The CHOW Blog rss

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

El Iman: Soul-Satisfying Peruvian Chow in Elizabeth, NJ

Peruvian expats around Elizabeth, NJ, are flocking to El Iman, where the beef fried rice kills, says Peter Cuce. He suggests ordering extra green hot sauce on the side. This homey place, run by a Japanese Peruvian family, also has terrific pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken), bistec encebollano (steak with onion and tomato), and mariscos picante (seafood in spicy sauce). Past reports praise ceviches, jalea (fried seafood), and yuca with cheese sauce. Noodles and pork dishes are skippable.

El Iman Restaurant [Union County]
945 Elizabeth Ave., near Reid St., Elizabeth, NJ
908-351-8668
Locater

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Peruvian Food–chupe and pollo a la brasa

Best-Ever Tacos in…Gilroy?

poulet roti thinks the tacos at Del Sol Market in Gilroy are stunningly good–similar to what you’d get at a taco truck, if it was the best taco truck EVER. They cost $1 and come with a generous handful of meat, topped with cilantro and onions. Del Sol has four fresh salsas, too. Lengua, carnitas, al pastor–they’re all the best ever, here. If you find yourself in Gilroy, give it a try.

Del Sol Market [Santa Clara County]
435 1st St., Gilroy
408-846-9494
Locater

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In praise of tacos at Del Sol Market–Gilroy

The Best Fried Squid

The calamari fritti at LoCoco’s is about the best Melanie Wong has ever had. They’re battered very lightly, so the chunks don’t cling together in the fryer–each piece remains separate. The frying is commendable; the squid turns out very tender in texture, with open rings, and nicely crispy tentacles. LoCoco’s uses excellent quality oil to fry the calamari, which gives everything a buttery note of olive oil. The salting is spot on, too.

The cocktail sauce has a good slug of horseradish in it, but these squid are so vibrant and delicious, you probably want to eat them alone or with just a bit of lemon juice. $9.95 gets you a huge portion, enough for an appetizer for two or three people.

LoCoco’s Cucina Rustica [Sonoma County]
117 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa
707-523-2227
Map

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Calamari Fritti at LoCoco’s in Santa Rosa

Canele – the Lucques of the Eastside?

With Canele, Corina Weibel and Jane Choi of Corina’s Kitchen are bringing fresh, tasty Cal-Med fare to Atwater Village.

Some dishes are being held over from the popular Osteria Nonni, like spaghetti with olive oil. Gazpacho is more like a rich tomato puree than the usual chunky affair, with a hint of balsamic and a section of hard-boiled egg, drizzled with basil oil. Seared calamari and celery root salad gets a thumbs-up, and roast pork loin over polenta is all it should be.

Service is a work in progress, and last we heard they didn’t have a bread supplier. It’s probably worth waiting a bit till the kinks work out. Also, Nonni fans felt a bit of sticker shock: appetizers are $6-10, and entrees $9-22, but the portions are definitely on the European scale–not sized to share. Desserts are $6; a small version of the house signature pastry is complimentary.

Canele [Atwater Village]
formerly Osteria Nonni
3219 Glendale Blvd., at Edenhurst, Los Angeles
323-666-7133
Locater

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How are the caneles at Canele anyway?
The Terrace, Canele and Lou’s… a birthday epic
Canale in Atwater

Japanese Curry Tips

Japanese curry has a distinctive flavor profile quite unlike those of its Indian and Southeast Asian brethren. Home cooks throughout the world make it from packets of prepared spiced roux (to see why, check out this thread).

Here are some special additions that add extra dimension to your Japanese curry; try mixing one or more of them in to taste at the end of cooking: Bull Dog tonkatsu sauce; grated fresh apple; or maple syrup.

Some like to serve Bull-Dog on the side, so each diner can add it to taste. mochi mochi serves chopped peanuts and tsukemono (pickled vegetables) alongside.

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Japanese Curry Tip

The Wide World of Dumplings

There are a variety of savory dumplings that complement soups and stews. We’re talking today about the blobs of dough dropped into soups and the like, not the Asian-style stuffed dumpling.

Most familiar to American cuisine is the puffy, biscuit-like dumpling, in that old classic dish, chicken and dumplings. Here, blobs of soft dough are dropped into simmering stock and steamed until cooked through. Candy likes them cooked in a pot of ribs and sauerkraut. One variation is to roll the dough out and slice it into ribbons or squares before adding to the stewy dish.

Dumplings can also be made with cornmeal and cooked on simmering collards or turnip greens.

Another version: doughballs. These have no shortening; they’re just flour, water, salt, and baking powder, says mwright. They’re rolled into balls, and cooked with salt beef and vegetables.

A German dumpling called butterkloesse, or butter dumpling, contains eggs, butter, flour, and salt. They’re made small, and are light and delicate. Some German dumplings can be as big as a softball, according to Ruth Lafler. cbauer recalls German dumplings made from bread or grated potato.

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What is a dumpling to you?

