The CHOW Blog rss

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

Pollo Adobado

Taqueria San Jose in the Mission District has outstanding tacos pollo adobado. Finely chopped, pungently-spiced chicken contrasts perfectly with fresh cilantro and onion. The salsa adds a nice kick without being overpowering. Also, vinchar likes the rabbit stew tapa next store at Caf

Heart and Soul at Berzet in the Bronx

Berzet’s is almost like home to its fans, who count on homey soul food and warm, motherly TLC. Mac and cheese, seasoned-to-the-bone baked chicken, and meaty, tender short ribs are dependable favorites, says beke, an erstwhile regular. She dropped in recently with her niece and was greeted with a hearty “Haven’t seen you girls in a LONG time!” from the owner and cook. Breakfast bargain–the “2-2-2,” which is two eggs, two pancakes, and two pieces of sausage and bacon, all for $2.22.

Berzet Luncheonette [Bronx]
1145 Bronx River Ave., between Westchester and Watson Aves., Bronx
718-861-1789
Locater

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cheap, yummy beef short ribs near abc carpet in the Bronx

Taam-Tov Revisited: Kebabs and More in Midtown

Kebabs, dumplings and meat pies are smart orders among the Bukharan specialties at Taam-Tov, an upstairs hideaway in the Diamond District. Peter Cherches reports fabulous samsas (crisp baked meat pies stuffed with spiced chopped lamb) and tender, charcoal-grilled lamb shish kebab and lula kebab, made of well-seasoned chopped meat. Manti (steamed dumplings) boast sweet, oniony meat filling in delicate skins. Fresh-baked lepeshka bread is warm and hearty. For Peter’s party of four, lunch totaled $50 with tip, “and they had to roll us down the stairs.”

But most hounds rank Taam-Tov a step below the competition in Queens, where Cheburechnaya makes superior versions of Central Asian Jewish dishes like plov, the pilaf-like rice dish with stewed meat and vegetables. mishka finds this place solid but adds, “I don’t remember the food back home being this greasy.”

For excellent lagman, the sturdy Uzbek soup with lamb, noodles, and vegetables, the go-to place is Cafe Arzu in Rego Park, mishka advises.

Taam-Tov [Diamond District]
a.k.a. Avi Taam-Tov Corp.
46 W. 47th St., 4th floor, between 5th and 6th Aves., Manhattan
212-768-8001
Locater

Cheburechnaya [Rego Park]
92-09 63rd Dr., between Austin and Wetherole Sts., Rego Park, Queens
718-897-9080
Locater

Cafe Arzu [Rego Park]
101-05 Queens Blvd., at 67th Rd., Rego Park, Queens
718-830-3335
Map

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Taam-Tov in Manhattan’s Diamond District?
Any Uzbek restaurants in NYC?

Pork Kidney Is the New Monkfish Liver at Best Szechuan

Jerome’s recent dinner at Best Szechwan yielded some new favorites–like the “hot and numbing kidney flowers” (mala yao hua), actually called spicy fried kidney on the menu. It’s pork kidney, cut decoratively into little flowers like squid, stir-fried with lots of black wood-ear mushrooms and other vegetables in a thin gravy. The kidney isn’t as gamy as in, say, steak and kidney pie–it’s soft and mild, more like monkfish liver. The wood ear makes a great contrast.

Water-boiled fish slices (shuizhu yu pian), in this case sole, come in chile-oil broth with tons of yellow bean sprouts. It’s great, and very spicy, although it’s not a heat that burns on and on, and it’s balanced by other flavors like herbal and floral, and manages to be both rich and delicate.

Herbal smoked duck (zhang-cha ya) is warm and smoky, wonderfully balancing out the spicier typical Sichuan dishes. It’s smoked with camphor and tea leaf.

Three flavored sizzling rice soup (san-xian guoba tang) is short on soup–the broth is thickened and full of chicken, mushrooms, shrimp, pork, and bamboo shoots, but the house-made sizzling rice squares are smoky, crunchy, and really good.

Spicy wonton soup (chaos hour) isn’t a soup and doesn’t have wontons, but it is spicy. It’s actually Sichuanese boiled dumplings (different from wontons) in a chile-d up broth. No sauce needed.

Also good: braised shrimp (gan shao xia ren), nearly sauceless and mildly spiced.

Half a dozen main dishes and some cold appetizers, and four bottles of beer comes to about $70 with tax, before tip.

Best Szechuan Chili & Seafood [San Gabriel Valley]
230 N. Garfield Ave., Monterey Park
626-572-4629
Map

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Best Szechwan Chili etc in Monterey Park, new review

Lucques Lunch Update: BLT Is Back, Baby

The BLT, a seasonal item at Lucques, is back on the menu, along with a bunch of other new lunch items. The pork burger is fab, says Tom P. The BLT has been praised by Jonathan Gold as one of the best of its kind. It’s made with grilled fresh bread, luscious house-made mayonnaise, superior crisp bacon, a ton of avocado, heirloom tomatoes and (we think) butter lettuce. It’s $15 and well worth it–the thing is huge and comes with an excellent, garlicky arugula salad.

