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

The Best Thing Between Sliced Bread?

The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported last week that McDonald’s is seeking to patent its methods of sandwich assembly. The following day, in a story headlined “McDonald’s puts patent on sandwiches,” British newspaper said that the fast-food giant “wants to own the rights to how a sandwich is made.” That piece subsequently appeared on Digg, boingboing, Slashfood, and Netscape News, sending commenters into an anti-McDo tizzy.

The story has also generated a fair share of confusion among readers, likely because none of the articles have been very specific. McDonald’s isn’t trying to patent the generic act of slapping a filling between two pieces of bread, as the Metro story suggests—at least, not exactly. The chain is seeking a patent for “novel methods of making a sandwich and novel sandwich assembly tools,” according to the patent application; a closer look reveals that the “sandwich assembly tool” can be as complicated as a three-chambered apparatus or as simple as a hamburger wrapper or clamshell container:

Sandwich preparation in accordance with the invention can include placing sandwich garnish and/or condiment directly on a piece of paper, a wrapper that is eventually used to contain the sandwich, the container used to hold the completed sandwich when it is presented to the customer, or preferably a tool adapted for assembling and applying garnishes.

What about those “novel methods”? Here’s one of them:

An order for a sandwich is taken from a customer and a bread component is placed onto a pre-heated, preassembled sandwich filling. The filling is made from two or more foodstuffs. Next the bread component and filling combination are inverted.

(Presumably the top piece of bread is added once this “patented” flip trick is complete.)

As a UK patent official told the Guardian, it’s unlikely that McDonald’s will get its way; the chain “might have a novel device but it could be quite easy for someone to make a sandwich in a similar way without infringing their claims,” the official said.

What I want to know is why McDonald’s would think making a sandwich upside-down and then flipping it over is a time-saving trick, let alone a patentable one—doesn’t that extra step just increase the incidence of employee repetitive-stress injury? If you’re a reader who works in food service, have you encountered any bizarre and unnecessary techniques at any of your workplaces?

A Tale of Two Chowhounds

A Tale of Two Chowhounds

The salesman had had quite enough of my waffling between two overcoats. Howard Turkell, 60-ish and a garment center veteran, was trying to be polite with the weirdo hipster kid who'd turned up at his third-floor shop that fateful morning, but patience had READ MORE

How to Truss a Chicken

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Don't let your roast flop about untied. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Egghead vs. Bobblehead: Round One

Christopher Kimball, the bow tie–bedecked alpha male of New England’s food nerds, finally took his shot at Rachael Ray in this month’s edition of Cook’s Illustrated.

As you might expect, the jab emerged in the midst of a typically elegant yet rambling editor’s column that jumped around between rabbit-hunting, World War II, and teaching 11-year-old Charlie about “the birds and the bees.”

He was too cagey to call the yappy-trapped kitchen minx out by her proper name, but can there really be any debate about what he’s driving at here?

In cooking, there are folks who are fundamentally curious as to process … and sympathetic toward the notion of culinary education…. Others are content to believe that cooking is about no more than positive attitude—anyone with sufficient enthusiasm
can cook a great meal. This golden age of the American amateur has been a long time coming.

While not quite rising to the level of Anthony Bourdain (who famously dissed
Ray—by name—as a vomit-inducing “bobblehead”), the put-down is clear. Cook’s Illustrated readers are smart, curious, and humble before the awesome task of making good food—and the Food Network’s increasingly attractive and undereducated hosts are barking up the wrong tree.

Let it be known: There is no one more in Kimball’s corner on this issue than this writer. And yet … it’s hard not to feel sympathy for Ray after reading Kimball’s underhanded jab. Is Ray annoyingly upbeat? Sure. Undereducated? Arguably. But condescendingly catty? Not on camera, at least. Score one for the bobblehead.

Not Invited Back

Not Invited Back

Are you obliged to reciprocate dinner party invitations? READ MORE

Old Wine in New Boxes

OK, we wine drinkers got used to synthetic corks (less chance of cork taint) and even screw-top wines (no oxidation). Hell, we’ve even been known to quaff some of the higher-quality wines that come in a box.

So why am I shocked by an article in Restaurant Business noting that the House of Blues is set to become one of the first restaurants to serve Trinchero’s “Bandit Bullets,” pinot grigio and cabernet sauvignon in “single serve aseptic packages”—in other words, juice boxes?

Maybe it’s just the shock of the new. After all, the House of Blues is serving a glass alongside the recyclable containers, so there’s no need to sip your cab through a straw (although I’ve always heard you get drunk faster if you do).

When You’re Crying for Argentina but Don’t Need Steak

“Argentinean food” just means steak to a lot of people, but for more everyday food, there are a bunch of hole-in-the-wall joints that are pretty much like holes-in-the-wall in Buenos Aires.

