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

Farm-Fresh Salad Dressings with North Fork Flavors

Uncommonly good bottled salad dressings with Asian flavors come from Sang Lee Farms on Long Island’s North Fork. jenniebnyc is hooked on their Asian Vinaigrette–creamy, light, slightly sweet. Other flavors: citrus, scallion, sweet ginger, toasted sesame.

coll is partial to their pestos–basil-pine nut, cilantro-pine nut, and spinach-walnut. All are available year-round online or at the farm, and on Saturday mornings from June to November at the Westhampton Beach farmers’ market (this year’s season ends November 11).

The products were developed by Sang Lee but are now made by A Taste of the North Fork in Cutchogue, which turns local produce into dressings, jams and jellies, mustards, vinegars, and other good stuff.

Sang Lee Farms [Suffolk County]
25180 Middle Rd. (County Rd. 48), near Bridge Ln., Peconic, NY
631-734-7001
Locater

Westhampton Beach farmers’ market [Suffolk County]
in parking lot next to Westhampton Beach Historical Society
101 Mill Rd., between Sunset and Woodland Aves., Westhampton Beach, NY
631-288-1559
Map

A Taste of the North Fork [Suffolk County]
8595 Cox Ln., near Oregon Rd., Cutchogue
631-734-6100
Locater

Board Links
Sang Lee Farms, North Fork LI

La Focacceria Folds Again; and Other New York News

For the second time in a year, La Focacceria has closed. The East Village Sicilian landmark, established 1914, first went under last year when its owner retired. It got a second chance in spring, when a longtime employee opened a new La Focacceria, with cooks and recipes from the old place. Now the new place is gone, too, leaving behind fond memories of homey caponata, seafood salads, and vastedde (sandwiches of calf spleen and cheese).

Chelsea’s Wild Lily Tea Room is also closing its doors, saddening fans of its teas, tisanes, sandwiches, and serene, slightly quirky vibe. “Not good news,” notes gumnaam. “Wild Lily has long been a nice refuge from the city.” Fans can enjoy hanging out one last time at the shop’s send-off tea party. It’s at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, November 16; make a reservation on the web site.

La Focacceria [East Village]
formerly Rancho El Girasol
221 1st Ave., between E. 13th and 14th Sts., Manhattan
Map

Wild Lily Tea Room [Chelsea]
511 W. 22nd St., between 10th and 11th Aves., Manhattan
212-691-2258
Locater

Board Links
Tea Bars/Shops
La Foccaceria Is Back

Hamburger Tips from Forest Hills to the Bronx

A stealth burger lurks on the menu at Corfu Grill, where it goes by bifteki and comes with pita triangles and tzatziki. Whatever they call it, it’s really a hamburger, says janie. She declares it the best in Forest Hills–and a deal at $5.50 for the lunch special. If you ask, they’ll put it on a bun. The rest of the menu leans toward Greek specialties like moussaka, pastitsio, gyro, and souvlaki.

Another Forest Hills spot, Cobblestones, makes a solid hamburger–known here as a hamburger–that Afikoman ranks ahead of hound favorite Donovan’s in Woodside. For $8.95 it comes with two toppings (cheese, bacon, chili, vegetables, etc.) plus lettuce, tomato, onion, and fries. Cheddar and chili is an especially nice combo. Beyond burgers, this place dishes up better-than-average pub chow, says kid_aa.

In the Bronx, the Hilltop serves a huge, satisfying hamburger with house-made mashed potatoes and a soda, all for $4.95, marvels beke. Other winners: lasagna, fresh-squeezed lemonade, steak sandwiches on garlic toast, and moussaka (when they have it)–“no creepy white stuff on top, just scrumptious layers of eggplant, potatoes, and ground beef.” Breakfast fare is skippable.

Corfu Grill [Forest Hills]
70-17B Austin St., between 67th Dr. and 68th Ave.Forest Hills, Queens
718-263-6263
Map

Cobblestones Pub [Forest Hills]
117-18 Queens Blvd., between 77th and 78th Aves., Forest Hills, Queens
718-263-9754
Locater

Hilltop Restaurant [Bronx]
1306 Castle Hill Ave., near Westchester Ave., Bronx
718-409-0412
Locater

Board Links
Great Burger in the Bronx on Castle Hill
Good burger in/around Forest Hills?

Barrels, Barrels, Everywhere

Bardstown, Kentucky (continued)

What says “fun” more than a barrel-rolling competition? Consider us your go-to source for up-to-the-minute reports on this burgeoning sport.

The aim isn’t just to hustle around 500-pound water-filled barrels. It’s to ensure that they all wind up with their bungholes facing up (if one is off by even an inch, points are deducted). And since each barrel travels less distance than the one before, the roller must make allowances by spinning these suckers around with incredible precision.

In the following video, watch the logos on the barrels (which correspond to the locations of the bungholes). Ideally, all logos will wind up neatly in the up position. Movie file

Check out this old-time barrel wrangler (bear in mind that these things weigh 500 pounds each): Movie file

Heaven Hill Tour

We toured the Heaven Hill distillery. These guys make Evan Williams and Elijah Craig, and they also quietly produce bourbon on contract for many other companies (contract distilling is a common arrangement; the hundreds of Kentucky bourbons are all produced by Kentucky’s nine remaining distilleries).

Here are the storage facilities where the barrels are aged. Yes, they look eerily like penitentiaries, but the smell is, as I noted in my last report, nothing short of heavenly.

