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

Kicked Out of “Sacred Space”

E. coli lettuce? Whatever. The most shocking food story of the week came to light in the New York Times blog Diner's Journal in a post by Rob Lieber titled "Why I Got Kicked Out of a Restaurant on Saturday Night." READ MORE

Ice Cream Cakes for Your Happy Birthday

Ice cream cakes are a blank slate for the imagination, with layers of cake, ice creams, sauces, and add-ins in any flavor combination that appeals. (Some, such as CHOW's Pistachio-Strawberry Ice Cream Cake, use a crumb crust or simply crushed cookies instead of cake layers.)

Hounds recommend assembling ice cream cakes in a springform pan, so you can remove the sides and serve from the base without having to unmold. If you bake a cake to use, bake it in the springform pan, split it into layers if you wish, and use the same pan to assemble the cake.

It's ideal to start at least a day before you want to serve the cake, because each layer must be frozen before adding the next. Freeze the bottom cake layer, then spread with softened ice cream and top that with sauce and add-ins, freeze, and add more layers of cake and ice cream as you wish, freezing each before adding the next. Most hounds frost the top and sides with whipped cream right before serving.

Oil-based cakes work better than butter-based ones, which tend to be dry when frozen, says jsaimd. Crushed Oreos are popular for sprinkling between layers, because they don't get too soft. Crushed Heath bars are another favorite addition. Or go another direction and add fruit between layers.

"If anybody wishes to make an ice cream cake but is a little lazy," says John E., use grocery-store ice cream sandwiches: Line the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with ice cream sandwiches, add a layer of crumbled cake or crushed cookies, then fudge or caramel sauce. Repeat with a second layer of ice cream sandwiches, pressing down on them before adding more cake and sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze.

shaebones recommends a "delicious" mocha ice cream cake, and lexpatti likes this chocolate-peanut butter one, which is made like a jelly roll.

If you really want to gild the lily, "I serve hot fudge sauce on the side with my ice cream cake," says TrishUntrapped. "Best of all worlds."

Discuss: Has anyone made an ice cream cake?

Release the Kraken!

Release the Kraken!

This week's mission: A giant mythological squid wants you to get your rum on. READ MORE

Ren Faire Food an Uncreative Anachronism

Spring ushers in a period where Renaissance Faires are held all over the country, attracting clever nerds who like to dress in linen costumes, say "prithee" a lot, and gnaw on giant turkey legs. But is the festival food served at Ren Faires a decent representation of Elizabethan cooking?


Chug from a Kug

A couple of young Brits, in search of a way to help arthritis sufferers who struggle to lift a full teakettle, have come up with a keen new way to make and drink hot beverages. Britain's Daily Mail tells the story of the sleekly designed Kug, an easy-to-wash-cup that nests inside of a small heating element capable of boiling water in 90 seconds.


Bananas and Caramel Meet in a Pie Plate

Banoffee pie, a British dessert named for the toffee and bananas that flavor it, is a rich confection that layers caramel (generally dulce de leche made from sweetened condensed milk), sliced bananas, and whipped cream in a pie shell.

Banoffee pie, says Harters, is believed to have been invented at the Hungry Monk restaurant in East Sussex by its chef, Ian Dowding, in the early 1970s. Here's his recipe.

Rubee used this banoffee recipe from Gourmet magazine, with delicious results. roxlet has enjoyed a version that uses a crumb crust made from digestive biscuits.

Discuss: Banoffee Pie

Cook with Peaches in Any Season

Excellent fresh peaches are a fleeting summer phenomenon, but you needn't look down on canned for year-round use. They're canned when fresh and ripe and can work well if you use them in dishes where they will be cooked.

BamiaWruz thinks they work nicely in this peach upside-down cake. Hounds also use them in cobbler and add them to bread pudding. "They're lovely in a pie," says rcallner, "with some brown sugar, honey, fresh or frozen raspberries, a touch of vanilla, and a splash of cinnamon."

bon oeuf recommends Jacques Pepin's caramelized peaches, made with an intriguing technique: Peaches in heavy syrup are drained; the syrup is cooked until caramelized, and the peaches are added, along with heavy cream.

boyzoma uses canned peaches in frozen daquiris: In a blender combine half a large can of peaches, a small can of limeade concentrate, the empty can's measure of light rum, and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Fill the blender jar with ice, and blend.

Discuss: Recipes for commercially canned peaches

Will This Booze Make You Evil?

Will This Booze Make You Evil?

This week's mission: good and evil in potable form. READ MORE

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"Before there was prepared black bean sauce, I learned to season with fermented black beans. Not complicated. Just rinse several times in cold water, crush with a spoon, and use. I suggest you wait until beans are added to add salt to the dish. The beans will keep in the fridge for months." – OldTimer

"One variation I do like is using a scattering of diced tomato instead of slices, pretty as those are, and spreading on a chiffonade of basil instead of getting visually cute with the leaves is an improvement, too." – Will Owen, on margherita pizza

"I like to roast them in a foil packet on the grill. Usually I toss with salt, pepper, and soy sauce, add a few pats of butter, and grill the packet for about half an hour." – 2m8ohed, on roasted radishes

Your Allergy IS Bogus!

For years, my husband has insisted that the general incidence of food allergies is vastly overstated. "It’s another form of public hysteria," he insists. Well, chalk one up for the grounded midwesterner (Michael's from Kansas). Today in the NY Times, Gina Kolata reports that a new study has been released, commissioned by the federal government, that estimates only around 8 percent of children and less than 5 percent of adults actually suffer from food allergies. The remaining 25 percent who think they do might be suffering from simple intolerance or from information gleaned from an unreliable test (the pin-prick test should not be considered conclusive, says Dr. Joshua Boyce of Harvard).