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

Food Magazines: Out with the Old?

Over at Chowhound a lively discussion is simmering over the possibility that Food & Wine and Gourmet may no longer be the alpha and omega of food magazines.

The central charge: Both publications have forgone their original focus on edibles and potables, and become over-commercialized vehicles dedicated to the lifestyle excesses of loathesome celubutards.

Oakjoan’s original post also makes a telling point about the tried, true, and ever-so-frequent “kitchen makeover” feature:

They’re all the same—hugely expensive giant kitchens with professional ranges and walk-in fridges (kidding) and slate floors and granite counters, and blah blah blah. There’s no imagination in any of them … never a feature showing somebody’s regular kitchen make-over or examples of folks with tiny kitchens and how they’ve made them work.

The venom flows with particular pungency when the old-school (1950s and ‘60s-era) Gourmet is used as a point of comparison by eimac:

I especially loved the essays—memoirs of food writers from all over the world. M.F.K. Fisher, one of the great American essayists, was a regular contributor. The covers were amazing and the food pictures were works of art. What do I get now? Hack travel writers who only want to impress you with esoteric dishes, artsy food shots which do little to tempt you to cook and recipes that include too much time and too many “look at me” ingredients.

Scrapironchef makes what might be the best one-line comment of the whole thread:

The ability to go online and get recipes makes these mags less and less useful.


Viva Sous-Vide!

Viva Sous-Vide!

The controversial French practice of cooking vacuum-sealed food at low temperatures yields stellar results. READ MORE

Apple Fritters with Cointreau Chestnut Milkshake

Bistro 1689 is a nice, French-Californian place that serves things like yummy lamb chops and roast duck breast with roasted figs and spinach, says susancinsf. Entrees are in the $20 range. But the stand-out dish is one of the desserts–perfectly fried, hot fritters that taste deeply of apple, served with a “milkshake” in a bowl for dipping. It’s crunchy, sweet, creamy, and delicious. The restaurant is easy to get into, empty and quiet on a weekday, and just the apple fritters make it worth a visit.

Bistro 1689 [Noe Valley]
1689 Church St., San Francisco

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Bistro 1689 Report

In Park Slope, a Chicken Shwarma Sandwich Deconstructed

Miriam, the self-styled “modern Israeli” place in Park Slope, does something different with chicken shwarma. Grilled chicken strips are arrayed over a toasted pita and served with sauteed spinach, tahini, and amba (Iraqi mango chutney). “Quite an inventive way to serve a dish that’s become a standard at hole-in-the-wall places all over,” observes funkymonkey. “It’s definitely a knife-and-fork deal–you can’t pick it up and eat it–and it has a little bit of spice. It’s far better than the sum of its parts.”

Miriam [Park Slope]
79 5th Ave., at Prospect Pl., Brooklyn

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Any recent experiences at Miriam (Park Slope)?

Si-gol-jip Korean B. B. Q. Restaurant

Si-gol-jip is an unassuming, no-name place with a stellar kitchen, says Melanie Wong. Porthos agrees: the food is excellent, the best on El Camino. Stand outside and give it a sniff–the aromas are very inviting, always a good sign. Gool Jun (oyster with fried green onion in batter) is $12.95, and you get about a dozen small, very fresh oysters dipped in green onion-egg batter and fried until just barely done, still creamy and soft in the middle with a sweet and mild flavor. They’re terrific with a splash of the garlicky vinegar dipping sauce. It’s a large portion of high-quality oysters for the price.

Nine panchan are served with dinner, along with a light vegetable broth with cubes of tender daikon and firm tofu. Braised mixed vegetables steeped in a briny, spicy marinade are especially interesting. The spicy heat cuts like a laser across the palate and persists for a long time. The seaweed panchan is also great–the shreds of fresh, almost crunchy kelp and leeks are served barely warm and lightly seasoned so their natural flavor blossoms.

