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

Le Retro

Ceramic cherubs, painted leather shields, and landscapes of Provence apparently painted by your Aunt Kathy are all part of what make La Bergerie surreal and enjoyable. It is not haute cuisine. It is not cutting edge. It tastes the way “fancy” French food used to taste in the 1970s, says Carrie 218. It’s owned by Cambodians and serves an almost-entirely-Asian crowd, but it would be a mischaracterization to call it “fusion.”

Service is impeccable and the experience is memorable. Escargots with warm, crusty bread are a nice start; butter lettuce salad and sage-infused pea soup are pretty sweet, too. Your soup, salad, entr

Good Night, Uovo, and Other Manhattan Casualties

Uovo, an inventive Mediterranean-inspired spot, closed this month after a run of a little over a year. Devotees miss its simple but intense flavors, house-smoked meats, and deft hand with vegetables, among other things. “I tried hard to make the restaurant work but it just didn’t,” writes a rueful matt hamilton, the chef and owner, who first won hound attention at Prune.

Another relative newcomer, Babu, has also gone under. Opened early last year by the owners of Kati Roll Co. upstairs, it served an ambitious menu reflecting the diverse cuisines represented in Calcutta: Bengali, Indian-Chinese, Tibetan, and more. “Just never gained traction. We miss it terribly,” laments DavyTheFatBoy.

On the Upper East Side, year-old Mainland, a fancy Chinese place best known for Peking duck roasted in a wood oven, is history. Part of the chain that also owns Ollie’s, Carmine’s, Docks, Virgil’s, et al., it will reportedly reopen in October with a new name, Ollie’s Brasserie, and a new, cheaper menu.

Uovo [East Village]
175 Ave. B, at E. 11th St., Manhattan
Map

Babu [Greenwich Village]
99 MacDougal St. (downstairs), between Bleecker and W. 3rd Sts., Manhattan 10012
Map

Kati Roll Co. [Greenwich Village]
99 MacDougal St., between Bleecker and W. 3rd Sts., Manhattan
212-420-6497
Locater

Kati Roll Co. [Times Square]
140 W. 46th St., between 6th and 7th Aves., Manhattan
212-730-7269
Locater

Ollie’s Brasserie [Upper East Side]
formerly Mainland
to open at…1081 3rd Ave., near 64th St., Manhattan
212-888-6333
Map

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Any input on Uovo in the East Village?
Babu on MacDougal still open?
Mainland?

Outstanding Omakase Lunch at Kiriko

Kiriko has great weekday lunch offerings.

$30 for a small lunch–ten pieces of sushi, a roll, soup, salad, and ice cream–might seem a bit pricey, but it’s actually a great deal, given the quality of the fish they serve. They always include at least one piece of toro (often two if they do a seared tuna), bluefin tuna, and more high-end fish, Jwsel says. Even their miso is the best Jwsel has had. They’ve recently expanded their weekday lunch stuff with more agreeably priced blackboard specials, like shrimp and vegetarian tempuras.

If you bring along a fish fearing friend, their chicken teriyaki is quite good, BabyLitigator reports.

Kiriko Sushi [Sawtelle Strip]
11301 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles
310-478-7769
Locater

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Kiriko

Sacrilegious Yet Surprisingly Top-Notch Tortilla Soups

Some of the best tortilla soups in town might be lurking right under your nose…

Loteria in the farmers’ market servers up huge bowls of amazing tortilla soup, Foodie5 reports.

Of all unlikely suspects, the Horseless Carriage at Galpin Motors makes one of the best chicken tortilla soups on Wednesdays, says veggietales.

Mijares in Pasadena and 17th Caf

What to Do with Apple Butter?

There’s no butter in apple butter–it’s just apples cooked way, way down with some sugar or cider to a concentrated form of the apple’s goodness. It’s delicious spooned right out of the jar, or slathered on biscuits or toast. Or, try these inventive options:

A swirl of apple butter makes oatmeal or cottage cheese super delicious. It’s also great for topping French toast or pancakes. It’s great on a grilled ham and cheddar sandwich, says Glencora; or try this recipe for a grilled turkey, brie, and apple butter sandwich.

Apple butter’s also a great condiment for pork chops or pork loin; in fact, take any cut of pork that can be served with a sweet sauce, and throw on some apple butter.

Apple butter also makes a great addition to barbecue sauce, says dantheculinaryman; you may want to adjust the amount of sweetening in your recipe to compensate for the apple butter’s sweetness.

To make a lower-fat carrot cake, replace some of the volume of oil called for with apple butter, suggests saraeanderson.

And one last quick snack note: Infomaniac melts apple butter and pours it over pecans that have been warmed in the oven, then sprinkles with a little salt and serves while warm. Midnight snack heaven.

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What do I do with apple butter?

