The CHOW Blog rss

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

Groceries and Kebabs

Super King is like a nicer and cleaner Jons, with nine kinds of feta (including Italian and Hungarian), a zillion salamis and bolognas, ropes of cheese, and an impressive butcher department, says Briggs. And in addition to doing your grocery shopping, you can also get terrific chicken and beef lule kebabs.

Super King Market [Eagle Rock]
2716 San Fernando Rd., Edward, Los Angeles

Super King Market [South OC]
10500 Magnolia Ave., Cerritos, Anaheim

Board Links: Super King–Northeast LA’s Zabar?

Pizza Tailored to Taste

Fratelli’s is an old-school Italian place with old-school pleasures–Stella Artois and Sierra Nevada beer on tap, a nice garlicky spit-roasted chicken, and a highly satisfactory pizza, says Donny Mac. You can customize the toppings, crust, and even the sauce. Arrabiata sauce, for example, is excellent, spicy and garlicky. Extra-thin crust has nice flavor and texture, although it could be a bit crispier. Individual-sized pizzas tend to have thicker/puffier crusts, and the regular sauce is pretty bland.

Fratelli’s Pizza & Deli [East San Fernando Valley]
2064 Verdugo Blvd. #B, Park Place, Montrose

Board Links: Brief Review: Fratelli’s–Good Pizza in Montrose/Glendale/LCF

Duck, Duck … Soup!

Phoo D shares his recipe for a delicious duck soup making use of every last scrap of leftovers from a Chinese roast duck. It serves 4 to 8 as a first course.

Leftovers from 1 Chinese roast duck (skin, juice, meat, and bones)
Pinch of salt
Star anise
1” length of peeled ginger root, cut into thin matchsticks
3-5 mushrooms, sliced
2 bunches green onions. sliced
1/2-3/4 package of firm tofu, diced
6-10 leaves napa cabbage, sliced
White pepper to taste
Chopped cilantro leaves

Stock Preparation:

Place leftover duck meat, skin, fat, juice, and bones (making sure all large bones are cut) in a pan and cover with water. Add pinch of salt and several whole star anise. Bring to a boil and simmer for at least 2 hours (3 or 4 hours is even better). Add extra water as needed to keep scraps covered.

After letting the mixture cool slightly, strain to separate liquid from solids. After liquid has cooled some, store covered in the refrigerator.

Soup Making (about 30-45 minutes):

Scrape fat off of stock. Heat stock and add mushrooms, ginger, and the white parts of the green onions. After 20-25 minutes, taste stock and add white pepper to taste; then add napa cabbage. After a few more minutes, add some of the green parts of the green onion. When cabbage is tender, add tofu, cut into pieces, and return to a boil. At this point, the soup is ready. Serve with chopped cilantro as a garnish.

Board Links: Duck Soup Easy

Warm Caprese “Salad”

Caprese salad is a classic–and minimalist–Italian tomato-season dish of sliced ripe tomatoes, fresh whole-milk mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. You can intensify the flavors of this summer staple by using a toasty bread base and warming it all up.

There are two simple methods for prep: oven or grill. In the oven, bake baguette slices brushed with extra virgin olive oil at 450F for 5 minutes. Add a slice of tomato to each slice of bread, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add a slice of mozzarella. Bake again for another 5 minutes or so, just until cheese begins to get a bit melty. Top each with a basil leaf; drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a little more salt. “Eat and swoon” (wyf4lyf).

On the grill, follow the same procedure, first toasting the bread, then returning it to melt the cheese a bit. Some hounds prefer to hide the basil leaf under the cheese so its flavor really permeates. HWiley puts all ingredients inside halved pita breads and tosses on the grill; the pita crisps up while the insides gets the same warm melting effect.

Board Links: Baked Caprese “Salad” —FABULOUS!!!

Apriums and Pluots

Apriums and pluots are the Labradoodles and Cockapoos of the stone fruit world: they are, in other words, culinary crossbreeds.

They’re both plum/apricot hybrids. Apriums are more like apricots than plums; pluots are more like plums than apricots.

Pinstripeprincess says that if the fruit looks more like a plum on the outside with a deeper purple skin, it will taste more like an apricot inside! The reverse is also true: lighter colored skin means more plummy flavor.

