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

Top Martyr

After last week’s Top Chef episode, the backlash against Elia, Cliff, Sam, and Ilan continues to mount like a 50-foot Waimea wave as more stories emerge that make Marcel look like the innocently suffering victim.

Michael T. Tool of the Las Vegas Weekly interviewed Marcel and got the scoop that has been filling the message boards with wails and rended garments for Marcel the Martyr.

‘This girl came up to me at a nightclub and asked me if I was Marcel from Top Chef. The next thing I knew, this bottle struck me, and my friends had to rush me to the hospital. I needed 30 stitches for this.’

You read that correctly: The man was attacked not for his political beliefs, not because he supports the wrong football team, but for being a contestant on a popular reality show, Top Chef.

Futhermore, Ilan Hall isn’t winning any popularity contests with this interview with New York magazine’s Daily Intelligencer:

This didn’t air, but he had to make this dish about lust and I told him that he’s never lusted after a woman, all he does is go home and jerk off thinking about Joël Robuchon. And the only thing he could think of as a comeback was, ‘I don’t jerk off to Joël Robuchon.’ That was it!

Charming. Classy. Clearly the type of person Top Chef wants to put out there.

Maybe Ilan is giving so many interviews, he can’t remember which of his personalities said what, but he told Honolulu’s Star Bulletin the following:

But, what’s done is done. ‘We’re all good friends now that the show is over,’ said Hall. ‘I keep in touch with a lot of people … Marcel and I talk a lot.’

Marcel seems to have an entirely different take on his “friendship” with the cheftestant who has gone to great lengths to attack him in every way possible. From the Las Vegas Sun:

Strangely, during a phone interview Friday morning Vigneron says he still gets phone calls from Hall. ‘He has been calling me every day. He wished me a merry Christmas and says he’s just checking in. (But) I haven’t returned any, because he was such a (jerk) on the show.’

So, when Ilan says they talk a lot, I guess he means he talks to Marcel’s answering machine a lot.

Television Without Pity poster WanderFree reacted to the Las Vegas Sun interview with, “I just thought the ‘calling every day’ was um … a little ‘don’t you love me anymore?’ behavior. There is definitely a difference between being friends with someone and stalking them.”

God help all the Marcel lovers out there if any of the others take home the 100K and title of Top Chef next week. On second thought, God help the winner. And get them a bodyguard. Or five.

Pork, Asian Burritos, and Raw Defiance

New York magazine—which is arguably one of the finest food magazines being published, despite all the non-food-related filler that crams its pages—has an utterly delightful story this month about David Chang, the proprietor of Momofuku Noodle Bar, in the East Village. The story’s entertaining opening anecdote paints a striking picture of a chef at war … with uppity vegetarians.

It wasn’t a war of choice, mind you—they fired the first shots in 2004, bitching and moaning about how his restaurant wasn’t sufficiently catering to their wants, and how the lack of vegetarian options was putting the new restaurant’s financial situation in jeopardy.

His response: cutting down the number of vegetarian options on his menu to one, and highlighting it with red text reading: “OUR ONLY VEGETARIAN OPTION.”

‘We added pork to just about everything else,’ says Chang, giggling like a schoolgirl.

As business boomed, Chang decided to open a cafeteria-style Asian burrito bar in the East Village, and that’s where the profile really gets rolling, exploring the trouble Chang’s had making his new vision work, and the benefits—and drawbacks—of being a culinary rebel.

The story’s epic scope might be a little overwhelming to those disinterested in pork-laden Asian food in New York, but give David Chang a chance, and you’re in it for the long haul.

Exquisite Gelatin Cakes

There are beautifully decorated gelatin cakes to be had from Princesse Bakery, says S U. Each layer is a different flavor–cream, espresso, chocolate–and the flavors are whispered essences, bold enough to satisfy, yet delicate. A bouquet of perfectly-formed gelatin flowers adorn the pretty cake. rworange likes the mango flavor, with a sweet, perfumy mango layer contrasting with a white passion fruit layer. Also: the gelatin is made from agar agar, so it’s vegetarian–enjoy. Princess Bakery also stocks loaves of soft white bread that comes in plain, cream cheese, or dried pork flavor.

SumoSizeMe reports that the beautiful cakes from Princesse Bakery are actually made off-site, somewhere in San Jose. Cam Huong makes their own, but rworange finds them to be totally tasteless and crude. The only thing minty about the mint gelatin cake is the green color, she says. Egg tarts, however, are pretty good and cost 45 cents.


Delicieuse Princesse Bakery [Downtown]
317 13th St., Oakland
510-763-8366
Locater

Cam Huong Cafe [Chinatown]
920 Webster St., Oakland
510-444-8800
Locater

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Oakland: Princess Bakery Gelatin Cakes

Creations Dessert House

Dave MP likes Creations Dessert House for the #52, sago with fresh mango juice and coconut, the perfect mochi dough, and the sweet balls with peanut and sesame paste, served warm. Hounds enthusiastically recommend the dish known as “glutinous rice ball with mixed fruits in 2 juices.” The desserts, and the nice black tea with a hint of lychee flavor, are much easier to enjoy now that they’ve installed real chairs and tables in place of the horribly uncomfortable furniture they used to have, says nsheth.


