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

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"Teach her where food comes from. My experience picking tomatoes from the vine, pulling onions from the ground, and watching flowers turn into melons in my grandmother's garden were invaluable lessons. So too was the experience of making cookies, sausages, mincemeat instead of buying them pre-made, pre-packaged in the grocery store." - JungMann, on involving a young child with cooking

"I've had mixed success making gnocchi. Sometimes it works and they are lovely little pillows; sometimes it doesn't and they are just leaden. I've used potatoes and I've used roasted squash, which I actually prefer. Either way, the 'light hand' is essential. You have to handle it as little as possible." - LNG212

"Frozen peas are great. Sweeter than the so-called 'fresh' English peas in pods in markets, unless you're getting ones that have just been picked from a farmers' market. They lose their sweetness so quickly. The frozen ones are flash-frozen within minutes after picking. I throw them in frozen and the heat of the dish defrosts and heats them through. That's all the cooking they need." - MakingSense

Social Conservatives Target Extreme Ice-Cream Flavors

A raft of picketers engulfed San Francisco ice cream shop Humphry Slocombe early this week, protesting its sale of liquor-based ice cream to children. The shop has attained cult status for its funky, edgy flavors such as Secret Breakfast, containing bourbon and corn flakes, and Magnolia Thunderpussy beer ice cream.

"These flavors introduce small children to the taste of liquor," said Lionel Jahosifat, who carried a sign that read "Foodies Today, Alkies Tomorrow!" "So that by the time they hit grade school, they're ready for the hard stuff," Jahosifat continued. "And that's just not right."

Marlena Macintyre, another protester, pointed out that on this particular day, the shop's limited-edition sorbet was "Jesus Juice," containing wine and Coca-Cola. "Frankly, I think this ice cream flavor should be flat-out illegal," she said.

Humphry Slocombe did brisk business during and after the protest, upping its Twitter followers by roughly 500,000.

Image source:

DPH Mustache-Net Crackdown in Cobble Hill

The artisanal cocktail movement suffered heavy casualties last night, when New York City Department of Health officials cited several restaurants in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn for old-timey facial hair code violations. For people preparing food and drink, state law requires that beards, sideburns, and mustaches be protected by a "mustache net." However, in recent years, a trend toward aggressive nostalgia in the hospitality industry has encouraged whimsical mustaches at the expense of hygiene. There is often an equally compromising accumulation of Victorian clutter: phonographs, velvet flocked wallpaper, tarnished medical equipment, and pinned butterfly wings that officials warn can attract dust and crumbs.

The crackdown was a surprise to restaurant employees—one bartender apparently panicked and attempted to hide behind a taxidermied warthog. However, many of those cited have remained defiant.

"I'd be happy to have my staff wear mustache nets—if I could find a sustainable source," said a representative of one of the establishments targeted in the raid. "And so far, I have not found a mustache net farm whose mustache netting practices I believe in."

Image source: Flickr member westerndave under Creative Commons

Michelin Fires Inspectors, Moves to User-Generated Content

Ordinary diners will one day be able to cast their votes as to whether the bagel place on the corner is worthy of receiving a coveted Michelin star, or perhaps two or three. The historically rigorous Michelin Guide issued a press release this week stating that it was "quickly phasing out" its anonymous inspector evaluations in favor of user-generated reviews by the year 2020 in order to be "à la mode."

Diners wishing to submit a review must fill out and fax back the 15-page evaluation document, available for download here. They must also mail back a notarized sample review of the restaurant WD-50, written in French from the perspective of Joan of Arc. Former Michelin inspectors' identities will be revealed on April 15 in a dramatic public stoning in Lyon, which will be filmed for an episode of No Reservations.

Image source: Flickr member Tracy Hunter under Creative Commons

Stay-at-Home Mom Arrested for Using Bouillon Cube

A mother in Berkeley, California, was apparently arrested Sunday afternoon when an anonymous tipster supplied police with video, taken with a camera phone, of the woman feeding her young daughter soup prepared with a mass-market, chicken-flavored bouillon cube. The charge is child endangerment.

Although bouillon cubes are not illegal, they are generally recognized to be inferior to a good, collagen-rich chicken stock prepared at home using humanely raised poultry. The case hinges on the fact that the mother, Sharon Shinkleton, has both the backyard space and the free time to raise and slaughter her own chickens, thereby providing her with the means to feed her child a healthy and more subtly nuanced broth.

