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

But How Does It Taste with Tang?

The space race is on! Again! Rather than worrying about who will be the first in space, it’s now all about who will be the first to replace freeze-dried ice cream with celebrity-cheffed food.

Earlier this week, a CNN article announced that meals prepared by Alain Ducasse’s fair French hands were recently warped off to the International Space Station. Lucky German astronaut Thomas Reiter will get to sup on a menu that includes caponata, roasted quails in a Madiran wine sauce, and celery root purée with nutmeg.

However, the French are not the first to blast food into haute-r space (CNN’s pun, not mine!). Superchefblog reported back in August that, although the European Space Agency (ESA) announced two years ago that Alain Ducasse would be cooking for the stars, our very own NASA “has been secretly conducting its own race against the clock to get an American chef in space.” That worthy American chef? Emeril Lagasse.

It all comes down to simple semantics. Just as United Press International states that Emeril was the first great space roaster to have his food shot into space, Superchefblog insists Ducasse was the first to develop food for space:

While Emeril’s food may be on its way via shuttle to become the first food served in outer space, Emeril is not, as UPI claims, the first star chef to develop food for space: Ducasse is. Besides, Emeril is sending along a mere five recipes: The bigger story is that Ducasse has been developing an entire food system that focuses on ingredients actually raised on space stations and even rockets.



I think Ducasse should take comfort in the fact that in space, no one can hear you BAM!

Will Dagoba Get Hershified?

First Green & Black’s got gobbled by Cadbury in May 2005, and then Scharffen Berger and Joseph Schmidt were folded into the goopy batter of Hershey’s chocolate brands a few months later. Just last week, one of the few indie holdouts in the national artisan chocolate market, the eco-conscious brand Dagoba, sold to Hershey—and the move has caused a stir in the candy-blogging world.

Some prominent voices don’t seem to fear the buyout, viewing it as a partnership that will merely serve to increase the resources available to Dagoba without changing the product. As Nicole of Slashfood writes:

Some fans of Dagoba might be concerned that there will be a decrease in the overall quality of the product following the acquisition, or a turn away from the goals of the company in supporting the organic farming of cacao, but Hershey’s says that it will support the company in the pursuit of its goals. As with Scharffen Berger and Joseph Schmidt, which is also owned by Hershey’s, the larger company has no plans to rework the operations of Dagoba. From the perspective of the consumer, the most significant change will be an increase in the availability of organic chocolates, since Dagoba will now be able to take advantage of the Hershey’s distribution network.

Many readers remain unconvinced, however. Plenty of them simply break out the old corporations-are-evil chestnut, but a few—especially on David Lebovitz’s blog—have interesting thoughts about the buyout. As Kevin (who runs the food blog Seriously Good) writes,

[Dagoba’s owner Frederick] Schilling has obviously never been through a corporate acquisition before. Things will remain the same for at most 2 years—but probably not that long.

Seems like that was just about the amount of time it took for the Unilever company to gunk up Ben & Jerry’s ice cream with lots of artificial ingredients that I don’t remember being there before the socially conscious creamery was bought in 2000. One would imagine that six years later, with the organic- and natural-foods market in full swing, Hershey might think twice about pulling the same kind of ingredient switcheroo—but of course that all could change if the new parent company ever decides that consumers have stopped paying attention. I’m also interested to see whether Hershey will let Dagoba continue to make all its own sourcing decisions or whether it will procure some ingredients at the corporate level (thereby switching, say, the organic milk in Dagoba’s milk chocolate to a huge national brand with questionable practices).

In the meantime, I think I’ll use this as an excuse to stockpile chai and xocolatl bars.

Joya de Ceren

Joya de Ceren is a little Salvadoran market and restaurant, connected with the family that operates the excellent El Tazumal. They make their own Salvadoran chorizo, and the restaurant features dishes often seen at El Tazumal, such as sopa de chipilin. rworange likes this salty pork vegetable soup of carrots, chayote, pork, rice, and chipilin leaves–the latter a Central American plant that’s very good for you. The soup comes with two thick, hot Salvadoran pupusas, and some lime to squeeze over the salty broth.

And what pupusas they are–loroco pupusas with that mysterious loroco taste. The curtido (Salvadorean slaw, for topping your papusas) is excellent, and nicely spiced with oregano. Their great drinks include cinnamon-laced Mexican horchata and a fruit salad drink.

It’s a modest little place, but deeply worth checking out.

Joya De Ceren [East Bay]
12545 San Pablo Ave., Richmond 94805
510-235-5315
Map

El Tazumal [East Bay]
14621 San Pablo Ave., San Pablo 94806
510-215-7593
Locater

Board Links
Richmond: The El Tazumal connection–Joya de Ceren – Sopa de chipilin & garrobo pupusas

Zaitooni: Fresh Lebanese Flavors in Red Bank, NJ

Just one report on Zaitooni, a new Lebanese deli in Red Bank, but it promises great things. taste test says hummus, tabbouleh, kibbeh, stewed beans, and meat, cheese or spinach pies are all fresh and delicious. For dessert, look for honey-soaked farina cake.

Zaitooni [Monmouth County]
11 Mechanic St., near Broad St., Red Bank, NJ
732-842-4400
Map

Board Links
Lebanese deli in Red Bank–Sushi bar in Atlantic Highlands

Really Good Hippie Food

Typical hippie cuisine is heavy on bulgur and low on flavor. The guiding principals seem to be ethical rather than aesthetic, and the result tends to be a sort of vegan, organic, fair-trade plate of barely-edible crap.

