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

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.

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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

Shoeshine with Your Burger?

Stoddard's Fine Food & Ale, a brand-new spot owned by William Ashmore and Rosemary Lucas of Ivy fame, is one of those places with a gestation period so lengthy that the opening seems almost anticlimactic. The first posts anticipating the restaurant began appearing two full years ago, and even now it's in soft-open mode, serving only a portion of its full menu. Nonetheless, it's worth a look.

Stoddard's main focus is on craft beers, with plans to have five cask ales for sale at all times; early reports say the beers are great and the bartenders are knowledgeable about offerings and generous with tastes. Classic cocktails are another option, with a long list of daisies, coolers, rickeys, smashes, fizzes, juleps, and other retro preparations on the cocktail menu. Hounds like the Temple smash and the Sazerac.

The menu is far from pub grub, with such classy choices as veal cheeks, Island Creek oysters, and mushroom-stuffed quail. With few of these choices available yet, hounds have instead been ordering the tasty, juicy burger: "cooked to a proper medium rare—bun was a buttered/toasted brioche—house-made onion rings—a black pepper mayo for dipping," says Bob Dobalina.

Like the cocktails, the room itself has a vintage vibe; as katzzz puts it, "handsome in a faux-Prohibition era kind of way," with lots of wood, a pressed-tin ceiling, and balconies scavenged from the old Filene's. Oh, and there's a guy waiting to shine your shoes at the end of the bar for $5.

Stoddard's Fine Food & Ale [Downtown Crossing]
48 Temple Place
617-426-0048

Discuss: Stoddards Fine Food & Ale
Stoddard's (not the cutlery shop) - any info?
Stoddard's
Sooo...Stoddard's?

Overheard on the Boston Boards

"f you want an unusual setting, you could head over to the Mohr & McPherson showroom in the South End on Harrison Ave. They recently opened a cafe inside the shop, which feels a little odd but was pretty quiet and laid-back when I quickly checked it out a few weeks back." – bear on Cafe @ 460 Harrison, located in a furniture shop

"Visited ChocoLee's new home at 23 Dartmouth Street this weekend, and the chocolates were as good as ever. Along with a few pieces of chocolate almond bark, I also tried her chocolate croissants for the first time (offered on weekends only). They made me swoon! – ilovedessert on ChocoLee's new digs

"I think Neptune's fried clams are just as good as at any of the shacks. Nice light batter, not greasy at all, good delicate fry." – phatchris

Cookies Go Atomic

The glories of the pump gun-produced spritz cookie are well understood; the beauty of hydrogen atom probability density plots less so. One fantastic post over at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories manages to hook up these two unlikely bedfellows by creating a series of atomic spritz cookies inspired by a speculative illustration of hydrogen atom probability density plots.

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Huff Post Food Site is Getting Better

The Huffington Post launched its food site yesterday, and I’m happy to report that it’s starting to deliver the writerly zaniness I’ve come to expect from those guys. But the first day had me worried after reading yawner interviews with usual suspects Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle. READ MORE

A Gossip-Worthy Croissant

"I haven't been this excited about a croissant in a long time," says soniabegonia. It's better than all the other major L.A. contenders. "Amazing crunch to the exterior, tender and buttery sweet ribbons on the interior, perfectly seasoned and perfectly sized."

Yep, Bite Bar & Bakery, a new café and bakery, is driving many a Chowhound mad with desire.

Pain au chocolat is light, flaky, and utterly memorable, says mnosyne. "The taste and texture of the pain au chocolat was amazing—crispy almost shard-like in texture on the outside, flaky, soft, and buttery inside, enveloping a nice strand of quality dark chocolate in the middle," says bulavinaka.

Bite Bar is also a restaurant, and breakfast there is excellent, says bulavinaka. The fruits are unusually good in the fruit salad and blueberry muffins, and there's a croissant sandwich with homemade nutella and strawberries. There's even a nice, light, eggy soufflé, with slices of sweet cherry tomatoes in a cup of flaky croissant pastry.

For lunch, you can have such excellent items as Death by Pig, a pork belly and cracklings sandwich. Go ahead and court a heart attack by ordering with the twice-fried Belgian fries, reminiscent of the long-departed and much-missed Benita's Frites. "Perfectly seasoned and impossibly crisp and light at the same time," says soniabegonia.

Best for last: The crab sandwich is superb. It's simple, with a gentle paprika aioli to bind things together. It's so refreshing, says Dommy, for a place to actually let the quality of the ingredients stand on its own.

Bite Bar & Bakery [Westside – Beaches]
3221 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica
424-744-8685

Discuss: Bite Bar & Bakery – seriously good croissants

Westside’s Secret Jamaican

Port Royal "doesn’t look like it belongs in the neighborhood, but once you go in and meet the proprietress, you understand that she belongs anywhere," says lil mikey about the restaurant in a little house standing by itself in Santa Monica.

The hostess is friendly, ebullient, and a real pleasure to talk to, says lil mikey. Her best dish: curried goat. "It's deeply tender from obviously long cooking, and it has a rich flavor with just a hint of interesting gaminess. But it's not too gamy … you just get the message that it's not beef or pork," says lil mikey.

Jerk chicken is the real deal, with cooked-in, not ladled-over, jerk flavor, says lil mikey. But a warning: Port Royal's hours are fluid, as is the menu. The proprietors open when they feel like it, and they serve what they feel like. Go with the flow.

Port Royal [Westside – Beaches]
1412 Broadway, Santa Monica
310-458-4147

Discuss: Port Royal – Jamaican in Santa Monica