The CHOW Blog rss

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

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

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

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

O Ya [Downtown]
9 East Street, Boston

L'Espalier [Back Bay]
774 Boylston Street, Boston

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

Overheard on the Boston Boards

"Was amused yesterday when, upon ordering this for the first time at Peach Farm, we were offered the choice of fresh shrimp (over frozen) for an extra dollar. That dollar was WAY worth it." - litchick on salt-and-pepper whole shrimp at Peach Farm

"What they do best, I've vexingly found, is a barbecue chicken sub. Long after having partaken in my last visit here (and sworn off meat of unknown origin), I still dream about this thing. The rolls they use are rich and hold up very well to the sauce, which is a) abundant b) very sweet c) EXCELLENT. The chicken pieces they've got for those things are unfailingly white and juicy." - FinnFPM on Chacho's Pizza & Subs

"The chow simply shined here as a result of a common-sense (but still all too rare) combination of flawless cooking technique and truly inspired, slightly unconventional combinations of top-quality ingredients." - finlero on dinner at Erbaluce

Breastfeeding and the Milk of Human Cruelty

"Over 700 comments" is all you need to read to understand that breastfeeding in public still retains a whiff of controversy. A story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press about a breastfeeding woman being booted from a Maplewood, Minnesota buffet touched off a firestorm of comments that reflect a) the diversity of opinions about breastfeeding, b) how little of an article is actually read before the typical commenter weighs in with his or her "thoughts" and c) how far the national discourse has sunk, since, say, the relatively enlightened era of two or three years ago.


It’s Not a Bong, It’s a Vegetable!

Here's the kind of food story that warms the cockles of your heart: When a guy at the newly opened Target Field in Minneapolis decided to fire up a delicious batch of marijuana (or "oregano," as he later described it to security guards) he chose to do so in a red pepper hollowed out into an improvised pipe.


A Kinder, Gentler Yelp?

On the heels of a rash of lawsuits accusing the site of extortion, CEO Jeremy Stoppelman posted to the Yelp blog about the new ways the site would up its transparency by adding a link for users to see reviews that were automatically filtered off a business's page, and eliminating the "Favorite Review" feature from its advertising package, which had previously allowed an advertiser to select a review that would appear at the top of its listing. READ MORE

Is It Cleaner? Is It Tastier? The Story of Bottled Water

While they may have gone a step too far when they equate drinking bottled water to smoking while pregnant, the creators of "The Story of Bottled Water" make it pretty clear that there is really no reason to be buying and throwing away countless plastic bottles a year. READ MORE