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

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"Nothing Roman-style about the pizza, the crust's not that thin, the oven's not that hot, there's too much sauce, and the crust I got wasn't that crisp. That said, it was quite good."
-Robert Lauriston

"We were spoiled customers that night. She made a new batch of cantaloupe? drink (orange colour) for us and heated whatever dishes we wanted."
-Han

"If one goes in expecting that nothing in that place has ever touched meat, they're sadly mistaken."
-Piperdown

High-Proof, Spirited Gifts

High-Proof, Spirited Gifts

Liquors that will surprise and delight. READ MORE

More to Love About Brussels Sprouts

If you buy Brussels sprouts on the stalk or grow them yourself, don't toss the long leaves that grow from the top of the stalk; they're delicious in their own right.

To remove the tough ribs from the greens, fold each leaf in half along the rib, and either pull the rib away from the greens with your hand or cut it out with a knife. If they are young and tender, add them raw to salads, suggests toodie jane. Otherwise, try steaming or braising them as you would other greens. katierose sautés the greens with onion, garlic, and Fuji apple, and serves them topped with crumbled nuts. scubadoo97 has used the leaves in place of grape leaves when making dolmas, and says they work really well.

Discuss: Brussel Sprout GREENS or LEAVES

Creative Cheesecake Crusts

Many cheesecake recipes call for a classic graham-cracker crust, but the flavor of the crust is limited only by your imagination. Choose one that complements your filling, and get creative.

"You can use practically any cookie to make a crust," says Cherylptw. "Just pulse it to make crumbs and add a little butter to bind." Hounds like using chocolate wafers, gingersnaps, sugar cookies, and digestive biscuits. If you use Oreos or other cream-filled cookies, you don't even need butter, says nemo; the cream filling acts as a binder.

Crumbs made from dry cake or other day-old baked goods also work great, says chowser. And hotoynoodle suggests a nut crust, made from ground nuts, butter, and sugar.

Discuss: Good cheescake crust- not graham cracker

Is Cod Dead?

The question of sustainable seafood is one that has rightfully electrified and provoked anyone who earns a living from selling the stuff or takes great pleasure in eating large quantities of it.

Minnesota food writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl has a tendency to dig beyond the surface in her writing, so rather than just harpooning a Twin Cities fish and chips chain for its extensive use of North Atlantic cod, counter to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guidelines, she puts all the evidence in one extensive blog post and lets her readers have at it.

The pros and cons (mostly the latter) are more numerous than you might expect, and it's interesting to sift through the raw data: A statement from the seafood supplier, arguments about different fishing regions, details about why Canada doesn't rein in its fish industry. The conclusion is necessarily muddy, but it may make you think twice before ordering any old basket of fish and chips at the neighborhood pub.

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"I'm all no-flour, no-sugar, pour it into a blazin' hot skillet kinda guy. If I want soft, I'll eat cake. Cornbread's supposed to be crunchy, corny, at least somewhat redolent of pig fat and practically incapable of going stale."
-Will Owen

"Purée the rest of your can of chipotle with the adobo sauce in a food precessor and put it in a jar. I always keep a jar of puréed chipotle in my frdge. This will keep in your fridge for months."
-Norm Man

"Besides nipping out of the jar while holding the fridge door open with my leg, I love splashing a bowl of potato chips with pickle juice (plus a shot or two of Louisiana hot sauce)."
-porker

Now That’s a Strong Beer

Samuel Adams Utopias has been topped. Long the strongest (and costliest) beer in the world, the holiday luxury brew has seen its portfolio eroded by Scotland's BrewDog, which has introduced a little something called Tactical Nuclear Penguin.

As per the website of Michael Agnew, who is a certified "Cicerone":

"To make this beer they brewed a 10 percent ABV Imperial Stout and aged that in barrels for 18 months. This aged beer was then taken to an ice cream factory where it was frozen. The water content of beer freezes at a lower temperature than everything else, allowing them to run off a concentrated version of the original beer. After a couple of freeze/runoff cycles they ended up with Tactical Nuclear Penguin."

The stats of TNP run as follows: 32 percent alcohol-by-volume (versus the 27 percent of Utopias), and about $50 for an 11.2-ounce bottle for the first 250 bottles of the 500-bottle run. After that, the price jumps to about $400 a bottle, but includes shares of stock in the BrewDog company. (Utopias retails for $150 a 24-ounce bottle.)

Fried Rice Primer

Fried rice is an endlessly flexible canvas for meats, vegetables, and seasonings, whether you prepare them especially for the dish or just use up odds and ends. The key to great fried rice is in cooking technique.

You can cook fried rice in a wok or a skillet. As with other stir-fried dishes, it's important to have all your add-ins prepped before you start to cook, to use high heat, and to keep the food moving in the pan, say hounds. Fried rice is usually made with day-old rice, which has a drier texture, but a couple of hounds report good results with freshly cooked rice.

Vegetables or meats that need cooking should be cooked first and removed from the pan. Then heat some oil until it's almost smoking, add the rice, and "toss and stir like crazy," says Sam Fujisaka. Add the rest of the ingredients and seasonings, and when it's all hot, you're done. Some prefer to cook beaten eggs first, remove, and add these to the rice at the end, while others crack an egg into the pan at the end of cooking and stir it in to coat the rice. monku fries diced bacon, and adds the rice when the bacon is done. "The bacon fat does wonders when frying the rice," he says.

"Traditional fried rice should not be brown and is not primarily seasoned with soy sauce," explains janel. Others concur that you should add only a small amount of soy sauce, and many feel oyster sauce or fish sauce give a better flavor than soy. puzzler likes adding thinly sliced green onions at the end, after the pan is off the heat.

Discuss: tips for getting started with fried rice

Humoring Picky Kids

Humoring Picky Kids

Should you make them eat their broccoli? READ MORE

The Sad Truth About Banana Extract

FoodChic bought some banana extract at the supermarket to use in a banana cream pie. Problem is, it smells like "cheap banana taffy," says FoodChic.

Is there good banana extract to be had? Not really, says scott123. "All banana extracts, regardless of the brand, smell/taste like cheap banana taffy," he says. "It's the nature of the beast. That's why very few home bakers bake with it." Jim Leff isn't prejudiced against great artificial flavors, but asserts that banana extract "is to bananas what Swanson's frozen Bar-B-Q dinner is to Arthur Bryant's ribs" (from How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Artificial Flavors).

If all banana extract sucks, how do you make banana cream pie? "If you want to kick up the banana flavor in your pie, I'd add some puréed over-ripe bananas to your finished, but still warm pudding," says scott123. "Over-ripe bananas give a lot of banana flavor, but, unlike the extract, don't taste artificial." coll recommends banana liqueur—especially Marie Brizard brand.

That said, there are rumors of good banana extracts existing. "I know there are very good extracts made for ice cream places that make their own ice cream, they are from France," says coll. "Don't know how you would get them on the street, though."

Discuss: Banana Extract Brands?