The CHOW Blog rss

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

New Nightspot for Tea Totallers

Java junkies have always had their pick of the litter when it comes to round-the-clock access to their caffeine fix of choice. Now tea lovers can start sippin’ past midnight, too.

The owners of T on Fairfax used to run nightclubs, and wanted to open up a late-night place that promoted a healthier lifestyle. Thus, T on Fairfax, open at 6 a.m. and closing at 1 a.m. All of their teas are loose leaf and carefully brewed; they even watch the mineral content of their water. French press coffee is an option if you happen to bring a tea-hater along.

They also offer a healthy selection of vegetarian salads, sandwiches, and desserts; many items can bemade vegan as well.

T on Fairfax [Fairfax Village]
435 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles
323-782-0695
Map

Board Links
new find for tea!

Vegetarian Samosa Haven

If you notice that the flavors of most dishes at Samosa House (formerly Bharat Bazaar) really stand out from the competition, it’s probably because they roast their own spices. All these spices are also available for purchase in their store, says shrenry.

All of their samosas are fried to order and go great with a mango lassi or one of their large selection of ginger beers, says Dommy.

Samosa House [Beaches]
formerly Bharat Bazaar
11510 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles
310-398-6766
Locater

Board Links
Samosa House in Culver City–any good?

Ideal Omelette Pan

The ideal omelette pan, says Ernie Diamond, is a French steel crepe pan sold by Williams-Sonoma. It’s about 8 inches in diameter and is just the right size for three eggs. The steel is thin and cooks cooks very fast–it only takes about three minutes to get a perfectly shaped, tender omelette. The pan needs to be seasoned, and can be treated in much the same way as cast iron.

Here’s the French steel crepe pan.

Board Links
Cast iron omelet pan?

Flat Iron Steak

Flat iron steaks are a cut relatively new to the consumer marketplace. They’re cut from the chuck blade, and named because their shape resembles the old-fashioned flat irons used before that newfangled electricity thing. They’re very tender, with robustly beefy flavor, say hounds. Treat them as you would flank or skirt steak: grill or pan sear to no more than medium rare, and slice against the grain. Flat irons take well to marinades, but many prefer to simply salt and pepper before cooking, and serve a sauce on the side, since they’ve got such great flavor.

Board Links
Flat Iron Steak?

Huitlacoche

Huitlacoche is also called corn fungus or Mexican truffles. It sounds and looks disgusting; the kernels turn into bulbous grey lumps in the infected corn. But nevermind the fact that it looks like something went and died on your corn–it’s actually really delicious. It’s like mushrooms, rich and earthy, says Das Ubergeek. It can be sauteed and folded into an omelet or used in a crepe filling. In fact, any mushroom recipe could employ huitlacoche.

The Goya brand has it canned, but fresh is best.

Board Links
What’s huitaloche like?

Mango Splitter

A mango splitter is a gadget that’s said to make fast work of slicing a mango, easily manuevering around the elongated mango pit, which can be a challenge with a knife. OXO has one that many say works really well. It works like an apple corer, separating the two halves of a mango from its pit.

Order one online. They’ve also been spotted at Bed Bath & Beyond.

We have dissenters who remark that this gizmo leaves a lot of pulp around the seed that will need to be removed by hand, so it doesn’t save much work versus using a knife.

Board Links
Is a mango slicer worth it? [moved from General Topics]

Balsamic Begone

Ximena of the lovely blog Lobstersquad (tagline: “a food blog with drawings”) posted a funny rant this week about the rampant misuse of balsamic vinegar, brought on by an egregious example involving fried eggs at a low-key restaurant in Sevilla. “In what stupid parallel universe does anyone think a fried egg is improved by a brown squiggle?” she fumes, going on to lament the tendency of chefs all over Spain to “doodle on plates” with balsamic reductions and completely ignore the great local vinegars.

