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

Four Chicken Soups, from New World and Old

Just what the doctor ordered: the knockout Mexican chicken soup at El Maguey y La Tuna. It’s a bowl of deeply flavorful, slightly spicy broth with a huge chicken leg in it. “This soup could kick the crap out of a seasonal flu (or a can of Campbell’s),” declares hopalong.

There’s another restorative chicken soup a few blocks west at Clinton Restaurant, which serves solid, cheap Dominican and Cuban chow. Its sturdy sopa de pollo gets a lift from a shot of lime, says haleyjen.

Uptown Dominican favorite El Malecon also dishes up a good and soothing sopa de pollo, reports Pan.

For an Old World interpretation, try the great chicken soup at Sarge’s Deli, suggests jon, who ranks it ahead of pastrami king Katz’s but a step behind the late, lamented Second Avenue Deli’s. His favorite: the Souper Soup, a giant helping of matzo ball soup with chicken, vegetables, noodles, and kreplach.

El Maguey y La Tuna [East Village]
321 E. Houston St., between Attorney and Ridge Sts., Manhattan
212-473-3744
Locater

Clinton Restaurant [Lower East Side]
293 E. Houston St., at Clinton, Manhattan
212-982-3222
Locater

El Malecon [Washington Heights]
4141 Broadway, at 175th St., Manhattan
212-927-3812
Locater

El Malecon [Upper West Side]
764 Amsterdam Ave., between W. 97th and 98th Sts., Manhattan
212-864-5648
Locater

El Malecon [Bronx]
5592 Broadway, at W. 231st St., Bronx
718-432-4760
Locater

Sarge’s Delicatessen Restaurant [Murray Hill]
548 3rd Ave., between E. 36th and 37th Sts., Manhattan
212-679-0442
Locater

Sarge’s Delicatessen Restaurant [Nassau County]
236 W. Jericho Tpke., between Greenfield Rd. and Burke Ln., Syosset, NY
516-677-1900
Map

Board Links
Matzo Ball Soup
Chicken Soup (with the works)

Pithari: Greek Grill Mastery in Highland Park, NJ

Nicely char-grilled souvlaki is a smart choice at Pithari, a new taverna opened by the owners of Athens Corner Inn, a Greek grocery next door. Lamb gyro and lamb cubes–served in platters with tzatziki, pitas, fries, onion, lettuce, and tomato–are both delicious, says Angelina. Others report tasty salads, spinach pie, and other appetizers. Desserts at the restaurant, as at the grocery, are wonderful, says Gabbeh.

Open since September, Pithari looks like an instant hit, drawing crowds with its inviting dining room and terrace as well as its chow. It’s BYOB, and the grocery next door carries a decent selection of Greek wines. Angelina recommends a delicious dry red from Amethystos, $21 at the store and as much as four times that at some Manhattan restaurants.

Hounds report a few disappointments, including a tendency to run out of seafood entrees. adi complains that the moussaka was lukewarm and the service downright chilly, but adds that spreads and breads were very good.

Pithari Taverna [Middlesex County]
28 Woodbridge Ave., between 7th and 8th Aves., Highland Park, NJ
732-572-0616
Map

New Athens Corner Inn [Middlesex County]
28 Woodbridge Ave., between 7th and 8th Aves., Highland Park, NJ
732-572-0721
Locater

Board Links
Greek Taverna in Highland Park
New Delicious Greek Restaurant in Highland Park!! PITHARI TAVERNA

Turkey Stock

If you’re planning on preparing dishes for Thanksgiving that call for turkey stock, you’re in a bit of a spot. First, you kind of need a turkey carcass to make stock with, and your Thanksgiving turkey won’t qualify as a “carcass” until after the fact. Luckily for those planning on making stock from scratch, Willie Bird Turkeys sells carcasses, parts, giblets, and more year-round, in additional to whole turkeys. Highly recommended by Melanie Wong.

However, if you’re not quite that hard core, you can buy great house-made turkey stock from Bryan’s Grocery, says marinrain. They also sell sauces and gravies. Also check out Boulette’s Larder in the Ferry Building, says Lori SF.

