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

All the snobbery, half the price!

Grocery store chain Food Lion has announced a plan to remodel its traditional stores to appeal to either high-end or bargain-basement customers. Some of the 1,200 stores in the N.C.-based chain will become Bottom Dollar outlets, where low prices are king and customers will have to get used to bagging their own Jell-O and economy-sized peanut butter vats. Other former Food Lions will become Bloom stores, aimed at upscale shoppers who’ll throw down an extra 20 cents a pound for lentils du Puy or Meyer lemons.

Since there’s nothing sexy about the low-price outlets (just ask my mama, loyal Pak ‘n’ Save shopper), Food Lion is mainly talking up the Bloom brand. They’ll have hulking counters of ready-made food for the grabbing-dinner-on-the-way-from-work set, space set aside for organic produce, sushi, etc. Sounds kind of like Whole Foods, but since Food Lion reps are promising a “gourmet lifestyle” at lower prices, maybe you won’t need to sell off a body part to shop for the week’s nosh.

Maybe this is what Food Lion needs to burnish its reputation. The chain never really recovered from ABC’s 1992 Prime Time Live news report that FL food handlers sold spoiled meat washed in bleach to hide the stink. Food blogosphere reaction has been muted, just a couple of “can’t wait to see it!” posts on those with local Blooms-to-be. But some shoppers are concerned about the socio-economic signals Food Lion’s move sends.

Blogger Riley of neo-con blog Virginia Virtucon is incensed that the store nearest his tony neighborhood is being converted into a Bottom Dollar. Urging his neighbors to join him in a letter-writing campaign to demand a local Bloom instead, Riley snipes “Why doesn’t Food Lion just cut to the chase and rename these stores ‘Soup Kitchen?’” The anonymous blogger behind news aggregator blog Discount Airline Prices sniffs that a Bloom store would be more welcome in a certain fancy-schmancy Maryland neighborhood than a Food Lion, known for “limited selection and low costs.” But it’s uber-dude blogger Blarggrymfrost with the man-on-the-street view –- he says that he’s getting a raise as his employer switches from a Food Lion to a Bloom, “which is gay but Ill [SIC] be gay for 52K a year.”

Food 101: Does Kimchee Go Bad?

Kimchee, a pungent Korean mixture of fermented cabbage (often Napa cabbage) and/or other vegetables, is mostly used as a condiment. Some Korean dishes are built around it. It lasts so long that some deem it immortal. But at some point it starts to deteriorate, and you’ve got to watch for the signs.

Mostly, watch for loss of crispness in larger pieces. When the kimchee gets soggy and loses its whiteness, it’s time to cook it (use in soup, or fried rice).

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does kimchee go bad?

Potato Chip Survey

The chowhounds have run down lots of tried and true brands, and also suggested a few that may be news to even confirmed chip lovers.

Chips cooked in lard are definitely a favorite. One favorite lard chip is Grandma Utz’s Handcooked Chips. Note that not all Utz chips use lard. Read some info here.

Gibbles are cooked in lard, too. “Nibble with Gibbles” is another Pennsylvania favorite.

Kettle Chips offers a number of good flavors, including Spicy Thai, Sea Salt and Vinegar, and Lightly Salted with Black Pepper. Dommy notes that the “Cheddar and Beer” flavor has little actual cheddar or beer flavor.

Zapp’s Chips come in a large variety, including Cajun and Creole flavors reflecting the company’s Louisiana heritage. They make unsalted chips, too.

Cape Cod chips has its followers, and they’ve added a couple of new chip flavors: Jalapeno and Aged Cheddar (which packs some heat) and Fresh Garden Herb (a reduced fat chip).

Charles Chips (remember those big tins?) are still around. They’re a nicely balanced chip, not too salty and just crisp enough. You can’t find them everywhere, but you can order them, tin and all, online.

Solea Olive Oil chips come flavored with rosemary or garlic. They’ve got great flavor and are super crisp, reports Robert Lauriston. Amazon sells them.

