The CHOW Blog rss

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

How Ya Doin’, Pumpkin?

“The pumpkin pie at Urth Caffe makes me weak in the knees,” says amandine. “Consistency–perfect. Creamy, lump free, not too heavy. Holds up to a fork but isn’t jello-hard. Flavor–great balance between pumpkin and spice. Not too subtle, not overwhelming. Crust–heavenly. Thick, crumbly crumb crust with a nice rich molasses-y flavor.” It’s served by the slice with fresh whipped cream, and they’re taking orders for whole pies.

The Filling Station is a longtime hound favorite for pumpkin pies, and you won’t have to worry about whether you’ll get a slice–they’re huge. Drawback: Orange is way out of the way for metro Los Angeles dwellers.

Josie restaurant has excellent pumpkin pie and pumpkin cake, says David Kahn. The pie isn’t as large as the Filling Station’s (few are), and it’s more expensive (being from Josie).

Union Bakery has a great pumpkin pie, says Maria C.

L’Artiste Patisserie makes pumpkin pie and a chocolate pumpkin tart that’s quite tasty, says chocolatelover. They’re also got eggnog cake with cream cheese frosting for the holidays.

For something a bit more upscale than the average pumpkin pie, try Susina’s pumpkin mousse tart, says Food Good.

Europane has pumpkin squares that are incredibly light, custardy, and delicious. They are taking orders for holiday pies.

Put On Your Crabby Pants

It’s local crab season, and Woodhouse Fish Company serves feisty, incredibly fresh dungeness crab, says SteveG. And check out the amazing fries. They change their frying oil so often that all their fried stuff always tastes super fresh.

Duarte’s Tavern is another great choice for crab, in the form of the succulent crab melt. “It is a thing of beauty,” says Melanie Wong. And after, try their ollalieberry pie, recommends Cynsa.

Ferry Plaza Seafood in the Ferry Building is serving a half crab in the shell for $15, and it rocks, says sgwood415. The sweet, juicy meat renders the butter and cocktail sauce totally superfluous.

Woodhouse Fish Company [Castro]
2073 Market St., San Francisco

Duarte’s Tavern [Peninsula]
202 Stage Rd., Pescadero

Ferry Plaza Seafood [Embarcadero]
One Ferry Building, #18, San Francisco

Board Links
An ideal crabby lunch-Woodhouse
Crabs Half Moon Bay
Crab at the Ferry Building

Baked BBQ Pork Buns

Excellent pork buns of the baked variety are to be had at Golden Gate Bakery. They’re rworange’s favorite, with the perfect ratio of pork to bun. The bun has a touch of sweetness, and the saucy pork filling has a bit of an edge, as if there were a touch of alcohol in the sauce.

You’s is favored by CYL and roster. Yimster likes Red House Bakery for its generously filled buns–however, other hounds are concerned that the filling level is inconsistent. However, definitely check out their “old wife cake,” says Melanie Wong, with flaky pastry that tastes of lard and a tasty, complex filling of nuts and coconut.

Cafe Bakery makes a great baked barbecue pork bun, favored by many hounds. But go early–they’re usually sold out by early afternoon.

Golden Gate Bakery [Chinatown]
1029 Grant Ave., San Francisco

You’s Dim Sum [Chinatown]
675 Broadway, San Francisco

Red House Bakery [Bay Shore]
2818 San Bruno Ave., San Francisco, CA

Cafe Bakery & Restaurant [Sunset]
1365 Noriega St., San Francisco

Board Links
Baked BBQ Pork Buns in SF Chinatown?
Red House Bakery & Cafe in San Francisco for Baked BBQ Pork Buns

The Smoke Joint: Promising Barbecue in Brooklyn

The Smoke Joint is passing the taste test–and the smell test–among New York’s notoriously picky barbecue hounds. Fort Greene’s new ‘cue house has a smoker built in the South and is turning out worthy brisket, baby back ribs, and hacked chicken and pork. The owners–who have cooked at such higher-end places as Picholine, La Grenouille, and City Hall–bill their food as “real New York barbecue”–meaning they’re not going for a single regional style but instead draw on various traditions, like Texas for the brisket and Memphis for the baby backs.

“It’s damn good barbecue,” says Happygirl, “and the prices are sweeeeet!”–$7 for sandwiches or a half chicken, $9 or $10 for a half rack of ribs, $10 to $12 for brisket, hot links, or hacked beef or pork. “Smokin’ success!” declares Mike R., who endorses the brisket tips and baked beans. Among the sides, greens, macaroni and cheese, and fries (spiked with the spice mix used on some of the meats) win praise. The beer selection is small, well priced, and intriguing, including Dale’s Pale Ale from Colorado and Porkslap Farmhouse Ale from Butternuts brewery near Cooperstown (“How could you not order this at a BBQ place?” wonders gingercakes).

Some missteps: gamy spare ribs, a few dried-out meat plates, and overdressed salads. “We were less impressed,” says bobjbkln. “I don’t think R.U.B. or Dinosaur need to worry–at least not yet!”

The Smoke Joint [Fort Greene]
formerly Cambodian Cuisine
87 S. Elliott Pl., near Fulton St., Brooklyn

Board Links
Opening Night at the Smoke Joint
Smoke Joint—Ofiicially Open Yet?
Fort Greene grub

At Cendrillon, Flavors of Mexico by Way of Manila

Cendrillon, the upscale Filipino restaurant in Soho, is exploring its roots. As part of a dinner series devoted to cuisines that influenced the food of the Philippines, it’s turning to Mexico. Mexico introduced New World ingredients and techniques to the islands for two centuries, via galleons. Everybody loves galleons.