Read about Floyd Zaiger, the “father” of apriums and pluots.

Board Links: Aprium vs Pluot

You Want Fries with That? Ja, Oui, You Bet!

Loreley, the Lower East Side biergarten, makes near-faultless fries–crisp, super-thin, and seemingly greaseless, sighs pkallan. “Heavenly with some good German beer.”

Belgian mini-chain Petite Abeille also comes through with excellent fries, topped by a sprinkling of coarse sea salt.

Other favorites: Florent, Balthazar, or the downtown Les Halles for top-notch frites, J.G. Melon for cottage fries, and Pommes Frites for Belgian-style fries with a boggling choice of sauces (Vietnamese pineapple mayo, anyone?).

Loreley Restaurant and Biergarten [Lower East Side]
7 Rivington St., between Bowery and Chrystie, Manhattan

Petite Abeille [Stuyvesant Town]
401 E. 20th St., at 1st Ave., Manhattan

Petite Abeille [Chelsea]
107 W. 18th St., at 6th Ave., Manhattan

Petite Abeille [Tribeca]
466 Hudson St., between Barrow and Grove, Manhattan

Petite Abeille [Tribeca]
134 W. Broadway, between Thomas and Duane Sts, Manhattan

Florent [West Village]
69 Gansevoort St., between Washington and Greenwich, Manhattan

Balthazar [Soho]
80 Spring St., at Crosby St., Manhattan

Les Halles [Financial District]
15 John St., between Broadway and Nassau St., Manhattan

J.G. Melon [Upper East Side]
1291 3rd Ave., at E 74th St., Manhattan

Pommes Frites [East Village]
123 2nd Ave., between E. 7th and 8th Sts, Manhattan

Board Links: Best French Fries currently?

Best of the West: Beef Tri-Tip at Trader Joe’s

Down at the bottom end of the sirloin is a smallish cut of beef called tri-tip, a.k.a. triangle or culotte. Cheap, lean, yet tender and flavorful, it’s revered by barbecue hounds out West. But in the East, it’s mostly overlooked–or just thoughtlessly ground up into hamburger. “Out here, I’ve never been able to find it. Ask a butcher and he’ll just look at you funny,” complains adamclyde.

So it falls to a West Coast grocery chain to spread the tri-tip gospel among East Coast meat lovers. adamclyde found it vacuum-packed at Trader Joe’s in Darien, CT, and TJ’s current newsletter suggests that other locations are likely to carry it as well. It was around $6 a pound, he adds, which is “just incredibly worth it. When grilled to medium rare, it truly is wonderful. Superb. Lovely. Splendid.” TJ’s tri-tip comes with or without “Santa Maria-style” marinade–adamclyde prefers to go without. As a lean cut, however, tri-tip takes well to marination, which you can easily do at home; Asian and Southwestern flavors work nicely.

In addition to Connecticut, Trader Joe’s has colonized Westchester, Long Island, New Jersey, and (most recently) Manhattan’s Union Square.

Trader Joe’s [Fairfield County]
436 Boston Post Rd., at Old Kings Hwy., Darien, CT

Board Links: Tri Tip in the NY Metro area: Trader Joe’s

Omakase at Anzu

Porthos has finally enjoyed Takahashi-san’s omakase at Anzu. He enjoyed the best sushi he’s had in San Francisco, ranking a respectable fourth in his personal all-time sushi rankings, behind such luminaries as New York’s Sushi Yasuda and Los Angeles’ Mori Sushi. The rice is good, though not the transcendent rice of Yasuda. Anzu’s strength, though, is in its wide variety of high-quality fish. yamada3 likes Anzu even better than Sakae. Anzu’s sushi is delicate and feminine, compared to Sakae’s more masculine sushi, which can sometimes be more about the fattiness and oiliness of the fish than its delicate sweetness. “Sakae was like sushi that grows hair on your chest,” he says.

Very important for your Anzu visit: sit at the sushi bar. Only at the sushi bar will you get fresh-grated wasabi.

Omakase is very, very strong. You’ll start with a sashimi plate. On Porthos’ visit, the sashimi plate included beautifully pink chu-toro (fattier than the alleged o-toro at Kitsho), buttery kingfish, flavorful copper river salmon, and firm, clean tasting mejini. Then, a comforting little bit of sukiyaki as a meaty palate-cleanser.

