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

Instant Gratification: Greek Coffee Frappes in New York

Anyone who has returned from Greece craving the country’s ubiquitous frothy instant-coffee frappes can score a delicious, cooling version at Cafe Brama, a sweet little hangout in the East Village, says cloudy.

Many Greek tavernas or cafes around Manhattan should be able to whip one up, suggests Gastronomos (who sniffs, “Order just the frappe, skip the food”).

A better bet might be Astoria, where Omonia and other cafes can scratch the itch. Many serve a frappe just as they do in Athens, says quentinC: your choice of water or milk, and be sure to tell them how sweet you want it.

Cafe Brama [East Village]
157 2nd Ave., between E. 9th and 10th Sts., Manhattan
212-358-7140
Map

Omonia [Astoria]
32-20 Broadway, between 32nd and 33rd Sts., Astoria, Queens
718-274-6650
Locater

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Greek Nescafe Frappe

Farmers’ Markets: Just Go

The Saturday Berkeley Farmers’ Market is in the middle of an end-of-summer vegetable orgy. Anabelle from Bolinas has the best produce of the market, including tiny basil, zucchini blossoms, yellow haricots verts, and wild arugula. Watch for her heirloom squash.

Sunday at the Marin Farmers’ Market, do not miss the melons from the Peach Farm. At 3 for $5, rworange pronounces them the sweetest, juiciest melons on the planet. You can practically shake them and feel juice sloshing around inside. Ogen melons are particularly stunning; a knife cuts the flesh like butter, and the scent infuses your whole kitchen. Granny Smith tomatoes are also recommended.

Berkeley Farmers’ Market [East Bay]
Center St. and Martin Luther King Way, Berkeley
510-548-3333
Map

Marin Farmers’ Market [Marin County]
Civic Center parking lot
3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael
800-897-FARM
Map

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The most fragrant, sweetest, juiciest melons on the planet at amazing prices–3 for $5–The Peach Farm
Berkeley Farmer’s Market—Just Go

Dressing Up Haricots Verts

Here are some great ways to finish steamed haricots verts or other slender green beans.

First idea: saute them in butter, then add toasted sliced almonds. You can amp the flavor even more by using brown butter, or even bacon fat.

Next: haricots verts with shallots. Slice and brown a couple handfuls of shallots in butter, then add some white wine or sake and the haricots verts.

Or, try this nifty variant: roast plum or cherry tomatoes with olive oil and ancho chili powder, then toss those babies in with the haricots verts.

Or just toss the warm haricots verts with some form of dressing. Suggested dressings: chopped toasted walnuts and a drizzle of walnut oil; a little butter and a little soy sauce; olive oil, lemon zest, and pecorino; or the very traditional Georgian combination of minced garlic, chopped cilantro, olive oil, and toasted walnuts.

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simple, easy way to spruce up haricots verts?

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

This is probably the simplest homemade mac and cheese recipe out there. It’s more like a cheese strata–with macaroni standing in for the bread. A bonus: while aged cheese dooesn’t melt smoothly in other mac and cheese recipes, in this recipe aged cheese works great. Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Deena:

3 cups macaroni
12 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
3 cups milk
3 whole eggs
1 1/4 t salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook macaroni according to package directions and drain. In a 9×13” casserole, make three layers each of pasta and cheese, beginning with pasta and ending with cheese. Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add 2 1/2 cups milk and season with salt, cayenne, and pepper. Pour over casserole. If egg and milk mixture does not reach the top of the pasta, add extra 1/2 cup milk. Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes or until the eggs are almost set. Remove from oven, uncover, sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and return to oven until cheese is nicely browned. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

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‘Easy’ mac and cheese recipe?

Decaf Tea

Decaffeinted tea tends to be fairly mediocre. PaulV says the best he’s found in the grocery store is the Typhoo brand. Also, Republic of Tea makes a pretty good decaf Earl Grey.

Upton Tea has a nice piece on caffeinated tea, and at the end are instructions for decaffeinating your favorite tea in your very own home. Their process gets rid of only 80% of the caffeine, but retains more of the flavor.

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Best decaf tea, either online or in a store?

Riedel Stemware at Target

For fairly priced Riedel stemware, try Target. Michele4466 bought a 4-pack of the pinot noir glasses to test them out, and plans to complete the set.

Kate.S bought the decanter and loves it. She has other Riedel pieces and the quality of Target’s Riedel doesn’t seem to be lesser than what she owns.

Have a look.

