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

Big Brother Set to Endorse Craft Brews

A government resolution that "encourages beer-lovers of the United States to celebrate American Craft Beer Week through events at microbreweries, brewpubs, and beer stores across the United States"? I'll drink to that. And it's looking like the House of Representatives will, too. On April 22, House of Representatives Resolution H. Res. 1297 [link leads to a PDF file] was introduced, with the purpose of "supporting the goals and ideals of American Craft Beer Week," a national celebration of small and indie brewers with events all over the country ranging from beer festivals to beer dinners. Its passage is looking like "a no-brainer," says Julia Herz, the craft beer program director at the Brewers Association, who says that a similar resolution passed in 2006.


A Study In Cupcake Excellence

A lot of people are down on cupcakes now, maybe because "the groupie part of the cupcakes scene has been dying a painstaking death and it's being slowly laid to rest in the fad compost heap along with froyo," says bulavinaka. But don't despair. "I think if one keeps an open mind and gives good food a chance, one will find the great examples out there." Cupcakes included.

The newest find: SugarJones Cupcakes, a stand at the Sunday Mar Vista Farmers' Market that has very well-executed cupcakes, says bulavinaka.

The cake portion is larger than average, and relatively dense, almost like pound cake. "I've read complaints by many that by nature, cupcakes are going to be drier than an conventional cake—this is true in general because the crumb proportion of cake interior is relatively small to the the surrounding exposed portion. But the combination of the broader dimension as well as the strong execution in preparing and baking this cupcake shows in the results," says bulavinaka.

The frosting has "a nice sweetness that isn't cloying, the flavors are subtle yet enduring, and the texture is substantial but not greasy," says bulavinaka. This might be because of the touch of saltiness in the frosting, says Dommy. It makes the frosting kind of weird on its own, but perfect as a companion to the cake.

SugarJones also has massive homemade Oreos that are very likable, says Jase, especially the filling. The texture of the cookie is nice, too, with some bite and chew, but not quite crumbly.

SugarJones Cupcakes at the Mar Vista Farmer's Market [Westside - Beaches]
Venice Blvd and Grand View Blvd, Los Angeles

Discuss: Sugar Jones Cupcakes at the Sunday Mar Vista Farmers Market

Exploding Bottles

When John Peed, director of the Masters Championship of Amateur Brewing, began making his own beer in the 1970s, he was clueless. He went to a local home-brew shop and bought a cellophane pouch off the shelf containing papery brown hop leaves, not realizing hops are supposed to be green, and made some bad beer out of them. "That was just what was available back then," says Peed. "Home-brewing was not a viable hobby."

Today, in Peed's home state of Tennessee, there's a brewing supply store that carries 140 types of grain and over 50 varieties of carefully refrigerated hops. Between October 2009 and February 2010, 50 new home-brewing clubs registered for membership with the American Homebrewers Association, the national organization for hobbyist brewers, says Director Gary Glass. Brewing supply stores are opening at a rapid clip, and amateur brewing competitions, like the ones put on by the AHA, are getting an unprecedented number of entries. Home-brewing is exploding.


The Anti-Reuben

We return to the new Chowhound darling Bite Bar & Bakery for yet another discovery: a perfect Reuben, of sorts. Ciao Bob warns that he hates normal Reubens. "I generally find them to be a greasy mess with lousy corned beef and cheap 'kraut: plus, I don't care for Thousand Island dressing at all." So the Bite's reuben may not appeal to a lover of the classic Reuben.

But this sandwich has won his heart. It's drier than the usual oil slick; being dry-grilled, he suspects, rather than doused in grease and then grilled. "They use REALLY, REALLY EXCELLENT CORNED BEEF, it must be made there, and it is just delish." The sauerkraut is also house-made, and wonderful.

bulavinaka agrees: "Maybe Bite should rename this Ciao Bob's Anti-Reuben." The corned beef is "fantastic. Lean but moist, flavorful, and it didn't taste like a salt lick."

The Reuben is a daily special, but seems to recur regularly.

"I am really loving Bite's restrained simplicity," says Dommy. Other places go overboard with fancy ingredients. Here, it's pure, simple, and perfect.

Bite Bar & Bakery [Westside - Beaches]
3221 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica

Discuss: Bite Bar & Bakery – "Hey,Yummy Reu-ben! Where You-ben all my life?"

Grass-Fed Yes, Organic No

Label confusion can cause a mental stall-out in front of the meat counter. Organic? Natural? Hormone-free, grass-fed, flash-frozen, dry-aged? Mark Maynard of Roxbury, Connecticut grass-fed beef farm Greyledge, breaks it down for the Hungry Beast.

Maynard's a fan of the benefits of grass-fed beef for its better nutritional profile than corn-fed: "the herd is content, healthy, and the beef is high in Vitamin E, Omega-3s, and conjugated linoleic acid, which some studies have shown has cancer-fighting properties and could lower cholesterol. What’s more, pasture-raised beef is usually free of hormones and antibiotics."


Hey, We Won a Beard Award!

You are reading, right here, the Best Website Focusing on Food, Beverage, Restaurants, or Nutrition. We were nominated with some fantastic sites—Epicurious, the gold standard and goldmine of great stuff, and Saveur, with a beautiful redesign and some cool, forward-thinking features—so it's not baloney to say that we were honored to be nominated. It's a whole lot of fun to win, though. We're not that far from our scrappy, unpaid-staff-in-my-apartment days, so it's especially gratifying to have the august folks at the James Beard foundation look kindly on our work. Hooray and congratulations to our talented, driven staff, who care about making even the smallest things great.

The Perfect Canelé

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New England Hot Dog Buns

After a long search by several Chowhounds for a New England-style hot dog bun, they've found a local source. This bun may look like a thick slice of bread, but it's a actually a roll with a crust around the outer edges but left bare on each side for easy toasting.

Peripatetic made the find at The Market Grill. The owner is from Massachusetts, and Market Grill bake the buns in-house. They're excellent, but the dogs themselves are a little disappointing, confesses Peripatetic. However: The manager says you can buy the buns separately if you call ahead. Might want to do that anyway, as Market Grill sometimes runs out of buns early.

Peripatetic also says the fries are outstanding, "better than Oinkster or Wurstkuche in my opinion."

The Market Grill [Inland Empire]
525 South Shamrock Avenue, Monrovia

Discuss: Found: New England Style Hot Dog Buns
New England style hot dog rolls in LA?

The 2010 James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards

Time magazine called the James Beard Foundation awards "the Oscars of the food world," and that's about right: The event is high stakes, star-studded, self-celebratory, and very, very long. The event's gracious (and alarmingly skinny) emcee Alton Brown had a running gag about slogging through the 17-page schedule of events that turned out to be not so much of a running gag as an accurate ongoing update. (Final time of last night's event at New York's Lincoln Center clocked in at around three hours.)


Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

"They are no longer affiliated with B&R and are now serving McConnells of Santa Barbara ice cream. Run, don't walk, over there and try their Turkish Coffee ice cream." – trojans on the transformation of an old Baskin-Robbins

"It's made with a 4 lb. all-beef chuck patty that's shaped in-house and broiled. It's served on top of a 14" crispy egg bun with half a head of iceberg lettuce, red onion, tomato, mayo, dill pickles, and 10 slices of aged cheddar cheese...Surprisingly, it was a really good burger." – attran99, on the OMG Burger at The Catch

"The ONLY place in L.A. for consistently high-quality dates at a good price (that I've found) is Elat Market (Jewish/Iranian) on Pico @ Robertson." – nitsuj