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

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"Very thin, well-browned, deep-fried and crunchy pancake layer encasing a custardy filling, two to an order. These were doused with floral scented honey syrup and dusted with pistachio nuts. In the running for one of the best things I've put in my mouth this year."
-Melanie Wong

"The center of the croissant was still warm when I got to it, a buttery, layered, slightly toothsome contrast to the crackly exterior."

"One of my favorite things I ordered was the turkey breast. It came from the rotisserie and just seemed so perfectly cooked. It came with a pumpkin mole."

Sneaking Food into Movies

Sneaking Food into Movies

Is it wrong to bring your own popcorn? READ MORE

Does Fresh Pumpkin Beat Canned?

Is it worthwhile to roast fresh pumpkin for pie and other baked goods or ravioli filling? Absolutely, say many Chowhounds. The difference between roasted fresh pumpkin and canned is subtle, says Procrastibaker, but "fresh pumpkin is slightly more earthy. It has a 'meaty' flavor that I personally really like." "I prefer the richness of the flavor after roasting and the texture to that of canned purée," agrees Normandie.

"In my experience," says another_adam, "it's definitely possible to get a sweeter and 'richer' purée when roasting one yourself—but it all depends on the pumpkin, and frequently you won't come out ahead." This is because, even from the same field, some pumpkins simply aren't as sweet as others. However, he adds, one way "to guarantee good results from home-roasted pumpkin is to go with kabocha, which will definitely give you a deeper color and creamier flesh than the sugar pumpkins one typically finds in the grocery store."

"It's a small project to prepare the purée," says Nyleve, "but you can do a whole whack of it at once and freeze it in recipe-size containers." To roast pumpkin, split in half, scoop out the seeds, and place it face-down on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour a small amount of water into the pan around the pumpkin and roast it at 400°F until you can easily dent it with a finger. Turn the pumpkin halves over and roast another 10 to 15 minutes to dry out the flesh slightly. Scoop the flesh out and purée in a food processor or food mill. "Now here's the important part," says Nyleve: Place the purée in a coffee filter-lined strainer set over a bowl and let it drain at least an hour to get rid of excess moisture.

"The hardest part of this is splitting the pumpkin open," says tsktsk, "but it is worth it."

Board Link: Traditional Pumpkin Pie with Real Pumpkin

What America Does to Ethnic Food

If we could trace the evolution of every cuisine that has ever been imported to the United States, what would it reveal about American taste? What happens to a cuisine when it becomes Americanized?

Sam Fujisaka notices that "more meat, fewer organs and heads, reduced spices in some cases, less fat, no blood, 'sanitized' fish, few or no small mammals, and no rodents large or small" are characteristic changes cuisines undergo during the process of Americanization. The idea is "is to make food look less like the animal it came from, such as removing bones, heads, and skin," says Dio Seijuro.

"Chinese food relies on texture as well as flavor, but most American palates tend to minimize texture. That's why you won't see something like sea cucumber on an Americanized Chinese menu," says raytamsgv. Paulustrious notes that as foods Americanize, they become sweeter, heat is reduced, bitter components of a dish are removed, portions get larger, and the proportional amount of meat gets much larger.

danieljdwyer thinks all of the above isn't exclusively a U.S. thing, but instead reflects how cuisines adapt to industrialization in general. "I have not been to an industrialized nation where the process of 'Americanization' has not become common," he says. "Where it is less common, this seems to be a function of poverty, rurality, nationalist pride, or severe governmental restriction of commerce. I don't see taste as a factor. Crappy fast food and takeout are as common in Tokyo as in New York—just as good, authentic fast food and takeout are just as common in either city."

Board Link: Elements of Americanization?

Thanksgiving Dinner for Free

While most restaurants are either closed for the holiday or serving up special dinners for big bucks, Allston's Kells Restaurant serves a three-course Thanksgiving dinner between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at no charge. The owners do the same thing on Christmas and have been doing so for about a decade. "[They] are apparently good guys and very much involved in a lot of Allston civic organizations," says Allstonian.

