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

A License to Print Money

The week’s edition of Gleeful Profiteering We Saw in Gourmet is a brief item called “Prints Charming.”

We’ve always admired the gorgeous botanical prints produced in centuries past. But with price tags often in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, that was all we could do. Now Discovery Editions is using new technology to reproduce these mouthwatering treasures in exquisite detail…. (From $495)


Translation:

Are you looking for a way to spend $500 or more for a reproduced picture of grapes? Now discoveryeditions.com is using new technology to bill your credit card an amount equivalent to the fee a skilled artist would charge for actually visiting your kitchen with one of those little palette things and just painting the grapes from scratch.


Seriously: Does Gourmet presume that its readers don’t know about eBay? Or, say, estate sales? Or vintage wine labels? Or antique book sellers? It would be one thing if Discovery Editions were selling actual prints for $500. It would be another if they were charging $50—or even $100—for high-quality reproductions. But in our modern era, you can go to a Kinko’s and get color copies of a luscious fidelity on high-quality paper for an entirely reasonable amount of money.

At any rate, a much more legitimate item immediately below “Prints Charming” details Bar Code Revolution, a Japanese design firm’s effort to inject UPC numbers with artistic oomph while retaining their technological utility. Now that’s progress.

Capers in the Kitchen

Capers are great for mashing into cream cheese to make a bagel schmear, especially with salmon and dill, says MuppetGirl. Indeed, they’re often part of a brunch spread with smoked salmon or lox, red onions, cucumbers, and bagels or black bread.

They’re really nice fried or sauteed; Cinnamon had deep-fried capers on a Caesar salad, and says they were so incredible, she’ll probably never have capers any other way at home now. Drain and dry capers very well, and deep fry very briefly.

Some enjoy capers with eggs. Bananna A adds them to eggs with sauteed red, green, and yellow peppers with lots of cracked black pepper; she says the capers provide tiny hits of tang to balance the sweet peppers and creamy egg. Capers always go in grapevine’s deviled eggs.

Capers go well with mild fish; the classic use is fish with caper-inflected lemon-butter sauce. shanda013 makes a sauce for tilapia with butter, tomatoes, scallions, mushrooms, capers, chicken broth, and salt and pepper. toodie jane says of snapper Veracruzana, “Capers make this dish!” Here”s how: Make a tomato sauce with sauteed peppers, onions. and tomatoes, and season with stuffed green olives and capers. Pour over whole snapper or thick fillets, drizzle with olive oil, and bake about 20 minutes at 350F. Serve over rice.

mielimato loves pasta salad flavored with anchovies and capers mashed together, tossed with pasta, oil-packed tuna, parsley, and tomatoes.

Saute capers in butter; add white wine and fresh parsley, and serve over chicken with a little grated Parmesan, recommends foggy.

Board Links
Caper question

Lobster Lifespan Out of the Tank

Most people buy lobsters and cook them the same day, but it’s possible to keep the critters alive, if not quite kicking, for 24 to 36 hours after they’ve left the store’s tank. Simply keep them in the heavy-duty paper bag your fishmonger packaged them in, wrapped in damp newspaper, and put them on the bottom shelf of the fridge or in a crisper drawer. The cold will dull them into inaction, but make sure they’re alive (their antennae should be active) before cooking. Don’t ever bury lobsters in ice or keep them in fresh water–since they’re saltwater creatures, this is a sure recipe for death.

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HOw long will lobster live out of the tank?

Care and Feeding of Unpasteurized Cider

Many Chowhounds buy unpasteurized cider, both for the sake of being close to nature and for the beautiful fermentation that happens in the fridge after about three weeks. The natural yeasts in the cider go to work, and it gets slightly fizzy and ferment-y, improving in flavor for about ten days, says Karl S.

The problem with unpasteurized cider is that it doesn’t keep well. Solution: freeze it, say chowhounds. It doesn’t alter the taste of the cider and doesn’t kill the little yeast beasties that call your cider their home, and make it fizzy for you with their wild yeast orgies. For yeast, a trip to the freezer is like a ten-hour business meeting–they just kind of space out the whole time, and when they get out they’re ready to party.

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Should I Freeze My Apple Cider?

Textured Vegetable Protein

Textured vegetable protein, also known as textured soy protein and commonly abbreviated TVP or TSP, doesn’t sound, look, or taste very appealing. But, like most carbon-based items, it has its uses in the kitchen. As the name hints, TVP can add texture to a vegetarian dish where you’d normally supply meat. It tastes like nothing, says FlavoursGal–it just sits inoffensively and soaks up the flavors of whatever you cook it in.

To use TVP, rehydrate it according to package directions, or add it directly to a sauce you’re making. If you’re rehydrating, add TVP during the last 10 minutes of cooking. If you’re using it straight out of the package, just cook it just until it reaches the texture you’re after. Be sure to add more liquid to the sauce than usual to make up for what the TVP will absorb.

TVP finds more detractors than most processed food products–hounds loathe it for aesthetic, political, environmental, and health reasons. “It’s the only food (thought calling it food is a stretch) that I will never eat under any circumstances,” says Morton the Mousse.

