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  • Cookout desserts

    From summer fruit pies to fudgy ice cream cake, here is a collection of classic warm-weather crowd-pleasers.

    Cooking Tips:

    Pucker Up

    For cherry pie, sour is actually better than sweet-sour cherries, that is. This bright-red variety, too tart to eat raw, makes the best pies-when mixed with sugar, the acidic fruit blooms into a deeply flavorful filling. Sour cherries have an extremely short season, however: They're only available for a few weeks in July. If you can't find them fresh in the market, frozen sour cherries make a very good substitute.

    Be a Softy

    If you're making an ice cream cake with homemade ice cream, assemble it as soon as the ice cream comes out of the machine-it'll be much easier to spread. If you're using store-bought, let it sit out for a bit to soften before spreading.



    Chocolate-Almond Cupcakes with Fluffy Coconut Frosting

    Chocolate Cream Pie

    Cookies-and-Cream Ice Cream Cake

    Fruit Salad with Honey-Lime

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  • Grilling gear: the ultimate list

    Like indoor cooking, outdoor cooking requires the right equipment. When you're just learning to grill, you only need a few key pieces. But as your repertoire expands beyond burgers and steaks, you may want to add additional accessories for cooking fish, pizza, vegetables, and ribs. Lucky for you, there's a tool to help you cook just about any food on the grill from a cumbersome whole chicken (use a vertical chicken roaster) to delicate halibut steaks (use a silicone mat).

    Not all tools are created equal and for that reason, we've included information on what to look for when shopping and listed our favorite product in each category.

    We start with the most important piece of equipment, the grill, and offer tips for determining what kind of grill suits you best from a basic model for $159.70 to a $7,495 luxury version with an extra side burner and an infrared rotisserie system. Then we move on to the absolute must-have accessories, followed by a list of extra, but not essential,

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  • Super summer outdoor gear

    I've discovered some very useful, thoroughly original, new products ideally suited for beach-goers, backpackers, picnic lovers, and even backyard party planners. See all five summer gear finds after the jump.

    Expandable Table: While I don't actually have the space for anything but a small cafe table outside my back door, I found this expanding table to be a great idea. Sometimes it's just you and a friend sitting around enjoying a meal al fresco, but when company comes, where do you seat all your guests? Most of the outdoor tables I've seen don't expand, but the Ana table has a leaf insert, just like many indoor dining tables, that'll take it from 63 inches to 86 and 1/2 inches long. And to make you feel extra-good about your purchase, the table is made from certified sustainable eucalyptus wood and coated with a bring-on-the-elements, durable, all-weather finish.

    Ana Expanding Outdoor table, $699 (chairs sold separately);

    Drink Holder: Picture this: You are

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  • Making sourdough at home

    For about the last 10 months, I've been cultivating a sourdough starter, mostly keeping it in my fridge and feeding it once a week.

    And I've been very, very happy with the results: Though my baguettes still need work, I've wowed friends with sourdough English muffins, sourdough rolls, sourdough sandwiches, sourdough pizzas and calzones, sourdough waffles and pancakes, and on and on.

    But feeding the starter once a week means that every week I have an extra cup of starter that I have to use up, freeze or discard. A cup a week doesn't sound like a lot, but by now I've frozen so much starter that I'm worried the yeast reigning over a sizable territory in my freezer may soon declare their sovereignty over the entire refrigerator.

    Tossing a cup of good sourdough starter seems like a waste, but not as many people as I expected seem interested in receiving starter as a gift. Finally, my household simply cannot eat its way through two to three sourdough baguettes a week, and I am

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  • How to make root beer at home

    I have mentioned that I have a serious root-beer habit and that I've been making my own root beer at home now for about a year or so. A couple people were interested in how one goes about making homemade root beer, so I'll give you a step-by-step guide right here. It's remarkably easy, if you're using an extract.

    (If, on the other hand, you're willing to spend a lot of time and effort collecting various hard-to-find fresh herbs and plants like sassafras, wintergreen, licorice root, sarsaparilla root, spikenard root and cherry-tree bark, well, more power to you.)

