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

Coffee at Cocaine Prices

Coffee at Cocaine Prices

Geoff Watts of Intelligentsia Coffee shelled out $33,000 for five bags of coffee. What was so good about it? READ MORE

“I’m not Alice Waters”

Cook’s Illustrated magazine’s Christopher Kimball tells The Washington Post that the gourmet movement is just a thing of the past.

The bespectacled and (always) bow-tied icon of unpretentious cooking says that if you can’t find traditional ingredients at your local supermarket to make, let’s say, an “authentic enchilada,” then you might as well make an Americanized version:

Because if that means you can’t make them at home, what’s the point? I mean, I’m not Alice Waters. I’m not telling people to grow arugula behind the schoolyard. I’m perfectly happy teaching people how to make a well-done hamburger or mashed potatoes. I think the gourmet cooking thing is over. That happened in the ‘70s.

And, speaking of recipes, Kimball says you’d better follow his directions:

Make the damn recipe my way. [He laughs.] I had someone write in a long time ago and say, ‘Lidia [Bastianich] cooks with her heart.’ And I wrote back and said, ‘Well, yeah, that’s the wrong organ. You should use your brain.’ Until you know that recipe inside out and you really get it and you can make it without looking at the recipe, don’t play with it. It’s sort of like saying: ‘I’m going to play a Bach sonata. But I’m going to change the key.’ No. You play it the way he wrote it.

Knockout Pierogi at Little Poland in the East Village

Among the several pierogi options at Little Poland is one dubbed Very Special Pierogi. Pan says it deserves the accolade. They’re filled with potato, cheese, and a touch of sauerkraut, and topped with creamy sauce with scallion tips. A full order is eight for $6.50, a half order four for $4.50. This is rich, heavy chow, so half might fill the bill.

This modest East Village diner (whose menu immodestly boasts, “The Food We Serve Is as Good as Music of Chopin”) also dishes up goulash, blintzes, schnitzel, sausages, soups (bean, borscht, potato-lamb, etc.), bigos (meat-sauerkraut stew), and other sturdy fare, gently priced.

Little Poland Restaurant [East Village]
200 2nd Ave., between E. 12th and 13th Sts., Manhattan

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Best Pierogie (sp?)–Polish Dumpling–NYC

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

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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

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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

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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

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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?