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

Little La Buca

With Briganti, South Pasadena gets a little taste of La Buca without venturing down to Melrose. Briganti is a child of the same owners as La Buca, though the newer place is actually more upscale. Mama, however, is not in the kitchen at Briganti.

Still, it’s a great local option–like an Italian version of Beaujolais. Caesar salad is simple and just right. Pastas are excellent–ravioli with spinach and ricotta is hearty and rich without being heavy. If you see the special of handmade pappardelle with proscuitto ragu, pounce. Skip the pedestrian New York steak, which comes with a too-sweet sauce.

Dinner for two, no alcohol, runs $70 before tax and tip.

Briganti [Pasadena-ish]
1423 Mission Street, South Pasadena
626-441-4663
Map

Board Links
BRIGANTI (Pasadena) ... report
Briganti in South Pasadena? Anyone tried it?

Low and Slow Ribs in the Oven

Chowhounds agree that the best way to cook super-tender ribs without a grill or smoker is to do them low and slow in the oven, covered or wrapped in foil. TorontoJo cooks hers at 250F for 4-5 hours, while groover8 finds that 3 hours at 300F does the job. Put the rack of of ribs on a sheet pan and cover tightly with foil. Biggie recommends putting a tablespoon or two of liquid (he likes apple juice) in with the ribs to make them even more moist and tender. When they’re cooked, remove the foil and crank up the oven or put them under the broiler for a few minutes on each side to get a nice crust. This is also the time to add sauce if you want to.

Tonyjlive won a rib cook-off using this cooking method for pork spare ribs. Here, he shares his winning dry rub and BBQ sauce recipes:

Dry rub (rub over ribs and rifrigerate overnight before cooking)

handful of brown sugar
20 grinds of pepper
4 pinches of salt
2 pinches of cayenne
2 pinches of paprika
pinch of chili powder
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of onion powder
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of allspice
pinch of cloves

BBQ Sauce (remove foil and brush over ribs at end of cooking)

saute 1/2 cup minced onion in butter and vegetable oil, then add the following and simmer for 25 minutes:
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/2 oz. of Southern Comfort
2 Tblsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tblsp. worcesertshire sauce
juice of half a lemon
2 Tblsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. curry powder
pinch of salt
few grinds of pepper
few dashes of cayenne (optional)

Board Links
Best way to prepare ribs without a grill or smoker?

Ideas for Pistachios

Toast them and add to couscous with some golden raisins. Grind them and use as coating for sauteed fish.

Chop finely, use to coat the outside of goat cheese, and serve on top of figs (HillJ).

Use them in pesto instead of pine nuts. tm makes a Sicilian-style pesto with almonds, pistachios, basil, olive oil, mint, red pepper flakes, and tomatoes.

Grind them into a paste and use as the base for a beautiful green pistachio souffl

What Gumbo Is

Gumbo is a soupy, stewy dish that’s a mainstay of Creole and Cajun cuisine. “Gumbo” is an African word for okra, and most gumbos use it for flavor and as a thickener for the stock. File powder (powdered sassafras leaves) is used to thicken too. You can use one or the other, and some use both. Building a gumbo often begins with a roux (butter or other fat cooked slowly with flour, until brown). The roux adds color and a delicious toasty flavor.

Traditionally, the ingredients were what one had on hand. Seafood, chicken, and meat are all used alone or in various combinations. There are infinite ways to make gumbo.

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Gumbo

Lentil Shortage

If Indian lentils are your choice, you’ve probably already noticed that they’re in short supply and the price has increased significantly. India has placed a ban on their exportation in an effort to stabilize the economy there.

MikeG reports that, while there’s no shortage of non-Indian lentils, prices on all lentils have risen.

Be prepared to pay a bit more for your bowl of lentil soup.

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Lentil Shortage. Has anyone heard? ...or just rumor?

When Booze Won’t Do

When Booze Won’t Do

There are times when alcohol is just not welcome or appropriate. Ten drinks stand in for the tipple. READ MORE

What Kind of Potato Chips Goes with Vanilla-Flavored Bourbon Ale?

In case you haven’t been in the beer section of your local ale purveyor in the last couple of days, let me be the first to alert you that the seasonal beers have arrived. And while rushing the season with early in-store holiday decorations (I’m talkin’ to you, Cost Plus) can get me a little homicidal, somehow seeing a nice Deschutes Jubelale or a Widmer Snowplow in October gives me a warm feeling inside.