"What's the point of staying home to take care of your kid if you're just going to go to the store and buy them some awful high-sodium crap?" demanded a city councilperson.

Even the maker of the bouillon cube expressed dismay.

"Our products are really more aimed at poor people and busy professionals," said
a spokesperson. "In the photo I have seen of this customer, she appears to be wearing a breezy tunic from the Anthropologie spring collection. Clearly she does not fit into either of these demographics and should not be flavoring with our cubes."

Image source: Flickr member tiffanywashko under Creative Commons

Guy Fieri Wins Peabody

The spiky-haired Food Network star Guy Fieri joined the ranks of some of television's most legendary contributors last Wednesday by receiving a Peabody Award for his show Guy Off the Hook. The chef, who rose to national prominence after winning as a contestant on The Next Food Network Star, has garnered critical acclaim for his three other Food Network shows: Guy's Big Bite, Ultimate Recipe Showdown, and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. But it was this latest work, taped in front of a live studio audience, that finally earned him the official recognition many feel is long overdue. He joins the ranks of 60 Minutes, CNN's coverage of the earthquake in Haiti, and a PBS documentary about deaf prisoners who form a reggae band, among other winners.

"Guy clearly digs hangin' with the regular folks, who are livin' life 'on point,' and 'off the hook,'" said the director of the Peabody Awards program. "Our deliberations seek excellence on its own terms, and Guy clearly has achieved that."

Image source: Flickr member Greencolander under Creative Commons

Community Slaughterhouse and Wi-Fi Café in Williamsburg an Instant Game-Changer

About the only thing that hasn't been tweeted, blogged, Facebooked, or written about the Jungle, the über-hip slaughterhouse-cum–espresso bar in Williamsburg, is a guess at who will be the first to imitate it. And more to the point, will they succeed? Since opening last fall, the bloody, offal-strewn warehouse, where you can kill your own animals in between sips of Stumptown coffee, has become the new town square for the bohemian epicenter of New York.

Shy Curtain and Moss Fenugreek, the impresarios behind the Jungle, have been coy about their plans for the future. A report in Grub Street surfaced in February that the pair were in talks with the Olive Garden for a spin-off, to be located in the Fisherman's Wharf district of San Francisco. "They would solely be the breadstick supplier," Fenugreek was quoted as saying. "It's something we're considering."

The Surprise of Cultured Cottage Cheese

Nancy's cottage cheese doesn't taste like other cottage cheese, says cookie monster—it has a tart flavor, similar to sour cream. "Not like sour milk, but like someone had mixed some sour cream into it," explains cookie monster.

The unusual flavor is because it's a cultured dairy product, like yogurt. "That's the reason I love it—I find most other cottage cheese to be quite 'bleh' now," says nofunlatte. "FWIW, Nancy's non-organic cottage cheese is also cultured and it has that same tangy quality. It has nothing to do with the 'organicness' and everything to do with the 'culturedness.'" At $4 a tub, it's a bit of a splurge. But "I don't even eat the other stuff anymore, it's so bland," says nofunlatte.

Discuss: organic cottage cheese

Grape Cane Smuggling Comes Out of the Suitcase

Agricultural officials in Napa, California, are turning a critical eye towards the region's "winked-at" act of sneaking in grape cuttings, reports Tracie Cone in the Associated Press, due to the detection of a pest called the European grapevine moth which damages grapes in its larval form. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has imposed a quarantine on parts of Napa, Solano, and Sonoma Counties to try and control the spread of the moth. But it's odd that it's taken this long to call out smuggling vine cuttings as risky in an area where "an acre of fruit can sell for $15,000 and more." READ MORE

Oatmeal, Um, Cheese?

We Can't Say It's Cheese is a line of nondairy imitation cheese spread made from oatmeal. There are three flavors: basic cheddar, smoky cheddar, and Mexi-cheddar, says antennastoheaven.

What's it like? "It's tasty and cheese-like, but just to be clear, no one is going to mistake it for real cheese," says antennastoheaven. "It is creamy and works very nicely on sandwiches or crackers. I have seen reports from others online that it is nice heated up but I have not yet tried it that way." antennastoheaven has had all three flavors, and prefers the smoky cheddar variety.

Discuss: Has anyone tried the new oatmeal "cheese" spread?