Not so with Feel Real Caf

At Falai, Eye-Opening Profiteroles for Profiterole Skeptics

Those unmoved by profiteroles–and it takes all kinds–find them too often messy and cloyingly sweet. If that’s you, try the ones at Falai. “What a revelation!” swoons hardcore. “Small, simple, beautiful balance and textures…just incredible.”

Falai [Lower East Side]
68 Clinton St., between Stanton and Rivington, Manhattan
212-253-1960
Locater

Board Links
profiteroles at falai!

Yakitori – Breaking It Down

Before we get to yakitori, a brief etymology lesson, grace of cls:

yaki–grilled
teppan–iron plate
kushi–skewer
niku–meat
tori–bird

So we have yakiniku, yakitori, teppanyaki, and so on. But even though yakitori means grilled bird, it’s not just chicken–the term is used in general for charcoal grilling using skewers.

If you’re looking for strict yakitori, Kokekkoko is the place to go. Salted or with a sweet soy sauce, their chicken is fab–meatballs, liver, crispy skin, every last piece of the bird. Don’t miss the seasoned ground chicken appetizer. This place can hang with the best of Tokyo, swears ronnie_gaucho, who recommends calling for a reservation to get the VIP course.

But Torimatsu, a low-profile spot that’s part of a Japanese chain, is better, contends rameniac. It’s certainly a bit more refined. Go for dinner rather than lunch, because then everything is made to order.

Japanese salarymen flock to Shinsengumi, another chain whose branches have various specialties (ramen is also a fave), the Gardena and Fountain Valley branches have kick-ass yakitori.

Yakitori-ya also does justice to its name, with everything chicken and some duck bits, too. It’s not as affordable as it used to be, notes yinyangdi, but it’s worth every penny.

There’s more than yakitori at Sakura House, but you’d do well ordering anything grilled there, says goodetime, who worked there for years and still prefers it to the competition. The bar is a great place to sit and order skewers–it seats about 15, and there are 10 tables. Tomato-maki skewers and enoki-maki skewers are delicious, says Bon Vivant. One order equals one skewer (some restaurants do two), and costs about $2.50-4.25 per skewer.

Nanbankan, too, does more than yakitori–we’re probably talking more like kushiyaki here. You’ll see entire Japanese families here, four generations chowing down happily on their grilled meat. What more can we say?

Kokekokko [Little Toyko]
203 S. Central Ave., Los Angeles
213-687-0690
Locater

Torimatsu [South Bay]
1425 W. Artesia Blvd. #28, Gardena
310-538-5764
Locater

Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori Restaurant [South Bay]
18517 S. Western Avenue, Gardena
310-715-1588
Locater

Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori Restaurant [South OC]
18315 Brookhurst St. #1, Fountain Valley
714-962-8952
Map

Yakitori-ya [West LA]
11301 W. Olympic Blvd. Stuite 101, at Sawtelle, Los Angeles
310-479-5400
Locater

Sakura House [Culver City-ish]
13362 W. Washington Blvd., at Glencoe, Los Angeles
310-306-7010
Locater

Nanban-Kan Restaurant [West LA]
11330 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
310-478-1591
Locater

Board Links
Confused about Japanese grilling places… not Benihana
LA Yakitori Recs

Good for Goat

Excellent goat stew can be had at Mi Rak, says badseed, who tried the first item on the menu–there are several other goat dishes, but the menu is only in Korean. Stew is milder than at Chin Ko Gae, another goat-stew specialist. Bibimbap is also good. Goat stew, $13.

Mi Rak [Koreatown]
1134 S. Western Ave. # A2, Los Angeles
323-732-7577
Locater

Chin Ko Gae [Koreatown]
3063 W. 8th St., Los Angeles
213-487-0159
Locater

Board Links
good goat at Mi Rak in K-town

Rock Shrimp

Rock shrimp are a particularly delectable shellfish, with shells much thicker than ordinary shrimp, but with a delicious lobster flavor and great texture to make up for it. They can be boiled, steamed, or fried, saut

Korean Food Translation Guide

This primer, from our collected wisdom, will get you started:

Bap: cooked rice, the main course.

Panchan: the many tiny pickled dishes that accompany the meal.

Kimchi: the central panchan, fermented napa cabbage.

Guk, tang, jjigae and jjim are all soupy, stewy dishes. Tang and guk are thinner, and jjigae and jjim are thicker: Kalbi tang is beef rib soup, haemul tang is spicy seafood soup; soon dubu jjigae is a very spicy tofu stew, and galbijjim is beef rib stew.

Bibim means mixed, so bibimbap is mixed rice, or rice with various toppings. Bibim baengmyun is cold noodles mixed with toppings.

Japchae is yam noodles, almost always served cold, in a sticky sauce.

Pa Jun is a savory pancake. With seafood mixed in, it’s called haemul pajun. Dduk is a savory or sweet rice cake.

Das Ubergeek says that, unlike in Chinese cuisine, the default meat of Korean cooking is beef. Daeji is pork; dak is chicken; haemul is mixed seafood.

Don’t forget Korean barbecue!

Board Links
Korean Food Primer