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Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

Good Coffee for Cheap

Eight O’Clock Coffee is an old standby brand; it started at A&P stores. No one calls it the best, but for the price it’s very good. Buy the whole beans and grind them at home, or even at the store.

coll likes the mild Boca blend; it’s $6.99 for a two-pound bag of whole beans. The French Roast isn’t all that tasty. Atomica says that it goes on sale every other week. Sometimes it’s half price or a two-for-one.

namreb says Eight O’clock is as good as coffee gets for storebought. It’s great in the old percolator!

Here’s Billjriv’s method for brewing in the microwave.

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“Has anyone tried 8’O Clock coffee and how is it?”

Wedding Bell Blues

Low-carb, raw food, CR, allergies: Our diets have become as fragmented as a kaleidoscope, making planning any event where food is involved a nightmare requiring the lab skills of a food scientist, the sensitivity of an empath, and the precision of a master jewel thief. I get that.

But does The New York Times really have to quote people who make it seem as if the ethical beliefs of a bride and groom are inconveniences to be brushed aside?

I almost spit out my coffee when I read this quote in a story about wedding menu planning in the Times’s Wedding section:

Conflict over the wedding menu can occur … because of dietary restrictions or because the couple wish to impose their own dietary inclinations on their guests.

Elizabeth K. Allen, an owner of an event planning and design company in New York and Boston bearing her name, remembered doing a wedding reception for a couple who were vegans. That meant no meat, no eggs, no milk or other animal products.

‘I told them they needed to loosen up a little,’ Ms. Allen said. She suggested they at least broaden their horizons to a vegetarian menu so that the meal could include pasta, which has eggs in it.

‘I kept saying, “This is your belief, but this needs to be an evening for everybody,”’ Ms. Allen said. ‘Great-aunt Betty doesn’t necessarily want to eat vegan.’

Ultimately, the couple broke down and did a vegetarian menu so they could offer pasta to their guests. Last time I checked, there were a skillion vegan pastas out there …

If I were a vegan planning a wedding and the event planner told me to “loosen up,” I probably would find another event planner. I’m pretty sure that folks at Post Punk Kitchen could help out with a few names. And the annual wedding issue of Veg News profiles several couples who pulled off vegan weddings ranging from crunchy to elegant.

Pleasures of the Flesh

Most newspapers, when alerted that a long-awaited film is about to open, send an entertainment reporter out to interview the stars or director.

But at Scotland’s Sunday Herald, they do things right. To shed light on the new film that follows everyone’s favorite Chianti drinker, Hannibal Lecter, Hannibal Rising, the paper deployed not a tasteful critic or breathless celeb interviewer but Timothy Taylor, an archeologist specializing in the extremes of human behavior. The resulting article, “Nice to Eat You,” is a historical, cultural, and scientific look at the practice of cannibalism.

Not eating your friends after they have died, it seems, is a relatively new invention:

Item: Sterkfontein, South Africa, two million years ago; Homo habilis cranium with cut marks made in the fresh bone where the lower jaw was removed. Item: Gran Dolina, Spain, 800,000 years ago; Homo antecessor remains, extensively butchered with stone knives. Item: Bodo, Ethiopia, 600,000 years ago; early archaic Homo sapiens cranium covered in cut marks from systematic defleshing. Item: Zhoukoudian, China, 400,000 years ago; Homo erectus crania with enlarged hole at base for extracting brains. Item: Moula Guercy, France, 100,000 years ago; Homo neanderthalensis, two juveniles, butchered just like the deer from the same site. Item: Gough’s (New) Cave, England, 12,500 years ago; modern Homo sapiens remains, butchered in the same manner.

Taylor ranges through the natural world, discussing the cannibalistic practices of chimps, lions (the male that takes over a pride eats the cubs of his rival), and salmon. He describes how the aromatic smoke from the Aztec’s cannibalistic rites rose to the heavens as an offering for the gods.

He even makes like Clarice Starling, setting out to visit one of Brazil’s most notorious real-life blood drinkers, though not actually getting there.

Why do we love Thomas Harris’s Hannibal?

