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

Fage Yogurt

Fage “Total” yogurt is a Greek strained yogurt, thick and tangy. The full fat version is creamy thick, and can stand in for sour cream. It’s perfect when you require decadence, and for the special sauce, tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber, olive oil, dill, garlic and spices).

It’s available, too, as light, 2% and 0%. Zero percent, with no fat, is lower in calories but higher in protein than the others. Liu recommends starting at 0% and working your way up, to decide which reduced-fat version tastes best to you. All of the reduced-fat versions have enthusiasts.

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Fage 2% vs. Fage Light

Truffle Seasons

White truffles are on the market from early fall through December. They can be extravagantly expensive, especially when fresh. They have a delicate, intoxicating fragrance. Don’t cook with them, for heaven’s sake! Just use the shavings raw or add them to a dish at the last minute.

Black truffles are also known as winter truffles, and are available fresh now, into the very early Spring. They’re more strongly flavored than the white variety, and work well in risottos and omelets. If you peel the dark bumpy outer layer away, save those expensive parings to flavor sauces or soupy dishes.

Use truffles soon after purchase, and if you can’t, store them in a container containing uncooked rice, cover tightly and refrigerate. The rice will absorb the flavor and taste wonderful. Use the truffles within three days.

Urbani truffles is a recommended source:

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Truffles black/white -

Doggies Dine Dallas

The Dallas City Council voted Wednesday to allow dogs on outdoor restaurant patios, joining several cities and states—including Florida; Austin, Texas; and Alexandria, Virginia—with similar ordinances.

The law states that restaurants can let pooches dine al fresco with their parents as long as the eatery provides a separate entrance for the outdoor patio, installs curtains to shield diners inside from glimpses of the four-legged guests, and keeps dogs from clambering on furniture or touching servers.

But some councilmembers said those rules were unenforceable and that the law was akin to creating dog parks all over the city. In the measured words of one:

We don’t have the staff to check this. We don’t know if the restaurants are going to clean up every 30 minutes. I don’t want to go to a restaurant and see a dog going to the bathroom there.

But that’s exactly what’s been happening at the first official “doggie dining” joint in St. Petersburg, Florida, which became overrun with canines after publicizing its new policy. The same day that Dallas announced its ordinance, the St. Petersburg Times reported that the Moon Under Water restaurant had received complaints from customers and the city that “tables weren’t properly sanitized and dogs weren’t confined to their leashes,” among other things. Rather than put additional staff on poop detail, the owner decided to disallow dogs.

As a restaurant-goer, how do you feel about doggie dining—should dogs be allowed inside eateries (as they apparently are in Europe), relegated to the patio, or banned altogether? Had any bad experiences, or is it comforting and fun to see dogs in the dining room?

Have You Seen This Farmer?

Say what you will about the pleasures of the farm (fresh air! lovable singing pigs!), all that wide-open countryside can get mighty lonely. That’s why a group of Welsh farmers are seeking their mates by posting personal ads on milk cartons, reports the Associated Press.

The ads—each of which features an oval photograph of a farmer under the heading “Fancy a Farmer?”—provide an address for a dating website where the lovelorn bovine wranglers can be contacted.

“Got milk? Got a date?” mocks the Associated Press’s London bureau. Oh, it’s just so easy to be ironic when you’ve got a city full of pubs stuffed with drunken women of uncertain virtue, isn’t it? These farmers are frickin’ lonely, as the article goes on to point out:

The ads are also a way of highlighting the low points of a dairy farmer’s hard-scrabble existence in Welsh communities like Carmarthenshire, where the cooperative is based 220 miles from London.

Farmers say they often feel isolated among the verdant rolling hills dotted with medieval castles.

‘It’s a beautiful environment, but in terms of actually trying to meet somebody it’s not particularly easy—especially when you have to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning to milk cows,’ said the cooperative’s director Richard Kerr, who is happily married and not pictured in the ads.

Oh great! Sucker us in with a funny headline and then get us all depressed, why don’t you? It’s enough to put you off your milk.

The Jet Set

Whether I’m driving 30 miles to a nearby small town for amazing Mexican fare or flying over an ocean to get the world’s best cheese, bread, and chocolate, food is both the best reason and the best fringe benefit of travel.

I was musing on this as I clicked over to a Forbes magazine article tantalizingly titled “Top Ten Gourmet Getaways.” I envisioned a richly photographed story that chronicled the markets and restaurants of the world. How would they choose just ten?

Instead, the article rhapsodizes on hotels and resorts around the world that offer lots of cooking classes or meet-and-greet tasting opportunities with their star chef. The photos are mostly PR shots of people standing around a cooking class. Hardly food porn.

These high-end properties have seen the foodie writing on the wall and installed “culinary arts centers” complete with Viking ranges and high-end cookware, all the better to lure today’s affluent vacationer, who, like the army, apparently travels on his stomach.

