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

No Hassle Burgers on the Westside

Where can you go for an fantastic sit-down burger at peak hours without the hassle of a big crowd?

Arsenal makes a pretty damn good Kobe beef burger, wilafur declares.

The Shack makes a really good cheeseburger that’s more like what your uncle would grill up at a BBQ than what you find at the high-end burger bistros, sumo10 says. Their signature burger comes topped with a Louisiana hot-link or a Portuguese sausage.

Houston’s California burger is a very juicy burger that’s worth the rather high price, says ThatPat. 26 Beach makes a very good burger, too.

George Petrelli’s Steak House makes a great burger. For a chain restaurant, Islands has good burgers (check out their Hawaiian burger). Beechwoods does an awesome burger. And don’t miss the French flair of the burger and frites at Nook Bistro.

Avoid the weirdly topped burgers at Izzy’s Deli and stick with the regular cheeseburger and fries, Xericx warns.

The bar at the Gardens on Glendon makes a superior blue cheese burger on sourdough.

Get a burger cooked rare at San Francisco Saloon; it’s never crowded, always good, mollyomormon raves.

It might seem lame to some, but the Apple Pan’s hickory burger is worth checking out, jessiebelle insists.

If you’re more of a backyard BBQ warrior, Trader Joe’s aged steak burgers are amazing, Cinnamon adds.

Arsenal Bar [Midtown]
12012 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles
310-575-5511
Locater

Shack Restaurant Santa Monica [Beaches]
2518 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
310-449-1171
Locater

Shack [Beaches]
185 Culver Blvd., Playa Del Rey
310-823-6222
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Century City]
10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
310-557-1285
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Beaches]
202 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
310-576-7558
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Beaches]
1550 Rosecrans Ave. # A, Manhattan Beach
310-643-7211
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Pasadena-ish]
320 S. Arroyo Pkwy., Pasadena
626-577-6001
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [South OC]
2991 Michelson Dr., Irvine
949-833-0977
Locater

26 Beach Cafe [Beaches]
3100 Washington Blvd., Marina Del Rey
310-823-7526
Locater

George Petrelli’s Steak House [Culver City-ish]
5615 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City
310-397-1438
Locater

Islands [Citywide]

Beechwood Restaurant [Beaches]
822 West Washington Blvd., at Abbot Kinney, Venice
310-448-8884
Locater

Nook Bistro [Beaches]
11628 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
310-207-5160
Locater

Izzy’s Deli [Beaches]
1433 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
310-394-1131
Locater

Gardens On Glendon [Wealthy Westlands]
1139 Glendon Ave., Los Angeles
310-824-1818
Locater

San Francisco Saloon Co [West LA]
11501 W. Pico Blvd., Gateway, Los Angeles
310-478-0152
Locater

Apple Pan [Wealthy Westlands]
10801 W Pico Blvd, at Westwood, Los Angeles
310-475-3585
Locater

Board Links
ISO Best non-Hassle Westside Burger

Honey Curry Burritos

The special burrito menu at Hot Shop is exciting, though perhaps offensive to sticklers for authenticity. But sticklers for authenticity probably wouldn’t be reading a Chow Digest entry called “Honey Curry Burritos,” now would they? So go get some of their awesome Afghan style burritos, urges Agent 510. The Tropical features meat (tender chicken or lamb) marinated in garlic and lime sauce, served with rice and black beans cooked with oregano, says Sophia C.. There are awesomely weird burritos, like honey curry or artichoke. It’s like what you’d get at a silly fusion wrap place, but executed with soul. And it’s cheaper, says lmnopm.

All the meat is halal.

Hot Shop [East Bay]
909 San Pablo Avenue, Albany
510-528-9011
Locater

Board Links
Hot Shop, Albany

The 22nd Best Ramen In Town

There’s a new upstart in the much-contested 22nd-place spot on Melanie Wong’s rankings of ramen for the Bay Area. Kumako specializes in New York-style ramen, using a lighter and spicier stock than what you might be used to. Of the many broth options, the chef recommends miso, tonkotsu (pork bone), and shoyu (soy sauce).

