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

Go See Al

An excellent option for locally grown produce is Al’s Fruit Stop, says Melanie Wong. “Celebrity” tomatoes, grown organically in a Geyserville garden, are $1.50 a pound. Al also has locally grown lemon cucumbers and heirloom tomatoes. He’s open later than many stands, and the van is there six days a week–on Mondays, he drives to Winters for melons and to Arbuckle for pistachios. He says he buys direct from family farms and doesn’t sell brokered fruit.

Al’s Fruit Stop [Sonoma County]
Van parked off of Hwy. 101 on the south access road to Geyserville
Hwy. 101 and Geyserville Ave., Geyserville 95441

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Al’s Fruit Stop in Geyserville

Stealth Fries at Cafe Mogador in the East Village

Cafe Mogador makes killer french fries, but you won’t find them on the menu among the tagines, kababs, hummus, and other Moroccan and Mediterranean chow, says Wallace Stevens. These babies are touble fried, pale golden, crisp outside and tender inside. They come with sandwiches (lamb, chicken, merguez, feta, eggplant, etc., in pita), or you can order them as a side.

Cafe Mogador [East Village]
101 St. Marks Pl., between Ave. A and 1st Ave., Manhattan

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Best French Fries

Patisserie Colson: Belgian-Style Bites in Park Slope

Park Slope’s Patisserie Colson got off to an uneven start this summer, but hounds report more hits than misses–and some of the hits rock. Financiers boast beautifully textured cake and rich, dark, not overly sweet chocolate, says MizEats. They also come in vanilla. Other winners: Swiss brioche (with chocolate or raisins), a well-balanced tomato-basil quiche, sandwiches of high-quality smoked salmon or ham and compote, strawberry sorbet, and tarte tatin ice cream. Croissants, coffee, and pain au chocolat get mixed marks so far.

Colson is the stateside outpost of a Belgian patisserie. They plan to add gaufres, the traditional waffles beloved in Liege, to their menu soon. Decor is simple and comfortable, the mood friendly and relaxed, and the owners eager to please.

Patisserie Colson [Park Slope]
374 9th St., at 6th Ave., Brooklyn

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Colson’s Patisserie
Bakery on 6th Ave & 9th St?

Korean Ramen’s Deadly Kick

How do Koreans like their ramen? Scorchingly spicy, that’s how. If you’ve only tasted the dried stuff, then you should try the new branch of a Korean ramen chain, Teumsae. How hot is it? According to the web site, “While two people eat it, nobody knows even if the other dies.”

But it’s pretty good stuff, and you can ask them to tone down the heat, says ramaniac, who asked for “medium spicy” and got a pretty fiery bowl described on the bill as “devil’s ramen.” Noodles are the squiggly kind, with nice spring and chew, and you can get them topped with a poached egg and sliced rice cake.

For good ol’ Japanese ramen, Takeshi is reliably tasty: succulent pork, not-too-salty shoyu broth and noodles perfectly balanced between chewy and crunchy, says shabushabuloya. Lunch special is $6.75 and includes a choice of 3 kinds of ramen plus an appetizer: gyoza, chicken wings, sesame chicken, or California rolls (surprisingly good, and fresh).

Teumsae Ramen [Koreatown]
4003 Wilshire Blvd, at Wilton, Los Angeles

Takeshi Ramen [East San Fernando Valley]
126 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA

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Takeshi Ramen in Glendale
New Korean Ramen place

Tasting Morocco at Tagine

Tagine has started offering a tasting menu, with a modern take on traditional Moroccan fare. globalgourmet says that the food is excellent. Perceptor was favorably impressed and took lots of photos. But, while the plates do look lovely, the portions are small.

“The wait staff is probably the best, most knowledgeable and most friendly staff I had ever experienced,” says Perceptor.

The price of the tasting hovers around $35-38.

Tagine [Beverly Hills]
132 N. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills

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Tagine Moroccan Restaurant–Perceptor’s Report

Why Won’t My Lentils Lighten Up?

If your lentils (or other legumes) never get soft when you cook them, they’re probably just too old. Dried lentils, peas, and beans can get too dry with age. Like other pantry staples, they have a finite shelf life.

