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

The Perfect White Wines for Fall

The Perfect White Wines for Fall The crispness in the air is an indication that autumn has arrived—and it's time to leave light summer wines behind. And though fall is generally a red-wine-friendly time of year, I'm really excited about fall whites. READ MORE

Indian Buffet Without Leaving the House

Indian Buffet Without Leaving the House America is engaged in a long, strange national odyssey relating to food. On one hand, we've gotten far, far, far too fat. On the other hand, we're collectively getting a lot more sophisticated about what we're willing to eat, not just for celebratory nights out, but at home for lunch or dinner. One of the major rewards we've collectively reaped is that it's getting easier to find legitimately exotic but convenient prepackaged meals like Kohinoor Rice & Curry. READ MORE

Raspberry Chili Soda

Beth P. loves the spicy, fruity raspberry chili flavor from Loco Soda. It's "worth crawling to the ends of the earth for," she says. "Fantastic raspberry flavor socks you in the teeth and then, while you're still reeling, the chili flavor kicks in full power. Man ... this stuff is great."

"I know exactly what you mean," agrees Spivtak. "The last time I had one in Colorado was about nine years ago, and the memory has stayed with me. Never had a drink like it before or since."

Beth P. isn't thrilled with the other available flavors—the lime is OK and would make a nice margarita, the mango doesn't work at all—but the raspberry flavor is what's really special. However, at $1 for a seven-ounce bottle, zora is not surprised it's not flying off the shelves.

By the way, if you see the soda, stock up now: Its manufacturer says the soda is discontinued.

Discuss: Loco for Loco sodas

Caramelized Honey

Caramelized honey is a treat beloved of Chowhounds, but it's extremely hard to find. Once in a while, hounds run across it at local farmers' markets, but daddio explains how to make it at home. In addition to the honey, you need either ammonium carbonate, which is sold as a leavening in Middle Eastern markets, or diammonium phosphate yeast nutrient. Heat a pound of honey in a heavy saucepan with nine grams of the ammonium carbonate until it boils and starts to darken. Taste a drop or two every now and then (drip it onto aluminum foil to cool first), and stop when it's as dark as you want it. Then slowly add water to mix it back to the original consistency.

Discuss: Caramelized Honey – So Good! (moved from L.A. board)

The Crispiest Coatings for Deep-Fried Fish

What makes the most shatteringly crisp breading for deep-fried fish? mamachef recommends a standard mixture of flour, cornmeal, and spices—but the magic is in the method of application. "The key is, you mix half the mix with water and batter the fish, and then roll it in the remainder of the dry mix," says mamachef.

Veggo uses a mix of finely ground cornmeal, Guinness stout, and powdered chipotle for a fish or shrimp batter that crisps up nicely. celeryroot likes to add rice flour to the batter for extra crispiness. Cornstarch is another popular addition—that's the secret ingredient that makes Japanese kara-age (fried chicken) so crispy, says Tripeler. And smartie likes a coating of crushed matzo meal.

mamachef has tried using potato flakes in the mix but doesn't recommend it. "It made for a decent texture vis-à-vis crispness, but it had an undertaste I didn't care for, and I think it was due to whatever preservative is used in the flakes," she says.

Discuss: Looking for a great crispy fish coating for deep fry

Overheard on the General Topics Board

"I had herb 'drugged' porchetta (wood-burning oven), and we started with a soup of what I'm pretty sure was escarole with white beans in an amazing stock. Grilled bread at the bottom of the bowl, garlic rubbed; a salad tossed at table of bitter and mild greens, olive oil, and mild vinegar. That meal changed my life." – mamachef

"Love, love, love So Delicious Coconut Milk beverages, yogurt, kefir, coffee creamer, and ice cream!" – vegiegail

"I think 'terribly earthy flavors' is what huitlacoche is all about, LOL!" – ZenSojourner

Island Creek Oyster Bar Has the Goods

Great Bay is dead; long live the Island Creek Oyster Bar. The bar is a collaboration between Skip Bennett (Island Creek Oysters), Jeremy Sewall (Lineage, Eastern Standard, right next door), and Garrett Harker (also from Eastern Standard), and the hounds are using a whole lot of exclamation points to describe it.

"Hallelujah! Boston needed this so badly!" emotes suzysue2, adding that the seafood compares favorably with Neptune's, but the restaurant has the added bonus of taking reservations, unlike Neptune's.

