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

You Say Potato, I Say GMO

Now they’re just trying to tick us off.

As we read in Ruth L. Ozeki’s book All Over Creation (which does for potatoes what Ozeki’s first novel, My Year of Meats, did for the beef industry), conventionally grown potatoes are some of the most toxically grown items in the whole food chain. Especially when they’re grown on a scale that matches our fast-food nation’s response to “Want fries with that?”

Over the weekend, the Contra Costa County Times reported that “biologists have used gene technology to design a spud that’s tastier and resistant to unsightly bruises and sprouts.” Hmmm. Poisonous and genetically modified? Cool.

On the positive side, the modified potatoes that Idaho’s J. R. Simplot Co. (one of the world’s largest potato growers, with the perfect name for a company that wants to produce frankenfoods) is developing will delete the potentially cancer-causing acrylamides that surface in regular potatoes during frying.

Still, there’s no need to panic. Like the cloned meat that may be on the horizon, the “Russet Rangers” are at least five years away from the store shelves (and the McDonald’s fryer).

What’s interesting is that one of the ways Simplot is promoting these “gene-silenced” potatoes is that they will taste better than ordinary Russet Burbanks. Which most likely used to be flavorful before they had all the taste bred out of them in order to produce the kind of high-yield uniform crop that is needed to fuel the deep-frying industrial complex. Instead of monkeying around with gene splicing, maybe the Simplot Co. could just try to grow some more flavorful varieties—like some of these.

“Top Chef”: Coming Back for Thirds

Even before the current season has stopped simmering, Bravo’s reality show Top Chef has been renewed for a third season. Citing Nielsen Media Research, Variety says that Top Chef “ranks as the No. 1–rated food series in the cable universe, averaging 1.22 million viewers in the 18–49 demo.” Access Hollywood notes that those numbers show the series to be up 56 percent from the first season.

While there’s no news yet on where the third season will take place—Los Angeles, San Francisco, or a brand-new city—casting calls are being held this month in Dallas, Miami, Las Vegas, New York, and San Francisco.

If you think you have what it takes to throw some food on a plate while either insulting the sexual practices of or spewing violent threats at your fellow cheftestants, check out the casting information at Bravo.com.

Gone Crabbin’

Gone Crabbin’

CHOW spends a seasick day on a crab boat south of San Francisco. READ MORE

The Mellow Yellow Cure

I’ve just finished battling my way through this behemoth. The characters are constantly eating delicious-sounding meals and snacks, making this book as mouthwatering as it is compelling. All that reading about idlis, kulfi, and dal has led to a lot of cooking of Indian food at home this week.

And now USA Today is reporting that the turmeric I’ve been using in prodigious amounts may have some unintended effects (besides, that is, staining my counters a cheery yellow).

Apparently, aside from the antiseptic qualities that have been exploited for generations, turmeric has a host of curative properties. It seems to help joint pain caused by arthritis. It can inhibit the spread of some cancers. It can help ward off Alzheimer’s.

And, the article notes, it may even be useful in weight control. But not if you’re eating your turmeric in these.

Essentials for the Home Baker

Essentials for the Home Baker

Baking supplies that won't collect dust. READ MORE

Kulfi at Lahore Karahi

The kulfi at Lahore Karahi is really special, says Big Larry. It comes in irregularly-shaped hunks, speared with toothpicks. Mango, pistachio, and cardamom are all part of this ice cream experience–rich flavors, but not too sweet. And the texture is pleasantly solid. Eat it.


Lahore Karahi [Tenderloin]
612 O’Farrell St., San Francisco
415-567-8603
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Lahore Karahi Dessert

New Central Vietnamese at Ngu Binh

Ngu Binh is a new Vietnamese restaurant that appears to be focusing on central Vietnamese food, like the kind of stuff they serve in Hue, rather than Saigon or Hanoi. This place is only a few weeks old, and they’re still sorting out the menu, but hounds say it’s promising. zippo is charmed by the delicate bahn nam, little tiny dishes filled with a layer of soft, custardy rice cake, topped with chopped shrimp, chives, and croutons ($4.75). Ruth Lafler likes the thin, lacey crust of the bahn xeo ($6.45), with its distinct coconut flavor, but thinks the filling-to-pancake ratio is off. And Melanie Wong finds the bun bo hue much more delicate (“a better word might be ‘watery’”) than versions she’s used to. Those seeking the funky, fishy flavors and unctuous textures of hardcore Vietnamese food may be disappointed. However, all the hounds who have tried it plan on going back. Catch a late breakfast–they open at 8:30 a.m.


Ngu Binh (Dac Biet Bun Bo Hue) [Tenderloin]
formerly Hung Ky
337 Jones St., between Ellis and Eddy, San Francisco
415-346-3100
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Ngu Binh–new Vietnamese @337 Jones, SF

Chico’s: Carolina ‘Cue and More in Guilderland, NY

Chico’s shows its barbecue chops in Carolina-style pulled pork: tasty and smoky with ample bark, reports jkent. It’s first-rate ‘cue, especially for the Northeast, and surprisingly true to Carolina tradition, says bbqfan. He faults only the thick, sweet sauce, a substitute for the thin, vinegary one served down south.

But Chico’s barbecue ranges beyond Carolina, including solid “St. Louis-style” ribs and smoked, fried chicken wings. Most meats come in platters or in ample sandwiches made on excellent rolls. Service is casual, friendly, and efficient.


Chico’s BBQ and Restaurant [Albany County]
2490 Western Ave. (Rte. 20), near Rte. 146, Guilderland, NY
518-456-0940
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Chico’s BBQ–Guilderland NY

At Peanut Butter and Co., Elvis Lives

The king of the sandwiches at Peanut Butter and Co. is the Elvis: a grilled number stuffed with bananas, honey and, of course, peanut butter. Bacon is optional–but not for billyeats, who insists on it: “It is an awesome sandwich with the bacon–as it should be eaten. Really decadent and delicious.”

billyboy goes for the Seinfeld (peanut butter, honey and cinnamon on a toasted bagel), The Heat Is On (spicy peanut butter, grilled chicken, pineapple jam), and the aforementioned Elvis with bacon. “I don’t think the drugs are what did him in!” he adds.

Dissenters dismiss this place as a one-trick pony (two tricks, if you count jelly). “It’s good for peanut butter and jelly, but there’s limits to how good that can be,” carps icejew, who also observes that everything on the menu will make you thirsty, and drinks are expensive.


Peanut Butter and Co. [Greenwich Village]
240 Sullivan St., between Bleecker and W. 3rd Sts., Manhattan
212-677-3995
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Peanut Butter & Co.

Top-Notch Tavern Burger at Tierney’s in Montclair, NJ

Tierney’s Tavern turns out a surprisingly excellent hamburger, possibly one of the best in New Jersey, swears tamerlanenj. It’s nicely griddled, agreeably greasy and juicy, and the bacon version is loaded with crispy pork.


Tierney’s Tavern [Essex County]
136-138 Valley Rd., between Claremont Ave. and Van Vleck St., Montclair, NJ
973-744-9785
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A Burger at Tierney’s, Montclair