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

Madina: Full-Throttle Pakistani Spice in Brooklyn

Robustly spiced steam-table curries and first-rate meats and breads from the tandoor are winning fans at Madina in Kensington. It’s the best of the many Pakistani places on the Coney Island Avenue strip, for gnosh’s money–not that a lot of money is required.

Chicken kababs, with a slight char and strong peppery kick, are around a buck apiece. Nan, baked to order, are pillowy at the edges, crisp and thin at the center, and finished off with a brushing of butter and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Vegetable dishes–okra, chickpeas, spinach with potato, etc.–deliver complex flavors and authentic heat. “Nobody could complain that they’re toning things down for the American palate,” says gnosh.

It’s mostly takeout, but a recent expansion created a room where diners can sit down.

Madina [Kensington]

563 Coney Island Ave., at Beverley Rd., Brooklyn



Board Links

Best Indian in Brooklyn?

MADINA-nice Coney Island Avenue alternative

Olympic Pita Comes to Manhattan; and Other News

Brooklyn’s Olympic Pita–celebrated for shwarma, falafel, and stellar fresh-baked flatbreads–has branched out in Manhattan. Sprightly vegetable salads, served as sides or generously stuffed into sandwiches, are another highlight. Despite the restaurant’s name, many fans prefer the thicker laffa bread to the pita.

The scramble system of ordering has flummoxed many newcomers since the place opened in November. “It is a bit chaotic. People had no idea where to go,” reports Miss Needle. So here’s the deal: Go to the cashier in the back on the right. Place your order and pay. Then return to the front and give your receipt to one of the counter guys.

In another welcome expansion, Midtown’s Taksim has opened a second restaurant in the East Village. A highly promising report from Pan raves about lentil balls, rice-and-herb-stuffed cabbage leaves, and hearty, slow-cooked lamb shank and eggplant in tomato sauce, among other things. “Go now,” he urges. “In a few months, the place will be hopping.”

On the Upper West Side, Vinnie’s is no more. It was just a neighborhood pizza joint, but it grabbed hound attention for a time with unexpected offerings like crustless, quiche-like zucchini pies.

Olympic Pita [Garment District]

58 W. 38th St., between 5th and 6th Aves., Manhattan



Olympic Pita [Midwood]

1419 Coney Island Ave., between Aves. J and K, Brooklyn



Taksim [East Village]

99 2nd Ave., between E. 6th and 5th Sts., Manhattan



Taksim [Midtown East]

1030 2nd Ave., near E. 54th St., Manhattan



Vinnie’s Pizza [Upper West Side]

285 Amsterdam Ave., between W. 73rd and 74th Sts., Manhattan


Board Links

The Olympic Pita in Manhattan?

Taksim East Village

great pizza on UWS

The OC’s Old-School Mexican American Joint

Mexi-Casa has been serving up giant meals of consistently tasty Mexican-American food at paupers’ prices since the ‘60s (when no non-Latinos in OC could pronounce the word ta-que-ria), and recently moved to new digs, says GrindzHound.

Make sure to get the cheese chips, roasted in the oven to toasty, bubbly perfection. Al pastor and carnitas are especially good. A lot of people seem to like salsa roja with al pastor, but it makes a great combo with salsa verde–the combination of tomatillos, crunchy onions and the meat is a classic one. There’s also a sinus-clearning chile verde and beef tacos, the shell and beef deep-fried together for a meaty roasted flavor.

Combination lunch with two items, rice and beans is $3-4. Combination dinner (same) is $4-5.

Mexi-Casa Restaurant [South OC]

1778 W. Lincoln Ave., at Euclid, Anaheim 92801



Board Links

Maybe the Best Value in OC, Mexi-Casa.

Ramen for Everyone

Foo Foo Tei knocks Westside ramen joints Ramen Ya and Asahi Ramen out of the water, says Chandavkl. There’s a flavor combo for everyone–if you like it spicy, get the shin shin ramen, which you won’t find elsewhere. ipse dixit wishes it were possible to find menudo this spicy. Seafood ramen includes oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and shrimp in a deeply flavored broth.

MPKen notes that the noodles are often overcooked, making the broth fairly starchy and too thick–try ordering them “firm.”

Side dishes are great too–fried squid leg with wasabi mayo, gint shiu mai, croquettes, gyoza, and tonkatsu are super tasty.

The Hacienda Heights location is the original, but hounds can’t agree on whether it or the MPK location is better. mejonlee says that after several comparisons, MPK consistently comes out ahead–but they don’t serve beer or sake.

Foo Foo Tei Noodle House [San Gabriel Valley]

750 S. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park



Foo-Foo Tei [Inland of LA]

15018 Clark Ave., Hacienda Heights



Board Links

Foo Foo Tei Ramen in Monterey Park

Foo-Foo Tei Noodle House Monterey Park

Mario Batali Cookware

Celebrity chef Mario Batali has teamed up with manufacturer Copco to produce a cookware line called Italian Kitchen. Chowhounds are really impressed with the enameled cast iron pieces. They’re well made and they perform beautifully. They’re comparable to Le Crueset, giant in the field of enameled cookware–but the Italian Kitchen stuff is much more affordable.

