The CHOW Blog rss

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

Postcard from Burgundy

Oh, to be in Burgundy for the wine harvest—the rolling vineyards, the vines turning red and gold, the anticipation and excitement. If you can’t make it this year, Chez Pim has the next best thing.

Ms. Pim has drafted friend and winemaker Jeremy Seysses, of Domaine Dujac, to serve as guest blogger, writing about this year’s grape harvest. His report unveils some of the many factors that go into the complex dance that is winemaking. From fears of frost during bud break to the dangers of summertime hailstorms that may damage fruit and the disappointment of gray rot (see, you too will be able to talk like a winemaker), it is a fascinating look behind the scenes at winemaking.

The series will continue next week, chronicling the process of the harvest. Whether or not you are an oenophile, it’s well worth the read.

Rum Run

Rum Run

Spirits companies, buoyed by the popularity explosion of the mojito, are rolling out the premium rums as a potential challenger to the throne currently occupied by vodka. READ MORE

What Is Oktoberfest Beer?

What Is Oktoberfest Beer?

How convenient that Märzen beers appear just in time for Oktoberfest. READ MORE

Watch, Drink and Be Merry

When I recapped Martha Stewart: Apprentice for Television Without Pity last year, I needed a drink or five to drag my ass through every, painful episode. I finally started writing cocktails into my recaps so my readers could drink along at home. Now, USA Today reports that on prime time television “[c]ocktails have replaced coffee as pop culture’s elixir of choice.”

It’s a trend that might have started with Sex and the City’s ubiquitous Day-Glo cosmos, but, as the article cites, the liquor is flowing fast and free. Witness Grey’s Anatomy’s barfly surgeons, martinis on How I Met Your Mother, and the way that on Two and a Half Men Charlie Sheen’s character always seems to have something wet in his hand.

Melissa Caldwell, senior director of programs for Parents Television Council, is worried that this televised lush life is sending bad messages to the kids, “The shows that depict a lot of partying and drinking are airing early in the evening, and it’s very likely kids are watching them and perhaps not taking away messages about drinking responsibly,” she’s quoted as saying in The Times. It’s a worry, for sure, but one that could be aided by parents doing one very simple thing. TURN OFF THE TELEVISION! Man, for years my mother didn’t allow me and my sister to watch anything but PBS and you know what? We survived.

Some interesting stats from the article:

“Wine and distilled spirits commanded 48.4% of the alcoholic beverage market in 2005, up from 44% in 1999, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. Meanwhile, beer slipped to 51.6% from 56%...Still, spirits brands spent $96 million on TV in 2005, up 48% from the previous year. Most of those spots air on local TV and cable late-night shows. The major broadcast networks won’t run most ads for distilled spirits.”

And why would they need to? Even if I never see a hooch ad, Project Runway contestant Vincent Libretti makes me reach for the bottle. You can’t buy that sort of placement.

Take My Garlic Press, Please

The Chicago Tribune asked chefs about kitchen gadgets they find utterly useless (registration required).

Egg slicers get mixed reviews from the assembled chefs, but garlic presses seem to be nearly universally despised by the professionals, not to mention what chef Pamela Denison describes as “those garlic peelers that look like cannoli” (full disclosure: I’m the proud owner of one).

Anthony Bourdain takes particular glee in gunning down the SaladShooter: “What the #$%@ is that?! You have to be pretty helpless if you’re in need of a salad-conveyance system.”

CHOW recently listed 10 kitchen items worth spending a pretty penny for. Which kitchen gadgets do you find truly ridiculous?

Promising Moroccan at Brooklyn’s Fez Cafe

The talented Moroccan chef who charmed Chowhounds at Carroll Gardens’ short-lived Marrackech has resurfaced in Windsor Terrace. At her new place, Fez Cafe, she makes an amazing lamb shank tagine with apricots and prunes, among other things, reports Barry Strugatz. Also recommended: vegetable couscous, chicken tagine, eggplant with charmoula, and moist, deftly seasoned rice.

The kitchen isn’t quite up to speed. Salads are hit or miss, and some dishes come out underseasoned. But service is friendly, the owner personable and accommodating, and there’s a lovely garden out back.

Fez Cafe and Hookah Garden [Windsor Terrace]
240 Prospect Park West, between Windsor St. and Prospect Ave., Brooklyn
718-369-0716
Map

Board Links
Moroccan in Windsor Terrace
Anyone been to new Fez Cafe & Hookah Garden on Prospect Park West?