    For everyone else, here's what I do:

    1 tablespoon root-beer extract
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 teaspoon yeast (whatever kind you have in your kitchen)
    cool water
    2-liter bottle or growler jug

    1. Purchase root-beer extract. My favorite is Zatarain's, and I buy it by the dozen to alleviate shipping costs. Zatarain's, by the way, got its start not as a purveyor of jambalaya mixes or crab boil, but as a

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  • Hand to mouth: utensil-free picnicking

    A picnic is an event. More than just a portable lunch that you'd take to work or school, the word conjures up images of lazy feasts under shady trees and summer repasts on sunny beaches. Simultaneously casual and festive, a picnic is about good company, good food, and the open air.

    And no fussiness. In that spirit, every recipe in this menu for eight can be eaten without utensils or plates, keeping packing light and trash to a minimum. Just gather some friends, choose a spot, and dig into these delicious family-style treats.

    Gear tips:

    A Smooth Start
    If your destination has picnic tables, covering them with cloths will provide a clean, pretty surface on which to spread out the food. If you'll be sitting on the ground, bring along a couple of blankets. Worried about wet grass? Try putting down a tarp, then layering your blankets over it. For extra comfort, waterproof cushions, such as those that go on outdoor furniture, make great seats.

    Transportation Tools

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  • Sexy coffee shops spread

    As if Starbucks didn't have enough on its hands with that whole "Slutbucks" debacle.

    Apparently, a new trend in coffee shops in the Pacific Northwest is beginning to spread like...well, let's just keep it classy and say "wildfire."

    And though one of these bikini-barista joints, Cowgirls Espresso, only boasts 14 locations in Washington state so far, it's hard to miss the fact that there's a pretty ambitious-looking map of the entire continental U.S. on the Cowgirl Espresso locater on the Web site.

    Other coffee shops, needless to say, are less than pleased.

    "If you like nipples and third-degree burns, go for it," says barista Sara Barnfather. "But it's not my cup of tea."

    "I'm not turning my place into a strip club because business is down," says R & R Espresso owner Ruth Oliver. "I'd rather close down."

    On the other hand, those who've switched over to the T & A theme say they've seen business triple, and that it's swiftly becoming a matter of either playing by

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  • Father's day gifts: a beer, wine, and spirits guide

    I love the Father's Day Gift Guide that editor Heather Tyree compiled. It's full of unusual DIY kits: Dad can learn how to make his own beer, cheese, bread, sushi, jerky, you get the idea. But not all fathers are so hands-on. Below are some alternative gifts that should appeal to those who subscribe to a more leisurely parenting style.

    Krups BeerTender: You may know them for their coffee makers, but Krups also makes this absurdly slick personal keg.

    Pros: I like the design; it's a modern-looking dark cylinder with a handle. It's easy to use: Place keg into machine, pour beer. And though it may be overkill for some (especially those are just fine with cold cans and bottles), this gadget keeps your beer cold, at a consistent temperature, and tells you how full (or empty) the keg is, as well as how old the beer is (when you added the fresh keg). Great digital interface too.

    Cons: It works only with Heineken 5-liter kegs, for now. And it's $279.

    Versinthe Absinthe:

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  • The Epicurious farmers' market tour

    This summer, we're getting fresh: Epicurious is hitting the road to visit farmers' markets across the United States. We invite you to come meet Editor-in-Chief Tanya Steel and other Epicurious editors at markets in San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York . While at the market, you can sign up to become an Epicurious member, get Epicurious recipes and shopping lists printed on TasteBook recipe cards, and go home with an eco-friendly Epicurious tote bag, perfect for the market-all for free!

    For each city, we've chosen a menu based on ingredients that will be in season while we're visiting, such as figs and summer squash in San Francisco, peppers and blueberries in Portland, tomatillos and nectarines in Chicago, and early apples and chard in New York. Of course, even if you can't make it to one of these markets, you can still use these menus: Most of the recipes feature ingredients that will be available sometime this summer from a farm near you, no

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  • Willing to pay more for fresh local food?

    I know that many Epicurious readers already buy directly from farmers, have a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription, or frequent their local farmer's market. But, after coming across an article yesterday citing research from 2005 saying consumers are willing to pay more for fresh and local food, I wondered how true it was.

    I live in a lower/middle class community where people have to stretch their food dollar as it is. Despite that, I am beginning to see a growing trend towards fresh and local, even among those with less to spend on food. The feeling is the benefits of health, taste, and community support outweigh the higher cost.

    So, how much more are you willing to pay? The same? One-third more? Twice as much? And, are you willing to purchase quarters or halves of beef/pork so you can have healthy farm raised meat?

    I think this is a very timely article and topic, especially when you think about all the stores not selling tomatoes now because of the

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