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

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!

‘wichcraft Trials

Attentive (read: obsessive) viewers of the first season of Top Chef will recall that one of the early challenges was to make a sandwich that Colicchio promised to put on the menu of the newest outpost of his sandwich shop chain ‘wichcraft. Many months later, the San Francisco ‘wichcraft is finally open, and “The Harold” is now eatable by the general public.

Of course, it’s not called “The Harold” (although ‘wichcraft HQ does confirm that people ask for the Top Chef or “Harold Sandwich”); it’s called “the Mortadella,” named (as are all of ‘wichcraft’s sandwiches) for the main ingredient. The Mortadella comes with sautéed black trumpet royale mushrooms and black olive tapenade on San Francisco sourdough bread. The grapes, which Harold originally served on the side of the plate, are now halved and stuck inside the sandwich, as per Colicchio’s episode-expressed desire.

The sandwich was plenty tasty, but it wasn’t my favorite. According to the voluble ‘wichcraft HQ, Harold’s Mortadella is “selling reasonably well” and is “in the middle of the mix” in terms of popularity. Additionally, while I personally adored the fried egg, vinegar-y frisée, gorgonzola, and bacon sandwich on ciabatta, the slow-roasted pork with red cabbage, jalapenos, and mustard on ciabatta is the most popular sandwich in the San Francisco location. To give some perspective, the roasted turkey, balsamic onion relish, bacon, and avocado with aioli on ciabatta is the most popular New York ‘wich.

After summing up some ‘wichcraft complaints he’d heard from his cronies, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Bauer added:

The roast pork ($8.50) was cold in the center and tasted like it had languished in the refrigerator for four days. And the hot pastrami’s ($9.50) meat was so tough I couldn’t bite through it. I decided that when you pay $10 after tax, it’s a little too expensive for a quick eat-at-my-desk lunch.

Sandwiches are my favorite food, so it’s never going to be a “quick eat-at-my-desk lunch” for me. They are to be savored slowly, and I determined that the four sandwiches I sampled at ‘wichcraft were mouth-stretchingly good.

Whiskey Primer

Whiskey Primer

Watch out for the revenuers. READ MORE

The Return of Moopheus

For a while there, it seemed like you couldn’t swing a cat at a Veg Fest without hitting a monitor that was showing The Meatrix (not that you’d want to swing a cat at a Veg Fest. In fact, that’s the last place you’d want to do that). The Meatrix was a savvy piece of animated propaganda that posited a future in which Leo the pig took the red pill and was introduced to the horror of factory farming by a cow called Moopheus.

Now the folks at Sustainable Table are trying to re-create that buzz with a new episode —The Meatrix II 1/2. Timed to help promote and capitalize on the release of Richard Linklater’s Fast Food Nation, the new episode deals with the politics of slaughterhouses. And while the deplorability of the conditions for both humans and animals in that industry isn’t news, the short film is a good reminder of how much easier it is to get a dose of E. coli from a batch of burgers than from a bunch of spinach.

How to Eat More

Big meal coming up? Strategy is required. READ MORE

Terrible Tobiko

Terrible Tobiko

Tobiko and masago, the cheap fish roes on top of many sushi rolls, are far from fresh. READ MORE

Iron Chef Goes Collegiate

The rivalry between Stanford and UC Berkeley, well known to football fans, is taking a culinary turn. This week, students will face off in an Iron Chef–style cooking competition.

San Francisco Chronicle blog Nwzchik reports that the cooking competition, scheduled for Sunday, will pit teams from each school against each other and up against the challenge of preparing three dishes all featuring a secret ingredient (said to be bread, eggs, tomatoes, apple sauce, or tofu). Each five-member team will have one hour to complete its dishes, which will then be judged by a panel that includes the mayors of Berkeley and Palo Alto.

The competition is being sponsored by the year-old Cal Cooking Club and is open to the public, with tickets at $5 ($3 for students).

Will the home-court advantage favor the Cal team (not to mention the proximity to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto)? It remains to be seen. One thing is certain: The marching band will not be in attendance. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some wave action happening in Kitchen Stadium.

Bogged Down in Manhattan

New York magazine has a brief item on superchef Ming Tsai’s visit this week to Rockefeller Center. Awaiting him, courtesy of Ocean Spray, is a massive artificial cranberry bog.

