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GOURMANDISE

New Mac attack
The hot rumor in the fast food world is that a new McSandwich could be in the works. McDonald's has been testing the Quarter Pounder Big & Tasty in selected California markets since December and will introduce it in this state this summer, according to Advertising Age magazine.

The new sandwich includes lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, and sells for 99 cents. Analysts say it's part of a bigger formula that the world's largest fast food chain must develop to boost sales, slowed by a failed discount pricing campaign on its Big Mac and the poor-selling, relatively pricey Arch Deluxe line of burgers and chicken sandwiches.

Cook and laugh

Lovers of the "Cathy" comic strip, which appears daily in The Buffalo News, already know that the heroine's fights with food are legendary. She battles that bag of chips, that last piece of cake, that chocolate. Now she puts her food obsessions to work in a cookbook.

"Girl Food: Cathy's Cookbook for the Well-Balanced Woman" was published this month by Andrews & McMeel. It sells for $14.95.

Co-written by cartoonist Cathy Guisewite and food writer Barbara Albright, the book dishes up recipes in five categories: Romance Food, Swimsuit Food, Sweat Suit Food, Grown-up Food and Consolation Food.

Some recipe titles: "Why Did I Volunteer to Bring Something" Party Pasta Salad. "It's Monday and I'm Motivated" Low-Fat Bran Muffins.

Also: "It's Saturday Night and I'm Wearing My Robe" Date Nut Scones. And "I've Invited Aunt Rena . . . Lock Up the Photo Albums" Tomato Basil and Garlic Bruschetta.

Culinary calendar

Saturday (7 to midnight) and Sunday (noon to 11 p.m.), Our Lady of Bistrica Croatian Roman Catholic Church, 1619 Abbott Road, Lackawanna. Annual picnic featuring barbecued lamb dinners, homemade pork sandwiches, sarma (stuffed cabbage) and homemade pastries. Call 822-0818 for information.

Aug. 9 and 10, Oneida Nation Lands, Canastota, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The First Americans Cultural Festival, featuring Native American foods, dancers, drummers and crafts. Call (800) 835-5301 for information.

Bagel activities

Both toddlers and bagel lovers will be enchanted with a children's board book titled "What Can You Do With a Bagel?" It's written by Western New Yorker Harriet K. Feder, who says she got the idea from watching a grandchild in his high chair "having some glorious creative moments" with the popular roll.

Parents will understand all too well what she means.

What can a little one do with a bagel? Among other things he can "bang it," "hang it," "wear it" and "share it." The delightful illustrations are by Sally Springer. You can find it at the Niagara Falls Boulevard Barnes & Noble store and Clayton's, priced around $5.

Famous cookie

Stop me if you're heard the one about the Neiman Marcus cookie: how the woman supposedly asked for the cookie recipe at the Neiman Marcus restaurant, and ended up getting charged $250 for it.

The waitress supposedly said it was "two fifty." And you probably know that such a recipe never existed, and that the story is an urban myth.

But it's such a popular myth that the Dallas-based store recently developed a cookie recipe just to counter it -- and this recipe is free. Here it is.
NEIMAN MARCUS' CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1cup brown sugar

3tablespoons granulated sugar

1egg

2teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, slightly crushed

8ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter with sugars until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.

Combine dry ingredients, and beat into butter mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by large spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes; 10 to 12 for crisper cookies. Makes 12 to 15 large cookies.

Culinary quote

"The reason fat people are happy is that their nerves are well-protected."
-- Luciano Pavarotti

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