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

Cereal: Avoiding the Sog Factor

Try some of these dry cereals that are said to withstand some soaking in milk without losing their crunch:

Quaker Oatmeal Squares, says Pei. They’ll take forever to get soggy and they’re big enough for snacks, like tiny cookies or crackers.

Both Kashi’s Heart to Heart and Go Lean Crunch stay nice and crunchy in milk.

Grapenuts take a while to get mushy. And the Nature’s Path brand makes a cereal called Heritage Os that taste a bit like Grapenuts. Piccola says that no amount of milk will make them soggy. They actually can be eaten dry, like nuts!

Chowser does the sensibly obessive thing with cereal: he pours milk into the bowl first, and then adds a little cereal. When you finish that, you can always add more, and not worry about it having time to get milk-logged!

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Which cereal does not get soggy?

Scoop de Grâce

A few months ago, we heard about Martha Stewart employees attempting to infiltrate Fort Rachael Ray, after which Ray herself commented that she couldn’t believe the Doyenne of Duck Confit would really regard her lowly talk show as a serious threat to Martha’s own carefully decorated existence. She also wished Martha much “good, warm, wonderful success”, which might come off as a little condescending when one compares Ray’s recent rise to Stewart’s longtime household-name status.

Well, is the hand-tooled leather shoe now on the other foot? According to the deliciously gossipy Page Six, Rachael Ray potentially made an attempt to scoop Martha’s show. While Martha had Barry Manilow live and in-person this past Wednesday on Martha, the Rachael Ray Show just so happened to air a previously taped segment also featuring the curly-haired crooner. At the same time.

Without missing a beat, Martha announced to her live audience:

I’d never met Rachael Ray—I think she’s fun and lovely—but, you know, we have Barry Manilow live this morning, and he taped an episode of the Rachael Ray show that was supposed to air tomorrow. But for some reason, they pushed the show up to today, and now Barry is on two shows at once. He’s live with us, but it’s really not fair to the artist because these performers deserve to reach as big of an audience as possible. But anyway, we have him here. Live.

I do hope Rachael has some aloe for that burn.

If you missed the original, you can watch the bitchslap on TMZ.com.

At the Press of a Button

Viral marketing at its very best: The Blendtec Company, home of the $400 blender (worth it), has produced an amazing series of videos called “Will It Blend?” Can your blender blend a rake handle? A handful of marbles? (Careful not to breathe in that glass dust!) The Blendtec can. It can also whip up tasty treats like Cochicken: a can of Coke blended with a whole bone-in chicken. Then drunk through a straw. Yummers!

‘wichcraft Trials

Attentive (read: obsessive) viewers of the first season of Top Chef will recall that one of the early challenges was to make a sandwich that Colicchio promised to put on the menu of the newest outpost of his sandwich shop chain ‘wichcraft. Many months later, the San Francisco ‘wichcraft is finally open, and “The Harold” is now eatable by the general public.

Of course, it’s not called “The Harold” (although ‘wichcraft HQ does confirm that people ask for the Top Chef or “Harold Sandwich”); it’s called “the Mortadella,” named (as are all of ‘wichcraft’s sandwiches) for the main ingredient. The Mortadella comes with sautéed black trumpet royale mushrooms and black olive tapenade on San Francisco sourdough bread. The grapes, which Harold originally served on the side of the plate, are now halved and stuck inside the sandwich, as per Colicchio’s episode-expressed desire.

The sandwich was plenty tasty, but it wasn’t my favorite. According to the voluble ‘wichcraft HQ, Harold’s Mortadella is “selling reasonably well” and is “in the middle of the mix” in terms of popularity. Additionally, while I personally adored the fried egg, vinegar-y frisée, gorgonzola, and bacon sandwich on ciabatta, the slow-roasted pork with red cabbage, jalapenos, and mustard on ciabatta is the most popular sandwich in the San Francisco location. To give some perspective, the roasted turkey, balsamic onion relish, bacon, and avocado with aioli on ciabatta is the most popular New York ‘wich.

