The CHOW Blog rss

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

The Wisdom of Young Farmers: Amy Rice-Jones

At 28, Amy Rice-Jones has built Bounty Farm in Petaluma, California, from the ground up, transforming an empty lot with dilapidated sheds full of garbage on it into a productive urban farm. The farm is part of Petaluma Bounty, a non-profit with a mission to provide everyone with access to healthy food. As the farm manager, she plans the entire year's production of food, trains and coordinates volunteers, and teaches classes on the farm. Here's what she has to say. READ MORE

Must-Have Garden Party Gear

If you're throwing a barbecue and you're anything like me, you've got some random wine bottles open, getting warm in the sun, or stuff stashed in some broken, ghetto plastic cooler full of half-open bags of party ice. Shouldn't we all strive for a better life? Imagine if you could chill your Lillet and Pinot Gris right there on the patio, in a classy hammered aluminum drink bucket by Roost? (Note to self: Remember to serve Lillet at next barbecue.)

The Pasha Wine and Party Buckets, $77-$143

Live from Guatemala

"My husband said I would get bored with Guatemalan food because it is too simple," says rworange, who moved to Guatemala with her husband for a few months. "After my first few meals, though I doubt I will get bored, I understood what he meant." Guatemalan cuisine is simple, "but honest, fresh, tasty and good," says rworange. There's melon agua fresca and papaya licuado to drink, as well as Central American Coca Cola, made with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. The sugar "gives it a more balanced, mellow taste and is not as overly sweet and cloying as Coke in the U.S.," says rworange.

Food is simple and reminds rworange of the American cuisine of decades ago. "Substitute potatoes (mashed, fried, etc.) for beans, white bread for tortillas and lemonade for agua frescas [and] it is basically American ’50s food." Eggs are topped with beans, crushed tomatoes, and crema pura, and they're not just for breakfast. A dish of chicken in "soupy red sauce" served with rice or a thin, fried steak with grilled onions and tomatoes might be lunch. rworange likes the tropical produce—fresh papaya, or tiny finger-sized bananas with a hint of strawberry flavor.

Vendors deliver fresh fish, produce, and other foods directly to your door—very ’50s, as rworange notes. "The family was a bit distressed that these vendors pulling up to the house were not available in the U.S. Ah, for the days when the milkman delivered not only milk, but cheese and other dairy items to your doors."

Discuss: Living and eating in Guatemala

Forkable Flags

A game of guess-the-edible-flag over on Flavorwire is a piece of cake for anyone who's ever seen an Olympics or two, but the charming images are worth a glance nonetheless. Each faithfully interpreted flag is created using foods typical of the country in question; thus a basil, pasta, and tomatoes emblem for Italy, and one of feta and olives for Greece.

READ MORE

What’s the Difference Between Vietnamese and Thai Iced Coffee?

Vietnamese iced coffee (café sua da) is brewed strong with a drip apparatus and mixed with condensed milk. "Using condensed milk is the authentic way to prepare Viet iced coffee," says MVNYC. "Vietnam, like many other tropical locations, uses condensed milk because it does not spoil without refrigeration like regular milk does." Condensed milk is not the only unusual additive; Vietnamese coffee is often blended with chicory prior to brewing. (Café du Monde is a brand commonly available in the United States.) But most Vietnamese coffee in Vietnam, says paulj, is not made with chicory. Instead, it's a blend of the more expensive Arabica beans and cheaper, more harshly flavored Robusta beans. "By itself it is too harsh for American palates that have been trained to like pure Arabica," says paulj. "But it works well with sweetened condensed milk, which has a strong tempering effect."

Thai iced coffee is also made with condensed milk, and it's also often brewed from a blend of ingredients, not just coffee beans. Classic ingredients for the blend include corn and sesame, but in the United States sometimes the additives get left out: "[O]ften I go to places where it is just strong coffee with condensed milk," says Jemon.

Discuss: Do any coffee lovers like Thai/Vietnamese iced coffee?

Onion Marmalade

The most perfect accompaniment to rich dishes with strong mineral flavor like pâté and liverwurst is onion marmalade, says takadi. takadi first experimented by topping bread with liverwurst, fried onions, and pear jam. "The taste was outstanding, and since jam and onions mixed so well, I wondered if there was such a miraculous concoction where they combined the two into one ... onion jam," says takadi. "Next thing I knew, I was buying and eventually making onion jam for the next month and now, if there's something rich and mineral-y, like pâté, steak, or a nice juicy hamburger, I absolutely cannot eat it without slathering a big thing of onion marmalade on top."

