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

Priya’s $12 Buffet of Delights

Saag paneer is great and all, but some people want more. Find it at Priya Indian Cuisine, an Indian spot that has a special Wednesday night chaat buffet as well as a Desi Chinese, a sort of Chinese/Indian fusion that's popular in big Indian cities but not well known in most of America.

opinionatedchef, something of an expert in such matters, having learned the cuisine from native Desis, says, "I have learned to cook a large array of Indian dishes. I was really delighted and surprised with the excellence of the food at Priya. I had not one dish that I thought 'ugh.'"

Everything's vegetarian and the night opinionatedchef visited included over a dozen dishes, including sambar (lentils and vegetables), fried idli cakes with a sweet and sour sauce, curried white peas, carrot halwa, potato patties, and too many other items to list. "Can you imagine, a DINNER buffet w/ a large variety of delicious food for $12 per person?" asked opinionatedchef. Yes. Yes, we can.

Priya Indian Cuisine [Merrimack Valley]
1270 Westford Street, Lowell
978-454-7777

Discuss: 5/19/10 Priya; Unusual and Delic.Southern (and other) Indian in Lowell outskirts; $12 dinner buffet!!!

Diary of a New Food Truck Owner, Part 7: I Curse Thee, Health Department

Diary of a New Food Truck Owner is an ongoing series where we talk with Meg Hilgartner, co-owner (with Siri Skelton) of a fledgling San Francisco mobile soft-serve ice cream business called Twirl and Dip. In this installment, Meg and Siri learn why restaurant gossip about the Health Department is usually accompanied by a string of four-letter words, and why photographs on eBay are not a good indicator of what something actually looks like. Read all the installments.

Last week kicked my ass.
We had a friend who's opening a restaurant, American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, and she contacted us hoping we might want to sell ice cream on her patio on baseball game days, starting on May 31. She didn't realize we had a truck. She thought we had a little cart. We didn't. But we really liked the idea, so we bought one.

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Breakfast on a Bagel

Doublestranded, a recent transplant from NYC, is in search of a "decent" bagel sandwich, with "a real scrambled egg with cheese and bacon," not the "prefab" eggs found at Dunkin' Donuts.

Putting aside the question of who makes the best bagels in town, hound consensus revolved around a couple of spots. The first is Bagels by Us (which ironically imports its bagels from New York's H&H). "Great bagels, great sandwich ingredients, great people. And, if you eat in, you can get a side of Tater Tots!" advises litchick. The other favorite is Bagel Rising, where the long lines of students attest to the popularity of sandwiches like the sunrise special, with a choice of bacon, sausage, or ham.

Bagels by Us [North of Boston]
791 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington
781-646-2662

Bagel Rising [Allston]
1243 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston
617-789-4000

Discuss: Dying for a bagel sandwich

Overheard on the Boston Boards

"We needed ready-made food this week, and being sick of Chinese takeout, pizza, etc., we ordered a duck all roasted, from Owen's Poultry Farm. The duck was more than 5 pounds, roasted and stuffed and with a quart of gravy—$22. Surprisingly, it was very good. Not a lot of fat, much more meat than on the typical duck—big chunks of meat pulled away from the carcass and yummy legs." - emilief

"It's worth keeping in mind that many restaurants offer a 'white' fried rice under the name of either yang chow fried rice or house-fried rice, as well as the drowned-in-soy-sauce version." - Allstonian

"The pork was moist and firm, and had great flavor (probably roasted or braised). The salsa was very good, and included pleasantly sweet pineapple. I could have used a little bit more heat, but it was a great taco." - Area Man on the pork taco at Olecito

When Are Cheap Eats Too Cheap?

A story on DailyFinance explores a Burger King lawsuit that peels back the cloak that covers the true structure of the fast food business. It's a look at the complex back-and-forth between franchisees and corporate HQ, and the massively subsidized ingredients that make the whole enterprise economically sustainable. Or unsustainable, as the case may be.
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Honey Explained in Five Steps

Not so long ago urban beekeeping in New York was illegal. But now that the activity was officially sanctioned a couple of months ago, New York magazine has rolled out a little guide for urban apiarists. It's worth a quick read, but the highlight for me was the "How a Hive Works" section, where writer Kaija Helmetag breaks down just exactly how bees make honey in five steps.