That is, until I read that Miller and Anheuser-Busch are rolling out their own versions of holiday-themed beers. With flavors like pumpkin ale and vanilla-flavored bourbon ale (not to mention chocolate stout), it sounds like the beer-making elves at big brewers have been inspired by a trip to the ice cream shop.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not averse to a flavored beer now and then (I developed an expensive passion for Lindemans Pêche this summer), but I worry that Miller’s and Anheuser-Busch’s move toward flavoring their beers is just another step down the road to the complete Starbucks-ization of our culture, as beverages get sweeter and sweeter until we all end up drinking pure high-fructose corn syrup.

Halal-eluyah

The Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping fired up the crowd at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery last night, a crowd that had just gorged itself on arepas, dosas, tacos, and gyros. (And by “crowd,” we include certain members of the CHOW editorial team.) The event, produced by the Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project, brought together this year’s four nominees, their carts, and a couple of hundred people willing to pay $50 for all the street food they could eat. The lines were long, but Gothamist’s Laren Spirer appears to have stuck it out to the bitter end. The New York Daily News leads with a few choice puns in announcing the winner:

Samiul Haque Noor was sizzling with pride last night as he carted off New York’s top street food vendor award.

And Eater, while congratulating Sammy, throws its support behind one of the other nominees, the Vendley brothers of the Calexico taco cart. Of course, all the vendors are winners in our book—but we do agree with Top Chowhound Jim Leff that the Arepa Lady (scroll down for his podcast with her) really shines.

Melba’s: Soul-Satisfying Short Ribs in Harlem

The must order at Melba’s is beef short ribs, braised in wine and served over a cake of cheddar grits. It’s comforting, deeply delicious stuff, says Ora. Other dishes are up and down. Among the ups, says Uptownflavor, is Tres Macaroni and Cheese, made with cheddar, mozzarella, and pepper jack.

The rest of the slightly fancified soul food menu ranges from standards like buttermilk chicken and waffles to lightened or fusiony dishes like barbecued turkey meatloaf, spinach-cheese empanadas, and Melba’s Spring Roll: collards, yellow rice, and black-eyed peas in a crisp-fried spring wrap.

Melba’s [Harlem]
300 W. 114th St., at Frederick Douglass Blvd. (8th Ave.), Manhattan
212-864-7777
Locater

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Baton Rouge (Harlem-145 St) Report (LONG)

Banh Mi Rundown

A rundown on some of the best Vietnamese sandwiches in town:

P. Punko’s favorite banh mi is at Cam Huong in Oakland. They serve flavorful pork and crunchy pickles on warm, crusty bread, with Japanese mayonnaise. Melanie Wong especially likes their pork belly banh mi, and zippo likes the baked curry tofu banh mi–soft on the inside, like a piece of baked brie cheese.

The pork at Kim’s Sandwiches has a nice burst of five-spice flavor, crunchy daikon in the pickle mix, and nice spicy dressing; P. Punko thinks the secret ingredient is kecap manis (soy sauce sweetened with palm sugar).

Baguette Express has nice, savory meat, a little saucy, with baguette that is crusty on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

The San Jose branch of Huong Lan serves banh mi with tasty grilled pork in a fried shallot sauce, but it’s very fatty–if that’s not your style, beware.

Wrap Delight has good BBQ pork banh mi, but it’s particularly notable for its vegetarian options, says Pistou–like delicious, fresh-tasting fried tofu banh mi, and hard boiled egg banh mi.

Cam Huong Cafe [Chinatown]
920 Webster St., Oakland
510-444-8800
Locater

Kim’s Sandwiches [South Bay]
1816 Tully Rd. # 182, San Jose
408-270-8903
Locater

Baguette Express [Embarcadero]
668 Larkin Street, San Francisco
415-345-8999
Locater

Huong Lan Sandwich [South Bay]
1655 Tully Rd., San Jose
408-258-8868
Locater

Wrap Delight [Tenderloin]
426 Larkin St., San Francisco
415-771-3388
Locater

Board Links
My personal Mother of All Banh Mi posts, and a note about papaya salad with dried beef