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

Chapulines at Karina’s

Chapulines–a kind of dried Oaxacan dried grasshopper–are available in bags at Karina’s Mexican Bakery. They remind Melanie Wong of dried shrimp, but with a spicy, salty dusting of chile powder.

Karina’s appears to have gone through some changes recently. The tlayuda has improved, served with chunky pork, imported Oaxacan string cheese, guajillo-based chili sauce, and a fresh, crackly giant tortilla base. However, the tres leches cake has gone downhill and is now at a sub-Safeway level of quality. Two layers of coarse, dense, dry, crumbly yellow cake are barely moistened at all by the milks, there’s no custard, and the frosting tastes like chemicals.

The tamales are still good, though.

Karina’s Mexican Bakery [Sonoma County]
827 Petaluma Blvd N., Petaluma

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Update on Karina’s in Petaluma (Tlayudas, Pan de Muertos, Chapulines, Tres Leches, Tamales)

Marmara: Pleasures of the Turkish Grill in Manalapan

It’s all good at Marmara, but the best stuff comes from the grill. This Turkish restaurant, which opened in September in a hard-luck location in Manalapan, turns out meaty, beautifully cooked lamb chops and chicken or lamb kebabs. The mixed grill, a lamb festival on a plate, is a good way to go. Sea bass is fresh and delicious, too. Grilled plates come with first-rate rice pilaf and a mess of vegetables, including excellent pickled cabbage.

Off the grill, hounds like babaganoush, pida bread, sigara boregi (feta-stuffed filo scrolls), and exceptionally good baklava for dessert. “What a delight! Everything we had was amazing!” raves Angelina. Especially recommended: their tasty, generous hot appetizer combination (falafel, calf’s liver, fried calamari, spinach pie).

Servers are green, but the accommodating owners are in the house and working the room. And the room is nice, much more appealing than its strip-mall setting might suggest.

Marmara Mediterranean Turkish Cuisine [Monmouth County]
339 Rte. 9 S, in Summerton Plaza shopping center, Manalapan, NJ

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RGR, I went to Marmara last night! :)
Marmara Turkish on Route 9 Manalapan

From Apizz, a Soul-Satisfying Spin on Meatballs

The meatballs rock at Apizz.

Look for polpette e pomodori on the menu at this Italian hound haunt. They’re made of veal, pork, and beef, and served with fresh ricotta and deep-flavored tomato gravy. “Best ever,” declares livetotravel. “Absolutely mouth-wateringly great.”

Apizz [Lower East Side]
217 Eldridge St., between Stanton and Rivington, Manhattan, NY

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The Very Best Meatballs

Gelato That Tastes Like Christmas

Mi Amici has gotten the jump on Christmas flavor with gingerbread gelato, pleasantly spicy and full of teensy ginger pieces. Highly recommended, says eriny. All the gelato here is made on-site.

Mi Amici Gelato [Koreatown]
3377 Wilshire Blvd. #102A, Alexandria, Los Angeles

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Gingerbread Gelato @ Mi Amici—Yum!

Pickled Jalapenos

Pickled jalapenos find their way into plenty of dishes, as both a condiment and an ingredient. Hounds like them on hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza, in grilled cheese sandwiches, in tuna salad, in cornbread, tossed with Caesar salad, and baked into cornbread.

Louise says the juice from pickled jalapenos is a secret ingredient in the marinade for carne asada. Pickled jalapenos are also part of the traditional recipe for arracheras, a.k.a. fajitas, says rockycat. Here’s the recipe: marinate skirt steak in lime juice, chopped garlic, and chopped pickled jalapenos, then grill. Eat the meat plain or with standard fajita fixings.

christy319 uses them to spice up a simple tomato sauce in which to cook fish like halibut or cod, and to make a “drunken chicken” cooked in Mexican beer, onions, garlic, pickled jalapenos, and tomatoes. makes a tart and spicy slaw that’s an awesome topping for tacos using cabbage, white onion, Mexican oregano, and pickled jalapenos.

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Culinary Uses for Pickled Jalapeno

Rich Vanilla Ice Cream

adamclyde shares his recipee for vanilla ice cream, which he says is simple and very, very good. Davwud tried it out, and tells us Adam’s not exaggerating one little bit; this stuff is rich and luscious.

