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

Braids of Gold: Worthy Challah in Westchester

Friday is challah day at Pleasantville’s Jackson and Wheeler, and it’s worth marking your calendar. Great stuff, says smokeyrm, who advises going early because they sell out fast. Even those who don’t like the restaurant, like spa, say its bakery does some nice work.

White Plains Bake Shop is another dependable source for challah in Westchester–as well as hamentaschen, babkas, Italian pastries, and other baked goods. Just don’t get the manager angry, cautions dolores.

Challah lovers also recommend Turco’s Super Ranch (in Hartsdale and Yorktown Heights), Scarsdale Pastry Center, Harrison Bake Shop, Cerbone’s in Rye Brook and, farther afield, Rockland Bakery in Nanuet and the online and phone outfit Challah Connection.

Jackson and Wheeler [Westchester County]
25 Wheeler Ave., at Jackson, Pleasantville
914-741-2000
Map

White Plains Bake Shop [Westchester County]
466 Mamaroneck Ave., between S. Broadway and Dekalb Ave., White Plains
914-997-8179
Map

Turco’s Super Ranch [Westchester County]
381 N. Central Ave., between Alexander Ave. and Chatterton Pkwy., in Dalewood Shopping Center, Hartsdale
914-761-4414
Map

Turco’s Super Ranch [Westchester County]
380 Downing Dr., between Saw Mill River Rd. and Veterans Rd., Yorktown Heights
914-243-9100
Map

Scarsdale Pastry Center [Westchester County]
1487 Weaver St (Rte 125), in Colonial Village Shopping Center, Scarsdale
914-723-6722
Map

Harrison Bake Shop [Westchester County]
357 Halstead Ave., between Oakland Ave. and Haviland St., Harrison, NY
914-835-1151
Map

Cerbone’s Rye Ridge Bakery [Westchester County]
140 S. Ridge St., in Rye Ridge Shopping Center, Rye Brook, NY
914-937-5474
Map

Rockland Bakery [Rockland County]
94 Demarest Mill Rd. W., between S. Main St. and Seeger Dr., Nanuet, NY
845-623-5800
Map

Challah Connection
866-242-5524

Board Links: Bakery/Challah–White Plains to Tarrytown?

Light Lemon Hotcakes: Brilliance for Breakfast

These light, frsh-tasting lemony hotcakes, topped with fruit and a bit of syrup, are a perfect way to start your day.

Here’s Peppermint Pate’s recipe:

Stir together:
1 scant cup buttermilk
2 egg yolks
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
zest of 2 lemons
Fold in:
1 T melted butter

In another bowl, sift:
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3 T sugar (preferably superfine)
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Stir to incorporate. Whip two egg whites until soft peaks form and fold into batter. Cook in a lightly buttered pan. Serves 3 to 4.

Board Links: Peppermint Pate’s lemon hotcakes–Brilliance for breakfast!

Muffalettas!!

Muffalettas at Murphy’s Deli compare pretty nicely to the genuine article–the ones from Central Grocery in New Orleans, reports KathySK. The bread is replete with toasted sesame seeds; meat and cheese fillings are generous and tasty. If you ask, you can get your fillings toasted for a hot muffaletta. Coarse chopped olive tapenade is a good mix of olives and roasted peppers. dkgoody, though, has a dissenting opinion: he thinks the sandwich tastes too much of olives, and only so-so olives at that.

The bread’s a little on the dry side, but if you leave the sandwich sitting around for a while, the tapenade will soak in and then everything’s groovy.

It’s $6 for a half muffaletta and $10 for a whole one. A half muffaletta is a very filling lunch for one.

Murphy’s Deli [SOMA]
560 Mission St., San Francisco
415-978-9681
Map

Board Links: Murphy’s Deli–Home of the Muffaletta

A Valley Quickie

Always quick to spot the restaurant openings in San Gabriel, Chandavkl dropped in on the spanking-new Seafood Empire, which appears to be taking the Hong Kong-style seafood experience to a new level. More seafood in more ways makes this place look pretty promising, and based on an extremely good lunch of fish with vegetables, it definitely seems worthy of further chowhounding.

Seafood Empire [San Gabriel]
(in the former New Capital Seafood space)
250 W Valley Blvd., San Gabriel
626-588-2988
Map

Board Links: Seafood Empire in San Gabriel

Real Corned Beef Hash (Or Not)

Real corned beef hash can be so delicious, it’s strange that so many places only serve the kind that comes in a can. At S&W Diner, they serve the real thing, and it’s damned good, says budlit. But make sure to ask for homemade, because they serve the canned kind too. To each their own…

condiment swears that the corned beef hash of all corned beef hashes is served at the venerable Grill on the Alley.

S & W Country Diner [Culver City-ish]
9748 Washington Blvd., Culver City
310-204-5136
Map

Grill on the Alley [Beverly Hills]
9560 Dayton Way, Beverly Hills
310-276-0615
Map

Board Links: Comfort me: REAL Corned Beef Hash.

