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

Flat-Out Fabulous: Pancakes at Stamford’s Lakeside Diner

At Lakeside Diner, the pancakes are so good you may not even want syrup. “I think I’m in love,” sighs adamclyde, whose object of desire is eggy, slightly tangy, more savory than sweet, and most surely made in-house from a real recipe, not from Acme Food Services Pancake Mix #1. They’re thin, around eight inches across, and cooked to a delicate crisp. “The other diner pancakes I’ve had in Stamford tasted like Bisquick batter,” adam adds. “This place is unique and has their own recipe. And I think it works great.”

Beyond pancakes, go for the solid and filling Lakeside Special (two eggs, bacon, ham, or sausage, home fries, French toast, and toast)–a ton of decent breakfast chow for $5.

Lakeside Diner [Fairfield County]
1050 Long Ridge Rd., near Webbs Hill Rd., Stamford, CT
203-322-2252
Map

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Pancakes at Lakeside diner in Stamford

Prime Smoked Meats: A New Bacon Contender

Prime Smoked Meats makes a delicious, well-marbled bacon, says Curtis. Its flavors are well-balanced, with a nice smoke and sweetness, and it’s meaty, well-cured, and sliced thick. Some area butchers sell it, including Dan-R Meats, for about $4.99 a pound–still a bargain compared to many artisanal bacons–but if you go directly to their warehouse (open to the public) at their processing facility, you can buy it in three-pound increments for $2.59 a pound, says Eugene Park.

Dan-R Meats is worth the trip in its own right. The butcher breaks his own beef and buys it by the side, dry aging and trimming it all himself. He also makes his own sausage. And–if you’re inclined–he will make you a turducken at a great price.

Prime Smoked Meats [Jack London Square]
220 Alice St., Oakland
510-832-7167
Locater

Dan-R Meats [Dimond District]
1440 Leimert Blvd., Oakland, CA
510-482-2519
Locater

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Prime Smoked Meats = crispy bacony goodness (isn’t about time for a bacon throwdown?)

Seasonal Ice Creams

rworange has been conducting first-hand research into the various pumpkin and seasonal-flavored ice creams around the area. (She even took down a Jack-in-the-Box pumpkin milkshake, in the name of science.) She has a winner, and it’s Fairfax Scoop. The lavors are true and intense, the texture is perfect, the prices are fair, and they make their own waffle cones. Green Gulch pumpkin ice cream has the most true, pure, fresh pumpkin flavor, with unbelievably perfect spicing. Try it with a scoop of Brown Sugar Pecan, which tastes exactly as it sounds.

Honorable mention goes to Three Twins Ice Cream, which serves Japanese pumpkin pie ice cream, nicely spiced with pieces of Japanese pumpkin. It’s dense, not too sweet, full of flavor. They also serve butternut squash ice cream, which has no discernable spice and basically tastes like butternut squash. Kugel ice cream and cranberry ice cream are also available.

Sketch Ice Cream gets another honorable mention for its tart, smooth, spiced apple sorbet, and for pear ice cream with great texture and delicate pear flavor. No word on their pumpkin ice cream yet–it comes out around Halloween.

Fairfax Scoop [Marin County]
63 Broadway Blvd., Fairfax
415-453-3130
Locater

Three Twins Ice Cream [Marin County]
641 Del Ganado Road., San Rafael, CA
415-492-8946
Locater

Sketch [East Bay]
1809A Fourth St.Berkeley
510-665-5650
Locater

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Fairfax Scoop – Green Gulch pure pumpkin pleasure
Berkeley–Sketch–super apple spice sorbet & fig cakes
San Rafael–Three Twins Ice Cream – Japanese pumpkin pie, butternut squash, kugel & possibly cranberry

Creamy Riches in a Bowl of Tomato Soup

Tomato soup at Sarabeth’s may not be the stuff of legend, as the menu would have it, but it does not disappoint. theannerska reports amazingly creamy, tomatoey soup, perfect with house-made biscuits or seven-grain bread. Butternut squash soup, which is in the rotation, is another winner.

Sarabeth’s [Upper West Side]
423 Amsterdam Ave., between W. 80th and 81st Sts., Manhattan
212-496-6280
Locater

Sarabeth’s [Upper East Side]
1295 Madison Ave., between E. 92nd and 93rd Sts., Manhattan
212-410-7335
Locater

Sarabeth’s Bakery [Chelsea]
75 9th Ave., at W. 15th St., in Chelsea Market, Manhattan
212-989-2424
Locater

Sarabeth’s [Midtown]
40 Central Park S., between 6th and 5th Aves., Manhattan
212-826-5959
Map

Sarabeth’s at the Whitney [Upper East Side]
945 Madison Ave., at E. 75th St., Manhattan
212-570-3670
Locater

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chow ivo Amsterdam and W. 79th?

