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

An Alternative Use for Your Soda Charger

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You've never thought to carbonate fruit, have you? ... WATCH THE VIDEO

How Do You Say “Pho”?

How Do You Say “Pho”?

The pitfalls of pronunciation. READ MORE

Say No to Flopcorn

Too much flopcorn, or unpopped kernels of corn, can mess up your perfect popcorn experience (greygarious prefers the term flopcorn over the more colorful but un-PC old maids). But how do you keep this problem to a minimum?

The most important thing to do is to keep the unpopped kernels from losing their moisture, says iluvcookies. Steam building up inside the corn is the key to making it pop; if it dries out, there’s no pressure to make it explode into fluffy popcorn. (For an expanded explanation, see CHOW’s Nagging Question column What Else Besides Corn Pops, and How?) Sherri stores her kernels in two resealable plastic bags in the freezer, very tightly sealed to maintain moisture. Keeping them airtight and using them up quickly is the key, says iluvcookies.

Board Link: How to minimize “flopcorn”?

How to Remove the Garlic Smell from Your Hands

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Where to Find Green Coffee Beans

Why roast your own coffee? The taste of freshly roasted beans is bright and has more depth than beans roasted and stored, says jayt90. And it’s a fairly low investment in terms of time and equipment for the pleasure that home roasting brings. (See CHOW’s Jiffy Roast story for tips on getting set up to roast simply and cheaply.)

Green coffee beans are available by mail order, and they are cheap compared to commercially roasted coffee. You can get a wide variety of green beans; the best advice is to try different beans and find out what you like, says scubadoo97, who likes Ethiopian and Yemeni varietal coffees for their fruit flavors, but also enjoys Central and South American coffees and Mexican Oaxacas. “I’ll often do 2–3 different beans and then blend them,” he says. At any rate, with home-roasted coffee, “I just know I’m drinking better coffee than I can get locally.”

grampart likes the Columbian Supremo beans from Coffee Bean Direct, roasted just past the second crack. jayt90 gets green coffee beans from Green Beanery in Canada, and from the Green Coffee Buying Club. Many coffee geeks also swear by Sweet Maria’s.

Board Link: Buying Good Coffee Beans

Carry a Torch for Tiki

New England seems like a funny place to go looking for tiki culture, but oishisoo has a yen for cocktails with a spear of pineapple in them. Where can one go locally to soak up some of that tiki kitsch?

There’s Tiki Lagoon, one of the dining rooms at Kowloon Restaurant. But, as bobot puts it succinctly, “The food/drinks at Kowloon suck.” Tiki Island in Medford has “cheesy murals and masks on the walls, stiff drinks in goofy mugs and better food than Kowloon,” says masterson.

Another idea is to head to prime local booze pushers Drink and Eastern Standard, where the bartenders are “reviving the authentic tiki mixology of Donn the Beachcomber and his heirs, which is not at all trivial,” says MC Slim JB. “It requires a lot of house-made infused syrups, fresh juices (fresh pineapple juice makes a huge difference), and a lot of rather obscure spirits and NA ingredients (pimiento dram, a battery of unusual rums, Cherry Heering, Velvet Falernum, etc.).”

Sunday afternoons at Drink are dedicated to tiki, with weekly parties starting in the afternoon, and Eastern Standard has periodic tiki parties with “authentic Polynesian food and amazing tiki cocktails,” according to MC Slim JB. But you can order tiki drinks any old time.

Kowloon Restaurant [North Shore]
948 Broadway Street, Saugus

Tiki Island [North of Boston]
269 Middlesex Avenue, Medford

Drink [Fort Point]
348 Congress Street, Boston

Eastern Standard [Fenway]
528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston

Board Link: Boston Tiki Bar?

Trend-O-Meter Says: Sauerkraut Is In (9/23/09)

Home fermentation has officially blown up, with sauerkraut taking center stage as the garnish-du-jour in hip homes and restaurants. Spotted: as a side at popular Brooklyn barbecue joint Fette Sau; at a sold-out sauerkraut-making class taught earlier this month by Boing Boing founder Mark Frauenfelder at Machine Project in Echo Park, Los Angeles; housemade and served in choucroute garni at farmstead-chic Prime Meats restaurant in Brooklyn; and in a written homage included in the last issue of Diner Journal (article not online), the ’zine put out by Brooklyn restaurant Marlow & Sons.

You can make your own sauerkraut with CHOW, or (if you live in NYC) attend a fermentation class on October 3 in the Village.

Sausage Lovers Get Stuffed

Will S. loves German wursts and finds them hard to find in the Boston area, particularly anywhere accessible by public transportation. Hounds agree that Savenor’s (with branches in Cambridge and Beacon Hill) is a sausage hotspot, carrying the excellent local Smokehouse brand from Norwell. sushifest says that Smokehouse’s master sausage maker Dave Nosiglia “trained in Germany for three years, and that he’s as close to a wurstmeister in the area as any.”

Failing that, Will S. says he’s “willing to settle” for Schaller & Weber brand sausages; they can be found in many gourmet supermarkets.

Savenor’s Market [Cambridge]
92 Kirkland Street, Cambridge

Savenor’s Market [Beacon Hill]
160 Charles Street, Boston

Board Link: where are the best wursts in boston?

Maintain Your Edge

When kitchen knives get dull, fingers get sliced. Keep things in keen condition at one of these places in the Boston area that offer sharpening services: KitchenArts on Newbury Street, which charges about $3 to $8 a knife for its overnight services; Siraco Sharpening Service, which has various drop-off spots for customers in Cambridge, Everett, and Arlington (and is also at the Union Square Market every second and fourth Saturday, says bella_sarda), and European Country Antiques in Cambridge, which keeps a knife guru on tap.

But best of all, says Zatan, is the highly skilled Dave Martell, edge-master for D&R Sharpening Solutions, who does an artisan’s job on fine Japanese knives. Customers send knives mail order to the Pennsylvania shop. “I would NEVER send one of these babies off to a commercial sharpener,” says Zatan, who keeps his knives “screaming sharp” with a whetstone at home. But Dave is “far and away better than I will ever be and you can definitely trust him to do fine work.”

KitchenArts [Back Bay]

215 Newbury Street, Boston

Siraco Sharpening Service [North of Boston]
P.O. Box 45369, Somerville

European Country Antiques [Cambridge]
146 Huron Avenue, Cambridge

D&R Sharpening Solutions [Pennsylvania]
319 N. Franklin Street, Unit D, Fleetwood

Board Link: Knife sharpening?

Sour News About Honey

Remember all that hubbub about Colony Collapse Disorder? Well, bee losses have slowed (and the issue’s largely vanished from the radar), but “slowed” does not equal “stopped” or “reversed.” Writing in the Daily Beast, Katie Workman notes:

“In 2009, because of the scarcity of bees, the price of a single hive has climbed to about $180 from $60 in 2004. And in 2006, American beekeepers had to import bees for the first time in almost a century. The cost of pollination for farmers now can exceed the cost of fertilizer, water, or labor, and that cost is naturally being passed on to the consumer.”

It’s bad, bad news. On the upside … well, after scanning the story, there doesn’t appear to be an upside. Like most of the stories out there about global warming or the war in Afghanistan, this is a blog post to be read only by the courageous of mind and perky of spirit.

Image source: Flickr member BotheredByBees under Creative Commons