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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Tacos Jaliscos – a Sure Thing at Belmont

Belmont Park has the ponies, but the smart money is on the truck. Tacos Jaliscos, which parks across Plainfield Avenue from the racetrack, turns out nicely seasoned beef, chorizo, chicken, and al pastor tacos, just $1.25 apiece, reports profjmm. Add-ons include beans, onions, cilantro, and two salsas, a green one and a killer red one. Also on the menu: burritos and refreshing agua fresca.


Tacos Jaliscos [Nassau County]
Plainfield Ave., north of Hempstead Tpke., Elmont, NY
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taco truck in elmont

At Devin Tavern, Waffles and Other Brunch Bites

Sunday brunchers can enjoy a near-perfect waffle at Devin Tavern: slightly fluffy, slightly browned, with time-delay deliciousness in the batter. “If it were a wine,” writes kathryn, “you’d say it finished well.” It comes with an exceptionally fresh fruit compote–raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, green apple, pineapple, and melon are a typical combo. Also: perilously luscious strawberry butter. “Be careful, it eats like ice cream,” the waiter warned, and kathryn happily agrees.

Other recommended brunch bites at this comfortable upscale joint: sweet/smoky pork maple sausage, crisp yet juicy thin-sliced bacon, and a breadbasket highlighted by moist, agreeably dense blueberry muffins.


Devin Tavern [Tribeca]
363 Greenwich St., near Franklin, Manhattan
212-334-7337
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Devin Tavern Brunch

Corn-Blueberry Muffin Bliss at Tempo Presto

Look for moist, flavorful corn and wild blueberry muffins behind the takeout counter at Park Slope sandwich shop Tempo Presto. “Slammin,’” raves redgirl–and a deal at $1.85.


Tempo Presto [Park Slope]
256 5th Ave., between Carroll St. and Garfield Pl., Brooklyn
718-636-8899
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Any great muffins in Brooklyn?

Nibbles and Sips and Sips and Sips

Tasca just got its beer and wine license, so they’re pouring as well as serving up tasty tapas, says can’t talk… eating.

There are small plates and larger ones, nothing cutting-edge, just tasty food like potatoes with linguica, duck and polenta, and grilled scallops.

It’s a laid-back place, pretty much the antithesis of loud, cramped Cobras & Matadors. Two people can dine for about $40 before tax and tip.


Tasca [Fairfax Village]
8108 W. Third St., Los Angeles
323-951-9890
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Legal at last
Loving Tasca

The South Bay’s Nishimura

Tucked away in South Bay, Sushi Ken is on par with the likes of Nishimura and Mori, says ToroTaku, but much cheaper.

Sushi is traditional and they don’t do rolls, but the owner, who’s the sole chef, is no nazi. You can’t get a California roll, but feel free to ask for more (or less) wasabi. Nigiri is just the right size for the rice.

The clientele is mostly Japanese, being in Torrance, and the decor is new and very clean–a wooden counter and black-and-marble tables. Rather brightly lit, though.

Omakase runs $60-75.


Sushi Ken [South Bay]
22831 Hawthorne Blvd. # Bi, Torrance
310-378-9595
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Outstanding sushi joint

Where, Oh Where, to Sprinkle Pomegranate Seeds?

Pomegranates are in season, and their seeds provide little bursts of tart flavor that complements both savory and sweet flavors.

They are good paired with oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese; or have some over vanilla ice cream. They mix well with grain salads, and they’re a natural garnish for any recipe that calls for pomegranate molasses.

Cook them into a compote to accompany pancakes and waffles, suggests, Sam Fujisaka, who says the same compote goes well with ham, pork chops, or lamb.

pescatarian uses them on crostini: slice baguette and top with brie; broil until the brie begins to melt, then sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranate seeds are wonderful in salads: try them with shaved apples and fennel; with arugula, pine nuts, and crumbled feta with a citrusy vinaigrette; or with shredded green apple and toasted slivered almonds over crisp lettuce with.a dressing of lemon, grainy mustard, honey, and olive oil.

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Ideas for pomegranate seeds?

