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

Jazzing Up Refrigerated Cinnamon Rolls

When the craving for hot-from-the-oven cinnamon buns is insatiable, some chowhounds turn to refrigerated rolls in a tube for an instant fix. But some hounds have learned to spruce up those instant rolls.

The simplest route is to add something to the top of the buns once you’ve separated them. Sprinkle ground ginger and grated orange zest or a splash of rose water on before baking, or brush scotch on after baking, says HillJ. Or, make butterscotch pecan rolls: bake the rolls in muffin cups and put a dab of butter, a sprinkle of brown sugar, and some pecans pieces on top of each, suggests sweetTooth.

Refrigerated cinnamon rolls are pretty easy to unroll and re-roll, meaning that you can add spices–like more cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or anything else–or other good stuff to the insides. For simple goodness, try adding chopped nuts or dark chocolate chunks. Nice combinations include chopped dates and walnuts, and sauteed apples and walnuts.

HillJ always gets raves for these cinnamon-almond-chocolate buns: unroll the dough and brush on almond extract; re-roll and bake. When they come out of the oven, top with toasted almonds and chocolate sprinkles. Allow the chocolate to melt a bit, then very lightly drizzle with the icing that comes with the rolls.

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Jazzing up refrigerated cinnamon buns

Keeping Chocolate Around

Keeping chocolate around can be tricky. It’s got to be cool, and away from any odors that it might pick up. Oh, and you’ve got to hide it from everybody else, of course. Blooming (when chocolate turns gray in color and grainy in texture) occurs if chocolate is refrigerated, PGSF warns. Conversely, if it gets too warm, , the fat comes to the top and forms a white film on top, explains slacker.

For most chocolates, a cool dark cupboard is the perfect spot to keep chocolate, with the exception of more delicate truffles with perishable fillings. These you have to eat quickly; otherwise refrigerate and just live with the blooming, says Cheryl_h.

If you have your own wine fridge (which tend to be more precisely temperature controlled) you can store chocolates in it; put ‘em in an airtight plastic box to keep out humidity, recommends typetive.

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Best way to store chocolate?

Passionate About Making Your Own Fruit Soda?

Commercial gourmet fruit sodas can be quite pricey, and it’s so easy to make them for yourself.

Pei recommends buying Welch’s passion fruit juice and mixing with an equal amount of club soda for a drink just as good as a Fizzy Lizzy soda.

For about $3.99, you can buy a 750 mL bottle of Torani passion fruit syrup and make almost five gallons of Italian soda with it! Some Hounds prefer Monin brand fruit syrups, but they are pricier.

Rose’s Passion Fruit Cordial is wonderful with seltzer, or you can spike it with some Rum or champagne, says Candy.

Apple & Eve Mango Passion is 100% fruit juice and is fantastic mixed with seltzer, green tea, or rosehip/hibiscus tea, maillard swoons.

If you can still find it, Ocean Spray’s Mauna La’i passion fruit would work great cut with some bubbly too.

Also be on the lookout for a brand of fruit juice concentrate in a box, possibly from Down Under. It’s a white box with plain black lettering and pictures of the appropriate fruit on it, and it’s sweetened only with pear juice. Their passion fruit and guava and work very well for spritzers, says heidipie.

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Welch’s Passion Fruit Juice + Soda Water= A Real Winner!

Go Ask Alice

Everyone else may be grabbing the October issue of Vanity Fair for the gooey smiles of TomKat & baby Suri, but foodies are snapping it up for the excerpt from The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation, by VF editor and frequent Gourmet contributor David Kamp.

The book is a story of personalities—Julia Child, James Beard, Craig Claiborne —and the movements and food-world stars that followed in their wakes, including (naturally!) that boomer-foodie pinup Alice Waters and her Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse.

Kamp’s been stumping vigorously for his book, arriving with a plate of prosciutto on the set of the Today show last Friday (devoured by Matt Lauer once the cameras stopped rollling, according to Kamp). So far, the buzz in the book-review blogosphere is pretty positive; Kamp is a savvy writer, and plenty of folks still have an appetite for more dish on Julia, James, Jeremiah, and Alice, even though, as Kamp writes, “As with all things great and boomerish—the rock music of the ‘60s, the civil-rights movement, Rolling Stone magazine in its heyday—the magnitude of Chez Panisse’s achievements is tempered by a certain cloying self-aggrandizement.”

A Case of Pear Hyperbole

Pity the poor bastards who have to write the Harry & David holiday catalog every year. How many different ways can there possibly be to describe a basket containing some combination of pumpkin spice cake, Chocolate Moose Munch popcorn, lemon shortbread cookies, and buttery toffees?

This year, the copywriters crapped out on page 2. Describing the catalog’s signature Royal
Riviera Pears
, the copy claims that

... their timeless quality can help make the connections and strengthen the emotions you value most.

