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

Pies-N-Thighs: Southern Chow in a Williamsburg Bar

Crispy fried catfish, pulled pork with Carolina-style vinegar bite, and macaroni and cheese with a gentle chile kick are early hound favorites at month-old Pies-n-Thighs, which dishes up Southern-accented chow from a makeshift kitchen at the back of Williamsburg’s Rock Star Bar.

Other winners: tangy lemonade, Brunswick stew, sausage and gravy, apple or Key lime pies, and apple-rhubarb cobbler that w/l says rivals good homemade versions. “Lots of fun–would certainly go back,” writes shrimpbird.

Dissenters fault fried chicken (crisp but bland, says brooklynsabra), dried-out barbecued pork, and hit-or-miss sides (good black-eyed peas, weak collard greens, overly vinegary cole slaw).

Pies-N-Thighs [Williamsburg]
351 Kent Ave., entrance on S. 5th St., Brooklyn
347-282-6005

http://piesandthighs.com

Locator

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Pies n Thighs
Pies n Thighs again
Pie’s n’ thighs in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Pepper Vinegar

Pepper vinegar is a snappy condiment for barbecue and barbecue-related foods. What couldn’t you dress up with a bottle of vinegar flavored with hot chiles?

It’s easy to make your own. Use a sterilized narrow-necked bottle; fill with any combination of small chiles (birds eye, tabasco, and cayenne are common). Heat white or cider vinegar and pour over the peppers. Close tightly and let sit in a cool place for a couple of weeks before using. Just replenish the vinegar in the bottle as you use it up. If you want to increase the heat, make slits in the chiles before you put them in the bottle, or follow Hungry Celeste“s recipe, and puree 2 T kosher salt and a small handful of chiles, and put the puree in the bottle with the whole peppers and vinegar.

Vinegar is a preservative, so you needn’t worry about the peppers going bad.

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Pepper vinegar?

The Magic of Celery Leaves

Don’t discard those celery leaves, or only save them for making stock! They’ve got a lovely light, clean taste that’s perfect as a garnish for pureed soup (cauliflower is a nice match), tossed into green salads, blended into chimichurri or salsa verde, or folded into tuna salad.

And celery leaves are the cilantro-hater’s best friend. If a dish tastes like soap with cilantro but as if it’s missing something without it, celery leaves give a similar bright flavor without the offense.

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Hate cilantro? Try celery leaves!

More on Tribu Grill

Chowhounds have descended on that Filipino home-cooking heaven, Tribu Grill, to more fully explore its menu. The newly discovered favorite: crispy pata, a stunning hunk of pork shank, deep fried to crispy perfection. All the Chowhounds who’ve tried it swoon over it.

Sisig (chopped pork parts with lots of garlic) is incredible. RWCFoodie could have scarfed the whole plate in about five seconds. Great shrimp gambas, too. Daing na bangus (marinated fried milkfish) is nicely done, with a mild vinegar tang balanced by fried garlic (a balance which is more or less the epitome of Filipino cuisine).

Tribu Grill [Peninsula]
235 El Camino Real, San Bruno
650-872-8858
Map

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Tribu Grill - don’t wake me, I’m in DreamLand

East Bay Philly Cheesesteak Roundup

Hollow Leg has visited every Philly cheesesteak place he can find in the East Bay. And the winner is ... Joe’s Catering, a lunch truck, where $5 gets you the biggest, sloppiest cheesesteak you’ve had in a while, jammed full of meat, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese. Perhaps the meat is sliced a little thicker than on a truly authentic Philly cheesesteak, and perhaps the peppers could be a little softer, but “it seems churlish to complain when you’re getting about half a pound of steak for $5 and it lays the smack on everything else in the area.”

The truck is in front of Creative Technology on the old Alameda Navy Base from 1 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. on weekdays, then elsewhere on the base for lunch all afternoon.

El Senor Burrito already makes tortas, so cheesesteaks apparently seemed a minor stretch. Five bucks gets you a cheesesteak with fries or rings. The latter are repulsive, made from onion paste, not actual onions. But fries are good, and so are the cheesesteaks. It’s a bit bready, but all the elements are there, preparation is right, and the whole thing tastes mighty fine.

Dynamite Cheesesteak gets a big fat “meh…”. Which is to say it’s not bad, nor is it particularly good. It’s dry, undercheesed, and over-breaded. And it’s more expensive. berkeleybob thinks the best cheesesteaks come from Berkeley’s Cheese Steak Shop. It’s about as close to an authentic South Philly cheesesteak as you can find around here. They even fly in bread from Philly. Plus they have Tastykakes.

swillbill agrees that the greasy slop they serve here is freakin’ delicious. But do order the 7 inch, as the 10 incher will hurt you. This place may be a chain, we’re not sure, but it’s the sort of chain a lot of chowhounds believe in. They know what they’re doing, they know what real cheesesteaks taste like, and the volume business lets them fly in the right fixings from Philly. J T advises ordering “double meat”, as the regular cheesesteak is a bit scanty.

