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

Tamarind Gourmet: Middle Eastern in Morningside Heights

You could walk right past Tamarind Gourmet and its window display of middling-looking muffins without suspecting that there was decent Middle Eastern takeout inside. But if you slow down and step in, you’ll find very tasty tabouleh, hummus, chicken, and babaghanoush, among other things, at this deli near the 125th Street subway station, reports Simon.

Tamarind Gourmet and Health Food [Morningside Heights]
3161 Broadway, between Tiemann Pl. and LaSalle St., Manhattan

Board Links: everyday lunch options near columbia

Like an Old Sweet Song: Elmhurst’s Georgia Diner

At Georgia Diner, the little things tell the story. Some single out the warm feta bread or house-made salad dressings at this peach-festooned Elmhurst landmark. For Eric Eto, an unmistakable sign of a caring, talented kitchen is the addictively good trio of salads that come with every entree–bean, beet, and (especially) a Platonic version of coleslaw that strikes a faultless balance of cabbage, carrot, and slightly sweetened mayo.

And you won’t end up pushing the rest of your meal around the plate, Eric promises–broiled halibut, Roumanian steak, chicken parmigiana, and stuffed chicken, among other entrees, are all quite good. Others praise roast turkey and steak and eggs. (One misfire: tasteless, overcooked spaghetti served with the chicken parm.) Two smart orders are hamburger and chicken souvlaki–though they aren’t full entrees, so they don’t come with the salads. Best deal on the menu is the weeknight special: soup, salad, entree, dessert, and coffee (plus that bottomless salad trio) for $17.

Leave room for one of the house-made desserts in the spinning case. Rice pudding is best of type–simple, straightforward, practically perfect.

“The best diner in Queens by far,” declares KellyBelly. “They treat you well, you get a ton of food for the money, and they make it fresh whether it is 3 p.m. or 3 a.m.”

Georgia Diner [Elmhurst]
86-55 Queens Blvd., between Broadway and 55th Ave.,
Elmhurst, Queens

Board Links: Best Diners?
Georgia Diner, Elmhurst

Talking Pizza in Norwalk, CT: Letizia’s Stakes Its Claim

Letizia’s Neapolitan-style pizza boasts top-notch toppings and flavorful sauce on a solid, medium-thin crust that balances a touch of char with proper chewiness. “It’s the best place in Norwalk,” declares TD, “and right up there with Colony as the best in Connecticut.”

If you’re thinking it might be something like New Haven pizza, think again. “This is not New Haven pizza. It doesn’t even copy it,” writes TrishUntrapped. “It is thin crust, and the sauce and cheese go almost to the very edge of the pie. There is no thick rim. Cheese and sauce are good, and the sausage is very good.” Adds TD: “It is very different from–and better than–New Haven pizza. New Haven pizza has a very thin, very dry crust. Letizia’s crust is charred to perfection but retains enough moisture on the interior to prevent it from drying out. Letizia’s sauce is also better than any I’ve had at Sally’s, Pepe’s, or Modern Apizza–very flavorful, yet it does not overpower the cheese.”

Since we’re talking pizza here, naturally there’s disagreement. “I’ve never understood the hype. It’s average at best,” sniffs vegas. “Colony Grill is much much better.”

Letizia’s Pizza [Fairfield County]
666 Main Ave (Rte 7), between Grist Mill and W. Rocks Rds, Norwalk, CT

Colony Grill [Fairfield County]
172 Myrtle Ave, between Frederick and Elm Sts, Stamford, CT

Board Links: Has anyone tried Letizias pizza in norwalk, Ct?

Penzey’s for Spices

Penzey’s spices are very fresh, and their extracts are equally wonderful. Customers rave about their excellent customer service.

Of all their cinnamons, the Vietnamese Extra Fancy is the best. liu has tried them all, and says this one has real deep cinnamon flavor.

Check out Penzey’s magazine called “One”, which features diverse recipes from its readers.

Board Links: spices

Ben & Jerry’s Portion Control

A pint of ice cream can disappear awfully quickly. The solution: Ben & Jerry’s new mini-size, delivering a relatively healthful four ounce portion, along with a small spoon. One weird report: John Seberg says that not only is the portion skimpy, but the size of the chocolate and cherry chunks in the Cherry Garcia flavor seems smaller as well (“isn’t that what Ben & Jerry’s is all about? Big Chunks?”).

Also new and self-limiting from Ben & Jerry’s: “The Cone”, a new drumstick-type ice cream hounds find more satisfying.

Board Links: Little Ben & Jerry’s

Scrambling the Golden Egg

Should you luck into a fresh goose egg, don’t get fancy. Goose eggs are rich and full flavored, and benefit from simple cooking. Scrambling (over low heat) or omelettes are good choices, but frying won’t bring out the golden egg’s best qualities, as goose eggs, like duck eggs, have firmer whites than chicken eggs that turn tough when fried.

heidipie got her hands on a just-laid goose egg, and says It scrambled up beautifully. “Goose eggs are to chicken eggs as goose meat is to chicken meat. So very rich!”