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Riedel at Target

Cream of the Crop

The goods may be icy but the buzz is hot at Ici, the preciously sweet little ice cream shop opened this week in Berkeley by Chez Panisse alum Mary Canales.

After teasing the locals with lickable descriptions in San Francisco magazine and the Marin Independent Journal, both of which promised a mid-summer opening, Ici finally started scooping this week.
Shuna Lydon of food blog Eggbeater and KQED’s Bay Area Bites got in line on the very first day to sing its praises…while decrying the back-seat status that pastry chefs so often get in restaurant PR.

Ici may even be keeping that Bay Area real estate market from chilling: Over at real estate blog Curbed, a listing touting the charms of a $1.6 million Arts and Crafts beauty ends with the line, “And we hear there’s a new ice cream place Ici over on College Avenue.” Although after laying out that kind of change, we wouldn’t have the dough for anything more than a fat slice from Zachary’s.

The Existential Mystery of the $56 Sandwich

The new Zingerman’s food mail-order catalog has arrived from Ann Arbor, bringing with it scads of gourmet brownies, aged balsamics and Jewish specialty breads. Far-flung deli lovers, rejoice!

Quality and cost, of course, often go hand-in-hand in the world of eating, and Zingerman’s is no exception. The Zingerman’s Rockin’ Reuben, Corned Beef or Pastrami Sandwich Kit Tote for 2 people goes for $75. Once you factor in the required overnight shipping, you’ve easily vaulted the $100 mark, meaning that each sandwich (plus the included brownies and pickles) clocks in at an ass-kicking $56.

Instead of dropping $112 for two sandwiches, of course, you could go to the Heifer International website and send an entire sheep to a needy family in Africa. Or you could buy a week’s worth of groceries for a family of three. Or you could get this cool LEGO Imperial Star Destroyer.

In other words, the tote bag prompts a question: Is it ever immoral to spend piles of money on luxury food? Where do we draw the line, if anywhere? $12 custard tarts? $56 sandwiches? $500 meals? Is it just whatever the wallet can bear, or is it possible to enter some hazy world of moral uncertainty when we spend like maniacs to eat the things we love?

Of course, if it’s a sin to pay a lot of money for good corned beef, I’ve booked my own ticket to hell several times over. It was worth it.

Monty Burns Is Studying this Carefully

As reported by the Associated Press September 1, a California man lived to 112 on a junk food diet. George Johnson died August 30, of pneumonia.

Reportedly, the “supercentarian,” who was 5’7” and a lean 140 pounds, gorged heedlessly on high-fat grub. According to Dr. L. Stephen Coles, founder of the Gerontology Research Group at the University of California, Los Angeles:

“He had terrible bad habits. He had a diet largely of sausages and waffles. A lot of people think or imagine that your good habits and bad habits contribute to your longevity. But we often find it is in the genes rather than lifestyle.”

Coles, who helped with Johnson’s autopsy, spoke enthusiastically of his “clean as a whistle” organs, which more closely resembled those of a spry 50- or 60-year-old than a man born in the nineteenth century.

My first and only thought upon reading this: you lucky bastard. Why am I bothering with tempeh and broccoli? All I can do is swim futilely against my traitorous crappy genes in a race to hold back diabetes, cancer and heart disease, while guys like Johnson wallow in pork fat.

Of course, there is plenty of data to show that bad habits generally catch up with you. Ol’ Mr. Johnson just slipped through the cracks. But researchers in the field of longevity admit that they still can’t figure out what makes one person live longer than another.

Omakase Ice Cream Layer Cake From Beyond Pluto

You can get customized ice cream cakes at Sketch Ice, but put yourself in the chef’s hands and you may get something like the meringue-frosted olallieberry temple of beauty Morton the Mousse is raving over. This “chef’s choice” cake features seasonal olallieberry ice cream, vanilla ice cream, and Straus yogurt ice cream, layered with vanilla cake. The meringue frosting is hard to believe–not the tasteless, soggy horror you may associate with, for example, Marie Calendar’s. The texture and taste are reminiscent of a barely-toasted marshmallow, but less sticky and less sweet, frozen perfectly firm. This may be the best cake Morton has ever eaten. He even learned how to post pictures on Chowhound because he feels that mere words don’t do it justice. It costs $45 and probably should feed nine…but in real life, it dangerously overfeeds six. All ice cream cakes are made to order and must be ordered two days in advance (they come in two larger sizes, too).

Sketch Ice Cream [East Bay]
1809A Fourth St., Berkeley
510-665-5650
Locater

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Sketch Ice Cream Cake! (with pics)