The CHOW Blog rss

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

Mouth vs. Mouth

Somebody up there loves me. Or, at least, someone on Food Network loves me, because why else would they pit Giada De Laurentiis against Rachael Ray in an Iron Chef competition?

I kid you not. On November 12, Iron Chef America will pit she of the 30 Minute Meals and the pump-DOWN-the-volume talk show against Little Big Head De Laurentiis. When I saw the promo, two thoughts immediately went through my mind: “Well, they won’t need to mike Rachael,” and “I wonder if Giada will insist they use that porntastic wide-angle lens on her.”

Their styles are very different, so it’s anyone’s guess how these food femmes will perform under the watchful eye of Alton Brown. On the one oven mitt you’ve got Giada’s carefully prepared home-style Italian fare, and on the other you’ve got Rachael’s speedy-delivery meals that have her doing balancing acts all over the kitchen. Not sure how either will go down in Kitchen Stadium.

Of course, this may seem like a weird departure for Iron Chef America, given that neither Ray nor De Laurentiis actually is an Iron Chef, but they will both be given a handicap in the form of actual Iron Chefs. Bobby Flay will back De Laurentiis, and Mario Batali will be lending his considerable hands to Ray.

The blog ENTER CREATIVE TITLE HERE comments on the handicap: “They are SAVING these shitty women from making fools out of themselves in a really intense competition. DAMN IT!”

Personal likes and dislikes being what they are, I’m putting my money on Team Batali-Ray. Don’t make me sauté and eat my words, Rachael.

I’ll Pay You to Kill My Steer

I’ll Pay You to Kill My Steer

Free-range and grass-fed animals are big with consumers. So why won't most American slaughterhouses kill them? READ MORE

Small Servings = Long Life?

In the past month, calorie restriction (or CR, as the kids are calling it) has become the hottest new health craze to read about, if not to try. Last week there was the gonzo feature in New York magazine, which described the near-starvation diet that CR practitioners live on in the hopes of increasing their lifespan. And Tuesday saw two CR-related pieces in The New York Times (requires registration) and The Wall Street Journal. Readers are eating this stuff up—in just a few hours, the Times piece floated to the top of the “Most E-Mailed” list and stayed there.

Perhaps its popularity is due in part to its promise that in the future, we may be able to get CR’s benefits without the hunger pangs. Recent findings about the link between calorie restriction and longevity in lab animals, the article says,

suggest that other interventions, which include new drugs, may retard aging even if the diet itself should prove ineffective in humans. One leading candidate, a newly synthesized form of resveratrol—an antioxidant present in large amounts in red wine—is already being tested in patients. It may eventually be the first of a new class of anti-aging drugs. Extrapolating from recent animal findings, Dr. Richard A. Miller, a pathologist at the University of Michigan, estimated that a pill mimicking the effects of calorie restriction might increase human life span to about 112 healthy years, with the occasional senior living until 140, though some experts view that projection as overly optimistic.

The life-extension community may be psyched about the possibility of a CR diet-in-a-pill, but I’m more inclined to side with the skeptics discussed in the Journal piece (and notably absent from the Times story): Do researchers “really understand the workings of CR well enough to mimic them in a drug?”

And, I’d add, do they really want to? The kind of people who are interested in living that long might not actually be the type you’d want to have hanging around for more than a century … but maybe that’s just me.

You’d Better Be Anorexic

You’d Better Be Anorexic

Is eating really slow rude to your fellow diners? READ MORE

How to Make Vinaigrette

Play Video

Tips for a basic salad dressing. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Pimp Your Burger

Pimp Your Burger

Mix-ins, not toppings, turn ground beef into the best burgers. READ MORE

Graveyard Picnic

Graveyard Picnic

Traditional Day of the Dead treats from Mexico. READ MORE

The Mouse, the Man, and the Sandwich

This month’s edition of Cook’s Country reverse-engineers and scales up the Monte Cristo sandwich, an old-school Disneyland favorite.

As someone whose only vivid memory of going to Disneyland as a wee kid was loving the bread bowl clam chowder at the Pirates of the Caribbean restaurant (You can eat the bowl! Holy crap! This entrée is seditiously awesome!), this struck a sympathetic chord. And in the fine tradition of Cook’s Illustrated, the deconstruction of the Monte Cristo is both painstaking and crystal clear, resulting in a recipe that practically begs the home chef to implement it immediately.

Moreover, Cook’s Country took the time to identify the Monte Cristo’s Achilles heel—for a sandwich, the damn thing takes a long time to make. The CC version is scaled up so as to allow chefs to crank out six at a crack.

The magic of the Monte Cristo is that it’s a unique marriage of the classic grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich and, well, French toast. With ingredients that include powdered sugar, Gruyère cheese, raspberry jam, and cayenne pepper, it sounds like a train wreck waiting to happen, but it’s maintained 40 years of popularity at the theme park’s Blue Bayou restaurant.

Then again, there’s no accounting for American taste …

Cocoa Bar: Luxe Chocolate Under Wraps in Hell’s Kitchen

Behind the unpromising facade of a Tasti D-Lite outlet in Hell’s Kitchen, there lurks a classy chocolate salon called Cocoa Bar, reports Peter Cuce. Hot chocolate, made from the good stuff like MarieBelle and Schokinag, can be stellar, depending on who’s behind the counter. Also available: espresso drinks from Lavazza coffee, teas and tisanes, and fancy candies (Blanxart from Spain, Dolfin and Cote D’Or from Belgium). Nice comfortable chairs and couches, too.

The Cocoa Bar [Clinton]
630 9th Ave., between W. 44th and 45th Sts., inside Tasti D-Lite, Manhattan
212-265-4977
Map

Board Links
Naked City Cafe? Any other Starbucks alternatives in Hell’s Kitchen

Salvadoran Plantain Empanadas

We usually think of empanadas as pastry shells filled with good things, like beans or sardines. Salvadoran plantain and sweet milk empanadas–sometimes called empanaditas–are a whole other beast, as katya will testify. Instead of pastry, the outside layer is composed of caramelized plantains. Inside is molten sweet milk. It’s a tasty dish, and the version at Sabor Salvadoreno is very, very good. A pupusa and a plantain empanada will run you $3.75.

Sabor Salvadoreno [South Bay]
2045 White Oak Lane, at Poinciana Dr., Santa Clara
408-985-6464
Locater

Board Links
Santa Clara’s Sabor Salvadoreno: I’m a Fan-tain of the Plantains