Creations Dessert House [Richmond]
a.k.a. Hui Lau Shan
5217 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
415-668-8812
Locater

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Creations Dessert House Report

At Olive Tree, Lamb Shwarma Worth Waiting for

Olive Tree Cafe grills killer lamb shwarma, says Peter Cherches–but not all the time. It sells out fast, and they may not have more ready for hours. Around 1 p.m. is a good time to look for it.


Olive Tree Cafe [Greenwich Village]
117 MacDougal St., between W. 3rd and Bleecker Sts., Manhattan
212-254-3480
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Shawarma…

David’s Dairy Treat: They Couldn’t Believe it Was Yogurt

David’s makes fresh, delicious, deceptively creamy black raspberry yogurt. “We actually thought for years it was ice cream!” confesses potbelliedkiln. “This summer we found out we were eating yogurt the whole time.”


David’s Dairy Treat [Cortland County]
2609 State Rte. 26
Cincinnatus, NY 13040
607-863-4330
Locater

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Local Ice Cream Parlor in Westchester

Go for the Pastries, Stay for Lunch

Rubio’s Bakery may look like an unassuming panaderia, but this Guatemalan place has a ton of tasty-looking hot dishes too: chicken stew, pupusas, tamales studded with slivered vegetables, stewed beef and fried chicken, says can’t talk … eating.

There’s a nice array of fresh-looking pastries. Oreja is crispy and light, but the coffee one morning was stale.


Rubios Bakery [Midtown]
4972 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles
323-938-4069
Locater

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Guatemalan bakery and restaurant

Magic Wok’s Miraculous Return

Filipino restaurant Magic Wok has reopened after a strip-mall fire, just in time for the new year, and it’s as good as ever, says elmomonster.

Pinakbet, “a stir-fry that eats like a stew,” is chock-full of all kinds of veggies: yellow squash, bitter melon, eggplant, okra, and string beans, all pulled together with the flavor punch of fermented shrimp paste.

Bistek tagalog, or thin-sliced marinated steak glazed with a garlic-soy-vinegar blend, is pleasantly chewy and a little dry, halfway between jerky and fajitas.

Pancit sotanghon is fast food, Filipino mom-style: stretchy glass noodles stir-fried with green beans, pork, and tofu.

Note that the decor hasn’t changed either: the same red pleather seats, cramped booths, and complete absence of music.


Magic Wok [Artesia-ish]
11869 Artesia Blvd., Artesia
562-865-7340
Map

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A Filipino favorite

Cheese Fondue Fun

There are plenty of great things to dip in a cheese fondue beyond cubes of French bread. Vegetables that make good dippers include steamed or roasted fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes, pearl onions, blanched broccoli and cauliflower, steamed asparagus and green beans, and grilled or roasted mushrooms. Sliced tart apples, pears, and grapes also complement cheese fondues. Cornichons are traditional, as well. If you want to include meaty dippers, consider a dried meat like speck, or thinly sliced ham, sliced sausage, or seared cubes of beef filet. Also consider fruit and nut breads in addition to or in place of French bread.

A crisp green salad with a tart vinaigrette or an assortment of pickled vegetables on the side help counteract the richness of all that cheese. A light and sweet dessert of fruit or sorbet, perhaps accompanied by small squares of dark chocolate, is an ideal way to finish a fondue meal.

Several chowhounds offer raves for this recipe for three-cheese fondue with Champagne.

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what else to serve with CHEESE FONDUE

Say Aloha at the Bar

When you want Hawaiian-style cocktails, but aren’t in the mood for sweet slushy fruit-based drinks, try out these libations.

The original Trader Vic’s Mai Tai recipe is wonderfully balanced, says JK Grence the Cosmic Jester:

1 oz. each gold and dark rum
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. orange curacao
1/4 oz. simple syrup
1/4 oz. orgeat (almond) syrup
2 cups crushed ice

Shake everything together in a shaker, pour into a double rocks glass, garnish with a sprig of mint and a speared pineapple piece and maraschino cherry.

The Royal Hawaiian was the signature drink of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel back in the 1950s. Here’s the recipe:

1 1/2 oz. gin
1 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz. orgeat syrup

Shake well with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

sku recommends Sam Choy’s Li Hing Mui Margarita. Li Hing Mui powder is a popular seasoning in the Islands that’s sweet, salty, and sour all at once and is usually sprinkled on fruit. If you can’t find it locally, you can order it online.

1 1/2 oz. tequila

3/4 oz. Cointreau
2 Lemons
1 Lime
1/2 tsp. Li Hing Mui Powder

Squeeze citrus juices into a blender, add tequila, Cointreau, and Li Hing Mui powder, and blend. Rub the rim of a glass with lime juice, and rim with more Li Hing Mui powder.

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Hawaiian-style Cocktail