Peachy Peaches

It’s maddening to buy beautiful-looking peaches, only to find they never soften enough to be considered ripe. Peaches should be picked when ripe or on the verge of ripeness; but, for various reasons involving the economics of tranporting soft fruit, supermarket peaches are rarely properly picked. Here are some tips to get ‘em ripe:

When buying peaches, choose ones that have a little “give” at the stem end. Avoid peaches that have any green color. MollyGee says the exception is if the farmer is standing right there and says, “This is an heirloom peach and it will indeed ripen and lose that green color.”

Don’t refrigerate your peaches; leave them out on the counter.

Store hard peaches in a paper bag with an apple (the apple gives off ethylene gas, which will often soften the peach).

If you get peaches that refuse to soften, cook them; grilling works nicely.

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Got Any Peach Ripening Secrets?

Cooking with Dried Lavender

Dried lavender is nice in potpourri, but it’s even better in the kitchen, where it can be put to both sweet and savory uses.

One classic use is as a central component in the blend, Herbes de Provence. To make your own, combine crumbled dried lavender with dried rosemary, marjoram, thyme, and savory, and crushed fennel seeds. Herbes de Provence makes a terrific counterpoint to both eggs and poultry. Try using it as a rub for beer can chicken.

In fact, lavender makes many great herb rubs and marinades. LindaWhit mixes dried lavender with lemon zest, minced garlic, salt, and pepper and rubs into a chicken before roasting. Or, use it with dried oregano and dehydrated garlic to make a rub for lamb or pork, suggests Das Ubergeek. bolivianita marinates venison in lavender and red wine before grilling.

You can steep dried lavender in milk, and make creme brulee, rice pudding, tapioca, or ice cream. Here’s a recipe for honey lavender ice cream.

Lavender is good in buttery shortbread cookies, especially with lemon zest in the dough or a lemon glaze on top to offset its floral notes, says Carb Lover. A little goes a long way, though; add too much, and it’ll seem like you’re “eating a bar of soap.”

Make lavender sugar by tossing whole blossoms with granulated sugar and allowing it to sit for a few weeks. Use in tea or sprinkle on cookies or muffins. Or steep dried lavender in simple syrup and use as a flavoring for lemonade or iced tea. AnneInMpls uses it to make a fabulous lavender cocktail with a pretty pale-purple hue: combine vodka, a splash of Cointreau, several splashes of lavender syrup, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, shake, and strain into a cocktail glass.

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Uses for Dried Lavender

Tricks of the Cookie Trade

Nonpareils are the teeny sugar balls used to decorate cookies. Here are some pictures of rainbow nonpareils (you can find small jars or tubs of them in the baking aisle of the supermarket).

To get them to adhere to a cookie, make an icing of confectioners sugar and water, spread it on the fully cooled cookie and add the nonpareils. Leave the cookies out so the icing can dry. The nonpareils will stay put!

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Name the Cookie

What’s for Dinner?

CHOW's man on the street goes deep and finds out what is on the menu tonight. READ MORE

The Best Sticky Buns Ever (and ‘Cue in a Citgo)

Boone, North Carolina

This northwest corner isn’t the chowiest part of N.C., but two terrific places are quite near Maverick Farms.

Citgo Market, a.k.a. Foscoe Country Corner (8937 Highway 105 South, Boone, North Carolina; 828-963-6409), makes the best barbecue (hickory-smoked!) in this part of the state (the mountains are not known for good barbecue). The meat itself is very well smoked, but most North Carolinians would quibble with the sauce, which is too sweet.



This joint makes pretty good cheeseburgers too.

MoonPies and RC Cola are a classic combination, sort of sweetness squared.

Johnson’s Bakery, a.k.a Kersh’s Old World Bakery (106-1 Clubhouse Drive, Highway 105, Foscoe, North Carolina; 828-963-5668), makes these:

... the best sticky buns I’ve ever eaten

Excellent scone and brownie

Real good muffins (here we see their wistful side, headin’ down that lonesome highway …)

I made my way down to Charlotte, where I ate some fairly pedestrian fried chicken in a few places but went ga-ga over the lardy-crusted coconut custard pie at United House of Prayer for All People (2321 Beatties Ford Road, Charlotte, North Carolina; 704-394-3884). The measure of its quality can be gauged by my failure to shoot the photo before having scarfed most of it.

As at all United House of Prayer cafeterias, quality is quite variable, according to which church ladies cook on a given day.

Shelby, near Charlotte, is a mecca for barbecue, and
Bridge’s Barbecue Lodge (2000 E. Dixon Boulevard/Highway 74, Shelby, North Carolina; 704-482-8567) is a local legend. I found their ‘cue dismayingly blah. Perhaps I arrived at the wrong time of day. Pretty good hush puppies, though.



Tomorrow I head east into prime barbecue territory, and I’m really hoping for some ‘cue that blows my doors off.