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

Something Smells Like Synergy

Those of us who have been feverishly following Project Runway to its bitter, Jeffrey-filled end can’t help but notice how Bravo is promoting the hell out of Top Chef’s upcoming season. In fact, in order not to risk losing all the eyeballs that Tim Gunn and his stitching bitches bring in, Bravo intends to air Top Chef second season premiere episode right after Project Runway’s third season finale.

That’s just good TV-sense, but in another stroke of delicious synergy, The Powers That Be (TPTB) at Bravo commissioned second-season designer, Nick Verreos, to design an apron for Top Chef. Nick told the Bravo blogs, “I wanted to design a unique apron that wasn’t your mother’s old apron, so no silly sayings like ‘Blame the Cook,’ or cheesy food graphics like a turkey or fruit. I wanted it to be the hip apron. The design is understated and chic.”

The apron says “CHOP!” in big, black letters over colorful, stylized chef’s knives. It’s not immediately clear if the cheftestants themselves will be wearing the aprons, but the Verreos aprons will be available for purchase from Bravo’s online store on October 18th, the same day as the Top Chef premiere.

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A La Turca

A La Turca serves Turkish food, perfectly prepared and truly distinct from all other Mediterranean styles of cooking. Particularly recommended is the Beyti kebap, skewers of spiced ground lamb and beef, but cold appetizers with fresh Turkish pita bread and any grilled meats are also great. Wash it down with some cold Turkish beer and feel the love. You know when you eat at a place and it’s so spectacularly, unbelievably good that you can’t stop laughing? It’s that kind of place. And it’s under $10 a plate. Often way under. “Please go and eat at A La Turca and then call me so we can cry on the phone together,” says zameloy.

A La Turca [Van Ness Corridor]
869 Geary St., San Francisco
415-345-1011
Locater

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Turkish Delight in the Tenderloin

Real Water Bagels

New York by the Bay has real, water-boiled bagels–soft and chewy, with a proper shiny skin. They have a touch of sweetness, almost like a water challah–some might mark them down in authenticity for that. Compared side-by-side with bagels from House of Bagels and Marin Bagels, the New York by the Bay bagels win hands-down, says rworange. And the proprietor talks like a real New Yorker.

New York by the Bay Deli & Cafe [Marin County]
1005 Northgate Dr., San Rafael
415-472-6674
Locater

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San Rafael–New York by the Bay Deli – real NY owners … real water bagels.

Road Trip: Filling Up on the New Jersey Turnpike

Along the New Jersey Turnpike, there’s no shortage of places to refuel. If you’re around Bordentown, Mastoris Diner (exit 7 or 7A) is a good one, especially for breakfast, says bgut1. Breads, cakes, and pastries are baked in-house. Try the cheese bread, which is really more like a Danish. Non-breakfast dishes are just OK, advises val ann c.

In East Windsor, Americana Diner (exit 8) serves a terrific breakfast, including standout omelettes that are finished off in the oven, says JessKidden. The flagship of a Jersey mini-chain, the Americana also makes its own bread and other baked goods. Scagnetti reports uncommonly good toast, part of a satisfying Sunday breakfast of hash, eggs over easy, and home fries.

Away from the Turnpike but close to its Newark Bay extension, the Flamingo (exit 14 to I-78) is a Jersey City landmark and a dependable spot for breakfast, including exceptional sausage and a sandwich with egg, cheese, and Taylor ham, says jerseyguy2000. Beyond breakfast, he recommends the BLT, tuna melt, Yankee bean soup, Greek-style chicken, and rice pudding.

Mastoris Diner [Burlington County]
144 US Hwy. 130, near Rte. 206 N, Bordentown, NJ
609-298-4650
Locater

Americana Diner [Mercer County]
359 Rte. 130 N, near Stockton St., East Windsor, NJ
609-448-4477
Locater

Flamingo Restaurant [Hudson County]
31 Montgomery St., at Greene, Jersey City, NJ
201-434-6769
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Flamingo Diner comments
Breakfast along NJ Turnpike

Eating the Big Easy

Creole Chef has probably the best New Orleans food in Los Angeles right now, says Norm Man, who asserts he’d rather drive there from MDR than walk to the closer Uncle Darrow’s. Shrimp Yvonne, crawfish bisque and pretty much all the po’ boys blow the competition out of the water, says Dommy.