Central to Lecter’s grisly magnetism is his avowed gustatory pleasure in human flesh. Most real-life psycho cannibals have been pretty poor cooks…. Harris’s monster is monstrous because he couples an admirably cultured life, of painting, music, science and medicine with an appetite conditioned by war yet rendered unnecessary by the post-war economics of plenty. His compulsion is not that of a ravening madman. He does not just eat the brains of the US Department of Justice agent, Paul Krendler, while the latter is still alive, but dines on them, with all the trappings of a gourmet.

Kraft Goes Indie

Get your money out of orange mac ‘n’ cheese and into cigarettes, pronto: Food and tobacco giant Altria Group announced last week that it’s ditching its shares of struggling Kraft Foods, and analysts say Altria’s stock will soar now that it can focus on expanding its main holding, the Philip Morris tobacco company. (Maybe it’s time to take a cue from the French and smoke instead of eat.)

According to MarketWatch, the spinoff of Kraft, set for March 30, “will create the biggest stand-alone food company in the U.S. (and the second largest in the world after Nestle).”

But wait a minute—being big and independent should be a good thing for Kraft, right? And didn’t these stock watchers see Thank You for Smoking? Tobacco can’t win in our health-conscious society, people! As writer William Spain explains,

In theory, at least in the U.S., Kraft should have superior prospects. After all, cigarette volumes are declining as more American smokers quit or die each year even as they continue to gobble down food at an ever-increasing rate. But even though it is selling fewer smokes, Altria’s Philip Morris USA continues to build market share while squeezing higher profits out of each puff. At the same time, key Kraft brands are losing market share to private labels even as the company struggles with higher commodity prices.

Aaah, yes—nobody wants Kraft mac anymore, now that “all-natural” Annie’s is in town. The solution, some analysts say, will be for Kraft to tighten its international strategy and “[shed] businesses to focus on core categories such as biscuits, cheese, coffee and refrigerated beverages.” The still-enormous food company is likely to ditch 10 holdings, including Post cereals, Planters Nuts, and Jell-O desserts.

What will happen if these brands become indies? Oscar Mayer meats and Cool Whip at the farmers’ market—duh.

Get on the List

February is usually a weak month for cooking magazines. Post-indulgence, low-fat foods and warming winter braises absorb most January issues; March looks forward to spring. But February is stuck in a heart-shaped rut, with nothing but pink peppercorns and molten chocolate cakes in Valentine’s Day menus a deux.

Saveur is the only mag on the newsstand to buck the cuddly-Cupid juggernaut, offering instead its annual Saveur 100 list.

As always, the sublime coexists with the ridiculous on the idiosyncratic list. There seems to be a mandate for the magazine—known for its shunning of celebrity chefs in lieu of a round-the-world quest for authenticity—to climb down from its high horse once a year to champion the foods of the little people. “With its wafer of silky griddle-steamed beef … the White Castle classic [slider] is really more of a confection, a kind of meat petit four,” writes the Grub Report’s Josh Ozersky with tongue (we hope) firmly in cheek. Other writers chime in with paeans to canned peas (“dressed with a drizzle of olive oil,” natch), Chinese take-out (complete with sticky packets of corn-syruped duck sauce), and the white food (like milk, mashed potatoes, and white bread) beloved by two out of three picky toddlers everywhere.

Still, in between the white bread and the dopey filler (like old spoons, “relaxing while cooking,” and “eating straight from the pan”), there are some intriguing finds. Such as amba, a piquant neon-orange condiment favored by Iraqi Jews and made from pickled mango, fenugreek, and turmeric; sour-spicy-sweet Thai tamarind candies; sharbat rooh afza, a rose-infused Indian syrup; and Canadian-bred bluefoot chickens that rival the famous birds of Bresse. Best of all is Dae Jang Geum, a 54-episode Korean TV series detailing the trials and tribulations of a 16th-century female chef in the imperial palace. Hello, Netflix?

A Glowing Tribute to “the Shining Drink”

The Art of Eating (the fortress of culinary badassery that has rapidly become my favorite food magazine) goes in big for the omnivorous exploration of obscure topics. This issue, it’s mead (honey wine) that receives an epic treatment worthy of Watergate or World War I.

Right off the bat, the piece goes up against one of the most universal and pernicious beliefs about mead: that it’s sweet and syrupy and kind of boring. Julia Herz of the International Mead Association replies, when asked what mead tastes like: “That’s like asking what wine tastes like!”

