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

Sausage Gravies of Our Lives

and one order is enough for two people.

Finally, if you’re near Alameda on a weekend with a sausage gravy craving, go to Jim’s Coffee Shop, says rtmonty. Country Benedict is served on Saturdays and Sundays only. Two big, fluffy biscuits, two big sausage patties, and two poached eggs are slathered with a wonderful sausage cream gravy. This dish is a great choice for the folks for whom English muffins with eggs, spinach, and a pint of hollandaise is “rabbit food.”

Sunny Side Cafe [East Bay]
1499 Solano Ave., Albany
510-527-5383
Locater

Garden Court Cafe [Sonoma County]
13647 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen
707-935-1565
Locater

Jim’s Coffee Shop [East Bay]
2333 Lincoln Ave., Alameda
510-523-5368
Locater

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sausage gravy

“The Right to Be Stupid”

As the debate continues over New York City’s proposal to ban trans fats, one restaurateur gets downright patriotic in expressing his outrage.

Over the weekend, the New York Times op-ed pages were filled with opinions on the proposed ban: John Tierney (TimesSelect registration required) critiqued the prohibition as an overreaction and a case of hubris on the part of the city’s health commissioner; public health expert and author Marion Nestle argued that the focus on trans fats is a “calorie distraction”; and Dining section writer Kim Severson provided some useful context for how the food industry came to adopt trans fats so readily.

But whether you are for or against the proposal, you have to appreciate the sheer eloquence of Kenny Shopsin, proprietor of the famously quirky Shopsin’s, who expresses his opposition to the ban on grounds that are almost constitutional: “They’re taking away our right to be stupid, which is our primary American right.”

Pizza from Silver Lake to Echo Park

Masa makes a great Chicago style pizza, says dgonzale80. For something lighter, Pizza Buona is a respectable NY-style slice spot.

For her NY-style fix, Suebee leaves the nabe and heads for Village Pizza, owned by a Brooklyn transplant who knows how to make some seriously good pies, she raves, possibly the best pizza in town.

Nicky D’s is a cozy spot that bakes delicious wood-fired pies, and there’s a nice patio outside too. Delicious red sauce clam pie, says dgonzale80.

Michelangelo’s excellent crust is appropriately thin and crispy. Their pies come both in personal and larger family-sized portions.

Louisa’s is a good delivery option, even for a chain, Silverlaker remarks; check out their veggie pizza.

Masa-Echo Park Bakery & Cafe [Echo Park]
1800 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
213-989-1558
Locater

Pizza Buona [Echo Park]
2100 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
213-413-0800
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Village Pizzeria [Larchmont Village]
131 N Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles
323-465-5566
Locater

Nicky D’s Wood-Fired Pizza [Silver Lake]
2764 Rowena Ave., Los Angeles
323-664-3333
Locater

Michelangelo Pizzeria [Silverlake]
1637 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
323-660-4843
Locater

Louise’s Trattoria [Los Feliz]
4500 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles
323-667-0777
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Echo Park/Silver Lake pizza spots

Life is Sweet in Laguna Niguel

Dolce Vita is a multiple threat, with good-quality gelato, cupcakes and cookies, plus Italian olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Their gelato has a sensationally smooth texture and comes in a variety of flavors

Pumpkin Cookies

Fall is pumpkin season–time for jack-o’-lanterns, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin cookies. Most pumpkin cookies are like little pumpkin cakes in texture, and somehow not as satifying as you think they’d be. Not these two: one is a chocolate chip cookie, but, you know, pumpkin! The other’s a chewy, toothsome oatmeal dealie.

pamd shares her recipe for chocolate chip-pumpkin cookies:

1 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup shortening
1 Tbsp. grated orange peel
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together sugar, pumpkin, shortening and orange peel. Stir in flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes, until light brown, and remove right away from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

wowimadog offers this recipe for pumpkin oatmeal cookies, saying they’re especially great made with dried cherries:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/3 organic rolled oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup canned pumpkin, or cooked pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
scant 2/3 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 cup raisins or chopped dried Bing cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin, sugar, oil, molasses, vanilla, and flax seeds until very well combined. Add dry ingredients to wet in 3 batches, folding to combine. fold in walnuts and raisins or dried cherries. Drop by tablespoons onto greased cookie sheets about an inch apart, and flatten the tops with a fork your fingers. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back on the oven racks halfway through for even baking. Remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

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Pumpkin Cookie Recipe?

Fried Coke!

