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

Go Green the Thai Way

Green curry is a staple dish in Thai restaurants, but it’s often overpowered by one ingredient: sugar! At Thai Kitchen, they go easy on the sweet tooth and the result is great, says Steve Doggie-Dogg. Green curry is on the Saturday lunch all-you-can-eat buffet, a deal for $7. There’s a lot of other stuff, too, including larb gai, beef salad, pad thai, and another kind of curry that’s finely ground and served over rice noodles.

Talesai makes a very savory green curry that’s not too sweet either, says Bon Vivant, but it’s pretty pricey for a Thai place.

Saladang (Song) in Pasadena has a delicious green curry with creamy Thai eggplant that’s less spicy than most. Saladang and neighboring Saladang Song have the same kitchen staff, but AquaW detects a slight difference in the flavor of the original Saladang.

Nearby Chandra has an excellent green curry with catfish, says revets 2.

And Dommy says the best green curry she’s had (the Thai eggplant is essential) was at Thai Nakorn. That Thai eggplant is essential to this dish. The Garden Grove outpost of Thai Nakorn is the only good one left.

Thai Kitchen [East San Fernando Valley]
2730 W Burbank Blvd, Florence, Burbank

Talesai [East San Fernando Valley]
11744 Ventura Blvd., Studio City

Saladang Song [Pasadena-ish]
383 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

Saladang [Pasadena-ish]
363 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

Chandra Thai Restaurant [Pasadena-ish]
400 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

Thai Nakorn Restaurant [Little Saigon]
12532 Garden Grove Blvd., at Palm, Garden Grove

Board Links
ISO: Good Thai green curry

Chicken and Pumpkin Sausage

Dibrova Sausage Company makes a really good chicken and pumpkin sausage, says RestR Manager. It’s a seasonal treat, best seared and served on a bun by itself. Dibrova excels at making rich-tasting sausages like this one that actually don’t end up having that much fat, says Gary Soup.

A bottle of Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale on the side makes you feel extra seasonal.

Dibrova sells at the Campbell, Oakland Jack London Square, and Danville farmers’ markets.

Dibrova Foods [San Joaquin County]
15153 N. Jack Tone Road, Lodi

Campbell Farmers Market [South Bay]
Campbell Ave. between Central and Second Sts., Campbell

Oakland Farmers Market [Jack London Square]
Broadway & Embarcadero Street, Oakland

Danville Farmers’ Market [East Bay]
Railroad and Prospect Sts., Danville

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must try sausage

Fresh, Cheap, and Lovely

It doesn’t look like much–just a couple of rickety tables and an ancient scale–but the little farm stand at Valley End Farm (supplier to Planet Organics) sells great produce cheap and amazingly fresh. Crane melons and heirloom tomatoes are incredibly fragrant, and when all the zucchini or summer squash has been sold, they go out back and pick a few more to replenish the supply. Everything is $1 a pound–including Brandywine tomatoes. The juicy, fresh elephant garlic is 50 cents a head and it caramelizes beautifully, probably from the higher-than-usual sugar content. Everything is fresh, tasty, and easy on the budget.

Valley End Farm [Sonoma County]
6300 Petaluma Hill Road, Santa Rosa

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Valley End Farm Stand in Santa Rosa (Rohnert Park border)

Chicken vs. Chicken in Korean Flushing

Two Korean imports are playing chicken on Northern Boulevard. Fried chicken, that is. Chicken is the specialty of Bon Chon and Cheogajip, chain outlets that have gone head to head since spring in Flushing’s sprawling Korean section. It’s a chicken explosion, observes lisa antinore, whose bird of choice is the non-fried, deeply comforting date- and rice-stuffed chicken in broth at nearby Han Sol Nutrition Center.

Bon Chon and Cheogajip both sell only leg and wing pieces, always cooked to order. (At 15 to 30 minutes or more per batch, this is not fast food–many customers order ahead by phone to avoid waiting around.) Both offer a choice of flavors, including spicy versions that pack respectable heat, and both are on the pricey side, at $11 to $17 per order. Both do a lively takeout trade and also have comfortable, casual dining rooms for eating in.

There’s a clear difference in style, between the two. Cheogajip coats its chicken in sweeter, stickier sauce, and its four flavors include one with herbs. Bon Chon’s meat is drier and chewier than its rival’s, but not unpleasantly so. They offer just two flavors–soy-garlic and spicy–and a choice of thighs and wings or “Royal Drumsticks.” Manhattan chicken lovers will soon be able to sample Bon Chon’s bird closer to home–the chain plans to open a shop on 38th Street, a few blocks north of Koreatown.