It’s all about those barrels, babe:

Here’s a weird, but weirdly educational, exhibit. The instructions read, “Press button for aroma,” which emerges from the brass horn:

Eager tour participants in guided tasting:

Back to the bourbon festival, which, on the weekend, actually turns into a bourbon festival. Tons of people come and congregate on a fairground, a few of whom cram into a small area where shots of all the usual bourbons are sold. You drink from plastic cups, standing up, outdoors in the heat.

The perimeter was rife with merchandising, none of it very intriguing:

This wasn’t really what we were hoping for. So we turned our sights on food, which was sort of generic fair food, with a couple of exceptions.

Hog Wild BBQ, from Boston, Kentucky, sent a van:

They make fried corn (breaded and deep-fried half ears), certainly a new sensation for me:

Burgoo soup sounds more interesting than it tastes (sweet and tomatoey):

Pulled pork and brisket were OK:

The only thing approaching deliciousness was a truck where a family from Oaxaca prepared gringo-friendly Mexican food. After I talked to them for a while in Spanish and expressed my appreciation for Oaxacan cuisine, they made me a couple of things with some actual chile heat. These guys aren’t serious cooks, just immigrants trying to make a few bucks via their ethnicity. And they lacked any kind of real ingredients. But they put their hearts into their work, and it had a charm. It was a small find, but as with the Treadwell Franklin Walton United Methodist Church Pancake Griddle I found at the otherwise missable Delaware County Fair in upstate New York, anything above/beyond the usual carnival fare is a blessing indeed. Even, alas, if the carnival is as hip-sounding as the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

My halfhearted effort to persuade the Mexican wife to bring me real Oaxacan tamales the next day went nowhere.

Worst-Case Scenario Chorizo

rworange has made a project out of tasting the house-made chorizo of Mexican markets in the Bay Area. Overall, her results are positive–the spicy sausages are generally great, with strong notes of vinegar, chile, and herbs, and lots of variation from store to store.

Tasting a commercially-produced chorizo for comparison, however, reveals how bad things can really get. “This is probably the scariest thing I’ve eaten in my life,” says rworange. El Mexicano brand chorizo ($1.49 for a 12-ounce package) lists pork salivary glands, lymph nodes, and fat (cheeks) as the top three ingredients. It has a disturbingly soft texture with plenty of stringy pieces. And it tastes like…saliva, with an awful, soft sliminess to it.

Real chorizo from a carniceria costs only about twice as much and it’s worth every penny.

Board Links
Chorizo crawl–Pork salivary glands, lymph nodes & fat (cheeks)

Tuscan Truffled Pecorino from Pennsylvania Macaroni Company

The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company in Pittsburgh makes a pecorino cheese with chunks of both black and white truffles inside. mhoffman loves this cheese–it’s less salty than many pecorinos, and every sliver fills your sinuses with musky goodness. Try it shaved over buttered noodles, in shards drizzled with honey on crusty bread, or straight up. At around $14 a pound, “it’s the best truffle experience for the money I’ve ever had,” says mhoffman. It’s not currently listed on their web site, so call (412-471-8330) to ask about availability.

Board Links
Bosco Tartufo Tuscan Truffled Pecorino

Lithuanian Bacon Buns

How irresistible does a warm globe of dough filled with bits of fried bacon, ham, and onion sound? Bacon buns are a deeply traditional Lithuanian goodie, but they’re easy to whip up for the average American. This recipe may read long, but litchick, swears it’s foolproof, even for an unsteady baker like her:

Dough:

1 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 packages dry yeast, regular or rapid rise
2 eggs, well beaten
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour, sifted

Filling:

1 pound lean bacon, cut into small pieces
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 pound lean ham, diced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Egg wash:

1 egg yolk mixed with 2-3 tablespoons milk

Pour scalded milk into a large bowl. Add butter, sugar, and salt. Let mixture cool to lukewarm, 110-115 degrees. Stir in yeast until dissolved. Add beaten eggs and then add flour gradually, mixing until dough is workable.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead with floured hands until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Put dough into a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.

While dough is rising, make the filling: Fry bacon pieces in a heavy skillet until most of the fat is rendered, but the bacon is still soft (you don

Sweet and Savory and Wonderful: Apple Cranberry Chutney

This is apple-cranberry chutney is much more than the sum of it’s parts, says prunefeet. The combination of sweet and savory is really wonderful.

Apple-Cranberry Chutney

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
3 cups cranberries, picked over and coarsely chopped
2 large golden delicious apples (about 1 lb.), peeled, cored, and cut into 3/8-inch cubes
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup raisins
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt

Heat oil in medium non-reactive saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture releases moisture and is boiling, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until apples are tender, 20-25 minutes. Cool to room temperature before serving. Can be made up to 2 weeks ahead and refrigerated in airtight container; bring to room temperature before serving. Makes about 4 cups.

Board Links
Apple Cranberry chutney–delish recipe

Next Up: A Robot That Powers Itself by Eating Kittens

Terrified by robots? If so, please don’t read Lore Sjöberg’s post on the Wired blog about robots identifying human flesh as delicious bacon.

Researchers at NEC System technologies and Mie University have designed a cute little ‘bot that can “eat” samples of cheeses, meats, or wines and then identify what it has been fed.

But when some smart aleck reporter placed his hand in the robot’s omnivorous clanking jaw, he was identified as bacon. A cameraman then tried and was identified as prosciutto. Absolutely horrifying.

Apparently, all we need to do is build several thousand copies of this ‘bot, pass around some hedge trimmers and a Skynet-like global hive mind, and we’ll all be living in a cross between The Matrix and Bad Taste.

Hooray for food science!

Have a Barbera

Have a Barbera

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