The CHOW Blog rss

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

Argentinean Hot Pockets

There’s a new place with killer empanadas, says TasteLA. The husband is Argentinean, wife is Mexican and the deals are hot. Pizza, chicken, and empanadas for a crowd run about $20-30. There are umpteen kinds of empanadas, too.

Spinach and chicken empanadas from Carniceria Argentino are pretty damn tasty, says carter.

Rincon Chileno, a Chilean place, has great empanadas, says oro3030.

On the Westside, Empanadas Place has something for everyone, with about a dozen varieties. Their empanadas are deep-fried; for something a bit lighter, Grand Casino has smaller baked empanadas in four flavors.

Spain, in Silverlake, is actually Argentinean-owned and has good empanadas. So does Porto’s.


Che’s Pizza and Empanadas [East L.A.-ish]

Cesar Chavez at Eastern (southwest corner), Los Angeles
Map

Carniceria Argentino [Central San Fernando Valley]
11740 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood
818-762-9977
Map

Rincon Chileno [East Hollywood]
4354 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles
323-666-6075
Locater

Empanadas Place [West L.A.]
3811 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles
310-391-0888
Locater

Empanadas Place[West Hollywood]
1040 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood
310-358-0588
Locater

Grand Casino French Bakery [Culver City-ish]
3826 Main St., Culver City
310-202-6969
Locater

Spain Restaurant [Silverlake]
1866 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles
323-667-9045
Locater

Porto’s Bakery [East San Fernando Valley]
315 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale
818-956-5996
Locater

Porto’s Bakery [East San Fernando Valley]
3614 W. Magnolia, Burbank
818-846-9100
Map

Board Links

Where can I find great empanadas?

Hounds’ Showdown Over Favorite Soup Dumplings

J&J keeps a pretty low profile, but it’s been getting a ton of good PR on the boards lately. The ambience may be nothing to shout about, but when it comes to xiaolongbao (a.k.a. soup dumplings), it’s a favorite of hounds in the know.

AquaW loves it for xlb and more. Pork and crab dumplings are spiked with carrot, ginger and other veggies–a one-way trip to yum. They’re also bigger and slightly cheaper than Din Tai Fung’s (although J&J gives 8 xlb per order, and DTF gives 10). Pork xlb are tops, and veggie dumplings and potstickers (order early, they’re made to order) are also worthwhile. Scallion pancakes, golden and flaky, are fried to perfection. Nian gao, glutinous rice cake, is a tasty stir-fry, stir-fried chow mein-style, with some greens, onion and slivers of meat.

ipsedixit really likes the egg drop corn chowder–the cornstarch to egg ratio is just right. Chicken soup is also good, adds sidwich–clear and flavorful, but not salty.

Other recommended dishes: smoked fish, sauteed eels, fried pork chop on veggie rice, Shanghai noodle dishes, hot and soup soup, and winter melon soup.

Decor is…well, there is no decor. Tea comes in a generic metal pot with Styrofoam cups for your drinking pleasure. The rating is a B. But J&J has been serving up homestyle Shanghainese fare for well over a decade, and with good reason.

In the same minimall is another xlb favorite, Mei Long Village. Like J&J, Mei Long’s dumplings have wrappers that are a bit more rustic than Din Tai Fung’s–thicker and more flavorful.

Jerome’s favorite xlb spot is the underappreciated (or at least undermentioned) Giang Nan. Dumpling choices are limited to pork and crab-pork, but those are the two flavors recommended at most places anyhow. yclops is also a fan, offering a backhanded rec for the oily, molten-lava spring rolls.

ipsedixit puts Ho Ho Kitchen at #2.

Dragon Mark, in the same plaza as Mei Long Village and J&J, is considered a pretty good spot for xlb, but on the greasy side.

And then there’s Din Tai Fung. Those who love it cite the thin, delicate xlb wrappers and side dishes like the mysteriously named “appetizer.” Those who hate it consider the xlb devoid of soul. As ipsedixit says: “I don’t like my xlb to look and taste like they fell off a conveyor belt.”