Not far from the dueling chains, there’s delicious Korean-style fried chicken served two ways at Mani Mani, a hopping “hof,” or pub, whose youngish crowd soaks up pitchers of overpriced beer to a nonstop soundtrack of Korean pop-rap. The first option is fried chicken smothered in smoky, woodsy sauce; the other option is chicken in lusty hot sauce, which seems almost plain by comparison, reports Polecat. Avoid the rest of the long menu of noodles, sushi and other indifferent chow.

In Manhattan’s Koreatown, Baden Baden remains a destination for its signature Baden chicken, cooked to order. It’s first roasted, then briefly fried, a process that unfortunately tends to dry out the white meat. Still, it’s quite tasty and terrific with drinks, which is how it usually goes down at this popular watering hole. It’s cooked with onion, carrot, bell pepper, and whole garlic cloves, and served with lightly pickled radish, a perfect accompaniment.

Bon Chon Chicken [Flushing]
157-18 Northern Blvd., between 157th and 158th Sts., Flushing, Queens

Bon Chon Chicken [Bergen County]
553 Main St., near Jones Rd., Fort Lee, NJ

Bon Chon Chicken [Garment District]
to open at … 240 W. 38th St., between 7th and 8th Aves., Manhattan

Cheogajip Chicken [Flushing]
160-24A Northern Blvd., at 161st St., Flushing, Queens

Han Sol Nutrition Center [Flushing]
160-26 Northern Blvd., between 160th and 161st Sts., Flushing, Queens

Mani Mani [Flushing]
163-24 Northern Blvd., between 163rd and 164th Sts., Flushing, Queens

Baden Baden New York, a.k.a. Forte [Herald Square]
28 W. 32nd St., 2nd floor, between Broadway and 5th Ave., Manhattan

Baden Baden [Bergen County]
329 Bergen Blvd., between Central and Palisades Blvds., Palisades Park, NJ

Board Links
New Korean Bon Chon Chicken Restaurant on Northern
Best fried chicken in NYC?

Max Brenner: Sweet Nothings for Chocolate Lovers

It’s no place for connoisseurs, but Max Brenner, the two-month-old chocolate fantasyland near Union Square, has its sweet and gooey pleasures. The first U.S. branch of an Israeli chain, it’s part big, buzzing restaurant, part store. The store sells chocolate candies, creams, cocoa mixes, toys and more.

There are great desserts in the restaurant part. Early favorites include chocolate fondues, with various dipping items available, including fruit, banana bread, grilled marshmallows, and even vanilla ice cream bars. The triple chocolate cake loaf is wonderful, raves eve, a rich but not overly sweet cake enclosing a molten chocolate center. cocoqueen swoons over the chocolate “pizza,” a disc of dough topped with marshmallows, melted chocolate, and a hazelnut crisp.

Some treats are consumed with the aid of whimsical, Wonka-esque gadgets (for sale in the store, naturally). Hot chocolate gets mixed marks, but most admire the “Hug Mug” it’s served in, designed to fit between cupped hands. Cappuccino comes in a cup attached to a little helter-skelter, holding candies that slowly melt and sink into the drink.

Purists are dismissive. “It’s kind of like chocolate Applebee’s. It’s a fun idea, but if you’re at all discriminating, the product doesn’t live up,” warns Raflab, who describes it as “industrial, supermarket-quality chocolate.” Whatever, say fans. big o suggests setting aside high-end standards and going with the syrupy flow. The Peanut Butter Cup (chocolate truffle cream studded with peanut butter and Oreo cookies, covered in whipped cream, chocolate chunks, and chocolate sauce) is “too heavy, too sweet, too rich–perfect,” he writes. “The subtlety and depth found in the world’s better chocolates (I’m a Cluizel man, myself) was certainly not in evidence. This was a chocolate-handled sugar hammer to the brain–but a nice one.”

There is also a menu of savory foods–crepes, lasagna, quiches, salads, etc–but, really, who cares? Another Max Brenner shop is due to open soon in the East Village.

Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man [Union Square]
841 Broadway, near E. 13th St., Manhattan

Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man [East Village]
to open at … 141 2nd Ave., between E. 9th and 8th Sts., Manhattan

Board Links
Anyone been to Max Brenner in Union Square yet today?
Max Brenner’s hot chocolate —yummy!
the new max brenner chocolate bar restaurant
Max Brenner Chocolates Union Sq not so good?
Poutine, Ramen, Spelunking, and Brenner (LLC)
Max Brenner Chocolate and Bite

Oh So Simple, Oh So Sublime: Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

“This is so good, but I dare not make it too often because I can eat nearly a whole pan by myself!” moans Nyleve of this rich and addictive recipe for chipotle sweet potatoes. Hounds have been raving about it since she first shared it a couple of years ago. ceeceee has successfully lightened up the dish by using evaporated milk in place of the whipping cream. Warning: don’t use regular milk; it doesn’t work. Candy finds that a good squeeze of lime juice on the finished dish really makes it sing. Here’s the original recipe:

Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

4 cups whipping cream
1 canned chipotle chile en adobo, or more to taste
6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. In a blender, puree the cream and chipotle until smooth. In a 9×13-inch rectangular baking dish, arrange a fourth of the sweet potatoes, season to taste with salt and pepper, and pour a fourth of the cream over all. Repeat with the remaining potatoes and cream, forming 4 layers. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour, or until the cream has been absorbed and the potatoes are browned. (May be prepared up to 1 day ahead, covered, and refrigerated. Reheat until heated through but not dried out.) Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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That Chipotle Sweet Potato Recipe

Yeast Takes Waffles into the Stratosphere

What makes a perfect waffle?

There’s one ingredient in waffle batter that’s essential to achieving crispy golden perfection: fat–preferably melted butter. Many recipes also incorporate beaten egg whites for a light texture.

But the best waffles on earth are yeast raised, says adamclyde: “A yeast-raised waffle is light years better than a baking powder one.” They bake up golden and crisp outside, and so light inside they practically float off your plate. And they’re easier to make than other types, says Karl S, with no involved steps. You do need to plan ahead, as they’re mixed up the night before so the yeast can do its work while you sleep. But you don’t need to do much more than heat the waffle iron in the morning, and you’re good to go.

The most popular recipe for yeast-raised waffles originated in the 1896 Fannie Farmer Cookbook, which has since been revised by Marion Cunningham. Most hounds find this recipe foolproof; all you do in the morning is beat in eggs and baking soda.

As variations, atheorist suggests substituting half whole wheat pastry flour for all purpose flour, saying the flavor is perfect with honey; he also likes to scatter chopped pecans or walnuts on the waffle iron to toast for few seconds before pouring on the batter.

Board Links
ISO Waffle Recipe

Emeril Kicks it Up Another Notch

Don’t be surprised to see Emeril’s face smiling up at you from a sticker on an eggplant. Emeril is now in the produce business (Emeril’s Gourmet Produce), as a partner with Pride of San Juan (a shipper/grower company). Here’s a <a href=”
”>press release.

Ed Dibble says the tomatoes are comparable to those from Whole Foods. They’re available in his small town’s supermarket, another plus.

Ditto on the packaged salads, Sivyaleah says. “Very fresh, and a nice mix of greens.”

Board Links
Emeril’s Gourmet Produce & other Emeril’s products?

Mango 101

Mangoes are available year round in most locations; they come from temperate climates all over the world. When a mango is ripe, it will have a little “give,” the way a ripe avocado does. They can be peeled and eaten out of hand–they’re deliciously messy–or slice away from the pit.

A favorite variety is the small yellow Champagne mango, also called Ataulfo. Dining Diva says the flavor is wonderful and it’s intensely fragrant, with a buttery texure.

Here’s a good guide to the different varieties.

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I love Mangoes, but….

A Challenging Assignment

Be careful when bringing your baked goods to work. That’s what got food blogger and high school literacy consultant Julie assigned to teach an elective cooking class at her school—30 minutes, four times a week, without a stove, oven, or even hot plate.

Julie’s gamely rising to the occasion, writing on her blog that she hopes her 17 students “learn a bit, just a bit about chemistry, geography, history, foreign languages, math, literature, and all the other domains that are also ingredients in the culinary world.”

She’s also asking for suggestions of recipes that can be made in less than 30 minutes, without a proper kitchen.

In planning this class, Julie is up against more than just the limitations of her facilities:

Our kids, for the most part, are not exactly brave tasters. Many of them eat chips and soda for breakfast, shunning healthier options. Lunch, as I’ve said, is almost always frozen pizza or hamburgers…. I don’t know how many of them actually sit down to a home-cooked family dinner each night, but I doubt the numbers are large.

Yet she has high hopes for what this class might accomplish:

This will be an opportunity to have them expand their horizons, begin to figure out their own predilections, develop an adventurous palate. I want them to try new things, venture into new disciplines, learn about places and times outside their experience—all through a bit of minimal ‘cold cooking.’ I want them to learn to love fruits and vegetables as much as they love candy.

Classes are now under way, and Julie has been posting updates. One student confesses she is taking the class because her grandparents think she needs to be able to cook for a future husband, while a male student says, “I hear cooking is a good way to get girls!”

There are other revelations as well—the fresh raspberries Julie brings to class are the first fresh raspberries any of the students have ever tasted. “I can’t describe to you the sheer pleasure of providing kids with experiences they’ve never had,” Julie writes, ”even something as tiny as a raspberry.”

The adventures continue, so stay tuned. “Tuesday I’ll bring in the blender,” Julie reports. “Let’s just hope the walls are not Jackson Pollacked with smoothie ingredients by the time we’re finished.”