Joe’s Catering Lunch Truck [East Bay]
On the old Alameda Navy base
2501 Monarch St. #22, Alameda
Map

El Senor Burrito (at High Street Gas and Food) [Fruitvale]
720 High St., just off 880, Oakland
Map

Dynamite Cheesesteak [East Bay]
1221 Park St., Alameda
510-749-7100
Map

Cheese Steak Shop [East Bay]
1054 University Ave at San Pablo, Berkeley
510-845-8689
Locator

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East Bay Philly Cheesesteak Roundup

Fine Soup Noodles, Roast Duck

Scarf excellent soup noodles at BBQ and Noodle Garden. For $4.50, you can get soup noodles topped with two barbecued items; for $3.50, you can get sliced fish congee and various other small plates.

Their soup noodles are strong all around, reports Melanie Wong. The carefully skimmed broth is very light, nearly clear, and well-flavored. Noodles are as wiry as a Hong Kong diner would demand, and the iceberg lettuce is just wilted enough to bring out the slight sweetness, but leave some of the crunch. Whoever’s in the kitchen has a good touch; they’re hitting the textures spot on.

Meats are good too, and display the same steady expertise. Roast duck is tender and not too fatty, with nicely browned skin. The meat is well complemented by gentle spicing. Poached free-range chicken is properly red at the bone, and has very good flavor and texture, especially the toothsome plain skin.

BBQ & Noodle Garden [Richmond]
Formerly Wah Win Restaurant
5740 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
415-386-2388
Map

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Soup Noodles @ BBQ & Noodle Garden, SF

Gelato, Gelato Everywhere

Gelato can now be found at the Viktor Benes bakery in the Century City Gelson’s, says PayOrPlay, with some very good flavors (sour cherry, pink grapefruit). There are 8-10 varieties, and they change regularly.

In addition to the gelato at Pazzo (look out for the fruit flavors made from farmers’ market produce), Eastsiders who don’t want to make the trek to Boule can find its chocolate truffles and pates de fruit there. There’s even a discount–the truffles, notes kevin, are $2 apiece instead of $2.50. But then, they don’t come in a little box with a ribbon. Also: baked goods from South Pas’s excellent Heirloom Bakery.

In Pasadena, Noodle World has reopened, and is also serving gelato.

Viktor Benes Continental Pastries [Century City]
at Gelson’s Market
10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
310-277-7670

http://www.viktorbenes.com

Locator

Pazzo Gelato [Silverlake]
3827 Sunset Blvd, Hyperion, Los Angeles
323-662-1410

http://www.pazzogelato.net

Map

Noodle World [Pasadena-ish]
24 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
626-585-5885
Locator

Noodle World [San Gabriel Valley]
46 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra
626-293-8800
Locator

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Pazzo Gelato
Noodle World!
valley gelato

Mad-Scientist Ice Cream

A laboratory for eclectic ice cream flavors, the LA City College-adjacent Scoops has been getting some press lately. Owner Tai Kim uses tropical fruits (mango, ube) as well as wasabi, and chocolate jalapeno. Brown bread, believe it or not, is a popular flavor, and there are also vegan ice creams. You can even write a flavor suggestion on his dry-erase board.

For the less adventurous, pistachio, chocolate, and tiramisu are good bets. Flavors rotate about once a week. Two scoops are $2.

Scoops [East Hollywood]
formerly Taicecream
712 N. Heliotrope Dr., Los Angeles
323-906-2649
Locator

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Scoops Ice Cream @ Melrose & Heliotrope?
Scoops on Heliotrope in Silverlake?

Little Owl: Promising Mediterranean Hideaway in the Village

An Italian-leaning menu of simple, seasonal dishes is drawing crowds at the Little Owl, which roosted a month ago on the site of the now-closed bistro Chez Michallet. “I almost don’t want to post because it’s so tiny, but I thought it was great,” says jdm, who loves the meatball sliders and crispy chicken with fried asparagus from chef Joey Campanaro (the Harrison, Pace).

Also recommended: flavorful New York strip steak (served with pancetta, radicchio, and fennel), clean-tasting halibut with an alluring golden-brown crust, and for dessert, brownie cake and baked strawberry custard. Other pluses include warm service, an intimate vibe, and a decent midpriced wine list. The room seats around 30 tops, so expect a wait.

Not everyone is a fan. “Formulaic and lackluster,” sniffs (mp), who finds the food at best acceptable but mostly bland and unremarkable.

The Little Owl [West Village]
formerly Chez Michallet
90 Bedford St., at Grove, Manhattan
212-741-4695

http://thelittleowlnyc.com

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Little Owl?
Little Owl
Little Owl and Ditch Plains Reviewed
the little owl

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, at: http://www.economycandy.com

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. Order at: http://www.licoriceinternational.com

For a good selection of sugar free, try Dutch Sweets, at: http://www.dutchsweets.com.

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best black licorice? by mail-order, pls