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

The Filipino Spice Express

Filipino food is known for being fatty and vinegary, but spicy? At Alejandro’s, pleasurepalate discovered a few lesser-known dishes that left her mouth tingling.

Bicol express, seafood saut

Hot Pressed Leek Tart at the Fig Pantry

The Fig Pantry, a recently-opened bakery and delicatessen in Sonoma, is full of delicious things, not least of which is their leek tart, heated in a press. It’s rich, filling, and loaded with flavor–sort of a thin quiche Lorraine, minus the bacon. “It makes me want to try more of their things, but I don’t know if I can get past this one the next time I’m there,” says Mick Ruthven.

rworange loves their Alexander Valley pickles, and ranks their bagels as some of the best in the Bay. The coffee they brew and sell is by Graffeo, and they carry several flavors of Fiorello’s gelato from San Rafael.

And somebody please try the “frozen twinkie,” which looks like a small chocolate-covered yule log with a white squiggle on top.

Fig Pantry [Sonoma County]
1190 E. Napa St., Sonoma
707-933-3000
Map

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First visit to the Fig Pantry–Good! (Sonoma)

Pulled Pork at Trail Dust

FueledByGnocchi highly recommends the pulled pork sandwich at Trail Dust, if you can make it early on a Saturday night. The meat is pull-apart tender, and served with a delectable sweet vinegar sauce called “hog wash.” The sides–coleslaw, beans, potatoes, bread–are nothing to rave about, but you go for the meat, not the damn coleslaw. They also produce great smoked ribs, tri-tip, and chicken, smoking the meat all day in preparation for dinner.

Trail Dust BBQ Joint [South Bay]
17240 Monterey St., Morgan Hill
408-776-9072
Locater

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Where to eat and what to do in San Martin, CA?

From Lemons to Apples at Corona’s Ice King

When the temperature drops in fall, so does demand for Italian ices, sending some purveyors into hibernation. But not Corona’s Lemon Ice King, which shifts into autumnal mode and starts making caramel apples. They come in five flavors: cherry, coconut, sprinkles, caramel, and butterscotch, reports Linda. The shop’s hours shorten with the days–to 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. in October and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. after that.

For caramel apples with the emphasis on the apple, go to the farm. Williams’ Fruit Farm in Ulster County sets up shop on Saturdays at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, peddling apples and apple treats. The quality and freshness of the fruit set their product apart, says bolletje, but the homemade-tasting caramel also shines. Look for Williams’ stand on the Prospect Park West side of the market.

On Coney Island, you’ll find terrific caramel apples at William’s Candy Shoppe, a Surf Avenue landmark. Fresh soft caramel covers good crisp apples, reports JessicaSophia. Also available: red candy apples and–only for those with a serious sweet tooth–marshmallows dipped in caramel and peanuts.

The Lemon Ice King [Corona]
52-02 108th St., at 52nd Ave., Corona, Queens
718-699-5133
Locater

Williams’ Fruit Farm stand [Park Slope]
at Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket
Grand Army Plaza, north entrance to Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Map

William’s Candy Shoppe [Coney Island]
1318 Surf Ave., between Stillwell Ave. and W. 15th St., Brooklyn
718-372-0302
Locater

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Fall must! Caramel apples with peanuts

Majestic Fried Pork from the Queen of Chicharron

Uptown hounds kneel happily before the queen of pork rinds, a.k.a. Elsa La Reina del Chicharron. Best chicharron ever, says Jeremy Osner, who describes hefty hunks of fried pork with ample meat attached to the rinds–sold by weight, $10 a pound. Crispy outside, tender inside, they’re even better with a squeeze of lemon or lime, advises nobody special.

The daily-changing menu at this Dominican mini-chain ranges way beyond fried pork to include soups, stews, roasts, and more. Chicharron de pollo (fried chicken) and mofongo (plantain mash with chunks of chicharron, spiked with garlicky-vinegary sauce) are also excellent.

Speaking of fried chicken, they do it really well at El Mundo in Washington Heights–“a crispy, garlicky masterpiece of a bird. Trace of vinegar in there, too,” reports Polecat. This Dominican lunch joint also lays out a steam-table spread including longaniza, mofongo, bistec, rice, beans, and sancocho (meat stew).

Elsa La Reina Del Chicharron [Inwood]
4840 Broadway, at Academy St., Manhattan
212-304-1070
Map

Elsa La Reina Del Chicharron [Washington Heights]
1249 St. Nicholas Ave., between 172nd and 173rd Sts., Manhattan
212-795-3667
Locater

Elsa La Reina Del Chicharron [Bronx]
1A E. 183rd St., at Jerome, Bronx
718-295-7383
MapY

El Mundo Fried Chicken [Washington Heights]
4456 Broadway, at Fairview Ave., Manhattan
212-567-9302
Map

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Dominican??
Best-ever chicharrones

Smart Cookies: Handmade Treats from Nana’s in Chelsea

Dense, handmade, slightly irregular cookies are the signature treat at Nana’s, a cozy basement cafe tucked under a small hotel in Chelsea. Chocolate chip is a favorite; the rotation also includes M&M, oatmeal-butterscotch, and peanut butter cookies–all $1 apiece. Sometimes, the peanut butter cookies have jelly, too. “I have never had homemade cookies as good,” swears MatthewB.

