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

And the Best Sausage Pizza Is…

The best sausage pizza in all of the Bay Area is at Nizza La Bella, reports rworange. The thing to order here is the “For Lombardi” pizza, with fennel sausage and aged mozzerella. They make their own sausage and their own cheese. The sausage embodies every goodness of Italian sausage: a deep fennel flavor, an intense meatiness, all without any greasiness. The cheese is lovely and flavorful, and the little dabs of sauce are nice, too. The crust is appropriately thin, with good crackle. It is a deeply, gruntingly satisfying pizza. It is also a distinctly Italian pizza, so don’t go expecting a classic New York slice. Says twocents, all the pizzas are good, but any with that fennel sausage on it is truly great. Important: to get house-made cheese, you must request it.

Chicken paillard is unexpectedly great, says Morton the Mousse. The breast is perfectly cooked. “Some would send it back as too rare, but those folks don’t know what chicken should taste like,” he says. The chicken is tender, moist, and vastly superior to the majority of boringly grilled chicken breast. It’s served over fries, which makes them limp but wonderfully chickeny.

Also recommended: socca, salade lyonnaise, salade anchoiade, macaroni gratin, onglet steak-frites, skirt steak frites, and bouillabaisse. Their cocktails are uniformly beautiful and uniformly excellent.

The place has gone through some staff changes, and is in the process of expanding and Italianizing their menu. Food quality has increased dramatically. So if you went long ago and were disappointed, give it another shot; many, many chowhounds have begun to fervently recommend the place. anli dares claim that the new incarnation of Nizza La Bella even beats out Pizzaiola.

Nizza La Bella [East Bay]
827 San Pablo Ave., Albany

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Albany–Nizza La Bella – The Bay Area’s best sausage pizza

Tofu Tip

The life of store-bought tofu can be extended for a long time. Just store it in a brine solution of tap water and kosher salt. Do change the water occasionally (i.e., every other day or so).

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Here’s how long beancurd lasts:

Milkshake in a Bottle

Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, Cherry Garcia, and Fudge Brownie ice cream flavors now come in milkshake form, bottled a la Starbuck’s Frappuccino. Made with shelf-stable milk, they don’t require refrigeration (chill before drinking, though).

Dexters has tried Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey, and likes the latter the best, but calls both “decent.”

Read a review of these new products from the Free Press.

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Has anyone tried the bottled Ben and Jerry’s Milkshakes?

Best References for Fast Meals

Fresh Food Fast,” by Peter Birley: A vegetarian cookbook with plenty of appeal for omnivores, arranged by season–plus menus and shopping lists.

Seriously Simple,” by Diane Rossen Worthington: Quick, easy, and often elegant dishes that aren’t dumbed down for time’s sake…with plenty of simple variations so you won’t get bored.

Fast Food My Way,” by Jacques Pepin: Easy and sensible recipes, perfect for everyday meals.

Twenty-Minute Menus,” by Marian Burros: A no-nonsense, practical approach, emphasizing healthful recipes.

Everyday Food Magazine: tasty, quick recipes using fresh ingredients.

Warning: chowhounds have found that Rachael Ray’s “30-Minute Meals” are simply impossible to produce in 30 minutes…unless you have a prep cook.

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Fast Meals Cookbook

Wild Blueberry Cream Pie

If you’re able to get your hands on some fresh or frozen wild blueberries from the Northeast, this recipe (courtesy of Candy) is the perfect way to showcase both their intense flavor and deep color. Chock-full of tiny wild berries, when you cut into the pie, “it almost looks like caviar.” (Note: this recipe doesn’t work well with the usual big, cultivated blueberries.)

1 unbaked 9” piecrust
4 cups wild blueberries
2/3 cup sugar
4 T flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place blueberries in crust in pie plate. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over berries. Bake 35-40 minutes. Cool before slicing.

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Wild Blueberries

Holsten’s: Good Old-Fashioned Ice Cream in Bloomfield, NJ

What keeps people coming back to the venerable Holsten’s, established 1939, is ice cream of superior flavor and creamy texture. Vanilla fudge, nutty coconut, and cookies-n-cream are big favorites. Also, anything “chip”–coffee chip, mint chip, or chocolate chip, advises Felixnot: “It’s been our favorite for years, and we are fortunate that we can take a long walk to it on a summer evening.” Holsten’s wins bonus points for atmosphere. “I love the old-fashioned ice cream parlor. It reminds me of the good old days!” rhapsodizes nizza.

Other New Jersey ice cream lovers swear by Thomas Sweet in Princeton and New Brunswick (go for chocolate with a raspberry blend-in, urges fpatrick) or Applegate Farm, a mini-chain with eight stores in Bergen, Essex, Union, Morris, Monmouth, and Passaic counties.

Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionery [Essex County]
1063 Broad St., between Watchung and Johnson Aves., Bloomfield, NJ 07003

Thomas Sweet Ice Cream and Chocolate [Mercer County]
179 Nassau St., between Vandeventer Ave. and Moore St., Princeton, NJ

Thomas Sweet Ice Cream and Chocolate [Middlesex County]
55 Easton Ave., between Condict and Somerset Sts., New Brunswick, NJ

Applegate Farm Homemade Ice Cream [Jersey-wide]
multiple locations

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The best homemade ice cream

Cubanos from Manhattanville to Long Island City

Flor de Broadway, a bare-bones corner shop in Manhattanville, does little more than Cuban sandwiches, and they kill, says Alan Henderson.

Downtown, the Sophie’s mini-chain continues to turn out decent cheap Cubanos.

In Queens, djalexis recommends Las Vegas Restaurant, whose Cubano boasts first-rate roast pork with crispy cracklings, along with deli ham and strong Swiss cheese. But its garlic sauce is subpar, adds dj: “I love garlic, but this spread is cheap.”

La Flor de Broadway [Harlem]
3401 Broadway, at W. 138th St., Manhattan

Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine [Financial District]
73 New St., between Beaver St. and Exchange Pl., Manhattan

Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine [Civic Center]
96 Chambers St., between Church St. and Broadway, Manhattan

Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine [Murray Hill]
179 Madison Ave., between 33rd and 34th Sts., Manhattan

Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine [Midtown East]
369 Lexington Ave., between 41st and 40th Sts., Manhattan

Las Vegas Restaurant [Long Island City]
44-62 21st St., between 44th Dr. and 45th Ave., Long Island City, Queens

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Chow in Hamilton Heights
best sandwiches in lower manhattan?
Riverdale Restaurants
Best Cuban Sandwich in NYC —What makes it authentic?

Gelato from the Old Country’s Old School

If you like real gelato, run, don’t walk to Bulgarini, hidden away in the courtyard of the Pacific Asia Museum, says revets2. Recently raved about in LA Weekly, these guys studied with some of the best gelato makers (I’m sure there’s a particular Italian word for such people) and churn it up in the old style.

Hazelnut gelato is made with Oregon nuts, and the complexity and texture are just unreal.

Pistachio uses northern Italian nuts, ground to a paste; it’s incredibly intense and not too sweet.

Mango is pure fresh fruitiness. Might bring you to tears.

Limited availability, though: Open Friday-Sunday only, 11 a.m.-6 p.m..

Bulgarini Gelato [Pasadena-ish]
in Pacific Asia Museum
46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena

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Bulgarini Gelato–The Best

Filipino Finds

The super-friendly, family-owned Filipino restaurant Alejandro’s has a great crew in the kitchen, says grc, including chefs from the well-regarded, now defunct Barrio Fiesta. Alejandro’s, which has been open about six months, is a good place to get a range of Filipino specialties.

A West Valley secret, says Veggietales, is Nipa Hut, a fast-food joint with amazing garlic fried chicken. Give your craving a day of rest, though–they’re closed on Sundays.

At Davao Tuna Grill, you can get healthy Filipino food without all the typical grease, says Silent Android. Who knew it was possible?

Salo Salo Grill may have the most consensus as a good all-around Filipino restaurant right now. Of course, their specialty is grilled dishes, but you’ll do well with their other dishes. Veggietales warns, though, that the pancit is disappointing.

Some are happy with Max’s of Manila, for the famed fried chicken–crispy yet juicy, says Danimal n Hustler–and crispy pata. But Silent Android insists, “If you’re Filipino, you will hate Max’s in Glendale with a passion.”

Many reasons are given, but to read them all you’ll have to…

Alejandro’s [Eagle Rock]
4126 Verdugo Rd., at York, Los Angeles

Nipa Hut [West San Fernando Valley]
22122 Sherman Way, at Topanga, Canoga Park

Davao Tuna Grill [East San Fernando Valley]
730 S. Central Ave, Glendale

Salo-Salo Grill [East San Fernando Valley]
130 North Maryland Ave, Glendale

Salo Salo [Artesia-ish]
18300 Gridley Rd. # A, Artesia

Salo Salo Grill [Inland of LA]
2530 E Amar Rd., West Covina

Salo-Salo Grill [Inland of LA]
12625 Frederick St. Suite K6, Moreno Valley

Max’s Of Manila [East San Fernando Valley]
313 W. Broadway, Glendale

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Max’s Philipino Resturaunt in Glendale

New Salvadoran

Platano is a brand new Salvadoran place. The space is partially unfinished, but their kitchen is already up and running and producing excellent food, reports maus1.

Yucca cocido is great, with a good portion of wonderfully crispy pork, and a nice side of cabbage. An order of tamales de sal consists of two wonderful masa tamales steamed in a banana leaf. Albondigas–meatball soup–tastes excellent, with a home-style light tomato sauce. The minty meatballs are a little dry, though. Carne guisada is very soft, with string beans, potato, and carrots–just the sort of thing a Salvadoran grandmother would cook if she really loved you.

Cafe Platano [East Bay]
Formerly Thai Garlic
2042 University Ave., Berkeley

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New! Platano Salvadorean in Berkeley