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

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.


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

Nashoba Valley Winery [MetroWest]
100 Wattaquadock Hill Road, Bolton

Nicewicz Family Farm [MetroWest]
116 Sawyer Road, Bolton

Board Link: Apple Picking Near Boston NOT Like Disney?

Secret Thai Menus Revealed

After your dozenth plate of pad Thai, you’re ready to order something slightly more adventurous. Try ordering from the “secret” Thai menus at many local spots; they’re not really secret so much as the dishes aren’t typically ordered by Americans.

When you ask for the authentically Thai dishes, you may get the reply “Ohhhh no. YOU NO LIKE,” says StriperGuy. “You sort of have to talk the staff into it,” says MC Slim JB. And you should. Here’s what’s good at two exemplary local joints.

S&I To Go’s “secret” Thai menu is on color photos all over the walls. Point at what you like or try:

Pad ga pow moo krob, fatty crispy pork with a spicy sauce and basil
Kao ka moo, braised pork leg over rice
Kao nar ped, roast duck with chile and pickled ginger
Pad ka na moo krob, fried pork belly with Chinese broccoli
Pla duk pad ped, crispy fried catfish in red chile paste with Thai eggplant, Thai basil, and stir-fried sprigs of green peppercorns on the stem (!)
• Any of the baked goods, particularly the cookies in boxes up by the counter, supposedly baked by a guy who used to work for the King of Siam

Montien in the theater district/Chinatown is a bit more expensive than other Thai options in the city, but it has a lot of unusual dishes, including:

Sai krok e san, Thai sausages
Tod mun goong, fried shrimp cake
Pad med prik Thai on, sliced tender or crispy pork in chile sauce with basil and green peppercorns
Ka kob kra tiam prik Thai, frog legs with garlic and Thai chile peppers
Kra thong tong, golden fried cups stuffed with ground chicken and vegetables

S&I To Go [Allston]
168-A Brighton Avenue, Boston

Montien Thai Cuisine [Chinatown]
63 Stuart Street, Boston

Board Links: Secret Thai menu’s in Boston. Tried some, not impressed, suggestions?
S&I - what to order?

Bacon Like They Do It in Canada

A favorite breakfast spot just got that much better: Matt H reports that Mike & Patty’s has peameal bacon on the menu. Real peameal bacon. Not the cornmeal-dusted bacon fobbed off as peameal in many a joint, but the real thing, unsmoked back bacon brined and rolled in ground yellow peas. “I grew up in Toronto and peameal bacon is about as Canadian as it gets and I cannot recall seeing it on any menu in Boston (or many US cities),” says Matt H, who subsequently found out that Mike and Patty’s chef is from Toronto.

Try the St. Lawrence sandwich, says Matt H; it’s basically a BLT with the aforementioned peameal bacon and the option of adding a fried egg. It “tasted like any sandwich I would have eaten at St. Lawrence market in Toronto.”

Mike & Patty’s [Bay Village]
12 Church Street, Boston

Board Link: Mike and Patty’s - Peameal Bacon!

The J. Peterman of Beer

An absurdly enthusiastic mass of beer geek dudes practically mobbed Dogfish Head craft brewery’s Sam Calagione as he stepped into the Blind Tiger Ale House in NYC last night. For more than a half hour, the Delaware-based brewer was locked in pivot position, distributing gratis pints from the bar to his many admirers, who pumped his hand and had him pose for pictures. The Dogfish event, which featured 25 (!) of the company’s beers on tap, including some real obscure ones, was one of the most hotly anticipated events of the NY Craft Beer Week festival that kicked off last Sunday.

Calagione, a tanned, rugged guy (he once modeled in some Levi’s ads) with a bro-style friendliness, has become the de facto spokesman for the current craft brewing craze. His beers are easy to market and get excited about, in large part because of their J. Peterman-inspired marketing. Check out some of last night’s pours:

Chateau Jiahu: Developed from a recipe found in 9,000-year-old preserved pottery jars in the Neolithic village of Jiahu, China, using pre-gelatinized rice flakes, wildflower honey, Muscat grapes, hawthorn fruit, chrysanthemum flowers, and sake yeast.

Pangaea: An ale brewed with an ingredient from every single continent, including crystallized ginger from Australia, muscovado sugar from Africa, Antarctic water, Belgian yeast, and exotic grains.

Theobroma: “Based on the chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras” that contained residue of some boozy chocolate drink enjoyed by 1200 BCE partyers. Containing Aztec coca powder and nibs, honey, chiles, and annatto seeds.

Especially in a recession, there’s something great about the kind of armchair travel you can do from your barstool. Or, as Calagione proclaimed as soon as he had extricated himself from fans to stand on the bar, “The great thing about craft beer, is you can upgrade from the shittiest wine, and for the same price … try the shit from small, independent breweries!” Well said.

Cheese or Font or F It?

Can you tell your cheese names from your font names? No, you can’t. Cheese or Font? is a frustratingly difficult quiz, hard to the point of insanity, but it does illustrate one undeniable central point: There are a lot of obscure fonts, and a lot of obscure cheeses, and sorting out one from the other is basically a fool’s errand.

The Return of Heavy Noodling!

We thought we’d lost the old beloved classic of thick Chinese knife-shaved noodles, Heavy Noodling. But now it’s back, under the name JTYH Restaurant. It specializes in Shan’xi-style noodles, especially dao xiao mian noodles. “This is a serious business at JTYH,” says TonyC. “The knife-shaved noodles just plain kick Kam Hong’s arse; they come in longer strands and have an odd semblance of uniformity, despite the total squiggly squiggles.”

Lamb noodle soup with knife-shaved noodles is transcendent, says Peripatetic. The lamb is incredibly tender, the noodles unrubbery. The broth is infused with the warm, comforting spirit of lamb, says odub.

Non-noodles dishes are also excellent, benefiting from JTYH’s hot wok and simple, bright flavors, says TonyC. “Braised pork intestines” turns out to be fried chitlins, seasoned Sichuan-style. And pan-fried jin du flat cake looks like a double-stacked quesadilla but turns out to be chewy, crunchy, and ultracool.

They’ve got “Chao-style iced noodles,” much like Korean naeng myun, with kimchee and abundant bits of tender beef brisket. JTYH is probably the only place in the San Gabriel Valley to get this Chinese version of these noodles.

The tomato and egg drop soup is also very good, says J.L. It has fresh tomato flavor and generous dollops of egg.

JTYH Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
9425 Valley Boulevard, Rosemead

Board Link: Excerpt from Monstrous SGV Rundown: Heavy Noodling (er, JTYH) is back. {pix + menu}