The CHOW Blog rss

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

Plats Perdus

When you’ve spent hours preparing a dish only to have it turn on you like an evil beast, what do you do? While there’s something satisfyingly maudlin about throwing everything in the trash/compost bin and starting over (or just ordering in), nothing beats the pure glee of stripping the dish for parts and creating something unique. The eponymous host of recently wrote an engaging blog post about his latest phoenix-from-the-ashes experience: turning hopelessly burned oven-dried tomatoes into divine-sounding charred tomato pesto.

Food blogs are great resources for these sorts of tips, which mainstream magazines and papers tend to shy away from (it’s not pretty or lovely to talk about burned, broken, or botched food, after all). A few weeks ago Adam at the Amateur Gourmet posted a cute and instructive poem to help people deal with shattered dreams of flaky pastry:

When your pie crust won’t roll out/ and your dreams and hopes start to tumble/ Throw those shreds right in the trash/ and make yourself a crumble.

I had a failed-pie episode of my own last week, though I went forward with the baking of the crust before finally admitting it was a lost cause. After the monstrous thing cooled (there was no filling —I had been baking it solo for use in a savory pie), I calmed myself down by reciting Adam’s poem in my head. But the contrarian in me couldn’t bring myself to follow his dictum to the letter: I ended up saving the crust, crumbling it up and sticking it in a jar once it had cooled. A few days later, I subbed those bits for half of the bread crumbs in James Beard’s yummy apple brown betty recipe, and the result was a nice brown-buttery flavor that was ever so slightly reminiscent of these fantastic spoon cookies.

Have you had any luck with “salvage food?” What new recipes have you concocted after botching a dish (or seen described in blogsville)?

Bon Appetit’s 50 Delicious Years

Bon Appetit celebrates its 50th year of publication with this month’s issue, which contains some real gems amid a field of mostly predictable retrospectives.

In addition to the obligatory “Timeline of Stories We Have Covered Over 50 Years As Selected and Summarized by One or More Junior Editorial Assistants” feature, the issue sports a low-key but deceptively cool cover. Fifty different photos of various food items, laid out in a grid, actually act as postage stamp-sized gateways to 50 different recipes housed thoughtfully on the magazine’s website. It’s a neat way to display a tremendous density of information with the help of the Internet.

Also notable: the magazine offers a fifty-year recap of the evolution of American bread culture. It opens with a brilliant counterpoint: the father of the author’s excitement upon discovering non-Wonder Bread 1956 France, stacked against the excitement of a nine-year-old tasting Wonder Bread for the first time in the present day.

Butter on a Stick

Back in the late eighties, we had the fine fortune to attend the Minnesota State Fair, in all its cheese-curd and fried-dough glory. Since then, what we remember most was how all the classic fair food you could imagine was available on a stick. Corn dog on a stick! Corn on the cob on a stick! Even pickle on a stick!

Well, that was then. This year, Teo at Belly du Jour is sharing the mind-boggling melange of food-on-a-stick offered at the recently concluded 2006 fair. Hot dogs as long as your arm, chocolate-dipped cheesecake, hickory-smoked turkey legs, catfish, pork egg rolls, wild-rice corn dogs on a stick, sure. But it takes true Midwestern genius to move into teriyaki ostrich, deep-fried Snickers bars, shrimp toast, porcupine meatballs, spaghetti, alligator, frozen grapes and yes, the crowning glory, hot dish on a stick [see previous post below on the glories of hot dish on a stick].

About the only fattening thing not on a stick is butter —but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of it on display. In fact, the very first job of Audrey Mohr, aka Princess Kay of the Milky Way, the goodwill ambassador from the Minnesotan dairy industry who’s crowned at the fair, is “to sit in a rotating cooler for nearly eight hours on the opening day of the Minnesota State Fair to have her likeness sculpted in a 90-pound block of butter,” according to a press release from the Midwest Dairy Association. The bust is then put on display in a refrigerated room, open to visitors throughout the fair as a monument to local dairy-fed pulchritude. Oh Princess Kay, Princess Kay, you can rule the Land O’ Lakes for us any day.

Foodie Wedding of the Year?

Leave it to a chef to throw a foodie wedding to end all weddings. NYC chef David Bouley (known best for the restaurant Danube and Bouley Bakery & Market, both in Manhattan) marked his marriage last month in France with a five-day extravaganza of guests, food and wine from around the world.

The wedding was held in the Loire Valley in August, at two chateaus rented for the occasion. Slashfood has the breakdown of the weekend, which included a staff of 20 and two chefs flown in from New York and Barcelona. A chef from Kyoto hand carried fresh wasabi and ginko, another guest drove from Barcelona with 11 kg of fresh tuna, while a guest from New York traveled over with a large bottle of 1990 Nuit St. Georges Burgundy, hoping security would let him onto the plane with his precious cargo.

The New York Times (requires registration) quotes the groom’s mother as saying “I’m not the least bit surprised by this week at all. This is the kind of thing I have learned to expect from David.”

Fair enough, but how do you top it? For their silver wedding anniversary they are going to have to commandeer a small country and buy up the entire annual truffle production of France. And let’s devoutly hope the marriage lasts longer than the wedding.

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

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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

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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

Board Links
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

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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

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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

Gem Meats [North OC]
3125 Yorba Linda Blvd., Fullerton

99 Ranch Market [San Gabriel Valley]
771 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park

99 Ranch Market [San Gabriel Valley]
140 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel

99 Ranch Market [San Gabriel Valley]
8150 Garvey Ave. # 121, Rosemead

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

99 Ranch Market [Inland of LA]
1625 Azusa Ave., Hacienda Heights

99 Ranch Market [Inland of LA]
1015 Nogales St., Rowland Heights

99 Ranch Market [East San Fernando Valley]
6450 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys

99 Ranch Market [South Bay]
1340 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena

99 Ranch Market [Artesia-ish]
17713 Pioneer Blvd., Artesia

99 Ranch Market [South OC]
15333 Culver Dr., Irvine

99 Ranch Market [South OC]
5402 Walnut Ave., Irvine

Patty’s House of Jerky [Inland of LA]
32692 Ortega Hwy., Lake Elsinore

Auntie Dee’s Jerky [South OC]
211 Avenida Del Mar #A, San Clemente

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Beef Jerky in Orange County