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

A Mean Lamb Shwarma

The Concord branch of The Mediterranean makes a totally awesome shwarma, says Chuckles the Clone. They have a standard setup: big meat carousel slowly roasting spiced slabs of lamb, and when you order, they slice some off and finish cooking it over a grill with some sliced tomatoes. Then they scoop it into a hot-sauce-slathered lavash and wrap it in foil, at which time it begins to make its own gravy, and also begins to be eaten by you. You will need about a dozen napkins for this process, plus a few extra to clean your table when finished.

It’s great shwarma, great enough to make the place qualify as a “destination.” Unlike many places, the lamb really tastes like lamb. J T notes that this place used to be a Truly Mediterranean, but ownership changed and quality slipped–now the quality is back up to previous levels, and it’s totally recommended.

The Mediterranean [East Bay]
1847 Willow Pass Rd. Ste. B, Concord
925-825-0608
Locater

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Good Shwarma in the east bay?

Beautiful Pork Mole

The house-made mole at Gallegos is very earthy, a little chocolaty, a little spicy, a little bitter, and a little sweet, says chocolatetartguy. The mole is so good, it takes this place over the line from stop-by-if-you’re-in-the-neighborhood to run-don’t-walk. It’s thick and complex, and gives you something to think deeply about. It’s served on top of a mound of sweet, tender, slightly fatty pork–like carnitas, but not crisped. The beans and rice make a perfect bland foil to the many moods of the insane mole. All that plus a small green salad and the proverbial bag of chips will run you $8. And mole is served every day!

The caldo de res is also nice, beef broth with meat and vegetables served with all kinds of mix-ins, kind of like pho. rworange likes the weird-but-oddly-satisfying raspberry agua fresca.

Gallegos Mexican Food [East Bay]
2309 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley
510-841-9710
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Gallegos Mexican Food–wonderful pork mole
Berkeley–Gallegos Mexican Food – Monday sopa de albondigas

Surprising Fish Taco in Bellport, L.I

Unorthodox but scrumptious fish tacos are a don’t-miss order at Bellport’s newish Sugar Loaf Cafe, says Dave Feldman. Beautifully grilled mahi mahi with cabbage-carrot slaw, dressed with lively carrot-orange vinaigrette and cilantro-lime mayonnaise, is enfolded in soft flour tortillas. Tacos also come with beef, chicken, or shrimp.

It’s not your typical Mexican treatment, but this isn’t a Mexican restaurant. The rest of the menu offers sandwiches, burgers, wraps, soups, salads, and breakfast dishes with Brazilian and Mediterranean accents. Also: baked goods (including pao de queijo, the Brazilian cheese puffs) and a full lineup of espresso and other coffee drinks, brewed from Brazilian beans. “Everything in the cafe is such a joy,” effuses MN716.

For fall and winter, Sugar Loaf is open for breakfast and lunch daily plus early dinner (until 8) on Friday and Saturday.

Sugar Loaf Cafe [Suffolk County]
141 S. Country Rd., between Station Rd. and Woodruff St., Bellport, NY
631-286-5652
Map

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Fish Tacos in Bellport, Long Island

All-Star Contender at Michael Jordan’s

Hounds aren’t quite sold on Michael Jordan’s steaks, but their hamburger is a winner. It’s 12 ounces of well-seasoned ground sirloin, broiled to a nice crust, served on a lightly grilled bun with decent steak fries–pricey at $14.50 but excellent, reports ESNY.

Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse [Grand Central Terminal]
23 Vanderbilt Ave., in Grand Central Terminal, Manhattan
212-655-2300
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Review of the burger at Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse

A Gem in Downtown – No, Not the Jewelry District

Cakewalk, Debra King’s new bakery-cafe downtown, is now serving breakfast and lunch. It’s a gem waiting to be discovered, says joejoe. For lunch, try the tenderloin sandwich, with medium-rare beef in a cracked-pepper and salt crust, plus horseradish cream and cherry-pepper relish. Soba noodles are lighter but still satisfying, and of course there’s dessert–the likes of banana pudding and cheesecake cupcakes with chocolate ganache. In a rush? Get curbside pickup.

