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

Shepherd’s Pie Meets Lobster

On Mondays, Union Square Cafe offers an upmarket take on shepherd’s pie: chunks of lobster, mushrooms, spinach, carrots, and rich lobster sauce under a blanket of mashed potatoes. Unbeatable, says dkstar1.

Union Square Cafe [Union Square]
21 E. 16th St., between 5th Ave. and Union Square W., Manhattan

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interesting lobster dish?

Hot Dogs of the East

There’s a new hot dog place in East L.A., and it’s got good stuff, says nrique. Dogs are juicy, with a nice snap, and chili is meaty and gooey, hot enough to melt the shredded cheddar on top of it. You can get it on a French-style roll or a regular bun, but be warned that the chili is a bit too much for the bun to handle.

The dogs are the same kind used these days at Tommy’s and the Stand, and are also sold at Trader Joe’s–made by Papa Cantella’s in Vernon. It’s not really clear whether they’ve got natural casing as PC’s website claims…monku looked really hard and couldn’t see any hint of casing at all. Still, there was definitely snap.

Prices are high for that neighborhood, with a plain dog at $3.30 and a chili cheese dog for $3.60. A combo of chili cheese dog, fries, and a 16-oz refillable soda is $5.50.

There is tough parking due to road work. Try the strip mall at Arizona and 3rd.

Between the Bun [East LA-ish]
4701 E. 3rd Street, Los Angeles

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The East sides new HOT DOG spot !

Tango Takes Another Turn

In its previous lives, Tango’s has been Santino’s Tapas and Patagonia Grill. Its latest incarnation has kept its Spanish/Argentinean flavor, turning out good steaks without any hype.

Empanadas, croquetas, and the omelette-like Spanish tortillas are still standards, and the menu offers grilled items, pastas and other dishes.

A skirt steak lunch special includes very good mashed potatoes topped with a few freshly made potato chips. The steak is tender, with a nice charred crust. The mortal death blow of goodness is the chimichurri sauce, a tangy concoction of olive oil, parsley, garlic and vinegar; it’s great on bread and meat.

Skirt steak lunch special (also includes soup) is $10.

Tango’s [Hollywood]
Formerly Santino’s/Patagonia Grill
1253 N. Vine, Fountain, Los Angeles

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Tango’s Hollywood

Miso Dressings

Dressings flavored with miso are great on everything from green salads to grilled veggies. All the favorites are incredibly easy to prepare–just whisk everything together thoroughly. Here are some of ‘hounds’ favorite recipes. Besides the miso part, they’re all over the flavor map:

From PamelaD:

1 Tbsp. white miso
1 Tbsp. sake
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce

From JJC:

2 Tbsp. miso
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. water

Substitute peanut butter for the mayonnaise to make a peanut-miso dressing.

From rdnnyc:

2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. brown rice miso
1 Tbsp. dried dill weed
1 Tbsp. tahini

Thin it out with a little water if you like.

From GretchenS:

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. white miso
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. minced onion, scallion, or chive

val recommends this miso vinaigrette, but says she increases the ginger.

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Miso dressing? [split from General Topics]

Sweetened Chestnut Puree

Sweetened chestnut puree, sold in tins and jars and usually imported from France, is a luscious ingredient. Here are some great uses for the stuff:

Spread it on bread or toast, use it as a pancake topping, or add a few tablespoons to the wet ingredients of your favorite pancake or waffle recipe. Serve it over vanilla ice cream with dark chocolate sauce. Add some to the custard mixture when making a chocolate bread pudding.

Sweetened chestnut puree is also a traditional and delicious filling for crepes.

In ace’s family, the birthday cake of choice was a jelly roll-style sponge cake filled with swetened chestnut puree folded into whipped cream, the top sprinkled with powdered sugar.

buttertart loves this chestnut bundt cake:

Beat together:
300g/10.5 oz. confectioner’s sugar
400g/14 oz. sweetened chestnut puree
200g/7 oz. butter
7 egg yolks

300g/ 10.5oz ground almonds
1 good pinch baking powder

Add carefully without overbeating:
7 stiffly beaten egg whites.

Pour into a greased and floured baking bundt pan. Bake for 60-65 minutes at 350F. Gently sift over some confectioner’s sugar just before serving.

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Chestnut Puree–Ideas?

Daring to Durian

Durian fruit is part of the Advanced Chowhound Curriculum. Many people know of it only as “that weird smell when you walk into an Asian grocery store.” Some find it sweet, musky, grassy, oniony, and overwhelming. It’s like “some freaky-deaky intimate experience that I can’t get out of my head,” says raj1. It looks like a giant predator fruit from the planet Zorkon. “It’s like eating your favorite ice cream on the toilet,” says s0memale.