Kells Restaurant [Allston]
161 Brighton Avenue, Boston

Board Link: Thanksgiving dinner in Boston

Salad Without Plates

Turn salad into fun-to-eat finger food for buffets or cocktail parties by serving it in edible containers or on toothpick skewers.

Parmesan frico cups are perfect edible vehicles for bites of Caesar salad. Or serve chopped Caesar or Cobb salad in a lettuce leaf. "Individual endive leaves are a great portable way for serving salads and are perfectly sized to be a few bites," notes cookie44. goodhealthgourmet fills mini bell peppers with bean salads.

Make edible bowls from small tortilla rounds or egg roll wrappers by draping them over muffin tins or shot glasses and baking them until crisp; you can fill them with taco salad or Chinese chicken salad, respectively.

Build a Caprese salad on toothpicks by alternating bocconcini, cherry tomatoes, and basil leaves, or alternate cucumber chunks, with cherry tomatoes, pieces of red onion, and feta cheese for Greek salad; offer an oregano vinaigrette for dipping.

Board Link: Fun ways to serve salad at a party

Flip for Cranberry Upside-Down Cakes

Cranberry upside-down cakes are a pretty, seasonal, and homey dessert option for the fall and winter.

This cranberry upside-down cake is even better the next day for breakfast, says folprivate. The cranberry upside-downer from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan is fabulous, says toveggiegirl. lfossett agrees, saying it's "pretty and a crowd pleaser."

This cranberry-walnut upside-down cake is "tasty, relatively easy and looks nice in a rustic way," according to Divamac, while rockycat says Laurie Colwin's Nantucket cranberry pie (which is actually a cake) is "very homey but simple and easy."

Board Link: cranberry cake?

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"I just made my first attempt at pancetta. Turned out awesome, the best I've ever had."

"Homemade eggnog is a different animal from store-bought. The beaten egg whites will rise to the top of the nog, even after folding them in, giving you a nice frothy head. Ladle a bit of it on top of each serving."

"I like casseroles because the flavors have a chance to meld and mingle. There's something delicious about having the noodles or rice pick up and absorb the flavors of the sauce which you don't get when you put sauce on top."

Overheard on the Boston Boards

"You may be familiar with this jelly from the little gelatin candies that come in a small cup and you suck out after opening a foil top."

"Scenester It Places—people are there for the fabulousness more than the food; it often has a kind of meat-market vibe."
-MC Slim JB

"Joe was working the bar and the plate of four pieces of chicken, garlicky mashed potatoes and gravy, and vinegar-tangy porky greens was the most comforting hug of Southern-fried love you could want on a drizzly night."

Does Kimchee Go Bad?

How long does kimchee last? It doesn't go bad for a very long time, says Humbucker, if it even goes bad at all— it just gets more sour and pickled-tasting over time.

"Whether fresher or older kimchee is better is a matter of personal preference," says Humbucker. "Sour kimchee is often used as an ingredient in other dishes, but I like a more sour and pungent kimchee even for eating straight, so the older the jar the better. To accelerate the fermentation process on a new jar, I leave the kimchee outside unrefrigerated for a day or two, making sure to loosen the lid and put the jar in a bag in case the liquid bubbles over."

hannaone agrees: "I prefer very fresh (salad like) while my wife and sons prefer aged and sour." hannaone has never had an issue with kimchee going bad—it just gets more and more sour.

It is possible for kimchee to go off, though. "Whether or how soon kimchee will go bad probably depends on the recipe used," says hannaone, especially if it contains rice or other flour as an ingredient. luckyfatima thinks it does go off, and has noticed it acquires a yeasty taste and smell when it's too old.

luckyfatima's tip: "If you are using the kimchee in recipes, like kimchee dumplings or kimchee fried rice and you have very sour old kimchee and don't want your dish to come out sour, sprinkle some sugar on it."

Board Link: how long does kimchee last