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

Grease Is Good

Pupuseria San Salvador has some of the tastiest pupusas rworange has ever had–especially the loroco-stuffed variety, which is full of characteristic green tea flavor that even the delicious curtido can’t mask.

About those pupusas, though. “There is no way to be euphemistic about this,” says rworange. “These are some of the most flavorful pupusas I’ve had, but they are also the greasiest.” In this case, grease is good–it works with the cheese and the strong flavors, and is not remotely unpleasant, but rather adds to the yumminess. The same principle applies to the fried tacos–as you might expect. And if you happen to notice a batch of chicharrones being fished out of the hot lard while you are there, definitely give in to the grease and get some.


Pupuseria San Salvador [West Oakland]
1498 7th St., Oakland
510-763-1467
Locater

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West Oakland (near BART)–Pupuseria San Salvador–loroco pupusas & taco frito

Cafe Collage: Coffee Artistry on Bleecker Street

Java hounds are buzzing about Cafe Collage in the Village. It’s mellow in mood but exacting about its coffee, which comes from the specialty roaster Intelligentsia in Chicago. Open since October, Collage pulls espresso drinks with care and offers an unusual French press option, reports stevebookman. Choose your beans, which are ground to order, and you’ll be given a press and a timer (depress the plunger after four minutes).

There’s ample seating, free wi-fi, and croissants, scones, and other baked bites from Balthazar and Brooklyn’s Baked.

Cafe Collage [Greenwich Village]
189 Bleecker St., at MacDougal, Manhattan
212-505-2205
Map

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Village: cozy coffee & bakery places?

East Ocean Palace: Cantonese Find in Forest Hills

East Ocean Palace is just what many Forest Hills chowhounds have been waiting for: a reasonably authentic Cantonese seafood house. “We’re thrilled to have some real Chinese out here,” says Polecat. “I wouldn’t say it is on par with the very best in Chinatown, but it can certainly hold its own.”

Recommended: braised fish with bean curd, rice noodles, salt-baked fish, chicken casserole. Shrimp is exceptionally fresh and well prepared, in dumplings, black bean sauce, or the crowd-pleasing Hong Kong specialty with walnuts and mayonnaise. Lunch specials are a deal: entree, soup, and rice (white or fried) for $5 or $6.

Focus on Cantonese chow, especially seafood, and eat in the restaurant. Takeout orders and dishes from other regions (hot and sour soup, eggplant with spicy garlic sauce) have been disappointing.

East Ocean Palace [Forest Hills]
formerly Golden Pond
113-09 Queens Blvd., between 76th Ave. and 76th Rd., Forest Hills, Queens
718-268-1668
Map

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new chinese restaurant on queens blvd near kew gardens courts
Jade Eatery and Lounge–Forest Hills
East Ocean Palace Forest Hills

Harlem’s Best Rugelach

“Rugelach by a Brother,” it says on the window at Lee Lee’s. And sure enough, alongside bread pudding and red velvet cake, this Harlem bakery makes better-than-decent rugelach. They boast satisfying weight, buttery yet crisp dough, a sweet (but not too sweet) interior, and a dusting of cinnamon and sugar, reports rose water. Just one flavor: the classic cinnamon and nut. ScottStuff suggests calling ahead to see when the next batch will be ready and showing up right then.

“The man who runs the show is slow-moving, eager to chat, and lovely,” rose water adds. Beyond baked goods, a sign on the door advertises grits, eggs, and biscuits for $3. No reports yet.

Lee Lee’s Baked Goods [Harlem]
283 W. 118th St., between Frederick Douglass Blvd. (8th Ave.) and St. Nicholas
Ave., Manhattan
917-493-6633
Locater

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Harlem Rugelach
Rugelach
ISO Rugelach

Enough Cilantro to Choke a Cow

At Peruvian Kitchen, not only can you get the usual ceviche and stir-fries of Lima, you can also get beef or chicken hearts as an appetizer. The thinly sliced beef hearts, marinated in vinegar with garlic and chiles, are delicious, and hardly gamy at all, says Chubbypanda. Texture-wise, it’s almost like biting into a slice of filet–a very tender and yet slightly crunchy filet.