But in her eyes the worst thing about balsamic is its tendency to overwhelm if used indiscriminately:

Listen: balsamic vinegar is not a neutral ingredient. As well as acidity, it has a bunch of other flavours (wine vinegar, grape must, sulphites E22o, caramel colouring E150D, anyone?). It should not be thrown about any old how. It can be a wonderful product, but it can also be pretty intrusive and pointless. If I had my way, I’d forbid the wanton use of this substance to all except
A. Italians. they invented the thing, they know what to do with it
B. good chefs. Ditto about knowing

It seems she’s not alone in her exasperation with balsamic: A few months ago, Chowhounders discussed the overabundance of the stuff (and I’m assuming they were talking about American cuisine, ‘cause I’ve certainly seen my share of little brown dots on plates stateside, not to mention “palate cleansers” of macerated fruits in balsamic). The ‘hounds echo Ximena’s worry that other worthy vinegars are getting short shrift, and that balsamic tends to commandeer the flavor of
a dish.

But I wonder if this balsamic backlash is due in part to the fact that a lot of what we’re tasting in restaurants isn’t authentic balsamic, the kind made from pure must (unfermented, syrupy grape juice). The latter is expensive, and the balsamic that you see in most stores (and, I’d wager, in low-end and midrange restaurant kitchens) is diluted with regular ol’ wine vinegar. Of course, the real-deal version has a more intense flavor, so maybe authenticity’s not the issue at all. To borrow a phrase from Nicolas Cage, maybe it’s just time we all put the balsamic back in the box.

Food, Fat and Fall

Forbes.com seems to be as confused about food as the rest of us. Do we love it? Do we fear it?

The publication just posted the most deliciously schizophrenic food-related slide show of the year.
In “Fall’s Most Fattening Foods,” picture after picture clicks by, each more food porny than the last. Perfectly rare rack of lamb oozing juice into a cloudlike pillow of creamy mashed potatoes. Decadent (banned) foie gras ready for its close-up. A winsome-looking trio of of Buffalo wings swaddled in a crusty, spicy coating.

But just as you’re thinking, here’s a great resource for planning my next dinner party menu, you notice that underneath each scrumptious-looking picture the text tells you the calorie count, a paragraph on just exactly why the food is bad for you, and an “Exercise Equivalent.” Working off duck a l’orange will take more than 4 1/2 hours of yoga.

It’s the ultimate foodie buzz-kill.

Cook’s Country Snacks on a Leafy Green Basket of Crow

Cook’s Country magazine, the rustic, gap-toothed cousin of Cook’s Illustrated, has pulled off the small-scale equivalent of publishing a gushing profile of the amazing new luxury ship Titanic —on April 16, 1912.

This month’s edition features a lavish full-page spread celebrating “Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing.” It opens with a stirring affirmation:

In the salad world, not much satisfies like a wilted spinach salad —a hearty mix of earthy spinach, warm bacon-enriched dressing, and creamy hard-cooked eggs …


And these days, nothing packs quite the intimidation factor, either. At this point, having an earthy wilted spinach salad is an act of culinary bravado akin to eating a live, Tabasco-marinated pit bull.

Obit: R. W. “Johnny” Apple Jr.

Famed political reporter and food and travel writer R. W. “Johnny” Apple Jr. has died at the age of 71 due to complications of thoracic cancer.

In a career spanning more than 40 years at The New York Times, Apple “wrote about war and revolution, politics and government, food and drink, and the revenge of living well from more than 100 countries,” notes Todd S. Purdum in his obituary of the journalist with a “Dickensian byline, Churchillian brio and Falstaffian appetites.”

That omnivorous appetite—and the expense accounts that supported it—was legendary, and the sheer pleasure he took in eating came through in his writings about food and drink from around the world (his last article for the Times, a travel piece on the cuisine of Singapore, was published this past weekend).

Purdum writes:

For his 70th birthday, he gathered friends at the Paris bistro Chez L’Ami Louis, which he often described as his favorite restaurant, for heaping plates of foie gras, roast chicken, escargots, scallops and pommes Anna, washed down with gallons of burgundy and magnums of Calvados.

[Calvin] Trillin, who later wrote about the evening for Gourmet, quoted one guest who summed up Mr. Apple’s attitude toward the party, and toward the rich, long life and career that produced it: “It’s my understanding that Apple has simplified what could be a terribly difficult choice by telling them to bring everything.”

He is survived by his wife, Betsey.