The CHOW Blog rss

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

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Artificial Flavors

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Artificial Flavors

The term "artificially flavored" has long drawn scorn from food lovers. Products besmirched with the term are deemed cheap, vapid, and vaguely evil. Such foods declare themselves to have been produced via methods diametrical to the artisanal credo that yi READ MORE

Cuckoo for Kugel

Everything's been coming up kugel lately. Kugel (literally "potato pudding") is sort of a baked potato pancake. Its ingredients are simple: grated (using hand or meat grinder, never a food processor) potato -- and perhaps some onion -- along with egg, sal READ MORE

Nibbles and Sips

Our low-hassle, high-payoff cocktail party. READ MORE

The Best Thing Between Sliced Bread?

The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported last week that McDonald’s is seeking to patent its methods of sandwich assembly. The following day, in a story headlined “McDonald’s puts patent on sandwiches,” British newspaper Metro.co.uk said that the fast-food giant “wants to own the rights to how a sandwich is made.” That piece subsequently appeared on Digg, boingboing, Slashfood, and Netscape News, sending commenters into an anti-McDo tizzy.

The story has also generated a fair share of confusion among readers, likely because none of the articles have been very specific. McDonald’s isn’t trying to patent the generic act of slapping a filling between two pieces of bread, as the Metro story suggests—at least, not exactly. The chain is seeking a patent for “novel methods of making a sandwich and novel sandwich assembly tools,” according to the patent application; a closer look reveals that the “sandwich assembly tool” can be as complicated as a three-chambered apparatus or as simple as a hamburger wrapper or clamshell container:

Sandwich preparation in accordance with the invention can include placing sandwich garnish and/or condiment directly on a piece of paper, a wrapper that is eventually used to contain the sandwich, the container used to hold the completed sandwich when it is presented to the customer, or preferably a tool adapted for assembling and applying garnishes.

What about those “novel methods”? Here’s one of them:

An order for a sandwich is taken from a customer and a bread component is placed onto a pre-heated, preassembled sandwich filling. The filling is made from two or more foodstuffs. Next the bread component and filling combination are inverted.

(Presumably the top piece of bread is added once this “patented” flip trick is complete.)

As a UK patent official told the Guardian, it’s unlikely that McDonald’s will get its way; the chain “might have a novel device but it could be quite easy for someone to make a sandwich in a similar way without infringing their claims,” the official said.

What I want to know is why McDonald’s would think making a sandwich upside-down and then flipping it over is a time-saving trick, let alone a patentable one—doesn’t that extra step just increase the incidence of employee repetitive-stress injury? If you’re a reader who works in food service, have you encountered any bizarre and unnecessary techniques at any of your workplaces?

A Tale of Two Chowhounds

A Tale of Two Chowhounds

The salesman had had quite enough of my waffling between two overcoats. Howard Turkell, 60-ish and a garment center veteran, was trying to be polite with the weirdo hipster kid who'd turned up at his third-floor shop that fateful morning, but patience had READ MORE

How to Truss a Chicken

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Don't let your roast flop about untied. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Egghead vs. Bobblehead: Round One

Christopher Kimball, the bow tie–bedecked alpha male of New England’s food nerds, finally took his shot at Rachael Ray in this month’s edition of Cook’s Illustrated.

As you might expect, the jab emerged in the midst of a typically elegant yet rambling editor’s column that jumped around between rabbit-hunting, World War II, and teaching 11-year-old Charlie about “the birds and the bees.”

He was too cagey to call the yappy-trapped kitchen minx out by her proper name, but can there really be any debate about what he’s driving at here?

In cooking, there are folks who are fundamentally curious as to process … and sympathetic toward the notion of culinary education…. Others are content to believe that cooking is about no more than positive attitude—anyone with sufficient enthusiasm
can cook a great meal. This golden age of the American amateur has been a long time coming.

While not quite rising to the level of Anthony Bourdain (who famously dissed
Ray—by name—as a vomit-inducing “bobblehead”), the put-down is clear. Cook’s Illustrated readers are smart, curious, and humble before the awesome task of making good food—and the Food Network’s increasingly attractive and undereducated hosts are barking up the wrong tree.

Let it be known: There is no one more in Kimball’s corner on this issue than this writer. And yet … it’s hard not to feel sympathy for Ray after reading Kimball’s underhanded jab. Is Ray annoyingly upbeat? Sure. Undereducated? Arguably. But condescendingly catty? Not on camera, at least. Score one for the bobblehead.

Not Invited Back

Not Invited Back

Are you obliged to reciprocate dinner party invitations? READ MORE

Old Wine in New Boxes

OK, we wine drinkers got used to synthetic corks (less chance of cork taint) and even screw-top wines (no oxidation). Hell, we’ve even been known to quaff some of the higher-quality wines that come in a box.

So why am I shocked by an article in Restaurant Business noting that the House of Blues is set to become one of the first restaurants to serve Trinchero’s “Bandit Bullets,” pinot grigio and cabernet sauvignon in “single serve aseptic packages”—in other words, juice boxes?

Maybe it’s just the shock of the new. After all, the House of Blues is serving a glass alongside the recyclable containers, so there’s no need to sip your cab through a straw (although I’ve always heard you get drunk faster if you do).

When You’re Crying for Argentina but Don’t Need Steak

“Argentinean food” just means steak to a lot of people, but for more everyday food, there are a bunch of hole-in-the-wall joints that are pretty much like holes-in-the-wall in Buenos Aires.

Mercado Buenos Aires has good choripan (sausage sandwich), empanadas, and fried cheese. Service is straight outta BA–the staff would rather be watching futbol.

Grand Casino, a bakery, makes tasty empanadas that are baked instead of fried, says Dommy.

DiveFan points to the empanadas and Argentinean sandwiches at the deli counter of the Argentinean-owned Continental Market.

If it’s fugazza you want, the Argentinean answer to pizza, minus the sauce, try Carniceria Argentina, says Jerome. There’s also Catalina’s Market.

Colo’s is a tiny place tucked into the back of a North Hollywood mini-mall. It’s pretty darn good, says Steve Doggie-Dogg, and they have a butcher shop too.

It’s no longer a hole in the wall, says silvana, but Tito’s Market still is a great place to go for empanadas and other Argentinean goodies.

And if you just can’t live without a hunk of beef, you might as well hit up Carlito’s Gardel, which somehow isn’t as well known as it should be, for a melt-in-your-mouth steak.

Mercado Buenos Aires [East San Fernando Valley]
7540 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys
818-786-0522
Locater

Grand Casino French Bakery [Culver City-ish]
3826 Main St., Culver City
310-202-6969
Locater

Continental Gourmet Market [South LA]
12921 Prairie Ave., Hawthorne
310-676-5444
Locater

Carnicera Argentina [East San Fernando Valley]
11740 Victory Blvd., at Colfax, North Hollywood
818-762-9977
Locater

Catalina’s Market [East Hollywood]
1070 N. Western Ave., at Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
323-464-3595
Locater

Colos [East San Fernando Valley]
11009 Burbank Blvd., at Vineland, North Hollywood
818-761-2363
Locater

Tito’s Market [East LA-ish]
9814 Garvey Ave., El Monte
626-579-1893
Locater

Carlitos Gardel [West Hollywood]
7963 Melrose Ave., at Fairfax, Los Angeles
323-655-0891
Locater

Board Links
Any Argentinean gems I don’t know about?