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

Nutella

Nutella is a delicious and creamy chocolate/hazelnut spread. You buy it by the jar, and it has lots of uses beyond eating it with a spoon.

Spread it on toast, good bread, croissants, waffles, pancakes, crepes, even tortillas! You can dip fruits too (bananas are wonderful with Nutella).

Sandwich it between two shortbread cookies.

Add it to ice cream base, before freezing.

Make Nutella ravioli! Just fill the ravioli wrapper with Nutella, brush egg wash around the edges and seal. Fry and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Donut hole extravaganza! Here’s a photo Weez took of some donut holes filled with Nutella and hazelnut gelato.

Board Links: Nutella…....mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Favorite Pretzels

Martin’s pretzels are a favorite in New York. They can be ordered online or picked up at greenmarkets in NYC. They make hard pretzels, salted or unsalted, and they’re very good!

Also very popular are Snyders and Utz’s, both from Pennsylvania.

An unusual style of Pennsylvania pretzel is called “Unique,” which is both a style and a brand making that style. Unique Splits are extra dark, and come with extra salt–amazing and super crunchy.

Karl S is more old school, preferring Brachman’s twists, which he deems a delightful textural pleasure.

Board Links: Do you have a favorite brand of pretzels?

Ideas for Crabmeat

Here are some ideas for cooking with freshly picked crabmeat beyond the obvious choice of crab cakes.

Variations on crab salad: crab Louis with avocado; crab salad stuffed in avocado or tomato halves; crab dressed with vinaigrette, served over greens.

Crab au gratin (mix crab with white sauce, minced shallots, a bit of parsley, and good quality white cheese like fontina, and bake or broil).

Crabmeat rolled in crepes and laid in a pan, topped with tomato sauce flavored with cloves (a dish Pitu discovered in Martinique).

Cook a full head’s worth of minced garlic slowly in plenty of butter. Stir in crabmeat until heated, and serve with fresh sourdough (toodie jane).

Make a cheese sauce, stir in crab, and use the mixture to fill phyllo dough triangles (fl bob).

Anya L recommends recipes for crabby Carolina rice, crab quiche, and crab imperial.

Board Links: What to do with fresh picked crabmeat?

Measuring Butter for Baking, Without a Scale

It’s easy to measure butter for recipes calling for warm butter: let it soften, then scoop with a measuring spoon and level off. But if a recipe calls for a quantity of cold butter, and you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can try the water-displacement method.

Fill a liquid measuring cup with water equal to the amount of butter you need (e.g., if you need 1/2 cup butter, put 1/2 cup water in the measuring cup), and add chunks of butter until the water doubles its original volume (in this example, to 1 cup). Just be sure your measuring cup is large enough to accommodate twice the volume that must be measured out.

The water-displacement method also works well for measuring solid shortening and peanut butter. It’s scientifically sound (it uses the Archidemes principle!), and accurate for baking.

Board Links: How to Measure Butter from a Block of it

Williamsburg Taco Update: Mexican Bites at an Italian Eatery

Taco Bite is a streetside window taqueria that sprouted late last year from one wall of an Italian restaurant. Tacos are $2 each and tasty–steak, carnitas, or chicken on a pair of lightly griddled corn tortillas with onions, cilantro, and salsa, reports thievery. The benchmark for Williamsburg taco lovers is Matamoros Puebla Grocery, and a couple of hounds say Taco Bite measures up (though another finds its stuff on the dry side).

Also on the menu: burritos, a “Mexican cheeseburger,” and daily specials such as chicken quesadillas. They serve beer and have some outdoor tables for hanging out.

Another decent neighborhood spot is Mexico 2000–like Matamoros, a grocery with a kitchen in back. Its tacos are pretty good, says bill-p, though a notch below Matamoros’s.

Speaking of Matamoros, it continues to turn out great tacos, tortas, and other Mexican chow–months after the owner told regulars that rising rents were about to force him to sell the business. Seems it isn’t a seller’s market, so he’s rethinking his plans. In the meantime, pass the salsa.

Taco Bite [Williamsburg]
905 Lorimer St., at Bedford Ave., at Monsignor’s Italian Restaurant, Brooklyn
718-963-3399
Map

Mexico 2000 Grocery [Williamsburg]
367 Broadway, between Keap and Hooper Sts., Brooklyn
718-782-3797
Map

Matamoros Puebla Grocery [Williamsburg]
193 Bedford Ave., between N. 6th and 7th Sts., Brooklyn
718-782-5044
Map

Board Links: Just one taco, one at a time, in Williamsburg

More Room for Tasting, and Other New York News

The Tasting Room, the East Village hideaway whose daily-changing menu showcases superior ingredients simply prepared, has opened new, larger quarters in Nolita. The old menu, which offered smaller “taste” and larger “share” portions of the same dishes, has given way to a more conventional appetizer-entree plan. The appetizers cost more than the old “tastes” did, but portions are said to be larger.

