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

Best Bread(s) for French Toast

Top chowhound votegetter for perfect French toast bread is challah, sliced thick. It’s appreciated for its ability to really soak up the eggy batter and form a slightly crunchy crust in the pan and keep a soft, eggy interior. A close runner up is King’s Hawaiian bread, another egg bread that’s slightly sweet. Other hound recommendations include brioche, Portuguese sweet bread (which is similar to King’s Hawaiian), bread from Chinese bakeries, and for a super-rich variation, croissants. This time of year, great French toast can be made with pannetone, the rich Italian sweet bread made with preserved fruit and candied orange peel, available imported and often made by local Italian bakeries.

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Best Bread for French Toast?

Pumpkins

All pumpkins aren’t created equal when it comes to pie-making.

The decorative pumpkins used for jack-o-lanterns is bred to have a thin outer skin so they’re easier to carve. They’re watery, stringy and not particularly sweet, Karen_Schaffer explains. Winter Luxury Pie is the best variety for pie making, she says. Sugar Pie pumpkins make good pies too. The best way to test for a good pumpkin is to taste a bit of it raw. The better it tastes raw, the better it will be once cooked. Robert Lauriston says the best pie squash is the butternut.

Squash varieties with pictures.

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About Pumpkin Varieties

alright, i need a pumpkin pie recipe using fresh pumpkin….....anyone???

Hershey’s Has Gone Bananas over Elvis!

The interwebs are abuzz with the news that Hershey’s is rolling out an Elvis-inspired confection that’s fit for a King.

In honor of Presley’s 30 consecutive years of probably being dead, the chocolatier to the masses is releasing chocolate peanut butter cups topped off with a sinfully delicious layer of banana cream. Whether in mini, regular, or (of course!) king size, every cup is a loving tribute to the fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches that Elvis gorged himself upon during his tragic parabolic descent toward a drug-addled demise.

Expect the whimsical memorial treat to hit the shelves next July.

Does It Matter Whether You Use a Glass or Metal Baking Dish?

Does It Matter Whether You Use a Glass or Metal Baking Dish?

It depends on what you're making. READ MORE

The Cookies Didn’t Last a Day

San Francisco bus stops are cookie free today after an advertising campaign that infused the scent of chocolate chip cookies into city bus shelters has been shut down. Hungry commuters will have to sniff elsewhere.

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, the California Milk Processor Board-sponsored ad campaign (the “Got Milk?” folks) gambled that the cookie scent would inspire a craving for a nice glass of cold milk (Pavlov would be so proud). The fragrance came from strips infused with cookie scent that were affixed to several bus stops in the city.

But the Municipal Transportation Agency, under pressure from activists concerned about those with scent or chemical sensitivities, called a halt to the program almost immediately. Now the transportation board is looking at banning all scented advertisements.

While some are calling it a victory for those with environmental illnesses, others are calling foul. At Slashfood, Nicole Weston points out, “Honestly, if you can’t handle the scent of chocolate chip cookies, how on earth can you handle taking a bus in a big city? Do these activists actually walk around San Francisco? It’s not the cleanest-smelling city in the world.”

This was the first attempt at outdoor scent-based advertising, and the sponsors knew it would likely be controversial. According to the Chronicle, “A spokeswoman for the board went as far as to say last week that if the campaign could fly in San Francisco, it could fly anywhere.” While the scented adverts were removed, the company that planned the promotion was quick to point out that the strips do not contain chemicals.

So it’s back to the smell of car exhaust and garbage at the bus stops; for that fresh-out-of-the-oven scent you’ll have to head to the bakery (I know, how boring). As for the dreamed-of run on milk, that was just never going to happen, cookie scent or no cookie scent.

But at least they earned the press they were looking for. Good job, guys. Want a cookie?

Wine Geek Boat Trip

New London, New Hampshire

After a day of swirling, spitting, and grasping for just the right flavor adjectives, today Jack and Thelma announced we’d be doing champagne brunch on a boat.


Deb and Jim, all bright-eyed and bloaty.


I catch Andy sneaking a soda.

Sixteen hung-over titans of industry in a small boat on a stormy lake might be a recipe for trouble …

But no problem, ‘cuz here comes Thelma:


(“Thelma,” obviously, spells fun.)

Champagne certainly helps!


Jack and Thelma.

Jack and Thelma get down to my funky solo trombone recital:

After the boat ride, we tore into a bunch of Burgundy. This is slightly shocking, as Jack and Thelma are staunch Bordeaux partisans. Their friends have long been trying to spark their Burgundy interest, and this year they’ve finally capitulated, arranging an informal Burgundy tasting at lunch.

It was a good chance to record some discussion of the two wine regions. You needn’t be a wine geek to enjoy the following discussions:

Podcast 1—MP3: Thelma contrasts Bordeaux with Burgundy.

Podcast 2—MP3: Thelma explains why Burgundies are more suited to big tastings (plus: the proper way to drink Bordeaux at a big tasting).

Podcast 3—MP3: Bob Feinn, owner of Mt. Carmel Wine and Spirits, is one of the most knowledgable experts in the country, and he (like a number of American wine lovers) has grown infatuated with Burgundy. Thelma and I lightheartedly argue with him as he tries to account for his preference.

Podcast 4—MP3: Debate resumed (with wine in hand), we get to the gist: It all boils down to diet.

Podcast 5—MP3: Thelma and I catch Jack waxing rhapsodic over a Burgundy, and I fear for their marriage (needlessly, it turns out).

Bring On the Bubbles

Bring On the Bubbles

A primer on champagne. READ MORE

From Me to You

From Me to You

Your host and hostess deserve your thanks. READ MORE

Singing for His Supper

Singing for His Supper

Frank Terzoli sings the 'Top Chef' blues, or aria. READ MORE

Cherry on Top

I like food and I like sex. I’m not too crazy about the combination. though. Not so those crazy kids at the Philadelphia Weekly, who this week have put out (heh) their “Sexy Food” issue. The topic manifests itself in the illos that run through the section, extreme close-up photos of fruits and veggies looking all hot and bothered (sort of the grown-up version of those Joost Elffers Play with Your Food books), as well as in articles about aphrodisiacs, eating less for better performance (hmm, wonder if those Calorie Restriction folks are doing it like rabbits), and a piece titled “Strip Grub”, in which the restaurant critic contemplates the food at Philly’s various “gentlemen’s clubs.”

We were tempted to order Delilah’s ‘Very Best Breast’ of chicken, but considering there was no shortage of breasts around, we passed.

On the more foodie, less sexy side, there is a chilling inside look at the life of a picky eater. In “Wet, the Appetite”, Daniel McQuade writes about his lifelong struggle with his palate.

I love food. I love pizza and fries, apples and string cheese. I love ravioli and pancakes, rye bread and French toast. Recently I’ve been eating a lot of carrots. Problem is, the above list pretty much comprises the only things I eat …

The inverse of a Chowhound, the yin to a gourmet’s yang, McQuade does have a favorite restaurant: the Olive Garden.