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

Snack Attack at 20,000 Feet

Would you pay $3 for this? American Airlines, perhaps making lemonade from the lemons of stricter regulations about carry-on luggage, has announced that it’s currently conducting a one-week tryout for a new program to sell snacks and bottled water to passengers. Hooray! Now we don’t have to wait until the plane lands at the airport to satisfy our craving for overpriced junk food —we can buy it right on the flight.

American won’t be phasing out its beverage service or existing food options, just testing the new snacks.

Of course, being able to purchase Otis Spunkmeyer cookies, potato chips, and bottles of water may be a boon to passengers who have had their H2O and carry-on picnic confiscated by security.

If you’re flying American this week, make sure to buy a Twix for me.

How to Make a Pastry Chef Happy

Make a reservation at a swank restaurant but not for dinner—for dessert only. No special occasion, you just want to come in for dessert. Then sit back and let the pastry chef work his magic.

Catherine of Food Musings did just this at San Francisco’s Campton Place recently and was treated to a dessert experience unlike any other—a six-course dessert tasting menu prepared by pastry chef Boris Portnoy, with flawless wine pairings to accompany it (yes, six courses, you read that correctly), and a tableside visit from the chef to top it off.

Pastry chefs are often overshadowed by their savory counterparts. Pastry chef and food blogger Shuna of Eggbeater, in a post last month, quoted a savory chef who once told her, “They’re not coming here for the desserts. If they get good ones, then OK, but really now, don’t think so much about it!” This chef might be surprised to hear that for three years my workplace celebrated every office birthday at Bizou—now Coco500—purely for the unadulterated joy of the chocolate-sauce-laced vacherin (thank goodness it was one of few dishes they kept on the menu when the restaurant revamped and renamed itself last year).

But with New York “dessert bar” ChikaLicious doing a brisk business offering a three-course prix fixe dessert menu with optional wine pairing, the tide may be turning. ChikaLicious made the list of 101 best restaurants, put out by New York Magazine, which notes that “on weekend nights, the line can snake out the door and down the block.”

Perhaps we’re learning to take the advice of pastry passionate food blogger Anita, to put “dessert first.”

El Artesano: Cubano Mastery in Union City, NJ

The Cuban sandwich at El Artesano has it all: Bolo ham, a generous slice of pork shoulder, silky Swiss cheese, and a razor-thin slice of pickle, all tucked into fresh-baked Cuban-style bread that’s “pressed with love so it’s almost all an ethereal, light, crispy crust,” rhapsodizes nobody special. “Puts anything in New York City to shame.”

El Artesano [Hudson County]
4101 Bergenline Ave., at 41st St., Union City, NJ

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Best Cuban Sandwich in NYC —What makes it authentic?

Taxi Brousse

Did you know there’s awesome Senegalese food in Albany? Did you know there was any Senegalese food in Albany? Well there is, at Taxi Brousse. It’s worth stopping in for beautifully spiced, tender, bone-suckingly-good lamb dibi, or sweet-onion-and-mustard-sauced fish yassa, says rworange. Beef pastilles (sort of fried dumplings, like flat empanadas) are extremely tasty. Everything also comes in veggie versions–the pastilles can be stuffed with gombo saff (spinach and okra stew), says mchan, and any dish can be made with lightly fried tofu instead of meat or fish. And if you can get ahold of a sometimes-available daily special of broken rice and stewed codfish on the bone, do not deny yourself this spicy, salty, succulent mess of palm-oil-stained love.

The drinks and desserts stand up, too–thiakry, a sweet, yogurt-based dessert with raisins, is absolutely delectable, says Cyrus Farivar. Bananna A. vouches for the chocolate souffl

Le Retro

Ceramic cherubs, painted leather shields, and landscapes of Provence apparently painted by your Aunt Kathy are all part of what make La Bergerie surreal and enjoyable. It is not haute cuisine. It is not cutting edge. It tastes the way “fancy” French food used to taste in the 1970s, says Carrie 218. It’s owned by Cambodians and serves an almost-entirely-Asian crowd, but it would be a mischaracterization to call it “fusion.”

Service is impeccable and the experience is memorable. Escargots with warm, crusty bread are a nice start; butter lettuce salad and sage-infused pea soup are pretty sweet, too. Your soup, salad, entr

Good Night, Uovo, and Other Manhattan Casualties

Uovo, an inventive Mediterranean-inspired spot, closed this month after a run of a little over a year. Devotees miss its simple but intense flavors, house-smoked meats, and deft hand with vegetables, among other things. “I tried hard to make the restaurant work but it just didn’t,” writes a rueful matt hamilton, the chef and owner, who first won hound attention at Prune.

