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

Take One Down, Pass It Around …

If you'd like to see what it looks like to drink 1,000 beers in a year, Minnesota blogger James "The Opie" Lindsay lays it all out in a sophisticated spreadsheet-esque format that is as elegant as it is free of any moralizing or tortured self-analysis. His dream was to drink 1,000 beers in 2009. His methodology was to track each beer as he drank it, religiously logging type, time, and quantity consumed via an iPhone app. His crowning success occurred on New Year's Eve.

His top five brews:

1. Pabst Blue Ribbon (107)
2. Grain Belt Premium (106)
3. Miller Lite (78)
4. Bell's Two Hearted Ale (63)
5. Surly CynicAle (39)

(For those who don't live in the Upper Midwest, the quality rating on those beers is: 1. self-evident; 2. bad, but beloved; 3. self-evident; 4. really good; 5. also really good.)

Food Terms That Should Die

Serious Eats has a gripe list of food terms it wants axed in 2010. The biggest offenders among its readers are abbreviated terms such as "sammie" and "rezzie." MattTalksTacos bags on "toothsome," "artisan," and "sourced." Scotter is planning on "pimp-slapping the next person that says 'flavor profile.'" "Flexitarian" is dismissed as a cop-out by arjava: "WTF is that, other than someone who claims to be a vegetarian, but really isn't. I guess it's more PC than saying 'I'd like to seem all trendy and hip, but give me a hamburger and I'm a meat-whore like all the rest of you.'"

One of my favorite Chowhound threads, "Cringe-worthy words in restaurant reviews," deals with this same topic. The highlight, courtesy of BostonCookieMonster:

"Eatery," "boite," and all other smarmy attempts to avoid the word "restaurant."

"Victuals," "viands," "comestibles," and all other smarmy attempts to avoid the word "food."

"Bivalves, "crustaceans," and all other smarmy attempts to avoid the words "mussels," "clams," "shrimp," etc.


To add some fuel to the fire, here are a few more from the CHOW No List: "vittles," "foodie," "decadent," "sandos," "mouthwatering," "notes of," "whip up," and "luscious." Got any more?

Shout-Out to Mexican Coke

Shout-Out to Mexican Coke

This week's mission: throwbacks to soda's golden age. READ MORE

Pro-Level Chinatown Parking

It's fun to zip into Chinatown on a weekend and scoop up some dim sum nibbles, but, for those not located nearby, the parking is prohibitively expensive. Hounds offer up some tips:

Hei La Moon, beloved by Chowhounds, validates parking with a "wacky" system blink617 spells out: "You pay full price to park at the garage above the restaurant, then go down to the restaurant and have your dim sum. On the way out, you stop at the restaurant's front desk and give them more money (it's either $5 or $6) for a parking voucher. You give the parking voucher to the garage, and they refund all the money you paid to park in the first place (so your net cost is just for the voucher)." Oh, and the dim sum's good too.

There's also a garage at Beach Street that charges $10 for the day and can be less with validation: "Since the silver line eliminated much of the meter parking in Chinatown, almost every store and restaurant in Chinatown is now validating parking for the Beach Street garage ... Look for the sign in the window and don't be shy about asking to get your parking ticket validated," says azra.

Hei La Moon [Chinatown]
88 Beach Street, Boston

Discuss: Dim Sum and Parking

Beautiful People, Nice Cocktails

Woodward at Boston's Ames Hotel has been open a few months now and reports are trickling in. Word is that the scene is at this "modern-day tavern" is meat-marketish and loud, the kitchen has a heavy hand with the salt, and the management has an attitude. According to MC Slim JB, the place seems to be aiming for an "exclusive nightclub kind of vibe, carefully controlling access with a kind of dickish attitude even when it doesn't seem necessary for capacity reasons," but adds that some of the food and cocktails are worthy of attention.

Food orders: short rib pot roast; flatbread with duck confit, cranberries, and goat cheese; rock shrimp with tomatoes and olives; and the radish, butter, and sea salt appetizer, which is tiny and pricey at $7, but choice.

Cocktails: Ames Addiction, with Ron Zacapa rum, Domaine de Canton ginger, sweet vermouth, and bitters; New Orleans Sazerac ("properly made, and had sugar cube remnants in the bottom of the glass," says nsenada); Boston Mule, with Absolut Boston, ginger beer, and mint; and Dedham Winter, with cider and Chartreuse. But, hey, they'd better be good at about $14 a pop.