Cakewalk [East LA-ish]
1326 E. 1st. St., Los Angeles
323-261-0852
Map

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Another great lunch at Cakewalk

Al Pastor a la Pineapple

Found: al pastor roasted on a spit topped with a pineapple, basting the meat in its delicious juices. WildSwede discovered it outside the Las Delicias in Newhall and joined the huge line waiting for the tacos. Although the guy working the outside spit doesn’t chop off bits of pineapple and add them to the tacos, the guy inside the restaurant does. Fantastic stuff.

Cocido de res, incidentally, is outrageously good–tasty stock piled with chunks of beef, potatoes, green beans and carrots.

A “small” cocido (actually a rather large bowl) is $4, large is $6. Tacos al pastor, $1 each.

Las Delicias [Santa Clarita]
22928 Lyons Ave., Newhall
661-287-1512
Locater

Las Delicias [Santa Clarita]
27125 Sierra Hwy., Canyon Country
661-250-9207
Locater

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Las Delicias–Newhall

The Seductions of Black Grape Gelato

Sometimes it’s the uncomplicated recipes, made with the fewest, but the best, ingredients, that work magic. This is one such time. Water, sugar, cream, and excellent Concord grapes become a downright rapturous gelato, says Carb Lover. “Juicy tartness balanced by sweetness and tannic finish, all mellowed by a whisper of cream. Luscious and complex, a red wine enthusiast would be seduced.”

Here’s how it’s made: heat 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Process 1 lb. of washed and stemmed black grapes through a food mill, using the insert with the smallest holes to catch the seeds and separate the skins. (Note: a food processor or blender is NOT a suitable alternative, as it will crush the seeds.) Combine grape puree with simple syrup and cool. Once cool, whip 1/4 cup heavy cream to the consistency of buttermilk. Blend with grape mixture, and chill thoroughly, then process in an ice cream freezer.

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Black Grape Gelato by Marcella Hazan

Cooking Up Tinned Sardines

Most tinned sardines make a short hop straight into sandwiches or onto saltine crackers, but here are two main course recipes in which they play a starring role.

mar52 uses them to make sardine tacos: Chop some tomato and sweet onion. Add chopped sardines, a squirt of fresh lime juice, salt and pepper, and your favorite hot sauce. Wrap in warm corn tortillas.

Miss Needle makes a pasta dish with sardines that she says is really addictive: Heat olive oil and saute minced garlic and crushed red pepper until the garlic turns golden. Add drained sardines and some chopped tomatoes and saute; stirring the ingredients as they cook will break up the sardines. Add not-quite-cooked pasta to the pan, along with some of the pasta cooking water, and simmer until the pasta’s done.

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tinned sardines–any options???

Heritage Turkeys

Yes, Thanksgiving is looming. Getting an order in for a special turkey should be done soon.

“Heritage” birds have become really popular. These turkeys are like those our ancestors had, before the days of the broad-breasted varieties. The Bourbon Red and American Bronze are highly recommended. There’s less white meat and more dark meat on these turkeys.

More about Heritage turkeys.

Mary’s Heritage turkeys have been very popular.

Diestel turkeys are organically grown, and they offer a little turkey called Diestel Petite that’s perfect for small families. For a large gathering, buy two, and you’ll have four legs and four wings! Niki Rothman cooked a 9-pound Petite, and describes it as magnificent.

This link includes a store locator. Some Whole Foods Markets carry them.

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Heritage turkeys–best breeds, best sources?
Heritage turkeys—worth it?

One Size Fits All Knife Block

The Igo Kapoosh knife block is very cleverly designed. Rather than a solid block of wood, with slots that may or may not fit your kives, the Igo Kapoosh block is tightly filled with slim rods that adjust and hold whatever size blade you insert into it. And the removable insert that holds the knives is dishwasher safe.

Hapa Dude has had one for a year and finds it very versatile. One minor issue: 8-inch chef knives stand up too straight to fit under the cabinets that overhang the kitchen counter.

Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Linens ‘n Things sell them for about $30.

Universal knife block.

Here’s a good description of how it works.

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A great knife block