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

Pizza Margherita

Pizza margherita–straight-up pizza that’s just a crust with tomato, cheese, and some basil–is excellent at Bucci’s, says TopoTail. Another contender is Cugini, though they put fresh tomato slices on the pizza even when it’s not tomato season. The rest of the pizza is perfect, though.

wchane likes the pizza margherita at the Lafayette branch of Pizza Antica. And Robert Lauriston is partial to the version at Pizzaiolo.

All of the restaurants above have wood ovens except Bucci’s.

Bucci’s [East Bay]

6121 Hollis St., Emeryville

510-547-4725

Locater:

http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?&tuid=9952894&ck=2783306431

Cugini [East Bay]

1556 Solano Ave., Albany

510-558-9000

Locater

Pizza Antica [East Bay]

3600 Mt Diablo Blvd, at Dewing Ave., Lafayette

925-299-0500

Locater

Pizzaiolo [Temescal]

5008 Telegraph Ave., Oakland

510-652-4888

Map

Board Links

Margherita Pizza in East Bay

Tinto Fino: Spanish Wine Source for New Yorkers

Diners at Tia Pol, the popular tapas joint in Chelsea, kept asking owner Mani Dawes where they could buy the wines poured at the restaurant. And she couldn’t think of any place in New York. So in October she opened Tinto Fino, the city’s first store devoted exclusively to Spanish wine and sherry.

This tiny shop, organized by region, offers around 150 choices and counting, says RichardA. The selection is broad, including the familiar Tempranillo-based wines as well as less familiar varietals such as Bobal and Mencia. Among the sherries, Spoony Bard is partial to La Cigarrera and La Gitana, both a beautiful match for Spanish food.

In addition to the wines, hounds love the vibe and appreciate the helpful owner, who is often in the house. “She is very personable and obviously quite knowledgeable,” RichardA reports. “She possesses a true passion about Spanish wine, a trait I always seek in wine store owners.”


Tinto Fino [East Village]
85 1st Ave., between E. 5th and 6th Sts., Manhattan
212-254-0850
Locater

Tia Pol [Chelsea]
205 10th Ave., between W. 22nd and 23rd Sts., Manhattan
212-675-8805
Locater

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Tinto Fino—New York
Tia Pol First Date

Han Shin Pocha: Seoul-Style Pub and Grill in Flushing

As Korean pubs go, Han Shin Pocha is about as authentic as they come. Known as Goo Gong Tan to Koreans, this drinking and eating hangout is part of the often-overlooked Korean enclave in Flushing’s Murray Hill neighborhood, east of downtown and a few blocks off the bustling Northern Boulevard strip. E Eto recounts a terrific meal highlighted by the house specialty, charcoal-grilled shellfish. Here’s what his group enjoyed:

- Modeum jogae (assorted clam grill): This is a big heap of regular clams, razor clams, turban (sea snails), chopped seasoned scallops, chopped clams, oysters, and enoki mushrooms–all fresh and delicious–served with udon noodles in seafood broth. Eat the shellfish as soon as they expire and open up on your tableside grill, with a dash of garlicky, vinegary orange sauce if you like, and try not to lose the juices. Save the noodles for last; by the time you’ve put away the shellfish, the noodles will be soft and the tasty broth, containing bits of squid and crab, will be boiling. surly calls this dish “hard-core, down-and-dirty Korean comfort food,” difficult to find in mainstream restaurants even in Korea.

- Sauteed baby octopus and pork belly in red sauce: Spicy, hearty, and accompanied by shiso-like ggae-nyeep (sesame leaf) and slices of chile and raw garlic.

- Goon mandoo (fried dumplings): An exemplary version, filled with pork, chive, garlic, and clear noodles, and pan-fried to perfect crispness.

- Pajun (scallion pancake): Nice and crispy and uncommonly light–and brought to E Eto’s table on the house.

- Jwee-poh (dried fish or squid): Softened on the grill, cut into strips with scissors, this is a common pub bite, great with drinks, served with hot sauce or mayonnaise for dipping.

