The CHOW Blog rss

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

Deep Fried Tofu Box . . . With Lid

If you order the age tofu at Minako, don’t expect a few tastefully arranged cubes of fried tofu. They serve up a hollowed-out tofu box the size of an external hard drive, deep fried and filled with seasoned soy sauce and chopped scallions. It even has a deep-fried lid. Even a mechanical engineer won’t be able to eat it neatly with chopsticks, says Melanie Wong, but it tastes luscious even after it falls apart. The top is battered and crunchy, and the bottom soft, reaching near-gooeyness where the soy sauce has soaked through the batter. The sauce is potent and deliciously salty–and the box is big. Share it with a group if you can. Check out Melanie’s stunning photo.

Also recommended is a special of house-cured sake (salmon) sashimi with house-made honey-flavored pickled plum. Attentive, masterful curing gives the excellent cut of salmon just a little more firmness and flavor, and it’s made even more lovely by the mild, delicately sweet-and-tart pickled plums. If you like those, they apparently have some fine 1982 vintage pickled plums for you to try.

Minako Organic Japanese Restaurant [Mission]
2154 Mission St., San Francisco
415-864-1888
Locater

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Minako Organic, San Francisco

Tasty Japanese Small Plates

If you order right, you can get a variety of great dishes from Yume-ya at a surprisingly reasonable price. Chowhounds avoid the sushi, sashimi, and grilled dishes, but brothy, stewed dishes are good bets, and the fried stuff is excellent. Melanie Wong likes kabocha (pumpkin) croquettes the best, with golden-brown, crackly panko breading and a soft, creamy filling of silken-textured pumpkin puree. Dip them in the tart and savory tonkatsu sauce to cut through the sweetness and fried richness. Agedashi mochi, a special, features masterfully prepared dashi with a subtle and haunting flavor. And one of the best parts: the bill for two, including five dishes, dessert, tea, and tax, is around $29.

Yume-ya [South Bay]
formerly Thai Angel
150 W. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
408-530-8156
Locater

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Update on Yume-ya in Sunnyvale

Blue Hill at Stone Barns Revisited: Late Summer Showcase

Simple pleasures abound this time of year at Blue Hill at Stone, where gorgeous farm-fresh produce is prepared with skill and minimal fuss. Lunch–three courses for $42, four choices per course–is a fine option that also offers visitors a stunning glimpse of the surrounding farmland.

Tomatoes, as you’d expect, are abundant and put to good use, with house-made cavatelli and basil, or in a bread salad with tuna (beautifully cooked sous-vide) and green and purple basil, reports chowcito. Slices of Stone Barns chicken–tender, juicy, and glistening like jewels–is served atop quinoa, says SLO (preparations change frequently, but this dish might also feature patty pan squash, corn, and greens). Also recommended: bean salad (enriched with house-cured lardo), corn soup (with cod croquettes and corn relish), and a salad of tender greens topped with a fried egg.

Not so summery but richly satisfying: meltingly tender meatloaf, a charcuterie plate of spicy and sweet meats, and Blue Hill’s signature warm chocolate bread pudding.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns [Westchester County]
630 Bedford Rd., Pocantico Hills, NY
914-366-9600
Map

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Blue Hill–Stone Barns Brunch [Moved from the Manhattan Board]
Brunch for 1 yr anniversary

Jumbo Tacos on a Sidewalk in Spanish Harlem

On 116th Street, a lady from Guerrero presses platter-sized corn tortillas to order, tosses them onto a griddle, and puts together fresh, oversize tacos for $2.50 each, reports midtown diner. Working on the sidewalk in the shade of a pair of umbrellas, she fills the warm tortillas with your choice of four or five meat fillings (carnitas, chicken, etc.), a sprinkling of shredded Oaxacan cheese, and homemade salsas, including a brightly flavored green salsa studded with chunks of avocado. Also available: sliced fruit from the nearby market and sangria-flavored soda and other soft drinks.

Taco vendor [Spanish Harlem]
E. 116th St. west of 2nd Ave., outside Minaya Fruit Market, Manhattan
Map

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Best street food in NYC

Superior Onion Rings at Top Dog in Cos Cob, CT

The dogs are fine but the onion rings kill at Top Dog, says adamclyde. Crisp, flavorful, substantial–“man, they are good.” Others love the dogs, especially with chili, and fries, both regular and sweet potato.

Top Dog [Fairfield County]
118 River Rd. Ext., near E. Putnam Ave., Cos Cob, CT
203-661-0573
Map

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awesome onion rings at Top Dog in Greenwich

Take Some Jerky With You

Celestino’s makes the best jerky in-house, in a ton of different flavors, says cdmedici. They have venison and buffalo in addition to beef.