Candied Bacon

People just can’t stop eating perfectly crisp bacon. The deadliest partner: a little sugar on top. Caramelized brown sugar is a great partner for crispy bacon in these simple recipes:

Hungry Celeste puts bacon in a single layer on a sheet pan, sprinkles with dark brown sugar and finely chopped pecans, and broils until the bacon is crisp the sugar is caramelized.

JasmineG bakes bacon for 15 minutes; then turns it over, sprinkles with a mixture of of brown sugar and cayenne, and bakes for 15 minutes more, or until done.

Kater makes an appetizer of water chestnuts wrapped in candied bacon; it’s incredibly popular with her guests. Coat bacon in a rub of brown sugar, ground mustard, ground chipotle pepper, cumin, black pepper, and onion powder. Wrap a strip of bacon around a water chestnut and secure with a toothpick. Line a baking sheet with foil, place a rack on the pan, and put the bacon-wrapped chestnuts on the rack; bake at 375F until bacon is cooked and crispy.

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CANDIED BACON

New Oranges

There’s a new hybrid called Red Navel, a combo of the navel orange and blood orange. They’re juicy and sweet, with a hint of the tanginess and color of the blood orange. Beautiful!

They’re available in season, next December, from this Florida source.

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Navel/Blood Orange Hybrid hits the markets

Yolk It Up

The New York Times has the ultimate food porn piece (registration required) this week: a story waxing poetic about the joys of embryonic eggs—the eggs that the butcher finds in the laying hen he is dispatching.

The article has all the elements of porn: The picture of the unlaid eggs make them look mouthwatering, though slightly disturbing. (Is that … a capillary?) Unlaid eggs have both elements of taboo and sexuality to them. Eggs evoke fertility, and yet hens that “produce” unlaid eggs are considered too old. The story makes the eggs sound really, really good, although I did feel slightly squeamish while reading it.

Maybe it’s just messing with my head, because the practice of harvesting embryonic eggs turns the egg, which has traditionally been throught of as a vegetarian food, into something that can’t quite be defined as vegetarian anymore.

They’re coming to a menu near you. Dan Barber, chef/owner of Manhattan’s Blue Hill, has been experimenting with unborn eggs at his restaurant. Orders for dishes containing the unusual protein picked up after he changed the menu description from “embryonic” to “immature.”

One of his biggest hits is a two-yolk treat. He injects the immature yolk into an ordinary egg after the egg has been barely poached using a method similar to sous vide, at very low heat for an hour and 20 minutes. The albumen coagulates but the yolk stays runny.

A Wine Bar by Any Other Name …

As wine bars seem to pop up on every block, wine blog Vinography takes the trend to task, setting the bar for what should and should not be considered a wine bar.

With the ever-increasing interest in wine, it was bound to happen—wine bars in every cute and quaint corner of the city. But as blogger Alder points out, they don’t always live up to the name.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this, too? You wander into a newly opened ‘Bistro and Wine Bar’ in a favorite neighborhood only to find it is actually just a restaurant … that serves wine by the (often over-full and impossible to swirl) glass? I often find that such establishments, even those that actually have a bar you can sit at, not only bear no resemblance in service or offering to what I think of as a wine bar, their wine selections are often worse than many restaurants their caliber who wouldn’t dream of calling themselves wine bars.

Though Alder has only two simple qualifications for a real wine bar, he’s quite clear on what doesn’t make the cut, trumpeting his belief that a true wine bar should have wines available by the glass, half-glass, bottle, and open for a little taste.

WHAT IS NOT A WINE BAR?
A restaurant that happens to have a list of wines by the glass (no matter how long or how great) is not a wine bar, no matter what they say on the sign outside. A wine shop that has a little tasting area where they sometimes (announced or unannounced) pour wines for customers to taste doesn’t qualify either. A bar that also happens to serve wine by the glass? Nope.

He follows up with a list of what he thinks makes a great wine bar, and promises some wine bar reviews on the site in the near future—those that do and don’t make the cut.

Apparently, from the chorus of agreement in his comments section, there are plenty of folks who want the real thing.