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

Safran Foer Wins “Most Annoying”

After reading novelist Jonathan Safran Foer's nonfiction anti-meat crusading book, Eating Animals, and writing about it on this blog, I was amused to see a little story in today's New York Times noting that Foer has won a Moby Award for most annoying performance in a book trailer.


A Spring Awakening, with Wine, in Ditmas Park

Ditmas Parkers have been enjoying something of a food renaissance in recent years, and one conspicuous contributor has been Mimi's Hummus. This hound-endorsed Middle Eastern spot branched out in February with the gourmet grocery Market next door, and a few weeks later one of Mimi's owners opened the Castello Plan, a wine bar two doors away.

The newest addition to the block is shaping up as a cozy hangout for drinks and small plates that lean Mediterranean with hints of Eastern Europe. Westminstress recommends stewed mushrooms (with sour cream and dill), a beet salad with pickles and farmer's cheese, potato salad with sunflower oil, and rabbit and duck bruschette. gnosh recounts a lovely brunch highlighted by an apricot mimosa and scallion grilled cheese with butter-poached egg. The wine list is idiosyncratic and well chosen, hounds say, featuring small producers from Morocco, Uruguay, and Croatia, among other places.

Some hounds find the portions skimpy, though Westminstress thinks they've grown a bit since the place opened. "Worth trying, for sure," says chorosch, "but if you go hungry you will most likely spend more than you were planning."

About that name: Ditmas Park's growing restaurant row is centered on Cortelyou Road, named after the Dutch surveyor Jacques Cortelyou, creator of a 17th-century map of lower Manhattan known as—you got it—the Castello Plan.

The Castello Plan [Ditmas Park]
1213 Cortelyou Road (at Argyle Road), Brooklyn

Discuss: The Castello Plan: anyone been?

Overheard on the New York Boards

"The branzini was superb—moist flesh and a crisp skin sitting on a bed of long beans, and covered with tiny, crunchy almond nuggets." - FoodDabbler on Má Pêche

"Check out this flavor—Lucky Charms. One bite and I was back in 3rd grade. It was crazy. It's like aromatherapy except it's tastytherapy!" - janie on gelato at La Dolce Via

"You might try Sotheby's. ... Go in, right to the elevators, up to the top floor, and the lunch room is right there. It's just sandwiches and salady stuff (I think) and soft drinks, but the roof deck is a nice place to sit and collect one's thoughts." - rpk on Sotheby's Terrace Cafe

Revenge, Served (Smirnoff) Ice Cold

If you're not yet in the loop on Bros Icing Bros, then get ready to absorb just about the worst meme ever propagated via the magic of the Internet.

The rules of this ongoing bro-focused prank/lifestyle are simple:

"Buy Smirnoff ice, present it to one of your bro’s in any manner, your bro must instantly get on one knee and chug the Smirnoff ice on the spot regardless of setting.


How to Save a Fire-Damaged Vintage

How to Save a Fire-Damaged Vintage

California's Anderson Valley was smoked out in 2008. READ MORE

Bodum’s Go-Anywhere Hot Pots

Cutting down on kitchen clutter is imperative for the city apartment dweller, and Bodum's new Hot Pots are terrific in this regard. Made of borosilicate, the same nearly indestructible stuff as old-school Pyrex pie plates, you can cook something at night in one of these, pop the heat-resistant (up to 220 degrees Celsius) silicone lid on it, put it in the fridge, and next morning you can heat it up in the oven without dirtying any extra dishes in between.

Bodum Hot Pots, $18

A Chowhound Fave in the Spotlight

Recently on KQED's restaurant-review show Check, Please!, hhc caught an episode featuring Deedee's, a vegetarian Indian restaurant that relocated over a year ago from Mountain View to Santa Clara. In its new incarnation, Deedee's is featuring regional cooking on weekends (starting Friday afternoons), including the food of Indian states Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Kathiawar, a peninsula in Gujarat state.

This tip was enough to send Melanie Wong hotfooting over to Deedee's, which she'd loved in its old location. The Maharashtrian specialties of tomato saar (a spicy soup) and masala bhaat (a festive pilaf) are "as lovely as before," she says. On the Friday she visited, there were some Kathiawadi items on the buffet table, as well as Maharashtrian pav bhaji to assemble yourself: "Soft and fluffy bun grilled with butter, then heaped with the warm, chopped vegetable mix. This is another of my favorite things."

Deedee's [South Bay]
341 Lafayette Street #101, Santa Clara

Discuss: Deedee's Reincarnated in Santa Clara: Kathiawadi Lunch Buffet (and Maharashtrian Favorites)
Deedee's (Vegetarian Indian food & regional food on weekends), Santa Clara - anyone try it?

Follow That Bagel Man

Roland of the now-shuttered Roland's Bagels has taken his delectable ring-shaped treats to Terra Bakery in Hayes Valley. "The bagels are good ($2 each, but hefty), the interior a bit softer than my favorites from New York; bialy is very very good," says dordogne. Want lox with that? Be prepared to fork over $10. There's also "a surprisingly elaborate and varied menu of appetizers, sandwiches and entrées," dordogne adds, including steamed mussels, smoked mozzarella pizzette, and a sandwich of crisp, juicy fried chicken on a housemade club roll. The pastries also look amazing, SteveG notes.

But watch out: Roland may already be on the move, says ChowFun_derek, who heard from a server that Roland "stormed out and is looking for a new place."

Terra Bakery [Hayes Valley]
401 Gough Street, San Francisco

Discuss: Roland of Roland's Bagels opens Terra Bakery and Cafe

The Obvious Dysfunction of Functional Foods

Dan Mitchell, writing at Slate's Big Money, discusses "functional foods," a trend that's both painfully obvious and obviously legitimate if you happen to review mass-marketed food on a regular basis.


With Crust, if You Must

Steamed char siu bao is all very well, but sometimes you want the satisfaction of biting into a nice, deeply browned crust before reaching soft bread and a filling of sweet Chinese barbecued pork. That's when Cynsa goes to Lung Fung Bakery, where "the filling is tasty, not too sweet, tender chopped char siu, not-gloppy sauce, and the baked dough is just right—light with just a mere whisper of sweetness." Plus, her mom's senior citizen line dancing class orders them by the box for an after-class snack. What better recommendation can you get? Also try warm, fresh gai mei bao, filled with coconut paste, dan tat (egg custard tarts), and red bean buns, Cynsa says.

Melanie Wong enjoyed the lightness of the bread, but says, "I miss the winey notes of Cafe Bakery's filling." Unfortunately, she says, quality there has gone down. Her fave baked buns are still the smaller ones at TC Pastry.

And in Oakland, Sun Sing Pastry Dim Sum has the best baked char siu bao in Chinatown, abstractpoet says. The steamed ones are solid, too.

Lung Fung Bakery [Richmond District]
1823 Clement Street, San Francisco

Cafe Bakery [Sunset]
1365 Noriega Street, San Francisco

TC Pastry [Sunset]
2222 Irving Street, San Francisco

Sun Sing Pastry Dim Sum [East Bay]
382 Eighth Street, Oakland

Discuss: Does dim sum just suck in San Fran?
Baked pork buns at Lung Fung Bakery in SF
looking steamed pork buns in the east bay