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

$4.25 Breakfast in Monterey Park

Chinese American joints in SGV serving Western food are a fantastic deal–at K.T. Grille, a $4.25 breakfast gets you bacon, eggs, toast, tea or coffee, and oatmeal or macaroni soup. Go before 6 p.m. and get an early-bird special of quail, pork chop, or fish fillet, plus soup of the day, for $6.95. It’s all reliably good, says kure.

Along the same line, try Regents Cafe and/or ABC Cafe, says cfylong–you can’t go wrong.

KT Grille [San Gabriel Valley]
501 W. Garvey Ave. #108, at Ynez, Monterey Park

Regent Cafe [San Gabriel Valley]
1411 S. Garfield Ave., Alhambra

ABC Cafe [San Gabriel Valley]
100 N. Garfield Ave., Monterey Park

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K.T. Grille/MPK

Ohzi Al-sham at Ali Baba’s Cave

At the Valencia Street branch of Ali Baba’s Cave, you can get a dish called Ohzi Al-sham. It’s a baked filo pastry, about five inches in diameter and three inches deep, weighing about a pound. Inside you’ll find lamb, pine nuts, basmati rice, almonds, and peas. The bottom is soaked in a spicy, pepper-infused oil. zippo pronounces it one of the best Middle Eastern dishes ever. It costs $4.50, and they also have a vegetarian version.

hankstramm likes it, too, but warns that you have to get it fresh–if it’s been on the steam table too long, the bottom of the pastry gets tough and chewy.

Ali Baba’s Cave [Mission]
799 Valencia St., San Francisco

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Ali Baba’s on Valencia

La Bodeguita del Medio

David Sloo has been going to La Bodeguita del Medio for a decade, and the quality of the food has been variable. However, he thinks that they’ve hit their stride, and he can now recommend the place for the excellent food–not just the lively atmosphere and rummy rum.

He recommends the oyster shooters–good-quality oysters served in a shot glass, adorned with cocktail sauce, a generous dose of grated horseradish, and habanero rum. The rim of the shotglass is dipped in salt and powdered habanero, making for an intense and delicious experience for non-crybabies. Lamb chops are thin and elegant, grilled beautifully with lots of cumin. Surf-and-turf (a piece of grilled skirt steak and a couple of grilled shrimp) was delightful years ago, then started to be overcooked and lame, and now looks delightful again. And “the purple mashed potatoes are the sort of thing you’ll like if you like that sort of thing,” says David Sloo.

La Bodeguita del Medio [Peninsula]
463 S. California Ave., Palo Alto

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Bodeguita del Medio: the quality returns

Spicy, Sturdy Soups at 51st and Broadway

A soup vendor at 51st and Broadway turns up the heat two ways, dishing up warming and spicy meals for the Midtown lunch crowd. Pea soup and chicken gumbo deliver deliciousness and a vigorous chile kick. Lobster-crab bisque is another winner–deep, rich, and filling, says InfoMofo. Quality can be up and down, but these soups easily beat the local deli competition, says guspapp.

Soup vendor [Theater District]
51st St. and Broadway, SW corner, Manhattan

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Soup Guy on 51st and Broadway

Where Does Your Thanksgiving Come From?

Thanksgiving is near, and proponents of eating locally want us to think about where our turkeys (and cranberries and mashed potatoes) are coming from—or even better, join in the campaign to celebrate a 100-Mile Thanksgiving.

With the average food item traveling at least 1,500 miles before it reaches your plate, the movement to support locally and sustainably raised products is growing. As the annual harvest feast of Thanksgiving approaches, a campaign to encourage local foods at the dinner table is in full swing.

Announced last week on the Eat Local Challenge blog, the 100-Mile Thanksgiving encourages participants to source their holiday meal from within a hundred miles of where they live. While some participants are aiming at 100 percent local produce, others are choosing to prepare one local dish, or planning for a certain percentage of locally raised products (cranberries being a common exception for those living in bog-less areas, along with cinnamon and ginger for pumpkin pie).

The Washington Post picked up the story yesterday, looking at the beneficial impact of eating locally and quoting a local eater from Maryland. “‘If people made the effort even 20 percent to eat local, it would have a huge impact on the environment, the local economy and their communities,’ says Sarah Irani of Frederick.”

At the 100-Mile Diet website there are recipe and stories from participants, and the tone is definitely upbeat. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to talk about food, about the virtues of locally grown food, and to learn about and celebrate the special food resources and heritage,” writes one participant. Another points out that “Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter menus are the easiest to plan, as all feature seasonally available food.”

