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

Animal Crackers

Animal crackers are really more cookie than cracker–a slightly sweet, vanilla animal-shaped cookie. They’re popular with children and grown-ups alike. (Ipsedixit eats them in a bowl with milk, like cereal!)

You can also find some that are frosted and decorated with sprinkles, like Mother’s Circus Animal Cookies

Nabisco still packages theirs in cute little circus cage boxes with a string handle; they come in other sizes, as well.

Keebler calls theirs Animal Cookies.

Stauffer’s Original animal crackers have been around a very long time. The company’s been in business since 1871. Some of the Sam’s Club stores have this brand, and you can order them straight from the source..

Costco and Trader Joe’s carry animal crackers, and McDonald’s has a version depicting their characters.

Board Links
ANIMAL CRACKERS Question(s).

Youth Culture

Youth Culture

Unaged tequila is considered by many aficionados to be the best way to enjoy the spirit because the longer tequila sits in a barrel, the more it tastes like oak or charcoal and the less it tastes like the agave plant it was made from. READ MORE

Mixto Is for Losers

Mixto Is for Losers

With flavors that vary widely from bright and citrusy to aged and smoky, tequila is fun to taste-test, to discover which you like best. But there are a few things you should know before you get started. READ MORE

Nectar of the Tequila Gods

Nectar of the Tequila Gods

Agave nectar, long used as a sweetener, is now being put to use in its most natural setting: cocktails. READ MORE

Secrets of the Perfect Salsa

Secrets of the Perfect Salsa

They wouldn't give us the recipe, but that didn't stop us. READ MORE

A Cooktop That Sizzles

This month’s edition of Food and Wine contains a mostly workaday roundup feature about the latest shiny and/or transparent and/or curvy kitchen fixtures. But one of the featured range tops is wicked cool.

Admittedly, this sort of defies conventional wisdom, which tends to reserve the term “wicked cool” for racecars, Red Sox players, rock stars and automatic machine guns.

But this particular range from the Santambrogio Milano Simplicity line is simply mesmerizing. Its three stainless steel burners float majestically on a small glass counter. The counter itself is mounted, in turn, on another larger glass counter. According to Food and Wine, both are made from “the same sturdy type of glass that’s in the Louvre’s famous pyramid.”

The whole assemblage looks like something you’d find in the living room of Rem Koolhaas, slightly to the left of a $24,000 Finnish easy chair.

You can view a somewhat less majestic version of the Coolest Range Ever by clicking the sixth tiny box in the “Today’s Products” section of the Santambrogio Milano website.

Pie in the Sky

Boing Boing, Gothamist Food, and SliceNY are all linking to the results of pizza-obsessive Jeff Varasano’s yearlong attempt to reverse-engineer a perfect NYC-Neapolitan pizza. And besides his recipe, he also lists his top favorite pizzerias on the East Coast.

The photos alone will make any pie hound drool. And even amateur home cooks, if they’re dedicated enough, can follow Varasano’s tried-and-tested techniques to make a better pie.

The one must-have, though, is an oven that’s hot, hot, hot. As in 800 degrees hot, way hotter than the usual 500 degrees of most home ovens. This is no easy task—remember the scene in Jeffrey Steingarten’s book The Man Who Ate Everything where he melts the paint (and the plastic parts) off his outdoor grill by trying to jack it up to proper pizza temperature? But Varasano has come up with his own don’t-call-the-lawyers method for circumventing the normal oven’s timid temperature controls.

Is it safe? Probably not. Does it work? Well, pix don’t lie …

Beyond the BLT

It’s harvest time, and while our garden didn’t produce any of these, we are overloaded with these.

Like squirrels who fill their dens with nuts to get them through the winter, humans have come up with many ways to preserve their home-grown bounty. Although there are some reasons to fear home canning, safer methods abound. While you won’t be enjoying juicy tomato sandwiches in January (unless, of course, you live in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case you actually will be enjoying juicy tomato sandwiches in January), you can check out one of many newspapers this month that are cranking out articles on how to freeze or dry this season’s crop. Even if you’re already off the grid.

Food Blogs Shun Spinach Controversy

Call me a wet blanket, but I’m surprised at how few food bloggers have said anything about the spinach saga (if you scan the food blogs I read regularly, you’ll see what I’m talking about). Kate at Accidental Hedonist is one notable exception, posting regular commentary on the latest spinach news and providing some thoughts on why this relatively small outbreak is of national concern. A few others have weighed in (provoking some interesting and some misguided reader comments), but most seem to be continuing their daily discussions of ingredients, recipes, and restaurants without so much as mentioning the leafy green.

Judging from this roundup of spinach-related bloggery on Bloggers Blog, though, folks elsewhere in blogland—who don’t primarily write about food—are all over the issue. Su Avasthi at the Lime Network is feeling rebellious and wants to stuff her face with the erstwhile supergreen; Kai at Daily Kos addresses the manure question; and tech-business blogger John at johnon.com raises some interesting points about the lack of PR response to the E. coli outbreak.

What do you think—would you want to hear more food bloggers’ takes on the spinach scare, or have the papers and radio stations already covered all the bases? Does the issue even matter to folks who already shop at farmers’ markets and eat far yummier greens than that bagged Earthbound Farm stuff?