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

Win a Trip to an Undisclosed Location

There are people who plan their vacations years in advance, curating every single detail and scheduling every last minute. This opportunity, which CHOW is happy to be a part of, is not like that. It involves mystery—or, rather, “m?stery.” It also involves lovely listers Thrillist, fine fliers JetBlue, and a whole host of other sponsors, including this very website.

All we know—all they will tell us!—is that on October 17 a plane will leave New York and will arrive somewhere (that somewhere will be a somewhere JetBlue flies to). Once there, fun will ensue until Monday arrives and the plane returns to New York.

Teasy enough for you? Sign me up, you say? Well, certainly. By simply agreeing to receive newsletters from Thrillist on this particular page, CHOW readers will be in the running to win two tickets on the Jet M?stery plane. All you thrillseekers, all you impulsive hooligans: get to the SIGN-UP PAGE, now!

San Francisco Bay Area Alert: Chowing with the Hounds Picnic, October 3

Join fellow Chowhounds for the ninth Chowing with the Hounds Picnic October 3, 2009, in Berkeley’s Tilden Park. Come share delicious home-cooked goodies with fellow hounds and enjoy a tasting of 20 kinds of fruit. See the following link for details and registration information.

Like the Titanic, Only with Uncrustables

Which headline do you prefer? “U.S. 52 reopened to traffic” or “Twelve Tons of Smucker’s Uncrustables Comically Spill Across Highway”? While the first option is, in its defense, much shorter, the second really gets to the heart of the issue: 24,000 pounds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were dumped all over a highway in Iowa on Monday by an errant semi.

The sandwiches were heading from Dubuque, a city so boring that this writer was actually laughed at by locals after asking whether there was anything interesting to see or do in town, to St. Paul, which is considerably more fun. But currently running short on Uncrustables, if you’re thinking of visiting.

Image source: Flickr member tsakshaug under Creative Commons

Doughnut Moonshine

For those not keeping up with the eclectic and seminal photographer Bill Owens, best known for Suburbia, his deadpan chronicle of 1970s cul-de-sac California, you may be surprised to learn he’s now way into craft distilling. He hosts a conference every year, through his trade group, American Distilling Institute, publishes a guide to distilleries around the country, and also apparently dabbles a bit on his own. Here’s a picture of some doughnut moonshine he sent out a few days ago to his mailing list. Go Bill! You always know how to push the envelope.

Photograph by Bill Owens

Advice for Despised Laptop Users

Advice for Despised Laptop Users

How to avoid dirty looks in coffeehouses. READ MORE

Gourmet Bacon with Punch

Preservation Bacon is a new bacon guy in Austin, Texas, who has already earned a recommendation from scrumptiouschef. “I’ve been eating it since spring of this year and each batch has improved,” says scrumptiouschef. “The pound I’ve got in my fridge right now is dynamite. It’s a subtle bacon if there is such a thing.” If you’re into small-batch, artisan goods, this is the bacon to choose.

If you’re going with a larger manufacturer, scrumptiouschef recommends Benton’s Country Ham. “Their bacon packs a wallop of smoke and salt that’s like a pork mallet upside the head,” he warns. “Delicious but not for everyone.”

LaLa likes Benton’s, but prefers Father’s bacon or Broadbent’s slab bacon. And guische puts in a mention for Nueske’s thick-sliced peppered bacon.

Board Link: Favorite Gourmet Bacon ??

Soothe Sweet Dates with Something Savory

Munching on dates au naturel—even perfect, fresh, in-season dates—gets overwhelmingly sweet pretty quickly, says Hapgood. Is there a way to enjoy dates that preserves their integrity, but isn’t cloying?

Try a traditional Ramadan-fast-breaking snack, suggests luckyfatima, by dipping those fresh, sweet dates in tahini. “It is absolutely delicious,” says luckyfatima. “The tahini neutralizes some of the excessive sweetness of the dates and the pairing is just wonderful. You just pour some tahini on your plate, or use a tiny East Asian–style sauce dipping bowl filled with the tahini, dip and eat.”

Or you could go with the suggestion of Niki in Dayton: “Split them and fill them with cream cheese or goat cheese, or chorizo, then wrap in bacon and broil.”

Board Link: What to do with some amazing honey dates?

Special Moments with Grim Gruel

Special Moments with Grim Gruel

This week's mission: personality-based soft drinks and microwave baked desserts. READ MORE

Grocery Store Tortillas that Don’t Suck

Mealy and stale, grocery store tortillas are usually a food of last resort. But La Tortilla Factory’s “hand made style” corn tortillas are actually the best tortillas ever, says JEN10. “These were delicious,” she says. “I just heated them up in a skillet and filled with chicken, avocado, tomatoes, and onions. SUBLIME texture, didn’t break apart, smallish, GREAT flavor.” They’re available from supermarkets, in packages of eight.

If you aren’t convinced, then you could always try making your own with the help of CHOW’s video lesson on The Perfect Tortilla.

Board Link: BEST TORTILLA’S EVER!!!

Apple Picking Without Distractions

Apple picking is a great way to kill a fall day, but BlueTrain84 wants to avoid the farms that “make you feel like you have accidentally gone to a children’s amusement park.” Where are the orchards without kiddie rides and magic shows?

Hounds had many suggestions, including Russell Orchards in Ipswich, which Blue Train84 said had wonderful hot apple cider doughnuts, and a great variety of apples: Cortland, Gala, Empire, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, and Macoun.

Because Nashoba Valley is also a winery, “it attracts more adults,” says kobuta. It offers another interesting feature: If you email the winery owners, you can request notification when antique or unusual varieties are ready for picking. Since those pickings are by appointment only, the crowds are minimal.

Right up the road from Nashoba is the Nicewicz Family Farm, which is uncrowded and friendly. You may know its apples already from the stands it runs at local farmers’ markets.

Russell Orchards [North Shore]
143 Argilla Road, Ipswich
978-356-5366

Nashoba Valley Winery [MetroWest]
100 Wattaquadock Hill Road, Bolton
978-779-5521

Nicewicz Family Farm [MetroWest]
116 Sawyer Road, Bolton
978-779-6423

Board Link: Apple Picking Near Boston NOT Like Disney?