Fried coke is a quirky fried treat that may displace funnel cakes at state and county fairs. It’s deep-fried balls of batter that have been flavored with coke. Fried coke showed up at a state fair in Texas, and won a prize!

The dough balls are presented in glasses, topped with Coke syrup, whipped cream, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and, of course, topped with a cherry.

Read a little more about it.

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Anyone Heard of “Fried Coke”?

Transforming Takeout Tidbits

Some hounds can’t wait to dive into the dregs of last night’s takeout meal straight from the carton, standing in front of the fridge. But others don’t want another meal of goulash, or can’t can’t quite imagine what they might do with a half cup of massaman curry or a lonely carton of plain rice. Hounds piccola and Adrienne have perfected the art of using up every tidbit of takeout, maximizing their investments in deliciousness.

Here are some great ways to use up takeout, beyond reheating:

Plain rice: make congee or fried rice (you can use other leftover meats or veggies in either, if the flavors will work).

Rice or pasta/noodle dishes: use as the base of a frittata (add eggs and cheese or whatever else you like).

Curries, patties, meats: use to top salads or fill sandwiches, slicing or chopping meat as necessary.

Tofu and/or grains can be made into veggie burgers or patties and sauteed, with the addition of a binder.

Finely chopped leftovers of all kinds make great omelette fillings.

Most leftovers can become the basis for or an ingredient in a soup; Adrienne even admits she occasionally rinses the sauce off leftovers so she can start fresh and flavor the soup however she wants!

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Takeout leftover magic

Green and Black’s Chocolate Bars

The chocolate bars made by Green and Black’s are organic and very good; they’re available at Target stores and Whole Foods. Especially nice is their white chocolate. You needn’t be a white chocolate lover to enjoy it.

Their Maya Gold bar is flavored with orange; there’s also a mint chocolate, a 70% dark chocolate, and more–twelve flavors, in all. The holy grail of Green and Black’s bars is the butterscotch flavor, which isn’t available in the States. You can find them in the UK and Toronto.

The chocolate bars.

Search for a retailer near you.

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Green and Blacks Butterscotch bar and white chocolate bar

Consider the Source

Last week’s news that the New York City Health Department wants to ban trans fats in restaurants atrracted lots of support.

But its detractors are legion, and the food-industry lobbying group Center for Consumer Freedom is fighting back. The organization (which is the polar opposite of the nutrition watchdog organization Center for Science in the Public Interest) is this week airing a television ad that is an over-the-top attempt to win sympathy for its side (and, presumably, the organization’s funders, a coalition of food, fast food, and tobacco corporations). In the ad, a little boy gets a delicious-looking ice cream cone literally ripped from his hands by the food police. He cries.

Of course, since the food industry has developed many substitutes for trans fats (although they might not be as convenient or cheap), no one will actually be ripping food from anyone’s hands. Even french fries can be produced using healthier fats than partially hydrogenated soybean oil. In the end, if the trans fat ban goes through, it probably won’t be little kids who are crying, but executives of fast food corporations.

Found, Not Farmed

The days are getting shorter. The light is fading to winter gray. And in forests all over the Western Hemisphere, mushrooms are popping up beneath burned-out pines and spreading oaks. It’s gotten so that all I can think about is going out and hunting. And I’m not the only one. The BBC News has an excellent video primer on how to forage for wild food (which they charmingly call “hedgerow food”), especially edible fungi. Similar mass-media guides for American would-be mushroom hunters are rare; Yanks tend to be so spooked by the dangers of wild ‘shrooms that no respectable publication would dare run a how-to feature on foraging.

Yet interest in foraging is starting to grow stateside, pushed along by the fresh/seasonal/organic movement. Michael Pollan’s seminal book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has a whole chapter on foraging that awoke a hunter-gatherer longing in many. But an interview with a Seattle-area forager in food blog the Ethicurean and an entry from personal blog Hoarded Ordinaries illustrate the problem with learning how to forage: You just can’t do it with books. In the Old World, you learned from your uncle or your mom what could be eaten and what couldn’t. In our supermarket age, there aren’t many people around to show you how and where to pick. Is the chanterelle you’ve found the real deal, or the false chanterelle that’ll kill you dead? Are those huckleberries or nightshade? It takes a lot of nerve to trust a picture in a field guide. Probably best to restrict your foraging to organized trips with experienced guides.

If you do manage to get your hands on some wild mushrooms, Sunset magazine has a great compendium of mushroom recipes. The morel-sherry gratin is to die for.