Better Made Chips out of Detroit are a nostalgic favorite, and they’re still available!

Terra Red Bliss (Garlic & Parmesan flavor) are substantial chips. They’re thicker, with a hefty crunch, and they’re really cheesy and garlicky, reports yumyuminmytumtum.

Plain sea salt Madhouse Munchies are great, hounds agree!

Ellen says that Route 11 chips are hard to find outside Virginia, but well worth ordering online>. Try the salt and vinegar, garlic and herb, and sweet potato flavors.

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We Did Pretzels! Whats your Favorite Potato Chip?

Decadent Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

j2brady shares her simple, but rich and delectable recipe for blueberry cheesecake ice cream:

1 8-oz pkg. cream cheese
1 1/2 cups light cream
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
frozen blueberries (amount to your taste)

Blend cream cheese, both creams, and sugar in blender until very smooth. Place blueberries in pot over medium heat and allow them to release their juices and reduce somewhat, then place them in the freezer briefly. If you don’t want pieces of fruit in your finished ice cream, puree the reduced berries or force them through a sieve. Freeze cream cheese mixture in ice cream freezer; during the last few seconds, add the reduced blueberries and allow them to form a swirl before you stop the dasher and scrape the ice cream into a storage container.

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Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream…so gooood!

Versatile Bean Salad Recipe

This quick bean salad dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and fresh herbs is one of Will Owen’s most successful recipes, and it’s incredibly flexible. Vary the herbs to suit your mood, substitute some nice vinegar for the lemon juice, and with each combo you’ve got a whole different salad.

4 15-oz cans beans (cannelini, navy, pinto, or a mixture)
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 minced or pressed clove of garlic
juice of one lemon, or to taste
chopped herbs of your choice
good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse and drain beans; shake in a colander to dry. Add onion, garlic, lemon juice, and chopped herbs. Pour and stir in oil until beans are glistening (but don’t drown them in oil). Adjust lemon juice and seasoning to taste. Keeps well for a few days refrigerated.

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Bean salad

Casual Seafood on the Jersey Shore

The Inlet Cafe in Highlands, which turns 40 this year, has evolved from a tavern plus clam bar into a dependably good casual seafood restaurant. It’s not grubby or inexpensive (most entrees are in the $20s), but it’s still informal enough for dinner after a day at the beach, says jsfein. The menu includes grilled, fried and blackened entrees and seafood pastas, among other things. If the weather’s nice, sit on the deck and look out on the Navesink River and Sandy Hook Bay.

Another longtime Bayshore destination, the Keyport Fishery, was closed by a fire earlier this month, but its owners promise to reopen the 70-year-old carryout joint. “Best fried shrimp and scallops in my book, for over 30 years of my patronage,” says fpatrick, plus excellent house-made tartar sauce.

In Point Pleasant Beach, the Shrimp Box has been drawing crowds for half a century with fresh, moderately priced seafood. Some recent daily specials, priced in the mid- to high teens: crab-stuffed tilapia, lobster ravioli, and Prince Edward Island mussels marinara over linguine. Go for the early “Sunset Dinner”–“sooo much food for $15 or less,” advises Angelina, who’s hooked on their broiled crab-stuffed shrimp.

Down toward Cape May, Fish and Fancy in the Villas is a no-frills place for excellent fried or broiled platters, says Ellen. Order to go or sit at a picnic table on the covered patio. Also on the menu: chowders, salads, fried chicken, and rotating specials like shrimp fra diavolo, grilled tuna with seafood-garlic sauce, and clams with linguine and other seafood pastas.

At Cape May’s Lobster House, a Fisherman’s Wharf tourist magnet, avoid the crowds by bypassing the bustling main restaurant. Instead, advises Sethboy, grab the menus for the takeout counter and the raw bar, find a table on the deck out back, and ponder your order. Start with the raw bar (which serves chowders and salads as well as raw shellfish) then move on to the takeout counter for fried or broiled platters. Ellen suggests going the full takeout route and recommends their fish sandwich, lobster salad or bisque, smoked salmon or bluefish, and Key lime pie. “Get some Jersey tomatoes and corn on your way home,” she adds, “and you’ll have quite a feast.”