The 6-quart Dutch oven is excellent for soups and braising, stovetop or in the oven; the inside of its lid has spikes to keep the moisture from condensation in your dish, a feature of the super-expensive Staub line. The panini pan includes a heavy press to produce nicely grilled sandwiches and doubles as a grill pan that themiss says heats more evenly than her Le Creuset. The deep lasagna pan is a real heavyweight at 11 pounds, but does a magnificent job on anything in the oven. They all clean up very easily, and hounds aren’t shy about their love of the pretty colors in the line.

The Kitchen Essentials line includes a bunch of utensils and also pans of other materials, as well. The stainless steel pans get a big thumbs-down from Richard Somers, who ended up returning his for its abysmal performance.

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opinions on Mario Batali’s cookware line

Luscious Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

“I have to tell you, I was not prepared for what wound up coming out of my slow cooker,” says Langrrr. “I’d read about the ‘unctuousness’ of well-made carnitas–and that’s not even what I was trying to do. But what I’d put in…was transformed into this luscious, amazing dish.”

Langrrr uses two pork shoulders, but he has a large slow cooker, so adjust accordingly. Here’s his method:

Take 2 pork picnic roasts (pork shoulder with the skin still on), about 3.5 lbs. each, and separate the skin from the meat, but leave the skin attached. Rub the skin with salt and pepper, and sear the roasts in a skillet. Let them cool a bit, then rub cumin, garlic powder, and Penzey’s adobo seasoning (dried garlic, onion, Tellicherry black pepper, Mexican oregano, cumin, and cayenne) both on and under the skin. Place the roasts in the slow cooker with two chopped onions and 1 cup chicken broth. At this point, the slow cooker insert may be refrigerated until you are ready to begin cooking. Cook 10 hours on low setting. Carefully remove roasts from slow cooker and brown under broiler to crisp skin. Separate fat from juices in slow cooker and reduce juices to make a sauce to serve with the meat.

LindaWhit notes that slow cookers newer than 15 years old or so cook at higher temperatures than the original models, and if you have a newer one, you will need to shorten the cooking time considerably, as 10 hours on low will lead to considerable overcooking. Chuckles the Clone says he’s had good luck cooking similar recipes in a tightly sealed Dutch oven in a 250F oven for 10 hours.

Board Links

OMIGOD–The Most Amazing Pork in the Crock-Pot!!!!

Homemade Root Beer

If you want to try your hand at making your own root beer, here some companies that supply kits. Results have been mixed.

LisaN bought a home root beer kit from Leeners and says it contains everything you need. The mixture needs to stay cool, though; a heat wave compromised her efforts!

Ricepad used the kit from Hearth Song, and immediately produced “the best root beer he ever tasted”. Subsequent batches were a little less successful.

ChrisVR has used for beer brewing and cheese making supplies They have a soft drink kit, as well. The staff there is helpful and informative.

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Recs for Make-Your-Own Rootbeer kits?

Breyer’s Fried Ice Cream Flavor

Breyer’s has released the strangest flavor of them all: fried ice cream. To be exact, it’s “cinnamon caramel light ice cream swirled with honey caramel, with cinnamon tostada pieces”!

Breyer’s has long been a popular grocery store brand, well-priced, with all-natural ingredients. Now they’re adding some of that “gum” stuff, say the chowhounds, and the ‘hounds are miffed.

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Breyer’s Fried Ice Cream flavor

Julia’s Kitchen Rumors

Smack in the middle of a week during which TV Land will attempt to debunk “some of pop culture’s darkest mysteries,” we will learn whether Julia Child really did drop a chicken in the middle of filming her show and proceed with cooking it.

Snopes—a site that is exceedingly useful for those friends of yours who constantly forward around those urban-legend email scares—has already decided that La Child never did any such thing.

No one can place an accurate date on when the tale of a dropped viand began dogging Julia Child, but we do know it was being reported as a persistent rumor back in 1989. Its spread has no doubt been helped along by articles appearing in respected publications that passed some version of it along as fact.

Citing a Los Angeles Times piece on Julia Child’s biography, Appetite for Life, Snopes reproduces this quote from the review:

In one of her best-known television episodes, she flipped a potato pancake in the air and, instead of landing in the skillet, it plopped on the table. Julia simply looked straight into the camera and said, ‘You just scoop it back into the pan. Remember, you are alone in the kitchen and nobody can see you.’

Snopes adds, “Child admitted time and again to the potato pancake incident but always firmly maintained she never dropped a chicken, duck, or whatever else the rumor has ascribed to her.”

With that mystery solved, I think I’ll still tune in to see if Gilligan’s Island really was a metaphor for hell or if Mama Cass did die by choking on a ham sandwich.

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