Goodbye, Gertel’s; and Other Manhattan Casualties

Gertel’s Bake Shop is closing. They’re a piece of Lower East Side history, beloved for challah, hamentaschen, and especially dense, moist rugelach. Its Hester Street quarters, which it has occupied since 1914, will reportedly give way to a condo complex, and its owners will concentrate on their Brooklyn-based wholesale operation. “Oh, that is awful news!” laments abrocadabro. “What am I going to do for Passover cookies and cakes?!”

A couple other casualties, though not quite so venerable, will also be missed. Rinconcito Peruano, a Hell’s Kitchen hole-in-the-wall for great ceviches and aji de gallina (chicken casserole), has closed its doors. It’s apparently survived by a sister restaurant in Queens. Win49, a Lower East Side hound haunt for bento boxes, fried skewered stuff, and other cheap Japanese takeout, is also no more.

Meanwhile, in three-star land, Alain Ducasse is jumping hotels. The grand French restaurant will close January 6 at Essex House and reopen in spring at the St. Regis, three blocks south. Ducasse et Cie are checking out of Essex House on a high note, says baconstrip, who reports pampering service and sumptuous food highlighted by marinated escolar with apples, squab with radishes in huckleberry jus, and killer desserts including toasted peanut biscuit with chocolate cremeux. “Save up and go there before they close the door,” bacon advises.

Gertel’s Bake Shop [Lower East Side]
53 Hester St., between Ludlow and Essex, Manhattan
212-982-3250
Locater

Rinconcito Peruano [Clinton]
803 9th Ave., between W. 53rd and 54th Sts., Manhattan
Map

Rinconcito Peruano [Woodhaven]
97-05 Jamaica Ave., at 97th St., Woodhaven, Queens
718-846-6104
Locater

Win49 [Lower East Side]
205 Allen St., between Houston and Stanton, Manhattan
Map

Alain Ducasse [Midtown]
155 W. 58th St., in Essex House, Manhattan
212-265-7300
Locater

Board Links
Win49 Gone!
What’s Up with Rinconcito Peruano (Ninth Ave. 53/54 Sts.)
Gertel’s RIP
Alain Ducasse
Kossar’s

101 Noodle Stretches to Rowland Heights

101 Noodle Express has opened another branch, reports Chandavkl. The menu is the same as the Alhambra location, with their specialties of DeZhou chicken, luscious beef rolls, and fish, chicken, and scallop dumplings.

Speaking of dumplings, PeterL says the xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at Mandarin Restaurant are just as good, if not better, than Din Tai Fung’s. There aren’t as many varieties, but the classic XLB has thin skin and flavorful soup inside. Other Shanghainese dishes are very good also.

101 Noodle Express [Inland of LA]
1388 Fullerton Road, Rowland Heights
626-964-9218
Map

101 Noodle Express [San Gabriel Valley]
formerly Style Cafe
1408 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra
626-300-8654
Map

Mandarin Restaurant [South OC]
18420 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley
714-962-5789
Locater

Board Links
Xiao lung bao in the OC.
101 Noodle Express Opens Up Second Branch

Loose Leaves and Loose Screws

Downtown office workers are psyched about Loose Leaf, a build-your-own salad place where you start with romaine, field greens, or baby spinach and add your choice of toppings–sliced steak, portobello mushrooms, edamame beans, dried cranberries, and goat cheese are just a few of the options. Dressings (made in-house) are tasty too, even fat-free options like cucumber mint. Soups are a good bet too.

Service, however, seems to be of the “I just work here” variety–even when it comes to answering the question “What time do you close?” (Counter Guy’s reply to yinyangdi: “I don’t know, I leave at 5.” Correct answer: 8 p.m.)

Loose Leaf [Downtown]
630 W. 6th St., at Hope, Los Angeles
213-622-1616
Locater

Board Links
FYI: Loose Leaf on 6th and Hope

Sumika Grill

The newly-opened yakitori bar Sumika gets high marks from Melanie Wong for tasty, tender, soft, beautifully fried chicken. Momo (grilled chicken thigh) is soft-textured, very juicy and delicious, with caramelized bits at the grill marks. Pretty much every grilled chicken item available comes impregnated with the rich essence of chicken.

The fried chicken appetizer actually ends up being one of the best dishes, with subtle ginger and garlic flavors, a soft, greaseless crust, and ultra-juicy chunks of dark meat. Another stand-out is ochazuke (chicken risotto, $4)–soft-cooked rice topped with nori, big flakes of shaved bonito, scallions, pickled plum, and wasabi–which then has savory, intense chicken stock poured in from a teapot.

Dinner for two, including tax, tip, and a generous pour of Harushika sake is $54. It’s a new place and the staff recommends reservations.

Sumika Grill [Peninsula]
236 Central Plaza, Los Altos
650-917-1822
Locater

Board Links
Sumika in Los Altos–Get a reservation NOW