Adam’s Vanilla Ice Cream

1 vanilla bean
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
3/4 cup plus 2-3 Tbsp. sugar
pinch of salt
6 egg yolks

Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and put the seeds and pod in a pot with milk, cream, 3/4 cup of sugar and pinch of salt. Heat slowly to 175F. Turn off heat. Meanwhile, whip yolks and 2-3 Tbsp. sugar until smooth and pale yellow. Temper yolks by adding small amounts of hot cream mixture while whisking. Once tempered, add egg mixture into pot with cream. Heat back up to 175F slowly, stirring constantly. Strain through fine mesh sieve. Chill to 40 degrees. Freeze in ice cream maker.

Carb Lover likes hers a touch less rich, so she uses fewer yolks and equal parts cream and milk.

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Vanilla Ice Cream

Sources for Leaf Lard

Leaf lard is the premium type of lard for making deliciously rich pastry. It’s collected from around the hog’s kidneys and is very fine indeed. It’s not easy to find, but here are two sources where it may be ordered in small quantities or by the pound:

Dietrich’s Country Store sells leaf lard for $2.50/pound. They don’t do online shopping, nor do they take credit cards. Give them a call (610-756-6344), place your order, and send your check to them at 660 Old 22, Lenharts ville, Pa 19524.

The Flying Pigs Farm in New York sells it in packages ranging from $3 to $5 (you’ll need to render this yourself). Look in the section of the site called “For the Serious Cook”.

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where, oh where, can i find leaf lard?

Cereal: Avoiding the Sog Factor

Try some of these dry cereals that are said to withstand some soaking in milk without losing their crunch:

Quaker Oatmeal Squares, says Pei. They’ll take forever to get soggy and they’re big enough for snacks, like tiny cookies or crackers.

Both Kashi’s Heart to Heart and Go Lean Crunch stay nice and crunchy in milk.

Grapenuts take a while to get mushy. And the Nature’s Path brand makes a cereal called Heritage Os that taste a bit like Grapenuts. Piccola says that no amount of milk will make them soggy. They actually can be eaten dry, like nuts!

Chowser does the sensibly obessive thing with cereal: he pours milk into the bowl first, and then adds a little cereal. When you finish that, you can always add more, and not worry about it having time to get milk-logged!

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Which cereal does not get soggy?

Scoop de Grâce

A few months ago, we heard about Martha Stewart employees attempting to infiltrate Fort Rachael Ray, after which Ray herself commented that she couldn’t believe the Doyenne of Duck Confit would really regard her lowly talk show as a serious threat to Martha’s own carefully decorated existence. She also wished Martha much “good, warm, wonderful success”, which might come off as a little condescending when one compares Ray’s recent rise to Stewart’s longtime household-name status.

Well, is the hand-tooled leather shoe now on the other foot? According to the deliciously gossipy Page Six, Rachael Ray potentially made an attempt to scoop Martha’s show. While Martha had Barry Manilow live and in-person this past Wednesday on Martha, the Rachael Ray Show just so happened to air a previously taped segment also featuring the curly-haired crooner. At the same time.

Without missing a beat, Martha announced to her live audience:

I’d never met Rachael Ray—I think she’s fun and lovely—but, you know, we have Barry Manilow live this morning, and he taped an episode of the Rachael Ray show that was supposed to air tomorrow. But for some reason, they pushed the show up to today, and now Barry is on two shows at once. He’s live with us, but it’s really not fair to the artist because these performers deserve to reach as big of an audience as possible. But anyway, we have him here. Live.

I do hope Rachael has some aloe for that burn.

If you missed the original, you can watch the bitchslap on

At the Press of a Button

Viral marketing at its very best: The Blendtec Company, home of the $400 blender (worth it), has produced an amazing series of videos called “Will It Blend?” Can your blender blend a rake handle? A handful of marbles? (Careful not to breathe in that glass dust!) The Blendtec can. It can also whip up tasty treats like Cochicken: a can of Coke blended with a whole bone-in chicken. Then drunk through a straw. Yummers!