The CHOW Blog rss

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

Burrata, Emperor of Fresh Cheese

Burrata is the greatest of fresh Italian cheeses, a sort of uber-mozzarella that stands above other fresh cheese. It offers a burst of ultra-rich fresh dairy intensity. The outer rind of a burrata is like the freshest mozzarella you’ve ever had; as you approach the center, it becomes creamier, softer, and more unbelievably luscious. Burrata is to regular fresh mozzarella what a chocolate-falling-down cake is to a brownie.

If you want to eat it at a restaurant, try A16. They’re well known for their burrata preparations, and they get the stuff flown in every day.

But if you want it to take home, freshness is the thing. Try Cowgirl Creamery. Like A16, they get regular shipments of very fresh burrata from LA’s famed Gioia. Another option is A.G. Ferrari. Be sure to ask how fresh their burrata is–their staff says it keeps up to a week, but there’s a definite decline even after the first day. SteveG says burrata goes from extraordinary to sort of gross in five days. Rainbow Grocery frequently has burrata, but it’s often over half a week old.

Cheese Board sometimes gets burrata in a Thursday shipment, so only buy Thursday through Saturday. BiRite and Cheese Plus also carry it.

And, advises Robert Lauriston, don’t cook with burrata. You might as well use regular mozzarella if you’re applying heat.

A16 [Marina]
2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco
415-771-2216
Map

Cowgirl Creamery [Embarcadero]
Ferry Building Marketplace
One Ferry Building, shop #17, San Francisco
415-362-9354
Map

A.G. Ferrari [Citywide]

Rainbow Grocery Cooperative [SOMA]
1745 Folsom St., San Francisco
415-863-0620
Map

Cheese Board [East Bay]
1504 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley
510-549-3183
Map

Bi-Rite Market [Mission]
3639 18th St., San Francisco
415-241-9760
Map

Cheese Plus [Polk Gulch]
2001 Polk St., at Pacific, San Francisco
415-921-2001
Map

Board Links: Burrata cheese

Mango-Passion Fruit Turnovers

Maria’s Gourmet Pastries is an excellent family-run neighborhood bakery, reports rworange. It’s far, far better than other bakery options on San Pablo Dam Road. Seventy five cents gets you an excellent little “exotic turnover.” It’s a boring-looking little pastry which eats better than it looks–a deeply buttery turnover crust bursting with tart passion fruit and sweet mango. Two dollars gets you a nice piece of cheesecake (made with rich, fresh cream cheese) with at least a dozen fresh blueberries on top.

Also: free coffee.

Tip: some servers don’t speak English, but some do. Keep asking around; you’ll eventually get some English-friendly service.

Maria’s Gourmet Pastries [East Bay]
3800 San Pablo Dam Rd., El Sobrante
510-669-1187
Map

Board Links: El Sobrante–Maria’s Gourmet Pastries Redux – Mango passion fruit turnovers

Saving Tomatoes

Most people save tomatoes by putting them in some plastic-wrap in the fridge or something like that, but chowhounds in the know say that fridges kill raw tomatoes. Try this instead: put some oil in a covered container. Sprinkle the cut end of the tomato with a little fine salt, then place the cut end down into the oil and put the lid on. This will keep the tomato fresh for a couple of days at room temperature (Karl S).

Board Links: Saving tomatoes.

Pork-Like Duritos

You may sometimes spot, at a Mexican street vendor or snack shop, a small bag of something that looks a lot like fried pork skins in the shape of little wheels. These are not fried pork skin. These are duritos, a snack of fried flour made to look and feel like fried pork skins. They are called “duritos” because they are “duro”–hard. You pop some hot sauce and lemon juice in the bag with the duritos, shake it all up, and eat. They’re delicious, all light and crispy–sort of like a more subtle proto version of Cheetos. Duritos are, confusingly, also sometimes referred to as chicharrones, the name for actual fried pork skin. They’re actually sold as a substitute for real chicharrones, which can frequently be expensive and hard to find, even in Mexico.