J&J Restaurant (a.k.a. Jin Jiang) [San Gabriel Valley]
301 West Valley Blvd. #109, San Gabriel
626-308-9238
Locater

Mei Long Village [San Gabriel Valley]
301 West Valley Blvd. #112, San Gabriel
626-308-9238
Locater

Giang Nan / De Yue Lou
306 N. Garfield Ave. # 12, Monterey Park
626-573-3421
Map

Ho Ho Kitchen [East LA-ish]
10053 Valley Blvd., El Monte
626-442-6689
Locater

Dragon Mark [San Gabriel Valley]
301 W. Valley Blvd. #110, San Gabriel
626-282-5953
Locater

Din Tai Fung [Pasadena-ish]
1108 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia

626-574-7068
Locater

Board Links

A J&J comfort food feast.
Bring on your top 3 xlb spots

Little Potato Bites

These little baked potato bites make a great appetizer (or baked in standard-size muffin cups, a good side dish), especially with a dollop of sour cream, says Candy:

2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 small onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/4 lbs. baking potatoes
paprika

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease 36 mini-muffin cups. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, flour, salt, baking powder, black pepper, and nutmeg. Grate the onion on the large holes of a grater and whisk it and the garlic into the egg mixture. Peel and quarter the potatoes and chop finely in a food processor, using the steel blade. Add the potatoes to the batter and stir well to combine. Spoon a rounded tablespoon of the potato mixture into each prepared mini-muffin cup. Sprinkle with paprika and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Board Links

I want to share a recipe

Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons, commonly used in Moroccan cooking, are simple to make at home and keep for a long time. Several recommend this Paula Wolfort recipe. Be sure to use clean utensils–not your hands–to pack and remove your preserved lemons from their jars, to avoid the growth of mold.

Board Links

want to hear from anyone who’s ever made Moroccan preserved lemons
Preserved lemons?

Bagel Love

Try a Montreal bagel, and you’ll never go back! Or a Toronto bagel, or one from New York. Bagel love needn’t be monogamous!

Montreal bagels are small, a little sweet, doughy, and at the same time, chewy. carswell proclaims them to be the “pinnacle of bageldom”. Though there is a concern that they’re getting bigger, and the hole is smaller. Just can’t thread them on your finger!

Toronto bagels have their adoring fans. They have a perfect crunchy crust, and are soft and moist inside, says spades. They won’t stick to your teeth, either.

New York-style bagels are more salty than sweet, and soft on the outside. They can be difficult to eat, because they’re so chewy.

Board Links

Just Curious: Do any non-Montrealers love Montreal bagels?

Soda Made with Sugar

Soft drinks made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup definitely taste better. The trick is to find them!

Wild Oats store brand, Natural Soda, has no corn syrup, caffeine, or artificial flavors.

Coke imported from Mexico is made with real sugar; check in Mexican grocers. Read the label; more Mexican Coke is using corn syrup now.

Try Boylan’s Cane Cola; their black cherry flavor is also sweetened with sugar.

IBC sodas are made with sugar. Look for rootbeer, cream, black cherry, and cherry cola.

During Passover, you’ll find Coke made with sugar in the Kosher section of supermarkets. It sells out fast!

Dublin Dr. Pepper is still made with the original recipe containing sugar.

Blenheim Ginger Ale, in three heat levels, is made with cane sugar. Even the mildest has quite a kick.

Board Links

Any good sodas out there with no corn syrup??

The Epidemic Spreads to the Continent

NPR is reporting that, contrary to the thinking of Mireille Guiliano, French women do get fat. As do French men and French children. In fact, the rate of obesity in France has doubled.

The reason? Oh, just everything that plagues us here: TV watching, driving to school and work instead of walking, soda. As the story notes, the French have long used cigarettes and drink as potent stress relievers, but increasingly they are turning from deadly smokes to junk food to relieve stress.

The business opportunity? Most French designers and clothing boutiques cater to women only up to size 14. As the NPR story notes, 45 percent of French women are now size 16 and above.