Another relative newcomer, Babu, has also gone under. Opened early last year by the owners of Kati Roll Co. upstairs, it served an ambitious menu reflecting the diverse cuisines represented in Calcutta: Bengali, Indian-Chinese, Tibetan, and more. “Just never gained traction. We miss it terribly,” laments DavyTheFatBoy.

On the Upper East Side, year-old Mainland, a fancy Chinese place best known for Peking duck roasted in a wood oven, is history. Part of the chain that also owns Ollie’s, Carmine’s, Docks, Virgil’s, et al., it will reportedly reopen in October with a new name, Ollie’s Brasserie, and a new, cheaper menu.

Uovo [East Village]
175 Ave. B, at E. 11th St., Manhattan

Babu [Greenwich Village]
99 MacDougal St. (downstairs), between Bleecker and W. 3rd Sts., Manhattan 10012

Kati Roll Co. [Greenwich Village]
99 MacDougal St., between Bleecker and W. 3rd Sts., Manhattan

Kati Roll Co. [Times Square]
140 W. 46th St., between 6th and 7th Aves., Manhattan

Ollie’s Brasserie [Upper East Side]
formerly Mainland
to open at…1081 3rd Ave., near 64th St., Manhattan

Board Links
Any input on Uovo in the East Village?
Babu on MacDougal still open?

Outstanding Omakase Lunch at Kiriko

Kiriko has great weekday lunch offerings.

$30 for a small lunch–ten pieces of sushi, a roll, soup, salad, and ice cream–might seem a bit pricey, but it’s actually a great deal, given the quality of the fish they serve. They always include at least one piece of toro (often two if they do a seared tuna), bluefin tuna, and more high-end fish, Jwsel says. Even their miso is the best Jwsel has had. They’ve recently expanded their weekday lunch stuff with more agreeably priced blackboard specials, like shrimp and vegetarian tempuras.

If you bring along a fish fearing friend, their chicken teriyaki is quite good, BabyLitigator reports.

Kiriko Sushi [Sawtelle Strip]
11301 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles

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Sacrilegious Yet Surprisingly Top-Notch Tortilla Soups

Some of the best tortilla soups in town might be lurking right under your nose…

Loteria in the farmers’ market servers up huge bowls of amazing tortilla soup, Foodie5 reports.

Of all unlikely suspects, the Horseless Carriage at Galpin Motors makes one of the best chicken tortilla soups on Wednesdays, says veggietales.

Mijares in Pasadena and 17th Caf

What to Do with Apple Butter?

There’s no butter in apple butter–it’s just apples cooked way, way down with some sugar or cider to a concentrated form of the apple’s goodness. It’s delicious spooned right out of the jar, or slathered on biscuits or toast. Or, try these inventive options:

A swirl of apple butter makes oatmeal or cottage cheese super delicious. It’s also great for topping French toast or pancakes. It’s great on a grilled ham and cheddar sandwich, says Glencora; or try this recipe for a grilled turkey, brie, and apple butter sandwich.

Apple butter’s also a great condiment for pork chops or pork loin; in fact, take any cut of pork that can be served with a sweet sauce, and throw on some apple butter.

Apple butter also makes a great addition to barbecue sauce, says dantheculinaryman; you may want to adjust the amount of sweetening in your recipe to compensate for the apple butter’s sweetness.

To make a lower-fat carrot cake, replace some of the volume of oil called for with apple butter, suggests saraeanderson.

And one last quick snack note: Infomaniac melts apple butter and pours it over pecans that have been warmed in the oven, then sprinkles with a little salt and serves while warm. Midnight snack heaven.

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What do I do with apple butter?

Peachy Peaches

It’s maddening to buy beautiful-looking peaches, only to find they never soften enough to be considered ripe. Peaches should be picked when ripe or on the verge of ripeness; but, for various reasons involving the economics of tranporting soft fruit, supermarket peaches are rarely properly picked. Here are some tips to get ‘em ripe:

When buying peaches, choose ones that have a little “give” at the stem end. Avoid peaches that have any green color. MollyGee says the exception is if the farmer is standing right there and says, “This is an heirloom peach and it will indeed ripen and lose that green color.”

Don’t refrigerate your peaches; leave them out on the counter.

Store hard peaches in a paper bag with an apple (the apple gives off ethylene gas, which will often soften the peach).

If you get peaches that refuse to soften, cook them; grilling works nicely.

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Got Any Peach Ripening Secrets?