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

Overheard on the Los Angeles Board

"The wonton noodles were insipid. The wontons themselves tasted like flavored cardboard. I've never had wonton noodles that bad in my life. It was even worse than the time I first tried to make that dish in college." - raytamsgv on the Temple City branch of Kang Kang Food Court

"My current go-to sushi spot is Sushi on La Cienega (in the old Ronin Izakaya space). The itamae, Hiro, has a background in Washoku, sushi, both Edomae and fusion, as well as French cooking. While I prefer more traditional style sushi & sashimi, Hiro has dished up the occasional fusion-y pieces that have been absolutely oishii. Two thumbs up for beautifully fresh fish and skillful knife work." - yinyangdi

"The supreme soft tofu at Meiji Tofu in Gardena comes in a container ... if one calls the container a 'dish' and just eats it with a spoon, does it count? :D (It's so fresh and yummy!)" - PomsMoms

How to Fix a Cracked Cheesecake

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Nicole Garrett, executive baker at SusieCakes, shares this holiday tip for how to fix a cracked cheesecake. Here's a cheesecake recipe for you to start cracking yourself! CHOW Tips are ... WATCH THE VIDEO

The Best and Worst Stuff Supertaster Ate This Year

After explaining the Supertaster mandate (trying a lot of the most questionable stuff on the market, like cheesecake-stuffed pancakes at IHOP) to my Uncle Phil one day, he remarked, "Oh, I get it: In terms of food, you're basically jumping on live hand grenades so we don't have to." Sometimes that's true—the job of wading through the frozen, the mass-marketed, and the quickly served is not always a pleasant one (see the last half of this post). But some surprisingly pleasant things happened in the world of prepackaged food and beverages in the year 2010, bright spots of flavor that made the whole odyssey worthwhile. Here are five items that really stood out—in a good way. READ MORE

Exploding Bakeware Attacks Your Face

If you think the tales of exploding glass bakeware made by Pyrex and other manufacturers are just urban legends, they're not. The January issue of Consumer Reports (full article only available to subscribers) investigates the phenomenon, recapping documented cases, like this one: "According to legal documents filed in a federal court in fall 2008, Sharon Fluker of Shreveport, La., opened her oven and started basting a rib roast baking 350 degrees in an Anchor Hocking baking dish in Oct. 2007, and the dish exploded while she was bent over it. Glass shards flew across the kitchen, including 'multiple large glass fragments,' and hundreds of 'microscopic shards penetrated her face and eyes, causing serious injury and loss of vision.'" READ MORE

More Horrible Food-Related Christmas Gifts

A hysterical post on Chowhound ('Tis the Season! — What's the WORST "perfect gift for a food-lover" you've ever received?) helps remind us all why those "I don't know you very well" gifts are so cluster-effingly fun. The following are actual items received by hounds: READ MORE

Beyond the Flushing Food Courts

A Chowhound reports an interesting situation: Her pals are averse to the food courts, malls, and stalls of Flushing, but not to the incredible variety of Asian cuisine in that neighborhood. They’re headed to dinner, looking to hang out in a soothing atmosphere over a few beers, and cost is not an issue. She’s “not married to Sichuan,” but is averse to Taiwanese, and she’s already been to Spicy & Tasty. Her top contenders are Imperial Palace and M&T. What’s the fanciest restaurant in Flushing?

Imperial Palace [Flushing]
136-13 37th Avenue, Queens

M&T [Flushing]
44-09 Kissena Boulevard, Queens

Discuss: Nicer place in Flushing

Sushi for Two for Under $100 on the Upper East Side

We love this sort of challenge: excellent sushi, two people, for less than $100 including tip and tax, Upper East Side, go!

The UES is not necessarily our forte, but we imagine it is for some of you hounds. There’s one recommendation for Gajyumaru, but is there another Japanese restaurant people love? (Don’t forget to check out Trevor Corson’s tips on how to eat sushi like a pro!)

Gajyumaru [Upper East Side]
1659 First Avenue, Manhattan

Discuss: Visiting Upper East Side – restaurant suggestion? Sushi?

The Hunt for the Best Grass-Fed Burger

The "great grass fed burger" is being sought on the boards. The New York Times health blog ran an article earlier this year saying that grass-fed burgers are better for the body, and many argue that they’re better for the environment.

Grass-fed meat can often be a bit leaner (and thus less “well-marbled”) and taste a bit more, well, grassy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: When done right, it can be delicious. This thread talks about high-quality grass-fed beef around town in general, including at Back Forty—but there's not a lot of recent activity, and we want an update! Found an excellent grass-fed burger in the city? Do tell.

Discuss: The Best Grass Fed Burgers in NYC?

Reimagining the Hand-Pulled Noodle

Inspired by Chinatown's five-buck-a-bowl hand-pulled-noodle joints, Hung Ry on Bond Street hired away some local noodle masters, internationalized and upgraded the traditional menu and ingredients, and set up shop in NoHo, hawking noodle soups for three times what you'd pay on Eldridge or East Broadway. In other words, it's the sort of place some Chowhounds love to hate. "I’m really skeptical of any type of fusion Asian cuisine," says Chinatown specialist Lau, "as 9.5 out of 10 times the result is some really bad food in some Meatpacking-type atmosphere."

