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

Al Pastor a la Pineapple

Found: al pastor roasted on a spit topped with a pineapple, basting the meat in its delicious juices. WildSwede discovered it outside the Las Delicias in Newhall and joined the huge line waiting for the tacos. Although the guy working the outside spit doesn’t chop off bits of pineapple and add them to the tacos, the guy inside the restaurant does. Fantastic stuff.

Cocido de res, incidentally, is outrageously good–tasty stock piled with chunks of beef, potatoes, green beans and carrots.

A “small” cocido (actually a rather large bowl) is $4, large is $6. Tacos al pastor, $1 each.

Las Delicias [Santa Clarita]
22928 Lyons Ave., Newhall
661-287-1512
Locater

Las Delicias [Santa Clarita]
27125 Sierra Hwy., Canyon Country
661-250-9207
Locater

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Las Delicias–Newhall

The Seductions of Black Grape Gelato

Sometimes it’s the uncomplicated recipes, made with the fewest, but the best, ingredients, that work magic. This is one such time. Water, sugar, cream, and excellent Concord grapes become a downright rapturous gelato, says Carb Lover. “Juicy tartness balanced by sweetness and tannic finish, all mellowed by a whisper of cream. Luscious and complex, a red wine enthusiast would be seduced.”

Here’s how it’s made: heat 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Process 1 lb. of washed and stemmed black grapes through a food mill, using the insert with the smallest holes to catch the seeds and separate the skins. (Note: a food processor or blender is NOT a suitable alternative, as it will crush the seeds.) Combine grape puree with simple syrup and cool. Once cool, whip 1/4 cup heavy cream to the consistency of buttermilk. Blend with grape mixture, and chill thoroughly, then process in an ice cream freezer.

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Black Grape Gelato by Marcella Hazan

Cooking Up Tinned Sardines

Most tinned sardines make a short hop straight into sandwiches or onto saltine crackers, but here are two main course recipes in which they play a starring role.

mar52 uses them to make sardine tacos: Chop some tomato and sweet onion. Add chopped sardines, a squirt of fresh lime juice, salt and pepper, and your favorite hot sauce. Wrap in warm corn tortillas.

Miss Needle makes a pasta dish with sardines that she says is really addictive: Heat olive oil and saute minced garlic and crushed red pepper until the garlic turns golden. Add drained sardines and some chopped tomatoes and saute; stirring the ingredients as they cook will break up the sardines. Add not-quite-cooked pasta to the pan, along with some of the pasta cooking water, and simmer until the pasta’s done.

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tinned sardines–any options???

Heritage Turkeys

Yes, Thanksgiving is looming. Getting an order in for a special turkey should be done soon.

“Heritage” birds have become really popular. These turkeys are like those our ancestors had, before the days of the broad-breasted varieties. The Bourbon Red and American Bronze are highly recommended. There’s less white meat and more dark meat on these turkeys.

More about Heritage turkeys.

Mary’s Heritage turkeys have been very popular.

Diestel turkeys are organically grown, and they offer a little turkey called Diestel Petite that’s perfect for small families. For a large gathering, buy two, and you’ll have four legs and four wings! Niki Rothman cooked a 9-pound Petite, and describes it as magnificent.

This link includes a store locator. Some Whole Foods Markets carry them.

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Heritage turkeys–best breeds, best sources?
Heritage turkeys—worth it?

One Size Fits All Knife Block

The Igo Kapoosh knife block is very cleverly designed. Rather than a solid block of wood, with slots that may or may not fit your kives, the Igo Kapoosh block is tightly filled with slim rods that adjust and hold whatever size blade you insert into it. And the removable insert that holds the knives is dishwasher safe.

Hapa Dude has had one for a year and finds it very versatile. One minor issue: 8-inch chef knives stand up too straight to fit under the cabinets that overhang the kitchen counter.

Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Linens ‘n Things sell them for about $30.

Universal knife block.

Here’s a good description of how it works.

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A great knife block

Like a Hot Business Card Through Butter

A few weeks ago, Steve Wozniak, the furry co-founder of Apple, showed up on The Colbert Report. What else they talked about I will never recall, because all I can think about is how Woz likes to fly and freak out his first-class flight attendants by cutting up his steak with his business card.

It’s true. As he proved to Stephen Colbert, Steve Wozniak’s Lucklow-designed business card is made of some sort of thin, light, super-sharp metal that is so smooth, it “cuts the side of the steak like marble,” according to Wozniak. The inveterate prankster also sprinkles pepper on his plate and pretends to be shaving with the card when flight attendants come to clear his tray. An uncharacteristically stunned Colbert couldn’t help breaking character as he snarfled that he could have Wozniak classified as an “enemy combatant” for bringing sharp metal objects aboard airplanes.

Thank god for Wired’s blog for giving satisfaction to us geeks everywhere by providing a close-up look at Wozniak’s curious steak knife.

You can watch the September 28 interview on the newly Googled YouTube.

I’d like to get one of those business cards myself—if only to see how in the world he gets through metal detectors.

What a Croc!

The Go Fug Yourself Girls, about whom Variety has noted have “a barbed wit that makes Cojo and Joan Rivers seem like gushing fans,” have focused their wickedly funny fashion blog on Mario Batali.

Their complaint? The recently canceled Food Network chef showed up at the Infamous premiere party sporting his ubiquitous orange Crocs-wear.

