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

Diary of a New Food Truck Owner, Part 4: Where Old Ice Cream Trucks Go to Die

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 struggle to find the truck of their dreams.

After we realized there was no way we could afford a storefront, we were back to thinking about an ice cream truck. The main problem with the truck scenario, though, was that we wouldn't have the space to do a lot of flavors. Soft-serve machines only allow for two flavors apiece, plus the twirl when you swirl both flavors together. Per the name of our business, we were going to be all about twirls, and wanted to be able to offer more than one at a time. Chocolate/mint twirl. Honey blueberry/peach elderflower. We're all about pairings.

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Eater National Is Tim Carman’s Lunch

Food writers, serious diners, and new media folks all should spare 30 seconds to read this short, sweet, merciless disembowelment of the national edition of Eater.com written by Tim Carman of Washington City Paper. In a few brief paragraphs, Carman credibly tears the new publication to shreds for unmasking anonymous critics, "play[ing] the submissive bottom for the entire country’s well-heeled restaurant owners," and for using a business model in which the publication "actively sabotage[s] and exploit[s] the working media."

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Never Forget the Elephant

Elephant Walk is a venerable French/Cambodian spot in Cambridge that's been turning out fantastic food for almost two decades, and hounds say things haven't slipped one iota. Appetizers are a strong point: nataing, ground pork in coconut milk with crispy rice cakes, is a must, as are the Cambodian spring rolls, deep-fried and served with mint and lettuce. Roll one up, pop it in your mouth, smile.

For mains, opinionatedchef recommends the shrimp amrita, which is "richly flavored, with many spices, and the shrimp perfect and succulent." The loc lac, seared beef over lettuce with a dipping sauce, is another hit, as is the amok royal, custardy seafood stew in a bamboo cup.

opinionated chef sums up Elephant Walk's other attractions: "The room is comfortable and handsome; exposed brick walls lined with banquettes, warm colors and fabrics, large windows. Not a loud room; conversation-compatible. We thought prices were very fair and unusually low for such a nice atmosphere." Friendly service, free parking behind the building, big portions on appetizers—what else could you want? Oh, maybe the address?

Elephant Walk [Cambridge]
2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge
617-492-6900

Discuss: 4/17/10 Elephant Walk Favs?

Overheard on the Boston Boards

"I just discovered that Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge has started stocking ice cream from Jeni's of Columbus, Ohio. At $12/pint it's not cheap, but it's some of the best ice cream I've had anywhere." – Boston_Otter

"Arancini are fried rice balls, notoriously hard to do well, and they were not at all greasy or heavy and the cheese in the middle was melted perfectly. The chickpea fritters were perfect batons of puréed chickpea, slightly spicy, again fried to a light perfection ... sort of a marvel how they could have held together, but they did." – fesenjan on dinner at Sixty2 on Wharf

"Eastern Lamejun Bakers, right near the Star Market/Mt. Auburn Cemetery, has some terrific dishes for you vegetarians out there. After eating them for 25 years, I am still addicted to the spinach and cheese borek, big 6-inch crescents of yeast dough filled with a good amount of spinach and many-cheese filling." – opinionatedchef

This Beet Recipe Is Blowing My Mind

I love beets, but they're usually served the same way: quartered and somewhat slimy. Nuts in the Kitchen: More than 100 Recipes for Every Taste and Occasion, by Susan Herrmann Loomis, has an interesting alternative preparation. First a word about this cookbook: We get a lot of cookbooks around here, and this one excited me more than most. Why? Recipes like Sicilian sweet and sour rabbit with chopped almonds, and mushroom and walnut tarte Tatin. The author, Loomis, runs On Rue Tatin cooking school in Normandy, France.

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Headbanging Carrots Are Funny

I don't really know where this video is going, but I like what Japanther has done so for on the soon-to-be-blockbuster "Rock N' Roll Ice Cream: A Story About Nutrition." What will happen with the mysterious professor orange? The angry headbanging carrot? The lemon sporting a sweat band?

via shutupfoodies.tumblr.com

Our Only Michoacan Restaurant

The only restaurant dedicated to the elusive cuisine of Michoacán in the L.A. area is in Pacoima, says streetgourmetla about the excellent Birrieria Apatzingan.

You might start with pork in tomatillo sauce, a hearty Michoacán specialty in a bowl with white rice, beans, and a topping of supple pork ribs in tangy salsa. Or you might lean toward ordering something with guajillo chile sauce, used to fry chicken and potatoes and to cover enchiladas. On the side, uchepos are the pure corn tamales of Michoacán. "Forget about the other corn tamale hypes in town, this is the real deal," says streetgourmetla. These uchepos are only available on weekends, and they run out fast. Go early, or call and reserve some in advance.

But at its heart, this is a birrieria, a goat joint. There's always a big pot of birria en caldo (goat soup) simmering away. "This is reason alone to come to Birrieria Apatzingan," says streetgourmetla. "The broth is slurp ’til the last drop good, the kind of soup that makes you cringe the each time a dot of the juice falls onto the table negotiating the journey from bowl to mouth."

Birrieria Apatzingan [San Fernando Valley – East]
10040 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, Pacoima
818-890-6265

Discuss: Birrieria Apatzingan, Pacoima,CA–The Pleasures of Birria and Regional Bites from Apatzingan, Michoacan

The Best Tonkatsu in the United States?

Kagura makes "by far the best tonkatsu I’ve had in the U.S.," says la2tokyo. "It would be a very good representation of tonkatsu even if it was in Japan."

Premium loin katsu gozen made with Kurobuta pork is "amazing," says la2tokyo. "Incredibly tender, juicy, and very rich. There was a rind of fat on one side of the cutlet about 3/4 of an inch thick, the way it would be served in Japan." For those not prepared to have this much fat, there's an option involving pork tenderloin.

"If I had to rate it, giving the best tonkatsu I’ve had in Japan (and I’ve had a lot) a 100, I could confidently give their tonkatsu a score in the 90s," says la2tokyo.

Kagura [South Bay]
1652 Cabrillo Avenue, Torrance
310-787-0227

Discuss: Serious Tonkatsu in Torrance: Kagura

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!