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

Time Out for Pork

Fall River, Massachusetts, and Tiverton, Rhode Island

Soares Restaurant (190 Alden Street, Fall River, Massachusetts; 508-324-0800), a.k.a. Benevides Restaurant, was a nice find for real Portuguese home cooking, as opposed to the Portuguese-American fare found around New Bedford, Massachusetts. Listen to a podcast in which I explain how I found the place: MP3.

The cruddy-looking building and location on a bleak residential block just add to the charm, as do the hapless but kindhearted waitress and the taciturn old Portuguese dudes glumly downing their Budweisers. To someone who’s never been to Portugal and sopped up that beautiful, melancholy culture, such an experience might seem depressive. But I’ve spent a lot of time there, and have fallen deeply in love with the country. So I sighed with contentment throughout the meal.

As I mention in the podcast, this porco alentejana isn’t authentically Alentejan—the application of coriander is way too cursory. But it is an authentically Portuguese mis-rendition of porco alentejana—the sort of thing a chef from Porto or Coimbra might whip up. The strewing of lemon, olives, and clams is unmistakably the work of a Portuguese-born chef. His kids won’t be able to do this. Nor will they have the courage to cut the pork aiming not for tenderness but for chewiness. That’s a dying art.

Portuguese pork—the way they butcher it, the way they cut it, the way they cook it and season it, the way they feel it—is an evocative last vestige of how humanity conceived of pig for the previous umpteen millennia. Niman Ranch my ass.

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I stumbled into Cross I’d Cow Ice Cream (532 Main Road, Tiverton, Rhode Island; 401-624-1555) in a shopping strip. Chowconnaissance means dropping any attempt to control the sequence of savory and salty. Dessert is had as dessert appears.

Is it just me, or is their flavor menu really hard to choose from?

The counter girl decoded mysterious flavors like Moose Tracks, Cowagunga Crunch, and White Thunder for me, but I failed to diligently write it all down. Forgive me; I’m starting to get a bit punchy (hopefully the Rhode Island seaside air will do me some good).

I ordered Apple Crisp ice cream, and it was charming and honest in a non-gourmet, relatively low-butterfattish way.

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On my way down to the shore, I passed over a bridge that spanned an inlet. I noticed in my rearview mirror a bunch of old houses and fishing piers quietly clustered on the opposite bank. So I swung a U-turn and tried to get down to the bank, hoping to find supernal seafood.

It took lots of winding and wending, but I eventually navigated to the enclave just as a spectacular sunset appeared across the water. If I timed this right, I’d be munching clams in the perfect setting. But there were no clams to be found. Lots of salty private homes, shuttered boat rental offices, and inexplicable storage facilities, but nary a bar or a clam shack. Determined to score before the sunset died, I sped along the shoreline, finding only a coffee bar with a single plastic table affording a partial view of the water. But the owner was closing up.

I asked her to recommend a restaurant, and she suggested I drive a few more miles along the shore to Evelyn’s Drive-In (2335 Main Road, Tiverton, Rhode Island; 401-624-3100), good for clams. I blurred over to Evelyn’s, which has a waterside deck out back, lunged for the sole empty table, dropped my equipment and guidebooks, and tried to soak in as much sunset as I could.

The temperature plunged and I was dressed lightly. All the other patrons were sensible enough to withdraw inside the restaurant, but I was determined to see this through, and tore into a combo plate of fried whole belly clams and scallops. Very delicate frying nicely accentuated the flavor of the seafood. The clams had a good funky, earthy flavor. Scallops were impeccably fresh and sweet. Even slightly overcooked, they still spoke to me.

Smug about my find (which, after all, I had worked hard for), I checked Elizabeth Bougerol’s book New England’s Favorite Seafood Shacks. Elizabeth, damn her, had found this place and devoted two full pages to it. I sure hope this isn’t a pattern.

Bite This

Someone please alert my husband that this is what I want for Christmas: The unbelievably sultry Alex Kapranos, front man for snappy pop band Franz Ferdinand, has just burst forth with a book of eating essays, Sound Bites. The book collects together all of Kapranos’s beautiful, evocative food columns for the UK paper The Guardian, which chronicled his eating experiences as he toured around the world with Franz Ferdinand.

OK, so maybe I’m just a sucker for a pouty-lipped fella, but can’t you hear a breath of Alice B. Toklas in this posting from Korea?

We’re wandering round the market in Incheon, Korea. Jean tells me that it’s quiet today. The stallholders normally shout at you about how good their food is. Koreans are rather like Italians. We pass a stall loaded with dried fish—big ones staring from sunken eyes like marine mummies, tiny silver ones like metal filings in a sack.

Christine points at some microscopic shrimp. They are soaked in salt for a very long time so all the juice comes out, and the flavour is magnificent. We eat them with kimchi pancakes. I bring my face close to a bucket of clams in seawater. Semi-opaque tubes protrude from the shells; one gently breaks the surface like a periscope and shoots an arc of water at me.

Sigh.

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Catch of the Day: Simple, Satisfying Seafood at Peter’s

Peter’s Fishery in Matawan is a dependable destination for solid, straightforward seafood, says RGR. Some good bets: Manhattan clam chowder, fried shrimp with fries, “Mediterranean Morsels” (mixed seafood) over linguine. Portions are generous; expect to take home leftovers. Prices are gentle, service efficient, the setting pleasant and diner-like.

Peter’s Fishery [Monmouth County]

921 State Rte. 34, between Main and Jackson Sts., Matawan, NJ

732-583-5666

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Matawan Restaurants?