Willie Bird Turkeys [Sonoma County]
5350 Highway 12, Santa Rosa
707-545-3308
Locater

Bryan’s Grocery [Laurel Heights]
3445 California St., San Francisco
415-752-0179
Locater

Boulette’s Larder [Embarcadero]
Ferry Building Marketplace
1 Ferry Building, Shop #48, San Francisco
415-399-1155
Locater

Board Links
diestal turkey prices? availability
Buying homemade turkey stock

Trattoria Buon Gusto

Melanie Wong pitches Trattoria Buon Gusto to her friends as “non-challenging Italian comfort food.” The warm atmosphere of this family-run Sicilian restaurant is backed up by the excellent and, indeed, very comforting food. Arancini are a house specialty–two tennis-ball-sized orbs of risotto, stuffed with ground meat, peas, and stringy cheese, all deep fried ($10). For entrees, think pasta, like the chicken and cheese ravioli in tomato cream sauce with just a touch of cream and a concentrated tomato richness. Pastas are in the $11-15 range.

One of the nicest things here, though, is the generously portioned cassata Siciliana ($6.50)–three layers of heavy, chocolate-frosted yellow cake, filled with liquor-spiked, citrus-scented ricotta cream. It’s not revelatory, cutting-edge cuisine, but this place is great for when you want to feel mellow, happy, and well fed.

Trattoria Buon Gusto [Peninsula]
651H Oak Grove, at Maloney Lane, Menlo Park
650-328-2778
Locater

Board Links
Dinner and Cassata Siciliana @ Trattoria Buon Gusto (Menlo Park)

Your Very Own Hot Pot

At Jazz Cat Caf

Tail to Tongue Eating

Oxtail (or more likely, beef tail) is kind of an exotic meat from the American standpoint, but in its intense flavor and slightly gelatinous texture, it’s a lot like short ribs. Around L.A., you can find versions from many cultures.

Oxtail at Versailles outshines the Cuban restaurant’s overhyped garlic chicken, says USCott.

Krua Thai has a delicious oxtail soup, says stevedoggiedogg.

Angelini Osteria offers sublime oxtail when the weather cools, says judge dee.

M&M Soul Food turns out great oxtails, says Windella, who notes that service at the Long Beach branch is better than at the others.

The Filipino dish kare-kare is a sort of stew with oxtail and vegetables in a thick peanut sauce. A tasty version can be found at Asian Noodles, says pleasurepalate.

Oxtail is featured on the menu of several Hong Kong-style restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley–Phoenix Inn makes a good dish, says kure.

Port Royal has good Jamaican-style oxtail, says budlit.

And Bruddah’s, the well-liked Hawaiian restaurant, has oxtail stew/soup.

On the other end of the steer, modernist says the sliced beef tongue at Izayoi is really nice–nicely browned and luscious. It comes in gravy, with some broccoli.

Koshiji has a likable beef tongue skewer, says Bon Vivant.

Korean BBQ places also do tongue–alexfood enjoyed it at Chosun Galbi.

Versailles Restaurant [South LA]
10319 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles
310-558-3168
Locater

Versailles Restaurant [Beaches]
1000 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach
310-937-6829
Locater

Versailles Restaurant [Midtown]
1415 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles
310-289-0392
Locater

Versailles Restaurant [East San Fernando Valley]
1000 Universal Center Dr. #v206, Universal City
818-505-0093
Locater

Versailles Restaurant [West San Fernando Valley]
17410 Ventura Blvd., Encino
818-906-0756
Locater

Krua Thai Restaurant [East San Fernando Valley]
13130 Sherman Way, at Ethel, North Hollywood
818-759-7998
Locater

Angelini Osteria [Melrose District]
7313 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles
323-297-0070
Locater

M & M Soul Food [South Bay]
5400 Cherry Ave., Long Beach
562-422-8395
Locater

M & M Soul Food [South LA]
5496 W. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles
310-215-8186
Locater

M & M Soul Food [Pasadena-ish]
755 E. Washington Blvd., Lake, Pasadena
626-794-0059
Locater

M & M Soul Food [South LA.]
3552 W. Martin Luther King Jr., Los Angeles
323-299-1302
Locater

M & M Soul Food [South LA]
3300 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood
310-673-5031
Locater

Asian Noodles [Chinatown]
643 N. Spring St., Los Angeles
213-617-1083
Locater

Asian Noodles [East San Fernando Valley]
1428 E. Colorado St., Langley, Glendale
818-548-4277
Locater

Phoenix Inn Chinese Cuisine [San Gabriel Valley]
208 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra
626-299-1238
Locater

