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

One Big Bronx Burger at Doyle’s Pub

Doyle’s Pub in the Westchester Square neighborhood is an often-forgotten Bronx gem that serves a delicious hamburger in “the mega-huge style,” mrnyc reminds us. “Cancel all appointments and make preparations for a nap afterward.”

Doyle’s Pub [Bronx]
2634 E. Tremont Ave., between Maclay and St. Raymond’s Aves, Bronx

Board Links: my new hamburger ranking

Herb Butters

Herb butters are great for flavoring vegetables, fish, meats, summer corn–anything that might be enhanced by a pat of butter and some fresh herbs or garlic–in other words, most everything!

Preparation is as simple as mixing softened butter with a bit of minced fresh herb leaves and chilling (or forming into a log, wrapping well, and freezing, so you can slice off a pat or two whenever you want). You can use a single herb–tarragon, rosemary, thyme, parsley, etc., depending on what you’ll be serving it with–or combine two or three. Here are some variations.

Garlic paste is a great addition, but be sure to use a light hand, says rtmonty.

Lemon butter (use the zest and some juice), lemon garlic butter, or lemon garlic parsley butter (julieswan).

Mrs. Dash (an herbal salt-free seasoning) whipped into soft butter. Note: this needs to “age” a bit, says LisaAZ.

Shallots, fresh lemon juice, and parsley make a very traditional combo. If you want to deemphasize the shallot flavor, mince and soak in wine vinegar for 15 minutes, then rinse and let dry on paper towels before incorporating (Karl S).

rtmonty also likes to add few anchovy fillets along with one of the herbs.

Board Links: Herb butters–need your suggestions

Brandied Sour Cherries, for Superior Cocktail Garnishes and More

Homemade brandied sour cherries are a mega-step up from commercial maraschino cherries as a garnish for cocktails. They’re also wonderful in their own right as as topping for ice cream and other desserts. And if you steep with good brandy, you’re left with wonderful cherry brandy (as a byproduct!)

It’s a simple process. Here are some methods:

Use pitted or unpitted sour cherries. If you do pit, retain some pits to add to the brandy (they add a lot of additional flavor). Leave the cherries whole with stems–they’re very pretty for garnishing drinks.

For each pound of sour cherries, use 2 cups of brandy and 3/4 cup of sugar. Mix in quart jar and hold for one month in a cool pantry before using. Store in the refrigerator after the first month (JudiAU).

Some prefer to steep in maraschino liqueur, a not-too-sweet liqueur made from Dalmation marasca cherries (Stock and Luxardo are two widely available brands). Whether using brandy or maraschino, sugar isn’t necessary; just pack a sterilized jar with cherries, cover with brandy or liqueur, and place in a cool, dark place for a month or so. After opening, store in the refrigerator.

While using fresh sour cherries is preferable, their season is short, and they’re not available everywhere. Dried sour cherries plump up nicely in brandy, and still beat chemical-laden commercial maraschino cherries every time (MC Slim JB).

Board Links: Brandied Sour Cherries
Anyone starting any summer time liqueurs and cordials?

Trader Joe’s Canned Smoked Trout

We don’t want to start a run on your TJ’s store, but word has it that this product is being discontinued. The can contains a nice portion for one person. The trout is packed in Canola oil, and very tasty. Some stores still have a supply on the shelves.

Board Links: Trader Joes discountinued its canned smoked trout:(–anyone else sell this?

Jarred Vodka Sauce

Vodka sauce is delicious over any pasta. And there are are some decent-tasting jarred brands–which can be made even better by adding crushed red pepper, some crab meat, or sauteed prosciutto. Here are some good brands:

Patsy’s Vodka Sauce.

Rao’s is a popular but pricey choice.

Trader Joe’s Organic Vodka Sauce is a delicious low-cost alternative.

Cento is made with San Marzano tomatoes (very good, plus not as high calorie as some other brands).

Victoria brand, from Brooklyn, costs $6.99 a jar and is better than Rao’s, says emdb. Find it at Big Y stores and Stop & Shops in the northeast.

Board Links: Recommendations…jarred vodka sauce

Patxi’s: No Need to Hit the Zachary’s

Patxi’s, reports ron c, is as satisfying as that outpost of Chicago deep-dish pizza goodness, Zachary’s. The two main differences:

1. Patxi’s makes a more traditionally Chicagoan cornmeal crust, compared to Zachary’s more flaky, buttery crust.

2. Paxti’s sauce is smoother and more garlicky than Zachary’s chunky rendition.

Patxi’s pizzas are made with fresh, high quality ingredients. They are, however, a bit pricey–$16 for a small pizza that could feed two.

