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

Hey Developers, Make This Food App!

The mania over the iPad has got me thinking about recipe apps, and how they could be better. This is what I'd like to see in my dream cooking app:

From the moment I choose my recipe, I don't want to have to touch the iPad. Instead, voice activation would guide me through the steps. If you happened to be really slow, you could say "pause" or "repeat" to hear the step again. When I'm baking, I usually have to look back at the amount of baking soda about five times, so it would be nice to just ask, "How much baking soda?" and get a response. Bonus points: You could have the voices tailored to the dish you're making—I'd love to hear an Elizabethan robot describe how to make a mincemeat pie. READ MORE

Meatless Mondays Now, Gay Bar Tuesdays Next?

Score one for idealistic vegetarian policy wonks: San Francisco's SF Examiner reported Tuesday that the city Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation denoting each Monday as "meat-free." The legislation is fairly toothless, merely asking “all restaurants, grocery stores and schools to offer a greater variety of plant-based options to improve the health of San Francisco residents and visitors and to increase the awareness of the impact a green diet would be on our planet.” It doesn't authorize Citizen Burger Arrests or anything. But there's still been a fair amount of blowback. Brock Keeling of irascible San Francisco metro blog SFist points out that San Francisco is already heavily frosted with vegetarian restaurants, farmers' markets, hippies, and vegetarian tasting menus: "Who in this city needs to learn about alternatives to meat? No one, that's who. Absurd. This is like, say, passing a Gay Bar Tuesdays resolution."

READ MORE

iCan iPad iCook?

The iPad has officially arrived, along with endless hype for its movie-watching, web surfing, and app-mania functionality. But the important question (to us) is, how it will fare in the kitchen? How will cooking a recipe from the iPad work and will it be good enough to replace real cookbooks? READ MORE

The Color of Asparagus

ipsedixit adores asparagus in all its permutations—but can't detect any noticeable difference in taste between the different colors of asparagus (green, purple, and white). "I've tried them raw, lightly steamed, stir-fried, cooked to fork tender, and it really doesn't seem to matter," says ipsedixit. "They all taste the same." LauraGrace agrees: "It boggled my mind to watch folks in Germany pay 17 or 18 Euro for a plate of steamed fat white asparagus in beurre blanc, and slice it with such care and absolutely roll their eyes back in their heads with pleasure as they ate it!"

The colored varieties do taste different from each other, says Pata_Negra. "Green and purple have a pronounced bitterness (high chlorophyll content). White is mild and most exquisite." But here's where the confusion comes in: The white asparagus you're likely to find in the United States is NOT the divine spargel folks pay 18 euro a plate for over on the Continent. "German white asparagus is also known as white gold," says linguafood. "The flavor is unique, and you won't get anything even close to that outside Germany. I made the mistake of buying white asparagus in the U.S. once. Blah. Basically flavorless." "The American varieties aren't even from the same planet," agrees dmd_kc.

Chalk it up to terroir—and stick with the flavorful green or purple varieties in the States. "Green is one of my favorite vegetables, but I truly detest U.S. domestic white," says dmd_kc. "It has a funky, acrid flavor, which I think is complemented by the chlorophyll in green."

Discuss Asparagus ... can you taste the color difference?

Jerk That Perks

Jerk That Perks

This week's mission: the bastard child of beef jerky and a cuppa joe. READ MORE

A Walk on the Mild Side

A Walk on the Mild Side

This week's mission: a marijuana-inspired soda for the anxious set. READ MORE

Portuguese Street Food You Can Make at Home

Grilled sardines, or sardinhas asadas, are summer street food in Portugal, says Pata_Negra. There are no fancy recipes—the treatment is extremely simple. "Dry the fish, brush with some oil and grill," advises Pata_Negra. "Sprinkle salt flakes over and devour by the dozen. Wash everything down with a vinho verde." It's a dish that's also common in Spanish tapas restaurants—again, treated very simply with olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon, says ML8000. And leave the heads on—Portuguese cooks don't even scale the sardines before they grill them, says Pata_Negra.

If you want to give grilling sardines a shot, RAGHOUND notes that fresh sardines are frequently available at Asian markets—although the fattest, sweetest sardines come from Portugal, says Pata_Negra.

Discuss: Grilled Sardines

Maldon Sea Salt: Why Bother?

As we've written before about  sea salt and other specialty salts, they're used to finish a dish. rezpeni is a fan of Maldon sea salt: "I mostly use it as a last minute addition to salads, meats, soups, usually in conjunction with my best olive oil that doesn't get cooked either," says rezpeni. "Has a great briny, mineraly taste and nice big, light flakes."

But the real selling point of the salt is not the flavor, says Mr Taster. It's the texture. "Big, wide, flat crunchy irregular crystals. It's got a great crunch," he says. mrhooks agrees. "The best thing about Maldon sea salt is that some of the intact crystals are shaped like flattened pyramids," he says. "Very cool looking, and good for finishing as you said, or as a condiment. I think it's one of the saltier salts I've tried, on the opposite end of the spectrum from, say, fleur de sel."

Discuss: Maldon sea salt—why?

Overheard on the General Topics Boards

"I tried them at the New Amsterdam festival in Manhattan last year. They are as advertised: like a little electric shock in your mouth." - small h, on the sensation of eating fresh Sichuan peppercorns

"I was in a restaurant on Kyushu island. The owner cut a live squid right out of the tank for us. It was as clear as glass. He pointed to two pieces and said, "Start here, these are the best pieces." Two. No more than that. Each fish has one liver, one egg sac or one sperm sac. The best is in very limited supply." - sushiman

"The ingredient list was intriguing for this mystery pack of dark brown powder of irregular granular size. I asked what O-Lieng Powder is for. Shopkeeper said it's for making coffee, using the regular drip machine. Ingredient list: roasted coffee, soybeans, brown rice, caramel." - HLing, on mysterious Thai O-Lieng powder

Have Food Souvenirs, Will Travel

Visiting Floridian bowmgbo always brings New York foodstuffs (babka, herring) home after a trip to the Big Apple. What typically Boston area treats should make the return journey? Boston hounds spoke up loud and proud about many iconic local treats, including:

• A cannoli kit with shells and filling packed separately, to be stuffed just before eating. Such kits are available at Modern Pastry and Maria's.

• Not exactly from Boston, but close: Cranberry Bog Frogs candies or chocolate covered cranberries from Cape Cod Provisions, most commonly found in New England specialty stores and also spotted recently at Whole Foods.

• Fennel salami or other Italian delicacies from Salumeria Italiana in the North End.

• Something from Taza Chocolate, headquartered in Somerville.

Maple Leaf brand's natural casing hot dogs: momoftwo says it's the one thing her family always brings back with them. Her uncle usually buys a whole case.

Modern Pastry [North End]
257 Hanover Street, Boston
617-523-3783

Maria's [North End]
48 Cross Street, Boston
617-523-1196

Salumeria Italiana [North End]
151 Richmond Street, Boston
617-528-8743

Taza Chocolate [North of Boston]
561 Windsor Street, Somerville
617-623-0804

Discuss: What food from Boston area should I bring home to Florida?