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

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

Momofuku Noodle Bar [East Village]
163 1st Ave., near E. 10th St., Manhattan

Board Links
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

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

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

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

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

Board Links
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.”

Board Links
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.

Board Links
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.

Board Links
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

Board Links
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

Canned Cheese and Butter!

There is good canned cheese and canned butter in this world. Really. So if you need some canned cheese for some reason–like you’re traveling in high heat, or you want some canned cheese for your pantry, try these:

Scruncheons has had excellent canned cheese, produced by Washington State University. It’s not processed; it’s real cheese. Try their “Cougar Gold”, a sharp white cheddar.

Joel reports having canned Stilton from the UK. It was a pale ivory color, and when he opened it up, there was no evidence of the characteristic blue veins. Within minutes, the blue veining appeared! It was delicious.

Internet Grocer sells canned butter and canned cheese. The butter contains only cream and salt.

Board Links
Real canned butter (not ghee) & canned cheese

Romance, eGullet style

What happens when two food-obsessed eGullet members fall in love? They spend a week eating their way through Seattle, they prepare dinner for friends, they even challenge each other to an Iron Chef–style cook-off. And they blog the whole thing.

Follow the adventures of Lorna and Henry as they sample so much food and high-quality chocolate, it might just make your head spin. From an impressive potluck with eGullet friends, to a sentimental trip to Salumi and a visit to a truly amazing private cookbook collection, the week unfolds as a food lover’s delight.

The depth of knowledge between the pair is astounding, and they both have delightfully strong opinions. The only real question—besides who won the Iron Chef title—is how they manage to stay so trim after such prodigious eating.

This blog is not for the meek of stomach, so be forewarned. The rest of you may just find yourself signing up for eGullet afterward, looking to start a little foodie romance of your own.

Hooray for Superficially Attractive Female TV Chefs!

Details is “sizing up the most fetching domestic goddesses currently on the small screen,” and damned if they’re not contributing to the destruction of Western culture in the process.

The piece is called “Sexpots in the Kitchen,” a title that deserves points not only for being pleasantly blunt, but also for cleverly working “pot,” a cooking implement, into the headline. “Sexpans in the Kitchen” or “Sexspatulas in the Kitchen” would have been a reach—it’s clear that Details hit the sweet spot with this one.

The general drift of the piece can be picked up here:

You can trace the fantasy back to the covertly hot housewives we grew up watching in TV reruns. Take Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched. Not only did Samantha look smokin’ in a polka-dot tunic, but all she had to do was twitch her button nose and the whole darn house was spotless.

Actually, you can probably trace the fantasy further back than that, to the halcyon days of the 14th century, when a good percentage of women everywhere served as food- and baby-making domestic slaves.

The article also glosses over the underlying contemporary context of the emerging “domestic diva” phenomenon. And that’s the damage that tartification has done to other, parallel pursuits, such as television news, moviemaking, and Law & Order. It’s a veritable epidemic of sexy. A sexidemic, if you will.

This isn’t to say that Rachael Ray or Sandra Lee can’t cook, but who knows how many wildly more qualified—funnier, more learned, more legitimately skilled in the cooking arts—women don’t and will never have TV shows because pure pulchritude is becoming the coin of the land.

Not that she didn’t have a certain emu-like majesty, but Julia Child wouldn’t stand a Popsicle’s chance in the sixth layer of hell in this day and age, and that’s a darn shame.