Celeb spotters should also note the presence of Sam Talbot from Top Chef in the kitchen.

Woodward [Downtown Crossing]
1 Court Street, Boston

Discuss: Woodward at the Ames

Heavenly Choices at Shangri-La

Shangri-La, a Taiwanese place in Belmont, doesn't look like much. Housed on a nondescript block, far from any T-stops, it nonetheless draws an enormous crowd, particularly on the weekends, when there's usually a waiting list posted outside the door by 11:30 a.m. Since the atmosphere is meh and the service can be kind of grumpy, hounds are clearly showing up for the food. Good orders include:

• Ginger chicken
• Scallion pancakes
• Jumbo meatball
• Turnip cakes (a dish with near-universal acclaim: "just right, with turnip taste, and similar to those my mom used to make for Chinese New Year's," says alohagirl)
• Tea-smoked boneless duck
• Egg-drop soup, called "homestyle" on the menu and served in a giant bowl

Basically, "stay FAR AWAY from anything that reeks of Americanized Chinese. If you do that, you are generally OK," says StriperGuy. Oh, and avoid the other Shangri-La in Boston. It's not connected to the Belmont one, and is definitely "down-scale," as jgg13 politely points out.

Shangri-La [North of Boston]
149 Belmont Street, Belmont

Discuss: Tried the Dim Sum at Shangri-La in Belmont
Shangri-la in Belmont - what to order?
Local flavor, real deal, one hit wonders, down scale, no reservations, hole-in-the-wall in Boston area…

Overheard on the Boston Boards

"I've been talking this one up here a few times: mix grill sausages at Pops in the South End. They already have great hand-cut fries, and they top these with a beef short-rib gravy, cheese curds, and three housemade sausages: rabbit, duck, wild boar. Frickin' awesome." - MC Slim JB

"It was a beautiful tuna moment. Lots of fun people in line and lots of laughing and joking behind the lines. A true celebration of the sea." - gyppielou

"I second the call for Karl's Sausage Kitchen. Their sausages satisfy my Czech taste buds, and the counter ladies with huge blonde bouffants are fun." - sfumato

Leftover Champagne

After the holiday parties, what do you do with leftover Champagne? "Try substituting it for white wine in risotto," suggests truman. "I have a recipe (somewhere!) for Champagne-feta risotto ... mmm."

wenster reduced leftover Champagne with sugar and vanilla, for boozy gourmet pancake syrup. "I recently used some as my liquid in this lovely recipe for roasted pears," says Vetter. "Also works great to deglaze the chicken roasting pan!"

Discuss: What to do with leftover champagne?

Celebrate with Hog’s Head

Hog's head is international celebration food, enjoyed all over Asia, Europe, and the Americas, and it's a wonderful treat. "The head is full of great meat, especially the cheeks," says DallasDude. "However, be forewarned that the stench is quite foul when boiling the skull. I am not sure why, but the horrid smell can compete with even the most horrific scents known to mankind. The resulting broth is another story."

Pig's head is the preferred cut for New Year's pozole, a Mexican and southwestern American soup or stew of pork and hominy, says paulj. Latvians eat pig's head for Christmas, says DainaJ. "With the head, look to make such treats as fromage de tête de porc, crispy roasted pig head (a Chinese treatment), and Bath chaps (pig cheeks in bread crumbs, a decisively British dish)," says DallasDude.

Discuss: Hog's Head Dish?

Hot Peanut Butter

junescook got some spicy hot peanut butter from Peanut Butter & Company and wonders: What do you do with really hot peanut butter? "The stuff is so heat forward that any peanut taste is masked; it is just plain HOT," says junescook.

Spicy peanut butter would be perfect in Thai sesame noodles or as a satay dipping sauce, says maria lorraine. "Just leave out the chile or chile oil in the recipe. Lots of Thai and Indonesian dishes will work," she says. As for the satay, "thin the peanut butter with a little fish sauce and lime juice, add some garlic, and you're good to go," says alanbarnes.

"First my thoughts went where everyone's did—use it in Asian sauces etc.," says coastie. "Then I thought about how good pepper jelly is with cream cheese. Maybe a sandwich of cream cheese, peanut butter and jelly ... "

"Ooooh! Or, because of the spiciness of the peanut butter you could use a sweet jelly," says kubasd. "The thought of a raspberry jelly, cream cheese, and spicy peanut butter jelly sandwich makes me happy."

Discuss: What to do with really hot peanut butter?