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

Top Chat

The Futon Critic passes along Bravo’s recent press release announcing the network’s newest way to make its already overwrought website even more difficult to handle.

Had an opinion about Jeffrey’s collection in ‘Project Runway’? Wondering what ‘Top Chef’s’ Carlos was thinking, concocting avocado/bacon-flavored ice cream? Now viewers will have the opportunity to ask their burning questions immediately after their favorite shows. Hosted by Bravo’s own pop culture pundit Andy Cohen, Senior Vice President, Production and Programming and writer of the popular Andy’s Blog on, ‘Watch What Happens’ will be a 20-minute, weekly, live-streaming, online program on Wednesdays at 11PM ET on, immediately following Bravo’s Wednesday night competition reality series. The show kicks off on Wednesday, January 17 at 11PM ET, following the 10PM airing of ‘Top Chef.’

Based on the previews, there’s been a lot of hype and rumors surrounding this week’s episode. What sick and twisted frat prank gone wrong will Cliff and/or Sam pull on poor, bullied Marcel? Will they put his hand in water to make him wet his bed? Will they shave off his Heat Miser coif? I don’t know, but at least I get to log on, attempt to get through the massive traffic, and watch the spinning beachball of doom just so I can ask, “Why are Cliff and Sam such dicks?”

By the way, Bravo really needs to fact-check its own press releases, because Carlos made vanilla bean–avocado–marshmallow ice cream, and it was Marcel who made the avocado-bacon, or, as I called it in my recap, “Cobb Salad Ice Cream.”

Weekly Worship at the Farmers’ Market?

In a foodie world, does a weekly trip to the farmers’ market become a semireligious experience?

I’ve long described the renovated San Francisco Ferry Building as a temple to gourmet food, but in an increasingly religionless urban culture, does farmers’ market attendance provide the ritual and community that other people find in weekly church or temple visits?

Carol Lloyd, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, touches upon this and other topics in a recent article on farmers’ markets. “In my mostly secular existence,” she writes, “the weekly visit to the farmers’ market has become a quasi-spiritual act for me.” She mentions that, when asked, people cite fresh food and community as their reasons for attending farmers’ markets.

This sentiment is echoed by food blogger Anita, at Married … With Dinner. In a post titled “Saturday Morning Village,” she writes:

Yes, you’re right: It’s just an overpriced yuppie food scene. But it’s also my little village, at least for a few hours every Saturday, and I take comfort in the same vendors being in the same place every week, selling a subtly shifting set of wares until it’s time for their turn to rest for the season…. Working in my hermetically sealed glass cube all week, the market’s my weekly check-in with what’s happening in the natural world.

I have to admit I feel the same. I find myself going to the farmers’ market even when there’s not much I need to buy. I like the weekly check-in with farmer friends and produce. I guess it is the closest thing to religion in my life.

What about you? Do your feelings about farmers’ markets border on the religious?

Caveman Posture

Caveman Posture

Is it rude to put your elbows on the table? READ MORE

Macrobrewing Gluten-Free Suds

These days, most followers of food culture have heard the word gluten used in a non-seitan context: There’s a growing number of people (chowhounds included) on gluten-free diets because their bodies are unable to process the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Now, as The Boston Globe reports, the recent introduction of a gluten-free beer by megabrewer Anheuser-Busch signals that the concept of gluten freedom is hitting the mainstream. And the market is projected to continue growing furiously over the next four years, reaching close to $2 billion in annual sales by the end of 2010.

The beer—wholesome-soundingly called Redbridge—contains the heritage grain sorghum instead of barley. So is it any good? As writer Keith O’Brien puts it,

The beer was no Guinness. The sorghum makes it just a tad sweet on the finish. But it was most definitely a beer. Smelled like it. Looked like it. And—to me, anyway—tasted like it.

Anyone here been able to get their hands on it yet? Any other mainstream gluten-free products caught your eye lately? Yours truly has done a bit of reporting on the topic in recent months, and I’ve been surprised to notice all the g-f labels popping up (Cheetos?). Still, some experts (like prolific g-f cookbook author Carol Fenster) say that many supposedly gluten-free foods may actually contain significant traces of the problem protein, since there are no labeling standard at the moment. In 2008, a labeling law will take effect to, um, separate the wheat from the chaff.

Cafe Artemis

Judith loves the warm, casual feel and great food at Cafe Artemis, located in the Pruneyard. Everything is of high quality, from the house bread, served with a smokey, peppery spread, to the mussels in red sauce, to the lamb kofte. For dessert, try the chocolate ouzo cake, which turns out to be a dark, molten chocolate cake, served with a scoop of very good vanilla gelato.

taco belle is also a Cafe Artemis fan. “It pains me when I walk by and see it empty, knowing that Buca, Rock Bottom and Outback are probably packed,” she says.