Discuss: Interesting accidental discovery story: Onion Marmalade

Overheard on the General Topics Boards

"I am wondering why there are two separate packets (one rice, one seasoning) that go in the pot at the same time. Is this to give the user a cooking-like experience by opening both bags?" – corneygirl, on packaged rice pilaf

"We had one of those coolers that plug into the cigarette lighter of the car. So we were well stocked and never desperate for food. We had the luxury of picking when and where to eat and never chose a place out of desperation. If we got hungry and nothing was near, we raided the fridge, so to speak. Some food lasted us well into Mexico." – rworange, on chowhounding while traveling

"Crab apples! That's one reason crab-apple trees can be found in just about every older neighborhood—apparently before pectin was commercially available folks would make jams and jellies with a proportion of crab apples to ensure a good set. They make a delicious jelly on their own, too." – LauraGrace, on pectin-rich fruit

Frog’s Legs for the Kiddies?

Maybe it's not surprising that Lincoln's AKA Bistro is wowing the crowds; after all, the place has a pedigree. It's run by the former general manager and sushi chef of Clio. Word on the street is that the food is mind-boggling. The menu is divided in half; one featuring French classics, the other, sushi.

"I went and had the French items and what I had knocked me off my feet," says LBNova, a Lincoln local.

Sublime orders:

• Endive salad with bacon and a perfectly poached egg: "I think it must be one of the best items on the menu, although quite a simple choice," says LBNova.
• Coq au vin: "divine," says LBNova, and served in a pretty crock.
• Moules frites, with great-quality mussels and a well-balanced broth.
• Fois gras with a Sauterne gelée.
• Grilled split lobster on diced celery root with chanterelles and lobster bisque.
• Fatty toro, hamachi, and oysters from the sushi side of the menu: "all super fresh and served with amazing and surprising flavor combinations (including a new ingredient to me—wolfberries," says a surprised Trumpetguy).
• Duck confit with potatoes cooked in duck fat.

The room itself has a warm, comfy vibe, with a wraparound couch on the street side, cushy booths, and a sushi bar with a high-top table for those who want to eat sushi and run. It's a small room and still a bit bare, so the noise levels can get to be too much. But one particular fillip impressed all who saw it: Both frog's legs and escargots appear on the children's menu.

AKA Bistro [North of Boston]
145 Lincoln Road, Lincoln
781-259-9920

Discuss: new french bistro in Lincoln

Diary of a New Food Truck Owner, Part 3: Commercial Real Estate Is Expensive

Diary of a New Food Truck Owner is an ongoing series where we talk with Meg Hilgartner, co-owner (with Siri Skelton) of a fledgling San Francisco mobile soft-serve ice cream business called Twirl and Dip. In this installment, Meg and Siri go looking for real estate, and decide a truck is in their future.

We had our first soft-serve machine, and we were working on the recipes; now it was time to find a place. Early on, we'd bagged the idea of a truck because it wasn't practical. I love ice cream trucks, I think they're cute, and we thought it'd be a fun thing to do, driving around this truck playing "The Entertainer." But there are permit hassles, and we'd have to hire employees because someone would have to be on the truck selling while other people were in the kitchen making food. And on a truck we couldn't have as many flavors as we wanted; we'd hoped to have three double machines side-by-side serving six flavors and three twirls, plus a dedicated vegan machine. You have to have space for that many machines. So a truck wouldn't work.

READ MORE

KitchenArts Rises from the Flames

Back in March, the much-beloved, three-decades-old KitchenArts announced it was closing, leaving hounds who cook without a reliable knife-sharpening outfit. The agony was palpable. But no less palpable than the joy that greeted the announcement that the store was sold and has reopened as KitchenWares by Blackstones in the same location. So sharpen away!

Just in case KitchenWares doesn't do it for you, multiple hounds recommend the services of the Knife Cobbler, a.k.a. Jeff Roy. Based in Framingham, Roy picks up and drops off knives to customers in the MetroWest area and reportedly does a fantastic job.

The Knife Cobbler [MetroWest]
No formal address; call for pickup
608-202-4469

KitchenWares by Blackstones [Back Bay]
161 Newberry Street, Boston
617-266-8701

Discuss: Kitchen Arts Closing– where to sharpen knives