The beef jerky at Gem’s, swears Funwithfood, is killer good.

Mealcentric’s favorite jerky is at 99 Ranch. Spicy and moist (but not moist enough to be gross–it’s dried meat, after all), it’s super-tasty even if it does look kinda hairy around the edges. Brand name unknown; it comes in a distrinctive red Ziploc bag with black writing on it.

A couple other jerky specialists come recommended: Patty’s House of Jerky (several kinds of meats, including several flavors of beef jerky) and Auntie Dee’s jerky store.

Celestino’s Meat Market [South OC]
270 E. 17th St. # 16, Costa Mesa
949-642-7191
Locater

Gem Meats [North OC]
3125 Yorba Linda Blvd., Fullerton
714-996-3363
Locater

99 Ranch Market [San Gabriel Valley]
771 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park
626-458-3399
Locater

99 Ranch Market [San Gabriel Valley]
140 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel
626-307-8899
Map

99 Ranch Market [San Gabriel Valley]
8150 Garvey Ave. # 121, Rosemead
626-573-3699
Locater

99 Ranch Market [Pasadena-ish]
1300 S. Golden West Ave., Arcadia
626-445-7899
Locater

99 Ranch Market [Inland of LA]
1625 Azusa Ave., Hacienda Heights
626-839-2899
Locater

99 Ranch Market [Inland of LA]
1015 Nogales St., Rowland Heights
626-964-5888
Locater

99 Ranch Market [East San Fernando Valley]
6450 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys
818-988-7899
Locater

99 Ranch Market [South Bay]
1340 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena
310-323-3399
Map

99 Ranch Market [Artesia-ish]
17713 Pioneer Blvd., Artesia
562-865-9899
Map

99 Ranch Market [South OC]
15333 Culver Dr., Irvine
949-651-8899
Locater

99 Ranch Market [South OC]
5402 Walnut Ave., Irvine
949-651-8888
Map

Patty’s House of Jerky [Inland of LA]
32692 Ortega Hwy., Lake Elsinore
909-609-3106
Map

Auntie Dee’s Jerky [South OC]
211 Avenida Del Mar #A, San Clemente
949-768-0102
Map

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Beef Jerky in Orange County

Head Cheese

Head cheese is not a cheese but a jellied sausage-like terrine. It’s made by simmering the head of a hog or calf, for a long, long time. Seasonings are added; often vinegar for some acidity, and chiles, for a spicy version. The broth is then strained, and the meat removed from the bones and returned to the broth. The remaining mixture is then cooled in a loaf pan.

All those bones make for a very stiff jelly; it can easily be sliced as a lunch meat, or as an appetizer.

Lots of deli departments sell it in both the mild or spicy version.

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What is head cheese?

New Brent’s Now Open

The long-awaited Westlake Village branch of Brent’s famous is now open, and the pastrami and corned beef is just as good as at the Northridge original, reports LesThePress. Plus, it’s quieter, softer, and more comfortable. At peak times there’s definitely a wait, but it seems to move quickly and there’s much more room to wait than in Northridge. The d

Truffle Salt

Truffle salt is a combination of ground truffles and sea salt. It doesn’t have the intensity of truffle oil, but the essence of truffle is definitely there.

Sprinkle it on almost any savory dish; the stuff works particularly well on scrambled eggs, croutons, roasted asparagus, broccoli, potatoes, cauliflower, crispy-skinned chicken and roasted meat.

For very special fries and popcorn, give them a hit of truffle salt.

Amazon sells several truffle salts.

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Truffle Salt

Corn Off the Cob

It’s hard to imagine overdosing on corn on the cob, but if you do, cut the kernels off your end-of-summer corn, and use it in one of these recipes.

Saute the kernels with minced jalapenos to taste; once off the heat, stir in goat cheese for a creamy, spicy side–or add sauteed or grilled shrimp for a main dish.

Saute the kernels and add to pasta with some oven-dried cherry tomatoes, basil, shrimp, and a bit of white wine and olive oil.

Saute with onion and garlic and add soy sauce for a sweet and salty combo (also good with mushrooms).

gorboduc shares his recipe for corn pudding: preheat oven to 350F. Cut the kernels off of 5 ears of sweet corn. Scrape the cobs down to get the remaining corn and corn juice. Sprinkle the corn with 1/4 cup flour, 1 tsp salt, and fresh ground pepper. Stir to coat. Add 2 well-beaten eggs, 2 cups whole milk, and 2 Tbsp. melted butter. Stir to combine. Pour into a greased casserole and bake for about 1 hour, until the pudding is set on the edges, but still jiggles a bit in the center.

AlliantK recommends this recipe for fresh corn quiche.

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End of Summer Corn-something new?