You’ll also find ready-to-fry duritos in the bulk section of many Mexican supermarkets. Get your frying oil heated up, and throw ‘em in. They’ll puff up and turn golden in a few seconds. You want to get them out as soon as they’re golden, before they start to burn.

Board Links: Tell me about Duritos Wheels

Ceviche Basics

Ceviche, originating in Peru but now popular in many Latin American countries, is a dish made from raw fish that’s “cooked” via marination in citrus juice. Properly speaking, the acidity in the citrus pickles the fish so it’s no longer technically raw. Ceviche is fairly simple to make at home using firm white fish (like snapper), or scallops.

carswell guides us through the process:

1. Slice fish or scallops across the grain into thin slices (1/4 inch or less) or bite-size cubes.

2. Place slices in a glass or porcelain bowl and add citrus juice (lime is classic but lemon, grapefruit, and sour orange are also delicious). Carswell typically uses three limes per half pound of seafood.

3. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1/2 to 1 hour, stirring from time to time. When the seafood turns opaque white, it’s “cooked.”

4. Season with salt and pepper and add flavorings like sliced or chopped onions, scallions, or shallots; chopped fresh cilantro, parsley, or oregano; chopped serrano, jalapeno, or other chiles; chopped tomato; and olive oil.

Ecuadoran sandrina loves her mom’s ceviche, made with shrimp and firm white fish, lemon or lime, sliced red onions, cilantro, a pinch of sugar, and enough tomato juice to give the sauce a pinkish tinge.

Board Links: Ceviche Recipe Please!

Self-Rising Flour

Self-rising flour (all-purpose flour with salt and baking powder mixed in) is fairly rare outside the South, and most American cookbooks don’t include recipes calling for it. Southerners swear by it for biscuits, shortcake, and other quick baked goods. (Find recipes here.)

If you have some on your hands, it works great for pancakes (just omit the baking powder). fauchon puts some in crab cakes, saying it makes them niftily puff up a bit.

Self-rising flour makes for a super-simple beer bread. Here’s MaggieB’s recipe:

3 cups self-rising flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 12-ounce bottle or can of beer

Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Lightly grease or spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

Variations: add chopped minced garlic, grated cheese, chopped jalapenos, chopped herbs, etc.

Board Links: What to do with Self-rising flour?

Randazzo’s Revisited: Pass the Secret Sauce

It’s no knock on the seafood at Randazzo’s Clam Bar, but hounds can’t stop talking about the secret sauce. Rich, thick and sturdy, fiery in its spicy incarnation, it’s an outstanding match for fresh fish, shellfish, and pastas at this Sheepshead Bay landmark.

It’s the magic ingredient in linguine, shrimp fra diavolo, fried scallops or calamari, and more. Lobster fra diavolo is a showstopper–a sweet, firm 1 1/2-pounder, cut into chunks and served on a giant platter amid a heap of clams, mussels, and shrimp, a helping of pasta, and that luscious tomatoey, garlicky sauce. For red sauce haters, grilled seafood, rich and meaty lobster bisque, and oysters and littlenecks from the raw bar are good options.

Even after decades in business, Randazzo’s remains at its heart a humble clam shack, and hounds have learned to overlook minor faults. If your salad comes with packaged dressing, ask for some oil and vinegar and improvise. And if you’d prefer the otherwise stellar soft shell crab sandwich without bottled-tasting tartar sauce, opt for that amazing secret sauce instead.

“Everything is so fresh and freshly prepared. The homey atmosphere and friendly service make this a gem to treasure, a treat from a bygone age,” raves Fleur. “And the beautiful view across the bay invites an after-dinner stroll.”

Randazzo’s Clam Bar [Sheepshead Bay]
2023 Emmons Ave., between Ocean Ave. and E. 21st St., Brooklyn
718-615-0010
Locater

Board Links: RANDAZZO’S Sheepshead Bay STILL OUTSTANDING
Lobster Lover Feast at Randazzo’s
RANDAZZO’S STILL ROCKS!
Randazzo Sheepshead Bay Amazing Sauce
went to jordan’s and randazzo’s

Sweet Breads for Morning, Noon, and Night

Eli Zabar’s E.A.T. has a sweet, rich, yeasted multigrain bread, studded with cranberries and walnuts, that Non Cognomina could nosh on from morning to midnight. It’s lovely toasted for breakfast, served with cheese, or, NC confesses, as a special late-night snack with a nice thick spread of butter.