Potatoes a la huancaina, or in the style of Huancayo, the capital of the central highlands, are boiled and smothered in a creamy, spicy cheese sauce spiked with olives and chiles. But yuca a la huancaina ups the ante, with stuffed balls of mashed yuca stuffed with cheese before being boiled and covered with the cheese sauce. It’s like a very refined (but more filling) version of nachos.

Arroz con pollo involves braising tender chunks of chicken with rice, tomatoes, saffron, vegetables and enough chopped cilantro to choke a cow. Each bite fills your mouth with chickeny goodness–the chicken pieces themselves just seem like an extra.

Lomo saltado is stir-fried beef, tomato, and French fries, served over rice. It never fails to satisfy.

Tiradito al aji, a kind of spicy ceviche with chile peppers and ginger, is tasty and surprisingly subtle. You can also get it as an entrée (listed as tiradito mancora).

Snapper ceviche is less successful, though–the pieces of fish are just too big, making them hard to chew, while the marinade is a bit too strong.

And for a lover of starch-on-starch action like Chubbypanda, tacu-tacu can raise some…interesting emotions. “Here’s a platter just disturbingly sexy in a drunken, one-night-stand-with-someone-you-know-is-never-going-to-call-you-back sort of way. At the base is a mound of refried beans and white rice, which have been stir-fried together. That’s right. Together. In a sinfully hedonistic, crispy on the outside, creamy with al dente bits on the inside, patty of delectable, heart-clogging delight. On top of that, a perfectly seasoned and grilled country steak full of juicy and flavorful beefy goodness. To either side, two long halves of fried plantain with their rich, crunchy sweetness. Add one egg, sunny-side up, so that when your fork pieces the delicate yolk, the golden nectar within runs out and over the entire, sensually voluptuous experience.”


Peruvian Kitchen [South OC]
8610 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley
714-847-7555
Map

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Noshing Peruvian

Chicken Stock Safety

Conventional wisdom says it’s okay to keep chicken stock in the fridge for quite a while if you bring it to a boil every couple of days, but that’s probably not best, in terms of food safety. To keep your exposure to the bacteria that love to live in stock to a minimum, you should cool your stock quickly, either by transferring it to small containers or putting the pot in an ice bath. If you don’t use it within a day or two, freeze it. Kelli2006 brings any stock, whether it’s been refrigerated or frozen, to a rolling boil for 5 minutes before using it. And as Bostonbob3 points out, boiling a stock reduces it a bit, thereby intensifying its flavors.

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Bacteria in Chicken stock

Old Bay Beyond the Seafood Counter

Old Bay seasoning is classically used in crab cakes and for steaming shrimp, and it lends itself to lots of seafood preps, but chowhounds love it in nearly everything savory.

It’s great for seasoning hamburgers, or as a dry rub for steaks. Add it to the coating for your fried chicken. Use it in deviled eggs, and to season shrimp, chicken, or tuna salad. Sprinkle it on popcorn or french fries or edamame. Old Bay is a great seasoning for bloody Marys, too.

fiftyfootgirl shares this addictive recipe for spiced nuts with Old Bay (she likes it best with pecans):

2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
3 tsp. Old Bay
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4-1/2 tsp. hot sauce of your choice
4 cups nuts

Preheat oven to 300F. Mix all ingredients except nuts in a large bowl, then stir in nuts, coating them evenly. Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and bake 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Allow to cool thoroughly before serving.

As an alternative to Old Bay, yourbasicfoodgroupie likes Blue Crab Bay’s Chesapeake Bay Style Seafood Seasoning, which is similar, but has a more refined flavor, he says.

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My First Tin of Old Bay: What should I make??

Wine Headaches

Get lots of wine headaches? There may be other causes, besides hangovers.

