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

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)

Pollo Adobado

Taqueria San Jose in the Mission District has outstanding tacos pollo adobado. Finely chopped, pungently-spiced chicken contrasts perfectly with fresh cilantro and onion. The salsa adds a nice kick without being overpowering. Also, vinchar likes the rabbit stew tapa next store at Caf

Heart and Soul at Berzet in the Bronx

Berzet’s is almost like home to its fans, who count on homey soul food and warm, motherly TLC. Mac and cheese, seasoned-to-the-bone baked chicken, and meaty, tender short ribs are dependable favorites, says beke, an erstwhile regular. She dropped in recently with her niece and was greeted with a hearty “Haven’t seen you girls in a LONG time!” from the owner and cook. Breakfast bargain–the “2-2-2,” which is two eggs, two pancakes, and two pieces of sausage and bacon, all for $2.22.

Berzet Luncheonette [Bronx]
1145 Bronx River Ave., between Westchester and Watson Aves., Bronx
718-861-1789
Locater

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cheap, yummy beef short ribs near abc carpet in the Bronx

Taam-Tov Revisited: Kebabs and More in Midtown

Kebabs, dumplings and meat pies are smart orders among the Bukharan specialties at Taam-Tov, an upstairs hideaway in the Diamond District. Peter Cherches reports fabulous samsas (crisp baked meat pies stuffed with spiced chopped lamb) and tender, charcoal-grilled lamb shish kebab and lula kebab, made of well-seasoned chopped meat. Manti (steamed dumplings) boast sweet, oniony meat filling in delicate skins. Fresh-baked lepeshka bread is warm and hearty. For Peter’s party of four, lunch totaled $50 with tip, “and they had to roll us down the stairs.”

But most hounds rank Taam-Tov a step below the competition in Queens, where Cheburechnaya makes superior versions of Central Asian Jewish dishes like plov, the pilaf-like rice dish with stewed meat and vegetables. mishka finds this place solid but adds, “I don’t remember the food back home being this greasy.”

For excellent lagman, the sturdy Uzbek soup with lamb, noodles, and vegetables, the go-to place is Cafe Arzu in Rego Park, mishka advises.

Taam-Tov [Diamond District]
a.k.a. Avi Taam-Tov Corp.
46 W. 47th St., 4th floor, between 5th and 6th Aves., Manhattan
212-768-8001
Locater

Cheburechnaya [Rego Park]
92-09 63rd Dr., between Austin and Wetherole Sts., Rego Park, Queens
718-897-9080
Locater

Cafe Arzu [Rego Park]
101-05 Queens Blvd., at 67th Rd., Rego Park, Queens
718-830-3335
Map

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Taam-Tov in Manhattan’s Diamond District?
Any Uzbek restaurants in NYC?