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Scotch gift for a picky friend?

I want to buy an unusual Scotch for a friend who's a bit of a collector. I'll spend up to $100 for a bottle (with shipping, I imagine).

What can you recommend? Thanks.

Nov 11, 2014
shoes in Spirits

New Yorker annual food issue - Nov. 3, 2014

Excellent issue all around. The piece on the gluten controversy was especially well done.

Nov 04, 2014
shoes in Food Media & News

Takeout in Cheshire Connecticut?

I'm headed to an event in downtown Cheshire Wednesday evening and I'd like to grab some takeout to eat during the event. What are my options? I'd like a hot meal - roast chicken, meatloaf, maybe a good sou or chili. No pizza or pasta. Thanks!

Nov 03, 2014
shoes in Southern New England

New London dinner and breakfast with my 18 year old

For breakfast, I like the Bean and Leaf on Bank Street (overlooking the water). They have excellent coffee and a simple breakfast menu - egg sandwiches, oatmeal, bagels and bakery items.

Within walking distance of the train station and your hotel.

Oct 31, 2014
shoes in Southern New England

Grimaldi's in New Haven? Wooster Street Has Nothing to Fear

We let curiosity get the better of us last night and ordered a pie from Grimaldi's, newly opened next to Katz's deli near the Woodbridge-New Haven line.

Wooster Street has nothing to worry about.

I've never been to the famed original Grimaldi's in Brooklyn, but I've heard it has a following like Pepe's or Sally's. I've also heard that its chain locations are pale imitators.

Armed with this knowledge, we ordered a large mushroom, onion and bacon pie.

Meh. It was OK but we're not tempted to try it again.

The crust was very crispy but kind of bland. I am usually a big crust-eater, but I gave some of my crust to the dog (who's not picky). They use fresh mushrooms and excellent bacon. They also use store-made fresh mozzarella, which is not greasy but also a bit on the bland side. They put a little fresh basil on the pie, a nice touch. There was very little sauce, and again little flavor from it.

The best thing we got was a house salad, which was very nice - fresh and bright with roasted peppers and a variety of olives.

The price was comparable with Wooster Street.

We got takeout, but we'd describe the interior as looking like every suburban pizza place you ever saw. Maybe it will do well with the Woodbridge/Bethany crowd or people peeling off the Parkway for grub.

Oct 31, 2014
shoes in Southern New England

Dinner Party for a Beginner?

My advice is the best advice my mother ever gave me: Stick with what you know. Serve something you've made successfully at least once before. Don't experiment on your guests.

Also - get everyone a drink as soon as they walk in. Have a place to put all the coats and bags. Have some chocolate on hand.

have fun!

Any good brunch places Bridgeport-New Haven?

The hot spot for brunch in Westville is now Bella's on Whalley Ave. It's a tiny space, no reservations. Get there before 9 or be prepared for a long wait.

The food is excellent and creative, not the usual flaccid Eggs Benedict type stuff.

I am not sure what the drinks situation is - they didn't have a liquor license for a while but would allow BYOB. I've heard that's changed but I don't know for sure. I'd call -

Oct 13, 2014
shoes in Southern New England

Cheese Cake - Looking for a Great Recipe for the holidays

Cook's Illustrated published a fabulous New York Style Cheesecake recipe about 10 years ago. It's phenomenal - everything you'd want in a cheesecake.

Its recipe uses a springform pan and a graham-cracker crust. It does not use a water bath but rather gives instruction to cook at very high heat (500 degrees) for a short time and then turn the oven very low (200 degrees).

You need a subscription to get the recipe, as Cook's website uses a paywall. It's well worth it.

Oct 09, 2014
shoes in Home Cooking

Electric raclette maker--advice needed on purchase

Mine certainly heats up well enough, so I doubt that's a true concern. The two-surface option you describe below ought to suit you well. Enjoy!

Oct 09, 2014
shoes in Cookware

Electric raclette maker--advice needed on purchase

I have the nonstick Swissmar version. It's easy to use and clean. It heats up really quickly, which I doubt the other two do. You're right about the "lip" on the surface - you need a way to contain food and any liquid or grease, especially if you're cooking for a crowd.

As far as "durable" goes, I think the nonstick one is fine. How often are you going to use this thing? Every day? The granite one is very pretty but probably not as practical.

