The CHOW Blog rss

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

Repeat After Me: Very, Very, Hot

Have you been gringoed? Do you order your food super spicy but end up being served food that barely makes you sniffle? There's a perception that "foreigners" don't really like spicy food, says PeterL. So if you're not the same race as the proprietors of the restaurant, you might have a hard time getting your spice fix satisfied.

"What you need to do is establish a relationship with your favorite restaurant. Once they get to know you and your taste, they'll get over that perception," says PeterL. therealdoctorlew uses this phrase: "I want it the way you make it in your country. I want it too hot for an American to eat." ipsedixit offers a tip that worked quite well and spawned a life-long friendship: "I ask the owner/chef if he (or she) enjoys spicy foods," says ipsedixit. "If the answer is 'yes' then I offer to buy him his favorite spicy dish on the menu—made exactly the way he likes it. My only request as part of this offer is that I get the same exact dish for me."

"I would reiterate the importance of becoming a 'regular' at a resto or two. If they know you, they'll come to know your tastes," says Perilagu Khan. "I would also encourage making direct eye contact with your waiter or waitress when asking for the heat, using a forceful tone of voice and even using your hands to stress the high level of heat you want."

Discuss: Spicy Etiquette

Upscaling the Doughnut

The Monte Cristo sandwich doughnut at Dynamo Donut & Coffee is somewhat flatter than a normal jelly-filled, and its yeasted dough contains minute bits of ham and shredded Gruyère cheese. Bite into its powdered-sugar-dusted body, and blobs of strawberry jam fall out. And that’s just the beginning. If you’re the type who feels strongly that doughnuts should not cost $3 apiece, and definitely should not contain things like rose water, five-spice, Gruyère, or thyme, stay far, far away from Dynamo Donut. READ MORE

What the *&@#%!$ Should I Do with All This Fresh Garlic?

This week, I opened my CSA box to find piles and piles of "garlic for drying." My first thought was, "As opposed to ... wet garlic?" READ MORE

Trying Our Hand at Video

Play Video

Talking about the upcoming CHOW Tour. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Consistently Great Sichuan Peppercorns

Russel Shank buys his Sichuan pepper at a local Chinese market, but it doesn't have any of the numb-and-tingle that the spice is known for. How can you get really fresh, intense Sichuan peppercorns?

This is one time you might bypass your local spot. "I find that spices from dedicated spice purveyors who stake their reputation on their merchandise, rather than local Chinese markets (which are very good for many things, don't get me wrong) are a much better bet," says bushwickgirl. She gets hers from The Spice House: "wonderful customer service and quality products," she says. Caroline1 recommends World Spice. "I find World Spice has exceptional quality for the price as well as carrying things I can't find anywhere else," she says. And another option is Penzeys—top quality, if more expensive.

A final tip from Pei: "I've had better luck getting that numbing feeling using Sichuan peppercorn oil," says Pei.

Discuss: where to find GOOD QUALITY sichuan/szechuan/szechwan peppercorns?

Port 305 Starts Strong

CocoDan has a policy of never going to a new restaurant for a few months in order to give the kinks time to work themselves out. But he just so happened to be at Port 305 during the first hour it was open, and he declares that "this place is hot, and will be the haunt of choice for those that can't stay away from the waterfront."

Port 305 is owned by Kristie Henriksen of Siros and has a similar vibe: resorty, upscale, black-and-white, a big bar with incredible views of the water, covered outdoor seating.

The menu has an American comfort food vibe: tuna melt, mac 'n' cheese, chicken wings, steak. Dan's party had the fried clams with french fries and an Asian-influenced coleslaw, and lobster sliders with barbecued baked beans.

"I definitely recommend it, but get there soon before the summer crowds discover it," says Pegmeister.

Port 305 [South Shore]
305 Victory Street, Quincy
617-471-1453

Discuss: Never Say Never!

Waffle Iron Grilled Cheese

"Grilled cheese sandwiches in my house, growing up, were always done in the waffle iron," says Florida Hound. "I never knew they weren't always made that way across the world, until sometime in adulthood or the college cafeteria or something, and to this day, I think of a grilled cheese sandwich without the waffle indentations as weird and second-rate. (On the waffler—magnificent!)"

"That's EXACTLY how my mom made grilled cheese when I was a child," says Darlin. "Her waffle iron had the option of using the flat plates, but she always kept the original waffle style plates intact. A grilled cheese with a glass of chocolate milk was my Saturday lunch at noon while watching Sky King. Thanks for the flashback!!!"

A regular waffle iron is better for this trick than a Belgian waffle maker. The deep indentations on the Belgian machine might be a bit much, says Florida Hound. While you're at it, try using your waffle iron for brownies, muffins, and hash browns.

Discuss: Waffle iron grilled cheese

Time to Eat the Doughnuts

The Boston area has plenty of options for doughnut enthusiasts:

robertlf is fond of Donuts With a Difference. "Try the jelly sticks," he urges.

• Sofra has unusual filled doughnuts with Middle Eastern spices; Bob Dobalina had a worthy "dukkah," a long doughnut with an Egyptian spice-and-nut mixture "affixed to the top with some sort of sweet adhesive."

SaraASR sighs over the grilled doughnuts with huckleberry and vanilla bean ice creams, served with caramel and champagne foam at Rattlesnake: "to die for."

Donuts With a Difference [North of Boston]
35 Riverside Avenue, Medford
781-396-1021

Sofra [Cambridge]
1 Belmont Street, Cambridge
617-661-3161

Rattlesnake Bar & Grill [Back Bay]
384 Boylston Street, Boston
617-859-7772

Discuss: Gourmet Donuts

Q&A with Michelle Polzine of Range

Michelle Polzine is the pastry chef at the popular San Francisco restaurant Range. Much beloved (she won SF Weekly's best pastry chef award and has been nominated for a James Beard Award), she specializes in homey desserts your grandmother might make, if your grandmother spiked her pudding with good rum and her tarts with lemon verbena. We sat down with her at Four Barrel Coffee in the Mission District and talked about pine nut mouth, why vanilla actually isn't neutral and bland, and her recipe for incredibly perfect butterscotch pudding. READ MORE

Finding Great Iced Coffee

misscucina is an iced coffee fan, and her go-to place is Flour: "I like their coffee—good flavor, reasonable portion for $2.75 and most times, they don't just take hot coffee and pour it over some cubes (a huge pet peeve). Once in a while they do in a pinch, but for the most part they take a big frozen block of coffee and let it melt with a splash of hot to speed up the process."

But she's having trouble finding a place that makes iced coffee as good or better. Any suggestions?

• Espresso Royale Caffe, where Science Chick says that the iced Americano is nice: "Since they add cold water to the espresso before pouring over ice, it circumvents the 'hot coffee over ice' fiasco, which I agree is a disaster!" misscucina concurs that ordering an iced Americano at any coffee spot, in fact, typically yields a better iced coffee.

• Iced espresso at Peet's: "Three shots in a large cup filled with crushed ice, extra ice on the top to fill. It's stronger than the Americano because no ice water is added, but as all that ice melts, it mellows out. I drink it even on the coldest days of winter," says Madrid.

• Diesel's iced coffee, says Boston_Otter, is "rich and delicious, not over-roasted," and can also be served Vietnamese-style, with sweetened condensed milk.

Espresso Royale Caffe [Back Bay]
288 Newbury Street, Boston
617-859-9515

Peet's [Financial District]
176 Federal Street, Boston
617-439-3177

Diesel [Downtown]
116 Newbury Street, Boston
617-437-7344

Discuss: Let's Talk Iced Coffee