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

Your Fantasy Baker Job Is Waiting

Fantasize about quitting your job and starting a little bakery in your neighborhood? That’s exactly what the professional program at the San Francisco Baking Institute will train you to do. Little known outside the restaurant world (its president and founder Michel Suas hates marketing), the SFBI offers one of the most prestigious baking programs in the country. Students enrolled in its professional program will spend 17 weeks, full-time, learning every aspect of baking, from breads (sourdoughs included), to pastry (wedding cakes, elaborately plated desserts, etc), to viennoiserie (sweet yeasted stuff like breakfast pastries). After graduation, top students have the opportunity to intern at the school’s working bakery in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, Thorough Bread. If any graduate decides to start his or her own bakery, Suas provides free consulting on everything from building a business plan to sourcing equipment.

I saw the talents of SFBI students first hand at both the SF Food Wars Yeast Affliction bread competition, where they swept the top prizes, and last Friday's professional program graduation. Below is a slide show taken at the graduation. The students spent an entire week baking for the celebration: tables were laden with a staggering number and range of breads, pastries, confections, and even pizza.

Images by Eric Slatkin of CHOW.com.

Turn Juice Into Booze!

Federweisser is a sparkling alcoholic drink most common in Germany and Eastern Europe. It tastes like slightly loopy lemonade and is usually made from freshly pressed grape juice and served by the tall, cool, refreshing glass. But good luck ordering it away from the Rhineland: though it's easy enough to make, it hasn't caught on in America. Yet.

Spike Your Juice is a DIY federweisser kit that turns a bottle of juice into a fizzy alcoholic drink. For $10, you get six packets of Spike Your Juice's proprietary yeast blend, enough to make six 64-ounce bottles, plus a bottle stopper and an airlock gadget to keep your homemade glug free of any contaminants while it's fermenting. Mix in the yeast packet, stop up the bottle, stick your juice in the fridge, and two days later you have booze! You can drink it then or keep letting it ferment; the alcohol content goes up to 14 percent with time.

You can use just about any juice with Spike Your Juice, but apparently the product's group of European founders are currently hot to trot on Ocean Spray's White Cranberry & Peach.

Spike Your Juice, $10

The Importance of a Clean Beer Glass

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Off flavors in beer can come from dirty pints. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

How to Pair Beer with Food

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Beer's not just good with nachos. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

At Paulie Gee’s, a Pizza Lover Goes Pro

For Paul Giannone, this pizza thing has gotten out of hand. A pizza lover turned pizza blog regular turned amateur pizzaiolo and backyard pizza oven builder, he went pro this month, opening Paulie Gee's in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Smart move, says dhs, who describes a Neapolitan-style crust with good flavor, a pleasing chew, and a pronounced char. ("If you don't like char on your pizza, this probably won't be your place," he cautions.) One standout topping is the Parma d'Or: prosciutto, arugula, fior di latte mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano with an unusual and welcome lift from lemon juice. Other toppings on the opening menu include the Regina (fior di latte, Italian tomatoes, Pecorino Romano, basil), the Delboy (soppressata picante, Parmigiano-Reggiano, fior di latte, Italian tomatoes), and the Mootz (chopped garlic, Pecorino Romano, fior di latte, sea salt).

quentin thinks the dough badly needs salt. didactic katydid sees his point but notes that a salty topping—for example, sausage with mozzarella, marinara, and onion in one occasional special, the "Cuban"—can counter blandness in the crust. Overall, though, there's plenty of potential here, and obviously no shortage of passion in the proprietor. "I have the same feeling I had when I first tried Motorino when it opened," dhs says. "A definite must try for the pizza obsessed."

Paulie Gee's [Greenpoint]
60 Greenpoint Avenue (between Franklin and West streets), Brooklyn
347-987-3747

Discuss: Paulie Gee's—New pizza in Greenpoint

How to Identify Off Flavors in Beer

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What’s Cooking in Hell’s Kitchen

Vintner Wine Market, a deli attached to a wine store, is making excellent sandwiches under the Chowhound radar, Jim Leff reports. His chipotle chicken sandwich with Swiss was "really REALLY good." Vintner also offers cheese, charcuterie, salads, and well-chosen beers (recent draft choice: a Belgian-style Trippel from Green Flash Brewing in California). "Nice people, nice hang," Jim says.

