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

Noodling Around SGV

Jerome recounts some of his fantastic recent Chinese-restaurant pasta adventures:

Ma Lan: Part of the fun here is watching the guy make the noodles. Standard Ma Lan soup noodles, double thick, and single-thickness cold noodles with sesame sauce are great. The soup broth is a bit on the mild side, though.

Eight Cafe/Guilin Mifen: This place specializes in Guilin-style rice flour noodles, which are a bit thicker than rice vermicelli and have more of a wheat texture. Spicy and sour beef Guilin rice noodles are really good, earthy and pungent with what seems like licorice root. Chicken guilin soup rice noodles isn’t nearly as interesting. There’s a fairly unusual condiment on the tables: Guilin chile sauce. It’s in a small pot next to the “regular” chile paste. It’s a little gamy, with a hit of medicinal-herb aroma, but it’s just the thing to punch up something like their preserved cow tendon (this may sound disturbing but is actually just like regular five-spiced beef).

Heavy Noodling: This is the place for knife-cut dao xiao noodles, pared off a cone of dough directly into boiling water. The taste and texture is a lot like pappardelle–great for Italian food lovers. The other thing to get is cat’s ears (mao erduo), which also have an Italian equivalent: orecchiette, or little ears. These come with a topping of scrambled eggs, onions and mushrooms. Small and round, they’re tough to pick up no matter what kind of utensils you’re wielding.

Malan Noodles [Inland of LA]
2020 S. Hacienda Blvd., at Haliburton Rd., Hacienda Heights
626-369-5602
Locater

Guilin Mifen [San Gabriel Valley]
a.k.a Eight Cafe or A Cafe
110 E. Garvey Ave., at Garfield, Monterey Park
626-572-7688
Locater

Heavy Noodling [San Gabriel Valley]
153 E. Garvey Ave., at Garfield, Monterey Park
626-307-9583
Locater
Amazon Locater

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OK–noodles tonight.

Fresh Out of the Chocolate Box

The goodies at the new Chocolate Box Cafe are all imported from Belgium with strict attention to freshness, and they’re perfectly creamy and well flavored. Whether you choose dark chocolate mango ganache, green tea, or ginger, the flavor permeates the entire chocolate, says pleasurepalate. There’s also gelato imported from Italy (lemon gelato is particularly great), and the owner has big plans for chocolate tastings, wine pairings, and hot chocolate when the weather gets cooler.

Another place with excellent, creamy chocolates and interesting flavors is L’Artisan du Chocolat, with kumquat, kalamata olive, and Aztec flavors (apricot with three different types of chiles).

Kitchen Queen insists that for chocolate, Compartes is untouchable–especially the super-sexy Love Nuts. Don’t miss the chocolate-dipped apricots or raspberry ganache, either.

Chocolate Box Cafe [East San Fernando Valley]
714 Foothill Blvd., La Canada
818-790-7918
Map

L’Artisan du Chocolat [East Hollywood]
3364 W. 1st St., Los Angeles
310-880-9396
Map

Compartes of California Chocolate [Wealthy Westlands]
912 S. Barrington Ave., Los Angeles
310-826-3380
Locater

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New Belgium Chocolate Shop Just Opened!

Tuller Bows Out, and Other News from Brooklyn and Beyond

Tuller Premium Food, a Cobble Hill destination for fancy chow, especially cheese, has changed hands and shut its doors. It’s expected to reopen soon with new ownership and a new focus: less cheese and more prepared foods, reports bothrops_asper.

Some locals think the shop was hurt recently by high-end competitors like nearby newcomer Stinky Brooklyn, where one of Tuller’s former cheese whizzes is now behind the counter. “Stinky is a far more approachable store,” says Larry Brooks. Recent memorable bites from the new shop: superior Serrano ham, Arina goat Gouda from the Netherlands, Neal’s Yard Stilton from England, and excellent garlic-crusted bread.

