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

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

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

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

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

Jahn’s [Jackson Heights]
81-04 37th Ave., between 81st and 82nd Sts., Jackson Heights, Queens

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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

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



Genghis Cohen [Fairfax Village]
740 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles

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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

Citrus Crisis in California

Four days of unusually cold temperatures have damaged or destroyed an estimated three-quarters of California’s citrus crop, as farmers battle nightly frosts that are deadly to these winter fruits. Other crops, such as avocado and strawberries, have also sustained damage, causing Governor Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency.

The cold weather began on Friday, with nightly temperatures in the high teens and low 20s. Growers attempted to pick as much as they could before the cold snap hit, but due to an industry labor shortage, much of the $960 million crop remained on the trees. Tactics such as burning smudge fires throughout the night and watering the crop to create a layer of insulating ice only go so far. Much of the crop has been lost, and the cold weather is expected to continue for another few days.

According to an Associated Press article, “The latest freeze will likely surpass the damage done by a three-day cold snap in December 1998 that destroyed 85 percent of California’s citrus crop, a loss valued at $700 million.” A. G. Kawamura, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said, “This is one of those freezes that, unfortunately, we’ll all remember.” After a similar freeze in 1990, it was two years before the citrus industry recovered.

Ironically, this week is National Fresh Squeezed Juice Week (January 15–19). Better get that OJ in while we can.

Boss, Can You Julienne Those Carrots?

Forget about ropes courses and trust falls—these days, companies are sending employees into the kitchen to chop and sauté their way to team unity.

“Cooking is the new wave in corporate team-building exercises,” claims an article in The New York Times titled “Wielding Kitchen Knives and Honing Office Skills” (registration required). The success of Food Network shows such as Iron Chef have brought new focus on cooking as a team or competitive activity.

According to the article, “Cooking schools across the country are expanding to meet demand. Last year, Hands On Gourmet, a company in San Francisco, tripled the number of chefs it has on call, to 32. Cooking by the Book, a company based in New York, did 178 team-building events, a 24 percent increase over 2005.”

As the article explains, participants “might spend a leisurely hour assembling a meal together or split up and go cleaver to cleaver in a race against the clock.” Just better hope your boss is a graceful loser when your amuse-bouche beats his.

Bibby Gignilliat, the owner of Parties That Cook ... said the change of scenery makes people see their colleagues in a different light. ‘It breaks down your stereotype of people in the office,’ Ms. Gignilliat said. ‘You might not especially like someone you work with, but suddenly you’re working on a recipe with them and you see they’re a really good cook.”

In the words of another organizer of these team-building cooking challenges, “Food is a universal language and nothing brings people together better than creating a meal.”