The CHOW Blog rss

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

Gelato from the Old Country’s Old School

If you like real gelato, run, don’t walk to Bulgarini, hidden away in the courtyard of the Pacific Asia Museum, says revets2. Recently raved about in LA Weekly, these guys studied with some of the best gelato makers (I’m sure there’s a particular Italian word for such people) and churn it up in the old style.

Hazelnut gelato is made with Oregon nuts, and the complexity and texture are just unreal.

Pistachio uses northern Italian nuts, ground to a paste; it’s incredibly intense and not too sweet.

Mango is pure fresh fruitiness. Might bring you to tears.

Limited availability, though: Open Friday-Sunday only, 11 a.m.-6 p.m..

Bulgarini Gelato [Pasadena-ish]
in Pacific Asia Museum
46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena
626-441-2319
Map

Board Links
Bulgarini Gelato–The Best

Filipino Finds

The super-friendly, family-owned Filipino restaurant Alejandro’s has a great crew in the kitchen, says grc, including chefs from the well-regarded, now defunct Barrio Fiesta. Alejandro’s, which has been open about six months, is a good place to get a range of Filipino specialties.

A West Valley secret, says Veggietales, is Nipa Hut, a fast-food joint with amazing garlic fried chicken. Give your craving a day of rest, though–they’re closed on Sundays.

At Davao Tuna Grill, you can get healthy Filipino food without all the typical grease, says Silent Android. Who knew it was possible?

Salo Salo Grill may have the most consensus as a good all-around Filipino restaurant right now. Of course, their specialty is grilled dishes, but you’ll do well with their other dishes. Veggietales warns, though, that the pancit is disappointing.

Some are happy with Max’s of Manila, for the famed fried chicken–crispy yet juicy, says Danimal n Hustler–and crispy pata. But Silent Android insists, “If you’re Filipino, you will hate Max’s in Glendale with a passion.”

Many reasons are given, but to read them all you’ll have to…

Alejandro’s [Eagle Rock]
4126 Verdugo Rd., at York, Los Angeles
323-550-1063
Locater

Nipa Hut [West San Fernando Valley]
22122 Sherman Way, at Topanga, Canoga Park
818-347-9068
Locater

Davao Tuna Grill [East San Fernando Valley]
730 S. Central Ave, Glendale
818-662-0990
Locater

Salo-Salo Grill [East San Fernando Valley]
130 North Maryland Ave, Glendale
818-241-0880
Map

Salo Salo [Artesia-ish]
18300 Gridley Rd. # A, Artesia
562-809-6277
Locater

Salo Salo Grill [Inland of LA]
2530 E Amar Rd., West Covina
626-964-4095
Locater

Salo-Salo Grill [Inland of LA]
12625 Frederick St. Suite K6, Moreno Valley
951-653-5555
Map

Max’s Of Manila [East San Fernando Valley]
313 W. Broadway, Glendale
818-637-7751
Locater

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Max’s Philipino Resturaunt in Glendale

New Salvadoran

Platano is a brand new Salvadoran place. The space is partially unfinished, but their kitchen is already up and running and producing excellent food, reports maus1.

Yucca cocido is great, with a good portion of wonderfully crispy pork, and a nice side of cabbage. An order of tamales de sal consists of two wonderful masa tamales steamed in a banana leaf. Albondigas–meatball soup–tastes excellent, with a home-style light tomato sauce. The minty meatballs are a little dry, though. Carne guisada is very soft, with string beans, potato, and carrots–just the sort of thing a Salvadoran grandmother would cook if she really loved you.

Cafe Platano [East Bay]
Formerly Thai Garlic
2042 University Ave., Berkeley
Map

Board Links
New! Platano Salvadorean in Berkeley

Fishy Eggs

Ikura is salmon roe, those glistening orange globes you see on “gunkan,” the seaweed wrapped cylinders of rice topped with roe. If you’re buy salmon roe, look for sugiko, where the eggs are enclosed in the egg sac. They’ve been salted and/or brined in soy sauce. Applehome finds that the flavor is superior when the roe is purchased this way.