A couple blocks away, Film Center Cafe, a seldom-mentioned Hell's Kitchen fixture, appears to be taking care of business. TrishUntrapped's recent after-theater dinner was highlighted by hearty, generous entrées of short ribs and lamb shank, both tender, flavorful, and beautifully braised. For starters, she'd recommend the margherita pizza: basil, mozzarella, and fresh-tasting tomato sauce on a crisp, thin, pita-like crust. "It was delicious and hit all the right notes," Trish says. And making this post-matinee date even better, she and her husband were able to sink happily into a cozy leather booth where they "could actually sit next to each other and canoodle a little."

Unlike Trish, robertgoulet hasn't been feeling the love—at least when it comes to the neighborhood Indian options. So he was delighted by the chicken tikka masala and garlic naan he had delivered from Punjabi Tadka. "The naan was still steaming and that perfect combo of crispy/tender," he says, "and the tikka masala was rich, creamy—and spicy! It had a depth of flavor that I was not expecting."

Vintner Wine Market [Hell's Kitchen]
671 Ninth Avenue (between W. 46th and 47th streets), Manhattan
212-957-7500

Film Center Cafe [Hell's Kitchen]
635 Ninth Avenue (between W. 44th and 45th streets), Manhattan
212-262-2525

Punjabi Tadka [Hell's Kitchen]
688 10th Avenue (between W. 48th and 49th streets), Manhattan
212-956-0185

Discuss: Vintner Wine Market
Film Center Cafe, lovely short ribs, reasonable prices
Surprisingly good Hell's Kitchen punjabi delivery

North-of-the-Border Deli Meat in Brooklyn

New Yorkers think they know their cured brisket, and what they usually have in mind is pastrami from places like the venerable Katz's. Mile End in Brooklyn gives brisket a smokier, spicier spin in an equally venerable tradition from the delis of Montreal.

Hounds familiar with the style are glad to see it in New York. "Mile End fires up those neurons in me; the meat was smoky, moist, and tender," says JackS. "Well cured and smoked. Tender and delicious," seconds StheJ. "Numerous ahhs were heard." But those new to Montreal smoked meat may be in for a surprise. Pastrami King (who wears his cured-meat allegiance on his every post) found it "very spicy, almost too spicy—not for the faint of heart." Steve R doesn't object to the spicing—in fact, he finds the meat very good—but stands by the local champs: "I'll stick to Katz's or Mill Basin Deli or 2nd Ave Deli."

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Overheard on the New York Boards

"Their burger is REALLY BIG; mine was cooked perfectly to order (medium rare), and it came on a sturdy onion roll with a slice of tomato and a slice of raw onion, both on the side. I added bacon (I add bacon to everything) and cheddar cheese, and the result was something to make you swoon." - BrookBoy on City Hall

"I liked their liang pi, and the husband wife fai pian had well-sliced (thin and even) beef tongue and tendon. Basically their cold appetizer sauce is very savory, smoky, and flavorful, not overpowered by trying to be too spicy or too numbing. I respect that. " - HLing on Wu Liang Ye

"It is time for the White Lie. The day before the event email them that you or your boyfriend is beginning to come down with something—a bad cold, swine flu, scurvy, the bubonic plague. ... And sometime around noon the next day you'll start to hear reports of bad food and sky high prices. 'Oh, you're so lucky that you didn't go! It was awful!' If you can't save everybody, save yourself." - Bob Martinez on Sammy's Roumanian

This Literally IS Your Grandfather’s Whiskey

Are you a whiskey idiot with an absolute ton of money? Well, brace yourself: "The world's oldest malt whiskey has gone on sale with a price tag of up to £10,000 (about $15,000) a bottle," reports the Telegraph. Small bottles of Mortlach 70-year-old Speyside are available for a mere £2,500.

Asked about the way the whiskey tastes, one of the firm's managing directors reportedly said: "It's good, sure. £1,000 good? Eh, maybe. Is anything really worth £1,000 a bottle, though?" He then added: "£10,000 good, no bleedin' way. Think about it. Bottle of brown liquor or a new Honda Fit, which do you choose? Remember, it's a bottle of really delicious brown liquor. Yeah, the car, right."

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