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

Low-Effort Desserts

Chowhounds share their favorite no-muss, no-fuss desserts.

Peel and slice very good ripe peaches. Top with sour cream…and grate some dark chocolate over the top…and sprinkle with cinnamon (kittyfood).

Slice orange rounds and lay out prettily on plates. Heat about a cup of raspberries (fresh or frozen) with about 2 T lemon juice, about 1/4 cup sugar, and a couple dashes of cinnamon until sugar is dissolved, raspberries are warm, and the liquid is slightly reduced. Pour sauce over oranges (Snackish).

Peel and cut up one orange per person, removing all pith, membranes, and seeds. Put orange segments in a bowl and drizzle with sweet Marsala. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts (AnneInMpls).

Toss fresh blueberries and green seedless grapes gently together; top with a dollop of sour cream, sprinkle with brown sugar. Serve cold (checkman).

Cut figs in half. Sprinkle with a little sugar, broil or torch to caramelize, and serve with rich yogurt and a drizzle of honey (curiousbaker).

Dip strawberries in sour cream and brown sugar (MollyGee).

Microwave some frozen raspberries until very warm. Mix in a few chocolate chips and top with a bit of whipped cream (marcia2).

A couple for those who don’t mind serving uncooked eggs:

Put 2 or 3 egg whites in a bowl and whip until foamy with an electric mixer. Add sugar until pretty sweet. Beat until glossy and holds firm peaks. Fold in applesauce–homemade if possible. (danna).

Butter a springform pan and sprinkle bottom with gingersnap crumbs. Make a standard key lime pie filling, fold in whipped cream. Spoon into the springform pan and freeze. Thaw somewhat, then slice and serve (curiousbaker).

Board Links: Best Low-Effort Desserts? +Lemon Slice recipe

Two Winning Ways with Mussels

This mussel prep with South East Asian flavors is popular among chowhounds. Saute ginger, lemongrass, and garlic; add white wine, coconut milk, and mussels; cover, and steam until mussels have opened. Add cilantro after mussels are done. You can also use the broiler or a large saute pan on an outdoor grill to cook your mussels, says Kitchen Queen.

Marge serves mussels Portuguese style: steamed, then chilled, served on the half shell, topped with a salsa of chopped fresh tomato, sweet onion, garlic, and cilantro. Perfect with some Champagne or vinho verde.

Board Links: New Zealand Green Mussels

A Chowhound’s Guide to Finger Lakes Wine Country

Summer visitors to Finger Lakes wine country will find plenty to eat between vineyard visits, from fancy French to pub grub. Here’s a selection of hound-endorsed choices, high and low.

CANANDAIGUA LAKE

Max on the Lake, Canandaigua: Solid, simple, upscale American at the Inn on the Lake resort–steaks, roast chicken, sauteed salmon, etc.

MacGregor’s Grill and Tap Room, Canandaigua: Not far from Max, a nice downscale option. The Finger Lakes outpost of an upstate mini-chain has decent burgers, wraps, fried seafood, and other pub fare.

El Rincon Mexicano, Canandaigua: This place inspires confidence by nailing the basics–beans, rice, salsas, etc.–and is a fine spot to while away an afternoon with chow and cerveza, says jbird.

KEUKA LAKE

Esperanza Mansion, Bluff Point: phishphyx prefers the more casual Grill Room (sandwiches, burgers, pastas, grilled and roasted meats) to the formal dining room, the Mansion. “Amazing views…the staff can be a little flaky.”

Bully Hill Vineyards, Hammondsport: Solid American chow (steaks, salmon, chicken Marsala, pork tenderloin, crab cakes, etc.) in a beautiful setting with attention-grabbing views, says sg.

SENECA LAKE

Stonecat Cafe, Hector: Eclectic, heavily organic American food, including house-smoked meats and fish, on a deck overlooking the lake. Quite good, says Joseph Moryl.

Suzanne, Lodi: French-inflected “country elegant” cuisine. The short, often-changing menu focuses on local ingredients (like the Riesling that flavors the sauce that accompanies roast free-range chicken). Mark A. Bauman reports a fabulous dinner there last summer.

Dano’s Heuriger, Lodi: Viennese-inspired roast meats and other hearty food. A must-eat, says Laura Rebecca.

Ports Cafe, Geneva: Eclectic American with Southwestern accents like fajitas and steak-black bean quesadillas.

