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

Grumpy in Greenpoint: Espresso with Seattle Flair

Cafe Grumpy brews uncommonly fine espresso, Seattle style, reports BGRose. Beans are from Seattle’s Victrola Coffee, shots are precisely pulled, and lattes are delicious.

The owners, who opened their Greenpoint cafe earlier this year, are planning a second one on 20th Street in Chelsea–big news, notes BGRose, for Manhattanites in search of decent coffee north of hound hangout Joe in the Village.

Cafe Grumpy [Greenpoint]
193 Meserole Ave., at Diamond St., Brooklyn
718-349-7623
Map

Board Links: Cafe Grumpy—fabulous espresso in Brooklyn

China Chalet: True Sichuan Flavors in Florham Park, NJ

China Chalet, despite a name that might summon scary visions of ma po fondue, actually serves authentically fiery and complex Sichuan chow made by a chef from Chengdu, reports A.West. Favorites include such regional standards as ox tongue and tripe in roasted chile-peanut vinaigrette, pork dumplings in red oil, chilled noodles with spicy sesame vinaigrette, diced chicken sauteed with three types of pepper, and braised beef or tilapia with Chinese cabbage in chile oil–and the good Sichuan stuff is on the regular menu.

Turns out A.West and his Sichuanese wife have been tracking this chef since he cooked at Springfield’s Cathay 22 a few years back. “He now knows us well enough that we’ve been letting him select most of our dishes for us. My suggestion for people who can eat spicy food is to tell the waiter you want to pretend you’re having dinner in Chengdu.”

China Chalet [Morris County]
184 Columbia Tpke., between James and Park Sts.,Florham Park, NJ
973-966-2828
Map

Board Links: Any Good Chinese Open Mondays in Westfield?

Sea Salt Is Better Than You’d Expect

Sea Salt Restaurant (mentioned earlier) has a poor reputation among Chowhounds. But several dissent, saying food here is exceptionally good, though expensive.

Robert Lauriston thinks the place is actually a good value, considering the quality of the ingredients and the finenss of execution. He had a bunch of stuff, all good: monkfish liver torchon with sea urchin and caviar ($12), clam chowder with bacon and cream ($9), grilled sardines ($12.50), bacon-wrapped grilled sturgeon ($22), gigantes with tuna confit ($10), broccolini with aleppo pepper ($6). The chowder and tuna-bean salad are about as good as these dishes get.

Veebee says that she’s been surprised by how good Sea Salt is, especially given all the negative feedback. Monkfish liver torchon (without sea urchins) is amazing. Grilled sardines are another favorite–the combination of bright herbs and rich grilled sardines is perfect. She still thinks about it. A lot.

Also excellent: grilled calamari with arugula pesto and gigante beans, a great combination. And a super lobster roll, which is particularly satisfying for brunch.

Sea Salt Restaurant [East Bay]
2512 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley
510-883-1720
Map

Board Links: Sea Salt

House of the Rising Clay Pot

House of Clay Pot has expanded into a mini-chain almost overnight. And this is a good thing, as they serve interesting and very well prepared things, reports marlon.

Chicken mushroom clay pot is soft and fragrant. Roasted duck with taro is the best of many versions he’s tried. And General Tsao’s chicken is, suprisingly, truly wonderful. It’s not over-battered or over-fried, and actually has the right amount of spice and sauce. House vegetable goose is good, though served warm (usually it’s cold), and ong choy is well prepared.

Clay pot rice is excellent, too. Be sure to look around your table for cruets of their seasoned, soy-based sauce. Add some to the clay pot rice, then mix it all up. They won’t do it for you, and without the sauce, the clay pot rice will be underflavored.

There may a branch on Irving, as well, but we couldn’t locate it. Stay tuned!

House of Clay Pot Restaurant [Richmond]
5423 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
415-876-2828
Map

House of Clay Pot [Richmond]
844 Clement St., San Francisco
Map

Board Links: House of Clay pot

Burgers, An Ode in the Key of Bleu

At Tim and Liza Goodells’ new burger joint, 25 Degrees, among the dozen cheese options is Big Woods blue, from Minnesota. The house burger features it, along with caramelized onion, bacon, and arugula, and draws raves. The burgers here might just be the best in a diner in LA at the moment, says kevin. But the fries are not so great, and the chocolate cake is a behemoth of an abomination.

Eating the French burger at Barney’s Gourmet Burgers is like dying (of a coronary) and going to burger heaven, says Nina. It includes a mound of blue cheese, plus bacon.

The blue cheese in the Hungry Cat’s Pug Burger is extra-tangy…great with their fries.

The Counter uses high-quality Danish blue cheese in its burgers.

Father’s Office’s legendary burger is made with Maytag blue.

