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

Daring to Durian

Durian fruit is part of the Advanced Chowhound Curriculum. Many people know of it only as “that weird smell when you walk into an Asian grocery store.” Some find it sweet, musky, grassy, oniony, and overwhelming. It’s like “some freaky-deaky intimate experience that I can’t get out of my head,” says raj1. It looks like a giant predator fruit from the planet Zorkon. “It’s like eating your favorite ice cream on the toilet,” says s0memale.

To introduce yourself to the funky savor that is durian, Pei advises you to first try it frozen, and then, if you can handle it, in a shake. Only then should you eat it fresh.

Just don’t combine it with beer or anything that will make you burp. Hounds have theorized that this is so nauseating, it might be the only food combination that’s actually deadly.

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Toxic Food Combinations [moved from General Topics board]
durian fruit

Best Potato Chips Anywhere

Some potato chips you can get everywhere, but the chips made with attention and care tend to be only locally or regionally available. frenetica fondly remembers Brannigan’s Roast Beef & Mustard chips and Walker’s Lamb & Mint “Posh Chips” from her time in the UK–but they’re sadly unavailable in the states. Maybe some of these chowhound-recommended chips are available where you are:

Zapp’s Cajun Crawtaters
Grandma Shearer’s Kettle-Cooked Chips
Humpty Dumpty Barbecue
Miss Vickie’s Lime & Black Pepper
Jays Kettle Cooked
Tim’s Original and Wasabi Chips
Blair’s Death Rain Chips (in flavors such as Cracked Crab)
Downey’s Chips
Grandma Utz’s (handcooked in lard)
Made Rite Potato Chips
“Kitch’n Cook’d” Maui Potato Chips

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favorite potato chips

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

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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 …