And the chow? Excellent as ever, reports xavier. Fish is always a smart order; preparations might include olive oil-cured butterfish with pickled ramps and Brazilian chiles, or braised wild striped bass with smoked eel, fingerlings, and leeks. The original space on 1st Street is closed for now but reportedly will reopen as an all-day cafe serving coffee, baked goods, and small plates.

In other news, Hummus Place has gone uptown. The Israeli outfit with the minimalist menu of freshly made chickpea puree, served three ways–plus decent salads and pitas–just opened a shop on the Upper West Side.

Tasting Room [Little Italy]
264 Elizabeth St., between Houston and Prince, Manhattan
212-358-7831
Map

Tasting Room [East Village]
72 E. 1st St., at 1st Ave., Manhattan
212-358-7831
Map

Hummus Place [Upper West Side]
305 Amsterdam Ave., between W. 74th and 75th Sts., Manhattan
212-799-3335
Map

Hummus Place [East Village]
109 St. Marks Pl., between 1st Ave. and Ave. A, Manhattan
212-529-9198
Map

Hummus Place [Greenwich Village]
99 MacDougal St., between Bleecker and W. 3rd Sts., Manhattan
212-533-3089
Map

Board Links: Wonderful meal at Tasting Room
Hummus Place on UWS ?!?
Has anyone been to the new Tasting Room location?

Downtown’s Great Mexican Bakery

The new panaderia at Grand Central Market is a fab addition, says joe. One triangular pastry yields a filling of what seems like pineapple-coconut paste. Or try the tamales, especially tamales de elote (corn). They’ll knock you down, especially with the crema, promises abrahamincpt.

La Adelita 6 [Downtown]
in Grand Central Market
317 S Broadway, at 3rd., Los Angeles
213-628-0777
Map

Board Links: finally, a high-quality panaderia downtown

Tlapazola Branches Out

Tlapazola Grill has a new location down around Marina del Rey, and the kitchen and staff are up to speed in their first week in business, says Just Larry. It’s a good thing, because the crowds have turned out for Cal-Oaxacan fare like top-notch barramundi over vegetables with lime-caper sauce, nontraditional crab cake, spinach crepe, and good vegetable tamale with mole coloradito.

First courses are $7-8, mains $12-16. Glass of Zin or Syrah, $6.

Tlapazola Grill [Beaches]
4059 Lincoln Blvd., at Washington, Marina Del Rey
310-822-7561
Map

Tlapazola Grill [West LA]
11676 Gateway Blvd., at Barrington, Los Angeles
310-477-1577
Map

Board Links: New Tlapazola Grill dinner

Mokka: Equator Coffee and Dagoba Drinking Chocolate

Mokka is an impressive new organic coffee and sandwich shop. This is a hard-core place.

Take coffee, for instance. Their house-blend is Equator coffee, the same coffee served at the French Laundry. You can order it brewed, or, for 25 cents more, ground to order and drip-brewed. rworange, compulsive chowhound that she is, ordered both side-by-side and found them utterly different. The brewed version is mellow and lovely. The drip version is assertive, and similar to Graffeo’s dark roast. Both are likeable, but the brewed version has a certain winning smoothness.

Mokka’s Dagoba sipping chocolate is intense and very true to the taste of Dagoba chocolates. It comes in two versions–sweet, and not so sweet. Be aware that this is nothing like your usual American-style hot chocolate. We’re talking pure, intense, nearly brutal levels of chocolate. You can savor a little cup over an entire day.

Also: gelato made by the Latest Scoop. The Mokka gelato flavor has a good coffee taste.

Mokka [East Bay]
3075 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley
510-848-8909
Map

Board Links: Berkeley – Mokka … Latest Scoop mokka gelato, Equator coffee (drip & brew), & Dagoba organic sipping chocolate

New Med Tasties at Ziryab

Ziryab is a new Middle Eastern place, a little more upscale looking than most of the other shwarma factories in San Francisco. The food is a mixed bag–some failures, but some truly excellent items.

Mezze platter, with hummus, babaganoush, dolmas, olives, tabblouleh, cucumber yogurt, and little hunks of feta, is truly delicious, each flavor fresh and distinct. Their various dips are, says pane, entirely unlike the usual muddleed-tasting mashes at other local Middle Eastern restaurants. Mezze platter for two ($13) boasts even more stuff, including first-rate falafel.

Truly delicious is their chicken shawerma wrap ($8); it’s even better than the version at Truly Mediterranean, says Robert Lauriston. Lentil soup is simple and good. Arales ($6), spiced ground lamb on focaccia, is very tasty, as is spinach sauteed with garlic confit ($7).

Lesser dishes include chicken kebab that’s pretty good–but not quite as excellent as Ziryab’s top-flight dishes. Vegetable tajine, a special, is a bit bland. But, notes Absonot, this is a new restaurant, still straightening out kinks, and each visit has yielded better experiences than the last.

Service is friendly, but a bit forgetful.

Ziryab Mediterranean Grill [Western Addition]
528 Divisadero St., San Francisco
415-522-0800
Map

Board Links: Ziryab