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

“Top Chef” Mikey’s Wisdom

“Top Chef” Mikey’s Wisdom

Wisdom tooth, that is. Plus: Colicchio shows no respect. READ MORE

You’ll Never Look at Kitty Litter the Same Way Again

I admit it, I’m a cat person and proud of it. I adore the little furballs and heap extensive amounts of love and attention on my two. But do I love them enough to dig around in their box for my daily caffeine high? Not very likely.

Admittedly, Malaysian and Indonesian civet “cats” are not your average run-of-the-mill house cats that curl up on your hearth and tangle underfoot whenever they hear a can opener. These jungle mammals are only “cat-sized” and have an express preference for snacking on exotic fruits like chiku, mango, and rambutan.

They are also the source for a … unique kind of coffee known as kopi luwak. According to Animal Coffee,

Kopi luwak is a unique gourmet coffee that is ‘processed’ in the stomach of a wild animal, after which it is hand collected from the floor of the Sumatran jungle.

Sounds rather nice when they put it like that, doesn’t it? “Collected on the floor of the Sumatran jungle” makes it seem downright delectable and exotic. However, I prefer Boing Boing’s more forthright description: “coffee beans excreted out of a rare Indonesian mammal’s ass.”

Boing Boing points the way to a promotional piece on Sally’s Place that explains the whole process in what is probably supposed to be drool-worthy detail, and also includes a quote from M. P. Mountanos, the first coffee importer to bring the beans to the U.S., who gushes, “It’s the most complex coffee I’ve ever tasted.” The same Mountanos also announced that Starbucks bought the savory beans “for cuppings within the company.”

There are so many things about this brew that disturb me. Aside from the expected retchings when imagining a big steaming cup of well, that, one is that the picture included with the aforementioned Sally’s Place piece ensures I’ll never look at a PayDay the same way again. The other is a quoted comment from a Boing Boing reader who suggests animal cruelty could be involved in the “processing” of the coffee beans.

BB reader Pauric O’Callaghan says, by purchasing catbuttcoffee you may be supporting animal cruelty. As foie gras is to geese, so is Kopi Luwak to civets:

‘Due to the high prices, some of the supply now comes from force-fed animals. The images shown of the solid poops consisting of nothing but coffee beans are an example of this. Traditionally natives fished through the monkey poop for individual beans. The monkey poop does fall to the ground in single solid bean rich movements.’

Well, that’s enough to put me right off the idea—you won’t find me starting my morning right with a mug of cat butt coffee.

To See a World in a Grain of Dry Ice

To See a World in a Grain of Dry Ice

Does Chef Heston Blumenthal really find perfection? READ MORE

A Slice of “Perfection”

A Slice of “Perfection”

An excerpt from Chef Heston Blumenthal's "In Search of Perfection." READ MORE

Ramen Champ Santouka Kills ‘Em on the Westside

The new location of Santouka in the West L.A. Mitsuwa is even better than the original location of late, says rameniac–they’re really on top of their game.

Shio ramen is the one to get: rich and flavorful, noodles nice and chewy, with seasoned bamboo and rich, lovely pork. For a little extra, you can get the “special pork”–it’s worth it, says sel. You might also want to order “oomori,” or large bowl, says rameniac–Santouka’s portions are, well, typically Japanese.

The menu is limited for now, with just the shio, soy, miso and spicy miso ramens, and no side dishes. One interesting variation on ramen, though, is tokusen torinaku ramen, where the noodle soup comes with a bunch of toppings, including super-fatty chashu (roast pork), for you to dip in the sauce.

And if you’ve acquired the taste for natto, the traditional and highly divisive dish of fermented soybeans, they’ve got it, says omotosando. A bowl of rice topped with natto and negi is $1.99; you can also get natto and rice with your ramen set.

Regular ramen is $6.49; tokusen torinaku ramen is $9.49.


Santouka Ramen [Beaches]
at Mitsuwa Marketplace
3760 S. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles
310-398-2113
Map

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Santouka for newbies
Santouka quickie
Natto at Santouka and elsewhere
what to get at Santouka

Amazing Roast Pig at Wing Hing Restaurant

Melanie Wong is smitten with the “boon fei so” roast pig at Wing Hing Restaurant. It’s the most beautiful roast pig available from the many delis along San Bruno Avenue in Portola’s developing mini-Chinatown. The boon fei so has fine-grained, bubbly, crisped skin and succulent meat well-striated with fat. It’s the platonic ideal of this type of roast pork, and it tastes as good as it looks.


