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

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?

Better Salad Through Chemicals

The blog Cooking Issues by Dave Arnold and Nils Norén of the French Culinary Institute in New York, is one of my favorites for being randomly awesome. On the face of it, it's a vehicle for Arnold, who apparently has the coolest job in the world, to detail his daily science-lab-style hijinks, such as how to replicate Turkish stretchy ice cream using synthetic orchid powder, or how to vacuum-infuse a martini inside a cucumber. Typical sentences begin, "I had a hydrocolloid class coming up..." There are also some seemingly non-related asides, like an ongoing series of portraits they're taking of notable people including Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Merle Haggard drinking a slug of Aquavit. (?!) READ MORE

Documenting the World of Competitive Grocery Bagging

If you ever had a job bagging groceries, you'll appreciate the handy work documented in Ready, Set, Bag!, a film about the Best Bagger Championsip, the national grocery bagging competition in Las Vegas. The film's next showing will be the Sonoma International Film Festival, on April 17. It's also interesting to see that in the most current bagging face off in February, the competition moved to reusable tote bags instead of traditional paper or plastic.

Rendezvous Begins the Beguine

"I keep asking myself: why don't I go to this place more often? I can't wait to go back," says snowcone about dinner at Rendezvous, a Cambridge spot that has what Pia calls "wonderful food and cocktails, intimate setting but not so fancy that you feel like you have to dress up."

Hounds aren't the only ones who love this underrated spot; Chef Steve Johnson was on this year's James Beard list of top chefs in the Northeast.

Good orders:

• The mint and cucumber cocktail, an elegant combination of those two ingredients plus lemon, gin, and simple syrup-- a perfect summer refresher
• Arugula and escarole salad with shaved fennel, breadcrumbs, and anchovy dressing
• Maine crab cakes with Berber spices and purée of fresh peas
• Toasted orecchiette with pork and veal meatballs
• Roasted chicken with morels, leeks, spinach, and mustard sauce

There are great deals to be had here, too. The Sunday prix fixe menu, a steal at only $38, includes an appetizer, entrée, and dessert. Monday night is also tapas night, with reasonably priced small plates.

Rendezvous [Cambridge]
502 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge
617-576-1900

Discuss: Great meal at Rendezvous

The Basics: How to Make Italian Meatballs in Sauce

The Basics: How to Make Italian Meatballs in Sauce

Cooked right in the sauce. READ MORE

Tastings Fit for the Gods

Trying the chef's tasting menu at an upscale restaurant is a long and involved event, with a price to match. Craigie on Main's six-course tasting menu is $90 per person ($115 for ten courses), but mbasnack sighs, after a recent dinner, "if I could somehow afford the $300 price tag (with cocktails, coffee, and tip) I would fast all week for it ... Love, love, loved it." The menu included squid noodles, pork belly, sweetbreads, veal tenderloin; it went on and on, proving to be, says mbasnack, "the most fantastic dining experience I've ever had." Tony Maws came out to the table to thank them for coming, too.

Hounds also recommend the tasting menus at Clio and O Ya and warn that L'Espalier's menu has slipped a bit since the restaurant's move.

Craigie on Main [Cambridge]
853 Main Street, Cambridge
617-497-5511

Clio [Back Bay]
370-A Commonwealth Avenue, Boston
617-536-7200

O Ya [Downtown]
9 East Street, Boston
617-654-9900

L'Espalier [Back Bay]
774 Boylston Street, Boston
617-262-3023

Discuss: Died and Went to Chowhound Heaven ... Craigie on Main Tasting