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Solve my lentil problem

Jazzing Up Refrigerated Cinnamon Rolls

When the craving for hot-from-the-oven cinnamon buns is insatiable, some chowhounds turn to refrigerated rolls in a tube for an instant fix. But some hounds have learned to spruce up those instant rolls.

The simplest route is to add something to the top of the buns once you’ve separated them. Sprinkle ground ginger and grated orange zest or a splash of rose water on before baking, or brush scotch on after baking, says HillJ. Or, make butterscotch pecan rolls: bake the rolls in muffin cups and put a dab of butter, a sprinkle of brown sugar, and some pecans pieces on top of each, suggests sweetTooth.

Refrigerated cinnamon rolls are pretty easy to unroll and re-roll, meaning that you can add spices–like more cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or anything else–or other good stuff to the insides. For simple goodness, try adding chopped nuts or dark chocolate chunks. Nice combinations include chopped dates and walnuts, and sauteed apples and walnuts.

HillJ always gets raves for these cinnamon-almond-chocolate buns: unroll the dough and brush on almond extract; re-roll and bake. When they come out of the oven, top with toasted almonds and chocolate sprinkles. Allow the chocolate to melt a bit, then very lightly drizzle with the icing that comes with the rolls.

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Jazzing up refrigerated cinnamon buns

Keeping Chocolate Around

Keeping chocolate around can be tricky. It’s got to be cool, and away from any odors that it might pick up. Oh, and you’ve got to hide it from everybody else, of course. Blooming (when chocolate turns gray in color and grainy in texture) occurs if chocolate is refrigerated, PGSF warns. Conversely, if it gets too warm, , the fat comes to the top and forms a white film on top, explains slacker.

For most chocolates, a cool dark cupboard is the perfect spot to keep chocolate, with the exception of more delicate truffles with perishable fillings. These you have to eat quickly; otherwise refrigerate and just live with the blooming, says Cheryl_h.

If you have your own wine fridge (which tend to be more precisely temperature controlled) you can store chocolates in it; put ‘em in an airtight plastic box to keep out humidity, recommends typetive.

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Best way to store chocolate?

Passionate About Making Your Own Fruit Soda?

Commercial gourmet fruit sodas can be quite pricey, and it’s so easy to make them for yourself.

Pei recommends buying Welch’s passion fruit juice and mixing with an equal amount of club soda for a drink just as good as a Fizzy Lizzy soda.

For about $3.99, you can buy a 750 mL bottle of Torani passion fruit syrup and make almost five gallons of Italian soda with it! Some Hounds prefer Monin brand fruit syrups, but they are pricier.

Rose’s Passion Fruit Cordial is wonderful with seltzer, or you can spike it with some Rum or champagne, says Candy.

Apple & Eve Mango Passion is 100% fruit juice and is fantastic mixed with seltzer, green tea, or rosehip/hibiscus tea, maillard swoons.

If you can still find it, Ocean Spray’s Mauna La’i passion fruit would work great cut with some bubbly too.

Also be on the lookout for a brand of fruit juice concentrate in a box, possibly from Down Under. It’s a white box with plain black lettering and pictures of the appropriate fruit on it, and it’s sweetened only with pear juice. Their passion fruit and guava and work very well for spritzers, says heidipie.

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Welch’s Passion Fruit Juice + Soda Water= A Real Winner!

Go Ask Alice

Everyone else may be grabbing the October issue of Vanity Fair for the gooey smiles of TomKat & baby Suri, but foodies are snapping it up for the excerpt from The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation, by VF editor and frequent Gourmet contributor David Kamp.

The book is a story of personalities—Julia Child, James Beard, Craig Claiborne —and the movements and food-world stars that followed in their wakes, including (naturally!) that boomer-foodie pinup Alice Waters and her Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse.

Kamp’s been stumping vigorously for his book, arriving with a plate of prosciutto on the set of the Today show last Friday (devoured by Matt Lauer once the cameras stopped rollling, according to Kamp). So far, the buzz in the book-review blogosphere is pretty positive; Kamp is a savvy writer, and plenty of folks still have an appetite for more dish on Julia, James, Jeremiah, and Alice, even though, as Kamp writes, “As with all things great and boomerish—the rock music of the ‘60s, the civil-rights movement, Rolling Stone magazine in its heyday—the magnitude of Chez Panisse’s achievements is tempered by a certain cloying self-aggrandizement.”