For a more downscale bite, go to fisherman’s watering hole Mayer’s for perfectly tender fried or sauteed scallops and a heavy dose of “local color,” suggests CapeMayChowhound.

Inlet Cafe [Monmouth County]
3 Cornwall St., at Shrewsbury Ave., Highlands, NJ

Keyport Fishery [Monmouth County]
150 W. Front St., between Broadway and Beers St., Keyport, NJ

Shrimp Box [Ocean County]
75 Inlet Dr., near Broadway, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

Fish and Fancy Takeout Seafood [Cape May County]
2406 Bayshore Rd., at Texas Ave., Villas, NJ

The Lobster House [Cape May County]
Fisherman’s Wharf, Cape May Harbor, Cape May, NJ

Mayer’s Bar and Restaurant [Cape May County]
894 3rd Ave., near Wilson Dr., Cape May, NJ

Board Links
Where to Eat in Monmouth County, NJ
Lavalette and Point Pleasant: First time to Jersey
Cape May “Down N Dirty” recs
Sandy Hook/Highlands sat nite

Subbing In

If you’re serious about finding SoCal’s best meatball sandwich, you’ll head to Lakewood, says Kris P Pata. There, in the quiet bedroom community, you’ll find Foggia Italian Market, run by the Quarto family. Their sandwich features homemade, well-herbed meatballs, well-spiced marinara and fresh, crunchy Italian bread. It doesn’t get much better than this.

The meatball sub at Vinny’s is worth a regular drive from Hollywood, says lil mikey. It has big, tasty meatballs, good sauce and mozzarella, but what puts it over the top is that he pops it into the pizza oven, crisping up the bread and softening the inside.

On Mozzarella Mondays at Jar, they have lovely little meatball subs on a semolina roll. Still, Dommy! prefers Bay Cities–and a lot of hounds think this one’s the best.

On the opposite end of town Eastside Deli makes a mean meatball sub–connoisseurs prefer a combo with Italian sausage, peppers and cheese (the #3).

And for the South Bay, calabasas-trafalgar says: Giuliano’s deli in Torrance. End of story.

Foggia Italian Market & Deli [South Bay]
5522 Del Amo Blvd., Lakewood

Vinny’s Pizza [South LA]
8412 Lincoln Blvd., at Manchester, Los Angeles

Jar Restaurant [Midtown]
8225 Beverly Blvd., at Harper, Los Angeles
Amazon Locater

Bay Cities Italian Deli [Beaches]
1517 Lincoln Blvd., at Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica
Amazon Locater

Eastside Market and Italian Deli [Chinatown]
1013 Alpine St., Los Angeles

Giuliano’s Delicatessen & Bakery [South Bay]
3849 Torrance Blvd., Torrance

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Meatball Subs?

Off with a (Shao) Bing

Start your day the Taiwanese way–with soy milk and fried (unsweetened) crullers. yclops lays out a detailed short list of favorites:

Yi-Mei, a cozy (read: cramped) spot in the Dingho strip mall, is almost always packed, and with good reason. Their shaobing (fried bread), danbing (eggs with crepes) and soy milk (made in-house and available hot or cold, savory or sweet) are excellent. So are the compact, juicy, and hefty buns. Pork and mushroom bun is a great mixture of potent soy sauce, pork, and mushroom flavors. Pork and cabbage is also really good. Preserved snow cabbage and pork bun is terrifically pungent…maybe an acquired taste. Chive turnovers and steam-fried pork buns, though, are disappointing. The Yi-Mei in Rowland Heights has fantastic baozi (steamed buns); the one in the San Gabriel Superstore complex is more spacious, but the food less impressive.