Other roe products that are worth investigating are Kazunoko (herring roe) and all forms of cod/pollock roe.

Uni is the roe of sea urchins. Some are put off by the texture of the tiny egg sacs; it’s soft and melts on the tongue. The best, and some say the only, way to experience uni is fresh from the spiny shell of the urchin. An experienced server will neatly open the shell to expose the roe. Try it on a slice of French bread.

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Uni is the nectar of the gods. (Ikura on the other hand…)

Mangosteens

If you’ve ever tasted a mangosteen, the memory of this sweet/tart fruit with plump juicy segments, will haunt you. Yes, it’s that good and, until recently, not available on the mainland of the U.S.

They’re grown widely in the tropics of Asia, and now they’ve been successfully cultivated in Puerto Rico. By next summer, they should be more widely available here. For now, they’ve been sighted in Manhattan and Los Angeles.

Board Links
Mangosteen coming soon… from Puerto Rico (NYT article)
Fresh mangosteens available on Canal Street and Mulberry [moved from What’s my Craving board]

Meals That Freeze Well

If you’re looking to make meals to freeze for later reheating, chowhounds have plenty of tips and how-to’s.

What freezes best:

- Hearty soups and stews (e.g., beef and barley, lentil, bean)

- Long-cooked braised dishes and stews (beef short ribs, osso buco, beef stew, chili, curries)

- Casseroles and baked pastas (e.g., sausage and peppers, enchiladas, mac and cheese, lasagne)

- Juicy meats cooked in (or to be served with) sauces

Strategies for freezing:

Divide recipes into whatever portion sizes work for your needs before freezing. If you have space, make multiple batches at once, then divide.

Be sure to label each package with contents, preparation date, and reheating instructions.

Funwithfood lines small gratin dishes with non-stick foil, fills, and freezes. Once the food’s frozen, she peels the foil off and pops the frozen “bricks” of food into freezer bags, which stack neatly. When it’s time to reheat, the packets fit right back into the gratin dishes for serving.

Another handy solution: small foil takeout containers and lids from a restaurant supply house. These are the right size for single servings of entrees or doubles of soup and they’re easy to freeze, stack, and reheat. Sixteen-ounce hot/cold cups (sold at Costco) are also good for freezing and reheating soups.

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Your favorite freezeable meals

Pesto Ideas

Here are some ideas, beyond pasta and panini, for using basil pesto to its most delicious advantage.

Pesto roasted chicken: coat the bird (and smear a little under the skin), then roast as usual (Hungry Celeste).

Brush pesto on pork chops, then grill; it helps form a nice crust, and gives a great rustic flavor (HeelsSoxHound).

Pesto adds depth to omelettes, and perks up scrambled eggs.

Drizzle pesto over fresh mozzarella and tomatoes.

Mix with a little lemon juice and use as a salad dressing.

Stuff mushroom caps with pesto and bake…or brush on grilled sliced portobellos and melt fresh mozzarella on top.

Avocado pesto salad: big chunks of avocado, red onion, peeled cucumber, and ripe tomato tossed with pesto (GG Mora).

Use it to baste grilled veggies or meats, or toss with spaghetti squash or zucchini ribbons.

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Pesto ideas —non-pasta/low carb

Custardy, Buttery Goodness in Newark’s Ironbound

For the little Portuguese custard tarts called pasteis de nata, it’s hard to beat Teixeira’s Bakery in the Ironbound, says marachino: “Creamy, sweet filling and buttery, crisp shell–all perfectly and ever-so-slightly caramelized on top. And a bargain at only 75 cents. Undoubtedly the best this side of the Tagus–and much better than most I had on a recent trip to Portugal.” Nontraditionalists can try such nouveau flavors as lemon, coconut, orange, almond, even green bean. Teixeira’s has a handful of other locations in Newark, Kearny, and Elizabeth.