Board Links
TVP / TSP–tasty?

Fight the Powerade

Cheerios in the car seat, GoGurts at recess, SunChips after soccer: Is kiddie life just one long graze-a-thon? Tough-talking thriller writer Harlan Coben rallies the ‘rents from the bully pulpit of the Times’ op-ed page, pledging to fight American Snack Tyranny, surburban-sports division.

Coben points out, rightly, that the little darlings on the soccer team are supposed to be expending energy, not fueling up on “yet another bag of Doritos and a juice box with enough sugar to coat a Honda Odyssey” the minute the running stops. In other words, whatever happened to good old water?

And don’t think you can get away with dumping a platter of “softball-sized cupcakes” off at school when it’s little Tyler or Emma’s birthday, either.

Have you ever seen the leftovers brought into the school’s main office? By two in the afternoon, the place looks like the San Gennaro festival.

The verdict on the Letters page? Unsnackers, unite (requires registration)! After all, it’s never too early for calorie restriction.

100 Pounds of Leftovers

100 Pounds of Leftovers

A meat-and-potatoes guy tries to save money by buying an entire side of beef. READ MORE

Flying Feasts for the Elite

So, if the astronauts get Alain Ducasse and Emeril Lagasse, what do we pathetic earthlings get?

Well, if you’re lucky enough to fly BusinessElite on Delta, you get to sup on meals created by celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein. Delta and Bernstein offer such tempting treats as pomegranate-glazed lamb with pilaf, and grilled fish with sweet corn succotash and ancho lime butter.

Delta tells us:

[i]n addition to a refurbished personal dining menu, Delta’s enhanced BusinessElite experience will include: comfortable all-leather sleeper seats with 60” of legroom; a digital, on-demand entertainment system with an extensive movie selection, the ability to build a personal music playlist, a suite of video games, and in-seat laptop power outlets; and a cleaner, brighter cabin.


Don’t mind us plebes back in normal-people class—we’ll just starve in our cramped, boring, and apparently dark and dirty cabins. Or we’ll bring on some food from SkyMeals. This month, Health Magazine announces that you can order meals, such as shrimp and asparagas farfalle fra diavolo, or snacks, like chilled stuffed artichoke with prosciutto, from SkyMeals and have them delivered curbside in an insulated tote.

While the food can run you anywhere from $7.25 for vegetarian sushi to $29.95 for a European Brunch, it certainly seems cheaper than bumping yourself up to business class. However, in order to get these rather pricey meals, you have to be flying out of the L.A. area.

Other carriers are getting in on the “special food for especially rich fliers” plan. Lufthansa will be offering two—smoked marlin with beet gelée and air-dried beef from Leon from Juan Amador, holder of two Michelin stars. Singapore Airlines has snagged the profane Gordon Ramsay, and Air France trumps Lufthansa by offering meals created by Guy Martin, who has three Michelin stars.

I think I’ll just keep brown-bagging it. At least until I win the lottery.

Going Global, Eating Local

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the high jinks going on at the recent Slow Food Terra Madre conference in Turin. OK, maybe the high jinks were few, but there’s no doubt that California’s sustainability stars—like Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and Berkeley prof Michael Pollan—were hotshots among the Slow Fooders munching lardo and discussing the superiority of prosciutto made from acorn-fed pigs. (And take a look at the CHOW digest, with food editor Aida Mollenkamp reporting from Turin.)

The conference’s own blog, featuring postings in French, Spanish, English, and Italian, offers a small window onto the diversity of cultural traditions and innovations celebrated at the conference, a five-day gathering of over 5,000 farmers, food artisans, chefs, and activists dedicated to sustainable, small-scale agricultural production.

Despite the surrounding Piedmont region’s reputation for culinary excellence (requires registration), though, some Californians were a little surprised at what they couldn’t get for dinner. Chronicle writer Carol Ness quotes Blong Lee, a representative of the Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission, on his Central Valley group’s quest for Italian food:

‘We went to a fancy restaurant last night,’ said Lee. ‘We tried to order pizza with pepperoni and they didn’t have it, and lasagna and spaghetti and meatballs, but they didn’t have it. It’s not the type of Italian food we expected.’

If You Can’t Beat Them …

You can’t open the newspaper these days without reading some alarming new tidbit about the wages of fatness or childhood obesity.

Happily, tomorrow is Halloween, and we get to lay all that aside for one night and indulge in a bacchanalia of candy consumption only dreamed about on the other 364 days of the year.

Some people, of course, have a harder time laying aside their concerns about fat, calories, and tooth decay: nutritionists, dentists, spokespersons for nutritionally correct organizations. The L. A. Times has corralled a group of these professional healthy eaters to ask what they plan to pass out to the little witches, ghosts, and goblins who ring their doorbells.

The overwhelming favorite? Candy! Oh yes, they may offer toothbrushes or toys alongside the Snickers, but even the director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public interest is planning to go with the Halloween flow and pass out the sweet stuff. And while my personal hero Marion Nestle isn’t planning on passing out anything (she says no kids come to her Manhattan apartment), she does admit to an occasional candy apple jones:

“Especially ones with the worst red, hard candy on them.”