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

More on Preserving Berries in a Jar

To extend the life of fresh berries, put the unwashed berries in a glass jar, with the lid on, and pop them in the fridge. It works beautifully on strawberries; they’ll keep their fresh-from-the-farm taste for about two weeks. Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, which tend to be delicate and perishable, keep just as well this way; grapes may last even longer. Mushrooms, and jalapeno and serrano chiles benefit from the treatment, too. If your cherry tomatoes get to the point where they have to be refrigerated, the jar method will extend their a life a little more. Herbs seem to do quite well too. Wash them, blot them dry to prevent mold, and place them loosely in the jar.

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Grapes & greens in glass jars
Keeping Strawberries fresh for a week

Costco Hummus

Hummus–the thick Middle Eastern sauce made from mashed chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, and garlic–is nutritious, great as a dip for vegetables and with pita bread. One of the better sources for hummus is Costco. Their Hannah’s Classic hummus is $6 for a 32-oz tub, and it’s really good. There’s also Hannah’s Jalapeno hummus, with a bit of cumin. Drizzle a little olive oil over it before serving.

Some Costcos also carry Sabra hummus. It’s another tasty brand–smooth, with terrific flavor. Try the roasted garlic flavor.

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Hummus at Costco!

The Streak

Editor’s note: Jim’s second report shines some light onto his phenomenal 10-month food streak. Will it last through the CHOWTour? Check back daily to find out.

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The Streak
Heading upstate on the first leg of the CHOWTour, Jim describes “The Streak.”

Standing ova-tion

“It’s the best omelet you’ve ever tried!” claims the text of this egg-in-a-bag recipe currently being e-forwarded all over the place. Eggs a la Ziploc —delicious? Deadly? Or both?

The recipe’s a cinch. You scramble up your eggs, drop them in a Ziploc with some fillings, boil it for 10 minutes or so and then apparently experience the gustatory equivalent of a multiple orgasm. Enough people are trying it to merit mentions in two daily papers in the last week, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune and The Washington Post. By all accounts, the resulting dish is fantastic. But SC Johnson, the makers of Ziploc bags, are nixing the idea due to fears of plastic melting all over litigious-minded experimenters. And, though the dangers of cooking in plastic have never been proven, it just seems wrong. Why not just stand in front of a microwave on a cell phone, developing brain tumors and frying your reproductive areas at the same time?

Those who try this humble, folksy recipe might be amused to know that the boil-’n’-bag method is a variation on the hot cooking technique causing a controversy in NYC restaurants.

Lard lovers

Forget your cold pressed olive oil, pay no mind to chunky blocks of Plugra and Lurpak. These days it’s all about homemade lard—time to fire up a pot and get rendering.

At Chez Pim, the lady of the house wonders what made the frites cooked in horse fat she tasted last summer so delectable. She turns to Harold McGee for insight into what makes horse fries so great.

Over at Muffin Top, Connie swears that home rendered pork lard is the secret to perfect piecrusts. Derrick, at An Obsession with Food, has jumped on the lard bandwagon as well. He’s written two posts on the topic—the second, a step-by-step guide, will show you exactly how to whip up a batch of your own homemade lard.

Grab your cast iron and open the windows. Ready, set, render!

Pimping for plus-ones

Want to be Bauer’s buddy? In his latest blog entry, San Fran’s top restaurant critic reveals what it takes to be his plus-one when he’s making the rounds of the Bay Area’s best tables.

Because while being a restaurant critic may seem like a dream job, the truly sweet gig is being the critic’s best bud. Free eats, excellent wines, bragging rights from the hottest spots in town, all with no risk of a restaurant-owner fatwa afterwards: it’s no surprise that the San Francisco Chronicle’s lead reviewer is constantly fielding the question “How can I become one of your dining companions?”

But Bauer does break the news on Between Meals that eating out professionally isn’t all foie gras and rib-eyes: nope, eat with Bauer and you better be ready to sink a fork into the tripe and rabbit, especially if it’s his third or fourth go-round through the menu. And no sauce on the side: whatever you order, you’ll take it and like it, exactly as the restaurant plates it. But while readers may be envious of Bauer’s king-of-the-table position (as one poster commented, “At least you have an excuse like your job to squelch picky eaters! I hate going out with them!”), how can they miss the real reason any enthusiastic eater becomes a pro: for the dates! Yes, it’s the truth: being a critic is the best way to get a hottie to go out to dinner with you. Because after all, it’s not a hook-up, it’s your job! Trust us: it works.

