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

Own Your Own Bento Box

Laptop Lunches makes American bento boxes. The insulated carrying case holds various containers, eating utensils, and a bottle for a drink. Everything comes out for washing, and it’s all dishwasher safe.

Amazon has a nice variety of bento boxes, including the “lunch jar,” with the food containers layered into a thermos-like jug. See their bento boxes here.

Korin has a lot of different choices, and good prices, too.

Flickr has a fun bento box group.

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Bento Box Website?

How to Cut a Chicken into Eight Serving Pieces

How to Cut a Chicken into Eight Serving Pieces

Associate food editor Regan Burns demonstrates how to joint a chicken. READ MORE

Welcome to CHOW

Welcome to CHOW, a website devoted to the pleasure of food and drink. Come in and look around; you'll find everything we wanted to do in print, as well as all the features that the Web allows. READ MORE

Diet for a small tumor

The relationship between food and health has been examined ad nauseum. But over on MSNBC.com, writer Mike Stuckey offers a personal take on the connection, with a bi-weekly series inspired by his recent medical diagnosis: prostate cancer.

This week’s installment of “Low Blow” (“A chowhound takes charge of cancer with food”) looks at the total overhaul that Stuckey made to his diet. Among the things he must surrender are: “The mellifluous harmonies of meat, cheese, salt, hydrogenated oil and MSG that make taste buds sing like Oliver Twist in the workhouse. Fried chicken and New York steaks! Gorgonzola and camembert! Pizza! Prime rib! Biscuits and gravy! Nacho cheese chips! And downfall of all downfalls: sausage!”

The story, unfortunately, is better at elaborating what Stuckey is giving up than the joys of organic healthy eating; a convincingly delicious recipe or two would have gone a long way on this front. Regardless, the piece manages to be both sobering and entertaining, a balance that’s hard to strike even under the best of circumstances.

Pâté poopers

Carl Sandburg famously celebrated Chicago as: “Hog Butcher for the World/Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat/Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler.” We can now add another line: Foie Gras-Hater.

The city’s ban on pate made from fattened goose or duck liver goes into effect this week. But the first day of new regulation was marked more by jeering defiance than meek compliance. The New York Times reported Wednesday that saucy restaurateurs staged a veritable foie gras orgy in response to the ban, slapping the stuff on everything from scallops to pizza.

Grant DePorter of Harry Caray’s Restaurant summed up the opposition neatly, saying “We really don’t think the City Council should decide what Chicagoans eat. What’s next? Some other city outlaws brussels sprouts?”

The Chicago Tribune features Mayor Daley zestily calling the ban (requires registration) the city’s “silliest law.” Tribune editors also allowed their writers to use the stomach-churningly cute phrase “foie gras faux pas,” which you may or may not enjoy reading in context.

As any serious chowhound can attest, deciding what not to eat isn’t an easy choice; it’s a complicated ladder of moral decisions. Ban supporters cite the cruelty involved in producing foie gras; ban opponents cite a fear of a nanny state.

Does the fact that the stuff’s delicious count for anything? Anybody?

Aw, shucks

What to do with all those cast-off husks (requires registration) from your freshly shucked bounty of summer corn? Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Regina Schrambling has a culinary solution that redeems corn husks from a rapid route to the garbage can: Save them and use them to encase delicate green corn tamales or, better yet, turn them into a natural wrapper for grilling fish, such as halibut. It’s a technique that resonates with Florence Fabricant’s fish-grilling tips in the New York Times, which include wrapping whole fish in fennel fronds, rosemary branches, or grape leaves to enhance flavor and prevent sticking to the grill.

Save us a drumstick

Got time and a staple gun? The Southern Foodways Alliance wants you. One of New Orleans’ best fried-chicken joints, devastated by Katrina, will be rehabbed this weekend by an all-vol crew that needs a few more nail-pounders.

The SFA will be rebuilding Willie Mae’s Scotch House, a 54-year-old, 30-seat soul food spot honored as an “American Classic” at the 2005 James Beard Awards. More help is sought, since every bit of donated labor puts 89-year-old owner Willie Mae Seaton one step closer to battering up what insatiable NYC foodie Ed Levine calls “the best fried chicken I’ve ever had in my life.” While the hours are long, the chow’s good: feeding the volunteer teams (and writing plenty of checks for concrete and lumber) is chef John Currance of Oxford, Mississippi’s City Grocery, known for his suave updates of trad Southern dishes.

Ironically, hotshot native son Emeril—who was notoriously absent while the city’s eateries were losing their crawfish and clientele in the aftermath of Katrina last year—is doing New Orleans-themed shows on the Food Network. Anyone suppose he’ll show up at the Scotch House, hammer in hand?

Killer Apps

Cheese, yes. Olives, sure. But what else do you offer guests at a cocktail party? Here are the crowd-pleasing hors d'oeuvres, the ones that are never left over at the end of the party. READ MORE

Fresh Papaya Juice and Queso Fresco

rworange continues her quest to try all the Mexican markets between Richmond and Pinole. This time, she visits El Mercadito San Juan, a small, nothing-seeming, empty place that stocks mighty impressive goodies. They excel at aquas frescas and fresh juices. There’s more juice than water, and the fruit is fresh from the produce bins. Fresh papaya juice ($1.50) is deep orange-red and tastes beautiful.

They also make their own queso fresco, a light and lovely cheese with texture almost like goat cheese. It’s cheap, too. They’ve also got great house-made hot sauces, especially a salsa fresca full of tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and lots of lime. Guacamole is thin and has a nice spicy tingle. Both of these are available to take home for $2 a pint. There are also take-home pints of black mole.

They sell good tamales, too–a little dry, but with a nice touch of lard in the masa. These aren’t at the very top of rworange’s tamale list, but they’re pretty high.

There’s also decent dry chorizo, and various Brazilian items. Avoid, though, their bland fresh chorizo.

Mercadito San Juan [East Bay]
12899 San Pablo Ave., Richmond
510-237-7047
Locater

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Chorizo crawl–El Mercadito San Juan (Richmond) –fresh juices, house-made salsas & queso fresco

A Perfect Chile Relleno Surprise

sarvey is shocked by the quality of the chile relleno at the East Oakland Taqueria San Jose. It’s delicious: a big poblano pepper, filled with melty cheese, and fried inside a thick, eggy batter. It’s then topped with tomato-onion broth, and a little chopped iceberg lettace and tomato. It’s actually one of the best things she’s had in a long, long time, and only $2.50.

Great al pastor here, too.

Taqueria San Jose INC [Fruitvale]
3433 E. 14th St. (International Blvd.), Oakland
510-533-5748
Locater

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Surprize Chile Relleno at Taqueria San Jose O-town