Patxi’s Chicago Pizza [Peninsula]
441 Emerson St., Palo Alto

Zachary’s Chicago Pizza [Rockridge]
5801 College Ave., Oakland

Zachary’s Chicago Pizza [East Bay]
1853 Solano Ave., Berkeley

Board Links: Patxi’s Pizza–Palo Alto

Perfect New York Slices of Chicken Pizza

There are two rules for eating at Giovanni’s Pizza, a nondescript strip mall pizza joint. First, go on weekdays, not weekends. Turnover is really low on weekends, and the slices are just mediocre. But on weekdays, when the place is packed, it’s the best New York-style slice in Silicon Valley, says mdg.

Second rule: get the Giovanni’s Rustica slice, which comes topped with chicken breasts, basil, tomatoes, and lots of garlic. Chicken doesn’t always work on pizza, but it works like gangbusters here. It’s good enough to keep intrepid explorer katya coming back every three or four days. Pepperoni slices and cheese slices are, on the other hand, greasy and average.

Giovanni’s [South Bay]
1127 N. Lawrence Expy., Sunnyvale

Board Links: Giovanni’s in Sunnyvale: You Got Chicken on My Pizza! No, You Got Pizza on My Chicken!

Maker’s Mark All Mixed Up

Maker’s Mark is good bourbon, all agree, and while some can’t see why anyone would desire to combine it with more than a couple ice cubes, others offer their favorite cocktails and tall drinks making use of the drink.

A simple but delicious combination is Maker’s and a good spicy ginger ale or ginger beer (like Blenheim’s).

For those who like their Manhattans made with bourbon rather than rye, MM is the ultimate base. Here are basic proportions:

3 parts bourbon
1 part sweet vermouth
dash bitters

Many find this classic too sweet, and prefer a Perfect Manhattan, made with half sweet and half dry vermouth. Recommended brands of vermouth include Noilly Prat and the harder to find but excellent Vya.

Sable & Rosenfeld Tipsy Cherries, soaked in whiskey, make the perfect garnish, says Candy. You can order online.

Three intriguing recipes, courtesy of countbranca:

Whiskey Smash

Muddle in a highball glass:
2-3 half lemon slices
6-8 mint leaves, depending on size and to taste
1.5 tsp superfine sugar or 1/2 simple syrup, or to taste
Add 2 oz Maker’s Mark and ice, and top with soda or flat water

San Francisco Fog

Place in cocktail shaker over ice:
2 oz Maker’s Mark
3 dashes orange flower water
1/4 oz orgeat (almond syrup)
1 egg white

“Shake the hell out of it, strain into chilled cocktail glass, sprinkle with grated orange peel.”

Gold Rush

Place in cocktail shaker over ice:
2 oz Maker’s Mark
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
3/4oz runny honey (dilute 4 parts honey with 1 part very hot water)

Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish with lemon twist.

The Stiletto: Shot of bourbon, shot of almond liqueur, rocks. “Swig, repeat” (Brandon Nelson).

Finally, gina advocates drinking MM neat–but paired with a rich chocolate dessert (e.g. flourless chocolate cake), a combo she says is wonderful.

Board Links
Maker’s Mark

The Papain Effect

Fresh (or frozen) pineapple, kiwi, papaya, figs, guava, and ginger root all contain the enzyme papain, a powerful meat tenderizer. So beware that cooking any of these fruits in combination with meat will effect the meat’s texture. If the fruit is canned, the enzyme’s been destroyed.

Board Links: Fruit with Meat; a Do or a Don’t

Havista Kyoto Noodles

HLing rhapsodizes about the Havista Kyoto brand noodles she found in a Korean market (the package is mostly red and yellow with a drawing of a Japanese doll, and a picture of a bowl of beef noodle soup in the lower left corner). Neatly combed and twisted noodles are visible through the packaging.

Besides the plain noodles, there are three flavors–chicken, beef, and kimchee. The beef flavor packet produces a broth that tastes like a perfectly cooked homemade spicy beef noodle soup: “It’s so good I don’t need actual chunks of beef in the noodles,” she raves.

Board Links: Havista kyoto noodles–great beef flavor