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

The Basics: How to Make Cranberry Sauce

The Basics: How to Make Cranberry Sauce

Lose the can this Thanksgiving. READ MORE

Thanksgiving for Beginners

Thanksgiving for Beginners

Easy recipes with maximum flavor. READ MORE

Coke’s Threat Expands as the Can Contracts

William Saletan of Slate is entitled to his own opinion, and—in general—he tends to make good points. This week, he may have taken the basic Slate premise (whatever sensible-sounding thing that anyone, anywhere, has said or done is actually—surprise!—wrong) to its logical extreme.

He argues that the new smaller-sized 90-calorie Coca-Cola cans are worse for us health-wise because (and this is serious):

“... if you don’t get enough ‘sparkle’ from the smaller can, no problem. The mini containers ‘will be sold in eight-packs,’ says the company. Just open a second 7.5-ounce can, and you’ll get 20 percent more sparkle than you used to get from a 12-ounce hit. You’ll also get 20 percent more calories.”

In other words, introducing a new, smaller size of Coke is bad because we’re now going to drink two cans and consume even more calories than if we’d just had one regular-sized can.

And if they were 45-calorie cans would we consume five of them? God forbid Coke comes out with a zero-calorie option, because we’d all drink an infinite amount of soda and Coca-Cola would come shooting out of our pores.

Oh, wait—Coke Zero! Oh noooooooo!

Image source: Flickr member geishaboy500 under Creative Commons

Witches’ Fingers and Near-Perfect Cannoli

Romolo’s Ice Cream, Cannoli & Spumoni Factory is going ghoulish for Halloween, with “witches’ fingers” that are actually mildly sweet, almond-flavored cookies with red-dyed almonds as the fingernails.

Still, the main game is the cannoli, filled to order (they can give you a squeeze bag to fill the pastries yourself if you’re on the go). “The pastry part was the best I’ve had so far in this part of the world—fragile crispness, bubbly and well-browned, rich in flavor,” says Melanie Wong. But the creamy richness of the filling wasn’t quite to her taste, which runs more to “the rustic graininess of ricotta.”

ssfire dings Romolo’s cannoli filling for being way too sweet but agrees that “the shell is heavenly; it’s very flavorful, and super light.” In comparison, cannoli at the Prolific Oven have a better filling but not as good a shell; the cannoli at La Biscotteria have a flavorful shell that’s not as light and a heavy, crumbly filling that’s more like ricotta cheesecake. And A Slice of New York for some reason imports cannoli shells from Long Island that are tough. The filling, though, is smooth, creamy, and not too sweet—with a shell from Romolo’s, it would be perfection.

Romolo’s Ice Cream, Cannoli & Spumoni Factory [Peninsula]
81 37th Avenue, San Mateo

The Prolific Oven [East Bay]
43337 Boscell Road, Fremont

La Biscotteria [Peninsula]
2747 El Camino Real, Redwood City

A Slice of New York [South Bay]
3443 Stevens Creek Boulevard, San Jose

Board Link: Ghoulish Halloween Treats from Romolo’s in San Mateo

Burgers, Humble or Fancy

“Has the KK Cafe really never been mentioned here?” asks vulber. The place is incredibly uninviting from the outside, but the owners are superfriendly and the burger, vulber says, is “one of the best burgers I’ve found.” It’s not organic, or ground in-house, but it is certainly delicious, with a touch of what tastes like cumin. Otherwise, it’s pretty traditional. A cheeseburger and fries is $5.95. Also check out the house-made peanut milk, which vulber describes as “definitely a unique experience.” For the meatless, the veggie burger is homemade also and very, very fine.

Foodnut8 had been psyched for the opening of Chef Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar San Francisco after trying the Las Vegas location. It’s a build-your-own burger concept, with primo ingredients: The Prime-quality meat is ground and hand-mixed daily, and you can get Kobe beef, foie gras, and truffle butter.

But on an early visit, it was an alterna-burger that was the winner: the hulking Atlantic salmon sandwich on a ciabatta bun with oyster mushrooms, asparagus, and a side of aioli. “Simple, tender, juicy, healthy and delicious,” Foodnut8 says.

A more traditional Black Angus burger is a huge hunk o’ beef with American cheese, bacon, and a tasty heap of onions and portobello mushrooms. The meat ended up on the well-done side, and thus not very juicy, but it did come on an excellent fresh sesame bun.

Buttermilk zucchini fries are fresh and crisp, while the ice cream shakes are velvety and not too sweet. The intense chocolate one is a must for chocoholics.

KK Cafe [Lower Haight]
252 Divisadero Street, San Francisco

Burger Bar [Union Square]
Inside Macy’s, Sixth Floor
251 Geary Street, San Francisco

Board Links: Has the KK Cafe really never been mentioned here?
Burger Bar San Francisco now open

Chicken-and-Egg Delivery

“Soul Food Farm, which raises the best eggs I’ve found as well as first-rate chicken, just started a CSA,” reports Robert Lauriston. On the menu: whole chickens, eggs by the dozen, giblets, and livers. Pickup locations and more info can be found on the website.

