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

That’s No Moon, It’s a Collectible Plate!

Antique plates have gone from old-fashioned snooze-inducers to wondrous platters of nostalgia by the simple application of characters from the original Star Wars trilogy.

Etsy seller BeatUpCreations offers a simple, healing promise: Never again will you need to yearn impotently for a rose-embellished scalloped plate featuring a photo-quality reproduction of Chewbacca's grimacing face. Check out the rest of BeatUpCreations' shop for a lovely plate featuring R2-D2 on a Renaissance lady's lap, as well as a Little Yoda Blue Boy platter.

via Daddy Likey

New Top Burger Contender: Rustic Canyon

Hard-core Chowhound exilekiss went on an eating frenzy through all of Los Angeles's famed burger joints. There was a three-way tie for first among the dozen contenders. Two of those top placers are well-known: Father's Office and the Golden State. But the last is the obscure Rustic Canyon.

This is a $16 burger, with Meyer Ranch beef, sharp cheddar, onion fondue, and herb rémoulade. "A deep, beefy savoriness comes shining through! Wow. I can't resist the urge to inhale the rest of my burger," says exilekiss. "It has such a beautiful bovine essence." It isn't, says exilekiss, the "piercing funk" of Father's Office's dry-aged burger; this is a mellower magic.

They also use a Rockenwagner brioche bun, which is soft but holds up pretty well against the burger. The add-ons are tasty but never take center stage away from the burger.

Also excellent: burrata panzanella appetizer.

Father's Office [Westside – Beaches]
1018 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica
310-393-2337

The Golden State [Fairfax Village]
426 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles
323-782-8331

Rustic Canyon [Westside – Beaches]
1119 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica
310-393-7050

Discuss: Total Carnage! Gourmet Burger Battle — 26 Beach vs. Umami vs. Father’s Office vs. Golden State vs. Morton’s vs. Anisette vs. Lucky Devils vs. 25 Degrees vs. 8 oz vs. Rustic Canyon! [Review] w/ Pics!

The Double Down by the Numbers

Statistics wonk Nate Silver (an unlikely breakout star during the 2008 election season) has put his massive brain to work on an even more vexing problem than determining how the electoral college will flop: calculating the unhealthiness of the new KFC chicken-on-chicken atrocity that is the Double Down.

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Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

"I received a tip today from Maricos Chente supporter WestSideGal that Sergio Penuelas has left Mariscos Chente on Centinela, permanently." – streetgourmetla on local gossip from Mariscos Chente

"Now, if you really want to impress him with a down-home, fearless, ghetto style offering I have to cast a vote for Omana’s in South El Monte (neighborhood alert–best to go during the day)." – degustateur on the best shrimp burritos and tacos

"You can get fresh gei dan jai at the food stands near the Hong Kong Superstore in Rowland Heights." – Das Ubergeek, on finding this waffle-like Hong Kong street-food snack

Revisiting Second-Rate Snacks

By Christine Gallary

Props to blog Second Rate Snacks, which burst upon the scene in 2008 (we covered it back then, along with many others) with clever side-by-side comparisons of commercial snack foods. Here's the update: THEY'RE STILL BLOGGING. The formula—head-to-head tastings of commercial snack foods like Cool Ranch vs. Chillin' Ranch tortilla chips, complete with photos and analysis—still works. And it provides a little junk-food validation: My beloved Cheez-Its were found to be far superior to Cheese Nips.

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Ruth Bourdain Takes On Florence Fabricant

What do you do after you've successfully channeled Anthony Bourdain and Ruth Reichl into one Twitter entity? Move on to spoofing Florence Fabricant's New York Times etiquette series "Ask FloFab." READ MORE

Racist Typo in Cookbook a Costly Mistake

Penguin has to reprint 7,000 copies of its cookbook, The Pasta Bible, in Australia after a racist typo was discovered, reported the New York Daily News. In a recipe for spelt tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto, the instructions called for "salt and freshly ground black people." The cost of the reprint is $18,000—whoah whoah whoah. Was this a case of AutoCorrect gone seriously wrong? Apparently in other recipes, freshly-ground pepper was the finishing seasoning of choice.

Image courtesy of CHOW.com

Hospital Food Has Gotten Much Better

The days when hospital food equals bland, inedible mush or that old standby Jell-O may be behind us. OK, bland is still part of the equation. But a recent stay in a Northern California hospital had us eating a tofu stir-fry for dinner, and feeling overwhelmed at the plethora of menu choices. The breakfast menu alone was astonishing in its length and variety: It even included jook!

Of course this isn't haute cuisine we're talking about—the rice in our stir-fry was gummy, and at breakfast our scrambled eggs tasted like they might've started out as a powder—but it's certainly a heartening start. Though it almost seems a shame to put that much effort into improving the fare: Most stays in a hospital involve circumstances that pretty much guarantee a lack of appetite, so a lot of food probably goes to waste (we left several items untouched, and it had nothing to do with the kitchen's skill level). But frankly, any effort to make a hospital stay more comfortable is laudable.

Image: Earl Otsuka

Greens and Cornbread, North Indian Style

One of Peter Cherches's favorite Indian comfort foods is sarson ka saag, a Punjabi dish of spiced mustard greens, usually served with makki ki roti, a griddled cornbread. Raja in Jackson Heights makes the best version he's had. "The bread was perfect," he reports, "and the puréed mustard greens were more flavorful and spicy than others I've had, served with a bit of ghee on top." Minar in Manhattan offers decent sarson ka saag as a Tuesday special, Peter adds, but Raja's is better.

ebird, another Raja fan, loves those breads (always made to order) and home-style steam-table dishes. "When they have cabbage," she advises, "get it."

Raja [Jackson Heights]
72-31 37th Avenue (between 72nd and 73rd streets), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-424-3600

Minar [Midtown]
138 W. 46th Street (between Sixth and Seventh avenues), Manhattan
212-398-4600

Discuss: Fabulous Sarson ka Saag w/ Makki ki Roti @ Raja Sweets, Jackson Heights

Building a Better Oyster Po’ Boy

There's something about the New Orleans sandwich that New York sandwich shops don't get, and many say it's the bread. Cheeky Sandwiches solves this problem by going to the source for the French-by-way-of-Louisiana soft loaf from John Gendusa Bakery. It's a fine foundation for Cheeky's first-rate fried oyster po' boy, Westminstress reports: delicious, with a crackly crust and a light and fluffy interior. This well-proportioned sandwich features a generous portion of perfectly fried oysters judiciously "dressed"; that is, served with lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickle, and hot sauce. Westminstress declares it "awesome, if a little on the small side."

Cheeky, open since late last year, also makes a shrimp po' boy; chicken, pork, and beef short rib sandwiches; and a meatless muffuletta with pickled vegetables and melted Swiss on olive bread. And it pours coffee with chicory and brings in some snacks to satisfy New Orleans cravings, including Big Shot sodas and Zapp's potato chips.

Cheeky Sandwiches [Lower East Side]
35 Orchard Street (between Hester and Canal streets), Manhattan
No phone available

Discuss: Yummy oyster poboy at Cheeky Sandwiches
Zapp's Potato Chips