As a regular commuter through the bogs of Wisconsin, I’ve found it’s easy to forget that most people don’t get the opportunity to see cranberries in a natural—or, in this case, a simulated natural—state. It’s therefore exciting to imagine several hundred thousand Food Network viewers from Iowa pushing blindly through a scrum of Ecko windbreakers to get the opportunity to see (if for one fleeting, glorious moment) a giant swimming pool inhabited by what appears to be a dwarf in rubber waders.

And, of course, the berries, bobbing majestically like a fleet of tiny red basketballs on a stagnant sea of frigid water.

Some advice for tourists: bring a large thermos and cart off as many as you can steal. No amount is too large. My fiancée’s parents, no strangers to good eats, buy roughly 50 pounds of berries a year while they’re in season and then freeze whatever they don’t rapidly convert into delicious cranberry sauce. The rest crop up periodically in cobblers and apple pies, lending a zippy tartness to desserts that might otherwise wilt under their own insipid sweetness.

Load up, and let the two-month holiday cooking season begin!

Tips on Deep-Frying a Turkey

Tips on Deep-Frying a Turkey

What sort of oil to use, and what to do with it when you're done. READ MORE

Get Your Greek On

When it comes to Greek food in L.A., the first name that springs to mind is Papa Cristo’s. For take-out or eating in, Greek grocery items and Thursday family dinners, the place is perpetually popular. Grilled octopus is charred lovingly and incredibly tender, and the tzatziki is better than anywhere else, says Mr Taster. Taramasalata is good too.

George’s Greek has delicious, no-nonsense Greek/Cypriot food, including saganaki and a stellar kleftiko, raves rjw_lgb_ca. It’s in Long Beach (where the Pine St. location is reckoned a bit better than Belmont Shore) and downtown L.A. (lunch only).

The Firehouse in Reseda isn’t strictly Greek (you can also get burgers, or fish and chips), but they have tasty food, made to order. If you don’t usually like stuffed grape leaves, try their vegetarian version. It’s longer and more loosely packed than most other grape leaves, with a tomato and rice filling. There are sampler plates, and most combos include Greek salad, pita and rice/fries for $10. It’s all delicious, says LisaN.

Petros is the antithesis of the Greek restaurant stereotype: sleek and stylish, with young, hot waiters. But the food is really good, though somewhat California-sized (we mean smaller).

Ulysses at the Grove may have better grilled octopus than Papa Cristo’s, and very tasty spanakopita. Okra and boiled dandelion greens are great, and they do a succulent, delicious lamb shank.

Papadakis is more on the fine-dining side, but it’s a family-run place with really good food, says diningdivala.

Athena’s, a Greek/Italian hole in the wall, has tasty moussaka, lamb shank, and lentil soup, says mushky.

Mykonos is Long Beach’s best kept secret for Greek food, says Eat_Nopal, who recommends saganaki, baby octopus, and rack of lamb.

And cheesy though it might be, the Great Greek has really yummy roast spring lamb and can be fun for groups, what with the dancing waiters, flaming cheese and all. Get the Greek Feast.

C & K Importing/Papa Cristo’s [Koreatown]
2771 W. Pico Blvd., at Normandie, Los Angeles
323-737-2970
Locater

George’s Greek Cafe [South Bay]
formerly Malvasia Mediterranean Taverna
5316 E. 2nd St., Long Beach
562-433-1755
Locater

Georges Greek Deli [South Bay]
318 Pine Ave., Long Beach
562-437-1184
Locater

George’s Greek Cafe [Downtown]
735 S. Figueroa St. #131, Los Angeles
213-624-6542
Map

Firehouse Restaurant [West San Fernando Valley]
18450 Victory Blvd, Tarzana, CA
818-881-3118
Locater

Petros Greek Cuisine [Beaches]
451 Manhattan Beach Blvd., at Ardmore, Manhattan Beach
310-545-4100
Map

Ulysses Voyage [Fairfax Village]
6333 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles
323-939-9728
Locater

Papadakis Taverna [South Bay]
301 W. 6th St., San Pedro
310-548-1186
Locater

Athena’s Rotisserie & Pizzeria [Santa Clarita]
18853 Soledad Canyon Rd., Canyon Country 91351
661-251-8442
Locater

Mykonos [South Bay]
5374 E. 2nd St., Long Beach
562-434-1856
Locater

Great Greek Restaurant [East San Fernando Valley]
13362 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks
818-905-5250
Locater

Board Links
Firehouse Restaurant, Reseda Review
Where to go for Greek food in L.A?.