Now, Radar may refer to Molto Mario as “patient zero” of the Crocs phenomenon and also notes that the New York chef “reportedly owns 30 pairs—all in orange—that he cleans in the dishwasher,” which, ew, but the Fuggers do not believe that the popular, airy, and often quite grimy footwear is appropriate for red carpeting.

I don’t care if he thinks they’re his signature in the kitchen. He is not IN the kitchen. He is at a premiere, and Sandra Bullock is in a GOWN, and he’s wearing a fleece, shorts, and filthy rubber clogs, like he just managed to squeeze in his paper route between the lunch service and the event start time.

PLAN AHEAD, Mario. Throw some loafers, or sneakers, or platform thigh-highs—ANYTHING—in the car and change on the way there. I’m sorry that you’ve become the poster child for this crime against global retinas, but so be it. We cannot allow the ghoulish Rubber Menace to become the sort of perceived all-purpose footwear that the Ugg boot has become; we cannot allow our impressionable starlets to think it’s acceptable to start pairing them with skirts, or dresses, or evening gowns. They cannot cross into Formal Shoe country. We must, in honor of the late Steve Irwin, become Croc Hunters. Constant vigilance, people. It’s the only way.

If you haven’t bookmarked Go Fug Yourself already, do it now, because the Fug Girls are not called “hilarious bitches” by Defamer for nothing. Just don’t read while drinking or you’ll need a new keyboard.

A Bushel and a Peck

It’s apple season, and over at Slate, the magazine’s usually spot-on financial writer Daniel Gross has turned in a controversial (!) piece about U-pick apple farms. He’s against them.

Apple picking is a cherished rite of fall, a wholesome and fun family outing, a throwback to a simpler time when people weren’t so disconnected from the production of their sustenance. I look forward to it every year. It’s also a wasteful scam.

But read further and you find he thinks it’s wasteful for the same reason that SUVs and McMansions are: overconsumption. His view is that people pick 20 pounds of apples (at about the same cost as supermarket ones) with the intention of making sauce or pies and then let them rot on the counter because there’s no time in our busy world for those types of activities.

Luckily, Gross is given an education by posters like MsZilla in the Fray, Slate’s comments forum.

Perhaps he should have come to my local U-pick farm, where there’s no petting zoo (oh all right, so there is a pumpkin slingshot), but the pie cherries got completely picked out in three days by rabid bakers trying to get their cherries before the small window of opportunity closed. You don’t have to be a back-to-the-lander to throw a bunch of apples in a pot and cook them for 20 minutes to make applesauce. Hell, you don’t even have to peel them.

Silence of the Lambs

As new E. coli cases crop up week by week, the latest issue of The New Republic reveals one more example of the United States Department of Agriculture’s ineptitude in protecting the American food supply. In the article, titled “On the Lamb” (requires registration), science writer D. T. Max tells the story of the USDA’s triumphant moment in 2001 at the height of the mad-cow scare. Rather than address the questionable practice of turning cows into carnivores, flak-jacketed federal-agent USDA enforcers made headlines by raiding a tiny sheep dairy in Vermont. Writes Max,

The P.R. risk seemed low and the offense to the beef industry negligible: In the ag world, beef trumps lamb, lamb trumps cheese, and just about everything trumps a bunch of long-hairs making artisanal cheese in Vermont.

The ostensible reason for seizing and slaughtering the Faillace family’s 125 sheep—as well as the family’s dog and llama—was a European study implying that mad-cow disease, officially known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, could morph into TSE, or transmittable spongiform encephalopathy, which could then affect sheep. But that study has since been discredited, as has the work of the lab where the Vermont sheep were tested. Sheep do get a similar neurological disease, called scrapie, but it doesn’t infect humans. And in the five years since the Faillace sheep were killed, the USDA has dragged its heels in doing the only test that could conclusively prove the presence of BSE in the sheep’s tissues.

The real issue, of course, isn’t only the probably pointless destruction of 125 sheep and the Faillaces’ livelihood. It’s the power of Big Beef—and the power of quick-fix, happy-face PR. As Faillace, now on a national book tour for her memoir Mad Sheep, says in an interview with a Vermont newspaper, she still doesn’t know why the family herd was targeted and who was behind it. “We don’t have any concrete answers and plenty of theories,” she says.

And what happened to Faillace’s “main antagonist,” USDA senior staff veterinarian Dr. Linda Detwiler? She is no longer on the government payroll. She now consults for Wendy’s and McDonald’s.

Russian Thai?

There’s a handwritten sign in the window that says “Still Thai Food,” but this Thai place has clearly been bought by Russians–with awesome results, says mcchowhound. In addition to the Thai stuff, the menu offers “Russian favorites,” and also suspiciously un-Italian sounding “Italian favorites”, like smoked salmon and avocado panini. Says mcchowhound, “A general rule of the universe is that if life offers you pelmenyi in a Thai restaurant, you ought to take it.” And, as it turns out, the pelmenyi are terrific–a bowl of perfect little dumplings with fresh dill and a side dish of sour cream, all for $5.95. It’s a lot of pelmenyi for one person, so go with a friend and try something else, too–borscht, vareniki of various kinds, or maybe the caviar blintzes for $7.95. You probably want to stick to the Russian stuff, but who knows? The “French favorites” and “Greek favorites” that they also offer might be great, too.

7 Pleasures [Financial District]
formerly Banana Best
554 Commercial Street, San Francisco
415-391-7362
Locater

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Russian Thai in the Financial District