Granted that she has a vested interest. But the story does a great job of setting up the various challenges involved in making good mead, and the various variables that an ambitious mead brewer can seize hold of and tweak at will. The first and foremost of these is the type of honey used; Intermiel (an apiary and meadery in Quebec) produces 20 different varieties of honey, and a wide variety of meads that range from a sweet goldenrod honey-based brew to meads mixed with fruit (or rose petals) to wildflower honey dessert mead called Benoite that packs a 14 percent ABC and spicy flavor.

As is typical with an Art of Eating story, the piece digs deep into its subject, exploring mead’s likely prehistoric origins (rain falling into a tree trunk laden with bee-stored honey), its status as a drink of the wealthy among the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, and its role as the beverage of choice among the manly men of the Nordic North in Europe. By the time you’re done reading the piece, you’re ready for a big-ass mug of fermented bee juice.

The Revolution Is Mouthing Off

The Moutholucion is underway—a revolution of mouths spitting out their meals and refusing to open for food. It’s all in a hilarious new short film, by the makers of The Meatrix.

The latest from Free Range Studios features a band of activist mouths staging protests (the Million Mouth March), putting on press conferences, and demanding real food.

Here is their “Mouthifesto”:

• No trans fats

• No GMOs

• No chemical pesticides

• No artificial colors/flavors

Their chant: “If it isn’t real, spit out your meal.”

Thousands of mouths from around the world are joining them, standing up for good food, free of chemicals and intervention. As a militant Che Guevara–type mouth proclaims: “Viva la Moutholucion!”

You gotta check it out—maybe your mouth wants to join?

Someone (New) Is in the Kitchen at Samosa House

The aunties have “retired” and there’s new blood in the kitchen at Samosa House. (Some of you may know Samosa House as the restaurant addition to Bharat Bazaar.) “What were formerly delicious samosas only available with a whisper and wink toward under the counter have actually now gotten even better–they are now literally made to order. Only in India or my own kitchen have I tasted samosas so fresh!” says aliris.

They serve great jackfruit, and occasionally, outstanding lily root, says westsidegal.

Meanwhile, Asian Kitchen has changed hands and is now Mayurama–still a South Asian restaurant.

Samosa House [West LA]
formerly Bharat Bazaar
11938 West Washington Blvd, Los Angeles

Mayurama [Culver City-ish]
formerly Asian Kitchen
10406 Venice Blvd., Culver City

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Samosa House serving up lily root
Asian Kitchen becomes Mayurma

Meat Sauce

Tucked away in a surprisingly unpretentious neighborhood is Sociale. Bettey thinks that chef Tia Harrison makes a real mean meat sauce–lasagna bolognese is absolutely delicious, though it’s clearly intended for those with a strong palate for salt. If you’re not into salt, steer yourself to more appropriate dishes. Sociale also offers really tasty wine at a variety of price points.

Sociale [Laurel Heights]
3665 Sacramento St., San Francisco

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Meat sauce

Middle Eastern Flatbreads Bursting with Flavor

Word has it that the best, most flavorful lahmajoun–a ground-lamb-topped Middle Eastern flatbread–are at Partamian’s bakery. Partamian’s also sells bourek (turnovers) and manti (meat-filled ravioli).

The mom-and-pop vibe at Arax is part of its appeal–and so are their herbaceous maenesh, boureks (the bready type, not the filo-like crispy type) and lahmajoun, says modernist.

Arax has the edge in lahmajoun, but Sasoun has better bourek, says Normal Garciaparra.

Koko’s Bakery is a solid place for lahmajoun.

And modernist got a mysterious tip that a place in St. Vincent Court downtown has amazing lahmajoun.

Abraham Partamian Armenian Bakery [South LA]
5410 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles

Arax Bakery [East Hollywood]
4871 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

Sasoun Bakery [East Hollywood]
5114 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

Sasoun Bakery [East San Fernando Valley]
625 E. Colorado Blvd., Glendale

Koko’s Bakery [Pasadena-ish]
1674 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena

St. Vincent Court [Downtown]
Alley between Broadway and Hill, and 6th and 7th Sts., Los Angeles

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Where to get lahmajoun?
Where to get Syrian pizza?