After summing up some ‘wichcraft complaints he’d heard from his cronies, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Bauer added:

The roast pork ($8.50) was cold in the center and tasted like it had languished in the refrigerator for four days. And the hot pastrami’s ($9.50) meat was so tough I couldn’t bite through it. I decided that when you pay $10 after tax, it’s a little too expensive for a quick eat-at-my-desk lunch.

Sandwiches are my favorite food, so it’s never going to be a “quick eat-at-my-desk lunch” for me. They are to be savored slowly, and I determined that the four sandwiches I sampled at ‘wichcraft were mouth-stretchingly good.

Whiskey Primer

Whiskey Primer

Watch out for the revenuers. READ MORE

The Return of Moopheus

For a while there, it seemed like you couldn’t swing a cat at a Veg Fest without hitting a monitor that was showing The Meatrix (not that you’d want to swing a cat at a Veg Fest. In fact, that’s the last place you’d want to do that). The Meatrix was a savvy piece of animated propaganda that posited a future in which Leo the pig took the red pill and was introduced to the horror of factory farming by a cow called Moopheus.

Now the folks at Sustainable Table are trying to re-create that buzz with a new episode —The Meatrix II 1/2. Timed to help promote and capitalize on the release of Richard Linklater’s Fast Food Nation, the new episode deals with the politics of slaughterhouses. And while the deplorability of the conditions for both humans and animals in that industry isn’t news, the short film is a good reminder of how much easier it is to get a dose of E. coli from a batch of burgers than from a bunch of spinach.

How to Eat More

Big meal coming up? Strategy is required. READ MORE

Terrible Tobiko

Terrible Tobiko

Tobiko and masago, the cheap fish roes on top of many sushi rolls, are far from fresh. READ MORE

Iron Chef Goes Collegiate

The rivalry between Stanford and UC Berkeley, well known to football fans, is taking a culinary turn. This week, students will face off in an Iron Chef–style cooking competition.

San Francisco Chronicle blog Nwzchik reports that the cooking competition, scheduled for Sunday, will pit teams from each school against each other and up against the challenge of preparing three dishes all featuring a secret ingredient (said to be bread, eggs, tomatoes, apple sauce, or tofu). Each five-member team will have one hour to complete its dishes, which will then be judged by a panel that includes the mayors of Berkeley and Palo Alto.

The competition is being sponsored by the year-old Cal Cooking Club and is open to the public, with tickets at $5 ($3 for students).

Will the home-court advantage favor the Cal team (not to mention the proximity to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto)? It remains to be seen. One thing is certain: The marching band will not be in attendance. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some wave action happening in Kitchen Stadium.

Bogged Down in Manhattan

New York magazine has a brief item on superchef Ming Tsai’s visit this week to Rockefeller Center. Awaiting him, courtesy of Ocean Spray, is a massive artificial cranberry bog.

As a regular commuter through the bogs of Wisconsin, I’ve found it’s easy to forget that most people don’t get the opportunity to see cranberries in a natural—or, in this case, a simulated natural—state. It’s therefore exciting to imagine several hundred thousand Food Network viewers from Iowa pushing blindly through a scrum of Ecko windbreakers to get the opportunity to see (if for one fleeting, glorious moment) a giant swimming pool inhabited by what appears to be a dwarf in rubber waders.

And, of course, the berries, bobbing majestically like a fleet of tiny red basketballs on a stagnant sea of frigid water.

Some advice for tourists: bring a large thermos and cart off as many as you can steal. No amount is too large. My fiancée’s parents, no strangers to good eats, buy roughly 50 pounds of berries a year while they’re in season and then freeze whatever they don’t rapidly convert into delicious cranberry sauce. The rest crop up periodically in cobblers and apple pies, lending a zippy tartness to desserts that might otherwise wilt under their own insipid sweetness.

Load up, and let the two-month holiday cooking season begin!