The CHOW Blog rss

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

I Want My BudTV

According to a report in Advertising Age, Anheuser-Busch will be launching its very own in-house film and production company. No, I haven’t been drinking, because as “huh?” as the connection might seem, this is not the first time a beverage company has whet their whistles on the big or small screen.

[Anheuser-Busch] is following closely in the footsteps of other megamarketers. Last winter, PepsiCo produced the snowboarding documentary First Descent through its Mountain Dew Films unit. And Starbucks Corp., which last year partnered with Lions Gate Films to market Akeelah and the Bee, intends to co-produce more features with Hollywood studios.

Not content to stick with showing us burp shots of drunk frogs or grabbing product placement in movies like Wedding Crashers, Anheuser-Busch “appears to be gearing up to produce a steady stream of original content.” Mike Fox, a California distributor with the company opines, ”’They’ve made it clear that they think the future is online, and I think we’re going to see a lot of short films and sitcom-type stuff.’”

So, this means either the critics are going to be buzzing about Desperate Swedish Bikiniwives or Everybody Loves Budweiser is going to win more Emmys than strictly necessary. Frankly, I think Buddlestar Galactica could be a major sleeper hit, but only if they agree to use green beer.

Meat and its makers

As if omnivores didn’t already have enough reasons to be picky about their protein sources, recent reports indicate that conventional meat companies routinely inject their products with salt, sugar, water, and other schmutz to “enhance” taste, since livestock today are bred for leanness at the expense of deliciousness. Consumers pay extra for these “enhancers,” which add weight to every hunk of chuck purchased (and may be worth their salt — the enhanced products have up to four times more sodium than the meat would otherwise contain).

It’s enough to make you want to stock your fridge with grass-fed meat and never leave the house. Livestock raised on pasture generally have a meatier natural flavor — no salt injections needed —than their corn-fed kin, even though grass-fed beasts are leaner. Granted, after watching some dear, dutiful friends choke down the grass-fed beef brisket I made in my new meat smoker a few weeks ago, I resolved to stop preaching the health and environmental benefits of pasture-raised protein until I could actually cook the stuff. But come on, what meat-eater can resist the idea of beef terroir?!

Purveyors of pastured meats swear that the subtle flavors of different grasses and the composition of the soil are reflected in the taste of the meat. Some taste-tests suggest that the differences are quite noticeable. What’s your experience?

Did he leave a trail of foam behind him?

Sources at eGullet say the brainy creations whipped by under-30, post-postmodern chef Paul Liebrandt are no longer on the menu at Gilt, the breathlessly expensive (and might we say, just a wee bit ill-timed) restaurant cooling down in the old Le Cirque 2000 space at the New York Palace Hotel. Even with the expanding popularity of molecular gastronomy and Ferran Adria-inspired, crazy-genius food that’s foamed, freeze-dried, or turned into a spray like a parmesan Binaca blast, it seems deeply cerebral, multi-part dishes like Liebrandt’s still play better downtown—or on the side of a mountain in Spain. After all, no one ever said “I just don’t get it” about a perfect steak. A less-than-enthusiastic review from The New York Times back in February couldn’t have helped either.

No doubt a bit dizzy after hiring and firing Liebrandt within a space of nine months, Gilt claims to be grooming Christopher Lee, late of Philadelphia’s Striped Bass, as new exec chef. But the deathwatch vultures at restaurant real-estate site Eater are standing by.

Girl vs. lobster tail

It’s Battle Crustacean at Food Musings, where Catherine gamely takes on the task of preparing lobster tail as a late Saturday supper for herself and Mr. Food Musings. The saga unfolds in seventeen acts, which include tears, bloodshed (yes, bloodshed!) and bitter recriminations. It’s a hilarious culinary saga for the record books, though yes, in the end, the lobster does win.

But watch out-hell hath no fury like a woman bested by a lobster tail.

Eye-Opening Taquitos, and the Best Taco Salad Ever

El Jarro is spectacular, reports anli. It’s all about freshness. Chicken taquitos are eye opening, with excellent corn tortillas and well-seasoned filling. They’re accompanied by good, freshly made guacamole. El Jarro’s taco salad is the best version she’s had. It, too, is superbly fresh, with a shell that tastes like it was fried seconds ago, and perfectly proportioned lettuce, tomatoes, beef, and cheese. SamuelA.L. says whenever he’s in Lafayette, he has to go to El Jarro. His favorite: their sole Oaxacan specialty, Oaxacan-style tortas. They’re filling, cheap, and very tasty. His favorite: the Cancun torta.

El Jarro Mexican Cafe [East Bay]
3563 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette
925-283-6639
Map

Board Links
El Jarro, Lafayette

Hot Soy Milk and Fresh Chinese Doughnuts, South Bay

A case might be made that all truly great breakfast foods involve dipping. There’s dipping doughnuts in coffee. There’s dipping churros in champurrado. There’s dipping biscuits in egg yolk. And, in China and its various annexes around the world, there’s dipping fresh you tiao (Chinese doughnuts) into hot soy milk. Where to find this sensational treat in the South Bay?

tiny taster recommends China Stix for good soy milk and you tiao. The rest of their dim sum menu is pretty good, too. A&J also serves soy milk and you tiao as part of their dim sum menu. However, both only do breakfast on weekends.

mikeop34 likes A&J, but for the largest selection of simple, hearty Chinese breakfasts foods, he suggests heading over to Chef Woo, which makes especially good dan bing (egg pancake). Also great sesame bun with beef, good fried buns, and one of the best beef noodle soups in the area, says atangca. Agrees Porthos, they’ve got the best Taiwanese breakfast foods in the South Bay. Again, breakfast weekends only.

Another excellent choice is Marina Supermarket, a Chinese grocery. They’ve got fan twan, soy milk with you tiao, and very delicious green scallion breads, all thick and tasty. Yet again, breakfast is weekends only.

L’Epi Dor Bakery offers you tiao and siao bing every day, though maybe not as great as Marina Supermarket. It’s good for a quick fix, says KK. You might want to call ahead and find out when they make the stuff, so you can get it fresh off the fryer.

wchane’s standard choices for Chinese breakfast are A&J Restaurant and 3.6.9., both in the same mall.

China Stix Restaurant [South Bay]
2110 El Camino Real, Santa Clara
408-244-1684
Locater

A & J Restaurant [South Bay]
1698 Hostetter Rd. # D, San Jose
408-441-8168
Locater

A & J Restaurant [South Bay]
10893 N. Wolfe Rd., Cupertino
408-873-8298
Locater

Chef Woo Chinese Restaurant [South Bay]
6154 Bollinger Rd., San Jose
408-255-7520
Locater

Marina Supermarket [South Bay]
Stevens Creek and De Anza Blvd.,Cupertino
Map

L Epi D Or Bakery [South Bay]
19675 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino
408-255-2221
Locater

3.6.9. [South Bay]
a.k.a. Do Re Mi Cafe
1698 Hostetter Rd., San Jose
408-441-9369
Locater

Board Links
Hot Soy Milk & Chinese Fried Doughnut Breakfast in South Bay?

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

Board Links
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

Board Links
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…