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

License to Chow

The menu is super-simple at this humble seafood joint, with about half a dozen choices, mostly cocktails. You might get stale tortilla chips to start, but the seafood is extremely fresh, says Mealcentric. Mocaljete, a giant caldron, comes filled with all kinds of sea creatures (shrimp, octopus, abalone, and maybe scallops) in a cold tomatoey broth with cucumbers and onions, topped with thick ripe slices of avocado. For $10, it hits the spot on a hot summer evening.

Mariscos Licenciado #2 [South OC]
1052 N. State College Blvd., near the 91 Fwy., Anaheim

Mariscos Licenciado [Inland of LA]
9765 Sierra Ave., at San Bernardino, Fontana

Board Links: Mariscos Licenciado #2–a review

Garlicky Fried Chicken Fun and Also Jook Fun

An order of garlic chicken at Jook N Fun is a whole chicken, albeit a small one. And it’s a mere $8. You order, wait twenty minutes, then receive a plate of hacked up, scalding hot, garlicky, tender poultry, with gloriously crisp skin. A bit of maltose makes for a satisfying crust and adds a touch of sweetness that goes nicely with the deep-fried garlic bits. The chicken may be chopped a bit sloppily, but it’s completely delicious, says Melanie Wong. A good accompaniment is their dry sauteed string beans.

Also good: claypot rice with preserved meat. Claypot rice is a pot filled with rice and topped with the meat or vegetable of your choice. The meat seeps down into the rice as the claypots cooks, flavoring everything as the rice crisps up on the bottom of the pot. Jook N Fun’s claypot is a little undercooked by some claypot standards; you may want to ask for the claypot rice to be cooked a little longer than usual if you want that crusty bottom.

Not so good: chow fun, and everything in their wonton noodle soup except the actual wontons themselves (which, unlike the broth and noodles, are good).

See a picture of their garlic fried chicken.

Jook N Fun [Sunset]
1920 Irving St., between 20th and 21st Sts., San Francisco

Board Links: Garlic Fried Chicken @ Jook N Fun, SF

Cassis And Creme De Cassis

Kirs are popular drinks made from dry white wine flavored with cassis. The drink, incidentally, is named for Canon Felix Kir, one-time mayor of Dijon, France (the center of cassis production).

warrenr explains: cassis and creme de cassis are names for the liqueur made from blackcurrants steeped in neutral spirits, with lots of sugar added. Two favorites available in the US are Cartron Double Creme and Lucien Jacob. Also good are Trenel and Theuriet. L’Heritier-Guyot is the most widely available brand, and it’s marginally acceptable. Most domestic stuff is pretty poor, though Warwick Winery has recently started production of a pretty good cassis.

Maxwell also recommends G. E. Massenez de Dijon, though you may need to go to Dijon to find it.

Bear in mind that freshness is important with cassis, so buy from a store with high turnover.

Board Links: What would the premium brand for Creme de Cassis be?

Getting the Sour Back in Your Cherry Pie

If you’re in one of the many parts of the country where it’s not possible to get fresh or even frozen sour cherries but you crave sour cherry pie, there’s a solution. You can get a lot of real sour cherry flavor into a pie made with sweet cherries by using pure sour cherry juice. Between the juice and the fresh fruit you’ll get a nice balance of chunky and juicy, sweet and tart. Look for jarred Knudsen and Trader Joe’s house brand sour cherry juices.

Bride of the Juggler cooks sour cherry juice with cornstarch and sugar until it’s thick, then pours it over a cookie crumb crust heaped full of pitted cherries and bakes.

Becca Porter makes a conventional cherry pie filling, tossing the fruit with lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt, adding sour cherry juice reduced to syrup consistency.

Board Links: Easy great fruit pies with TJ’s sour cherry juice

Odd Candies

There are lots of oddball candies in this world.