Mascarpone Madness

Looking for ways to indulge in mascarpone, the rich and luscious Italian cream cheese variant best known as the filling in tiramisu? You can go simple, and spread it on toast instead of butter…or even simpler, and follow Louise’s suggestion: “Lock the door and get out a spoon.” But if you want to combine mascarpone with other ingredients, here are a few suggestions:

Stir it into risotto at the end of cooking for an ultra-creamy finish. Mix with roasted wild mushrooms, breadcrumbs, and shallots and use to fill ravioli.

Briefly soak strawberries in sweet balsamic vinegar, then top with mascarpone. Mix in a little sugar and some marsala, Cognac, or vin santo, and use as a dip for fruit or even cookies. Scoop into balls (add sugar, if you like) and roll in cocoa powder and chopped pistachios; chill.

Mascarpone is used much like pastry cream in Italian baking and the uses therein are almost endless, says Kelli2006. If you’re a baking hound, take a page from the Italians, and go to town with your own creations.

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What do I with some leftover Mascarpone?

Interesting and Interestinger Martini Garnishes

Olives and lemon twists are old hat, compared to some of these suggestions for dirtying up your martini.

A big garlic stuffed olive, or a sun-dried tomato makes a great garnish. A pepperoncini is good in cheap gin, suggests atheorist.

A large sweet English pickled onion will make a special Gibson.

Chowgal goes the pickled vegetable route, with dilly green beans, or pickled okra. Ginger is good too.

For twist of citrus, try orange or grapefruit.

Springs of rosemary or thyme, work well, as do caper berries.

Peeled cucumber, candied orange peel, or watermelon make great garnishes, says talkoftomatoes.

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what besides olive do you put in a martini?

I Can’t Swallow That

Slashfood ran an intriguing post yesterday about the newish eating-disorder designation “orthorexia,” defined as a fixation on healthy eating that takes over one’s life. Linking to an article in UK newspaper The Guardian, blogger Nicole Weston explains that many orthorexics “are raw foodists, vegans, fruitarians or have habits so unusual, there is not yet an official name” (she cites the case of a person who will eat only yellow foods). Weston also mentions a 2004 University of Rome study that estimates up to 6 percent of people have the condition in some form.

My one problem with longish, well-written summaries like Weston’s is that they make it less likely that people will actually click through to the referenced article, since great blog summaries give readers the sense that they have a handle on the issue. That’s fine for the average wire story or straight-news article, but I feel like it’s a shame when it causes people not to read a truly fascinating piece like The Guardian’s, which is full of great details. For example, as reporter Kira Cochrane writes, “We are living in a uniquely orthorexic moment” where food-safety scares, conflicting health advice, and the prevalence of organic food trigger mass anxiety about food choices:

And, in this atmosphere, too, a marked quirkiness around food has become a source of fascination, even admiration. Where ‘that quirkiness used to reduce your status,’ says Deanne Jade, a psychologist and founder of the National Centre for Eating Disorders, ‘the attachment to strange eating systems and theories is now supported by a thriving industry and actually gives people a sense of status. So, for instance, when you go to a dinner party now, it’s quite usual for people to say, “Oh, I don’t eat protein and carbs together, or I don’t eat anything with the letter R in it, or on Tuesdays I can only eat red things.” And people are tolerant of that. The quirkiness has got a seal of approval.’

The article explains that orthorexics often wear their food choices as a badge of honor, flaunting them in dining situations and online. Here Cochrane gets a quote from psychotherapist Mary Wood that’s one of the best I’ve read in food media recently:

‘If you just eat watermelon and bananas,’ sighs Wood, ‘everyone will find you fascinating.’

Of course, a recent story about grown men and women with childlike food phobias would seem to contradict Wood’s point: These chronically finicky folks often feel so embarrassed admitting their pickiness to others that they’ll eat only in secret or with a spouse. And if you think that kind of behavior is kooky and sad, wait’ll you get a load of pica and geophagia.

The Plight of the Picky Eater

No vegetables, nothing with seeds—and don’t let my carrots and peas touch each other! These requests may be tolerated from a child, yet what of the adults who never grow out of the dreaded food pickiness? For them, dinner out is a minefield, dining at a friend’s house an ordeal, and cocktail parties—filled with pastry-wrapped packages of who knows what—a foodish hell.

An interesting article in The Arizona Republic explores the plight of the food phobic, from simple avoidance of fish (smelly) or vegetables (taste and texture) to the “don’t let my foods touch each other” issue. One picky eater says, “I’ll build a little wall with mashed potatoes and not eat the portions that touched.” Mind you, this man is 58, not 5.

No one knows how many adults are afflicted with severe picky eating problems (forget being PC—in my book, not being able to enjoy your food is a problem), but the numbers of those seeking help is rising. Increasing awareness of obsessive-compulsive disorders may be contributing to this. “The line between food preferences and disordered eating is whether it hurts their quality of life,” says a doctor who treats such patients.

Some picky eaters are turning to the Internet for support, at sites such as Picky Eating Adults. With extreme picky eaters restricted to 20–30 food items they find palatable, and running in fear of business lunches or national holidays (the website founder describes Thanksgiving as “Black Thursday”), it’s clear that this is a cross to bear and understanding is called for.

Just don’t hold your breath for any picky-eating support-group potlucks—they would be strictly bring-your-own-lunch affairs.