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

Near Hartford’s Airport, Jumbo Grinders Good to Go

Mammoth meat-and-cheese sandwiches, made fresh, are the draw at Second Poquonock Giant Grinder. The Italian combo is stuffed with an inch-and-a-half-thick layer of provolone, ham, and salami–sliced just before they build the sandwich, reports satisfied customer gordon wing.

“A massive sandwich–I could feel the heft when I picked it up,” he adds–and that’s the half grinder, an eight-incher that costs just $5.65. The full-size model measures 16 inches and costs $11.30. “You’d have to be starving to tackle that one,” Gordon advises. Also on the menu: pizza, salads, fried chicken, meatballs, and more.

If you’re flying out of nearby Bradley International, a grinder would make a great pre-travel option. Just don’t try to bring one onto the plane if you’re close to the weight limit.

Second Poquonock Giant Grinder [Hartford County]
75 Old County Rd., between Denslow St. and Halfway House Rd., Windsor Locks, CT

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Giant Grinder Shop near Bradley International Airport

Neighborhood Mexican Place Perks Up

Someone new is in the kitchen at La Parrilla on Sunset, and they really know how to cook, says AndrewS.

Rib eye, thinly sliced and slathered in some kind of adobo, is delicious. Guacamole, always excellent, is up to the mark. Chicken quesadilla holds juicy (clearly marinated) chicken that’s cooked perfectly, with a little crust. Queso fundido con chorizo now comes with rustic, full-flavored corn tortillas that are a big step up from the ones served previously.

Breakfast has been outstanding lately as well, adds Paliman.

And as always, it’s nice to have a (pretty good) sit-down Mexican joint that has a full bar.

La Parrilla Restaurant [Silverlake]
3129 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

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Parrilla sizzles again

The Best Chicken Pho

The best pho ga, period, is at Pho Nguyen Hoang, says hjb. Not only do they have great chicken soup, they also have an extensive vegetarian menu, and (sometimes, at least) vegetarian pho.

Vietnam Kitchen’s pho pleases Eastern and Western palates, says czaplin. Pho ga comes with chicken breast meat and steamed chicken balls.

Pho Nguyen Hoang [San Gabriel Valley]
401 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel

Vietnam Kitchen [Artesia-ish]
1429 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia

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Where to find pho ga

When Life Gives You Sour Grapes…

If you’re faced with a bunch of grapes that turn out to be too sour for eating out of hand, here are some ideas for using them:

Freeze them and eat frozen for a tart snack.

Add them to a green salad, or to a fruit salad tossed with orange juice to sweeten it up.

Toss them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast them to bring out their sugar; drizzle with balsamic vinegar before serving.

Saute them with onions or shallots, add a little rosemary, and serve with sausages on soft polenta.

Add them to an Indian curry.

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Sour Grapes

Keys to Great French Onion Soup

The most important step in making an excellent French onion soup is to thoroughly, patiently caramelize your onions. Keep the heat medium-low and keep stirring them until they become a deep golden color; this can easily take 30 minutes or more. Don’t be tempted to crank up the heat; slow caramelization brings out the onions’ sweetness and their ultimate oniony essence, the very basis of French onion soup. If your recipe has you slicing what looks to be a mountain of onions, you’re on the right track: they’ll cook down as their water is released and they caramelize.

Use the best quality stock you can get your hands on (preferably homemade). Many hounds like some fresh thyme leaves in their French onion soup, and some add wine–red or white–to deglaze the onions before adding stock. It’s classic to finish the soup with a dash or two of cognac, but sherry and port also add wonderful nuance to the flavor. Gruyere is the preferred cheese for topping a crouton of toasted bread and browning in the oven until it’s molten and bubbly, though MMRuth likes to add a little fontina for its meltability.

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What makes a good french onion soup?


Fugu, a.k.a. blowfish, a.k.a. puffer fish, a.k.a. the-fish-that-can-kill, is known for containing a deadly neurotoxin. It’s found in the Pacific and the Atlantic. The meat is a delicacy in Japan, where only qualified masters deal with it.

Yamada3 says there’s a non-poisonus variety called kawa-fugu that comes from the Boston area. It doesn’t taste as good, though.

In some parts of the U.S. it’s not legal to prepare fugu, so much of what we have arrives pre-cut. Masa, in New York City, is licensed and is probably the best bet for getting the real deal, according to K K.

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Where can I find fugu in san francisco?

Varietal Grape Juice

Navarro Vineyards in Philo, Ca., produces grape juice from wine grape varieties. They’re incredible juices, says Pei. Their web site lists Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir grape juices and a non-alcoholic Chardonnay Verjus.

A delicious alternative for the designated driver!