Oct 07, 2014
shoes in Cookware

Favorite brown bag lunches that don't require reheating

I have a similar challenge. I got this bento from Zojirishi:

It keeps hot things warm if you follow the directions.

Also, for cold meals I like cold pizza and cold Spanish omelets (poach a couple of thinly sliced potatoes and onions in 1/4 cup olive oil for about a half hour. When the potatoes are soft add 8 beaten eggs and cook until set on one side, flip it over and cook til set on the other side. Add peas, peppers and any other veg you like too.)

Oct 03, 2014
shoes in Home Cooking

Toaster ovens

I also have the Breville (non-convection). It's been a good machine for toast, reheating things, frozen pizza, and roasting veggies.

I have roasted a whole chicken in it a few times, with so-so results. Same with baking - even something like a fruit crisp. The machine doesn't brown really well.

Sep 22, 2014
shoes in Cookware

Preparing couscous with cantaloupe juice rather than water??

I've never tried cantaloupe juice, but I have done tomato juice and pineapple juice diluted with pretty good results.

Sep 22, 2014
shoes in Home Cooking

Small town restaurant + Bad experience = Would you go back?

I am from New Hampshire, so I know exactly what you mean. I live in a more cosmopolitan area now, with very good restaurants and professional service, but I still visit family several times a year and have to deal with different standards.

My advice is to lower your standards and keep it simple. For food, order something simple and hard to screw up. Avoid anything ambitious or ethnic - even a simple pasta dish is too much for some places to handle. You'll likely get mushy pasta in jarred sauce.

For service, I think it helps to remember that wait staff in small-town places are probably working poor people. They probably hold a couple of jobs and had no training. The kitchen staff in such places can be pretty abusive to the wait staff (that was my experience, anyway, having waitressed at tourist restaurants summers in high school and college).

I'd also encourage you to find place you like well enough and become a regular. Get to know the staff and let them know you. They'll treat you better. Even if you just go to the bar once in a while and get a drink and an app, you'll see them warm up to you, once they realize you're not just another tourist or college here-today, gone-tomorrow type.

Sep 18, 2014
shoes in Not About Food

Harwhich and Chatham

We were at the Impudent Oyster this past week - excellent food, unexpected pairings of things and very fresh. The place is packed packed packed - make a reservation well in advance.

We had the raw local oyster platter for starters, followed by a bouillibaise and a special etouffee. (Sorry - not spell-checking those).

The service is very professional and we see the same servers there year after year.

Sep 07, 2014
shoes in Southern New England

Iconic CT foods

I remember Steele played Souza marches on his morning show. What a way to wake up!

Nice to see that Steele and shad still get some love.

Aug 25, 2014
shoes in Southern New England

Iconic CT foods

Apropos of something, Slate today published a story titled "United Sweets of America," with an iconic dessert for each state.

Of course, they get Connecticut wrong:

Connecticut is known as the Nutmeg State not because nutmeg grows there (it doesn’t), but because “its early inhabitants had the reputation of being so ingenious and shrewd that they were able to make and sell wooden nutmegs”—in other words, they were able to pass off fake nutmegs as real ones. It’s a bit of a convoluted origin story, and one that doesn’t speak well of the state’s integrity. But it does make a certain amount of sense: Connecticut’s earliest settlers were Dutch, and the Dutch are big on baking spices. Spice cookies aren’t quite as popular in Connecticut as they are in the Old World, but it’s hard to find fault with the soft, aromatic New England variety.

Does anyone eat spice cookies anymore?

Didn't think so.

So what should it have been?

* Apple cider doughnuts
* Those Portuguese pastries with the custard center
* Some Italian pastry - cannoli, zeppole
* Polish doughnuts
* UConn ice cream


Aug 25, 2014
shoes in Southern New England

Iconic CT foods

I have one that I bet no one here other than me has eaten during the past year: Connecticut River shad.

Had it, either the fish or the roe, in the past year?

Bragging rights given!

I buy some every spring at Bud's Fish Market in Branford. Hal gets some old lady to bone the fish for him. Shallow-fry it in a cornmeal crust. Not the best fish, but it's definitely a Connecticut thing.

