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

The Problem(s) with Slow Food

Hey, sustainable/local/organic food proponents: Stuff it, because poor people are starving in Africa and Asia, and your hoity-toity philosophy ain't helping anything. That's the really, really crude distillation of a thought-provoking story in Foreign Policy on fighting hunger in the developing world. The thesis of Robert Paarlberg's article: "Influential food writers, advocates, and celebrity restaurant owners are repeating the mantra that 'sustainable food' in the future must be organic, local, and slow. But guess what: Rural Africa already has such a system, and it doesn't work."


Trip Report from Dark Lord Day

Last weekend, beer geeks from around the country converged on Munster, Indiana, for the yearly release of a limited edition beer called Dark Lord. Made by Three Floyds Brewing Company, the "demonic Russian Style Imperial Stout, brewed with Intelligentsia coffee, Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar" (per the company’s description) can only be obtained in person on one special day. And besides just being a seriously good rare beer, it's used as currency when people are trading for other seriously good rare beers. We spoke to our New York City beer geek friend, Aaron, who wished his last name to remain off the record (because he’d been playing hooky from work) about what his first experience at Dark Lord Day was like. READ MORE

How to Brew Small-Batch Beer in Your Kitchen

How to Brew Small-Batch Beer in Your Kitchen

All you need is simple equipment and enthusiasm. READ MORE

The Way of Matcha

The standard equipment for brewing matcha—Japanese powdered green tea—is not a teapot and a cup, but instead a bowl and a whisk or brush. The short version of how to use them, says maria lorraine, is to "heat water to the proper temperature (below boiling) and add water to the matcha. Stir and/or froth with the wooden brush." But tea ceremonies can be very elaborate. Matcha is special tea, says Caroline1, "the heart of chanoyu," the traditional Zen Japanese tea ceremony. "Matcha isn't for lemon or milk with sugar," she says. "It's a different kind of tea, and in this stressful world we live in, the meditative ceremony that traditionally goes with it ain't all that bad either!"

limster notes that one of the unique qualities of matcha is that it's prepared as an emulsion rather than as an infusion. And while you wouldn't add sugar to it, "it's traditional to have something sweet with matcha," says limster. "Mochi are quite typical, but a cookie or some chocolate would not be bad." And a final idea for enjoying matcha: "One of my pals who's a hardcore Japanese tea ceremony guy also suggests making matcha in warm sake instead of water."

Discuss: Matcha tea bowl and "brush"?

Testing the Boundaries of Ice Cream

Forget chocolate and strawberry. How about Parmesan cheese ice cream? Shops specializing in strange, unexpected flavors of ice cream are gaining popularity.

Mestralle's local shop in Michigan serves flavors like mincemeat, chai latte, and carrot cake. gordeaux finds flavors like Parmesan cheese, corn bread, jalapeño, avocado, and tequila at Paleteria Flamingos in Berwyn, Illinois.

"At Baskin-Robbins, they make different flavors to market to the various nationalities in Dubai," says luckyfatima. "They have baqlawa ice cream. They also have scone ice cream. We have some in-house gelato places that do good stuff like Ferrero Rochet, Nutella, and so forth."

JungMann's favorite weird flavor is "avocado, purple yam, mutant coconut, and cheese ice cream, which is sometimes eaten in bread instead of a cone. Lately I have been particularly fond of sesame and taro," he says. pinstripeprincess tried snake and beef tongue ice cream in Japan. And Scoops in Los Angeles serves flavors like bacon caramel, goat cheese and purple basil, and salty chocolate, says mollyomormon.

FishTales was in Martha's Vineyard in the early 1980s, at a small ice cream shop near the ferry dock. "Their 'flavor of the day' once was vanilla with clams," says FishTales.

Discuss: Most (Or Oddest) Ice Cream Flavours?

Is High Tea Dead?

Afternoon tea, says nanette, is a light afternoon offering of tea with cakes, sandwiches, and scones. High tea, on the other hand, is more elaborate, "usually featuring a small warm dish along with all the afternoon tea trimmings," says nanette. "It tends to be enjoyed toward the end of tea hours." pikawicca agrees in principle: "Afternoon tea is tea served with finger sandwiches and small cakes, typically around 4 p.m. High tea is working-class terminology for dinner," says pikawicca.

PhilD disagrees. High tea is a tradition that was once common in the UK, but it's rare to find it offered today at establishments that don't cater to tourists. "In better-off families high tea was the meal served in late afternoon/early evening before the children went to bed," says PhilD. "It usually had a selection of cold cuts and salad followed by cakes, but no hot dishes (apart from crumpets and tea cakes)." Working-class folks would simply refer to the evening meal as "tea" or "supper," what Americans would call "dinner." As for high tea, "in the ’60s it was only my grandparents (who were from London) who still served it, and they were born in the 1800s," says PhilD.

Discuss: High Tea vs Afternoon Tea?

As Wine Goes, So Goes the Planet

How will we know that global climate change is serious business? You'd think it would be when we lose an island chain or two, or when species extinctions really start to ramp up due to loss of habitat. The truth is, of course, few people really care about trivial stuff like that; Slate makes the compelling case that we'll really start to sit up and listen when the great wineries of Napa and France start to decline and implode. Writer Mark Hertsgaard puts it succinctly:


Overheard on the General Topics Boards

"I was in the grocery store today and I was given a sample of Yoplait Light Red Velvet Cake yogurt. It was sooooo good. It was creamy and tart and tasted like a light cocoa flavor without being overpowering. I went to buy some immediately ... unfortunately there was only one left." – Johnresa

"Eating bread dipped in tahini and molasses (normally date) or honey is a sweet breakfast treat; some people dip separately (like me) and some mix together. It's like peanut butter and jelly!" – BamiaWruz

"My father was a mostly meat-and-potatoes guy at heart, but he was always eager and willing to try whatever I cooked from the time I got my Easy-Bake Oven at age 5. Sometimes when I was in high school I brought some fresh artichokes home from a trip to the 'city.' After we ate he said, 'Well. It was a damn lot of work for damn little food ... (pause) ... But it was really good.' Then he grinned and told me to feel free to make them anytime." – decolady

Obsessives: Seeds

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One man and many, many seeds. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Pork and Sweet Potato Sandwiches

Somerville's Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken & Grill (not to be confused with Machu Picchu, right across the street) has previously been called out in the Digest for having wonderful tamales, but opinionatedchef is there for the el Peruanisimo sandwiches: "The warm sandwich is an oblong soft roll filled with moist slices of seasoned roast pork with sliced roasted sweet potatoes, and dressed with a spicy yellow (amarillo) sauce."

While you're there, suggests opinionatedchef, pick up a "moist, flavorful marinated rotisserie chicken" and the aforementioned pork tamales: "orange and very richly flavored from meat stock."

Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken & Grill [North of Boston]
25 Union Square, Somerville

Discuss: 4/10 Another Treat for Chacarero Fans in Union Sq., Somerville