Then came nigiri. Porthos’ omakase included creamy, buttery kanpachi; fresh high-grade hamachi; and gorgeous and sweet bluefin tuna. Santa Barbara uni was sweet and fresh, the architecture of the uni well preserved. Ayoyagi and mirugai were both sweet, crispy, and refreshing. Tairagai was firmer and sweeter than regular scallops. And their o-toro was light pink, but with big fat streaks of white–very rich and fatty. Dessert was a refreshing handroll with ume, tobiko, sharkfin, and shiso.

Weak links: pre-packaged anago and unagi. And fishy aji. And their kohada.

Now for the important data. Takahashi-san has revealed that he gets his fish on Tuesdays and Fridays, with the big shipment coming in on Tuesdays. On Tuesday, he has up to forty types of fish. So the best time to go is Tuesday through Friday. Caveat: if it’s a holiday in Japan, the fish shipments come a day later.

Anzu Restaurant [Union Square]
222 Mason St., San Francisco

Sakae Restaurant [Peninsula]
240 Park Rd., Burlingame

Kitsho [South Bay]
19541 Richwood Dr., Cupertino

Board Links: Sushi At Anzu (finally)

Solid Homey Filipino Food to the South

Gold Tray Manila serves very satisfying homey Filipino food, says Alice Patis. It’s a tiny little store and bakery, jam-packed with pre-packaged snacks from the Philippines, and shrink-wrapped bakery items like kutsinta, sapin-sapin, cassava cakes, and bibingka.

There’s also a little steam table, with solid Filipino fare. For $4.99 you get two items and rice. Bangus–fried milkfish–is a Filipino standard; Gold Tray’s version has some serious lip-smacking, salty goodness. It may not be fresh from the fryer, but it’s still got some crispiness to it. Most importantly, it’s served boneless–very important for this bony little fish. Mussels in broth are really good, too–mussels are plump and unsmelly, and the broth is deep and slightly sweet. It’s flavored just from the sauteed mussels and veggies–no stock, no MSG–with a bit of a bite from some ginger and black pepper.

Halo halo is huge, with the highest ratio of solids to liquids she’s seen in a halo halo. There’s a great variety of solids too, pinipig (puffed rice) predominating, but with lots of beans, jellies, coconut cubes, ground mung bean, taro hunks, soft jackfruit shreds, and other unidentifiable but yummy stuff. It’s totally worth the $3.99.

Tuesdays and Thursdays they have an all-you-can-eat buffet for $5.99, and a greater selection from the steam table.

Elsewhere: four Filipino chowhounds descended on Ihaw Ihaw after a recent heavenly experience at Tribu. Verdict: they universally choose Tribu as the superior Filipino restaurant overall. However: Ihaw Ihaw does have super pinakbet (vegetable stew with shrimp paste). pilinut would return just for pinakbet and some rice.

Several Chowhounds love Kuya’s. itadakiMAN is a regular; his favorites there are hitong kano (deep-fried catfish), inihaw no baboy (grilled pork chops), adobo rice, salpicao, and, of course, crispy pata. There are also great pork sinigang, miki nihon, sisig, and halo halo. Great service and great prices, says SFcaterer.

Gold Tray Manila [South Bay]
5320 Monterey Hwy., near Ocean Palace restaurant, San Jose

Ihaw Ihaw [Peninsula]
a.k.a. San Bruno Ihaw
422 San Mateo Ave., San Bruno

Tribu Grill [Peninsula]
235 El Camino Real, San Bruno

Kuya’s [Peninsula]
460 San Mateo Drive, San Bruno

Board Links: Crispy Pata, etc.—Ihaw Ihaw vs. Tribu
Gold Tray Manila – solid homey filipino food in San Jose

XLB Update

Dispatch from San Gabriel Valley–there are some awesome xiao long bao, or soup dumplings, at J&J, says estone888, in the same strip mall that houses the pretty-damn-good xlb of Mei Long Village (whose potstickers remain superior).

J&J Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
a.k.a. Jin Jiang Restaurant
301 W. Valley Blvd. #109, Del Mar, San Gabriel

Board Links: J&J XLB–thanks jouznutz