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

Modern Thai’s Crave-Worthy Chow

“I woke up this morning with a major craving for this dish,” says Cynsa of Modern Thai’s chopped preserved Chinese olives on rice with ground chicken.

Other picks: The deep-fried papaya salad is a tasty, crisp confetti of papaya, cabbage, carrots, purple beans, and peanuts with tomatoes on romaine. A silky curry of roast duck with lychee, cherry tomatoes, and fried basil leaves is rich in flavor. And the fried pumpkin appetizer and som tum (green papaya salad, unfried) are flat-out delicious, says rccola.

There’s no comparing Modern Thai with the straight-outta-Thailand deliciousness of Lers Ros Thai, Cynsa says, but it’s worth it on its own terms—for that crispy salad and the rice with olives, for example. With its neon colonial decor, it’s “a ‘safe’ destination when you have non-foodies in tow—to start with the ubiquitous coconut shrimp appetizer that I observed on several tables nearby,” she observes. Still, only the brave should request their food to be “Thai spicy.”

Modern Thai [Downtown]
1247 Polk Street, San Francisco
415-922-8424

Lers Ros Thai [Tenderloin]
730 Larkin Street, San Francisco
415-931-6917

Board Link: Modern Thai

The New College Cafeteria: Lobsters and Chocolate Fountains

College meal plans sure have changed from when I graduated in 19-mumble-mumble. The Hungry Beast maps out the top college cafeterias and food plans with a gallery sure to make ex-students turn green.

For instance, there’s Virginia Tech, where live lobsters swim in a tank, awaiting student orders, and the chefs poll students’ parents for favorite at-home recipes that are added to the menu. Or Boston College’s storied “Wonka-Ville,” with a chocolate bar that has a chocolate fountain, pastries, and fudge.

Man, that’s going to really aid in packing on the freshman 15.

Image source: Flickr member MyLifeStory under Creative Commons

How to Deal with Rusty Cast Iron

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It's not a castoff. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

How to Clean a Cast Iron Pan

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Don’t Scrape Your Knife’s Blade …

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Across the cutting board, for goodness sake! ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Make the Most of Fresh Shiitakes

Fresh shiitake mushrooms take well to many preparations, but hounds favor simple recipes to show them off.

potluck tosses shiitakes with sesame oil, ginger, soy sauce, and a bit of water, and roasts them on a baking sheet at 450°F for 15 to 20 minutes. cheesecake17 roasts them with olive oil and salt, and uses them as a pizza topping. “Fabulous on whole-wheat crust with goat cheese,” she says. Chefpaulo simply crisps them in a hot wok with walnut oil and sea salt, then eats them as a treat.

BigSal braises shiitakes with onions: Bring 1 1/2 cups water, 1 tablespoon each soy sauce and toasted sesame oil, and 2 teaspoons maple syrup to a boil; add 10 to 15 halved shiitake caps, half an onion, chopped, and 5 crushed garlic cloves, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until liquid has reduced to a rich sauce.

4Snisl loves this pan-seared tuna with ginger-shiitake cream sauce, and has used the same sauce on chicken, as well.

Fresh shiitakes star in CHOW’s Goat Cheese Toasts with Asparagus-Mushroom Ragu. And check out this CHOW video on choosing shiitakes.

Board Link: Shiitake mushrooms $2/lb… what’s a girl to do?

Homemade Jalapeño Powder

Faced with an abundance of fresh jalapeños, JonParker created a homemade chile powder. He washed and dried the peppers, chopped them finely, and dehydrated them in a toaster oven. Once dry, he ground the pieces to powder in a spice grinder. “Now I have a jar of jalepeño powder that I can use for various dishes,” he says. “Today I’m doing red beans and rice, and I put a teaspoon into my onions/peppers/garlic when sautéeing them.”

JonParker notes that hotter chiles, such as habaneros, can give off fairly volatile fumes while dehydrating, so err on the side of caution.

Board Link: Jalapeño powder

How to Hone a Knife

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Corn Pudding for the Harvest Months

Corn pudding, a savory casserole with a custard base and lots of corn kernels, is a favorite during the harvest months, and a Thanksgiving staple for many Chowhounds.

Ina Garten’s Sagaponack corn pudding is made with ricotta and cheddar. “Something about the fresh basil and the cheese, it always is a crowd pleaser,” says juli5122. This corn-chive pudding is “a good combination of savory and sweet,” according to lesliedm3. another_adam finds it quite sweet, so halves the sugar called for.

Querencia makes an easy version: Pulse a bag of frozen corn kernels, thawed, in a food processor. Beat 2 eggs with a cup of milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter, and 1/4 cup Bisquick, then stir in the corn and 9 ounces shredded sharp cheddar. Bake in a buttered casserole at 350°F until brown on top, about 45 minutes.

Board Link: Corn Pudding for Thanksgiving

Cocktail Perfection, Found in Translation

The Atlantic’s food blog takes a trip to Japan where—no real surprise here—some exceedingly masterful bartenders work their magic on a daily basis. Washington DC–based sommelier Derek M. Brown does a good job of capturing the magic of a master at work:

“My cocktails are not Eastern variants, but simple, well-crafted drinks that bear the mark of a technician. Sometimes [bartender Hidetsugu Ueno] even brings out a thermometer to check the temperature of a cocktail. His White Lady, a signature drink culled from the classics, is made without egg whites but has the glistening texture of a melting brook with tiny, broken shards of ice.”

As a West-goes-East-to-encounter-West story, Brown’s cocktail essay is an engaging read. And a bit intimidating, to boot:

“The bartenders at these legendary barrooms are known for their ability to carve an ice ball whose brilliance rivals 500-carat diamonds and shake a cocktail so hard that it registers as a seismic event.”