Fox Run Vineyards cafe, Penn Yan: A fine lunch spot for sandwiches, salads, soups, etc.

Veraisons at Glenora Wine Cellars, Dundee: French-influenced food with fusiony touches like chipotle Caesar salad and cumin-chile-crusted calamari steak. Good food, “a little ambitious with sauces and chutneys,” says tagine.

CAYUGA LAKE

Pumpkin Hill Bistro, Aurora: Solid American chow–steaks, burgers, roast duck, chicken pot pie, etc.–in a beautifully restored 1820 house. “A great, tucked-away little place. Food is mostly great, the staff is super-nice,” says phishphyx.

Knapp Vineyards Restaurant, Romulus: Steaks, seafood and more, with Louisiana accents like blackened chicken and Cajun sausage-vegetable saute. Enjoy sprightly flavored champagne cocktails and gorgeous vineyard views.

Ithaca Farmers Market, Ithaca: An appealing road-trip option for breads, fruit, sweets, and good prepared foods, including vegetarian, Vietnamese, and Thai choices. Open Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at this time of year.

SKANEATELES LAKE

Giverny at Mirbeau: Upscale French-influenced American food, emphasizing seasonal local produce, with a couple of tasting-menu options. A smaller, cheaper bistro menu is served in the bar area. “Absolutely wonderful ambience, local fresh ingredients, excellent wine list,” writes daveinchelsea.

Rosalie’s Cucina, Skaneateles: Grilled prime meats and other upscale Tuscan. One of the best options around the lake, says JimmyG, though inconsistent. “Portions are large (at prices to match). I have had good meals and some not so hot.”

Sherwood Inn, Skaneateles: Seafood-heavy American menu, charming setting. JimmyG finds the less formal Tavern a better bet than the inn’s Dining Room.

Blue Water Grill, Skaneateles: Stick to simple orders–like fish sandwiches, which Sara pronounces excellent–at this spot right on the lake.

The Krebs, Skaneateles: Traditional chow in a procession of courses–fruit cup, roasted meats, creamed mushrooms with toast points, and the like–that has barely changed since 1899. Some say it’s gone way downhill. Central New Yorker, a fan of its desserts and lobster Newburg, finds it “a nice expedition into the culinary past.”

Doug’s Fish Fry, Skaneateles: Big, fresh fish sandwiches and other seafood in a casual setting–“and I mean sit-at-a-counter-or-picnic-table casual,” says tracie. Afterward, head for the ice cream parlor near the marina, grab a cone, and take a stroll on the pier.

WINERIES

Hound reports have tended to focus on food rather than wine, but daveinchelsea suggests that some of the best stuff comes from the wineries around Keuka and Cayuga Lakes. He singles out a couple: Konstantin Frank (“capable of some of the finest Rieslings outside of Germany and France”) and Treleaven. For a guide to the region’s wineries with an interactive map, see: http://www.fingerlakeswine.com

Max on the Lake Restaurant [Ontario County]
770 S. Main St., at Canandaigua Inn on the Lake, Canandaigua, NY
Map

MacGregor’s Grill and Tap Room [Ontario County]
759 S. Main St., at Lakeshore Dr., Canandaigua, NY
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El Rincon Mexicano Dos [Ontario County]
5 Beeman St., at Main St., Canandaigua, NY
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Esperanza Mansion [Yates County]
3456 Rte. 54A, Bluff Point, NY
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Bully Hill Restaurant [Steuben County]
Greyton H. Taylor Memorial Dr., at Bully Hill Vineyards, Hammondsport, NY
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Stonecat Cafe [Schuyler County]
5315 State Rte. 414, near Norbud Rd., Hector, NY
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Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine [Seneca County]
9013 State Rte. 414, between Upper Lake Rd. and N. Miller Rd., Lodi, NY
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Dano’s Heuriger on Seneca [Seneca County]
9564 State Rte. 414, between County Rds. 149 and 137, Lodi, NY
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Ports Cafe [Ontario County]
4432 W, Lake Rd., at Clarks Pt., Geneva, NY
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Fox Run Vineyards [Yates County]
670 State Rte. 14, between Angus and Carlson Rds., Penn Yan, NY
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Veraisons Restaurant [Yates County]
5435 State Rte 14., at the Inn at Glenora Wine Cellars, Dundee, NY
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Pumpkin Hill Bistro [Cayuga County]
2051 State Rte. 90, between Moonshine and Lake Rds., Aurora, NY
Map

