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

Pancakes and Lobster Omelettes on Long Island

Breakfast hounds have fallen hard for the pancakes at Maureen’s Kitchen in Smithtown. CornflakeGirl is hooked on the ones with orange and blueberry but says banana-nut, orange-chocolate chip, and other combinations also rock. Also recommended: uncommon breakfast choices like an excellent lobster-chive omelette.

In Northport, Letseat likes breakfast at Sweet Mama’s but recommends its omelettes and oatmeal over its pancakes and French toast, which are nothing special.

Maureen’s Kitchen [Suffolk County]
1 Larson Ave., at Hallock Ave., Smithtown, NY
631-360-9227
Map

Sweet Mama’s [Suffolk County]
9 Alsace Pl., between Fort Salonga Rd. and Wheeler Pl., Northport, NY
631-757-2095
Locater

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Melville, LI & environs
Weekend in Commack, LI (beaching at Robert Moses)

Princess Cake at Schubert’s

The princess cake at Schubert’s Bakery is a real winner, with layers of fluffy white Genoise cake, raspberry jam, and a smooth custard that isn’t excessively sweet, all covered in tender, green-tinted marzipan. Pei says it’s one of the best in the city. Schubert’s is a great value–places with just slightly better cakes will easily cost twice as much. Guys will love that princess cakes too–just tell them it’s a Manly Green Avenger cake.

Schubert’s Bakery [Richmond]
521 Clement St., San Francisco
415-752-1580
Locater

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Schubert’s Bakery on Clement–Specific Cake Recs

Counter Burger

Hounds are digging the newly opened Palo Alto branch of Counter Burger, an upscale, high-quality burger joint known for its wide variety of burger topping options. The toppings range from the traditional to the eyebrow-raising (dried cranberries, horseradish cheddar, and peanut sauce, anyone?). The beef is excellent and burgers are cooked medium, with lovely deep pink in the middle, says katya, who likes her burger loaded with lettuce, green chiles, tomatoes, dill pickle chips, and sweet onion marmalade. Chipotle orders cheddar, grilled onion, roasted chile, baby greens, and garlic aioli on a honey wheat bun. The bun tends to get gradually soaked with burger juice, but that’s hardly a drawback. doc finds the straight-up burger with nothing but Bermuda red onions decent and solid. And ChewChew likes the beef burger on a toasted bun with nutty melted gruyere, grilled onions, bacon cooked just shy of crispy, and garlicky aioli. Everything tastes fresh and robust. Overall, it’s a great burger, but the fries are greeted with a resounding “meh”–even the sweet potato fries are just okay. Burgers (there are turkey and veggie as well as beef) and soft drinks for two will run you about $25.

Counter Burger [Peninsula]
369 California Avenue, Palo Alto
650-321-3900
Map

Board Links
Review–Counter Burger Palo Alto
The Counter (burgers, Palo Alto)

Chinese Vegetarian Tip-Off

Chinese vegetarian food lovers can rejoice. From the mobs of hungry veg lovers at Happy Veggie Garden, this place is all that. The menu leans toward fake meats, rounded out by a good selection of tofu, vegetables, and noodle dishes. Unlike other local versions of crispy bean curd, Happy’s has a filling of fruit and sunflower seeds; it’s very good, says Chandavkl.

Happy Veggie Garden [Inland of LA]
in 99 Ranch Market mall
1015 S. Nogales St. Ste. 127A, Colima, Rowland Heights
626-810-2298
Map

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Fantastic New Chinese Vegetarian Restaurant

East L.A. Classics

The original La Serenata definitely has street cred, being right across the street from Mariachi Plaza in East L.A., but also gourmet cachet as one of the few, and probably the oldest, upscale Mexican restaurants in town. If you’re afraid of East L.A., get over it, advises Das Ubergeek–this place is worth it. The Westside branches are but poor imitations.

Seafood is their specialty, and the specials are a good bet–they’re always perfectly cooked. Halibut in salsa de huitlacoche (corn fungus, a funky delicacy) has a slow burn; it’s also got lots of huitlacoche and gobs of deliciousness. Salmon in salsa de molcajete is really, really spicy, and really, really good. The dishes all come with sides of yellow rice, handmade corn tortillas, and outrageously tasty beans cooked with a ton of the zingy Mexican herb epazote.

For dessert, skip the leaden flourless chocolate cake and head straight for the flan. It’s creamy and impossibly rich, with a caramel that’s practically dulce de leche. When they have it, coconut flan is divine.

Serenata only has a beer and wine license, so margaritas are made with wine/soju rather than tequila, and are rather too sweet. The wine list has some cheap and very good wines from L.A. Cetto in Mexico, and nothing over $45.

Service is fantastic, excited about the food, and ready to lend guidance on pairing fish with sauce.

Dinner for six, with drinks, shared desserts, and no appetizers, is about $260 with tax and tip–about $43 per person. Note that with the construction of the Gold Line, getting there can be tricky these days. Call the restaurant for directions.

Nearby at El Tepeyac, a chicken Hollenbeck burrito is a colossal thing of beauty–bursting with stewed white meat, peppers, rice, beans and a bit of guacamole, says David Kahn. Chicken taquitos are also huge and fresh, and not at all greasy. A combo plate with two taquitos comes with a pile of guacamole, rice, beans and salad. The enchiladas rancheras are also delish, says godvls, who prefers them to the burritos.

