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


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 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.

Will I Get Trichinosis from Eating Undercooked Pork?

Will I Get Trichinosis from Eating Undercooked Pork?

Relax, it's a rare condition. READ MORE

The Lapinators

For those who watch Bambi and think Thumper looks delicious, several area butchers around the East Bay can supply fresh rabbit meat for home cooking adventures.


Egg Curry and Lemon Pickle at Namaste

Namaste is an Indian place with a buffet, but don’t write it off–it has a following among the chowhound family. It’s family dog’s number one restaurant, period, and Kitchen Imp likes it so much she drives there…from Berkeley. Seasoned Chowhounds love it, and it’s also an excellent introduction to Indian food for those not familiar with the cuisine.

Namaste features both North and South Indian dishes, including exciting things like cabbage curry, lemon pickle, and egg curry. Egg curry is basically whole hard-boiled eggs in a beautifully balanced, mysteriously spiced curry sauce. The gifted cook makes about 20 different dishes per day–delicious, varied, and Ayurvedically balanced. All you want from the buffet for $8.99, a real bargain.

Namaste Indian Cuisine [East Bay]
1671 Willow Pass Road, Concord

Board Links
Recs for Khana Peena … not the buffet or CTM
Concord -More on Namaste North & South Indian Cuisine ???
Trader Joe’s coming to Walnut Creek!

Challah Fame

Diamond Bakery makes an excellent loaf of challah, just don’t go when you’re in a rush. Even if you pre-order, it can take well over an hour just to pick up your order during the holidays, says PaulF. There are sometimes Diamond baked goods at Ralph’s.

Schwartz’s does a great job with their simple challah and special raisin New Year’s challah, says Jerome.

Pre-order at Bea’s and you’ll get to skip the line for their fantastic challah, honey cake, and sponge cake, says Simihound.

Junior’s round challah has remained consistent over the years.

Pastries by Edie bakes wonderful fresh challah on Fridays, davinagr says. Their pastries and panini are incredible any day of the week.

An order of Gelson’s challah for New Year’s was so fresh that it was falling apart. It was delicious, and gone in about five minutes, says liu.

Diamond Bakery [San Gabriel Valley]
140 W .Valley Blvd. # 120, San Gabriel

Diamond Bakery [San Gabriel Valley]
744 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park

Diamond Bakery [Inland of LA]
1015 Nogales St. Ste. 105, Rowland Heights

Diamond Bakery [Inland of LA]
18414 Colima Rd., Rowland Heights

Diamond Bakery [East LA-ish]
1940 Frank Stiles St., South El Monte

Diamond Bakery [Artesia-ish]
17801 Pioneer Blvd. Ste. D, Artesia

Ralph’s Market [Citywide]

Schwartz Bakery [Fairfax Village]
441 N Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles

Schwartz Bakery [Midtown]
8616 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles

Schwartz Bakery [Midtown]
7113 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles

Bea’s Bakery [West San Fernando Valley]
18450 Clark St., Tarzana

Junior’s Deli [West LA]
2379 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles

Junior’s Deli Boys [Beaches]
451 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach

Pastries By Edie [West San Fernando Valley]
21608 Sherman Way, Canoga Park

Gelson’s Market [Citywide]

Board Links
Diamond Bakery …