The CHOW Blog rss

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

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.

Board Links
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.

Board Links
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

Board Links
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

Board Links
Locke’s Flamin Fish & Shrimp- El Segundo

Eye-Popping, Brain-Freezing Ice Creams

You won’t find spicy mango, tamarind, or spicy watermelon popsicles in your average whitebread supermarket ice-cream aisle. But they’re at La Mich, a homey little Mexican ice-cream spot that opened two months ago, made fresh on the premises, says dette. There are also watermelon, strawberry, and mango–so full of fruit chunks, it’s like eating a frozen mango. You can get these babies plain, or dipped in chocolate with other toppings. Try caramel dipped in chocolate–mmmm. Fresh ice cream, too.

La Mich Paleteria [Inland of LA]
1026 Huntington Drive, Duarte
626-359-6333
Map

Board Links
La Mich Mexican Ice Creamery

Tlaquepaque

Tlaquepaque is a sit-down Mexican restaurant offering both taqueria fare and platillos. Their carnitas are glorious, says Alice Patis–little shreds of very juicy meat, a bit of fat, and quite a few dark brown crunchy bits. Order a carnitas burrito and you’ll get a piping hot, steamed tortilla encasing tender whole pinto beans, those beautiful carnitas, and pico de gallo. The ratios of meat and bean are spot-on; it is a perfect burrito.

Carne asada is flame-grilled on the spot. The beef is well flavored, but gristle-free–so it might be dry for some tastes. Mel’s favorite is their chicken tostada. Salsa is great, too–spicy, with a hit of cilantro bouquet. Ask for extra fresh chunky salsa with your chips.

Tlaquepaque #1 is excellent, and always packed. But you can skip the crowds by heading over to the equally excellent Tlaquepaque #3.

Taqueria Tlaquepaque 1 [South Bay]
2222 Lincoln Ave., near Curtner, San Jose
408-978-3665
Locater

Taqueria Tlaquepaque 2 [South Bay]
721 Willow St., San Jose
408-287-9777
Locater

Taqueria Tlaquepaque 3 [South Bay]
699 Curtner Ave., San Jose
408-448-1230
Locater

Board Links
Tlaquepaque packs a mean burrito in Willow Glen (San Jose)

Reaching for a Higher Level of Pork

Pizzaiolo has upped the pork ante. About a month ago, they started buying whole pigs from the Heritage Foundation. Since then, pork has taken over, becoming the highlight of every meal, says Morton the Mousse. For example: a Berkshire pork chop with ratatouille and fried polenta. The pork is perfect–so tender, so juicy, and so gorgeously piggy. Morton’s opinion is seconded by Hungry Hippo, whose braised pork shoulder was, “no hyperbole, the single best pork dish I’ve ever eaten.” Especially good was the tasty fat marbling.

Chef Charlie will use Heritage breeds in all of his pork dishes, which means his meatballs are going to get even better. He’s planning to add lardo and other Italian charcuterie to the menu soon.

The best ham that Morton the Mousse has had in these parts is the house-cured ham at Cafe Rouge. It’s stuffed with garlic and aromatics, and finished on the rotisserie. Cafe Rouge has a variety of house-made deli meats, including corned beef and pastrami. They may be the best option in the area for cold cuts. The catch is: they carry only one meat at a time. Unless they’ve run out, in which case they carry none.

And a bonus ham: Gregoire occasionally offers baked ham and cheese croissants on their lunch menu. It’s just the sort of French comfort food that Gregoire excels at. The croissant is flaky and buttery, the bechamel creamy and satisfying, the ham thinly sliced and lightly salted, and the whole thing comes together perfectly.

Jeff highly, highly recommends pork chops at Bacar–they’re mesquite-grilled smoked kurobuto chops, and smoking gives them a great bacon-like taste.

Pizzaiolo [Temescal]
5008 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
510-652-4888
Map

Cafe Rouge Meat Market [East Bay]
1782 4th St., at Hearst, Berkeley
510-525-1440
Locater
Amazon Locater

Gregoire [East Bay]
2109 Cedar St., Berkeley
510-883-1893
Locater
Amazon Locater

Bacar Restaurant & Wine Salon [SOMA]
448 Brannan St., San Francisco
415-904-4100
Locater
Amazon Locater

Board Links
Mighty Fine Pork: Pizzaiolo, Fatted Calf, Cafe Rouge, Gregoire

Masters of the Bean

Masters of the Bean

Today’s coffee connoisseurs want to be on a first-name basis with their roaster. They want to know not only which country the beans came from but which region, or even which “estate.” They obsess over freshness and brew time and water temperature. READ MORE