Wing Hing Restaurant [Portola]
2550 San Bruno Ave., San Francisco
415-468-5309
Locater

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‘Boon Fei So’ Roast Pig @ Wing Hing)

Grease Is Good

Pupuseria San Salvador has some of the tastiest pupusas rworange has ever had–especially the loroco-stuffed variety, which is full of characteristic green tea flavor that even the delicious curtido can’t mask.

About those pupusas, though. “There is no way to be euphemistic about this,” says rworange. “These are some of the most flavorful pupusas I’ve had, but they are also the greasiest.” In this case, grease is good–it works with the cheese and the strong flavors, and is not remotely unpleasant, but rather adds to the yumminess. The same principle applies to the fried tacos–as you might expect. And if you happen to notice a batch of chicharrones being fished out of the hot lard while you are there, definitely give in to the grease and get some.


Pupuseria San Salvador [West Oakland]
1498 7th St., Oakland
510-763-1467
Locater

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West Oakland (near BART)–Pupuseria San Salvador–loroco pupusas & taco frito

Cafe Collage: Coffee Artistry on Bleecker Street

Java hounds are buzzing about Cafe Collage in the Village. It’s mellow in mood but exacting about its coffee, which comes from the specialty roaster Intelligentsia in Chicago. Open since October, Collage pulls espresso drinks with care and offers an unusual French press option, reports stevebookman. Choose your beans, which are ground to order, and you’ll be given a press and a timer (depress the plunger after four minutes).

There’s ample seating, free wi-fi, and croissants, scones, and other baked bites from Balthazar and Brooklyn’s Baked.

Cafe Collage [Greenwich Village]
189 Bleecker St., at MacDougal, Manhattan
212-505-2205
Map

Board Links

Village: cozy coffee & bakery places?

East Ocean Palace: Cantonese Find in Forest Hills

East Ocean Palace is just what many Forest Hills chowhounds have been waiting for: a reasonably authentic Cantonese seafood house. “We’re thrilled to have some real Chinese out here,” says Polecat. “I wouldn’t say it is on par with the very best in Chinatown, but it can certainly hold its own.”

Recommended: braised fish with bean curd, rice noodles, salt-baked fish, chicken casserole. Shrimp is exceptionally fresh and well prepared, in dumplings, black bean sauce, or the crowd-pleasing Hong Kong specialty with walnuts and mayonnaise. Lunch specials are a deal: entree, soup, and rice (white or fried) for $5 or $6.

Focus on Cantonese chow, especially seafood, and eat in the restaurant. Takeout orders and dishes from other regions (hot and sour soup, eggplant with spicy garlic sauce) have been disappointing.

East Ocean Palace [Forest Hills]
formerly Golden Pond
113-09 Queens Blvd., between 76th Ave. and 76th Rd., Forest Hills, Queens
718-268-1668
Map

Board Links

new chinese restaurant on queens blvd near kew gardens courts
Jade Eatery and Lounge–Forest Hills
East Ocean Palace Forest Hills

Harlem’s Best Rugelach

“Rugelach by a Brother,” it says on the window at Lee Lee’s. And sure enough, alongside bread pudding and red velvet cake, this Harlem bakery makes better-than-decent rugelach. They boast satisfying weight, buttery yet crisp dough, a sweet (but not too sweet) interior, and a dusting of cinnamon and sugar, reports rose water. Just one flavor: the classic cinnamon and nut. ScottStuff suggests calling ahead to see when the next batch will be ready and showing up right then.

“The man who runs the show is slow-moving, eager to chat, and lovely,” rose water adds. Beyond baked goods, a sign on the door advertises grits, eggs, and biscuits for $3. No reports yet.

Lee Lee’s Baked Goods [Harlem]
283 W. 118th St., between Frederick Douglass Blvd. (8th Ave.) and St. Nicholas
Ave., Manhattan
917-493-6633
Locater

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Harlem Rugelach
Rugelach
ISO Rugelach