Cafe Artemis
1875 S. Bascom Ave., Campbell

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Cafe Artemis, Pruneyard, Campbell, it’s a must

Pier 15 Restaurant & Bar

Pier 15 looks like a nondescript bar in a rundown industrial neighborhood. However, it was recently bought by one of the owners of Mama’s, and many of the excellent breakfast dishes served at Mama’s are now served at Pier 15. Offerings include prosciutto Benedict, adored by rworange for the delicious prosciutto and rich, golden, house-made Hollandaise. House fries are nicely browned and flavored with herbs, and the coffee is good, as are the spicy bloody Marys.

Mama’s makes French toast out of delectable brioche, and that same bread is in evidence at Pier 15. French toast dishes include Swedish cinnamon, cranberry orange brioche, and apple dore, featuring gala apples in lemon butter. Breakfast is served daily until 5 p.m.

Mama’s On Washington Square [Washington Square]
1701 Stockton St., San Francisco

Pier 15 Restaurant & Bar [Marin County]
formerly Frank’s Pier 15
15 Harbor St., San Rafael

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San Rafael–Pier 15 Restaurant & Bar–Mama’s SF breakfast in Marin & Orsi’s house-made prosciutto

Amazing Deep-Fried Macaroni at Brooklyn’s Chip Shops

Deep-fried macaroni…well, why not? For Brooklyn’s Chip Shops, which toss chocolate bars and cherry pies into the Frymaster, it’s no stretch to do the same to a battered ball of cooked pasta, held together with cheesy, mayonnaisey sauce. “First I doubted. Now I’m a believer,” testifies frenetica. “It’s so delicious. And if you smother it in ketchup it becomes kind of an interesting parody of Italian food!”

Also recommended: Scotch eggs. For the uninitiated, they’re hard-boiled eggs covered in sausage meat, breaded and–naturally–deep-fried.

Atlantic Chip Shop [Cobble Hill]
129 Atlantic Ave., between Henry and Clinton Sts., Brooklyn

Park Slope Chip Shop [Park Slope]
383 5th Ave., at 6th St., Brooklyn

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Atlantic Chip Shop–fried macaroni!!

Martine’s: Choice Chocolates on the Upper East Side

Hang around Martine’s at the right time of day and you can watch fancy European-style sweets made by hand from Belgian Callebaut chocolate, French butter, fresh cream, and other top-quality ingredients.

“Absolutely amazing!” swoons comida, who’s fallen hard for the cherry cordial with brandy. Among the other choices: cappuccino hearts, hazelnut-praline butterflies, chocolate cellos, pianos, and palettes, and truffles with caramel, raspberry, cognac, champagne, or Grand Marnier. They’re $2 and up per piece and well worth it, comida swears.

Martine’s Chocolates [Upper East Side]
1000 3rd Ave., near E. 60th St., in Bloomingdale’s, 6th floor, Manhattan

Martine’s Chocolates Too [Upper East Side]
400 E. 82nd St., near 1st Ave., Manhattan

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Anyone try Martine’s chocolates?

Polpette alla Napoletana

“I was about 8 years old when my mother first said to me, ‘Go wash your hands, we’re going to make meatballs,’” recalls Regina Cowles, and she’s been making them the same way ever since:

1/2 cup milk
2 cups dried bread, crust removed and cubed
1 lb. 85% lean ground beef

2/3 lb. ground pork
2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water
1/3 cup grated Asiago cheese

1/3 cup grated Romano cheese
2 tsp. crushed red chile peppers, or more to taste
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Pour the milk over the cubed bread while you gather the remaining ingredients. Pulverize the bread mixture with your hands; drain any remaining milk and discard it. Place the bread and the remainder of ingredients, except the olive oil, in a large mixing bowl. Mix all of the ingredients together with your hands until they are extremely well blended. Form into meatballs approximately 2 inches in diameter. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Place the meatballs in the pan, leaving enough room to turn each one without breaking them apart. Cook slowly on medium low heat, carefully turning each meatball, until well browned outside but still slightly rare inside. Remove the cooked meatballs to a covered bowl, keeping them warm while making your favorite tomato sauce to serve them with.

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Do you remember the first dish you ever cooked?

Free Crab Deal

Visit Top Island, a new Chinese restaurant in Alhambra, for dinner and get a free crab. The deal is one free crab for groups of five or fewer, two crabs for six or more.

Dim sum is run-of-the-mill but not bad; there’s an 88-cents-per-person charge for tea/setting, and all dishes are $1.88 each on weekdays, $2.08 on weekends. Lunch specials are $4.75.

Top Island Seafood [San Gabriel Valley]
formerly Sea Star buffet
740 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra

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Taking note of Top Island
Another new dim sum joint