But … but what if you’re an international cocaine trafficker and the connection you value most is Bogota to Miami?

Or if you’re a demon lord, and your primary emotion is pure satanic hatred?

Quick, somebody—tell Harry! Or possibly David!

Pears this powerful shouldn’t exist!

Nigella Opens Wide

Finally, finally, FINALLY! After a few years being shunted to the Style Network for some unfathomable reason, sexy Brit cheftress Nigella “Food Orgasm” Lawson is coming on, erm, to the Food Network.

The stunningly beautiful and realistically curvaceous brunette has long been a popular food icon both in the United Kingdom and in the United States (I think she takes in even more territory than that) with four cookbooks and three cooking shows under her belt. At long last the Food Network has managed to strike a deal (or come to their sluggish senses) and will be carrying the new show, Nigella Feasts, in the fall. Described by The Palm Beach Post as a “[h]ottie food expert” who makes “cuisine that will blow away our taste buds,” Nigella’s displaying her media savvy as well by releasing her newest cookbook at the same time her show premieres. This could mean only one thing: Hold on to your pesto, Giada—there’s a new fooductress in town.

Turns out I’m not the only one who thinks there could be a cleavage challenge between Nigella and Giada, the current reigning food porn queen on the Food Network. The blog Food TV and Me, comments, “She also looks like she actually eats what she cooks. With Giada, I sometimes feel that the only bites of the food she actually eats are the ones that we see on camera.” Blog Food Network Addict adds that there’s been some “chitter chatter on these blogs about her competing with [Giada De Laurentiis]. Is this going to be a competition for best cook, best show, or best cleavage?”

I think a lot of people will be tuning in specifically to settle that décolletage debate and hoping for a banana deep throat-off.

Nigella Feasts premieres on the Food Network on October 1st.

How to Seat Your Dinner Guests

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Food Network: The Blog

Is it all glamour, glitz, casual chats with Alton Brown, and free-flowing baskets of brioche backstage at the Food Network? According to the channel’s new blog, not so much. Written by the people who make the magic happen—the cooks, the stylists, the culinary purchasing managers—the new blog instead gives a surprisingly workmanlike view of what goes on behind the camera’s gaze.

Don’t expect anyone to dish the dirt on what Rachael, Emeril, or Bobby is really like to work with. Behind the Scenes is extremely tame, but interesting nonetheless. If you’ve ever wondered where all the leftover food goes, or how many loaf pans it takes to shoot a mushroom loaf dish, or where they go to find the “secret ingredient” on Iron Chef, you can find your answers here.

The best thing about the blog is that it’s written by a group, so you get insight into the different roles involved; the worst thing is that it’s pretty lightweight—the entries are all two to three paragraphs long and never delve deeply into any topic. As with many corporate blogs, it’s post and run: Questions in the comments are never answered, and there is no follow-up.

But no doubt the legions of Food Network fans will be delighted at this new addition. “I watch Food Network like my husband watches the golf channel,” one avid viewer confesses in her comments. Well, better brioche than bogeys, I suppose.

Fly Me to the Moon

The “Food Miles” theory of sustainability just seems to make intuitive sense. The farther your food has to travel to get to your table, the more energy is consumed. According to a UK Guardian article that listed the foods that travel farthest to get to Great Britain:

Lettuce: From Spain, a journey of 958 miles. It takes 127 calories of energy (in the form of aviation fuel) to import one calorie of lettuce across the Atlantic, according the research group Sustain, yet we import lettuce out of season from California or from southern Europe.


Food producers in New Zealand, which sends a third of its produce halfway around the world to the EU, would like to differ. And now they have a study to prove it. Food blog Slashfood today links to news of a New Zealand study that finds that the number of miles a food had traveled was not a reliable indicator of its environmental impact. Reasons to be skeptical: While the study wasn’t actually done by the New Zealand Agricultural and Trade ministries, they are enthusiastically endorsing it. “The concept of food miles is both flawed and too often promoted by those motivated by self-serving objectives rather than genuine environmental concerns,” New Zealand agriculture minister Jim Anderton said. “It is being used in Europe by self-interested parties trying to justify protectionism in another guise.”

Lethal Leaves

An E. coli outbreak traced to prewashed, bagged spinach has caused federal health officials to recommend that consumers stay away from the bagged greens.

The New York Times reports that while the exact source of the outbreak cannot be identified, the deadly bacteria has killed 1 person and infected 49 others in eight states.

Although authorities recommend avoiding bagged spinach, they don’t recommend engaging in any leafy profiling. When asked if consumers should avoid bagged salads entirely, Dr. David Acheson of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the FDA said: “At this point, there is nothing to implicate bagged salad.”