Other smart orders include gan jang soo yook (soy sauce pork belly), marinated and preboiled, then finished on the grill; al jjigae (fish roe stew); and oh-jing-uh soondae (steamed squid stuffed with sliced blood sausage). Drinks–which flow freely here–include beer, soju, and more unusual offerings like sweet Korean raspberry wine.

The vibe is much like a Japanese izakaya–worn but warm and comfortable–and non-Koreans might find the place intimidating. If possible, go with someone who speaks the language. surly says Goo Gong Tan is modeled on Korea’s po jang ma cha, little dives that operate out of basements and tents: “The menu offerings, the Korean pop music, the graffiti all over the walls, the utter lack of restraint in drinking and eating, the camaraderie, the lack of English spoken, the absence of gringos, the uncomfortable seats–this is truly what it’s like to eat and drink in Korea.”


Han Shin Pocha, a.k.a. Goo Gong Tan [Flushing]
40-03 149th Pl., near Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, Queens
718-886-1328
Locater

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Han Shin Pocha, Flushing

A Nicer Place for Rice Noodles. Also, More Hunanese!

Guilin rice noodles at Dandan are as good as what you’ll find in Guilin itself, says Chandavkl, who should know, having eaten the stuff three times a day on a tour there. Rice noodle soup with fish fillet comes topped with peanuts and is very good. Not into fish? There are 18 different ways you can get your rice noodle soup, including with spicy beef, duck feet, tripe, and snail meat.

Dandan, it turns out, is actually a new, kind of upscale sister restaurant of Eight Café, another reliable place to get your rice-noodle fix.

In the same plaza as Dandan is another new restaurant, the Hunanese-style Dong Ting Spring. Fish head casserole is good, maybe even better than Crown Cafe’s, says WBGuy. The menu lists a lot of Dong Ting dishes, as well as paper pot dishes, hot pot and Chairman Mao’s braised pork.

Dandan Gulin Rice Noodle [San Gabriel Valley]
formerly Q Noodle
140 W. Valley Blvd. #203, at Del Mar, San Gabriel
626-307-1989
Locater

Guilin Mifen [San Gabriel Valley]
a.k.a Eight Cafe or A Cafe
110 E Garvey Ave., at Garfield, Monterey Park
626-572-7688
Locater

Dong Ting Spring [San Gabriel Valley]
formerly Green Village, Green City
140 W. Valley Blvd. #206, at Del Mar, San Gabriel
626-288-5918
Map

Board Links

Dandan Guilin Rice Noodle
SGV chinese rampage–new restaurants in focus plaza
Dong Ting Spring Hunan Restaurant in San Gabriel Square

A Solid Shanghai Choice

Among the not-so-interesting picks of New York Times writer Mark Bittman, who passed through our town recently, was Chang’s Garden, a Shanghainese spot near the Arcadia Supermarket. The discovery of the century it’s not, but it’s a solid recommendation for Shanghai-style food, says Hailyn.

Preserved pork with leeks is a goodly mound of chewy salted pork belly slices and sliced leeks, stir-fried with strips of moderately hot red pepper. There’s a nice whiff of five-spice, a tang of lemongrass and a shred of licorice root, all of which add up to a delicious and satisfying dish, says Will Owen.

Sauteed eel is actually baby eel–a bunch of them…kind of like spaghetti of the sea. Tons of shredded young ginger and fresh cilantro come on the side and get mixed in. The whole thing comes in a sauce that’s deep, rich, and rather sweet. The eels are pleasantly chewy, not fishy at all.

Dry pork ribs are really good, says ipsedixit, who cautions against the steamed ones–they’re OK, but not as good as the dry ones.

Hot and sour soup isn’t a Shanghai specialty (the real thing is from Sichuan), but it’s better than most, with some actual flavor and not too goopy.

What is Shanghai style is starting a meal with cold appetizers, says Hailyn. Smoked fish, drunken chicken, braised celery, sliced beef and kao fu are all good to try.

