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

When in Rome…or Oaxaca

Sometimes, traveling or living abroad, you see the locals eating something really cool, or eating the same old thing in an exciting way. In Oaxaca, spigot learned to put a little chile pepper and lime on fresh fruit–it sharpens the flavor and undercuts the sweetness. In Italy, piccola learned to toss a chunk of Parmesan rind into soup to add flavor. BobB likes to serve quince paste with sharp cheese, as he learned in Madrid. (Other Madrid fare: fried whole anchovies.) And lots of chowhounds like to rub ripe tomatoes on crusty bread, with or without a pinch of salt, as they do in Barcelona.

In Melbourne, oakjoan learned to love the combination of yogurt, stewed rhubarb, and meusli for breakfast. In Ecuador, Dave MP learned to add a cut-up banana to arroz con pollo, and to put bits of sharp, hard Andean cheese in hot chocolate. Taralli learned to love Greek breakfast offerings, like octopus marinated in olive oil, lemon, and oregano. In Uganda, Hoosierland learned that fried grasshoppers make a fantastic snack with beer.

And do not limit your fries to a ketchup bath. Malt vinegar, mayonnaise, and bearnaise sauce all make great international condiments for french fries.

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Favourite tips you picked up while travelling ? [Moved from Home Cooking]

Chowhound Gift-Giving Tips

What presents of food are most welcomed during the holidays? Anything homemade gets automatic points with chowhounds–surprisingly, even if it’s not that good. The effort put into it and the warmth of the gesture makes up for a lot, and the recipient gets to try something unique. Unusual things that come from a special place (and aren’t available at the local supermarket of the recipient) are especially appreciated, like a special bottle of vanilla extract from Mexico, chocolate from South America, pecans from Georgia, or saffron from Spain. Any food that the giver actually smuggled through customs is looked on with special favor. A bacon-of-the-month-club subscription is appreciated, but make sure the recipient is not a vegetarian.

Almost universally reviled: fruit. Whether in fresh fruit baskets or attractive arrangements of dried fruit, chowhounds put the gift of fruit right up there with coal in the stocking.

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What food item do you love/hate to receive as a gift?

Overlooked and Misunderstood

Overlooked and Misunderstood

The building blocks of the kitchen should get a little more attention. READ MORE

Would You Like a Patchouli Parfait?

Pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini is teaming up with Macy’s department stores to offer desserts paired with specific perfumes. Musk Melba, anyone?

Iuzzini, of Restaurant Jean Georges, will give an hourlong presentation that focuses on fragrance notes in the perfumes that are echoed in the specifically chosen desserts. The final component of the event will be a dessert and fragrance sampling. Iuzzini will be assisted by chef Bill Yosses.

According to this article, “Macy’s and Iuzzini are hoping that the multiple sensory elements to the presentation will allow for a memorable connection to the fragrances, thus resulting in increased fragrance sales.”

Channeling chocolate in order to hawk high-priced perfume to women? That might not be such a bad sales plan.

The programs will be offered at four different Macy’s locations: New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Miami. There is a $25 attendance charge, which can then be applied toward any fragrance purchase.

Just don’t tell me they’ll be offering a Sandalwood Sundae.

Junkin’ on the Job

Forget the dreaded “freshman 15.” If you think college makes you gain weight, try locking yourself in a room writing funny dialogue for city-dwelling singles or precocious bratty kids all day.

In yesterday’s New York Times Magazine, Virginia Heffernan invades sitcom writing rooms to find out why TV scribes always seem so schlubby. What she finds out may shock you:

Brownie Bites. Dunkers. Sandies. Peanut-butter cups. Keebler Chips Deluxe Cookies. Keebler Fruit Delights. Teriyaki beef jerky. Salt-and-vinegar Kettle Chips. Cheez-Its. White-cheddar Cheez-Its. Junk, in other words: delectable, irresistible, shelf-stable experiments in partial hydrogenation seasoned with sugar, salt and red-orange “spices.”

But the orgy doesn’t end at snack foods. Sitcom writers, under stress to produce episodes on the fly, generally don’t leave the writers’ room for meals; instead, they have lunches and dinners brought in. Multicourse lunches and dinners.