Lucques [West Hollywood]
8474 Melrose Ave., at La Cienega, Los Angeles
323-655-6277
Locater

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BLT Back at Lucques!

Peanut Butter + Rice Krispies = Gooey Deliciousness

It’s simple to peanut butter-up standard Rice Krispies treats: just add a hefty spoonful of peanut butter to the melting marshmallow and butter mixture–anywhere from 1/3 to 2/3 of a cup–and stir until smooth, then proceed as usual.

coll makes a Rice Krispies and peanut butter truffle sort of thing: blend 1 cup creamy peanut butter, 1 stick softened butter, and 2 cups confectioner’s sugar. Fold in 1 cup Rice Krispies. Form into small balls and freeze. Roll the balls in 12 oz. melted chocolate and allow to set.

Becca Porter shares a family recipe that’s chock-full of peanut butter and much more like candy than Rice Krispies treats. Here’s her recipe:

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups light corn syrup
2 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
6 cups Rice Krispies (or less depending on taste), separated

In a large bowl place 5 cups Rice Krispies, reserving 1 cup. Bring sugar and corn syrup to a full boil over high heat. Count to 50 to 55 seconds. Immediately take pot off heat and stir in peanut butter. When it is fully combined pour over Rice Krispies in bowl. Add remaining Rice Krispies until the consistency is to your taste. Spread evenly in a 13×9” pan. Cool completely before cutting.

To make this treat softer and gooier, decrease the amount of Rice Krispies.

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Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Treats

Favorite Marinades

Chowhounds share their favorite marinades for veggies, meats, chicken, and seafood. Remember not to let fish or chicken sit in any marinade with citrus for long, as it will begin to break down their proteins. The max is fifteen minutes for fish, and thirty minutes for chicken.

Olive oil and fish sauce is foodio’s all time favorite marinade for veggies (especially zucchini and red onions). Sounds odd, but he swears the fish sauce penetrates the veggies as they cook, the fishy taste disappears, and the veggies melt in your mouth.

For lamb, cheryl h recommends red wine, soy, tamarind or vinegar, ground black and white peppercorns, and ground mustard seed.

For beef, Pei likes sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions, and some citrus.

For chicken, try diced onions, chopped rosemary, cracked black pepper, salt, and the juice of a lemon. Or cilantro, chiles, garlic, lime, and salt, pounded in a mortar and pestle.

For salmon: soy, maple syrup, minced fresh ginger, lime juice and zest. For tuna: lime juice, soy sauce, and honey. For shrimp or scallops: minced fresh ginger, lime juice and zest, cayenne pepper or ground fresh chiles.

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What is your favorite marinade?

Strawberries of a Different Color

There are white strawberries, and they have their own distinctive flavors and shapes. The delicate white ones are called Fraises des Bois, and are similar to a wild berry.

Look for them in season, or consider growing some of your own!

Read about them here.

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White Strawberries

Lilac Wood

Pruning lilacs can yield a lot of woody branches. Let them age, and they make wonderful fuel to use for the smoker. JMF says the light floral taste is recommended for fish and lamb. Lilbug reports using it for smoking chicken and ribs. It’s among the more expensive wood you can buy for smoking.

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Smoking with Lilac wood?

Salt This Away

If you’ve ever wondered whether throwing down four bucks for a bag of fancy fleur de sel is worth it, wonder no longer: David Lebovitz makes an excellent case for the pricey crystals (which, he shows, are actually a decent bargain, considering how few of them it takes to salt a dish). His post gives a lovely account of his visit to the salt marshes of France’s Guerande region and the intriguingly complex filtration and harvesting process that goes into producing Fleur de Sel de Guerande—now his all-time fave salt.

It’s inspirational to hear tales like this, since I’ve always been utilitarian when it comes to salt: I’ll use kosher when a recipe calls for it explicitly, sea salt when I have dinner guests, and good ol’ Morton Iodized sprinkled liberally on everything else (largely due to my weird paranoia about developing a goiter). But apparently I’m not really in danger of iodine deficiency, and I love the idea of using a “finishing” salt on my tomatoes and chocolate mousses, just like they do in the restaurants.

One little beef, though: A few of David’s observations are overly gushy. It always makes me skeptical when writers bust out sentences like this one (and he has several of ‘em):

Although the words ‘fleur de sel’ have been bantered around and used as marketing tools for many salts being promoted (nowadays you find salts labeled as such from Portugal, Italy, and elsewhere) nowhere else on earth does the salt have the same fine flavor and delicate crystals of Fleur de Sel de Guerande.

“Nowhere else on earth” sounds a bit like PR copy to me; the post doesn’t have me convinced that he’s tried all of the competition worldwide (though certainly he’s sampled more than I have). If I were editing this piece for a magazine, I’d tone down the grand statements —but then again, bloggers have a lot more license in this arena than magazine writers do, and by and large this freedom makes for refreshingly honest reading.