All About the Benjamins, Er, Béchamels

This week’s New York Times Dining section features two loosely related stories on how chefs make their money and develop their empires in this age of culinary celebrities. The first piece, by longtime food writer Michael Ruhlman, is thought-provoking if disorganized; the second, by Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni, is maddening in a very classically Brunian way.

Ruhlman explores the different experiences of minor-celebrity chefs, like public TV’s Ming Tsai and Michelle Bernstein of the Miami restaurant Michy’s, and the Batalis and Flays of the world. “I’m not even upper middle class,” says Bernstein, who does so many food-related side jobs that she’s rarely in the Michy’s kitchen. “I’ve been supporting us from the consulting. Basically holding together a family of two, with a house and a car.”

Then Ruhlman jumps abruptly into the celebs’ universe:

Even Mr. Flay and Mr. Batali say that with all of their other deals, their restaurants are where they make most of their money. “The restaurants are my foundation,” Mr. Flay said. “It’s where I spend 90 percent of my time. They’re my bread and butter.”

I find it hard to believe that Flay really does find the time to hang out so much in his five restaurants (which apparently account for 80 percent of his company’s income). But that aside, the difference between the up-and-comers and the already-theres is striking—the former scraping together extra money from side gigs, the latter relying on their multiple high-ticket restaurants for steady income and their $10,000 to $60,000 cookware deals for pocket change.

Bruni’s piece about chefs’ inflated egos is much lighter on the stats and heavier on the hackneyed observations—like this one about overly talkative servers who “describe dish after dish, from an amuse-bouche hardly bigger than a semicolon to a scoop of vanilla ice cream, in exhaustive detail and priestly voices.” Bo-ring. I know he eats at a lot of high-end restaurants and encounters annoying server/restaurateur behavior often, but he laments these purported injustices in a way that’s often just as obnoxious. Where are The Bruni Digest and Gastropoda when you need them?

Nuthin’ but Love for the CIA

Epicurious’s new video and blog series promises to “infiltrate the Culinary Institute of America.” Apparently by “infiltrate” they mean “run an infomercial for,” judging from an early look.

The feature will include blogs from four chefs-in-training (for now those sections say “coming soon”) and regular video installments (at the moment the only ones up are those four students’ audition reels). The current clips are basically bland introductions to four nice people who seem to love cooking and love their school—kind of like those chipper guys and gals who walk around backward leading tour groups of prospective college students. Case in point from Jared, the nutrition-conscious Canadian, as he introduces some friends to the camera:

These are two of my best guys in my class. We get along well, very well. We’re in the same writing class, too, and we share a passion for our teacher. He is so good!

Not that this rah-rah tone is so surprising, since the CIA logos and links “for more information” on every page of the feature make it clear that this is advertorial, not an investigative report. And this format does have its benefits—perhaps it will focus more on the food than some shows we know, without getting bogged down in personal drama.

Healthying Up the Quickie Mart

Most folks know that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is more healthful than one high in Big Macs and Crunch Wraps. But if you live in a low-income urban area, there’s probably not going to be a Whole Foods or even a Wal-Mart available. Some neighborhoods don’t even have a supermarket at all, and if you don’t have a car, it makes eating healthy a challenge. Especially since these neighborhoods usually have a fast-food outlet or two. This lack of access is part of the reason diabetes and obesity rates in the inner city are high.

But in two cities, innovative programs are bringing healthy foods to inner-city neighborhoods. In Oakland, California, People’s Grocery brings produce and healthy snacks to West Oakland and helps people set up community gardens to produce their own food.

Meanwhile, in Baltimore, a Johns Hopkins University professor is reaching out to convenience-store owners in neighborhoods without supermarkets and encouraging them to stock healthier items, like whole-grain breads and cooking sprays.

An article in The Baltimore Sun shows how the program is bringing shopkeepers and customers together to focus on health.

‘I’m in the city a long time, these are my neighbors, my customers, my friends,’ said Grace Lyo, whose store on Mount Street in West Baltimore … is joining the program.