Kal bi naeng myun (Korean barbecued short ribs with chilled buckwheat noodles) comes with a large portion of well-marbled, tender-chewy, deeply beefy short ribs. The marinade is a bit sweet, but the quality of the beef is excellent. Keok yum so bok kum (black goat and vegetables in hot sauce) features boneless braised goat meat in a delicious sauce, served with curlicued pieces of jelly-soft rind. An appetizer and two massive dishes run $57, but it’s way too much food for two–there was “nearly a quart of the goat leftover to take home,” says Melanie Wong.

Si-gol-jip Korean B. B. Q. Restaurant [Santa Clara County]
2358 El Camino Real, Santa Clara

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Si-gol-jip (Korean BBQ Restaurant) in Santa Clara

Katsu-Hama Revisited: The Art of Fried Pork Cutlets

Katsu-Hama is serious about its katsu. The only restaurant in town to specialize in Japanese-style fried pork cutlets, they offer only a short menu dominated by katsu. They tout their high-quality meat, organic eggs, carefully selected frying oils, even breadcrumbs made from fresh house-baked bread. “The result was indeed a cut above any other katsu I’ve had in New York,” says Peter Cherches, who describes a delicious pork cutlet lunch ($10 with rice, pickles, shredded cabbage with sprightly carrot-sesame dressing, and a daily-changing miso soup).

For neophytes, Peter describes the katsu ritual: you are brought a bowl of toasted sesame seeds and a pestle. Grind the seeds and add tonkatsu sauce (made daily from onion, tomato, apples, and spices) to taste. Dip the pork into the sauce, and enjoy.

Also on the menu: katsudon (katsu over rice), katsu with curry sauce, tori kara nanban (fried chicken with soy vinaigrette), and kushi-age (fried skewers) of shrimp, smelt, tuna, Berkshire pork, scallop, salmon, chicken, shiitake, and more.

Not everyone is won over. “There is way better katsu out there. Just not in New York, I guess,” shrugs Peter Cuce.

Katsu-Hama [Rockefeller Center]
11 E. 47th St., between 5th and Madison Aves., Manhattan

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New Nightspot for Tea Totallers

Java junkies have always had their pick of the litter when it comes to round-the-clock access to their caffeine fix of choice. Now tea lovers can start sippin’ past midnight, too.

The owners of T on Fairfax used to run nightclubs, and wanted to open up a late-night place that promoted a healthier lifestyle. Thus, T on Fairfax, open at 6 a.m. and closing at 1 a.m. All of their teas are loose leaf and carefully brewed; they even watch the mineral content of their water. French press coffee is an option if you happen to bring a tea-hater along.

They also offer a healthy selection of vegetarian salads, sandwiches, and desserts; many items can bemade vegan as well.

T on Fairfax [Fairfax Village]
435 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles

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new find for tea!

Vegetarian Samosa Haven

If you notice that the flavors of most dishes at Samosa House (formerly Bharat Bazaar) really stand out from the competition, it’s probably because they roast their own spices. All these spices are also available for purchase in their store, says shrenry.

All of their samosas are fried to order and go great with a mango lassi or one of their large selection of ginger beers, says Dommy.

Samosa House [Beaches]
formerly Bharat Bazaar
11510 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles

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Samosa House in Culver City–any good?

Ideal Omelette Pan

The ideal omelette pan, says Ernie Diamond, is a French steel crepe pan sold by Williams-Sonoma. It’s about 8 inches in diameter and is just the right size for three eggs. The steel is thin and cooks cooks very fast–it only takes about three minutes to get a perfectly shaped, tender omelette. The pan needs to be seasoned, and can be treated in much the same way as cast iron.

Here’s the French steel crepe pan.

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Cast iron omelet pan?

Flat Iron Steak

Flat iron steaks are a cut relatively new to the consumer marketplace. They’re cut from the chuck blade, and named because their shape resembles the old-fashioned flat irons used before that newfangled electricity thing. They’re very tender, with robustly beefy flavor, say hounds. Treat them as you would flank or skirt steak: grill or pan sear to no more than medium rare, and slice against the grain. Flat irons take well to marinades, but many prefer to simply salt and pepper before cooking, and serve a sauce on the side, since they’ve got such great flavor.

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Flat Iron Steak?