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

Bagel Love

Try a Montreal bagel, and you’ll never go back! Or a Toronto bagel, or one from New York. Bagel love needn’t be monogamous!

Montreal bagels are small, a little sweet, doughy, and at the same time, chewy. carswell proclaims them to be the “pinnacle of bageldom”. Though there is a concern that they’re getting bigger, and the hole is smaller. Just can’t thread them on your finger!

Toronto bagels have their adoring fans. They have a perfect crunchy crust, and are soft and moist inside, says spades. They won’t stick to your teeth, either.

New York-style bagels are more salty than sweet, and soft on the outside. They can be difficult to eat, because they’re so chewy.

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Just Curious: Do any non-Montrealers love Montreal bagels?

Soda Made with Sugar

Soft drinks made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup definitely taste better. The trick is to find them!

Wild Oats store brand, Natural Soda, has no corn syrup, caffeine, or artificial flavors.

Coke imported from Mexico is made with real sugar; check in Mexican grocers. Read the label; more Mexican Coke is using corn syrup now.

Try Boylan’s Cane Cola; their black cherry flavor is also sweetened with sugar.

IBC sodas are made with sugar. Look for rootbeer, cream, black cherry, and cherry cola.

During Passover, you’ll find Coke made with sugar in the Kosher section of supermarkets. It sells out fast!

Dublin Dr. Pepper is still made with the original recipe containing sugar.

Blenheim Ginger Ale, in three heat levels, is made with cane sugar. Even the mildest has quite a kick.

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Any good sodas out there with no corn syrup??

The Epidemic Spreads to the Continent

NPR is reporting that, contrary to the thinking of Mireille Guiliano, French women do get fat. As do French men and French children. In fact, the rate of obesity in France has doubled.

The reason? Oh, just everything that plagues us here: TV watching, driving to school and work instead of walking, soda. As the story notes, the French have long used cigarettes and drink as potent stress relievers, but increasingly they are turning from deadly smokes to junk food to relieve stress.

The business opportunity? Most French designers and clothing boutiques cater to women only up to size 14. As the NPR story notes, 45 percent of French women are now size 16 and above.

All About the Benjamins, Er, Béchamels

This week’s New York Times Dining section features two loosely related stories on how chefs make their money and develop their empires in this age of culinary celebrities. The first piece, by longtime food writer Michael Ruhlman, is thought-provoking if disorganized; the second, by Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni, is maddening in a very classically Brunian way.

Ruhlman explores the different experiences of minor-celebrity chefs, like public TV’s Ming Tsai and Michelle Bernstein of the Miami restaurant Michy’s, and the Batalis and Flays of the world. “I’m not even upper middle class,” says Bernstein, who does so many food-related side jobs that she’s rarely in the Michy’s kitchen. “I’ve been supporting us from the consulting. Basically holding together a family of two, with a house and a car.”

Then Ruhlman jumps abruptly into the celebs’ universe:

Even Mr. Flay and Mr. Batali say that with all of their other deals, their restaurants are where they make most of their money. “The restaurants are my foundation,” Mr. Flay said. “It’s where I spend 90 percent of my time. They’re my bread and butter.”

I find it hard to believe that Flay really does find the time to hang out so much in his five restaurants (which apparently account for 80 percent of his company’s income). But that aside, the difference between the up-and-comers and the already-theres is striking—the former scraping together extra money from side gigs, the latter relying on their multiple high-ticket restaurants for steady income and their $10,000 to $60,000 cookware deals for pocket change.

Bruni’s piece about chefs’ inflated egos is much lighter on the stats and heavier on the hackneyed observations—like this one about overly talkative servers who “describe dish after dish, from an amuse-bouche hardly bigger than a semicolon to a scoop of vanilla ice cream, in exhaustive detail and priestly voices.” Bo-ring. I know he eats at a lot of high-end restaurants and encounters annoying server/restaurateur behavior often, but he laments these purported injustices in a way that’s often just as obnoxious. Where are The Bruni Digest and Gastropoda when you need them?

