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

Tips for the Perfect Pie Crust

Tips for the Perfect Pie Crust

Make it tender and flaky. READ MORE

Digging Up (Chocolate) Truffles

This month’s Bon Appétit puts a highly useful arrow in its readers’ home-cookery quiver with a piece on DIY chocolate truffles.

Truffles—like bagels, fried chicken, sushi, and a host of other foods we’re used to buying, rather than making—are sometimes thought to be beyond the reach of the average home cook. But they’re shockingly attainable, given a bit of interest and some high-quality bittersweet chocolate.

“Getting into Truffles” features the recipes of Vosges Haut-Chocolat founder Katrina Markoff, who is pictured looking a bit like a trust-fund hippie, sporting a Grateful Deadesque “Free Yourself” T-shirt while lavishing highbrow truffles with artisanal care. Her concept?

‘Because it’s my company, I was able to create things that seemed far-fetched,’ she says. Out went super-sweet fillings, and in went pasilla chiles, Tuscan fennel pollen, and wasabi.

Fennel pollen aside, the recipes provided in Bon Appétit have their feet planted squarely on the ground. Building off of a solid basic bittersweet chocolate truffle recipe, readers can concoct truffles in the key of lemon and thyme, mango curry or balsamic vinegar.

Homemade holday gifts can be kinda touch-and-go, but I can vouch for truffles. Nailing the perfectly spherical fresh-from-the-chocolatier look can be tricky, but attaining smooth, rich flavor is surprisingly simple.

And anyone who doesn’t like rich dark chocolate is unlikely to be worthy of a home-baked gift to begin with. Because they’re objectively wrong.

Tia Pol Revisited: Not Just Your Everyday Tapas

The regular menu at Tia Pol is rich with deliciousness, but savvy regulars always check the day’s specials first. “They’re always, always spectacular,” promises iheartoffal. “Sometimes I even just ask them to send out all the specials without telling me what they are.” One recent hit: oyster mushroom carpaccio with olive oil, manchego, tomato, and Marcona almonds.

Among the everyday offerings at this popular Basque-influenced tapas bar, hounds especially like these:

- Fried chickpeas: “The best thing in the entire world,” declares tamasha.

- Patatas bravas: Rough-cut potatoes, nicely seasoned, perfectly fried, and served with lively spicy aioli.

- Pinchos morunos: Scrumptious lamb skewers, which arrive stuck into pieces of excellent crusty bread. That bread really soaks up the meat juices, so don’t leave it uneaten, advises Senor Popusa.

- Navajas y almejas: Razor clams and cockles. They’re terrific on their own, but once again bread is your friend–use it to sop up the briny, garlicky juices, urges Miss Needle.

Also recommended: Palacios chorizo with bittersweet chocolate, boquerones (white anchovies) stuffed into tuna, and piquillo peppers stuffed with potato salad.

Tia Pol [Chelsea]
205 10th Ave., between W. 22nd and 23rd Sts., Manhattan

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Tia Pol Ordering Suggestions
Tia Pol question
What to order at Tia Pol

Jedediah’s: Cooking Locally on Long Island’s North Fork

The local harvest takes the lead at Jedediah’s, the outstanding upscale restaurant from Long Island empire builder Tom Schaudel (CoolFish, AngelFish, Thom Thom, etc.). “A great setting, friendly, knowledgeable service, and incredibly fresh and delicious food,” sums up Justpaula. She recounts a superb dinner highlighted by seared diver scallops, quite tasty yet upstaged by the accompanying succotash of locally grown corn, soybeans, and tomato–“so sweet and slightly crunchy and so fresh I believe someone may have picked them just that day,” she marvels.

Other winners: tuna tartare with yuzu-sesame soy; butter-poached lobster with chanterelles; soft shell crabs with roasted vegetables; seared Hudson Valley foie gras with local blackberry gastrique; Long Island duck prosciutto with figs, blue cheese, and basil; pan-seared striped bass with Riesling, littleneck clams, wild mushrooms, and chorizo.

The wine list emphasizes Long Island producers. Two hound-endorsed picks, both a good match with seafood, are the chef’s reserve Chardonnay (made on the North Fork) and a Sauvignon Blanc from Cutchogue’s Castello di Borghese.

Jedediah’s opened in June in Jamesport’s Jedediah Hawkins Inn, which occupies a grand and painstakingly restored Victorian mansion. Downstairs from the main dining room, the less formal Captain’s Cellar offers a tavern menu featuring burgers, a cheese plate, and “American tapas.”

Jedediah’s [Suffolk County]
400 S. Jamesport Ave., in the Jedediah Hawkins Inn, Jamesport, NY

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Anyone been to Jedediah Hawkins in Jamesport?
Jedidiah Hawkin’s Inn–Jamesport, LI–review

Cold Noodles for Warm Weather

The house-made noodles at Maru Ichi are made to be served cold, says Melanie Wong. Their cold noodle preparation starts with a cool, springy tangle of ramen noodles, topped with a colorful array of red pickled ginger, seaweed salad, cucumbers, egg, and fatty roast pork. All the toppings contrast magnificently with the blankness of the noodle base, and the dish is enlivened by a “sprightly” dressing. They’ll be serving cold noodles (hiyashi chuka) as long as it stays warm, so go now. Oh, and you know Melanie Wong’s listing of the top 50 ramen places in the area? This one has just risen to #5, based on these cold noodles.

