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

Mission Pie

Hounds like the pie at Mission Pie, a brand-new pie-and-coffee shop. The apple pie has a great flaky crust and big chunks of tart apples, says asherandeva. It’s satisfyingly bright and tart, not overwhelmed by cinnamon, says augustiner, though those who like super-sweet apple pie might find the filling too lemony. Other offerings include an Italian dessert tart made with chard, raisins, rum, and lemon, and a savory pie filled with veggie curry.

Pies are made from ingredients grown at the Pie Ranch, including sustainably raised wheat for the crusts–and it’s staffed by the Mission High students who work on the farm. Stop in for some organic, fair-trade coffee and interesting pie–and be patient and smile, the servers are new at this!


Mission Pie [Mission]
2901 Mission St. (entrance on 25th St.), San Francisco
415-282-4PIE
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Mission Pie Open

Pizzabolla: Solid Neighborhood Italian on the Upper West Side

Upper West Side hounds don’t often talk about Pizzabolla, but what they say is heartening. Pizzas are fine, but pastas and salads come in for special praise. “Don’t be scared off by the checkered tablecloths,” advises theannerska, who promises that this is no tired red-sauce joint. “The food is fantastic.”

Well-executed standards include lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, and pasta carbonara. Salads–chopped, chef’s, Caesar, spinach-mushroom, arugula-roasted garlic–are fresh and big enough to be main courses, especially when ordered with grilled chicken. Michele4466 loves the vegetarian antipasto plate (provolone, fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, mushrooms, artichoke, grilled eggplant, roasted peppers and onions)–a ton of food for $8. The wine list is short and affordable, featuring decent Italian choices. Service is warm and efficient.


Pizzabolla [Upper West Side]
654 Amsterdam Ave., at W. 92nd St., Manhattan
212-579-4500
Locater

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Seeking dinner place (with specifications) in 80s/90s/ UWS

From Mediterranean to Mexican in Queens, All Before Lunch

At Astoria’s Cafe Bar, the Mediterranean Breakfast is scrambled eggs with scallions and olives or onion and tomato, according to the menu. Menus can lie. “The cook seems to want to throw in extras, like asparagus, leeks, whatever he’s got around,” says Monkey Man Jake. With the accompanying toasted pita, tahini, and tzatziki, it’s a surprising morning feast.

In Sunnyside, the Rose serves up an authentic and well-made Irish breakfast that bests rival versions in Manhattan, says lindoca. A familial connection with the well-regarded Butcher Block assures a supply of high-quality sausage, rashers, and black and white puddings.

Mexican favorite De Mole offers a short breakfast menu of four or five choices. One good one: eggs with chorizo, rice, beans, tortillas, coffee, and fantastic cinnamon-scented hot chocolate. The eggs can come out under-seasoned, but a splash of house-made green salsa will make things right, says chefcoleman.

At Jahn’s in Jackson Heights, JH Hill’s occasional indulgence is chocolate chip pancakes–nice and moist and extremely satisfying.


Cafe Bar [Astoria]
32-90 36th St., between 34th Ave. and Broadway, Astoria, Queens
718-204-5273
Locater

Rose Restaurant [Sunnyside]
44-07 Queens Blvd., between 44th and 45th Sts., Sunnyside, Queens
718-784-0745
Locater

Butcher Block [Sunnyside]
41-12 Queens Blvd., between 41st and 42nd Sts., Sunnyside, Queens
718-784-1078
Map

De Mole [Sunnyside]
formerly El Jarro
45-02 48th Ave., at 45th St., Sunnyside, Queens
718-392-2161
Locater

Jahn’s [Jackson Heights]
81-04 37th Ave., between 81st and 82nd Sts., Jackson Heights, Queens
718-651-0700
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Breakfast Lover in Queens

Mr. Taster’s N.Y. Egg Roll Quest

New York expat Mr. Taster has been on a frustrating quest for N.Y.-style egg rolls that has led him to… Genghis Cohen. He wants to point out that a lot of places commonly recommended for N.Y. egg rolls don’t cut the mustard.

At the Canto-American Paul’s Kitchen, wonton soup is fantastic, with flavorful chunks of juicy BBQ pork, crunchy bok choy, meaty wontons and a flavorful broth boosted by MSG. Egg rolls, though, are actually spring rolls (a thin, flaky exterior rather than thick, brown, chewy skin blistered from frying) and filled with bland cabbage.

Canton Kitchen’s egg roll has a nicely crispy exterior, deep brown and bubbly, but the crispiness yields to a doughy underlayer that’s undercooked. And inside is a mass of meat spiked with bits of cabbage that’s more like a pork meatball. No dice.

Genghis Cohen, which is apparently run by a Chinese woman from New York, does the trick. The crispy-chewy skin, fried golden brown, and filling of shredded pork, cabbage, and mini shrimp are dead on. It’s still not the most flavorful filling around, but fortunately the egg rolls come with the “proper” condiments of sinus-blasting mustard and sweet and sour duck sauce.


