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

Summer Seafood Feasts in the Back Room

As an upmarket fish shack, Ed's Chowder House is nothing special, according to famdoc and others. As a five-course prix-fixe showcase for its chef, Ed Brown (Eighty One, Sea Grill), it's a seafood-lover's destination on summer Tuesdays.

famdoc's dinner started with a glass of Prosecco and two amuse-bouches: minced squid on toast (freely replenished) and an oyster with green apple, habanero, and watermelon juice. Among the courses that followed, the big winner was fragrant, supple scallop ravioli with chervil and a Jura Vin Jaune sauce. A good-sized soft-shell crab was breaded and fried crisp, and served with green papaya and honey mustard. Poached wild king salmon came with soybean purée and a tomato mint salad. The only miss was pepper-crusted seared tuna (with foie gras, bacon, corn, and tarragon), a preparation that famdoc found dated. Overall, though, he writes that this is "a very pleasant summer evening": a generous, well-prepared feast; a chance to chat with the chef, who works the room and talks about the menu; and, at $55, one of Manhattan's best high-end deals. (An additional $40 buys well-chosen wine pairings that included a Saint Roch rosé from Provence with the salmon, Stonestreet "Broken Road" Alexander Valley Chardonnay with the ravioli, and a Roûmieu-Lacoste Sauternes with dessert.)

Ed's Back Room Dinners, as they're called, continue at 7:30 every Tuesday through August 17. There's room for just 25 people each night, and reservations are required.

Ed's Chowder House [Upper West Side]
44 W. 63rd Street (between Broadway and Columbus Avenue), Manhattan
212-956-1288

Discuss: Ed Brown's Back Room Dinner @ Ed's Chowder House

Baked Delights from Park Slope to Bensonhurst

D'Vine Taste, a top-shelf pantry for Park Slopers, is becoming one of their favorite bakers, too. Alongside its cheese, olives, cured meats, splendid preserved lemons, and other provisions, it now sells terrific croissants and baguettes baked in-house, says Peter Cherches. Besides what it makes itself, D'vine carries selections from top bakeries like Ostrovitsky and the Bagel Hole.

Some of Brooklyn's best baked stuff comes from the ovens of Italian Bensonhurst. Coluccio, a destination for cooks in the neighborhood and beyond, sells great big focacce with cherry tomatoes and herbs, and smaller ones with tomato, jen kalb notes. Sal & Jerry, Lioni, Royal Crown, and Napoli Bakery (farther afield in Williamsburg) have similar breads. They freeze and reheat beautifully, jen adds. With some fresh mozzarella, basil, and olive oil, they're "a great taste of Italy that you could bring home from Brooklyn."

D'Vine Taste [Park Slope]
150 Seventh Avenue (between Garfield Place and Carroll Street), Brooklyn
718-369-9548

D. Coluccio & Sons [Bensonhurst]
1214-20 60th Street (near 12th Avenue), Brooklyn
718-436-6700

Sal & Jerry Bakery [Bensonhurst]
6817 20th Avenue (between 68th and 69th streets), Brooklyn
718-232-9358

Lioni Fresh Mozzarella [Bensonhurst]
7803 15th Avenue (at 78th Street), Brooklyn
718-232-1166

Royal Crown Bakery [Bensonhurst]
6512 14th Avenue (near 65th Street), Brooklyn
718-234-1002

Napoli Bakery [Williamsburg]
616 Metropolitan Avenue (between Lorimer and Leonard streets), Brooklyn
718-384-6945

Discuss: Cornucopia of baked goods at D'Vine Taste (Park Slope)
Freezable, take-to-New-Hampshireable Brooklyn pizza?

Recipe Linens Clean Up Again

A post on the Food Section praising an apron printed with cooking reference material (printed upside down, for easy reading!) brought back childhood memories of the tea towels printed with line art and recipes that were popular during the ’70s. Why, a kitchen wasn't a kitchen without a giant wooden fork and spoon hanging over the table and a bunch of recipe tea towels over by the cabinets. Etsy is lousy with vintage ones (search "recipe" and "towel"), but just in case you're hankering for a towel without someone else's coffee stains on it, Australian company MOZI sells groovy new tea towels with recipes on them.

The hot cross buns towel is all sold out, but hey, the fish pie towel is still available!

MOZI recipe tea towels, $20 Australian

When Food Preferences Turn Pathological

A riveting story in the Wall Street Journal about adult picky eaters brought out the Internet judge-and-tsk-ers ("Spoiled child, first world, Western illnesses make me sick," sums it up nicely), but also brought some attention to a secretive and shameful population of people: those who simply cannot eat more than a few foods.

READ MORE

Sweet Sixteen and Savory, Too

They're both just 16, and he’s mapping out their first date. So he's thinking big—like steak dinner big. Also tall, as in the Empire State Building. Bowling would be cool, too. Before you question his seriousness, hear him out, because he's thinking several moves ahead: "this girl means the world to me," swears newestuser. "I have intentions of making my first love my wife, and she is my first love so yeah."

