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

“Top Chef” Cliff: Not Enough Fluff

“Top Chef” Cliff: Not Enough Fluff

Marcel's hair finally gets its comeuppance. Or does it? READ MORE

Crusty-Outside, Fluffy-Inside Roasted Red Potatoes

Will Owen parboils and roasts red potatoes so they come out crusty on the outside and almost fluffy inside. This is a great recipe to make when you’re roasting a bird or beast or doing anything else with your oven. You can cook ‘em at pretty much any temperature, as long as you adjust the cooking time.

Here’s his method: Cut the potatoes into chunks of about 1 1/2-2 inches, and put them into a pot of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, add salt, and boil the potatoes for about five minutes. Drain, toss in the pot over the burner briefly to dry, and put them in a big bowl with olive oil (about 1/2 cup per pound of potatoes), salt, pepper, and dry herbs of your choice, and toss. Heat a large cast iron skillet in the oven; when it’s hot, add the potatoes and oil and roast for 25 minutes or so. Turn the potatoes over to brown the other side and finish cooking.

Leftovers are really good cut up and fried as breakfast potatoes.

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Okay to roast red potatoes?

Making Water Yummy

If trying to drink those recommended eight glasses of water a day is driving you crazy, here are some suggested additions to make water tastier and more refreshing:

Mint (try muddling it a bit)
Cucumber slices
Cucumber and mint
Citrus–lemon, lime, orange, or tangerine slices, or a combination
Cucumber and citrus
Strawberries
Strawberries and rosemary
Asian pears, sliced thin
Small splash of fruit juice
Tamarind paste
Star anise
Fresh ginger (steep in hot water, then chill)
Cider vinegar (about 1 tsp. per glass) and honey
Any interesting flavored vinegar
Angostura bitters–especially in sparkling water
A few drops of Rose’s Lime Juice–also nice in sparkling water
Red Zinger tea
Chili powder and lime juice

Cynsa adds a neat trick: If you’re trying to drink more water, sip it through a drinking straw. “It’s the straw that does the trick; eight glasses of water a day goes down effortlessly through a straw!” she declares.

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Trying to drink more water—how to make it more interesting?

A Prescription for Chicken Soup

‘Tis the season for flu and colds, and scientists now agree that good old chicken soup does have properties than can ease the misery. Liquids are always good for a cold, but hot broth is especially soothing. Hounds like to add even more heat with chilis and ginger; any ingredient to make the nose run is a good thing!

Rick_V swears by the magical combination of Thai ingredients: Chilis, lemongrass, garlic, galangal, kaffir lime, and fish sauce, in a chili paste-infused broth. Now, that will clear your sinuses! It may not be a cure, but you’ll feel better and time will do the rest.

The Mayo Clinic chimes in.

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The ‘Chicken Soup’ Cure

Nuts to You

Nuts can be an expensive purchase, but there are some good buys out there.

Middle Eastern groceries are good places to look. Co-ops tend to have fairly priced nuts, too.

Going to the source is a good idea, for very fresh nuts.

Nuts in the shell will stay fresh a long time; of course you’ll need to shell them to use them.

For pecans, try the Pecan House.

If you have a Trader Joe’s nearby, they have great prices on nuts, especially cashews. Check out their cashew halves and pieces at $3.19/pound, says Ike.

Food clubs, like Costco and Sam’s, sell in large quantities, but it works out to a very good price. Preserve nuts by freezing.

For delicious Turkish pistachios, Zenobia is an excellent online source. They’re not cheap, but the prices include shipping.

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Online source for nuts; can you get them cheaper?

“Eat Global” Movement on the Rise?

Eating locally produced fare may be worse for the world than buying produce from faraway developing nations, the UK’s Scotsman newspaper reports.