Board Links: One Goose Egg…

Spicy Popcorn

Chowhounds like a spicy spin on their popcorn. Here are some favorite methods.

Use chili oil instead of vegetable vegetable oil for stove-top popping, plus add Parmesan cheese and salt (chowmeow).

Pop on stovetop in olive oil, then top with melted butter, kosher salt, and smoked Spanish Paprika (JaneRI).

Make “homemade” microwave popcorn in a plain paper bag: use 1/3 cup popcorn, a few drops water (around 1/4 tsp), around 1/2 tsp of chili oil, and a few shakes of coarse salt. Shake to distribute everything, fold top of bag over a few times, and microwave about 3 minutes (you’ll have to play with the time to see what works for your microwave (cheryl h).

Or, toss garlic powder, cayenne and Parmesan with standard unflavored microwave popcorn (MeowMixx).

Board Links: Spicy popcorn

A Dim Sum Steal

The best siu mai in Chinatown, declares K, can be found at Family Pastry: huge suckers filled with chopped, not ground pork, for only 40 cents each.

Family Pastry [Chinatown]
715 N. Spring St., Ord, Los Angeles

Board Links: A sad day for dim sum in LA….

Uptown Latin Update, From the Dominican to Ecuador

For homey Dominican chow in Washington Heights and parts north, La Nueva Espana easily bests the popular neighborhood mini-chain Caridad, says georgie. At Espana’s two locations in the Heights and Inwood, chicken comes a dozen ways–the roasted platter is a good bet, as is chicken breast in a sandwich. Also recommended: shrimp salad, shrimp in chile-tomato sauce, and unbeatable rice and beans. Decent coffee, too, black or con leche.

Rancho Jubilee offers a different, higher-end take on Dominican–seafood-stuffed lobster tail, steaks with mushroom-red wine sauce, and squash filled with seafood stew, for example. It’s good (if gussied-up) chow in a fun, tropical-looking setting, reports susieq.

For a rare taste of Ecuadoran food, the go-to spot is Genesis, where smart orders include avocado salad, ceviches (shrimp, fish, or clam), rice dishes with seafood, and empanadas de verdes (green plantain) from the antojitos menu. Other antojitos include muchines (fried yuca balls), papas rellenas (stuffed potatoes), and tamale-like ayacas, long recommended by chowhounds. (Genesis II, on 181st Street, is mostly a takeout shop, much smaller than the Inwood location.)

La Cabana Salvadorena is a perennial hound favorite. JoshG recommends its pupusas, which are patted out by a veteran crew of Salvadoran cooks; fillings include beans, pork, cheese, and loroco, the herbaceous Central American flower. Past picks include sweet corn tamales, sweet plantains with crema, and the hearty, filling plato tipico (skirt steak, cheese pupusa, chicken or cheese tamale–all for $8.50).

La Nueva Espana [Inwood]
606 W 207th St., between Broadway and Vermilyea Ave., Manhattan

La Nueva Espana [Washington Heights]
1263 St. Nicholas Ave., at 173rd St., Manhattan

Rancho Jubilee [Washington Heights]
10 Hillside Ave., at Nagle Ave. and Broadway, Manhattan

Restaurante Ecuatoriano Genesis [Inwood]
538 W. 207th St., between Sherman and Post Aves, Manhattan

Restaurante Ecuatoriano Genesis II [Washington Heights]
511 W. 181st St., between Amsterdam and Audubon Aves, Manhattan

La Cabana Salvadorena Restaurant [Washington Heights]
4384 Broadway, at 187th St., Manhattan

Board Links: Anyone else here live ALL the way uptown?
Dinner near W 190th St?
Inwood–Park Terrace Bistro

The Cure for Summertime Heat Is Cold Buckwheat Noodles

Crave a refreshing lunch? Try #13 at Pyung Chang–buckwheat noodles in cold broth with kimchee, a.k.a. mul naeng myun. Melanie Wong loves the slushy, very pale, and slightly sweet broth. Add a bit of mustard from the squeeze bottle, and it’s cool, zingy perfection. The buckwheat noodles are firm and springy, as good naeng myun noodles ought to. They’re topped with thin bits of sweet cucumber, daikon kimchee, a bit of crunchy Asian pear, and half a hard-boiled egg. It’s just the ticket for hot summer days. The place is air-conditioned, too.

There’s also truly great panchan–zucchini braised with garlic, topped with toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions. The zucchini becomes thoroughly infused with the flavor of garlic.

Sahn Maru offers three different cold buckwheat noodle dishes, and they’re all great. Maya S and her buddies ate every last bite of noodles, seafood pancakes, and sizzling spicy chicken.

We must add that Sahn Maru has three cold buckwheat noodle dishes on offer. Five of us tried them all last Saturday along with a seafood pancake and a sizzling plate of spicy chicken. Not a bite was left. The owners/staff were watching the US/Italy game with much gusto but managed to serve us well. Air conditioned, too!

Pyung Chang Tofu House [Temescal]
4701 Telegraph Ave., Oakland

Sahn Maru [Temescal]
4315 Telegraph Ave., at 43rd. St., Oakland

Board Links: Mul Naeng Myun @ Pyung Chang, Oakland