Chowhounds know their chow but they also know the human heart, and they’ve got newestuser's back. sugartoof steers him toward the Village, home to the hound-endorsed Strip House. "Go big and go for the steakhouse," she counsels. "If you fall on your face, consider it a life lesson, but at least you'll eat good." An early-evening seating would ensure a more casual vibe and a less crowded restaurant. "Make sure you order the richer sides so you can drift off into a food haze during awkward pauses," sugartoof advises, "or talk about how great the goose fat potatoes are."

And right around the corner, she points out, is Bowlmor Lanes.

Others fear a steakhouse could set the wrong mood. "As a single woman," says BaconBits, "I have been taken on quite a few dates to steakhouses and find it a complete turnoff - the atmosphere is just too masculine for a date." Gotham Bar and Grill, the popular New American place just across the street from Strip House, would be a superior choice, she suggests: "It will make you look sophisticated and sexy, yet I think the menu is approachable and the restaurant will make you feel welcome."

And some just aren’t feeling the love at a bowling alley: "ew, rented shoes!" sniffs kathryn, "not to mention SUPER awkward if I'm dressed up nicely." She would also ditch the Empire State Building in favor of the Top of the Rock, a more up-to-date high-elevation venue from which "you can actually SEE the Empire State Building." And close by, she notes, are date-friendly spots like La Maison du Chocolat, for fancy French sweets, and the Bar Room at the Modern, for dessert and a nonalcoholic quaff.

The last word comes from thousandrobots, who seems to have been there and done at least some of that: "if the girl is really into you, you don't need to spend a lot of money on her (trust me). If she's not into you, spending a lot of money isn't going to change it (trust me again)."

Strip House [Greenwich Village]
13 E. 12th Street (between Fifth Avenue and University Place), Manhattan
212-328-0000

Bowlmor Lanes [Greenwich Village]
110 University Place (between E. 12th and 13th streets), Manhattan
212-255-8188

Gotham Bar and Grill [Greenwich Village]
12 E. 12th Street (between Fifth Avenue and University Place), Manhattan
212-620-4020

La Maison du Chocolat [Midtown]
30 Rockefeller Plaza (49th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues), Manhattan
212-265-9404

The Bar Room at the Modern [Midtown]
9 W. 53rd Street (between Fifth and Sixth avenues), Manhattan
212-333-1220

Discuss: Should I take my girl out to a Steakhouse on first date? Teens

Getting to the Guts of Pro Eating

Most people, at some level, feel that professional eating is wrong. It's one thing to get a bunch of civilians together at a county fair, see who can eat the most pies, and then watch the hilarious and inevitable results. It's another entirely to commodify an "athletic event" that can destroy the human body from the inside out in the name of popular spectacle. (Insert your own thoughts on boxing here.) READ MORE

Overheard on the New York Boards

"Had a delicious soft shell crab po' boy at Tracks in Penn Station - the crabs were meaty and sautéed with a cornmeal coating. Tracks has to be the best restaurant in a highly unlikely location in Manhattan." – buttertart

"It comes out on a sizzling plate, there is egg at the bottom, fried pieces of tofu circle the outside and in the middle there is a brown minced meat sauce with some shrimps in it. The tofu is perfectly fried, tender on the inside and nice and crispy on the outside. The sauce is super good, a savory brown sauce. When you put it all together it's just awesome." – Lau on Malaysian-style sizzling bean curd at Taste Good

"‘Coffee Ice Cream’ looked like a tattered mattress of fiberglass insulation, fuzzy and wispy. But it tasted just like coffee ice cream (a fine one at that). ... Here there was pecan, cocoa, and a big smile on my face." – ulterior epicure on dessert at WD-50

Stealth Macrobiotics in Beverly Hills

We're starting to feel a little like the guy in Super Size Me on this diet of red velvet pancakes, pork belly rice bowls, and foie gras cotton candy, so today we checked out Das Ubergeek's macrobiotic restaurant suggestion M Café for breakfast. READ MORE

Foie Gras Cotton Candy at the Bazaar

We’d heard plenty about José Andrés's theatrical dishes—ice cream cones of caviar, cotton candy foie gras, smoking cocktails—and we were, frankly, wary. How could that much flash deliver substance, too? But here we are, post-Bazaar, minds blown. READ MORE

Hittin’ a Chowhound Haunt for Lunch

One of our first stops in LA was the Chowhound-recommended Mo-Chica, a "contemporary" Peruvian restaurant inside the Mercado La Paloma near USC. The Mercado itself is an interesting, community-oriented project: The ground floor is a vibrant Latin marketplace with shops and restaurants; the second floor holds local nonprofits that work for health and social service access for low-income families. READ MORE