Teixeira’s Bakery [Essex County]
186 Ferry St., between Van Buren and Polk, Newark, NJ
973-344-0103
Locater

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Can one find good pasteis de natas in the city?

At Two Manhattan Newcomers, Chinese Breads on the Rise

Chinese breads and buns might just be poised for crossover success at two new downtown spots. Province Chinese Canteen in Tribeca makes a flatter, sandwich-friendly version of the steamed wheat-flour rounds called mantou, toasts them on the griddle, then stuffs them with Asian-style fillings like tender, aromatic braised pork shoulder with pickled cucumber.

“Fantastic little sandwiches,” raves dennison, who’s won over by their simple, well-conceived combinations and clean, strong flavors. Short rib with kimchi and grilled chicken with cilantro and cucumber round out the short but growing list of fillings (a recent daily special was spicy pork with pickled radish). They’re small–three to four inches across–so you may need a couple for lunch ($3.50 to $3.75 for one, $6.50 for two).

Also on the menu: tofu salad with soy vinaigrette and fresh-tasting cold sesame noodles with chicken or roast pork. Look for vegetarian options, dumplings, and more sandwich and noodle choices as the menu expands. “This joint has serious potential,” dennison adds. “It’s an interesting concept–upmarket but affordable Chinese sandwiches in a hipster lunch counter setting. Only time will tell whether it’ll work.”

In the Village, Flushing’s Unique Pastry has opened its long-awaited Manhattan shop, dubbed Roll and Dough, where it’s winning new fans for the stuffed wheat-flour buns called bing. Early favorites among the fillings include spicy pork, cabbage-mushroom, spicy beef, and hot-and-sour vegetable. “Overall, pretty good and cheap. The bun is nice and chewy-bready, with good fillings,” sums up janethepain, who pronounces this a tasty budget lunch option ($1.50 to $1.95 for bing).

Don’t overlook the sweet bing varieties: banana, lotus, and red bean. The banana bing is amazingly good, bursting with fresh mashed banana, says Chelsea Pearl: “I’m going to want this for breakfast every day for the foreseeable future.”

Beyond bing, they’re gradually phasing in congees, noodle soups, and other dishes, while feeding the neighborhood with liberal free samples–baked bao and the like. Service is uncommonly pleasant. “Everyone there was extremely friendly and clearly happy to have you as a customer,” reports alex m.

Province Chinese Canteen [Tribeca]
formerly Burrito Bar
305 Church St., at Walker, Manhattan
212-925-1205
Map

Roll and Dough [Greenwich Village]
a.k.a. Bing
135 W. 3rd St., between 6th Ave. and MacDougal St., Manhattan
212-253-2890
Map

Unique Pastry [Flushing]
a.k.a. Roll and Dough
135-23 40th Rd., between Main and Prince Sts., Flushing, Queens
718-888-7790
Locater

Board Links
The Flushing Bing Lady comes to Manhattan!
Province mantou sandwiches

CFS Near LAX

A new soul food joint has popped up near LAX. Chicken fried steak lovers, take note: The CFS here is supposed to be delicious, says BobMack, even if you have to take it down the street to the park to eat it. OK, there are a couple of tables, but it’s not really an eat-in kind of joint.

Fried catfish tastes much like it does in Mississippi, and collard greens are solid. Short ribs seem to be popular, because they’re often sold out. Fried chicken looks good, and there’s grilled chicken for the health-conscious. No word on the namesake flamin’ fish and shrimp, though.

Portions are hefty–entrees come with two side dishes. With a drink, at lunch, that’ll run you about $8.

Locke’s Flamin Fish & Shrimp [Beaches]
100 W. Imperial Ave., El Segundo
310-606-9266
Locater

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Locke’s Flamin Fish & Shrimp- El Segundo