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

Loco for Loroco, and Other Kinds of Pupusa

Pupusas should always be made fresh to order, says ozzygee–otherwise you’re just getting a stale tortilla. Fortunately, plenty of Salvadoran places pat ‘em out the old fashioned way.

Sarita’s pupusas are a bit more expensive than most ($2), but they’re bigger, and there are almost 20 choices of fillings (like shrimp, jalapeno, or potato) as opposed to the usual three (cheese, beans, or pork-cheese-beans, a.k.a. revuelta). They’re really good, fresh, and pretty much the only problem is that it takes forever at lunch, and you’re unlikely to nab one of the six counter seats.

To order pupusas at La Paz, a little Spanish vocabulary helps–they don’t speak English. (Cheese = queso, frijoles = beans, and pupusa = pupusa.) Despite the language barrier, the ladies who run this place are really friendly, says lil mikey.

On weekends, he adds, there are half a dozen pupusa carts over by Olvera Street. lil mikey likes the one at Spring and Cesar Chavez run by a lady who looks about 90. It’s not for the finicky, though: “She makes ‘em up and stacks them on her grill. When you ask for one with frijoles y queso, she methodically digs her finger into the already prepared pupusas to determine which one fits the bill. When she finds the right one, she plops it onto a paper plate and gives you one napkin.” A little grungy, but good.

El Buen Gusto is great for Salvadoran food, including pupusas. Note that the San Fernando Road location has moved to Fletcher.

El Salvador Caf

Wine, Jazz, and Maryland Crabcakes

Red White and Bluezz is a wine bar featuring live jazz music (hence the reds, whites, and blues), and audience member AquaW gives a cheer for the food and wine.

The menu is full of familiar foods with interesting twists, like fried mac ‘n’ cheese with sun-dried tomato fondue; maple-mustard glazed halibut with grilled pineapple; and pasta carbonara with craisins, pine nuts and applewood-smoked bacon.

But of course the main focus is wine. There are eight flights, $12-18, that come in cute mini wine glasses–good luck trying to smell your wine in them. With tasting notes on the place mat, the experience seems geared toward folks less experienced with wine. Still, the “full-bodied blondes” flight is good, with nice peachy and pineapply flavors.

Maryland blue crabcakes are lightly seasoned, with barely any mayo or filler, and accented by mango-papaya chutney and passionfruit aioli. The restaurant’s signature salad is watermelon and Maytag blue with balsamic-tossed baby greens and Tahitian vanilla honey drizzle. Lots of different tastes here, making up one fine dish.

For dessert, the Black Forest cube reinvents the classic cake as a block of dark and white chocolate mousse with devil’s food cake, chocolate sauce and maraschino cherries inside and out. It’s just rich enough, and very chocolaty.

D

Stuffed Celery

Stuffed celery as an hors d’oeuvre means no peanut butter and plenty of sophisticated, savory flavors, like these: Cream cheese mixed with lots of sliced green olives and walnuts. cream cheese and smoked salmon. Hummus and a little chili oil or harissa. Egg salad with cornichons and smoked paprika. Buffalo style: 4 oz. blue cheese and 2 oz. cream cheese stuffed into celery stalks, sprinkled with cayenne pepper.

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What to stuff in celery..

Does Your Stomach Really Expand if You Eat More?

Does Your Stomach Really Expand if You Eat More?

We're talking about your digestive system, not your waistline. READ MORE

Using up Leftover Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is a popular condiment in sandwiches, of course, but not just turkey sandwiches: hounds love it in cheese, pork, and peanut butter sandwiches, too.

Cranberry sauce is good for breakfast, too, mixed with yougurt and granola, or as an oatmeal topping.

Many like to use leftover cranberry sauce in desserts or baking. Warmed cranberry sauce, perhaps with a splash of Grand Marnier, is great over ice cream or pound cake. bolivianita uses it in muffins, adding a middle layer of cranberry sauce between two scoops of muffin batter. Others recommend recipes for apple-cranberry crumb pie, cranberry swirl coffeecake, and cranberry almond coffeecake.

On the savory side, sixelagogo makes a cranberry vinaigrette with cranberry sauce, red wine vinegar, and olive oil that works well with peppery greens. zorra browns chicken or pork chops with some chopped onion, then simmers it in cranberry sauce and red wine or orange juice until done. Jpan99 makes a cranberry burgundy sauce she says goes great with ham: Mix about 2 cups cranberry sauce with 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons mustard and about a cup of burgundy. Cook and reduce until thickened.

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ideas for leftover cranberry sauce

Dreamland BBQ

The ribs at Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, are ribs you’ll dream about, if you’ve ever eaten there. And best of all, says CDouglas, they travel well through the mail. Ribs arrive perfectly spiced and meaty. The quart of sauce is addictive, and worth the price of the order alone. They’ll include a loaf of Sunbeam bread for your sopping pleasure!

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Mail Order BBQ Ribs

Breakfast in a Basket

Need a clever twist for your next gift basket? Try stocking it with breakfast stuff.

Candy likes the offerings at Harrington’s of Vermont. The Deluxe Country Brunch package will feed you and the neighbors. There’s a lot to choose from here. The cob smoked bacon is some of the very best, says Candy.

Wolferman’s has selections that contain English muffins and scones, savory or sweet, that gozz37 says are very good.

The Breakfast in Bed basket from Wine Country Gift Baskets, has a great assortment of goodies for about $40.

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Breakfast gourmet gift basket recs?

Crap on a “Top Chef” Plate

Crap on a “Top Chef” Plate

Is ousted chef Carlos the most decent person on reality TV? READ MORE

It Could Happen to U.S.

Australia, host of the recent G20 summit and home to one of the world’s chowhoundiest cities, is on the brink of a food crisis. Analysts say that the country’s five-year-long drought is its worst in 1,000 years and is expected to cut staple-crop production by more than 60 percent this year. After an initial drop in the price of some livestock (like sheep, which I’m told are selling for $1 AUS apiece these days), food prices are expected to spike nationwide in the months ahead. And the drought is having a psychological impact on growers and ranchers as well: Faced with dying crops and livestock, farmers are committing suicide at the rate of one every four days.

Sure, the continent-cum-country is halfway around the world for most of us—but as South Australian Labor premier Mike Rann put it recently, “what we’re seeing with this drought is a frightening glimpse of the future with global warming.”

One bright side of this sad affair is that it may push agriculture in Australia to a more sustainable level—and perhaps it will also give the rest of the world some ideas. While farmers of water-intensive crops like rice and cotton are taking a lot of heat for their irrigation practices, those growers have become mega–water efficient by necessity and could potentially export some of their know-how to help other nations conserve water. Even better, some farmers are switching their land over to more efficient crops, creating strong local-food movements in the process. “We’re really going to have to start rethinking the crops we do in Australia,” says Doug May, a vintner whose family farm used to produce only super-thirsty plants and animals like potatoes and cattle, but now grows greens, fruits, and legumes for the local CSA.

Eat and Get Out

Eat and Get Out

The manipulative techniques of casual-dining establishments READ MORE