Jon Beckerman, a creator of ‘Ed’ and of ABC’s ‘Knights of Prosperity,’ says: ‘Eating restaurant meals twice a day, every day, seems great at first. The food is delicious, and you don’t have to pay for it! Plus, you find yourself thinking, I’m trapped in a windowless room for 16 hours a day: I deserve a five-course Greek meal. Before you know it, you’ve gained 30 pounds. Which I have.’

Heffernan notes that the writers’ drug of choice used to be be cocaine. Now it’s Chocodiles, a treat for which she obligingly provides a delicious-sounding recipe. Maybe she should have provided one for apple slices instead.

A Taste of Chinese Toronto

Fantasy Eatery is the U.S. beachhead of a Toronto-area Chinese restaurant, with a menu ranging from Chiu Chow items to hot pots to some caf

The Filipino Spice Express

Filipino food is known for being fatty and vinegary, but spicy? At Alejandro’s, pleasurepalate discovered a few lesser-known dishes that left her mouth tingling.

Bicol express, seafood saut

Hot Pressed Leek Tart at the Fig Pantry

The Fig Pantry, a recently-opened bakery and delicatessen in Sonoma, is full of delicious things, not least of which is their leek tart, heated in a press. It’s rich, filling, and loaded with flavor–sort of a thin quiche Lorraine, minus the bacon. “It makes me want to try more of their things, but I don’t know if I can get past this one the next time I’m there,” says Mick Ruthven.

rworange loves their Alexander Valley pickles, and ranks their bagels as some of the best in the Bay. The coffee they brew and sell is by Graffeo, and they carry several flavors of Fiorello’s gelato from San Rafael.

And somebody please try the “frozen twinkie,” which looks like a small chocolate-covered yule log with a white squiggle on top.

Fig Pantry [Sonoma County]
1190 E. Napa St., Sonoma

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First visit to the Fig Pantry–Good! (Sonoma)

Pulled Pork at Trail Dust

FueledByGnocchi highly recommends the pulled pork sandwich at Trail Dust, if you can make it early on a Saturday night. The meat is pull-apart tender, and served with a delectable sweet vinegar sauce called “hog wash.” The sides–coleslaw, beans, potatoes, bread–are nothing to rave about, but you go for the meat, not the damn coleslaw. They also produce great smoked ribs, tri-tip, and chicken, smoking the meat all day in preparation for dinner.

Trail Dust BBQ Joint [South Bay]
17240 Monterey St., Morgan Hill

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Where to eat and what to do in San Martin, CA?

From Lemons to Apples at Corona’s Ice King

When the temperature drops in fall, so does demand for Italian ices, sending some purveyors into hibernation. But not Corona’s Lemon Ice King, which shifts into autumnal mode and starts making caramel apples. They come in five flavors: cherry, coconut, sprinkles, caramel, and butterscotch, reports Linda. The shop’s hours shorten with the days–to 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. in October and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. after that.

For caramel apples with the emphasis on the apple, go to the farm. Williams’ Fruit Farm in Ulster County sets up shop on Saturdays at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, peddling apples and apple treats. The quality and freshness of the fruit set their product apart, says bolletje, but the homemade-tasting caramel also shines. Look for Williams’ stand on the Prospect Park West side of the market.

On Coney Island, you’ll find terrific caramel apples at William’s Candy Shoppe, a Surf Avenue landmark. Fresh soft caramel covers good crisp apples, reports JessicaSophia. Also available: red candy apples and–only for those with a serious sweet tooth–marshmallows dipped in caramel and peanuts.

The Lemon Ice King [Corona]
52-02 108th St., at 52nd Ave., Corona, Queens

Williams’ Fruit Farm stand [Park Slope]
at Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket
Grand Army Plaza, north entrance to Prospect Park, Brooklyn

William’s Candy Shoppe [Coney Island]
1318 Surf Ave., between Stillwell Ave. and W. 15th St., Brooklyn

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Fall must! Caramel apples with peanuts