The CHOW Blog rss

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

Things to Do with Stale Bread

Things to Do with Stale Bread

Ten uses for an old loaf of bread, from thickening gazpacho to soaking up the Grand Marnier in grown-up French toast READ MORE

Your Dog, the Gourmet

Your Dog, the Gourmet

If your dog has such a great sense of smell, why is he eating your old socks? READ MORE

Three Times an Entrée

Three Times an Entrée

Double entendres aside, three-ways have been offered up since the Yuan dynasty. READ MORE

What’s That White Stuff on Grapes?

What’s That White Stuff on Grapes?

Is it pesticide? Yeast? Unidentified gross substance? READ MORE

Something More Than Crappy Pilsner

Something More Than Crappy Pilsner

While there is no brand of American pilsner distributed nationally, several excellent examples have popped up on the micro and regional levels. READ MORE

Am I Being Petty?

Am I Being Petty?

I think it’s rude of people to assume they can keep my Tupperware. Or am I being petty? READ MORE

In Search of the Great American Beer Hall

Fodor’s has published a brief—and flawed—report on the five best places in America to drink American beer.

Wisconsinites like myself can be counted on to have opinions on three things: beer (we’re pro), cheese (ditto), and the Packers (“pro” is an understatement, even in a rough season like 2005). Not surprisingly, I think Fodor’s has fallen down on the job, and not in a good, beer-related way.

They’ve overlooked two very different beer-associated places with very similar names that indicate a common tie to the German rathskeller tradition.

The first is the Brickskeller of Washington, DC, which boasts the world’s largest beer list. With more than 500 kinds of beer on the menu, it’s a claim that carries serious weight. Skipping the Brickskeller, an American beer hall of Norse-god proportions, is a borderline-criminal oversight. Sure, they’re internationalist in the best possible way, but you can’t fight the fact that their list boasts an overwhelming pile of excellent domestic brews.

The second is the UW-Madison Rathskeller. You have to know Madison to know the Rathskeller, so this particular oversight is understandable. But if you’ve ever had one of its house brews (or something wonderful by the New Glarus Brewing Company) in its cavelike, dark-wood-appointed and stein-decorated interior, you truly know what great beer drinking is all about.

Vile, Terrible, Nasty, and Ugly

Vile, Terrible, Nasty, and Ugly

CHOW talks to A. A. Gill about the business of reviewing restaurants, organics as a style statement, and the dark evil of Starbucks. READ MORE

Lots to Learn

Food blog Chubby Hubby features a thought-provoking (if abbreviated) interview today with celeb chef Michael Mina, who discusses diver scallops, micro-veggies, and finding inspiration from farmers. Mina, a big local-and-seasonal guy, says that no Americans (not even chow-crazed Northern Californians) are as obsessive about their produce as folks in Tokyo, where he recently visited. But, he says, Californians are getting there: The attention that winemakers pay to the quality of their grapes is filtering into the consciousness of non-vintners, too.

I’d add that it’s not just California. There really is a United States of Arugula, full of farmers’ market-philic citizens (and winemakers may or may not have had a hand in that). But what about seafood, like those diver scallops Mina mentions? As it happens, I attended a panel discussion last night on the state of sustainable seafood production, and it made me realize just how little all of us—chefs and reg’lar old consumers alike—really know about fish as compared with our meats, dairy, grains, and greens.

Diver scallops, according to seafood distributor Bobby DeMasco of upscale online fish market Wild Edibles, are often actually caught in dragnets, not by divers at all. He explained that many of the most prolific scallop beds are 300 feet underwater, far too deep for a diver to venture. It would be impossible to supply enough diver scallops to all the restaurants that claim to have them on their menus because such a small percentage of the yearly scallop catch is diver caught. DeMasco also said the mislabeling could occur at any step in the supply chain (with fishermen, distributors, or chefs) because all of them have a stake in marketing their seafood as sustainable.

This is certainly not to say that Mina’s diver-caught beauties aren’t legit; the most surefire protection against fraud, panel members said, is to find and develop relationships with trustworthy seafood purveyors who know exactly where their supply is coming from, and Mina (like many top chefs today) is all about those relationships. But divers are only the beginning; there’s the issue of line-caught versus trawl-caught bass, the relative merits of trapping, trolling, and farming, and the question of whether your supposedly wild salmon is actually packed with harmful PCBs. As if that weren’t enough, those little seafood wallet cards often give differing and even conflicting advice. And of course chefs often have to bend to consumer demand, offering “sexier” types of fish than the downmarket but sustainable species like tilapia and catfish.

It’s enough to induce fish-counter paralysis. A handy primer released by the eco-food nonprofit group Chef’s Collaborative helps somewhat in making sense of the quagmire, and Paul Greenberg, my fave fish guy, wrote a thoughtful and instructive op-ed piece (requires registration) last week.

And at least I can rest assured that the favorite fish of my childhood is now 99 percent more sustainable!

We’re So Hungry at the Fair

Is all food writing gonzo journalism? After all, for the most part, the writer always ends up eating what he writes about, whether it’s insects or 85 burritos. Seattle Times staff reporter Karen Gaudette is the latest scribe to pack on the poundage in the line of duty, as she clips on a pedometer and heads out to the Puyallup Fair to load up on elephant ears, cotton candy, and other foodstuffs on a stick. Will corn dog – related calories coming in outweigh calories burned by walking around the fair for a few hours? You bet your sweet bippy.