Soul Food Farm [Solano County]
6046 Pleasants Valley Road, Vacaville

Board Link: Soul Food Farm CSA—eggs & chickens

Candy Corn Riffs for Grannies and Stoners

After you’re done making your homemade fake blood capsules for Halloween, try your hand at homemade candy corn. Thank you, Serious Eats, for figuring out how to produce this wickedly nonartisanal sweet the old-fashioned way. Apparently it’s very time-consuming, involving fondant and so forth. But I bet you’re up for the challenge.

And bless your heart,
Chicago Tribune, for some hot tips on how to use the little buggers. Put them in your sugar bowl if you’re serving coffee at a festive coffee klatsch, because they dissolve in hot liquid! (I just know my granny would appreciate that one.) Or, if you’re really stoned, try slicing up an apple (the Trib says you can substitute a pear—though the paper doesn’t make reference to being stoned …) and baking it in the oven with melted candy corn all over it, which creates a “flavorful sauce.”

But hey, maybe you just want to get drunk and eat massive amounts of the stuff. What does one pair with candy corn booze-wise? Watch this video to find out.

Image source: Flickr member Muffet under Creative Commons

New Finds: Irresistible Peppermint Patties

Recchiuti Confections recently sent over some samples of its holiday chocolate lineup to the CHOW office, and though the truffles were good, printing some Christmas-related crap on top of the same old dark-chocolate ganache doesn’t really seem all that new or exciting. What was new, however, was the appearance of peppermint thins. They’re bite-sized, extremely minty, and coated with dark, intense chocolate. Now Recchiuti just needs to start making them the same size as those big York Peppermint Patties.

Recchiuti Peppermint Thins, $18 for a box of 24

WhiskyFest Recap, San Francisco

Last week WhiskyFest blew through SF, leaving behind a trail of dead. Joking aside (though seriously, the stuff will slay you after a few hours if you don’t force yourself to dump after tasting), there were more than 200 whiskeys to sample from all over the world, many master distillers on hand to talk about their products, and, well, a lot of those profusely sweating guys who always seem to show up to beer and spirits festivals. I concentrated on the domestic offerings, leaving the many great Scotches and other imports for next time.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Death’s Door Spirits: Out of Wisconsin, this small-batch distiller is named after the passage between Washington Island and the Door County Peninsula. It uses organic grains, and makes a “white” whiskey. The perfectly clear spirit is made by double distilling, resting the booze for three weeks, then popping it in oak barrels for less than 72 hours. It picks up some whiskey flavors, and even has a sweet suggestion of reposado tequila. Would be fun to experiment with in cocktails that call for gin, or to make something odd like a white Manhattan. They were also pouring a very good, creamy, almost buttery gin, with lots of botanicals but no overwhelming juniper bitterness.

High West Distillery: First off, you have to give some props to these people for not only starting a distillery in Utah, but also starting a ski-in distillery and pub. More importantly, they are selling some very good ryes. Since the company is only a few years old, High West’s own stuff is still aging. In the meantime, it’s been blending other distilleries’ booze to great success. I liked the Rendezvous Rye, a blend of a 6-year-old, 95 percent rye and a 16-year-old, 80 percent rye. It’s strong and spicy, with some vanilla in there. It’s not chill-filtered—a process many distillers put their whiskeys through to remove oils that will make the whiskey appear cloudy when it’s cold. Skipping the step leaves a little more texture in the Rendezvous and flavor in the finish.

Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey: Stranahan’s is a great microdistillery in Denver. Its Colorado Whiskey is aged in charred American white oak whiskey barrels, and contains both floral Scotch qualities and some of the brown-sugary spiciness of bourbon, with some hints of smoky, leathery, earthy funk in there too from, well, who knows. Like High West’s Rendezvous Rye, this is not chill-filtered. Don’t be scared off by the 94 proofage—it’s fiery to be sure, but still totally sippable.

Pork Shoulder Ecstasy

Pork shoulder is a fatty cut with lots of connective tissue. Long, slow cooking melts the fat and breaks down the connective tissue, leaving the meat moist and very tender. “Because of its high fat content and marbling, pork shoulder is the classic cut for pulled pork barbecue,” notes Tom Armitage. “The general advice I’d give is to braise the heck out of it and just choose the sort of flavor you want,” says katecm. “It can fit into so many sorts of dishes.”

Crispy pork, a stovetop version of carnitas, is TorontoJo’s favorite way to cook pork shoulder (she uses chicken broth in place of the water called for). “It looks gray and unappetizing for about 90 percent of the cooking time,” she says, “then at the very end it suddenly transforms into this golden brown, crispy, savory wonder.”

This chile verde from Bay Area Bites is “foolproof and delicious,” according to Dcfoodblog. JungMann recommends cider-braised pork shoulder with caramelized onions.

Caroline1 loves this simple prep: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a pork shoulder in a deep, covered pan not much bigger than it is. Sprinkle the top of the pork liberally with Worcestershire sauce, then pack a fairly thick layer of brown sugar over it. Pour enough apple juice in the pan to come at least halfway up the pork, avoiding the brown sugar. Cover, place in the oven, and reduce the heat to 200 degrees. Bake for six to eight hours, until it’s falling-apart tender. “It just vanishes before your eyes,” says Caroline1, “and it tastes far more complex and sophisticated than it sounds. Don’t tell your guests how easy it is.”

CHOW’s Chinese-style Red-Cooked Pork is made with shoulder.

Board Link: What is your favorite recipe for pork shoulder?