Paul’s Kitchen [Downtown]
1012 S. San Pedro St., at 9th, Los Angeles
213-749-5004
Locater

Canton Kitchen [Culver City-ish]
12511 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles

310-398-0030

Locater

Genghis Cohen [Fairfax Village]
740 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles
323-653-0640
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Canton Kitchen’s egg rolls just don’t cut it
End of the Great N.Y. egg roll debate

Guinness Stout Brownies

The malt in Guinness Stout is said to intensify the flavor of the chocolate in these brownies. luv2bake finds them quite wonderful–very rich, moist, thick, and a bit chewy, with just a hint of stout flavor. Here’s her version:

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into cubes, room temperature
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) Guinness Extra Stout beer, room temperature, without foam
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
confectioners sugar for dusting, if desired

Preheat oven to 375F. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan or line with with nonstick foil. Whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt until evenly combined, and set aside. Melt butter, bittersweet chocolate, and white chocolate chips in a double boiler over very low heat, stirring constantly until melted; remove from heat. With an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add melted chocolate mixture and beat until combined. Beat flour mixture into batter, then whisk in Guinness and 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips. The batter will be somewhat thin. Pour batter into prepared pan, and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips evenly over top. Bake 25-30 minutees, until a tester comes out almost clean. Cool to room temperature uncovered before serving. Dust with confectioners sugar, if desired.

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ISO Guinness Brownies Recipe

Creamed Spinach

There are two views on creamed spinach: some make it with a flour-thickened cream sauce, and some insist straight cream is the only way to go. Some add nothing but salt and pepper, some add onion, garlic, or shallots. Many add a little pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.

morebubbles makes creamed spinach by sauteing finely chopped onions in butter until soft, adding fresh spinach and cooking until it’s just wilted, then adding a bit of cream, salt and pepper, and a small amount of freshly grated nutmeg.

NYchowcook’s technique is to heat cream with a smashed clove of garlic in a small saucepan, and steam spinach in a covered pot with a little water and a pinch of salt; when it’s cooked, drain it. Melt butter in a skillet and saute the spinach until the pan is dry, then strain the cream into the pan, and add salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

onefineleo loves this straightforward recipe, which uses a white sauce. The recipe makes two servings, but she’s multiplied to serve up to 10.

Several hounds offer raves for a Ina Garten’s spinach gratin, a baked, cheesy version of the dish.

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Creamed spinach

Latke News

Prepared latkes have been spotted at Costo and Trader Joe’s stores. Just take them home and heat them up. Costco’s get a thumbs-up from laylag, who’s picky about latkes and says that they really taste homemade.

At TJ’s, find latkes near the frozen waffles; they’re stocked year ‘round.

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Latkes from Costco?

Can Valentine’s Day Be Far Behind?

With Valentine’s Day looming, Vosges chocolate is always a good bet as a special present. Their chocolate bars are unusual–like the d’Olivia bar, with dried Kalamata olives in white chocolate. The Red Fire bar has ancho and chipotle chiles spiced with cinnamon.

Vosges chocolate chips are a favorite for adding to cocoa or coffee. If chocolate truffles are your thing, check their web site for their variety of exotic collections.

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Vosges truffles–are they worth it, and what are your favorites?

A Face Only a Chowhound Could Love

A three-year bureaucratic battle over what constitutes the ideal tomato has ended, and flavor has won out over looks, The New York Times reports (registration required). The USDA is set to issue a ruling today that an unattractive-but-tasty tomato called the UglyRipe can be sold outside its native Florida—and the fracas surrounding this heirloom-mainstream hybrid sheds light on why supermarket tomatoes are often so awful.

Why couldn’t the UglyRipe’s growers ship the wrinkly little orbs wherever they pleased in the first place, you ask? Because the Florida Tomato Committee, which was was established by federal agreement 70 years ago, strictly regulates the shape and uniformity of the state’s tomatoes with rules known as marketing orders. “Flavor is not a factor because, in the committee’s view, it is too subjective,” says the Times. Florida is the top producer of fresh tomatoes in the U.S., so that committee’s preferences may explain why the tomatoes at your local Safeway look like heaven and taste like mealy nothingness.

But Florida tomatoes aren’t the only produce items subject to wacky rules: Between 25 and 40 foodstuffs are governed by marketing orders at any given time. According to the USDA, these orders are “designed to help stabilize market conditions for fruit and vegetable products” and “maintain the high quality of produce that is on the market.” All organic crops are exempt from marketing orders, but many seemingly esoteric crops aren’t: Washington/Oregon fresh prunes, southeastern California grapes, Colorado potatoes, Georgia Vidalia onions, and Washington/Oregon Walla Walla onions all have their own quality-control committees. I just hope the folks in charge of something called “Far West spearmint oil” take flavor into account.

Enjoying Brie 101

Brie is one of the most of delectable cheeses. It’s creamy white, and robed in an edible rind. It’s best served at room temperature, so that it softens up. A good aged brie will get oozy and spreadable, almost like butter. American bries are quite good and fairly priced, but French brie is considered the best.

Serve with slices of good bread (baguettes are nice) or crackers. A wheel of brie can be wrapped in puff pastry and baked. To gild the lily, accompany it with ripe apple or pear, honey spiked with truffle oil, jalapeno jelly, a good unsalted butter, or a special sweet preserve.

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Best way to enjoy brie