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

The Teastick

The Teastick

Replace your tea ball. READ MORE

Bottle Opener/Fridge Magnet

Bottle Opener/Fridge Magnet

Beer inside, opener on the door. READ MORE

Just-Rite Juicer

Just-Rite Juicer

The little orange that could. READ MORE

Normann Copenhagen Collapsible Funnel

Normann Copenhagen Collapsible Funnel

You can close your drawer again. READ MORE

25I Super Reflux Essential Extractor

25I Super Reflux Essential Extractor

Don't use this for moonshine. READ MORE

In the Wong Place

There’s no doubt about it, Lee Anne Wong was my favorite Top Chef from the first season. Until she got booted after the Napa challenge, I had her picked as the winner. Or, at the very least, one of the final two.

Imagine my delight when I learned that would be giving us hungry surfers “Top Recipe: The Wong Way to Cook.” In the form of two-minute-long vids, Lee Anne teaches us—from her post at the French Culinary Institute in New York, no less—how to make each week’s winning dish.

However, if you want to make them exactly like you saw on television, you might be disappointed, because Lee Anne puts her own spin on the dishes. For instance, when making Frank’s low-calorie pizza, Lee Anne uses whole-wheat pita bread instead of making her own crust. (Admittedly, we could blame that choice on time constraints.) However, it would also be nice if they demonstrated the winning Quickfire dish as well. I certainly could use some sushi tips.

Too bad the Bravo site is so overwrought with fripperies and furbelows that it makes the video clips difficult to access and play at a respectable speed.

The blog TVWeek shares my frustration, and suggests:

Here’s my two cents. And take it for what it’s worth from someone who believes that if the universe intended for me to cook then restaurants wouldn’t exist, but this video needs to be much easier to find. It’s a great clip—for an escargot recipe—and a smart tie-in, but I wouldn’t even know it was a video from the image on the home page.”

Feed Me, Seymour!

BBC News recently reported that scientists at the Institute for Food Research have created a nifty computer-controlled artificial stomach that can be fed real food. According to its designers, the slick research device “mimics both the physical and chemical reactions that take place during digestion—and can even vomit.”

This makes it a step up from previous models, which focused mainly on chemistry, although we don’t want to be there when some frisky lab intern hits the puke button for a lark.

Says chief designer Dr. Martin Wickham, “Our knowledge of what actually happens in the gut is still very rudimentary, but we hope that this model can help fill in some of the blanks.”

Wafer-thin mint, anyone?

The Best Story About Wine Labels You’ll Read This Week

E/The Environmental Magazine fronts a tastefully busty brunette holding a glass of red vino to add a bit of pizzazz to an informative cover story on organic wines.

The wines are apparently hitting their stride, with U.S. sales of certified organic wine and those made with organic grapes hitting $80 million last year, up 28 percent since 2004. Moreover, the Organic Trade Association expects organic wine sales to grow about 17 percent each year through 2008.

As is usual with these sort of write-ups, the piece spends a good deal of its time sorting out its terms—”made from organic grapes” versus “USDA organic” versus “biodynamic,” and so on. A lot rides on sulfites—although the stuff occurs naturally in the winemaking process, winemakers who add a bit of the preservative to their wine blow their shot at a straight-up organic certification.

E also dedicates a sidebar to the all-important issue of whether organic wines, in addition to helping save the planet or whatever, also taste as good as their nonorganic counterparts. The verdict, as rendered by Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, is pretty positive. Other critics are less kind, but the article’s reasonable conclusion is that organic wine has the potential to be as good as wine produced by more industrial processes, and that a lot rides on the particular winemaker and the particular year.

The Stink of Progress

The Wall Street Journal reports that Kraft is ringing in the holidays with a pricey gimmick—scratch ‘n’ sniff ads in a special edition of People.

The magazine’s copy features stories about the holiday habits of dead-eyed celebs as well as suggestions on how to celebrate the season (I’m thinking buy Kraft products is probably the message here). Five of the ads sprinkled throughout the magazine contain microscopic fragrance capsules mixed into a special varnish. If consumers want to experience the industrial-dairy-fresh fragrance of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, they can have a whiff with a scratch and a sniff.

I dunno, I’m thinking one could use the scented ads as perfume. A little Chips Ahoy behind the ears? Cherry Jell-O on the pulse points? Is that crappy snack food, or is that the smell of progress?

God’s Own Flapjack

At the Prather Ranch stand at the Ferry Building farmer’s market, you can get big, fluffy buttermilk pancakes, topped with whiskey-laced maple syrup, served alongside a richly flavored sausage made from heritage pork. For $7 it’s enough food to feed two chowhounds. Really. The pancakes are tender and slightly tangy, some of the best Melanie Wong has had in a long time. And the sausage is satisfying and juicy.

These are the people who brought you pork from pigs fed on organic hops. They would not do you wrong.

Prather Ranch Meat Co [Embarcadero]
One Ferry Bldg, Shop #32, San Francisco

Board Links
Pancake Breakfast @ Prather Ranch (San Francisco)