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

Make Your Own Pancetta

Skin it, tie it up, let it hang: step-by-step instructions to make your own. READ MORE

Fried Okra… and I Guess They Have Wine, Too

Cav Wine Bar has stunningly good okra ($7), served split down the middle and fried tempura-style, says larochelle. It comes with aioli, but the okra is amazingly fantastic without it. The seeds pop. According to the server, the okra has a sort of following–customers have been known to demand three orders at a time on the last night of okra season. That won’t be for a couple of months, luckily.

Oh, and the wine is nice, too.

Cav Wine Bar [Hayes Valley]
1666 Market St., San Francisco
415-437-1770
Locater

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Cav Wine Bar —fried okra heaven!

Pickled Pig Skin – “Tastes Like Calamari!”

Duro con cueritos is a great snack. It starts with a large square of duro (flour dough fried chicharron-style, to resemble fried pork skin) and gets piled with shredded cabbage, salsa fresca, curly pickled pig skin from a jar, and a squeeze of mystery sauce. rworange says it tastes like calamari and makes a nice snack–along the lines of a taco salad. It’s a study in different levels of chewiness–crisp-chewy lard-fried duro, and slightly-more-chewy-than-calamari chewy pig skin, with cabbage for, like, palate cleansing. The whole thing is $3.50.

La Loma #11 itself makes some fine tortillas and carries some exciting items, like dried fruits and nuts rolled in chili powder and plastic deli pints of pickled carrots, onions, and jalepenos. Excellent cheese selection, too.

Vendor outside of La Loma #11
1313 Road 20, San Pablo 94806
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San Pablo–Duro con cueritos hombre (pickled pig skin guy)–tastes like calamari

Momofuku Ssam Bar: Korean-Accented Wraps in the East Village

Anyone who’s ever rolled a lettuce leaf around a bite of Korean barbecued meat will recognize the idea behind Momofuku Ssam Bar, which serves burrito-like wraps in thin pancakes.

Like its popular sister restaurant, Momofuku Noodle Bar, the month-old Ssam Bar emphasizes pedigreed ingredients like moist, tender slow-roasted Berkshire pork. “Wow,” sighs dkstar1. The pork is remarkably flavorful, with great texture–smooth parts, shredded parts, crispy parts. It’s the essence of Berkshire pork. Fixings include slaw, kimchi puree, and bacon-enriched black beans. For extra chile heat, add a squeeze of sriracha. It’s a fantastic sandwich.

Other fillings: organic chicken (with edamame, slaw, and sweet white kimchi puree) and a vegetarian option with shiitakes, edamame, tofu, and bean sprouts. Neither comes close to the pork. Besides the pancake wrap, you can order the same fillings with rice, to be wrapped in Bibb lettuce leaves. Detractors complain of high prices (around $9 for a wrap, a few bucks more for the lettuce-rice dish) and excessive greasiness in the pork wrap.

Also on the menu: steamed buns filled with chicken or pulled Berkshire pork. Most prefer the crowd-pleasing version at Momofuku Noodle Bar, which is made with pork belly.

Momofuku Ssam Bar [East Village]
207 2nd Ave., at E. 13th St., Manhattan
212-254-3500
Locater

Momofuku Noodle Bar [East Village]
163 1st Ave., near E. 10th St., Manhattan
212-475-7899
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Momofuku Ssam Bar–Dinner review
momofuko ssam bar mini review

More Banh Mi for Brooklyn; and Other New York News

Nicky’s, the Vietnamese sandwich place in the East Village, has come to Brooklyn–or, actually, back to Brooklyn; its owners once ran the late, lamented An Dong. The new Boerum Hill shop comes through with a first-rate “classic” sandwich (pate, ham, ground pork) boasting ample meat, vegetables, and jalapeno kick, reports Sarah McC. Other choices: pork chop, chicken, sardine, portobello–$4 to $4.50, same as at the East Village original.

Nicky’s doesn’t have the neighborhood market to itself. Hanco’s, a banh mi shop that opened early this year just three blocks south, also has its partisans. “Their sandwiches and spring rolls are delicious and evenly balanced in flavor,” says Matt M.. “Equally important, the staff is extremely nice, so we don’t see any reason to desert them.”