Pupusa Catering Tip

The best bite at last month’s Cinco de Mayo fair in Santa Rosa was a Salvadoran pupusa, reports Melanie Wong. Pupusas are rice and corn cakes, filled with your choice of cheese, beans, meat, and veggie niblets. Evelyn Carolina Linares’ pupusas are perfect, with a delicate crisp exterior and a tender, chewy, almost creamy interior. Throughout the fair, there was a thirty minute wait for her pupusas–and it was, says Melanie, entirely worth the wait.

Linares doesn’t have a restaurant, but she does do catering.

Evelyn Carolina Linares
Phone: 707-575-3832
Mobile: 707-494-5904
evelynlinares1@yahoo.com

Board Links: Pupusas in Santa Rosa by Evelyn Carolina Linares

Asian Potato Salad

Don’t be surprised to see mayo-based potato salad as an accompaniment to Japanese food or served as a “panchan” with a Korean meal. In Shanghai, many home cooks make this salad. Asians have had potatoes for hundreds of years, and mayonnaise has become surprisingly popular there, as well, especially in Japan (“the Japanese apparently put it on everything,” notes Ellen).

Board Links: Korean panchan —Origin of potato salad?

Licorice, Anyone?

Licorice comes in black, red, salty, or sugarless varieties. Here are some of the Chowhounds’ favorite online sources:

Economy Candy in NYC’s Lower East Side is a legendary shop that that stocks a large selection of black licorice,including Kookaburra brand, which some folks view with awe! Not many people seem to know these guys sell online.

Licorice International, out of Lincoln, Nebraska, has many types of imported licorice. Their Dutch and German selections are particularly worth a try; each has its own distinctive flavor. They sell salty licorice, too, which is very much an acquired taste. If you like red licorice, they offer a very nice sampler.

For a good selection of sugar free, try Dutch Sweets.

Board Links: best black licorice? by mail-order, pls

The Secret Life of Condensed Milk

Sweetened condensed milk (SCM) has lots of uses beyond key lime pie and Thai iced tea. And while it’s high in sugar, at least it’s natural (ingredients are just milk and sugar, with no additives or preservatives). And even the low-fat and fat-free versions taste pretty rich. Note that SCM is often much cheaper in Latino or Vietnamese markets. Here are some ingriguing uses for this stuff:

SCM is used in Vietnamese-style coffee, but a heaping teaspoonful in your standard American cup is a superior alternative to anything else when you’ve run out of milk (rworange).

A spoonful of SCM takes oatmeal to an amazing level; add raisins and cinnamon and it’s almost like eating rice pudding.

A little SCM is terrific poured over stewed fruits, such as rhubarb.

Crushed ice, lime juice, and SCM served in a tall glass with a spoon makes a great creamy citrus drink (petradish).

Mix SCM with lemon, lime, or orange juice and zest to taste and and freeze in popsicle molds to make creamy frozen citrus bars.

Candy recommends a recipe for chocolate natillas (rich pudding made with SCM); she recommends using a very dark chocolate. See the recipe.

Use SCM to make homemade dulce de leche. (recipe)

Nestle has a SCM brand aimed at the Latino market called La Lechera, and recently introduced a flip-top plastic squeeze bottle version that makes it easy to use just a spoonful and store the rest safely in the fridge. If you store it upside-down, the SCM is ready to flow, with no drips. Dommy is a convert: “Now that I got my bottle, there is NO going back for me!”

Board Links: Elsie the Cow’s condensed milk is udderly swell

Superior Shrimp Cocktail

The two commandments of the superior shrimp cocktail are:

1. Excellent shrimp
2. Do not overcook

The best shrimp cocktails begin, naturally, with the best shrimp. Look for American white or pink, and avoid imported farm-raised tiger shrimp, which just don’t taste good. Buy frozen if you can–the ones you see in your fishmonger’s case were frozen and defrosted, so you’ll get fresher results if you do the defrosting yourself right before you cook.

For the best flavor, cook shrimp in their shells. If you cut a slit down the back (through the shell) before cooking, shelling will be much easier. Bring a large pot of water to boil, adding seasonings if you wish (JudiAU puts in lots of salt plus four times the amount of crab boil seasoning suggested on the seasoning package). Add shrimp, and remove as soon as they’re opaque (just 2-3 minutes for medium-sized ones). Dump them in a bowl of ice water to chill, then shell.

Everyone has different sauce preferences, but hounds agree that homemade beats off-the-shelf cocktail sauce. Homemade includes, however, doctored-up treatments of store-bought ingredients. For example, fix up Heinz Chili Sauce with some added horseradish and fresh lemon juice (ChinoWayne).

Dommy offers her family’s recipe for a Mexican-style shrimp cocktail (a.k.a. coctel de gambas):

To cooled, drained shrimp, add the following, all chopped: cucumber, red onion, cilantro, firm avocado, and serrano chiles. Stir in a mixture of ketchup and lemon juice. Serve with saltines.

Board Links: What makes a “good” shrimp cocktail (or is that a misnomer)?