An Underappreciated $24 Lunch at Perry Street

It’s the best $24 lunch in New York City, says Brian S, and few seem to know about it. At Perry Street, you’ll be offered a menu of 12 possible courses, from which you choose two plus a dessert. (You can add more courses for $12 each.) After an amuse of borscht made with apples, beets and horseradish, here’s how Brian’s lunch went:

- Five huge, luscious shrimp rubbed in spices and grilled, served atop a mild yellow vegetable puree alongside intensely flavored chorizo broth.

- A grilled sea bass filet, crispy skin on, atop a green puree laced with fennel. Topped with delicious caramelized radishes, reminiscent of sweet potatoes, and served with tangy ruby grapefruit coulis.

- For dessert, goat’s milk cheesecake, macerated cherries with celery leaves, fruit sorbet, and caramelized nuts.

All this comes in a lovely modern space with great service, a Hudson River view and, Brian adds, “for most of the time I was there, the place was empty except for me and the waiters. You’d expect a line out the door.”

Perry Street [Greenwich Village]

176 Perry St., at West St., Manhattan

212-352-1900

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Perry St —best $24 lunch in town

Sheba Piano Lounge

Maya loves Sheba Lounge for upscale Ethiopian food–especially a dish of sirloin tips cooked in clarified butter with Ethiopian spices. The vegetarian sampler platter and lentil sambussas are great, too, and the mild injera will be loved even by those who claim to hate Ethiopian food. Food for two, plus two beers and a fantastic pomegranate martini, will run you about $50.

Besides the food, the real draw of the place is the atmosphere, featuring the eponymous piano, a comfortable lounge with a fireplace, big armchairs, and “two female owners who spoil you with great service,” says Maya. It’s the best option in the area by far, and a great destination in its own right.

Sheba Piano Lounge [Fillmore]

1419 Fillmore Street, at Ellis, San Francisco

415-440-7414

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Sheba Lounge–what to order?

Savory Strawberry Salsa

Corundas (tamales) where the masa is made with olive oil instead of lard shouldn’t be good. Especially vegetarian corundas, topped with grilled cactus and potatoes. But, as it turns out, these abominations from the Emeryville branch of Cocina Poblana are indeed good–moist and tasty, and better than many lard versions. “This dish was just so wrong from every point of view that to win me over it had to be good,” says rworange. And it is.

The place gets extra points for its unusual and tasty salsas, like a hot peanut salsa and a savory, smoky strawberry salsa made with chunks of chopped fresh strawberry.

Cocina Poblana [Emeryville]

1320 65th Street, at Hollis, Emeryville

510-923-0497

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SF & Emeryville–Cocina Poblana–Corundas, 5 moles, 6 + salsas (peanut, strawberry,etc), breakfast soup & more.

Time for the Taste of Christmas

With Thanksgiving over, it’s the right time to head over to Claremont Village for a taste of Christmas: Burt & Rocky’s peppermint ice cream. It’s stabilizer free, meaning that it has that creamy, full-fat, traditional ice cream shop texture. It’s Barbie-doll pink, minty, and dotted with small chunks of peppermint candy that’s crispy in the center but has melted into a minty goo around the edges.

A small serving looks more like a double scoop compared with the average Westside gelato shop or even Rite Aid, and costs $2.20.

Also in the area is Dr. Bob’s “dipping store,” where you can taste the ice cream near its source. (Or you can just buy it at Gelsons or Bristol Farms.)

McConnell’s, made in Santa Barbara, has peppermint stick ice cream (without stabilizers). Short of going up to SB, it’s available at Whole Foods and Gelsons.

Bert & Rocky’s Cream Co [Inland of LA]

242 Yale Ave., Claremont

909-625-1852

Locater

Bert & Rocky’s Cream Co [Inland of LA]

360 W. Foothill Blvd., Upland

909-946-6805

Locater

Dr Bob’s Hancrafted Ice Cream [Inland of LA]

1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona

909-865-1956

Locater

McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, Inc. [Santa Barbara County]

835 E. Canon Perdido St., Santa Barbara

805-963-8813

Map

Whole Foods [Citywide]

Bristol Farms [Citywide]

Gelsons [Citywide]

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Burt & Rocky’s Peppermint Ice Cream

Indian-Style Brussels Sprouts

janetfromreno’s husband marries South Asian flavors with northern hemisphere fall staple Brussels sprouts in this delicious dish. Janet suggests tasting as you go, and adjusting the spicing to suit your palate.

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed, and cut in half

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger

1 Tbsp. cumin powder

2 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. cayenne

1 cup water

juice of 1 lime

a small handful fresh cilantro, washed and chopped

Saute Brussels sprouts in olive oil for a few minutes. Add garlic, ginger, sugar, and spices, continuing to stir. Add water and lime juice, and cook, stirring occasionally until sprouts are nearly done to your taste. Add cilantro and finish cooking. Taste and adjust seasonings.

This is also excellent with the addition of a few red potatoes, peeled and chopped fine, and sauteed with the Brussels sprouts in the first step.

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Indian-style Brussel Sprouts.

Mashed Potato Cakes

When you’ve got leftover mashed potatoes, the best way to revive them is to make them into mashed potato cakes. Add whatever herbs or flavorings sound good to you–hounds especially like chopped scallions and grated cheese. Some mix in an egg as a binder, but many find this is unnecessary, and can sometimes make the mixture too wet to shape easily. Drier mashed potatoes are easier to shape and pan fry, but potatoes rich in butter and cream can be dredged in seasoned flour and fried up well. Fry in olive oil or butter over medium heat until well browned on the bottom without moving, about 5-6 minutes, and flip to brown the other side. They’ll be crisp outside, soft and warm inside, and very satisfying.

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how would you make mashed potato cakes?