Helmetag reveals some interesting facts as well: Bees can carry 50 percent of their weight in nectar, they carry nectar in a special "honey stomach," honey is nectar that has lost 80 percent of its water, and a single hive in top shape can produce 100 pounds of honey annually.

Image by Galen Krumel

Duck, Duck, Duck House

It doesn't matter that Duck House is basically a Taiwanese restaurant—they still make the best Peking duck in town, says elmomonster. Everybody who walks in the door orders the duck. The waiters will warn you that it takes an hour, but they often produce the dish within minutes.

When the duck comes out, "the mahogany brown of the skin's wispy crispiness makes your mouth water," says elmomonster. The platter is set over a bowl of hot water, presumably to keep the beautiful duck fat from congealing.

"To eat it, you take a crepe-like wrapper they provide (which is not unlike the most delicate flour tortilla you've ever seen) a piece of skin, a piece of meat, shredded scallion and cucumber, and finally a drizzle of their fermented bean sauce, from which most of the flavor comes from. You fold it up, and you do, in fact, eat it like a taco," explains elmomonster. It was, indeed, the best Peking duck he has ever had. "The skin is a thin, lovely shimmer of itself, rendered completely of fat and crisp like it was imitating a potato chip."

The best way to get it is duck three ways, says Porthos. Then you get duck soup and duck meat sautéed with bean sprouts, along with the duck skin crepes. You can even up the game to duck four ways by adding an order for duck tongue and jowl. It's delicious.

This location used to be called Lu Ding Ji, and it was lauded for its Peking duck. It is unclear whether Duck House involves new management or not.

Duck House [San Gabriel Valley]
501 S. Atlantic Boulevard, Monterey Park
626-284-3227

Discuss: Duck House - Monterey Park - Review with PHOTOS

Fresh Pasta, Fresh Pizza, Perfection

The best restaurant in Hollywood right now is the seven-month-old Italian Osteria Mamma, says lil mikey.

The fresh pastas are worth many a return visit. "It’s very fresh and handmade. The tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce was piping hot, with noodles that had that scrumptious fresh texture," says lil mikey.

Another winner is the quatro stagioni pizza, with an obviously fresh, thin crust. There are four quadrants: a ham quadrant, a black olive quadrant, an artichoke heart quadrant, and a mushroom quadrant. It's perfect to share between two people. And the mushrooms had a deep, rich flavor, says lil mikey.

Osteria Mamma [Hollywood]
5730 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles

323-284-7060

Discuss: Osteria Mamma - New Italian in Hollywood

Mind-Blowing Chinese Buns in Arcadia

Dim sum at Full House: "I was not only very happy with the exceptionally high quality of their food, their buns are just ... mindblowing," says buttermarblepopcorn. The chef seems to specialize in Chinese baked goods, because there are tons of variations of those sweet buns floating around on trays. "The steamed sweet bun dough was just so yeasty and smooth and fine and silky, and the baked bun dough was yeasty and chewy and fine, but lightly crispy on the outside," says buttermarblepopcorn.

Their lemony buns are particularly tasty, says mc michael. But be warned: They often run out of the best versions at inconvenient times.

Full House [San Gabriel Valley]
1220 S. Golden West Avenue, Arcadia
626-446-8222

Discuss: Full House in Arcadia's buns

Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

"A rockin' Spanish tapas bar/restaurant in the heart of Downtown Santa Ana's Artist's District (right behind Memphis). The "Siesta Hour," M-F 3-6:30, features $3 drinks and a slew of reasonably priced ($5) tapas and specials. The blue cheese stuffed dates, duck fries, chorizo flat bread and lobster tacos are among the must haves." - degustateur on Lola Gaspar's awesome happy hour

"The SALTEÑAS ARE AMAZING. They are like empanadas, but very juicy on the inside. They have the south american style egg and raisins in there with the beef." - emba on Beba's

"I don't know, but after telling everyone for the last couple of years that The Redwood's F&C was of the breaded rather than the battered variety, last night they fed me some of the nicest BATTERED cod I've ever had, and no I don't mean it was beaten to death." - Will Owen