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

The Cupcake Courier

Not only don’t I bake, but I absolutely don’t spend time thinking about how I would effectively transfer said baked goods, were they to be miraculously made by me and considered suitable for human consumption. HOWEVER …

Catching up on Rachael Ray’s talk show (the initial sickness is quickly spreading out of control), I saw something that actually sent me thumbing through my dusty baking cookbooks looking for cupcake recipes.

On the Rachael Ray show in question, Jenna Fischer—the actress behind cute and complicated Pam Beasely on the insanely hysterical television show The Office—was Rachael’s honored guest, and she presented La Ray with the Cupcake Courier! Go ahead, click through. I’ll wait.

Invented by Fischer’s friend Jennifer Gunn (mother of two and apparent cupcake machine), this ingenious device allows you to safely transport not one, not two, but THREE DOZEN CUPCAKES! Lest you think I’ve been brainwashed by Rachael Ray’s hypnotically maniacal laugh, check out what a few others in the blogosphere are saying about the Cupcake Courier:

Olivia Wagner Photography exclaims:

How genius! I’m a total baker and this would be an awesome thing to have. Up until now, I put cupcakes in a cake pan with a lid to transport them but they always end up getting smushed into each other.

Just My Cup of Tea blog thinks it’s “super cool,” and BitterSweet blog announces:

... the largest (Not to mention prettiest) cupcake carrier to be found, online or real life. Brand new and straight out of the box, this baby practically glowed before my very eyes, convincing me that it was imperative to whip up three dozen cupcakes as soon as possible to give it a little test run.

Even The Washington Post got in on the drool.

Taiwanese Deli 2.0

When it comes to Taiwanese street food, Won Won Kitchen is where it’s at, says ipsedixit. After selling the formerly formidable QQ Kitchen last year, its ex-owner opened Won Won in the adjacent strip mall, with pretty much the same menu: oyster and egg, pork chop rice, rice stick noodles, and “Taiwanese tamales” (sticky rice dumplings in bamboo leaves–zhongzi). It’s all just as good as in the old QQ days. (The original QQ has gone downhill under the new ownership.) Unfortunately, QQ’s delicious black pepper chicken rice and stinky tofu aren’t on the menu, but you can still get them if you ask nicely.

Although Won Won has the edge with simple soup noodle dishes and rice plates, Ay-Chung is a good place for Taiwanese eats too. The menu is bigger than WW’s, but as condiment points out, it’s essentially a one-dish restaurant: if you haven’t had the thin noodles in gravy with bits of beef intestine, you haven’t eaten at Ay-Chung.

My Way Deli is also a good Taiwanese spot, adds ipsedixit.

Won Won Kitchen [San Gabriel Valley]
9461 Las Tunas Dr., Temple City

Ay-Chung Rice Noodle [San Gabriel Valley]
140 W. Valley Blvd., #208, San Gabriel

Ay-Chung Rice Noodle [Inland of LA]
1015 Nogales St., Rowland Heights

My Way Deli [San Gabriel Valley]
735 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park

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Taiwanese street food

Persian Bakery Treats

In the Little Persia south of Santa Monica Boulevard, a couple of places stand out for ZoeZ: Rose Market, with its wonderful rose petal ice cream and other great flavors, and Orchid Bakery.

Run by Persian Armenians, Orchid has great gelato, fresh fruit drinks, coffee, and top-notch sandwiches (chicken potato salad with tomato and lettuce on a crusty roll is good).

And true to its name, their pastries are outstanding and cheap–a strawberry napoleon is just $1. Macaroons (coconut or almond) are great for a party. They’re generous with samples, too.

Rose Market [Wealthy Westlands]
1922 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles



Orchid Bakery [Wealthy Westlands]
1927 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles

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Dirt-cheap pastries

Egg Sponge Cake at Golden Gate Bakery

shnigglebob loves the gai don go, or egg sponge cake, at Golden Gate Bakery. It’s a vaguely cone-shaped yellow cake wrapped in parchment, light and soft and almost sticky. If you’re not in the mood for the textural orgasm produced by a warm, fresh, meltingly soft Golden Gate Bakery egg custard tart just out of the oven (uh, never?), try a lovely gai don go instead. Or in addition.

Golden Gate Bakery [Chinatown]
1029 Grant Ave., San Francisco

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Golden Gate Bakery Mystery Puff- HELP!

Mission Pie

Hounds like the pie at Mission Pie, a brand-new pie-and-coffee shop. The apple pie has a great flaky crust and big chunks of tart apples, says asherandeva. It’s satisfyingly bright and tart, not overwhelmed by cinnamon, says augustiner, though those who like super-sweet apple pie might find the filling too lemony. Other offerings include an Italian dessert tart made with chard, raisins, rum, and lemon, and a savory pie filled with veggie curry.

Pies are made from ingredients grown at the Pie Ranch, including sustainably raised wheat for the crusts–and it’s staffed by the Mission High students who work on the farm. Stop in for some organic, fair-trade coffee and interesting pie–and be patient and smile, the servers are new at this!

Mission Pie [Mission]
2901 Mission St. (entrance on 25th St.), San Francisco

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Mission Pie Open

Pizzabolla: Solid Neighborhood Italian on the Upper West Side

Upper West Side hounds don’t often talk about Pizzabolla, but what they say is heartening. Pizzas are fine, but pastas and salads come in for special praise. “Don’t be scared off by the checkered tablecloths,” advises theannerska, who promises that this is no tired red-sauce joint. “The food is fantastic.”