Aug 25, 2014
shoes in Southern New England

Iconic CT foods

Hm. How about:

Norwalk oysters
Stonington flounder
Apple cider doughnuts (yes, available in many places but the Connecticut ones are ubiquitous year-round)
Oddball pizzas - hot oil pizza (A Stamford thing. I don't get it, but it's a thing) and red potato pizza (a Willimantic thing)

Aug 21, 2014
shoes in Southern New England

Does anyone own a vacuum sealer?

Another vote for the Foodsaver model. Works very well and is worth the investment for the savings you get if you cook or buy in bulk, or if you have a big garden or hunt. You can get a barely used one cheap on eBay or at garage sales or thrift stores.

Most people forget this fact about the bags: you can reuse them. Reuse is not recommended if you bagged raw meat, but any other items are fine. I put the bags inside-out in the dishwasher (I have one of those dishwashers that doesn't have a heat dry setting).

Aug 21, 2014
shoes in Cookware

Anyone seen the watermelon truck guy in New Haven yet this summer?

I never found him but I did get a great watermelon like I describe at Edge of the Woods. Thanks.

Aug 19, 2014
shoes in Southern New England

Montreal breakfast

I've always enjoyed Eggspectation. I've never had a crepe there, but the cade au lait is fabulous. I usually get the Canadian breakfast with the baked beans in homage to my grandmother. It's an English-aligned place, not a French place, so it won't suit if you want the whole French atmosphere.

Aug 14, 2014
shoes in Quebec (inc. Montreal)

Leave the gun, take the cannoli...

From "Moonstruck":

"Old man, if you give them dogs another piece of my food, I'm gonna kick you 'til you're dead."

"They say bread is life. And I bake bread, bread, bread. And I sweat and shovel this stinkin' dough in and out of this hot hole in the wall, and I should be so happy! Huh, sweetie?"

"Would anyone like some oatmeal? Yes, Mrs. Castorini, I would love some oatmeal. No, we don't want any oatmeal!"

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Nice dish!

Does anyone know if this works for any kind of squash blossom? I have a bunch of butternut squash blossoms on my vines right now. (I don't grow zucchini.)


Aug 01, 2014
shoes in Home Cooking

Anyone seen the watermelon truck guy in New Haven yet this summer?

Every summer, some guy parks around New Haven with a truck full of watermelons for sale. These are the real deal watermelons - giant seeded elongated ovals of awesomeness.

I've bought from him past years at the Walgreen's parking lot on Whalley Ave. and by the flea market on the Boulevard.

I have not seen him yet this year. Any sightings? Thanks.

Aug 01, 2014
shoes in Southern New England

Interesting Breakfast Place Near U Delaware?

We'd rather visit a good local breakfast place than scarf down mass-produced eggs at the hotel.

Anyplace near U Delaware worth a look? Thanks.

Aug 01, 2014
shoes in Mid-Atlantic

Your Giant American Refrigerator Is Making You Fat And Poor

I can see this might be true for some families. Among relatives and friends, I know a few food hoarder types who are all overweight. These folks don't live in rural areas or have any kind of budgetary issues or farms.

The fridge (and even a second fridge) are stuffed, the cabinets are stuffed, lots of food goes bad. There's candy on the counter, bags of chips in the TV room, snacks in the cars. There's endless variety for eats, and when you have endless variety (including a lot of unhealthy choices) you'll likely overeat.

Jul 31, 2014
shoes in Food Media & News

What's your best yard sale or thrift store cookware find?

Home canning supplies - a pressure canner, a water bath canner, jars, rings, tongs, funnels. Checked it all over thoroughly to be sure there were no cracks, warps etc.

Jul 29, 2014
shoes in Cookware

Which gluten free thickener for apricot crisp?

Potato starch works wonderfully to thicken without making that gloppyness you can get from corn starch.

Jul 29, 2014
shoes in Home Cooking

Wine Shop in the Midcape Area With Good Inventory After Labor Day

We're headed to Chatham in September and we're debating whether to bring our own wine or chance it with wine shops on the Cape.

In the past, the shops we've tried seemed picked over by Labor Day. I imagine the small shops try to unload as much as they can before the offseason hits and don't order much new inventory until spring.

Can anyone recommend a few reliable shops fall buying? Or should we add wine to our packing list?

Jul 25, 2014
shoes in Southern New England