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

Coconutty Cocktails

Like coconut? Like cocktails? Try these babies:

BBCs: banana, Baileys, coconut milk, and rum, whipped up in the blender with a little ice, offers peppermint pate.

Bushwackers: coconut, creme de cacao, rum, kahlua, a little milk or cream, and ice in a blender. Very sweet and dessert-like, but slips down dangerously easy, warns Hungry Celeste.

Texas Toast says this concoction, adapted from a drink recipe from Peninsula Grill in Charleston, S.C., based on their famous coconut cake, indeed tastes like cake in a glass>

1 cup dry Marsala
1 oz. white chocolate liqueur
1 oz. coconut rum
1/2 oz. hazelnut liqueur
1/2 oz. vanilla vodka

Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full of ice and add all of the ingredients. Shake for approximately 15 seconds and strain into chilled cocktail glasses.

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Any ideas for coconut cocktails?

Romanesco Cauliflower

The Romanesco cauliflower is a freakishly beautiful variety of cauliflower. It’s a lime green color, and each floret is a little spiraling pyramid. It’s said to have been first described by the Italians in the 16th century. They’re all over the place in the markets of Tuscany.

Here’s a good picture and more info.

Cook it as you would any cauliflower. A whole steamed Romanesco makes a beautiful presentation, or you can hack it into bits and roast it. Individual florets make for interesting crudites.

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Romanesco cauliflower

Muffins: Prepare at Night, Bake in the Morning

Say you crave muffins hot from the oven at 9 a.m., but can only make it out of bed at 8 a.m.? Don’t mix the batter up the night before; the baking powder or soda will lose its leavening power and you will have flat, dense muffins. Instead, ready the components at night; it’ll only take a minute in the morning to mix the batter together. Here’s how: The night before, stir together the dry ingredients in a large bowl and leave covered on the contertop. Whisk wet ingredients in an another bowl, cover, and refrigerate. In the morning, rewhisk the wet ingredients, mix into the dry ingredients just until combined, and bake. Caveat: if you plan to add berries, fold them in in the morning rather than mix with wet ingredients, or your muffins will end up pink, purple, or even a weird blueberry blue-gray.

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cranberry muffins

Cup-O-Gold Candy

Cup-O-Gold chocolate candy cups are available mostly in California (also spotted in Las Vegas in a 99 cent Only store, at 3/.99!), but they definitely sound worth a try, if you see them. The creamy filling, with coconut and almonds, is surrounded by a chocolate shell that’s nice and thick. ipsedixit is smitten, and ordered a box of 144 bars from JoeAdams-Brooks.

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CUP-O-GOLD chocolate candy …

Wine Off the Charts

Imbibe presents a thoughtful take on the hoary old topic of wine ratings in its November/December issue.

The controversy surrounding how numbers are assigned to wines goes back to Genesis, at least.

This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. In his vineyard, he produced a pinot noir. Although Noah’s wine was of surpassing fineness, it was given 81 out of 100 possible marks by a soothsayer of the Moabites. This mark enraged Noah, who cursed the soothsayer in the name of the Lord, saying, you present as objective what is clearly subjective, and therefore disrespect the subtlety of the vintage and bring down fire from the heavens upon your head, and the heads of your little ones. And the Lord smote the soothsayer and his little ones with an all-consuming fire, and also their fields, and their goats, and their womenfolk, and Noah rejoiced.

And so on. What the Imbibe piece does well is connect the vexing scores with sales—and, more interestingly, with the way that winemakers tailor their vintages to appeal very specifically to the known prejudices of the number makers.

The antidote? The piece sensibly suggests that well-informed
winemakers and sommeliers are the answer. And, on a happy note, it even points out that such well-informed (sometimes even free-thinking!) individuals are becoming more numerous these days.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Artificial Flavors

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Artificial Flavors

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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

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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