Mercado Buenos Aires has good choripan (sausage sandwich), empanadas, and fried cheese. Service is straight outta BA–the staff would rather be watching futbol.

Grand Casino, a bakery, makes tasty empanadas that are baked instead of fried, says Dommy.

DiveFan points to the empanadas and Argentinean sandwiches at the deli counter of the Argentinean-owned Continental Market.

If it’s fugazza you want, the Argentinean answer to pizza, minus the sauce, try Carniceria Argentina, says Jerome. There’s also Catalina’s Market.

Colo’s is a tiny place tucked into the back of a North Hollywood mini-mall. It’s pretty darn good, says Steve Doggie-Dogg, and they have a butcher shop too.

It’s no longer a hole in the wall, says silvana, but Tito’s Market still is a great place to go for empanadas and other Argentinean goodies.

And if you just can’t live without a hunk of beef, you might as well hit up Carlito’s Gardel, which somehow isn’t as well known as it should be, for a melt-in-your-mouth steak.

Mercado Buenos Aires [East San Fernando Valley]
7540 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys

Grand Casino French Bakery [Culver City-ish]
3826 Main St., Culver City

Continental Gourmet Market [South LA]
12921 Prairie Ave., Hawthorne

Carnicera Argentina [East San Fernando Valley]
11740 Victory Blvd., at Colfax, North Hollywood

Catalina’s Market [East Hollywood]
1070 N. Western Ave., at Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

Colos [East San Fernando Valley]
11009 Burbank Blvd., at Vineland, North Hollywood

Tito’s Market [East LA-ish]
9814 Garvey Ave., El Monte

Carlitos Gardel [West Hollywood]
7963 Melrose Ave., at Fairfax, Los Angeles

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Any Argentinean gems I don’t know about?

Chorizo and Eggs and Pumpkin Pancakes at Nena’s

DaveMP likes the chorizo and eggs at Nena’s Restaurant, with mild Salvadoran chorizo. It comes with queso fresco, crema, refried beans, and inch-thick sopes. And the pumpkin pancakes are really fantastic–they still make them, even though they may not be on the menu. The huge, fluffy pancakes have real pumpkin flavor, but it’s not overpowering.

susaninsf is impressed with the citrus French toast, made from orange bread and topped with fresh orange slices and fresh strawberries. A huge, beautiful portion is $8.25.

Nena’s Restaurant [Mission]
3459 Mission Street, San Francisco

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Great breakfast at Nena’s (Bernal Heights) and sago at Creations in the Richmond
Report: Vietnamese Chicken at Cordon Bleu and excellent Pumpkin Pancakes at Nena’s


Perbacco is a delicious new choice for upscale Italian, says monday. Try the salumi misti, featuring their house-made finocchiona, which has a soft, lush texture and lovely fennel flavor. Pasta dishes are transcendent, like house-made pasta filled with roasted veal in a simple butter sauce with braised cabbage. The cheese plate, served with chestnut flower honey, marcona almonds, and local muscato grapes, is a nice dish, too.

MorganSF agrees wholeheartedly, and recommends pansotti stuffed with chard, ricotta, herbs, and walnut butter. Or try the pan-roasted chicken with Meyer lemon pan juices and broccoli with anchovy garlic butter. Gelati and other dessert items are extremely good, too. “Only potential embarassment stopped me from licking the plate,” says MorganSF.

Perbacco [Embarcadero]
230 California St., San Francisco

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Perbacco, go there now!

Ferdinando’s Revisited: Sicilian Surprise in Brooklyn

Over a century of dishing up hearty Sicilian chow, Ferdinando’s has had its ups and downs–mostly downs in recent years, says Steve R. But his latest lunch there suggests things are looking up again. Panelle (chickpea fritters) and arancini (rice-cheese balls) are flavorful and clean-tasting, and vastedde are just right: fresh calf spleen and cheese in a nice, medium-soft sesame roll. “If the rest of their food is as well prepared,” adds Steve, “this place is back up there with Joe’s of Avenue U as one of the last remaining places to eat this type of Sicilian cooking in Brooklyn.”

Others recommend marinated eggplant, lightly dressed octopus or calamari salads, and the first-rate veal parmigiana sandwich, on fresh house-baked bread with smooth, flavorful tomato sauce.

Beyond the food, the ancient room looks brighter and spiffier than it has in years, and service is uncharacteristically friendly. Hours, as always, are variable. Recent reports say they’re open longer than before, as late as 10 p.m. But some regulars say the food is better and fresher earlier in the day.

Ferdinando’s Focacceria [Carroll Gardens]
151 Union St., between Hicks and Columbia, Brooklyn

Joe’s of Avenue U Italian Cuisine [Gravesend]
287 Ave. U, between McDonald Ave. and Lake St., Brooklyn

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