Well-executed standards include lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, and pasta carbonara. Salads–chopped, chef’s, Caesar, spinach-mushroom, arugula-roasted garlic–are fresh and big enough to be main courses, especially when ordered with grilled chicken. Michele4466 loves the vegetarian antipasto plate (provolone, fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, mushrooms, artichoke, grilled eggplant, roasted peppers and onions)–a ton of food for $8. The wine list is short and affordable, featuring decent Italian choices. Service is warm and efficient.

Pizzabolla [Upper West Side]
654 Amsterdam Ave., at W. 92nd St., Manhattan

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Seeking dinner place (with specifications) in 80s/90s/ UWS

From Mediterranean to Mexican in Queens, All Before Lunch

At Astoria’s Cafe Bar, the Mediterranean Breakfast is scrambled eggs with scallions and olives or onion and tomato, according to the menu. Menus can lie. “The cook seems to want to throw in extras, like asparagus, leeks, whatever he’s got around,” says Monkey Man Jake. With the accompanying toasted pita, tahini, and tzatziki, it’s a surprising morning feast.

In Sunnyside, the Rose serves up an authentic and well-made Irish breakfast that bests rival versions in Manhattan, says lindoca. A familial connection with the well-regarded Butcher Block assures a supply of high-quality sausage, rashers, and black and white puddings.

Mexican favorite De Mole offers a short breakfast menu of four or five choices. One good one: eggs with chorizo, rice, beans, tortillas, coffee, and fantastic cinnamon-scented hot chocolate. The eggs can come out under-seasoned, but a splash of house-made green salsa will make things right, says chefcoleman.

At Jahn’s in Jackson Heights, JH Hill’s occasional indulgence is chocolate chip pancakes–nice and moist and extremely satisfying.

Cafe Bar [Astoria]
32-90 36th St., between 34th Ave. and Broadway, Astoria, Queens

Rose Restaurant [Sunnyside]
44-07 Queens Blvd., between 44th and 45th Sts., Sunnyside, Queens

Butcher Block [Sunnyside]
41-12 Queens Blvd., between 41st and 42nd Sts., Sunnyside, Queens

De Mole [Sunnyside]
formerly El Jarro
45-02 48th Ave., at 45th St., Sunnyside, Queens

Jahn’s [Jackson Heights]
81-04 37th Ave., between 81st and 82nd Sts., Jackson Heights, Queens

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Breakfast Lover in Queens

Mr. Taster’s N.Y. Egg Roll Quest

New York expat Mr. Taster has been on a frustrating quest for N.Y.-style egg rolls that has led him to… Genghis Cohen. He wants to point out that a lot of places commonly recommended for N.Y. egg rolls don’t cut the mustard.

At the Canto-American Paul’s Kitchen, wonton soup is fantastic, with flavorful chunks of juicy BBQ pork, crunchy bok choy, meaty wontons and a flavorful broth boosted by MSG. Egg rolls, though, are actually spring rolls (a thin, flaky exterior rather than thick, brown, chewy skin blistered from frying) and filled with bland cabbage.

Canton Kitchen’s egg roll has a nicely crispy exterior, deep brown and bubbly, but the crispiness yields to a doughy underlayer that’s undercooked. And inside is a mass of meat spiked with bits of cabbage that’s more like a pork meatball. No dice.

Genghis Cohen, which is apparently run by a Chinese woman from New York, does the trick. The crispy-chewy skin, fried golden brown, and filling of shredded pork, cabbage, and mini shrimp are dead on. It’s still not the most flavorful filling around, but fortunately the egg rolls come with the “proper” condiments of sinus-blasting mustard and sweet and sour duck sauce.

Paul’s Kitchen [Downtown]
1012 S. San Pedro St., at 9th, Los Angeles

Canton Kitchen [Culver City-ish]
12511 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles



Genghis Cohen [Fairfax Village]
740 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles

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Canton Kitchen’s egg rolls just don’t cut it
End of the Great N.Y. egg roll debate

Guinness Stout Brownies

The malt in Guinness Stout is said to intensify the flavor of the chocolate in these brownies. luv2bake finds them quite wonderful–very rich, moist, thick, and a bit chewy, with just a hint of stout flavor. Here’s her version:

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into cubes, room temperature
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) Guinness Extra Stout beer, room temperature, without foam
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
confectioners sugar for dusting, if desired

Preheat oven to 375F. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan or line with with nonstick foil. Whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt until evenly combined, and set aside. Melt butter, bittersweet chocolate, and white chocolate chips in a double boiler over very low heat, stirring constantly until melted; remove from heat. With an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add melted chocolate mixture and beat until combined. Beat flour mixture into batter, then whisk in Guinness and 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips. The batter will be somewhat thin. Pour batter into prepared pan, and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips evenly over top. Bake 25-30 minutees, until a tester comes out almost clean. Cool to room temperature uncovered before serving. Dust with confectioners sugar, if desired.

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ISO Guinness Brownies Recipe

Creamed Spinach

There are two views on creamed spinach: some make it with a flour-thickened cream sauce, and some insist straight cream is the only way to go. Some add nothing but salt and pepper, some add onion, garlic, or shallots. Many add a little pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.

morebubbles makes creamed spinach by sauteing finely chopped onions in butter until soft, adding fresh spinach and cooking until it’s just wilted, then adding a bit of cream, salt and pepper, and a small amount of freshly grated nutmeg.

NYchowcook’s technique is to heat cream with a smashed clove of garlic in a small saucepan, and steam spinach in a covered pot with a little water and a pinch of salt; when it’s cooked, drain it. Melt butter in a skillet and saute the spinach until the pan is dry, then strain the cream into the pan, and add salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

onefineleo loves this straightforward recipe, which uses a white sauce. The recipe makes two servings, but she’s multiplied to serve up to 10.

Several hounds offer raves for a Ina Garten’s spinach gratin, a baked, cheesy version of the dish.

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Creamed spinach