Other baked treats from hound perennials: chocolate-cherry loaf from Amy’s Bread, raisin-walnut bread from Sullivan Street Bakery, and chocolate bread from Balthazar.

E.A.T. [Upper East Side]
1064 Madison Ave., between E. 80th and 81st Sts., Manhattan
212-772-0022
Map

Eli’s [Upper East Side]
1411 3rd Ave., between 80th and 81st Sts., Manhattan
212-717-8100
Map

Amy’s Bread [Clinton]
672 9th Ave., between 46th and 47th Sts., Manhattan
212-977-2670
Map

Amy’s Bread [Chelsea]
75 9th Ave., between 15th and 16th Sts., in Chelsea Market, Manhattan
212-462-4338
Map

Amy’s Bread [Greenwich Village]
250 Bleecker St., at Leroy, Manhattan
212-675-7802
Map

Sullivan Street Bakery [Clinton]
533 W 47th St., between 10th and 11th Aves., Manhattan
212-265-5580
Map

Balthazar [Soho]
80 Spring St., at Crosby St., Manhattan
212-965-1785
Map

Board Links: ISO Dessert bread

Fried Pig Flavor Bomb

Crispy pata is a Filipino delicacy made by poaching a pig’s hind leg, then deep-frying–an amazing combination of textures and flavors. Kris P Pata calls it a rich and juicy flavor bomb, saying the newly opened Salo-Salo Grill in Glendale makes an exquisite version that goes great with their garlic rice. Xericx says this location is way better than Cerritos. There may be some consistency issues, though–oldusedcop reports having had crispy pata there that “dries into ragged shreds that are rougher than sandpaper.”

elmomonster considers Magic Wok the best Filipino restaurant in Southern California. You can get the crispy pata here (most of the Filipino customers do), but if you want something less, er, overwhelming, order lechon kawale–it comes in bite-size pieces.

Normal Garciaparra contends that the best Filipino restaurant in town is Asian Noodles–not a bad place for a first encounter with crispy pata.

Salo-Salo Grill [East San Fernando Valley]
130 N. Maryland Ave., at E. Broadway, Glendale
818-241-0880
Map

Salo Salo [Artesia-ish]
18300 Gridley Rd. # A, at 183rd St., Artesia
562-809-6277
Map

Salo Salo Grill [Inland of LA]
2530 E. Amar Rd., at Nogales, West Covina
626-964-4095
Map

Magic Wok Enterprises [Artesia-ish]
11869 Artesia Blvd., at Pioneer, Artesia
562-865-7340
Map

Asian Noodles [Chinatown]
643 N. Spring St., at Cesar Chavez, Los Angeles
213-617-1083
Map

Asian Noodles [East San Fernando Valley]
1428 E. Colorado St., at Langley, Glendale
818-548-4277
Have you experienced Crispy Pata?

License to Chow

The menu is super-simple at this humble seafood joint, with about half a dozen choices, mostly cocktails. You might get stale tortilla chips to start, but the seafood is extremely fresh, says Mealcentric. Mocaljete, a giant caldron, comes filled with all kinds of sea creatures (shrimp, octopus, abalone, and maybe scallops) in a cold tomatoey broth with cucumbers and onions, topped with thick ripe slices of avocado. For $10, it hits the spot on a hot summer evening.

Mariscos Licenciado #2 [South OC]
1052 N. State College Blvd., near the 91 Fwy., Anaheim
714-776-3415
Map

Mariscos Licenciado [Inland of LA]
9765 Sierra Ave., at San Bernardino, Fontana
909-350-4754
Map

Board Links: Mariscos Licenciado #2–a review