Elsewhere in Brooklyn, Jamaican favorite Christie’s has moved half a block into new digs where you can actually sit down. Beef patties and light, fluffy coco bread are as good as ever, says noisejoke.

You can also sit down these days at Floral Park’s Kerala Kitchen. Once a takeout-only shop, it’s recently metamorphosed into a bright, roomy restaurant a few blocks east of its old quarters. For the fiery, tropical chow of India’s southern Kerala state, this is the only game in town–and it’s just barely in town, being within a block or so of the Nassau County line.

In other news from Queens, Long Island City’s Pimenton has morphed from a Spanish restaurant into an upscale Tuscan place called Da Gianni. And a couple of past hound favorites have cashed out: Ariel in Sunnyside, a pizzeria with improbably excellent pastas, meat courses, and other Italian food, and Pho Binh in Elmhurst, a Vietnamese place that had been up and down, most recently up.

On Long Island, Turkish restaurant Mediterranean Kitchen in Bellmore has closed and been replaced by a French place called Sage.

And up in Saratoga Springs, the well-regarded bistro Chez Sophie has moved up from its old converted dining car into an elegant new room in downtown’s Saratoga Hotel. markp reports delicate mussels in savory broth–a happy match with a Belgian ale.

Tuller Premium Food [Cobble Hill]
199 Court St., between Bergen and Wyckoff, Brooklyn
718-222-9933
Locater

Stinky Brooklyn [Cobble Hill]
261 Smith St., between Degraw and Douglass, Brooklyn
718-522-7425
Locater

Christie’s Jamaican Patties [Park Slope]
387 Flatbush Ave., near Carlton Ave., Brooklyn
718-636-9746
Map

Kerala Kitchen [Floral Park]
267-05 Hillside Ave., at 267th St., Floral Park, Queens
718-470-1702
Locater

Da Gianni [Long Island City]
formerly Pimenton
21-50 44th Dr., between 21st and 23rd Sts., Long Island City, Queens
718-707-0442
Map

Ariel Pizzeria and Restaurant [Sunnyside]
43-46 46th St., between Queens Blvd. and 43rd Ave., Sunnyside, Queens
Map

Pho Binh [Elmhurst]
40-10 74th St., near Broadway, Elmhurst, Queens
718-651-4330
Map

Sage [Nassau County]
formerly Mediterranean Kitchen
2620 Merrick Rd., between Centre Marks Aves., Bellmore, NY
516-679-8928
Map

Chez Sophie Bistro [Saratoga County]
534 Broadway, in the Saratoga Hotel, Saratoga Springs, NY
518-583-3538
Locater

Board Links
hidden saratoga
Queens Pizza Tour–I need help!
Stinky
Tuller no more?
Greek on Merrick Road in Bellmore
Good Indian in/near Bayside?
Best, most authentic Spanish paella in NYC??
Chrystie’s on Flatbush new location report
Pho Binh–74th St in Elmhurst

Promising Banh Mi at A Chau (and Other Sandwich News)

Chinatown has a new banh mi spot: A Chau Deli, and it’s a contender. Our first report says it’s in the same league as Saigon Banh Mi, a solid favorite among Manhattan hounds. squid kun reports a nicely balanced pate-and-cold cut sandwich from the newcomer, with ample meat, brightly dressed carrot-cucumber slaw, and a vigorous chile kick. Their vegetable knifework is particularly commendable, making the whole thing easier to eat. Open since June, A Chau also has spring rolls, salads and other dishes. And for alfresco diners, it’s just half a block from Columbus Park.

Saigon Banh Mi remains on top of its game, most say, turning out a signature sandwich overstuffed with deeply flavored coarse-chopped barbecued pork. “Still far and away the best,” declares guttergourmet, though some complain of long waits and occasional soggy premade sandwiches.

Other banh mi hunters remind us not to walk past a Vietnamese electronics store without pausing for a sniff–there might just be a sandwich counter in there alongside the CDs, cell phones, and karaoke video discs. That’s the setup at Tu Quynh, where SLAP reports decent sandwiches, and Khai Tri, a music store with a banh mi operation called Ba Le.

