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

Overheard on the Boston Boards

"Kimball's in Westford is excellent. I grew up in that area and EVERYONE went to Kimball's on hot summer nights. If you want a 'Man vs. Food' moment, order the Kimball's Special or banana split." – Cheffrank

"The hash browns are fabulous, the multigrain pancakes with berries, biscuits, really smoky bacon, and ham are really good, and I also like the red flannel hash. The cranberry walnut and the anadama toast are also topnotch." – bear, on breakfast at Henrietta's Table

"I took one of the Cambodian classes at Elephant Walk and it was wonderful. Very hands-on (we hand-chopped over a pound of ginger) and a delicious group meal afterwards."
– rouxmaker

Francis Lam Has a Crush

Cutty's was recently called out in Digest for having yummy sandwiches made by a guy who used to work for Cook's Illustrated and is now the subject of a Salon article by Francis Lam focusing entirely on one sandwich: roast beef and crispy shallot. So, you know, it's probably pretty good.

"Definitely not a super value sort of place, but that roast beef sandwich is one of the finest sandwiches around," says nsenada. It should be noted, however, that drinks are quite reasonable: "$.80 for a fresh lime juice isn't bad in my book," says Chrispy75.

Cutty's [South Shore]
284 Washington Street, Brookline

Discuss: Cutty's, Brookline Villiage, 2/25/10
Cutty's – Brookline Village in Salon

Dinner at Tiffani’s

Things are ramping up at Rocca, where former Top Chef contestant (and new Rocca chef) Tiffani Faison has introduced a new menu.

noradeidre has almost nothing but raves. Fluke crudo with ramps purée and almond vinaigrette was "Fresh, clean, delicious." Grilled squid and herb salad had "incredibly tender" squid, and the farro salad with roasted and raw asparagus, grapes, and arugula was a powerhouse, with an "element of rawness" that "worked very nicely in contrast."

The new menu has a "pane crostoso" course, four types of bread with cheese or butter spreads, including formaggio crema with black olives and tomatoes ("I practically licked the plate clean") and house-made ricotta with honey and black pepper.

Elsewhere, seasonal ingredients seem key: morels, fava beans, chives. "I recommend going there for grazing. I thought the small plates were reasonably priced and the pizzas looked great, too," says noradeirdre.

Rocca [South End]
500 Harrison Avenue, Boston

Discuss: Rocca's new menu

America’s Dorkiest Mad Man?

If you're a fan of new ones being torn, you'll enjoy this profile of advertising "Dumbest Genius" Peter Arnell written by Jeff Bercovici of DailyFinance.

Here's the saucy teaser:

"I interviewed Arnell at his office in 2004. Never in the years before or since have I met a person so impressed with his own talents. That's not very nice to say, I know, but bear in mind we're talking about someone with a reputation for hitting his employees and making them do push-ups as punishment."


Real Oreo Ice Cream

Short and sweet, BJK spells out the story on the Black Cow: "Really, really good homemade ice cream out here in the boonies."

"Been three times now, and so far we've had mint chip, Oreo, coffee Oreo, and black raspberry Oreo. Dense, creamy, not too sweet, a nice variety of flavors, and some damn good hot fudge, too."

Apparently Black Cow uses a different method of making Oreo ice cream than most makers, who make vanilla and then just add Oreos. "Damn good stuff," sums up BJK.

The Black Cow [Metro West]
1397 Main Street, Millis

Discuss: Wow - Incredible Ice Cream at Black Cow in Millis

Big Brother Set to Endorse Craft Brews

A government resolution that "encourages beer-lovers of the United States to celebrate American Craft Beer Week through events at microbreweries, brewpubs, and beer stores across the United States"? I'll drink to that. And it's looking like the House of Representatives will, too. On April 22, House of Representatives Resolution H. Res. 1297 [link leads to a PDF file] was introduced, with the purpose of "supporting the goals and ideals of American Craft Beer Week," a national celebration of small and indie brewers with events all over the country ranging from beer festivals to beer dinners. Its passage is looking like "a no-brainer," says Julia Herz, the craft beer program director at the Brewers Association, who says that a similar resolution passed in 2006.


