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

Will Dagoba Get Hershified?

First Green & Black’s got gobbled by Cadbury in May 2005, and then Scharffen Berger and Joseph Schmidt were folded into the goopy batter of Hershey’s chocolate brands a few months later. Just last week, one of the few indie holdouts in the national artisan chocolate market, the eco-conscious brand Dagoba, sold to Hershey—and the move has caused a stir in the candy-blogging world.

Some prominent voices don’t seem to fear the buyout, viewing it as a partnership that will merely serve to increase the resources available to Dagoba without changing the product. As Nicole of Slashfood writes:

Some fans of Dagoba might be concerned that there will be a decrease in the overall quality of the product following the acquisition, or a turn away from the goals of the company in supporting the organic farming of cacao, but Hershey’s says that it will support the company in the pursuit of its goals. As with Scharffen Berger and Joseph Schmidt, which is also owned by Hershey’s, the larger company has no plans to rework the operations of Dagoba. From the perspective of the consumer, the most significant change will be an increase in the availability of organic chocolates, since Dagoba will now be able to take advantage of the Hershey’s distribution network.

Many readers remain unconvinced, however. Plenty of them simply break out the old corporations-are-evil chestnut, but a few—especially on David Lebovitz’s blog—have interesting thoughts about the buyout. As Kevin (who runs the food blog Seriously Good) writes,

[Dagoba’s owner Frederick] Schilling has obviously never been through a corporate acquisition before. Things will remain the same for at most 2 years—but probably not that long.

Seems like that was just about the amount of time it took for the Unilever company to gunk up Ben & Jerry’s ice cream with lots of artificial ingredients that I don’t remember being there before the socially conscious creamery was bought in 2000. One would imagine that six years later, with the organic- and natural-foods market in full swing, Hershey might think twice about pulling the same kind of ingredient switcheroo—but of course that all could change if the new parent company ever decides that consumers have stopped paying attention. I’m also interested to see whether Hershey will let Dagoba continue to make all its own sourcing decisions or whether it will procure some ingredients at the corporate level (thereby switching, say, the organic milk in Dagoba’s milk chocolate to a huge national brand with questionable practices).

In the meantime, I think I’ll use this as an excuse to stockpile chai and xocolatl bars.

Joya de Ceren

Joya de Ceren is a little Salvadoran market and restaurant, connected with the family that operates the excellent El Tazumal. They make their own Salvadoran chorizo, and the restaurant features dishes often seen at El Tazumal, such as sopa de chipilin. rworange likes this salty pork vegetable soup of carrots, chayote, pork, rice, and chipilin leaves–the latter a Central American plant that’s very good for you. The soup comes with two thick, hot Salvadoran pupusas, and some lime to squeeze over the salty broth.

And what pupusas they are–loroco pupusas with that mysterious loroco taste. The curtido (Salvadorean slaw, for topping your papusas) is excellent, and nicely spiced with oregano. Their great drinks include cinnamon-laced Mexican horchata and a fruit salad drink.

It’s a modest little place, but deeply worth checking out.

Joya De Ceren [East Bay]
12545 San Pablo Ave., Richmond 94805

El Tazumal [East Bay]
14621 San Pablo Ave., San Pablo 94806

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Richmond: The El Tazumal connection–Joya de Ceren – Sopa de chipilin & garrobo pupusas

Zaitooni: Fresh Lebanese Flavors in Red Bank, NJ

Just one report on Zaitooni, a new Lebanese deli in Red Bank, but it promises great things. taste test says hummus, tabbouleh, kibbeh, stewed beans, and meat, cheese or spinach pies are all fresh and delicious. For dessert, look for honey-soaked farina cake.

Zaitooni [Monmouth County]
11 Mechanic St., near Broad St., Red Bank, NJ

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Lebanese deli in Red Bank–Sushi bar in Atlantic Highlands

Really Good Hippie Food

Typical hippie cuisine is heavy on bulgur and low on flavor. The guiding principals seem to be ethical rather than aesthetic, and the result tends to be a sort of vegan, organic, fair-trade plate of barely-edible crap.

Not so with Feel Real Caf

At Falai, Eye-Opening Profiteroles for Profiterole Skeptics

Those unmoved by profiteroles–and it takes all kinds–find them too often messy and cloyingly sweet. If that’s you, try the ones at Falai. “What a revelation!” swoons hardcore. “Small, simple, beautiful balance and textures…just incredible.”

Falai [Lower East Side]
68 Clinton St., between Stanton and Rivington, Manhattan

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profiteroles at falai!