The idea of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by trimming “food miles” (the distance from farm to plate) has become something of a rallying cry for environmentalists recently—particularly in the UK, where headline-grabbing environment secretary David Miliband has even suggested placing economic penalties on non-local foods. But a sustainable-development nonprofit argues that flying fresh fruits and vegetables into the country from sub-Saharan Africa actually represents “less than 0.1 percent of total UK carbon emissions.”

Environmental-justice groups also warn that by aiming to reduce food miles, shoppers may unwittingly throw a monkey-wrench into the social and economic development of African countries, which are very dependent on farm exports.

Things are a bit different in the U.S., where I would wager less of our food comes from Africa and more from South and Central America, as well as faraway parts of our own (much larger) country. And as my fave food philosopher Peter Singer reports, some studies have shown that we ‘Muricans use between 1 and 2 percent of our annual energy for transporting food. Still, is that enough to justify a large-scale eat-local movement? Or should locavores just give it up and start supporting some developing nations for a change?

Old-Tyme Flavor

Old-Tyme Flavor

How to season and care for your cast iron pan. READ MORE

Top Chat

The Futon Critic passes along Bravo’s recent press release announcing the network’s newest way to make its already overwrought website even more difficult to handle.

Had an opinion about Jeffrey’s collection in ‘Project Runway’? Wondering what ‘Top Chef’s’ Carlos was thinking, concocting avocado/bacon-flavored ice cream? Now viewers will have the opportunity to ask their burning questions immediately after their favorite shows. Hosted by Bravo’s own pop culture pundit Andy Cohen, Senior Vice President, Production and Programming and writer of the popular Andy’s Blog on Bravotv.com, ‘Watch What Happens’ will be a 20-minute, weekly, live-streaming, online program on Wednesdays at 11PM ET on Bravotv.com, immediately following Bravo’s Wednesday night competition reality series. The show kicks off on Wednesday, January 17 at 11PM ET, following the 10PM airing of ‘Top Chef.’

Based on the previews, there’s been a lot of hype and rumors surrounding this week’s episode. What sick and twisted frat prank gone wrong will Cliff and/or Sam pull on poor, bullied Marcel? Will they put his hand in water to make him wet his bed? Will they shave off his Heat Miser coif? I don’t know, but at least I get to log on, attempt to get through the massive traffic, and watch the spinning beachball of doom just so I can ask, “Why are Cliff and Sam such dicks?”

By the way, Bravo really needs to fact-check its own press releases, because Carlos made vanilla bean–avocado–marshmallow ice cream, and it was Marcel who made the avocado-bacon, or, as I called it in my recap, “Cobb Salad Ice Cream.”

Weekly Worship at the Farmers’ Market?

In a foodie world, does a weekly trip to the farmers’ market become a semireligious experience?

I’ve long described the renovated San Francisco Ferry Building as a temple to gourmet food, but in an increasingly religionless urban culture, does farmers’ market attendance provide the ritual and community that other people find in weekly church or temple visits?

Carol Lloyd, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, touches upon this and other topics in a recent article on farmers’ markets. “In my mostly secular existence,” she writes, “the weekly visit to the farmers’ market has become a quasi-spiritual act for me.” She mentions that, when asked, people cite fresh food and community as their reasons for attending farmers’ markets.

This sentiment is echoed by food blogger Anita, at Married … With Dinner. In a post titled “Saturday Morning Village,” she writes:

Yes, you’re right: It’s just an overpriced yuppie food scene. But it’s also my little village, at least for a few hours every Saturday, and I take comfort in the same vendors being in the same place every week, selling a subtly shifting set of wares until it’s time for their turn to rest for the season…. Working in my hermetically sealed glass cube all week, the market’s my weekly check-in with what’s happening in the natural world.

I have to admit I feel the same. I find myself going to the farmers’ market even when there’s not much I need to buy. I like the weekly check-in with farmer friends and produce. I guess it is the closest thing to religion in my life.

What about you? Do your feelings about farmers’ markets border on the religious?

Caveman Posture

Caveman Posture

Is it rude to put your elbows on the table? READ MORE