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

The Holy Grail of Pecan Rolls

"Wow—I just tasted the holy grail: a perfect pecan roll," says aliris. "Caramel-y and crispy and not too sweet, but definitely sweet—chewy and cinnamony ... just perfect."

This quest-worthy pecan roll is at Jamaica's. aliris tried Jamaica's when they first opened and was disappointed. "Upon returning I find them in full-blown near-perfect mode. At least the cinammony things were, IMHO."

There's even half-off day-old stuff, which aliris really enjoys, since sweet rolls age just fine.

Also stellar: bread pudding and blueberry muffins. "Pups tell me the red velvet cupcakes were so-so but they may be burned out on red velvet cupcakes ... who started this craze?" asks aliris. "They actually never really were all that good as I remember, though the revival has been fun. Still, at their very best they'd only ever rank a 1.5 next to a pecan roll's 9.5, in my books!"

Jamaica's Cakes [Westside - Inland]
11511 W. Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles

Discuss: Now *that's* what I call a pecan roll!

Smoke City’s Brisket Takes You by Surprise

Smoke City Market is pleasantly surprising, says liu. "When you walk in, you are immediately struck by that smoky BBQ aroma; it is not obnoxious but says that they are serious about smoking their meat." There is a sign on the wall that orders you to try the ribs without sauce first—surely a sign of barbecue purity.

Smoke City is great at brisket and baby back ribs. Brisket is moist and does not need help from the sauce, says liu. What stood out for selfportrait93 was the baby back ribs, with meat falling off the bone.

If you do give the sauces a whirl, you'll find them unique: "I have tasted no other sauces quite like these; the BBQ sauce is loaded with cumin and the vinegar sauce has a nice tang," says liu.

Smoke City Market [San Fernando Valley - East]
5242 Van Nuys Boulevard, 
Sherman Oaks


Discuss: Smoke City Market in Sherman Oaks – They are doing something different!

Sweet Potato Pie Cheesecake at Harriet’s

Harriet's Cheesecakes is a bare-bones facility, with one counter and a whiteboard with the available flavors. The folks are friendly, and the sweet potato cheesecake gets a "WOWSA!" from running pig.

You have to wait eight minutes or so, but it's well worth it. From the gingerbread crust, with a little bit of spice and kick, to the layer of sweet potato pie and the layer of cheesecake, to the thin layer of sour cream and generous portion of candied pecans, this cake is a stunner.

"I appreciate that there is still a cheesecake maker who favors quality over quantity," says running pig. "My favorite cheesecake in L.A....worth the drive to Inglewood."

Harriet's Cheesecakes [South LA]
1515 Centinela Avenue, Inglewood

Discuss: Harriet's Cheesecakes---Sweet Potato Pie Cheesecake---WOWSA!

Overheard on the Los Angeles Board

"Oh, the website is perfect! Especially the too-smooth dude in the shiny pointy-lapels suit. The kind of place that probably STILL smells a bit of cigarette smoke … for all of which I will admit a major weakness. Okay, dammit, I *AM* old." – Will Owen on Buggy Whip

"Also, I've had durian smoothies at a few places in Little Saigon, but the only really 'extreme' thing about them is the sensation in your sinus cavity when you suck them through the straw too fast." – Bradbury

"But the one thing that draws us back (now going on probably 20 years) is their meat samosas. Little triangular, flaky pillows of ethereal goodness." – Servorg on Chutneys

Austin’s Lone Cheese Rangers

In Hyde Park, we visited Austin's only dedicated cheese shop, Antonelli's, on the suggestion of Chowhound amysuehere. John and Kendall Antonelli, the shop's owners, sell cheeses from all over the world, including some made in Texas, as well as cured meats from artisan salumi-makers (local and national) and preserves from Austin-based Confituras like a salted caramel pear butter and Rio Star grapefruit marmalade. READ MORE

CHOW Member of the Month: The Blender Girl

Featured CHOW Member The Blender Girl After a conversation with The Blender Girl, a.k.a. Tess Masters, the LA-based, Australian-born, worldly cook of mostly gluten-free and vegan foods, Tess's focus on energy-rich foods was crystal clear. She's got serious gusto. Tess started her site in July 2009 as a way of sharing recipes with friends. Since then, she's been posting lots of recipes for allergy-friendly foods, many of which can be made in minutes using a blender. The Blender Girl has shared so many of her recipes with that we've decided to spotlight her as the CHOW member of the month. READ MORE

The Weird, Independent Republic of Austin, Texas

Before our trip to Austin we hit the phones and the Web, calling around, researching, and posting to Chowhound to figure out the places we should cover. One of the most knowledgeable people we had the pleasure to chat with was Virginia B. Wood, food editor of the Austin Chronicle. Here's some of the insight she shared with us on Austin's food scene after living there for 40 years and covering local food for the paper for nearly 20. READ MORE

7 Things You Wanna Know About Waiters

I like to troll the Chowhound boards when I'm looking for something to write about for this blog. The Not About Food board is currently jammed with posts complaining or asking about about service quirks. To wit:

Is it rude when servers make comments on how much diners ate?
Should servers at ethnic restaurants be the same ethnicity as the food they're serving?


Beer-Tasting Dinner for 16 in Manhattan

File under: questions we’d very much like to know the answer to. A very kind wife would like to throw a fairly remarkable 40th birthday party for her lucky husband—a beer-tasting dinner for 16 somewhere in Manhattan. She seeks good food and a wide selection of American craft beers, a big room, a smart sommelier, and to not leave the borough.

Riverman500 chimed in with Resto, which seems genius, since they already have beer dinners, but Resto is known for its Belgian food and extensive list of European beers, not American ones. Would they cut the mustard for Mrs. mrgdess? So far the lady seems most taken with the suggestion of Colicchio & Sons (thanks, sgordon).

What say you? And how lucky is this guy?

Resto [Murray Hill]
111 E. 29th Street, Manhattan

Colicchio & Sons [Chelsea]
85 10th Avenue, Manhattan

Discuss: Where to hold a beer-tasting dinner for 16 people?

Shake Shack Custard Cult on the March

As with everything at Shake Shack—the ShackBurger, the milk shakes—the custard has a cultish following. Since flavors change month to month, here's a new Chowhound thread devoted to the glory of the February offerings (and hey, major props to fellow fans of frozen treats in frozen weather).

This is turning into the ultimate custard thread, with hounds goading one another to try each of the daily specialties, from the Bee Mine (a rose-honey-strawberry concoction) to the Snowball (coconut custard alert!) to Bananas Foster. The Thin Mint is what has us obsessed, although we haven't yet tried it. Thanks to tpigeon for getting everyone all riled up, and to the hounds for howling their expertise.

Shake Shack [Upper West Side]
366 Columbus Avenue, Manhattan

Discuss: Shake Shack February 2011 Flavors – Any Must-Haves?