If you’re really set on kao fu (braised wheat gluten), a Buddhist temple in Downey makes some of the best around, says ipsedixit. It’s only offered on select Sundays when there are festivities. But the good news is, it’s free.

Chang’s Garden [Pasadena-ish]
627 W. Duarte Rd., at Baldwin, Arcadia
626-445-0606
Map

Buddist Fa Kwang Temple [South LA]
12110 Pomering Rd., at Rundell, Downey
562-927-3945
Locater

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Chang’s Garden–thanks, Mr. Bittman!

Alert for Southland Southern Bakers

Southern bakers take note, at least one 99 Cent store carries Martha White self-rising cornmeal–THE standard ingredient in cornbread in Tennessee and most of the Southeast, says Will Owen. And if you want good cornbread, pretty much the only way to get it around here is to make it yourself. A 5-lb bag is…99 cents.

99 Cents Only Stores [Pasadena-ish]
140 E. Duarte Rd., at Santa Anita, Arcadia
626-294-1999
Locater

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Martha White SR Cornmeal at 99¢ Only

Homemade Irish Cream

It’s easy to replicate the popular flavor of Bailey’s Irish Cream at home for a fraction of the cost. Susan627 uses Jameson whiskey in this recipe, which she gives as gifts:

1 cup light cream
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 2/3 cups Irish whiskey
2 Tbsp. Hershey’s chocolate syrup
1 tsp. instant coffee
1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. almond extract

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed for 30 seconds. Bottle in a tightly sealed container and refrigerate. Will keep for up to 2 months. Shake before using.

blue room notes that it’s important to serve this very cold, as pouring it over ice makes it watery.

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Homemade Baileys

Russian Tea with Vodka and Hot Rum Cows for Cold Winter Nights

kittyfood learned this recipe from a Russian instructor several decades ago:

3 1/2 quarts water
1 Tbsp. whole cloves
12 tea bags
1 quart unsweetened orange juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
vodka

Place cloves in water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea bags; let stand until tea is strong, then remove tea bags. Add orange and lemon juices and sugar, and stir to dissolve sugar. Add vodka to taste, and serve hot. Better if made in advance and aged 24 hours, then reheated (add vodka just before serving).

JK Grence the Cosmic Jester says the Hot Rum Cow is “perfect for when you’re cold and wet, and all you want to do is curl up in a big thick blanket and fall asleep”: It’s an ounce of rum, a cup of milk, a couple teaspoons of sugar, and a dash or two of Angostura bitters, heated.

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Hot alcoholic beverage

Salt Caramels

A hit of good salt will round out the buttery sweetness of caramel; hence, the genius of salt caramels!

Mnosyne recommends Little Flower sea salt caramels. They have a buttery flavor that lingers on your tongue. Mildly salty, and good.

Recchiuti makes a Fleur De Sel caramel that’s covered in dark chocolate.

Fran’s Chocolates uses the grey salt from the coast of Brittany in their caramels, and they’re also chocolate dipped. Check at a Whole Foods markets for these, or order online.

French Roast recommends Trader Joe’s salt caramels; they’re making their own this year. The price is good, too!

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Best Salt Caramels…..

Buttermilk

In the “old days”, buttermilk was the liquid left over from churning the butter. Lovely stuff it was, with flecks of butter floating around in it–a tart thirst quencher when served icy cold.

Today’s buttermilk is made by adding a culture to non-fat or low-fat milk to give it a little tang and thicken the texture. It still makes a good beverage, and is especially nice for cooking. Try it for pancakes, and cornbread. Biscuits will get a nice rise from the acidity in buttermilk.

Buttermilk has quite a long shelf life in the fridge. For those of you who just guzzle it straight, you’ll want it freshly opened. But you can cook with the stuff well past the expiration date. Even though it’s “sour”, you’ll know when it’s gone bad —it’ll get watery, separate, and acquire unsavory chunks of gunk.

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How can you tell when buttermilk is bad?