Knapp Vineyards Restaurant [Seneca County]
2770 Ernsberger Rd. (County Rd. 128), between Main St. and Rte. 89, Romulus, NY
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Ithaca Farmers Market [Tompkins County]
545 3rd St., at Steamboat Landing, Ithaca, NY
Map

Giverny [Onondaga County]
851 W. Genesee St. (Rte 20.), at Mirbeau Inn and Spa, Skaneateles, NY
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Rosalie’s Cucina [Onondaga County]
841 W. Genesee St. (Rte 20.), between Fuller St. and County Line Rd., Skaneateles, NY
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Sherwood Inn [Onondaga County]
26 W. Genesee St. (Rte. 20), between Jordan and Hannum, Skaneateles, NY
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Blue Water Grill [Onondaga County]
11 W. Genesee St. (Rte 20.), between Jordan and Hannum, Skaneateles, NY
315-685-6600
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The Krebs [Onondaga County]
53 W. Genesee St. (Rte. 20), between Hannum and Griffin, Skaneateles, NY
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Doug’s Fish Fry [Onondaga County]
8 Jordan St., near E. Genesee St., Skaneateles, NY
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Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars [Steuben County]
9749 Middle Rd., at Wright Rd., Hammondsport, NY
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King Ferry Winery [Cayuga County]
658 Lake Rd., between Rte. 90N and Atwater Rd., King Ferry, NY
Map

Board Links: Buffalo-Rochester-Finger Lakes–where to stop for a bite…
Does The Finger Lakes area have ANY good restaurants?
Good Food in the Finger Lakes (specifically Keuka) area?
Finger lakes region
Name of restaurant near Skaneateles please?

Dona Maria: Mexican Bright Spot in Suffern, NY

Dona Maria, open since spring, brings something different–and welcome–to Suffern. It’s Mexican food, “but nothing like Rockland has ever seen,” reports Deven Black; “much, much better than the canned beans and reheated glop” slung by some local competitors. Expect bright, authentic flavors in inventive, slightly dressed-up dishes that really work–like seared salmon, seasoned with a dusting of chiles and herbs, or a Mexico-and-beyond cheese plate of anejo, cotija, and Manchego, among other choices. “Everything is cooked fresh,” Deven adds, “except the beans and sauces, which are made the way they should be…very slowly.”

Dona Maria Mexican Bistro [Rockland County]
41 Lafayette Ave., near Chestnut St., Suffern, NY
845-357-2139
Map

Board Links: Fiesta Garibaldi in Nyack gone

“Pizza” by Another Name: Lahmajoun

Lahmajoun is kind of like a Middle Eastern pizza, a crispy flat crust smeared with seasoned ground meat. They’re best, of course, straight out of the oven. Go to Sasoun Bakery, and you’ll likely see people waiting around for fresh, hot and delicious lahmajoun. Sasoun also has pretty good boreks, triangular savory pastries filled with cheese or spinach.

But Burger Boy swears that Partamian has the best lahmajoun in the city.

And Koko’s Bakery has great breads, lahmajoun and boreks, says Tom Swift.

Sasoun Bakery [East San Fernando Valley]
625 E Colorado Blvd., at Glendale Ave., Glendale
818-502-5059
Map

Sasoun Bakery [East Hollywood]
5114 Santa Monica Blvd., at Normandie, Los Angeles
323-661-1868
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Abraham Partamian Armenian Bakery [South LA]
5410 W Adams Blvd., at Burnside, Los Angeles
323-937-2870
Map

Koko’s Bakery [Pasadena-ish]
1674 E Washington Blvd., at Oxford, Pasadena
626-798-2543
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Board Links: Turkish Pizza??

Me, You, and BBQ

It’s not quite Kansas City style, but the BBQ spare ribs at Thai ‘N I are almost as tender and every bit as tasty as the best baby backs, says kdoc. These things are Flinstones-huge (about 9 inches), and have a distinctly different flavor from traditional American BBQ, but they’re outrageously tasty. The chicken is also top-notch. And you’d never get pad thai or mee krob at an American BBQ joint.

The green salad has a nice-and-tangy ginger vinaigrette, and their wonton soup is unusually garlicky and rich, with delicious chicken-stuffed wontons, says davinagr.

A rib-chicken combo is $10.