Possible culprits include tannins, sulfites, and histimines. Says zin1953, in his experience, the problems tend to be sulfites in white wines, and histimines in red wines. But you have to experiment on yourself to figure out what’s going on, says Robert Lauriston. If it’s tannins, you’ll also get headaches from strong tea. If it’s sulfites, then cured meats should also give you headaches. And if it’s histimines, then you should also get headaches from strawberries.

If you figure out what you’re reacting to in particular, you can do all sorts of things to control for it–like looking for low-sulfite wines, or searching out older wines. Check out these articles on allergic reactions to wine and on additives in organic wines.

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Wine and Headaches

The Grand Peanut Butter Survey

The peanut butter that seems to inspire the most fanatical enthusiasm and energy is Teddie’s. This is sort of a New England secret–it’s made in Boston, there are no advertisements for it, and it is absolutely delicious. It’s the “the pride of New England: Teddie’s unsalted, all-natural super chunky,” says Harp00n. It’s also sold in some groceries in the Northeast outside New England.

This is unhomogenized, no trans-fat, no salt, no sugar peanut butter. It may be a little austere for those used to the sugary, trans-fatty variety, says cheryl_h, but for the hardcore peanutophile, it’s the closest thing you can get to making peanut butter yourself. It’s peanut butter perfection, says curiousbaker. And you don’t have to store it in the fridge, either.

JK Grence the Cosmic Jester recommends a boutique brand called PB Loco. They have ridiculous gourmet flavors (peanut butter with dried apricots) and ridiculous prices ($7 a jar), but man, is it ever worth it. It’s an Arizona thang, but you can order it online.

Whole Foods lets you grind your own peanut butter, even from honey roasted peanuts. This is the favorite peanut butter of many a hound. lvecch used to work in a Whole Foods, and he thinks the secret is the Valencia peanuts. When they occasionally stop using Valencia’s, the peanut butter loses its magic.

chowser recommends Marantha, available from Whole Foods and other natural food type stores. It’s the texture that really sets Marantha apart, says bdinah. Also try Marantha Raw Organic Almond Butter. Crazy Richards brand is pretty good, too.

Many like something called Real PB. It’s in the refrigerator section.

For regular supermarket brands, PaulF likes Laura Scudder’s. It’s nothing but peanuts and salt. The only better generally available brand is the Trader Joe’s in-house brand, which, while it’s also nothing but peanuts and salt, doesn’t require the same stirring and mixing that Laura Scudder’s does.

Some like Peanut Butter & Co’s Crunch Time, another all-natural brand found in Whole Foods and some local grocery stores. They also have neato non-standard flavors, like an addictively good cinnamon-raisin peanut butter.

Many still like your basic Jif. Regular Jif consumers ought to give Simply Jif a try–it’s just like regular Jif, but with less sugar and salt. It’s got a purer peanut flavor. Many, many hounds love Simply Jif without apology.

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Favorite Peanut Butter

Portland’s Greek Pizza Sleeper, Plus Stealth Somali

Portland, Maine

Two breakfast places regretfully missed in Ogunquit:

The Egg and I (Route 1, Ogunquit, Maine; 207-646-8777) (across from the Lobster Pound).

The Omelette Factory (422 Main Street, Ogunquit, Maine; 207-646-4110).

Peanut butter is a side dish at the Omelette Factory!

Wow. Two dedicated breakfast specialists in one town of 1,226 residents. This, my friends, is where I intend to retire one day.

But wait! I just learned there are even more!!

+ + +

Sometimes the biggest finds are obvious places that are undervalued by locals. No one in Portland doesn’t know Bill’s Pizza (177 Commercial Street, Portland, Maine; 207-774-6166). But no one in Portland seems to fully recognize the majesty of their pies. Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out taken-for-granted brilliance. For example, until beer writer Michael Jackson began writing rapturously about the artistry of Belgian ales, the Belgians themselves did not realize their beer was anything special. It was just stuff they unthinkingly brewed and drank. Bill’s Pizza is like this.

