The CHOW Blog rss

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

Pixar Plating Up a Foodie Film

Animation studio Pixar is following their blockbuster films The Incredibles and Cars with the story of a Parisian-born foodie who can’t get enough of the gourmet nibbles — only problem, this foodie is a rat.

Ratatouille is set to release next summer but the trailer is already online and people are talking about the studio’s first foray into the world of food. Food blogs have picked up the news, as have film sites. Josh Tyler, on the site Cinema Blend, writes “If Pixar can make a movie about a bunch of lame looking cars fantastic, they should have no problem getting something great out of a script about a bunch of rats living in a restaurant.”

The story revolves around a rat named Rémy, who lives in a five-star Parisian restaurant and harbors dreams of becoming a chef. John Lasseter, CCO of Pixar, has been quoted as saying “it is a wonderful story about following your passions when all the world is against you. A rat to a kitchen is death; a kitchen to a rat is death.”

Directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles), the film will features the voices of Patton Oswalt, Brad Garrett, David Schwimmer, Brian Dennehy, and Janeane Garofalo and is set to release June 29, 2007.

Epitaph for a Neighborhood Bar

Manhattan User’s Guide, an online magazine and email newsletter for NYC culture, ran an essay today by an employee of the imminently closing P&G Cafe.

The P&G, which sits on the city’s Upper West Side, isn’t a particularly notable establishment. It’s been around since 1942 (not unusual for a New York City joint), but it’s never become a universally recognized fixture or celebrity hangout. Nonetheless, it was tremendously important to its regulars. Weekend bartender Mike Taranto nails the significance of the P&G in a short, heartfelt, workmanlike essay that transcends its immediate topic and turns into a love poem for the kind of “real” bar or restaurant that holds a neighborhood together.

I worked in a place where people celebrated the births of their children and grieved over the loss of their loved ones. I worked in a place that overflowed with joy when the home teams won. I worked in a place that stayed open through blizzards and blackouts. On that horrible day in September when hundreds of thousands of people walked north, we were there.

In a world where more and more bars and restaurants have a plastic facelessness, it’s bittersweet to read a funeral oration for a place that had something a little more soulful going on.

Nuthin’ in the Oven

Ivonne of the always-fun blog Cream Puffs in Venice has a bit of a problem: The baker-blogger is going to be without a stove (and therefore sans any normal baking routine) for a month. In a speedy outpouring of goodwill, scores of readers sent condolences, often accompanied by suggestions ranging from the useful (some baking can be done on the grill) to the useful-when-desperate (you can actually make cakes in the microwave) to the just-plain-wacky (pretend you’re Ukranian!).

This last one got me thinking about the time I spent in Paris during college, when my French roommate taught me to cook quiche, quatre-quarts, and all kinds of roasts and gratins using only a little countertop convection oven. Almost none of my friends there had “real” ovens, and yet as I remember they were all pretty consummate bakers. Are we Americans once again the odd ones out with our bigger-than-everyone-else’s-stuff stuff? Are full-sized ovens still a luxury for a lot of the world?

I would never (ever!) want to give up my gigantic gas oven now, but it would definitely be fun to experiment with raw desserts, campfire pastry , and slow-cooked baked goods—I once made a not-bad bread pudding and a tasty apple crisp for a Crock Pot dinner party. Anyone else had luck with oven-free baking? Hood-of-the-car cupcakes or sidewalk scones, anyone?

Stalking the Wily Richmond Hot Churro Guy

Freshly-fried, hot churros are worth waiting in line for–and the line for this little churro cart is often around the corner. The churros are made to order; some patience is required, but it’s completely worth the wait. The churros are long coils of dough, fried in oil, chopped up into pieces, dipped into cinnamon sugar, and double-bagged so you don’t burn your tender little fingers. As the sign says, they’re crispy outside, light inside. Five bucks gets you a huge order. rworange selflessly promises to go back for further research.

Hot Churro Guy [East Bay]
Intersection of MacDonald and Broadway, Richmond
Map

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Richmond–major find–The “hot churro” guy

Sweet Sashimi

It doesn’t look promising. The place is empty, the selection is limited, and the display cooler is so old that the glass is opaque–but don’t let that scare you off: you can get truly superior fish here. Bleuss mostly sells to restaurants, and selection varies. Stop in early and ask the guy in charge what he just got in. Sashimi-grade fish and organic meat are high quality and cheap, to the tune of $20 for four lobster claws and a pound of sashimi-grade halibut, says evangross. Daniel Duane became believer after being handed an absolutely gorgeous slab of sashimi-grade ahi, cut to order, for $8 a pound. “I’m rooting for this guy,” he says.