The next Mexican dinner features Yucatan dishes and takes place on Thursday, November 30. The menu includes octopus ceviche, papadzules (enchiladas with pumpkin seed sauce), longaniza de Valladolid (a spicy pork sausage), tikin-xic (snapper cooked with achiote, tomatoes, and onions), and cochinita pibil (roast pork shoulder served in a sauce of achiote, habaneros, and sour orange), among other things. It’s $60 per person and there’s just one seating, at 7 p.m. Call to reserve a spot.

The previous dinner was a seven-course Oaxacan spread earlier this month. “Best Mexican meal I’ve had in New York City in a long time, which is weird at a Philippine restaurant!” notes HD Sanders. Some highlights: a chicken tamale with black mole, molote (a sausage-stuffed fritter with a fennelly bean paste), roast pork with manchamanteles (“tablecloth stainer”) mole, and champurrado, a thick hot chocolate-corn drink.

Cendrillon [Soho]
45 Mercer St., between Grand and Broome, Manhattan

Board Links
Oaxacan prix-fixe at Cendrillon?!


It’s quince season right now. Quinces have a gorgeous, spicy fragrance, but must be cooked before they can be eaten; they’re rock hard and unpleasantly astringent when raw.

dixieday2 likes to poach them, and she says that, once poached, they have many uses both sweet and savory. Here’s her method: Halve and core them (or core after cooking, which is easier), cover halfway with water, add about 1/3 cup sugar, a cinnamon stick, and a couple of cloves and/or allspice berries. Bring to a boil on the stovetop, cover, and put in the oven at 300F for an hour or so; they should be very soft and pinkish in color. Let cool in syrup and refrigerate. Some uses: Chop or puree and mix with applesauce (excellent with pork); use as a topping for or blend into mashed sweet potato or butternut squash; serve the poached halves with greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey; use poached halves or slices as an accompaniment to fresh gingerbread.

Procrastibaker makes a sophisticated appetizer of chunks of quince cooked down with port, placed on pan-fried polenta rounds topped with blue cheese. She also bakes quince muffins using a basic muffin recipe and folding in chopped, quince saying it’s a nice alternative to apples.

cristina suggests finding recipes for ate de membrillo, quince paste, which is traditionally eaten with manchego cheese. It takes a long time to cook down, but is simple to make, she promises.

As with pomegranates and cranberries, the quince season is short, and they are available for only a limited time. They will last a month or so in the fridge, however, says Candy.

Board Links
Quince ideas!

Chicken Fried Steak

Chicken fried steak is a glorious thing of meat, juice, and crunchy energy. A cut of round steak is perfect for this Texas favorite.

The meat is well floured and seasoned; the flour gets embedded in the beef as you tenderize it with a mallet, or, as Will Owen recalls, the edge of a sturdy plate. The flour will almost disappear into the meat.

It’s then fried up in some fat. The flour gives it a nice crunchy crust. A cream gravy is made in the same pan with the meat drippings. The addition of cracked pepper is a must, adds Candy.

Board Links
Chicken Fried Steak–Closet eater

Chicken Cracklings

These chicken cracklings are not just bits of chicken skin crisped in rendered chicken fat. It’s actually the name of delicious Dominican dish of deep-fried chicken that’s been marinated in a combo of lemon, soy, and ginger. opinionatedchef shares the recipe:

2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. soy sauce, pref. Kikkoman
1-2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, skin-on, sliced into coins, flattened with side of knife
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
whole wheat flour
salt and pepper
sweet paprika
vegetable oil for frying

Marinate chicken in lemon juice, soy sauce, ginger, and kosher salt for at least 2 hours. Drain, reserving ginger with chicken. Season flour to taste with salt, pepper, and paprika, and place in a ziplock bag or plastic container with tight-fitting lid. Place chicken and ginger in flour two handfuls at a time and shake to coat (adding any more will cause the chicken to get too moist and prevent the coating from adhering properly). Heat 1-2 inches of vegetable oil to very hot but not smoking (about 365 degrees). Fry chicken, turning once, for only a few minutes, or it will overcook.

Board Links
Rubee: EasyEasy : Chicken Adobo and Chicken Cracklings


Plantains, a.k.a. “the cooking banana,” are a savory tropical treat. They’re starchy and only mildly sweet when they’re fully ripe. A properly ripe plantain will look ready for the trash, because it’ll be completely black.

Unlike bananas, plantains can be used from the greenest green to fully ripe. Green plantain chips are delicious, sliced thin and fried. Puerto Rican tostones green plantain slices slices that are mashed and then fried twice, like a good french fry. They’re wonderful served with breakfast, as a starchy side dish, or just on their own, with a sprinkling of salt.

You don’t have to like bananas to enjoy plantains.

Board Links
Why do I despise bananas, but love plantains??

The Opposite of Tampopo

If you’re still digesting your Thanksgiving leftovers and vowing never to feast again, check out the list of anti-gourmand documentaries on the cinema blog Cinematical. Some are as familiar as the Golden Arches (Hi, Mr. Spurlock). Others are more obscure, like the doc on Calvin Trillin’s beloved Shopsin’s, I Like Killing Flies, or the world’s first eating-contest documentary, Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating.

Dim the lights and bring on the Pepto!