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

Do You Cook Like a Bree or a Susan?

With the show’s third season already skimming away the scum that was a rather unpalatable second season and leaving us with a beautiful consommé more akin to the first season, could the timing be more perfect that Desperate Housewives is now releasing a companion cookbook, The Desperate Housewives Cookbook: Juicy Dishes and Saucy Bits?

If that title hasn’t already made you queasy, then you will likely enjoy what this cookbook, divided into sections representing each housewife, has to offer. You can choose to cook like time-challenged Lynette (and hope that a recipe for Ritalin Rillettes isn’t included) or brain-challenged Susan (just don’t go borrow a cup of arson from the friendly neighborhood trollop). Personally, I would be geared more toward Bree’s opulent and time-consuming dishes, like saltimbocca and braised duck, or Edie’s champagne-and-cream-poached oysters and Pasta Puttanesca (talk about type-cooking). Finally, though it may be difficult to conceive where Gabby stashes food of any sort on her tiny frame, her character’s calorie-conscious dishes range from shrimp with chorizo to the predictable smoothie.

In related news, the ABC Network and Desperate Houswives are partnering up with Share Our Strength, a national organization dedicated to fighting childhood hunger, in the “Desperate for Dinner National Cook-Off” promotion.

As part of its launch of The Desperate Housewives Cookbook: Juicy Dishes and Saucy Bits, ABC and Desperate Housewives will search for the best dinner recipe in America by holding online recipe contests through participating affiliates. The promotion will help raise money for Share Our Strength’s fight to end childhood hunger.

The recipe contest, which started on September 11, will continue until October 13. On November 13, the finalists will compete on Good Morning America for all sorts of culinary prizes, which include cast-signed copies of The Desperate Housewives Cookbook. The big winner gets her dish cooked on an ep of Desperate Housewives. We suggest whipping up something that goes well with soap-flavored melodrama.

Pizza Party

The blog world has officially gone pizza-crazy. As Stephanie reported here on The Grinder, last week Jeff Varasano posted what is possibly the most incredible reverse-engineered recipe ever (not to mention the best piece of service journalism I’ve ever seen). In the days immediately thereafter, so many people scrambled to view the recipe—the result of Varasano’s six-year quest to reproduce NYC pizzeria Patsy’s pie—that his site couldn’t handle all the hits and had to shut down for a couple of days. The brave pizza chroniclers at Slice volunteered to mirror it on their site, risking traffic-overload themselves so that the world would not be deprived.

Oddly enough, while much of the recent pizza-centric blog talk is understandably in response to this one recipe—like Heidi’s great pie-focused post at 101 Cookbooks last week—there’s also quite a bit of seemingly independent discussion of the doughy dish. Chubby Hubby shows off his incredible-looking truffle pizza today; a Chowhounder solicited advice last week on getting a good rise out of his dough; and clear over in South Africa, Cooksister ponders pimped-out pies (with an instructive photo essay on how to top your ‘za with Mickey D’s cheeseburgers and fries).

Is there something in the air that’s making everyone think about pizza at the same time? The fact that World Bread Day is just around the corner could have something to do with it…

Should Red Wine Be Served at Room Temperature?

Should Red Wine Be Served at Room Temperature?

Serving wines slightly cool allows more flavor to come through. READ MORE

In Martha Mathers

In a future segment that could prove to be even more uncomfortable than when Sean Puff-Diddly-Daddy Combes taught her how to rap, Martha wants Eminem. No, not in her cookies. On her show. As a guest.

According to, Martha said, “I would really love to have Eminem on the show … I don’t think he knows that my demographic audience is so involved in Eminem music.”

I really do want to give Martha the benefit of the doubt here, but I can’t help but think this is an extreme reaction to Rachael Ray’s stellar daytime ratings. God, once she gets Eminem on, what on earth will she do with him? Maybe she could show him how to trim his wife-beaters with hand-ruched white leather, or whip up some handmade Marshmallow Mathers, or maybe even show him how to fold his wife-beaters. Just … no more rapping, PLEASE! (It is, admittedly, very sad that the most I know about Eminem centers on his wife-beaters, but hey, I never pretended to be Martha’s audience.)

I deleted Martha from my TiVo last year, but if Eminem really comes on the show, I’m so TiVoing it. I’ll just have to make sure I vacuum under my couch, since I’ll likely be cringing under there in sympathetic embarrassment.

Make Your Own Pancetta

Skin it, tie it up, let it hang: step-by-step instructions to make your own. READ MORE

Fried Okra… and I Guess They Have Wine, Too

Cav Wine Bar has stunningly good okra ($7), served split down the middle and fried tempura-style, says larochelle. It comes with aioli, but the okra is amazingly fantastic without it. The seeds pop. According to the server, the okra has a sort of following–customers have been known to demand three orders at a time on the last night of okra season. That won’t be for a couple of months, luckily.

Oh, and the wine is nice, too.

Cav Wine Bar [Hayes Valley]
1666 Market St., San Francisco

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Cav Wine Bar —fried okra heaven!

Pickled Pig Skin – “Tastes Like Calamari!”