It also describes “the first-ever private jet culinary tour,” in which guests will eat their way through Thailand, Burma, India, Bhutan, and China with Gael Green and Simon Winchester for two weeks. “The cost: A mere $49,950 per person.”

All this is well and good, but I feel more kindred spirit with people who make their own culinary travel adventures.

Life Ain’t Nothing but Cupcakes and Tofu

Is it just the lack of Angelina Jolie this time around at the World Economic Forum at Davos (requires registration), or does the average Gray Lady reader really have a thing for vegan cupcakes made by sassy punk rockers?

Whatever the reason, the recent food section article “Strict Vegan Ethics, Frosted with Hedonism” has risen—and stuck—to the coveted top slot of the New York Times’ most-emailed list.

No matter what you feel about vegan eating (or the taste value of cake filling made from confectioner’s sugar and margarine), Julia Moskin’s article about punk bakers Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero is a fun and lively read. And we’d rather knock back a glass of soy milk and vinegar (“the hideous curdled face of vegan baking,” according to Moskowitz) than swallow another of the Times’s typical rich-bitch lifestyle pieces. Like, for instance, “Ordeal by Appliance” (requires registration), in which there is whining galore about how difficult it is to find a decent serviceperson to fix the Viking range and Miele dishwasher in one’s six-bedroom vacation house.

The exposure should definitely boost the fan base for Moskowitz and Romero, coauthors of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and stars of the cable-access vegan-cooking show The Post Punk Kitchen, which is known for its distinctly urban, un-hippie attitude and bouncy theme song.

As an outspoken Brooklyn native, Moskowitz is no stranger to the blogosphere; check out this snappy interview done on Cupcakes Take the Cake, way back in ‘05. Cupcake lovers, rock on!

French-Fried Nirvana

French-Fried Nirvana

CHOW reviews two great pieces of deep-frying equipment for the home chef. READ MORE

Road-Food Rocker

Road-Food Rocker

Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos discusses _Sound Bites,_ his collection of essays about eating on tour. READ MORE

This Is How We Eat in the O.C., Bitch!

With the sad but fairly predictable demise of the once critically acclaimed television show The O.C. at the end of February, one erstwhile producer plans to use his newfound free time to stick his finger in the restaurant business—by buying up a joint heavily featured on his now-canceled show.

This week it was announced that executive producer McG is taking over ownership of The Arches.

Name-dropping Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, and John Wayne, the current restaurant’s website declares, “The Arches became known as the place where famous people would go who wanted to find privacy.” In the last four years, it has also become known to O.C.-philes as the elegant establishment where the rich and fictional O.C. denizens staged their many fights, make-up dinners, make-out lunches, and drink-in-the-face incidents.

McG will not have possession of the famous name, however. The current owner, Dan Marcheano, explains that while McG (who does this guy think he is, Prince?) is taking over the physical location of the Arches, the executive producer will not own the famous name. Marcheano will be keeping that and moving his business to a new location.

Marcheano said he has for years planned to expand the restaurant’s menu and move it—and that’s coming to fruition.

‘We have got a couple very nice locations we’re involved in right now…. We own the Arches and the corporation, and they’ll be moving with us,’ Marcheano said. ‘What I don’t know is what he is going to call the place, other than I know he is not going to be calling it the Arches.’

Whatever McG names his new establishment, I sure hope he puts “fresh margs” on the cocktail menu.

Burmese at Mandalay Restaurant

Mandalay Restaurant is a Burmese restaurant a few blocks from Burma Super Star, but without a line to get in. schnigglebob finds the food at Mandaly Restaurant to be better–especially the flavorful tea leaf salad, made without lemon or tomatoes. Rainbow chicken, with flavors of mango and pineapple, is also recommended.

Melanie Wong likes the spark and funk of the rainbow salad, which is a wild mix of more than ten different things, including deep-fried shallots and golden-brown garlic chips. Her favorite is the coconut chicken noodle soup (ono kaukswe), with bite-sized pieces of smooth and succulent boneless dark meat chicken and soft egg noodles floating in a mild, curry-flavored coconut milk broth.

daveena highly recommends the nan gvi dok (Burmese rice noodle soup with spiced coconut chicken, split yellow pea powder, and fried onion). It’s a must-eat–the coconut flavor goes all the way through the perfectly chewy, tender noodles. And all hounds like the balada, a flaky, tender Burmese flatbread akin to paratha.


Mandalay Restaurant [Richmond]
4348 California St. (at 6th), San Francisco
415-386-3895
Locater

Burma Super Star Restaurant [Richmond]
309 Clement St, between 4th and 5th, San Francisco
415-387-2147
Locater

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Mandalay Restaurant on California Street, Surprisingly good!
The Road Back to Mandalay