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

Royale: Backyard-Style Burgers in an East Village Bar

New York City’s latest hamburger contender is the East Village watering hole Royale. Hounds rank the well-reviewed newcomer up there with Corner Bistro and a step above neighborhood hangout Paul’s. “The burger lives up to the hype,” promises mas. It’s a loosely packed Black Angus patty, flame-broiled to order with a pleasing char, served with nicely melted American cheese on a toasted brioche bun from Tom Cat Bakery.

“They reminded me of burgers you would have in a backyard straight off a grill,” says wingman, “very juicy with a great bun.” duaoj1 approves of their manageable heft and height, which allow beef, bun and add-ons to fit comfortably in each bite.

Wedge fries are simple and good, though some find them under-seasoned. There’s a bacon option, but it’s skippable. And some detractors complain of overcooked and underwhelming meat. “Drinking helps the burgers at Royale,” sniffs sarapeater.

Royale [East Village]
157 Ave. C, near E. 10th St., Manhattan
212-254-6600
Locater

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Royale
Royale
ROYALE–‘out of burgers’ at 8pm

At Brooklyn’s Flatbush Farm, a Hearty Fall Harvest

Flatbush Farm deals in simple comforts, hearty seasonal fare that’s well suited to cold weather. At this congenial hangout that replaced Bistro St. Marks, hounds recommend pork goulash, spaetzle with mushroom ragout, spiced tuna belly with beans, and braised lamb shoulder with bubble and squeak, among other things.

Beers and wines are well chosen, and cocktails are worth a look. Two winners: the pear martini (vodka, limoncello, pear cider) and Grandpa Frank’s Slammer (brandy, vermouth, bitters). Beyond food and drink, expect an inviting vibe, welcoming service, and quirky, seductive decor that forktomouth sums up as “Euro-farm-estate-Gothacary.”

Detractors complain that prices are too high and the chow crosses the line from hearty to heavy. A weekend brunch choice, Toad in a Hole (egg and cheddar over bread), is made with overly thick brioche, says foodpyramid: “I felt like I’d ingested a brick by the time the meal was over.”

Flatbush Farm [Park Slope]
formerly Bistro St. Marks
76 St. Marks Ave., at Flatbush, Brooklyn
718-622-3276
Locater

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Flatbush Farm–good tuna belly and lamb
Flatbush Farm–Not so good

French Bistro and Bakery Classics Without the ‘Tude

Taste of France stays true to the spirit of the humble neighborhood French eatery, with a menu that’s mostly simple sandwiches plus quiche, crepes, and a few soups. The daily special rotates between rotisserie chicken, tomato-wine chicken, and mustard chicken–classic bistro dishes.

The rotisserie chicken special includes half a small chicken, a mound of parsley mashed potatoes wrapped in a crepe, and a mixed greens and apple salad with nice soft bread. The chicken is perfectly seasoned, crusted with herbs, and incredibly tender and juicy. Split pea soup with ham is warm and unctuous, and in French onion soup, the caramelized onions really shine through. The quiches, with a tender and flaky crust and flavorful, firm custard, are very good–there’s a quiche with thin slices of potato and large pieces of buttery leek, and another with big chunks of ham, thinly sliced potato, and melted cheese.

The family that owns Taste of France also owns a nearby bakery where they source their sandwich bread, baked goods, and desserts.


Taste of France [OC Beaches]
7304 Center Dr., at Gothard, Huntington Beach 92647
714-895-5305
Map

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Neighborhood bistro

Perfect for Winter Chill: Japanese Hot Pot

You can get oden, Japan’s contribution to the hot pot canon, every day at Kushiyaki Dan – it’s hard to find in L.A.–says charliep. As you can tell from the name, their main specialty is grilled things on skewers; there are a few Japanese-Korean dishes too, like natto (fermented soybean) with kimchi.


Kushiyaki Dan [Midtown]
4001 W. Olympic Blvd., Norton, Los Angeles
323-634-9992
Map

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Oden every day

Cooking Under Pressure

Pressure cookers are great for making short work of stews, but they’re good for so much more; cheryl_h uses hers to cook beans in record time, and howie makes soups, roasts, brisket, osso buco, steel cut oatmeal, and dulce de leche in his.

Miss Vickie’s Pressure Cooker Recipes is a site chock-full of information and tips on using pressure cookers, plus lots of recipes.

jdm says Alton Brown’s pressure cooker chili is great.

You can even make risotto in a pressure cooker! You don’t have as much control over the texture of the rice, but the results are only slightly different from risotto made the traditional way, says kittyfood, who offers a mushroom risotto recipe she says you can adapt with anything ingredients you’d like:

3/4 to 1 cup dried mushrooms
chicken stock
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
salt and fresh-ground pepper
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley

Cover dried mushrooms with boiling water and let soak for 15 minutes. Drain, straining liquid into measuring cup. Chop mushrooms. Bring chicken stock to boil in saucepan. Heat butter and oil in pressure cooker. Add onion, 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat grains, about 1 minute. Add enough stock to mushroom liquid to equal 2 1/4 cups; add to rice along with wine and chopped mushrooms. Fasten pressure cooker lid and bring to full pressure. Cook for 5 minutes. Release steam and remove lid, and stir until risotto is desired consistency. Add parmesan. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

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What else can I cook in a pressure cooker?