Harold & Belle’s is the next runner-up, but Uncle Darrow’s is pretty good too–they’ll give you samples if you can’t decide what to get. Go for gumbo and jambalaya, says gourmetla, and sign up for the email list to hear about crawfish boils.

Mardi Gras in Toluca Lake is no more, but for those who miss it, the same owners also have Michael’s Bar & Grill in Burbank (see also ChowNews #199), where they’re serving the same menu.

Creole Chef [South LA]
3715 Santa Rosalia Dr., Stocker, Los Angeles
323-294-2433
Locater

Harold & Belle’s Restaurant [Crenshaw]
2920 W Jefferson Blvd, at 10th Ave between Arlington and Crenshaw, Los Angeles
323-735-9023
Locater

Uncle Darrow’s [South LA]
5185 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles
323-938-0518
Locater

Michael’s Bar & Grill [East San Fernando Valley]
2825 West Olive Ave., Burbank
818-842-3700
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Best Cajun/Creole???

Diamond Dairy Revisited: Hidden Old World Comforts

Invisible from the street, Diamond Dairy is a breakfast and lunch spot that’s been tucked away on the mezzanine of the National Jewelers Exchange for more than five decades. The chow receives mixed marks from hounds, and some of the menu is best avoided (vegetable lo mein or linguine marinara, for example).

But order carefully and you can enjoy a cheap, sturdy, and comforting lunch. Peter Cherches reports excellent cheese blintzes, potato pancakes, and especially bowtie noodles with cabbage–a delightfully simple dish of sauteed chopped cabbage with black pepper over perfectly chewy noodles. “The waitress was delightful, too,” he adds, “the ‘nice’ Jewish mother I never had.”

Diamond Dairy Kosher Luncheonette [Diamond District]
4 W. 47th St., between 5th and 6th Aves., in National Jewelers Exchange, Manhattan
212-719-2694
Locater

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Thumbs up to Diamond Dairy
Diamond Dairy-EXCELLENT

Just One Door Down

The Little Door restaurant has opened an adjoining gourmet store called Little Next Door. Or Next Door Little Door. Or…well, whatever, you know where it is. They’ve got your cheese plates, wines, house-made confits and confitures, and chocolates made by a 15-year-old wunderkind, says rbw.

Little Door [Fairfax Village]
8164 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles
323-951-1210
Locater

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Little Door Next Door store open

Delicious Fall Desserts: Roasted Bosc Pear Variations

While scrambling to find an impressive do-ahead dessert for a recent dinner party, Deenso stumbled on a recipe for “drunken pears” that she deemed a keeper, and shares it here:

Bring 3 cups of Chianti Classico (or another good, full-bodied red wine), 1/2 cup sugar, and the zest of 2 oranges to a boil in a saucepan, stirring as the sugar dissolves. Peel 6 Bosc pears (keep the stems intact for a nice presentation, if you like) and slice the bottoms off, so they stands up straight. Place them upright and close together in a deep baking dish, and pour the wine over them. Bake at 350F, basting with the wine occasionally, until you can pierce them with a thin knife without resistance.

Remove the pears to a plate and cool to room temperature. Put the wine sauce in a saucepan and reduce over medium heat to a syrupy consistency. When the pears are cool, either slice them in half lengthwise or leave them whole, and remove the cores–from the bottom, if you’ve left them whole–using a melon baller or spoon, To serve, plate the pears with some gorogonzola cheese, and drizzle the reduced wine syrup over all.

caitybirdie adds that pears roasted this way are great in a salad with any blue cheese.

JoanN recommends another recipe for roasted Bosc pears that makes a great do-ahead party dessert. Here, they’re roasted in an amaretto caramel sauce and sprinkled with sugar-toasted crumbled almonds. This one’s so good it’s Thanksgiving-worthy, Joan declares.

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Baked Pears–impressive and easy dessert