Yung Ho Tou Chiang is a usual suspect for Chinese breakfast–grimy, but quite popular. It’s gone downhill a little, says Porthos, but it’s still very good. Strong points: salty soy milk and shaobing. Danbing leans toward the eggy side, and the buns have gristly meat and not much flavor. On the plus side, their extensive menu has English translations.

Ding Pangzi boasts very good danbing and big, pillowy baozi, but bad shaobing. Mushroom and pork bun and preserved mustard and pork bun are both recommendable, chive turnovers might still be good too. They don’t make their own soy milk, though. The menu is only in Chinese, but there are plenty of bilingual folks around on the weekend, when it’s packed. Note that this is two restaurants side by side; the breakfast part is on the left.

Another hole-in-the-wall, Mei Lin, has a wide variety of baozi that are reliably good if not spectacular. The flavors are a bit more subdued than at some other places, but chive buns and pickled veggie and pork buns are solid. Soy milk is also usually good, and they have a range of jiaozi and zongzi (sort of like Chinese tamales, with sweet or savory fillings) as well.

Yi-Mei Chinese Bakery Shop [San Gabriel Valley]
736 S. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park

Yi-Mei Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
608 E. Valley Blvd. # G, San Gabriel

Yi Mei Deli [Inland of LA]
18414 Colima Rd., Rowland Heights

Yung Ho Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
533 W. Valley Blvd., at New, San Gabriel

Yung Ho Tou Chiang Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
1045 E. Valley Blvd. # A105, San Gabriel

Ding’s Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
117 N. Lincoln Ave., Monterey Park

Mei Lin Tou Chiang Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
1257 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra

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Closest Taiwanse Breakfast to the Westside

Oriental BBQ Chicken Town

Oriental BBQ Chicken Town boasts a remarkable name, bizarre tiki decor, and some delicious chicken, reports David Boyk. You can get your chicken roasted or fried, with or without sauce. They also have fish, but that seems besides the point. Fried chicken with sauce is fantastic. The sauce is a hot red syrup thing, sort of like sriracha, but more warming, sweet and barbecue-y.

Oriental BBQ Chicken Town [Temescal]
Telegraph Ave., between 61st and 62nd Sts., Oakland

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Oriental B.B.Q. Chicken Town, Berkeley/Oakland

And the Best Sausage Pizza Is…

The best sausage pizza in all of the Bay Area is at Nizza La Bella, reports rworange. The thing to order here is the “For Lombardi” pizza, with fennel sausage and aged mozzerella. They make their own sausage and their own cheese. The sausage embodies every goodness of Italian sausage: a deep fennel flavor, an intense meatiness, all without any greasiness. The cheese is lovely and flavorful, and the little dabs of sauce are nice, too. The crust is appropriately thin, with good crackle. It is a deeply, gruntingly satisfying pizza. It is also a distinctly Italian pizza, so don’t go expecting a classic New York slice. Says twocents, all the pizzas are good, but any with that fennel sausage on it is truly great. Important: to get house-made cheese, you must request it.

Chicken paillard is unexpectedly great, says Morton the Mousse. The breast is perfectly cooked. “Some would send it back as too rare, but those folks don’t know what chicken should taste like,” he says. The chicken is tender, moist, and vastly superior to the majority of boringly grilled chicken breast. It’s served over fries, which makes them limp but wonderfully chickeny.

Also recommended: socca, salade lyonnaise, salade anchoiade, macaroni gratin, onglet steak-frites, skirt steak frites, and bouillabaisse. Their cocktails are uniformly beautiful and uniformly excellent.

The place has gone through some staff changes, and is in the process of expanding and Italianizing their menu. Food quality has increased dramatically. So if you went long ago and were disappointed, give it another shot; many, many chowhounds have begun to fervently recommend the place. anli dares claim that the new incarnation of Nizza La Bella even beats out Pizzaiola.

Nizza La Bella [East Bay]
827 San Pablo Ave., Albany

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Albany–Nizza La Bella – The Bay Area’s best sausage pizza