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

To Cheat an Immigrant

Anyone who dines out knows on some level that his or her meal was most likely prepared in part or in whole by recent immigrants. Tom Colicchio, while accepting his Beard award last week, thanked the immigrants who work in America's kitchens. He noted that without them, "we wouldn't have a [food] industry." Anthony Bourdain has explored the topic on a number of occasions, perhaps never more skillfully than in his No Reservations episode focused on the U.S.-Mexico border.

On that front, a terrific essay from Minnesota-based chef Marianne Miller tells a small story with a big point. In it, she recounts confronting a restaurant owner about systematically cheating an employee out of wages by doctoring timecards and an employee who was fired after he complained about the situation.


Overheard on the Boston Boards

"Tavern at the End of the World's fish and chips are very good. Also really good curry sauce." – phatchris

"My current favorite for shrimp scampi pizza is Artu in the North End. Crust is perfectly thin, scampi has plenty of garlic with just the right amount of cheese, and the shrimp is never overcooked." – Pegmeister

"The veggie burger at the Druid in Inman Square (Cambridge) is good enough that I often order it instead of their beef burger, which I think is the best hamburger in the city." – hckybg

Finger-Lickin’ Eggs

Open since April, Russell House Tavern is from the same minds that brought you Grafton Street, Redline, and Temple Bar, and it's offering even tastier upscale new American goodness. Brunch is particularly choice.

"Gastropubby food, very good, and good prices," says MC Slim JB. "It's big and busy and loud, with a lot of TV screens all over (odd), and I'm not sure it's ever much fun to be in the company of big parties of drunken B-school students, but I think it's very promising."

Orders that might make you agree:

• The EBLT—egg, bacon, cheese, and lettuce: "The egg was perfectly cooked and still runny, which combined with the juices of the tomato and the mayo for a perfect sauce for the bacon, lettuce, and melted cheddar," says PatsMoose. "I will dream about this sandwich every morning."

• The crab cake sandwich, served on soft ciabatta, with spicy aioli. Make sure to sub in hash browns for the forgettable fries; they're shredded and well-seasoned.

• Crispy poached egg with house pancetta, toasted brioche, and pecorino aioli, "fantastic to the point that we were rubbing fingers on the plate for one last taste," says Gabatta.

• Dirty Caesar with anchovy croutons and parsley

• Pork trio of loin, belly, and shoulder with tasty grits and vinegar sauce

Drinks are good, too, with Chowhound-recommended house cocktails including the Harvard Yard, the Scottish Play, and the Battle of Trafalgar. There's also house-made spiced rum and cask-conditioned ales.

Russell House Tavern [Cambridge]
14 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge

Discuss: Unbelieveable Brunch at Russell House Tavern

Toast Your Vegan Friends in Style

Pulse Cafe, a vegan spot in Davis Square with a healthy selection of gluten-free menu items, hasn't been getting unqualified raves on the boards. Service can be a bit chaotic and slow, the kitchen repeatedly runs out of favorite dishes, and some diners complain that the soup isn't up to snuff. But there's wonderful stuff here, for omnivores and the meatless alike.

Start with the mushroom calamari: "delicious, crispy, flavorful, just the right texture," says Christie. "Eat it while it's hot, though; it gets less tasty as it cools down!" Salads are "huge, fresh, and delicious," says Bob Dobalina.

After that, move on to the maple-glazed tempeh Reuben, recommended by multiple hounds: "The bread had great rye flavor, and I found that it was hearty enough (and it tastes just as good for lunch today)," says Christie. The jerk chicken tempeh (in fact, any of the tempeh dishes) and the vegetarian lasagna are other fine orders.

For dessert, the chocolate truffles were "rather amazing," says yarm, and Pulse runs out of its apple crumb cake every night, it's so good.

Pulse Cafe [North of Boston]
195 Elm Street, Somerville

Discuss: New vegan rest. Davis Sq opens 2/2

Where to Buy Your Burger Meat

Though there are threads and discussions galore on best burgers, typhoonfish is in search of something different: raw meat to be cooked at home.

Hound favorites include:

• Sulmona Meat Market, which "cuts off a piece of chuck" and grinds it to order, "unless you ask them to grind something else," says 9lives.

• Roche Bros' 85 percent lean ground chuck: "It's magical. I don't know why it's so good or so much better than 85 percent ground chuck anywhere else, but it is," says Eatin in Woostah. It's on sale for $1.99 a pound each Friday.

• Tony's Market in Roslindale Square: "The texture is wonderful, the flavor amazing, and even if you cook it to a full medium/medium-well (not even a blush of pink in the center, which I consider a fine medium), it still retains its juiciness," says devilham.

Sulmona Meat Market [North End]
32 Parmenter Street, Boston

Roche Bros Supermarket [North of Boston]
34 Cambridge Street, Burlington

Tony's Market [Roslindale]
4253 Washington Street, Boston

Discuss: Another Burger Thread...Best of the Retail?

Deal-Breaker Foods

I once had a friend who swore that if he was dating a woman and saw the soundtrack to The Big Chill in her record collection, he would break up with her. Music snobs can be cruel. But what about food snobs? Are there certain food habits or dining experiences that would be romantic deal-breakers for those among us who have strong opinions about local/seasonal/sustainable/artisanal?


Backyard Chickens Are a Money Suck

If you're thinking of putting some chickens in your backyard, don't count on breaking even on them unless you can come up with half their food for free. Writing for the new website Good Eater Collaborative, Joshua Levin does a hard-core cost analysis (with graphs!) of his two-bird flock. READ MORE

Pie Share: The New CSA

Are you one of those people who complain about not being able to finish all the vegetables you get in your CSA box? Well, maybe you should consider moving to the Durham/Chapel Hill area of North Carolina and trading in your CSA for a CSP. That is, a Community Supported Pie. Phoebe Lawless, formerly of the famous Magnolia Grill, is now selling pies at her local farmers' markets under the name Scratch Seasonal Artisan Bakery. She's also letting people prepay for a month of weekly surprise pies, a.k.a. buy into the CSP.

I haven't tried the pies, but Michelle Polzine, the James Beard–nominated pastry chef from Range restaurant in San Francisco, was raving about Lawless's desserts. And the idea certainly sounds like a winner: For $60 a month, you get one large or three small pies each week for four weeks, sweet and savory. Past flavors have included Mexican chocolate chess, garlicky collard and apple-smoked bacon, farmhouse white bean and sage, and brown butter sugar pie. On Lawless's Twitter feed, she says she's making honeyed green garlic, strawberry rhubarb, and asparagus and local bacon. Sign me up!

Photo courtesy of Scratch Seasonal Artisan Bakery

How to Line Your Cake Pan with Parchment Paper

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The Basics: How to Make Skillet Cornbread

The Basics: How to Make Skillet Cornbread

Moist and flavorful. READ MORE