The CHOW Blog rss

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

We won’t stand for it

Will a prohibition on standing and drinking in pubs reduce the incidence of barroom brawls?

Police and health officials in Lancashire, England want to enforce a no-standing policy designed to preempt violent outbursts by preventing potential combatants from drinking while vertical.

In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Jack Turner, author of Spice: The History of a Temptation, questions the logic behind the initiative, citing a string of historical failures at
controlling eating and drinking: Boredom with Lenten dietary restrictions begat an indulgence in expensive, exotic ingredients and spices; the ideal of the communal “civic meal,” born in the French Revolution, was erased by the advent of restaurants, and so on.

My favorite example in Turner’s article has to be that of temperance movements in Australia and New Zealand which required that bars close
at 6 p.m. to encourage men to spend their evenings with their families rather than getting drunk. The result was that imbibing only accelerated, with drinkers cramming their drinking into “60 liquid minutes” (some pubs even “fitted a spigot on a hose to fill drinkers’ glasses as soon as they emptied”).

So what’s Turner’s solution for worried officials in Lancashire?

“The answer, I think, is known to anyone who has visited the tourist spots of Paris or Rome. Many a footsore traveler has retreated to a
cafe only to find, when the check arrives, that a coffee costs double when seated. In Lancashire maybe they should do the same but they
should, so to speak, turn the tables. Charge more to stand, and they’ll be falling over themselves to sit down.”

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto

NYC restaurant watchdog blog The Strong Buzz gives a little thumbnail sketch this week of BAMN!, a modern-day Automat stocked with Asian noshes and domestic comfort food.

For those of us born after 1950, a quick refresher course might be necessary. The Automat hovered somewhere between a vending machine and a full-on restaurant. A coin-operated machine surrogate took the place of the waitstaff, dispensing slices of pie, macaroni and cheese, rice pudding and a variety of other comfort foods for a few coins and the flip of a wrist.

BAMN! kicks this almost-completely-extinct concept squarely into the 21st century, serving up Asian buns and cakes, 100 percent beef sliders, and Musubi, which The Strong Buzz’s Andrea Strong describes as “a Hawaiian shaped seasoned cake topped with sliced beef.”

It unclear why anyone would want to eat a meat-garnished cake shaped like a Hawaiian, but BAMN! certainly sounds both exciting and difficult to pronounce.

Poo poo platter

Have you seen those rather…questionable commercials for Domino’s Pizza’s newest sugar-shocked treat and wondered if toilet paper would be free with delivery? You’re not the only one.

The commercial in question features a chocolate brownie that hugs Domino’s customers, smearing them with chocolate that looks, um, unsavory. As if the chocolate trails that the advertised Fudgems leave on its happy (or hapless?) victims wasn’t odd enough, as any South Park devotee knows, Chef once concocted his own batch of Fudge ‘Ems on the show as an extension of his original Chocolate Salty Balls recipe.

Posters in Television Without Pity’s thread “Commercials with People Who Should Just Go Away Now,” have had graphic reactions. Cyb says, “It does what I thought until recently was impossible: Makes me lose my appetite for chocolate,” and Muffyn adds, “That commercial really is disgusting. It looks like the chocolate block smeared feces on everyone.”

Add to all of that the fact that the Fudgem looks like a gas-passing Japanese television mascot and you gotta wonder first, “What the hell is Domino’s smoking?” and second, “Can I get it to go?”

Eat. Discuss. Die.

Inspired by a BBC food survey, Melissa at Travelers’ Lunchbox asks the food blog community to list five “things you’ve eaten and think that everyone should eat at least once before they die.”

The answers are rolling in. From the simplicity of a garden-fresh tomato warmed by the sun, to the sophisticated tasting menu at the French Laundry, food-obsessed bloggers are sending in their picks for the flavors of a lifetime. Melissa is posting the submissions at Travelers Lunchbox and the list is impressive.

Is there a clear winner? With contributions ongoing it is hard to tell, but the current leader is the delightful almond macaron cookies from Pierre Hermé.

Now, get thee to Paris (or Tokyo) and grab some macarons! You never know when the end is near.

Lick it up

Summer’s fading, so now’s the time to lick, munch and slurp through NYC’s best ice cream sandwiches. New York Magazine puts its insatiable roundup rustlers on the cookies ‘n’ cream beat to find the top handheld treats.