Duro con cueritos is a great snack. It starts with a large square of duro (flour dough fried chicharron-style, to resemble fried pork skin) and gets piled with shredded cabbage, salsa fresca, curly pickled pig skin from a jar, and a squeeze of mystery sauce. rworange says it tastes like calamari and makes a nice snack–along the lines of a taco salad. It’s a study in different levels of chewiness–crisp-chewy lard-fried duro, and slightly-more-chewy-than-calamari chewy pig skin, with cabbage for, like, palate cleansing. The whole thing is $3.50.

La Loma #11 itself makes some fine tortillas and carries some exciting items, like dried fruits and nuts rolled in chili powder and plastic deli pints of pickled carrots, onions, and jalepenos. Excellent cheese selection, too.

Vendor outside of La Loma #11
1313 Road 20, San Pablo 94806

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San Pablo–Duro con cueritos hombre (pickled pig skin guy)–tastes like calamari

Momofuku Ssam Bar: Korean-Accented Wraps in the East Village

Anyone who’s ever rolled a lettuce leaf around a bite of Korean barbecued meat will recognize the idea behind Momofuku Ssam Bar, which serves burrito-like wraps in thin pancakes.

Like its popular sister restaurant, Momofuku Noodle Bar, the month-old Ssam Bar emphasizes pedigreed ingredients like moist, tender slow-roasted Berkshire pork. “Wow,” sighs dkstar1. The pork is remarkably flavorful, with great texture–smooth parts, shredded parts, crispy parts. It’s the essence of Berkshire pork. Fixings include slaw, kimchi puree, and bacon-enriched black beans. For extra chile heat, add a squeeze of sriracha. It’s a fantastic sandwich.

Other fillings: organic chicken (with edamame, slaw, and sweet white kimchi puree) and a vegetarian option with shiitakes, edamame, tofu, and bean sprouts. Neither comes close to the pork. Besides the pancake wrap, you can order the same fillings with rice, to be wrapped in Bibb lettuce leaves. Detractors complain of high prices (around $9 for a wrap, a few bucks more for the lettuce-rice dish) and excessive greasiness in the pork wrap.

Also on the menu: steamed buns filled with chicken or pulled Berkshire pork. Most prefer the crowd-pleasing version at Momofuku Noodle Bar, which is made with pork belly.

Momofuku Ssam Bar [East Village]
207 2nd Ave., at E. 13th St., Manhattan

Momofuku Noodle Bar [East Village]
163 1st Ave., near E. 10th St., Manhattan

Board Links
Momofuku Ssam Bar–Dinner review
momofuko ssam bar mini review

More Banh Mi for Brooklyn; and Other New York News

Nicky’s, the Vietnamese sandwich place in the East Village, has come to Brooklyn–or, actually, back to Brooklyn; its owners once ran the late, lamented An Dong. The new Boerum Hill shop comes through with a first-rate “classic” sandwich (pate, ham, ground pork) boasting ample meat, vegetables, and jalapeno kick, reports Sarah McC. Other choices: pork chop, chicken, sardine, portobello–$4 to $4.50, same as at the East Village original.

Nicky’s doesn’t have the neighborhood market to itself. Hanco’s, a banh mi shop that opened early this year just three blocks south, also has its partisans. “Their sandwiches and spring rolls are delicious and evenly balanced in flavor,” says Matt M.. “Equally important, the staff is extremely nice, so we don’t see any reason to desert them.”

In Bay Ridge, Malaysian fusion bistro Banana Leaf has gone under after struggling for months with disappointing business. A sign in the window says the chef-owner, Peter How, sold the place because of back problems but hopes to reopen in a few months in a new location.

In Queens, Khao Homm, a Woodside Thai place that was at times mentioned in the same sentence with board favorite Sripraphai, has closed. A restaurant called Sweet Basil will open in its place.

Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches [Boerum Hill]
311 Atlantic Ave., between Hoyt and Smith Sts., Brooklyn

Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches [East Village]
150 E. 2nd St., between Aves. A and B, Manhattan

Hanco’s Bubble Tea and Vietnamese Sandwich [Boerum Hill]
85 Bergen St., between Smith and Hoyt, Brooklyn

Banana Leaf Malaysian Bistro [Sunset Park]
6814 4th Ave., between 68th St. and Bay Ridge Ave., Brooklyn

Sweet Basil [Woodside]
formerly Khao Homm Thai
to open at…39-28 61st St., between Roosevelt and 39th Aves., Woodside, Queens

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Vietnamese sandwiches on Atlantic Ave.
Boerum Hill to be Banh Mi central? Nicky’s is coming…
Is Banana Leaf gone?
Khao Homm & Zabb

Pineapple-Infused Vodka

Making your own pineapple-flavored vodka is super easy, and yields a huge payoff in deliciousness.

Here’s how: peel a pineapple, cut it into eighths, and put it into a large sterilized jar (or two quart-size Mason jars). Fill the jars to the top with vodka, submerging the pineapple (you may need to weight the pineapple with a small saucer or other weighty object if the fruit floats up). Store the jar in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks; if your house is particularly warm, store it in the fridge. Remove the pineapple and strain the vodka through cheesecloth.

The resulting pineapple-infused vodka is so tasty, you’ll want to sip it straight, says Pei. You might want to skip partaking of the pineapple itself, though: all its sugar and flavor go into the vodka, so eating it is like “chewing on alcohol.”

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Pineapple Paranoia