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

Tasty Sugar-Free Maple Syrup

"Finding a maple syrup suitable for diabetics can be frustrating," says todao, who cooks for people with special dietary needs. "Most are either watery or have bitter aftertastes or both, which causes me to avoid them almost entirely." But Blackberry Patch Maple Praline Sugar Free Syrup is a sweet find. "It is, IMO, the best product of its kind," says todao. It does contain the ingredient malitol, which can cause cramping if used in excess; "I suspect that the tolerance for malitol must vary by individual, so it would be advisable, I think, to use it sparingly," says todao.

mcf has another tip: "I've found a really effective fix for weak-tasting sugar free maple syrup; I buy natural maple extract and add some to the SF stuff. Doesn't thicken it, but the flavor is richer, much more like the real stuff."

Discuss: Sweet Find

Earthy, Nutty Hempseed Oil

Hempseed oil has been showing up in natural food stores lately, says lagatta. "Of course I mean the legal stuff with minimal THC, not hash oil." You shouldn't really cook with it, says goodhealthgourmet, because it oxidizes very easily when exposed to heat. Not to mention it's pretty pricey for cooking use.

"I reserve it for salad dressing, pesto, hummus and bean dips, or drizzling over foods that are already cooked—it's OK to use it on hot food, I'd just avoid the higher direct cooking heat," says goodhealthgourmet. It works well in foods like pesto and hummus, traditionally made with olive oil. The flavor is earthy and nutty, as opposed to fruity (as with olive oil), but the flavor of hempseed oil isn't too assertive, says goodhealthgourmet.

Discuss: hempseed oil?

Peanut Butter on Corn?

"I was visiting with some friends from the West Coast and we had a big clam bake. Lobsters, clams, linguiça, corn. You know, all the fixings," says Lenox637. "One of my friend's daughters went into the kitchen and returned with a jar of peanut butter. I watched, horrified, I must say, as she spread the peanut butter over the corn on the cob." Lenox637 was told that peanut butter is a common corn topping on the West Coast, although few Chowhounds have heard of the phenomenon. ipsedixit's college roommate used to make sandwiches of drained canned corn and peanut butter on Texas toast. "Tried it once and it wasn't all that bad," says ipsedixit. "Sweet, savory, and crunchy. Sort of like a PB&J sandwich except you get that extra mouthfeel crunch and texture from the corn niblets instead of just the jiggly sliminess of the jelly or jam."

Peanut butter is a completely legitimate popcorn topping, says anonymouse1935. Warm the peanut butter first, says goodhealthgourmet, or "turn it into sort of a PB caramel sauce. Warm some honey or simple syrup (or for a delicious twist, maple syrup) and a dash of vanilla in a saucepan, remove from the heat, and stir in peanut butter without added sugar," suggests goodhealthgourmet. "Drizzle over freshly popped corn and toss to coat."

Discuss: Peanut Butter............ on corn?

Overheard on the General Topics Boards

"Actually, May's sompopo queen ants could be considered the 'Mayan caviar' since the part removed from them is loaded with ant eggs. In other words, the belly bottom of the sompopo queen ant is the equivalent of the roe of fish." – rworange

"Key is to buy SMALL strawberries that look ugly. More often than not producers have been trying to find the holy grail of 'beauty queen' strawberries—so much the better for dipping in chocolate and charging a premium, but so much the worse on the palate." – ipsedixit, on finding tasty strawberries

"I'm not yet fluent in Spanish and I found I have great success with info about fish varieties by pointing to it and asking 'Tilapia?' If they put one-inch smelt on my dish, I still ask the same thing." – rworange

See the Truck. Be the Truck.

As we've learned from running a food site, pictures of food make people want to eat it. If you're wondering what food truck you might patronize for lunch today, MobileCravings has the visuals to feed your musings. The site has pictures and short videos of trucks and their wares in cities from New York to Los Angeles. Pocket pies in Houston? Banh mi by bike in San Francisco?

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