To introduce yourself to the funky savor that is durian, Pei advises you to first try it frozen, and then, if you can handle it, in a shake. Only then should you eat it fresh.

Just don’t combine it with beer or anything that will make you burp. Hounds have theorized that this is so nauseating, it might be the only food combination that’s actually deadly.

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Toxic Food Combinations [moved from General Topics board]
durian fruit

Best Potato Chips Anywhere

Some potato chips you can get everywhere, but the chips made with attention and care tend to be only locally or regionally available. frenetica fondly remembers Brannigan’s Roast Beef & Mustard chips and Walker’s Lamb & Mint “Posh Chips” from her time in the UK–but they’re sadly unavailable in the states. Maybe some of these chowhound-recommended chips are available where you are:

Zapp’s Cajun Crawtaters
Grandma Shearer’s Kettle-Cooked Chips
Humpty Dumpty Barbecue
Miss Vickie’s Lime & Black Pepper
Jays Kettle Cooked
Tim’s Original and Wasabi Chips
Blair’s Death Rain Chips (in flavors such as Cracked Crab)
Downey’s Chips
Grandma Utz’s (handcooked in lard)
Made Rite Potato Chips
“Kitch’n Cook’d” Maui Potato Chips

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favorite potato chips

Mouth vs. Mouth

Somebody up there loves me. Or, at least, someone on Food Network loves me, because why else would they pit Giada De Laurentiis against Rachael Ray in an Iron Chef competition?

I kid you not. On November 12, Iron Chef America will pit she of the 30 Minute Meals and the pump-DOWN-the-volume talk show against Little Big Head De Laurentiis. When I saw the promo, two thoughts immediately went through my mind: “Well, they won’t need to mike Rachael,” and “I wonder if Giada will insist they use that porntastic wide-angle lens on her.”

Their styles are very different, so it’s anyone’s guess how these food femmes will perform under the watchful eye of Alton Brown. On the one oven mitt you’ve got Giada’s carefully prepared home-style Italian fare, and on the other you’ve got Rachael’s speedy-delivery meals that have her doing balancing acts all over the kitchen. Not sure how either will go down in Kitchen Stadium.

Of course, this may seem like a weird departure for Iron Chef America, given that neither Ray nor De Laurentiis actually is an Iron Chef, but they will both be given a handicap in the form of actual Iron Chefs. Bobby Flay will back De Laurentiis, and Mario Batali will be lending his considerable hands to Ray.

The blog ENTER CREATIVE TITLE HERE comments on the handicap: “They are SAVING these shitty women from making fools out of themselves in a really intense competition. DAMN IT!”

Personal likes and dislikes being what they are, I’m putting my money on Team Batali-Ray. Don’t make me sauté and eat my words, Rachael.

I’ll Pay You to Kill My Steer

I’ll Pay You to Kill My Steer

Free-range and grass-fed animals are big with consumers. So why won't most American slaughterhouses kill them? READ MORE

Small Servings = Long Life?

In the past month, calorie restriction (or CR, as the kids are calling it) has become the hottest new health craze to read about, if not to try. Last week there was the gonzo feature in New York magazine, which described the near-starvation diet that CR practitioners live on in the hopes of increasing their lifespan. And Tuesday saw two CR-related pieces in The New York Times (requires registration) and The Wall Street Journal. Readers are eating this stuff up—in just a few hours, the Times piece floated to the top of the “Most E-Mailed” list and stayed there.

Perhaps its popularity is due in part to its promise that in the future, we may be able to get CR’s benefits without the hunger pangs. Recent findings about the link between calorie restriction and longevity in lab animals, the article says,

suggest that other interventions, which include new drugs, may retard aging even if the diet itself should prove ineffective in humans. One leading candidate, a newly synthesized form of resveratrol—an antioxidant present in large amounts in red wine—is already being tested in patients. It may eventually be the first of a new class of anti-aging drugs. Extrapolating from recent animal findings, Dr. Richard A. Miller, a pathologist at the University of Michigan, estimated that a pill mimicking the effects of calorie restriction might increase human life span to about 112 healthy years, with the occasional senior living until 140, though some experts view that projection as overly optimistic.

The life-extension community may be psyched about the possibility of a CR diet-in-a-pill, but I’m more inclined to side with the skeptics discussed in the Journal piece (and notably absent from the Times story): Do researchers “really understand the workings of CR well enough to mimic them in a drug?”

And, I’d add, do they really want to? The kind of people who are interested in living that long might not actually be the type you’d want to have hanging around for more than a century … but maybe that’s just me.