A couple miles uptown, anne loves the sandwiches at Bao Noodles, which offers sandwiches with the classic cold cut and pate, grilled pork, grilled shrimp, OR rotisserie chicken. They’re $6–twice the going rate in Chinatown–but she thinks they’re worth it.

Perennial favorites for Vietnamese sandwiches include Banh Mi So 1 and Nicky’s, especially for its pork chop banh mi, says big o. By the way, Nicky’s long-awaited Brooklyn branch remains in regulatory limbo, but the owners promise it’ll open soon, possibly within a month.

A Chau [Chinatown]
82A Mulberry St., between Bayard and Canal, Manhattan
212-766-3332
Map

Saigon Banh Mi [Chinatown]
a.k.a. Saigon Bakery
138 Mott St., between Grand and Hester, Manhattan
212-941-1541
Map

Tu Quynh Center [Chinatown]
230 Grand St. #A3, between Bowery and Elizabeth, Manhattan
212-966-6878
Map

Ba Le Deli [Chinatown]
145-147 Canal St., between Bowery and Chrystie, in Khai Tri music and electronics store, Manhattan, NY
212-219-2073
Locater

Bao Noodles [Flatiron]
391 2nd Ave., between 22nd and 23rd Sts., Manhattan
212-725-7770
Locater

Banh Mi So 1 [Little Italy]
369 Broome St., between Mott and Elizabeth, Manhattan
212-219-8341
Locater

Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches [East Village]
150 E. 2nd St., near Ave. A, Manhattan
212-388-1088
Locater

Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches [Boerum Hill]
to open at…311 Atlantic Ave., between Hoyt and Smith Sts., Brooklyn
Locater

Board Links
Suggestions for Ultimate Annual Manhattan Chow Crawl
Banh Mi
BANH MI
Boerum Hill to be Banh Mi central? Nicky’s is coming…

Salted Capers

Some chowhounds think salt-packed capers are tastier than capers jarred in brine, but the salt-packed ones take a bit of prep work. You’ll need to rinse off the salt and then soak the capers in water for half an hour, or they’ll be too salty to eat.

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what to do with salted capers?

Frozen Basil Cubes

Summer is high season for fresh basil. Here’s a neat way of keeping basil for the winter months: freeze it into basil ice cubes. First, rinse and dry the leaves. Next, chop the basil in a food processor with just enough olive oil to form a thick paste. Press the paste into ice cube trays–about a tablespoon of paste per cube. Once frozen, pop the cubes out and store them in freezer bags or rigid plastic containers. You can often add the frozen basil cubes directly to a dish as it’s cooking, notes Nyleve.

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Basil cube season again

Packaged Crabmeat

You can’t beat fresh hand-picked crabmeat, when you can find it pristinely fresh. But when you can’t, there are other options.

If you plan to cook with the crabmeat, Pitu recommends a canned product called SEAsia. It’s kept on ice in seafood section of many grocery stores.

Many folks really like the Phillips brand lump variety crabmeat, carried by Costco and Sam’s Club in one-pound cans. It’s in the refrigerated section. Kim Shook has had nothing but good luck with this brand. He’s cooked with it, and used it for crab cocktails, and says it’s very dependable and good. It’s Southeast Asian crab, not blue crab.

Chicken of the Sea crabmeat, on the other hand, comes in “shelf-stable” foil packages, so it’s easy to keep around, says SavorySam.

Board Links
Any good canned or frozen crab out there? [Moved from Home Cooking]

Croissants By Mail

Croissants from Williams-Sonoma are made in the French tradition: light, buttery, and many-layered. They arrive frozen; you’ll need to let them thaw and rise overnight before you bake them. abe1329 has enjoyed croissants in Paris, and declares that Williams-Sonoma’s taste just as fresh. “An excellent splurge”!

Available plain or filled with Callebaut chocolate.

Order at Williams Sonoma.

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Delicious Croissants

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?