Great Thai, and Chocolate Cake, Too

It’s easy to miss Naraya, a tranquil little Thai restaurant, but that would be a shame, says polishprincess, who gets buzzed on their full, clean flavors and great sauces. The appetizers are good bets, including golden pouches with rock shrimp, duck tacos, Asian tamales and soft-shell crab. Vietnamese shrimp handrolls are stylishly presented in shot glasses. For mains, try fried catfish or tamarind salmon (also fried). They’ve got real desserts, too, like warm flourless chocolate cake.

Naraya Thai Restaurant [Midtown]
1128 S. Robertson Blvd., Pico, Los Angeles
310-858-7738
Locater

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New Thai Westside

A Kid’s Dream Bake Shop

Those of you who never want to read another word about cupcakes, stop reading now. Violet’s, raves luv2grub, is seriously the best. They’ve got eclectic flavors that push those nostalgia buttons, like Almond Joy (chocolate with coconut filling) and French toast (cinnamon cake with maple syrup frosting). Moist, with a delicate crumb and great flavor… they’ll definitely satisfy a sweet tooth. Especially since frosting is rather on the sweet side, as it usually is. Cupcakes, $2.25.

Violet’s Cakes [Pasadena-ish]
21 E. Holly Street, Pasadena
626-395-9821
Map

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Violet’s in Pasadena has the best cupcakes I’ve had in LA

Budget-Minded Cioppino

It’s not necessary to shell out a lot of cash for expensive seafood when making cioppino. Though most restaurants include Dungeness crab, even that’s not a must, say chowhounds. What you do need are a flavorful fish stock and shellfish like clams and/or mussels, in addition to shrimp and white fish. Asian markets are a good source for inexpensive shellfish, as well as fish heads and trimmings for making stock. Good-quality frozen fish and shrimp are fine for a cost-conscious cioppiono; Trader Joe’s is a good source.

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Cioppino on a budget… will frozen fish do?

Preventing Produce from Oxidizing

Some fruits and vegetables oxidize (turn brown) when their cut surfaces are exposed to air. You can use lemon or lime juice on cut fruit or with certain vegetables, but what if you don’t want those flavors? Here are some alternate techniques:

Instead of putting trimmed artichokes into a bowl of water acidulated with lemon juice, add cut parsley stems to the water, recommends diropstim; they’ll accomplish the same thing as lemon juice while imparting almost zero flavor.

The best solution for keeping avocados or guacamole from turning brown is to eat them up, but if you must store them, press plastic wrap tightly against the surface of the avocado or guac, creating a barrier against air.

To keep cut potatoes from turning brown until you cook them, drop them in a bowl of cold water, making sure they are completely submerged. iLoveFood has even kept potatoes overnight in the fridge this way (covered) to fry up for breakfast the next morning. Make sure to drain and dry the potatoes thoroughly before cooking, however briefly you keep them in water.

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Preventing Brown Oxidation —More than Lemons???

Serious Fruitcake

You basically have two options for incredibly rich, dark, moist fruitcakes that smell of rum and taste like sugarplum fairies. One, you can make them yourself. Two, you can buy them.

Sheila Ferguson’s “downright lethal” recipe in “Soul Food” requires you to age the fruitcakes for about ten months, occasionally applying brandy, rum, or wine. But for those of you who didn’t start in March and have to buy fruitcakes, a good source is essential. rtmonty likes the fruitcakes from Collin Street Bakery, in Corsicana, Texas–and they ship anywhere in the world. Another option (also located in Texas) is Mary of Puddin Hill.

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fruitcake

Cabeza Tacos

Cabeza, meat from the head of a cow, is one of the most flavorful, delicious, peak-food-experience-producing taco meats in existence. It is NOT the same as brains–those are sesos. So stop worrying.

Cabeza is prepared in many different ways, says Dommy, depending on the region and the establishment. It may be braised until tender, or it may be steamed (al vapor). Carnicerias will commonly cook the whole head, so that the meat gets a little crisp. Taco trucks are more likely to cook just the cheek portion–a whole beef head being a pretty big thing to deal with. Generally it’s not seasoned with anything but salt–this meat is so intensely flavored that there’s no need to spice it all up. Try it in a nice chewy sope next time you have the chance.

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Cabeza at a tacqueria questions