Chowpatty favors Mexican candies flavored with tamarind, chile, or both. She also loves leche quemada, basically Mexican milk fudge. It’s kind of like penuche, but made with white sugar instead of brown. This stuff is available in many Mexican markets–look for a small case with fresh pralines, coconut-fudge, and the like.

MMRuth’s favorite: Dutch double-salted licorice (candy makers in the Netherlands make quite a variety of salted licorice).

At Asian markets, you can find fragrant muscat-grape flavored gummies. They actually exude the aroma and have the flavor of wine grapes, and are chewy, says silence9. They’re more tender than European gummies. Look for them near the Pocky section.

diesel likes anything both salty and sweet, so he grooves most of all on Chinese dried salted plums, Mexican chili-coated gummi bears, Pearson’s salted nut rolls, and chocolate covered potato chips.

GG Mora is into durian candy. It’s like salt-water taffy, only with the unmistakable sulphurous flavor of durian fruit. Also: Ting-Ting Jahe, the sticky ginger candy from southeast Asia.

Choward’s Scents Gum is cool and tastes of lavender.

ipsedixit recommends: marshmallow Peeps, Zagnuts, Valomilks, tropical-flavored Razzles, and Claeys Candy (watermelon and root beer flavors in particular).

Then there are the sweets purists. typetive consumes muscovado sugar by the spoonful. And chica, our greatest purist, prefers a simple raw piece of sugarcane.

Board Links
What’s your favorite oddball candy?

Grilling In Fresh Grape Leaves

Do you have a grapevine in your yard, or access to fresh grape leaves that aren’t sprayed with insecticides? Here are a couple of neat ideas for using the leaves to make delicious dishes on your grill.

For an appetizer, Darren72 likes to take a piece of goat cheese, top it with a basil leaf and a piece of roasted red pepper, wrap the whole in grape leaves, and grill over low heat (this works well with jarred grape leaves in brine, as well).

Season fish (e.g., halibut, sardines, salmon, sole) with salt and pepper (and maybe a little citrus zest) and rub with olive oil, then wrap in grape leaves and grill over medium-high heat. The fish will take on a smoky, herbaceous flavor and the leaves will get a little crispy, says rabaja. If the leaves are young and tender you may be able to eat them, otherwise just open up the package and enjoy the fish on its own.

If you have more fresh-on-the-vine grape leaves than you can currently use, remember that they freeze very well. Blanch, shock in ice water, dry, roll up six at a time, wrap well and freeze (Infomaniac).

Board Links: Lots of Grape Leaves
Stuffed Grape Leaves (not Dolma)

Kebabs, Doner-Style, at Spitz

Go to Spitz for the gelato, stay for the kebabs, says ipse dixit. Chicken kebabs, in a sandwich with tzatziki and chile sauce, are super-tasty. So is the gyro beef/lamb; both sandwiches come on a focaccia-like bread that’s more like what’s used for a “doner kebab” sandwich in Europe than the usual pita. Seasoned fries and sweet potato fries are just as good.

For dessert, there’s that gelato–dark chocolate has good rich flavor; raspberry and pomegranate are both delicious. Green tea is nice and subtle, but maybe a bit too minty. Vanilla has punch, but is too sweet.

Spitz [Eagle Rock]
2506 Colorado Blvd., at College View Ave, Los Angeles

Board Links: SPITZ: Go for the gelato, stay for the kebabs …

Papa’s Got a Brand New Beard

Heads up, Westsiders–Beard Papa has opened a location on Sawtelle, tucked into Mousse Cafe. The bakery-cafe is known for ultra-fresh Japanese-style cream puffs, with crisp shells filled to order with light pastry cream–green tea and chocolate flavors are coming soon, but for now it’s just plain vanilla.