She notes that they charge for tea. Go anyway.

Maru Ichi Noodle House [Peninsula]
368 Castro St., Mountain View

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Hiyashi Chuka Ramen @ Maru Ichi in Mountain View

The Salt House

The Salt House has just barely opened, but hounds are digging its house wines, good vibes, and tasty food–like a tomato tart with a buttery puff pastry crust, or pan-roasted skate wing with Brussels sprouts and tarragon. There are still some kinks to work out (plumbers fixing the occasional leak at the bar, veal breast tonnato that reminds mbaldauf of tuna casserole), but it shows promise. kleungsf likes the house wine blends, served “on tap” out of stainless steel barrels. The house white blend–pinot gris, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc–is very nice. They also have a large selection of wine that doesn’t come from a barrel. Put this place on your list if you are into “ambience”–they have lots of that.

The Salt House [SOMA]
545 Mission St., San Francisco

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First Look–Salt House 545 Mission Street between Fremont and Third SOMA

Brooklyn in the Pizza House

Valentino’s in Manhattan Beach may offer the closest thing to Brooklyn pizza in Los Angeles, says young chower. Try getting it underbaked and finish it at home on a pizza stone–Morris Malken tried it this way and says he almost fell off his chair, it was so good. Sausage rolls are insanely tasty. Note that the Valentino’s at Sepulveda and El Segundo is not as good.

Valentino’s Pizza [Beaches]
975 N. Aviation Blvd., Manhattan Beach

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Donde esta great pizza?

George Foreman Grills: Yay or Nay?

Some dismiss George Foreman grills, saying it’s just as easy to cook something up in a pan, or complaining that they’re difficult to clean. But plenty of hounds love them for speedy cooking of certain kinds of foods, and have strategies for making cleanup easier.

They’re great for quick cooking of burgers, chicken breasts, salmon steaks, sausages, and marinated vegetables. They’re also perfect for panini (or any grilled sandwich) and quesadillas. Bone-in meats don’t work well, as they don’t cook evenly. Since Foreman grills are angled so that fat and juices will run off as meats cook, leaner cuts work best unless your aim is to lose some of the fat. And while some like Foreman grills for cooking chops, others feel they’re not good for red meat beyond burgers, since they don’t get hot enough to produce a good sear.

The basic, entry-level Foreman grill has permanently attached grill plates, and can be difficult to clean. But many say that cleaning is no problem so long as you do it while the plates are still warm. Some simply use a damp sponge, while others find that sticking a few layers of dampened paper towels in the closed grill after it’s been turned off makes cleaning easy later on. Jacquilynne shares this tip: putting a sheet of parchment paper on either side of the food you’re cooking has minimal effect on its browning, but leaves almost no mess behind to clean up.

A larger, newer version has removable grill plates that are immersible and dishwasher safe.

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Are George Foreman grills worth it?

Teriyaki Shack’s Great Pastrami

Barnaby’s, a little teriyaki and burger shack, turns out a modestly sized but delicious pastrami sandwich, says kiwi. Pastrami is not too lean, not too fatty, with crispy edges–like a cross between itself and bacon. It comes on a toasted roll with caramelized onions, Thousand Island dressing and mustard. Bacon cheeseburger is fab, but skip the greasy, soggy chili cheese fries.

Barnaby’s [East San Fernando Valley]
4389 Tujunga Ave., Studio City

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Barnaby’s in Studio City- EXCELLENT pastrami sandwich

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms can make an elegant appetizer, or even a main dish, and stuffing options are nearly unlimited. To make them, use medium or large white or brown mushrooms. Remove the stems (many like to peel, chop, and saute these as part of the stuffing), pile on the stuffing, and broil or bake. Here are some ideas:

cbauer browns sausage, drains, then mixes with bread crumbs and cubed mozzarella, stuffs, and broils.

ida sautees torn baby spinach and diced garlic in extra virgin olive oil and stuffs mushrooms, then tops with a bit of grated Parmigiano Reggiano and broils. macca makes a similar stuffing, but includes the diced mushroom stems and onion, and tops it all with panko breadcrumbs.

HillJ adds 2 Tbsp. each shredded zucchini, shredded Monterey jack, and diced sun dried tomatoes to 1 cup of small croutons, folds in enough light cream to bind, and stuffs 10-12 medium mushrooms. Bake in an 8×8-inch pan covered in foil for 20 minutes.

Jackie de uses whatever she has on hand–ham, sausage, chicken, bacon, crab–it’s all good, she says. She sautees the chopped stems in butter with onions, and adds goat or cream cheese, fresh bread crumbs, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and the pre-cooked meat, then stuffs, drizzles with olive oil, and bakes.

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stuffed mushrooms