Vive la snack

It’s no wonder Japanese snacks are so delicious —chefs there have worked for centuries developing goodies for Japan’s built-in, culturally sanctioned snack time. This got me thinking about how, according to some people, folks in France don’t snack and therefore don’t get fat, yadda yadda, and yet Japan has a lower obesity rate than almost the entire rest of the world, including France (and probably also has fewer citizens keeling over from hunger in the middle of the day). I know I can’t soldier on past 3 or 4 pm without noshing on something a little more substantial than just a piece of fruit, and the spongy, sweet kasutera looks like it would fit the bill just fine. Not to be a Franco-basher or anything, I’m just saying.

Pork Chop Rice, and Sweet Bread Stuffed with Pork Belly and Cilantro

All right, here’s the scoop: pork chop rice and stuffed sweet bread at Tea Garden, a Taiwanese street snack joint. david kaplan is a big fan of their pork chop rice. The pork chop is fried with a garlicky sauce, and served over rice with pickled greens. vliang agrees; she thinks their pork chop lunchbox is very authentic. “It has that train lunchbox taste down.” david kaplan also really likes their sweet bread, stuffed with pork belly and cilantro. The bread is fluffy, like the bread that’s sometimes served with Peking duck; it’s sliced open and generously filled with fatty pork belly, cilantro, and pickled greens. Each one is about $2, and two stuffed sweet breads make for a medium-sized lunch. Beef noodle soup is also excellent; the noodles aren’t homemade, but the broth is rich.

vliang also likes the pork chop rice at Spices 1; the meat sauce isn’t as good as Tea Garden’s, but the pork chop itself is a little bit more wonderfully crisp.

David Sloo is very pleased with the very simple pork chop rice at Queen House. The cook has excellent timing; it always comes out juicy, hot, and with a flavorful brown crust.

Tea Garden [SOMA]
515 Mission St., San Francisco

Spices [Richmond]
a.k.a. Szechuan Trenz
294 8th Ave., at Clement, San Francisco
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Spices II [Richmond]
291 6th Ave., San Francisco

Spices! 3 [Chinatown]
369 12th St., between Franklin and Webster, Oakland

Queen House [Peninsula]
273 Castro St., Mountain View
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taiwanese pork chop rice

Cutting Edge Huevos Rancheros

Mateo Granados used to be the executive chef at Dry Creek Kitchen and the sous chef at Masa; now he’s running a catering business, with annexes at some farmers’ markets. Melanie Wong was dazzled by Yucatan-style heuvos rancheros ($7) at his stand at the Sebastopol Sunday farmers’ market. It’s a cutting edge, intensely farmers’ market version. The bottom layer has broken-up pieces of stone-ground corn tostada. Next comes black beans, roasted tomato and habernero salsa, then two farm-fresh eggs fried to order and some fresh farmers’ market greens. This mass is topped with more crispy tostada bits, more salsa, more greens, and a sprinkling of fresh Bodega goat cheese. The thing is fresh, generous, and satisfying in flavor and texture, especially the dewy-fresh cheese. “Who would have thought I’d learn to crave wild arugula on my huevos?”

Art Culinaire article about Granados.

Sebastopol Sunday Farmers’ Market [Sonoma County]
McKinley St. at Petaluma Ave., in Downtown Plaza, Sebastopol

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Huevos Rancheros a Mateo Granados (Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Santa Rosa)

Fire and Ice Cream: Exotic Surprises from Vosges Chocolates

The fancy chocolatier Vosges also makes ice cream, and we’re not talking plain vanilla. A flavor dubbed Naga (coconut and curry) is “devilishly decadent and packs a flavorful punch of Eastern spices,” reports masterofceremonies. Also good and refreshing: Red Fire, with dark chocolate, sweet cinnamon, and subtle heat from ancho and chipotle chiles. Other flavors are pandan leaf and aboriginal wattleseed–described as a cross of chocolate, coffee, hazelnut, and vanilla.

Vosges Haut Chocolat [Soho]
132 Spring St., between Wooster and Greene, Manhattan

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Vosges Haut-Chocolat