to college kids, teens, and nutritionists in a recent article.

The upshot: Young people like eating fast food late at night, though nutritionists believe it can make them gain weight: “What I tell people about fast food is it’s great if you’re in a hurry—to die,” said James J. Kenney, director of nutritional research at the Pritikin Longevity Center in South Florida.

Still, the article did include this gem of a quote from Taco Bell spokesperson Rob Poetsch:

Taco Bell counters that Fourthmeal’ isn’t intended as a literal suggestion. ‘We’re not encouraging people to eat four meals,’ Poetsch said.

“Freedom is slavery,” he did not go on to say. “Ignorance is strength.”

Video Killed the Radio Cheese

We keep wondering: After more than a decade, has the Internet finally run out of stuff? Apparently not. The English firm West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers has ginned up some innovative, low-impact new video content … by aiming a webcam at a rack of its aging cheddar cheeses.

According to Reuters, nearly 50,000 people—presumably driven by a mad passion for aged dairy products—have already clicked through to watch mold grow on cheese in real time.

“It puts watching paint dry in the shade,” a company spokeswoman ambiguously told Reuters, implying that watching cheese age is either much duller than watching paint dry, or somewhat more interesting. “If you happen to tune in at the right time you will even get to see them being turned,” she added, her voice dropping to a husky, seductive whisper.

This, of course, sets the stage for other webcams. Who wants to watch whiskey age? That sounds kind of appealing. Or wheat get harvested? Or pigs turning magically from living creatures into delicious sausages?

Sky’s the limit, guys!

Who’s Been Eating My Porridge?

Who’s Been Eating My Porridge?

How to raid your housemates' stash, and bust them tactfully when they raid yours. READ MORE

Food and Fuel Duke It Out

The recent boom in the ethanol market has contributed to a drastic jump in the price of corn, The New York Times’ editorial page points out (registration required)—and that means everyone is going to feel the pinch. As the writers explain,

It’s tempting to assume that the effect of sharply higher prices is confined primarily to the agricultural sector. But where corn is concerned, we are all part of the agricultural sector. The historical cheapness of corn has driven it into nearly every aspect of our economy, in the form, most familiarly, of corn syrup. The low price of corn over the past half-century lies at the very foundation of America’s historically (and unrealistically) low food prices.

The growing demand for ethanol means that the nation is now trying to gratify its “two major appetites” (“cheap food and cheap gas”) with just one crop. Finding new sources of ethanol will take a while, the authors write, so the only solution for now is to reduce those appetites.

Telling people they should be paying more for chow is probably good advice from an environmental standpoint, but not exactly palatable to many consumers or to the food industry. That may be why the online trade mag FoodNavigator takes a different approach to the food-versus-fuel problem, arguing that the impending ethanol-feedstock shortage is “good news for developing nations in the south, who will be able to find new markets for products such as sugar cane and palm oil.” In addition, FoodNav’s editor says,

Agriculture has always adapted to the changing needs of humans, and there is no reason why this shouldn’t be true now…. Perhaps legislative action is needed to reduce the immediate cost pressures on the food industry…. But the point is that if agriculture has the potential to provide both our energy and nutrition needs, then we must face this opportunity positively. We need to review agriculture’s role in the 21st century. We need to assess how significant developments in seed technology, agricultural know-how and supply chain efficiency will help to meet growing global demand.

Wow, and I thought the Times’ advice to “reduce our appetites” sounded vague.

Generally Speaking

It’s a safe bet that if you didn’t get around to reading The New York Times’ Sunday magazine until dinner, you probably read it with a spring roll in one hand and a rice-strewn table of white Chinese food cartons in front of you. In a story titled “Hunan Resources,” aimed at edifying takeout chowers, a British food writer unveils the secret behind General Tso’s Chicken, staple of apartment-lobby menus everywhere (registration required).

Curious about the dish’s origins, Dunlop took the direct route: She went to China and asked. Only thing was, no one she met there had ever heard of it. And its flavor profile—mixing a sweet-sour sauce with hot peppers and chunks of fried chicken—isn’t native to Hunan cuisine, which favors oily and spicy over tart and sweet. But Dunlop kept digging, and finally she turned up Peng Chang-kuei, a former Nationalist Party banquet chef, who claimed to have invented the dish in the 1950s during a post-Mao exile in Taiwan.

When he arrived in 1973 to open Peng’s in New York City, he was one of several Hunanese chefs who sparked a craze for the new cuisine. New Yorkers, and soon the rest of the country, couldn’t get enough of this new hot and spicy cooking—after, of course, it had been sweetened up and tamped down for American palates. General Tso’s biggest fan? Henry Kissinger.

Still, with such popularity at stake, finding the definitive creation story can be a little tricky. This Washington Post story from 2002 reiterates the Peng story but adds a new twist: Michael Tong, owner of the Shun Lee Palace empire of Hunan and Szechuan restaurants, claims the dish for his own. According to Tong, the dish was created in the ‘70s by Tong’s former partner, T. T. Wang, who also put his stamp on orange crispy beef and Lake Tung Ting shrimp.