You can often substitute blue cheese in a standard cheeseburger. At the Palm, go blue instead of the standard Cheddar–it’s fantastic, says SpongeBobSquarePegs.

And Pete’s Cafe will likely do the same with their Hellman Burger (made with fontina). Hell, make it a bleu-fest and get the blue cheese fries, too.

25 Degrees [Hollywood]
in Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Blvd., Orange Dr., Hollywood
323-785-7244
Map

Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers [Wealthy Westlands]
11660 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles
310-447-6000
Map

Barneys Gourmet Hamburger [Beaches]
225 26th St., Santa Monica
310-899-0133
Map

Hungry Cat [Hollywood]
1535 N. Vine St., Sunset, Los Angeles
323-462-2155
Map

The Counter [Beaches]
2901 Ocean Park Blvd., 29th St., Santa Monica
310-399-8383
Map

Father’s Office [Beaches]
1018 Montana Ave., Santa Monica
310-393-2337
Map

Palm Restaurant [Beaches]
9001 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
310-278-6366
Map

Palm Restaurant [Downtown]
1100 S. Flower St., Los Angeles
213-763-4600
Map

Pete’s Cafe & Bar [Downtown]
400 S Main St., Los Angeles
213-617-1000
Map

Board Links: blue cheese burger

The World in the Palm of Your Hands

The local mini-chain The Cravery, which began popping up around the LA area last year, is focused on pasties–handheld savory pies–with international flavors (like chipotle chicken fajita, Thai curry chicken, and eggplant parmesan). They’re excellent, says Dustin, but rich. There’s also salad, and they serve breakfast (great coffee) as well as lunch and dinner. Coming soon: a Los Altos branch.

The Cravery [South Bay]
1441 West Knox Ave., Torrance
310-320-4050
Map

Cravery Irvine [South OC]
6638 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine
949-727-3663
Map

Cravery [OC Beaches]
at Bella Terra
7811 Edinger Ave., Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach
714-894-2927
Map

Board Links: Aussie Meat/Seafood Pies In Los Angeles?

Sublime Roast Pig at Sunset Park’s La Fe

The best pernil around is at La Fe, a Dominican eatery right outside the 36th Street subway station in Sunset Park, says chishibuki. From a whole pig reposing in a large dish behind the counter, “they pull the meat off with tongs, which appears to take no effort at all. It is served with a chunk of the skin, dripping with fat and with a couple of lime or lemon wedges on top. The pernil is slightly garlicky, drenched in fat, and not too salty. One order with rice and beans–for just $5 or $6–will feed three waifish hipsters or one large voracious sports fan.”

La Fe Restaurant [Sunset Park]
941 4th Ave., at 36th St., Brooklyn
718-788-0139
Map

Board Links: Pernil

Corn on the Cob Shopping Etiquette

All those people at markets who tear back corn husks to expose the kernels (then toss the ears back for no apparent reason, leaving the corn to deteriorate) are practicing shockingly poor corn-buying etiquette, say hounds, who insist that it’s perfectly easy to find good ears without de-husking.

The selfish should note that this preserves the freshness of ears you yourself choose as well as those you’d otherwise have ruined for others!

ciaolette explains what to look for: The husks should be fresh and green, with no yellowing or dryness, and should sit close to the ear. The silk should be mostly green, with very little darkness. The cut stalk should be very fresh, not dried out. The ear should have good weight for its size.

Your editor, Caitlin McGrath, evaluates the kernels by running a finger up the outside of the cob to feel if they’re plump and uniform. Karl S points out that if you’re buying organic corn, there’s always a chance you’ll find a worm or some mold–it’s rare, but his smart solution is to always buy an extra ear, just in case.

Board Links
Farmstand etiquette

Cajun Seasoning Mix

This recipe for Cajun-style seasoning (courtesy of Fleur), can be used in many ways: as a rub, in flour for dredging, in salad dressing, mixed with olive oil as a marinade for grilled meat, fish, chicken, and vegetables.

2 1/2 T sweet paprika
2 T kosher salt
2 T garlic powder
1 T black pepper
1 T onion powder
1 T cayenne pepper
1 T dried oregano
1 T dried thyme

Combine all ingredients, mix well. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 2/3 cup. Keeps a long time, until you use it all up.

Board Links
Cajun seasoning???

Bounce Miracle Cure for Burnt Pots

Who knew? Bounce dryer sheets are a miracle cure for pots with bottoms burnt out and blackened when they’re forgotten on the stove and nothing else will do the trick.

Hot water and a couple of fabric softener sheets left to soak for a few days loosen up all that burnt-on gunk like a charm, swears Cynthia, who says the method even saved a pot from an impossibly crusted layer of would-be peach preserves turned to carbon.

Board Links
The Bounce Miracle Cure saved my stockpot!