Unfortunately, this place is so popular that some resort to getting their burrito fix at 9 or 10 in the morning to avoid the lunchtime crowd. LAPD employees get preferred treatment, but the rest of us might need to call in advance. If you can get a seat, the vibe is very homey. You can also eat outside, where there usually isn’t a wait, says monku.

There’s another El Tepeyac in Monterey Park, run by the son of the original’s owners. It’s more comfortable than the East L.A. restaurant, and the food is just as good, but without that nostalgic atmosphere.

Half a block away is Ciro’s, another East L.A. institution–in fact, folks here disdain El Tepeyac as L.A. Mexican food. Everyone raves about the chunky avocado salsa and the flautas at Ciro’s. Milanesa and steak picado are also good.

La Serenata di Garibaldi [East LA-ish]
1842 E. 1st St., Los Angeles
323-265-2887
Locater

El Tepeyac [East LA-ish]
812 N. Evergreen Ave., Los Angeles
323-267-8668
Locater

El Tepeyac Cafe [San Gabriel Valley]
1965 Potrero Grande Dr. # A, Monterey Park
626-573-4607
Locater

Ciro’s Cafe [East LA-ish]
705 N. Evergreen Ave., Los Angeles
323-267-8637
Locater

Board Links
Review: La Serenata di Garibaldi, Boyle Heights
El Tepeyac Cafe

Universal Nonstick Silicone Lids

The Universal Nonstick Silicone Lid deserves its impressive sounding name; it’s really nifty! These lids are heat proof up to 675F, and can serve as a trivet for hot pots and plates. They can seal themselves to pots, pans, or bowls–even some irregularly shaped containers, so long as the lid is large enough. For a good seal, the lip of the container should be smooth.

You can use it as a splatter guard, too; just place it upside-down on the container. Use it the same way in the microwave. *Pickawicca” explains that the lid is ridged on top, so when you invert it, the ridges provide venting.

You can order them from Sur la Table.

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Silicone Easy Lid

Sliders 101

White Castle not only created a new term for burgers; they created a new burger concept. We’re talking here about sliders, White Castle’s tiny burgers. You’ll have to adjust your aesthetic when approaching your slider; this is no juicy, thick burger. White Castle’s version involves a thin, well-pressed patty, sprinkled with specks of onion.

They’re easily managed, and you can enjoy a variety, says Porkchop Express, get bacon and cheese on one, and lettuce and tomato on another. They’re just a few bites each, leaving room for fries and a milkshake.

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Sliders

Butterscotch Chip Cookies

For a straight-up butterscotch chip cookie, you can use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, and substitute butterscotch chips (or mix chocolate and butterscotch, if you like). bolletje uses the standard Toll House cookie recipe in this way, and suggests using all brown sugar if you really want to emphasize the butterscotch flavor.

pamd shares her favorite recipe for oatmeal butterscotch chip cookies:

3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 2/3 cups butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, beat the butter and both sugars together. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat well. Stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until blended. Stir in the oats and the butterscotch chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.

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Butterscotch chip cookie recipe

Easy Hammy Soup

Here’s a simple Galician soup recipe that makes a great showcase for ham, or a delicious way to use up holiday leftovers, courtesy of coolbean98:

Cook cubed ham (even better if you add a ham bone), diced onions, cloves, thyme, and bay leaf in water at a low boil for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours (or simmer for a shorter time in stock). Then add cooked cannellini beans and chopped collard greens and simmer until the greens are tender and the soup is thickened.

oakjoan finds toasted bread brushed with olive oil and mashed garlic and sprinkled with good Parmesan is perfect with this rustic potage.

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Big Niman Ham Steak —Ideas for Tonight??

Shackle Your Sherbet

After ingesting several Rachael Ray Show episodes this week, I came away with a few things. Surprisingly, indigestion wasn’t one of them. I learned that Richard Nixon is Rachael’s favorite president, and that she ran over a cat during her driving test, and fans of hers defend themselves against housebreakers by announcing that they are “armed with Rachael Ray knives.”

However, the most interesting thing I learned this week was during a segment called “Stump the Rach.” Let’s forget for a moment that the segment name sounds like a medieval ritual performed by Morris dancers at a Whitsun Ale festival and concentrate on the wonder of technology she introduced to my consciousness. Behold, the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Pint Lock! Sheer genius, the Euphori-Lock keeps prying spoons out of your secret stash of Sweet Cream and Cookies.

Industrial design blog Cool Hunting has another suggestion for the Euphori-Lock: “On a diet? Buy a pint and a lock and lock it up without knowing your own combo.” Always hysterical enough to make me wish I’d gone to the bathroom before I sat down with one of their issues, Bay Area alterna-newspaper The Wave Magazine calls the contraption “the chastity belt for ice cream” and comments:

At last, your psychotic “friends” who would find this thing useful can sleep at night, knowing that their Chunky Monkey ice cream will be waiting for them safely in the morning. And this is a perfect opportunity, by the way, to duct tape them to their bed.

Just as people went gangbusters for any knife, pot, or book Rachael slapped her name on, I’m sure Ben and Jerry will be slammed with orders for the Euphori-Lock in the next few weeks.