Yakitori – Breaking It Down

Before we get to yakitori, a brief etymology lesson, grace of cls:

teppan–iron plate

So we have yakiniku, yakitori, teppanyaki, and so on. But even though yakitori means grilled bird, it’s not just chicken–the term is used in general for charcoal grilling using skewers.

If you’re looking for strict yakitori, Kokekkoko is the place to go. Salted or with a sweet soy sauce, their chicken is fab–meatballs, liver, crispy skin, every last piece of the bird. Don’t miss the seasoned ground chicken appetizer. This place can hang with the best of Tokyo, swears ronnie_gaucho, who recommends calling for a reservation to get the VIP course.

But Torimatsu, a low-profile spot that’s part of a Japanese chain, is better, contends rameniac. It’s certainly a bit more refined. Go for dinner rather than lunch, because then everything is made to order.

Japanese salarymen flock to Shinsengumi, another chain whose branches have various specialties (ramen is also a fave), the Gardena and Fountain Valley branches have kick-ass yakitori.

Yakitori-ya also does justice to its name, with everything chicken and some duck bits, too. It’s not as affordable as it used to be, notes yinyangdi, but it’s worth every penny.

There’s more than yakitori at Sakura House, but you’d do well ordering anything grilled there, says goodetime, who worked there for years and still prefers it to the competition. The bar is a great place to sit and order skewers–it seats about 15, and there are 10 tables. Tomato-maki skewers and enoki-maki skewers are delicious, says Bon Vivant. One order equals one skewer (some restaurants do two), and costs about $2.50-4.25 per skewer.

Nanbankan, too, does more than yakitori–we’re probably talking more like kushiyaki here. You’ll see entire Japanese families here, four generations chowing down happily on their grilled meat. What more can we say?

Kokekokko [Little Toyko]
203 S. Central Ave., Los Angeles

Torimatsu [South Bay]
1425 W. Artesia Blvd. #28, Gardena

Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori Restaurant [South Bay]
18517 S. Western Avenue, Gardena

Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori Restaurant [South OC]
18315 Brookhurst St. #1, Fountain Valley

Yakitori-ya [West LA]
11301 W. Olympic Blvd. Stuite 101, at Sawtelle, Los Angeles

Sakura House [Culver City-ish]
13362 W. Washington Blvd., at Glencoe, Los Angeles

Nanban-Kan Restaurant [West LA]
11330 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

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Confused about Japanese grilling places… not Benihana
LA Yakitori Recs

Good for Goat

Excellent goat stew can be had at Mi Rak, says badseed, who tried the first item on the menu–there are several other goat dishes, but the menu is only in Korean. Stew is milder than at Chin Ko Gae, another goat-stew specialist. Bibimbap is also good. Goat stew, $13.

Mi Rak [Koreatown]
1134 S. Western Ave. # A2, Los Angeles

Chin Ko Gae [Koreatown]
3063 W. 8th St., Los Angeles

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good goat at Mi Rak in K-town

Rock Shrimp

Rock shrimp are a particularly delectable shellfish, with shells much thicker than ordinary shrimp, but with a delicious lobster flavor and great texture to make up for it. They can be boiled, steamed, or fried, saut

Korean Food Translation Guide

This primer, from our collected wisdom, will get you started:

Bap: cooked rice, the main course.

Panchan: the many tiny pickled dishes that accompany the meal.

Kimchi: the central panchan, fermented napa cabbage.

Guk, tang, jjigae and jjim are all soupy, stewy dishes. Tang and guk are thinner, and jjigae and jjim are thicker: Kalbi tang is beef rib soup, haemul tang is spicy seafood soup; soon dubu jjigae is a very spicy tofu stew, and galbijjim is beef rib stew.

Bibim means mixed, so bibimbap is mixed rice, or rice with various toppings. Bibim baengmyun is cold noodles mixed with toppings.

Japchae is yam noodles, almost always served cold, in a sticky sauce.

Pa Jun is a savory pancake. With seafood mixed in, it’s called haemul pajun. Dduk is a savory or sweet rice cake.

Das Ubergeek says that, unlike in Chinese cuisine, the default meat of Korean cooking is beef. Daeji is pork; dak is chicken; haemul is mixed seafood.

Don’t forget Korean barbecue!

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Korean Food Primer

Where Does the Thermometer Go in My Bird?

When using an instant-read or probe thermometer to check for doneness when you’re roasting a chicken or turkey, it’s important that the thermometer not touch bone. Bone will give you a false reading.

Push the tip of the thermometer deep in the center of the thigh, since dark meat takes longer to cook than white.

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Where do you put the Meat Thermometer?