Consider Lau a former skeptic. Hung Ry's duck noodle soup is "awesome," he declares, "much better than any of the Chinatown hand-pulled noodle places." What lifts it above the competition is the meat, BklynBlaise says: "absolutely delicious—perfectly pink and tender breast with crispy skin, coupled with a pile of well-caramelized shredded duck leg." Beef brisket noodle soup (with beef cheek and honeycomb tripe) stars big, tender hunks of brisket in rich broth with notes of anise and a welcome bite from mustard oil. Other decidedly un-Chinatown-ish choices include veal cheek, marrow, and liver (with Japanese sweet potato and quince); mutton sausage and liver (with salted black cabbage and persimmon); and lobster and sea trout (with sunchokes and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms).

Beyond noodles, hounds recommend appetizers like monkfish liver with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and loganberries. "As much as I love monkfish liver," BklynBlaise reports, "the star component of the dish was the earthy and deeply caramelized mushrooms." Another good bet among the starters is squid, lightly floured and fried in a way that brings to mind Cantonese "salt-baked" dishes, but finished like nothing you'll find at Noodletown or South China Garden: with guajillo chile sauce and a sprinkling of crunchy pumpkin seeds. It's "kinda crazy and damn good," says bigjeff.

The vibe is welcoming, the décor clean and modern, and even Chowhounds who don't fuss over atmospherics are settling in happily. "I still love my hole-in-the-wall hand-pulled noodle shops in Chinatown," BklynBlaise says, "but it’s nice to know that there’s a place to turn to when I want higher-quality ingredients, a nicer setting (with functioning bathrooms, thank you very much), and a menu that intrigues without breaking the bank."

Hung Ry [East Village]
55 Bond Street (near Bowery), Manhattan

Discuss: Hung Ry – Awesome New Modern Noodle Restaurant on Bond Street
hung ry: excellent new noodle joint
hung ry (the new noodle place)

In Bronx Pizza, Local Guys Make Good

Shopping locally is nothing new for the old-school pizzerias of the Bronx. The excellent sausage pie at Louie & Ernie's, a hound haunt in Pelham Bay, has long featured meat from S&D down the street, a classic Italian deli where "pork sausage is king," says Cheese Boy.

Frank's Pizzeria goes a bit farther afield for its sausage, to the pork stores of the Bronx's Little Italy along Arthur Avenue. Sample it in a calzone, Cheese Boy advises: "I ask for mine well done so it comes out golden, hot, and crispy. It's perfect every time." Frank's thin grandma slice—topped with tomato, mozzarella, and pesto—is also worth a try.

A few blocks away, Joe's bakes a "just about perfect" regular slice and great spinach or broccoli rabe focaccia too, says SeamusO. What makes it so good? "The food is clearly made with the utmost care," he says.

In fact, Cheese Boy maintains, Pelham Bay and other parts of the eastern Bronx ("where some of us Italians still reside") remain rich, if rarely discussed, territory for pizza-lovers. Some of his go-to spots are Circle Pizza in Parkchester, especially for its Sicilian; Emilio's in Morris Park for over-the-top toppings (among others, Philly cheesesteak and chicken every which way: francese, cacciatore, with vodka sauce, or grilled with broccoli rabe); and Captain's across the street for more conventional fare.

Naturally this wouldn't be a pizza discussion without a little disputation among the hounds. So what does everybody think about Dominick's on Allerton, previously celebrated for its kitchen-sink toppings? "VERY good standard slice, one of the best in the Bronx," swears Cheese Boy; "pretty good ingredients, but nothing very special," answers Jeffsayyes. And Three Boys from Italy off White Plains Road? "Great," declares Jeffsayyes; "good perhaps at 2 or 3 am if you're drunk," sniffs Cheese Boy. It seems further tasting is in order.

Louie & Ernie's Pizza [Bronx]
1300 Crosby Avenue (between South Avenue and Harbor Road), Bronx

Frank's Pizzeria [Bronx]
2823 Middletown Road (at Mulford Avenue), Bronx

Joe's Pizza [Bronx]
3009 Middletown Road (between Crosby and Hobart avenues), Bronx

Circle Pizza [Bronx]
112 Hugh J. Grant Circle (near Virginia Avenue), Bronx

Emilio's [Bronx]
1051 Morris Park Avenue (at Hone Avenue), Bronx

Captain's Pizzeria [Bronx]
1056 Morris Park Avenue (between Hone and Lurting avenues), Bronx

Dominick's Pizzeria [Bronx]
1015 Allerton Avenue (between Hone and Paulding avenues), Bronx

Three Boys from Italy [Bronx]
704 Burke Avenue (near White Plains Road), Bronx

Discuss: Best Bronx pizza by the slice?