So what of the seafood? It's as fresh as springtime, particularly the oysters. Of the eight to ten varieties on the menu, about half are from Massachusetts and the rest from elsewhere on the East Coast, including a wild oyster that rlove deemed delicious. The prices range from $2 to $3 apiece. Grilled razor clams and fried halibut cheeks are tasty, like a mini fish and chips, says suzysue2. The lobster roll is of the cold/mayo variety, light on the mayo and celery and with plenty of good lobster hunks. House-made chips come on the side.

On the non-seafood track, the pork shank is falling-apart tender and served with a complex sauce, and the lobster roe pasta with short ribs is "rich and delicious," says suzy.

The proprietors have done over the cavernous space in soothing grays and blues, with a big, open bar space in the front with about a dozen high-top tables, and regular seating further back. Prices are on the splurge side, with soups around $10, fish and chips $18, fish mains in the $25 range. The wine list is large, adventurous, and veering to white, with bottles starting at $30. Not much word yet on the cocktails, but the management has imported talent from many of the high-toned bars in town, so they're probably worth a look.

Island Creek Oyster Bar [Fenway]
500 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston

Discuss: Island Creek Oyster Bar—best place in the whole world!
Island Creek Oyster Bar taking over Great Bay Space

A Pie in Your Place

Sublime pizzas tend to come from pizza shops with gigantic wood-burning ovens, but given a great hunk of premade pizza dough, you can turn out a decent pie at home.

There are plenty of places around town to buy dough. In fact, BackBayGirl suggests just asking any pizza place you favor for a ball o' dough. "The worst they can do is say no," she shrugs. But multiple hounds recommend the dough at Haymarket Pizza ("my wife prefers Haymarket precisely for its chew and flavor," says Bob Dobalina) and from Clear Flour, with CF's dough edging out Haymarket's. It's a little more expensive, too: $2.75 vs. $1. Two bucks, big whoop.

And by the way, Bertucci's has a good dough that they'll roll out for you on the spot. "And you can get some rolls for immediate carb gratification," says Guido.

Haymarket Pizza [The Waterfront]
106 Blackstone Street, Boston

Clear Flour [South Shore]
178 Thorndike Street, Brookline

Bertucci's [South Shore]
6 Plaza Way, Plymouth

Discuss: Prepared Pizza Dough Boston

Kouzina’s Reliable Neo-Greek Charms

Kouzina has been holding down a rather inconspicuous corner conveniently close to Newton Wellesley Hospital for eight years, and though it's not the kind of place that gets long, delirious posts, it's as quietly reliable as you'd want a neighborhood hangout to be. "Cozy restaurant, nice people, and not too expensive," sums up heypielady. "Nice people, good service, tasty food," says emilief. The place is owned by Joanna Cognac, who is Greek, and her husband Nelson, who is French, but the menu mainly reflects Joanna's heritage.

Yeah, yeah, but what about the food? It's good, kind of a neo-Greek style, with some flourishes on traditional Greek food. Order the avgolemono soup, the lamp sirloin wrap with fries, the pizzas, the lamb shank. The moussaka has "rich flavor, eggplant cooked to perfection," says mchang. The koulouria, Greek butter cookies, are fresh and great for dessert. The wine list contains interesting Greek wines, too.

The owners are soon to open a new place in Brookline, Cognac, which hounds are eagerly anticipating.

Kouzina [MetroWest]
1649 Beacon Street, Newton

Discuss: Kouzina
8/16/10; EGGPLANT, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways
Cognac Bistro opening in Brookline
Near Newton Wellesley Hospital

Overheard on the Boston Board

"[Y]ou can get delicious freshly prepared Vietnamese food at the Vietnamese bakeries in Dorchester, on Dorchester Avenue near the Savin Hill and Fields Corner T stops. My wife and I usually go there for their banh mi (to die for!); but they also have plenty of other stuff freshly prepared, including piles of plastic boxes full of fresh-daily offerings that will still taste great the next couple days (unlike the banh mi, which must be eaten right away)." – Displaced Hoser

"Blood Farm is excellent and I'm surprised that it's so little known here." – Brock Lee Robb on a good place to find locally raised meats

"I also typically eat a ton of the bread that comes with honey. That might be the best part of the meal." – redelephant on the pre-meal delights at the Butcher Shop