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Varietal grape juices?

Tapatio – A Hot Sauce for All Seasons

Tapatio has lots of fans. It has plenty of heat and flavor and a nice acidic tang. It’s made without sugar or gluten. A 5-ounce bottle is usually under a dollar!

Favorite uses:

Season hot, buttered corn on the cob
Add to chicken ramen noodle soup
Season stuffed peppers or meatloaf
Great on eggs and in guacamole
Just the ticket in creamy soups
Sprinkle on pizza
Use on beans and rice (or any Mexican food!)


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The Road to the Oscar Mayers

For the first time ever, the Food Network will hold its own special awards show in Miami during the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

According to the aforementioned Yahoo story, the awards ceremony will be “entertaining” and “off-beat” and will feature Food Network personalities Emeril Lagasse, Rachael Ray, Giada De Laurentiis, Bobby Flay, Paula Deen, Tyler Florence, Sandra Lee, Alton Brown, Dan & Steve, Michael Chiarello, George Duran, Dave Lieberman, Robin Miller, Ingrid Hoffman, and Marc Summers as presenters. In addition to that cavalcade of food stars, other yet-unnamed celebrities will be attending, including “acclaimed musician” G. Love, who will be performing and who will, I am certain, not be allowed to leave the stage until he plays “Special Sauce.”

The 90-minute awards show will air on the Food Network on April 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, and interested parties can go to the Food Network website to vote for contestants in any and all “Viewers’ Choice” categories.

Subject to change, the announced award categories will include the following:

• Favorite Comfort Food Combo (Viewers’ Choice)
• Most Delicious Destination, highlighting a rising locale not to be
• Best Ball Park Eats (Viewers’ Choice)
• Play With Your Food: Artwork With an Edible Twist, recognizing one remarkable artist who incorporates food into their work
• Icy Innovations, awarded to innovators in the world of frozen treats
• Tasty Technology, new kitchen appliances that will change the way we cook
• “Professional Grade” Kitchen Appliance You Can’t Live Without (Viewers’ Choice)
• “Hot” Chocolate List, recognizing the hottest chocolatier in the country
• Food Hall of Fame: Tribute to Julia Child, television and food pioneer
• Share Our Strength Food Humanitarian Award, a person who makes the world a better place through food
• Culinary Dreams Can Come True: Culinary Institute of America Scholarship and Food Network Mentorship of a Lifetime
• Favorite Childhood Classics (Viewers’ Choice), awarded to the favorite children’s book about food
• Not Your Grandmother’s Food of the Month Club, given to the most unique food-of-the-month club
• SUPER Market, presented to the grocery chain that has changed the way we shop
• Best Better Burger, recognizing a burger company with a mindful approach to their product and operation
• Favorite Coolest Cocktail (Viewers’ Choice), celebrating Food Network viewers’ favorite classic drink
• Edible Entrepreneurs, acknowledging individuals with a passion for food and an entrepreneurial spirit
• Funniest Food Festival, honoring the wackiest food festival in the country

Eater brings up a valid point: “Somewhat confusing is the extent to which the show seems completely devoid of excitement. There is not a ‘Chef of the Year,’ ‘Food of the Year,’ ‘Food Entertainer of the Year’ or the like in sight.”

I think I’m going to have to start calling this new awards show “The Oscar Mayers.” Now, what wines will go best with bologna sandwiches and wieners?

“Top Chef” Chaos

This week’s episode of Top Chef takes a step away from the food to focus more fully on mega-drama and frat-house antics—and has apparently lost some viewers in the process.

In a scandal that Television Without Pity has dubbed “Clippergate,” two of the five remaining cheftestants—whiz kid Ilan and pastry queen Elia—decide one drunken night to shave their heads; then, seemingly in collusion with Ilan, the brawny Cliff awakens the reviled Marcel and holds him down for a shearing (which, let’s be honest, he could use). But when Marcel struggles violently, whoever is holding the clippers (it seems to be Elia) decides not to carry out the prank, and front-runner Sam sits laughing at the scene while refusing to take part.

The awkward, painful-looking wrestling match continues for what seems like way too long before Cliff sets Marcel free. The next day, Cliff is dismissed from the show, and the others are given a stern talking-to for their roles in the joke-turned-assault.

Ironically, the judges rave more about the cheftestants’ dishes in this episode, which are deemed good to excellent across the board, than they have in any other. But flavor, creativity, plating, and all the rest don’t ultimately count for much in this episode’s elimination—and that’s disappointing to a food-oriented fan base that normally eschews reality shows. Is it simply impossible for reality TV to transcend its drama-mongering roots? For those of you who watch the show, did this or any of the previous episodes cause you to question your loyalty?