One likely reason for the underrating is that they make a little-known subgenre: Greek pizza. Greek pizza is a vanishing style that was once fairly common in New England, upstate New York, and Pennsylvania. It’s characterized by thin, well-done cheese (usually pocked with crunchy burntish nodes); plenty of oregano; and a highly ridged, lightly oiled crisp crust.

Greek pizza is not an acknowledged term among pizza historians. I use it to refer to pizza baked by Greek restaurateurs who scrambled to get in on the action as pizza was becoming ubiquitous in the 1960s. If you spot pizza fitting this description, ask about the original proprietor’s nationality. You can bet that Greeks started the place. You can also bet that the place is at least 30 years old.

I don’t need to check genealogy at Bill’s. They do an archetypal rendition of this style, and it’s smashingly tasty. Notice the large bitten-off missing portion, below. My breach of professional self-control is the best possible indication of killer deliciousness:

This reverse shot shows the trademark ridged crisp crust. You’ll want to study it closely in order to identify specimens quickly in the field:

The crust was so crisp (the end crust was positively explosive), the cheese and sauce so perfectly dovetailed, the spicing was so deftly optimized, that I did something I’d never before done on this CHOW Tour: I returned for another portion. In my position, every iota of hunger must be carefully rationed. I’ve seldom finished an item, much less asked for more.

This place is that good. And I’ll bet it has been since 1949.

+ + +

Middle Street is a cool little eating block on the edge of downtown Portland. In the photo above, Duckfat is the place with the orange and blue awning, and Norm’s East End Grill is to its left. I didn’t try Ribolita (41 Middle Street, Portland, Maine; 207-774-2972), at the end of the block.

Duckfat (43 Middle Street, Portland, Maine; 207-774-8080) is a breezy, cool little place, very informal and relaxing. They keep their menu quite small—a great way to ensure quality:

White bean and chorizo soup, a special, was humdrum, though. I don’t usually order soup specials. Great soups require long repetition to perfect. My bad.

Frites, fried in—what else?—duck fat, were quite the luxurious experience. They were oversalted and too greasy by far, but have undeniable appeal as an infrequent (say, biannual) extravagance.

Also calorically profligate (what, you were expecting health food at a place called Duckfat?) was the duck confit panini, with herbed black pepper Boursin spread. It contained some other stuff, too, but the thing atomized before I could fully analyze it. This pressed sandwich was so light and crisp as to be positively insubstantial—ingested more by osmosis than by chewing. The kitchen exhibited formidable Zen chops via the effortless transformation of heavy ingredients into a beautiful ducky cloud.

Their beignets looked good, but I didn’t try them. And I somehow completely missed the sweet chestnut and mascarpone panini, a daily special I just now noticed in the photo, above. A humiliating failure.

Norm’s East End Grill (48 Middle Street, Portland, Maine; 207-253-1700) is a similarly airy, laid-back place. The staff’s incredibly friendly and the beer’s good—Riptide Red, brewed by local Casco Bay Brewing Company, is a magnetically subtle brew with a hint of malty sweetness. Their pulled-pork BBQ sandwich wasn’t authentic, but it emoted palpable kindess. Fun eating.

After a few hours of digestion while driving around Portland in search of duct tape for my decrepit suitcase, much excitement flared as I spotted Al-Amin Halaal Market (269 St. John Street, Portland, Maine; 207-774-3220). Who’d have expected Somalis in Maine??

Podcast #1, MP3: The whole story.

Podcast #2, MP3: Goat curry on spaghetti in the car.

The curry (shot on my car’s roof).

Podcast #3, MP3: Curry appraisal: very good, not quite great.

Halfway through my meal, I realized they’d forgotten to pack my samosas. I ran back, grabbed my crunchy fried meat pastries, and returned to the car, where I took a bite and just barely turned on the recorder in time to catch the bliss in podcast #4, MP3:

Killer, killer samosas!