Beard Papa [Sawtelle Strip]
2130 Sawtelle Blvd. #110, Olympic, Los Angeles

Beard Papa [Hollywood]
6801 Hollywood Blvd. #153, Highland, Los Angeles

Beard Papa [South Bay]
in Marukai Pacific Square Shopping Center
1620 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., at LaSalle, Gardena

Beard Papa [Inland of LA]
in Puente Hills Mall
1600 Azusa Ave., at Pepperbrook, City of Industry

BEARD PAPAS cream puffs on Sawtelle
Beard Papas…coming to Sawtelle TOMORROW

Five Hamburger Contenders In Brooklyn

The je ne sais quoi in the alluring hamburger at Cocotte is a dash of cognac, which is drizzled over a fistful of top-notch beef at this Park Slope bistro and bar. Swiss cheese, portobello mushroom, and great French fries complete the plate. Best burger in Brooklyn, declares EJC.

Elsewhere in the Slope, hounds love Helios’ half-pound Black Angus burger, which comes juicy and nicely charred on a house-made brioche roll. Sharp cheddar and freshly sauteed mushrooms put it over the top, says redgirl. For a few bucks more, add standout herb fries or a better-than-you’d-expect side salad of greens, very good crumbled feta, onion, and a tasty vinaigrette. Few reports so far from the Greek side of the menu, except that lamb souvlaki and eggy, lemony avgolemono soup are worth a try.

In Williamsburg, dive bar-turned-bistro Sweetwater makes an excellent, slightly fancy burger with Gruyere and caramelized onions on an English muffin–“which may sound twee to you but I assure you isn’t,” promises benghoil.

Carroll Gardens’ Crave rolls out a 10-ouncer–nicely seasoned meat “with a bit of a kick to it,” says David B–with pickled onions on onion brioche.

And in Brooklyn Heights, the Heights Cafe serves excellent char-broiled burgers with freshly made fries or onion rings, says Fleur.

Cocotte [Park Slope]
337 5th Ave., at 4th St., Brooklyn

Helios [Park Slope]
formerly Elios
82 6th Ave., between St. Marks and Prospect Pl., Brooklyn

Sweetwater [Williamsburg]
105 N 6th St., between Berry St and Wythe Ave., Brooklyn

Crave [Carroll Gardens]
570 Henry St., between Carroll and Summit, Brooklyn

Heights Cafe [Brooklyn Heights]
84 Montague St., at Henry St., Brooklyn

Board Links: great hamburger in brooklyn
helios: great burger
Great burger alert

Telepan Revisited

From the amuse bouche on, zGustibus was sold on the farm-to-table experience at Telepan. The three-part curtain-raiser for his recent dinner comprised chilled carrot soup with olive oil, crostini with mushrooms and beans, and puff pastry filled with cheese. “So delicious, sweet and fresh tasting. It was a definite signal of the kind of greenmarket experience we were about to have.”

At this seven-month-old restaurant on the Upper West Side, chef Bill Telepan (Judson Grill) shows a soft spot for eggs. Two winning dishes: coddled eggs atop collard greens and scrapple, and pea carbonara with pancetta and poached egg (which you mix into a delicious mess in the egg pasta). “If you like to break eggs on top of things, then this is definitely your restaurant.”

In some courses, the accompaniments outshine the star ingredients. Halibut comes out crisply seared outside, moist and flavorful inside–yet it’s upstaged by the chanterelles, wild spinach, and killer crisped gnocchi it’s served over. Overall, though, the end result is a delicious and well-conceived meal. “A lot of times a restaurant will have a great menu but the food doesn’t live up,” observes zGustibus. “At Telepan, the food definitely lived up to the menu.”

Brunch is no letdown, early reports suggest. Even at $25, it’s “an enormous value,” says anon646–a prix fixe deal of two courses plus a generous bread basket of first-rate scones, cinnamon rolls, small doughnuts, and assorted cakes. Winning starters include smoked brook trout (a Telepan signature) on potato-chive blini. Recommended main courses: lobster-scallion omelette and a blowout babka-style chocolate French toast, as amazing as it sounds.

Telepan [Upper West Side]
72 W. 69th St., between Columbus Ave. and Central Park West, Manhattan

Board Links: Telepan: Summer Menu (Long Review)
Telepan Review?