Thai ‘n I [West San Fernando Valley]
17544 Ventura Blvd., at Encino Ave., Encino
818-783-8424
Map

Board Links: Thai ‘N I BBQ review–Encino

Frascati – Neighborhood Action

In an area with lots of little neighborhood joints, Frascati is the choicest. First courses include perfect gazpacho, outstanding charcuterie, wonderful tuna tartar, and duck rillettes and salad with rabbit rillettes. Entrees include duck breast with hazelnut-sweet corn wild rice and morels; pork tenderloin with Italian sausage, and halibut with clams in broth. Every single dish is spot-on, reports rtmonty.

They’re famous for their black and white pudding; it’s one of the best bread puddings in town. Blueberry tarts are equally wonderful.

Frascati [Russian Hill]
1901 Hyde St., at Green, San Francisco
415-928-1406
Map

Board Links: Frastati Report

Bun Comin’ At Cha!

Vietnamese makes for good summer food. One favorite is bun cha. In the US, it’s cool, springy rice vermicelli, with grilled meat and herbs on top and veggies on the side. The traditional version you’ll find in Vietnam serves the charred meat on the side, in a bowl with warm, tangy broth.

You can get the standard US meat-on-top version at Loi’s. “I love Loi’s with a burning passion,” says pane. Their bun cha is excellent–the char on the meat is unbelievable, and the meat itself is quite fresh. If you get there early enough, you may see the owner walking through the restaurant with live chickens.

Hung Ky’s bun cha rocks, says chaddict. It’s the traditional Vietnamese style, with the meat in a separate bowl in lovely broth.

Bodega Bistro makes lovely bun cha with grilled pork and pork sausage pieces in the tangy broth, says david kaplan. Noodles, picked carrots & daikon, and a pile of herbs come on the side, along with lettuce leaves for wrapping. It’s delectable, agrees fino wino. The slightly fatty pork is so tender and the broth is so good, he’d sup it like soup.

Binh Minh Quan also serves the traditional bun cha. And Saigon has a decent version.

Loi’s Vietnamese Restaurant [Sunset]
2228 Irving St., San Francisco
415-661-5936
Map

Hung Ky Restaurant [Tenderloin]
337 Jones St., San Francisco
415-674-8278
Map

Bodega Bistro [Tenderloin]
607 Larkin St., San Francisco
415-921-1218
Map

Binh Minh Quan Restaurant [Chinatown]
338 12th St., Oakland
510-893-8136
Map

Saigon City Restaurant [Peninsula]
418 E 3rd Ave., San Mateo
650-340-8878
Map

Board Links: Authentic Bun Cha in bay area?

Scottish Oatcakes

Scottish oatcakes will surprise you, if you’re expecting them to taste like cookies. A real deal oatcake is 100% oats, with some sort of shortening, baking soda, salt, and water. That’s it. The result is a coarse, very dry, thin biscuit that’s strangely addictive.

Oat cakes are easy to find in the UK, where they’re eaten with butter, jelly, or as a vehicle for cheese, fish, or meat. Paul J has seen them at Cost Plus World Market (an Oakland, CA-based chain with stores all over the US). British import shops would likely carry them, as well.

Walker’s makes a variety of them, which you can buy online via web site.

Board Links: Scottish Oat Cakes

Tender Stir-Fried Beef

The two keys to making tender stir-fried beef are 1) how you slice the meat and 2) how you cook it. Hounds’ favorite cut for stir-frying is flank steak, but they also like top round and sirloin. Here’s how to slice and cook for tender results.

-Slice the meat against the grain in even, very thin slices. Partial freezing makes it easier to cut thin and evenly.

-Make sure the oil is very hot. Stir-fry for just a minute or two. Once the pink is almost gone, it’s done.

TorontoJo offers these tips for making a great beef-and-vegetable stir-fry: 1) marinate the beef for 15-20 minutes before cooking in some soy sauce and sherry (add a couple teaspoons of cornstarch if you’d like for thickening); 2) fry garlic/ginger for a few seconds before adding beef; when beef is done, remove to a bowl; 3) add more oil to pan if needed, then stir-fry vegetables until almost done. Return beef to pan, along with whatever sauce ingredients you are using, and cook for a just a few seconds more to marry everything together.

mhoffman add this tip for those with electric stoves or who otherwise need help getting pans really hot: preheat your pan in a 500 or 550 degree oven. Just make sure to use a pot holder!

Board Links: Best Beef for Stir-Fry ?