Nuthin’ but Love for the CIA

Epicurious’s new video and blog series promises to “infiltrate the Culinary Institute of America.” Apparently by “infiltrate” they mean “run an infomercial for,” judging from an early look.

The feature will include blogs from four chefs-in-training (for now those sections say “coming soon”) and regular video installments (at the moment the only ones up are those four students’ audition reels). The current clips are basically bland introductions to four nice people who seem to love cooking and love their school—kind of like those chipper guys and gals who walk around backward leading tour groups of prospective college students. Case in point from Jared, the nutrition-conscious Canadian, as he introduces some friends to the camera:

These are two of my best guys in my class. We get along well, very well. We’re in the same writing class, too, and we share a passion for our teacher. He is so good!

Not that this rah-rah tone is so surprising, since the CIA logos and links “for more information” on every page of the feature make it clear that this is advertorial, not an investigative report. And this format does have its benefits—perhaps it will focus more on the food than some shows we know, without getting bogged down in personal drama.

Healthying Up the Quickie Mart

Most folks know that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is more healthful than one high in Big Macs and Crunch Wraps. But if you live in a low-income urban area, there’s probably not going to be a Whole Foods or even a Wal-Mart available. Some neighborhoods don’t even have a supermarket at all, and if you don’t have a car, it makes eating healthy a challenge. Especially since these neighborhoods usually have a fast-food outlet or two. This lack of access is part of the reason diabetes and obesity rates in the inner city are high.

But in two cities, innovative programs are bringing healthy foods to inner-city neighborhoods. In Oakland, California, People’s Grocery brings produce and healthy snacks to West Oakland and helps people set up community gardens to produce their own food.

Meanwhile, in Baltimore, a Johns Hopkins University professor is reaching out to convenience-store owners in neighborhoods without supermarkets and encouraging them to stock healthier items, like whole-grain breads and cooking sprays.

An article in The Baltimore Sun shows how the program is bringing shopkeepers and customers together to focus on health.

‘I’m in the city a long time, these are my neighbors, my customers, my friends,’ said Grace Lyo, whose store on Mount Street in West Baltimore … is joining the program.

“Top Chef” Upset: Sam and Elia Pack Their Knives

“Top Chef” Upset: Sam and Elia Pack Their Knives

Only Marcel and Ilan remain to battle it out. READ MORE

Is Nutmeg Really a Mind-Altering Substance?

Is Nutmeg Really a Mind-Altering Substance?

Will I start seeing things if I ingest too much? READ MORE

Vegetarian-Friendly Cameroonian Food

Fans of the Cameroonian food truck at the Berkeley Flea Market will be happy to learn that they’ve recently opened a standing restaurant, called A Taste of Africa. rworange loves the expertly fried plantains (sule do do), a fluffy, moist rice dish full of black-eyed peas (jolaffe), and the tart house-made lemonade. This place is very vegan and vegetarian friendly, with vegan dishes on the menu every day, as well as meat dishes. Chuckles the Clone loves the stewed yams (nkule) with rice and a tiny dollop of their fabulously fiery hot sauce on the side. But, he says, if they have something called “traditional turkey”–which sometimes turns out to be chicken–then you need to order that.

This is not the kind of restaurant that makes a ton of food ahead of time and chucks it in the freezer. They make relatively small batches of delicious, fresh food and they actually run out of stuff–“you gotta step lively if you want it,” a server explained. So go early and often if you want to try everything.

A Taste of Africa [East Bay]
3015 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley

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Berkeley–A Taste of Africa re-emerges on Shattuck- Cameroonian comfort food & lunch specials

Gombei Is Still Great

The Menlo Park branch of Gombei is always a reliable choice, says Wendy_San, though she isn’t so impressed with the San Jose branch. katg and OnceUponABite echo the recommendation. The excellent food and charmingly overbearing service make it a destination. Some advice: get there early so you don’t have to wait in line, and bring cash–it’s cash only.

Gombei Japanese Restaurant [Peninsula]
1438 El Camino Real, Menlo Park

Gombei Japanese Restaurant [South Bay]
193 Jackson St., San Jose

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Gombei—any recent experience?