The CHOW Blog rss

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

Cheesecake-Filled Pancakes

Play Video

This week's mission: IHOP does the KFC Double Down thing. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Introduction to Frying

If you have not fried much before, ipsedixit offers beginner's advice: First, find an oil with a high smoke point. Peanut oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil are all good choices. rworange likes Crisco best for frying, because of its neutral flavor. "A significant number of people find canola to be fishy-tasting, especially for high heat uses, due to its composition," says Karl S. And things fried in lard are, reportedly, very tasty. "But the lard needs to be rendered the old-fashioned way (I render my own), not the hydrogenated white bricks on U.S. supermarket shelves," says Karl S. earthygoat agrees: "Home-rendered lard is best!"

Next, "get a thermometer and aim to heat your oil—and maintain it—at 350 to 375 degrees F," says ipsedixit. "If you don't have a thermometer, the oil is ready when you stick the end of a wooden spoon into the oil and it bubbles." Finally, don't overcrowd your pan. Crowding will reduce the heat and make for less-than-ideal frying conditions. Finally, "just remember that like any other ability, you'll get better at frying the more often you do it—just make sure to drain well all the stuff you fry," says epabella.

Discuss: Frying Novice

Bubble Travel

Those same guys you remember from the Diet Coke and Mentos fountain have made another amusing object, the Coke Zero and Mentos rocket car. Love those crash helmets.

Overheard on the General Topics Board

"Ever since I heard of it, I have been in love with the concept of thermal cooking (also known as haybox cooking, among other things). Not only because of how energy efficient and environmentally friendly it is, but also because of its portability and convenience. Great for road trips, camping, and potlucks!" – ursy_ten

"Yes, I've read here that many Americans seem to keep things like these in the fridge. I keep very few jarred condiments there, as with all the sugar and vinegar that they usually contain, they never spoil in the cupboard (I do keep low-sugar jams fridged, although not conventionally made ones)." – Harters, on refrigerating ketchup and Worcestershire sauce

"Fourth for Kosciusko. The only mustard I am tempted to eat straight." – Steve

Power Brunch at Chung Shin Yuan

A party of 12 uncovered a "superlative" brunch at Taiwanese Chung Shin Yuan, according to lipoff, who admonishes other brunchers to arrive by 11 a.m. or face a 45-minute wait. What to have there:

• Dou jiang or sweet soybean milk, "best I've had," says lipoff. Order it sweet or savory, with scallions and fried dough slices. "Umami central," notes lipoff.
• Pi dan tofu, cubes of silken tofu in a soy sauce, topped with chopped pickled vegetables and a thousand-year-old egg.
• Jiu cai he zi, chive pie, with a crispy shell and flavorful filling.
• Shao bing are "a little dry" but "the texture of the beef is terrific" and the bing "has this unusually crispy character without the sesame layer peeling off," says lipoff.
• Zha jiang mian, wheat noodles with ground pork stir-fried with soybean paste, was "the biggest hit of the meal," with very fresh vegetables and toothsome noodles.

Chung Shin Yuan [MetroWest]
183 California Street, Newtonville
617-964-0111

Discuss: Brunch at Chung Shin Yuan

Bob Lobster’s Deep-Fried Delights

In spring, a young hound's fancy turns to thoughts of fried seafood, and Bob Lobster has a dab hand at the fryer. Pat Hammond says, "The clams weren't big, but they were fresh tasting and tender. The breading was crisp with no greasiness at all; the oil must have been nice and clean." The tartar sauce was nice, too. Fried shrimp were "perfectly cooked" with the same crispy breading.

The place is casual; step up to the counter to put in your order and take a seat outside to wait for the food to be brought out. Drinks, ice cream, and fresh seafood are for sale inside as well.

Bob Lobster [Merrimack Valley]
49 Plum Island Turnpike, Newbury
978-465-7100

Discuss: Bob Lobster – Newbury, Ma.

Boil Your Own at the Q

Mongolian hot pot, a style of cooking with a tabletop bubbling vat of broth in which diners cook their own food (like its Japanese cousin shabu-shabu), is pretty much a guaranteed good time. But the broth at the Q Restaurant (formerly Little Q of Quincy) is something else again. samovar32 says this place "blows away other Boston area shabu-shabu joints. Broths were full of multiple whole spices, garlic chunks, ginger, scallions—more like full-fledged soups than mere dipping broths."

lipoff particularly recommends the vegetarian mala broth, "numbing and hot," and even better with some cilantro thrown in. The herbal broth is lovely, too, with whole spices: "longitudinal slices of ginger root, whole garlic cloves, green onion, maybe some lemongrass, some other seed pods that, once boiled open, revealed seeds that had a fennel/anise-y taste that was quite nice in the bottom of the soup bowl," says Bob Dobalina.

The meats and vegetables are of good quality. samovar32 particularly recommends the beef tendon: "melts in your mouth after a few minutes in the broth."

The Q Restaurant [Chinatown]
660 Washington Street, Boston
617-773-5888

Discuss: Little Q Hot Pot, Arlington

Overheard on the Boston Boards

"Go to Rendezvous and have the lemon curd with huckleberry dessert. I don't even like lemon desserts and it rocked me." – StriperGuy, on a fine-dining dessert worth its salt

"Has anyone ever tried Azuluna products? The brand was started by a large-animal veterinarian at Cummings Veterinary School (Tufts) in Grafton. I sampled both the veal and the eggs at Oleana in Cambridge: spectacular. (The calves are raised on pasture, fed by—get this—their mothers!)" – Elowheeze on an ethical New England meat and eggs producer now carried by Whole Foods

"[T]he fries in this place surprised me, particularly since they serve homemade potato chips with the burgers instead of these fries, which you have to order separately. Which doesn't make sense because the potato chips are not good (nor are the beans if you don't want a sugar rush) but the fries (we had the garlic parm) rock." – robpeekmiller on the fries at the Boston Burger Company

Street Food Strikes Back

Once upon a time, street food ran unfettered and unregulated, for both good and ill. But in many cities across the U.S., an increasingly tight cord of legalese has choked or even strangled the culture of food trucks, leaving citizens far poorer for their absence.

On that front, gastronomes the world 'round must concede: Chicago chef Matt Maroni is doing the Lord's work. The sandwich purveyor is petitioning the City Council with a model ordinance aimed at opening up the Windy City to freshly made food truck delicacies; right now, only pre-prepared and packaged foods can be sold on the street.
READ MORE

The Disturbing Truth About Snacks with Less Salt

Putting salt in your coffee tastes nasty. That didn't stop Alton Brown from recommending it in a new advertisement for Cargill. That's just one of the dirty details in a great behind-the-scenes New York Times story on the processed food industry's attempts to keep antisodium initiatives at bay. We've known that salt is really bad for you since the 1970s (it causes hypertension in some people), but every time anybody tries to get the companies that supply our nation with frozen pizzas and potato chips to cut back, those companies launch a coordinated offensive. This time around, they're battling New York's Mayor Bloomberg, Michelle Obama, and the Institute of Medicine.

READ MORE