In Bay Ridge, Malaysian fusion bistro Banana Leaf has gone under after struggling for months with disappointing business. A sign in the window says the chef-owner, Peter How, sold the place because of back problems but hopes to reopen in a few months in a new location.

In Queens, Khao Homm, a Woodside Thai place that was at times mentioned in the same sentence with board favorite Sripraphai, has closed. A restaurant called Sweet Basil will open in its place.

Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches [Boerum Hill]
311 Atlantic Ave., between Hoyt and Smith Sts., Brooklyn
718-855-8838
Locater

Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches [East Village]
150 E. 2nd St., between Aves. A and B, Manhattan
212-388-1088
Locater

Hanco’s Bubble Tea and Vietnamese Sandwich [Boerum Hill]
85 Bergen St., between Smith and Hoyt, Brooklyn
718-858-6818
Locater

Banana Leaf Malaysian Bistro [Sunset Park]
6814 4th Ave., between 68th St. and Bay Ridge Ave., Brooklyn
718-238-5531
Locater

Sweet Basil [Woodside]
formerly Khao Homm Thai
to open at…39-28 61st St., between Roosevelt and 39th Aves., Woodside, Queens
718-205-0080
Map

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Vietnamese sandwiches on Atlantic Ave.
Boerum Hill to be Banh Mi central? Nicky’s is coming…
Is Banana Leaf gone?
Khao Homm & Zabb

Pineapple-Infused Vodka

Making your own pineapple-flavored vodka is super easy, and yields a huge payoff in deliciousness.

Here’s how: peel a pineapple, cut it into eighths, and put it into a large sterilized jar (or two quart-size Mason jars). Fill the jars to the top with vodka, submerging the pineapple (you may need to weight the pineapple with a small saucer or other weighty object if the fruit floats up). Store the jar in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks; if your house is particularly warm, store it in the fridge. Remove the pineapple and strain the vodka through cheesecloth.

The resulting pineapple-infused vodka is so tasty, you’ll want to sip it straight, says Pei. You might want to skip partaking of the pineapple itself, though: all its sugar and flavor go into the vodka, so eating it is like “chewing on alcohol.”

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Pineapple Paranoia

Roasting a Moist Turkey Breast

You can roast a whole bone-in, skin-on turkey breast and get wonderfully moist meat–moister than you’d likely get if roasting a whole bird.

Most chowhounds advocate brining or using a kosher bird (the koshering process has a similar effect to brining). PBSF uses 1 1/2 cups each kosher salt and granulated sugar and water to cover the breast, and brines, refrigerated, for 5 to 6 hours. Rinse and dry well with paper towels before roasting. nja says that, if you can spare the time, it’s best to let the breast thoroughly air-dry in the fridge after it’s brined. Brush the skin with butter or oil and roast on a rack at 375 to 400 degrees until an instant read thermometer registers 155 to 160 degrees. Let it rest before carving, and it will be perfectly tender and juicy.

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Roasting a turkey breast without drying it out?

Snail Mail

Candy reports that iGourmet has mail-order canned escargots. They’re imported from Burgundy, already cooked and ready to serve. They sell the snail shells too, so you can cook them yourself and serve them in the shell.

For many preparations, you don’t need the shells. Snails are, for example, delicious coated in Panko crumbs and deep fried.

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Escargot–Mail Order

Hole in One of a Hot Dog

Penmar’s Golf Course’s Coffee Shop makes one of the best hot dogs in town. It’s grilled to perfection, with a bun cooked golden on the griddle, and all the condiments you can handle. This unexpectedly awesome hot dog can be credited to Gus, their main grill man, who puts so much care into everything he does, says banquisha. His fries are cooked at just the right temperature, too, for optimum crispness with minimum greasiness.

You don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy these great dogs; the coffee shop is open to the public every day of the week.

Penmar Golf Course Coffee Shop [Beaches]
at Penmar Golf Course
1233 Rose Ave., Venice
310-396-6228
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The Best Hot Dog I’ve EVER had… you’ll be surprised!

Beverly Hills Kosher French Cafe

Cow Jumped Over the Moon is a kosher dairy restaurant disguised as an ultra-cute French caf