Bleuss Meat & Sashimi Market [Mission]
formerly Cicero Meats
235 Cortland Ave., San Francisco
415-647-4471
Locater

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Bleuss Meats update
Bleuss- New Fresh Fish Market in Bernal Heights

Greek Seafood Classics at Bayside’s Pelagos

Pelagos in Bayside shows a deft hand with seafood, which is fresh and simply prepared. “This is a good Greek fish house alternative to Astoria,” says ptkchow, who insists you try whole grilled black sea bass if it’s available; it’s flaky, sweet, and sparely seasoned with olive oil and lemon. Any whole fish is a good bet, but fried appetizers like smelt or light, tender squid are also unusually well made.

Beyond seafood, there’s a short list of meat courses–steak, lamb chops, etc.–and a wonderfully fresh Greek salad (the small one is plenty for two). “The food was amazing, service was warm and friendly,” reports exipny. “Pelagos gave me the feeling of a Greek taverna by the sea. It is a great addition to the Bayside area.”

Pelagos [Bayside]
38-11 Bell Blvd., at 38th Ave., Bayside, Queens
718-717-7202
Map

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Pelagos Seafood in bayside

Florence’s: Flavors of Home, West African Style, in Harlem

Florence’s is a cozy joint that serves spicy, satisfying chow from Ghana and Ivory Coast. An Ivorian braised fish dish, attieke poisson braisse, is a knockout, according to our first report, from Peter Cherches. It’s a whole tilapia topped with onions, tomatoes and peppers, and served with starchy attieke (fermented cassava) and wonderful, incendiary chile sauce.

As with other West African cuisines, expect plenty of soups and stews, and dishes featuring peanut sauces, fermented grains, and fufu (starchy mashes of cassava, plantain, and the like). A thick, long-cooked Ivorian okra stew, gombo, is smoky, slightly spicy, and a tad funky from dried shrimp. Peanut soup with goat can be bland, though the meat is tasty and not at all gamy. Among the appetizers, a Ghanaian street snack called kelewele–cubes of ripe plantain fried with chile, ginger, and other spices–is addictively delicious.

Service is friendly and helpful, and the Ghanaian family that owns the place sets a warm, inviting mood. “It was like being a guest in their home,” Peter marvels. “I want to hang out there again. I want to try everything on the menu. I want to take all my friends.”

Florence’s Restaurant [Harlem]
2099 Frederick Douglass Boulevard (between W. 113th and 114th streets), Manhattan
212-531-0387
Map

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Florence’s: Fabulous West African in Harlem

K-Zo Does a Fusion Japanese K-O

Easily confused with the also-new-and-good Sushi, K-Zo actually specializes in, let’s say, sushi japonaise–a kind of Japanese-French fusion. It works, say WBGuy and zivagolee. Small bites are creative, like seared white fish on top of pureed taro, layered with fried gobo; or ankimo mousse on endive leaf; or beet salad with goat cheese. Also impressive: red snapper carpaccio drizzled with yuzu dressing, and grilled sea bass. Sashimi is very, very fresh, although nigiri sushi is good but not mindblowing.

At lunch, it’s possible to do omakase for around $40–ask the chef. Combination lunches are in the $15 range, and small plate appetizers are mostly in the $7-9 range.

D

A Temple of Traditional Sushi

Japanese folks visiting L.A. know to head to Kasen for high-end omakase sushi. It’s very old school–sometimes they try to persuade non-Japanese people to go elsewhere, thinking they want California rolls, teriyaki and the like. Stick with it and profess your love for traditional sushi, and you’ll get excellent, super-fresh sushi; russkar prefers it to Costa Mesa’s well-regarded Shibucho.

Omakase is pricey, but at lunch it’s a reasonable $35-60.

Kasen [South OC]
9039 Garfield Ave., Fountain Valley
714-963-8769
Locater

Sushi Shibucho [South OC]
590 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa
949-642-2677
Locater

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fountain valley sushi hunt question

Italian Tomato Salad

During summer tomato season, simple tomato salads are a staple on the table in many Italian-American homes. They include tomatoes, sliced onions, dried oregano and/or fresh basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and any of the following: green bell pepper, cucumber, sweet or hot banana peppers, red wine vinegar, capers. Be sure to have crusty bread on hand to soak up all the delicious juices!

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Italian tomato salad