Phoenix Inn Chinese Cuisine [Chinatown]
301 Ord St., Los Angeles
213-629-2812
Locater

Port Royal Cafe [Beaches]
1412 Broadway, Santa Monica
310-458-4147
Locater

Bruddah’s Hawaiian Foods [South Bay]
1033 W. Gardena Blvd., between Vermont & Normandie, Gardena
310-323-9112
Locater

Izayoi [Little Tokyo]
132 South Central Ave., Los Angeles
213-613-9554
Locater

Yakitori Koshiji [Little Tokyo]
123 Onizuka Street Suite #203, Los Angeles
213-626-4989
Map

Chosun Galbi Restaurant [Koreatown]
3330 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles
323-734-3330
Locater

Board Links
for the beef tongue lovers out there…
Where should I eat my first oxtail

Flat-Topped Cake Layers

When layer cakes bake they dome in the middle because, as the pan heats, the batter near the edges of the pan cooks faster than the batter in the middle. Domed cakes aren’t conducive to stacking and icing when you’re constructing a multi-layered confection. Here are some fixes:

The most basic approach is simply to slice the dome off so your layers will have flat tops. Use a long serrated knife, and work slowly. It’s easiest to get a level top if you rotate the cake as you slice the dome off. A rotating cake stand makes this easy, but a lazy susan placed on top of an upturned cake pan or Dutch oven is a good substitute, says Kelli2006. A wire cake cutter takes the guesswork out of leveling, and can be used to divide one cake into perfectly even layers, says TorontoJo. To make frosting go on neatly, lay each layer cut-side down, so the crumbs from the cut side don’t gum up the works.

When you slice the domes off cakes, you get a lot of yummy nibbles but you also lose a lot of volume in the finished cake you serve. You can prevent cake layers from doming while they bake using a couple of methods. There are special cake strips made of aluminized fabric, which you moisten with cold water and wrap around the cake pan. They keep the outer edges of the pan cool, so the cake’s whole surface bakes evenly and doesn’t dome; many swear by them. AGM_Cape_Cod has had success keeping cakes flat-topped by covering the cake pan with foil until the batter sets, then removing the foil for the remaining baking time.

Board Links
Baking a cake, even tops…?

Ravioli Filled with Egg Yolk

It’s a giant raviolo–two large squares of fresh pasta enclosing a whole egg yolk, some Parmesan cheese, and shaved truffle. It’s cooked delicately so that when you cut into the cooked pasta, all the rich yolk oozes out and makes a sauce. But what’s the name?

Karl S proposes “uovo in ravioli” as the name of this dish–a name used by at least one New York chef.

A similar dish is something bolivianita used to make when she worked in restaurants making pasta. Called occhio di bue (ox eye), it consists of a giant raviolo filled with spinach and ricotta, and an egg yolk at the center–steamed so that the egg is still runny, and sauced with brown butter and sage.

Board Links
WHAT is this Italian specialty called?

Fall Cocktails

Chowhounds offer up recipes for cocktails with autumnal flavors:

jpschust recommends Woodford bourbon for the Maple Leaf:

3 parts bourbon
1 part maple syrup
1 part lemon juice

Shake over ice, then pour over ice. Serve with a lemon twist.

ashwood says Fallen Leaves has a very clean flavor:

3/4 oz. calvados
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
1/4 oz. dry vermouth
lemon peel

Stir with ice, giving the lemon peel a good hard twist. Strain into a cocktail glass, using the peel for garnish.

2top offers Pumpkin Pie:

2 parts vanilla vodka
1 part pumpkin schnapps
splash of cream or splash of orange juice
garnish with nutmeg

wontonton combines good apple cider with dark spiced rum and warms it.

Board Links
Fall Cocktail Ideas

160,000 Ways to Use Your Leftovers

rworange is delighted by the possibilities inherent in the Leftovers Wizard. You enter in the ingredients you have left over, and the database pulls up any recipes that use your items. She says, with apologies to Paul Simon:

Reuse that lamb rack, jack
Make a new flan, stan
Use up that soy, Roy
And get dinner free

Glencora likes it–three recipes for the combination of mango, shrimp, and rice–but is annoyed by the advertisements. Robert Lauriston says he gets more results just entering his leftovers into Google–lots of hits for chocolate and grapefruit, as opposed to none with the Leftovers Wizard.

Board Links
There must be 160,000 ways to use your leftovers