But no Chipwiches need apply: instead, these frozen delights are made by hand using top-notch ingredients like Il Laboratorio del Gelato ice cream and cookies chunked with Jacques Torres chocolate. Much to our surprise, the winner wasn’t the sleek bar at ‘wichcraft, but the humble lil’ cutie at One Girl Cookies, a tiny storefront bakery in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill that slathers ricotta gelato onto cakey pumpkin puffs.

Not everyone loves these chi-chi creations, however. Over at Gothamist, a poster shudders at the mere mention of (two) cheese-flavored fillings, while the East Coast/West Coast throwdown on A Full Belly ends in a TKO for Frisco’s It’s It.

Created at the original Playland-at-the-Beach seaside amusement park in 1928 and still made at a Bay Area factory, the It’s Its is a swirl
of ice cream (I love the cappuccino) sandwiched between two oatmeal cookies, dipped in chocolate, and sold for cheap at a corner store on
those three days when it’s actually hot enough to eat ice cream in San Francisco. Speaking of the Bay Area, as if those stock options
weren’t enough, worker bees at Google’s HQ now get a special rainbow-labeled, locally sourced, trans-fat-free version in their in-house cafeteria.

This cheese stands alone

As the embers of the 2007 grilling season fade to black, 101cookbooks has a suggestion for sending the summer off right —a magnificently simple but surprisingly flashy recipe featuring Halloumi cheese.

The appeal: you get throw cheese directly onto a grill! And it doesn’t melt into a molten puddle. Instead, it warms up and develops
a tasty exterior crust. For reasons known only to food scientists, the obscure-but-wonderful Halloumi is one of the few cheeses that can
stand up to grill-level heat and emerge as a perfectly forged medium for, say, the mini-green bean salad/appetizer featured on 101 Cookbooks.

Also worth reading: the recipe comments section, where a debate over the national origins of Halloumi (“It’s Greek!” “It’s Cypriot!”) threatens to spark a low-intensity ethnic riot.

Fleur de Sel Gelato

Bacco has an incredible dessert: toasted olive oil cake with fleur de sel gelato and caramel baked pears. The fleur de sel gelato is amazing–smooth and distinctly salty. That gelato is, by itself, worth a special trip, says Robert Lauriston.

Ristorante Bacco [Noe Valley]
737 Diamond St., at 24th St., San Francisco

Board Links
Fleur de sel gelato at Bacar

People’s Choice: Unbeatable West Indian Oxtails in Harlem

Do not miss the oxtails at People’s Choice Kitchen, insists Uptownflavor. Great, refreshing juices, too, at this Caribbean takeout joint in Harlem. m de p’s favorite is half pineapple, half carrot with milk.

People’s Choice Kitchen [Harlem]
2733 Frederick Douglass Blvd. (8th Ave.), between W. 145th and 146th Sts., Manhattan

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Harlem? Does anyone eat uptown?

New “Oaxacan” Spot

La Morenita Oaxaquena is a clean, homey new restaurant in a mini-mall at Third and New Hampshire. Chile relleno here is great, says Chowpatty–stuffed with chicken in a delicate batter and swimming in a super-spicy picadillo sauce. Strangely, considering the Oaxacan pedigree, mole negro with chicken is just okay; it’s not the most complex or thick mole around. Still, there are a lot of other Oaxacan and other specialties, and reasonably price breakfasts (chorizo and eggs, chilaquiles, etc). No alcohol, but plenty of aguas including horchata with cactus fruit and walnuts (tuna y nuez).

Chiles rellenos with black beans, rice, and salad is $7, chicken mole is $7.50.

La Morenita Oaxaquena [Koreatown]
3550 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles

Board Links
review–La Morenita Oaxaquena, new in Koreatown

At Flushing Mall, Knockout Dumplings and Other Sichuan Chow

Recent dispatches from the Flushing Mall food have focused mostly on Taiwanese and northern Chinese bites, but there’s also a vendor of robust Sichuan chow to be found. It’s called Chengdu, and it’s tucked away in the corner of the food court. It’s on the far right as you enter the court from the south.

They serve pork-and-chive dumplings the size of golf balls in devilishly red chile oil–so fresh they’re bursting with juice, almost like soup dumplings, reports astrid. A sprinkling of minced raw garlic adds a pungent blast of flavor. Fiery beef noodle soup is another winner, says Chandavkl. Cold noodles in peanut sauce are also delicious, though not spicy. Hot and sour noodles look tempting: a giant bowl of dark red broth heaped with scallions and cilantro.

Chengdu [Flushing]
in Flushing Mall food court
133-31 39th Ave., between Prince St. and College Point Blvd., lower level, Flushing, Queens

Board Links
Awesome Sichuan Dumplings (Flushing Food Court)–long