Nana’s also serves coffee and pastries, danishes, croissants, and other baked stuff. Go early–it’s open only till 5 p.m. during the week, and only in the morning on weekends.

Nana’s Treats [Chelsea]
46 W. 17th St., between 5th and 6th Aves., Manhattan
212-647-1610
Locater

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Cookies that look and taste like homemade.

On the Importance of Not Rinsing Pasta

Don’t rinse drained pasta unless you plan to use it in a cold pasta salad. The starch that clings to unrinsed hot pasta helps sauce stick to the pasta. In fact, the now-starchy pasta cooking water itself can help marry sauce and pasta more effectively.

Karl S explains how: Before you drain the pasta, scoop out a cupful of its cooking water. Drain the pasta before it’s entirely done, and add it your sauce, along with some of the pasta cooking water, and let the sauce reduce down until it’s at its previous consistency and the pasta is finished cooking. FlavoursGal notes that when you do this, the pasta is actually absorbing some of the sauce as it finishes cooking, making it not just pasta and sauce, but one cohesive dish.

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Rinse Pasta after Cooking?

Give Me a Glug of Glogg, or Make it Gluhwein

Glogg is a heady Swedish variation on mulled wine, laced with plenty of booze and traditionally containing fruit and almonds. And gluhwein (‘glow wine”) is the German version of mulled wine.

newJJD shares a recipe for gluhwein:

1 bottle medium-bodied red wine (Beaujolais and Spatburgunder work best)
4 ounces brandy
1/3 cup extra-fine granulated sugar
1 orange, sliced into rounds
1 lemon, sliced into rounds
6 cinnamon sticks, or to taste
12 whole cloves, or to taste

Simmer all ingredients for 1-2 minutes, strain and serve. When making it for a party, newJJD likes to double the recipe, and keep it warm in a slow cooker with the fruit and spices tied up in cheesecloth.

Cynsa got this party-size recipe for glogg from Swedish friends who serve it every Christmas:

4 whole cardamom pods
1/4 cup broken cinnamon sticks
25 whole cloves
peel of one orange
8 cups port
8 cups Burgundy
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 cup whole blanched almonds
2 cups sugar cubes
1 bottle brandy

Open cardamom pods and remove seeds. Tie seeds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange peel up in a cheesecloth bag. In a large saucepan, combine 4 cups of port, 4 cups of Burgundy, raisins, and cheesecloth bag. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add remaining port and Burgundy and almonds; keep warm. Place the sugar cubes in a separate saucepan. Warm 1/3 of the bottle of brandy, pour over the sugar cubes and carefully ignite. When sugar melts, extinguish flame by pouring in the remaining brandy. Add this mixture to the wine mixture and serve warm, floating a halved orange slice studded with whole cloves in each cup. Makes 20 8-oz. servings.

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Gluhwein recipe

Barbecue Sides

Eat_Nopal objects to the universally sweet dishes that seem to get paired with barbecue. Baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, sweet barbecue sauce, sweet tea–all full of sweet flavors, with little else going on.

Chowhounds point out that the aforementioned dishes don’t need to be sweet. Beans can be spiced and brothy rather than sweet, coleslaw and potato salad can be vinegary or mustardy, and barbecue sauce can be spicy rather than sweet. (Sweet tea is what it is, though.)

But there are other options. In place of starchy Wonder bread, you could serve biscuits, cornbread, roasted potatoes, polenta, or good flour tortillas. South Carolina barbecue often comes with a hash made from whatever is left of the pig–usually organ meats–chopped, spiced up, and served over rice. To cut the richness, kimchee, pickles, or big slabs of tomatoes work nicely. Fried okra, collard greens, and corn on the cob work as veggie sides, and how about wheatberry salad or bean salad?

Sweet is an important flavor in barbecue and Southern cooking in general, though, so don’t forget the freshly churned ice cream, watermelon ice, chess pie, fall fruit crisp, honey pecans, and coconut cake.

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Barbecue… what are the best accompaniments / plating?

Squid Guts

The gelatinous stuff inside a squid–it might be clear, or it might be murky with half-digested squid prey–won’t hurt you. It’s technically edible, and the Japanese make a shiokara (salted, fermented marine animal viscera) out of squid innards. However, most chowhounds–and, apparently, even most Japanese–find it repulsive. kare_raisu describes squid shiokara as the “only thing I will not eat again,” though Ed Dibble finds it strongly flavored but tasty.

If for some reason you have a whole squid, and you’re not a Japanese shiokara master, you should probably just throw out the guts.

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Squid- The insides of the squid