Carrot Halwa – a South Indian Mom’s Recipe

sweetTooth explains that gajar ka halva, the Indian pudding called carrot halwa in English, can differ drastically depending on where in India you are. The milky version she grew up with is the kind that’s made in Maharashtra or Madhya Pradesh, whereas northern Indian versions may not incorporate milk at all. Here’s her mother’s recipe:

Scrub a couple of pounds of fresh sweet carrots thoroughly to remove dirt, then grate coarsely. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter or ghee in a wide, preferably non-stick, pan. Add the grated carrots and saute them on medium heat until they soften and wilt a little, about 5 minutes. Then add enough whole milk to completely cover the carrots, and half and half to equal 1/4 the amount of milk used. Cook, stirring the mixture often, until it reduces to a consistency slightly thinner than ricotta. Next, add sugar to taste: start with 3/4 cup, and then adjust in 1/4 cup increments until it’s as sweet as you like. After you add sugar, the consistency will get thinner. Continue cooking until it thickens and the consistency is back to what it was before you added sugar. A few minutes before the halva is done, add the seeds from 8 whole green cardamom pods, coarsely ground in a mortar or pulsed in a spice grinder with 2 tsp. sugar, and (optionally) a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.

Slivered pistashios or blanched almonds make a great garnish. Serve warm with hot puris, chilled on its own, or piping hot with a scoop of vanilla or cardamom ice cream.

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Gajar Ka Halva (Carrot Pudding) recipes?

What’s Super-Long Spaghetti For?

The answer to this puzzle is mostly that there is no answer to this puzzle. Two-foot long spaghetti is how it used to be made; in fact, most old Italian grandma types would break the spaghetti in half before boiling it. So, basically, you end up with stuff exactly the same length as your normal spaghetti. The presence of super-long spaghetti on the current market is mostly a marketing gimmick, playing on the traditional appearance of the long stuff.

But our Chowhounds have thought of some unique uses for it:

1. You can use it for Chinese food. A long noodle traditionally represents long life. There’s a shop in Shanghai that makes a birthday noodle that’s as many meters long as noodle’s recipient is old. The longest they’ve ever made is a seventy meter noodle!

2. You can just cook it super long, for extra-fork-twirling action. You can get it into a normal stock-put–just put half of the noodle in, wait for it to soften, and push gently down to get the rest of the noodle in. Reports BellaDonna, unbroken super-long spaghetti is a little harder to eat, and the sauce sticks to it a little better.

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Why Super Long Pasta?

A Guide to Juicing Citruses, and a Hot Lead on Honey Bells

When you buy oranges labelled “juicing oranges”, they’re typically Valencias, explains Brandon Nelson, but during the winter months, sometimes they’re Texas Hamlins. Most people can’t tell the difference between the two varieties, he says, but to his palate, the Hamlins are a little sweeter, lighter, and smoother. His personal favorite juice is a fifty-fifty mix of Hamlins and tangerines.

Many like juicing blood oranges for cocktails. They’ve got a great color, and a stronger tang than other oranges, says Pei, so they’ll stand up to your expensive liquor. Tangerines also work well in cocktails.

Veggo says that the most delicious, sweetest, juiciest citrus product he can buy in Florida is the honey bell. It’s a grafted cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine, but it really just looks like a big orange. It’s incredibly sweet and it yields ridiculous amounts of juice. It has a super-short season (basically, December and January), and the squeezed juice has a very short shelf life, so it’s little known outside of Florida. But you can call Veggo’s local grower–Citrus Ranch in Palmetto, Florida, at 941-723-0504, and have some shipped. “Make a batch of screwdrivers with fresh-squeezed honey bells and the women will never leave your side and the men will repay all the money they ever owed you.”

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Juice Oranges

You Say Potato, I Say GMO

Now they’re just trying to tick us off.

As we read in Ruth L. Ozeki’s book All Over Creation (which does for potatoes what Ozeki’s first novel, My Year of Meats, did for the beef industry), conventionally grown potatoes are some of the most toxically grown items in the whole food chain. Especially when they’re grown on a scale that matches our fast-food nation’s response to “Want fries with that?”

Over the weekend, the Contra Costa County Times reported that “biologists have used gene technology to design a spud that’s tastier and resistant to unsightly bruises and sprouts.” Hmmm. Poisonous and genetically modified? Cool.

On the positive side, the modified potatoes that Idaho’s J. R. Simplot Co. (one of the world’s largest potato growers, with the perfect name for a company that wants to produce frankenfoods) is developing will delete the potentially cancer-causing acrylamides that surface in regular potatoes during frying.

Still, there’s no need to panic. Like the cloned meat that may be on the horizon, the “Russet Rangers” are at least five years away from the store shelves (and the McDonald’s fryer).

What’s interesting is that one of the ways Simplot is promoting these “gene-silenced” potatoes is that they will taste better than ordinary Russet Burbanks. Which most likely used to be flavorful before they had all the taste bred out of them in order to produce the kind of high-yield uniform crop that is needed to fuel the deep-frying industrial complex. Instead of monkeying around with gene splicing, maybe the Simplot Co. could just try to grow some more flavorful varieties—like some of these.

“Top Chef”: Coming Back for Thirds

Even before the current season has stopped simmering, Bravo’s reality show Top Chef has been renewed for a third season. Citing Nielsen Media Research, Variety says that Top Chef “ranks as the No. 1–rated food series in the cable universe, averaging 1.22 million viewers in the 18–49 demo.” Access Hollywood notes that those numbers show the series to be up 56 percent from the first season.

While there’s no news yet on where the third season will take place—Los Angeles, San Francisco, or a brand-new city—casting calls are being held this month in Dallas, Miami, Las Vegas, New York, and San Francisco.

If you think you have what it takes to throw some food on a plate while either insulting the sexual practices of or spewing violent threats at your fellow cheftestants, check out the casting information at Bravo.com.