A Study In Cupcake Excellence

A lot of people are down on cupcakes now, maybe because "the groupie part of the cupcakes scene has been dying a painstaking death and it's being slowly laid to rest in the fad compost heap along with froyo," says bulavinaka. But don't despair. "I think if one keeps an open mind and gives good food a chance, one will find the great examples out there." Cupcakes included.

The newest find: SugarJones Cupcakes, a stand at the Sunday Mar Vista Farmers' Market that has very well-executed cupcakes, says bulavinaka.

The cake portion is larger than average, and relatively dense, almost like pound cake. "I've read complaints by many that by nature, cupcakes are going to be drier than an conventional cake—this is true in general because the crumb proportion of cake interior is relatively small to the the surrounding exposed portion. But the combination of the broader dimension as well as the strong execution in preparing and baking this cupcake shows in the results," says bulavinaka.

The frosting has "a nice sweetness that isn't cloying, the flavors are subtle yet enduring, and the texture is substantial but not greasy," says bulavinaka. This might be because of the touch of saltiness in the frosting, says Dommy. It makes the frosting kind of weird on its own, but perfect as a companion to the cake.

SugarJones also has massive homemade Oreos that are very likable, says Jase, especially the filling. The texture of the cookie is nice, too, with some bite and chew, but not quite crumbly.

SugarJones Cupcakes at the Mar Vista Farmer's Market [Westside - Beaches]
Venice Blvd and Grand View Blvd, Los Angeles

Discuss: Sugar Jones Cupcakes at the Sunday Mar Vista Farmers Market

Exploding Bottles

When John Peed, director of the Masters Championship of Amateur Brewing, began making his own beer in the 1970s, he was clueless. He went to a local home-brew shop and bought a cellophane pouch off the shelf containing papery brown hop leaves, not realizing hops are supposed to be green, and made some bad beer out of them. "That was just what was available back then," says Peed. "Home-brewing was not a viable hobby."

Today, in Peed's home state of Tennessee, there's a brewing supply store that carries 140 types of grain and over 50 varieties of carefully refrigerated hops. Between October 2009 and February 2010, 50 new home-brewing clubs registered for membership with the American Homebrewers Association, the national organization for hobbyist brewers, says Director Gary Glass. Brewing supply stores are opening at a rapid clip, and amateur brewing competitions, like the ones put on by the AHA, are getting an unprecedented number of entries. Home-brewing is exploding.


The Anti-Reuben

We return to the new Chowhound darling Bite Bar & Bakery for yet another discovery: a perfect Reuben, of sorts. Ciao Bob warns that he hates normal Reubens. "I generally find them to be a greasy mess with lousy corned beef and cheap 'kraut: plus, I don't care for Thousand Island dressing at all." So the Bite's reuben may not appeal to a lover of the classic Reuben.

But this sandwich has won his heart. It's drier than the usual oil slick; being dry-grilled, he suspects, rather than doused in grease and then grilled. "They use REALLY, REALLY EXCELLENT CORNED BEEF, it must be made there, and it is just delish." The sauerkraut is also house-made, and wonderful.

bulavinaka agrees: "Maybe Bite should rename this Ciao Bob's Anti-Reuben." The corned beef is "fantastic. Lean but moist, flavorful, and it didn't taste like a salt lick."

The Reuben is a daily special, but seems to recur regularly.

"I am really loving Bite's restrained simplicity," says Dommy. Other places go overboard with fancy ingredients. Here, it's pure, simple, and perfect.

Bite Bar & Bakery [Westside - Beaches]
3221 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica

Discuss: Bite Bar & Bakery – "Hey,Yummy Reu-ben! Where You-ben all my life?"

Grass-Fed Yes, Organic No

Label confusion can cause a mental stall-out in front of the meat counter. Organic? Natural? Hormone-free, grass-fed, flash-frozen, dry-aged? Mark Maynard of Roxbury, Connecticut grass-fed beef farm Greyledge, breaks it down for the Hungry Beast.

Maynard's a fan of the benefits of grass-fed beef for its better nutritional profile than corn-fed: "the herd is content, healthy, and the beef is high in Vitamin E, Omega-3s, and conjugated linoleic acid, which some studies have shown has cancer-fighting properties and could lower cholesterol. What’s more, pasture-raised beef is usually free of hormones and antibiotics."