The tonkotsu stock is milky-colored, much lighter and less greasy than other Hakata-style stocks in the area, and guaranteed not to put you into a lard coma. It’s spiced with garlic, a healthy dose of ginger, a whiff of anise, and much less salt than most ramen. $6.90 gets you a bowl with thick cut, tasty char shu, fermented bamboo shoots, nori, and bean sprouts, and, unfortunately, softish, gummy noodles. The only optional topping is extra char siu, but the deliciously roasted pork may be the best thing about the place–“it kinda blew my mind,” says kewlio.

Kumako [South Bay]
211 E. Jackson St., San Jose
408-286-2111
Locater

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New York Style Ramen @ Kumako in San Jose

Chocolate Malted Cake

This chocolate malted cake is Divamac’s favorite–she says it tastes just like a giant Whopper!

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup malted milk powder
3/4 cup (packed) cocoa powder
4 eggs
2 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups half and half

Chocolate Malted Frosting–recipe below

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add malted milk powder and cocoa and beat just until mixed in. Add eggs and beat well. Sift together dry ingredients and add to chocolate mixture alternately with half and half. Spread evenly in a well-greased 9×13” pan, and bake 35-40 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Let cool in pan completely before frosting with chocolate malted frosting.

Chocolate Malted Frosting

1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup malted milk powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup (packed) cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Stir together half and half and malted milk powder and let stand 15 minutes to dissolve the powder. In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and cocoa. Add malted milk mixture and beat well. Add powdered sugar and beat on high until fully combined.

Board Links
RECIPE: Chocolate Malt Cake

Pizza Reheating Tip

If you like your pizza crust crisp and its top gooey, then don’t reheat your slices in the even. Yes, Virginia, even if you have a pizza stone, skip the oven, says Chas. Instead, put them in a non-stick frying pan over very low heat. Cover the pan and check it every couple of minutes until the top is melted and hot. At that point, the crust should be nice and crisp.

Board Links
Best way to reheat pizza…?

Cocoa Nibs

Cocoa nibs are the very essence of chocolate. They’re shelled, roasted cocoa beans that have been ground into little bits. You can use them in baking where you’d use nuts, to add a bit of cocoa-intense crunchiness. They’re particularly wonderful in brownies.

In this recipe they’re used in a salad

They’re a fabulous addition to banana bread, says Brandon Nelson.

The Chocolate Factory carries nibs, as does Scharffen Berger.

They’ve been spotted at Williams-Sonoma, too.

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what to do with cocoa nibs

Sheer Bliss

Sheer Bliss is an ice cream company out of Florida. They make a pomegranate flavor with tiny dark chocolate chips. Every bite is a creamy, sweet mouthful, says Chiba.

Check out the store locator to try it for yourself.

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Sheer Bliss POMEGRANATE Ice Cream

They Can Have My Trans Fats When They Pry Them from My Cold Dead Fingers

A day after the news about the New York City Health Department’s proposal to ban trans fats in restaurants was first reported, the Crisco is really hitting the fan. News outlets from Beijing to Boston are weighing (heh) in on the topic.

The New York Times’ follow-up (registration required) by Thomas J. Lueck and Kim Severson hits several NY eateries that have already replaced the trans fats, a move the Health Department has been recommending for the past year.

Let me tell you, it is healthier, the product does taste better,” said Sanford Levine, 64, who owns the Carnegie Deli and has found alternatives to almost all its cooking oils and shortenings that contained high amounts of artificial trans fats. “Nobody has complained so far,” he said.

Still, more than half the restaurants in NYC still use trans fats, according to the article, and the Health Department may be in for some legal wrangling, courtesy of large fast-food purveyors.

For the most part, the reaction has been stronger on political websites than food sites. Bloggers on the right are quick to indict the “leftist busybodies.” The terms “fascism” and “nanny state” are getting a workout today, too.

Lost in the shuffle: The Health Department also wants restaurants to list the calories on its menus and menu boards. Wouldn’t a little box with a hugely high number in it look spiffy on the menus in New York’s fanciest eateries?

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…