The CHOW Blog rss

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

Small Servings = Long Life?

In the past month, calorie restriction (or CR, as the kids are calling it) has become the hottest new health craze to read about, if not to try. Last week there was the gonzo feature in New York magazine, which described the near-starvation diet that CR practitioners live on in the hopes of increasing their lifespan. And Tuesday saw two CR-related pieces in The New York Times (requires registration) and The Wall Street Journal. Readers are eating this stuff up—in just a few hours, the Times piece floated to the top of the “Most E-Mailed” list and stayed there.

Perhaps its popularity is due in part to its promise that in the future, we may be able to get CR’s benefits without the hunger pangs. Recent findings about the link between calorie restriction and longevity in lab animals, the article says,

suggest that other interventions, which include new drugs, may retard aging even if the diet itself should prove ineffective in humans. One leading candidate, a newly synthesized form of resveratrol—an antioxidant present in large amounts in red wine—is already being tested in patients. It may eventually be the first of a new class of anti-aging drugs. Extrapolating from recent animal findings, Dr. Richard A. Miller, a pathologist at the University of Michigan, estimated that a pill mimicking the effects of calorie restriction might increase human life span to about 112 healthy years, with the occasional senior living until 140, though some experts view that projection as overly optimistic.

The life-extension community may be psyched about the possibility of a CR diet-in-a-pill, but I’m more inclined to side with the skeptics discussed in the Journal piece (and notably absent from the Times story): Do researchers “really understand the workings of CR well enough to mimic them in a drug?”

And, I’d add, do they really want to? The kind of people who are interested in living that long might not actually be the type you’d want to have hanging around for more than a century … but maybe that’s just me.

You’d Better Be Anorexic

You’d Better Be Anorexic

Is eating really slow rude to your fellow diners? READ MORE

How to Make Vinaigrette

Play Video

Tips for a basic salad dressing. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Pimp Your Burger

Pimp Your Burger

Mix-ins, not toppings, turn ground beef into the best burgers. READ MORE

Graveyard Picnic

Graveyard Picnic

Traditional Day of the Dead treats from Mexico. READ MORE

The Mouse, the Man, and the Sandwich

This month’s edition of Cook’s Country reverse-engineers and scales up the Monte Cristo sandwich, an old-school Disneyland favorite.

As someone whose only vivid memory of going to Disneyland as a wee kid was loving the bread bowl clam chowder at the Pirates of the Caribbean restaurant (You can eat the bowl! Holy crap! This entrée is seditiously awesome!), this struck a sympathetic chord. And in the fine tradition of Cook’s Illustrated, the deconstruction of the Monte Cristo is both painstaking and crystal clear, resulting in a recipe that practically begs the home chef to implement it immediately.

Moreover, Cook’s Country took the time to identify the Monte Cristo’s Achilles heel—for a sandwich, the damn thing takes a long time to make. The CC version is scaled up so as to allow chefs to crank out six at a crack.

The magic of the Monte Cristo is that it’s a unique marriage of the classic grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich and, well, French toast. With ingredients that include powdered sugar, Gruyère cheese, raspberry jam, and cayenne pepper, it sounds like a train wreck waiting to happen, but it’s maintained 40 years of popularity at the theme park’s Blue Bayou restaurant.

Then again, there’s no accounting for American taste …

Cocoa Bar: Luxe Chocolate Under Wraps in Hell’s Kitchen

Behind the unpromising facade of a Tasti D-Lite outlet in Hell’s Kitchen, there lurks a classy chocolate salon called Cocoa Bar, reports Peter Cuce. Hot chocolate, made from the good stuff like MarieBelle and Schokinag, can be stellar, depending on who’s behind the counter. Also available: espresso drinks from Lavazza coffee, teas and tisanes, and fancy candies (Blanxart from Spain, Dolfin and Cote D’Or from Belgium). Nice comfortable chairs and couches, too.

The Cocoa Bar [Clinton]
630 9th Ave., between W. 44th and 45th Sts., inside Tasti D-Lite, Manhattan
212-265-4977
Map

Board Links
Naked City Cafe? Any other Starbucks alternatives in Hell’s Kitchen

Salvadoran Plantain Empanadas

We usually think of empanadas as pastry shells filled with good things, like beans or sardines. Salvadoran plantain and sweet milk empanadas–sometimes called empanaditas–are a whole other beast, as katya will testify. Instead of pastry, the outside layer is composed of caramelized plantains. Inside is molten sweet milk. It’s a tasty dish, and the version at Sabor Salvadoreno is very, very good. A pupusa and a plantain empanada will run you $3.75.

Sabor Salvadoreno [South Bay]
2045 White Oak Lane, at Poinciana Dr., Santa Clara
408-985-6464
Locater

Board Links
Santa Clara’s Sabor Salvadoreno: I’m a Fan-tain of the Plantains

Southern Fried Quail at Boulevard

Southern fried quail at Boulevard is an exceptional experience, says DCarbonaro. Juicy little quail are the perfect size for southern frying–the meat cooks through before the skin is burnt. The coating is crunchy and substantial, and the flesh is juicy and tender. Buttery mashed potatoes and biscuits with haunting, buttery honey sauce are served on the side. At $15, it’s the least expensive entree on the lunch menu.

Boulevard [Embarcadero]
1 Mission St., San Francisco
415-543-6084
Locater

Board Links
Southern-fried Quail at Boulevard—-Amazing

At Yvonne’s in Pelham, Pig’s Feet with Soul

Pig’s feet at Yvonne’s are messy, bony, and thoroughly glorious, says Pat Hammond. Collards and black-eyed peas are smart picks among the sides.

There are misses as well as hits on the menu at this popular Southern spot in Pelham. Cornbread is too sweet and fried chicken is just OK, according to Pat. For a broad survey of the menu, check out the Tuesday and Thursday buffet spread, which they lay out starting around 6 p.m.–and get there early while the chow is fresh.

Yvonne’s Southern Cuisine [Westchester County]
503 5th Ave., near 6th St., Pelham, NY
914-738-2005
Locater

Board Links
Pigs feet in Pelham