Others are focused on finding replacements for traditional favorites. “I’ve got a source for locally raised turkey and most of the vegetables,” writes one participant, “but what about ingredients used as back-up players … hello!—cinnamon is the bark of an Indonesian evergreen tree!”

Something tells me there wasn’t actually a lot of cinnamon in use at that first Thanksgiving, either. You could always go without and say you’re aiming for historical authenticity.

Off-Season Chow from the Vendors of Red Hook

As the season closes at the Red Hook sports fields, home to the famous weekend feast of Latin American street bites, fretful fans wonder where their next baleadas or barbacoa taco is coming from. Not to worry: At least two of the Red Hook vendors spend the off season devoting full attention to their year-round restaurants.

La Asuncion in Borough Park is home base for one of the Mexican food stands–the one at the end of the Clinton Street row, according to the vendor guide at Porkchop Express, a blog devoted to kielbasa, banh mi, and other chowish subjects. Go for superior huevos rancheros (with great chunky salsa) or barbacoa tacos, a Red Hook favorite stuffed with shredded, slow-cooked goat meat, advises KRS.

Honduras Maya in Park Slope, whose owners set up shop in the middle of Red Hook’s Bay Street row, makes terrific soups; sopa de jaiba (crab soup) is especially nice, says JohnnyCT. Try baleadas, too. They’re big, taco-like things: red beans, crema, eggs, cheese, and sometimes avocado stuffed into a soft, fluffy tortilla. Past reports praise hearty breakfasts of scrambled eggs, salty white cheese, fried beans, sweet plantains, and chewy flatbread.

Red Hook Recreation Area athletic fields [Red Hook]
Clinton, Court, Halleck and Bay Sts., Brooklyn

La Asuncion Mexican Restaurant [Borough Park]
3914 Fort Hamilton Pkwy., between 39th and 40th Sts., Brooklyn

Honduras Maya [Park Slope]
587 5th Ave., at 15th St., Brooklyn

The Porkchop Express Red Hook vendor guide

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La Asuncion
Red Hook soccer fields

With Mr. Tsuji, You Might Never Buy Teriyaki Sauce Again

“Darn, I feel like a fool,” sighs pilinut. “I spent years (and good money) buying bottles of prepared teriyaki and sukiyaki sauce, when all I needed to do was open my copy of Shizuo Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking: a Simple Art...Honestly, you may never need another Japanese cookbook.”

hotandsour echoes this praise, saying, “So rare to find a book that teaches you how to extrapolate the philosophy of a cuisine!” “Yukari agrees that it is the bible for Japanese cooking, but also recommends Elizabeth Andoh’s Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen.

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With Mr. Tsuji, You Might Never Buy Teriyaki (or Sukiyaki) Sauce Again

Elemental Dessert of Oranges and Red Wine Syrup

When every bit of their bitter pith is removed, oranges become surprisingly delicate and even luxurious, says frenetica. She tops oranges with spiced red wine syrup for a dessert that’s not cloying or heavy. Here’s the recipe:

Boil down a bottle of red wine with a cup of granulated sugar (or to taste) and some cinnamon sticks until it is reduced to a thick, dark syrup. Meanwhile, cut the peel and pith from good, juicy oranges with a knife and slice them into rounds. Cover and chill. To serve, drizzle plenty of spiced wine syrup over chilled orange rounds and top with good vanilla ice cream.

frenetica likes to use any extra syrup on oatmeal.

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Foolproof, voluptuous, (almost) no-cook dessert

Enstrom’s Almond Toffee

Enstrom’s Toffee is a holiday and year-round favorite. It’s a made from the simplest of recipes: it’s nothing but sugar, milk, chocolate and almonds. This delicious treat is now available sugar free, in both the dark and milk chocolate. Check out their chocolate selection and toffee popcorn, too.

Order early for holiday giving, and get a few selections for yourself. The gift baskets look particularly nice.


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Enstrom’s toffee

White Truffles

Late fall to midwinter is the season for white truffles, a truly lovely extravagance. Luckily, it doesn’t take much of this amazing fungus to transform a dish. No need to peel them; just brush off any surface debris and shave. In most cases, raw truffle shavings are best.

Try to use the truffle as soon as you can. A firm, unblemished truffle will keep well for a few days, well wrapped and refrigerated. It’ll do double duty, too: if you store it in a container with uncooked rice: the rice will acquire a lovely truffle flavor.

A truffle shaver will give you paper-thin slices. Robert Lauriston says they cost about $25, but a chocolate shaver is essentially the same tool, and costs about half that.

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How long does a white truffle last?